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Luckily race day #2 didn’t have to start terribly early.  Start time was 8:30am and the drive would only take 20ish minutes with simple parking logistics.  The morning was even cooler than Saturday and I don’t think most of us were ready for it to be in the low 50s.  While it would give us another beautiful day to race, it was a chilly start for sure!

Tony and I arrived as planned…picked up race packets and quickly spotted the rest of the crew doing their own preparations.  As expected, parking was conveniently located to packet pick-up and transition, which is always a bonus.  Set up went smoothly and once again Tony and I were racked in transition side by side.  We all reconvened with plenty of time to get some pre-race snapshots and then find a spot of sun (we were all cold!!) to wait.

The crew ready for day #2!!

This race was new to all of us racing from the team.  It took place at the Sandling Beach State Recreational Area at Falls Lake.  It is a unique distance…a hybrid between a traditional international distance and a half iron distance.  The distances were 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 9 mile run. 

The swim was a time trial start with all participants starting the swim one at a time going off every couple of seconds.  The 2-loop one mile swim was a triangular shaped course with the swim start/finish on a sandy beach area. We swam the first lap of the swim, briefly exited the water, and then re-entered the water to swim the second lap.   By the time we got to the swim, I think we were ready to get in the water since we were all quite chilly.  The water temperature allowed for a wetsuit legal swim, but we knew the water was going to feel nice compared to the morning air temperature

As I began my second day of racing I was not sure how I was going to feel.  I started swimming and realized that I was not feeling that bad!  I was able to get in my groove fairly quickly.  As expected, the water felt amazing, so not a bad start at all!!! 

As I rounded the first turn buoy the water definitely changed.  I could immediately feel the chop and the attempt to swim in a straight line was even more of a challenge than normal because I could feel like I was being pushed out from the buoy line.  I needed to sight more frequently and try my best to compensate for the current.  Overall, I think I did a decent job with the conditions.  As I approached the second turn buoy, I was getting a bit pinched between two men.  One of which decided to try to hammer over me and unfortunately I let that piss me off.  Wasted energy….I just don’t get it though…this is a small race and I certainly didn’t start at the front of the pack to battle the typically more aggressive swimmers!!! 

As I was sighting back into the shore, I was having a bit of trouble seeing the dancing man at the finish line.  After I finally spotted it, I felt like I was back at shore pretty quickly.  I made my way out of the water and just a few seconds out before I was starting the second lap.  This time through was a bit smoother.  I knew exactly what to expect and I did not have any body contact to distract me.  Before I knew it, I was making my way out of Falls Lake for the second time and headed into T1 to strip out of the wetsuit and jump on the bike.              

The 40 mile bike course exited the park where we made our way out onto the course before beginning the two 15.5-mile loops.  The bike course description is described as “rolling”, but definitely includes a couple of pretty challenging hills.  We were fortunate enough to ride the course a couple of times in training, so knew exactly what to expect….including the hills.  I had planned to take the first few miles very easy in order to keep the heart rate in check and try to figure out what I had in my legs for the day.  The loop section starts on Beaverdam Road and this is one stretch I was looking forward to the least.  It does not have the toughest climbs, but it is not flat and ends up being more challenging than you expect as you ride it.  Plus, it feels like it will never end!   I was glad to get though with Beaverdam Road for the first time but also knew at that point that my legs were feeling some fatigue.  I pretty much knew I would not be able to push like I usually like to on the bike…there was still a 9-mile run remaining to complete this double down challenge.  Usually during a race I am very focused on my Garmin data, but decided to take a different approach and really go by feel for the rest of the ride. The hills were just what I knew they would be and I tried to take them as easy as possible, keep the effort at a reasonable level and not spike my heart rate too much.  

The second loop was pretty similar to the first in the way I rode and the level of effort.  I checked my Garmin a few times during the ride, but it was nice to mix things up a bit and not have the extreme focus on the numbers that I typically do.   I was happiest after completing Beaverdam Road for the second time, even though the toughest climbs were still ahead.  There is just something about that stretch of road….

The 9-mile run course stayed completely inside the park boundaries. It was a two loop course with each loop being 4.5 miles, and because the run is entirely on park roads, much of the entire run course is shaded (even though heat was not a factor).  The first mile was tough running off the bike.  I thought, oh no!  This is going to be a very long nine miles!  Before the end of the first mile, I felt like I had a small twig in my sock.  I debated back and forth about whether I should stop and try to clean out my sock and finally decided that was the smart move.  While it did cost me about a minute or so, I think it was the right decision.  After that brief stop during the first mile, I felt like I finally got my legs within the next half mile.  YAY!  I saw Tony and the other guys soon thereafter.

As I progressed on the course I felt like I was able to stay on a pretty consistent pace throughout the nine miles.  I think making the decision to ride by feel on the bike helped me to stay strong on the run.    Overall I liked this run course…there were a few rollers we had to contend with, but nothing too crazy…just enough to keep us honest!  The bonus was the format allowed me to spot my teammates on course.

The finish line was a welcome sight.  Tony was there and I immediately said to him“the off season starts now”!  This back to back race format was certainly a challenge, but I am glad that I tackled it.

Garmin Results which are close to official results

Garmin Run Splits

Post-race included awards where a couple of the guys had podium places, including Tony being awarded third place overall for the double down challenge as there was a separate awards group for the folks that completed both races.  They somehow botched the recognition of the women that completed both races when they announced that only two women had completed it (when there was actually nine and neither I, my teammate April, nor the several women I was standing around were included in the two that were recognized).

Tony on the podium again!

I later learned that I had placed third overall woman of the double down challenge.

Those of us that raced were joined by several others from the team for a cookout there in the park.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and a nice way to celebrate our two day racing affair.

Later that evening Tony and I had a quiet dinner for two sitting outside at our favorite sushi restaurant.  My birthday was celebrated doing something I love to do with great people! What better way to start a new year than challenging yourself to do new things that are tough and outside your comfort zone?  Especially when I can share the experience with my husband and three amazing training partners!  I was thankful to start year 43 this way and know that this will be a fantastic 43!         

 

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After Chattanooga 70.3 in May (which was my season “A” race, at least early season), I was not sure what I would tackle for the rest of the season.  Initially my thought would be some local Olympic distance or sprints.  One of my teammates that has also completed Choo, found a challenge that she threw out to the rest of us.  It was called the “Double Down”.  It was a collaboration between two local production companies.  The FS Series race called the Battle at Buckhorn (sprint) was on Saturday and the Set-Up Events race called the Sandling 50 (not a standard distance race….a total of 50 miles) was on Sunday.  They were offering a super economical price to race both (the total just a bit over the cost of one stand-alone race).  At first I thought…”nope”, but as the time passed through the summer, I thought it might be a cool challenge to go for.  What better way to spend my birthday weekend than racing back to back….right?!?!?!?  In the end, there were five of us that ended up going for the Double Down challenge! 

Welcome to the Battle at Buckhorn!!

Saturday’s race is one of my favorite sprints.  Well now that I mention it, maybe it IS my favorite sprint since I have completed it four times.  In the days leading up to race weekend, I had thought about how I wanted to handle these races.  The final decision was that I would go for the sprint and give it an effort level like it was my only race for the weekend and then just give whatever I had left in the tank for the race Sunday.

Saturday morning was like a typical race morning.  No drama or hiccups….we left (generally) on time and arrived to race parking at the goal time.  The parking is a short-“ish”walk from transition, just still far enough that you need to plan accordingly.  Most of the team arrived within a few minutes of each other and we made our way together. 

Leading up Saturday, we had warmer days, but a couple of the mornings late in the week had temperatures cool enough that we expected a wet suit legal swim.  Also, temperatures for race weekend were expected to drop and feel very “fall like”.  Great racing weather!!!!! 

The Oak City Tri Crew sans April who had to run back to her car for goggles!

The swim included three waves….all women started at 8:00, men 39 & under at 8:07 and men 40 & up and 8:10.  They used the “ladies first” format that they started last year and I am glad they have maintained it rather than the mass start with the guys from a couple of years ago.  The water was 76 degrees and I felt good in the water.  I was able to quickly get my rhythm and maintain it throughout the 750 meter swim.  Plus, I felt like my sighting was really good (big win for me).  According to my Garmin, I swam 841 yards (769 meters).  With the wetsuit, I feel I should have averaged a quicker pace, but I will focus on the positives! 

The 17 mile bike course is fairly typical for our area.  A few rollers, a few flats and one memorable hill.  This year the race company threw in a bit of incentive by making the aforementioned “memorable hill” a Strava segment.  They awarded Queen of the Mountain and King of the Mountain for the first time this year.  The overall female winner won QOM, which is not complete surprise, but it was a neat concept to track. 

I feel like I rode fairly well overall.  The hill is around mile 12 but it was not until after that where I felt like I could really gain extra momentum.  I rode better than last year, but still my PR on the bike course stands from two years ago (and that was a hotter year….ugh!!).

Onto the run. 

The 5k distance in a sprint is never easy and I wanted to see what I had.  My run splits got progressively faster, which I will take.  I was pushing hard and was hoping to squeak out a sub-8 minute average (which was my Garmin PR from AGAIN 2 years ago), but I was happy with my effort.  I knew there were a couple of other girls in my AG really close and I stayed strong.  Little did I know that Tony was making up serious ground on me and passed me just 50 feet or so from the finish chute!  I was happy for him because I successfully served as his “rabbit” which gave him a super run time!!

You can see me in the background here….Tony had just passed me as we entered the finish chute!!!

DONE!

We hung around for awards because we had a couple of podium finishers in the group, including Tony nabbing second in his AG. 

Tony with his buckle for 2nd place AG!

I finished fourth overall in my AG, but was pleased with my race effort and delivery. 

Official Race Results

Official Race Splits

Garmin Times

Garmin Run Splits

The team headed back to Raleigh where we met up for a great brunch (pancakes and French toast everywhere) to discuss our individual experiences and to chat about the longer of the two races the following day.  The rest of the afternoon was all about recovery and being in the best shape we could going into day two!!!     

Day two race report, still to come!!

 

 

 

 

 

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This event is a repeat event for me.  I raced it last year and it was my first Olympic distance in 2011.  Last year there was a lot of uncertainty leading up to the event about the swim.  Due to lack of rain, the water conditions were a concern. In the end we were cleared to have the swim.  Unfortunately, this year was the same, however, it was due to having too much rain.  A email was sent by the race production company on Thursday saying that due to the abundance of rain lately, the results of the water test showed that the conditions were not safe for swimming.  Another test was performed on late Thursday afternoon and we were notified Friday afternoon that the conditions had improved some, but still did not meet the minimum requirements for safety.  The swim was cancelled and would be replaced with a one mile run to start.  Obviously not what we were hoping for, but can only make the best of it!   

The morning began extra early (4:30am) since our drive was around 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left at the time we planned (5:15am) and Tony was sweet enough to act as driver, race sherpa and photographer.  My training partner Bill and his wife, Paige, rode with us, so the drive time passed quickly in the car with lots to chat about.  Race start was 8:00am and we arrived with plenty of time to setup transition and perform all other final preparations for the race (including a running warm-up).  It was overcast and humid with low chances of rain during race hours.  We were all hoping that the clouds would stay in place to help control how hot it would feel as the race progressed.  

Pre-race with my #1

Before we knew it, it was go time!  The start began like it would have if we were swimming.  The Olympic distance men (there was also a sprint race) began at 8:00am and the Olympic distance women began at 8:03am.  I didn’t have a goal pace in mind, but I wanted to get in a solid start.  It was a simple, flat out and back. 

Starting out with the one mile run

I tried to get through T1 as quickly as I could and then onto the bike.  We were lucky enough to still have some cloud cover at that point.  I jumped on my bike and headed out of the park area, which included a few speed bumps.  As suspected, I saw Tony on the way out of the park poised to take a few quick photos. 

Leaving the park to begin the first bike loop

The bike course was a two-loop of the sprint course on flat roads with minimal turns.  The worst part was coming back into the park area to start lap #2 because you had to cross the speed bumps again (both in and out) and make a sharp turn around, therefore losing your momentum.  The design of the course allows you to spot your teammates frequently, which is always a bonus!

There was a noticeable headwind on the way back in from the turnaround for each of the two loops that was definitely a factor.  Not sure that I felt ANY tailwind on the way out though!  I felt strong on the bike and I was working hard!  I was fairly confident that I knew my positioning in my age group when I entered T2.

Finishing the bike

I had a hand held water bottle in T2 and I am glad I did.  By the time we started the run, the earlier cloud cover had burned off.  I don’t prefer to run with a hand held (I use a fuel belt more in training), but this was the easy go to, and I was really glad to have it!  As the run continued, the heat did as well.  The run is a two-loop design through the downtown waterfront area with hardly any shade.  As with the bike, the course design allowed me to see my teammates and we could all pass along words of encouragement or thumbs up.  This is what makes the team events THE BEST!!  The start of the second loop took us back into the park near transition/finish line (this is the only area where there is a bit of shade) where I saw Tony. 

Coming in the start the second loop of the run

I just had in my mind that I was half way done and to stay as strong as possible. 

Enjoying the very brief amount of shade as I pass the half way mark

I was focused on trying a maintain a consistent pace, but I know the mile 4 to 5 was my slowest and that was when I reached the last turn around and all I could think of was how tough the heat and sun were.  I tried to think of Tony’s approach which is the faster I can go, the sooner I will be done! (Fast was definitely relative, but it kept me from slowing down too much).  As always, it was awesome to cross that finish line where I immediately found some shade.

Post race with my Oak City Tri Peeps in our favorite Salming shoes! @salmingrunningnorthamerica #nononense #runswedish

Catching up with my friend MC that I don’t get to see very often.

Garmin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true times, since the distances tend to not be “exact”.   Also, it gives me a better opportunity for analysis.

I was happy with the first mile run that we started the race with.  I started easy and gradually built as I warmed up even more.  As far as the bike, I was able to hit a new PR…it was just a smidge over last year, but a PR is a PR!   As far as the run, I didn’t quite hit the pace I was hoping, even what I was able to do last year, but I know I gave it all I had.  

Garmin Times

 

Garmin Run Splits

Overall, I am happy with the day and was pleased that my official results had me at second place in my age group.

Second Place Age Group

Official Race Splits

Official Finish Times

 

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I feel that Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga was a long time coming.  I really wanted to do this race in 2016, but I missed registration and it sold out.  I knew this race would be on my calendar for 2017 and things turned out even better because I had company!

This is only the second race out of state that I have done.  The other being Ironman Lake Placid.  We are very lucky to have a wide variety of races in North Carolina to choose from.  With that being said, the travel logistics took a bit more time planning and even changed fairly last minute. 

There were five of us from the team racing and we were also traveling with other family members, teammates and friends that were going for support.  Most of us had all planned to leave Friday morning to embark on the 7-8 hour drive from Raleigh to Chattanooga.  The last minute detail that changed is that Tony was able to fly the two of us.  He learned that the plane he flies has backseats that recline.  Therefore, with some consolidation of the bikes, we were able to get both bikes and all our gear in the plane.  Needless to say, that saved us a lot of travel time and added extra adventure to the weekend!

All of gear safely packed for travel!

On our way!

We arrived in Chattanooga around lunch time after around 2 hours of flight time.  After unloading the bikes and all the gear and packing the rental car, we were off!  

First stop was lunch at Big River Brewery in downtown Chattanooga.  We had a nice lunch and ended up being within walking distance of the Athlete Village for check-in.  We decided to go ahead and get that taken care of and since there was no line at all, it was great timing.  There was some shopping as well and I lucked out and found a great shirt on the clearance rack!!!  

Scoping out the river and the swim finish

There was a bit of time to kill since we were not able to check into the rental house yet (the team and crew were staying together for the weekend).  We found a coffee shop that the waitress from lunch had recommended.  It is called Rembrandt’s and we both had a nice cold brew coffee.  Hit the spot! 

When it was time, Tony and I made our way to the house to get settled in.  It would only be an hour or so before others started arriving so it was good to get in, get unpacked and start relaxing.  Over the next few hours, everyone arrived that was supposed to have a Friday arrival.  

View from the porch of the rental house as a barge floated by.

We had a nice evening including dinner outside at a tasty restaurant called Food Works.  It was before crossing the bridge in the downtown area, so we were hoping it would not be crazy busy with all the out of towners.  We had a great table outside and it was a perfect way to officially kick off the weekend!   

I had a great nights’ sleep and woke up Saturday to a beautiful morning.  The morning included breakfast, coffee and lots of conversation about race prep and the day ahead.  There was some discussion about getting in a short swim that morning.  Our house was directly on the river so it would have been super convenient.  In the end, no one ended up swimming and I think that was a good decision…at least for me!  The remainder of the morning was spent prepping our bikes because we had bike drop off later that afternoon.  Everyone had done packet pick up on Friday so that was handled.

Bike prep done and ready to go!!

After bikes were prepped, we all piled into two different cars and drove the bike course.  So glad we made this decision.  I think it helped everyone in different ways, but it was time well spent.  For lunch and we ended up at a place called the Frothy Monkey.  Sandwiches all around and it was a good find.  We headed back to the house to grab our bikes and take them for check in.  With it being hot and also rain in the forecast for overnight (and into race day), we all planned accordingly for leaving our bikes in transition.

All the girls!

Her place for the evening.

Team photo after bike check-in

With all the errands finally done we were at the house to rest, make final preparations and have a great dinner.  Later on in the evening…..it happened.  The heavy downpours of rain started.  The forecast which had been monitored frequently for days and days and days called for 100% chance of rain (yes….100%, not 99%…., but 100%) and a bit milder temperature (upper 70s I believe) for race day.  That had dropped from being forecasted in the mid to upper 80s from earlier in the week, which we were happy about, but that rain was definitely on our minds.  The consensus was to PLEASE let us get off our bikes safely and then it was free game to rain!  As the rain began Saturday evening, my mood definitely changed.  I had raced in the rain before….heck my biggest race ever included torrential rain…but it was not something I was looking to repeat.  We had also discussed the idea of the swim being cancelled since it was raining so hard, and that was definitely not something we wanted to happen!  When I went to bed that evening, I was not in the best place mentally.  All I could imagine for Sunday was pouring down rain from the time we left the house to the time we returned.

The CRAZY EARLY alarm at 0’dark thirty on Sunday morning and everyone’s pre-race ritual starts.  I am not a morning person and certainly not one at 3 something in the morning.  There was some small talk over breakfast, but personally, I know I was just trying to wake up and get my head in the game…this actually took much longer than normal.  The good news is that IT WAS NOT RAINING!  It seemed that the rain had moved through the area much quicker, so YAY to that!!!!!                    

Our house was about 15 minutes from downtown and we headed out by 4:15am.  Since no one in our group had done this race before, we were not familiar with the logistics.  We got downtown, parked, body marked and into transition for final preparations.  We had to catch a shuttle for a very short ride to the swim start (no line to catch the shuttle).  In the end we had plenty of time, but better to be safe.

Race morning team photo

Once arriving at the swim start, this is where the waiting began along with a bit of frustration.  The Athlete Guide read that it was a self-seeded rolling swim start.  The only other self-seeded swim start I had participated in was at Lake Placid.  They had volunteers with signs of expected swim times and you gather behind the sign that is appropriate.  When we arrived at this swim start, there was just a long line that we joined.  Shortly after arriving, we overhead a volunteer announcing…”If you are a fast swimmer, then you need to go to the front of the line”.  [This started the confusion and frustration for a lot of people.  I don’t consider myself a “fast swimmer”, but what does that mean exactly?  In the end, they did provide a bit more detail regarding “fast” and which light pole we needed to be lined up at for a particular time range, but there were no time signs and it was very unorganized.  In the end, Tony went closer to the front, three of us were more in the “middle” and one decided to head further down the line from the three of us.]

At 6:50 the pro men started and then 6:55 the pro women.  The age groupers were scheduled to start at 7:00.  However, soon after the pro women started, we noticed that there was a boat moving a buoy (also causing lots of wake in the river) which made us start asking questions to one another.  7:00 came and went (without us starting the swim) and eventually there was an announcement made by the race organizers that they were removing the “upstream” portion of the swim thereby shortening it from 1.2 miles to approximately .80 miles.  Apparently, the pros were having some difficulty in the upstream portion (due to the heavy rain) and the decision was made to keep things as safe as possible for the age groupers and change it up.  I was definitely bummed out, but totally understand why this decision was made.  More time passed as the changes were made to the swim course and I am not sure what time the age groupers actually started.  However, I was definitely ready to go by that time!

After the horn was sounded, we slowly made our way to the river.  There was a small dock that we had to go from.  I was watching most people just jump off the dock and I was not wild about this idea.  What if my goggles or seal came loose just enough for water to seep in?  Maybe I will hold them as I jump in….decisions…..  Then I saw someone quickly sit down at the edge of the dock and slide into the water.  That might have taken 2 extra seconds, but when I saw that, I knew that was what I was doing!  I had discussions with my two teammates that I was in line with about how we would get into the water.  Tarina and I decided to take the same approach.  Major props go to Bill who had planned to not do a repeat of his Ironman Louisville swim entry (which was a quasi belly flop) but did exactly that!  It made for a bit of comic relief seconds before my own swim start but lots more post-race!

The official water temperature was 73.6, so wet suit legal!  When I got in it only felt chilly for a few seconds.  I quickly fell into my rhythm and felt like I maintained it throughout.  For at least half the swim I was side by side with Tarina and we even bumped into each other one time…oops!  There were plenty of swimmers but I never felt like it was not crowded, which is great for me.  I tried to keep my head in the swim, which is key, and stay focused on my technique.   I have found that this typically gives me better results overall.  Before I knew it, I was aiming for the ladders surrounded by volunteers to help us out of the river.  SWIM DONE! 

I saw my swim time and distance as soon as I got out of the water (I usually hit the lap button on my Garmin as soon as I stop swimming instead of waiting to cross the timing mat for transition).  I actually saw .82 miles, which seemed pretty close to being on point.  It was hard to gauge my time since it is a swim with the current and shorter than planned.

The run to transition was not a short one but included a brief stop at the wet suit strippers that did a fast and fabulous job!  At that point the weather was still cooperating…it was not raining and very overcast.  I tried to be as efficient in T1 as possible, but I know I need to improve to cut down my time.

Onto the bike!  This is where I am most comfortable.  However, I had a bit of concern in the back of my mind.  The past several weeks leading up to the race, I had some issues in my right glute/hamstring.  It was only when I was on the bike (not on the run) and it had improved the last week or two just before the race.  I had also spent a TON of time on the foam roller; however, I was still going in with my fingers crossed! 

I was very excited about this bike course.  Having driven it I felt prepared and was ready to tackle a new course.  Well, frustration set in within the first few miles.  There were a couple sets of railroad tracks and despite them being covered, the area gave us a rough ride.  Over the first set and immediately I heard my back bottle hit the ground.  CRAP!  I stopped, laid my bike on the ground and ran back (as best I could in bike cleats) and grabbed it.  Ok…big loss of momentum, but back on the bike and into my groove.  Shortly thereafter there was another set of tracks and AGAIN I had a torpedoing bottle.  It actually crossed my mind for one second to keep going.  Since I use Infinit though, all my calories were in the three bottles I was carrying on the bike.  I didn’t have a choice.  Same routine with stopping and it felt like the second time took me even longer.  I was so pissed, but what else could I do?  I tried to put it out of my mind and ride the way I know I could.  

Before I knew it I was out of town and this is where the course really gets enjoyable.  Overall I think the course was a bit crowded, but in comparison to Raleigh 70.3 (which I have done three times), I would say not too different.  My guess is that a shorter swim course provided a smaller window of time for people to get more spread out.

I was just doing my thing and stayed of out of the draft zone when I was not sure I was ready to pass, but also did plenty of passing when my legs gave me the go ahead.  It still blows my mind how many people will ride in the middle or to the left of the lane.  The concept is quite easy…STAY TO THE RIGHT…PLEASE!

The biggest advantage I gained from us driving the bike course was the preparation it gave us leading up to the short, STEEP climb on Andrews.  Otherwise upon making that left hand turn, I definitely would have been in the big ring and HATING life at the point!  However, I did know when to expect it and shifted to my small ring and was ready to hit it!  Upon the turn, I immediately saw two people walking their bikes up the hill and one lady that appeared to have dropped her chain.  YIKES!  That is a legit hill! Thankfully it was short and I just gradually shifted my rear gears and spun up.  I was glad to have that one done and ready for the nice recovery section after.

As I was covering the back half of the course, I would do periodic checks with myself and I continued to feel good.  I knew my pace was great but wanted to keep it in the forefront of my mind that “I was not out to win a bike race” (wise words by my training buddy Bill).  Really, I wanted to push when I could but didn’t want to leave it all on the bike when I still had a half marathon to run.    

As I entered back into town, I was excited about the ride I had.  I was still mad because I had dropped a bottle twice, but I knew I did the ride I could and really exceeded my expectations.  I just wish my Garmin bike average had carried over to to my official finish time.   

Since my Garmin is set to auto pause (and didn’t capture my stops for the dropped bottles), I know my true ride time and distance and a 20+ average would have been crazy exciting to see in my race results.  Still a new PR for that race distance is something to be very proud of!    

Ride data from my Garmin

As I was coming into T2 I saw my training buddy Bill.  Since seeing Tarina early on the bike, I had not seen any of my teammates or Tony racing.  However, the support crew that was there to cheer on our team was loud and so awesome!  It made me smile every time I saw and heard them!

I tried to be as efficient as possible in T2, but once again, I need to improve on my time here.  I started out on my run and my legs didn’t feel that bad.  Maybe I had actually been able to ride that bike course and not crush my legs! 

Starting out on the run

I expected the course to be relatively hilly, but other than that, not sure what to expect.  Overall I was feeling ok…I did have a slight touch of uneasy stomach, but nothing too concerning.  I planned to take Coke at the aid station to hopefully keep it settled. 

The early part of the 2-loop course was definitely not my favorite.  This section is along a highway stretch with no shade and some long gradual hills as well.  The next section was much better as it was along a river walk and had some breeze and shady areas.  There was also a terrific aid station which was a luau theme and lots of fun volunteers. 

After you emerge from this stretch you hit THE HILL!  I continued to run up it on the first loop until about half way.  Then power walked up to the top which was a much better decision.       

The next section of the run took us over a huge bridge which was pretty cool.  I was excited to be nearing the end of loop one.  I had some tough stretches during that loop.  It was starting to warm- up as the sun was peeking out.   I was ready to get through this.

Loop two I knew I needed to keep my head in the game.  Overall, I think I did a pretty good job.  I minimized any walking to be at the aid stations were I was trying to stay cool and keep my stomach happy.  When I hit THE HILL the last time I did power walk as I learned the first time through that was the best plan.

As I neared the finish line I told myself to let go of the focus and enjoy it.  This is something I don’t always make a conscious effort to do, but is was great!  I found myself more emotional than I expected.  With a new PR in the pocket (includes accounting for the shortened swim), I was relieved.  The fifth finish line for a 70.3 is still as sweet as ever!

I immediately found Tony and Bill and we all shared hugs and congratulations.  We met up with our cheering section who were just awesome throughout the day.  Soon after, Tarina and April crossed the finish line and we were all together again.

All smiles!!! (from left to right) Tony, me, Tarina, April & Bill

We knew soon enough after quick conversations that everyone on the team had raced to new PRs!!!  Even estimating the additional time the shortened swim would have added we had met some great goals.

We gathered all our gear and headed back to the house.  Everyone was ready for showers and some serious relaxation!  Hanging out after the race at the house was great.  We took turns in the Norma Techs and shared details of each of our days.  This quality time after the race was truly one of the highlights of having the house that we all shared.  Since no race day is complete without appropriate celebration the entire group went out to dinner at a downtown restaurant called Stir.  It was great ending to our day!

Since I have had time to really reflect on my race, overall I am happy with my day.  My ultimate goal was to lock in a new PR at this distance.  5:53:43 was my long standing PR from Beach to Battleship half in 2012.  I was able to do that.  I felt strong in the swim and only wish it had been safe for us to have the full course.  With the exception of the bottle mishap, I don’t think I would change anything about my bike.  I thought I would be able to gut out a faster run, but I gave it all I had, and that’s all I can ask of myself.  Another one in the books!

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This was my third year in a row at this event.  In 2015, I raced this duathlon for the first time and really enjoyed the “new” format.  The timing was a bit earlier this year, which actually worked out great as it serves as a lead up to IM Chattanooga 70.3.   The timing in the past years was ideal as it served as lead up to IM Raleigh 70.3, which is a few weeks later on the calendar.  They offer a short course and long course, but I has always opted for the long course since the 70.3 distance was close behind.  There were five of us from the Oak City Tri team racing, including my hubbie!

Oak City Tri

 

Our first race together in several years

As the case with last year, this event served as the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship.  Therefore, the “local” flavor was somewhat replaced since there were lots of participants from out of state.  In fact, in my age group, I was the only one from the Raleigh area (very unusual).  The race was a speedy one for sure!

The race takes place in Cary, which is only about a 35 minute drive.  There was a slight change in venue, but basically it was located just beside the venue from the past couple of years.  It was again a 7:00 am start…however, unlike last years’ event where we had a nice cool morning, when we left the house it was already in the low 70s and feeling a bit muggy.  The forecast for the day was to be the warmest day so far of the year.    

We arrived a bit early, but Tony wanted the on-site mechanic to take a look at something relatively minor on the bike before the race.  It would not have been a deal breaker, but we always want things to be as smooth as possible.  Lucky for us, there were two mechanics set up outside of transition, just waiting for someone to help!  He was able to make a small, quick adjustment and we were all set!  I picked up my packet and timing chip and made my way to transition.  I had plenty of time to set things as I wanted and did a short easy run down to the ladies room to get the blood moving a bit.  There was time before the race to pair up with everyone and share a little small talk before the start.  The plan was for two waves of long course men to start at 7:00 and 7:04 and then for all long course women to start at 7:08.  The short course athletes would start at 7:30 (remember this for later…). 

The long course event was a 5 mile run/31 mile bike/5 mile run.  With the slight change in venue, a new course was on tap for this year.  The run was 2 loops of 2.5 miles each (so yes….4 loops total for the race).  Most of the run took place in the park and the neighboring USA baseball complex.  It included sidewalks, parking lots and very little on the actual road.  The bike course included fast, flat, rolling and climbing sections and multiple views of Lake Jordan.

Starting out

The run started and it was I planned to just see how I felt early on to decide how much to push.  I did not know what to expect exactly from the run course.  Since we started out on a sidewalk, it was rather crowded, so initially, it was more of finding your personal path.  That was ok.  There were plenty of course monitors to direct us on the course which involved a lot of turns.

As I was nearing the completion of the first loop, I noticed the large group of people ahead that just so happened to be the short course folks starting.  Lucky me I was now behind ALL of them, so even more of a crowd of navigate around than when I started!  I will admit, I was kind of frustrated with this format!

Getting mixed into the start of the short course group….all the white bibs around me!

Trying to stay in my rhythm

With starting loop two, I now knew that the run course included a few hills, one short steep hill, but plenty of flat as well.  The best part in the format was seeing Tony and my other teammates on the course.

Onto the bike.  Once again, I did not know specifically what to expect with the new course.  I knew it would be a rolling format that is typical for our area.  I was actually happy to get on the bike as it had started feeling hot and I knew there would be relief from riding.  

There was one thing I was rather nervous about and that was my leg.  I had been having some pain in my right glute/hamstring while on the bike (not on the run at all).  I thought it may have been due to some slight bike fit adjustments that I had done due to a new saddle. Things had been not so good the week leading into the race, that I had some tweaks done just two days prior to the race.  I had been so uncomfortable that I figured it could only improve.

The course ended up being pretty much what I expected.  There was some climbing early on and then we hit a flat, fast section, that was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, about 30 minutes in I was starting to feel uncomfortable due to my leg.  Not to the extent that I had a few days prior, but definitely not what I was happy with.  I tried to focus on aero and staying strong, but I was definitely ready to get off the bike.

Overall, I liked the bike course and can’t really remember anything major I would suggest changing.  I just wish I could have enjoyed it more without the distraction of my leg.

The one positive is as soon as I was off the bike and on my feet, my leg did not bother me at all.  Back to the run….two loops down and two to go!

On the third loop, I saw one of my teammates still racing and one that had come out to cheer (since he had finished), but I didn’t get to see Tony.  Racing with friends is really the best!

Starting the FOURTH loop! UGH!

As I continued my run, I focused on being smart with my pace.  This day, while still morning, was already feeling hot and I didn’t want to fade just because it was….but also didn’t want to push too much considering.  In hindsight, I think my training took over as my pace didn’t waiver a whole lot.  That is one of the things I am most pleased about.  I really wanted to maintain a sub 9-minute mile for the second loop and I was able to do that.

Finish Line…But focused until the very end!

Also, I was able to really test my hydration/nutrition in a race environment.  This season I have switched to Infinit and while it has worked great in training I wanted to give it a go prior to Chattanooga.  Overall it worked great and I am excited to have this locked down prior to Choo!

Tired and happy!

Post-race there was plenty of socializing and hanging out.  There were good choices for food, and while I had a bit, we all had planned lunch out post-race, so I knew a good burger was in store for me.  I was a little disappointed with the event overall.  It had really become one of my favorites and with the new run course, it just didn’t excite me as much anymore.  It was still fun to race a duathlon again and it also served as a great lead up to Chattanooga 70.3.

Garmin Results

Splits from first run

Splits from second run

 

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Many folks come into triathlon with a running background.  Having done lots of road races, they look for a new challenge and give triathlon a go.  That was not my story and therefore, I don’t have a lot of experience at running races.  Actually, I have only done two running races…..a 5K (my first ever race) and an 8K.  That is all.  I have done the half marathon distance plenty….having completed 4 half Ironmans and a full Ironman, I think people are surprised when I say that I had never raced an open half marathon.  I have only done the distance in training or after swimming and biking! 

I have had a goal for quite some time to race one.  I signed up for the Kiawah half marathon in December 2015 and I had to cut off my training at the end of October that year due to injury.  I planned to give that race another go this past December, but decided that it made more sense to start the year with a 13.1 rather than end my 2016 with one.  With a May 70.3 scheduled, it seemed to be a good idea to get some early run fitness and hope that it translated into some gains for Chattanooga 70.3.  My main for Tobacco Road Half Marathon was simple….sub-2 hours.  During the last couple of weeks of training, I added a stretch goal…sub 9-minute/mile average pace.       

Race morning started like many others….an alarm that goes off way to early, getting into my gear, eating a good breakfast and trying/getting out the door by the planned time.  This race is local and several of my team members were racing as well.  With a large majority of the parking being at a remote lot and having to be shuttled to the race site, we were fortunate to secure a parking pass that allowed on-site parking.  Tony and I met three others so we could carpool and all take advantage of the convenient parking.

Sunday morning ended up being a few degrees warmer than forecasted.  It was supposed to be in the upper 30 and was closer to mid-40s when we left the house around 4:40am.  It changed my attire plans only slightly. 

When we arrived to the race site at 5:30am, we had so much time.  We were close to bathroom facilities as well as the start line so we actually just sat in the car for a while to stay warm and passed the time talking.  Before we knew it, it was time to get moving and get our pre-race done and to the start line. 

This local race has been happening since 2010 and has become very popular over the years.  It hosts a full marathon (1500 participants max) and half marathon (2500 participants max and sold out) and is considered to be a generally flat course.  The majority of the run (8 miles for the half) takes place on the American Tobacco Trail which “is a recreational rail-trail located on an abandoned railroad corridor of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Constructed in 1906, the original railroad traveled from Duncan to Durham near the New Hope River, transporting tobacco leaf from farming communities in Wake, Chatham and Durham counties for processing at the American Tobacco Company in Durham” (from the race web site).  The trail is mainly compacted dirt surface that is a combination of flat or slight inclines/declines.  The first and last 2.5 miles is on the road with a few rolling hills.   

Due to the crowds and me not claiming a spot early in the lineup, I was further back that I originally planned when we took our spots in line for the 7am gun start.  This did not concern me at all.  I had not planned on running with a pace group and was just going out to do my thing.  It was definitely crowded at the beginning.  Since I have not run a lot of running only races, I am not used to having to account for lots of other runners around me.  In triathlon, by the time you get to the run, there is plenty of space to find.  I planned to go for a solid first mile.  It is key for me to get the legs really moving and start strong.  Of course, the key is finding a good balance of not too slow/not too fast.  Plus mile #1 contained the first hill, so I had to keep that in mind. 

I did a good job of executing my plan of starting strong.  I actually followed my training partner for a first bit as he weaved in and out laid a path.  I knew he would have a strong start, faster than I needed to go, but good to hang on out of the gate.  I felt good and was excited to get going (mile 1 was an 8:39 pace).  As previously mentioned, the first 2.5 miles are on the road with some rollers.  I got into a solid groove early on and didn’t feel the impact of these rollers too much.  I was happy for that!!!  Before I knew it, we were taking the turn onto the American Tobacco Trail.  This is an out and back stretch.  I had started farther back than planned and I passed people, and people passed me.  Early on, this was not much of an issue.  However, as we got deeper onto the trail and the first runners had already passed the turn-around point, it became more narrow.  Since we needed to start allowing for two way traffic, it became a bit more difficult to maintain a clear path.  At some points the trail is naturally narrower but then widens in sections.  There was really only one point where I felt that the traffic was really clustered amongst us, but that didn’t last too long and was able to get back into my personal groove.  Overall, I was continuing to feel good.  My heart rate was definitely higher than where I had been training my long runs, but this was race day and I felt strong! 

After I passed the turnaround point, there was one pace group just in front of me.  I had made up a lot of ground to them and when I was able to pass them, there was actually a lot more open space on the trail….which was really nice.  Overall, I felt that time has passed relatively quickly.  Between my tunes and all the people “keeping me company”, I was not glancing at my Garmin too often.  I also saw my training partners along the course, all except for one.  This is always a nice boost! 

Eventually, my quads started feeling the effects my strong run.  I don’t particularly remember which mile, but I am thinking it was around mile 9.  The way they were feeling is not something I was used it.  Typically, I feel my glutes and hammies more during my long runs.   My plan was just to hold on.  Well, mile 10 was an unpleasant surprise.  I am not sure if I had just let up some, lost my concentration, or what, but when my Garmin showed me a lap pace of 9:18, I had a quick talking to myself to keep pushing.  I had goals that I wanted badly and I needed to finish what I had started!

As the route on the trail ended and my time back out on the road started, I knew I had some rollers between me and the finish line.  I kept thinking about what a friend of mine said about one of the early downhill sections going out….”remember that hill you go down in the beginning because it will be the one sucking the life out of you at the end”!  In reality, it was not horrible, but MAN did I feel it!  As the road makes the final turn back into the park, I knew it was downhill from there.  This section was very tough on my quads, but I was just trying to stay strong until that final step over the finish line. 

Almost to the finish line!

I knew I had met main goal of sub 2-hours as well as beating my stretch goal of a sub-9 minute/mile pace average.  I was so thrilled!!!!

I gathered my medal, rang the PR bell and found Tony to share my excitement.  

Finally found Tony!

The hard work was complete!  What a day!  I pushed hard….I raced!  I raced myself to complete what I had worked so hard for.  While there were thousands of others on the course with me, it was ONLY ME that I was racing against.  The self-pride that I felt was undeniable.

YAY! Feeling great about my race!

Some of my awesome teammates from Oak City Tri!

Post-race, we socialized a bit and after everyone finished we met up to head out for our brunch reservation.  We celebrated our accomplishments and had lots of fun sharing our unique race experiences.  What a great day and even better to spend it with awesome people!

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I feel each new year is a blank page in “my book”.  A chance to start fresh and get excited about the opportunities ahead.  A chance to think about what I would like to do and the adventures I want to take in the coming year.  Though some of the race related decisions of what I will be doing were made in 2016, it is no longer “next year”.  It is coming into the here and now and the grooming of the specifics come into play.

As far as training goes, I have been active since the end of my race season in October.  During the off season, I don’t abandon swim, bike and run, but I definitely mix things up.  I have actually had a focus to my swim and I am rather pleased with where I am currently, especially considering it is January.  I took several weeks where I would do a run about once a week, maybe two now and again, “just for fun”.  This eventually moved into a base build where I was trying to incorporate low zone runs and gradually increase mileage.  It was nothing too structured, but I was also thinking ahead to 2017, since running would be a big focus as soon as the new year began.  As far as the bike, it is where I always would choose to be, so it is easy for me to keep trainer rides in my rotation.  I have been getting in rides approximately twice a week.  I definitely have been able to mix it up as well.  I have tried some “new to me” classes at the gym and also some more focus on strength training.  I have not been able to keep in the strength training as much as I planned, but one winter workout that has been in regular rotation since the first of December is a weekly stair workout with my tri team.  We gather on Thursday mornings at 6am at a local 17 story office building and climb stairs every way you can possibly imagine.  This is a killer workout and it never disappoints.  We have an interesting way of making this challenging workout super fun and I look forward to it every week.     

There will be no significant changes to how I approach training in 2017.  I continue to be dedicated to getting stronger every year.  My dedication is my strong suit…I have to be. Progress does not come easy for me and this is one thing that I can always bring to the table.

I will tweak some things here and there to try to reach that improvement this year. Last year I believe that I plateaued a bit, so my focus is to DO THE WORK that is necessary to grow in 2017.

My first training plan of 2017 has already kicked into full gear.  With my first race planned for March 19, it is time to incorporate the structure that is needed to keep the focus and push for the goals.  The Tobacco Road Half Marathon is first up.  I am excited to have this early season race…this is new for me.  The idea was that I would take this early focus on my run….base building started late November and by March I will be well prepared for this half marathon which will hopefully set me up well for a strong season of triathlon.

The next race I have committed to is the Chattanooga Ironman 70.3.  May 21 will be here before I know it, but I am crazy excited about this event.  This is one that I really wanted to race in 2016, but missed my opportunity to sign up before it sold out.  I am most looking forward to the change this will bring.  I have completed four half-ironmans and three of those were Raleigh IM 70.3.  The variety and challenge of a new course will be more than welcomed and “fingers crossed” that the temperatures will be a bit kinder than those that Raleigh tends to deliver.  This is a team event so there will be a strong showing from Oak City Tri.  Plus, Tony has signed up, which will be his first triathlon back after a several year break.  This race has a lot for me to be excited about!           

I have not yet signed up, but I am also planning to do the Cary Long Course Duathlon that I have done the last couple of years  This is a few weeks before Chattanooga IM 70.3, so the timing is ideal.  This has become one of my favorite local races, so I am happy that it seems to fit well with the calendar.  I expect that this will be another tri team event, which makes racing it, even more fun!

As you can see, the first part of the season is planned out.  I have my mind on some summer races, but Tony and I need to pair up our calendars and make some scheduling decisions (he plans to race some Xterra events and there are far fewer of those races to choose from).  One thing I have determined is that whatever I do decide to race, I need to plan a bit better than I did for my later season races last year.  This will allow me to better set the structure, which in turn, should set me up for a great season!

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How did I spend the morning of my birthday?  Racing of course!  My last triathlon of the season just happened to fall on my birthday (October 1).  The Battle at Buckhorn is a great local sprint distance race and this was the third year I have participated.  Calendar-wise, it fell much later in the season…no complaints about that, because it has been known to be a pretty hot race!  Last year it was in August.  Also, last year, I had a pretty fantastic race with a couple of PRs associated with that.

At the beginning of the week, the water temperature was posted to be 77 degrees.  With cooler morning/afternoon high temperatures, it seemed likely that the swim would be wetsuit legal.  A few of us even did an open water swim Wednesday morning to get in one with the wetsuit prior to Saturday.  It has been several months since my wetsuit was in the lake! 

 The race had an 8:00am start and the venue is about 40 minutes away. Early alarm, but luckily, not crazy early!  The morning was uneventful and Tony and I arrived at the race site about the time I planned.  My teammates April (she was racing) and Bill (acting as support crew since he was in taper mode for IM Louisville) arrived just a few minutes later.  Good timing! 

April and I rode our bikes down into the park since it was a bit of a walk.  Participation wise, it was a bit smaller race this year since there was another triathlon by the other local production company in the area.  I got all the logistics taken care of…packet pick-up, body marking, transition set-up etc fairly quickly.  I was able to get a decent spot on the rack and I did notice that there was more room between the bike racks this year which makes navigating in and out much easier.  The water temperature was announced and unfortunately it had crept up just enough to NOT be wetsuit legal.  It was a cooler morning and predicted to be a nice day, but the morning fog was lingering much longer than expected.  The pre-race announcements including some words of caution since there were some pockets of fog still out on the roadways. 

April and I ready to race! We were the only reps from #oakcitytri, but I think we represented well!

This year all the women started first for the swim.  YAY!!!  Last year, it was a mass start with the men and I did not prefer that format, especially for this small race. 

As we waded into the water, it felt CHILLY!  A wetsuit would have been great, by my standards!       

swim-1

Feeling chilly to me!!!

swim-2

Easing in!

April and I had one more cheesy moment for the camera!

The 750 meter swim was a triangular counter clock-wise course.  At go time, there was a little bit of congestion, but only for a short time.  From the start, I felt good and I found my groove…which is always a good thing,  I noticed that the fog was hindering my sighting, but I just aimed to keep an eye on the other pink caps and look for the orange buoy as best I could.

After the first turn as I was beginning to search for the second buoy….it was nowhere to be found.  I could not see it at all!!  The fog had gotten worse since we started.  I sighted more frequently in hopes to get a glimpse, but it was quite a while before I could see the buoy again.  I kept my eyes on the other pink caps and kept my fingers crossed that we were all headed in  the right direction!  As I rounded the last turn to head toward shore (and hoped that the orange buoy would be in my sight path), there was no improvement in the fog situation.  I continued on, as best I could, and was happy when I was able to see the buoy to guide me to shore.  I swam until my fingers hit the bottom and felt good as I ran out of the water.

Swim done! Notice the fog in the background.

Headed to T1

The run into T1 was short and I made decent time in transition.  Out to the bike course!!!  The 17 mile course is fairly typical for our area.  A few rollers, and few flats and one memorable hill.  As I was settling in I noticed that my sunglasses were definitely hindering my vision.  The fog was still thick.  I slid them down my nose and that helped, but realized that I could not ride the entire way like that.  The small pockets on my tri top would not hold them and my bento box is not large enough.  After a few minutes of trying to figure out what I do, I decided to tuck them down into my top….which worked perfectly!!

The not so good news though, is that my bike legs were not there.  I was working, but just not generating the power and speed that I am able to.  I kept hoping that they would snap out of it and wake up to the fact that I was racing!  Despite my best efforts, I did not deliver the ride that I know I could.  I was nowhere close to my average speed from last year on the course.  I had been riding well lately, so I am not so sure what happened.

Onto the 5K run, where I was actually quite nervous as what I was going to be able to do.  The last two runs leading up to my race were cut extremely short due to some muscle pain in my left inner thigh.  This had started a couple of weeks prior, but I immediately saw my PT and the dry needling helped right away.  I had a session at the beginning of the week which should had been thing to ensure there would be no pain on race day.  I was surprised that I felt pain on the on the taper runs leading up to the race and it made me very anxious as what to expect on Saturday.

Headed to the turn around point on the run. Tony was there cheering me on!

As I started out, I thought I would know within the first couple of minutes, generally how things would go.  It started MUCH BETTER than I anticipated.  As I continued on, I was realizing that it seemed that I was in the clear on this run.  I ended up pushing more than I thought I would be able to and was pleased at the outcome.  I did not beat the 5K PR that I clocked last year that this event, but I was faster than even I thought was “best case scenario”.  I’ll take it!

Big smile as I crossed the finish line.

We hung around for the awards because I had placed first place in the 40-44 age group.  Last year at this event, I had placed third with a faster time.  Last year was also my first time to win a belt buckle, which is the unique prize given out to the winners.  I wanted to pick up my second buckle! (The overall male and female winners get a super fancy buckle.)

My belt buckle!

When we were hanging around, I was SUPER surprised when I heard my name called for first place Masters’ female!  I was even more pumped that I won a $75 check for this placement.  Woo hoo!!

My $75 check!

“Spectators” along the race course!

Overall, it was a pretty good day, race wise.  Definitely not the bike performance that I am capable of, but I gave all I had that day.  There were some unexpected outcomes which contributed to the excitement (I have NEVER finished first in my AG on the swim!).   We celebrated the day with post-race pancakes (thanks to my teammate April for the treat!!)!

battle-at-buckhorn

battle-at-buckhorn-2

As far as the real birthday celebration, I wanted something very low key.  Tony and I met friends for an Italian dinner and on the way home we all stopped by a local bakery for dessert “to go”.  We enjoyed our dessert with a glass of wine while relaxing on our screened in porch on a beautiful evening.  It turned out to be a great birthday!

 

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The morning began extra early (4:30am) since our drive was around 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left at the time we planned (5:15am) and Tony was sweet enough to act as driver, race Sherpa and photographer for not only me, but my teammate April as well.  Race start was 8:00am and we arrived with plenty of time to setup transition and perform all other final preparations for the race. 

Team photo – only missing one here, I think!

Our team had a good turnout participation wise and this was the first “team race” in our new team kits.  Unfortunately, the new kits did not arrive until late June, so we were excited to have this event to show them off!    

me and April

April and I worked together on creating the design of the new team kits! We are excited to finally be able to show off the final product!

The swim took place in the Pamlico River which is  a river off the Pamlico Sound.  The water is slightly salty and has little current.  The swim exited onto a sandy beach that is less than 25 yards from transition area.  The swim was changed just prior to the event to be a two-loop course of the sprint tri that started 30 minutes later than the Olympic.   Due to some algae issues in the water that had been monitored all week, this change in course was made.  Honestly, I didn’t mind the two-loop set up.  It gave me a better idea of when I was exactly half-way, which is just a mental game I tend to play.  I felt pretty good in the water and concentrated on all the things I needed to….form, sighting, etc.  During the swim I felt as if my sighting was good.  I lapped my Garmin as soon as I stood up to exit the water (I try to remember to always do this during a race in order to get a “true” swim time and not a time that includes part of T1).  Upon first glance, I was happy.

Into T1, which was close, and my transition was fine.  I was closer to the swim exit end versus the bike start end, which seems to be more my luck this season.  I would prefer (as most would) to be closer to the bike start side of the transition area.  At least is was grass.  I didn’t hear or see Tony as I was in transition, which is unusual.  I figured I would see him soon enough. 

I jumped on my bike and headed out of the park area, which included a few speed bumps.  As suspected, I saw Tony comfortably sitting on a beach on the side of the road to catch everyone as we exited the park.  The bike course was a two-loop of the sprint course on flat roads with minimal turns.  The worse part was coming back into the park area to start lap #2 because you had to cross the speed bumps again (both in and out) and make a sharp turn around, therefore losing your momentum.

Starting the second loop

I felt good on the bike and due to the two loop design, I saw my teammates frequently.  Our kits really stand out with all the bright colors and the one colored band design on the shorts.

Earlier when I was on the outbound section of the bike, there was an ambulance and other emergency vehicles on the side of the road.  I just focused on the road so I could stay safe.  However, as I was coming back in on the final few miles of the bike, I noticed something very scary.  One of my teammates was the one surrounded by all of this.  Fortunately, though, when I did get a quick glimpse of him, he was standing and appeared to be ok.  Even though my heart sank, everything appeared to be under control.  (Later on we all learned that he was side swiped and then cut off by a driver than was pulling into her driveway.  He was completely on course which included local law enforcement performing traffic control at intersections.  He was beat up and he bike basically totaled, but SO lucky to walk away with only lots of bandages and soreness.)

Into T2 and made a decent switch and actually ran out with another one of my teammates where we had a quick conversation about the bike accident and our friend (and that he appeared to be ok). 

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Starting the run

As expected, the run was a HOT one!  It was also a two-loop design through the downtown waterfront area with hardly any shade.  As with the bike, the course design allowed me to see my teammates and share some words of support during the run.  This is what makes the team events THE BEST!!  I think all of us were very happy to see a few little girls standing out in their yard with a water hose offering an opportunity to cool off.  This “unsanctioned” aid station, was awesome!  The start of the second loop took us back into the park near transition/finish line where I saw Tony and other team supporters again. 

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Starting the second loop – Inside the park was one of the only areas with a touch of shade

I knew my run had started well, but since I had turned off the lap time notification on my Garmin, during an earlier training session, I was not able to monitor my individual mile pace.  That may have ended up being a good thing since I was focused on drinking/cooling at the aid station and maintaining a consistent pace.  The heat and sun were tough, but I was TRYING to not focus on that alone.  I feel like I stayed strong throughout the run and was so excited to cross that finish line and immediately find some shade.          

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Just before the finish line!

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Team Photo – still a couple missing!

The Girls

The Ladies!

Garmin Times:  Obviously “unofficial”, but it is important to me because it always gives me a better gauge of my true times, since the distances tend to not be “exact”.   Also, it gives me a better opportunity for analysis. 

Garmin Screenshot

For instance, I learned from my Garmin that even though I felt like I was sighting well, I still swam too far.   I am pleased with the swim pace, but not my true distance.  The buoys on one side of the triangle were spaced pretty face apart…certainly not like in an Ironman event, where they are close together.  I have had this issue for a long time and despite feeling comfortable with my sighting, I have some things to try and work on.  As far as the bike, I was able to hit a new PR, which is exciting.  As far as the run, I didn’t quite hit the pace I was hoping, but I know I gave it all out there and gritted out the run that I could given the conditions. 

FS Results

FS Results 2

All in all I am happy with the day and was pleased that my official results had me at third in my age group.  We had several from the team that placed in their respective age groups as well as the overall winner for the day!  Great day for Oak City Tri!! 

HAppy

Happy!!

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We departed on June 16 for our vacation.  We had a full itinerary on this trip to parts of the country we have never visited.

Map image to Portland

This obviously was not our exact route, but still a fun image!

Our first stop was Portland, Oregon.  Our flight took us through Denver which presented some beautiful views from the air!

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Once arriving in Portland and checking into the Embassy Suites (we had a nice experience) and getting settled, we ventured out to explore a bit.  Even though it was late afternoon and not close to dinnertime, we were hungry, since our internal clocks were on east coast time.  We had a light bite at Pine Street Market (local food hall/court) to tied us over to dinner.  But then, we decided to check off a “Portland must-do”…Voodoo Doughnuts!  We are on vacation…right?!?!?

voodoo

We decided to head back to the room and get cleaned up and rest awhile before grabbing a real dinner.  WELL…..we both fell asleep and slept until morning!  I guess that is one way to get adjusted to west coast time!!

The first full day in Portland started with a morning run.

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I always love to explore a new place via running!

There is a great path encompassing the waterfront and we took advantage.

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I LOVE running along water and this was great.

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One of my favorite things was all the different bridges throughout.

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Having to take a short break to wait for the bridge!

 

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Great start to the morning!

After cleaning up and a great breakfast at the hotel, we decided to explore the city and what other way to do this other than on bikes?!?!?!  We rented two very simple (single speed) cruiser bikes and went everywhere!

Rose Garden

International Rose Test Garden

Bike in Portland

This was such a unique set-up that I HAD to take a photo!!!

The day also included stops at the infamous Powell’s Books and Little Big Burger for lunch.  After that we took a detour to the hotel for a break due to a bit of rain.

When we were able to resume, we saw so much more!

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One pit stop included ice cream at Salt n’ Straw, which came highly recommended.  It DID not disappoint, as I think one of the best milkshakes Tony has ever had was that day!

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I really loved the variety and uniqueness of all the bridges!

This is what our day on the single speed bikes ended up looking like via Garmin….LOL!!!  I could not resist!  This was definitely a much different effort than what I usually have on the bike!

Garmin

After a full day of activity, we had exciting plans to meet up with Leslie from Triathlete Treats.  Since she and her husband, Dan, live in Portland, I reached out to her while we were planning to get advice on all things Portland.  Luckily, the timing worked that so we could all have an evening out together.  They took us to one of their fave restaurants called, La Bistro Montage, and it was awesome.  Their menu includes a section of a variety of mac n’ cheese that you can customize and I went that route.  YUM!!!!  After dinner we went for ice cream at another local spot called Ruby Jewels…I took Leslie’s advice and opted for a customized ice cream sandwich.  You know life is good when you have ice cream twice in one day!  #wewereonvacation

Before heading back to the hotel, we received a local’s guide to part of the city.  It was cool driving through town and learning more about Portland and their view of home.  It was an awesome night full of great conversation and good times.

Thanks to Leslie and Dan for their awesome company!

The next day was a planned to be a drive down to the Willamette Valley to explore some wineries and do some tastings.  Before picking up the car, we went for another run along the water.  We did a little different route in order to check out a different bridge.

Run on the bridge

We had received several recommendations for wineries to check out and I was very excited.  We had a bit of rain during the day, but nothing too bad.  Our stops included Four Graces, Sokol Blosser, Armonea and Laurel Ridge, which ended up being our favorite!

Wine Country 1

We had a great time learning about this region and the wine was delicious!!!  If you have a love of wine I highly recommend exploring the Willamette Valley.  This day was a real treat and I am so glad we decided to add this day to our itinerary!

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The next day we had a general idea of what we were doing, but we were also open to a day of exploring!  We had planned to drive from Portland through the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood National Forest and eventually arrive in Bend!  This was definitely the “SCENIC ROUTE” (speaking literally and figurativelyand I am so glad we decided on this drive!  There were so many highlights and our cameras were definitely working overtime.

Canyon

Some hiking and waterfall exploring makes for a great way to break up a long drive.

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I never tire of waterfall watching.  These were so great!

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Canyon 4

We stopped in Hood River for a late lunch at at Full Sail Brewing Co.  We were famished and this local spot ended up being a great choice.  When we left Hood River to resume our drive, I had no idea what we ahead of us…

When I first got a peek of this mountain top, I knew it was going to be breathtaking!

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These views did not disappoint!

Mountain View

As we continued to drive and see it closer and from different angles, it became more and more beautiful!

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We arrived to Bend very late in the afternoon.  We had a vacation rental which was a one bedroom house that was in a great location.  The bonus to our rental was that it had a washer and dryer.  With all our activity, we definitely had plenty of laundry to do!  We got settled in and cleaned up and ventured out for a light sushi dinner and for our first real drive around town.  We saw very quickly what a charming town Bend is and was excited for the next couple of days!!

Our first full day in Bend was started with a short run around town.  We didn’t find the best running route in town, but we still enjoyed the crisp, cool morning air and some pretty views in a local park.

Bend Run

The plans for the day included a hike on the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park.  This trail came highly recommended and boy….IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT!  I will let these beautiful photos tell the story!

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Notice the climber in between these rocks!

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After this wonderful morning, we grabbed lunch and headed back into Bend.  We then decided to take the relatively short drive to Tumalo Falls.  This was a great choice and it is amazing that these beautiful falls can be seen within a fews steps of the parking area.

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Tumalo 4

After a great day of exploring we had plans for happy hour at Crux Fermentation Project.   We met up with Kristen from Glitter and Dust along with her husband Justin and precious little one, Axel.  Kristen provided me great tips on how to best enjoy our time in Bend before our arrival.  Crux has a great outdoor area where you can lounge, listen to music and enjoy some drinks.  It was a beautiful evening and it was so fun hanging out with our friends in Bend!

The following day was another fun day of exploration.  After a morning run (we were just loving the morning temperatures in Oregon) and a quick breakfast, we did lots of driving around, stopping at points here and there and continued to be in awe of this beautiful part of the country!

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Never tire of these views!!

One of the highlights involved Green Lake…we didn’t have the chance to do the hike here, but these views that can be seen from the side of the road, were awesome!

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Another highlight was a short hike around Sparks Lake.  The pictures say more than I can in words….

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I could spend all day on a paddle board or in a kayak floating around this lake.

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I just could not get enough of these views!!!

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Later in the day, we headed back to the house and decided to take the cruiser bikes out around Bend.  The bikes were provided with the house rental.

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We did a lot of cruising up and down the Deschutes River trail around the Old Mill District.  You can quickly see that this river is a way of life here.  People were everywhere enjoying the trail (running, biking, walking, etc) and floating on the river.

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We were here on a late weekday afternoon and so I can’t imagine what it would be like on a beautiful weekend!  This was really a nice treat and having the bikes available at our rental and being able to cruise around town was a blast!

After our ride, we were ready for a cold beverage, and stopped at the Atlas Cider Company.  Wow!  This blackberry cider was amazing!!!  Sadly, I can’t find it in NC and hope one day that I can!

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This was our last day in Bend and I was sad to leave to next day.  I would have loved to have been able to have more time for hiking and exploring as I think we just skimmed the surface of the best Bend has to offer!

On a side note, I have to mention this little coffee house that we found and visited twice during our stay.  It is owned by a local lady that is super friendly and makes the BEST frozen blended coffee drinks!  If you visit Bend, check out this local hidden gem for a treat!

Mill Quarter Coffee

The next morning was a flight from Redmond, Oregon to Seattle, Washington…the last stop in our adventure!  Upon arriving in Seattle, we checked into the Hotel Vintage, which ended up being a great hotel!  We headed out to the waterfront and grabbed lunch at Elliott’s Oyster House…we both had Dungeness Crab & Shrimp Melts…yummy!

Our first afternoon in Seattle included an outing Tony had in mind from the beginning when we decided to visit Seattle.  We were not sure if it would happen, but in the end it did….he flew a sea plane and we enjoyed sightseeing from the sky!

Lots of preparation takes place before the plane is ready to go up.  Of course the normal pre-flight inspections and safety checks, but the plane has to be moved into the water…since it has no wheels, a very interesting truck is involved in towing the aircraft.  As the picture shows, it is essentially a chopped off pick-up truck that does the towing!

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Pre-flight Preparations

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Almost ready!

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We are up!!!

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The best views are from the sky!

Space Needle

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The House Boats

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The Water Front

I will say that this was the highlight of our entire stay in Seattle and I am so glad that all the logistics worked out and we were able to take advantage of this rare opportunity!

Our first full day in Seattle started with a chilly morning and a run around town.  I will mention that Seattle has some serious HILLS!!!!!  Who knew?!?!?!?

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After breakfast at Biscuit Bitch, which was recommended by a friend at home,

Biscuit Bitch

we started exploring the city on foot.  I especially loved walking around and through Pikes Place market.  You can’t go to Seattle without checking out the fish mongers and the flying fish.  It was a lot of fun!

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Pikes Place market was full of not only fresh seafood, but lots of fresh produce and flowers.  If I lived here, I believe I would have to make frequent visits!

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We all know that Seattle is home of the first Starbucks.  What I didn’t know is that there is a speciality Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle.  Since the afternoon brought some drizzle, we thought it was the perfect time to check it out!

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As you can see there were big batches of beans being roasted before our eyes.

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At the Roastery and Tasting Room, you can experience blends that are unique to that location.  We sampled with a flight of coffee and cold brews!  YUM!

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Of course we had to make a purchase to bring home some of these special blends!  This afternoon stop at the Starbucks Tasting Room was really enjoyable and something I would recommend for any coffee lover!

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Dinner that evening included pizza at Serious Pie, which also came recommended from a friend of ours at home.

Serious Pie

After dinner, we decided find a place to enjoy a glass of wine and dessert.  We tried Purple Cafe & Wine Bar and it hit the spot.  The decor and vibe are very upscale and modern and there was also a good crowd.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed something sweet and a nice glass of wine.

Purple Wine Bar

A wine bar named “Purple”???? Yes, sounds perfect to me!!!

We awoke to kick off our last day of vacation.  We had a full day planned.  We started out with another morning run.  It was a dreary and gray morning, but this would be the last run in a very long time that we would be able to enjoy cool temperatures!

Last morning run

Cruise ship in the background

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Cheesy smile!

We planned our morning run to end at Pikes Place.  We had to do the “Seattle thing” and visit the Original Starbucks.  We knew there would be a line and we (mainly Tony) are not ones to wait in long lines, but we figured this was a novelty thing to do on vacation.

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Visiting the First Starbucks!

During the previous morning when we were down at Pikes Place, there were decadent smells coming from a bakery a few doors down from Starbucks.  We knew we had to check it out.  Our breakfast that morning came from Piroshky Piroshky which is a Russian bakery selling Piroshkies, hand pies filled with a variety of fillings.  Tony and I shared one sweet and one savory…they were tasty!

After our breakfast and getting ready for the day, we headed over the Pioneer Square neighborhood (which we had checked out the day before and really liked) to participate in Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.  Before the tour began we were able to check out a few of the shops and stores in the area.  This is a very neat area!

Underground tour

The Tour came highly recommended and I liked it pretty good.  Tony was not a huge fan, but was a good sport.

After the tour, we had a bite of lunch and then grabbed an Uber to visit the Museum of Flight.  Since Tony is a private pilot, this was definitely on the list of “must-dos”!

There was tons to see and some very cool history to enjoy.

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Early United jets

Museum of Flight

Americas first jet Air Force One

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WWII Fighter Planes

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Lunar Stuff!

After yet another full day, we enjoyed a great Italian dinner at the Tulio Restaurant, which was conveniently located in our hotel.  It was delicious and I can’t recommend the sweet potato gnocchi appetizer and the linguine and clams dinner enough!  We found a corner spot called Gelatiamo and shared a scoop of gelato for dessert.  Knowing we had an early morning to catch our flight, we called it a night.

We were fortunate enough to have a direct fight home from Seattle.  One of our final views was this beautiful sight…

Flying out

This vacation was full of adventure and Tony and I had a blast visiting a part of the country that we had never seen before.  I love to travel and explore new places and this trip did not disappoint!  Besides the beautiful photos that really can not due justice to some of what we saw, I was so fortunate to connect with two blogger friends that I had only previously “met” over our respective blogs and through social media.  That supports what I have known for a long time…I am lucky to be part of the triathlon community that includes some amazing people!

Until the next adventure…

travel for life