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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!

posted by on Race Report, Triathlon

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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!       

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Feeling chilly to me!!!

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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!!)!

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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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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!

Mountain View 2

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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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.

Museum of Flight 2

Early United jets

Museum of Flight

Americas first jet Air Force One

Museum of Flight 4

Museum of Flight 3

WWII Fighter Planes

Museum of Flight 5

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

 

 

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Pre-Race (Friday):

The logistics of this race require some additional planning to be sure to best use your time.  In the past, I have taken the Friday off prior to this race, but I could not do that this year.  During my lunch break, I headed downtown to the Convention Center for packet pick-up.  Since it opened at noon, there were plenty of other people that had the same idea.  Several of us had planned to meet up and I only ended up seeing a few folks.  Getting through pick-up took longer than it has for me in the past.  I hit the IM store for some shopping and spent some money in NO TIME!  I had a couple of minutes left for some pictures, but some people in our group had already left to go back to work and some were still in line, so the planned group pic didn’t happen.

Bill was ready for his first 70.3!

Balloons 2

Tarina has had many road blocks, but has worked so hard for her first 70.3!

Pre-Race (Saturday):

Saturday morning was low key.  I prepared homemade blueberry pancakes to kick-off my pre-race day eats on the right foot.  While I was cooking, Tony was putting the last minute touches on my bike. 

Bike

She is ready to race!

After breakfast there was lots of chatting and texting with some of my teammates about preparation, meeting up for bike check, etc.  The morning flew by and before I knew it, we were eating lunch.

So, here is where some of the race logistics are not so fun.  We needed to check in our bikes on Saturday afternoon at the swim start which is located about 50 minutes from my house and in a different direction than the downtown area where T2, the finish line and race headquarters are located.  This is one big reason I wanted to get checked in and packet pick-up completed on Friday.

I met up with two of my training partners for check in.  It went smoothly.  We checked out the lake and the swim buoys …all looked good.

We arrived home and I completed all my race prep while Tony started cooking a pasta dinner.   After dinner we actually watched 2015 IM World Championship coverage from Kona to get in the race spirit and then got into bed at a decent time.  Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to fall asleep (which is not usual) and before I knew it, the 3:30am alarm sounded.

Race Day:

Back to the logistics of the day, I needed to be downtown at T2 in order to catch a shuttle that would take us out to the swim start (about 40 minutes away).  Several of the team members arranged to meet at 4:45am in order to ride over together.  Tony was a real trooper and got up with me, had breakfast and then dropped me off.  What a supporter!  The road to the swim start is closed to traffic therefore, any spectator wishing to go out to Jordan Lake, must also take a shuttle.  However, they are not shuttled back until the last swimmer is out of the lake and has progressed out onto the bike course.  Tony and I had agreed that I would see him on the run.  Trying to navigate the bike course for spectating can be challenging with traffic backed up and at least one road closure.  It is a lot to deal with for a quick glimpse.  I knew I wanted him to be out on the run….that is where he could provide me the support I would need.  Like last year, he took out his mountain bike in order to maneuver quickly to various spectating spots.

The line for the shuttle went quickly and several of us from the team were on the same shuttle.  The ride out went extremely quickly.  We arrived around 5:45am….plenty of time for final preparations until T1 closed at 6:45am (pro start at 7:00am and my wave started at 7:56am).

Swim:

The swim was definitely not wet suit legal.  The four years that this race has taken place, the first two were wetsuit and last two not.  Last years’ race was actually May 31 and when the date for this years’ event was announced as June 5, I figured it would most likely be over the 76.1 degree mark. 

I was feeling good as the swim began.  I had a huge goal for myself which was to really work on sighting and trying my BEST to maintain as straight a line fairly close to the buoys.  This is a big weakness of mine and I knew that IM would have lots of buoys which obviously makes it easier to sight.   As the swim started out from shore, things were going well.  I did not have a lot of contact and I continued to see yellow caps around.  I was able to get in a draft for a short time once or twice….something else that I need to work on.  The right turn at the first buoy was a game changer.  Within a matter of seconds, I felt the chop and waves change completely….for the worse.  This was status quo for this long stretch of the swim.  I also felt like I was being pushed out from the buoys close to the support kayaks.  I continued to stay focused on the sight buoys.  There was more contact with other swimmers on this stretch.  I also saw a some back stroking, which is not unusual.  As the chop continued, I just maintained course as best I could and fought on.   The next right turn would be the one to lead up into shore.  I was so hopeful that the chop would settle some and we would have a kinder last leg.  My wish did not come true.  It might have even been worse going in.  I don’t know….I was focused on the shore and finishing.   As I ran out of the swim, I lapped my Garmin and my time of 52 mins showed.  Instant disappointment.  This was my slowest Raleigh 70.3 time.  I had planned for better execution.   I was happy to be running out about 10 steps behind one of my friends that is a stronger swimmer than me.  That really surprised me.    

I swam the entire swim and did not stop along the way.  I felt like despite the crappy conditions, I stayed strong and consistent as I could.  So, what I didn’t realize is that these conditions had really proven to challenge more than just me.  Apparently there were people everyone stopping for breaks with support crew and people that were being asked to be taken to shore.  Also, there were folks that I know that did not make the swim cut-off that would normally never have any problem doing so.  Jordan Lake was no one’s friend on Sunday.  My huge personal accomplishment related to my swim for the day was that I ended up as rank 49 out of 121.  This would put me as top 40% versus bottom 40% from last year (93/151).  I am always looking for the indication of personal improvement at an event.  While a better time is always great, it can be tough to compare a race from one year to the next due to differing conditions, true distances,  or other variables.  While the age group field is also different from one race to another, I think it can be helpful as everyone that is racing that one particular day are all dealing with the exact same conditions that the day brings.  Also, when I looked at my Garmin stats post-race, my GPS track on the swim was fairly straight.  Two personal victories!          

On a side note, Tony was actively tracking me.  He knew that I would not be happy with my swim time when I saw my Garmin when I exited the water.  However, he knew that my overall placement coming out of the water was much better than where I typically am, which would be good news.  He called my mom who was waiting to see me around mile 6ish of the bike and asked her to try to communicate to me that I should be happy with my swim.  He had correctly predicted that I would be thinking about it as I progressed on my bike. 

T1:

Nothing too interesting to report.  Honestly, I was feeling a bit bummed.  I did my thing which include a thorough spray of sunscreen.  The distance from my rack spot to the bike mount was far.

Bike:

The first 5-6ish miles of the ride are not pleasant.  The road is not smooth and there is an additional out and back section which is tacked onto the ride out from the lake to the main road.  There are clusters of people and it is not easy to get into any kind of rhythm at this point.  My approach each time I had done this race is to focus on (1). drinking and (2). eating.  I did just that.  At the end of the lake access road is where my mom always hangs out during the race.  This is just a matter of a few miles from her house, so it is super convenient place for her to cheer!  I yelled to her and she cheered and then I heard….”blah blah blah blah SWIM….”.   Then more cheers….GO GO GO LEE!!!    What?  Did I hear her say something about my swim?  Little did I know that she was trying to send me a message at the time!!!!  Love her for trying!!!

As soon as that turn is made off the road that accesses the lake, the real riding begins.  This stretch of road is flat is smooth.  Great, great, great!  This is the first place where you can really fall into aero and get a solid rhythm.  My goal was to ride by feel…push where I thought it was smart to and ride easy where it made the most sense.

As in years past, one of the most important things for me to do on the bike was DRINK!  With the temperatures to be (at least) in the mid-80s for the day, staying current with hydration was important.  I started with one bottle of Gatorade (the same they were serving on the course) on my bike, as well as water,  and I planned to restock at each aid station. I had all the nutrition I needed with me…Honey Stinger Waffles, Honey Stinger Chews, one Bonk Breaker and goldfish.  I also had salt tabs which I took several of during the ride.  #hshive

While I was drinking just fine, I did not have the feeling that I wanted to eat.  I had a larger than normal portion of oatmeal for breakfast at home around 4am and then I have ¾ of a PBJ around 7am before the swim.  I wanted to start with the Bonk Breaker (I typically can only eat those early on during a hot ride) and then switch to normal option of waffles and throw in some goldfish for a change of taste.  I also had the chews if I felt like I wanted them.  I had about half of the Bonk Breaker early and then the next time I ate, it was part of the waffle.  Overall, the idea of food was just not appealing to me.  I didn’t feel bad at all, just uninterested.  However, I knew it was important to get in the calories!!

I was feeling good and felt like my pacing was spot on.  I was not feeling hot and took fresh hydration at each available station.  I did check my average speed a couple of times, but I didn’t want to focus on it too much…just continue on by feel.

Around the 44 mile mark, the bike course goes along a road that my brother and his family live off of, as well as, one of my closest friends. I was on the lookout for them, but I was not certain that everyone would be out.  I saw my brother and his three kids along with an awesome poster!!

Kids Cheering

Could not ask for more adorable cheerleaders! They make me a new sign every year!

Very shortly thereafter, Kelly and Sean spotted me at about the same time I saw them!  So awesome to see everyone out just to support me!

The last 12 miles of the bike continued on really well.  My legs felt good and I felt like I had been riding smart.  I continued to drink and the eating was not quite where I wanted, because I was still not wanting to eat, but I ate ok.  As I neared T2, I felt confident with a new PR and was feeling as ready as I could to start the run.

T2

The dismount off the bike and run into T2 was not a short stretch.  I thought about leaving my shoes on the bike, but was concerned about how hot the pavement would be.  It was not a pleasant run in bike shoes, but did ok.  It was much better than my T2 fiasco from 2015!  I changed shoes and grabbed my visor, race belt and hydration belt from my soft sided cooler in the transition bag.  I was certain to generously spray the sunscreen.  Stopped for a bathroom break and I was on my way!  Big smile when I passed some friends as I ran out of T2.

Run Out

Friends on the race course are the best!

Run:

Right away, my stomach felt off.  It felt ick!  WHY???  Who knows!!  As I was running, I just didn’t have the umph to push.  I didn’t know what to expect during this half marathon.  I saw Tony right away and he was saying that I looked good.  I just wish I felt better!  Very soon after I saw my good friends Tim and Nicole.  They are awesome supporters and tend to choose great words to help motivate.   Like he did last year, Tony brought down his mountain bike so he could get around on the course easily. That ended up being a great plan for him and I think it made the spectating more fun from his perspective.

This race is definitely a journey of aid station to aid station.  I was wearing a hydration belt of Gatorade Endurance and I had goldfish and Honey Stinger chews, so that allowed me really focus on the cooling aspect at the aid stations…ice in the sports bra, water over the head and shoulders and some for drinking.   I will say that from the four times this race has taken place (I raced three of those and volunteered at a run aid station the other), this year stood out as having fabulously stocked aid stations (ICE EVERYWHERE and more cold sponges than ever).

Smiles for Tony

As I continued on my first loop, my stomach stayed about the same.  Didn’t get worse, but not better either.  It was just off.  It was great seeing lots of others from the team.  Having strong people out there that you train with that are enduring the same tough conditions makes a difference.  I walked more than I ever wanted to during a race.  I am always open to walking the aid stations in order to get everything you need, but always plan to run otherwise.  I needed more breaks, but tried to get them as short as possible.

As I was nearing the end of the first loop, Tony asked how I was doing.  When I told him “about the same”,  he asked if I had taken Coke.  NO!  It simply had not crossed my mind, since I was focused on staying as cool as possible.  I took it as soon as I could.  The end of the first lap goes down close to the finish line and loops around to start the second lap.  During this section I passed the cheering section for the team and they were out and loud with lots of high fives!  LOVE THAT!!  I saw Tony again and Tim and Nicole.  They all continued to tell me that I was looking strong…they are so sweet…I wish I felt strong!

Run 2

Trying to hang tough!

Within 10 minutes or so from taking the Coke, my stomach started feeling better.  GOOD!  I took it at every aid station thereafter and I was so glad Tony had suggested it.  The second lap still was not great, but more consistency in the run than before the Coke.  It was hot with really no relief from the sun, but I continued to focus on cooling myself regularly.  I continued to see teammates which is a big boost.  Everyone was working so hard and giving it their all.  What awesome people I get to train with!!

As I hit the last mile, I was just so focused on finishing.  I was so ready for that chute…I remember it so well from previous races and it is GREAT! As I turned onto Fayetteville Street and followed the arrows to the right side (the left side is for the start of the second loop), I was relieved.  I finished strong and savored that awesome feeling of crossing the finish line.   I love that feeling of giving your all and the pride for your accomplishment.  I received my medal, finishers’ hat and considered any food that might appeal to me (nothing really).  I quickly saw Tony, Tim and Nicole and met them at the fencing.   I was thrilled that my fourth 70.3 distance was done!

Post race is always fun. Beaming from the excitement and chatting about everything that happened.  I knew that Bill and Matt, whom I have spent most of my training time with this season, would be finishing soon, so I was on the lookout.  This was their first 70.3.  Also, another close friend of mine was racing in her first 70.3, so I wanted to bet there when she finished.  Fortunately, I was able to pair up with the guys after they finished.

Post Race

Two awesome training partners!

I totally missed my friend Tarina, but we caught up about 30 minutes after she finished for a big sweaty hug.   I could not have been any more proud of my friends that completed their goal of finishing their first 70.3.  What a tough day, but they DID IT!!!

The team had a post-race cookout.  During the cookout, we learned that our team, Oak City Tri, took second place in our team division overall.  How cool!  We are a new team….we don’t even have our team kits yet.  Our visors and t-shirts were completed prior to race day, but we are still a few more weeks out for the kits.  Very exciting!

Award

Second Place for the Team

Team Photo

Part of our team, Oak City Tri. Some of us raced and the other were awesome supporters!

Summary:
I had a very attainable goal heading into this race.   Even though every race is different, from my experience at this race and training this season, this is something I was aiming for.  Unfortunately, I did not hit my goal.  There are some things that I am especially proud of though.

While my overall, swim and run times were not better than last, my age group placements did improve.  I was also able to secure a new PR on the bike!

2016 Overall Gender Rank = 153/664 (23%)  2015 Overall Gender Rank = 189/699 (26%)

2016 Age Group Rank = 26/121 (21%)  2015 Age Group Rank = 38/151 (25%)

2016 Swim Rank = 49/121 (40%)  2015 Swim Rank = 93/151 (62%)

2016 Bike Rank = 23/121 (19%)  2015 Bike Rank = 42/151 (28%)

2016 Run Rank = 26/121 (21%)  2015 Run Rank = 38/151 (25%)

2016 Results

2016 Results

2015 Results

2015 Results

Probably like most, I do a lot of reflection after a race. I think about the things that went well and the things that I hoped would go better. But, I don’t have regrets. You make decisions over the day and you can’t second guess them days after. Those decisions are often made when you are feeling great or feeling low, but you have to have faith that you made the best decision you could at the time. I am proud of my day.  I am also thankful that I am able to participate in this amazing sport and that I strive for big goals and continue to challenge myself in this way.  I am so incredibly lucky to have had the support from family and friends that I had that day. SO AWESOME!

Kudos to Raleigh for another great showing at the IM 70.3.  The volunteers were amazing and the course was lined with supporters throughout Pittsboro, Fuquay, Apex and Raleigh.  I have read so many compliments from various racers and it makes me proud that my hometown can support this great event!

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I vividly recall during my run at the 2015 IM 70.3 Raleigh when I decided that I would not do this race in 2016.  Well, fast forward one year and I am upon my third start at Raleigh.

Slide1

The decision “made” in 2015 was in the midst of a very challenging part of my race…the run.  The heat has always been a tremendous factor at this race….specifically during the run.   This year looks to bring very similar weather conditions, so I am very familiar with what to expect.  It certainly won’t make it any easier, but I know the EXTREME challenge it can be.

This will be my fourth 70.3 distance race.  My very first half iron distance was Beach 2 Battleship (now Ironman 70.3 NC) in 2012.  That race was my time PR for this distance at 5:53:43.  However, that course is a fast and flat with a current assisted swim.  The weather that day in October was also a beautiful 70-something degrees.  Raleigh 70.3 is a far more challenging course and historically tougher race conditions with heat and humidity that Mother Nature has not given us time to acclimate to prior to the race.  One of my big goals for Raleigh 70.3 last year was a sub-6 hour finish.    My finish time was 6:02:12.  While this was my best Raleigh time (plus the first year it had not been wet suit legal), you can say that I have some unfinished business on this course.   

Try

I have trained hard this year.  I feel I have also trained smart this year.  On Sunday, I want to combine the two and go for my goal.  With the heat, I know it is super important to listen to my body and respond appropriately.  That is the most important thing…the forecast shows a very tough day!  But hopefully the day will be a good one for me and all my dedicated efforts pay off!           

Raleigh 70.3 2015 Race Results

2015 Race Results

Raleigh 70.3 2014 Race Results

2014 Race Results

 

 

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Last year I raced in my first ever duathlon.  I had a great time at that race and knew that it would be a repeat event for me.  They offer both a long course and short course option, but with my training for Raleigh 70.3, the obvious choice was long course.  With the race taking place on May 14, it is actually a great lead up to the 70.3 on June 5.  Two of my training partners also raced, so even better to have friends out on the course! 

Du 2016 #2

The interesting twist to the race this year is that it served as the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championship for 2016.  That would bring in athletes that would  not normally be participating in this local event and I expected them to be great racers as well!

The race took place in Cary, which is just down the road.  The venue was located about 35 minutes from home, but had an early start of 7:00am.  That meant an alarm of 4:20am…ouch!  It was a tiny bit chilly race morning, but that really meant that it was going to be a great weather day for us!  We arrived around the time I planned and was able to park super close to transition.  I love when that happens!  All the typical pre-race stuff happened as well as connecting with my friends.  The one big difference about a duathlon is that I do a run warm-up and some dynamic stretches beforehand….all not typical with a tri! 

Ready to Race!

The long course guys were scheduled to start at 7:00am with the ladies starting 7:04am.  The short course began at 7:15am.  The event was a 5 mile run/30 mile bike/5 mile run.  The run was an out and back with the majority taking place on residential sidewalks and greenways with “small rolling hills (as the course description read)”.  The bike course included “fast, flat, rolling and climbing sections with multiple view of Lake Jordan”.  Part of the course included a two-loop section which passed a local strawberry farm.  I have ridden all these roads before, but not frequently.  However, the course is generally the type  you would expect for our area.

Starting the race!

The run started and I did not have a specific plan, but mile #1 is generally my slowest mile and I gradually build.  I can say this is the case for me about 95% of the time.  Well, this day proved to be different.  Mile #1 was an 8:14 split, my fastest mile of the day!  Still not sure where that came from, but I didn’t really feel like I was pushing that hard at the beginning!  I did settle down into a more likely race pace for myself, but I have to admit that I was glad to have the first split in my pocket!   Overall, I was happy with the first run.

Onto the bike….the one thing I did, which I planned to do, even though I don’t prefer it, is to wear socks on the bike.  I always bike barefoot unless it is a cold day.  Otherwise, I just don’t like it.  However, since I do wear socks on the run, it only made sense to wear them for the leg in between the running!  I did have a little bit of a hard time getting my shoes on with the socks….that may sound weird, but that’s that.  Too long in T1.  Tony was not there to push me in transition (as he typically does) because he had run out to see me on the bike course.  There was a place he could see me twice, but that involved him getting in a four-mile run and then back!  I always love to see him out, so I was glad he decided to get in some run training as I was racing!

I had my nutrition and hydration plan which would all occur on the bike.   There were aid stations on the run, but that served as only a little cup of water a couple of times.  I started out hard on the bike but then just tried to ride smart.  The plan was to take advantage of the downhills and the flats and work the gears on the uphills.  I was eating and drinking well and took one bottle of water at the one handoff on the bike course.  Within the last few miles I really started to notice the fatigue in my legs.  Maybe I pushed too hard?!?!?  Do I back off?  Well, I didn’t really.  I would just endure the second run as best as I could.  It would not be easy anyway, so I just kept it going.

Into T2 and I saw Tony (he was back from his run).  This transition was much better than T1.   As I ran out he asked me how I felt…”my legs are shot” was my response.

Starting the Second Run

That first mile of run #2 was not easy.  I just told myself that the first miles are never easy and after I found my rhythm I would loosen up.  This was the case.  It was still a challenge throughout, but I was pleased with how I mentally and physically hung in.  I saw the guys on my way out as they were headed back in.  Racing with friends is the best!

Knowing I had a solid first run, I was really hoping for a sub 9:00 pace for the 2nd run.  As I saw my Garmin laps tick off, I knew I would not achieve that.  However, my last mile ended up at 8:37 pace, so overall my 9:04 pace for the second 5 miles was exciting after all!  Very close!

Du 2016 #6

Almost Done!

The finish line felt great (doesn’t it always) as I gave it all out there.

 My Garmin distance on the bike is pretty spot at 29.6 on I think.  (My two training buddies had 29.69 and 29.73).  The race results use a 31 mile distance, so unfortunately that 20.1 mph average speed in my official results is a bit inflated!  I find it very interesting to look at my overall category placements in a duathlon.  Unlike a tri, you are running twice.  While my first run was my fastest, that was my lowest placement.   I guess more people went out hard and had less in the tank that I did when you look at my placement for the second run.  Slower pace than the first, but higher placement overall.   Hummmm….

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.  Once again, this was a great event.  It was fun to race a duathlon again and it also served as a great lead up to Raleigh 70.3.

Du Classic Race ResultsDu Classic Race Results 2

Du Classic Race Results Garmin

Garmin Stats

Du Classic Run 1 Garmin

First Run Splits (Garmin)

Du Classic Run 2 Garmin

Second Run Splits (Garmin)