Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid 2013! – Part 1(Pre-race morning, SWIM, and T1)

The morning started off with a 3:45 AM wake-up call. Hubz filled up my Infinit/water bottles and made me some delicious scrambled eggs and toast while I got myself dressed and situated. I chatted it up with my fine housemates (all from the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club, several of whom were eating pop tarts and chocolate milk for breakfast?!) while I ate and just tried to focus on finding my zen place. Before I knew it, it was 4:45 – time to pack up my special needs bags and head to transition!

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Hubz drove me by run special needs but then we started to hit the closures so I walked from there. I stopped by bike special needs to drop my bag before heading to transition. First I stopped by my run bag to deposit my running shoes (which I stupidly forgot to put in for day-before drop off). I think I unpacked and re-packed my bike and run bags at least 5 times each because I was so worried I had forgotten something. Finally I was satisfied and headed over to the rack to prep the bike.

I strapped on my bento box loaded up with nutrition and attached all my water bottles appropriately. Then for the mildly annoying part: borrowing a bike pump. Normally this is no big deal transition before a race, but nerves must have been much higher because it took me a few tries to get someone who didn’t mind waiting for me to pump my tires up with their pump. I actually got to repay the good karma, though, as I borrowed a pump from a woman who needed some assistance hooking on to her (rented) Zipps, so we helped each other out. I sunscreened up and then forced sunscreen upon most everyone around me (yep I’m a true public servant).

Unlike my normal “ACK 5 MINUTES TIL TRANSITION CLOSES!” timing, I had plenty of time to get organized so I even stood in line for the port-a-potties before leaving transition. This turned out to be the right choice because once I got down to the Mirror Lake beach the lines there were totally bananas.  I probably left transition around 5:45 AM and walked the short way to the beach. I was still feeling totally zen so I just took a seat on the beach and observed the chaos for a while. I chatted with a woman who was there sherpa-ing for her husband, while re-braiding my Heidi french braids no less than 5 times – didn’t want the hair flying in my face!

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I chatted with a few other folks while enjoying the somewhat chill pre-race music (Adele…really?!) With about 10 minutes left to go until line-up time, I noticed a woman from Team Z struggling to get into her wetsuit so I lent her a hand. I learned her name was Barbara and we chatted for a while. She had a clever little plan to carry a Gu in her wetsuit sleeve and eat it as she came out of the water and crossed the beach for her second loop…not something I felt was necessary but a neat idea nonetheless.

Before I knew it I heard the cannon alerting the start of the Pros (6:20 AM). And thus race day officially began! Soon thereafter it was time to line up. This year saw the debut of the Swim Start Initiative at Lake Placid. Rather than the traditional mass swim start, we self-seeded by projected swim time and entered the water in a continuous wave. Our individual time started when we crossed the timing mat on the beach, right before entering the water. It was difficult at first to find enough room in the corrals. I was estimating about 1 hour 30 minutes total time which was right about the cut off between two corrals. As I wandered my way into the crowd I passed an awesome set of spectators who were carrying a giant inflatable Alpaca!!! I happen to love these creatures – I often wear a silver alpaca charm as a pendant and I passed this awesome sculpture often on my training rides through Potomac:

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So of COURSE the inflatable alpaca got a hearty high five from me on my way into the swim corrals! That alpaca was destined to make several more appearance throughout the day…a true spectator all-star.

When the cannon went off for the first age groups entry (6:30 AM) I happened to line up with another couple of ladies who were aiming for the same start place so we chatted it up while slowly moving our way forward. One was another first timer and the other was doing her second full IM. It was really nice to just chat with folks as a way to relieve the pre-race jitters. Before we knew it we were up at the front and we were charging into the water!

I have to say that the new swim start was absolutely GLORIOUS for me. For the first time, I didn’t have to fight anyone to get horizontal and start swimming. Granted, the first 300-400 yards were still pretty congested, but since I was primarily swimming with others at my same pace, it honestly wasn’t stressful at all. At first, the crowd was too thick for me to get close enough to sight off Mirror Lake’s bright orange underwater cable, but because other folks were sighting off it, it was easy to stay right on course. Plus, the movement of everyone through the water made it like super-drafting conditions. I was moving quickly and smoothly without too much effort, and it felt awesome.

download (6)I realized after swimming for a bit that I had forgotten to start my Garmin – D’OH! Mega rookie move. So I hit the start and figured about 10 minutes delay for purpose of mental calculation. Shortly thereafter, it seemed like the crowd had thinned out a bit, so I started moving to the right…and pretty soon I could see the cable. Score! Not too much later I had to swing wide to avoid the crowd at the first and second buoy/turns, but once I hit the straightaway on the way back I found the cable again and it was smooth sailing. The first loop honestly flew by and I was constantly amazed at how much FUN I was having. Having fun swimming in open water – unheard of!

After the first loop we ran out of the water, crossed a timing mat on the beach, and then headed back in for round 2. I looked at the clock and did some complicated mental calculations to guesstimate my first loop time, even though I really didn’t know either A) what time I crossed in the water or B) how long I swam before starting my Garmin. Somehow I figured out that I was somewhere around 40-45 minutes…turns out I was right at 41:01 – not too shabby! At the start of the second loop I was able to get a spot right on the cable right away and held pretty close to it for the rest of the swim. Being able to sight off that thing was amazing and it clearly helped me swim much better on course than my normal wibbley wobbley (timey wimey) open water nonsense!

I started to get a bit bored with the swim towards the end of the second loop but was still having a great time. I started kicking a bit more to move some blood down into my legs, and before I knew it I was at the beach again. The second loop of the swim went by in 41:30 for a TOTAL SWIM TIME OF 1:22:31. Pretty dang close to even splits thankyouverymuch! 🙂

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Feeling great, I booked it up the beach to the wetsuit strippers. Once I was stripped, I started the (long – nearly .5 mile) jog to T1. I realized that it was kind of raining, briefly wondering how long that had been going on, and also worrying about what it would mean for the road conditions, especially in the long descent to Keene….Down towards the lake I passed former my former co-worker Kelly who cheered me on which was awesome. As I got up closer to transition I passed Hubz, purely visible from his bright orange “GO DUTCH” t-shirt, reported that my swim was awesome, and happily high fived him!

I headed into transition, grabbed my bike bag, and headed into the chaos that was the T1 changing tent…holy banana pants was that a crazy thing. I had swam in just my shorts and sports bra, so I quickly put on my top, helmet, and gloves, while the fantastic volunteer prepared my socks and shoes. We were told at registration and athlete briefing that bibs would not be required on the bike (a surprise to me until then) so I didn’t have to worry about that. I briefly chatted with her and we decided I would forego my arm warmers, which I had thrown in the bag because we’d had a couple of crazy mornings. Turned out to be the right move. Once I was socked and shoed up I ran out, yelled my bib number, and another volunteer ran over to me with my bike. By the time I grabbed my bike and headed out of transition it had pretty much stopped raining so I breathed a huge sigh of relief although was still pretty nervous to see the road conditions. So, T1 clocked in at 9:00 minutes on the dot…a little long but not outrageous. Not too much time to worry about it though before running right up to the mount line!

To be continued….

Race Recap: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon – Part 2

When we last left off, my partner in crime D and I had called it quits at the very late hour of 10 PM the night before the race. Next thing we knew it was 7 AM and the alarm was doing it’s thing. Yes you heard me right. 7 AM. That is practically noon in race morning time. The Oly didn’t kick off until 9 AM which meant SERIOUS SLEEP TIME! Amazing.

Awake, dressed, checked out, and on our way to another Charlottesville standby, Bodo’s Bagels, by 7:30 for our pre-race fuel. Despite the giant pizza feast, I was pretty hungry and knew I needed something serious to make it through the morning with only drinks and gels. I went for an “Everything Wheat” bagel with an egg and tomato slice. RIGHT CHOICE. So yummy!

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Look, I finally remembered to take a photo of my food!

Before we knew it we rolled up to the parking lot and wheeled our bikes into transition. Due to a somewhat late arrival, there weren’t many spots left on the racks so a friendly race volunteer had to clear out some space from some pushy big dudes with fancy bikes. Luckily I had just enough time to get all set up before transition closed. Quick trip to the posh restrooms (with real plumbing!). Then to the body marker who, when I lamented my age-up age, helpfully reminded me to “follow my heart” and life will be good. You got it, lady.

Next it was time to wetsuit up. Oh…it had been so long. Had almost forgotten about that totally gross claustrophobic feeling. At least it kept me warm while standing around on the beach, totally unable to hear the guy giving the pre-race announcements. Something about only two buoys, blah blah blah. After the first wave went off we ran into R2 and the three of us had a bit of a pre-race pow wow. D and I stashed our flip flops, sunscreen, and body glide in a hiding place since we’d be right back there to retrieve them later in the day. And before we knew it, it was time to swim!

SWIM:

The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

Beach start. My first ever beach start, in fact. Kinda weird not getting to tread around in the water a bit. I let the fast folks scramble out in front. Even though our wave was all women under 39, it was still a pretty small group, so I wasn’t that far from the front when we started. The water was cold but not unbearable, and since only my arms were exposed it didn’t really bother me. I hadn’t done an open water swim since the Poconos 70.3 last September, so it did take me a bit of time to adjust to the wetsuit feeling, and zero visibility in the dark lake water, but after about 100 yards I was pretty much in a rhythm. I headed straight out toward the first buoy, which I could see very well. Feeling strong and fast. I passed a woman who was obviously strongly committed to back stroking the entire course. You go, girl.

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Then I rounded the first buoy and looked up for the next big turnaround buoy…and I could barely see it. UGH. It was probably 800-900 yards away (we were on a triangle swim course) and there was only one teeny tiny sighting buoy between me and the next turn around. I pointed myself toward it and swam. At first I sighted only about every 6-8 strokes, which was a mistake. I kept drifting way off to the left. I dialed it in to sighting about every 3-4 strokes after that. But it was near impossible to determine how far off course I was. I started passing/trying not to run into some green caps from the men’s wave that went off before us. I was getting annoyed with my inability to figure out where I should be heading. At least I still felt like I was swimming strong and fast.

Finally, I made it to the second turnaround and started chugging along. I thought this should be the home stretch. I checked my watch a bit of the way through and it said around 24 minutes, so I thought no problem, I can still manage a 30 minute swim. Too bad I couldn’t see the finish. Like, at all. There was one tiny sighting buoy off in the distance but it was the exact same color as the men’s green caps from the prior wave that were bobbing up and down all around me, so I was constantly confused about what to look at. ARGH. Finally I was able to see the dock where we would finish, but it felt like I was just crawling along at a snail’s pace trying to get there! When I finally made it I swam up as much as I could until the sand was literally right under me. I crawled out and hit my Garmin as soon as I crossed the timing mat. I saw it said something around 34 minutes and I screamed “WTF” – possibly in my head, possibly out loud. Whatever. Swim was done, time to put it behind me and get on with the rest of the race!

Swim time – 34:10 (2:22/100m).

T1: Once I started pulling the wetsuit off I realized that the air outside was actually pretty darn chilly. And my hands and feet were pretty much numb. FUN! I ripped the wetsuit off without too much awkward-one-footed-squat-contortion-dancing and threw it on the ground. I was glad I had nabbed a towel so I could de-soak myself a bit to help with the warmth. Despite the numb hands, I only fumbled a little with my socks, shoes, HRM, gloves, etc. I decided to through my jacket on over my kit because I was literally shivering. Not the most aero-dynamic thing in the world (I should probably get myself a cool BRM long sleeved jersey for occasions like this!) but I was much more worried about my body temp than uber-speed, especially since I’m not that speedy on the bike to start with. The always fun run to the mount line in funny pedal shoes, and then bike time!

T1 time – 3:49.

BIKE: Now for the part of the race that I was most looking forward to! The bike is probably my weakest discipline, but I’ve been enjoying my time in the saddle IMMENSELY more since finally getting a proper bike fit, and I knew the course was going to be absolutely beautiful. So I was super excited.

Much of the bike is a blur to me, honestly, as it often is. I remember taking out that steep climb we had seen on our pre-race ride the afternoon before. After that, I was just having a great time in no small part because the course was, indeed, GORGEOUS. Small rolling hills all along, surrounded by blossoming forest and a mix of adorable country houses and some crazy big, new rich people summer home looking houses.

A couple points stand out to me, both of which are unfortunately bad ones. One drawback of this course is that it was pretty much open to traffic. Intersections were protected, but otherwise the roads were open. At one point I was stuck behind this one guy for a while in the most annoying of ways. He was super tall and on a super nice bike, so by all first impressions should have been absolutely schooling me. I think he was having some sort of issue because he was drinking an awful lot, and tooling along at slightly slower than the pace I wanted to go. But, there wasn’t a good opportunity to pass him between intermittent traffic and intermittent short steep climbs. Argh. Eventually he got his stuff together and took off like a boss. At one other point in the last 5 miles I got stuck behind a long line of cars, behind another long line of bikes. This definitely slowed me up a bit.

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But overall, I had a great time on the bike. Ultimately I sailed into transition to some great crowd support from the neighborhood folks, and even got caught off guard with a “Yay Rachel!” for me from R2’s husband who was on the sidelines as well. Always good to be surprised with some good race support.

And now for the learning-from-our-mistakes installment of this post: I looked at my Garmin a bit into the bike and realized that, in race mode, my heart rate zone and pace were not showing up on the front screen. This was mildly annoying. For some reason it didn’t dawn on me to hit the down button…as I learned during the run, if I would have just scrolled two pages down then I would have seen what I normally see when I’m out on a training ride. I think this would have been a huge help. Looking back at the data afterwards, my average heart rate was solidly in zone 2…probably should have been at least a zone higher for an Oly, I think. So, lesson learned.

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I definitely think I could have pushed it harder and probably had a decently faster bike overall. I’m not used to a racing-type feeling on the bike. I kept worrying about wearing out my legs on the hills, because I wanted to be able to kick it hard on the run. But in retrospect, especially after looking at my data, I could have pushed it harder and still probably have had a great run? So, lesson learned x 2! This is why we have B races, right?!

Bike time – 1:28:48 (15.9 mph).

T2: I always feel like I waste way too much time in T2, so I resolved to be speedy. I didn’t do too bad. Almost forgot to take my gloves off (which, no big), threw my race belt on, threw back a bit of gel, and took off. On my way out of transition, I saw R2 rolling in on her bike, looking strong. T2 time – 2:05.

RUN: Every time I get to the run, I think “this is the easy part, just keep running.” This time I was feeling so strong I was able to think “keep running Right out of transition, my feet felt a little numb and like my socks might not be fitting quite right on my feet. The feeling passed quickly though, and I got over my initial “ACK don’t forget you can run fast, too” shock I started cruising. The course was by no means flat, but most of the hills were short and not too steep. At about mile 1.5, we ran a long flat bridge section next to the lake. I felt like I could FLY down that flat stretch, it was so lovely.

I felt well hydrated and had a good amount of energy, so I bypassed the water/heed stations. At the last one, I took a bit of water, because why not. It wasn’t hot at all. I second guessed myself a few times on whether I should make a porta-potty stop. My stomach felt pretty good but I have been having intermittent stomach problems on the run I was a bit nervous about it. Ultimately I ran through to the end with no issues. (A sign that cheese-less pizza should become a new race ritual? Mayhaps).

By this time I had figured out how to show the screen I wanted to show on my Garmin, so I was able to keep an eye on my heart rate and my pace. Heart rate stayed in zones 3-4, and my pace was somewhere between 8:30-9:00 throughout. I walked up a couple steep inclines on the back half of the out and back, but otherwise cruised feeling good the whole time. The course stayed within the Lake Monticello gated community, and there was great crowd support from folks just hanging out in their front yards, cheering. I was feeling so happy that I started saying not only “Thanks!” (which I always try to do to supporters and especially race course volunteers), but also “Good morning!” At one point, a guy said “don’t be polite – save your breath silly!” Loved it.

images (2)After the loop around I passed D coming towards me, and she was looking strong and speedy as well!

And the most exciting thing about the run! At two different points during the race, I noticed that a woman running in front of me had an age on their calf showing they were in my age group. Each was running about the same pace as me, but I knew I had more in me at both times. I picked them both off by powering up hills and maintaining my lead with a strong downhill and flat cruise. I was a little worried the second woman would come back and pass me again (this was in the last half mile) but I maintained my lead.

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Pretty proud that I gained myself two age groups spots! I don’t think I’ve ever been so “strategic” before, but it felt awesome. Must be that lovely Virginia springtime air!

Run time – 53:51 (8:41/mile).

TOTAL TIME – 3:02:43. A PR by about 5 minutes, yo! In the first race of the season! I won’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed to not have broken the 3 hour mark, especially when I was so close and feel like I probably had more in me on the bike especially. But after a week of mellow ‘tude, it’s hard to be too disappointed about the little hiccups I had when I ended up with a 5 minute PR. So. Boom.

I circled back to cheer in R2, and then D just a few minutes later. Everyone was happy and had PR’d with a great race experience!

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

We chatted a bit and then D and decided to roll out so we could make it back to the Disco at a reasonable hour. First stop, though, was Chipotle. DUHZ.

Thanks to Charlottesville Multisports for putting on a great race! The one major thing I think the race could stand to work on is the lack of sighting buoys on the swim. That was a major problem and it sounds like a lot of folks had slower swims than they would have liked. Otherwise, fun times all around. I would definitely do this one again – it was such a low stress way to start the tri season, on a beautiful and just challenging enough course. Tri season has officially kicked off, folks! Woo hoo!

Race Recap: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon – Part 1

First tri of the season! Boom. (Shakalaka).

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After wrapping up my volunteer duties at the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children Saturday morning, Miss D was kind enough to pick me up in Fairfax and drive us out to Charlottesville and Lake Monticello.  Traffic was stupid crazy on I-66 but we persevered.  In fact, we persevered so intently that we kind of forgot to check what would be the quickest route.  D was pretty excited to be heading back to her adopted homeland of Central/Western VA and so we weren’t really paying the best attention, got a tiny bit lost, and went more than a tiny bit out of our way. lolcat57

No big, it was a beautiful day and there are worse ways to spend those than driving through beautiful mountain countryside in the springtime.

Once we made it to the general Charlottesville area we headed straight to Lake Monticello to pick up our packets and knock out some pre-race workouts. Since this was a small race (capped at 500 people total between the Half and Olympic), it was just a simple pickup with no expo. Good for avoiding pre-race stress, bad for my dumb self who still needed to buy a race belt. The whole race was held at Lake Monticello, which is a private community around…yeah, Lake Monticello. There was also a pool in the community and the whole pool clubhouse was open to racers for restrooms, changing rooms, showers, etc., which was super nice, especially for the next morning.

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Way better than a stinky line of porta potties!

Because we were running behind, we actually had to skip our pre-race swim. Turns out this may have come back to haunt us a bit…more on that in Part 2.  We hopped right on our bikes to check out the first few miles of the course with some nice quick pickups. And good thing we did, so we could be fully warned about a crazy steep descent into a sharp right turn, only about a mile into the course. Riding it in traffic was slightly terrifying. Luckily the intersections were protected during the actual race (although the course was otherwise open to traffic).

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Next up was our pre-race run. I would say we may have run our pickups at slightly faster than the prescribed Oly pace. Ok, actually a lot faster. D is speedier than I and I let her push us along, because why not. After a taper week, it actually felt really good to get a little speed in my legs on both the bike and the run. I had felt a little sluggish for the last couple days but I realized that my legs actually felt pretty well-rested so it put me in a very good head space to race in the AM.

We then packed up and headed back to Charlottesville with plans to make it to Cville Bike and Tri before closing to get me a race belt! I was not about to be messing with safety pins or some such nonsense in transition. Luckily, Cville is a great shop and so not only did I buy a belt (and we both resist the urge to buy 10 pounds of Stinger Waffles for immediate consumption), but we learned all about these crazy IZIP electric bikes that are apparently becoming all the rage…at least in one bike shop owner’s personal circle.

Oh, if only you were IMLP legal.

Oh, if only you were IMLP legal.

With belt acquired we checked into the glamorous Cavalier Inn which threw D way back to the days of her UVA hijinx. The hotel is right on the UVA campus so it was a prime location for relaxing an wandering about the BEAUTIFUL grounds on our way to a delicious dinner. Of course D could recommend all the best places to eat, so we walked to “The Corner” for some delicious Christian’s pizza.

Look at all that yum. Via tripadvisor.com because in typical blogger fail I forgot to take a photo of our food.

Look at all that yum. Via tripadvisor.com because in typical blogger fail I forgot to take a photo of our food.

I knew my stomach would not be happy if I dairy’d it up the night before a race, so we were very good and ordered a whole pie with NO cheese, with spinach, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. I got spicy chicken on my half. We were so freaking hungry by this time that we pretty much decimated the thing within 5 minutes. It was AH-MAHHHH-ZING. Crispy crust, perfect cooked veggies, and yummy spicy sauce. Perfection.

Our walk back to the hotel took us by Arch’s frozen yogurt, another Cville standby.

Just like this, but it was kinda dark. Again, blogger fail. Via archsfrozenyogurt.com

Just like this, but it was kinda dark. Again, blogger fail. Via archsfrozenyogurt.com

D needed her some gooey brownie so I went in for some dairy free sorbet. It’s now a weigh and pay, which is hands down the greatest invention to ever hit the dessert world amiright? We trekked back to the room and enjoyed our respective frozen delights while packing up our transition bags for the morning.

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Ready to roll!

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Bikes need hotel pampering too.

Before we knew it, Tony Bourdain (*sigh*) was lulling us to sleep with stories of delicious eats in Colombia.

To be continued…(with the good stuff!)

Weekly Workout Plan: March 25-31, 2013 (18 weeks to IMLP)…and Scope it Out 5k 2013 (lazy) Recap

Yesterday I ran the Scope it Out 5K which also doubled as a run heart rate zone test.  This is always a fun race for a good cause, so I’ve run it many times while, like this year, Hubz volunteers.  In addition to the most handsome bag check volunteer around, the race has fun educational things like a giant colon shaped playground!

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I was feeling pretty good for this race, although definitely pushed it a bit too fast in the first minute.  I was focusing really hard on making this a good heart rate zone test, so I really wanted to run my heart out.  But without making my heart actually explode, so at one point I had to give a serious “BACK IT OFF” lecture to myself.  The course is flat and fast – from freedom plaza, past the Capitol, through some federal buildings, and back down Penn to the start. Thus, I often set a PR or close to it on this race.  Buuuuut….not this year.

Official finish time: 24:28. 28 seconds slower than last year, but again, keeping it zen with the recognition that speedy running is not the primary goal of IM training.  I still ended up with a very impressive time and a serious improvement over my last 3 mile heart rate zone test – both in pace and heart rate.  Huzzah!

Also in the “things I’m doing right” category – I did a benchmark swim threshold test on Saturday afternoon.  My average time for the 400s was 12 whole seconds faster than my 400s average on my last one!  Woo hoo!!!  Hubz was also with me at the pool and mentioned that he can see that my swim technique looks much better than the last time he watched me swim back in the fall.

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I dropped my “long” bike on Sunday afternoon.  Brunching got a little out of hand and plus my legs were pretty spent.  I figured I’d embrace the “recovery” in the last 12 hours of my recovery week.  I still woke up TOTALLY exhausted today – and the nasty snow/rain mix-y mess outside is not helping.

Nonetheless, this week we’re amping up the workouts in both total quantity and intensity!  I feel like this is where training starts to get really serious.  Now that my half marathon is passed, and it’s only about 6 weeks til my first tri of the season!  Such excitement!  So, this week I’ll be adding in a little bit of speed work, some off-the-bike runs, and all that good stuff.  Should rack up to about 12-13 hours of training.  Here goes….

Monday: AM – strength; PM – 2100 yard swim
Tuesday: AM – 50 min bike with intervals; PM – 55 minute run
Wednesday: AM – 2400 yard swim; PM – yoga
Thursday: AM – 1 hour run + 2 mile fast finish; PM – core strength
Friday: AM – 1 hour progressive bike; PM – 2500 yard swim
Saturday: 55 minute run
Sunday: 2 hour bike + 15 minute transition run

Race Recap: 2013 Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon

The morning started off pretty well.  I actually hopped out of bed right at 5:30 when my alarm went off, had some standard pre-race peanut butter/banana toast and hot tea while watching a BBT rerun, and shuffled about and up and down and around the house for 20 minutes trying to make sure I had everything on me or in my gear bag that I could possibly need.  I nabbed a Car2Go and drove down to park at Hubz’s work building.  It is only about 4 blocks from the race start so I figured I’d use the nice, clean, warm bathrooms there rather than brave the port-a-potty lines.  A smart choice, it turns out.  I got a text from M that she was running late due to single tracking on the Orange line (really, Metro? bad weekend for that….) so I was on my own. 

I left the office with about 25 minutes before the starting gun – which I foolishly thought would be plenty of time.  Unfortunately, I had failed miserably at pre-race recon, and thus didn’t realize that bag check was on the opposite side of the start line and corrals from me.    I busted my hump over there and realized the bus corresponding to my last name was a full 2 blocks further, so I busted it some more.  And then it dawned on me just how SLOWLY The bag check lines were moving.  Luckily mine was moving much faster than average, but I still only got to the front a few minutes after the starting gun.  One major ding for the race organizers – the bag check was not well organized or sufficiently staffed at either the start or the finish line.  People were getting ANGRY.

Luckily, I was able to get away and jog to the general area where my corral had moved up to by that point.  I only had about 3 more minutes of standing/shuffling before my corral was released and off we went!

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I LOOOOOOOVED the first 3 miles of this race!  We took off from the Washington Monument, headed down the mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, and then crossed (out and back) on the Arlington Memorial Bridge.  Such beautiful scenery and one of my favorite areas to run in the whole city.  I felt really good for these first three miles and my pace was better than I had expected (I *should* have taken this as a sign to slow down the pace just a tad, but….you know.)  The only major problem at this point was that the course was still pretty congested, but that is often to be expected early on in such large races so it was no big.  I even stopped to take a really terrible photo of the view down the mall as we were crossing back over from Virginny.

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Next, we headed straight down into Rock Creek.  Cue the part of the race that sucked.  The run in Rock Creek itself was fine: wide road, pretty trees, etc.  I tried to enjoy those three miles as much as possible because I knew what was coming.  I threw back a Gu and some water around mile 5 (turns out this may have been a bad, bad idea.)

And then, the dreaded Calvert Street hill.  Right around mile 6.  As anyone who has run in the park knows well, what goes down must come back up (ew, but you know what I mean).  Calvert is one of the major ways to exit the park trail and get back into the city.  Seriously, this doesn’t even start to do it justice:

usa13-elevation-halfOf course, I knew Calvert was coming, so I paced myself as well as I could and took a very slow, long-course triathlon approach to it (i.e. walk breaks).  Still, I was spent once I got to the top and barely had the energy to enjoy the beautiful view running down across the bridge from there.  Of course, as you can see, the subsequent mile was more and more climbing up Columbia Road in Adams Morgan.

Gahhh….and all that climbing fed right into the next problem: tummy troubles.  I have experienced the occasional tummy upset on training runs and rides, but I’ve never been hit too hard during a race before.  Until now.  Starting around mile 8, I had major pain and rumblies in the tumblies set in.  I managed OK as long as I kept my heart rate fairly low and my breathing easy, which meant more and more walk breaks (especially on anything even barely resembling an incline).  This was *SO* frustrating, because my legs felt great but the rest of my body just started freaking out.  So I cranked up the mental game to keep moving forward as decidedly as possible.  Luckily around mile 10 there was a patch of port-a-potties with NO LINE, so I pulled off and stopped there.  After the pit stop, with a few more minutes of easy running, I got to feeling more normal and was able to hit a normal pace again, more or less.  I was even more annoyed because those miles 7ish-11ish were the part of the course I was most looking forward to – the part that goes through “real” DC neighborhoods, with much awesome crowd support from locals out on their front lawns.

I had planned to take another Gu around mile 10, but after the tummy trouble I wasn’t about to mess with putting anything else in my system.  I did take in a little water at mile 11, but that was it.  Although my legs still felt good and my tummy was calm again, the other stuff was still troubling me…my heart rate was higher than it should have been and breathing felt hard.  But I powered through with the help of some good music and an *absolute* resolve to finish in under 2 hours.  Which I did.  Just barely.  1:58:42.

Capture

I stumbled through the finish chute and grabbed some chocolate milk, some gatorade, and of course my medal.  I didn’t get a space blanket because I figured I would head right to bag check and quickly retrieve my sweats…foolish assumption, again.  The bag check lines were, again, REDONK:

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I literally waited in line for 45 minutes to get my bag.  The first 20 minutes of which I was 100% stationary.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what the problem was.  I wasn’t in a rush since I had some time to kill while M finished up, but I was FREEZING and wanted my dang fleece!  Luckily I was stuck in line with some friendly folks so I chatted it up to make the misery pass faster.

Once I finally had my bag, I circled back around to the finish chute to wait for M to cross.  I knew she started in one of the last corrals because she wayyyy slow-estimated her finish time when she signed up.  I only had about a 10 minute wait before she texted me “Finished!”  When I found her she was like “I feel like I’m 85 years old, but I’m SO HAPPY!”  It is so fun to re-live the first race experience threw a newbie runner friend!  We then met up with M’s friend who had made her an amazing cheer squad style sign.  Look at that big smile!

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Yes, I suffer from temporary conehead disease.

Of course we promptly celebrated with a delicious brunch.  As I always say, who needs chocolate milk when you can refuel with bloody mary?!

PROS of the race:

  • Parts of the course were beautiful.  
  • There was great crowd energy.  
  • Awesome bands – I even passed both a brass quintet and an a capella vocal group, not to mention the amazing and always kick butt Batala
  • Hometown pride!
  • Decent swag – the tech shirts were nice and they even had women-specific sizes for the first time this year, which I love because I don’t like tripping over my race shirts.

CONS:

  • Serious organizational problems especially when it came to bag check.
  • I’m not sold on this Rock Creek park thing, which was part of the new course changes this year.
  • Some problems with finish area traffic flow.  I witnessed several folks who were very confused about their inability to get back into the finish festival after getting their bag check (undoubtedly, also after a long long wait to do so).  There was a way back but it wasn’t clear.
  • If you ask my Hubz, the course blocked off WAY too much DC traffic.  It took him 1.5 hours to drive about 4 miles to get to the darkroom.   

And, the primary lesson from this race is one I already knew but was ignoring – practice your fueling on your long workouts!  Because I hadn’t really been “training” hard on any long runs (and really hadn’t done that many long runs at all), I hadn’t practiced with Gus, gatorade, anything.  When both my legs and my digestive system are in running shape, I can handle Gus and they really do make a difference in my pace and energy.  But when I haven’t practiced with them…recipe for disaster.  Lesson learned.  And I have a feeling I’ll be trying to get friendly with some Infinit products in the near future.  And as my coach said when I told her about my race “Sh*t happens!”  She also reminded me that similar problems are almost certainly going to happen AT LEAST once during my Ironman, so it’s good to experience it and figure out how to tackle the problem.

As far as my time is concerned, I’m not thrilled, but I’m not crushed either.  I was 5 1/2 minutes slower than last year.  BUT I’ve been training hard, most of which is not speed-focused running training, and I didn’t taper, so I was far from having fresh legs.  Plus, I lost serious time to the upset stomach.  All considered, I took it happily (and moved right on to my bike workout less than 24 hours later…)

I will definitely run this race again.  It’s hard to say no to a local marathon or half.  Plus, the St. Patrick’s day scheduling makes it a super fun vibe all around…all the way to the end while you’re heading to get on the Metro to leave RFK as attendees of Shamrock Fest are emerging to begin their debauchery.  I would also consider running the full next year, depending on how other training and life considerations are going.  Maybe next year I’ll even resurrect my Four Courts tutu for the occasion!  Or a full body Green Lantern-ess costume?

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Washington’s Crossing Swim Across the Potomac

Furthering my desperate attempts to gain open water swim experience, last week I bit the bullet and signed up to swim the inaugural Washington’s Crossing Swim Across the Potomac.  I talked D into swimming this with me.  She’s such a great sport.  It’s great to have friends who are game for pretty much any crazy endurance event, even when it’s swimming across a nasty polluted urban river in the heat of 105 degree summer.

This swim was put on by Wave One, the fabulous open water swim organization here in the Disco area.  Wave One sponsors weekly Thursday night Happy Hour swims, as well as a series of open water swim clinics for newbies and more experienced swimmers alike.

We kicked off the morning checking in at National Harbor.  All the swimmers loaded up on the water taxi the Miss Mallory, which ferried us across the might Potomac to the very spot where DC, MD, and VA all meet!  We all jumped off the boat one by one and treaded water until they sounded the horn to start us all off.

As soon as I jumped in, I knew it was going to be a doozy of a swim.  The water temperature was 88.2 when we started.  88.2 degrees!  Effectively, a bathtub.

After the 5 minutes of treading water, I was ready for a break.  And then it was time to start swimming.  OOOOF.

Our goal was to swim back to National Harbor, right towards The Awakening statue.

The total distance was “approximately” 2300 meters, or about 1.4 miles.  Prior to this race, the longest open water swim I’d ever done was the 1500 meters in an Oly tri, so this was no joke for me.

The approximately is a key word here…the race organizers warned us about the strong downstream current, but it was serious business.  I definitely didn’t take it into account nearly enough when sighting, so I ended up having to swim against the current pretty intensely in the final part of the race.

Because I had not sufficiently planned the night before and thus had to get myself together with pre-6am wakeup brain fog, I totally forgot my Garmin.  Rookie.  Mistake.  So I have no idea how long I actually swam.  GAH.

I actually really enjoyed the swim, felt strong, and didn’t even get bored until probably the last 600 meters or so.  That’s when I started having to swim totally against the current and the hot tubbiness of the water really started to get to me.  I kept thinking I should be feeling refreshed in the water, but it just felt heavy and sticky and gross.  Plus, the crowd had thinned out so far that I couldn’t see any other swimmers around, and I was convinced I was the last one out in the water all alone!!!

I swear the last 200 meters felt like a mile…I wasn’t sure which of the several white tents ahead of me I was supposed to be swimming towards until I finally rounded the last corner and saw several other bobbing bright yellow caps (phew!)  I kicked it as hard as I could to the finish line and couldn’t wait to climb up the ladder onto the dock and get under the coldish shower they had set up for us to rinse off.

My final time – 57:50.  A 2:30/100 meter pace (if in fact I only swam 2300 meters…which I doubt…)  D finished almost immediately after me and we were both happy to head home and take a real shower.  But we did of course have the foresight to snap a photo:

D looks adorable and I look like I’m afraid of being attacked by the famous Potomac River hermaphroditic fish.

 

Let Freedom Run 5K 2012

Because it’s just not a proper holiday if it doesn’t start off with a race in extreme weather conditions….

After a bit of last minute peer pressure, yesterday I signed up to run the Let Freedom Run 5K out in Fairfax, VA with my friend Jenn.  The start/finish is a mile from Jenn’s front door and it’s just too hard to turn down anything so convenient.  Plus, Jenn is not normally into running, and I can’t miss an opportunity to brainwash new folks into the cult.

The last couple weeks have been unbearably HOT HOT HOT in the Disco, and this morning was no exception.  Even though when we left Jenn’s house to walk over it was a bit overcast and only about 83, by the time we lined up the clouds had moved off and it was pushing 90.

Luckily, Jenn was also game to get dolled up in rad red, white, and blue costume-y hair accessories!  Almost makes up for the heat index.  Here we are sweating up a storm…before even making it to the start line:

I have very little recollection of the race itself.  It was a nice course, rolling hills but nothing too drastic.  The course is through a suburban area that isn’t too heavily traveled on a Saturday morning.  They only closed one lane of traffic on a four lane road, but there was no problem with traffic congestion at all.  Also, the race was small enough that even though there were folks of many abilities, I didn’t feel like I was caught up behind walkers, strollers, etc. for the first 1/2 mile, which was nice.  (Although I will note that in the first mile, a guy passed me on an uphill pushing a double stroller and probably clocking about a 7:30 pace….jerk.  :p)

Mostly, I spent the race trying not melt into a disgusting overheated puddle.  I do *NOT* handle heat well.  My long runs over the last few weeks have been at an incredibly slow pace, and I don’t seem to be acclimating very quickly.  I also haven’t managed pacing in the heat.  My body still wants to go my normal pace, so I tend to take off and then hit a wall a certain way into every run.  Then I’m spent and have to slow down a ton and take several walk breaks just to make through my planned run.

Obviously something important to work on: pacey pacey in these severe heat conditions!

So, I had to take this race as it came.  I took off way too fast.  I ended up having to walk a couple of the steeper hill crests and was overall just very uneven pace-wise throughout.

My final time: 26:50, which is an 8:28 pace. Almost 3 full minutes over my 5K PR, which is a pretty huge amount for such a short distance.  But then again, that PR was set at about 45 degrees cooler, so….it’s actually probably about right.

The rest of the day saw some relaxation, quality time with the foam roller, and then venturing out for 4th BBQ fun.  In this town, such gatherings around this time of year often involve crabby crabs!  It was Hubz’ first time ever cleaning his own crab meat or eating them in any non-cake non-stuffed in fried things form, so I had to capture the moment on film.

The whole meaty goodness thing (not to mention the tossing of crab parts all over) tested my vegetarian resolve a bit, but I held pretty strong.  Ok, I had some crab meat, but steered clear of the burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, wings, guilt, and heart disease.  I did not steer clear of the delicious IPA on tap.  I also made a pretty delightful little cole slaw.  It was low fat and tangy, just the way I like it.  It seemed to be a hit, so maybe if I ever get around to trying to be a food bloggerish person I will share it.

Hubz bailed early to make it back across town before the Capitol 4th/tourist traffic got too crazy.  So we were home to hear the fireworks out our window and watch them from the comfort of our comfy air conditioned couch.

Happy Independence Day, folks!

Are you a fan of holiday morning races?  

What are your 4th of July traditions?