Race Simulation Weekend #1: Game Plan!

This weekend is my first big race simulation extravaganza!

Tonight, I swam 3500 – 6 x 500 after a 500 warmup. I was pretty worried that it was going to be super duper boring. I’ve been trying to use these long swims as a bit of meditation time…counting my strokes and getting into a zen zone. Tonight was longest so far and with long sets to boot…luckily I felt a *bit* more zen than “omg this is why people buy those silly pool mp3 players gah!” I am actually really happy with how it turned out. I managed to keep a good and consistent pace all the way through the workout.

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And tomorrow is the BIG day. I’ll head out bright and early for a total of 80 miles on the bike, to be followed by an hour run. I’m going to do the first 30 miles on my own, then meet up with Miss D in Rock Creek to do the 50 mile Potomac loop together. I’ll be doing my best to keep it in Zone 2 for the whole ride, which means I will probably feel like I’m barely moving up some of those hills on River Road towards the end…because I will be barely moving up them. There is some chance of showers but we’ll ride through it unless it’s an absolute deluge, or thunder and lightning. 80 miles will be my longest ride yet, so I’m glad I’ll have a week’s worth of D’s stories about her online dating hijinx to keep me entertained.

Once we finish the loop I’ll ride across town to home, ditch the bike for a visor and water belt, and run for an hour. More precisely, run 9 minutes, then walk 1 minute.  Times 6. Yeehaw. Looking forward to seeing how I feel/hold up on the run. What? Looking forward to the end of a 7 hour workout? Yeah I am…what is wrong with me!?

Of course, the big goal for tomorrow is to make it all the way through the work out without feeling like poop. The key? Nutrition and hydration! I’ll be throwing back one bottle of Infinit per hour (I mean it!) on the bike, supplemented with a ProBar or two, a banana, and a PB&J. Yuuuuuuuummmm. Then I’ll do a gel and water on the run. Then home to a big ol’ bottle of chocolate milk, my couch, and multiple glorious Buffy eps on streaming. 

AtIYLDjCEAI8dzzHey, Buffy marathons are only appropriate after a day of badassery. And also every day.

All the while through my race simulation, I’ll be tracking one of my coaches (Mr.) kicking butt and taking names at IMTX! This (plus like a million hours due to our relative speediness differences) will be my constant mental reminder of what’s really in store for me in 11 weeks…

Any race simulation workout tips?

Anyone else still watch Buffy wayyyy too often?

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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.

traffic-jam-lol-cat

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!

Three Things Thursday

1. Ironman’s new SwimStart Initiative, announced today.

Ever since I signed up for IMLP last July, one of my biggest fears has been the chaos of the mass swim start. I prefer to avoid being kicked in the face and/or lung, thankyouverymuch. Today’s VERY exciting news: IMLP will be testing a new rolling start system this year:

“Athletes will enter the water in a continuous stream through a controlled access point, similar to how running road races are started. An athlete’s times will start when they cross timing mats under the swim arch.

Athletes will be directed to self-seed on race morning based on their projected swim time. Volunteers and staff will be in the staging area with signs and will assist with this process. Self-seeding will not be mandatory, but will be encouraged. At both events, all athletes will have access to a dedicated warm-up area in the water located adjacent to the swim start.

Age-group athletes will begin entering the water at 6:35 a.m. for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and 6:30 a.m. for IRONMAN Lake Placid, and will have the two hours and twenty minutes from the time the last athlete enters the water to complete the swim. An athlete’s time does not begin until he or she crosses the timing mat located below the swim arch. All athletes are expected to start by 7:00 a.m. at both venues, thus keeping all other timelines and cutoffs the same. This will ensure that all participants have at least the full 17 hours (subject to intermediate cutoffs) to complete the event.”

Since I’m neither a crazy strong fast swimmer nor a lunatic, my plan was always to hang back and let the super competitive folks go out first. Now, I get to do this officially, and my time won’t officially start until I cross the mat! Big fan of this move, WTC!

In addition to Lake Placid, Coeur d’Alene will also have a rolling start.  Mont Tremblant will be seeding by age group, and Tahoe and Florida will have self-seeding into corrals. Personally, I think the rolling start with time chip probably makes the most sense to avoid traffic jams and dangerous conditions, while still preserving somewhat of the traditional mass start feel of an IM. But what do I know, this is my first.

2. It’s storm season in D.C.

photo by Brett Thompson via www.tbd.com

photo by Brett Thompson via http://www.tbd.com

I’ll admit, all this rain lately is putting a bit of a damper on my outdoor riding. Knocking on wood that it won’t interfere with my long ride Saturday morning! But I also cannot deny that I absolutely LOVE a good thunderstorm. Something about growing up in Nebraska develops a deep love in a person for crazy loud, awesome, freaky storms. We’ve yet to have a big one here this spring, but the forecast has been teasing it for days now….

3. CICADA INVASION!!! Bring. It. On. So they’re gross and a little freaky looking. But how amazing are these little creatures? This brood has been laying dormant for 17 years and will soon begin emerging all throughout the Eastern U.S. as soon as the soil reaches the proper temperature. They burrow out of their underground hiding spaces, shed their shell, and become full fledged adults. When they are out and about, they feed on various plant life. AND they are little musicians as well…the male cicadas “sing” as part of their mating practice. In mass chorus, the sound can be almost deafening.

Oh and let me say that one part again…they have been laying dormant for 17 years. 17 FREAKING YEARS! You just gotta respect that. Seriously. 17 years ago I was cruising around my suburban neighborhood on rollerblades and making mix tapes of alternative rock songs recorded off the radio. I hadn’t even started high school yet. That’s when these little Cicada eggs were burrowed into the ground. It’s mindboggling.

This Magicicada website has an incredible amount of information about our little friends, including tracking maps of brood emergence patterns around the country. Worth a browse, as they are truly fascinating critters. Then you decide, Cicada: annoying pest, or TOTAL AND COMPLETE BADASS?! I’m going with badassery.

(Btw, I also love The Onion’s take on the Cicada re-emergence).

I’m sure I’ll encounter many on my long rides out into rural Maryland in the coming weeks.  What do you think, new bike helmet style to consider?

 

Big Kids’ Pool

One thing that’s super awesome about being a resident of the Disco is that the (sadly sans-Knope) Department of Parks and Recreation runs a number of indoor pool facilities that are free to DC residents.  Both the pool in my old and new neighborhoods are really great – clean and well-maintained.  Plus “my” new pool has the added benefit of not being swamped with fellow triathletes all jockeying for lane position at 6:30 AM opening time.  Oh yeah, and it also has a HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.  Amazing post-workout pre-work treat for those creaky back and shoulder muscles.

panda hot tub

Most of the DC pools are standard 25 yard-ers.  But there is one DC pool in its own Olympic size class.  The city’s swimmers, triathletes, and avid water aerobicizers whisper its name with nothing short of reverence: “Wilson….”

It happens to be on my way to my evening classes at AU, so I take my opportunities to (literally) bathe in its glory whenever I get the chance.  Like today. For the first time since September, I did my swim workout in this utter beauty’s full 50 meters in length:

dpr_WilsonLeadThe Wilson pool really is the USS Enterprise of the DPR aquatic facilities.  Not only is it the only Olympic size pool in the fleet, but the lanes are wide, the whole facility is brand spanking new and remarkably well-maintained (including its own little hot tub action), and I swear it is the only pool kept at the proper lap swimming temperature of just-a-wee-bit-freezing.  Love it.

I must admit, at the end of a workout in that pool, I’m extra spent.  Even though my total distance may be the same, there’s a BIG jump from a 25 yard length to a 50 meter length, in both the physical conditioning and in the mental/boredom/dear-lord-I-forgot-how-many-laps-I’ve-done game.  Great for training.  Bad for my increasingly chlorine-frizzified hair.

Starting in a couple weeks, I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet up for team swims at Wilson as well, which should give me that extra EXTRA kick in the booty.  😉

 

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.