My First Century
June 23, 2014

Century: a. A period of 100 years, b. A company in the ancient Roman army, usually of 100 men, c. A bike ride of 100 miles, usually ridden by crazy cyclists.

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I finally crossed that threshold in my training and as a cyclist. I biked a century.  And not just any century, or just any 100mi training ride, but The Harpeth River Ride Century.  A very large organized ride with a major sponsor that takes cyclists through some of the biggest, toughest, non-stop hills around middle Tennessee.  I was completely terrified of it.  The most I’d biked to that point was 77mi, and that was a few weeks before.  Would my legs hold up?  Would my mind hold up?  And more importantly, would my “saddle” hold up?  But, you know what, it really wasn’t that bad.  Since it was such a large, well-supported race, it was broken up into several rest stops that were fully stocked.

before

Since this is such a massive bike ride, with thousands of cyclists, I was really nervous about the mass rollout that morning.  Turns out several friends and teammates weren’t keen on it either, so several of us decided to meet very early and get a head start on the crowd.  The plan was to roll out at 6am, a full hour ahead of the masses.  It was great, we had the road to ourselves, we hit the rest stops early so the food was plenty and the porta potties were fresh and clean.  We hit the rest stop at around mile 34, just before climbing the infamous Pulltight hill, a KOM for those in the know.  I love me some hills (small, light cyclists usually do), but I was a little nervous after hearing everyone talk about how bad it is.  The climb is no joke, but it wasn’t as bad as I imagined.  Just drop your gear and spin, you’ll get there.  Crest the top, then fly down to the other side, my least favorite part of cycling.

Turns out when you leave early, that means you also pick up everything in the road first too.  As I started descending behind my teammate, I distinctly started to hear a click…..click…..click…click..click..clickclickclickclickclickclick… Someone threw out tacks on the road.  I picked up a tack and when I got to the bottom, had to change my tire.  Another teammate picked up one earlier in the hill and changed his at the top.  While we were working on my tire, my stem broke on the new tube!  ARGH!  Toss that and start over….bent the stem on the second one but we were still able to get it pumped up, but not screwed back down.  Now I’m down to one tube left, not a big deal unless you’re like me and ride with 650cc tubes (smaller than the standard). One more flat and I’m done for the day, the sag crew probably doesn’t have one for me to use if I flat after that.  We saw so many people with tacks and flats for the next 10-20 miles.  That’s so dangerous.  If someone had blown a tire flying down that hill, it could have caused a serious wreck.  Looks like I reached a top speed of 41mph flying down that hill (and that was with my brakes gently applied).  I’m really surprised I didn’t wet my pants going that fast.

At the next rest stop, I had support check my wheel.  He gave me some more air and said I’d probably be ok, but may lose some air slowly.  The rest of the ride I was so nervous with every bump, rock, and pothole in the road.  Fortunately, our patch job held.

I really began to struggle over miles 45-65.  I think losing time to fixing all the flats and getting our group back together, getting caught up with the crowds again, the sun had finally started really coming out and getting hot, and maybe I was getting low on calories while I paid more attention to my tire instead of my nutrition.  I was in a bad place, my group had long left me, and I was trying to ride my own ride, but I was struggling and getting passed.  Then one of the worst hills in my opinion was at mile 60, super steep and at the turn from a stop sign.  When I got to the next rest stop, my group said I didn’t look ok.  But I got some ice in my water bottles, some gatorade from a cooler, more sunscreen and a couple peanut butter jelly sandwiches.  A few minutes in the shade and I think I was doing better.

kec

After that, it was pretty uneventful, just meandering through rural middle Tennessee.  Once I hit about 80 miles, I was feeling much better, good even.  I got stopped by a train just before the rest stop at mile 82.  That’s the second time I’ve been stopped by a train this year, I really hope this isn’t a trend.  When I got to the stop, we found another teammate and were able to get our picture together.  I was also offered ice for my water bottles.  Filled up 2 bottles, then took another cupful and poured it into my sports bra.  The cheers from the onlookers were hilarious….it’s like they’ve never seen a triathlete in the heat.  It felt so good.  At this point we were only about 18mi from the finish.  I was so glad I brought some extra “chamois butter” to apply at this point.  While I was probably ok, if nothing else it helps you mentally to know that you’ve added an extra layer of protection.  A couple of us reapplied our lube of choice and we were back on the road.

glide

At this point I was mostly familiar with the rest of the route.  It was nice to know I was really close to being done.  My group stopped at the last rest stop, which was less than 10mi from the finish. I met them there, but said I’m feeling good, let’s go, let’s get this over with!  A few more hills and were were back at the finish.  And just in time.  Within 15-20min of finishing, a severe thunderstorm rolled in.  Fortunately I was able to get back to my car and bike loaded inside before the rain hit.

Yes, these legs pedaled those wheels for 100 miles.  ONE HUNDRED MILES.

Yes, these legs pedaled those wheels for 100 miles. ONE. HUNDRED. MILES.

So, for my first century, this was a good one.  It was hot and hilly and really pushed my limits physically and mentally.  It was really well supported and the route was clearly marked with stickers on the road that were obvious and didn’t deface property.  I would definitely do this race again.  Just maybe not tomorrow, my legs have earned a little rest.

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I scream, You scream…
June 5, 2014

 

crankin-logo

 

That’s right, it’s that time of year again. ICE CREAM!! It’s ok, go ahead, scream it!

If you live in the Nashville area and have never been to Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’, you’re really missing out.  It’s a local tradition, going strong for 29 years.  Hundreds of homemade ice cream crankers will be churning up delicious frosty treats.  Everything you could imagine from the classic vanilla to exotic combinations of flavors.  There are prizes for best chocolate base, vanilla base, and other, but the most coveted prize is for Best Of Show.  The winner of Best Of Show will be produced as a new Purity Ice Cream flavor.

So get down to the Crankin’ on Sunday, and maybe you’ll get a chance to taste the next greatest ice cream flavor on the shelves next year.

I’ll definitely be down there.  What else is the point of training for an Ironman and burning thousands of calories a day if you can’t indulge in all you can eat ice cream?

When: Sunday, June 8, 3pm-5pm
Where: First Presbyterian Church (4815 Franklin Pike)
Tickets: Advance tickets are $10 for adults ($13 after June 6) and $8 for children ($10 after June 6); children under two are free. Buy your tickets here.
Parking: Parking is free at Franklin Road Academy, Judson Baptist Church and Overton High School, with regular shuttle service to First Presbyterian. (like your own personal ice cream truck!)

Tips:
* My friend Lesley has some fabulous tips for making your Crankin’ experience perfect.
* Come ready to taste from more than 500 gallons (!) of ice cream.
* Bring comfortable, flat shoes, because it all takes place on the lawn of the church (no heels) .

My favorite part about the Crankin’ is that is benefits the Martha O’Bryan Center, which provides a cradle to college to career continuum of integrated services for families living in Cayce Place, Nashville’s largest and oldest public housing development, and the surrounding area. The Center supports children, families and individuals as they work to achieve greater self-sufficiency through education and sustained employment.

Cedars of Lebanon Tri 2014
May 21, 2014

Last weekend was my 4th time to race the Cedars of Lebanon sprint triathlon.  It’s such a short race (at least the past couple years), that I just race as hard and as fast as I can and worry about the pain after.  This year, however the weather was unusual.

It  was quite chilly for this race, sub-50 degrees, which is less than optimal in wet sleeveless spandex. I was really worried because I just wasn’t sure how I’d deal with the cold and if I’d want extra clothes or not. It’s such a short race, surely I could suck it up for the hour I was out there, but then again if my hands or arms got too chilled, would it affect my performance? Would I have trouble braking or shifting, or putting on my shoes or helmet? Typically at a sprint I try to ride as “naked” as possible. Take off any extraneous stuff off my bike (bento, tool kit, etc) and have my transition area as neat and minimal as possible. But I went ahead and put a jacket (half-zipped up because cold fingers are useless on zippers), and a fleece pullover for choices, and included socks in transition (I typically go sockless for a sprint both on bike and run). I did go ahead and put toe covers on my bike shoes thank goodness.

Before the race, I did get a quick lap in on the bike, to warm up and go through my gears and check bike course for hazards. I didn’t take the time to warm up the run, but that didn’t really make a difference. I also DID NOT warm up on the swim, when it’s that cold I do not risk getting wet and cold waiting for swim start. Plus, the water temp was 71, which is balmy for me (compared to my practice pool).  They decided it was “wetsuit legal” and they would have “wetsuit strippers.” I was amused to see people actually wore wetsuits for the 200 meter swim! The swim was the warmest part of the race, but hey to each their own.

I felt better on this swim than in the past. Because it’s so short, I tend to go anaerobic pretty quickly and struggle. But was seeded early enough that I was with people of my own pace, and didn’t have to pass people or bunch up at the wall. But my swim time was a few seconds slower than last year.  Darnit!  But according to the results I was 1st in my age group on the swim! That NEVER happens.

I put on socks in T1 and ran with them (bike shoes clipped to my bike) to the mount line. I’m working on faster transition times and this is part of it. I’ve had a little trouble with getting used to the new bike and the mount/dismount with shoes on bike, but I was ok for this race. As I suspected I did not need a jacket, adrenaline was pumping and didn’t make my arms/shoulders too cold.

Bike was great, first lap was fine, passed people. Second lap is always a cluster as I catch up with the later seeded people on their first lap. There’s a short stretch on a main highway and people were out in the road (holding up traffic) rather than on the generous shoulder. Made it really hard to pass them as I was going through. But it felt great, I passed a lot on the bike and barely got passed myself, that’s a first for this race. The bike has been my weakness and I’m starting to feel much better this year. I was faster than last year and second in age group on the bike split!

Quick transition to the run, leaving on my socks. That’s when I realized my feet were numb.  It felt like I had a golf ball in my shoe, I honestly thought something was in my shoe.  But almost everyone else I talked to said the same thing, so I’m glad it wasn’t just me.  I tried to push on the run as hard as I could, but I might have been still a little foggy from the cold. Looks like my run was a lot slower than last year.  Guess I was struggling, either from the cold, or just getting used to running after a really hard bike.

But I still pulled off a 2:22 PR over last year, with slower swim and run, but much faster bike and transitions. That’s the thing about triathlon, every single time counts! And got 2nd AG again.  Dang, these women keep getting faster too!

And the best part was getting to one of my really good friends, who’s become an amazing runner, race her first triathlon!  I’m so excited to have a new friend to share my love of multi-sport.  I’m also really glad she’s not in my age group, because she’s going to be a serious force to reckon with!

Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Recap
November 27, 2013

I did it.  Officially became a Half Ironman in July.  And I legitimately had fun doing it.  I know, I can’t believe I’m saying that either!

Pre-race:
I drove up on Thursday before the race, and I’m glad I did.  It gave me time to get settled into the hotel and ready for the long weekend.  I arbitrarily picked a hotel in a nearby town and I’m so glad.  It really wasn’t far from the expo or the race site (because nothing is close to that!).  It also was centrally located to a strip with plenty of dining options and stores if I needed anything.  And the best part, my room had a large mini-fridge and small microwave.  This was a useful luxury!

On Friday, I slept in and drove up to Muncie for the expo and race meeting.  Downtown Muncie, how adorable.  I got to meet up with a Twitter friend who was also doing the race and drove all the way down from Maine with his young son.  Nice little father son bonding trip!  We went to the first athlete meeting together.  Then I finished checking out the expo and got some lunch before heading out to the middle of nowhere race site to check out the course.  Definitely glad I did that.  There is no easy way to get to the race site and it’s pretty confusing.  I did the race in reverse order, starting with a quick run, a short bike to check gears, and then a little swim to check the water and the sighting to the finish.  The shallow part of the water has quite a few rocks, so I was really hoping we didn’t have a beach run start. After that, I drove the remainder of the run and bike.  The run looked great, and those “rollers” weren’t going to be a problem.  I confirmed the bike is in fact flat, but a lot of the course was really rough, so I kept that in mind.  Then I drove back to the hotel to have dinner and an Epsom salt bath and get my gear ready for the morning.

Race morning:  I knew that there is really only one road in to the race, so traffic gets backed up early.  Therefore I planned on getting to the race site as soon as possible to when parking opened at 4:30am.  I set the alarm for 3:15am, got dressed, loaded the car, and packed some coffee and breakfast for when I got there.  I lucked out and got parking on the 3rd row.  I hit the porta potties before transition opened at 5am.  Then, I started unloading my stuff to take to set up transition.  We were lucky that pre-race bike check-in was optional.  I have separation anxiety from my bike.  Also, many thanks to the nice volunteer who checked and topped off my air pressure in my tires!  After getting set up, I went back to my car to relax and eat my breakfast and get my sunscreen started.  We got word that the water temp was 75 so it would be a wetsuit legal race, which meant some extra Body Glide.  While the pros were starting I got a little practice swim in to get used to the water.  Then I was ready to go get in line for the start line chute.

Swim:
Fortunately, we got to start a few feet into the water and get away from the rocks embedded in the sand.  I was surprised how small my wave was.  Usually my age group is pretty big, but this helped me relax about being in an aggressive swim wave/washing machine.  I lined up on second or third row out on the edge closest to the buoys.  When the bull horn went off, we started swimming.  I felt pretty good.  I did have one woman, who just wouldn’t leave me alone.  I couldn’t tell if she was just being especially aggressive towards me or was doing a terrible job of swimming straight and cutting me off and yanking on my feet on purpose.  I think I finally lost her when we caught up to the guys ahead of us about the second buoy and I trapped her between the buoy and the slower men.  I had a hard time sighting on the swim because the line out to the first turn is at a diagonal to the left, and we started running into the slower men in the wave ahead of us.  But for the most part it was manageable.  About halfway between the first and second turn, I was swimming behind a line of about 3 people across.  Then a guy wearing an orange cap (I think from the wave behind us) decided to swim diagonally across them.  And I caught his heel directly into my left eye, shoving my goggle deep into my eye socket.  I had to stop and adjust, and assess whether I thought I might actually have injured my eye.  It seemed to be ok (I could see), but hurt pretty badly.  But I was the furthest away from the shore that I could be so I had to keep going.  I was just hoping it wouldn’t be all bloody when I got out of the water and they would make me quit my race then.  I was also glad it wasn’t my nose.  A broken nose is a definitely DNF, something I didn’t want.  After the second turn, it started getting much more congested in the water as all the swim waves start catching up with the slower people in front of them.  I was worried about the sighting since the sun is rising over the shore, but it actually created a shadow on the buoys and wasn’t that bad to sight.  Plus there were enough people around me all going the same general (straight) direction back to shore. Once out of the water, I started running up the hill to transition.  We were told there weren’t going to be any wetsuit strippers, but I saw a group of teenage boys who were more than happy to yank that suit off me, pull me back up and get me back on my way to transition.  It’s amazing how efficient strippers are!

Transition 1 :
Tossed my wetsuit into my pile of stuff, grabbed my helmet and glasses, sprayed some sunscreen, grabbed my bike of the rack and ran to the “Bike Out” sign.  I had practiced a couple times with my shoes already clipped to my bike and I’m glad I did.  Our transition was in grass and it was much easier running barefoot and not getting grass or dirt stuck in my cleats.  Though I almost forgot and started to mount before the line, but caught myself.

Bike:
The bike course is over a lot of really rough roads.  It took a while to get comfortable where I could start putting my feet into my bike shoes and then longer before I could reach down and lock down the straps on my shoes.  The bike course goes out several local roads and through one neighborhood with moderately bumpy to smooth roads.  Once you turn on to the main highway, it’s really straight, flat, and smooth.  It was at this point that I got to see the lead male and female pro racers flying back the other direction on the course.  After a few miles, we turn off on to really incredibly rough farm roads.  There are several “no pass zones” but people aren’t observing them.  Apologies to the really fast people who were stuck behind me.  Then it’s miles and miles of relentless bumps and vibrations.  I kept having to shove my aero bottle straw back down into the bottle, the bumps were knocking it up out of the bottle.  I dodged numerous marked and even unmarked pot holes, ejected water bottles, and even an ejected rear water bottle cage (that poor person).  I passed several people who were fixing flats.  I took it easy on the bike.  It’s not my strength and why burn myself out just to blow up on the run where I can really make up time.  Plus, the whole goal for the race was to finish, not explode.  After the turnaround point, I was beyond done mentally with the bumpy roads. I started singing songs in my head to try to get through it.  It was difficult to fuel and hydrate with all the bumps and having to focus so hard on keeping a handle on the bike and dodging road obstacles.  I think the other side of the road for the second half was actually a little bit better and not as rough.  But I was definitely happy to get back to the smooth main highway and head my way back to transition.  I even smoothly handled a water bottle handoff!  I grabbed the bottle, dumped it into my aero bottle, tossed it before the drop point, and got in 2 tabs of Nuun to help with hydration and flavor!  So glad I had those Nuun tablets in my bento!

I definitely feel like I dialed in my nutrition plan just right for this race.  For me, my stomach doesn’t always tolerate a lot during the run and especially if I’m going hard or long in a race.  So, the key is to get everything in on the bike.  My plan was as follows (if nothing else it gave me something to do for 3 hours of pedaling):
Every 15min – sip of Nuun from my water bottle
Every 20 min – go up gear and pedal out of saddle for a few seconds
Every 20 min – fuel (On the :20 and :40 I took in a fig newton, on the hour I took a Hüma gel)

Transition 2:
I managed to get my shoes opened and my feet out before dismount. I hopped off my bike and ran barefoot in the grass back to my transition spot. Threw off the helmet and sunglasses, grabbed a hat and my race belt that I pre-loaded with gels and my bib.

Run:
This was by far my favorite part of the race.  Not just because it’s my strength, but I honestly had a good time!  I was, as usual, very happy to be out of the saddle and back on my own feet.  The course was great.  It says it is a challenging roller course, but really it wasn’t hilly or what this Tennessean would call a roller.  It wasn’t pancake flat (like the bike course), so it actually gave you a break from the constant pounding, and wasn’t enough of a roller to feel like you were climbing or breaking down a hill.  Just enough of a change to give your different muscles a break.  I started out at a great pace, maybe a little fast, but I was feeling good.  After a couple miles we turned on to the out and back portion.  At this point I saw a guy running back around his mile 11 with so many sponges stuffed in his tri top, he was easily taking a cue from that time I figure skated as Dolly Parton to “9-to-5” as a kid.  It provided some entertainment for the start of the run.  Eventually the miles ticked off.  I saw some athletes from back home heading back and hoped I could catch some of them after the turnaround.  My Coach had warned me to take it easy on the bike, but that most people go too hard on that flat course and leave nothing for the run.  During the run I grinned from ear to ear (that’s never happened in a 13 mile run ever!) and just had fun.  I bounced from water stop to water stop, grabbing a cub of ice and pouring it into my sports bra (seriously, “boob ice” is the best thing ever) and taking a sip of the cola they offered, with the occasional ice water dumped on my head just for fun.  At the turn around point, I couldn’t believe I was already there and had to actually ask the volunteer if it was “for real.”  She said yes, and I did a little hop and a dance right there, then kept running.  After the turnaround, I caught up to many of the athletes from home who were running, said hi, and passed them.  I think I passed pretty much everyone I was running with.  I’m not sure I really got passed much myself.  It felt great.  I’m sure I looked a little strange munching on my “boob ice” in between water stops.  I was feeling so good I almost forgot to take some gels, but managed to get down a couple of them.  I’m not sure if it was the sugar and caffeine from the cola or just pure adrenaline, but I was all kinds of excited.  As I got to the 11 and 12 mile markers it was hitting me that I was getting close to the finish.  Not only was I going to finish my first Half Ironman, but it was also almost done.  After 6 hours of racing (and countless hours of training), I was done. When I saw the 13 mile turnoff, I quickly threw out all the ice from my top, straightened my bib and hauled it in to the finish.  I literally skipped and bounded to the finish line!  My heart was exploding. I was so happy and a little sad it was already over, I was having so much fun!

My #1 goal for this race was to finish.  I thought best case scenario, I could maybe pull off a 6:30.  I finished the race in 6:09.  It helps we had really great weather, and I trained hard.  I took the course one step at a time and didn’t push myself really hard because ultimately I just wanted to cross the finish line.  So, of course now I want to go back and try to race and see what I can really do on that course, with more determination and background of the course.

muncie finish

Tracking a race
July 10, 2013

So race week is here.  The race is just a couple days away.  Six months of intense training will be tested on Saturday.  My goal for my first Half Ironman is to FINISH.  Honestly, that’s it.  Yes, I do have a range of time in mind for my finish time for a good day and a bad day, and maybe I’ll share that after the race is over.  But I really just want to finish.  There are a lot of things that can happen in the several hours it takes to finish a race like this.  I have a lot of things in my favor, relatively flat course, excellent weather forecast, possible wetsuit legal swim. So I have my fingers crossed for crossing that finish line myself and not in the medical tent.

If you want to follow my progress on Saturday morning, here’s the information you need to know:

Saturday, July 13, 7am Eastern time.

I am bib #975.

My swim wave takes off at 7:35am Eastern time.

Track all athletes here (I don’t know if they will have finish line video or not)

My swim, bike, run, and transition splits will be posted there.  Note, it is my experience that sometimes the splits are a little delayed.

My First Metric Century Ride
July 2, 2013

CRAM Metric Century Ride

I did my first metric century bike ride recently in May.  Ok, first let’s get some vocabulary out of the way:

Century – (a) A time period of 100 years.  (b) A bike ride of 100 miles (a.k.a. a really long way!)

Metric – ya know, that universal method of measure that the rest of the world uses, e.g., kilometers, liters, grams.

Metric Century – A bike ride of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles.

So, yes, a metric century is a really, really long bike ride.  Not as insane as a century ride, but still not something you want to attempt without having had some serious saddle time already.  My longest ride to that point had been 50miles.  So I was pretty prepared for it.  I had also been training on very hilly routes and the CRAM is famously flat as a pancake.  In fact, many people try to ride the full century in under 4 hours.  Let me paint that picture for you, that’s riding over 25mph for 100 miles for 4 hours.  That’s insanity.

I’m really glad I did this ride.  The course is really similar to Muncie in that it’s incredibly flat and goes through a lot of farmland, but can be windy at times.  Fortunately we had no wind and the weather was really nice, starting out fairly cool,  and warming up after a couple hours.  I had never done any kind of mass group ride like this before and was pretty nervous, but it was a good laid back ride.

I found a couple people I knew from another training group and latched on to them so I’d have someone I knew to ride with, especially since I knew I wouldn’t be fast enough to hang with my friend with whom I carpooled to the race.  (Thanks for the ride Ken!!)  I felt like the course we really well marked and the rest stops were great.  Thumbs up for peanut butter sandwiches and pickles and extra sunscreen!!  Loved riding past all the farms, including seeing the Mennonite farm with the horse drawn equipment.  And to the packs of men who kept trying to pass our trio of women and then were more than happy to tuck in behind us and let us pull for the rest of the ride….bless your hearts.

It’s a no frills ride, no special finish line, no crazy party, no medal or fancy shirt (plain T with logo), but the registration only cost $30 the week of the race, so I can’t really complain. At the finish we had spaghetti and Dairy Queen ice cream sandwiches.  But for a last minute registration and a completely flat course only an hour away from home, I thought it was a great option.  There is another one in the fall on the same course.

Last rest stop. Follow us men, we know where we're going.

Last rest stop.
Follow us fellas, we know where we’re going.

One Month
June 13, 2013

One Month.

4 weeks.

30 days.

720 hours.

43,200 minutes.

There’s a lot of “time” in a month.  Temporal time, yes.  Actual time?

4 weekends.

2-3 really long brick workouts.

2-3 really long runs.

3-4 track workouts.

8-12 swim workouts.

7-8 bike rides.

4-5 mid-distance runs.

2-3 strength training sessions.

22+ 5am (or earlier) wake up calls.

2 weeks of taper.

1 long car ride to the middle of Indiana.

As of today, I am officially one month out from my first Half Ironman.  On the morning of July 13, I will be lining up along the shore of a lake outside Muncie, Indiana.  Once my group is called, I’ll swim 1.2miles, run to transition, then hop on my bike and pedal for 56miles.  After dropping my bike back off at transition, I’ll throw on my running shoes and run a half marathon before finally crossing a finish line.  My goal is to finish.  Over the past 6 months I have put in the training and have faith in my coach, my training, and my body to get me there.  But I still have one more month.  One month of training left.  One month of doubts.  One month of excitement.  One month of fears.  One month of confidence building.  A lot can happen in a month.  A lot can happen over the course of the day on July 13.  But I’m willing to do everything in my power to get myself to the finish line.

affresh_muncie

Dickson Endurance Tri
June 5, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I raced the Dickson Endurance Triathlon last month.  It was my first tri of the season.  It was also the longest and hardest tri I’ve ever done. It is a really long race (between an Olympic and Half Ironman distance tri), and it’s really early in the season for that distance race, which means a lot of training has been done indoors or in the cold. It’s also a very difficult course with lots of steep and long hills.  It’s a newer race and it falls in between 2 popular local/regional races, so it’s not a huge race, or most people do the shorter, less challenging course sprint race.

Ready to race.

Ready to race?

I got 3rd Overall female! Out of 4. And 4th place was actually Masters Overall winner. So yay, overall podium finish, even it was last place.  I knew it was going to be a small race with only 7 women officially signed up and I was the only one in my age group.  But only 4 of us showed up.

Warm up done.

Warm up done.

Pre-race: I stayed at my mom’s house because she lives only a couple miles away and it’s about an hour drive from my house.  So I saved some time in the morning (and more potty breaks), and I also got to spend Mother’s Day with her.  I arrived at the race site early and with plenty of time to get set up in a good spot in transition, get body marked, and warm up on the bike and run.  I even had time to pour myself into my wetsuit and get in a warmup swim before they started the race.

New dance craze called "The Wetsuit Squeeze"

New dance craze: “The Wetsuit Squeeze”

Swim (1 mile- 34:15):
Water temp had dropped to about 68 degrees from the rain.  But it actually felt perfect, was warmer than the air temp, and much warmer than the local lake I where had been practicing.  I wore my wetsuit, and I also wore an extra cap under the cap they gave us, partly to conserve heat, but also I hate latex caps that pull my hair.  After they sent off the sprint racers, they did a wave of all men, then after 3 minutes, they sent the 4 of us off.

And then there 4. Also, totally swimming beyond rope!

And then there 4. Totally swimming beyond rope!

I really wish they had just done one wave for this race, and included us with the men.  That was a really lonely swim.  I had nobody to draft off of and any men I caught up to or passed were having trouble so I couldn’t swim with them.

Swimming at my own risk.

Swimming at my own risk, just like the sign says.

It was also a 2 loop swim.  I feel like I had to work extra hard for this swim without any help from drafting and even though the wetsuit helps with floating and speed, my left arm started getting tired from pulling that neoprene.

Wish you could really see the hill climbing back to transition.

Wish you could really see the hill climbing back to transition.

Then coming out of the water was the longest steepest hill I’ve ever seen that I had to run up to transition.  In a wetsuit.  I thought I’d never get back up there.  And I thought my inner thighs were going to stick together from the neoprene.

T1. Wetsuit off, get on bike.

T1. Wetsuit off, get on bike.

Bike (38 miles-2:24:27):
So this is where I went through several stages of grief.

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I knew coming out of the swim I was in 3rd among women, but about 6 miles into the bike, the 4th woman passed me and was long gone!  It’s a 2.5 loops course around the outside of the park.  As I finished the first loop, I heard the cop directing traffic say into his radio “Last 2 on the Endurance race.”  I freaked out.  I knew I was near the back, but I couldn’t believe I was so far behind and that many people had passed me already.  It was a really lonely bike ride for a while, because it’s a small race over a long distance and I was near the back.  Then I started getting really sad; I couldn’t believe I’d be the last to cross the finish.  I still had a hilly 9.3 miles to run once I got off the bike.  Then I got really mad that I was finishing this race alone, and at about 1/2 way through the second loop I started seeing some of the bikers ahead of me.  I could tell they were starting to struggle on the uphills.  I was mad, I wanted to catch them.  I’d get close as they went up hills (I’m a strong climber because I’m light), but lose them on downhills. Finally on the last 1/2 loop, we started climbing the longest hill of the race for the third time.  I could see 3 bikes not far ahead of me and I knew I could take them.  One by one I picked them off, including the 4th place woman at mile 30 who had left me behind 24 miles ago!  Yay!  I wasn’t last place anymore.  I played leap frog with this one older guy (how all of my races have been going lately) for the last 5-10 miles.  As I was riding back into transition (including the worst hill climb of the day) I realized I was beyond last place.

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Run (15k-1:27:56):
I got back to transition and took off on the run.

I don't look too happy.

I don’t look too happy.

This was going to be the hardest part, even though the run is my strongest leg, this course was brutal even without having swam and biked right before.  As I was running, I saw people still coming in on the bike.  I was SO far away from being last place.  I was relieved.

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I held off on taking water and a gel on the run as my stomach was still sloshing around a bit after the bike.  I finally got some Nuun from my handheld at the halfway point and eventually got a salt packet and a gel.  The cups of water they had at the abundant water stop tables was freezing cold and felt great as I poured them on my head a couple times.  I ran as much as I could, but still had to walk several hills.  I was exhausted and some of those hills were just easier to walk because you could get a longer stride instead of the death shuffle running your toes into the grade of the hill.  I chicked a lot more guys on the run.  Every single person in this was race was so incredibly nice and positive!  Everyone said a “good job” or “looking good” or “way to go” to each other.  Every single time.  I love this!  No guys getting their man-panties in a wad that I chicked them.  The last brutal hill back into finish was a killer.  I ran as much as I possibly could but walked quite a bit.  Around 7.5 miles I was ready to be done. I didn’t want to carry my handheld water bottle, in fact I didn’t want anything touching me at all. Over stimulus anyone?  I was so happy to run in towards that finish, and get my chocolate milk and a Coke out of my car, my post-race treats!

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Total: 4:30:56 – 3rd Overall
Pretty sweet haul too.  Every finisher got a technical race shirt, a pretty nice medal (printed on both sides), and a pair of socks.  But I also got a nice plaque, giant tub of drink mix, and the coolest coffee mug complete with its own stirring spoon for my podium finish!

swagdickson

Back of the medal. And I definitely plan to make some hot chocolate in that mug!

Back of the medal. And I definitely plan to make some hot chocolate in that mug!

My biggest hurdle with this race was getting in the distance both physically and mentally, as well as testing and managing my nutrition without bonking or hurling.  I got through both!  I listened to my body and took in fuel/fluids when I needed and more importantly backed off when I needed to.  This was my big temperature gauge for the Half Ironman in Muncie in July. It was a shorter distance and better weather (perfect weather actually!), but it was a much more difficult course.  Now all I have to do is just add on some mileage and some hot weather coping skills and I’m ready for the flat courses in Muncie next month!

Oak Barrel Half Marathon
May 23, 2013

finish

I know I’m super late with this race recap, but there was so much awesome in this race that it took me a while to get it all together, then ya know life gets busy.  I gotta say I’ve never been to a race that had such a welcoming small hometown feel.  The runners were clearly the priority that day.  To give you an idea of this race’s demographics: About 1,100 people ran the race (including a lot of locals), and the town only has about 5,700 people in it.  So, with the runners and the volunteers, pretty much the whole town was out for this race.  Every water stop was manned with several people and there was a water stop about every couple miles.  And those who weren’t running or volunteering, were sitting on their porches waving back at all the runners.  The only thing I probably saw more during the race were cows and they’re rude and don’t wave back.

town square

“Downtown Lynchburg” The cutest little square you’ll ever see.

Lynchburg, TN is also the home of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey.  Yes, it’s made here.  No, you can’t buy it here; it’s a dry county.  Yes, most people who live here work there.  You see the influence Jack all over the town, and they are a sponsor of the race.  No, there wasn’t any Jack at the finish line.

Oak Barrel Half Marathon – April 6, 2013

Pre-race
Fortunately this race didn’t start until 8am, so we had time to drive the 90+ minutes to get down to Lynchburg, TN.  Normally it takes about 90 minutes, but with the tiny town (and roads) and extra race day traffic, we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there.  Early morning wake-up, make coffee, prep a banana and a bagel with peanut butter and throw on my race clothes, hop in the car and point it south.  I was able to do my pre-race nutrition in the car ride down and made one potty stop along the way.  When we got there, we wound around the town and back fields to get parking, then went to registration and picked up our packets, shirts, and bib numbers.  I made a bee line for the porta potty lines to get one last relief before the race, attaching my bib number while in line.

Race
Pretty soon it was nearing 8am for race start.  We all just stood around near the start line (love small races!) and the race director literally just counted down 3-2-1-GO for the start.  Nothing fancy, no starting gun,  just getting down to business, just how I like it.

We quickly wound around to the main highway for a very short stretch, then were deep into the farmland.  We ran past a cow pasture, that smelled very strong.  Nothing like huffing and puffing along in a race, and all you can smell are cow patties.

Not long after the cows, we started the slow climb towards Whiskey Hill.  As this is a very rural, small town race, you don’t have a lot of bands or cheerleaders along the course. So as we were running into the wooded area and starting the slow climb, I could hear “Dueling Banjos.”  Yes.  That.  Nothing like being in the backwoods and getting flashbacks of Deliverance.  Turns out someone had a generator and a boombox tucked back into the trees.  Nice one.

Whiskey Hill
This is the race’s defining aspect and pops up around mile 5.  It is a mile long hill, and you don’t notice the first 3/4 of  mile, but the last 1/4 mi is character building.  It starts getting really steep, then it turns a corner and it becomes impossibly steep.  I came down a couple weeks before to preview the course and the hill.  I knew what I had in store for me.  I planned to try to run to the top, but it became clear that walking was faster because you could get longer strides rather than trying to tippy-toe your way up it.  That and my heart rate started getting out of control.  This hill has so much character, it even has its own Facebook page.

After Whiskey Hill, I totally expected to just fall my way down towards the finish line.  This race supposedly has negative elevation gain.  Yeah, no.  Once I hit mile 6, I knew I was near another water station. I turned the corner and it was Whiskey Hill’s baby brother.  Another damn steep hill.  I was not pleased.  This was a part of the course I had not previewed, so I wasn’t ready for it.  Actually turns out the entire course is nothing but rolling hills.  The elevation chart is a lie.  You almost never feel the effects of the downhills.  I quickly learned this is not an easy or PR course.  It is a course to have fun, enjoy the scenery and relish the finish line!

I had a goal finish time in mind.  I knew with all these hills, it might be hard to do, but I’d been training hard and I could push it.  Then at mile 9, a side stitch hit.  What?! I haven’t had a side stitch in years.  It got so bad, I actually had to walk for a bit, and if I let my pace drop below 9min/mi it became unbearable.  I could see my finish time slipping away. I pushed through and maybe around mile 12, it finally let up. I seriously had a side stitch for 20-30min! So I tried to haul whatever I had left on the main highway towards the finish in the last mile.

Final Time: 1:55:56 (15/114 AG) I still had a PR, even if it’s just by a minute.

Swag!

Swag!

Finish Line
But the real bonus to this race is the finish line!  You cannot ask for a better race finish!  You get handed a wooden medal, a pair of Swiftwick socks with the logo on it, and your choice of a running hat or visor with the logo on it! All to match the shirt you got when you picked up your bib!

hoecakes2

But here’s the real treat. You know you’re at a race in the South, when there are Hoecakes and SunDrop at the finish line.  Yes, I did partake.  And yes they are the best hoecakes I’ve ever had!  There was plenty of other food and drinks too; pizza, bagels, bananas, fruit, Brunswick Stew, Gatorade, water.

sundrop hoecake

Then they had a little local band set up that was actually pretty decent playing off past the food area.  Love the stage set up around the Whiskey Barrels.

post band

But my favorite (ok maybe second favorite after the hoecakes and SunDrop) was coming across the spontaneous pickin’ session in front of one of the shops on the tiny town square.  You can’t get any more small Tennessee town than this!

All in all, I would totally do this race again.  It was a cheap race registration, had the best volunteer support, and the finish line and swag were phenomenal.  And I’ve learned my lesson to stop trying to get massive PRs on hilly courses.  This is a race to enjoy!

Thoughts on a long bike ride
March 22, 2013

Last weekend I went out on my longest bike ride ever. 45 miles.  For most Ironmen and ultra-cyclists, that’s a warm-up, but for me that’s 3+hrs of my life by myself and alone with my thoughts.  I thought I’d take you on that journey.

  • Alright let’s do this.  It’s so nice out, it’s going to be a great ride.
  • Ok, just get through these next couple intersections.  Please, nobody hit me.
  • Dammit missed the light,  stupid sensors don’t pick up bikes.  I’m turning anyway.
  • Wow my legs are feeling really good!
  • Ooh cows. (at this point you hear me audibly yell “MOO!” at the cows. Yes, I’m that person)

cows

  • Ew cows, definitely smell them this time.
  • It’s really rural out here.  Wait did I just hear gun shots?
  • Ok, cue sheet says turn left here.  And that’s the direction of the gun shots.  Is it hunting season?
  • I have no idea where I am.  I really hope I don’t get a flat.
  • Time for a Gu break!
  • More cows.  MOO!
  • Oh goody a train.  Stopped on the road.  How am I supposed to finish my ride? I don’t even know where I am.
You shall not pass!

You shall not pass!

  • Train is still not moving.  Guess I can walk around it to get to the other side.
  • Dammit, it started moving again (as I’m halfway down the side of the train)
  • Ok, back on the road.
  • OMG what is that SMELL?!!!!  Don’t puke!
  • Ooh look goats! Hey buddy how’s it going?

goat

  • What the? Chickens?
  • Time for a Gu break!
  • What was the name of that town?  I have no idea how to even get here in my car!
  • Hm, what am I going to destroy eat when I get back home. Maybe I should have another snack.
  • OMG.  STOP.  BRAKES.  That’s an alpaca farm! Shut up!

alpacas

  • Ok, back to a part of the course I recognize.  Getting closer to civilization.
  • Legs are starting to get a little tired, but still feeling surprisingly good.
  • Ooh, a Dr. Pepper on the side of the road.  I could really go for a soda right now.
  • 39 miles? Man, am I ever ready to get out of this saddle.
  • Ugh, I still have to run 2.5 miles after this.

So yeah, all that “legs feel good” nonsense was no help on my 12 mile run the next day, especially not on the big hill 2/3 of the way through the run.