Monday, July 30, 2012

Columbus 5i50 Race Report

Giddy up!  This was my theme for the weekend.  Although (what seems like many moons ago) I used to ONLY race short course, these 2+ hour races seem so foreign to me now.  Time to get out of the "tempo" mode that dominates IM training and get into the "I think I'm going to die" mode that defines short course!

First of all, Columbus is a great city!  If you ever have a chance to do this race, I'd highly recommend it.  It's only the 2nd year of the race (and from what I hear both the run and bike courses were changed this year) but it was an awesome point to point course and very, very well run.  The swim is in a lake about 20 miles out of town.  After some looping around, you ride straight into downtown Columbus (right past Ohio State - yuck!  ;), and then run on a trail that snakes along the river downtown, traversing several beautiful bridges along the way.  Having 5i50 points certainly helped I'm sure, but the race attracted some big name pros and the organizers had some nice touches to the weekend (pro meet and greet, etc...)  ALSO, there were several race options to choose from including the Olympic, a sprint, a women's only tri, a duathlon and even a 5K/10K (wow, a race director's nightmare!).  Fun for all!  And the best part of all?  There is a Tim Horton's directly across from the finish line.  You might guess where Oscar and I could be found while waiting for the awards ceremony!!

Okay, now onto the race!

Swim: 23:36 (this includes a run up the beach to transition but trust me, even without the run the time was pathetic)

Oh swimming.  You and I just don't seem to mesh on race day.  Sigh.  I can't say I'm awfully surprised of the results though.  The women's pro field was extremely small and I knew on the start line that every other pro woman in the field (all short course stars like Becky Lavelle, Amanda Felder, etc...) was a much faster swimmer than me.  This was not self doubt, nor was it a negative or defeatist attitude.  It was merely the real truth.  If I know these women all usually swim under 20 minutes (and indeed, they all swam under 20 minutes yesterday), and I've never swam close to that even with a wetsuit AND a helpful current AND lots of drafting...well then...  Nevertheless, I told myself that this is the reality of racing pro and not being a great swimmer and that the only thing I can do is to SWIM HARD the whole way. 

Small women's pro field.  Will some other women please turn pro so I have someone to swim with?  :)

Although running into the water and dolphin diving isn't my speciality I did manage to NOT trip and get a good start.  :)

I was dropped by the first buoy.  From there I did site relatively well.  Whether I swam hard the whole way is in question.  It's tougher than it sounds when swimming all by one's lonesome.  Although many people tell me they relish the thought of swimming by themselves and not getting beat on, I would give anything to be in a pack getting thrashed repeatedly!  HA!  Regardless, I can only keep working hard on my swim and be patient (and stick to long races where swimming isn't quite as important :). 

It was a beautiful day for a swim!  :)
Bike: 1:00:00 (this includes T1 so my bike time was probably close to 58:30)

As I exited the water (in last place), Oscar told me the entire rest of the pack had exited the water together and were about 3 minutes up the road.  I wasn't overly confident that I would be able to catch anyone given the fact that these women are all excellent cyclists so instead of worrying about that, I entertained myself with other thoughts.  First, I focused my swim rage onto the bike.  This worked quite well.  Then, I pretended like the reason I was out there all by my lonesome was because I was winning!  This didn't work quite as well, I think mostly because my mind knew I wasn't winning but rather that I was in last place.  ;)  Next I focused on my effort.  Dirk had told me before the race that the bike is where long course athletes (such as myself) often don't work hard enough in short course races because they aren't accustomed to (and are perhaps afraid of) the pain of riding a hard, hard 1 hour TT.  I focused on my breathing and my quads, making sure the effort was so high that my breathing was very labored and my quads had that very deep burn.  This tactic worked excellently.  I might have to use it again.  I also started to have some "targets" once the elite open men started to pass me (although they were much stronger cyclists, I would try to see how long I could keep them in my sights).  And finally, I turned to the power meter and focused solely on maintaining a higher and higher average watt value (and then at the end, not losing any watts!). 

Imagine my delight, when around mile 20 I noticed I was starting to catch someone.  I strained to see who it was and was quite thrilled when I realized it was another pro woman!  This could move me into 5th and a spot with a paycheck!  YES!  I tried to ride hard and with authority past her and then rode scared the whole way into T2. 

I was thrilled to ride under an hour - a significant PR for me.  Now having said that, while the course was a legitimate 40K (distance wise), it was also definitely a fast course.  The first 10 miles were rolling (but Ohio rolling, not PA rolling - let's just say I didn't need my small chain ring at all!) but the last 15 miles were flat or down - not big down hills where you would recognize that you were going down but still, gradually down.  Nevertheless, my bike time was within 30 seconds of the fastest bike split amongst the pro women and with that, I'm pleased.  The B-/C+ that I earned for my swimming effort, turned into an A+ for biking effort, and taught me that this racing thing is so much more mental than even I give it credit for.

Run: 41:16 (I will say here that my Garmin said 6.2 miles and low 40:xx when I still had a block and a half to run and we KNOW Garmin never lies ;)

Coming out of T2, Oscar confirmed I was in 5th and that the top 4 all had come into T2 together and were still about 3 minutes up.  He told me 6th was about 45 seconds behind.  Knowing I wasn't going to be running 3+ minutes faster than the ladies ahead of me, my sole goal on the run became to protect 5th place and my paycheck.  Of course this meant that I was going to be running very hard also! 

I wasn't sure how my legs would feel coming off that (really) hard bike but surprisingly they didn't feel too bad.  NOT surprisingly, it's really hard for me to conjole my body into anything much faster than 6:20-6:30 pace.  This is not surprising simply because I don't TRAIN to run much faster.  This is where the differences in racing short vs long rear becomes quite apparent.  :)

Just keep running...

I hung on though.  I saw Oscar at several different spots on the course including about a quarter of a mile from the finish where I groaned "how much farther???" (my Garmin told me I was done darn it!!!) and he directed that I just had a few more turns to make and I'd see the finish line.

Final time 2:06:08 - my first time under 2:10 thanks to a fast bike course.  :)

Overall, a great weekend and a great experience.  I learn a little bit more about myself and about how to race at this level with each outing.  And of course we had a blast!!  It's always so fun when Oscar and I can take a road trip and we had several friends from Pittsburgh racing as well!  And of course we had the best homestay family of all - the Kennedys!  They took SUCH great care of us and for that, Oscar and I are so very thankful.

THANK YOU Kennedys!  We'll see you again in October!  Michelle did her very first Olympic yesterday.  IM is up next!  :)

My training partner Ben also raced but this time he beat me by 5 minutes!  I'm going to start needing a handicap...  ;)

Women's podium.  Becky Lavelle won in just under 2 hours.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As I sit here at my computer today (clearly procrastinating my packing for our trip to Columbus tomorrow), I am thinking about...swimming. 

I'm not going to lie, swimming frustrates me at times.  I REALLY like it.  But I also don't really understand it.  Coming from a sport (running) that has a more linear growth curve, I think my problem is I want swimming to be the same.  But it's not.  It's just really not.

Take for example, my past two open water 2.4 mile swims:

1) Ironman CdA
  • completed after MONTHS of hard training; averaged about 20,000 yds/week from Dec-May with some bigger weeks thrown in (ie: a 35,000 yd week at camp in Colorado); nice taper for the race so I was well rested
  • cold, somewhat choppy water
  • wetsuit legal
  • little to no drafting
  • time = 1:03:27
2) Search for Monongy 2.4 mile OWS (not sure who Monongy is and if we found him or not...)
  • completed after swimming about 4 times in 3 weeks
  • warm, calm water; roughly equal amounts of time swimming against river current as swimming with current
  • not wetsuit legal (I just wore a regular practice swim suit)
  • little to no drafting
  • did long run of 2 hours about 2.5 hours prior to start of this race
  • time = 1:00:30
Now maybe to some people, this might make perfect sense but to me this makes NO sense!  Both races were Garmin verified distances (and we KNOW Garmin doesn't lie - HA!) so how do I swim 3 minutes faster in some small race where I've clearly done next to no swim training but yet I'm tired at the start because of the run?

See, told you swimming is confusing.  :)

Who knows.  One thing about me though is, I've never been an over-thinker or an over-analyzer.  I'm much better at just putting my head down, continuing to follow the plan set out by my coach, and to continue to work hard.  Sometimes I talk to swimming and I tell it "you will NOT beat me!"  :)  So it's back to work.  I don't have notions of coming out of the water with the top pro pack in races but I do know I can come out with A pack and be more in the mix than my races so far this year.  Here's to swimming like a fish!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


As I sit here watching the updates on Ironman Lake Placid and cheering on many friends via internet (and getting goosebumps seeing my friend Suzy LEAD the women's pro race), all I can think about is:

"When is it MY turn to race?!?!?"  :)

I had this same thought last weekend as well as I "watched" those racing in Racine, Vineman and Lake Stevens. 

I may have been a bit on the conservative side to wait 5 weeks post CdA to race (and to start with an Olympic vs a half) but hey, live and learn right?  Now I know!

Soooooo...finally next weekend it will be my turn!  I am racing a 5i50 in Columbus, OH!  Now, somewhere in the midst of getting crushed by many a short course star at the Columbia 5i50 earlier this year, I remember rethinking my decision to EVER do another one.  I learned quickly that competing in short courses races as a pro against the girls that specialize in short course racing is a...*wee* bit of a challenge.  But hey, face your fears right?  :)  And really, I have nothing to lose.  Columbus should be a fast, fun course and I'm REALLY looking forward to racing again!  WOOT!  :)

After Columbus, I have the following races planned:

August 11th - 5K open water swim race (no idea why I thought this was a good idea)
August 12th - North Park Sprint (local race with a prize purse!)
August 19th - Steelhead 70.3 (site of my very first 70.3 - I can't wait to return!)

September 30th - Poconos 70.3 or Augusta 70.3 (not yet decided)

October 28th - Austin 70.3 (hook 'em horns?)

November 18th - Ironman Arizona (why not, everyone else does!)

That's the plan anyway!  So here we go - Rookie Pro Season Part II underway!  :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Today Is Awesome

I started the day with this:

It was a 2 hour run, starting in the dark of the early morning.  So peaceful.  The world had yet to wake up and I felt like I had 2 hours of the day all to myself.  This will always be my favorite time to run.  And yes, I live close to a place called Birdville. 

Upon finishing the run I downed a smoothie (waiting for me after my run...I do have the best husband ever) and O and I were off to downtown Pittsburgh where I did this:

This was a 2.4 mile swim race (in the Allegheny River in case you can't read :) and it was AWESOME!  I hung onto Megan and Anne's feet until the first turn (about 500 yards) and then I was all by my lonesome.  Pretty much my reality these days so it was GREAT practice!  The reported temperature of the water was 78 degrees but I'm pretty sure the race director meant 87.  Good thing I have all that practice swimming in my hot YMCA pool!  :)  Somewhere mid-2nd loop I was regretting two things:

1) only swimming about 4 times since CdA (hey, I've been focusing on biking okay?  ;)
2) running for 2 hours before the swim

Although truthfully, my legs were feeling fine, it was my arms that wanted to fall off!  OUCH!  But all in great fun and this is EXACTLY what I need to do.  I can't expect to be a good open water swimmer if I never swim in open water except during races!  In the end I was 3rd with a new IM swim PR of 1:00:30.  And my Garmin told me it really was 2.4 miles so I'm calling it legit!  (but yes, I know you can't call it a PR when you don't bike/run after).

All in all, a great morning of training with friends!

Next, Oscar convinced me we needed to stop at Qdoba for lunch.  Or maybe I convinced him.  I forget already.

And THEN, I came home to a box full of love from SOAS.  Let me just say, this made my day!  I've truly gone from "that person" who NEVER has a matching kit (and in fact clashes quite awfully) to being the best dressed rider out there - thanks to SOAS of course!  And get this, now not only do my kits match, but I have matching ARM WARMERS for said kits!

Is the thumb hole not THE best idea for arm warmers ever?  I've never seen such a thing but it's brilliant!
Also, who doesn't love a hoodie?

You know you need one.  The fabric is so soft!
Anyway, as I told O, the thing I most appreciate about SOAS is that it's a company created by women for women who support other women.  And I have truly appreciated their belief in and support of me.

I wonder what other awesome this day holds?  :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Today I thought I would write a blog about swimming and how I may have gotten a *weeee bit* out of swim shape the past 2 weeks (oops) and how I have a swim race coming up, or perhaps give an update on my wayward mouth or even tell you about how we need a new roof despite the fact that we put on a new roof when we moved into our house 7 years ago (ie: WE SHOULD NOT NEED A NEW ROOF AGAIN).

But instead, I think I'll blog about what's really on my mind - the last patient I saw today before I left work. 

This patient was the dreaded 4 pm consult.  ARGH!  Why must they put in the consult JUST as I was changing my shoes and heading out the door?  And of course the patient was being discharged today so I couldn't leave it until tomorrow.  Oh...and the patient was on 12 South which is literally THE farthest hospital unit away from our office.  It's like a 45 minute walk (okay, more like 15...but that's just one way!).  Crap.

But of course like the dutiful little dietitian that I am, I put my lab coat back on and started my trek towards the dreaded 12S 4 pm consult.

When I started to read the patient's chart, a wave of humility washed over me.  I was embarrassed for having grumbled about the walk over.  And I said a quick prayer for the patient like I almost always do for most of the patients I see. 

This man has pancreatic cancer and there isn't much the surgeons are able to do for him.  He's basically going home to die.  Which really is quite a normal scenario for the patient population I work with - I cover surgical oncology after all!  But this man seemed so different for me.  His jaundiced eyes and gaunt figure immediately told me of how advanced his disease was.  He was older but still, you could tell that he once was a strong, sturdy, good looking man.  He was a football coach and told me he planned on being on the field as much as possible this fall.  He told me how his wife just lost her battle with liver cancer this past May.  About how his son was going through a bad divorce and he was worried for him.  I can't even remember now if we talked about nutrition (not much to talk about, he can't really eat).  He did tell me that as long as he could keep it down, he still planned on his nightly ritual of an ounce of scotch on ice. 

It's honestly a story I've heard time and time again but today the dreaded 12S 4 pm consult helped me to find new perspective, a lesson that I need to be re-taught over and over again.  That patient helped me to understand that needing a new roof or swimming a little slower than I'd like or having a bit of a toothache really isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  It's such a simple, simple lesson.  But nevertheless, I think I sometimes let the worries of life crowd me over and pen me in.  I'm thankful God has put me in the position that I'm in so that it's so easy to gain new perspective, really any day I walk through those hospital doors.

Here's to finding true perspective in life and letting go of the little things! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Round 2 - Back In Action (Kind Of...)

I really didn't know what to expect in terms of training and recovery following IMCdA.  As I've mentioned previously, I've never done more than one IM in a season and I've never not had the IM be the grand finale of my year.  So I was a little scared - how soon can I race again after CdA?  When will I start "training" again after CdA?  When will I feel normal again after CdA?  Of course I know all sorts of athletes (most especially pros) race the next weekend after doing an Ironman and to them it's not any different than having just done a sprint.  But that is them and this is ME. 

The week right after CdA, I did next to nothing training wise - a few easy bikes, an easy run, some swims no longer than 40 minutes and a day (or two!) off.  Dirk then sent me a schedule for the following week (which would be this week) that pretty much looked like things were right back to normal.  YIKES!  I panicked a little and told him so.  He calmed my fears.  "Take each day as it comes and shorten/skip workouts as your body dictates" he told me.  Well let's just say he NEVER tells me that so I was ready to take him up on it if needed!  But truth be told, my body was feeling pretty darn good!  I had a nice tempo type run on Monday morning, hill repeats on the bike that evening and masters swim Tuesday morning.  I was hopeful that my body really was ready to get back into the groove.

Of course my mouth had other ideas.  You see, the week after CdA I had some routine dental work that was slowly turning "bad".  Long story short, 2 crowns turned into needing a crown lengthening procedure turned into needing a root canal turned into a WHOLE LOTTA PAIN.  Ouch, ouch, OUCHHHHHHHH!  I was up most nights with an aching tooth that refused to behave.  And while Tylenol (LOTS of it!) worked at first, last night things came to a head.  Around 11 pm the Tylenol simply quit working - wasn't even TOUCHING the throbbing that was inside my mouth (and jaw and head and...).  So we actually went to the ER.  I feel horrible for going to the ER for a toothache!  This is not what the ER is for!  But knowing that all doctors offices were closed and my dentist wouldn't be in until Monday and that there was no way I was going to make it through the night without ripping my tooth out of my the ER we went.  Sad clown!

The good news is, I now have an antibiotic, I have the GOOD pain medicine (I can see how people get addicted to this stuff) and my root canal is scheduled for Tuesday.  Tuesday can't get here fast enough!  I might be the only person that has actually looked forward to a root canal but honestly, if it permanently stops the throbbing in my mouth, I'm all for it!

So for reasons other than IM recovery, training kind of took a hit this week.  I did have some great workouts when I could get out, like a great 5 hour ride with my friend Ben yesterday (but then no run off the bike like I was supposed to because the throbbing was back in a bad way...).  This helps me to know that, once my tooth is taken care of, I'll be ready to *really* get back to work for round 2 of the 2012 season!  And I'm VERY much looking forward to it!  I have some great races planned, starting with a 5i50 in Columbus at the end of July and finishing with Ironman Arizona this fall! 

Here's to being BACK IN ACTION!  That is...once the throbbing stops for good...  Is it Tuesday yet?!?!  :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's All About The Aero

Recently I got to try out a new "nutrition carrying device" on my bike.  I have no idea what to call this thing.  Essentially it's a Bento Box but it's NOT a Bento Box because,'s not made by Mr. Bento.  Has Bento Box become like Kleenex?  There ARE other makers of tissue you know... 

Wow, I've gotten way off topic.

ANYWAY, this new "nutrition carrying device" is called the SPEEDPACK 483 and is made by the company Dark Speed Works.

Exhibit A:

I will let you read all about the aerodynamic benefits of this pack on the Dark Speed Works website but suffice it to say, it's one of the most aero out there, it reduces drag and therefore SPEEDPACK 483 = FREE SPEED.  Need I say more?  (also, it should be noted that while we spend thousands on aero wheels and helmets and bike fits, this little gem costs a mere $42.80 - a drop in the bucket!)

Aero advantages aside, here are MY takes on why this is the best little pack I've ever used.

1) As you can see, it DOES NOT attach to the stem of your bike.  Genius.  Genius because, at least on my bike, there is absolutely NO ROOM for a pack to attach to my stem.  My stem just about sits flush with my top tube.  This means that all previous attempts at using these types of storage packs (ie: Bento Boxes) has always resulted in the need for box surgery and basically just taping the thing on my bike because the velcro straps didn't have anywhere to velcro.  Anyone in the same position?  Check the SPEEDPACK 483 out!

2) BECAUSE the pack doesn't attach to your stem and because of the velcro attachment system the SPEEDPACK 483 uses, this thing DOES NOT MOVE.  Seriously.  I've never had a pack like this actually stay in place for the entirety of an Ironman.  You turn the bike, the pack turns with it.  You put all your gels in your pack, the pack slumps over.  Not so with the SPEEDPACK.  During my 5:37:41 on the bike in CdA, it moved not an inch and I didn't even notice it was there.  This is how a storage device should work in my opinion! 

3) There is a hard plastic piece in the SPEEDPACK to help it keep it's shape.  This plastic works well for it's intended purpose (to make the pack more stable) but it's also nice because it makes cleaning the pack a breeze.  HA!  I had melted PowerBar all over my SPEEDPACK but I just pulled that plastic out, scrubbed it off and put it back in.  Just like new!

Now this wouldn't be a fair review if I didn't at least mention one concern.  And literally, I had only ONE area of concern - that being size.  I wanted it to be just a *wee* bit bigger so that I could stuff more junk into it.  But perhaps that's the beauty of the pack - it's just big enough to allow the essentials but not so big that you can weigh your bike down with 10 extra pounds of "stuff" (that you invariably do not need). 

Anyway, if you are in the market for a new bike storage thingie (really, what are these things called?? :), check out Dark Speed Works!  They have several different options other than the 483 depending on your bike setup and man behind Dark Speed Works (Greg) is awesome and willing to help you figure it out! 

Whitey in transition with his SPEEDPACK 483 at Coeur d'Alene!