Monday, October 29, 2012

Austin 70.3 Race Report

Well, thanks to Sandy, I'll be spending an extra day (or 2...or 3...) in Austin so I now have ample time to get caught up on emails, phone calls entries!  :)

Austin is awesome.  Really cool little town that in a way reminds me a bit of Boulder.  I guess the people that are from either city might not agree with me there but that is just my outsider opinion!  Great people, great race and great BBQ! 

The weekend was a bit of a whirlwind with a long travel day Friday and then getting everything prepared on Saturday.  Having driven to my past few races I forgot how time consuming the flying/rebuilding bike process is.  I'm all practiced up now for IMAZ in a couple weeks!

Race morning came around fast and...COLD!  Yes, Texas is cold.  I wouldn't have believed it unless I felt it myself.  And I definitely didn't give it enough respect.  Mental note, when the weather is in the low 40s and it's windy, I *might* need to put a jacket, gloves and/or arm warmers on for the bike...

Okay, I'll make this quick!

Swim: 29:41

Holy cow - I CAN actually still swim under 30 minutes!  YAHOO!  (not by much but hey, I'll take what I can get).  I'm pretty sure I swam better than I have been because Andy Potts zipped up my wetsuit.  Yep, nobody else was around and I can't do it by myself so I asked Andy, knowing that he would definitely know how to do it right!  :)  Seriously though, I'm a big Andy Potts fan.  Very down to earth and nice and funny too.  Anyway, the swim was a pretty standard swim for me.  Sprint at the start, feel like I might be dying, try desperately to find some feet, try desperately to see a buoy...ANY know the drill.  I was actually successful with the "finding feet" part but then my feet started to go REALLY off course on the far end of the triangle so I went off on my own.  I think I started my own little pack which I lead for a bit but then eventually they passed me and I hopped on back for the ride in.  I got up out of the water with Charisa and counted it a good day.  Off to the wetsuit strippers and then my bike in 14th place.

Bike: 2:28:55

Even though 14th out of the water wasn't the best (20 female pros started I think), the good news was, there was a whole bunch of people still in transition when I got there.  It was at this point that I made my most stupid decision of the day - which was to NOT put on any extra clothes for the bike ride.  Oh Beth.  Silly, silly Beth.

I got off to a good start and, as mentioned, there were several girls riding just up ahead for me to chase down within the first 5 miles.  This was fun.  But after I passed a few people and got settled in for the long haul, I started to notice how REALLY, REALLY cold I was.  Like really cold.  From mile 5 to about mile 40 I was miserable.  I'm just going to tell it like it was.  I was just so, so cold and beating myself up for being so stupid for not putting any extra clothes on.  I was having trouble controlling my bike and taking my nutrition and well, thinking straight.  After about 75 minutes on the bike I was seriously starting to consider stopping at one of the intersections where there was a police car and asking if I could just sit in the car for a while with the heat blasted on HIGH.  Yeah, I was miserable and it was only my own fault!

But I pedaled on.  I just kept telling myself, IT WILL GET BETTER.  The sun will eventually warm up the air and YOU WILL BE OKAY.  And finally, around mile 40, that is just what happened.  It was almost like a flip of the switch.  I went from fearing the loss of fingers to thinking "'s time to race!"  :) 

As you might imagine, my 35 mile pity party from mile 5 to 40 didn't really help with my power numbers or keeping my HR up.  Yep, the numbers for this race weren't too pretty.  BUT with a strong last 15 miles or so, I did somehow manage to have one of the faster bike splits and pull myself from 14th out of the water to 6th place out of T2.  I will call that a success!

Run: 1:30:03

I started the run off like blazes - for one just because I think I was so happy to be off my bike and some what warm!  :)  I was also really excited to see my sister Becky and brother in law Doug who I knew were out on the run course.  First mile 6:23...whoa there sister...dial 'er back in!  I did just that and settled into 6:45 pace for the next couple miles.  I didn't feel great but I was doing okay and then, my nausea started full force.  Yep, it was just going to be one of those races - the kind where you are forced to work through some issues and learn how to keep calm and carry on.  :)  I feel like I did a really good job of managing my nausea this time around though (I learn a little more each race as to how to deal best with it) and although I suffered a bit for the middle 4 miles and my pace slowed to 7:00-7:10, by the end of the 2nd loop and for most of the 3rd (final) run loop, I was back to feeling pretty strong. 

In the those middle 4 miles I got passed, first by Elizabeth Lyles (I have to say, she would have passed me either way as she went on to run a 1:22) and then by Jess Smith.  Once I started to feel better I tried desperately to reel Jess back in but she was running very strong and tough and was not going to let me!  In the end, she finished about 35 seconds up on me.  Close but no cigar!

Final: 4:32:32

I finished 8th overall and honestly was pretty pleased with the effort and result.  It wasn't perfect but I did the best I could and once again came away with some good lessons learned.  I didn't feel great but I also knew I wouldn't.  Honestly, who does feel great 3 weeks out from an Ironman?  Nobody, I don't think!  Still though, I'm so happy that I came to race and picked up some extra fitness for IMAZ in 3 weeks time.

And the entire weekend was so fun!  My homestay Vicki was absolutely amazing - she has hosted a ton of athletes through the years and she totally knows the drill.  She invited me into her beautiful home, gave me the most comfortable bed EVER to sleep on, fed me and amazed me with her stories from her experience doing RAAM last year.  She cheered like crazy out on the course on race day.  I truly couldn't wait to get to her spot on the run course each loop!  :)  And then she had an awesome BBQ at her house on Sunday after the race and I got to meet a lot of great people from the Austin triathlon community.  Very good stuff.

I'm pretty sure one of my homestay requirements now is that a cute dog is available for pets and playing ball.  Izzy definitely met that requirement this weekend!!  :)

It was also just so, so, sooooo awesome to have Becky and Doug there.  They came all the way from North Carolina and also cheered like crazy on the run course.  Let's be honest, watching a long distance triathlon isn't the most fun thing in the world unless you are a triathlete!  But they were great and it meant the world to me that they came.  After not having any family at the last race I did, it was really pretty awesome to get a big hug from Becky and Doug at the finish line yesterday.

Becky and Doug on the UT campus.  Although short, we had a fun weekend together!  (and they fed me real Texas BBQ after the race! :)

And finally, I really enjoyed this race because I got to see and race with a lot of great friends!  There is something very fun about getting to warm up with Charisa and put my wetsuit on with Jess and get the post race run down with Beth, etc...  We are all just doing what we love and are so lucky to be doing it together!

So onward we go!  More racing experience under my belt and just 3 weeks to go until my final big one!  I've been gaining confidence all season long and it's time to finally put that to good use for my 4th attempt at this crazy IM distance. 

That is...if Sandy ever lets me get back home from Austin!  (next straight to Phoenix!  :)

Thanks for all the cheers and congrats to all those that raced this weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hook 'Em Horns!

On Friday I am going to Texas for the 2nd time in my life. 

The first time that I went to Texas, I also went to for a triathlon - the US Open Championships in Dallas.  Here is what I remember from that race: my mom went with me and we got lost in some really shady part of town.  This was pre smart phone GPS goodness (holy cow that makes me feel old - it was only 4 or 5 years ago though!) so we stopped at a scary looking gas station.  Then neither one of us wanted to get out!  As you might be able to surmise, we made it out alive but it was frightening!  I also remember that you could qualify for Dallas from 4 different races (NYC, LA, Chicago and Life Time Fitness in Minnesota) and if you finished in the top 5 (or was it top 3?) in one of those races, they paid for your hotel in Dallas.  It was the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at.  And the night after the race my mom and I ate dinner (Mexican) in the hotel and sat near Greg and Laura Bennett.  :)  Oddly enough I don't remember much about the race itself other than I finished somewhere in the top 10 which was my goal.  It was a point to point race so we swam somewhere 25 miles out of town and then you rode straight into downtown.  It was cool.  Oh and Andy Potts talked to my mom and I in the parking lot of the hotel after the race too.  Funny the things you recall...

Although blurry, here is a picture of a group of us after the race.  I raced against these girls quite a bit my first few years in triathlon when I did all short course racing.  Absolutely awesome bunch.  Although I could be wrong, of the 8 in this picture, I believe 6 eventually raced pro at some point (and some still do).  Most of them race short course.  Ah yes, most of them can actually swim.  :)

Bonus points for anyone who can pick out which one I am.
THIS time I'm going to Austin, Texas (also for a race as you may have guessed), home of the University of Texas Longhorns.  I'm pretty excited to see campus (and my homestay lives quite close by as I understand it) and to see Austin in general!  I've heard great things about the city.  Oh, and if I had to pick another team to root for (other than PSU of course) UT isn't a bad choice.  When I was in college they had a stranglehold on the Sears Cup (don't think it's called the Sears Cup anymore - but it's the award for best overall athletic department) and I have to respect a school that knows how to do ALL collegiate sports right (not just football and basketball).  Plus, if you don't think "hook 'em horns" is a catchy enough saying, something is wrong with you!

Another cool thing about this race?  My sister and brother-in-law are coming!!!!  I don't think either have ever seen me race a triathlon (my sister *may* have been at my very first triathlon ever but now I can't remember for sure because it was about 10,000 years ago).  How fun is that?! 

And of course, the final awesome thing about this trip to Austin is...I GET TO RACE!  Holy cow, the Poconos 70.3 seems like 5 months ago and my itch to race has been getting so strong I feel like some sort of junkie.  :)  So excited I will be on another starting line soon enough! 

Best of luck to all those racing this weekend!  And to those of you who are in your off season already - enjoy!  :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Columbus Marathon - Sherpa Report

What, you thought sherpas couldn't write reports too?  :)

As mentioned in my last post, this weekend O and I travelled to Columbus, OH for him to run the Columbus Marathon (a rather large affair - by the way - close to 20,000 runners between the half and full marathon!). 

It was an awesome weekend.  We stayed with the same homestay family that hosted me when I did the Columbus 5i50 in July, the Kennedys.  It was great to see them again!  Michelle is doing her first Ironman next summer and just got her first tri bike and Robert was doing his first half marathon on Sunday.  They fed us dinner and then we watched The Lorax on their crazy do-everything-but-the-dishes TV that is 3D capable.  The Lorax in 3D is pretty fantastic!

Race day came quick and before I knew it, I was kissing O goodbye as he wiggled his way into his assigned corral with 10 gazillion other people.  Holy cow.  20,000 runners is A LOT of bodies!

And then the hard part of being a sherpa began.  You see the "easy" part of being a sherpa is the driving, the carrying of bags, the hunting down of Gatorade, the scouting of the course, the helping up and down stairs after the race, and all other associated jobs.  The HARD part, on the other hand, is the waiting and hoping and praying and wondering how the athlete is doing.  The athlete doesn't have to worry about this part.  They are, after all, the one racing!  They know how they feel, how they are doing and whether or not it's going to be a good day.  The sherpa, though wants just as badly for the athlete to succeed, but has absolutely no control over how it will all go down.  I'm glad O was just doing a 3 hour race and not a 10 hour one!  :)

After his race started, I started my own long run so as to occupy myself and not sit around worrying.  I timed my run as such so that I could catch O as he ran through downtown again at the halfway point.  He looked great.  This buoyed my spirits for the 2nd half of my own run.  The last 20 minutes of my workout was at a fast pace and as I struggled to maintain the numbers I was aiming for, I thought of O struggling through those tough miles from 20-23.  It definitely inspired me to finish strong.

I finished and changed in time to see the tail end of the elite runners finishing and wait for that magical 3 hour marker (and hopefully see O BEFORE it came).  As many of you know, O has been trying to break 3 hours for the better part of 3 years and he's had a lot of heartbreak in process.  Multiple times he has been on pace through 20 miles, 22 miles, even 25 miles at one race, but has actually never run faster than 3:14 due to some bad cramping issues (that seriously debilitate him to the point of not even being able to walk!). 

I waited and prayed and cheered for others and saw the 3 hour pace group run by O.  AHHHHH!!!  I wanted this sooooo badly for him!  This sherpa was seriously sweating it out!  And then...then I saw him.  I SAW HIM!  He was obviously in a world of hurt but sooooo close to breaking 3 hours.  I knew he had started about 1-2 minutes behind the start clock (so many runners...chip times really make a big difference in this race!) but didn't know by exactly how much.  OOHHHHHH!

After much searching (and perhaps knocking over a few small children in my rush to find him), O actually saw me first and I finally got to give him a (nasty and salty) hug.  And he showed me his watch - 3:00:46.  PAINFUL!  But I was so darn thrilled for him.  And I knew he was thrilled too.  It was a HUGE breakthrough, a 14 minute PR and most importantly, a day where he didn't cramp and wasn't reduced to walking.  I know he'll get those 46 seconds and many more in the future but first he had to get the cramping monkey off his back.  Whew.  The hardest part of being a sherpa was over!  I could spend the rest of the day beaming with pride over how well he had done.  My delight for him felt just as bright as the delight I have when I have a great race myself!

All in all a wonderful weekend.  After the race we headed towards home, stopped at a Y in Ohio for me to get my swim in and for O to get a shower ('cause he *really* stunk) and then we ate burgers, fries and...TIMBITS!  O had been dreaming of Timbits for all 26 miles of the marathon.  :)  He was one happy camper.

What 46 seconds?  :)  Close enough!
Oscar and our friend (and my Ballou Skies teammate) Billy.  Bill ran 3:01:xx last year at Columbus and came back with a vengeance to run 2:58 this year.  Oscar will have to follow in his footsteps next year to make that sub 3 official!  :)

Oh yes, Timbit goodness!

P.S.  Oscar will actually write his own race report on his blog in case you are interested (but don't hold your breath because blogging is never top on his list of priorities...  :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ironman Makes Me A Delinquent Blogger

I know, I know -- I have no excuses!  But to make my case for why I've been a delinquent blogger/FBer/twitter-er, I've created some very sophisticated graphs.  I figure a picture is worth a thousand words.  Indeed, these works of art explain it all:

I rest my case! 

In all seriousness, life is good, training is good, work is good -- ALL IS GOOD!  But every time I train for an Ironman, I'm reminded how hard it is.  And how I don't have time for much else.  :)

All this time spent training does give me ample time to think of blog topics though so you just wait until the "off-season" - I'll blog so often you won't be able to keep up (yeah, probably not...)!  In the mean time, you can probably find me swimming, running, biking (oh the biking...), sleeping, eating, working (occasionally) or hanging out with Roxy and Oscar. 

Speaking of Oscar, we are headed to Columbus, OH this weekend for him to run his 7th (?) marathon and once again attempt to break that 3 hour barrier.  I'm really excited for him.  He has been on an incredible journey to run 2:59:59 and along the way has inspired me with his unwillingness to quit or give in. 

And with that...I'm off to the pool...AGAIN!  :) 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day By Day

As many of my friends are packing their bags and boarding planes for hot and humid Hawaii this weekend, I'll be scouring my drawers for all the warm cycling clothes I can find.  The Pittsburgh forecast for Saturday and Sunday = 40 degrees and raining.  BAH!  Anyone going to Kona with some extra room in their suitcase?  Anyone?  (I'm not that big... :)

I might not be racing Kona this year, but I still do have my eye on a big prize with two races left this season - Austin 70.3 at the end of October and IMAZ in mid November.  It's hard to believe that I really only have 3-4 more big weeks of training left this year.  I'm feeling good and my motivation is high right now so I'm just going to keep riding this wave as long as it lasts!  Day by day I get closer to another opportunity to try and crack the Ironman nut and that's very exciting to me.

In the mean time, if I have any Kona blues, I can cheer myself up with thoughts of this:

My bike shop ordered me one, it's in and as I type the tire is being glued on!  What can I say, my prize money burns a hole in my pocket...FAST!  :)

Best of luck to all those racing on the Big Island!  It's an amazing race, in an amazing place with amazing people.  GO GET IT!  :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Poconos 70.3 Race Report

Ahh racing.  Oh how I missed you!  You are my very favorite thing to do!


Standing on shore prior to the swim start it was relatively easy to see the buoys and the layout of the course.  When the race director let us into the water (start was a bit delayed due to some shuttle problems) the announcer told us "4 minutes until the pro start" and then about 22 seconds later he was yelling "everyone back to the line, 90 seconds until the start!"  And everyone looked out into the lake (large pond) and saw...lots and lots of fog.  Where did the buoys go?  I guess we would soon find out!  :)

The horn sounded and off we were and I felt pretty darn good!  The pro men and women started together which I thought I was going to NOT like but it turned out I really DID like because there were just that many more bodies around and people to swim with.  And in fact, I DID swim with people!  This might be a first this year!  About 2/3rds of the way through, I pulled through the little pack that I was in and gunned off on my own (or at least tried) so I swam the rest of the way by myself.  Overall I felt great and strong and I was pretty excited to see my swim time.  As I got out of the water and ran up the road a little bit I looked down and saw a "26" on my watch.  UGHHHHH!  Totally short swim.  I would love to think I really did swim a 26 (actual split was 25:5x!) but I know that just isn't the case.  You don't go from swimming 30 minutes to 26 minutes in a matter of weeks!  Nevertheless, I was very much encouraged by my swim, how good I felt and also happy for the experience of swimming in a group.  Had it been a legit 1.2 miles, I feel confident it would have been a good time for me which means my swimming might be headed in the right direction?  Maybe?  Ah...who knows...  :)


I had decided to put on a vest (and I already had arm warmers on under my wetsuit) in transition, no matter how long it would take.  This race had very similar conditions (water and air temp) to Oceanside earlier in the year PLUS the Poconos bike starts off with a 4 mile screaming descent down the mountain.  BRRR.  I chose not to put any extra clothes on at Oceanside and really regretted it so this time I figured I'd be smart(er).  In the end I think it was a good call so I'm sticking with my decision!

As I exited transition with bike in tow, someone told me I was the 5th female.  I'll take it!  I set about trying to hunt that first person down.  Of course I didn't see anyone for about 13 miles and only then did I see the other women because there was a turnaround at about 14 miles and I saw them as they were heading back (while I was still heading out).  FORTUNATELY, there were 3 women all together (with Tenille way out in front by herself).  Oh yeah! 

It took me another 10 miles or so to catch them.  As mentioned, the bike course starts with a big 4 mile descent.  The next 20 miles are on an out and back section that is only VERY slightly rolling (ie: it's pretty flat).  And then from there you get up into the constant up and down that you would expect of this region.  My Garmin told me there was about 2800 feet of climbing but it all came in the last 30 miles.  I finally caught up to 2nd-4th place right as the flat was ending and we were starting into the hills.  There was a race official on motorcycle making sure those 3 were riding legally so when I did finally get myself to them, I sat back for a bit trying to decide what to do.  I figured I was going to have to put on a massive effort to just pass all three at once which didn't seem smart but was really my only option unless I just wanted to latch onto the back.  Latching onto the back was also not a good option because there were some FAST runners behind me and I wanted to distance myself as much as possible.  So after a little self pep talk I went for it.   


It did indeed take a massive effort and my Garmin would later show that I rode close to 320W for a while to get around all 3 of them legally.  Um, that's a lot for me.  And I'm sure it burned a few extra matches that I probably shouldn't have burned.  BUT to me it was the way to go because this is a RACE after all!

Of course after I passed them I tried to ride really hard to get away.  This worked for 2 of the 3 but I did not shake Amber!  I relaxed for a bit to eat, drink and compose myself at which point Amber passed me back.  I tried several more times to shake her but she was always right there behind me.  At some point I conceded that we'd be riding the rest of the way in together.  Which is exactly what we did.  Sometimes I led, sometimes she led.  We got a little confused together through town when there were SO MANY CONES and we had no idea where we were supposed to be (which we eventually figured out and got a good laugh out of).  It was a good, hard ride and I really enjoyed it.  But don't get me wrong, I was also glad when we finally rolled into T2!  Final bike time was 2:31:26.


I've raced with Amber a few times this year and I know she is a good runner.  I came into T2 telling myself not to let her get ahead of me because once she did, it would be really hard to catch back up.  Oh now wouldn't that prove to be VERY true!

We came into transition together but of course it took me FOREVER to get anything done.  I wrestled with my vest, fought with my shoes.  And then out of the corner of my eye I saw Amber darting across towards "run out."  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I got all flustered (like seriously, have I NEVER done this before?) and in my haste forgot my Garmin (I put it on my bike for the ride and hadn't remembered to re-attach it to my wrist).  I ran back to get it and just like that, Amber was gone.  It really is silly little things like that that add up!

Here is the elevation map of the run course from the Ironman Poconos website:

It should be noted that this map is ALL LIES!  I really don't understand what this map means.  I kid you not that to the turnaround was a downhill and then once you started heading back it was uphill.  Seriously, all lies.

Here is the elevation map of the run course per my experience:

Yes, that's right - it was hilly.  Okay, no big hills and in all fairness it did finish on a downhill...but still, it was up and down, up and down...not all up on the way out and then all downhill to the finish!

Okay, back to the race report.  :)  When I did finally get out onto the course I could still see Amber, perhaps 45-60 seconds up the road.  I didn't feel great at first and was just trying to let my stomach settle and my legs come back to me.  But as we got out of the neighborhoods and onto the long road that would be the majority of the run, I started to feel quite a bit better.  The volunteers encouraged me through each aid station that I should "go get her" and I started to really come around to the idea that maybe I could!  Although I will admit (and this is the biggest lesson I learned yesterday), at this point of the race (miles 4-9) I was still thinking BEHIND me instead of IN FRONT of me.  What I mean by that is, I was thinking only of the FAST runners behind me (and there were quite a few!) instead of focusing on catching Amber.  It was a mistake and I know that now. Lesson learned.

When we got to the far turnaround at about mile 7ish I could finally get a look to see who was coming behind and let me tell you, it wasn't very reassuring!  They were all together and they weren't too far back. 


Somewhere around mile 9 I got my head in the game.  It occurred to me that nobody had caught me yet AND furthermore, I was getting ALL kinds of encouraging comments from the AGers coming the other way to "go catch her", "she's right there", "you got this."  AHHH!!  I pray every morning for God to help me not waste the opportunities that He gives me and here I was, almost about to waste this VERY great opportunity to give it my all and GET AFTER IT!

So I went about running as hard as I possibly could to try and catch Amber over the next 4 miles (not like I wasn't already running hard but now at least I was thinking in the right direction!).  And I REALLY, REALLY tried.  I was so, so thankful for every passing comment I got from the athletes running the other way.  I couldn't acknowledge them all but they really lifted my spirits!  But try as I might, I was making up very, very, VERY little ground (if any at all).  Hats off to Amber.  She was in the MUCH tougher position of being the chased vs the chaser and she held up to that pressure wonderfully. 

In the end I came up 22 seconds short.  I would love to say I just needed a few more miles but honestly, I don't think that would have done it either!  Amber is a tough athlete and she gutted it out!

Our final run times were almost exactly the same.  I had let the gap grow and then I shrunk it some but the time that she put on me in transition was what it came down to!

Nevertheless, I was absolutely THRILLED with the outcome.  Honestly, probably just as thrilled if I had caught her.  Because yesterday was all that I love about racing - a real, honest to goodness RACE!  I truly enjoyed it and I was so happy to feel strong and like I could really go for it.  This is what all the training is for and I really got my reward yesterday!!  To say I felt very thankful and blessed is quite the understatement!

Amber definitely pulled out of me one of the best runs that I've had in a half (not my fastest time but also not the easiest course) and for that, I'm really thankful to her!  Focusing on her also kept those fast runners behind at bay.  Just goes to show - if you take care of business up front, you don't have to worry so much about what is behind.

(in telling this story, I should remind you that this was the race for 2nd place as Tenille had 1st all wrapped up about 7-8 minutes ahead of us!)

Yesterday was a really good day for me.  I love the 70.3 distance and this race just confirmed that!  I was happy with the result but also learned a lot of lessons throughout the day.  I just missed breaking 4:30 again so I still have my eye on that barrier too!

Overall a most wonderful weekend!  Although I had my moments, I also survived travelling to my first race by myself which was a victory in and of itself!  It is a somewhat logistically challenging race with two different transitions and a whole bunch of shuttles in between, but the course itself is awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking about doing it next year!  The foliage is beautiful this time of year!

This is Otis.  He is my homestay family's dog and he was awesome!  He apparently keeps the bears away... (Also, I did get a picture of my actual homestay family (the people) but am waiting for it to get emailed to me.  Monica, Jason and Sophia were awesome and I really enjoyed staying with them!)

From right to left, Tenille, Amber, me, Heather (4th place Jessie is missing).  Honored to share the podium with these women!
Thanks to everyone for all the cheers and good luck wishes!  How much longer until I get to race again??  :)