Route 66 Half Tri Race Recap

This past Saturday I raced my last triathlon until the big one for the year – Ironman Chattanooga – in September!  I’m also happy to report that it went well, which is always encouraging when you can see the actual progress or improvements you are making in training in race results, or at least it makes getting up at 4:45a during the week to train  seem a little more worth it :).

Like last year, I drove up Friday night since it is a little under two hours away and that’s just a bit longer than I like to drive the morning of a race.  I arrived around 9p, checked in, unloaded my car (I don’t like to leave my bike in my car overnight) and was in bed by 10p.  I actually slept like a log and the next thing I knew my alarm was going off at 4a.  I got up and something felt off, and then I realized when I turned my head to the right, I had a shooting pain down the base of my neck to my shoulder blades.  What the heck?!  I must have slept funny on the crappy pillows.  I went to work on doing little neck and arm stretches and then tried using the foam rolling ball I brought, but it didn’t seem to help much.  I started to panic wondering if I could even race since I breathe on my right side and the pain was pretty unbearable.  The thought of doing that over a hundred times, just on the swim…uggghh.  I took an ibuprofen, shut down the negative thoughts, forced myself to eat my breakfast, got dressed, and did a little more foam rolling.  When it was close to 5, I packed up my stuff, and decided to focus on whatever it was I needed to do next and not think about my neck/back.

I got to the race venue right when transition opened at 5:30, picked up my packet and headed to transition.  I got a pretty decent spot, set everything up (with a small snafu of thinking I forgot my race belt, but I found it tucked in my running hat) and then met up with some of my other teammates before the swim start.  Everything pre-race was pretty uneventful, with exception of the stupid neck thing.  My stomach was even chill with no angry/anxiety related stomach issues, which was a relief as I ate a little more than usual to practice my planned IM breakfast (1/2 Bobo’s oat bar, banana and packet of Almond butter) and had some extra race nerves from the missing race belt and neck situation.

Soon I headed into the water with my swim wave, the fourth/last wave of the athletes racing the 1/2. The water felt ok, it wasn’t wetsuit legal which I was kind of happy about, and off we went.  One thing to note is that the water did look a little choppy after the turn around, but I figured I had swam in some chop before and it would be fine.  Off I went, feeling strong, passing people, and focusing on the two main things I have been working on this month with my swim. Before I knew it I was already at the turn around and feeling good.

Then instead of going with the chop, I was swimming into it and I realized this was going to be a bit tougher on the way back.  It seemed like almost every time I tried to sight, a ‘wave’ would appear and all I could see was the ‘wave’ (I am sure they would hardly qualify as waves standing on the shore, but from the water, they seemed that big!).  Very frustrating.  Finally, after what felt like twice as long as it took to get to the turn around, I made it back to the start, knowing that we had another small out and back before heading to the finish. Well, the little out and back took FOREVER.  I had to stop several times to sight because the ‘waves’ seemed so high.  Also, after not swimming near many people, I hit a group of athletes and we all kept colliding which was also irritating.  Finally I broke away from that pack and made it to the last buoy before I turned to head to the finish.  Also at this point, I was starting to feel seasick.  The waves had me rocking back and forth and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take, fortunately the finish was so close, so I really pushed the pace to get out of the water.

Thankfully the volunteers helped pull me out of the water as I was a little wobbily from the waves, and then I hustled to transition.  I was in and out pretty quickly and ready to mount my bike when I realized I still had my swim skin on 😦  I had unzipped it and pulled it down, but left it on my legs/hips.  Oh lordy.  I asked a volunteer to if they could hold my bike, took of my bike shoes, ran back towards transition but was worried what it would do with my timing chip if I crossed back over, so I threw it over the fence near my bike (and hoped it didn’t get accidentally taken), ran back to my bike, put my shoes on and THEN mounted and was off.  I lost some serious time to that crap.  Sigh.

Then I tried to just focus on the bike and on passing people.  I also was paying attention to my planned power numbers, which I don’t always do in races depending on the course but since this one was flat it was easier to try to hold a steady power number.  Other than some rough roads (they were actually worse last year) and headwind, the bike was pretty uneventful, which was just fabulous to me since last year was a mini disaster with my mechanical.  My stomach got a little cranky during the end of the second hour, I have upped the calories in my liquid nutrition so I don’t have to supplement with gels and I am not sure if that might be why or if it was because the waistband of tri shorts I was racing in (which I won’t be wearing during IM) was squishing my stomach.  I haven’t had that issue during training, so I think the shorts might have been the culprit.  Also, my legs were getting a little tired by the end so I was a little worried I overbiked, but I had stayed in my planned power numbers so I was hoping they were just feeling ready to get on to the run.

I was pretty thrilled when I rolled into transition around 2:50, heck yeah, bike PR!  I quickly threw on my socks, running shoes, hat, race belt and grabbed my baggie of nutrition and was off…. no… I noticed halfway through transition my aero top was still on.  Good grief!  I ran back, took it off and then I was off!

Right out of transition I usually make a quick stop in a porta potty to empty my bladder as I struggle with peeing on the bike, but there was a line.  A line!  I didn’t have to go that bad, and I knew there was one at mile 2.6 on the course, so I decided to hold it and wait until the 2.6 mile opportunity.  In hindsight I’m not sure if that was a smart decision, as I had to pee enough that it was uncomfortable and as a result I didn’t take in much water/fluids until after I peed at mile 2.6, which I think put me behind on hydration/nutrition.  After I peed I hit an aid station and was SO thirsty, and I did the stupid thing that I do sometimes and drink way too much water and then deal with cramps and bloating for at least a mile.  Then I usually rinse and repeat.  Which is what happened.

By mile 5 after the cycle of drink too much because I was thirsty, then deal with bloat, my pace was slowing from an 8:40 to a 9 min pace, and then mile 6 slowed down to an 10 min pace. Things were starting to go from bad to worse.  I did a little assessment to see how I was really doing, and my body was ok (hips/legs, etc), it was just my bloated stomach that was causing me to feel like crap.  I could fix this.  Going forward I needed to only take sips of water, not gulps (and just deal with being a little thirsty), take my BASE salt (which also usually helps settle my stomach) and take in coke since I didn’t think my stomach could handle many gels at this point.

I flipped my watch screen to total time and after doing some math I realized if I could just hold a 9/9:30 pace I might have a chance of still breaking 2 hours on the run.  My main goal for this race was to have a good, strong run.  My open Half-Marathon time had improved a lot over the past couple of years, but my half marathon time in 70.3’s hadn’t budged.  With that knowledge, it was like a flip was switched in my brain and I was back to being on a mission.  Also around that time I finally caught up to a girl that had been in front of me for a while, and as I neared the next aid station I saw she had a 31 on her leg.  It was a relief knowing she wasn’t in my age group, but that also meant she was in my swim wave, so I needed to pass her to move up a spot.  I grabbed a water – no walk breaks through aid stations now – and kept running.  I was on a mission.

From then on my splits stayed at 9:30 or a bit faster: 7-9:29, 8-9:31-, 9-8:56, 10-8:48, 11-9:10, 12-8:45, 13-8:32. So clearly my legs had it in them, I just needed to get my head out of the way and also figure out a better fueling strategy than drinking allll of the water at the first sign of being thirsty.  I had to dig a little deep on the last mile or so as I was starting to feel tired and my neck was bothering me a little, but I held on.  I crossed the finish line with a run time of 1:58:33, I had done it, not by a lot, but I went sub 2!

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The final kick!

I finished with a new PR of 5:33:56 (39:57 swim, 2:52:01 bike, 1:58:33 run), and maybe if I hadn’t had those wardrobe snafu’s it would have been a little faster, but oh well.  I even managed to place 3rd overall female, which was pretty exciting since it was a little bit bigger of a race than Innsbrook.  Not as competitive as the previous year, but hey, I’ll take it!

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I’m the dork in the sunglasses, totally forgot to take them off!

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Hardware!

I was a little disappointed in my swim time since I have really started working on my swim and I have seen improvement in my times in the pool,  but with the chop, it looks like everyone had a slower swim.  Also, even though I did break two hours, I was hoping for a little stronger of a run to give me confidence in my IM run time goal, and to prove that it isn’t unrealistic.  But it was improvement and a 70.3 run PR, so things are moving in the right direction!  All I can do right now it just keep my head down and do the work (and run a lot of hills!!!).  So back to training! 🙂  Sidenote: My neck bothered me a little during the race, mostly during the swim, but after that I just didn’t turn my head too much so I didn’t notice it.  My body was sore the next day after racing but holy moly, my neck/back took the cake.  I will now always bring my own pillow when staying in hotels for races!!

 

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Hannibal Cannibal 10k Race Recap

This year I decided I would finally race the Hannibal Cannibal since it is a race my tri team usually does.  It usually is too close to the 4th of July run I like to do, so usually I choose that race instead.  However this year I was up for the challenge! (sidenote this was JMR’s second 5k ever and he still has PTSD about this run, so let’s just say his thoughts on this run course may have swayed my decision to skip out each year).  Hannibal is a little less than two hours away, so I was up around 3:45a to hit the road by 4a so I would arrive in plenty of time for packet pickup, getting in a warmup run and also getting to catch up with my fellow Eco Athletes.

I arrived right at 6a, packet pickup was easy and found my group! Then I went for a short .85ish mile warmup, hit the porta potties one last time and then took my Huma gel.  Getting up so early but not racing until 7a made my nutrition a little tricky… I figured if I just had a banana at 4a I would be starving by the time the race started, but I also didn’t want to eat too much and risk having an angry stomach during the race.  So I settled on half of a Bobo’s oat bar and two cups of coffee on the way there (the coffee was a gamble, but I also had to get things moving), and adding the gel 20 minutes before the race was perfect (no angry stomach during the race), good to know for the future!

I didn’t have a goal time for this race as it was a super hilly race, with one hill at 5-6% grade which we go up and down and back up and down, and another hill that we just run up and turn around, with an 8% grade.  I had ridden up both previously when I rode in Hannibal last year and I knew they would be tough, so time goals weren’t the focus and it was going to be more of a ‘see how I feel, and how much I can push and still finish not feeling like death’ kind of day.

The gun went off and I settled into a 7:30ish pace and managed to hold the pace going up the first big steep hill.  I passed the 5k turnaround and felt like I was still holding a good sustainable pace for this course and I could even maybe push a little harder since we were starting to go downhill (although with every step I was dreading having to run back up after the 10k turnaround).  I hit the second mile at a 7:20 pace and was feeling pretty good.  I took water at each aid station since it was so hot and humid already, but only managed a few sips since I was breathing so hard and dumped the rest on my head.  On I went and hit mile 3 at a 7:22 pace and was still feeling good – almost halfway I told myself!  Then we trudged back up the hill and I saw my pace drop, but was focusing on just keeping a steady sustainable pace to make it to the top without pushing too much so I would still have some left in the tank for the biggest hill, Lovers Leap.  Mile 4 split was 8:02 which I wasn’t thrilled about but I was busy still climbing the hill and had more to go, so I just kept my head down and kept on going.

After finally cresting the hill we had a slight downhill before hitting Lover’s Leap, so I tried to relax and just let my legs go, however right at the turn to go up I was merging with the 5k’ers which was a little frustrating as most were walking and I was trying to haul butt up that hill.  Almost everyone around me was walking, but I tried to just keep my head down and my legs moving (and arms pumping). I made it almost all of the way to the top but was starting to feel that ‘I’m going to puke’ feeling, so I walked for about ten steps and then ran it in to the top, ran around the turn around and just let it go down hill.  I hit mile 5 with a slow-but-not-surprised 8:42 split, however now I was flying down Lover’s Leap and knew the rest of the course was a net downhill so I just focused on pushing that last 1.2 miles and I did push!  Mile 6 was a slight blur as I was just focusing on pushing and pushing hard, resulting in a speedier 6:52 split.  I could hear someone right on my shoulder breathing heavy and I was determined to not let anyone else pass me so I pushed even harder on the last .16 (the course was a little short) at a 6:01 pace!

I crossed the finish line in 46:52, with a 7:36 avg pace, which is a 10k PR for me.  However since the course was short, I am noting going to count it, but it does mean I have a PR in me, especially considering this course had almost 500ft elevation gain!  It was good enough for 4th overall female and first in my age group, so I was pretty happy about that!

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Female 35-39 Age Group Awards, I got to hold the big fork!

After the awards, after a quick change and some suncreening, we headed out for the 30ish mile group ride.  I was pretty nervous about how my legs would feel as I knew the route was hilly and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by falling over on the hills from dead legs!  However my legs rallied and I survived, even the ride back up Lover’s Leap.  After the ride we got a late lunch, watched some of the festivities going on at Mark Twain days in Hannibal and then I hit the road to head back home.

All in all it was a really fun day with my Eco Teammates, a successful race and I got in some good hills on the ride!

 

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Fresh Ideas HalfMax Triathlon Race Recap

Since I’m racing more this season I figured I better be a little speedier with my race reports before the next race is here!  Granted my next big race is five weeks away, but time flies and memories fade so I might as well get this one done!

So a little backstory to this race.  I was originally signed up to race the Illinois Half (70.3) in Springfield, and this year was it’s inaugural year, but due to some unknown park fees costing the race company more than they could afford, the race director had to cancel the race.  We were emailed a long email as to why they had to cancel, but that was what I gathered and my summary.   I knew doing three 70.3’s in three months was maybe a lot of races, but I had my heart set on racing since my birthday was the Thursday before the race and I was treating the race as my birthday present to myself.  So as luck would have it, there was another 70.3 the same weekend, and it even closer than the race in Springfield, easy decision, right?  Well… the course was the complete opposite, except for the swim (it was flat :).  This race was hills, hills and more hills on both the bike and run.  However after thinking it through, I decided to just go for it.  Chattanooga has hills, so bring it!

Since the race was only an hour away, I didn’t have to get a hotel and instead got up around 3:45a and left around 4:30a.  I knew rain was in the forecast, but was hopeful it would miss us, but it didn’t and I was pretty bummed while driving through rain and really bad lightning.  I wanted to race, but I also wanted to be safe, and I wasn’t sure if riding in these conditions was worth it.

I arrived right when transition opened, but with the rain I didn’t want to set anything up because it would just get soaked.  Also, in the back of my mind, I wondered if they would just cancel the race (deep down I was secretly hoping they would).  However, when I learned it was first come first serve to transition, I took my bike out of the car and made sure to at least get a decent spot in transition and then headed back to my dry car to wait.  The rain eventually stopped, but the lightning continued.  I finally decided to set up my transition but put everything in plastic bags to keep them dry.

When it got close to 7:30a, the time of the swim start for athlete’s racing the half, I headed down to the beach only to learn they had delayed the start to 7:45 due to the lightning.  I headed to get in the porta-potty line, and saw more big flashes of lightning strike.  Yikes.  I thought for sure they would cancel the race.  After more waiting, the race director had everyone move away from the beach and closer to transition for a race announcement.  We learned the swim was cancelled (guys, I’m 3-3 for triathlons having a shortened or cancelled swim…boo), but they were still planning on having the planned bike and run (contingent on how the weather continued) and that we would start with a 1 mile run to help space us out on the course for safety.  Ok! My first duathlon!

I had no idea how to approach this, but I knew I wasn’t going all out on the run as I didn’t want to start the bike with a crazy heart rate.  Also given the conditions, my head just wasn’t in race mode.  This was a ‘fun’ race, not my A race, and I was worried about racing in the wet conditions and crashing, so I was not planning on ‘racing’ the bike.  I then decided this was going to be a good training day at a hard effort, but I wasn’t going to stress about things like I would during a race.

We lined up behind the men and then I noticed that hardly any females were racing the half!  There were like 12 of us!  One of the women was asking about age groups since the didn’t mark our calves, and when she realized she was the only one in her age group another women cheered ‘Podium! Just finish the race and you’ll podium!’, everyone started laughing, which put me in a good mood and ready to just enjoy the day.  Then five minutes after the men started, off we went.  Some women really took off! I ran at a high 7/low 8 pace and just went with it.  I made it to transition, did my thing and then realized I didn’t want my running shoes to get wet if it rained while I was gone, so I took the extra time to get a plastic bag out from my transition bag and wrap them up.

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I look like I’m power-walking, which is kind of how I felt compared to those ladies ahead hauling ass.

Run: 7:55

T1: 1:30

Then I was off on my bike, riding cautiously and unsure how the ride would go.  I already knew my bike split was going to be slow with the almost 3k of elevation gain, but now also with the rain, well, my expectations kind of flew out the window and the goal was to keep the rubber side down.  Around mile 20 the rain seemed to slow and I realized I was feeling good and was still continuing to pass people, which was encouraging.  Although I have to admit when I was close to the end of the first loop I contemplated just calling it and DNF’ing, as the skies were still pretty dark and I wasn’t sure what weather we might still run into.  However I didn’t even get that option as we turned well before transition.  Darn.

I took a quick look at my split as I headed back out just to see where I was time-wise and saw I averaged around 18mph, which to me was shocking given the conditions.  I figured it would be like 16mph with my cautious first half of the loop and really not feeling like I was pushing it too hard.  Well, then it was on!  I kicked it up a notch on the bike and really started to push it.  I was able to take the windy hilly roads more aggressively on the way out of the resort, and then… the headwind hit.  Bummer.  I was still pushing pretty hard but not flying as much as I had hoped.  Regardless, I was still passing people and after a short out and back I saw one other female and wondered if I might actually be in second place.  That motivated me to keep pushing, even in the frustrating headwind, and soon I was turning to head back to transition.  When I dismounted I was shocked I biked under 3 hours!  I had expected to come in much slower due to hills and the rain.  Go me!

Bike: 2:75:12

T2: 1:52

I quickly swapped shoes, grabbed my race belt, hat and baggie of nutrition and was off!  But something seemed wrong… oh man, I had left my aero top on!  I had to run all the way back to my transition spot, take it off and head back out, not a ton of time lost, but it was still extra time.  At this point I was now sort of racing since I was actually near the front of the ladies, so this irritated me a little.

Then I was off!  Although .5 miles in I spotted a porta potty and took advantage since I had to pee so badly and didn’t have any luck on the bike.  That cost time too, but it was worth it in my opinion, I wasn’t in the mood to run in mushy pee shoes.  The first couple of miles were uphill, and I really I wasn’t feeling a lot of pep in my step so after seeing my pace I decided I would be happy with a 10 minute pace (at that point 10’s felt hard).  I hoped that would be enough to not lose too much ground, but I was just going to see how I felt as I knew there were plenty more hills to come.  The hills didn’t disappoint, in fact I was having mini flashbacks of St. George 70.3, except this was a nice trail and shaded, so not as terrible/tough.  I just tried to focus on each mile and not get too overwhelmed and remember all of that dang incline running I’ve been doing on the treadmill.  I was ready for this!  I was also thankful that the course was super shady so at least it wasn’t hot.

When I reached the turn around at mile 3 (the run course was two loops) I saw the lead lady and realized I was in fact #2!  Woo-hoo!  When I headed back out about 4 minutes later I saw third and fourth place and they were looking strong.  That inspired me to haul ass up the big ass hill to keep my place.  I was shocked at a 9:15 split for that mile.  The rest of the run was kind of a blur, many spots where I ran solo, and I even dropped my salt and ran back to get it (my stomach was feeling off and there wasn’t soda/cola on the course was the website said, so I needed that salt) and there was some walking at aid stations.  On the second loop at the out and back I saw first place again and we cheered each other on.  Then about five minutes later I saw 3rd and 4th, but did not get a peep from them, they looked focused, and I was happy I had gained some ground on them.  Phew.  Since it was mile 10 I knew if I just kept with my pace, I could hold on to second.  Soon I was a mile out and I was thrilled.  This day turned out very differently than I expected!  I was so happy with my bike split and also happy that I was surviving the run, it wasn’t a death march, even though I was tired and the usual things hurt, I FELT GOOD.  It was so exciting running up the last tiny hill to the finisher chute, and when I crossed the finish line and heard the announcer say I was second female.  So cool!  It was a reallllly small race, but, still cool! First place waited for me at the finish and we congratulated each other, what a classy lady.

Run: 2:08:58

Total Time: 5:17:25

I will say I was sore as heck after.  Even my abs.  I don’t recall using them, but maybe all of the hills gave them a good workout because they were sore!  Gathering my stuff from transition was tough and the drive home (only an hour) was tough too, but I was going on some serious adrenaline from my successful race.   Oh and sidenote, I lost to first place by 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES.  The shoes in the bag with the bow, the aero top mishap (I’m still standing by my porta potty stop though, it was needed) walking through some aid stations…maybe if I had put a little more pep in my step during the first run… maybe… but it’s how my day went and honestly, things went really well.  So I’m moving on from those three minutes, but remembering during the next race that every minute really does add up!

This week is a recovery week and then next week it’s back to putting my head down and getting back to work!

Finish Swag

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Chattanooga 70.3 – The Run

The Swim and Bike

The first mile was around 8:37 (a tad fast) and included the first, and one of the smaller, of the few hills we would encounter on the run.  My next few miles were also on the faster side, 8:26, 8:27, and I was passing a TON of people.  Also, the course seemed kind of empty, which make me realize it was because many were ahead of me or had already finished.  Due to the swim course change, fewer people could enter the water at once, causing it to take twice as long.  It was frustrating.  However, I was very grateful  they held the swim, so I tried to remind myself of that.  Also, I thought about those that started the swim after me, I was in the 35-37 wave, what about the poor people in the later waves?  I got in the water 30 minutes later than planned, how much later did they start?  Beginning the run that late in the day in the heat is just awful, and then also to have a thinned out course makes it more tough.  So I kept shutting my pity party negative thoughts down and just focused on one mile at a time.

However clearly it had gotten into my head a little because my pace did slow, miles 4 & 5 were 8:53 and 9:03, and then mile 6 included the REALLY big hill that many people were walking, so, I did a little walking but tried to keep some sort of running pace.  Then we ran up the bridge crossing over the river which had a slight incline, and even though I knew I was close to halfway done, my next split was anther slow mile at 10:03.

Finally when I got to 6.5 miles, I felt a little better knowing I really was halfway done with the run, but then had to cross the river again and this bridge was REALLY steep.  The lady behind me was babbling on and on about why would people run up it, their heart rates will explode, blah blah, so I succumbed to her stupid commentary and did a little walking.  Once we crossed the bridge and we made the split to turn to the finish or go onto the second loop, I noticed that lady was turning to finish. I don’t know why but I was pissed at her.  I wish I had ignored her and kept running- of course she was walking hills, she probably ran them all the first loop when she was more fresh.  My mile 7 split was a 10:38  which also added fuel to my anger.  I channeled that anger and miles 8 and 9 were better (and it was a flatter part of the course) and ran 9:31 and 9:20, but then I lost my angry-wind and miles 10 and 11 were 10:17 and 11:04 (which included that huge steep hill while I allowed myself to walk again, it was huge).

With a little over 2 miles to go I was finally in the homestretch, my focus and determination had returned, and wasn’t allowing myself any more walk breaks except through aid stations.  I wish I had kept this focus during the entire second loop, because even through everything hurt, I could still keep moving at a decent pace, so I need to work on my mental game.  Miles 12 and 13 were not awesome, but better, coming in 10:11 and 9:45, and I crossed the finish line sprinting.

Run Time: 2:05:42

Total Time: 5:31:33

I finished feeling tired but strong, and not defeated like I have felt on other courses.  The run wasn’t what I had hoped it to be, but I didn’t crash and burn like I did at St. George (mentally I wanted to cry the whole second loop) or at Steelhead (I wanted to pretty much quit the second loop).  So I went into a dark place for a little bit, but I was able to come out of it, so to me, that was a mini victory.

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I ‘borrowed’ this from Finisher Pix, just photo evidence that I did in fact finish.

Overall I am happy with how the race went, I didn’t lose my sh*t during the swim (no panic attacks) and well, it was 20 minutes of downstream so, I don’t have any more thoughts on that.  Transitions went as well as they could.  The bike was good, I still think I can do better, like my legs have a few more minutes in them to knock down time-wise, but I have a couple more races to test that out before IM Chattanooga.  And the run, well, definitely room for improvement, but I do feel like I walked away from this race with a little redemption and lessons learned (AND I didn’t get sunburned).  I am sad that the swim was cut short so my final time doesn’t really mean much, but looking at the times individually, the bike/run weren’t horrible.

After I got my morning clothes bag and wandered around for a bit and realized my legs were TIRED. I willed them to keep moving and headed to transition to get my bike and gear.  When I got to the parking garage I realized the elevators were on the opposite side of the building, so carrying everything up three flights of stairs was really fun (but I did it!) Then I changed, went back down to the athlete area and ate FOUR pieces of pizza and had a coke.  On my way back to the car I stopped by the tent where my new friends I met at the swim start were hanging out and chatted with them for a bit about the race, and finally headed back to my car to drive 7 hours back home.

I’ll save you the drive details but I made it home safe and sound 🙂

I really had a great race experience, Chattanooga was a very welcoming and fun city, so I can’t wait to bring JMR back in September! (I also can’t wait to go back and eat at more of the fabulous places).

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Chattanooga 70.3 – The Swim and Bike

Pre-Race

I jumped in and just got after it.  To be honest, I wasn’t very excited for the swim, I knew it was going to be a long day and wanted to get that part out of the way, and I was still feeling tired.  Also I was trying really hard to not even think about the 7 hour car ride home, but it did pop up in my head a few times during the swim.  Despite the negativity in my head, due to my mediocre swimming skills and the wonderful current, I passed a TON of people… backstroking, breastroking… why were these people in the 35-37 swim time wave?  Ugh.  I really regretted where I lined up, but there was nothing I could do about it now, so I just kept swimming.  Soon I was under the third bridge and nearing the swim exit.  I swam hard to cut over to the right (small flashback of Louisville swim) and had two volunteers help me out of the water and I waddled up the ramp and along the sidewalk to the wetsuit strippers.  I didn’t unzip my wetsuit all the of the way (I think it was stuck on the lining) so they had trouble getting me out of my wetsuit, but finally they did and I hustled to transition.

Swim Time: 20:01

When I got into transition, I noticed my bike was one of the few ones left on the rack. What the heck?!  I must have really lined up in the wrong corral.  Bummer.  I then went back to focusing on MY race, what I could control, and focused on the task at hand.  I did the same routine I practiced in my room, aero top, sunglasses, helmet and then shoes and I was off!  Hobble, hobble, hobble allll the way to the bike mount and then I was really off!  I noticed right away there were still rocks in my shoes I missed when wiping my feet, and contemplated stopping but hoped that instead maybe they would just all roll to the tips of my shoes and I wouldn’t notice them (they all did but ONE stupid rock).

T1: 6:02

I felt pretty good on the bike, a little tired still but ready to ride, and after a few miles I got into a groove and passed, passed, passed a lot of people.  Once I hit the first aid station, making good time (however my watts were all over the place, I tried to make sure I was hitting the planned number, but struggled), I went to grab a bottle, which I did with success, but when I veered to the left a little to move away from the the volunteers, another rider came up on my left and I nearly collided with them.  I immediately shouted out an apology and felt like a huge dumb-ass for looking down for that split second rather than keeping my eyes up until AFTER I was settled in my line.  I filled up my aero bottle, tossed the empty and put my head back down to get back to work.  However I couldn’t shake that horrible feeling of what just happened and what could have happened.  I vowed to be extra cautious during the next aid station (which I should always be, regardless), and tried to focus on pushing to keep up my watts, but I felt a little deflated and didn’t want to ride any  more.  Oh, and I still felt tired. Too bad because I still had 35 more miles to go.. so I sucked it up, and kept pedaling, passing, pedaling and passing.  I also hit the first big hill of the two big hills on the course, and while it was tough it wasn’t terrible, similar to the hills I ride at home, but I was definitely in my smallest gear while climbing up it!

When I hit the next aid station around mile 30 I grabbed a water, kept my head up and alert as to who was on my left and slowly moved back over, filled up my aero bottle and then tossed it at the end.  Phew.  Ok, that was better.  I felt a wave of relief come over me and after I left the aid station knowing I was more than halfway down I felt more motivated to keep pushing and get my head back into the race.

Soon I approached the second big hill, although this one wasn’t as steep and more of a gradual hill.  In fact at first I didn’t realize we were climbing and was starting to get cranky as to why I was feeling so slow and was seeming to push more effort when I realized we were slowly climbing.  Once we reached the top and started to descend I saw I had less than an hour to ride and knowing it was mostly downhill/flat from here, I was VERY happy.

I focused on pushing the final 10ish miles and was starting to get excited for the run.  I was pretty sure I was going to have a bike PR (spoiler, I did not, I think after the near bike crash it brought down my effort a bit after) so it really helped me push all the way back into town.  As soon as I made the long hobble back to my rack I saw, once a-freaking-gain, all of the bikes were now back on the rack, and I was one of the last to make it into T2.  So sad.  Oh well, on I went, doing a better job of wiping my feet this time so no rocks in my socks, and after a quick stop in the porta potty I was off.

Bike Time: 2:55:15

T2: 4:35

The Run

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Chattanooga 70.3 – Pre-Race

Whew!  First tri of the year is done!  It was also quite the adventure since I traveled to Chattanooga solo, as JMR had a race in Quincy, IL the same weekend.  I left Saint Louis around 8:15a on Friday, and overall it was a pretty uneventful drive, but hitting rush hour traffic in Nashville made the 6ish hour trip closer to 7 hours.  I was pretty darn tired when I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30p, but rallied and after hauling in my bike and gear, I headed to Athlete check-in.  Athlete check-in was a breeze, from there I headed to Big River Grille & Brewing Works for dinner.

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I have hardly any photos, but here’s one of my arm I took while waiting for my food at dinner.  Checked in and legit!

Dinner was so-so, typical bar type food. I was also cranky from the long day of travel and a little limited as to what I could eat for my stomach to be safe for race day, so maybe in a different scenario I would have liked it more.  After dinner I headed back to the hotel, took an Epsom salt bath and was in bed by 8:30 (which was really early for me since it was 7:30 Saint Louis time, but I was tired!).

Saturday I got up and walked to Starbucks in a hotel nearby, had breakfast at my hotel (love free breakfasts) and then decided to do a little bit of exploring since I had several hours before bike check-in and the 3p athlete briefing meeting I wanted to attend.  I decided to check out Signal Mountain which was about 15 minutes away and it did not disappoint!  The view was beautiful, I will definitely have to take JMR when we are back in September.

After doing a little walking around and taking in the beautiful view, I  stopped by Wal-Mart for a few last minute items (gas x since my stomach had been grumpy from nerves since I left STL and also Emergen-C since my throat felt scratchy).  Once I got back to the hotel I headed to a restaurant within walking distance from my hotel for lunch.  Sidenote: ok, so my hotel was in a weird spot, and really anything ‘within walking distance’ was at least .5 miles since that’s how far away the hotel was from the actual downtown streets since it was on the other side of the highway.  It wasn’t terrible, but I am relieved we are staying in actual downtown much closer to transition for the full IM.  Ok, back to lunch, this place was AWESOME and we are definitely going back there – Community Pie.  I had the Chicken Caprese sandwich with the Kale salad and it was delicious.  I’m sure the pizza is really good too, but my stomach doesn’t fare well with that much bread the days leading up to races.

After lunch I hung out at the hotel for an hour and then rode my bike to drop it off at transition.  The first thing I thought when I got into transition was….man, transition was looooong.  I don’t remember being in a race having one this long.  My bike was located at the very opposite end of bike out/bike in, so I was going to have to attempt to hobble a long way in my bike shoes, which really wasn’t ideal as the new tri specific shoes I got for Christmas have cleats that are located much closer to the arch of my foot making it really hard to walk normal at all.  In fact, I had a slight fear of falling in them!  I texted my coach to get his thoughts, whether I should run with them in my hands and put them on/take them off at mount/dismount, or attempt to hobble in them.  He said the concern of stepping on a rock or the hot ground would probably outweigh the time saved running barefoot and suggested just trying to shuffle in them.  Ok, then, so that was my plan.

Next I headed over to the athlete meeting, which was short, and other than the announcer mentioning the possibility of the swim being shortened due to the current, I didn’t hear anything else important for race day.  Oh well, glad I attended for the heads up about the swim. After the meeting I checked out the swim start and saw how long of a distance it was from the water exit to transition.  Oh man.  Between that and my hobbling in bike shoes, my transition times were probably going to suck.

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Racked and ready! Later I realized I had it racked the wrong way, whoops.  Fixed that before everyone else started racking.

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It goes on for forever……

Then I walked the 1.5 miles back to my hotel as it just made more sense to ride the bike and walk back then pay $8 to park and fuss with the parking garage.  Once I got back to my hotel I relaxed for an hour and then DROVE to Public House where I had dinner reservations.  I checked my watch before leaving for dinner and saw I had walked almost 8 miles already.  Woah.  I slightly regretted walking the 1.5 miles back to the hotel after dropping my bike off, that was way more than I wanted to walk the day before a race!  To (hopefully) calm my nerves I checked my steps the day before Louisville and I had walked just about as much, I guess with the hotel being in the city, you are walking everywhere, plus to and from transition…it adds up!  Ok, back to dinner, like lunch it was also amazing. I had the Salmon with a side of Asparagus and ate every bit!  This will be a great pre-race dinner spot for the IM!

After dinner I took another short Epsom salt bath, and then decided I should practice my transitions.  Since I wasn’t going to put socks on until the run (usually I put them on before the bike) and really needed to save any time I could because of how long transition was, I figured a few practice runs were in order.  After practicing about five times (I figured out a new, faster way to put on my aero top, hence that many times- I know how to put socks on :)), I felt confident that I was ready to fly through transitions the next day, well fly and hobble.  I hopped into bed around 8:30 and tried to fall asleep, knowing I had a 3:30a wakeup call, but tossed and turned for a while.  I eventually fell asleep around 10:30 and the next thing I knew my alarm was going off.

Oh boy.  I went through the motions of eating breakfast, getting dressed, sunscreening and then headed to the car around 4:20a.  I was parked in the garage within 10 minutes, and got into transition a little after it opened.  I aired my tires, set up my gear, went back and checked my setup like three times, went to the porta potty, went back to transition for one more check and then was in line for the shuttles by 5:45ish.

Once I arrived to the swim start, I got in another porta potty line and finally got to my swim corral around 6:15a. I left my phone in the car because 1. I was afraid to leave it in my morning clothes bag in fear it would fall out or just having it sitting in the heat for hours didn’t sound good. 2. It was an hour earlier in STL so…. no one would be up anyways for me to text with.  So, then I sat and waited, and also noticed how TIRED I was.  I had a cup of coffee but clearly it wasn’t enough, and also the time change wasn’t helping.  I hoped that once I was in the water I would wake up.  Unfortunately this would be a theme until the run. I did a lot of people watching, and ended up hanging out with another small tri/cycling club from Saint Louis.  Small world! They were SO nice, and after finding out the swim was being shortened due to the current, they were fun to hang out with and pass the extra 40 minutes or so we spent waiting to get in the water.

Finally….we headed to the dock and after high fiving a few volunteers on my way, I jumped in!

The Swim and Bike

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2019 Illinois Half Marathon Race Recap

I wish I had written this as soon as I got home, since now a couple of weeks have gone by and it isn’t as fresh in my mind, but I still remember most of the important race details 🙂

Friday afternoon JMR and I drove the 3 hours to Champaign, IL, went straight to packet pickup and then checked into our hotel around 4p.  His parents had made the trip to watch us race and it also was his dad’s birthday, so we meet up to take them out to dinner to celebrate at Biaggi’s that evening.  The food was pretty good, but the sizes were huge, however I don’t think JMR was complaining as he is a big fan of carb loading with a lot of pasta pre-race!  We also chatted at dinner about a few places his parents could easily get to on the course to see him, so this was going to be much more fun for them to see him race than in Chicago which was just so big that they only were able to see JMR and I at the finish.  The weather was looking to be good, high 40’s/50’s and overcast.  I was ready to race!  We were in bed early around 9p, and after some typical tossing and turning, we were up at 5a ready to go.

We got to the start line around 6a, plenty of time to hit up the porta potty’s multiple times, and I also met up with the Endurance Company for a pre-race photo, as there were about 8 of us racing.  As 7a approached, JMR and headed towards the start and while getting into our corral we saw his parents and chatted with them for a bit.  And then, we were off!  I approached this race a bit differently than the Go! Half and decided to go out more conservatively the first few miles, at closer to a 7:45 pace and then after getting settled in, I would bring it down to 7:40’s…. and then if I have more in the tank, speed it up at the end (negative splits always sound good pre-race, lol).  That way I would still PR, just not maybe as big of one if I went for 7:40’s the whole race.  I was ok with playing it safe rather than having a blow up again like Go!. So, I stuck with that plan, the first four mile splits were 7:42, 7:43, 7:37 and 7:44 and then decided I needed to start pushing the pace, miles 5 and 6 were both 7:38 and then I kind of freaked out, my legs felt heavy, I was worried if I pushed anymore I would crash and burn by mile ten.

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Still early on, feeling in control of my 7:45ish mile splits.

My next splits reflected that all the way until mile 11: 7:46, 7:45, 7:47, 7:57 and 8:00 (I really started to lose my mind miles 10 and 11).  Then I flipped my watch over and realized I would need to haul ass if I even wanted to come close to PR’ing.  Suddenly I was able to get my legs to turn over faster and pick up the pace, mile 12 got a little faster at 7:53 and then mile 13 it was on, with a 7:36 split, and then I ran the last .25 miles (my watch at .15 off) at a 7:08 pace.  Crossing the finish at 1:42:29, a 1 minute 28 second PR.

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Determined to PR!

Clearly, I had more in the bank, I was just too scared to try to tap into it and instead let my head take over during the back half of the race.  BUT I did PR, I mean that was the goal, so I was happy about that, but miles 10 and 11 still sting a little when I go back and see the splits.  So many if’s, but with Go! so fresh in my mind, I just wouldn’t – couldn’t- let myself cross another finish line in that bad of a shape.  I also knew I had Chattanooga 70.3 three weeks later and there was no way in hell I was going to give up another six days being stupid sore.  So… I raced what I felt was smart and worth the risk at the time.  I’m making peace with that and moving on 🙂  There will be other races to try to chase running sub 7:40’s and some day break 1:40, which was the original goal at Go!

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Really lost it on mile 10 and 11, at least 13 had redemption!  Overall splits look better though than Go! as far as being consistent and not blowing up.

Ok.. now on to JMR’s race, holy sh*t.  When I finally got my phone from gear check, I could see he was having a great race, and at mile 20 he was on track to run a 3:13:xx.  WOAH.  His PR was 3:24:38 at St. Jude in December 2017.  He was on track to go sub 3:20 at that race, but either due to a last-minute change or poor communication, he wasn’t planning on drinking Nuun on the course, and was expecting a drink that had more calories in it, so by mile 18 he was feeling it and then proceeded to crash and burn until the end.  This time Illinois stuck with what they posted they were serving on the course: Gatorade Endurance, the weather was cooler, the course was flatter, so JMR had more going his way this race.  Shortly after getting my gear bag and checking JMR’s status, I found JMR’s parents in the bleachers (you finish in the stadium and the spectators can watch from the bleachers), and we both tracked him as the miles ticked by.  He was having a GREAT race.  I was getting goosebumps as he hit mile 24, closer now on track for a 3:15 but still keeping a good pace.  Holy cow!  Then after what felt like ten years, we saw him run through the stadium, crossing the finish line at 3:15:56… and we were all screaming!!  I couldn’t believe it.  An 8 minute PR!!  I was soo happy that his training had paid off and he had a great race, he was so bummed after Memphis I just didn’t want him to walk away defeated again, when he had worked so hard.

We all gave him hugs as he recapped his race, and I think he looked a little pleasantly surprised with his time too.  He knew he could run those paces, but for everything to come together on race day sometimes almost feels like magic.

After the race we headed back home (I drove!) and celebrated with pizza on the couch.  Then the next day it was back to business as usual for me, with an easy recovery ride and MY LEGS FELT GREAT!   I was ready to rock the last week of big training before Chattanooga 70.3 and also bask in my mini PR.  Also, side note: so…. I really think my 2018 Go! Half 1:43:57 was a fake PR.  My Garmin shows I crossed the finish line at exactly 13.1…. whereas this year I crossed the line at 13.25 (different course, but it made me question how great I really was at tangents), and then at Illinois I also crossed the finish line with 13.25 on my Garmin.  So… I think the Go! 2018 Course was a little short (there was one part where we ran over a median and there were cones, so I think everyone cut the course by accident) and I am happy to report that I now have a new LEGIT PR 🙂

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