2019 Wrap-Up

Happy New Years Eve! Today is the last day of 2019 and looking back, it was a pretty good year! I wasn’t sure if it could be better than 2018, but it was 🙂   On a racing level, I really tested my body by doing three 70.3’s and a 140.6, and managed to get a few PR’s along the way too.

Training related, during the second half of 2019 I decided to add some focus on improving my swimming as much as I could without taking away too much training from biking and running.  Previously my attitude towards swimming was that it was the shortest event, I was never going to be first out of the water, and as long as I was fit enough to swim the distance comfortably, I should be good to go.  Also several of the races I have done have been current assisted swims (not the reason I chose them, it just happened to work out that way with the timing of the races and my schedule) so I wasn’t motivated to spend too much training focusing on swimming.

However, when I signed up for Ironman St. George 2020 this past May (the thought of signing up for one IM while I was still training for another freaked me out, but I was afraid it would sell out if I waited until after Chattanooga) I knew I would really need to work on my swim if I wanted to have a good race there.  It would be a legit swim, like IMWI, and that one didn’t go so well with my huge panic attack and I wanted to avoid that this time around.  Plus, I wanted to try to get faster and was tired of being a middle of the pack swimmer.

So this summer I took a private lesson to check out my stroke and see if there were any obvious adjustments needed (and there were!) as well as joining a local Masters swim group on Monday mornings.  Not huge drastic changes, but  those small changes along with staying consistent in the pool (and also adding more volume) really helped get me a little faster!   So with that long term goal set, I just kept swimming, and now only 4 months to go, I’m by no means a speed demon in the pool, but I’m definitely faster!

This year I also was good about keeping up with my PT exercises to avoid injuries, and while I almost escaped without unscathed, I managed to strain my left hip flexor while at the Go! Saint Louis Halloween 10k at the end of October.  (I PR’d but have decided that PR wasn’t worth it!) So back to PT I went, learning that I had limited mobility in my back which was adding stress on my hips/lower body and … once again, still some stability issues with my hips/glues.  Boo!  I have since graduated PT and am now doing some fancy exercises for glutes/hips at the gym along with a shiny new overall strength routine that also includes mobility work.  2020, I’m coming for you and I WILL be stronger 🙂

Moving on to 2020 goals and resolutions….I am not entirely sure what my goals are (other than ‘getting faster’, lol) but I do have a few resolutions and figured typing them out would make them a little more real (and maybe more accountable):

  • Keep up with Masters swims (tough during peak IM St. George training since I have my set workouts, but post IM in May would be a great time!)
  • Keep up with strength training/PT exercises
  • Cut out Diet Soda (such a huge weakness…. regular cola DURING races is still ok though 🙂
  • Cut back on sugar (mostly just my daily Oreos and nightly Peanut Butter M&Ms)
  • Remember my WHY when training gets tough, I GET to train and race!

Well that was short and sweet, here’s to another great year of swim, bike run (and other life stuff 🙂

Happy New Year!!!

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Ironman Chattanooga – The Run

Swim and Bike

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Here we go….

As soon as I headed out on the run I saw JMR and started to tell him how horrible I felt on the bike, and realized it was just taking up too much energy, so I stopped babbling and waved good bye.  It was hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade for the first few miles, and there were also a decent hill coming out of transition.  Most people around me were walking, but a few were running.  I tried to stick with the runners, but I had a few waves of feeling like I was overheating, and had to walk for a bit.  I also decided to walk through the aid stations, making sure I took in plenty of water, ice and coke.  At this point my stomach still felt crappy and taking gels sounded like a horrible idea, so I stuck with coke as my main source of calories.

It was nice having previously run some of the course during the 70.3, so I knew what to expect the first 8 or so miles.  I tried to not look at my watch because I knew that my time goals were out the window, and finishing was the main goal.  However I was still trying to do some math wondering what an 10:30 min/mile marathon would be, and so on (the pace slowly kept creeping up close to ‘what would an 11:30 min/mile marathon time be?).  However, I kept going back to ‘finishing is your main goal, do the best that you can do, RIGHT NOW. No regrets, but no passing out’.

After I had run/walked up the ‘small’ hill at mile 8 (this was the ‘big’ hill on the 70.3 course) and was making the turn to start crossing the first bridge, I saw JMR, and boy was I happy to see him. I mumbled something about it being hot and gave him a less than enthusiastic wave to let him know I was ok.

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Serious face, but I did wave at one point.

On I went mentally preparing for the real hill on the course that was on Barton Ave around mile 12.  When I finally got to the hill it was as big as I had imagined (St. George had prepared me for what hills really could be on a triathlon course!), I started trying to run some of it (all of those treadmill hill repeats had to get some use!) but when I had some waves of nausea I started power walking the rest with the other people power walking.  What people had said about the crowds being amazing on Barton were not kidding!  There were tons of people providing so much crowd support.  In fact there was a mini party going on with music, people BBQ’ing and of course tons of people cheering.  It was an amazing boost while struggling up that darn hill.

The next few miles (the back loop of the course) were pretty boring since it was along a golf course and then fancy neighborhoods with hardly any spectators, well except for an enthusiastic aid station at mile 10 which also gave me a little boost of energy.  After what felt like forever I was finally finishing the loop, and turned to head back over the bridge and begin my second lap.  As I ran across the bridge, a spectator said ‘Nice job! Is this your last loop?’ (it was like 9.5 hours into the race? Did I really look that fast?) so sadly I said ‘No’ in a defeated tone… I think he felt bad and then said ‘Well it’s only going to get cooler from here on out with the sun coming down!’.  Which was true!  I was hoping maybe with the cooler temps I could negative split my very slow run, as my first loop was around 2:30.

On I went, feeling like I was picking up the pace, not spending much time walking through the aid stations this time, grabbing water, coke and keeping running.  However finally around mile 17 my body was like ‘WALK!’, so I started walking for a bit, then after I saw two people in my age group run by, I pushed myself to get back to ‘running’ which was really more of a walk run/combo as things were really starting to hurt.  At the mile 20 aid station I hopped into a porta-potty as I had to pee, but I think I just wanted a break.  It was a quick pit stop, but a good little mental break, and from then on I decided I needed to move, no more people in my age group were going to pass me! (and I re-passed one at mile 20).  I picked up the pace, which was more of a slow run/jog, and just taking short walk breaks at aid stations.  This time I ran up the little ‘big’ hill before crossing the bridge, and once again saw JMR and gave him another weary wave and prepared for Barton Ave.

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My “I’m still alive” fake double handed wave.

This time I RAN up that hill almost the whole way.  There was a little walking, but my legs felt ok and with the heat a little less fierce, the slow jog was bearable.  I also reminded myself I freaking trained for these hills, I needed to run them! The back loop after Barton was even more boring the second time, and on top of that, it was dark!  There were a few points where I was worried I was going to randomly trip because I couldn’t see where I was running.  It was weird doing the this loop in the dark, with no spectators, it was just the sound of people’s feet shuffling, heavy breathing and not much else.  Eerily quiet like everyone was just trying to keep moving one foot in front of the other.

After what felt like forever again on this loop, it was finally time to make the turn to head back over the bridge TOWARDS the finish.  I hit one more aid station before the bridge and my stomach decided it was going to let me know it was DONE.  Uh oh.  I immediately started walking, knowing crapping myself down the finisher’s chute was NOT an option.  I was less than 1.5 miles from the finish and I was WALKING. Ugggh, so frustrating. At that point I was just done.  I was tired, it was dark, I hate racing in the dark…it’s so lonely, and now my stomach was done too.  I had a mini meltdown (with the reassurance that no one can see you crying when it’s dark), then had a mini pep talk, and finally was able to slowly pick up the pace and keep moving.

Finally my feet hit the bridge.  I kept shuffling, moving closer and closer to the other side, and when I made it across and got to the part of the route where you go straight to do another loop or TURN LEFT TO FINISH.  I said ‘F yeah!!’ pretty loud, multiple times as I was turning (I hope no children were nearby or if so, I hope they didn’t hear me).  Then it was on.  I could see the finish and hear Mike Reilly.  Oh my god.  I’m going to finish.  This was such a tough day but I was going to finish!  I started ugly crying (it’s dark, right?) and then I heard some spectators cheering me on, so that brought on more ugly crying.  Then as I got closer to the finisher chute, the tears went away and all I could feel was pure joy. My body didn’t feel like it had been moving for 12+ hours, instead I felt like I had wings and was filled with new found energy as I ran down the chute. I threw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish (so cheesy, but I couldn’t help it) and had that amazing feeling you get when crossing an Ironman finish line.  The cheering, the bright lights, the red carpet, the annoucer, it’ unreal.

Run Time 5:03:05

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Jimmy sneaking a finisher photo, wish I had just looked at Jimmy instead of the photographer!  P.S. I started wearing whitening strips the week we got back, WOAH.  I’m sure my extra bright white top would make many things ‘white’ look yellow…but damn.

Once I crossed, I saw JMR on the sidelines and waved to him to let him know I was ok, got my photo taken and met him outside the finish area.   Phew!  What. A. Day.  Once I caught up with him I started rambling about how the heat made it so tough, and that I was so happy I finished but was bummed about my run/walk/shuffle (drinking caffeine for 12+ hours makes me incredibly chatty after races).  JMR reassured me that it was HOT and said he ran earlier that day and about passed out.  Then he said ‘You were 10th in your age group, you did great.’  I was like ‘what?!?!’  I had time goals, which other than the Bike PR, I didn’t meet, but I also had a goal to try to make top 10.  It didn’t occur to me that given the conditions I could still make top 10 and not hit my time goals.  I was ecstatic!  That gave me a new surge of energy as I babbled a bit more about the race, and then gave JMR all of my finisher stuff while I went to get my bike and gear bags.  That was rough, but slowly I got everything and headed back to meet JMR and walk back to the hotel.

Once we got to the hotel I wanted to take a shower and then go get real food – liquid nutrition for 12+ hours is just.. it’s great for racing, but after my stomach is ready for something new after the race 🙂  Plus, JMR had only snacked on granola bars and Little Debbie snacks all day so he needed real food as well.  Being a spectator is tough too!

As I was bragging about how wonderful my new tri top worked out, not having any burns or chaffing, JMR stopped me mid-sentence and said ‘you might want to stop yourself and look at your back first’.  I was like ‘what?’ and sure enough when I looked in the mirror, I had a HUGE burn on my lower back from where my top rolled up on the bike. Oh boy, I figured it happened when I made the porta potty stop around mile 60 or so…. three hours of exposed skin with no suncreen was gonna hurt (it did and it’s still there three weeks later!).

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Evidence.  See where there’s bright white between my shorts and top.  Yep, that’s my very white skin.

Bummer.  Well other than I fared pretty darn well (I also think that’s due to not having worn a HR strap, I know the optical isn’t as exact, but man, it sure beats the inevitable chaffing from the strap, no matter how much body glide you use!).  After I showered (ouch, my sunburn) we headed to get dinner at a restaurant nearby, and by 11p I was in bed eating my Little Debbie snacks JMR hadn’t eaten and finally asleep by 11:15p.  What a day.  I was happy to have finished, a little bummed about my times, but thrilled that I had made top ten.  Even though it was only out of 78! (and then later 58 as 20 people DNF’d in my age group).

Total Race Time: 12:56:26, 10th AG

I texted my coach a few days after the race repeating what I said above, about being happy to just have finished and not having ended up in the Medical tent, but feeling like I still had unfinished business.  He replied saying that’s the thing about Ironman, it usually leaves you still wanting more out of yourself.  I know right now I need to give my body some rest after what it went through, but now I have new goals for the next race, Ironman St. George next May!  A little backstory as to why I’m already signed up for another full so quickly… after doing the St. George 70.3 in 2018, I added the full IM to my bucket list if Ironman ever brought it back (it was retired in 2012).  So when it was announced it was back for 2020, I wanted to sign up right away in fear it would sell out (signing up for an IM before you finish the one you’re currently training for is a bit much for me, and won’t probably do that again!).  However I kept it pretty tight lipped that I had signed up until after I finished (phew!) Chattanooga.  So here’s to building back some fitness and then starting training for IM St. George!

 

 

 

 

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Ironman Chattanooga – Swim and Bike

Pre-Race

I held onto my goggles, and once I was back at the surface I did a little breaststroke to get situated and then got to it!  I felt like I was swimming a decent pace, catching the water with each stroke, however when passing buoys I didn’t seem to fly by them, so it didn’t look like there was much current assistance.  Despite feeling like I was swimming strong, it quickly started to feel like it was taking forever.  I think I always forget that even though the swim is the shortest event of the three, it still happens.  I’m still in the water for 30+ minutes for a half or an hour + for the full (maybe some day I’ll get faster, lol), but I always think it will be over in a flash and it. Is. Not.

Almost the whole first half of the swim I felt like I was swimming off course and had to keep re-situating myself to head to the next buoy.  I’m not sure if the current was pulling me a little to shore, or what, but I kept finding myself swimming away from the buoys.  Also about half-way, I started to get a little bored and decided since my sighting was so crappy, and the water was pretty clear, I would try to hop on some feet.  I found a girl in a swimsuit and figured people in swimsuits were good swimmers since they were probably part of the relay, so I hopped on her feet.  My guess was correct, and we were moving along.  She was sighting well, so for the most part I could just focus on her feet (and pushing the pace to keep up) and not mess with sighting.  That worked fabulous until some big dude decided to swim in between us and I lost her.  Grr.  Then I found a guy with really long legs, but with a very passive, gentle kick and hopped on his feet.  I stuck with him until the 3rd to last buoy when someone else swam in between us.  Then I decided to just swim solo again, attempting to try to sight a little better, and finally I could see the last buoy.  Hooray!  I  kept swimming until I could the steps, and then a kind volunteer pulled me out and helped me up the steps (sea legs as usual).  I hit lap, started fumbling with my swim skin, and then wondered what my swim time was.  I flipped my watch time to see total time and was happy to see 1:07, realizing I had swam probably closer to 1:06, hooray!

Swim Time: 1:05:05

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Impressed Jimmy caught a picture of me, I’m under the Flamingo Balloon!

I ran/hobbled and grabbed my T1 bag, ran into transition, dumped out my bag and got my gear on.  Tri top on, helmet on, dried my feet, socks, shoes, sunglasses, let’s roll!  I hobbled to my bike, grabbed it, headed to bike mount, hit my watch and was off!  A very uneventful T1 in 6:44.

As I got settled into a rhythm on the bike, I realized I never calibrated my power meter.  Whoops. I don’t always look at my watch to see my power during races, but I use it to make sure I’m pushing enough, or if I need to back off.  I kept on riding and noticed my average speed was really speedy for me (I don’t ride based on speed, but just like to know the avg number), but my watts showed I wasn’t doing anything crazy effort-wise.  Hmm…finally by mile 10 I decided I needed to make sure the power numbers I was seeing were accurate, so I pulled over, and took a couple of minutes to calibrate my power.  Back on the bike and after a few miles, my speed was still crazy fast 18+mph (for me) and my power was within my planned range, oh well, I was going to go with it then.  The first loop went fabulously, I felt great, it wasn’t so hot, in fact at the beginning I was a little chilly.  Special needs around mile 53 was the fastest special needs stop for me, I was in, grabbed my bottle wrapped in foil (it was still cold, hooray!) and was out.  I had to pee but didn’t want to stop and was hoping I might still be able to go while riding.  However after not much luck, I saw the porta-potties were unoccupied during the next aid station and decided to just stop and go since I would probably waste a lot of time and energy on the bike while attempting to go.  I was in and out pretty quick, just a couple of minutes, and then got on the bike to turn for loop 2.

I was feeling good and saw I was just around 3 hours for the first half, which I was thrilled about!  On I went until about mile 70 when I started to really feel the heat.  Soon I started to feel nauseous and began to worry that I had ridden the first loop too hard (which in hindsight looking at data, I hadn’t, it was cooler and there was a slight tailwind).  I tried to up my water intake as I had only been drinking about half of a bottle every 15ish miles (between aid stations), but it was hard because my water was warm and most of the bottles I took at aid stations were also warm.  Blech.

As I was going up a hill and realizing I was really starting to feel bad, an older guy was passing me and said ‘make sure to keep drinking you water’, and then said ‘you are looking pretty pale’ and rode up past me. Oh boy, thanks for the vote of confidence.  I was feeling crappy, maybe even a little shaky/lightheaded, and now someone is telling me I look pale?  Then I really started to freak out thinking maybe I was in worse shape than I realized.  Once I crested the hill, I switched my watch to show heart race and focused on bringing it down rather than looking at power numbers.  I kept drinking my warm water, took a swig of my warm Infinit (it stayed cool for like 10 miles after I got it from special needs, boo), and then took some Base salt.  I kept pedaling, much slower, but still after several miles I just wasn’t feeling better.

I made it to the next aid station and pulled through where the water stop was to dump water over my head to try to keep cool.  The water there was cold and felt great! I refilled my bottled, chugged the rest and then just kept pedaling.  I upped my speed a little now that I was feeling a little better from the cold water, still nauseous, but not as in terrible of shape.  I knew I was going to finish but it was going to still be a miserable 30 more miles.  But less than two hours, I can do less than two hours!  From then on I just kept checking my watch and taking in my nutrition every 15 minutes with water, and Base salt every 30, which kept me semi distracted and helped pass the time.

Soon I was headed back into downtown, oh man, boy was I thrilled.  I was also in slight shock that I made it this far, I had never felt so crummy on the bike before and really wasn’t sure if I’d make it back to transition.  With my joy of nearly being done, I passed a few people in the last five miles and wanted to kiss the ground when I got to bike dismount, however instead, I saw JMR and waved, and then told the bike catcher that ‘this bike is alllll yours’ as I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.  Then I took off my shoes, hobbled through transition and got my bag and headed into the change tent.

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Mid-dismount to get OFF my bike!

Still a bike PR even being 4 miles longer: 6:36:06

Once in the change tent I dumped my gear out of my T2 bag: changed socks, put on my running shoes, threw on my hat, put on my race belt, grabbed my baggie filled with gels and my cooling towel and was off!  (and of course helmet and bike shoes back in the bag)

T2: 5:26 (with a quick dash in a porta-potty before officially heading out)

The Run

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Ironman Chattanooga – Pre-Race

I was determined to hammer out this race report while everything was still fresh, and it’s still took me over three weeks!  So here we go!  JMR and I left Saint Louis around 8:30a, since Chattanooga is 6.5 hours away and I wasn’t doing the ‘leaving in the afternoon to avoid taking a whole day off of work and arriving super late’ as we’ve done in the past.  We got to Madison, WI around midnight and that was pretty awful.  So we left early on Thursday, stopped for lunch around noon and arrived at 4:30p.  Other than some heavy rainstorms, it was an uneventful drive.  I’ve said this before, but I have to say it again,  I LOVE being able to put my bike IN my car rather than on a hitch mount, it just keeps it safe and sound and when we stop for gas, etc, I’m not worrying about something happening to it. I just love my little crossover SUV I got about a year ago (IMLOU was it’s maiden voyage)

Once we arrived at the hotel we unloaded all of our stuff (which took several trips), hung out in the room for a bit, and then walked around the riverfront to check out the river and race site.  After walking around in the heat for a while (it was HOT) we headed to Mellow Mushroom for dinner.  We have one in Saint Louis, but have never gone, and for some reason pizza sounded good.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel where I did my PT exercises and some foam rolling.  I’m not sure what I did at yoga on Wednesday but I had pulled something in my right hip/glute that was bothering me, so I was hoping rolling it out would help.

Friday I got up around 8a, went downstairs for some breakfast, and then headed to athlete check-in at 9.  After an uneventful check-in, (and got a nice backpack as swag) I perused the various booths in Ironman Village and scored a ton of unhealthy treats from the Little Debbie tent.  Moonpies, mini muffins and pumpkin shaped flavored cookies.  JMR was going to be thrilled.  I headed back to the hotel to drop off my stuff and picked up JMR as he was going to go for a run while I attended the athlete briefing at 11a.

On our way to IM village, JMR kept commenting on the heat… gee thanks, yes, I know it’s hot. 🙂  While he sweated it out running along the river and the nearby hilly area, I sat at the athlete briefing where it was confirmed that unless a huge cold front came through, the swim wouldn’t be wetsuit legal if you were wanting to compete for awards.  To me that was a relief, because swimming in a wetsuit, even sleeveless in these temps seemed like an easy way to overheat and start the bike already dehydrated, so I was glad the decision was made for me.  I also learned that they were going to have ‘cooling buses’ along the run course for runners.  I didn’t give that much thought, but apparently it was causing some controversy among other athletes as some felt that it was cheating.  I guess I could see the cheating aspect (like stopping inside a restaurant during the race to take a break), but honestly if you were in bad enough shape that you felt that you needed to get on a bus and take the extra time to cool off, I doubt that person is gunning for a Kona or Age Group slot.  So, let people race their own race and worry about yourself.

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Here’s some humor regarding the heat, my watch apparently can tell heat acclimation and it decided to let me know during race week that I was not at all acclimated.  26%!  Although it was new and I had only been wearing it for a week, so it didn’t have much data to work with… but.. I don’t think it was too far off.

After the athlete briefing, I wandered around IM Village and then headed back to the hotel to wait for JMR to finish his run so we could get lunch and go to the Aquarium.  I was determined to do ‘fun’ stuff on this trip so JMR didn’t feel like his whole trip was eating and hanging out in the hotel room, as most IM weekends go.  Once he got back we got lunch and headed towards the Aquarium, where we found out the prices of tickets… $35!  That was a tad more than we were wanting to spend as it was just ‘something to do’, so instead we walked along the riverfront and then across the pedestrian bridge to GA.  Downtown Chattanooga and the surrounding area is so nice, so it was fun to just walk around.  We also grabbed a few things from Walgreens which made our little hike over to GA worth it, lol.  After walking a little more than I should have, we camped out in the hotel room for a bit and then we drove to dinner at for burgers at The Terminal Brewhouse, and they were really good!

Saturday morning I was up around 8a, got breakfast, and then while JMR headed out for another run, I decided to do a little dress rehearsal.  So… the thing I was stressing about most the week before the race along with whatever muscle I pulled in my hip/glute was WHAT THE HECK TO WEAR ON TOP.  I really felt that I was going to need full sleeved coverage to help keep the sun off and keep me wet/cool, and the two current tops I race in are both sleeveless and black which seemed like not smart options.  I had been looking for a sleeved top to race in this season, but didn’t have any luck in finding any that I liked and I also still wanted to race in an Endurance Company kit.  Additionally, because of my history of having to hop into porta-potties during races, a one piece sleeved-suit frightened me, so I knew I wanted to stick with a two piece (I kept finding so many more options of sleeved kits, but they were all one-pieces).

However, the Friday before race week (so 10 days before the race) I was perusing the Kiwami site (I have a Kiwami tri top and a Kiwami bike aero top that I both love), and I saw they came out with a new version of the bike aero top I have, which was a little looser, longer and meant to be run in.  I knew it was meant to be!  With expedited shipping it could arrive in a few days, just in time before we left for Chattanooga.  I was bummed I wouldn’t be able to race with the Endurance Company logo, but really in the grand scheme of things, that wasn’t a big deal.  I still wanted to make sure that they could add the logo after it had been raced in, so I emailed Kiwami and to my surprise, they said they could work on it that afternoon and ship it out that day or Saturday.  Woah!! Hooray!! Talk about awesome customer service!  It arrived Monday afternoon and looked beautiful.  That Tuesday morning I took it for a test run during my track workout.  The sleeves felt great, however the bottom part, despite having a huge elastic waistband to prevent from riding up, still rode up and bunched around my waist (this is not a new problem, I have no waist so basically all tri tops unless hemmed do this…grr)…which could be very annoying for 26.2 miles of pulling it down.  But would the sun protection and cooling factor of the sleeves/fabric outweigh the annoying waistband factor?  Decisions, decisions. So I still packed one of my racerback tri tops as well just in case. It was going to be a game day decision, lol.

Ok, so with that really long backstory (taper makes me super crazy and overthink things obviously), back in the hotel room I was in my tri shorts and new top, running around with all of my stuff in my shorts pockets and tri top pocket to really see how things would feel as I didn’t have everything stuffed in when running on the track.  Even with the top scrunching up a bit, it still felt ok once I had all of my stuff stuffed in it (cooling towel, zip-lock baggie with a gel, ibuprofen, Imodium and tums) which kept it from riding up too much.  Well hooray!  The decision was made.

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T1 Bag Contents.  Socks are hiding behind my top in the clear bag. Keeping it simple!

JMR came back to the room just as I had put everything away, so he was spared of the tri top drama. We then headed to grab lunch at Community Pie where I got the chicken caprese sandwich, and Jimmy continued his spectating carb load and got pizza 🙂  After lunch I got my gear bags ready to go, and then we headed back to Ironman Village to rack my bike and drop off my gear bags, then we turned around and headed back to the hotel.  After relaxing in the room for a couple of hours, we walked to dinner at Public House, which was also just as delicious as the last time I went. I had the halibut and rice for dinner, some Twizzlers in the hotel room as ‘dessert’ and then attempted to fall asleep around 8:30p.

I tossed and turned a few times, but still got pretty good sleep.  When my alarm went off at 3:30 I was up and awake, a pleasant surprise since I was dragging butt when I got up that early for Chattanooga 70.3.  I guess having a few more days to get used to the hour time change helped.  I ate my pre-race banana with almond butter and 1/2 of a Bobo’s oat bar, along with a cup of coffee and started to get ready.  At 5a we headed down to transition so I could pump up my tires, add my nutrition to my bike and my run bag.  Since we still had about 30 minutes before we needed to start loading the bus to head to transition, we headed back to the hotel.  It nice being able to use our hotel bathroom one more time and stay away from the crowds for a bit.  Around 6:20a we headed back to transition, had a short wait for the buses and arrived at the swim start at 6:40.  One more trip to the porta-potties and then finally we headed to swim 1:10-1:20 group.  I was nervous but not super nervous, and was also pretty darn thrilled to actually have a FULL swim!!  I wasn’t sure how the rest of the day would go, especially with the heat, but just knowing I had the opportunity to do the full race made me very happy.

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Ready to race!!

Soon we were walking towards the start (I love the self seeded starts, they are so much calmer), I gave JMR a kiss good bye, and then walked down the ramp to the water.  1-2-3, I was in!  Here we go!!

The Swim and Bike

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2019 EPIC Weekend

IM Chattanooga is less than three weeks away (eek!), and it will be here before I know it!  As a long training weekend I participated in an event put on my by coach’s company – The Endurance Company –  called ‘EPIC’.  A quick summary of the EPIC weekends events:

Saturday: 10k swim in a 50m outdoor pool, followed by a 60 mile bike from Quincy, IL to Bowling Green, MO

Sunday: 150 mile bike from Bowling Green, MO to Columbia, MO

Monday: Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO

…which is a grand total of 243 miles of swimming, biking and running over three days.  I did this event last year, but due to my hip injury I didn’t sign up for the marathon and figured if my hip was feeling ok I would run some miles while the rest of the group raced.  Fortunately it felt ok and I got in around 16 on a nice flat shaded trail.  This year I haven’t had any hip issues, however doing a hilly marathon a month from IMChatt didn’t seem worth the recovery time or risking injury, so this year I signed up for the relay and would run around a half marathon instead (the relay option was new this year).

I am not going to lie, I came into EPIC this year with some expectations, and maybe I shouldn’t have and would have enjoyed the weekend a little bit more without having the added pressure.  However I have been swimming more than last year and my times are improving, so I assumed I would have a faster swim this year. Also, I have been riding stronger and had high hopes of having strong rides as well.  I had no expectations for the run though, just get it done injury free 🙂  So short spoiler, swim was slow, bike had some meltdowns and run went just fine.

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All packed, minus bike! Not as much gear as I remembered from last year.

Saturday morning was chilly… overcast and high 60’s.  The outdoor 50 meter pool felt pretty cold too, and I was hoping I would warm up after a few 1000’s but that never really happened.  My hands and feet would go from numb to semi-warmed up, back to numb.  I also ran out of steam around 5k and was so sad I still had 5k left to go, and meanwhile everyone around me seemed to be staying strong while my pace was slipping to a slower and slower rate.  I now know I should have just focused on my own swim and not paid attention to those around me, but I let it get in my head.  Also, after the 5k I could see I was already on track for a slower swim than last year, which also got into my head.  After what seemed like forever I finally finished, about 5 minutes slower than last year and feeling totally wiped out.  I had trouble climbing out of the darn pool! The thought of riding after sounded awful (and cold!).

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5 minutes slower than last year, boo!

I took a hot shower after which helped, put on my dry biking clothes, ate some food and started to feel a little better.  Also my coach said his time was slower than last year which made me feel better, we guessed the cold water took up some extra energy for our bodies to stay warm while swimming.

At 1p we were off to ride our 60 miles.  Overall the ride was pretty uneventful, I tried to just stay with the main group and fortunately no one was really hammering the pace, so we were all able to stay together.  The whole ride I was soooo hungry, and just kept thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner.  A big burger and fries.  Swimming really builds up my appetite!  When we finally pulled into our dinner spot (one mile from the hotel, we would finish off the last mile after dinner), we all ordered right away and my burger and sweet potato fries were amazing.  I ate all of it. After dinner we all settled in for a very early bedtime, ready for an early wake up call to be rolling out at 7a.

Sunday morning we lucked out again with overcast and slightly chilly weather, I will take that over HOT any day!  Similar to the ride on Saturday, we all mostly stuck together and were able to ride as a group which was really nice (and huge thanks to those pulling up front, I am guilty of not taking a turn).  One thing I didn’t anticipate on the ride was my nutrition and how my stomach would react.  By hour 5 I could hardly stomach any more Infinit. I had planned on mostly drinking that as my main nutrition, and had packed 3 bags with 3 hours each in it, for 9 hours total.  I did bring some other gels, bars, etc just in case, but that really was the main nutrition plan.  I was gagging by the end of the second bottle, but still decided to mix my third bottle, however I hardly drank out of it (regretting that now, Infinit isn’t cheap!!).  I think because it was pretty warm when I was drinking it (mixed with not cold water) and also since I drank it the day before for four hours (which I’m not used to drinking that much on back to back days), my stomach was just wanting real (not healthy though) food.  So, instead at the various gas station stops I had a twix, snickers, fig newtons, a base bar and of course the usual lots of coke and some potato chips.  I never eat like that on my training rides, although I also don’t ride 150 miles usually either.  I knew my stomach would probably pay during the run the next day since I knew Infinit would have been a better choice nutritionally, but at that point, I was just worrying about finishing the ride and would deal with my angry stomach the next day.

Also, around mile 125 I fell off the back of the group during a downhill and for the life of me, I could not catch back up.  I think I was starting to bonk because I started to cry and was just starting to lose it.  I was tired, I was wondering why was I doing this, I wanted to be done.  Logically it was only 25 more miles, there was one more stop to regroup and the roads would be marked, but I was just upset to lose the group and ride alone.  I just didn’t want to ride alone!  Fortunately I was able to catch up on a hill and at the next rest stop I got a large coke (SUGAR!), which seemed to help improve my mood.  No more meltdowns after that and I was able to keep up with the group, phew.  When we rolled into the hotel parking lot around 153 miles I was SO HAPPY to be done.  I just don’t remember it being this hard last year, and I also didn’t have any meltdowns (that I can remember) either.  Although I have a way of forgetting painful things, hence why I keep signing up for Ironmans… so maybe it was just as bad and I don’t remember.  After we showered, we ordered pizza and then went to bed early for a night of once again, no sleep.

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Couldn’t skip my usual night time snack of Peanut Butter M&Ms!  Considering how my stomach felt the next day though, I think I should have skipped these.

Monday morning my alarm went off at 4a, I ate a banana and headed downstairs for some coffee.  The first thing I noticed was that my stomach was off.  Coffee might have been a bad idea, but I think I was hoping it would help get whatever was angry resolved before the ‘race’.  That didn’t happen.  Also I was pretty darn tired and needed all of the help I could get.  We all piled in one of our teammates cars to head to packet pickup/race start and get ready for the last event of the weekend.  I was a little bummed to not be doing the full race (and say I did the full weekend event) again, but I knew 26.2 miles on a hilly route after a tough training weekend was asking a lot of my body.  Also I knew I could get in a few miles before the relay handoff, which also made me a little more ok with my mileage, especially since this might be my last ‘long’ run before the taper.

I hung out at the start line until the shuttle buses came to take us to our relay spots. Also, it was FREEZING.  I didn’t take into account it being chilly while waiting around for over an hour, so if I do this again next year, I will remember to wear a throw away long sleeved shirt.  Once I arrived at the relay spot, I took off to run the course backward to get in some extra miles and also try to warm up.  I ran the course backwards to make sure I wouldn’t accidentally miss my partner, which also happened to be running down (and therefore got to run back up) the biggest hill of the course, Easley.  It was all and more that everyone had said about it, boy was that a big hill.  About 2.5 miles in, I turned around and hoofed it back up Easley and back to the handoff, just around the time Joe was approaching.  He handed off the bib and I had 11 miles left to go!

After the first 2.5 miles warming up, I was able to stick with my planned race pace of around 9:15, and the plan was to keep up with it the remaining 11 miles.  The only trouble I foresaw was that my stomach was angry, and I knew there weren’t many porta potties on the course.  I just took it one mile at a time, and tried to not push the pace too much so my stomach wouldn’t get angry.  I finally gave in, and around 8 miles in I took a gel since I could feel my energy starting to fade.  My stomach did ok, but I wasn’t sure for how long that would last.  On another note, it was a nice course and had good amounts of shade, which I appreciated.  Also, it was weird being so far up front in the race.  Since Joe is super duper fast, he handed off our bib with us around 6th place overall or so, which meant I was getting passed a lot by people that made me look like I was standing still, lol.

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A nice shaded part of the route right before my stomach got angry again.

Around mile 21 I had to take a short walk break up a hill in order to keep my stomach from resulting in an emergency situation.  Then at the next water stop I asked volunteers if there were porta potties…and there weren’t.  Lot of deep breathing and trying to keep a controlled pace.  Then when I got to the part of the race where there was an out and back around a lake, nice and flat, my stomach seemed to be doing ok again, hooray.  I was thrilled when I passed the miles 23 mark – I was wiped just trying to do 16 miles on this course, I couldn’t imagine 26.2, I was ready to be done!  As I left the lake path I made the decision to duck into the park bathrooms to finally give my stomach a break.  I am glad that I did, it added 2 minutes to my mile split, but it was necessary.  On I went, starting to break things into .25 miles as I was really fading.  Mile 25 went by and I saw our hotel…boy did I want to stop…but I kept going, finally reaching mile 26 and thrilled to be running the downhill to the finish.  I crossed the line around 3h45m…someday I hope to actually cross a marathon finish line running all 26.2 miles in that time! (but never on a course like this though! A flat one 🙂

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Pretty easy to figure out where my bathroom stop was….

Once I crossed the finish line I felt pretty bad- my legs decided to feel crappy, my stomach was angry, I was thirsty, shaky and wasn’t sure what to do.  I hadn’t ‘raced’ those miles, but I had run them hard, so I guess my body wasn’t thrilled.  I drank some water, ate a lot of watermelon and then had a popsicle and started to feel better.  Soon the rest of the ECO teammates were crossing the finish – what a feat, I was definitely impressed in their ability to run a full 26.2 after our weekend and on a tough run course.  Once everyone finished we headed back to the hotel to shower, check out and load up the truck.

We had a team lunch before everyone departed to chat about the weekend and celebrate everyone finishing what goals they had set out to accomplish.  I really enjoy spending time with this group of people and couldn’t have picked a better group of people to swim, bike and run with all weekend.  I’m not sure if I will be back to do the full (marathon too!) event next year, but I’m not crossing if off my list either!

That said, I’m putting my head back down for three more weeks (thank goodness the big stuff is over with though) until my A race of the season!

Happy Monday!

 

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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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