Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Race Yourself

I reminisced over my first few triathlons this weekend. It's been a long while, with my very first triathlon being Mightymite in 1996, since I've felt like such a newbie in a sport. Granted, part of that is because I have found one that I enjoy so much that I rarely (have time to) branch out, but also I avoid sports that I will do exceedingly poorly in, those being most you can probably think of. So my first newbie mistake during the Smith & Nephew/Marx & Bensdorf Grand Prix road race was of the number attachment variety. Ok, I've been doing 5Ks since I was 15 and triathlons, which sometimes require multiple numbers, since I was 19. So how hard can number attachment be (especially after you read the rules about it)? As it turns out, I did it all wrong. You know those things you have to learn from experience about triathlon that make it glaringly obvious that you're new to this whole racing thing? Like, you know, riding in basketball shorts, helmet on backwards, number pinned to the back of a running singlet on the bike, wading pools set up in transition.. Well apparently in bike racing, pinning your number on through the holes in the number is one of those mistakes. Luckily I had Jimmy there to rescue me. He secured my two numbers with about 8 pins each, strategically placed to reduce any hint of drag. Now I appeared to be experienced, right?

Due to the extreme temperatures of the day (I'm assuming), and the 11:25 a.m. start time of our road race, they shortened it to 2 laps, for a total of 32 miles, instead of 3 laps. This hurt my feelings not one little bit, even though I tend to get warmed up only after a good 30 miles. Just as Mentor Casey had explained, we started off slowly, and only had a surge now and then to try and thin the field a bit. The field consisted of only 17 women, with not many dropping off the back, at least that I counted. My goal was to be one of those still with the main pack at the final sprint. It was fun watching the dynamics of a dozen women, some of whom knew each other and their racing strengths, when one would take off in an attack, or like in Susan's case, just to get a different perspective of the field. Each time Susan would move toward the front, a handful of girls would assume she was attacking and take off in pursuit. Usually Susan would just be going up front for a pull, or a chat, or just for fun, but they didn't know the difference.

With maybe 5 miles to go in the race, Maggi took off the front. We had seen her pull a good portion of the race, and I figured she felt like I do riding with my niece: I will fall off my bike if I go this slow! But this time she left us in the dust, with Kelsey right on her wheel. We didn't chase, and soon they were out of sight. With 4, then 3, then 2 miles to go I kept expecting the next attack. I knew the last 400m were uphill to the finish. Unbeknownst to me, and apparently Susan as well, Andrea and Susan lead Casey out for the final sprint. It worked! She easily won the sprint, with me, Susan and Andrea a few places behind.

Here we are before the start of the race. Andrea, Cara, Casey, me, Maggi, and Susan:

It was over with before I knew it and then on to recovery, which consisted of floating around in my parents' pool. The time trial was just under 6 hours after the end of our road race, and it consisted of about 3.75 miles of false flats: easy out, uphill back. I thought I was doing awesome when I passed my 30 second girl at the turn around. Then I saw results. Oh well! I went absolutely all out; the spectators even heard my raspy gasping for oxygen at the end, and noticed my pained face (and thanks to Tom for pointing it out!). I ended up 3rd for the cat 4s in both the road race and TT. Considering that for my race distance of choice, race plans include "take the first hour easy, build through 60 miles...," I knew this wouldn't be MY race.

Don't let the guy's face deceive you; he is holding me by the saddle.

It seemed like no time at all had passed when Sunday morning's crit came. Lucky for us, we got a cool time slot, 8:25. I warmed up well, or so I thought, and got to ride a few laps of the .8 mile course before the start. You know in adventure races or ultras how the race starter just yells go? Maybe they're even so unenthusiastic that you don't realize this is the start? Well it doesn't matter in a race of 5 hours so much. In a race where you'll get dropped off the back in the first lap only to ride by yourself for the remainder of the 35 minutes (except for the girl that is attached to your wheel, like a dingleberry (thanks Lisa!), throughout), I need a little more excitement! Can you imagine starting a 400m track race without a gun to make you jump into action? Where's the cannon? Or at the very least give me the siren on a bullhorn. But an ambivalent, "Riders ready? [yawn] Go."? Really? Needless to say, I learned that lesson. Kill yourself to do it, but get in the pack from the gun. Oops, I mean from the word "go."

The word of the day Sunday was Humility. Not that I hadn't had plenty going into the races Saturday. But of course I had just come off my annual win at the small town 5k on Friday night, which is always a good confidence boost. (Side note: this is the annual battle with the belly, and I won for the second year in a row. Made it to the bathroom and didn't have to stop on the course a la 2 years ago.) But anyway, you too can increase your humility by racing off the back of the pack, coming around every few minutes through the spectators, who clap for you with sympathy and try to encourage you to keep it up! Actually they were all very supportive and friendly, I was just embarrassed by my inabilities.

Six pounds of water later I got home and weighed myself to find that I was still down about 4 pounds from normal. It's truly amazing what the body can do, or what it tries to do to cool itself. It does amuse me that it sweats and sweats until it's running off my elbows in streams, then says, hey, I'm still not cool, let's sweat some more. You'd think there'd be some kind of back up system, like panting. But I digress. Even though my homeostasis was disrupted by the weekend racing, my brain was very excited about it. I learned a few things, such as feed zones = drop the thirsty zones (I caught back up), go means GO!, somebody always has to be last--and if it's a crit maybe spectators will get confused and think you're winning. I see how working as a team could be lots of fun, especially when you outnumber the next largest team by 4.

And finally, I'm hoping it's possible to race myself back into shape. If not my body, then my brain. The weekend of racing may have been just what I needed to recover my motivation for sport.

p.s. Charlie raced very well this weekend, but I'll let him detail his experience.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

the challenge

Saturday consisted of just over 6.5 hours of heat training on the hills of east Tennessee. See below for the profile. My Garmin profile doesn't look exactly like that since I hitched a ride for 8 of the hottest miles. I have no problem with that either. I still got 110 miles and over 15,000 feet of climbing. I just avoided the impending heat stroke.

It was really beautiful out there, with streams and flowers and Smokey Mountains. I wish somebody had gotten a picture of the road 2 feet in front of me. That seemed to be all I looked at for an hour or so of climbing at 5 mph. At that speed you have to really concentrate on not falling over.

This is my angry face that Joel captured probably 5 miles into the ride. I really had nothing to be angry about at this point. My sunscreen/sweat slick had only begun to form, I still had water in the bottles, food in the tummy, I hadn't gotten a flat yet, and we still had 40 miles before the hills.
The new bike did well enough last weekend that I'm taking her racing on Saturday and Sunday in the Smith & Nephew/Marx & Bensdorf Gran Prix Omnium. It'll be my first attempt at a real road race, and if all goes well, I'll be in the time trial and crit as well. I plan on using the angry face, as seen above, as an intimidation technique. Grrrr.

Friday, June 19, 2009


So when you've only ridden over 50 miles once in the last 3 months (in flat New Orleans) and you have an Ironman in 10 weeks, what do you do? This:

Friday, June 12, 2009

all in

Ever since November I've been trying to decide what to do with IM Louisville. I was probably one of the first 50 overly-enthusiastic people to register for the race when it opened last year. Very rarely (like twice in my 9 IM career) have I been registered for 2 IMs at the same time. But it happened this year. I asked for a deferral to 2010 for Louisville, but was given the standard response with the specific section of the rulebook copied and pasted into the email. I figured it was worth a try, since my friend Jim was given an exception for 2007. I mentioned that.

So I decided that instead of getting a measly $150 of my $550 back, I'll go for it. At first my thoughts were of intentional DNFing, to save my legs for my "A" Ironman, which is 6 weeks later. But I don't think I can make myself quit something like an Ironman if I'm feeling perfectly fine (which is always relative). So I'm in, all in. And this photo (which I took from Timothy J's album on flickr-- thanks Tim!), shows just what I will be jumping into on August 30.

Monday, June 8, 2009

the positives

Heatwave triathlon was Saturday, but as Laura mentioned, didn't have quite the level of heat we've all come to expect and enjoy. It was a beautiful day, and there were so many GOOD things about the race.

(I'm focusing on the positives because I'm feeling quite negative about running, triathlon, racing, running, swimming, did I mention running? lately.)

We got to wear wetsuits for the swim, which is just about as weird as that year we wore them in Sardis Lake for Dragonfly. Thankfully I brought mine, just in case, and was quick to zip it up and save myself at least a minute, I figure, minus the extra seconds it takes to get it off my feet in T1. I felt like it gave me just that much more protection from the thousands of alligators that reside in that very lake. I only panicked for a brief moment when some guy clocked me in the head. I quickly realized that a gator would probably use its strong jaw and enormous teeth to kill me, not bludgeon me to death with its tail or something. Panic subsided.

Getting onto the bike felt good. I went easier out, harder back, hoping for a lack of wind in either direction. Lucky for all of us, there was very little wind and the bike times were very fast. I just thought I was having a good day, but so was everyone else... good for them too!

Probably most exciting was that I won my AG and was 3rd OA female, 2nd amateur! In T2, that is (can't win 'em all). Coming in off the bike with the swing-over dismount technique, I had about 3 men immediately in front of me, unaware of the speeding girl behind them who had no intention of slowing down. I almost tripped over one of them, but managed to just ram an arm against the fencing, avoiding a pileup. I didn't have the greatest bike rack position, but the big pink bag helps me find things quickly. I racked the bike and even put socks on before the shoes, grabbed the hat and race belt, and ran the hundred yards to the next mat. I think the zone 5a effort in T2 left me too anaerobic to actually run the 10k very hard, but like I said, you can't win 'em all.

If the run hadn't been excruciatingly painful, I might have enjoyed it. At least the second half, which is mostly downhill. I got to run with my old teammate Jon, then MC's brother, and I caught up with Steve at the very end. I passed a girl in my AG with 800m to go, securing my 3rd place pottery piece. As Laura mentioned, we could always just go buy the stuff. Way easier. But as rewarding? Doubtful. And isn't that why we do these things? Wait, why DO we do these things again? Gotta be the post-race lunch of chicken alfredo and vanilla ice cream. That's topping the list for me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

my new ride

Check out what I rode in to work on today, it's maiden voyage:

I'm in love!