Monday, August 30, 2010

Cranberry Race Report: Knocking on the door

[me, Head Coach Ali, Assistant Coach Christina pre swim]

I did it. I finally broke my PR of 2:43:49. My new PR is now 2:43:05. So 44 seconds improvement, which sounds sorta piddly after 18 months of training. Here's the thing: I went all out on this race. I pushed the swim, I owned the bike and I struggled through the run. I left absolutely nothing left in the tank, so I will take those 44 seconds with pride. (I will also remember that this course is technically 1.2 miles longer on the bike than my previous PR).

The swim was .8 miles around a cute little pond. The start was messy. I got out to start in the front, and still got pretty thoroughly pounded out to the first buoy. Then things eased a bit. Every 12 strokes I'd look to my right and I'd see another girl in my wave and I'd think, "ok, push it on this one and drop her" 12 strokes later, I'd look right again and see her, no further behind me, but importantly no further ahead. This girl paced with me the entire swim. And it was great to have some one right there. I definitely pushed harder because of it.

[yay 7th]

I came out of the water in 7th place in my age group, right behind the girl who paced with me and one other. I got out of transition ahead of those 2, so I was 5th starting out on the bike. As I've said, I rocked this bike. Just focused on picking people off and drinking plenty of fluids. I even held my coach off until the last few miles. I passed two girls in my age group, putting me in 3rd until the very end when I got passed just before the chute. Maybe it was getting passed at the end, but somehow, I just wasn't thinking when I was dismounting. I'm not the most graceful at getting off my bike: generally, I take my feet out of shoes while riding, then put weight on the right shoe, come to a stop, put my left on the ground, and swing the right leg over. Somehow this time around, I attempted a different dismount. I tried putting my weight on the left, and swinging the right leg over before coming to a stop. I didn't fall, but I did lose my left shoe in the process.
[just about to attempt an entirely new dismount]

I passed the girl who passed me at the end of the bike at the beginning of the run. Then it was just trying to hang on. It was a long, hot slog, not all that different from the half ironman run. I got passed about halfway through by another girl in my age group, just pushing me out of the top 3. I grimaced my way through the last 3 miles, but never got passed again.

[out on the run]

Finally, I've gotta give a shout out to the awesome spectators who get up when it's dark out just to come out and cheer. It was great to see other BPC and BTT athletes out, snapping pictures and cheering us on despite the pain, and of course, Paul and his parents coming out for it.

[post race cool down]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cranberry plan: one more time, with feeling

Feels like I just wrote up my last race plan, and here I am writing another. Guess that's the way it goes with back to back races. Cranberry is this Sunday, and it's an olympic distance. It's my last oly of the season, and I have to admit, I'm a little trepidatious for several reasons.

  1. Last week's race was awesome, so seems like it will take a lot to rival it.
  2. My last olympic at Mass State wasn't as awesome as I thought it would be, so I don't want to get my hopes up again.
  3. Work's just crazy this week.
  4. Paul's parents are coming to town, so we've been busy prepping.
  5. It rained Monday to Wednesday of this week.
  6. Because of 3, 4, and 5, today was my first training since Saturday's race. This is unheard of for me. I just lost the plot the week. Planning on a quick spin tomorrow morning, and that's probably it in terms of prep.
As a result, I've started obsessing about little details (like how to wear my hair - my hallmark braids aren't working with this new hair cut, so I was soliciting suggestions from my teammates this morning. Solution: two piggie tails on the top of my head, one low pony. Gonna test it out on the ride tomorrow) that my coach points out, won't make me any faster.

In my heart, I want to podium, I want to break my PR, but I worry that using those goals, I set myself up for disappointment again. I don't know how many people will be in my age group (though if I assume 5%, then it should be close to 50). I can't control how hot it's going to be (expected 88 degrees). How can I set these things as my goals when they feel so out of my control?

So here's my plan:
  • 5:00am wake up, oatmeal
  • 5:30am start driving down there (drink a bottle of heed)
  • 6:30am arrive, bodymark, rack
  • 7:05-7:25 warm up run
  • 7:30 replace running shoes in transition
  • 7:45 - 8 warm up swim, gu
  • 8:10 start swimming! Start watch!
In the swim, I want to start near the front of the pack, push to the first buoy, then try to settle into a nice, but hard rhythm. Hopefully a wetsuit will work here, if it's not too warm.

Fast transition, tri shoes, already clipped in, grab helmet and sunnies.

Last week, I got passed on the bike by 5 people (and one whom I passed back and kept behind me). I know my swim is my strongest leg, so in all likelihood, I'm gonna get passed on the bike. I'm embracing this. My goal for the bike is to hang with these tough girls who pass me and use them to push me to go faster. "Keep them in your sights" is my motto. Gu once settled in, One bottle of Heed - drink the whole thing!

Second transition: runners, helmet off, visor on, race belt.

The run is tough too. Those 8 minute miles are elusive, but I will continue to hunt them down. I will use my watch to mark each mile. Ideally, I'd love to pass some of those fast bikers on the run, but that's out of my control. So I'm focusing on 8 minute miles, relaxing my shoulders and enjoying my run.

Finally, a few more piccies from last weekend:

Brenda (ready for her first tri), Andrea and me

into the chute

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Timberman race report: Paying dividends

I came to the Timberman race to have fun, and that I definitely did. But it's also the first sprint that I've done since last year's timberman, so a great chance to see how I've progressed in my training.

I wore my wetsuit on the swim, cause I wanted to practice racing with it. I plan to wear it in both the cranberry this weekend and Pumpkinman in 3 weeks. Also, I knew this race would have wetsuit strippers, and I've never had my wetsuit stripped before. I took a place near the front of the pack. My entire wave was my age group, 82 athletes in all. I started out on some one's toes, but quickly passed her. The water was shallow. Seriously shallow:

Check out all those people walking. After the first 2 buoys, I couldn't see any other red caps ahead of me. I started realizing I could be in first place. Rounding the last buoy, another woman caught me. And she wasn't even wearing a wetsuit. I pushed hard, but I couldn't keep with her. Still I figured that had me in 2nd place. Here I am watching her cross the timing pad ahead of me.
Another woman in my age group (let's call her "the beast") passes me as I enter the wetsuit stripping area. The way this works, is you lay down on your back, and volunteers grab the suit at your waist and fling it off you. Here are some people getting stripped.

My volunteers grabbed my suit and pulled, but the suit stayed on, and instead I dragged along the ground. Luckily there was another volunteer to hold onto my hands, and on the second try, off came the wetsuit.

I passed the girl who passed me on the swim in transition. And the beast came out just ahead of me. She was clearly an athlete, clearly very fit and clearly very muscular. None of this bodes well for my bike. But on the first hill, I overtook her. Sweet. I held her off for about a mile before she overtook me again. But, I kept her in my sights. I then got passed by two BTT girls and a girl in a red tri suit. That meant I was in 5th behind the beast. Going down a big hill (and not using my brakes), I got passed by two other girls in my age group. I was not having that. I passed them both back on the next uphill, and I held them off for the next down hill. I ended up playing leapfrog with one of them for the rest of the course. We even caught up with the beast.

[heading out on the run, post beast, that's some serious neck tension]

I came out of transition just behind the two of them. I passed the beast on the run in the chute and passed the other girl in the first 100 paces after that. Sweet. Now I was in 4th. Just as I was thinking maybe I had a shot at the podium, another thought crossed my mind. What about the girls who are awesome runners? What if there are some of those behind me? Just then, one of them passes me. Ugh, ok. First mile 7:52. Not bad. I hit the turn around and starting making my way home. Second mile 6:19, ok that one I just don't believe, it must have been short. On the way home, I get passed by the girl who passed me on the swim. And then I'm turning to go back into the chute. There are a ton of BTTers there and I get lots of cheers, which apparently, I like:

I finished up in 1:21. That's 9 minutes faster than last year. 9 minutes! 2 on the swim, 4 on the bike and 3 on the run. EFF YEAH!

Also, I did keep good track of all the athletes that passed me and that I passed. When I crossed the finish line, I thought I was in 6th. Turns out that there was one lightning fast woman in my division, in fact, I think she won the whole thing. She was so fast that I never saw her. That put me 3rd on the swim, 10th on the bike and 12th on the run and 7th overall. Out of 82!

All of this has me super excited for next season. With this race, I could qualify for Nationals this year. I don't want to go this year, it's not part of my plan. I want to get faster on the bike and the run. It sucks having the swim be your best leg and then getting passed by people for the rest of the race. I want to qualify next year with a podium under my belt and be able to have a decent showing in Vermont at Nationals.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Timberman Sprint Race Plan

The race is Saturday morning at 7am. I'm doing this one with my old friend and original tri buddy Andrea. (She and I went to Bangkok a few years ago).

The plan for this race is simple:

  • Have fun!
  • Go hard!
I think I can do that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cycling community

Last weekend we went on a surprise camping trip to Vermont. I had planned a long ride for Saturday. We were right off the main highway, so I could have taken that out and back, but the cars go rather fast, and there's not that much shoulder. I used my phone to map out a route, and create a cue sheet of smaller country roads. With phone in pocket, off, I went.

About 2 miles into the ride, I see another cyclist pull out ahead of me. I catch up to him and ask him what road we're on (Vermonters aren't all that keen on street signs), turns out I missed my turn, but I explain, I was just out to do a 25 or so mile ride, and he invited me to tag along with him. I love that. Show up in a random place, meet up with a like-minded (and like-speed) cyclist and hang out for a few hours. What a great community of riders. Of course the flip side to this, is that I just enthusiastically followed a complete stranger into the back country of Vermont, but let's keep thinking positive.

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about the animosity between motorists and cyclists (and pedestrians too, but that's a different matter). I've read a couple of different articles on it. Blaming the cars for putting cyclists in danger, blaming the cyclists for not following the rules, blaming the rules for being unrealistic, blaming roads in Boston for being designed by cows, not for cars or bikes. I've been trying to figure out where I come out with all these.

Here's what I think. I hate riding on the bike path. It sounds silly, right? It's the bike path, isn't that the best place to ride? No, it's not. The bike path is not just for bikes. It's for pedestrians, strollers, kids on trikes, dogs, skateboarders, and the most odious of non-cyclist roller bladers. I hate riding on the bike path because there are no rules. Yes, generally we keep to the right, but the whole thing is only a few 2.5 yards wide, things are bound to get messy. Particularly on sunny weekends. I hate riding on it, because I can't anticipate what all these people will do. Will they stop, move to the left, listen for me coming up behind them? All in all, constantly being on defense just makes for a stressful (and slower) ride.

What I like about the road, is that I know what to expect. Sure, a car could not see me, or could run a light, or make a turn without signaling, but generally, they are well-behaved and orderly. I still have to ride defensively, but I can be reasonably sure that I can anticipate what they'll do.

If I'm gonna take advantage of the orderliness that comes with riding on the road, I have to uphold it myself. That means following the same rules as the cars.* But in exchange, as drivers, we've gotta accept that bikes are gonna be on the road and that that's the best place for them. Give bikes room when we pass, use our blinkers and just follow the rules (that's right, stopping in the middle of a roundabout to let a biker on, is actually not helpful, now you're doing something unexpected and that causes accidents). At the end of the day, I'm both a driver and a cyclist, I try to show respect for both groups.

* Within reason. This means when rolling (yes, rolling, not throttling) toward a stop sign, if there's no one approaching, then roll through it (note: cars do this too). This means it's ok to ride two abreast when you're not in traffic, but you MUST go single file as soon as a car approaches (cars, a nice little toot on the horn [not laying on it] is appropriate if a bike doesn't go single right away). This does not excuse track stands at lights, weaving between cars or going the wrong way on a one way street. And don't get me started on helmets.

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