Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Little Domination

We can amend item 13 on the anniversary list.  I won my age group at the Webster Lake Tri.

Obviously, an age group win has a lot to do with who shows up.  My age group only had 8 competitors in it.  But, looking across age groups, I was the 5th woman home, out of 63.  That, I'm pretty proud of.  I hadn't gone in with explicit hopes of placing.  I went in wanting to have a low-stakes race where I could work on my race strategy and just go hard.  And I did just that.

The last time I did this course, it was my second triathlon ever, way back in 2007. Throughout the race on Sunday, I kept remembering how I felt at various points during that race all those years ago. 

R (the impetus to this whole triathlon thing), me and A, 2007 Danskin Sprint
A came with and was an excellent spectathlete, but she didn't race herself.  Definitely the smart move with a broken toe, but also a super tough call to make.  We got to the race course a little shy of 90 minutes before the race. Registered, racked, walked through the transitions, bathroom, got in the water to warm up, nutrition, and start.  It all went so smoothly.  The racks were numbered, but we didn't have assigned spots.  When we got there, mine was the first bike on the rack, so I put it right on the end.  I also brought one of those reflective ankle bands to mark the end of the rack.  Coming into transition, I could quickly scan the racks and find my spot easily.

BTT ladies ready to tackle Webster Lake
The plan here was to start solid, then kick it up a gear once the initial chaos had calmed.  This strategy worked perfectly.  At the start I lined myself up directly behind a fellow BTTer, whom I knew to be a strong swimmer (she went on to be the first place woman).  We got the countdown, and we were off.  Immediately, I could start to see a fast pack forming ahead of me, maybe 5-7 swimmers.  I thought briefly about sprinting up to get on feet, but I held back.  At the first turn (it was a triangular course), I started pushing harder, and I started passing people, not just ladies either, I was passing guys from the wave ahead of us.  In fact, I felt like I swam most of this swim passing through the guys.  In the end, I passed most of the girls who had gone out hard in that initial pack.

Distance: 0.42 mi (according to Garmin)
Time:  10:44 (1:27 per 100yds)
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 3 / 63
Rank overall: 12 / 185

This course has the longest trek from the swim to transition of any race outside of Pumpkinman (which offers a prize to the "King/Queen of the Hill").  When I did the race back in 2007, I stashed some flip flops near the swim exit and wore them for the run up to transition.  This year, I felt like it wasn't as rocky as I remembered, and that I was tougher than before, so I opted for barefoot running.  I had a consistent, but not super speedy pace.  I got passed by one woman on the hill.  I took a quick look at her, and knew she wasn't in my age group, so I decided not to give chase.  I ended up getting out of transition faster than her anyway, but she overtook me almost immediately, and set the fastest female bike split for the day.

Time: 3:26
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 7 / 63
Rank overall:  26 / 185

Looking at the elevation map, it looks like one big hill.  But what I remembered from 2007 was that the hill actually feels like 3 hills, that first one (in red), then the big purple one has a little leveling out that allows you to catch your breath a bit.  I was thankful to remember this.  Just about to the top of the hill, I got passed by another woman.  I wasn't confident of her age group, but I was pretty sure that the second digit was a 7, which would mean I couldn't have been racing against her.  I still didn't know how many women were ahead of me.  It was all dudes out there.  But I stuck to the plan.  The one thing that I seemed to have missed in my race prep was turning on the sound on my garmin.  It was giving me alerts to eat every 20 minutes, but only flashing them on the screen, not making noise.  I thought about trying to fix this as I rode, (which is not uncommon for me) but I decided I'd be better served by just focusing on cranking on the bike.

Distance: 12 mi
Time:  37:49
Speed: 19.0 mph
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 9 / 63
Rank overall:  47 / 185

This went exactly as rehearsed.  Yay for transition practice.

Time: 0:52
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 5 / 63
Rank overall:  23 / 185

Coming in off the bike, I could see the runners heading out.  I saw the woman who first passed me on the bike, then my teammate, then one other girl, whom I hadn't seen before, so I concluded she must have come out of the swim before me.  I didn't see the second woman who passed me on the bike, but I figured I must have just not seen her.  This meant I was at worst in second place in my AG, and in 5th in the women's race.  As I rounded the corner from transition, A told me she thought there were maybe 2 girls ahead of me in my AG.

Starting the run.  This guy stuck on my heals for about half a mile after I passed him
The goal of the run was to go hard for the first half, and harder for the second half.  In trying to drop the guy in the picture, I went a little bit too hard out to the first turn.  We went over an overpass that was a vicious hill in my memory, but in this race it was an undulation, not a pace killer.  As I was coming into the turn around, I could see the leaders in the women's race.  My teammate in first, the first biker, and the girl I hadn't seen before in third.  I spotted the second biker in fourth.  I thought the gap to her didn't seem unbridgeable.  But when I turned around myself, I didn't find another gear to shift into.  Definitely went a bit too hard on that first bit.  I tried to maintain.  When I hit the turn back onto the main road, I felt like I was running well, if a little gassed.  I ran the first half in 7:00 minute miles, and the second half in 7:11.  Not quite the plan, but still a solid 7:04 average (with the sprint at the end).  I did not catch the 4th place woman, but I also did not get caught by any other women either.

Distance: 2.71 (according to Garmin)
Time: 19:09
Pace: 7:04
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 4 / 63
Rank overall:  27 / 185

In the end, this race was incredibly fun.  It's so nice to just have a race go well.  To have no expectations and then to surprise myself.  The day before the race, my friend J, who was also racing, suggested that we should both win our age groups the following day.  I was a little nervous to make that sort of prediction, cause I didn't want those expectations.  But he had it right.  We both won our age groups.  I makes me want to do more (small) sprints.

Prophesy fulfilled, with J

Women's 30-34 podium, with teammate B!

Time: 1:12:00 
Rank in AG: 1 / 8
Rank in Women: 5 / 63
Rank overall: 26 / 185

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sprint Tune Up

Sunday, I'm racing in my first (and possibly only) sprint distance race of the season.  This race fit well into the rest of my season and gives me a chance to go through the race motions without needing days of recovery.  Also, in sprints, you get to go fast!

As well, I convinced A that she needed to do this race as well, as a warm up to her first Olympic distance at Mass State and because it is the same course that we did our very first triathlon on  7 years ago.  In addition to purchasing a shiny, new bicycle, A recently got her first wetsuit.  We met at Walden last Sunday to put it through its paces.  Just as we were wading out into the pond, A stubbed her toe.  She soldiered on, and we swam around a bit, until I started to turn blue (seriously, why can't I stay warm?).  When we got back to home, her toe had turned purple.  On Monday, the doc confirmed that it was broken.  So here we are 7 days from her first race of the season with a toe that isn't really on board with the plan.  She's gonna make the call tomorrow about how much of the race she'll be doing.  Swimming isn't bad, biking is a little rougher, running, well that's probably out.   Total bummer.  Toes take about 4 weeks to heal.  We've got 4 weeks til Mass State.  Hmmf.

As for me, I'm using the race to perfect my race day strategy (i.e., transition area, pre-race routine, mental toughness), while going hard.  I've had trouble in the past getting the balance between biking and running just right in olympic distances (and half ironmen).  I go too hard on the bike and suffer on the run.  My coach is helping me work on this, thinking about getting faster throughout the race.  But in a sprint, well, here's his advice, "Said another way, regardless of what the numbers are saying, if it feels too hard, it is too hard.  Conversely if you feel like you can do a tad more, do a tad more especially on the bike."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

If blogs were people, I'd be getting ready for kindergarden

Happy blogiversary to Shelby Apples!  Today is FIVE years from my very first post, as I readied to ship off to Australia.

I started this blog originally to about being a stranger in a strange land, but as Australia became less foreign and triathlon became a bigger part of my life, the focus has shifted.

As I've been preparing for this post, it's been fun to look back at the milestones from these last 5 years.

Duathlon in Port Douglas
1.  I competed in my first duathlon, just a month after arriving in Oz.  It was such an unusual pastime I just titled it "Duathlon"

2.  I battled roaches in Cairns.

3.  I hiked to the top of the Pyramid with good friends.

5.  I had a very good first date.

7.  ... but I still competed in my very first olympic-distance triathlon just three weeks later.

8.  I cycled the from Adelaide to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road.

8.  I had a very good second date, which resulted in a boyfriend.

Loz and me atop the pyramid

9.  I ran my first half marathon.

10.  I raced in my first half ironman.

11.  I moved back to the US for love with the aforementioned boyfriend.

12.  From there my adventures became less jetset.  No longer traveling to exotic climbs on a regular basis (Vermont doesn't count), I looked for speed at races and inventive healthy food options at home.

13.  I won my age group for the first and, so far, only time.

14.  I qualified for and raced at the Triathlon National Championship.

Cooking with Andrea in Bangkok
15.    I got engaged!

Looking back, I am humbled by how incredibly fortunate I have been, getting to experience all these new places, meet new people, and take on new challenges.

Blogging itself has been a wonderful experience:  it's the most dedicated to a journal that I've ever been.  It serves as a history of race strategies and recipes.  Where we go from here, only time will tell.  Here's to five more years of adventures!
1st place at the Duxbury Sprint
Paul and me at the Sydney Opera House on our second date.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A coach's perspective on Quassy

A few more pointers from my coach on Quassy (more for my own benefit than anything else).

1.  Pedal through the top of the hill.  The image here shows the course elevation in green, my speed in blue and my power in pink.  As you can see at the highest point of that climb, my power is 0.  This means I crested and then immediately took a break.  I need to continue to keep the power up until at my desired cadence and speed, I can no longer apply pressure.

2.  My average heart rate was lower on this ride than planned, again supporting the above point.  Keep the pressure on.

3.  Really, truly walk through the transitions before the race.  Figure out where you're coming out of the water, practice finding the rack from both the swim entrance and the bike entrance.  No reason to loose seconds here.  Also I just bought some cheap bright green towels to mark my transition.

4.  Keep my feet behind me when running downhill.  I was definitely aware that as I ran downhill, I was not cruising, I was clomping.  My coach reminded me of how to float, by not extending my foot out in front where it will put on the brakes, but instead to slow by changing my cadence.  I'm definitely going to need to practice this in the upcoming weeks.  Maybe on my zone 2 runs.

5.  Never count myself out.  You just don't know what's going to happen in a race.  That girl that passed me on the bike may not have the legs to finish the run strong.  Stick to my plan and put in the best race I can.

Quassy! Quassy! Quassy! Oy! Oy! Oy!

Drenched.  Sodden.  Soggy.  Sopping.  Soaked.  It was a wet one.

Quassy swim
The swim went well.  I felt good.  Found clear water and caught up with slower swimmers from earlier waves.  The course was a little funky.  They had many buoys on the course but only two of them were turn buoys.  The others were "guide" buoys that you didn't have to keep to one side or the other.  When I rounded the second turn, I sighted the finish arch and swam towards it.  But the closer I got, the more it seemed like there were fewer swimmers around me.  Then I noticed I didn't see any one coming out of the water.  Not a good sign.  Then I realized I was swimming toward the starting arch, not the finish. You can see in my gps where I realized my mistake.  Luckily, they weren't that far apart.  According to garmin, I swam an extra ~100m.

The ride was tough.  Not just because of the elevation (which is decidedly the toughest ride I'll have all season).  I got overtaken by a few girls in my age group in the first few miles and that was disheartening.  And then the rain.  It had started and stopped all morning, but it seemed just as I hit the BIG downhill the skies opened up.  The bike was treacherous.  At 56 degrees and max speeds in the high 30s, I got cold, even with my jacket.  The bike was also tough because I'd been thinking of this race as a proving ground for all the training I've done since October.  To get out there and not have it go well undermined my confidence in that training.  Really, I just wanted to be off my bike.  To the point that when I returned to Boston, I put Shelby (the tri bike) in the basement and opted for the old Stallion for my recovery ride.

The appeal of throwing in the towel after such a disappointing ride was strong, but I didn't go to this race to quit.  I got running.  I had been caught by two girls in my age group right at the end of the bike, so they were my first goals.  I caught the first one right outside of transition, and the second before the first turn.  From there I started thinking about redemption.  My mantra was "I am going to salvage this race."  At mile two, there was a little out and back, and I saw my teammate J.  Sorry, J, but there was a target on your back from that point on.  The mantra became "Four miles to catch J," then "Three miles to catch J," finally, "Two miles to catch J."  And at mile five, I caught her.  We ran together for a bit, and then I moved on, up the last hill and to the finish.

I hit the finish line and burst into tears.  The combination of a disappointing ride and the pride at having a killer run was overwhelming.

In the days since the race, I'm feeling better about it.  The bike was wet, and the competition was fierce, but those things are out of my control.  What I could control was my approach to that final run, and I'm really proud that I dug deep and busted out a near PR on a hilly course.

A few parting thoughts about the race itself.  This is the first Rev 3 race I've done.  I really like the idea of another organization giving WTC a run for their money, getting a stacked pro field out there and running a super fun race.  I thought they rolled with the punches pretty well (not much you can do about the entire finishers chute becoming a giant mud pit, or your distributor not getting you the swim caps on time).  I have one suggestion for improvement though.  Rev 3 needs better signage.  During registration it was not at all clear that there were 3 steps, where the next step went, etc.  As a spectator on Sunday, there were no signs to the satellite parking, and when I did find it and took the shuttle back to the course the pick up was different from the drop off, and again no signs.  In transition, although this individual rack spots were labeled with both number and name, the ends of each rack were not, and it was challenging to locate which rack your bike was on.  So, yeah, overdo it on the signs.

And now it's time to go ride some hills.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Race day motivation

You're going to dominate those hills, keep perfect tabs on your HR via your gel flasks, take in all of your nutrition at the appropriate times,and master those silly little water pouches.

Kill it.

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