Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rev3 Olympic AquaBike

1500m Swim ~ 25mi Bike
First, let's recap how wonderful the Rev3 organization is for letting me switch my registration for a second time to the Olympic AquaBike event.  Not having to ride 56 miles, and not having to run made for a relatively stress-free race.  At the Team Z pre-race dinner on Saturday night, people were saying the water temperatures were too warm for a wetsuit.  This is great news for me as I am so much more comfortable without the wetsuit, even though I know it's faster and more buoyant with one.  This eliminated the need to make the decision on whether or not to wear mine.  Jon and I had a good dinner with my swim lane-mates, Linda and Chris, and met Debbie, another fellow Z'er, before calling it an early night ready for the 4:30 wake up call.

This race was point to point, meaning there was a different location for T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run, finish line).  Most people had to go to T2 first to set up their gear, and then take the shuttle to T1.  Since I wasn't doing the run, and had nothing to set up, and since I had Jon to drive me, I was able to go directly to the swim start.  I was also able to take my bike pump which was crucial since we had to set up our bikes the day before.  As I'm pumping air into my tires, the lever on my front tube broke.  Uhh.. what now?  I already filled it with air, so it should be fine.. right?  I asked the girl next to me what she thought and she also thought I should be OK.  Just to be sure, I checked with the bike mechanics they had on staff... yeah, you should be fine..  All this use of the word "should" is making me nervous, but nothing I can do about it at this point.  Time to make the half mile trek down to the water.
Jon and I stood around waiting for the start of the race, trying to determine which were my turn buoys (versus the half distance turn buoys).  The national anthem played and soon I found myself wading into the water.  It was very warm and comfortable, and no current at all.
If you look closely, you can actually see me in both of these photos Jon captured (I think)
 As the horn sounded, most of the people just walked through the water, it was that shallow.  I tried swimming, but eventually it got hard to navigate through all the vertical people, so I stood up and walked a bit.  People walked almost the first third of the course, but by the time we got to the first turn, everyone was vertical.  There was one girl that I was side by side with for much of that first and second segment, but then somehow she got ahead of me.. humph.  As we neared the second turn buoy, we noticed that the buoy was moving!  No fair!!  I thought it was just me, but swimmers behind me were shouting at the kayakers (in a fun-loving way), "do you see this, is it just us?  The buoy is MOVING!!".  I finally made it past that turn and found myself side by side with another swimmer, until she, too, got ahead of me.  What the hell is happening?!  So I put my mind to it and started swimming harder until I caught up and passed that girl.. take that b!tch [err.. I mean very likely a really nice lady who just happened to be swimming her own race at a slightly faster pace than me].  I swam hard from that point on and felt really good in the water.  My watch said 34 min as I walked out of the water which was over 5 minutes better than my time at Rock Hall, but my official time for the swim was 31:50.. OK, even better :-)
Remember that half mile trek to the swim I mentioned?  Well, we had to retrace that path back to transition.  I walked every last step of it, and don't feel guilty at all.  7.5 minutes for T1?  Fine.  When I get better in all the other areas, I will start caring more about my transitions.
There I am on the left, off in the distance.. WALKING!! :-)
I got to my bike, put my shoes on - first time without socks, not because it would save me a second or two, but it was just one less thing to have to worry about.  As I headed out on the route, I was nervous about that front tire.  Luckily, the first part of the course was pretty flat and I had time to settle down from the swim, and drink some of my nutrition.  This is only 25 miles versus last weekend's 50 miler, so bring it!

I made a left turn onto one of those small, narrow streets.. the kind where civil engineers like to hide hills.  Seriously, every small winding street that goes through the woods has them, even in the flattest of towns... and this was no different.  The nice part about this section was it was completely shaded.  There's a few curves and then some caution signs indicating a large downhill section... and at the bottom of that section are some really rough patches of road, requiring you to brake to maneuver around pot holes and such.  It's really too bad we had to brake so much because what followed was the only real significant uphill of the course.  Don't get me wrong, there were a few other parts that I had to drop into my granny gear, but this was the biggest, and essentially, you had to start from a speed of zero. 
As I'm climbing that hill, there are cyclists passing me... like, there are a LOT of cyclists passing me.  I'm confused, not because there are faster cyclists than me, but because I was in the last wave (and the longer distance race had an entirely different bike course), and while I had a good swim, I knew there weren't *that* many people behind me, and certainly not those with the high performance disc wheels and aero helmets (aka, men under 40).  I could not figure out what was going on.. had I made a wrong turn and cut off part of the course?  No.. cause the volunteers definitely flagged me down this road.  What is going on?!  Then.. ooooohhh... we must be doing 2 loops.  OK, that must be it.  Wait.. FCUK!!  We have to do this winding, hilly section again?!!  Yuck!

I passed the 10 mile marker - seriously?!  only 10 miles done?! - and eventually got to the turnoff for the 2nd loop, which wasn't really a loop since there was only one small section we had to do twice.  I was dreading that section though.  I kept telling myself it was only a 5 mile section, and to go as fast as I could before that point since the hills would likely slow me down.  There were other people doing their 2nd loop also, so I wasn't alone, and at one point I even passed someone!!  It was a nice ride, but then finally I was back to that narrow, winding road.. except, it wasn't so bad the second time around!  Maybe it was because I knew I was nearing the end of the bike, or because I'd convinced myself somehow that it was worse than it was, but I got up the hills no problem, didn't even have to go into my granny gear as much as that first loop.  Go me!  Passed the 20 mile marker and I was on the home stretch.  As I was turning into the last mile or so, it occurred to me that I was done as soon as I got off my bike.. no transition and no run.  Awesome!
See my spot, #797.. right there in that first corner next to the Run Out!
I dismounted and crossed the timing mat, but forgot to look at my watch for my time.  I took my time walking my bike to it's spot in the transition area, and wouldn't you know, I had the best spot ever, right next to the run out exit.  If I were doing the whole triathlon, it would have been fantastic.. but the official clock had stopped for my event and I didn't care how long it took me to rack my bike and take off my helmet and accessories.  I took a minute to bask in the fact that I was finished with my race, and confirmed with a volunteer what I was supposed to do next.  I walked out of transition and about 20 yards to the finishers chute which I jogged down barefoot.  They announced my name as a finisher, and I hoped people didn't get me confused with the rock stars that were finishing their run.. one of the volunteers asked me if I'd done the whole run barefoot as she handed me my medal and finisher's hat.. Yep, I told her.. I ran the entire 50 yards from transition barefoot :-)
Barefoot finish... bad-ass!!
Jon met me at the end of the finisher chute and I finally looked at my watch.  2:32.. hmm.. my goal was 2.5 hours.. but wait, my time officially stopped once I finished the bike, so maybe?  And the official results confirmed, my finish time was 2:26:45 - woot!  We made our way to the Team Z tent for some post-race food and beverage and cheered on the rest of the finishers.  Then, after a quick stop in the Rev3 store, I picked up my bike and we made the long walk to the jeep.  The afternoon was spent at a local winery and a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, followed by a full day at Busch Gardens on Monday.  Luckily, the ride home on Tuesday was significantly faster than the drive down, and we had the afternoon and evening to rest up for the 3-day work week.
Swim T1 Bike Total
31.50 7:28 1:47:28 2:26:45

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

50 miles and Rev3 is awesome!

I want to send a huge thank you to Rev3 Triathlon organization.  I originally signed up for the Half Rev triathlon, prior to all the injuries of the past year (sometimes it sucks to have to plan your race calendar so far in advance).  Once I realized the run was not going to happen, I sent am email requesting to switch to the Half AquaBike instead.  Lisa Q emailed me back and worked with me to successfully transfer my registration.  I have not experienced a race organization so willing to work with you on something like this, and it was much appreciated.  Sure, I could have gone ahead with the Half Rev and simply stopped after the bike (circa Rev3 Cedar Point a few years back), but there is something to be said for completing the event that you set out to do.
What's an AquaBike?  It's a triathlon without the run.  In other words, it's perfect (provided you hate running as much as I do and/or are injured, which I am also).  Still, at the half distance we are looking at a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike, which as most will tell you, is not a walk in the park.  As I had only done 3-4 long bike rides this year, maxing out at 35 miles, I was unsure if this was reasonable.  The weekend before the race, on a day when the rest of the team was doing a brick (maxing out on 3 hour rides), I decided to trek up to Frederick to do the 50 mile route the team had done the week before, just to see if the half AquaBike distance is in the cards for me.  It is not.

A big thanks to my mom who drove the course the night before to preview it for me (I'd sent her the route so someone would know where I was given this was a solo ride), and met me that morning with fresh strawberries [and provided my post-ride lunch, pasta salad and strawberry shortcake.. YUM!].  The first 17.5 miles were not terrible, though I was nervous about how tired my legs were after the hills in that first part.  The next 17 miles were a bit tougher - and I was chased down by a huge dog that got as close as my ankles, but luckily ran away when I started yelling "NO!" [worked better on the random dog than my own!], but also got to cross over 3 covered bridges and it was really pretty scenery. 
The cue sheet didn't have a planned rest stop around mile 35, but I sat for awhile and snacked on my starburst, apple pie bites and dried apricots before setting off for the last third of the ride.  Luckily, the hills were minimized on that final section [and I saw the coolest long black snake!], but I had to stop again at mile 45 as my legs were just completely out of energy.  They were even doing this weird concave thing with my muscles... complete exhaustion.
I walked around and tried to stretch.. only 5 more miles, I can do this!  I *have* to do this, cause the bike ain't gonna ride itself back :-)  In what seemed like forever, I made it back to the jeep for my 50 mile selfie!
I am proud of myself for doing this ride, but realized that as exhausted as my body was, it just doesn't seem realistic to attempt 56 next weekend.  I've done this distance before, but I haven't been on my bike for over 2 full years!  It's foolish to think I can pick up with the same mileage I had when I stopped a couple years ago.
I'm realizing I need to spend this summer re-building my bike base, working on conquering those hills [I've heard Luray is hilly!] and gaining some speed.  Not sure how hopeful I was, I sent a note to the race director asking to change my registration yet again.  Once again, Lisa Q from Rev3 pleasantly worked with me and transferred my event to the Olympic AquaBike (1500m swim, 25mi bike).  I am so grateful for this change and now feeling really good about this event!  Rev3 has a reputation of being a fantastic organization that really works *with* their athletes rather than just a huge corporation running a business, but this has been my first personal encounter of such superb customer service.  I will most certainly race Rev3 events in the future!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rock Hall International Tri

1500m Swim ~ 24.5mi Bike ~ 10K Run
It has been years - literally years - since I have completed a triathlon.  Last one was Florida 70.3 back in May of 2011 with Deb, and even that had an asterisk accompanying it!! Before that there was the fiasco called Nations Triathlon... so the last completed triathlon I have done was in early summer of 2010, the Charlottesville Sprint TriGeez.

Holy crap, I don't even know how I call myself a triathlete anymore.  And with all my injuries that I've had in the past year, is it even realistic to think that this would be a complete triathlon?  [The plan is to walk the run portion]
I did all of my race prep in the week leading up to this event, including learning how to change a flat tire!  Finally!  During that exercise, I realized my front tire was starting to shred, so I also replaced both tires and had the bike shop put my clip pedals back on [I'd had to switch to cage pedals post-surgery b/c my foot was too swollen for my cycling shoes].  Then, I hopped into the kitchen and made myself some Apple Pie Bites for my nutrition during the bike.  DELICIOUS.
OK, so Friday night arrives and I set my alarm for 3:30am in preparation for my 4:15am pick up.  Holy crap that is early!  I'd looked for hotels at the race site, but there was really nothing around.  Luckily, someone else who also lives in Fairfax sent an email to the Team Z yahoo group looking to carpool - perfect!  Wake up, pump up my tires, make iced tea and grab a banana, I was ready.  Matthew, arrived promptly at 4:15 and we were off to pick up another Z'er, Tamara, and then headed out to Rock Hall, MD. 
This might be the earliest I've ever had to get up for a race?
The race site and transition area were small-ish.  We did packet pickup, visited the port-o-johns [sidebar: I was wearing my new one-piece Team Z tri-suit which, btw, makes using the port-o-johns an entirely different experience], and set up transition area.  It had been so long, I was seriously afraid I was forgetting something major.. bike on the rack, helmet resting on aerobars with gloves, sunglasses and race belt inside.. cycling shoes laid out with socks individually in each, running shoes by themselves.. what else?  That can't be it?  I remember my first few races when I had everything including the kitchen sink in transition..

One of the nice things about being part of the team is the big team area that is set up.  I left my transition spot and was able to store my tri-bag in the Team Z "villiage", where I could also apply sunblock, put on the wetsuit (it fit better this time!), and hang out with fellow racers.  We even had someone collect all our flip flops after the walk to the swim start... otherwise I would've had to walk the 1/4 mile barefoot or else just abandon them. 

I know I said this in my Kinetic race report, but everyone is just so nice!  Mostly Team Z, but other triathletes as well..  at the swim start, I stuck up conversations with a girl who seemed super nervous about the race (it was her first tri!) -- how does the course work, where do we turn, are the buoys on our left or right.. so we talked for a bit and then it was time to jump into the water.  A cold shock at first, but then realized just how nice the water temperature was.  Before we knew it, the horn sounded and we were off.  I always get that initial panic of "oh crap, what have I just gotten myself into?!" as we set off toward the first buoy.

The swim course was 2 loops, which I kind of hate.  Immediately my goggles started fogging up and I stopped to rinse them up.  Then I got to a stretch and thought they were fogging up again, but it turned out the sun was so bright and in my eyes that I just couldn't see anything.  I had no idea if I was swimming toward the next buoy or in a completely opposite direction.  That was the worst segment and unfortunately with the loops, I'd have to do it again.  After that though, I finally started settling into my stroke.  I'd made it to the 2nd loop without being lapped by the one wave that went in before me, so that's a plus.  Soon I was on that final stretch and heading into the finish.  42:14 for the swim, which is slow for me; need to work on that.  Time to start thinking about the bike.
It was a rather long walk from the water to transition.. I managed to get my wetsuit half off, pulled off the goggles and cap and stated running.. ouch!  My foot hurt a lot, more than it had in a long time.. but there were cameras, including Val from Team Z, taking team shots, so I had to suck it up and run on the bad foot for the photos!  Transition was a long 5:47 minutes trying to get that dang wetsuit off and putting on all my bike accessories.  Whatever, it's not like I'm in the running for a podium spot!

Heading out of transition, ready to get it done!
In the car ride, Matthew and Tamera both described this bike course as flat with a few false flats.  Well, the only word they had correct was "false" -- no way this course was flat!  There were hills.. plenty of hills (grant you, my definition of what a hill is may differ from most).  At one point as I'm descending down a slight hill (let's call this a false downhill) there's a lady with an orange flag directing us into a sharp right turn.  As I make the turn she yells "this way and hail!!"  Uhh.. what?  Sky looks clear to me, what the hell is she talking about?  Though hailing a cab at this point doesn't sound like such a bad idea, especially as I'm lowing my gears for the steep hill I was going up.  Who puts the biggest hill of the course right after a sharp turn?!  They should've warned us with a sign or something.  Oh wait.. "turn here and HILL!!!D'oh.. that makes better sense.
OK, fine.. it's only 113 feet of gain.. for me, that's hilly!! :-)
Luckily, that hill was the worst of it and after that the course was indeed, fairly flat.  I had one of my apple pie bites, but just wasn't feeling it with the nutrition, though I'd been drinking my Gu Brew pretty steadily.  My performance on the bike wasn't great, and I have only my considerable lack of training to blame for that.  The bike is where I need to focus my energy.  It's where I can make the most gains, especially since my run will never be great.  This ride was really slow for me at 13.8mph.  I didn't have time to be disappointed though, as it was now time to "run" a 10K!
Now, before the race, I'd applied body glide everywhere.. and I do mean everywhere.  Yet, as I'm exiting transition with another woman, who I'd played leap frog with for the last part of the bike, I noticed my arms were really quite chaffed.  She actually asked me if I wanted to turn back and she would lend me some more body glide.  Turn back?  Are you kidding?!  No backwards progress!!!  (though super nice of her to offer that!!)  I hobbled along, noticing about half mile in that blisters were forming on my feet.. ugh.  I walked pretty much the whole first loop.  The first 2 parts of the course were long straight shots, which was the worst parts.  On the first loop there were tons of people yelling "we're almost there!" -- um, no, sorry, I'm only on my first lap..
The reason it looks like I'm running is b/c they had a sign warning us of the photographer :-)
The turn off for the finish or second lap was coming up and every single person was making the right for the last 0.2 miles.  Literally every. single. person.  I was going to be the only person making a left.. do I just go right?  Will anyone notice or even care?  Everyone thinks I'm "almost done" anyway, right?  But my body wouldn't allow it.. if I'm going to do this thing, I'm going to do it right.  I turned left and started my 2nd loop.  Nobody was in front of me.  I glanced around and luckily one other woman had turned left also.  Thank goodness!  She was about 50 feet behind me, where she stayed most of that lap.  Walking was taking forever so I started running(!!).. walk to a cone, run to the next cone, walk to a cone, run to the next cone, slowly making my way down those long stretches.  Then came a small out-and-back where I saw that there were actually a few people behind me, including another Team Z person.  Granted, most of these people passed me, but it felt good knowing that even if I was last, I wasn't last by *too* much. 
2nd loop -- YAY!!
The woman who had been behind me finally caught up to me in the final half mile or so, and we gutted out the rest together, pushing each other to run when we could, knowing the finish line was approaching.  We finally made the turn for that last 0.2 miles, saw Team Z still sitting there and cheering for every single person, and with a high five to Coach Alexis, we ran across that finish line together.  First triathlon in over 3 years completed!!  I collected my medal and a cold towel as they removed my timing chip.  I chatted with my teammate, Maureen, for a minute before Matthew came and told me it was time to go.  I knew he was on a tight schedule and felt bad for making him wait longer for me to finish, so I made my way back to transition to collect my things and it was time for the looooong 2.5 hour drive home.

Oh, and I mentioned my conversation with the first-timer triathlete before the swim start.  Well, she tracked me down in transition area after the race and gave me a big hug, thanking me for being her swim buddy and helping her get over her nerves.  She'd had a great race and was so thankful.. it kinda made my day.  Again, triathletes are just so nice!

I have never been so happy to get home.  I ordered a large pizza (I was starving at this point), jumped in the shower (thank goodness that shower seat is still there!) and settled in on the couch.. then I spent a good evening at Jessie and Pete's house for a BBQ, got a good night sleep (12 hours!!) and spent the next day at a wine festival with Sweeney.  I'd say it was a pretty good weekend!

And now that the weekend is over, it's time to focus on that weak bike...  next up is a 50 mile bike to get ready for Williamsburg.  And interestingly enough, my back doesn't feel terrible after the running.
Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Total
42:14 5:47 1:46:20 2:40 1:37:51 4:14:51