Saturday, August 13, 2016

USAT Age Group Nationals 2016

One of the advantages of traveling solo to a race is that post race I can do whatever I want when I want.  If that means sit and stew over the race and think about what went well and what went not so well and all, I can! I have so many thoughts about this race, I want to write it all down while its fresh.

First off, this was my end goal for the season.  Every race I did was trying to get here.  When I finally had an awesome race at Dinotri and qualified and got the much awaited email with the the registration link, I was thrilled!

I ended up making this trip to Omaha solo.  Ken had some meetings at work he couldn't get out of and the kids honestly have no interest in my racing, plus, who would watch them while I raced?  I tried to get a girl friend or someone to come along for the company, but anyone that could come, couldn't.  I was bummed at first, and then I started to think about the advantages to going solo, and realized it would be fine.  Plus, come hell or high water, I wasn't missing this race.  

I left SLC with the kids and dropped them with my parents in Denver.  They get time with Grammy and Pa, and Mama gets to focus on her race and do what she wants when she wants it over the weekend.  Ken gets peace and quiet for 5 days. This was win/win for all involved!  

I arrived in Omaha on Thursday. I got in a quick bike ride and run as was in Training Peaks for me to do.  Luckily the hotel is close to everything, including a quiet road around the airport to ride on.  I immediately noticed how humid it was here.  It hit me like a 2x4 when I got out of my car.  I haven't been in this kind of humidity since Texas!

Friday was very chill.  I got up early for another ride and run to just turn the legs over, had breakfast, then went and got my packet and check in Ivy.  I went back to the hotel and slept for 2.5 hours! Blissful! I went to dinner with some women in the Women for Tri Facebook group I'm in.  It was awesome!  Got to bed early so I could get up early to get to transition early.

A side note here.  I had a start time of 10:02. Total crap time to start.  I was going to be doing the race in the heat of the day, along with the humidity.  I wasn't thrilled with this, but what do you do?  In my pre-race talk with Ben he suggested that I try to get to transition early to set up and then go back to the hotel to be out of the heat and humidity.  He also told me to plan on tampering the efforts for the day due to the weather forecast.  I was also given the instruction to take in 150-200 calories on the bike and then another 150-200 early on the run.  I was also to keep my heart rate under 160 until I got to mile 4 on the run and be patient.  Um, I don't do patient well.  I'm sure he knows this by now, but I was determined to follow his instructions as close as I could. 

I got up and got to transition and had a sweet parking spot.  Too bad I could give it up to go back to the hotel.  I got back, went back to bed for an hour, ate breakfast, and then headed back to the race.  So glad I did this earlier than I planned because the roads were all closed and I had to walk in about a mile to transition.  I still had plenty of time though, so no biggie.


Water temp was 86.9. It felt like it too.  It was like bath water.  This was even warmer than IMTX!  The gun went off for our age group and I was off.  Immediately I felt sluggish.  Ben wanted me to ease into this, and it looked like it wouldn't be too hard to do.  The start was crazy, I was hit, kicked, swam over, grabbed, you name it.  I don't mind, I've come to expect it and at Nationals in Milwaukee two years it never got better.  Here it did, and I had clear water most of the swim.  The swim felt long.  It started to feel like some kayaker had a rope tied to the yellow turn buoy and they were just pulling it further and further from me.  It was the epitome of the "Are we there YET?" feeling.  I felt like I was sighting well and with keeping buoys on the right, and me breathing to the left, I made sure to sight diligently so I wouldn't get off course.  When I finally got to the buoy, the next one was pretty quick.  Thank heaven after that turn we headed into the swim exit and it went way faster than the first half.  I was actually thrilled to be out of the water.  Final swim time was 29:50. Not thrilled with this, but it was a no wetsuit swim in very warm water.  Not as bad as it could have been!


I was stoked to be getting onto the bike.  This was my first time riding Ivy in a race, so I went as quick as I could.  Total time in T1 was 2:38. This is a huge transition area and it had a long run to get into it.  Pretty average for my group.


Like I said before, I could not wait to get on the bike. I noticed right away she was in the small ring, and I don't remember putting her in that gear, but whatevs.  I seriously love riding this bike.  So smooth and easy! The bike course was fairly flat but there were a few rollers and one pretty good hill.  The first half of the bike we had a tail wind and I felt like I was flying. The first half, other than on the hills I was at 20+ mph with what seemed like little effort.  It was awesome! I loved the smooth and freshly paved roads that were the entire course.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself for the sheer joy of riding.  I was in a goofy mood, I decided to try goofy poses and faces for the course photographers, made sure to whoop and holler on the down hills, that kind of thing.  It was just plain fun!  I also enjoyed the course scenery! You may not picture Omaha as scenic, but it really was! I can't get over how green it is here and the rolling farm land and picturesque red barns and corn fields are straight out of a Norman Rockwell photo! Gorgeous!

The bike turn around seemed to come quickly, but that meant a head wind and back up the hills.  They weren't as bad the second time around but I definitely didn't have the speed I had the first half.  I didn't care, I was still enjoying myself.  My heart rate was around 160-163 most of the ride.  I couldn't remember what Ben wanted me to do HR wise for the bike, so I tried to stay there but more go off feel.  I tried to ride comfortably hard, yet still be patient because I knew I had a run ahead.  

Final bike time was 1:26:48.  I'm sorta pissed about this.  I felt like it should have been faster, but there it is.  I have no idea why it is like to, other than perhaps that the humidity was affecting me more than I realized? It was hot and humid for sure, but I didn't feel it too much, and definitely not like I would on the run. 


Nothing to report here.  I had a ton of grass on my feet so I took my time to try to get it off so it wouldn't rub or give me blisters.  In and out in 2:11.


I hit the lap button to start the run on my Garmin and my heart rate was almost 180. Well crap.  Looks like we will be starting this run off with a walk to bring that down.  It took longer than it should have to come down and when it finally got into the high 150s, I would "run" and it would shoot right back up.  This would go on for the first 3 miles.  It was so frustrating.  I just couldn't get or keep it down.  I was about to ditch what Ben told me to do with this heart rate business, but then I saw people ending up in the med tents and decided following his advice would keep me out of there.  There was also tons of people walking, so I was in good company.  The heat seemed to be radiating off the pavement and there is absolutely zero shade on this course.  And it was ugly! It was all in an industrial area of the city, so I didn't even have that going for me.  I just decided to focus on my heart rate and make sure I took in Gatorade at each station and dump a few cups of water over my head to attempt to stay cool.  I remembered that at IMTX I had dumped ice down by bra at each station and it worked well to keep me cool and my HR down.  That would have worked swell if they hadn't run out of ice at all of the aid stations except one,  which were every mile. 

The run turnaround was the coolest part of the run.  We actually got to run into the TD Ameritrade stadium and run around the perimeter of the baseball field and see ourselves on the Jumbotron. It was pretty cool.  I needed the mental distraction at that point as well.  I was officially half way done with the death march!

I finally noticed that my heart calmed down a bit.  I was able to manage a jog of sorts.  I decided to focus on what I could control.  I could control my run form.  So I kept telling myself "run tall.  Slight forward lean. Relax your shoulders.  Arms at 90 degrees."  Well, wouldn't you know it, by running efficiently, I could actually sort of run and keep my heart under control.  Coach is right again! Then I thought he must continually bang his head against a wall at what a slow learner I am.  Well maybe not slow, just stubborn :)

I finally felt decent.  Not great, but decent.  I happily hit the mile 4 part and decided I could really push if I wanted to, and I sort of did, but it was also so hot, I didn't think I could push much more.  I did push the last quarter mile but it was painful! Final run time 1:12:57. Ugh. That's awful.  I believe that is my slowest 10k ever.  

Final race time was 3:14:26. My heart sank when I saw this.  I so thought I would and could be under 3:00, and since I hadn't looked at the time at all during the race, it felt like a slap in the face.  


I knew that Ken and my family and Ben would want to know how it went.  I was so bummed I couldn't bring myself to call or text any of them.  I went to the food tent, but couldn't eat.  I got a plate anyway, but it tasted like crap.  Not that it was bad, I just had zero appetite.  I made myself drink a bottle of water, but that was all I could keep down.  I went to get my bag, and my bike.  I remembered I wanted to buy a tshirt and water bottle from the TriSports tent, so I went and did.  While I was there, a woman whose hadn't raced and whom I don't know asked how my race went.  I told her I've had better.  She asked what went wrong.  I told her I guess it was the conditions, I just didn't know.  She then said, " If you can make it here surely you can figure it out."  The she rolled her eyes and walked off.  What the hell was that? Who does that? Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound! I was so over this whole thing, I quickly got my shirt and bottle and left.  

I had to ride my bike back to my car.  No biggie.  When I getting to my car another athlete asked where I was staying.  She had ridden to transition and now had a flat and was having to walk back.  Turns out she was staying in my same hotel.  I told her she could have a ride, and we finagled both bikes and all our crap into my car and drive back.  It was a nice diversion because I was about to completely crumble into a sobbing mess when I saw her.  

I have now had a few hours to think about it all.  I did have a good experience.  I loved the race.  It was well  done, as I expected.  The swim wasn't great, but wasn't bad either.  I loved the bike regardless of the split, it was just pure fun and the best part of my day.  It is fun and humbling to race the best in the nation from all over the nation! I met people from all over and it was humbling to see some super fast talent out there.  It's awesome to be considered one of them and have the opportunity. It gives me hope that I can continue to grow and improve in the sport I've come to love, especially when I see an 80 year old woman out there kicking trash. 

Regardless of the tough race and the butt kicking, there was so much good heading into it and about it.   I have an awesome support system.  I have a good husband.  Good kids.  A good coach.  I've had some good training and consistent training leading into this. This is a great opportunity. Every finish line is a gift, no matter how painful it may be to reach them.  

So, what's next? This is the end of my Tri season.  I'm going to start a run focus training block with the goal of doing a half marathon later in the fall.  I'm excited about this for many reasons.  One, I need a change of focus.  Two, my run needs the work.  Three, even though running is my obvious weakest link, it is also the one that I enjoy the most lately in training, regardless of the not so great performances.  

In the meantime, I'm going to head back to real life tomorrow and school starting soon.  Happy racing and training!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Meet Ivy!

This post has been a long time coming!  Not that in its overdue, but because I've wanted a new bike for quite awhile! Well, as luck would have it, 24 hours ago I got my wish and finally added a tri bike to my training/racing arsenal.

Here we are leaving the bike shop.  The awful saddle is GONE!
It all started with shattered sunglasses.  In Training Peaks, my instructions for Tuesday's ride said "preferably outside."  I have turned into a trainer junkie and have only done about 2-3 rides outside all year other than races.  I decided I would make the effort.  I got all my crap together (yes, riding outside requires more crap.  Helmet, Road ID, sunglasses, pumping tires, etc) and headed out to the Island.  I was having a pretty good ride but MAN nose was running something fierce!  I was so tired of sniffing and trying to take care of it that way I decided since I was riding alone I would work on my snot rockets.  Maybe it's TMI, but the struggle is real!  I tried and don't ask me how, but it landed on my sunglasses.  Lovely.  So, while riding, I tried to take the glasses off and wipe them on my jersey.  In the process I dropped them and they shattered on the causeway.  CRAP!  Those are my favorite pair of racing glasses that I've had for 3-4 years (huge Tifosi fan here.  One of the few pairs I can wear that don't give me headaches).  I came back home and knew I needed to replace them immediately since I use them daily for training.  I cleaned up and headed into Bikers Edge to pick some new ones up.  

I get to Bikers Edge, pick new ones out (these have interchangeable frames Woot Woot!) and while I am checking out I start up a conversation with the associate.  I asked him how many tri bikes they sell.  He said almost none, maybe 1-2 a year, but if I am in the market they can always special order one.  I shrug it off and then another associate behind him says, "Yeah, take that one over there, it's been here as long as I have and it hasn't sold, that's why we normally don't keep them in stock."  What?  They had one in stock?  How have I not seen it when I come in here before?  I go to check it out and it's a Cannondale Slice 105.  Gorgeous too with black, white and lime green.  And wouldn't you know it, my size of a 54!  I immediately know I better walk away.  It was too tempting.  As if that wasn't enough, they had it marked WAY down, like by more than 50% to get rid of it.  

I left but couldn't stop thinking about the bike.  I texted Ken, my Dad, and my coach about it.  I have been looking casually at bikes online and in the classifieds and nothing had ever been quite right, either size, price, features, etc.  This one was almost too good to be true.

I went back yesterday morning and asked if I could ride it.  They put some pedals on it and I borrowed a helmet and just rode around their big parking lot.  Immediately I noticed two things.  One, it was amazingly smooth, like complete night and day from my roadie.  I now realized the difference between aluminum and carbon :)  Second, I notice how low the aero bars are.  It was a definite more aggressive position than aero bars on Belle for sure.  However, it was super comfy to get into them.  I have always been more comfortable on a bike in aero anyway, so this is no biggie, though it is a lower position.

I tell the associate consider it sold.  I go in and get pedals and a bottle cage and have him add those to her.  They ring me up and she left the store with me!  I get her home, and put her against the wall in my living room deciding I'm going to wait until it cools off to get my maiden voyage on her.  My son brought up just putting her on the Kickr, but that would be just wrong!  The first ride needs to be outside.  However, I am impatient.  I couldn't wait to ride her.  Thirty minutes later I am  fully dressed in my riding gear, jersey pockets stuffed, and on my way out the door to try her out for real ride, one that was not in a parking lot.

I noticed a few things immediately with riding her (yes, its a her).  It is still incredibly smooth.  The chip seal on the way to the causeway is all of sudden less annoying and jarring.  Though I was initially scared of the lower position of aero, it feels awesome once I got down into it.  Shifting in aero now is a possibility!  Game changer!  I click my way through all the gears figuring out how exactly it all works.  The shifting is immediate, smooth and effortless.  Belle, the roadie, has never been this smooth, and lately there is a delay in the changing of gears and some ghost shifting going on.  I also notice how close my torso is to the top of my legs when I pedal.  I also am glancing down at my watch and noticing how fast I am going with seemingly hardly any effort.  My normal comfortable speed on my roadie when cruising the causeway (which is very smooth and pancake flat but ALWAYS windy) is between 16-18 depending on which way the wind is going.  I was between 19-22 on this bike!  Woohoo! My quads also seem slightly more taxed in this position and on this bike.  And finally, I am reminded how much I hate stock saddles and realize this one will have to go ASAP.  

I had texted my neighbor and friend Cristin to tell her about the new bike.  She wanted me to come over and show her so I rode it later that evening in jeans and flip flops down the street to show her.  Her husband, a bike mechanic and former professional cyclist arrives home while we are chatting over bikes.  I tell him about the tweaks we need to make and we immediately go into his garage and on the spot he does the bike fit and makes the tweaks to the saddle, etc.  He swapped out the saddle, lowered the aero bars, adjusted the seat height and angle and she was good to go.  Awesome!

Maiden voyage with Ivy pic
I rode outside with Cristin today.  The bike feels amazing.  This should be noted for a few things.  One, I have never ever been comfortable on a bike.  I had finally accepted to be "comfortable being uncomfortable" while riding.  I have enjoyed Belle and riding, but I have always had comfort issues whether they are saddle issues, my shoulder (which thank heaven hasn't been an issue, even a little bit ,this year), or weird leg pain, what have you.  I have read many times about people saying the bike feels like it is just an extension of them, but have never been that way or completely comfortable on Belle.  However, on this bike I feel like I could go for days in the aero position (yes, I realize I am on a new bike high, but seriously, its soooo much better than its ever been).

So there's the long story of me finally getting a tri bike.  I have named her Ivy with the green accents on her.  I wasn't initially going to take her to Omaha with me in a week, because I was expecting a much greater learning curve than there has been with getting used to her, but that just hasn't been the case, so she is making her racing debut at Nationals :)  I will log more miles on her between now and then, but I'm pretty sure it will be fine.  

I've had a few people ask what my plans are for Belle.  She is staying!  I'm not about to sell her.  I love the idea of having a dedicated road bike and a dedicated tri bike.  The reality is Ivy will get most of the time and attention.  However, there are times when a road bike is just called for.  When I think of all the riding I do with my Dad, that is usually climbing some mountain pass or doing rides where a tri bike wouldn't even be permitted, so I will keep her for such things as that.  I am going to change her back into a true road bike though.  The aero bars will come off, the old seat post will go back on, and I will finally get a road specific fit for her instead of a "lets try to make her a tri bike" fit.  It will be nice to swap them here and there in training, and it will be nice to have a back up bike if one is in the shop, or whatever.

Nothing else is new to report.  Nationals is one week away, and I have most definitely noticed the build and ramping up in training.  It has been challenging and fun.  School also starts in just two and half weeks, so I have to go back to juggling training with real life.  It's all good though! I am excited for a new focus on both fronts. Oh, and I did sign up for IMStG 70.3 for next May.  I am excited and nervous all at the same time, but I've got several months to work all that out :)

Happy training and racing all!