Monday, August 30, 2010

Chicago Triathlon - 6 minutes

13 weeks in the making, 8+ months advance registration, 1 race.

This race has been my focus for 3 of the past 4 seasons. I live for this race, and I even registered early (December 2009) for the race on August 29, 2010. Training begins roughly 13 weeks prior with 12 of those weeks training with a group. This race is my mecca, blood, sweat and tears (fortunately there hasn't been any blood, but more than enough sweat, and a handful of tears).

I won't go on and on about the weekend leading up to it, other than with a reminder of my love for race expos, and the Chicago Triathlon Multisport Expo is one not to miss. (Un)forutnately, the only thing I walked away with was a new Spinervals DVD that I can use while trianing indoors on my bike trainer. AWESOME, things were starting off the right way.

I wasn't sure how the race would go, as my training has been less than ideal for me this season. My past two races have been stellar for me with regards to time, but I've walked away feeling sort of sluggish. Mentally, I was 100% there, and even got all my gear in a smaller bag (see post below). Typically, I carry a large triathlon bag, which can hold everything including the kitchen sink, and I'm trying to be a minamilst, so said bag wasn't going to cut it this year.

3:30am rolls around Sunday morning, I'm up, brushing my teeth, eating toast, and we're off to the race site (big shout out to my family and Kevin for getting up with me and driving me, thank you). We arrive a bit later than I would have liked, but there are still tons of people arriving, so I am not as concerned. Leigh Ann and I get there, find a transition area where we can place our bikes next to each other, and set up. I'm feeling calm, collected, and excited. 

6:15-6:20am begins the 1/2 mile trek to the starting line. I meet up with my family, and it's time to line up with the other F25-29 and M25-29 participants. With 60 athletes/wave and a wave every 4 minutes, the line up starts early. We creep closer and closer to the gates, nerves have kicked in a bit, and I'm pumped. I'm ready to go. I hop into the water, tred for a moment, and that's that!

Wave 13: 6:54am, I'M OFF. Something came over me and I swam smoothly for a 1/2 mile. The water was roughly 73 degrees, which is cool initially, but it was a life saver once my body warmed up. I managed to breath every 2-3 strokes, and I pushed forward. I felt great. My arms got a bit tired, but the few times I stopped were to dodge feet and other bodies. 19 minutes later, I'm out of the water. This was very exciting because I realized it was 3 minutes faster than 2009 (fact: the water was about 62 degrees last year).
The run to transition was less than ideal, but I kept moving (fact: the time from leaving the water to arriving at transition is included in the swim time; don't ask, I don't get it either). It's hard to run with the wetsuit half on. Argh. I was moving a bit slowly in transition, but I had less gear to deal with, so I was happy (yes folks, I left the Garmin 305 at home).

The beginning of the bike wasn't too bad, a little bit of athlete traffic, but it eventually evened out and I was able to find my pace. My hips and butt were screaming a bit, but my pace wasn't all too slow, and I knew I was going to beat my previous time of 56 minutes. I arrived back at transition around 52 minutes and that in itself was another pround moment.

Transition 2 was a bit easier than the first, but I just knew my legs were so mad at me. I couldn't get going, and I was hurting. Little did I know that the heat index would reach 101 degrees, so I would be running in mid-80 temperatures at around 8:30am.

The run started off very very tough, and I imagined how the remaining 3.1 miles would feel. I saw my family around 1/4 mile, and Kevin ran with me for a few minutes. I could barely speak! I just asked him to stay with me for a little while as a distraction. Unfortunately, it didn't work. After Kevin stayed behind, I resorted to Plan B: iPod (shhh don't tell the race organizers). I know that the first few minutes of the bike-to-run portion are tough, but my legs wouldn't have anything to do with this run. It took me about 12 mintues to get to the first mile, and it just knocked me down. I resorted to Plan C: walk-run-shuffle. This became the theme of the 5k. I had bursts of energy, then I'd have to walk/shuffle. Energy for 20-45 seconds, then a shuffle.  It kept me going, and overall my pace was 12:55. This was discouraging, but I made it to the finish line and the annoucer saw how excited I was to finish that I got three shoutouts!

I did it! I really did it! It was a mental challenge that I wasn't expecting, but I got through it with no injuries and with excellent times. Here's the comparison:

(note: the swim time reflects the time it took from exiting the water to arriving at transition. I compared my stop watch time of 19:00 to the 2009 course I tracked from my Garmin, and it read roughly 22:00.)

Year 2010 2009
Swim - .5mi 22:55 25:14
T1 04:41 05:27
Bike - 13.67 mi 52:42 56:04
T2 03:01 04:38
Run - 3.1 mi 40:16 38:26
Overall 2:03:37 2:09:51

As you can see, this is a difference of -06:14. Even with my run, I managed to smash my 2009 time.

As I was journaling last night (I do this after every race, it's a must!) I realized what I had accomplished and how excited I was. 6 minutes. Earlier in the year I posted faster times for the Trek Triathlon (4 minutes faster than 2009) and the Glenview Triathlon (6 minutes faster than 2009). That adds up to 16 minutes faster than 2009 for the identical races. The little changes have helped tremendously and I'm estatic to be ending my season this way. Even though this finishing time isn't spectacular, I improved and I finished with a smile on my face.

To quote Kevin from yesterday, "So another 364 more days until we do this again." You betcha, and I can't wait.

I'm No Ironman but I Still Tri

P.S. Congrats to all my Together We Tri friends, including Kim Morgan, Mark Morgan, Coach Mary Bradbury and Dr. Bruce Noxon for their stellar races. I train amongst the best and they inspire me! For more links and footage, please visit Dave Wallach's blog. He completed the triple challenge (the Super Sprint on Saturday, AND the sprint and olympic races on Sunday) so a big round of applause to him.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I did it!

Walking to the start

Warm already, but pumped to race! Here's Leigh Ann and me

Our transition area (Leigh Ann on left)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

All my stuff

(minus bike & helmet) for tomorrow's Chicago Triathlon. Up at 3:30am, wave at 6:54am.

Can't wait! Its my favorite time of year

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conquering the Little Steps: ABR

Before continuing, I'd like to preface this by saying, please don't poke fun at the triathlete. I am fragile too you know.

The whole theme of my progression as a triathlete is while even though I've raced for four seasons doesn't mean I know everything and can win my divisions. I love to race, be with other triathletes, and see how far I can really push my mind and body. I love the sprint distance races, and attempt to recruit people everywhere I go* (yes, that includes you Alan and I'm pretty sure I've succeeded).

When I began racing, everything was new, but it was fun! Over the years I've gotten hooked on the gadgets, watches, shoes and clothing.** but there are a few things that I haven't been able to get past, and they've been a big setback for me. Well, this past month has actually be a huge month for me and conquering those fears.

Back to my "progressions." As you know, most triathletes race with a road bike which consists of a less than desirable seated position, a hard saddle seat and thin road tires. Additionally, athletes switch out their running shoes and caged pedals for a clipless pedal and cycling shoes. I use SPD clips and pedals.  This makes for an interesting ride as a first-timer, and the general rule of thumb is that you'll fall three times (yes, it's true). Okay, so far we've got road tires, I'm locked into my pedals, and I'm supposed to fall three times while being clipped into the bike. Awesome. Now I have to bike 14 miles without crashing and I must manage to stay hydrated. This transformed me into a cyclist and CamelBak enthusiast.*** Long story short, I was able to conquer the bike segments of each race, but I was tied to my crutch, my beloved CamelBak.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago (roughly). I had a group workout with Together We Tri and I decided that it's time to grow up and use a water bottle, like normal athletes! I left the CamelBak at home, put the new CamelBak water bottle in my bike cage, and was going to attempt hydration while riding. So I'm doing my thing, riding along, and at mile 3 or so, I stopped pedaling, reached down for the water bottle, drank some, and put it back. WHAT?!?!?! Did I really just conquer this? Is this really what's been keeping me back all these years? You betcha.

I can't even begin to tell you how amazing I felt.**** This is something that's been holding me back for so many seasons and I just proved to myself that I am capable and I moved on. I literally felt a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  The CamelBak took up time, space, and I looked like an idiot after all these years. I used it in my early seasons to be more comfortable, and I'm a huge component of comfort and safety, but it was time to push myself and reach for the freaking water bottle.

And then, this past Tuesday, I was with the group again and we did an easy taper ride along the North Shore area of Chicago. This was an easy, flat and safe course, aka: great conditions to try the Advanced Bottle Reach (ABR - includes bottle reach while continuing to pedal^). I didn't think I'd be able to progress to ABR so quickly, but heck, it was worth a shot. Somewhere on the return, I'm pedaling, and BOOM! ABR was executed! :: insert happy dance here :: Well well, what do you know? And then again, ABR! ABR!^^

At the end of the day, not including my race times, I know that I accomplished so much, even though this is normal operating procedures for many triathletes. Everyone makes their advancements at different paces, and I'm quite happy with mine. This may have been a lot of writing for not a lot of substance, but it's something that I've dealt with for four seasons. I'm looking forward to using these accomplishments this Sunday during the Chicago Triathlon. I'M STOKED!!

Thank you for reading, and remember, no matter the pace of your progress, you're moving forward and that's reason enough to be proud.

I'm no Ironman, but I Still Tri

*If you need any encouragement, I'm your gal. I'll make you wish you were racing this weekend.

** Shh, listen real close. All that crap written in the past about "racing because it's fun" is all a bunch of bologna. The real reason why I race is because of the swag bags, "free" shirts and the opportunity to spend more money at the pre-race expos. Finishers medals are pretty sweet too.

***New flash: riding with a small backpack on ones back does not make one aerodynamic.

****You can stop giggling now.... okay, please stop giggling. I can hear you.

^ Kinda catchy, isn't it?

^^ I musta been butter, because I was on a roll.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Short, Sweet, and Savory

It may not have been a long race, but every race is a challenge and I take it seriously. I still have a clock to chase, I still have three disciplines to complete, I still have to stay safe, and I always fun.

Well, I won't bore you with the details, but "calm" has been my theme this year. This wasn't the case until this season, but I'm enjoying it. Nerves usually get in the way, and bring out my chatty-ness. Every year I am more comfortable with racing, and it took a while for "calm" to become a constant theme. Nevertheless, I still get very excited to race and love being in a racing environment.

Refresher: 300 yd swim, 10 mi bike, 3.1 mi run

I am proud to announce that I shaved about 6 minutes off my time from last year (still about 3 minutes away from my PR), and I am so thrilled to report that. My swim was 2 seconds slower, Transition 1 was about the same, the bike was about 5 minutes faster, Transition 2 was roughly 30 seconds faster, and my run was mostly unchanged. Overall, I netted about 6 minutes faster! Huge! It's not easy to make up a lot of time in shorter races (simply because there isn't as much distance to make up that time) but as you know, I'm the turtle and I'll take any decrease in time.

I felt great during the swim, pushed myself on the bike and ignored the pain, and was inching towards "terrible" during the run. My right foot orthotic wasn't in properly and it caused major pain in my right heel and eventually creeped up my "inner shin" (as you can tell, I'm well versed in biology). That was a pain that was hard to avoid and hard to push through, but I did my best to keep "running" with the help of Michael Jackson. I felt like garbage when I finished, but I've felt a lot worse, so I'll take it!

I looked at some of the finishing times, and the winner was at about 44 minutes. WOW. My training friends were all around 1 hour, and I'm so proud of them. They really work hard and deserve great finishing times.

As for me, I still loved this sprint triathlon, I always will, and it's always a challenge.

And as I always say, "I'm no Ironman but I still tri."

Thanks for reading.