Monday, August 26, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report- 4th Pro

Lake Placid is a special place for quite a few reasons. It was my very first Ironman back in 2010. I have a spectacular experience, with family and great friends there to cheer me on (see commemorative photo, below), and ended up setting the amateur course record. Since that time, Chris and I have traveled to Lake Placid many times for vacation in winter and summer to visit family, train, enjoy the mountains, and cheer on friends for the Ironman. Most importantly, Chris and I will be getting married in Lake Placid in less than three weeks!

This has been an exciting, fast paced year. Despite the hectic schedule I have been super motivated to train, in large part due to some GREAT training partners and taking a FUN approach to racing this year- doing the races I WANT to do, not the ones that might get me the most points or have the largest prize purses. Granted, I’ve had to miss a workout here and there, but workouts in general had been going better than ever, always a good sign!

We headed up to Placid on Wednesday AM before the race, arriving at our little rental around 6pm. Since the race doesn't offer homestays, we decided to get a pretty affordable rental out in Jay, NY (30 mins from Placid) right along the Ironman bike course and decided to share it with my parents who were traveling up to support me at the race. We ended up with a cute little Adirondack-style apartment in a very quiet area nestled in a pine forest. Between my mom and I, we had brought enough food to feed a small army. Seriously, the fridge was PACKED. No one would starve.

Thursday we had a busy schedule, but not one race-related item was on the to-do list! Instead, we kicked off the day with an 8am meeting with the pastor who will marry us, followed by an appointment at the reception venue, then a few hours of work, followed by an appointment at the rehearsal dinner venue and then a quick bite to eat and more work calls for Chris. Thank goodness my mom had the foresight to pack us a picnic lunch. When 6pm came, we finally had time to jump in Mirror Lake for a little swim!! It was marvelous! I felt surprisingly fast in my wetsuit and felt like I had a good feel for the water. It was nice to head back to our peaceful spot in Jay to relax and eat a great dinner that my mom had prepared.

Friday morning I slept in and relaxed and read out on the porch for a bit with my coffee, before heading out for a little taper run with strides, then off to the noon pro meeting in Placid. I was determined to spend all day Friday gathering together the final race-related items and doing the final pre-race errands that typically plague me the day before the race. I wanted Saturday to be relaxed and worry- free. I mostly accomplished this, with the exception of actually packing my race bags!

I also spent some time writing down my detailed race nutrition and pacing plan. For my nutrition on the bike, I decided to go with two water bottles each containing 4 servings of First Endurance EFS liquid shot (gel) mixed with water for a total of 800 calories, something I’d never tried before. This turned out to be the best decision ever, as the mixture tasted sort of like a vanilla milk (minus the dairy taste) and went down quickly and easily with no GI issues and gave me sustained energy throughout the bike. I also added 5-6 bottles of on-course sports drink for another 800 or so calories, and at the halfway, I would have a Boathouse Farms mango protein smoothie for another 400 calories and a dose of protein. I also planned to eat a bar at some point for another 250 calories. On the run, during the first 13 miles I planned to take a gel every three miles, with sports drink and/or coke at the aid stations in between. During the second half of the run, I planned to take a gel every 2 miles with sports drink or coke at the intervening aid stations. 

Saturday we headed over to Placid and sought out the Active Release Therapy (ART) tent for my back, which had started to do its usual painful flare-up that happens every 3 months or so, particularly when I’m overly stressed or my shoes are worn down. After spending 30 mins with me, my ART lady (who was awesome) told me that my back was "really messed up" but that she was able to get a few of the trigger points out. Kind of reassuring, I guess??

Before I dropped off my bike, Chris drove me out to the Keene descent so I could practice going down it a few times. I still have a long way to go with my descending skills, but I do much better when I've ridden the course previously, ideally several times. So Chris dropped me off at the top, and I went down, then we loaded the bike back in the car and drove back up to the top, repeat. I will definitely say that riding the hill on race day is so much easier without cars zipping by, too closely in some cases. Also, interestingly, the hill wasn't as bad as I remembered from previous years!

On Saturday evening we went to the pre-race prayer service on Mirror Lake at the church where we’ll be getting married, which was pretty cool and a great way to spend a pre-race evening! We headed back to the apartment and had a gluten-free pasta dinner with cilantro pesto and shrimp. It was almost time for bed, but I was feeling a bit restless. Chris gave me a pre-race pep talk and reminded me that I wasn’t racing to put food on my table or for a paycheck- I was racing to glorify God and this requires an extremely different mindset. Some of my competitors would be racing scared, but I could race with confidence knowing that only positive things could come out of my day so long as I stayed focused on this goal. I so appreciated this reminder!

Saturday night was not the best night of sleep… my stomach hurt a bit which kept waking me up, and in the morning I woke up feeling a cold coming on. We had some Zicam on hand so I took some and popped a few in my pill bottle that I’d be carrying on the bike, and planned to take some every three hours. I tried to eat my planned pre-race breakfast, a gluten-free waffle sandwich with almond butter and jam, but my stomach still was not feeling great and one bite made me gag- I couldn’t even eat a single bite of it. (However, not to fear that this food would go to waste- Chris later found my discarded waffle sandwich in the car and finished it off!) I had also planned to take in a Boathouse Farms mango protein smoothie and thankfully that went down easily. 400 pre-race calories is not ideal but would have to do.

When we arrived at the race site, I was pretty quick to get my gear situated so I’d have plenty of time to sit and relax prior to the Ironman. For a race this long, I love having this bit of quiet time to just relax and contemplate what I’m about to do! Unfortunately, I ended up on the world’s longest port-o-potty line which cut into my relaxing time, but still had a little extra time prior to race start. By this time it had started raining a bit, which would continue for several hours and make for a wet descent on the bike course.

The pro women lined up and before long, we were off! I worked so hard to get on some fast feet and we had a nice paceline going for a bit, but after a little while I noticed that the feet in front of me had slowed down significantly and had lost the feet in front of them. I put in a surge to try to try to catch them, but despite going as hard as I could, I was barely getting just a hair closer and knew I could not sustain the effort long enough to catch up. About halfway through the first loop, the water started to get extremely choppy, almost like a storm was brewing. I exited the first loop in 29 minutes, definitely a good time for me. The second loop was a mixture of faster age groupers passing me, and trying to get past the slower age groupers who were still on their first lap. I tried to get on any feet that passed for as long as I could, per Chris’s pre-race advice. All in all, a great swim for me in 1 hour! Thanks to my swim training buddy Tommy and technique lessons from swim coach Mark Lisinsky for the improvements this year!

My goal on the bike was to take the descents as fast as possible (meaning no breaking…) take in a steady stream of nutrition, not go too easy on the bike (something that has plagued me during my last two Ironmans), and spin up the climbs at a high cadence. Overall I met these goals fairly well, and never once felt low-energy though I do think I could have gone a bit harder on the bike (but an improvement). I followed my nutrition plan perfectly, except for eating the bar- I just could not force it down- and I think this plan worked great, particularly the EFS liquid shot mixed with water. I’ve found that taking in as many calories as my body will allow on the bike and run is so essential to having a good Ironman race.

The only low point on the bike was this one large pack of age group guys that plagued me from about mile 80 onward. Not only did this group of men not seem to care that they were blatantly cheating, they also did not seem to care that they were sabatoging my race and that of other non-cheating athletes around them as it takes tremendous effort to pass a pack within the allotted timeframe, only to have them NOT drop back, draft off of me for several minutes and then re-pass, starting the whole process over again. I finally just gave up and hung back the legal limit, but at a slower pace than I would have liked to be going. It was truly appalling to see guys who most likely ended up qualifying for Kona getting away with this and acting like there is nothing wrong with it. The course was NOT crowded at all at this point- there was no excuse.

Overall, the weather could not have been better- overcast and/or a little rainy the whole ride, with highs in the low 70s. I even saw Chris out on the bike course TWICE- he rode the course in reverse to cheer me on!!! On each loop in the ascent back into town, I imagined myself jumping into the river that runs alongside the course post-race. Though it wasn’t that hot out, I the idea of it just sounded so great right then and I definitely planned to come back to do this. I just LOVE the Lake Placid bike course. It makes an immense difference to be riding on a beautiful and challenging Ironman course… when you are racing for 140.6 miles it needs to be worth it!

The marathon was by far my favorite part of the day. Not only were so many awesome friends racing out on the course, the support (from friends and family and even people I didn’t even know) was incredible. As I started the run, someone yelled to me that I was in 8th place. My legs were feeling pretty beat up but I remembered this same feeling in my legs during the 2010 Lake Placid race—I told myself that this was a normal part of racing a hilly Ironman and that I just needed a mile or so to transition my legs. I saw Chris again and he told me that I needed to pick off 3 women on this loop. Chris’scousin Adam and his wife Anya had also travelled out to cheer me on, and were AWESOME cheerleaders! And of course, my parents were there taking photos and cheering for me in town on each lap. After about 2 miles, I started to feel great and my legs were feeling pretty good. I ran by feel, checking my Garmin every few miles but mainly running at what I felt was a good pace. The skies were still overcast which made for some pretty awesome run conditions! I followed my nutrition plan exactly. The other part of my run plan involved, shuffling, not running, up the two steepest hills on each loop, using mainly my glutes and hamstrings and using my quads as sparingly as possible. I had a couple of other athletes I was kind of pacing off of and I noticed that when I did this, I would fall back dramatically on the hills but would then catch them after the hill as I was able to resume a strong pace after the hill rather than having the hill take the life out of me.

I gradually started passing the other pro women and eventually moved into 4th place. Typically in the latter portion of an Ironman marathon, I walk a few steps at each aid station to get and take in nutrition, but that was not needed in this race and I only stopped once when I missed a nutrition handoff. My quads started to really ache around mile 18. I tried so hard to catch 3rd- people kept telling me she was just around the corner- but ultimately I missed 3rd by 2 minutes. So many things go through your head during the last several miles of an Ironman. The pain in my quads was so acute (all the hills?) I remembered our friend Anthony telling me to enjoy every pedal stroke and step of the race, and despite the pain my body was in, I was truly LOVING every step of these last few miles! There’s nothing like nearing the Ironman finish line, and truly few things better than crossing that finish line when you’ve had a good race. I ended up with an Ironman swim PR (1:00) and marathon (3:11) PR finishing in 9:50. I also finished 11 minutes faster than in 2010 when I had an incredible race. This being my first time racing the same Ironman course twice, it was so cool to be able to compare the races and see improvements over those years, despite a drastically different training plan now vs. then- in particular, nowhere near as much time spent training!

During the first hour post-race I was not feeling so great, couldn’t take anything in, threw up, and was so sore I could barely walk. However, the miracle of the day is that my back didn’t bother me at all during the race, my cold symptoms stayed fully at bay (but came on full force post-race) and my stomach, which hadn’t let me eat anything pre-race and for about 8 hours post-race, was 100% fine during the race itself and I was able to take in my nutrition without a single moment of GI discomfort. God truly blessed me during this race and a big thanks to all of the wonderful friends who were praying for me during the day.

MANY thanks to the wonderful people and sponsors that allow me to both work full-time and race at the pro level- namely, Fast Forward Triathlon and coach Eric Bean, Inside Out Sports, CompuTrainer, First Endurance, Cervelo, and Rudy Project! And in a different sense of support, thanks to Chris and my parents for traveling to nearly all of my races this year and providing such great encouragement. (And finally, many thanks to Southwest Airlines for awarding Chris a companion pass so that we can enjoy two-for-one travel for the next 17 months!!! Definitely will be taking advantage of this in a big way).

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Colorado Training Camp!

We decided to take a short 6 day trip out to Colorado, mainly because we had signed up to do the Triple Bypass ride, a 120-mile cycling event through the mountains. I thought the trip would be fun and a good training opportunity prior to IM Lake Placid but I didn't give it too much thought beyond that. It is safe to say the trip FAR exceeded my expectations! Being in such a beautiful place, seeing God's amazing creation everywhere you turn, is so amazing and inspiring. We can't wait to return!

Day 1-- Arrived in CO

We left DC around 4am and arrived at our accommodations- which included picking up the rental car, picking up our packets for the ride, and driving 2.5 hours- all by noon. The Triple Bypass Ride is a point-to-point 120 mile ride starting from Evergreen, CO (close to Denver) to Avon, CO (in the mountains close to ski areas such as Vail) so we decided to stay out in the mountains near Avon a the Beaver Creek ski resort. The resort offered to shuttle riders and their bikes to the start (2 hours away) if you booked there, so given that we had a group of 5 and could get a good deal on a condo since it's summertime and a ski resort, we were in! The condo turned out to be AMAZING- totally far surpassing our expectations! Rustic lodge-style decor with a gigantic stone fireplace and lots of space. The balcony overlooked the base of the chairlift and mountain- with spectacular trail running along the mountainside right outside our door, great cycling everywhere, an outdoor lap pool and jacuzzis, as well as firepits (with marshmallows and toasting sticks provided). Plus, the weather was PERFECT- at about 8,500ft, it was a high of 72 degrees every day with no humidity- and it actually got a bit chilly at night in the 50s! (Before that, I couldn't remember the last time I felt cold!)

With all the things to do and see (and bikes to put together and have serviced) and meals to be eaten, we didn't even get in any training the first day. However, we made up for that on day 2!

Day 2- the Triple Bypass Ride

We got up at 3:45 to catch the 4:30am shuttle to the ride start. This was a full size bus with only 6 of us and our bikes on it. Since there was so much space, we had plenty of time to eat, drink coffee, get our gear situated during the shuttle ride. We arrived to the ride start around 6:30 and were on our bikes before 7.

I figured the ride would be scenic, but the mountain views were STUNNING pretty much the entire way. This was by far the most scenic ride I've ever done. The ride included about 10,000 feet of climbing, but since the altitude varies from 7,000 to 12,000 feet, it seemed harder than that. This would be my 2nd time riding my new road bike (my first time riding or owning a road bike in 5 years!) but things worked out pretty well other than needing to adjust the seatpost height a few times.

The ride is aptly named traveling over three mountain passes. I kept my hearteate in the Ironman-to-tempo zone most of the ride, but my breathing was so heavy on the climbs (due to the altitude) that I felt like a newbie athlete! Chris didn't seem to have any trouble so he set the pace for me all day- I just tried to stay with him.

The last 26 miles are literally ALL downhill heading down some pretty awesomely scenic descents. That was a nice treat at the end of the ride.

All in all, we ended up spending 8 hours on the bike, plus a little 20 minute transition run after for good measure. we were exhausted by the end of the day- good thing we just had to head up the hill from the ride finish line, into the pool and hot tub!

We ended the day with a great dinner at the outdoor restaurant at the Ritz right outside our condo. They even put the heat lamps on for us since we were a bit chilly :-)

Day 3- Trail Run!

I had a longish run on the schedule for Sunday so we headed out our doorstep onto the mountainside trail that runs between the various mountain villages of Beaver Creek. This was one of THE most gorgeous runs I have ever done, running through aspen groves, past beautiful wildflowers and ferns, alongside exposed mountain slopes, with amazing full views of the valley below and mountains around. I could have run on that trail all day. I mentioned this to Chris and he looked a bit worried that I might actually be serious :-)

In the afternoon we grabbed lunch and headed to a huge art festival that featured lots of different types of artists- my favorites were the photographers who captured the amazing Colorado landscapes.
Toward dusk, we took a long evening hike from the condo. We saw lots of wildlife and the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen!


We ended the day by making a tasty dinner of grilled salmon, roasted potatoes, and grilled veggies on the grill on our balcony.

Day 4- Recovery Day!

We started the day with an easy morning recovery trail run through a beautiful mountainside trail with amazing wildflowers.

Later in the day, we did our first swim in the outdoor pool, but were thwarted by a passing thunderstorm and were kicked out of the pool. We took the opportunity to explore the spa at the Ritz Carlton where we had been swimming, which was free for guests. Since we had been told we could use the amenities at the Ritz, we assumed this also meant the spa too and had a great time! I tried the cold plunge, aromatherapy steam room, and grotto, and loved that they provided snacks and hot teas in the lounge. We finished up our swim a little later J

Day 5- Brick Workout

I had a long brick workout to do this day so we headed out on a great cycling course (same one as the upcoming US Pro Challenge) with lots of long climbs and little traffic. We even passed a ranch with a bunch of Alpacas! We then headed out for a trail run with intervals along the mountainside trail. We had switched condos since it was just Chris and I at this point and didn't need a three bedroom condo, and since we were at a bit lower elevation at this point, the trail run up the mountain to get to the running trails was about 2 miles now, at a fairly steep grade. But it was worth it once we got up there. Interval work on this trail was so much fun!! When we got back, we iced our legs in the mountain creek right outside the condo. Then we had a great, tasty dinner outdoors at the restaurant next door that overlooks the mountains.

Day 6- Headed home

We finished up our last day with a morning outdoor swim and drive back to the airport. We can't wait to go back, and already have plans for another training camp next summer, if anyone wants to join us!!

Next on the schedule is Ironman Lake Placid, this Sunday July 28th!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eagleman 70.3 Race Recap

This was my 5th year in a row racing Eagleman- my favorite race of the year! While I didn't PR or bring home a giant eagle trophy, I dug fairly deep for a 7th place finish and will consider it a success. The highlight of the day for me was sharing it with so many people I love. My parents traveled from Long Island to cheer me on (and had to stay about 40 miles away due to lack of availability of hotels), Chris was there and biked all over the run course to cheer for me, my close friends Doria and Maureen were also racing- along with a host of other wonderful friends and training partners, including my best swim buddy, Tommy, and so many others! Every trip out to Cambridge is a special experience that I look forward to each year, especially staying with our wonderful homestay hosts Cindy and Judi (who have graciously hosted us four times now). The race is pretty much the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae.

The week leading up to the race had been exceptionally busy and stressful. In addition, the normal 1-hour 40 min drive out to Cambridge took a very painful 5.5 hours. We were pretty exhausted by the time we arrived. Saturday we had a pretty chill day. As Doria noted, it didn't even feel like a race weekend- we were just having such a great time! I swam the course with Tommy, then did a short 20-min ride to make sure my bike was functioning properly. We then went out to eat at my FAVORITE Cambridge restaurant- Mantra (which even serves sushi, my favorite pre-race food)- both the view and the food are amazing!


I knew this race would have a huge pro field (25 pro women signed up) and some stiff competition. I prefer not to look at the race start list before races- works better for me as I don't start to subconsciously come to conclusions about how well (or not well) I might do-- but it's kind of hard when they send you a welcome email with a list of who is racing :-)

I did my usual pre-race routine- warming up on the trainer, etc.- with help from Chris who managed to somehow sneak into transition!!! I guess he had that look about him and the transition guards assumed he was racing?

The swim was wetsuit legal, which made me very happy! I had a good start and managed to stay on some feet, but unfortunately I lost them about 2/3 of the way through.

Heading out onto the bike, I felt pretty lackluster and my stomach felt really sour until mile 20ish. Throughout the ride, I just could not get my watts up to where they should have been -- though my bike time ended up being only 30 seconds slower than last year with drastically different watts- wondering if it was actually an issue with my power meter? At about mile 20, I saw my friend Beth up ahead and decided to use this as motivation to pick up the pace! Just as happened at NOLA 70.3, she and I traded places for the second half of the bike. I started having adductor cramps about midway which were pretty unpleasant and required pedaling for a couple minutes, then standing to stretch my adductors. It was such a blessing to have Beth out there for motivation. I know she is a strong cyclist and it helped to have the reassurance that even though my watts were looking crazy, I was still probably having a good ride if I could keep her in sight.

Transition basically became a huge mud pit, so running my bike in felt like I was doing the Tough Mudder rather than a triathlon. My feet were completely caked in mud when I went to put my shoes and socks on.

One thing triathlon truly reminds me of each and every race is how much we are NOT in control of. Though this should always be the case, racing in particular reminds me how much I truly need to rely on God. This should be the case just as much during other activities as well, but when I'm racing, I tend to focus on God and his power. Anything can happen during a race- a flat, sickness, a crash, etc. During the run, I tried to think of 2 attributes of God for every mile of the run- starting with each letter of the alphabet. Mile 1 was A and B, etc. It definitely gave me something better to focus on than how painful the run was! However, I did get kind of stuck when I got to about Q :-) 

The run was a nice consistent effort- the first and second half were right about the same pace- though of course, as is always to be expected at Eagleman, the run was hot and humid (honestly, I'd be disappointed if it wasn't!) I started the run in probably 11th place and ran to 7th. There were some fast ladies chasing me down so I knew I couldn't slack off! I paid attention to my salt intake, taking about 10 or so salt pills throughout the run. I felt totally spent at the line and know I put in a good effort.

Many thanks to Fast Forward Triathlon, Inside Out Sports, CompuTrainer, First Endurance, Cervelo, Skin Sake, Rudy Project, and TrainingPeaks for the amazing support and fantastic products that make it possible for me to train and race as a pro.

I'm looking forward to gearing up for & racing my last BIG race before our wedding-- Ironman Lake Placid-- in July!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Mountain Biking Adventure

This post should really be a race report of New Orleans 70.3 (which is coming soon), but instead I'm going to recap today's mountain biking adventure.

I use the term mountain biking loosely, as we were really just riding up and down the C&O canal towpath on mountain bikes. While we frequently run on the towpath, we don't bike it very often but today reminded me that I need to do this more, especially at these perfect times of year when its just beautiful. Today was the perfect day for it- overcast with a slight intermittent drizzle, which means that not a lot of people would be out riding, running, or hiking. As a result, all of the animals were out! We saw baby geese, deer, blue herons, and ducks.  Of course, this also meant it would be a very wet, muddy ride.

Within the first 3 miles we passed by several families of geese. The babies were so tiny, and would scurry into the grass at the side of the canal as we came riding by, while both parents would simultaneously hiss at us. Most of the families had just 3-5 chicks, but one family had about 12!! Chris got a video of them as we rode by:

We then explored a fun side trail that was beautiful, though ultimately pretty short.

I think we hit the canal at peak bloom for the flowers. They were amazing! And everything was so green and the air smelled like spring.

I think we were out there about 2.5 hours and it went by in a flash. It was one of the most fun rides I've had in awhile (probably since last riding SkyMass!)

I still have not been able to get all the specks of mud out of my eyes... always the sign of a good ride!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Off-Season in Photos

Well, my last race of the season was exactly two months ago so I thought it would be an appropriate time to write about what I've been up to since then (and it's much more fun than writing another race report!) So, here it is, a summary of my off season in photos.
Camping and Hiking

We spent a glorious weekend camping and hiking in the Shenandoahs when the weather was perfect and the leaves were in full color.

We also took a day trip up to rural Maryland to hike part of the Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rock. After the hike I may have also stopped at an orchard and bought a half bushel of apples, followed by exploring and dinner in Old Town Frederick (including the best dessert I've ever had- pumpkin mousse!)

Getting Crafty

Artistic projects are something I seldom have time to do (except during the off-season) but really enjoy! It's so important to enjoy activities I don't normally get to do during this time of the year, to give myself a mental break from the grind of training for athletic performance. 

(At left, fall leaf placemats)
                              Wine and Painting Class with Shannon

Bike Commuting

My bike commute is pretty awesome and during the off-season I've been commuting to work by bike at least once per week. The first 30 minutes are on the Capital Crescent Trail and the next 30 minutes take me past all of the DC monuments, along the National Mall, and past the US Capitol before arriving to work. It is pretty amazing to think how much history is along that path!

Jam- and Apple-Butter Making

Most people's hurricane preparedness list includes heading to the store to stock up on bread and peanut butter, but mine had me scouring every store in the area to find one that sold canning jars
. Following the east coast storm my office was closed for two days, and in between working from home, and with a half-bushel of apples use (and not a lot of outdoor activity options) I spent some time making a giant batch of apple butter, cranberry-jalapeno jam, and rhubarb jam!

Trip to Ironman Florida

My friend Doria was competing in Ironman Florida, so I traveled down to support. Not a bad place to spend a weekend, and fun to be on the other side of the race experience!

Thanksgiving with the Turkeys

Chris and I attended "Thanksgiving with the Turkeys", a vegan Thanksgiving potluck dinner hosted by a local animal sanctuary which rehabilitates abused or abandoned farm animals. There had to be 1000 people there and an equal number of vegan dishes and desserts- I've never seen so much vegan food in one place. We got to eat some great food, make friends with some of the animals, and feed pumpkins to the pigs!

Thanksgiving with the People

I kicked off Thanksgiving day with the YMCA Turkey Chase 10k, and followed by a fun-filled hike with the dogs (Doria's and Chris's, that is), a short mountain biking expedition, and then a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the Goorevich's!

Some "Real" Mountain Biking

I may not have been on my tri bike for 2 months, but have been getting in some fun (i.e. scary) mountain biking on real trails with fallen logs, rocks, stream crossings, and other fun obstacles. I'm certainly a novice at it but it is fun.


My First Trip to the Shooting Range
Chris got a LivingSocial deal for the shooting range and talked me into going with him. I was pretty good at it... hit the bullseye twice in my first 3 shots!

Reading the Entire New Testament
Yes, that's right! My Bible Study group did this together and though it was a challenge to get all of the reading done, I really enjoyed it.

A LOT of Cooking
I have done a lot of cooking in the last two months, including a lot of recipes featuring pumpkin and recipes using veggies from the garden (sadly, they are no more of these now that the cold weather has hit).

And... A Trip Out West!

I may be getting back into more triathlon-specific workouts (ie, dusting off my tri bike and taking it out on the roads) but that doesn't mean the off-season fun has to end... we'll end the year with a trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Vegas for New Year's! (And, I expect all of my photos to turn out exactly like the one below...)

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Yesterday I lost an old friend—my first tri bike. Well, maybe ‘lost’ isn’t exactly the right word.

I decided to do my first triathlon back in 2003. Upon graduating from college, where I ran cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, 3 seasons out of the year for four years, I was looking to do something fun and exciting that involved competition, getting in a workout, and, well, running- just not quite the same kind of running I’d been doing for the prior 4, really 9 years. It’s not that I didn’t still love running- I’d just qualified for and competed in the NCAAs for outdoor track the month prior, which had been my goal (dream) all throughout college. I just kind of realized that I’d probably never have the same opportunity that college running afforded me to be at my absolute best as a runner, and knew I probably wasn’t going to be setting any more personal records on the running front (at least not in the 5k and below distances). I wanted a NEW challenge. There was a sprint triathlon close to my parent’s home in Montauk, NY. Every year during high school and college I’d watch the cyclists ride past our driveway, and my passing thought was that it looked like fun. Two weeks out, I signed up (I think it cost about $85, which seemed SO EXPENSIVE at the time) and got geared up for the race. I’d done plenty of biking in my life, including biking trips as a child and teenager with my parents, and as I got older became pretty fond of spin classes as well. In addition, the year prior I had learned how to swim freestyle. I had running down. I was all set! Only problem was I didn’t have a wetsuit or a bike. My dad graciously worked on his old steel-frame bike to get it in good working order so I could do the race on it. I used an old surfing wetsuit for the swim which was far from hydrodynamic but got the job done!

I had a lot of fun in this first triathlon, but like all things tri-related tend to be, I wondered how much faster I could be if I had faster gear? I needed to get a modern bike (one that didn’t outdate me) that was fast and fit me well. After some hunting around I settled on this! 

I still remember my first ride with this bike, which was also my first ride with clipless pedals- I clipped in and promptly fell over. I’ve never been one to name my bikes, so we’ll just call it ‘Bike’. Bike and I were practically inseparable from the start. We had many long, short, and in between adventures together on the roads of Atlanta, in and around the DC metro area, and even some trips to races in Austin, TX and Long Island, NY. (Bike and I also got into a slight accident that caused me to lose 7 teeth, but since this post is about remembering Bike fondly, we won’t go into that). However, after about 5 years of fun adventures, I eventually outgrew Bike. I had started to get into triathlon more seriously and once again, wondered how good I could be at tri if I had comparable equipment to all the other fast athletes I saw out on the race course? Bikes had advanced quite a bit in the last 4-5 years. In December 2008, I decided to purchase a Cervelo P3 and I’m not sure I ever rode Bike again after that. He’s been living a fairly sedentary lifestyle in the house for the past 4 years. Eventually last year the idea dawned on me to sell Bike. But I didn’t. I took pictures for the online sale, but never posted them. This fall, I had thoughts of getting another road bike, but didn't want to own 5 bikes. As logic and practicality won over against sentimentality, I finally posted his photo on Craigslist to see if any would-be suitors would bite. I got several inquiries, but the first person who came by didn't like Bike enough to buy him. I can’t say that I was disappointed. The second person to come look at Bike really liked him. I could tell that Bike would get a lot of use with this person. In fact, this buyer brought his biking gear with him and planned to ride Bike home right then and there. I knew that Bike would have exciting new adventures and many miles on the roads with his new owner which would be a much better life for him than being cooped up in a house for months, or years, on end. I realized that Bike would be much better off this way. Still, as Bike’s purchaser handed me the money and readied him to be ridden home, I felt just a little bit sad. It felt like I was selling an old friend.

I can now say that I completely understand how some friends (not naming any names here…) end up with 14 or 20 bikes!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

On June 10th I competed in the Eagleman Ironman 70.3 for the 4th year in a row and can definitely say it’s always one of my favorite weekends of the year, not just because of the race but all of the events surrounding the race and sharing it all with the many friends who come out to compete in this race and/or support. Racing with friends is something I always got to do as an amateur, but I don’t so often get to do as a pro so I'm always grateful for the opportunity.

My last race (Columbia Tri) was really sub-par and I really wanted to have a good race at Eagleman to prove to myself that those results were not indicative of my fitness or what I was capable of.  Eagleman exceeded even my optimistic hopes and I couldn’t be happier. I finished 3rd in the pro field and came close to setting a PR for the 70.3 distance in 4:26 (with my only faster race being Clearwater which always turns out unbelievably fast times from all… so in a sense I feel like this was a PR since this is a legit course).

     Chris and I headed out to Cambridge Friday morning (about 2 hours from DC) and spent a relaxed day getting lunch with friends, swimming the course (which was especially enjoyable since the day was beautiful and being out on the water felt great- Cambridge is a really wonderful place to spend time when the weather is nice!), getting settled at my homestay, and getting dinner at an amazing restaurant (Bistro Poplar) with Chris. 

     Saturday was filled with the usual pre-race activities including getting gear together, analyzing my race nutrition and choice of gear many times over, and taking care of small details- which always seems to consume an inordinate amount of time, but it’s so important to pay attention to the little things since these can make or break your race… for example, forgotten salt tabs or misjudging what how much nutrition you’ll need. I finally decided on going with a very concentrated bottle of First Endurance EFS drink mix on the bike, 2 First Endurance Pre-Race caps before the race and 2 more at mile 40 of the bike, a First Endurance EFS gel flask on the run along with Salt Stick tabs and on-course sports drink and coke. I also emptied some additional Salt Stick pills into the EFS drink mix since the forecast called for it to be especially hot and humid. After everything was just right we went out for a great dinner with a fun group of friends and I was asleep by 9:30 or so.

I could have had a bad situation when my phone didn’t charge the night prior to the race, whose alarm I relied on to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning… but thankfully my phone waited to die until 45 minutes after my alarm went off! Much better than 45 minutes before. Yes, God is good. So race morning I got up on time and had my usual coffee, and the most calorie-dense thing I could stomach- half an Odwalla Strawberry protein smoothie and a few cups of mango juice. I can never eat anything before a race so I try to go for the most liquid calories I can stomach.

Race morning the race officials made the call the water temp- just ever so barely wetsuit legal! Since I love swimming in my wetsuit and need all the help I can get in the swim, I was super excited about this, but it did come as somewhat of a surprise as the water temps had already heated up beyond the wetsuit threshold by Memorial Day weekend… since things usually only get hotter as the summer progresses, the chances of this wetsuit swim being legal were very slim to none… in fact, the pre-race email to pros stated that the swim would not be wetsuit legal.

My usual pre-race routine includes warming up on the trainer for 20 minutes with some 30-second pickups immediately upon arriving at the race site, then setting up my transition area. I got those two things done and got ready for the swim start. For some reason I was feeling really nervous - much more-so than usual. I really of wanted to get the race started so I could have something to focus on other than being nervous. Finally they called the pros into the water and it was time to swim!

After the gun went off, I found myself on some feet early on and stuck with them the whole way. Eventually we joined up with a few more pros and I therefore ended up coming out of the water at about the same time or close behind 4 others.  Swim PR for me! (29:30-ish). This time was so “fast” that my dad missed me coming out of the water until Chris informed him that I’d already gone by. Into T2 there were several women ahead of me, so I tried to transition quickly so I could be within close range on the bike.

I decided not to swim with my Garmin this time because I feel like it’s so big and creates additional drag so therefore had the added challenge of grabbing it in T2 and putting it on while riding. This was a bit more difficult than I’d imagined and pre-race practice would have been good! I eventually managed to get it on without crashing, slowing down, or dropping the watch which I consider a big success.

I took the first 10 miles rather easy since there were several pros up ahead bunched together and the course marshals were right on us… I didn’t want to try to pass and get a penalty for being too slow in passing several people at once, or burn too many matches by sprinting to pass within the short allotted passing time. I think this actually worked out well for me since the slower start allowed me a more even effort throughout the bike, something I’ve always struggled with. Since the Eagleman course is flat and the scenery rather unchanging (though beautiful!) I decided to take splits every 10 miles to break the race into smaller pieces and keep myself focused, and just paid attention to my power for each 10 mile segment (and taking in nutrition at the right intervals). Around mile 40 I took the two First-EndurancePre-Race pills and my power really picked back up for the last 10 miles, which ended up being strongest (highest wattage) one.

Since this was a pretty competitive field, my goal was to finish in the money (top 6) and coming into T2 I had no idea what place I was in. I thought maybe 6th or 7th. So when I saw the 3rd place female lead biker up ahead waiting for the next runner to emerge from T2, I got pretty excited! I was in 4th place at that point but right behind 3rd, and within 2 miles passed into 3rd place. However, with the infamous heat out on the run course (it ended up being a humid high of 93 that day, with 10 miles of the course completely unshaded) anything can happen so I tried not to get too excited and keep a good but not too hard effort. Though I usually do really well in hot race conditions (comparatively), I have had a race or two where I’ve gotten depleted and really struggled badly in this type of weather.  Around mile 2 we passed a house that had a great party going on out front, and they were cooking bacon- really NOT what you want to smell when you’re running in 90 degree weather. I focused on taking in as much as I could at each aid station- which meant stopping to make sure I got everything- cups of ice to pour into my sports bra, ice water to pour on my head, and liquids to drink at every aid station, and a coke and salt tab at every other aid station. At the run turnaround, I saw that I had a pretty good gap which made me feel better about stopping at every aid station to get everything I needed rather than running through. It seemed like a hot eternity between aid stations, but pretty soon we were at the final partially shaded final mile leading to the finish line!

The best part of my finish was that I got to share it with so many friends, many of whom also had great results. Chris was 2nd place in the male Aquavelo division, qualifying him for Aquavelo nationals. My good friend Doria PR’d in her first race back after having a stress fracture this past fall.  Friends and family including my Dad were out on the course cheering. Our homestay hosts- who hosted me as well as friends Doria and Esther for the 2nd year in a row- showed us incredible hospitality, and it was as if they were our own family with how excited they were for us after the race. They even made us a congratulatory poster on the door when we arrived home. I also saw so many friends at the awards or finish who were as excited about my race as I was- as well as others tracking me online- truly made it a great day.

Now that Eagleman is over I’ve started my Ironman-specific training for Ironman NYC in August, and I’ll be racing next at Racine Ironman 70.3 on July 15th. Many thanks to the great support of FFT, especially coach Eric for the smart, well thought out training plan that is challenging yet manageable with my full-time work schedule, to Computrainer for enabling me to do those killer bike sessions that would be impossible otherwise, and to Cervelo for my super fast P4, both of which helped me to the 3rd fastest bike split at Eagleman. I’m also extremely grateful to Inside Out Sports for sponsoring our team and all of the great support that they provide, First Endurance for the excellent products (best on the market) for keeping us properly fueled and performing at our best in training and races, and recovering properly after, CEP for the great compression/recovery gear, and Nicole Allen Massage Therapy for the excellent massages that keep me injury free and training strong. And last but not least, many thanks to SkinSake for keeping us chafe free (an often-overlooked but vital product especially for longer-distance races!), Rudy Project for the excellent helmets (most comfortable and functional I’ve ever owned) and eyewear, TrainingPeaks for making tracking training a piece of cake, SPaRC of Santa Barbara for keeping our mental game strong, Prevail Conditioning, and FS series. Looking forward to racing again in three weeks!