Friday, August 26, 2016

USAT Age Group Nationals in Omaha, NE

Lee Turner, Brad Metcalf (also with One-on-One Endurance), me,
Coach MarkT, and Darcy Ytterdahl

This is my latest most procrastinated race report EVER. This entire year has been one of those extra crazy busy times of life and it's not looking to let up anytime soon. I'm typing this up from my mom's new house, a 411 mile drive from mine. I'm determined to get this posted before my next race.

Anyway, I was looking forward to a change in race venue for Nationals after three great years in Milwaukee, but I confess that I had to look up Omaha on a map more than a few times to remember where it was. It's along the border with Iowa, pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the country.

I arrived Thursday of race week where athletes were greeted by inferno-like temperatures of over 100 degrees. Athletes were a little panicked but the forecast promised "cooler" temps in the 80s for the weekend. I didn't fret about it but just focused on staying hydrated. We'd all be racing in the same conditions. 

The hotels in the area were plentiful but none were within reasonable walking distance of the venue at Carter Lake. Most people relied on cars, hotel shuttles, and the event shuttle to get back and forth. With one main road in and out, it made for a big traffic jam Saturday morning that delayed the race start by 15 minutes. (Advice: leave yourself plenty of time to get there race morning.)

Packet pickup was smooth and quick on Thursday and the expo was in full swing! TriSports had a big shop with plenty of other booths including the major sponsors (Garmin, TrainingPeaks, TYR, Rudy Quintana Roo, etc). The venue itself was nicely compact with transition, the Expo, and swim start all in close proximity. 

Lee and Coach Mark Turner of Houston, TX and Team MPI

Friday I assembled my bike (shipped to the hotel via BikeFlights, of course!) and took it to the venue for a test ride and for mandatory bike check-in. The shifting sounded a little grind-y so I took it by the QRoo booth where I found out that they are happy to take a look at any and all bikes in the QRoo family!

With the bike set, I turned my attention to the practice swim session. This was my first Nationals or Worlds without a wetsuit and I relished the low-80's water temps! I found the lake to be far less imposing feeling than past venues. It was a quiet little lake rather than a major harbor or boat inlet or alongside a towering building or pier. There was a long temporary pier built out into the water from which we'd do an in-water dock start (one hand on the dock). I was HAPPY to swim here!

The most wonderful part of Nationals is the people! I see friends year to year, connect in person with folks from the tri community who I have interacted with online, and I always meet new people. This year I was very excited to meet Bob Babbitt of Babbittville Radio. I have probably listened to 95% of his podcasts over the last five years, they are fantastic!!

Bob wasn't just there in a token role. He raced hard and earned himself a spot for Team USA for Rotterdam next year! 

Before I talk about the race, I'd like to mention the next most important thing, which would be FOOD! I was pretty happy with the food scene in Omaha, particularly because most of it was concentrated in the Old Market Business District. You could walk just a few blocks and find whatever kind of restaurant/food you wanted. The city itself seemed clean, quiet, and very welcoming!

On to the races!

Race morning I got set up in transition pretty quickly and then spotted Coach MarkT in his officially ref-ing capacity. Then I finally got to meet Coach Amanda Leibovitz of Team MPI! She's amazing - a full-time student working on a PhD in Sports Psychology, training/racing a full schedule, and coaching accomplished athletes. 

With Coach Amanda Leibovitz

I raced the Olympic Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I am pleased with my performance for both: I raced to my potential, and I stayed strong, focused, and happy!

A few highlights, tactical decisions, and strategies 

Swim Start: In the past I've gone out conservatively assuming swimmers who went out aggressively were faster than me. I've learned that is often NOT the case. This time I pulled my feet up to the dock and pushed off hard to get to the front as quickly as possible then let things sort themselves out. Good decision there! (It's always so fun to see and hear Tim Yount announcing at the swim start, he's our "Mike Reilly" at USATAGN!)

Swim: The course layout was such that in advance, you could figure out your line to the first turn buoy and from the second turn to the finish, knowing which side of the sighting buoys to target. I felt I swam straight both days and I caught an awesome draft in the Sprint! 

Bike: The bike course was generally flat (with the exception of one short hill I enjoyed on the Olympic) with a good surface and never annoyingly crowded. There were a lot of refs on the course and I did not see any willfull drafting taking place. My Normalized Power was pretty good for me: 202w (22.1 mph avg) for the Olympic and 213w (22.9 mph avg) for the sprint. I was glad to see that even on tired legs I cranked it up for the sprint. I felt a "go for broke" aggression on the sprint bike and had a blast!! If interested, here are the Garmin files for the Olympic and Sprint

Run The run was a bit warm! My plan on the 10k was to hold back on on the first 5k and hold or ramp up on the second. My mile splits were 7:21, 7:29, 7:38, 7:42, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:32 pace on the last .34 miles. I was just happy that I didn't fade in the last two miles. It was a long 10k but it's because our turnaround was the infield of the Ameritrade Stadium which was pretty cool! I stumbled onto a new strategy for the last two miles of the run -- I compulsively spelled the word "technique" as I went, one letter at a time as my right foot landed, over and over. I did that to keep up my rhythm and remind myself to maintain my form! I did the same thing in the Sprint where my paces were 6:59, 7:07 and 6:56. This time I spelled B-E-L-I-E-V-E. I'm easily entertained, but it worked. 

I was 12th out of 114 in the Oly, and 8th out of 53 in the Sprint. I am pretty sure I got Team USA slots for  Rotterdam for both but I don't know for sure yet. Full results here

I had a super fun race weekend and despite my apprehension about Omaha, it was a very welcoming and wonderful city! I look forward to next year!

Thank you THANK YOU to Coach Jim McGehee of One on One Endurance who has had his work cut out for him coaching me through this tumultuous year. Thank you to my mom and sister for their understanding as this race weekend happened to coincide exactly with my mom's move (which had been delayed). I'm grateful to my kids and husband for allowing me the time to train and race. Gracias to Sherpa Bryan for help with logistics and equipment details and for sponsorship by Solar Connexion.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Draper Mile: Downhill in 5:47

photo by Frank Locascio Sr. via Runabout Sports

On Friday night I ran the 35th Annual Draper Mile, put on by Runabout Sports, for just my second time. It's held in conjunction with our annual two-day community craft/vendor/eating/music festival called Steppin' Out. I had often opted out of this local race because I didn't want to needlessly risk injury the week before USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. But I've mellowed...and it had just been too long since I had raced anything (July 4 to be exact). So the day before the race, I signed up.

It's a cool race because (1) it's a straight shot down one of our town's most historic and picturesque roads (2) it's downhill and the FASTest road mile you'll probably run (3) you finish down a vendor-lined street and into the heart of the festival and (4) there is tremendous local crowd support. It's just really fun!

the route

The elevation profile

This year they had a men's elite wave (6:00 or faster), followed by the women's elite (7:00 or faster) and then the open division. I'd run a 5:43 in 2014 so I took advantage of the rare opportunity to be categorized as an "elite!!"

The decision to race was rather spontaneous and since I'd had a pretty hard run the day before with working intervals and a threshold-type mile, my legs were a little sore, which I took to mean READY!

Of the 29 runners in the women's elite division, half (15) were under the age of 18.
I was the second oldest.

As we stood waiting for the gun, we heard some distant rumblings of thunder and a gentle rain began to fall. We took off and my mindset was to go hard, but carefully, knowing that painted areas of the road and speedbumps could be slick.

It's crazy trying to pace a mile. I really just didn't. My goal was to try to hang behind/keep up with my friend Marcia who I know to be particularly strong on shorter distances. I quickly reached what felt like a neuromuscular limit of how fast I could make my legs turn over. I was a little worried my legs might buckle!! My average cadence was just 95 though, not all that super high, but it felt like a Roadrunner-level turnover!!

Marcia ahead of me on the left. I am grimacing!
photo by Frank Locascio Sr. via Runabout Sports

With such a short intense race, the brain becomes hyper-focused. There is NO room for other thoughts like the ones that can creep in on even a 5K. It's a VERY COOL other-worldly feeling to think of nothing but legs, breathing, form, and motion.

I finished 10th with a time of 00:05:47.5 - just four seconds slower than two years prior [Full Results here] The fastest time on the male side was 4:04.5 by Patrick Woodford, and Oliva Beckner (age 16!) was the fastest woman at 5:04.8. Crazy fast!!!

After I finished, I found a spot along the course to watch the runners of the open wave. I looked across the race chute and saw my Coach and his wife, who had watched their son and daughter come through with the elite waves. Watching the families and kids come down Draper Road, I thought about how fortunate we are to live in a community that is so supportive of running that a one-mile race is an integral part of our community festival...for 35 years running!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Custom Kit journey with Pearl Izumi!

This January I looked into new custom tri kits. I've raced in three different kits across seven years and the most recent was showing signs it was ready for retirement to the less rigorous demands of training rather than racing.

I reached out to my ultra endurance sports friend Shannon Price who works at Pearl Izumi Custom. I've always been a huge fan of their apparel and all my cycling shorts and nearly all my running shorts are PI. To my delight, he said they would work with me!!

I discovered that PI has a very methodical process to take you through several cycles of design/redesign, review, and feedback along a prescribed timetable that keeps things moving along.  I was paired with a designer, Julie, and we worked using their Dropbox-like system and email. I sent her the logos, color palette, and swatches of patterns that I found appealing, and indicated which general designs I liked from their idea book.

some of my swatches

We started by focusing on the bike jersey, knowing the idea could be translated to other pieces. Within a few days we had the first round of several ideas from Julie. We set up a little creative space, bought some colored pencils, played with her ideas, and provided feedback to inform the next round.

I will confess it was a little scary at times, thinking of narrowing down from an infinite set of ideas, and I would wonder what we might be inadvertently eliminating! We went through a lot of options; here are just a few colored pencil sketches and printouts, sometimes modified with scissors and tape.

Early in the process I found sudden inspiration from, of all places, Zwift! My Avatar had been wearing the jersey below, unlocked by riding 100km on my bike trainer in the virtual cycling world. So we kind of rolled with that theme. 

This is how I "tried on" the jerseys.


After a few iterations we had a bike jersey design finished and then Julie got to work on the other pieces. When we got close to having a full set of designs that was ready to go, I was sent a fit kit so I could try on various sizes and know exactly what I needed. 

I greatly appreciate the fact in addition to the typical XS, S, M, L, etc sizes, Pearl Izumi also offers mid-sizes like XS/S, S/M, and M/L. I ended up ordering the mid-sizes for most things. 

After a few weeks in production, my clothing arrived on my doorstep - bib shorts, jerseys, softshell jacket, arm warmers, and one piece tri suits.

I have been extremely happy with every single piece - the colors, quality, fit, and comfort! I like the yellow and orange for visibility on the bike, and the subtle grey and black solar cell pattern accents.  

The process takes time and creative energy, but it's rewarding to have a unique design and high quality performance apparel. If this is something you or your group is interested in, I'd suggest doing some pre-work to gather ideas and starting early because a good process can't be rushed. I hope my overview has been helpful!

Big thanks to Shannon and Julie of Pearl Izumi Custom, and race sponsor Bryan Walsh of Solar Connexion!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shawsville Fourth of July 5K: An excuse to run in stars and stripes

On the 4th of July I ran my third Shawsville 5K, a race that has been around for 35 years! It's probably the flattest 5K you can find in the hills of Southwest Virginia.

I love this annual local race that starts on a cul-de-sac road, between two driveways (see top photo), and attracts some fast area runners. The top three men were under 17 minutes; the top three women were under 20 minutes.

Despite my love of the race, the sound of the rain falling on race morning had me considering my love of my bed and remaining in it. 

But hey, I didn't spend $5 on a patriotic tank top at Old Navy for nothing!!

I thought I was SO amazing for getting out the door to DRIVE to the race, until halfway there when I saw two cyclists up ahead in the steady rain and recognized my friends Kristen and Jordan Chang RIDING to the race. Impressive.

The rain tapered off and we really had nice conditions to race!

At the start, I was so surprised (shocked in a "what are you doing here?!" way) to see Michael Casciere (below), a Physical Therapist I worked with early in my running "career" who lives in North Carolina, but was in town and ran this with his granddaughter. He ran for Boston University and had done the Boston Marathon many times. The running world is a small world in many ways!

The race always starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and timely words regarding our nation by Coach Marvin Ballard, a history teacher at Eastern Montgomery High School. It always chokes me up!

Then off we went. 

I paced of off Tom Inzana who usually beats me, then I passed him after the first mile. He must have been having an off day. We spread out after the half-way point and had pretty well settled into our positions. Or so I thought. I got passed by a young runner in the last 400m (shown behind me in the next photo). She had an awesome finishing kick! I finished in 21:50 and repeated as the age-group winner. [Full results here]

I was really glad I ventured out into the rainy morning, thanks to a little extra motivation in the form of a tank top!

photo above and two below by Kristen Chang, RDN, CSSD of Real Food for Fuel 

photo by Blue Heron Photography; Coach Ballard in the yellow shirt at the finish line. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bath County Sprint Tri - 2nd female, happy race :-)

photo credit: Bill Huckle

This was my 6th year of the Bath County Sprint Tri and it is a true gem of the Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series, tucked away in the western part of the state at the beautiful, tranquil Lake Moomaw. Most of the local athletes turn out for this race so it's a priority for me to race here. It's also one of the few races with the out-and-back bike and run courses closed to traffic. And if you like hills like I do, you'll love this race!!

Luckily the swim is flat (no chop or churn) as well as beautiful and clean.

tranquil Lake Moomaw, photo credit: Michael Stowe

gathered pre-swim, photo credit: Bryan Walsh

With water temps around 76, I opted to race in my XTERRA Lava pants rather than a wetsuit and it was a good call for me - I got some buoyancy and speed without overheating, and they are quick and easy to strip off. As I was putting them on, the Star Spangled Banner began, and I found myself standing there with my pants half on, the whole time wondering if it was better to just keep standing there, or fumble to pull them on which would not be quick? In the end, I just stood there quietly with my pants down! Whoops!

I didn't realize until I was in the water and spotted my friend and lane-mate Kristen, that all the women were grouped in one swim wave. I like that! It makes for better head-to-head competition.

I felt strong and tactical on the swim and upon exiting my sherpa called out that I was 8th out of the water (12:08; 8/64 women). That is a good position for me!

photo credit: Bill Huckle

The bike is pretty much UP and then DOWN. I averaged 18.3 mph and 208w UP, and 26.2 mph and 197w DOWN. I heard reports of close calls with deer, and I saw more than a few dropped chains on the uphills, so I was glad to finish safely. Coming into the finish I heard I had moved up to 2nd among the women which surprised me. I passed one woman on the bike that I knew of so maybe I dropped the others in T1 or just didn't notice them on the course. I had a blast riding and just focused on trying to patiently catch the next person up ahead!

I am super pleased with my run. Sometime after last year's race my friend Tripp said something along the lines of "you usually look so light and up on your toes on that first climb, but this year you didn't." He was absolutely right. I took that exactly in the spirit in which it was intended - as an honest observation from a friend and motivation to improve for this year. I've thought about that many times since and up hills I am always trying to think "light and springy!" 

the famous Bath hills on the run course

After I crested the first hill in a light and springy way, I was totally excited to see Kelly Neville on a bike on the run course, riding toward me to tell me I was the second woman and about 45 seconds back. First of all, it was the first I'd seen her after I spent much of the winter following her onlline on her brave cycling adventures Down Under. Secondly, I felt like a pro getting timing information on my position in the race!! The runners around me started encouraging me to catch the lead woman, and I sure did my best to. I passed one guy on a downhill and he shouted after me "hey do you have a tow rope?!" I put in the fastest women's run of the day (7:12 min/mile avg pace for 3.28 miles) and cut into her lead, but Christina Meyer, age 44, of Charlottesville, Virginia retained her lead by 38 seconds! Well done! [Full results are available here.]

Of course, you can't lose by around half a minute and not wonder a little bit about where you might have shaved those seconds, lol. But then I tell myself, she also could have probably found 38 seconds to shave! At any rate, this was one of my happiest races of late. I was calmly in the moment and just enjoyed feeling strong. It has left me really motivated to spend the next two months preparing for USAT Age Group Nationals where every second will really matter. 

One-on-One Endurance athletes with Coach Jim! 
Kristen, Tanya, me, Coach Jim, Joe, Brad, Brent
photo credit: Bill Huckle

Happy to be on the overall podium, finishing 2nd
photo credit: Bill Huckle

Congratulations to Tanya Leroith for her AG win and continued strong racing and many podiums year after year. We sure appreciate her bringing along her partner and talented photographer, Bill Huckle, who supplies us with magnificent race photos!

I'd like to also mention the Stowe family - I've raced with Michael many times and more recently with his two teenage daughters Eliza and Emma. They've made it a family affair with the right emphasis on fun and with their enthusiasm and talent I see a very bright future in the sport for them!!

Thank you to my super sherpa and race supporter, Bryan of Solar Connexion; Coach Jim of One-on-One Endurance; the volunteers and race organizers from Bath County; Greg Hawkins and the staff of the Virginia and Maryland Triathlon Series; and the area triathletes, new and old, who give the sport personality!