Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thank you, friends!

Today I enjoyed my longest ride in ages - just shy of 60 miles (6700' of elevation gain, ouch), with a big chunk of those shared with a friend, Desen (pictured). We hadn't ridden together before, but we immediately clicked, and it felt good to work with her across the miles. It's nice to ramp up the training again and notice some fitness returning after my least consistent winter ever.

Less than four weeks ago my mom passed away - maybe you saw my post. We'd known since late November that she had just a few months to live with metastatic brain cancer.

For most of my adult life, I talked to her nearly every day (sometimes twice) just to chat about the goings-on of life. She was a wonderful advisor to me. That's gone. At least in the way we used to do it.

But in the aftermath I have felt friends "circling the wagons" for me, especially those in my triathlon/running/cycling world. They've been ready with hugs, encouraging words, ears to listen, and just as important - they've been there to swim, bike, and run with me.

Triathlon (and running/cycling/etc) is a community of survivors and thrivers - those who push through challenges whether it be a major life change, illness/injury, or even just getting out of a warm bed for an early morning session.

During tough times I keep training as I can, and I encourage others to keep training through their tough times too. Dial it back and give yourself flexibility to adapt, but keep going. It's not just for the physical and mental benefits, but for the community.

Last week I really struggled. I think my efforts to be strong and keep everything going - work, family, all the paperwork and things related to my mom's passing - it all caught up to me and sort of boiled over on Thursday. The last thing I wanted to do was go to Master's swimming, but I went. I told my coach I was having a really rough day. It felt really comforting to just be in close proximity to my friends, to chat and share the workout. And darn if I didn't swim pretty decently. Afterward, our coach asked me, "How do you feel now?" I of course felt much better :-)

My mom was part of a community of lifelong friends forged through tennis (many of whom I've enjoyed catching up with over the last few weeks.) I can't imagine my life without the friendships that have blossomed through the sports I enjoy.

I just want to say thank you for every kind word, text, message, email, card, phone call, and shared workout. Thank you friends. And thank you Coach Jim, who has lovingly coached me through so many challenges throughout the last ten years. He always seems to know just what I need.

The sweetness of life comes from connecting with and loving others.
That's all that matters.
That's everything.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How my bikes found me

I am not a shopper. I'll do enough homework to get myself into the ballpark for a purchase, and then I like the decisions to make themselves. That's been the story for each of my three bikes purchased in my adult lifetime. There was no shopping. They found me!

Bike 1 - Jamis Ventura Road Bike (June 2009)

Story: After running for two years and being injured too many times, I decided I should get a bike and become a triathlete. I scanned our local Craigslist and one and only one bike stood out to me as the right size, the right condition (barely used), and really I just though it was pretty!  So I bought it and raced the heck out of it for two years.

Bike 2 - Quintana Roo Tri Bike (June, 2011)

Story: I'd been mulling over the idea of a tri bike for a while. I had a conversation with the owner of a local bike shop about it and he said I should try his tri bike and see if I even liked that style of bike. The 2008 Quintana Roo Lucero Lite bike was not for sale, but he let me take it, he let me race it after riding it only once (photo above), and I fell in love. He sold me the bike! Again, I've raced the heck out of that bike and will continue to do so in non draft-legal races. It's just a great partnership and we've raced the roads of Auckland, London, and Rotterdam together. 

Bike 3 - Trek Domane SLR with Di2 (September, 2018)

Story: For years I had been debating getting a different (more comfortable, non-aluminum) road bike. When I qualified for Draft-Legal Sprint Worlds, I decided that was the sign that it was time. I reached out to my coach, to another coach friend, and to Lauren Goss, a professional triathlete I have worked with since 2012, looking for leads. It just so happened Lauren was about to list her Trek Domane, a bike that has quite a following for comfort and performance. (Here she is the day she got the bike.) While I wanted the bike for some limited draft-legal racing, my greater interest is really to enjoy centuries and group rides in comfort and not be "that person" on the tri bike.

The big question was, would it fit me? I am just an inch taller than Lauren, and after some measurements by our Trek rep Janet at our LBS, and by Lauren remotely, we confirmed that it should work. 

I arranged for shipping through Bike Flights, Lauren packed it up, and I anxiously awaited its arrival at FedEx!

Sherpa and equipment manager Bryan headed up the assembly. (Big thanks to him for helping with the decision making and acquisition.) I hadn't been on a road bike in years and had never used Di2 shifting, so those first laps around a parking lot were a little scary!!

To add to the fun of this bike, I got the Di2 charger from pro Kevin Collington, and Garmin Vector pedals from pro Timothy O'Donnell. Timothy is a Garmin athlete and was the top American male at Kona for the second time this year - I worked with him for several years. I asked each of them to send along some speed to go along with it all (haha, wish it worked that way!).

I rode the Domane exclusively this fall and am absolutely thrilled with it. The Jamis went on to a new home with a budding triathlete. The QR is on the trainer and it's nice to be able to leave it on there for the winter. I feel extremely fortunate to have two nice bikes that work well for me. And I love that they come with stories. 

Thank you to Lauren and Timothy for helping me to have a much nicer bike than I could have possibly dreamed of. Thank you to Bryan, my mom, and Coach Jim who encouraged me to "get the bike!" 

My Christmas came early!!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Tale of Two Races: USAT Age Group Nationals

I am finally getting around to a report on USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals, held August 11 & 12 in Cleveland, Ohio. Why a two week delay (slacker) you ask? Because I got home late Monday after the race, had a backlog of work, and was getting my oldest son ready to head off to his first year at the University of Virginia. That happened Saturday.

I did keep up a Facebook album during the race weekend and won't duplicate that here. It turns out I must have pre-ordered the photos from the Olympic race so I'll put them to good use here. I have to keep up my tradition of race reports!

The short version of my report on racing the "double" of the Olympic on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday:

Some days ya have it. Some days ya don't. 

Saturday's tale: The Olympic Distance Race

The lake was pretty riled up by the time our wave went. I generally like a bit of adversity and I did have fun with the swim, coming 26th out of 125 which is decent for me. Perhaps some credit is due to the sleeveless ROKA wetsuit I impulsively bought on my way to swim start, about 45 minutes out!! (I kept laughing at my total disregard for "nothing new on race day!!") It was one of several purchases I've been debating for years as I have a full-sleeve and I have wetsuit pants, but no sleeveless wetsuit. But I do now, and it's super comfortable and I loved it.

The swim must have spread us out quite a bit since I didn't see a lot of other women in my age group on the bike. I did my thing and felt OK but not amazing (I was 11th on the bike).

Then on the run I just ran out of steam - mentally and/or physically. In hindsight, I may have been under-fueled given the span of time between breakfast and the race start for me.

On this day I didn't quite have it. I found myself walking the little uphills (embarrassing) on the course and just didn't have much fight in me. I got passed by quite a few women in my age group and that STUNG. But I did what I could and came 17th place out of 125 finishers in my age group. The results are here in PDF form, on the app in individual form, or here at sportstats - none in easily sortable lists (which makes it hard to look at how your various splits compare to others in your age group).

I was 26th on the swim, 11th on the bike, and 24th on the run. With the age-up thing, I was 20th for the 18 Team USA spots which probably means a roll-down slot will come but I don't think I'll take it. Why not? Read on.

Sunday's tale: The Sprint Distance Race

I slept well Saturday night and showed up to the venue fresh and ready for another go. I was not sore AT ALL so I knew I had not fully utilized my race gears Saturday. I was determined to use them this day.

The sprint race was changed to a duathlon. Instead of swim - bike - 5k run, it would be a 2.7k run - bike - 2.7k run. While I would prefer all three sports, I knew this offered me a distinct advantage. I love a short fast run!!!

My age group was THE last group to go. We started in groups of four in a time-trial fashion, and there were maybe 20 women behind me. I was really at the back of the race. The wait felt like forever and when it was my time to go, I shot out of the start with pent-up energy. We ran about 200m on the flat grass then headed up the long-ish incline to the park. At the top I glanced at my pace and was thrilled to see something starting with a 6:XX. (Those track workouts pay off!) That just fueled my fight and helped me to confidently lock into my top gears. I just never let off the gas.

I had a blast on the bike, telling myself to "grind." It's funny the mantras that pop into my head on race day! I knew I was having a good race for me and that excitement carried me through every step of that second run and onto the finish. I felt fantastic!!

Sunday's race tale had a much more satisfying ending. I was 4th on the first run, 6th on the bike, and 7th on the last run. This time I was the one passing people (with a time trial start there could be slower people ahead of me and faster people behind me). Overall I was 5th, edging out 6th by just 12 seconds and earning myself the last step on the podium.

I did not have a change of clothes with me for the awards ceremony. Oops. 

That performance earned me one of the 8 spots for the ITU Draft-Legal Sprint World Championship to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland during the Grand Final next August 30-September 1. I took the spot despite my resistance to draft-legal racing. Why? I am a stronger sprint racer than Olympic. I believe I can adapt to that form of racing. And, I've been debating getting a race-quality road bike for YEARS. So this is my kick in the pants to finally do that. (Looking for: used carbon fiber road bike, size medium frame for 5'7" athlete, affordable!)

I was super happy especially given that this past year I've had to shoehorn training into a very packed life. I owe so much to my fantastic coach, Jim McGehee of One-on-one Endurance who helps me maximize my limited time. This is my tenth year of having the privilege of training with him and I am extremely grateful for his wisdom and guidance!!

Oh - one other victory worth mentioning. For the first time ever, I successfully used the multisport mode on my Garmin without screwing up (i.e. pushing start/stop instead of lap) AND I figured out how to add a duathlon mode for Sunday and did that one just fine too!! Pretty cool!

I am closing out my multisport season with two more races - the Claytor Lake Sprint Tri September 8th and the duathlon option at the Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon on the 23rd.

And I'll be in another season of college applications with son #2!!!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim

Today I did my first ever open water swim race - the kind withOUT the biking and running afterward! It was at Lake Moomaw, site of the Bath County Triathlon, but it was held in a different area of the lake, near the Gathright Dam. 

I went with my long-time friend Clare (the chief instigator of this outing) and fellow Master's swimmer Dave (also a LBS owner). 

I figured the 1-mile swim would be a good tuneup for AGNC next weekend and just something fun and different to do. And it sure was!

Packing was freakishly easy. It all fit in one string bag plus a bag of snacks/drinks. 

We checked in and headed to the water for a warm up. I did my usual procrastination and grimacing getting into the water even though it was in the high 70's and actually quite perfect. We got out for the race briefing by Race Director Dave Holland where we heard that the reason that the last turn buoy is attached to a kayak is because the lake is 120' deep there - near the dam. WHA???? I pushed that little factoid out of my brain quickly. I did like his analogy for which side of the buoys to hit - he said it's like driving in the US on the way out, but like driving in England as we come around the last one. Got it!

Here's what we swam and you can see the dam in the top right. It's a huge vertical drop to the Jackson River. 

Taken from the car - Lake Moomaw up top, Jackson River below

I hoped the dam would hold for our swim and I wouldn't get sucked down the river!!!! (LOL - but really, can you imagine?!)

Dave, Clare, and I reviewed what we each wanted to focus on for our swims. Our swim coach Judy had reminded me to keep my leading hand in the water till my other hand was past my shoulder (she has some better way of saying it) - basically don't resort to "windmilling". I would also think about sighting/swimming straight, good rotation and reach, and increasing my arm turnover.

We were called to line up in 7 waves of about 10 swimmers each, heading off from the beach start in 1 minute intervals. I was in wave 3. 

Our wave talked about not going out too fast and there was no scrum. It was very civilized! Off we went, what's to say? Once round the first buoy, we could finally spot the second, and then the third. On the way back we could pick any route provided we rounded that first buoy again on the way into the finish.

A few things I noticed about my own swim: I was tending to drift left a bit, I had to remind myself to sight more often, and I noticed the gap to the others in front of my widened after a turn so I need to learn to get quicker around the buoys. These are things I will think about next weekend at USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals.

I finished in 29:15 which seemed pretty good to me, but for reference, the winning time was 21:05 on the women's side and 22:06 on the men's!! (Results here)  The fastest swimmers were not necessarily the youngest either -- I saw the famous Shirley Loftus-Charley go off in the first wave, and at age 67 she swam it in 22:21!! 

I was pretty tickled to win my age group (there were 5 women in 50-54). Clare came in WAY under her goal time and Dave was faster than last year, so it was a good day for all. We are already talking about going next year!! Swimmers came from DC, Richmond, and even Philadelphia, and I can't help but think this race is going to GROW and GROW. I'd certainly encourage area tri and swim friends to consider doing it.

For more info, follow the Facebook page for the Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Tiniest Triathletes

Today was the Kids In Training Youth Triathlon put on annually by TriAdventure, for kids ages 4-10, and I was very excited to be volunteering again. It's no small feat to cater to the tiny crowd, to keep them going in the right direction safely and happily. It takes quite a bit of planning, plenty of volunteers, and an experienced race director and staff.

Let me back up to yesterday when work at the venue began. I was part of the four woman set-up crew that put into place lot of plastic posts, orange fencing, string, flags, and cones to ensure the tiny triathletes would stay on track.

Following a pool swim of 25y, 50y, or 100y (determined by age), they would ride 1, 2, or 3 laps (again, by age) of a bike course that followed the perimeter of several linked parking lots, then run 1, 2, or 3 laps of a run course around a recreation field.

You can't just put four cones out and say "run around those." It has to be pretty fool-proof.

Lest you think all I can do is type on a keyboard, I'll have you know, my contributions to the infrastructure included:

  • Hammering in all the posts with a rubber mallet
  • Putting up orange fencing around the perimeter of transition
  • Painting lines that would delineate each transition area 
  • Painting directional signs in transition

I'll admit though, my extensive keyboarding didn't adequately prepare me for my many swings of the rubber mallet:

But it mattered not, it was so much fun and the venue was taking shape!

I returned early race morning and pre-race setup was underway - the finish arch, tents, signs, road blocks, and cones - LOTS of cones. Field marking chalk was used to lay a route through the parking lots.

The athletes and bikes of various sizes began to filter in and since a rack isn't practical, each athlete had an area:

Next, my friend Chitra and I attended to body marking arms with race numbers and calves with their age (to be "official"). It just so happened that most of the race numbers were four digits, which I found funny on those little arms! As we marked each child, we'd try for a little conversation. One little boy turned out to be only 3 years old but you could just tell he'd be fine. Indeed, with older siblings in the event, he handled it like a pro!

None of the kids seemed particularly worried.

At 8 am it was go time, with kids split into age groups on the pool deck, with parents on the other side of the pool. The 7-8's (below) group was by far the largest.

I got to be one of the shadows, a person who acts as a buddy to a particular child, helping just enough but not too much. Just before the swim, I was matched with a young triathlete-to-be.

She swam. (photo credit: Chitra Ranganathan)

She biked.

She ran. (We also did a little chatting.)

This little girl grinned the whole way through the swim, toughed it out on the ups and downs of the bike course with training wheels, and then flew on the run with a strong kick to the finish! She's got grit for sure!

As the finish line festivities wound down, we disassembled the transition area, bike and run course. As I worked, I thought about the spirits of the children. I thought of the courage of the young first-timers venturing into the unknown. And I thought about the parents who had given their children this wonderful opportunity! What a confidence builder! 

And in other news, I ran/raced the Hell Climb 10K Saturday morning. It ascends 2000'+ over 6.2 miles with no downhills. So now I'm not sure if I'm sore from the race, or sore from walking around bent over with paint can after paint can, lol. 

It was an awesome weekend!!