Sunday, June 20, 2010

Race Report: Bath County Triathlon

Lake Moomaw

This race is held at the beautiful Lake Moomaw, which is in the middle of nowhere in the western portion of the state north of 64. It’s about a 25 minute drive from the famous Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, which, coincidentally is also in the middle of nowhere. I saw a lot of B&Bs, some charming stores, and a lot of golf courses, but I still wonder where these people do their grocery shopping.

This was my transportation to the race. Just kidding! We saw this car -- a Jaguar -- parked in front of the Homestead with two expensive tribikes hanging off the back. What a way to travel!!

My dad drove down from Pennsylvania and I had Grant, my 8-year-old, along and we met at the Vine Cottage Inn where we had the third floor to ourselves with two quaint rooms and the smallest bathroom and shortest door I’ve ever seen (yet it still had two sinks…what was the point of that?). We left my dad’s new Corvette behind and loaded up in my minivan with squeaky brakes and a missing hubcap and headed down the twisty gravel road to the marina to check out the race site.

YAWN...who would want to ride in my dad's car when they can ride in my sporty minivan?!

We had a mellow evening on the Inn’s large front porch and I barely managed to stay awake till 9 pm. We all slept pretty well and were up by 5:30 and on the road at 6:00. It takes me about 90 minutes at the race site to set up and warm up. My friend John and I took out bikes out for a quick spin and our legs out for a quick run.

Lining up for the swim, I just felt like my head was not where it needed to be. I felt almost too calm and laid back. The day before too I knew I was feeling off, so I asked my highly-motivational and energetic ultrarunning friend Shannon to give me a little peptalk via Facebook and he responded in typical Shannon style. He reminded me I’d never get this day back and that I should “go out like a wild animal determined to pick off the person in front of you. Don't let the thought of I am going too fast come across your mind.“

In the last race, I was least satisfied with my performance on the run portion. My goal for this race was a stronger run, physically and mentally. My trainer Jake put together a meal plan to ensure I’d have good energy reserves and I stuck to it faithfully during race week, particularly the day before. My mantra for this race was “suffer more.” Winning takes a willingness to suffer more than the competition.

As I watched the first wave of pink-capped swimmers (all men, haha!) leave, I got into race mode and off I went with wave two (in our white caps!).


There were four waves of swimmers and I was with the 44 and under women, which meant that most of the master’s women would be starting two waves, or 8 minutes, behind me. I would have no way of knowing how that field was racing and it eliminated most of the head-to-head racing among master’s women on the bike and run course. I’d have to run my own best race and let the chips fall where they may.

My habit had been to swim to the outside of the fray but in this race I chose to swim in the middle and was glad. I figured if I could see a swimmer to each side of me, I could be pretty confident I was not wildly off course and it would reduce my need to sight which slows me down and disrupts my rhythm. I also swam behind some feet for a while, with the understanding that it reduces the energy needed because you are swimming through water that has already been “broken”. I’m not really sure how that works, but I’m rolling with it! I’m getting the hang of this swim thing, and I felt like I came out of the water in a reasonably decent position.


The bike course starts with a big hill up, then it’s pretty rolling. Jim had given me a detailed game plan and said to push hard on the first half in particular. Using my “suffer more” mantra, I was constantly asking myself if I was suffering as much as I could in a given moment, and if not, I stepped it up. I worked to steadily pass as many riders as I could. Coming up the final big hill, out of my saddle, my chain slipped and pedals temporarily locked up. No sooner had a loud expletive left my mouth than the chain reset, thank GOODNESS. I hate when that happens. I had a good flying dismount (so fun!!) and was off on the run.

slipping shoes off, coming into the finish of the bike

There were a few bike-related incidents among friends at this race. As I left on my bike, I saw my friend John returning with a flat. To his credit, he changed the tube and made another go of it, only to flat again. His day was over. Coach Jim, due to a vehicle change, left his cycling shoes behind. Unflappable as always, he rode in his running shoes and STILL won the master’s division. What a great reminder that in the end this sport is about endurance, fitness, and determination….NOT who has the best gear.


The run starts up a pretty significant hill and my hamstrings put up a fuss. Jim said to go conservatively at the bottom and ramp up. Let’s just say the ramping up for me was very, very subtle! Based on the breathing patterns around me, I could tell folks were struggling but I was feeling really positive. I got in a good rhythm and just stayed there. I did the usual dumping water on myself at the water stations, and worked to pick off the runners. That is very fun, especially since it was pretty much all men. One of them yelled “you’re an animal” and I thought of Shannon’s animal reference kicked it up another gear. I ended up shoulder-to-shoulder with a guy for much of the last mile and although we never spoke a word, it was implicit that we were pushing each other along. The last stretch is downhill and I gunned it. I finished strong, knowing that was my best race so far.


After the race, Grant put on his swimsuit and joined this big group of kids who were jumping off the boat launch pier, swimming, and frolicking. When I think of this race, that is the image that will remain burned in my memory. It was a great day with my dad and son, with friends and fellow athletes.

The Thinker after much swimming!

With Coach Jim at the post-race BBQ

Joining me on the ride home was Brooke, a 16-year-old seasoned triathlete from Blacksburg. We talked non-stop on the way and I was amazed by the maturity and focus in this young woman. She was a tremendous example of what triathlon can offer to youth.

Reflections/Lessons Learned

I'm pretty happy with this one! I was really pleased with the bike phase and I think I have the most fun with that one during the race. Swimming is obviously my weakest but I do enjoy it. I’ll continue to log the drills, laps, and miles and refine my technique. I would love to watch a video of a swim wave and see what the strong vs weaker swimmers to differently. Is it all in the stroke? Are there other things I can do to shave time off? T2 could be reduced if I went sockless, but I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.

Next up is my first Olympic/International distance race in August at Luray so I have nearly two months to make the necessary improvements. I’m excited!!

Official results

TOTAL - 01:16:58 (3rd/108 women racers; would have been 26/148 among men)
Swim – 0:16:33 (31st)
T1 – 0:00:43 (4th)
Bike – 0:36:46 (2nd)
T2 - 0:00:41 (8th)
Run – 22:18 (4th)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shenandoah Valley Sprint Triathlon

Me with friend Krista at the race

It was a great day in Luray, Virginia as the town put on a top-notch sprint triathlon. You could feel the town pride embedded in it and I was glad to be a part of it.

I got up there on Friday and checked out the venue to discover a cute man-made lake that wasn't a whole lot bigger than the swim course. I drove the bike course, much of it in one of those late afternoon torrential downpours with big drops and lots of them. About a mile of the course looked to have been recently oiled and graveled -- a major safety risk. But by the time we hit the road on Saturday, that section of road had been swept off and was in great shape.

When I picked up my packet from Appalachian Outdoor Adventures, I spotted two beautiful 52cm Quintana Roo Tequilo Tri bikes for $825. The owner of the store said they were his last two and he was getting out of the tri bike business. One was new and the other had been his race bike. My jaw dropped and I took one for a test ride and loved it...all 12ish lbs of it. It was strange having the shifters at the end of the aerobars, but I was really comfortable in that more aero, flatter-backed position. (insert big SIGH here and disappearing dream bubble...) Howwwwever, Jim reminded me via voicemail in an emergency shopping intervention that I've been doing fine on my road bike, and in truth I really don't have a spare $825. One thing about triathlons, though, there's no shortage of beautiful, expensive tri bikes at the races. So I do take a certain amount of pride in knowing I'm a decent racer on an entry-level used craigslist roadbike!!

Saturday dawned clear, warm, and beautiful. I got to the race site, set up, took the bike for a spin, practiced my mount and dismount, and loosened up the legs on a run with some dynamic stretching and strides.

Practicing the flying dismount

Then I began the back and forth indecision about whether or not to wear a wetsuit. The swim in the early May triathlon did not go well and that was my first race in the wetsuit. I haven't worn it since. Lake Arrowhead was a reported 75 degrees, "wetsuit legal", but it sure felt warm. I polled my fellow triathletes and some were using suits for the added buoyancy, while others scoffed at a wetsuit. After some consideration (read: agony), I realized one of things I love about swimming is the feel of the water, which I find is diminished in a wetsuit. Then I asked myself if I'd be more proud of myself for a good swim with a wetsuit or without. In the end, I swam without a wetsuit, and I was really glad. That water was very warm, I had less to worry about in transition, and I enjoyed the swim.

Lake Arrowhead

My little transition zone

I was in the fourth and final wave of swimmers to start. During the swim I focused on my technique, sighting, and *trying* to draft, but primarily staying relaxed and positive. The plan was to go out slow and build. When I got to the first turn buoy and saw a guy from the previous wave hanging off of it, I felt awful for him. Soon I rounded the second buoy and began swimming toward shore where the plantlife seemed to reach up and envelop me, and I emerged from the water wondering how much was hanging from me (think Creature from the Black Lagoon). Jim had warned me about the steps from the lake up to transition at the top of the hill and that I should have a plan of action about how many to take at a time. So I ran up them, in a two-at-a-time fashion as practiced, passing two athletes on the way. (I always hear him saying, RUN don't walk in transition, it's a RACE after all.)

heading to to the official in yellow...check out wiggly man in yellow that helps us see where to swim to!

I was 35/102 on the swim, eh, so top 1/3. On the plus side, there's plenty of room for improvement. My time was 16:28 and the top time was 11:04!! She must have ridden a jetski! One thing I realized is that it's hard to compare swim times from one race to another because they all have slightly different starts (beach vs water) and distances from the water to the exit timing mat. I'm wondering it the actual swim course distance could even vary a bit.

I had the third fastest T1 of the women (yay!) and off on the bike I went. Bike was great, I felt strong, smooth, and comfortable -- or I should say the butt, shoulders, back, were comfortable while the legs were appropriately uncomfortable. The course was beautiful and I was busy "racing" or picking people off one by one, and quite a number of them. Would it be awful to admit I find that very fun? Most of the folks I passed were under 40 and from previous swim waves and there were maybe just 4 or 5 master's women that I spotted and slipped past. I ground it out as hard as I could knowing there were likely more masters ahead of me.

Jim had warned me about an area of "false flat" where speed would drop and effort required would grow and not to worry because everyone would be feeling annoyed. It was nice to have that insight and avoid getting into a negative mental loop. Just so we wouldn't get bored with the flat stuff, there were a handful of sizable hills including one near the end of the course. I'd try to go conservatively at the bottom and work to grind it out at the top and pick up speed again as quickly as possible for the descent. Yeah, the legs protest, but they've been through enough burn-inducing split squats, lunges, and leg presses with Jake to suck it up and keep pedaling.

My left quad was complaining and I wondered what that might mean for the run. I had a nice flying dismount and was off to T2 (rank - 21/102). Putting my socks on slows me down, I think I could have been quicker here.

I felt surprisingly good at the start of the run, but boy it was hot! I saw a few people walking on the course, and there was some audible struggling heard from the returning runners on the out-and-back course. At each water stop, I took a cup and doused myself. Well, in truth, I managed to launch the first cup directly over my shoulder missing my body completely, but I did better after that! I remembered Jim had said that on a short race, the effects of the heat are not physiological, but psychologically. He had also reminded me to run tangents through the curves. The return has an uphill grade and my pace slowed considerably, but I had been passing people pretty steadily and no one was passing me so I just held tight for the finish.

That final 100m is a treat because it brings the encouragement of spectators, which is much appreciated. I passed over the finish mat and headed fairly directly back to the lake for a celebratory dip in the water -- in that warm lake with the oozy yucky bottom and gross plants and I dove and flipped and swam and loved every minute of it.

One of the really fun parts of races is the folks you meet and stories you hear. I ran into a friend who runs a teaching and learning center at Radford. I hadn't known her very well previously but boy is a race a great bonding experience! I was really inspired by a 13-year old girl I spotted on the run. She was in amazing shape and tenacious! Then there was the marine who hadn't raced in 5 years but was so happy to have had a great reintroduction to the sport at Luray.

Finally, I do have to mention that the awards at this race were custom engraved wine glasses AND a bottle of local Virginia wine!! How great is that?! Now you know why we all raced so hard! So here's the lowdown:

TOTAL - 01:38:54 (7th/102 women racers, 4th out of masters but awarded 2nd)
Swim – 0:16:28 (35th)
T1 – 0:1:36 (3rd)
Bike – 0:56:17 (5th)
T2 - 0:1:06 (21st)
Run - 23:29 (4th)

Overall results (women) HERE
Category results (women) HERE

Before the race I wrote on my arm "No Fear" with a smiley face to remind myself to be tough, but to have a good time and enjoy the opportunity I have to be a part of the triathlon community, in beautiful locales, swimming, cycling, and running, moving under my own steam. I race better when I'm happy and today I was definitely happy!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things are going swimmingly

I've been working on my mental game plan for this Saturday's 750m swim. biggie....I can practically do it in my sleep and I think I may actually HAVE done it in my sleep during an early morning swim. At the last race, I went out too fast and spent a few moments floating and regrouping. My plan this time is to literally think about going out as slow as I can, and gradually build speed as I am able to do without crossing over into the land of hyperventilation.

I had a workout on Tuesday that was three sets of 300y, with #1 and #3 "fast" and #2 "easy" on a 5:45 cycle. I soon realized that the difference between "fast" and "easy"is not all that much and it's not worth the extra energy expenditure to try for "fast". (Funny how "fast" and "easy" can mean the same thing when describing a disreputable woman...)

I remember a workout before last fall's marathon with a long slow swim, where I did 27 laps, one for each mile I would be running. I think that was the first time where I felt like I could swim forever. So I'm going to lock into that feeling and ENJOY the swim, ENJOY the water, and keep it positive. I also refuse to break out of freestyle, I'm just not giving myself the option.

Jim recently posted this video analysis of my swimming. MUCH improved from a year ago, but lots of fun continuing to tweak it!

Better living through chemistry

On the one hand, I advocate for local, organic, and minimally processed foods. On the other hand, I've managed to incorporate quite a few chemicals into my workout routine. The bottles and canisters take up most of a shelf in my pantry. Here's the current list of what I use:

Pre-workout: Dymatize Enterprises Xpand Xtreme Pump Blue Raspberry. This name totally embarrasses me, but the trainer gave me some leftover of this that he didn't need to use and I have to admit I like the lift it gives me. It's got creatine and a mix of aminos and vitamins. Call it a placebo effect, but whatever.

Workout: water with Xtend BCAA. The flavored BCAA help me to drink more water if nothing else!

Post-workout: Scivation Whey + Carb Slam. I use this immediately post-workout to feed my tired muscles!

Bedtime: Vanilla Casein Protein + Tbsp natural peanut butter + water. This mixes up into a nice pudding like consistency and the protein and fat keep me from waking up in the middle of the night hungry.

Long runs/rides: Perpetuem + Whey Protein + BCAA. This was a recent discovery. I use orange and vanilla flavors and this mixes up into an almost milkshake consistency that does a great job of providing a continuous fuel source on a long ride or run. (It doesn't hurt that it tastes like an orange creamsicle!)

Misc: Calcium + Vitamin D + Fish Oil + MSM/Chondroiten

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mountains of Misery

Aid Station #5 at Mountains of Misery

On Sunday, day two of the Cycling Double Header, I volunteered to help with the Mountains of Misery ride and was assigned to aid station #5 at the corner of 311 and 658. This event filled up, with I think 550 riders registered. Most of them were from out of the area, or even out of state. It's earning a reputation among cyclists as a tough must-do ride because of the hellish climb in the final 4 miles of the 104 mile ride (final 4 of the 128 mile ride for those opting for the double-metric of 200k). The final climb takes you to Mountain Lake. Here's the elevation profile for the single...check out that last portion!

The day was hot and sunny, and sweaty for both riders and helpers! We were a popular stop for riders and boy did they go through the food and fluids. We had cookies, chips, pretzels, fruit, trail mix, gels, bagels, and my specialty...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I think I made 8 or 10 loaves of bread into sandwiches, but into quarters. The PB was in a near coffee-can sized container and we used every bit of it. Riders could opt for water, gatorade, or another electrolyte solution, Heed.

We just tried to be helpful, filling bottles, holding bikes, re-pinning numbers, and providing food. Equally important we offered praise, encouragement, and solace as needed. The solace was required for the four riders who had done an extra 18 miles by missing a turn.

I got to check out lots of equipment - bikes, gears, saddles, frames, and wheels. I found a cool saddle called the ISM Adamo that I am really considering getting as a solution to my raw crotch issues from long rides. (TMI? Sorry...)

The ride was so well run and coordinated, it was a real joy to be a part of it. The riders were gracious and the event organizers rocked.

Now the dilemma is whether to ride or help next year....?

Coach Jim (l) and his brother-in-law

Wilderness Road Ride

Saturday I rode the Wilderness Road Ride with John King. It was part of a weekend "Cycling Double-Header" that included Mountains of Misery on Sunday. The analogy I kept thinking of was the kiddie roller coaster (Saturday) and the big-time loop-d-loop rollercoaster (Sunday).

The WRR goes on part of Daniel Boone's Wilderness Trail (hence the name) and there are options to do 14, 29, 38, 58, and 78 mile routes. I picked the 58 which would be my longest ride to date. I arranged to do it with a fellow triathlete, John King, who I like to think I am roughly compatible in terms of cycling strength, but honestly, he edges me out. I was glad for the company AND the navigation help, since we know my habits with that sort of thing.

They give you a direction sheet and the roads are spray painted with symbols to indicate turns. The signs were great and we had no real problems.

So at 7 am, under a heavy fog, we set out. I had to keep wiping the moisture from my glasses. We rode to about mile 20 and stopped...mainly to decaffeinate (OK, pee!). I quickly realized how great these aid stations were - homemade baked goods, PB&J sandwiches, fruit, was just a rolling buffet!! Well that was the first, and LAST stop I enjoyed on that trip. John thought, and I did not argue, that we should make it a respectable workout and hammer it out. So we whizzed by stops 2, 3, 4, 5...and I waved hello to the volunteers as we went!

Honestly, I was glad to have a bit of a push for a working ride. John led for the majority of the ride, but I did take the front for some. And I confess to drafting shamelessly off of him a few times when I needed to back off. There were some nice climbs, but only on one occasion did my legs complain loudly.

For the main 3 hours we averaged 16.8 MPH and avg HR of 147, not bad.

The route was scenic and gorgeous and took us through sites and towns I'm sure few have seen. What an experience! And for the first time, I rode with NO hands..briefly, but still I did it. The reason for my no-handed pedalling was that without making food stops, I got pretty hungry, and my only option was the wrapped granola bars in my jersey pocket. I needed two hands to get the packages open , so hunger trumped my fear of riding without hands!

I felt great the rest of the day and managed to keep moving and shift pretty quickly into "mom mode". I had to make food to take to an afternoon soccer party and get everyone there at 4:00. By about 8 pm, I was toast, and by 8:30 I was fast asleep!!

The next morning, I felt perfect, like I had never done a thing. That was fortunate, because I was scheduled to work aid station #5 at the famed "Mountains of Misery" century and double-metric ride the next morning.