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!