Sunday, August 20, 2017

Luray International Triathlon: Seconds matter!


Yesterday I raced the Luray International, which was my first time racing there since 2011.  It's a popular and beautiful race in the Virginia region, drawing heavily from the DC and Richmond areas as well as from our Roanoke/Blacksburg corner of the state. The race includes a small pro field in an open/elite division.

Things started a little rough for me when something I ate on the way there Friday that did NOT agree with me. I "lost" most of my dinner and did not sleep well. Fortunately I felt OK enough when I got up the next morning and I was very happy to see my friend and training mate Janet (and her husband Gary) had made it to the race. They had traveled up the morning of the race after working very late the prior evening. They'd had almost no sleep!

I was super excited to finally meet Paralympian Patty Collins, who is also a coach with Team MPI. While I've worked with her for some time and we've communicated quite a bit, it's the first time we've been together in person!


I lined up for the swim with Janet hoping I could hang with her but she pulled ahead before the first turn! She is strong in the open water and just thrives in the swim.


Janet and me!


Lake Arrowhead

The water felt great and it was busy in the little lake, but not overly congested. I swam a 31:08 and came out just a bit over two minutes behind Janet on the 1500m swim.


I headed out on the bike and stuck to the plan Coach Jim had laid out for me in terms of target power and limits on surges. My legs felt decent but I was burping like crazy from whatever got me the day before. I eventually found Janet and Rebecca about halfway through the 26 mile course. I was happy to see I had the 2nd fastest female bike split among the age-groupers. I don't think it's a secret that I really enjoy the bike leg!


Gary and me in the same picture!

I came in from the bike as Gary was headed out on the run (or out for lap 2). The run was generally downhill out and uphill back on the two-loop course. It lulls you into a false sense of comfortableness in the first mile or so and then reality hits on the slog back up from the turnaround. On the plus side, my stomach settled in time for the run. It seemed like it was forever to start loop 2, then I got a second wind on the downhill and just did what I could to bring it home. It was not pretty and it was not fast. 

When I looked at results, I saw two master's athletes just ahead of me and was thrilled to see I snuck in as third master's. I was very surprised (and thought it was a mistake) to be announced as third overall. That's because the top five females were in an open/elite division, so the three of us were then top of the age-groupers.

The top three age-groupers were separated by just 37 seconds!! 2nd place started a wave ahead of us, so I wouldn't have seen her ahead as a target. Had I seen her 11 seconds ahead, who knows what would have happened. But, it's a good reminder that every second matters. [Full results here.]
  • 1st - Maribeth Malecki (age 53): 2:43:11
  • 2nd - Abigail Ruscetta (age 42): 2:43:37
  • 3rd - ME (age 50): 2:43:48

us master's athletes have wisdom and experience on our sides ;-)

I can't say I was feeling too positive on the hot, hilly, turn-y run. If you'd have asked me how I thought I was faring at that moment, I'd have said NOT well. It's a good reminder that we can't judge our own race while we are racing. Keep forging ahead to the finish and do the best you can with the conditions of the day!! You might just be surprised!


I look forward to cooler conditions in Rotterdam (remind me of that when I face the cold swim). 

Thanks to the best ever sherpa and photo-taker Bryan. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Salem Distance Run 10K: A return to my first-ever race!

Today I ran the 10k at 43rd annual Health Focus Salem Distance Run. It was meaningful because it marked my return to the VERY first road race I ever did in my life, the 2008 Health Focus Salem Distance Run, when I was 41 years old! I ran a 53:26 then (and a 47:51 today) and I have no recollection if it was the same or a different course. I do know if gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment and I was hooked. I've been running ever since!!

I found out that my friend Robin also made her road racing debut the very same time as me and she's also still at it! She finished 3rd overall female in the 5K.

Michael Wardian, the extremely talented marathoner and ultramarathoner from Arlington, VA, has been coming to this race for the last 12 years or so? (I missed the exact year.) His list of accomplishments is long. Last year he set the world record (total run time) for running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. He's finished 45th at Boston. He's gearing up for a 400k in the Gobi Desert. Anyway, it was super fun to see him there and I shamelessly asked for a picture.

He of course ran the 10K the fastest (34:45, a 5:34 pace!), took some time at the finish, and doubled back to help at the last water station, arriving before me, the runner, did.


Unlike many sports, professional runners and triathletes are so accessible to us recreational types! We share the course and the conditions, and the struggle is the same for all of us (their struggle is just faster and over with sooner!). There is nothing analogous in other sports like basketball, football, or soccer. Would (insert name of famous sporty person) come to your local (insert name of sport)? Michael ran the race, helped out on the course, then announced all the awards!

As for my race, I was pretty satisfied, running pretty even splits for the first 5 miles (7:30, 7:26, 7:37, 7:28, 7:32), then allowing myself to throttle back in the last mile (8:06) when I saw that first was way far ahead, and third wouldn't catch me. 47:51 isn't too far off what I've done historically (with the exception of my "anomaly years" of speed in 2012 & 2013, lol.)

I did consciously try to hold back a bit in the first few miles. I saw another female up ahead but just stayed within myself. The patience paid off as I caught her 4-1/2 miles in and held my position in 2nd. [Full results] Not too bad for being half a century old ;-)





I would highly recommend this race to others. The 10k is a nice/different distance and there are not a lot of local opportunities to run that. The course is interesting with plenty of turns and short hills. Turns were well marked with very large chalk arrows on the asphalt and there were plenty of course marshals. You could feel that the race organizers and volunteers had a great deal of pride in the race, the community, and their mission!



The race benefits scholarships in the health field and is well supported by sponsors. In addition to nice awards, they offered many nice door prize packages.

Following the race, I changed my clothes and headed out for a 26 mile bike ride, with several miles in a refreshing downpour.

It was a great day of training!!


Friday, August 4, 2017

44 Days To Go


I'm just 44 days out from Olympic Distance Age Group Worlds at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Rotterdam on September 17. Once our June travel was over, I really buckled down and resharpened my focus to do the right things to be as prepared as possible to have my best race. Coach Jim made adjustments to my training and without teaching and travel to work around, I have a bit more time for it.

Changes include: 
  1. Sleep - 10 pm bedtime - not always successful but not too far off. Of course at this stage of life sleep is hit-or-miss
  2. More mindful eating and food choices
  3. Stretching and rolling each day
  4. Gym/strength training 2x a week - so far, so good and I'm enjoying it!
  5. An extra swim and and extra run most weeks
  6. More open water swimming
The training volume is higher, I'm on the track more, and there's more tempo/threshold work (but balanced with aerobic/easy). 

Another change is that I've been doing more training with my friend Janet. We are in the same age group and have been swimming together for a few years now, but have been sharing more bike and run sessions lately too. We are a really good match across the board and are pretty similar in terms of strength, speed, endurance, punctuality, and attitude! She's a multi-Ironman and a phenomenal athlete and human!! July is always a tough month for me for training because of the heat and the mid-season blahs, but she's made it great!

As promised, I took July off of racing. This month I am doing two races. The first is the Health Focus Distance Run 10k in Salem, VA on August 12. This was the VERY first race I ever did in my life in 2008 and I haven't done it since. Then I'll return to the Luray Triathlon for the first time in many years to race the Olympic distance as a tune-up for Rotterdam.

I got the Team USA gear. This is the first year ROKA is making the tri suits (top photo) and it's always interesting trying to figure out fit and sizing with a different vendor. At 5'7" and 130 lbs I ended up in a size large and it still feels a tad short...go figure. It's a back zip suit and came with NO chamois and NO lanyard for the zipper. How do they expect people to unzip for the "necessaries?" Luckily I had a spare lanyard and while we could send them back to get a chamois added, I'll just skip it. I took it for a test brick workout and while it was fairly comfortable, it left me chafed. 


The kids start back to school on Wednesday - a Junior and a Senior!! It's been a great summer and I'm not ready for them to go back. 

It's not exactly been the restful, sit around, read books, relaxed type of summer, but I'll take it!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Where has the last month gone?

It's always bittersweet when the summer solstice arrives (June 21) because, although it marks the beginning of summer,  the daylight hours very slowly begin to diminish. Late spring and early summer are my absolute favorite time of year - I feel energized, ambitious, and warm! With that, the past month has brought a lot of new experiences (and miles) for the kids and I. This is a major catch-up post!!!

I raced Mountains of Misery for my first time.


photo by Jordan Chang

This 102-mile bike ride/race, held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, includes 10,000' of elevation gain and ends with a four-mile 12%–16% graded climb to the finish. It's a rite of passage for many area cyclists and I finally decided this was the year to do it. Due to my limited time available for long rides, I said to Coach Jim that I just wanted to be trained up enough to enjoy it and finish happy. 

With just four rides over 50 miles since the beginning of the year (53, 60, 66, and 68 miles),  I was surprised to feel good through mile 60, then through 70, 80, 90, and 98!! The last four miles most definitely lived up to the "Misery" part, but I was pleased to discover that I had the endurance and fitness to do it (not that I ever doubt my coach, he always has me ready)! I finished as the 7th female, in 7:27:51 [full results], which probably doesn't sound that great, but the last three miles took me 36 minutes to climb 1500 feet (yes on my TT bike). That included two stops and some walking, which also sounds pathetic until you've tried it...and tried it after already riding 98 miles. Huge thanks to my friend Kristen. I rode most of it with her - she's a smart pacer and as an RD I followed her lead on fueling and hydrating!

photo by Jennifer McDonald


I raced the Varmint Half Marathon for the first time.


This was also the first time that an AWARD was part of my motivation to race, but this race gives out the neatest homemade wooden sheep with plaques! My friend Tanya has raced this 11 times and I've looked longingly at her growing flock each year! 

The race is held in Burkes Garden Virginia. Called "God's Thumbprint," Burkes Garden is a valley bowl at 3000' elevation that is completely surrounded by a mountain. We run the inner perimeter.


About a week prior I mentioned my interest in the race to Coach Jim. With sprint and Olympic triathlons as my summer focus (and limited training time), I've only done three runs over 10 miles this spring. I didn't bother with a race taper, and had a tough track session two days prior, so I just wanted to race happy, and did. I finished fourth overall, and 1st master's in 1:45:32 [full results]. Another first - I had a lengthy mid-race conversation with another competitor - I was definitely laid back!! 

photo by Bill Huckle

With Tanya, Kristen and Jordan


I sent my kids off to Germany for a two week exchange program and I swam in a new pool.


Spencer and Grant spent time with host families in Quedlinburg, Germany through the German American Partnership Program arranged by their German teacher. I spent considerable time prior getting them packed and organized to travel, reminding them of things over and over (and over), and planning for every conceivable contingency (none of which happened of course.)  As a triathlete, I am naturally gifted at obsessing over all the details!! 


They had an absolutely wonderful time, exceeding any expectations! They flew out of and into an airport that was 155 miles from home so I figured if I was making the drive there and back twice, I should find something to do to break up the 300+ miles and I discovered the Greensboro Aquatic Center - a long course competition pool that's absolutely wonderful.


I did an open water swim in Lake Erie for the first time.


In all the times I've been up to visit my sister (and now mom too) near Cleveland, I'd yet to do an open water swim in Lake Erie. While the kids were out of town, I spent time up there. I found the Cleveland Tri Club on Facebook and connected with a small group for an absolutely lovely swim! As a triathlete (or runner or cyclist), it's easy to find community wherever we go. I'm looking forward to USAT Age Group Nationals in Cleveland in 2018 and 2019.


One of those in the background is me!
photo by Eric Gibb 

with my sister and mom!

I read a book for fun for the first time in over a year.


loved it!

I cleaned up all our gardens, thinned out plants and gave them away, and moved 10 yards of wood chips.






I won the Bath County Triathlon for the first time.


This was my seventh time racing but my first time winning [full results]. It was a smaller field this year as the race was no longer part of our state race series, but I was glad to support this much-loved event as I'd like to see it continue long into the future. Placing is a function of who shows up on race day, so regardless, I feel good about a race when I know I remained focused, smart, tough, and positive, and that was surely the case for this.

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

Moving on...


It's been a great ride but I am DIALING back for the month of July. I'm using it to recharge, slow down, empty out the calendar, and just attend to the smaller things. My next (scheduled) races are not until the Luray International on August 19 and then ITU Worlds in Rotterdam on September 17. I want to be in top form, rested, and ready.

But first...we are off on a college visit road trip - a different sort of endurance challenge!

Monday, May 15, 2017

My most fun finish - The Gallop 4 the Greenways Adventure Tri

with the men's winner, Matthew Togo, and Carillion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the background

A while back, on a whim, I signed up for the Gallop 4 the Greenways Adventure Tri in Roanoke that was set to be a 4 mile run on the Greenway, a 2.7 mile paddle down the Roanoke River, and a 6.6 mile bike ride UP to the Mill Mountain Star and then back down again. Friend Ron offered a kayak, and with my VAST (i.e. can be counted on one hand) kayak experience, I was excited to try something different!!

With the paddle portion, it took the pressure off and I felt like I could really kick back and just enjoy the event and the celebration following all the Gallop 4 the Greenways events.

That wasn't meant to be.

Thanks to significant rainfall the day before, the river was deemed unsafe due to the fact that there wasn't sufficient room to pass under a particular bridge. We were disappointed, but that's how it goes with outdoor sports!

It was turned into a run-bike and my plan to slack off was foiled.

Well, the morning of the race I woke up with a very red and angry inflamed toe. About 10 days prior I'd noticed a small dark puncture on the inside of the toe and it had been itchy since. I figured it was a bug bite. The morning of the race I woke up and it had taken a turn for the worse - it was more swollen, and now also tingly, painful, and with a disturbing red line of inflammation. It was not happy stuffed into a shoe. It looked infected or something.

a very swollen toe-next-to-my-pinky toe - this was taken the day after the race

I went to Velocity Care to get it checked out where the doc went with "infected spider bite" and prescribed an antibiotic. She said to keep it elevated and not to run for a few days. Right. When pressed she just said racing might just delay healing and she conceded biking would probably be fine. (incidentally, 2 days later it's still no better and the new theory is just spider bite, maybe brown recluse, and perhaps not infected.)

I went to the coffee shop to wait for the pharmacy to open and ran into my friend and fellow athlete mom, Amy. Right after "hi" I showed her my toe and we discussed it. I had been uncertain, but left there having decided to race. I picked out the running shoes with the widest toe box, I iced my toe, and I hoped for the best.

It was the first year of the race, capped at 100, and small with 47 entrants. But there were some competitive racers there including Mathew Togo. Many of them were experienced with the famous "Mill Mountain" route but I'd never ridden it. Though I'm a decent climber, I'm not the most aggressive with descents. In a FB message thread I said something like I'd be going with "safety first" which was met with the response of "lies!" Haha!


We gathered for the 3:15 pm race start, and I said the same thing I say before a lot of races:

"I don't feel like working hard today."

Sherpa said "go all out."

Then the gun went off.

Matthew was aiming for something around 6:45 min/mile on the run (I know because I asked ;-) which wasn't very realistic for me for 4 miles. He led off the run and I found myself in second, not far behind him, and keeping up with him pretty comfortably. One side of my brain was saying "you'll pay for this later" and the other was saying "maybe this is your day!!" And as delusional race brains do, it also said "maybe that spider bite gave you super powers like Spider Man!!" I laughed at the thought.

I stayed with him pretty well through 3.5 miles then the elastic snapped with about 0.5 to go. With enough of a gap to third, I let off the gas a hair to save a bit for the bike. I did the 4 mile run in 27:28, which comes to 6:52/mile, but my Garmin had me at 6:38, 6:46, 7:00 and 7:14 (6:55 avg) -- not the even or negative split pacing Coach Jim would like to see but still a very good pace for me. I know without the pull of Matthew I would never have gotten that level of effort out of myself. And this is why we race!!


Matthew told me later his plan was to get out of transition fast and get out of sight of me. As a directionally challenged individual, I do not like when I can't see racers ahead of me. I pedaled HARD to try to find him and about half-way up, I did. I slowly closed the gap and passed just before the top.

When I found myself in the lead, I wanted the win and was committed to working hard for it. I was concerned he'd catch me heading down and I did not want that to happen.

Safety first on the downhill? Ha. I went as hard and as fast as I could. (I was careful about traffic though, and fortunately encountered very little.) I averaged 9.9 mph UP the mountain and 34 mph DOWN, hitting a max of 43 mph on the short 6.4 mile bike.


Roger on the lead motorcycle was ahead of me. (The "rabbit!") I'd hear him honking his horn through intersections and it felt very cool to have an escort!

At one point I got ahead of the motorcycle and slowed to yell out, "I don't know where I'm going!!" Not that he would hear me! Despite being an out-and-back with maybe four turns (with marshals), I was paranoid I'd go off course. Thankfully he pulled ahead again and I pedaled as hard as I could behind him to the finish and was so happy to be the first to cross the line as the overall winner! Matthew was just 0:22 behind.  [Full results here]


It was reassuring to know I still had that competitive hunger inside! One fun thing about racing, there is just no predicting when things will come together.

There was something very special about finishing up in front of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where I'd had my artery patched up three years prior (thank you Dr. Davidson!!) Without that, I would not be able to enjoy the sport of triathlon.


No matter that it was a small local race, it was probably one of my most exciting and joyful finishes! My toe didn't bother me for one step of that race either, yay for adrenaline!


With Angela (3rd) - Kimberly (2nd) not in the photo due to snafu
photo by Karen Williams

Grad student and competitive canoer Ryan McClure (3rd),  Jason Williams (2nd), Matthew Togo (1st)
photo by Karen Williams

It's always good to try new race formats and new distances and I would highly recommend this race to others next year!

To round out an excellent weekend, Coach Jim put a 65 mile bike ride on the schedule for Sunday, and my kids treated me to an amazing post-ride dinner they planned, shopped for, and prepared.

Today I am resting my still inflamed and unhappy toe and my sore but happy legs!

Up next: the Memorial Day weekend Mountains of Misery century ride with Kristen and team "Real Food for Fuel!"

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Smith Mountain Lake Sprint Tri: Lessons Learned


I enjoyed my seventh go at the Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon, despite cold, blustery conditions and grey skies! I finished third overall and was pretty pleased with my effort (but I'd always like to be faster ;-)

Here's my short and delayed race report as I spent the early part of the week getting final grades in. (Done!! YAY!!!! Great job by my students!!)

Lessons learned:
  • Swim faster.
  • Then swim faster than that.
- OR -
  • Go back in time and join swim team at age 6 and never quit.
I had my typical race where I lag in the swim, then make up as much as I can on the bike and run. I was a full four minutes slower than race winner Anna on the swim, and two and a half minutes behind Krystina in second. Ouch!


It's tough being an adult onset swimmer, but I do enjoy swimming. We were met with some unexpected choppy water for the middle third of the swim that left me feeling dizzy as I got out of the water but I still managed a decent T1. My most excellent sherpa reported there were about 11 women ahead of me as I exited (one must have snuck by him). For me, that's not a bad position coming out of the swim.

(photo by Bill Huckle)

As I do for EVERY cool weather race, I agonize about whether to add a layer for the bike. I didn't, and I was fine. As always. It's amazing that on a training day I'd need a few layers to cycle comfortably in those temps, but thanks to the "magic" of race day, I was fine in just a tri suit. I got right to work catching folks and had a great time on the bike!

Off on the 5K I went, feeling good. I got an updated report that I was in third, and got encouragement to "catch second who was 300m ahead." That's hard to make up on a 5K but I did what I could to put time into second. I maintained my position, finishing third - 38s behind fellow Blacksburg triathlete Krystina Stadler. [Complete results here,]

(photo by Bill Huckle)

It's hard not to think of where I might have found those 38s, but then again, she could have found 38s more herself! Congrats to Anna and Krystina, as well as Kristen Chang who finished 4th with the day's best run split. 

(photo by Bill Huckle)



Thanks to Mike Morris for being a part of the SML Sprint Tri for all of its 20 years! We love this race and energy and personality he has brought to the sport. It was great to see you back out on the course!


Love the Roanoke Tri Club and appreciate that they allow us Blacksburg-ians to be a part of it (even though I missed this group photo)

Some of the Blacksburg One-on-One Endurance contingent - Tanya, Kristen, and Coach Jim!
This is what it's all about!