Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First off-season week

I made it all the way to Tuesday before starting to panic. That's a lot of empty space.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ITU Worlds: Post-Race Adventures in New Zealand

Nine of us left Auckland for three days of guided hiking in Tongariro National Park with the outstanding tour company Walking Legends. Below is the cast of "characters" (and I mean characters!!) who traveled together. I only knew Mike, Donna, and Marshall to start, but after three days of travel and adventure we had grown quite close as a group.
  • Mike (Accountant, 59) – Aquathalon, 3:5:3, sprint, volunteer paratriathlete handler; the lead organizer a.k.a “Mikapedia
  • Marshall (Retired radiologist, 71)– Aquathalon, 3:5:3, sprint, volunteer paratriathlete handler; co-logistical coordinator and van driver
  • Donna (Corporate accountant, 51) – Sprint and 3:5:3
  • Caroline (Graphic designer, 51) – Olympic
  • Suzanne - (Medical marketing) - Caroline’s sister (rehabbing an injury and not racing)
  • Dave (Retired IT Manager, 72) – Olympic
  • Mick (Physical Therapist, 56) – Sprint
  • Phil (Lawyer, 59)- Sprint
  • Cortney (Sports marketing, 45)– Olympic and 3:5:3

In the morning, we stored our bikes and the bulk of our luggage at the hotel then eight of us piled into one van for the trip (Dave drove separately for his travel plans).

All us "kids" in the back seats behind Marshall and Mike
Pig hunting is apparently quite popular here!!
We stopped in Rotorua along the way to visit the Te Puia Maori Arts and Crafts Institute  which included hot geysers, mud pools, and a show. We were impressed by the food in the cafĂ© there. Food was a central theme during our time together. It turns out we all like to eat heartily and often!

After Rotorua, we passed Lake Taupo, home to an Ironman race. It’s rather in the middle of nowhere, but absolutely beautiful set among those picturesque steep green New Zealand hills.

We stopped to eat in Turangi at a restaurant called the Bridge Fishing Lodge. It was a non-descript roadside motel with humble furnishings, but the quality, presentation, and deliciousness of our meals was incredible!

As we arrived at the mountainside lodge that was to be our home for three nights, we had our first adventure as the van got stuck on the steep gravel driveway. A bit of engineering and brute pushing took care of matters and we left the van at the bottom of the driveway, as was intended.

Here's our home-away-from-home, a.k.a. "the frathouse." We looked out on the mountain we would hike the following day. Did I mention that other than a few brief Internet "fixes" on Mickey's iPad, I was basically Internet-less for 3-1/2 days?!? That was big for me.


Wednesday’s weather looked to be ideal for the major hike of our trip – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is a 12.7 mile hike to the top of a volcanic mountain and back down again. We stopped to get outfitted for hiking boots and crampons if needed for an icy ascent. The area had recently had a lahar of ash and mud come down the mountain and the trail had just been reopened, but with a detour.

As we hiked along, we were shedding layers and confidently making progress.  I was liking my little walking sticks, they kept my hands from getting bored.

Veteran hiker Marshall was at the front of the group during a long uphill section and it was all I could do to keep up with him! As we neared the top and were above the snow line, all the clothing layers were replaced. The very top of the mountain was steep, cold, and very windy. Conversation ceased and steps were careful. We remarked afterward that such a trail would probably not be open to the public in the US. One wrong step and you'd slide a long way down the mountain. On the other side, we were rewarded with a view of Emerald Lake and a delicious lunch to fuel the second half of our walk.

Our guides, Kris and Rob, were sure to have plenty of giant chocolate bars packed to reward us as we reached various milestones. We ate a lot, we ate well, and we ate often. I'm pretty sure I am five pounds heavier than when I left the states.

The steep descent from the top
Best sandwich ever and a view of Emerald Lake

Marshall the super-hiker and I

At the one hut along the way!

We stopped at a hut to regroup and a brief conversation with another hiker led Phil and I to decide that we should RUN the next part of the trail and overtake this young guy, which we of course did ;-) Walking is great, but it felt good to open up a bit. We continued on at a good clip and were the first to the bottom of the trail where tea, beer, and food were waiting for us. Guided hikes are the way to go and we can’t say enough good things about Walking Legends!! We were spoiled :-)

Afterward we hit the thermal pools and soaked our trail-weary bodies in the warm water before being driven back to the lodge for a delicious salmon dinner.

We had the option of adding kayaking to the schedule for the following day and we jumped at the chance.


At National Park Adventures we were fitted for wetsuits, spray jackets, and booties then we proceeded to the Whakapapa River with inflatable 2-person kayaks. We descended a steep bank, hanging onto a rope to lower ourselves, and set off. We had the river nearly to ourselves and the unspoiled area was spectacular with waterfalls, floating pumice stones, vertical cliffs, and banks of round river stone.

One of many photos of Mike and Donna, stuck on a rock!!
On thing about NZ, there are practically no bugs, no predators, and no snakes. You don’t see a lot of animals aside from sheep, cows, horses, and birds.

After watching us through a few sets of whitewater, our guide Sara provided some constructive “coaching” to each pair. Mick and I were told we had trouble committing!! She was right! We’d pick a line, the water would reroute us, and rather than work at it, we’d settle for another. Needless to say, we got our act together!

After a stop at the lodge, we headed off to a cave to see the famous luminescent, ceiling-clinging glow-worms. We climbed down a steep ladder and slid through a small opening into a roomy set of chambers. With the lights out, we were treated to beautiful glow worm constellations! The ceiling also housed large weta bugs that I was much less excited about. Eww.

Cave entrance was to the left of the ladder -- very tight!

We finished up with another short walk, then back to the lodge for a feast of lamb!


We hiked another 3 or so hours Friday morning in Tongariro Holiday Park where it’s off-season for this ski resort. The streams were impressive, as was the 65’ Taranaki Falls. It was my first time venturing behind a waterfall!

We arrived back at the lodge at 12:10 and needed to shower, pack, eat, and load up by 1:00 to depart for Auckland for our 10:30 pm flights. We had 50 minutes for “transition” and only two showers, yet we made it! For a group of 8, we never missed a deadline. That’s triathletes for you.

Marshall drove us the 200+ miles back to Auckland to drop off four of the group and to pick up our stored luggage and bikes for four of us to head back to the airport. I got pretty nervous when I saw the sheer volume of STUFF that needed to go into the van. Mike and Marshall got it done, leaving exactly one seat for Donna and I to share. Good thing our butts are not big.

How to fit ten pounds of flour in a five pound sack

One seat left for Donna and I!

Four bikes

After a final group dinner, we said the first round of goodbyes with promises to meet up at Nationals and Worlds.


This tripped capped off the most amazing week. I was apprehensive about a post-race hiking/adventure trip, but as it turns out, I LOVED it. I discovered that this is MY kind of vacation!!

The best part was really getting to know this group of talented, funny, and experienced triathletes. Some of them have 200+ races and 20+ years of experience. Two have been to Olympic trials. We shared, teased (took turns in the “barrel”), and laughed. I was particularly inspired by Dave (gold medalist 70-74 Olympic Distance) and Marshall (silver medalist 70-74 Sprint) who train hard and are the top of the 70-74 age group. They were already talking about the work they plan to do in the off-season to prepare for next year. Hard work and the desire to be your best has no age limit.

On our layover in LA, Marshall, Mike, Donna and I headed out for dinner where I received this fortune cookie. I think it sums up what triathlon, and the New Zealand adventure, have meant to me. I'm finding out who I really am and I hope never to cease exploring and discovering.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Race Report: ITU Age Group World Championship

I gave a basic Race Day Report but didn't have time or the presence of mind to really process what had happened. One week later, I am back home to share this, and one more blog post to come on the post-race hiking adventures, then will I close this chapter. There were 1594 total racers, 686 women, and 79 in my age group. I finished 10th. The original wave sheet had 82 in my age group, so only three no-shows!! The winning time in my age group was 2:08:43 - SMOKIN'! Full results are available online

  • Swim (1500m) - 33:47 (38 in age group / 367 of women / 1038 of all racers)
  • T1- 3:50 (16 / 232 / 683)
  • Bike (40k) - 1:11:08 (5 / 43 / 511)
  • T2 - 03:49 (31 / 312 / 898)
  • Run (10k) - 42:40 (6 / 103 / 551)
  • Total - 2:35:16 (10 / 156 / 709)

The swim started with a wait in corrals by wave. I learned from the practice swim that my feet got pretty cold waiting on the asphalt of the pier so my friend and roomate Donna suggested we wear the hotel slippers for our wait. It was the perfect thing.

As it was our turn to go, we lined up and sat on the edge of the pontoon (see pics here). With 30s left to go, we hopped in the water with one hand on the pontoon and waited for the air horn. It was go time, the butterflies went into formation, and I got to work doing what I love. I had acclimated to the water temps and found the 58 degree water to be fine. I did wear two thick swim caps.

The swim course had six turns and it took us out beyond the protection of the wharfs. Out on that most distant leg, the tide/chop was significant but kind of fun as it felt like you could almost body surf each little wave. The problem was the turn buoy at the end was pretty small and hard to see. Spectators noted whole groups getting swept one way or another by the tide and I'm sure we did too. I made sure to keep swimmers to both sides of me, hoping that would minimize my error. I swam in the top half of my age group, but still 11 minutes slower than the fastest swim time of 22:26 (WOW!!)  I have some off-season work to do.

It was quite a long run up to transition where I easily found my bike and set off.


I was glad to have pre-ridden the course. I immediately started passing people on the ride and began to gain some confidence. Parts of the ride were in the right lane, parts on the left, but we always stayed left and passed right. Riding opposite was not as big of a deal as I thought. Nor was the cold a factor, and I was happy not to need the arm warmers and gloves I had laid out.

The course was rather busy/congested and there were quite a few officials out watching for illegal drafting. I was probably too paranoid about penalties and there were places where I backed off a bit until I was sure I could pass within the allotted time.

This was a two-lap course so at one point, we split off and turned left for a second lap or went straight to finish. I made the turnaround but quite a few people missed it and got nearly to transition before being turned around.

I finished in 1:11:08 -- 5th best in my division, 43 best among women. The fastest bike time in my division was 1:09:08. I am a slightly better cyclist, comparatively, than I am as a runner these days.

Coach Jim had my stats as Lap #1 approx. 20.8 mph, average HR = 163 Lap #2 approx. 20.2, average HR = 159. With all the turns, steep hills, and the headwind along the water, I would not call this a fast course. My HR was a bit lower than expected for race day; the cold temps could have been a contributing factor, but truly, I think I could have, should have ridden this more aggressively. In London I will.

Nutrition included 2/3 of a bottle with Perpetuem and one Surge gel with caffeine.


I was really looking forward to this run. I grabbed a gel in transition, which I promptly lost, so I had no nutrition on the course but didn't really worry about it. I didn't drink anything either, because I wasn't thirsty nor did I want any disruptions to my flow.

At this point, I knew I'd at least finish and I sensed I was putting in a decent race. I laid down a 42:40 on the two-lap course that had about 50 turns in total and a variety of surfaces that made for a slower course. In fact, my friend Donna slipped and went fully down on one slick ramp.

The course was lined with spectators and it was pretty cool to hear "go USA" along the way. The loudest yells of all came from Tim Yount, USA Triathlon's COO, who was stationed near the turnaround/finish, ready to hand us flags for our finish.

I ignored my Garmin and ran by feel and flow, focused on catching the next runner up ahead. Coach Jim had Lap #1 approx. 6:37 pace, average HR 166; 91 cadence. Lap #2 6:55, 170 HR, 90 cadence. I worked hard but ran happy!!

Post Race reflections

This was, without a doubt, one of THE greatest adventures of my life. I am just so pleased to have gotten there healthy, kept my wits, and raced well for myself and for all who were pulling for me.

As a bit of a homebody who likes adventure in controlled doses, it was a big step to race 8000+ miles away. This trip gave me confidence and opened up my world in so many ways. I wrote of my thanks and gratitude in my race day post but I'd like to add to that list here by thanking those who steered me in the right direction during the race week - Mike Morris, Donna Williams, Marshall Wakat, Mark Long, Caroline Kavanagh, and Suzanne Kavanagh. I benefited from their collective experience and excellent logistics management!

Thank you to my husband Robert, and boys Spencer and Grant, for letting me go and for not only surviving, but thriving in my absence and picking up some new household skills! Oma, I'm so grateful that you kept everyone fed and loved and transported to activities. Love you mom and dad, thanks for a lifetime of cheers :-)

Thus ends the 2013 race season. Time for some recovery and off season, then a careful build with Coach Jim to the World Championship in London, September 2013!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

ITU Worlds: Race Day

It's nearly 9 pm but starting tomorrow I am offline for about four days (scary!) so I wanted to put out a quick little race day blog since anyone who reads this has had to endure the giant build-up to this moment!! An actual race report will come next week regardless; I like to write those up and think about what I can learn from a race.

It was a VERY happy race for me. The sun came out, the winds were not quite so bad, the water was slightly calmer, and despite my fears, I was not cold on the bike. I felt good, I had no mechanical issues, made no dumb errors, and generally raced to my potential. WIN!

I finished 10th in my age group and 156th out of the women.

I set up transition early then went back to the hotel to stay warm and to relax since the Olympic racers were later in the morning after the Sprint racers. I went at 9:55 am. The waiting SUCKS. Ask any triathlete. It's not a good time to be around us, we can be neurotic in the pre-race hours.

Racked and ready!

This is a fraction of the bikes in transition - maybe 1/6.
The super short race report is that I enjoyed EVERY leg of this race, even the swim! We had pretty good chop out there, but for the length most out at sea, it felt almost like body surfing as the tide pushed me along. Sighting was tough on the furthest stretch as the turn buoy was undersized, but I stuck with the pack and we got there. I don't know if I've acclimated or what, but I was not cold on the swim.

The run into transition for both T1 and T2 were loooooong.

The bike was the the windiest I've ever done and I spent more time in my base bar than I ever have before. But on this leg I knew I belonged at this race; I was passing people consistently and particularly on the steep little climbs. I blew past a pack of men on one uphill and couldn't resist shouting "come on boys, up the hill!"

The run was very twisty turny and the surfaces kept changing, making it tricky, but I just ran within myself, ignored the watch, and stayed happy. The courses were lined with cheering spectators and it was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I heard things like "watch out Kiwi, there's a Yank on your heels!"

It was a great redemption run after Giant Acorn. I passed a bunch of people here too. Tim Yount of USA Triathlon was at one of the final turns yelling encouragement at each of us. On our second loop, he handed us an American flag to carry into the finish. It was a big moment for sure. There are a multitude a ways for things to go wrong in a triathlon and it's a great day when they all go right...and do so at the Age Group World Championships.

There's that pose again!!

Post race happy!!

Bike-turned-parade-float with the American flag I was
given by Tim Yount of USAT to carry through the finish
After the race, I retrieved my bike and belongings and headed back to the hotel to break the bike down and box it back up again. I just realized the bike will have traveled 17,000 miles total yet it carried me less than 40 miles here. Crazy, yes, but that bike and I are a pair!

At 4 pm we headed to the Team USA party. They'd rented out an Irish pub for the event and it was very fun to meet up and rehash events of the day. And drink a beer. or two.

Coach Kris making a toast!
Then it was off to the closing party and awards. I traded two Team USA hats for the New Zealand and Canada team hats.

This experience has been incredible and I'm grateful to all those who made it possible for me race here -- Solar Connexion, Hyperion Consulting and all my Cort the Sport supporters!!! I enjoyed racing with Megan and Scott from our Endurance Films Racing Team! My family has been doing a great job of keeping things going on the homefront, and those with the fortyninegroup have been beyond accommodating. To my "equipment coach" I simply say, thank you.

Coach Jim of One on One Endurance is a tremendously gifted coach and we benefit from his wisdom and experience. He has worked so hard to deliver me healthy, fit, and fast to this race. I hope he is sleeping well tonight knowing it was "mission accomplished."

Thanks to all my friends and neighbors, near and far, for caring and cheering, and riding along on this journey.

Love to you all!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Men's Race, Bike Racking, Race Thoughts

I figure I'll keep the "behind the scenes" reports coming! This morning Marshall, Mike, Donna and I drove the bike course and hit the grocery store to restock.

ITU Grand Final Men's Pro Race

At 1 pm, we watched the men's pro race, the last in the series that would determine the ultimate winner. For the swim leg, I had a front seat on the edge of the wharf. I watched Jonny Brownlee take an early lead, and I counted about 78 strokes per minute for him. The men sighted way more often than I do, and the ones drafting seemed to sight more than the ones leading.

See my shoes? It really was a front-row seat!

It was VERY windy
The 8-loop bike course was pretty exciting. It had 154 total turns which the pros rode carefully/conservatively because it was pouring and blowing for most of their ride. The Kiwi Kris Gemmell took a commanding lead on the bike and had the hometown crowd very excited!! I had another front-row position at the main intersection leading into the finish and the men came by here twice on each bike and run loop. By the end of the bike course, the chase pack with Gomez and Brownlee had caught up to Gemmell.

Gemmell led into the run, but we got a report he'd rolled an ankle and he was overtaken by eventual winner Gomez and runner-up Brownlee who had an all-out sprint finish. These guys were focused and working HARD. It's the first professional race I have ever watched, and even though standing around for 2 hours is not the ideal race prep, it was an opportunity not to be missed!

Brownlee and Gomez

Bike Check-In

The US checked our bikes in during the 4-5 pm time slot. Instructions are to rack by handlebars/brake levers so they don't blow over and in the morning we can flip them around. We were to bring uniforms to have them checked, but then they ended up only spot checking and deciding the US was OK. Then we queued up to get body marked and got POURED on. Why this race did not use Tri-Tats, I have no idea. We only waited because they were marking age groups with a letter and we didn't know what letter corresponded to what age group. By the time we got back to the hotel, Donna and I were soaking wet and shivering.

It's all part of the experience, I guess. We will say, "remember Auckland?"!!! 

The queue to rack bikes

Lonely, soggy Roo

Mark Long looking happy, feeling wet.

Race Thoughts

Tomorrow morning at 9:55 am I swim off. I'm not worried about the race effort, only that I may be cold and miserable on the bike. I'm putting out arm sleeves and gloves and putting plastic under the front of my suit. Donna and I are also taking the little hotel slippers to wear as we wait to swim. That concrete is cold on the feet!!

Regardless of the outcome of the race, I can already say this has been a tremendous experience and I  have enjoyed it even more than I hoped. The chance to be part of the national and global triathlon community, to be at a multi-race World Championship, and to explore a country 8,000+ miles away from home is so exciting!!

I do hope no one will be disappointed if I don't "win" or come in top-10 or even top half. As much as I'd like that, and as hard as I plan to race, the fact of the matter is it's a large and talented field and triathlon is even more deeply embedded in the culture of some of these other countries. I heard from a few guys who are often overall winners at races in the US, only to come to World Championships and end up in the bottom half of the group. Anything can happen.

I prepared well and trained hard. #4582 is here, happy and healthy. It's already a WIN!


I'm told there will be a livestream at The age group races start at 7 am Auckland time which is 2 pm Sunday ET. I push off at 9:55 and expect to finish around maybe 12:20, which is 7:20 pm ET.