Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail

On Sunday, I was the nail.  Although my first attempt at elite draft-legal racing at the Kelowna ITU Continental Cup proved to be an epic fail, the overall trip and weekend was quite enjoyable - Kelowna is awesome!  Geoff and I drove up with the dogs on Friday, and due to some mishaps with the bike rack near the beginning of our trip as well as construction on the highway, I was almost 5 minutes late to the 5pm elite race briefing and package pick-up.  The officials and technical delegates are pretty strict about these things so luckily I arrived when I did.  The consequences of missing the meeting apparently include getting bumped to the end of the starting position list (so you get called last to the starting pontoon), and possible DQ. They mean business!

We stayed in a lovely vacation rental home only a block from the beach, and about 5km to the race venue downtown.  TIP: a vacation home is the way to go if you're travelling.  You can cook all your own food, which is healthier and actually ends up being cheaper than staying at a hotel where you have to buy all your meals out.  As it's a 'home away from home', you get all the comforts you wouldn't have in most hotel rooms.  Our little pad was great for the dogs, too!

The elite race briefing was *serious stuff*.  There was a lot of useful info included.  The ITU officials are super strict about uniforms, bikes, and race wheels.  Uniforms must conform to ITU specs and wheels/bikes must be UCI-approved.  During the meeting I noticed some athletes were actually taking pictures of the screen showing the powerpoint presentation with their i-phones - perhaps they didn't want to miss any details, (?). After the meeting, we all lined up to collect our "race package", which consisted of race numbers.  That is all.  Much different than the schwag you get in most age group races.  haha

My 'race package' - numbers for bike/helmet, and race # tattoo's which you had to apply on your own - LOL. I screwed up 3 of the tattoo #'s and had to obtain replacements race morning. Also, the race *package* was a ziplock! 

Saturday I was up early to do an easy 20min jog around the neighborhood and walk the dogs. It was supposed to be 36C so I wanted to beat the heat! Later that morning I rode my bike down to check out the race site, transition, etc, then biked back home.  The rest of the day was spent eating, relaxing, and eating.

Race morning:
The thing about elite races is that they start so late, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn. With an 11:30am start, I got up at 7:30am and had plenty of time to get myself organized. I rolled out of the house just after 9am on my bike.  The day before, I'd decided to just bike to the race start as logistically it was much easier than dealing with putting the bike on the bike rack, and figuring out which route Geoff should take to drop me off (considering the road closures, etc). However, I hadn't planned ahead by bringing a backpack on the trip, so I loaded my gear in a lululemon reusable bag.  People were probably wondering 'who let her in here' as I rolled in with my hobo bag slung over one shoulder. 

You have to check in race morning and have your bike/helmet/wheels inspected - I was given a happy face sticker on my bike so everything passed inspection! There is also a uniform check - which consists of a serious-looking official taking photographs of you wearing your uniform, both front and the back! You are not allowed to switch uniforms from the one that is taken in the pictures (who would do that, anyway).
The country code is supposed to be BELOW your surname - but this is the suit I got from TriCan for World's in 2008 (it didn't have my surname), so I had to get the surname screened on underneath the country code - the horror!

The best part of racing the elite wave is the red-carpet style transition area! It's actually blue carpet, but you know what i mean. You get a bin to place all your transition items (goggles, cap, helmet), and if you don't put your stuff in the bin while going through T1 and T2, you get a 15sec penalty.  For T1, you have to put your rear wheel in the slot, and when you come in for T2, your front wheel has to get placed in the other slot.  So many rules! Good thing I familiarized myself with all the rules so no penalties for me!

There's my good old re-usable bag sitting there - don't worry, all that crap got moved outta there as nothing else is allowed in transition!

-We were individually announced and called up to the starting pontoon in order of race #/ranking, and I was the very last # so was at the end.  But one other girl who had a higher starting # ended up placed behind me (penalty for missing the pro briefing or something), so I got the second to last spot that was left on the starting pontoon. All the good spots with the best lines to the first buoy were all taken already.  If you're ranked last going in, as I was, you get whatever spot is left - sloppy seconds!  Boo.  The water temperature was well above the cut-off for wetsuits, so no wetsuits were allowed.  The air temperature was to reach a scorching 35C on Sunday as well, and with an 1130am start, this meant a ridiculously HOT bike and run!

Swim (2 laps, 1500m)
-When the horn went off, I felt like I had a good run/dive into the water.  It wasn't too aggressive of a start but again I was on the far left edge of the field with only one girl to my left.  In hindsight, I should have been more aggressive. It's rare I have a really bad swim, but when it mattered the most to have a stellar swim, my swim totally let me down.  The field all got out super fast and the girls who lined up right and centre had a much better line to the buoy (not that that's an excuse).  I swam with 2 other girls for both loops of the swim course, and didn't realize the bulk of the field was way ahead until I got into transition and realized how many bikes were gone.  D'oh!  Not sure what the heck happened and why my swim was so slow, as I know I should have been WAY faster than 22:30.  Probably the fact that I'd done 3 whole open water swims this summer (which all occurred during my 3 other races) didn't help - lol.  Also, I'm used to swimming all by myself in age group races, so to have a whole field of ~25 fast girls was a foreign situation to me.  Need. More. Practice!
 Me running to transition 1 - lots of bikes already gone!

**On a side note, for all you Edmonton and area triathletes out there: Where the heck do you do your open water swim training?  I basically do absolutely no OWS training.  If there is a lake that I am unaware of that I could be training in, please let me know!

Bike (6 laps, 41.6km)
-This bike course was tough! And slow. This is not a fast course, by any means. I got out onto the bike course with one girl about 5-10sec up the road and alongside another girl.  We arrived at the long/steep hill together (about 2km from transition) but she dropped off the back of me and then I was alone, as the girl up ahead had taken off.  It was already heating up like an oven outside.  My legs seemed to have no power and every time I got to the hill, it got harder and harder! I rode most of the first 2 laps alone, then a girl came by and we worked together until we reached the hill again, but I was unable to stay with her and was all on my own again :(

A few laps later, I caught up to a girl who appeared to be struggling, and she hung with me for about half a km then once we got to the hill she dropped off.  It turned out that the several girls who dropped off me on the bike ended up DNF'ing the race, which sucks as there may have been more people behind me at the end of the race!  I felt slower and slower as I got further into the bike - at one point I looked down to see if perhaps my brakes were rubbing, but no, unfortunately it was the operator of the bike that was the cause of the problem. The bike overall was a struggle for me - riding solo, the heat, and the hill x6 really got to me.  My legs really felt like they had nothing.  The whole point of draft-legal racing is that you are able to ride in a pack and conserve energy, but unfortunately I didn't get the benefit of riding in a pack in this first drafting race.  Had I swam what I was capable of, I would have found myself in a decent-sized pack of riders. On another note, I should have put some draft-legal aerobars on my bike - I will be sure to do this next time so if I'm caught solo'ing the bike at least I can get into a time trial position.

I knew I wasn't going to get lapped out on the bike, but I worried about how terrible I was feeling and how incredibly hot it was getting.  I came off the bike on my own, well out of the race, and racked my bike/donned my flats as quick as possible.  Bike time was 1:16 - way slower than I should have been.  Fastest bike splits were high 1:10's, which shows how hard/slow the course was.
 Racking my bike and trying to have a speedy T2

Run: (4 laps, 10km)
The entire run was a slog (slow jog).  Right off the bat, my legs felt dead and fatigued, and my stomach was all in knots and cramps.  It wasn't pretty! It was flippin' hot, too - as it was between 1pm-2pm that I was running, so we probably hit 34-35C by that time.  During my first 2.5km loop, I got lapped by the leaders.  I was feeling so horrible that I entertained thoughts of dropping out on the first loop, 2nd loop, and 3rd loop, but by the time I got to lap 4 I knew I would finish it off.  It felt like I was so far behind that I thought by the time I made it to the finish line, the finish chute would be taken down, the announcers would have left and everyone else would have gone home already.  Definitely I went to some dark places during that run!  I was so glad to finish, though, despite the painfully slow time (run time: 50min, overall time: 2:31).  One girl went by me about 500m from the finish and ended up about 20sec ahead of me at the end. But there was still another girl who finished behind me, so I wasn't DFL!

**A word on the contemplation of DNF'ing during the race: unless I am physically carted off the course by medical, I will not DNF.  I am a firm believer in plugging away to finish what you started, no matter how crappy the result is.  I was miles behind the top women in the field, my time was ridiculously slow, and I could have taken the easy way out by dropping out during that first lap of the run when the going got tough (or should I say tougher, as it was already tough!), but I am much happier to have gotten to that finish line, rather than having a DNF engraved beside my name.  And by completing the race, I gained some precious race experience, which cannot be substituted with anything else.

I definitely want to do a couple of these races next summer, as I know I can be a lot better than I was on Sunday.  This just gives me fuel for the fire and lots of motivation to improve and get faster! That's the thing about racing - when things don't go according to plan, you just have to pick yourself up and carry on.

Next time, I will be the hammer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time to go play with the big girls

Originally, my plan for racing this year was to qualify for the Vegas 70.3 World Champs at the Calgary 70.3 race, and focus on Vegas in September as my key race.  While I was pretty confident that qualifying was within my reach, I was still surprised and thrilled to accomplish this goal by winning my age group.  However, I decided to pass on my slot in favour of other race plans.  The decision was simple due to lots of significant upcoming life events (i.e. Geoff starts law school in Saskatoon Sept. 4), as well as associated costs and logistics of the Vegas trip.

And now for the *other* race plans...

I decided just before the Calgary 70.3 race that I really wanted to race the Kelowna Apple Tri this year (Aug.19), and then probably the Subaru Banff Tri on Sept. 8.  Around that time, a few people suggested to me that I should race the Elite race in Kelowna (ITU Pan American Cup), which sounded like a pretty wacky idea.  So I looked into it just for fun and got myself draft-legal certified and submitted my International Competition Card (ICC) application to TriCan.  I found out a few days ago my ICC was approved and I am now on the start list for Elite women in Kelowna this Sunday!

Ummm- what have I gotten myself into?

My trusty old road bike, all ready to go

This will be nothing like any other race I've ever done.  I absolutely need to have a killer swim, ride as hard as possible to not get dropped on the bike, and follow that with a solid run.  I'm aware that my run is nowhere near competitive with the other girls and I'm going to be passed by most of the field (the people who are behind me coming off the bike, anyway, I hope there are some!), but hopefully my swim is competitive and I don't get clobbered too much on the bike.  I'm definitely prepared for that as it's very likely to happen!  The goals for this race are quite simple:

-Finish the race (i.e. don't get lapped on the bike)
-Don't finish last
-Don't embarrass myself
-Have fun!

I know this is an amazing opportunity and I'm grateful for a chance to race with the elite girls.  We'll see what happens on Sunday!

Geoff and I leave super early on Friday morning as apparently there is an elite race briefing at 5pm that is mandatory.  And the rugrats (Hugo & Wylie) are coming along as well!  Road trip with the monsters!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Calgary 70.3 recap

"Don't dream of winning - train for it" [Mo Farah]

What a fun weekend it was, but certainly not without its drama!  Alice and I drove up to Calgary on Friday evening and arrived just in time to meet our brother Donald for dinner at Milestones across from the hotel.  Saturday we hit up the hotel gym treadmills for an easy 20min jog, then picked up our race packets.  The logistics of this race were a little tricky, as the race starts at Ghost Lake, which is over 45km out of Calgary, and the bike is a point to point, with transition 2 in Calgary.  We had to bring our bikes out to Ghost Lake on Saturday to transition 1 and leave them there overnight.  Alice and I decided to take advantage of the shuttle service leaving the Hyatt to get our bikes to T1.  That was an unfortunate decision.

The shuttle turned out to be a yellow school bus (old school!) with a trailer behind it for the bikes.  There were no bike racks in there, though, so everyone cautiously placed their bike in the trailer, basically like sardines in a can (about 15-20 bikes).  The ride out to Ghost lake was super bumpy and by the time we arrived and opened the trailer, the contents had become a tangled mess of expensive carbon frames and race wheels.  #FAIL

I checked my gears and made sure everything was shifting properly and it appeared to be.  There were actually some scratches on my Zipp's, but it was just the decals.  I was kinda pissed but reminded myself that in the grand scheme of things it was pretty trivial and wouldn't have any bearing my time or ability to have a good bike leg.

 T1 - the narrowest transition I have ever seen, and one of the tightest- there was barely any room!  

Bike racked, all packed in there and ready to go

Race morning dawned at 4:45am.  Alice and I had borrowed a toaster from Donald so we could toast our bagels, which was a brilliant idea as toasted bagels are sooo much better than non-toasted.  We lined up outside the hotel for the 5:30am shuttle (we decided to take the shuttle to the race start, then we were going to have Donald drive us back to the hotel from the finish to get our vehicle, then go back to pick up our bikes at the finish to avoid the shuttle/trailer debacle).  Ten minutes later, we heard that the 5:30am shuttle had broken down, so we were informed we'd have to take the 5:45 shuttle.  5:50 rolled around, then 5:55, still no shuttle.  We were getting a little worried as it takes about 50min to drive to the lake and our wave was starting at 7:35am.  Just after 6am, a girl we happened to be standing with (Christine) said her husband was coming to get her to drive her out to the lake, and they had a couple extra spots.  Thank you, thank you!! Christine's husband Vincent saved the day! We rounded up a couple other people, including a guy from Europe (Alain) who had even less time than we had as his wave was starting at 7:25.

By the time we arrived at the transition, it was after 7am and the pro wave was just starting.  With our wave going off at 7:35, Alice and I had just enough time to pump the tires, get sunscreened-up, hit the bathrooms, and don our wetsuits.  It was the least time I've ever had before a race.  The good thing was there really wasn't any time to be nervous!

Swim - 1.9km - 26:38 (1st female, including pro's - yeehaw!)
-the swim was great, it was a rectangular, counter-clockwise course. Our wave was all women, and the start was clean and completely civilized. I had clean water immediately, and swam the 2k all on my own, just the way I like it! I had to swim through some men from the previous wave, but it was fine and didn't slow me      down.  The water was a little chilly (maybe 17C?), but I warmed up pretty well after about halfway.  I felt smooth and comfortable the whole way and was stoked to exit the water first female.

(These photos are from the race photographer and have the company's logo all over them -  sorry but it's all I have so they'll just have to do!)
 Coming out of the water

Transition 1 was uneventful.  Apparently there was some rule that you weren't allowed to have your shoes clipped into your pedals, but I always have my shoes clipped into my pedals and didn't want to run on the pavement in the cleats, so I ignored the rule and just did my own thang, starting with my shoes clipped into the pedals. Busted! haha.  In my defence, I missed the pre-race briefing and just heard this info secondhand so for all I know it could have been hearsay, lol.  

Bike - 94km - 2:35 (6th fastest of amateurs)
-I really enjoyed the bike course, it was beautiful.  There were a LOT of hills, nothing too crazy-steep but really just a ton of them.  The 2nd female out of the water went blowing by me within the first few km, but I kept doing my own thing as I knew I could not hold a pace like that.  About 5km in, my chain fell off, so I had to stop, get off my bike, and fix it. GRRR! Later on in the bike (about 45km), I dropped my chain again! Luckily, this time somehow I was able to gear up and it flipped back on.  Okay, this is getting annoying, it seems to be happening in almost every race.  Note to self: get one of those chain guards.  

The rest of the bike was great, I felt strong and just focused on powering through the course.  I passed a lot of guys which was super fun, and one guy I went by said 'damn, that's the second time I've been chicked today!'.  It was pretty funny.  Only one more woman passed me the rest of the bike, when we had about 20-30km to go, so I was 3rd off the bike. My legs definitely felt the ride as they were feeling fatigued and a bit sore the second half of the bike.  I feel like I rode pretty well but there's still work to be done as I know I can be faster than that.    

 Climbing one of the many hills on the bike course

Run - 21km - 1:48 (not sure of placing)
-The run was a pure mental and physical battle.  At the beginning, I felt not amazing, but just alright.  I forgot to start my watch and realized after about a minute, so was fumbling around with it.  I think I actually went out pretty fast the first kilometer or two.  The run course was spectacular, but at the same time very challenging. There were a few significant hills on the course and it was super hot and sunny as well.  I started walking just the aid stations after about 5-7km, and forced myself to not walk between the aid stations, except on 2 occasions (for part of 2 very steep hills!).  I focused on ticking off the kilometers, making it to the next aid station (where they had ice!), and managing the discomfort and pain.  


A bit before the turnaround, I noticed 3 girls were ahead of me coming the other way, and since I had not been passed yet I realized one of those girls had passed me around 4k when I ducked into a porta-loo.  She was the eventual winner and in another time zone with the fastest run split of the day including pro's - crazy fast!   I would check my watch occasionally, and tried to do the math to figure out what I needed to go under 5hrs. The rest of the run was survival, and I used a lot of positive self talk and encouragement to get through it.  My legs were incredibly sore and it was so hard to even turn the feet over the last 4km, but I kept plugging away and was running scared all the way to the finishing chute as I thought someone else would surely pass me!  

More runnin'

But I hit the finish line without any other girls passing me!

4:54 - 1st W30-34, 4th overall female

Turns out I was actually closing in on 3rd place, and finished only a minute behind! I'm thrilled with how this race unfolded - I've been training consistently and it's great to see that translated into race day.  My run was actually a PB, too - just a hair faster than my run time from GWN last year, which was on a flat course.  I know I should be able to run faster than that.  But it looks like most of the run times weren't super-fast, with just 2 amateurs under 1:40.

these are the nicest finisher medals I have ever seen!

Alice had a fantastic race as well, finishing strong, despite very limited bike training.  She just got back from working in Inuvik at the beginning of July, and only signed up for this race 3 weeks before!  Alice did awesome on such a challenging course with only 3-4 weeks of biking.  So proud of my sis!  After the race we headed to Donald's house to shower and then hauled @$$ to the nearest Dairy Queen for a double cheeseburger, fries, and mint ice cream/Reese blizzard.  It was soooo delicious! 

Alice and I post-race, pre-shower and pre-Dairy Queen!