Friday, October 22, 2010

Austin 70.3 race report

Austin 70.3 Race report

I went into this race feeling really good and excited to test out my new game plan on nutrition and see if I could overcome that issue for the first time, as well as put my last 3 weeks of training to the test that my coach, Tim Tarpley gave me. Part of the plan for the last 3 weeks leading up to this race was to keep me fresh, light, injury free and race sharp since the foundation had been laid down already. As Maurice,T3 owner and my swim coach, has said to me leading into this race “there is not too much you can do the last 3 weeks, and assured me that I was more than ready, I just needed to keep the weight down”.

Well, the first two of those weeks I was on the road taking bikes to Halfmax Nationals with the business and the other week was a taper week, so there really wasn’t room to put in any volume training anyway. The biggest battle for me is to keep the weight down when on the road, sitting in a car for 28 hours is very boring and tiring, which equals being hungry and eating… But I was so excited with Tim’s training and eating plan that I got every workout in on the road ( a first time this year ) and actually lost weight on the trip ( another big first and huge victory ).. I have honestly never felt that I looked the part of being a professional athlete let alone and endurance athlete ( hello stubby and too muscular little tennis legs ) , so moving in that direction is definitely a confidence booster. So I was fresh, excited, lighter, and ready to go.

I decided to go without a wetsuit this time even though the water was only 72 degrees. I have had a feeling that every time I have worn a wetsuit in the past I have overheated and it has lead to cramping later on, as well as the fact that I start out on the bike sluggish instead of fresh as compared to a sprint race that I don’t wear a wetsuit. I also don’t particularly like wearing a wetsuit and feel pretty uncoordinated and restricted in one, so today was going to be the test on how much not wearing a wetsuit would hurt my swim but knowing the turnaround would hopefully be a good bike and run.

The start was rough, since there were 22 pro’s or so starting out together, and I started in the back. Big mistake – I usually start out strong for the first 200 meters and can hang with everyone, but this time because I was in the back, I got totally pummeled. Goggles got knocked loose, and at one point someone actually swam right over the top of me. After the pack left me, which took like 1 min, I was able to get into a groove and actually felt the best I had ever felt in the water stroke wise and all ( thanks T3 swim practice and Maurice’s patience ). I was totally surprised to see that I swam 34 min, but I am guessing I lost about a min or so not having that good start and then a min or two ??? without a wetsuit.

With that being the case, then I did have a good swim for me. After the initial disappointment of seeing a 34 min on the wrist, I shook it off pretty quickly knowing that I took a risk going without a wetsuit for this race and I knew that it was likely I would have a slow swim. So no worries there, but I have my work cut out for me in the off season, and I will be a front pack swimmer before I am done with this sport – I am determined…

Felt great from the start. The game plan was to bike within myself and forget about the rest of the field ( which was easy to do since they were all waaaayy ahead of me ) . I had a heart rate zone to stay in for the first time since usually I just go as hard as I can and try to hold on, so staying in those zones did take some restraint on my behalf. I felt great the whole way and while I was working hard, I was never breathing hard, so I definitely had another gear or two in me. Conquering nutrition was the big goal for today, so I drank a ton – about 130 oz of Puresport and Carbo Pro Mix and took my much needed Saltstick tablets every 30 min.

I was surrounded by a few 50 year old guys a few miles in ( the division that left right after us ) , and a few of them kept on overtaking me on the down hills attacking, but as soon as they passed me they would slow down. I kept on having to slow down, get out of the draft zone, and then immediately surge to overtake them again. This happened pretty much the whole way. I am not sure if this hurt me because I was always having to slow down to stay out of their draft until I was ready to pass, or if it helped because I could pace myself off them and having some competition on the bike all around me definitely kept me focused at the task at hand.

All in all, I had the best bike I have had in a 70.3 race. A 2:27 time and a 22.85 average pace. I had a goal for the year to break 2:30 on the bike, so I was super excited about this.

So this is unfortunately where my first quad cramp came on. I knew had taken in enough fluid and sodium so we are thinking now that today’s cramps were not from nutrition. Tim suggested that it is a muscular thing, especially since I am so muscular in the legs. This is what I read below, so the game plan now is to stretch a lot, roll out a lot, and try to lose some muscle mass in my legs , which has been a goal for a while anyway for endurance purposes and now cramp free purposes.

From WebMD -
“While the exact cause of muscle cramp is not known, some researchers believe that it is caused by inadequate stretching and muscle fatigue which, in turn, leads to a malfunction of the mechanism that controls muscle contractions.

Anyways, back to run. I started out feeling great besides extreme lower back pain which I think is from sitting in a car for two 28 hour stretches recently. The game plan was to be comfortable the first 3 miles and then pick it up and negative split the run. Well, first mile came and my watch said 6:15, holy cow.. I didn’t feel like I was pushing it, so a little surprised by this. I thought, ok, hold back a bit, next mile came 6:20. The off road and hilly part was coming so I knew I would slow down there, and I did. 3rd mile was a 7 and then the Quadzilla hill came, and it really evened things out. I went into a really conservative mode and kept in under control going up the hill with the thought to pick it up again once I got over it. Well that didn’t quite happen like I would like and I was in “one foot in front of the other and survive” mode. The rest of the way I was just trying to stay focused, controlled, yet letting my body run free and push the pace when I was on a flat or downhill. This is my first time on the run of a Half ironman that I could do this and could actually pick my legs up normally without cramping, so I was just so happy and relieved about this. I tried to surge a few times on the run to where I would hopefully carry that pace all the way home, but it was mostly short lived until mile 11 snuck up on me, and where I decided to just run as absolutely hard as I could since I knew I would make it to the finish line at this rate. I really worked hard, using the arms, trying to put power in every stride, and I could feel it because it soon became the fuzzy vision, goose bumpy part of the run. Next step for me – I feel I need to be able to run like this for the whole half marathon and deal with it. The biggest victory through all this is that I never ever went into that “dark place” in my head. That place that has self doubt, questions of what am I doing, and wants to give up. I was so loving being out there and just being able to give it my best shot that I had in me for the day, and I was totally satisfied with what I had brought to the table, knowing deep down that this was just the start for me.
Run time 1:38 ( 7:30 pace )

Total Time : 4:43

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Branson 70.3

Road trip to Branson … I left on Thur on my road trip after and easy bike and run in the morning. All excited, refreshed and ready to go. As I had written in my previous blog, I had been taking it really easy after Austin Tri 2 weeks prior because I had realized that I was in an overtraining state. The whole week prior to Branson I did about 50 % less than my usual taper program, and was feeling really good about it and was super excited to race on Sunday. I think I definitely needed that break since I definitely feel like a whole year of dedicated and consistant training has my energy levels pretty low right now as well as my body feeling pretty beat up to put it very lightly.

I stayed in Fort Smith, Ark on Thur night after about 6 hours of driving, which was the perfect break, and then got back on the road first thing on Friday to make my way to my home stay’s house in West Branson. My GPS was taking me through downtown Branson so I got to see the famous 79 strip which was cluttered with all you can eat buffet’s( obviously the first thing I notice ), concert spots, a building with a gorilla on it, the titanic opposite it, and different kinds of amusement parks. I knew there were a lot of “shows” in Branson, but no idea of the full family entertainment options ALL NEXT TO EACH OTHER. Part of me wanted to park and make my way from store to store to amusement park and finish it up with a good buffet, but unfortunately I knew I had to do that triathlon thing and 70.3 miles of it, so I was better off staying off my feet.

I headed to my homestay’s Yvette and Kelby Ayres, who are the parents of a fellow T3er and friend Tannifer here in Austin. Thanks to a facebook posting that I was headed to Branson, I soon found out that Tannifer grew up there and it was graciously set up for me to stay with her parents for my trip. I luckily felt so comfortable upon meeting them and I was able to relax fully while I was there. I so enjoyed chatting with them that at one point I was standing in the kitchen for over an hour chatting where I really needed to be laying down with my feet up. Friday night was dinner, and an early bed time to get ready for the pre race workouts and expo.

Saturday I did my usual warm up. Went out to the bike course to check it out and rode for about 30 min easily up and down the hills with a few pickups to feel the legs going at a race pace effort and get my mind focused for the race. I then drove to Branson Landing which is basically a bunch of restaurants and shops alongside a lake. It was so beautiful and the neatest run course I had seen. I ran on the pier alongside the water and you could feel the cool breeze coming off the water, and hoped that I would feel that tomorrow. Again I did an easy 15 min run with some race pace pickups and my legs felt fresher and more ready to go than ever. Lastly, I headed to where the expo was, this was a two transition race, and headed down to the beach to take a dip before heading to the pro meeting.

4pm – I was back at home feet up and football was on. I had my usual dinner of sweet potatoes and was treated with pasta with ketchup of course all over it to top of the carb loading dinner.. Got to sleep at about half time of the Texas and Texas tech game, it was serious will power to turn it off since it was 14-14 . But after I heard Mack Brown give his usual confident half time interview, I gave the call that Texas was going to take it, and rested peacefully in knowing that …

Race morning –
Got up at 4am. I could hear some movement downstairs and realized that the motherly instinct of my homestay mom was on, and she was up to check that I was awake. Thank goodness for that, because that is always my worst nightmare. Got to Transition and did my usual pre race warm ups and felt great. I was so enjoying just being there in that vibe, but did miss that I didn’t have Steve there to share this with.

Swim –
They let the guys go off 3 min before us, and as soon as they lined us up and started announcing the pro women names, the started playing “Thunderstruck” loudly. It was awesome. The song made me think of my sister Tanya, who played this song walking down the aisle ( no joke ) , because this was the theme song of her father’s racing Yacht called Thunderchild and they always played this song on the yacht especially when coming into shore after winning a regatta. At that time I looked around at all athletes waiting to race behind me , just to try to take in the whole experience of where I was and what I was about to do.

Gun goes off, and I started out strong, which usually lasts for about 100m. The main pack then dropped 3 of us very quickly after and I was swimming with Angela Naeth and Amanda Lovato. I knew this because I knew that they were a little slower swimmers than the rest of the pack and if I had a good swim I would be able to stay with them since they usually come out of the water in about 30 min and if my consistent training times show up in the race then I should be able to hang with these gals. I stayed on Angela’s hip for about 300 more meters but kept on clashing arms with Amanda on my other side that I was scrambling for space and couldn’t get a rhythm going. I decided to fall back and catch Angela’s feet but as soon as I did that I got spit out of the back and they quickly dropped me. Lesson learnt. I finished the swim solo the rest of the way and struggled to find a good rhythm. Disappointing because I felt so good the week before at the Austin Tri when I had a swim PR for Olympic distance and just felt great. I guess that’s how it works, especially since I am still not fully comfortable in the water and still have to think about every stroke. Came out in 33.23 – slowest 1.2 mile swim to date… but super glad to be out the water.

Bike –
First 6 or so miles were a shocker. We were climbing out from the beach and it was either some serious uphill or a “false flat” which is while you think it is flat you can’t manage to get up to a decent speed so really it was a gradual incline. No downhill to recover from the climb.. ouch.. my heartrate was at its max out the gate and my legs were on fire. Within 3 miles I was really questioning how on earth I was gonna finish this without falling off the bike in exhaustion. Not a good place to be within the first 3 miles of 56. Luckily the constant uphill ended and we went into rolling hills. You were either going up in the smallest gear or flying downhill at 42 mph. so at least we got a break from the climb. I finally was able to settle down and get into somewhat of a rhythm. I would say that I was feeling decent on the bike, not crushing it like I would like to feel but I didn’t feel bad, so I will take it. Stuck to my nutrition plan perfectly ( Puresport and Carbo Pro Mix that I sipped on and powergels and saltstick tablets every 30 min ) out of fear or my legs cramping up which has happened at every 70.3 so far. But unfortunately I was still way off my nutrition and not taking in what my body needed. While on the 2nd loop of the rolling hills, about mile 40 and coming to the end of a big hill climb, my quads both ceased up in a massive cramp and I couldn’t push down or pull up. I unclipped and shook out one leg at a time while ingesting about 4 saltstick tables which was all I had left and coasted at about 2mph for a few minutes until I was able to pedal without my legs ceasing up. I went into the smallest gear I had and spun with no tension on the pedalstroke knowing that this was the only way I was gonna make it. I would from time to time try to gear up to see if my legs could handle it and get me going at a higher speed but it wouldn’t take, so I sat up and peddled like a lazy paperboy who was forced into doing a paper route by his mom, or like the little girl cycling up and down the driveway with your basket up infront. I know I looked like that , because I definitely felt like that and had to put my pride away as a ton of people passed me from that moment on. I finally came in about 2:50 later and around an 18.5 average. Ouch…. But I was happy to have made it. As soon as I got off the bike my homestay mom, Yvette was there cheering and so excited. I smiled and waved happy to see her out there and it definitely gave me the boost I needed to try to get out there and attempt the 13.1 miles ahead.

Run –
Took a long time to put on my shoes due to the fact that when I bent over I would cramp up and have to stand straight up to relieve it and then try again. I got going on the run with a quick little shuffle and felt decent. The run starts with us running through the middle of a strip of shops on either side and the sidewalks were littered with a bunch of excited people. I was able to feed of the energy and keep a decent clip going while the crowds lasted and as soon as the support died so did my energy levels. I held on to a 7-7:30 pace (decent for the fact that I wasn’t even sure that I would be running at this point ) for about 3 or 4 miles and then hip pain and back pain set . My body has been feeling pretty worn down lately since it is nearing the end of the season and all the injuries I have kept at bay all season thanks to Advanced rehab, had unfortunately been surfacing a lot more lately. Between the cramping in my legs and now my feet and hands, and the aches and pains I was a running wreck. I knew my race for time was well over and I set my mind on just finishing and enjoying the experience to the fullest. I chatted to people that would run up next to me for a while and encouraged those who passed me, even threw my salt tablets to one guy that was having a hard time on the side of the road with cramps and two buddies had stopped to help him. Boy did I need those later but at that point it was all the same. Saw some Tri4Him guys out there and two of them I met the day before when dropping of my bike, so it was fun to see them out on the course too.

Finished the run an 1h50 later ( 8:25pace ) and wanted to put my hands up at the finish line I was so happy to be done with the pain. But I had never put my hands up before at the end so I managed a smile and stood there thinking do I , don’t I ?? and at that point I lost my hands in the air moment and if I had put them up now it would have been just weird. So I just kept walking forward and took my chocolate milk they were handing out. Which was “ew” in 90 degree heat, but they tried. They probably read how good choc milk is for recovery and thought it was a good idea.

Post Race

I have to mention that a big plus of the finish line placing was that it was next to waterfall that had extremely cold water being fed into it from the river next to it. We were all crossing into the line and jumping into the waterfall, a funny sight I am sure, but was the instant ice bath we were needing.
Well, me merely finishing the race placed me as the 6th pro since out of the 8 that started, two had dnf’d. I knew this during the run since they were standing on the sidelines cheering us on, so I will say that my motivation to get to the finish line was knowing I would make $500 and get my first payday as a pro triathlete.

Celebrated that night with first of all getting a cold one with winner Kelly Williamson and 4th place male finisher James Cotter and his wife , all Austinites. And then my homestay’s Kelby and Yvette made another awesome meal which was Tannifer’s favorite dish growing up of pasta and vegetables that have had a whole days worth of love put into them . When there is food that I don’t need to put ketchup on, which I do with almost everything I eat, then you know it is a good meal.

All in all, I had a great trip. Loved Branson and the course even though, was beautiful with the roads in perfect shape. The support the Branson people showed was even better and I can’t wait to come out and tackle it again next year . Hopefully I will have my nutrition sorted by then… 
Thanks to my homestay’s, Kelby and Yvette. Can’t wait to come back next year and visit them because I really had so much fun staying with them.