Friday, June 19, 2015

Challenge Williamsburg Race Report - Sometimes You're Hot, Sometimes You're Not

Last weekend I competed in Challenge Williamsburg. This was my third time doing the race although the first time as a Challenge race and teammate. The inaugural year I raced the olympic, followed by the half last year and then the olympic again this year (which is a different course than 2013). I really love this course and like the Rev3 Tri brand, the Challenge brand really goes all out in making their races special!

After fighting off allergies all week, I was not happy to wake up Thursday with an earache, sore throat and headache and headed into the doctor. The doc said I have a sinus infection and put me on some antibiotics along with nose spray and an allergy pill. Not good timing but I decided to at least attempt to race since we had planned the trip and paid in advance.

Yum Yum!
My husband Steve was also racing the olympic distance so we made a little race vacation trip out of it. Friday we drove in and checked into our condo at Wyndham Kingsgate and immediately headed over to the pool for a little while to decompress from the long drive. After unpacking and getting cleaned up, we headed out to The Dog Street Pub, our favorite little place in Colonial Williamsburg for dinner and drinks. After dinner we checked out the Hair of the Dog Bottle Shop behind the restaurant where Foothills Brewing Company from North Carolina was sampling some beers. We also tried the Ale Works IPA that was on tap. Good stuff!

Race Eve:

My awesome teammates!
Saturday was a busy day! We got in a little shakeout run before heading to the expo to pick up our packets, timing chips and swag followed by the practice swim. It was so much fun seeing The Challenge staffers and my teammates and meeting some new folks as well! For the practice swim, the James River was perfect. Warm and calm and it went very smooth in trying my new swimskin so I assumed it would be a decent swim. After the swim, Steve and I headed out on the course for some recon. We planned to do about 12.5-13 (one loop of the course) but because of the way the course was setup we ended up getting in some bonus miles and doing 22. With the temp being 97 degrees that day we definitely got some sun!

Later that evening we headed out to The Corner Pocket to meet up with my teammates and their families for some prerace beer and food. Steve and I ended up cooking a light dinner later on and then getting all of our stuff ready for the morning.With the race being two transitions there is a little more organization involved.

Race Morning:
I woke up at 4:30 and was really not feeling too well. I was stuffy, hardly had a voice and had some funky GI issues going on from the antibiotic as well. Steve was concerned but I told him I would just do my best and if it wasn't my day I would back off. I know racing with a cold or infection isn't the best idea, but I am stubborn. We left the condo around 5:30 to head to the Warhill Sports Complex where the race finishes. Once there we setup our T2 area and then took the coach bus shuttle to the swim start and T1, which was setup at the Jamestown Beach area. It is a pretty short drive and most of T1 was setup from checking our bikes in Saturday so we just needed to setup the other stuff. After a trip to the bathroom we walked down to the start.

Swim: 1500 meters:
I had assumed the swim would be fast and easy. I assumed wrong. The first year with the current I had a terrible swim, last year we had the current assisting us so I did 40 mins for the 2000. This year it took me 34 mins, which did not make me happy considering I had just done a 27 at the GWRT olympic last weekend. I felt like it was a long swim. Some of my teammates and friends said they felt the current was pushing us out away from the buoys so I definitely lost some time here as I was hoping to be at least 30 or better.

This is a long transition having to run from the beach up a good distance to the bike area so this was 3:40ish versus being a minute or 2 faster.

I heart my bike!
Bike: 25 Miles:
This is usually a fast bike course with some nice flat sections as well as rolling terrain. Last year I averaged about 19.2 for the half and I ended up doing the olympic in 1:18 and change or 19.14mph this year. This was not the bike split I was hoping for but I am a little behind on my bike fitness this year and I hope to be stronger later in the season. This was definitely my favorite part of the race though as the course is quite beautiful and also shaded in many areas.

Pretty straight forward transition here. At 1:48 it was a little sluggish but I was kindof dreading the run!

Run: 6.2 Miles:
I love running...except when I am sick. Needless to say I did not set a 10K PR here. Where I had done a 46 minute 10K at GWRT this one was 55 minutes...ouch! I guess with the heat, trail portions and being sick I just could not do better than an 8:53 pace. I lost the most time here. I should have been at least 5-7 minutes faster here on a decent day.

I debated either walking or quitting the second loop because I did not feel great but then I just told myself it is just a 5K and you are done and I fought through the conditions to finish. I am glad I did. Sometimes the tough workouts are what really help to strengthen us and with a marathon coming up soon I need all the strength I can muster up!

The Finish:
Post race with my love
My time of 2:53 was disappointing yet not surprising given the conditions. Had it been a better day I probably would have done better than 6th in my AG. After coming off of a 2:36 with a longer bike the week before I had envisioned closer to a 2:35-2:40. But I cannot beat myself up too much when I was not at 100%. At the end of the day it was a heck of a training day for me anyways! Steve had a good race and placed 2nd in his AG so I was happy that one of us made the podium!

Post Race:
After the race we enjoyed the post race food and hung out with some teammates and cheered before heading back to the car to change. We stuck around for the awards and then headed back to the condo to relax. That night we met some teammates and friends out for dinner and drinks at the College Delly. We headed back to watch the Cavs game and I ended up falling asleep not far into the third quarter as I was exhausted.

We drove home Monday and used it as a rest day so I am slowly getting back into the training now as I heal and rest up to take on the Charlevoix Marathon next weekend!

Monday, June 8, 2015

GWRT Race Report - Good Start to the 2015 Tri Season

Yesterday I raced the Great Western Reserve Olympic Tri put on by Champ Racing. I will admit that I was nervous going into this race. I am always a little worked up about the first OWS of the season and I was not really sure that I was tri-ready with so much focus on the run this season and not as much focus on the bike. I have been pretty good about my swimming and gotten in as many bike miles as I can around a very run-heavy schedule. I just had to give it my best and see where I am right now.

West Branch State Park was the venue for the race. I really liked this venue. The swim was in a calm and warm inland lake and for the most part the bike roads were good and the run course was a nice setup. In addition to the olympic race, there is a sprint, a half and a half aquabike option so that brought out some good people to race. It was nice to see so many friends and fellow Cleveland Tri Club members at the race. Many of which had a great day at the races!

Steve and I both raced the olympic and we are racing an olympic again this weekend at Challenge Williamsburg (formerly Revolution 3 Williamsburg). I love the course there and it's my first team race of the year so that's pretty exciting. Racing GWRT was a great way to test my fitness before Williamsburg.  I am pleased with how things turned out yesterday and looking forward to giving it another go Sunday!

Prerace: We arrived at West Branch around 6:30am to pick up our packets and setup our transition areas. The olympic was scheduled to go off around 8am. The start was delayed about 30 minutes due to the other waves starting later. This was actually not a bad thing for me because I had time to relax and chat with friends as well as get in a nice warm up swim. The water temperature was 71 and my sleeveless Blueseventy wetsuit was very comfortable.

Swim (1500 meters):
Start of one of the swim waves
The olympic men's wave went off and then olympic women were 5 minutes later. We were the last wave. This again was okay with me. I like a relaxing swim where I am not crowded with people. It was a double loop course and the second loop really felt like it went quick. I looked at my watch leaving the water and I was around 26 minutes and change. Once crossing over the timing mat I was at 27:31 (about a 1:50 pace), which is not bad for me in open water. I am working on my sighting as I have a tendency to get off course.

I felt wobbly in T1 but got the wetsuit off pretty fast, dried off a bit, put on my gear and got in a Powerbar energy blend gel before heading for the bike mount. My 1:52 was a little slow but I'm just getting back into the swing of things.

Bike (26 miles):
I liked the bike course. It was mainly flat with a couple sections of rollers. It was a straight forward course so not too technical. The best part I think was riding along the dam. It felt like flying through that section and I got to see Steve and some friends here. My goal for the bike was to average between 19-20mph. I knew that my bike fitness was not as good yet as it was during some of last year's races where I was close to averaging 21 for this distance. I felt pretty strong on the first 13 mile loop and through the first half of the second loop but started to labor toward the end of the ride and had some pesky low back pain as well. I haven't spent too much time in the aero bars yet this season so I am sure that I will build up my tolerance to this again. My new Lazer aero helmet worked great. It was light and comfortable and well ventilated. My bike time ended up at 1:20:16 (19.4 mph average) so for where I am right now this was decent. I will be switching my focus to the bike in early July after I recover from the Charlevoix Marathon.

Again I felt a little slow here with a 1:23 but as the season goes on hopefully I will be quicker with my transitions. The one thing that annoyed me in T2 is that my GPS signal for my run watch did not come on right away so I just had to start the run without it.

Run (6.2 Miles): 
The run was pretty straight forward and flat. Leaving the park was hot but most of the olympic run was shaded, which was nice on a hot day like yesterday. It was an out and back, 2 loop 5K course with 2 aid stations on each loop. It was nice to see so many friends on the course and I got to see Steve a couple of times as well, which was a nice boost of motivation. I ended up running a negative split for the second loop, which allowed me to move up at least a handful of spots in the race. I ended up running a 46:08 10K (7:41 average).  I was glad to have my run working for me with all the miles I have been logging training for my marathon June 27.

Post race with my hubby
Finish & Post Race:
It was nice to have Steve cheering as I finished. I am happy with my time of 2:37:12. It was good enough to win my age group and place 6th female. In looking at the results the swim is really what killed me for this race along with not having my bike legs at 100% yet. I am okay with that. I will get stronger as I change my focus to multisport! Steve had a solid race too and placed 3rd in his AG. We stuck around to hang out with friends and eat. Champ does a great job with the post-race food especially the pizza! Mmm! Many of our friends set PRs and placed so it was a good day at the races!

Closing Thoughts:
I liked this race and will plan to do it again - possibly the half too. Champ did a nice job with the course, volunteers, food, and I loved the race shirt! Today is a recovery day and then I get back into a hard week of training followed by the Challenge Williamsburg olympic tri this Sunday!

Cool shirt & my AG medal

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Third Time is the Charm They Say - Training Update

After not hitting my BQ goal in Cleveland due to weather I was disappointed. I sometimes have a hard time letting things go. Although I knew I would be sacrificing the beginning of my triathlon season I made the decision to run a third marathon this season in Charlevoix, Michigan later this month. It's a small, beach town race that is said to be one of the most beautiful races in the U.S. Needless to say I am excited to give it another go. Plus, I'll qualify for Marathon Maniacs  too, which is fun!

I am still planning to participate in the multisport races on my schedule as well - I just cannot train for these specifically. Last week for example I ran 53 miles, rode my bike for 75 miles, got in one 2000 meter swim along with some yoga and pilates work for strength. In a normal multisport focus training week I would have had another swim, 15-20 miles less running and about 50-75 more on the bike.

Last Sunday was the Twinsburg Duathlon. It was kindof a rainy, crappy morning to race but I was up for it. The first run went okay as I had not really intended to push the pace given my tired legs so according to my watch, the first 2 mile run was around a 7:29 pace. My goal was to run between a 7:15-7:30 for both runs and average 19-20mph on the bike. Entering transition I saw my hubby. He had a flat and said he was out so just to go ahead. I ran over to my bike but felt bad that he was out of the race so I went to go find him to just ride the course with him and finish for fun. After 5+ minutes of trying unsuccessfully to find him and then hearing that he changed his wheel and jumped back into race, I was bummed. I felt like I had lost too much time to be competitive and I had some extra run miles I needed to make up so I made use of the time to get in 7 more miles at a slower pace around 9. Later that afternoon I hopped on my cross bike for an hour to get in my needed bike miles for the week. I guess it all worked out okay in the end although I am bummed that I didn't get to race my bike.

I do get to do that this weekend at the Great Western Reserve Olympic Tri at West Branch! This week is another 50+ mile run week along with 70+ on the bike, 5300 meters of swimming and some strength work. This may not be optimal triathlon training but I am excited to take on my first tri of the season, tired legs and all! My husband and several friends are racing so it will be fun to see everyone! Hope that water is not too cold!

The following week I have my last build week for the marathon with about the same mileage as this week. Steve and I head South to Williamsburg, Virginia next weekend for a little vacation and to race Challenge Williamsburg. We will be racing the olympic again as we did two years back (last year we raced the half and loved it). I am super excited to see my Challenge teammates and staff!

The following week will be a taper week with no races (thank god).

Then we head to Charlevoix for another long weekend vacation with a race. I will race the full marathon and hubby is racing the half marathon. Hopefully I can get the BQ done and move on this season to the half iron and full iron triathlon build phase! I will not have any long races on my schedule until later in August now so I am looking forward to the change of focus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Busy Weekend, Lots of Training & a Race for Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is always one of my favorite times of the year since it's the official welcome of Summer for us Ohioans. This Memorial Day was full of friends and family and lots of training, including a race!

Friday kicked off the weekend with a recovery run and a Bikram Yoga class. Saturday Steve and I got in a ride on the tri bikes then spent some time with the kiddos at the driving range. Of course their favorite part was driving the golf carts!

Pre Blossom Run Fun at Ginny & Bobs
Sunday we headed to Chagrin Falls for the annual Blossomtime Run, which is always a fun and challenging race with the heat and the hills. Our friends Ginny and Bob had a nice little prerace party at their house for the runners. Some of our Cleveland Tri Club friends were there so it was nice to catch up with folks before jogging over to the start.

Last year I went out too fast at the race start so this time I held back with my first mile being a 7:15. My splits were pretty consistent as I never really felt I was pushing too hard and I ended up finishing the 5.25 mile course in 38 and change (7:20 pace), which I was happy with since it was a better time than last year. With that I placed 3rd of 85 in my AG.

Post race with my speedy guy!
Steve also had a good race finishing in 33 and change and 3rd in his AG, which included some pretty fast local runners! After the race we caught up with my friend Jilllian for a few minutes and then headed to get a post race smoothie. The rest of the day was filled with house cleaning and yard work so it was a busy day!

Yesterday I was going to go with Steve to do the Snakebite Racing Death Ride but I needed to get in a decent long run and bike so I opted out and went to the Towpath in Independence instead for a 13 mile run at marathon pace followed by 30 miles of riding on my cross bike. Steve was nearby so we met up after for some much needed Chipotle! Then we ran some errands and headed home to get ready for our neighbors picnic.

This week will be full of lots of swim, bike, run as well and the first multisport race of the season too at the Twinsburg Duathlon, which is a sprint consisting of a 2 mile run, 10 mile bike and 2 mile run. I am hoping to do well but will see how it goes as I don't feel I am in great bike shape yet this season. It will be a great tuneup for the next two weekends, which will both consist of olympic triathlons (Champ Racing's GWRT and Challenge Williamsburg). I am excited to switch gears a little bit these next few weeks!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Surviving not Thriving at The Cleveland Marathon This Year

Marathon # 5 is in the books! This year the Cleveland weather threw a lot of craziness at us brave runners including pouring rain, serious humidity and some hot temps late into the race but overall the whole marathon weekend experience for me was awesome thanks to the support of my husband, friends, Challenge Family teammates and marathon ambassadors.

Friday Evening:

Cleve Marathon Ambassadors
This year I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the Official Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors. In addition to a free race entry and swag, I met the nicest group of people ever! I already had a couple of friends in the group but am happy to say that I made a bunch of new, amazing friends as well. I really can't say enough how much fun we had and the incredible amount of support that I received from this group! I look forward to following these folks as they go on to take on their next challenges. Friday our group was invited to the Marathon VIP Reception at the Hyatt Arcade. It was a first class event all around with excellent food, beverages and company! Special thanks to Jack Staph, owner of the Cleveland Marathon race for his generosity. A few of us ambassadors also attended the pre-race happy hour with Great Lakes Brewing at Flannery's Pub. I want to send a big shout out to Great Lakes for sponsoring the marathon this year. It was wonderful to have a local craft beer after my race!


Green screen fun at the Expo
Saturday my husband Steve and I had a relaxing morning including some practice golf at the Blackbrook Driving Range followed up with a short 25 minute shakeout run. It was a very humid, sweaty run so I had a feeling we would be battling some tough race conditions. After lunch we headed downtown to the Convention Center for the marathon expo. We met up with my friend Jillian there and after the expo headed over to Barrio for a prerace IPA and some amazing chips and guac! Steve and I made a conservative prerace dinner and had another prerace beer with a lot of water and turned in early to watch a funny movie before bed. I slept pretty well waking up once to use the bathroom and have a little Powerbar snack.

Race Day:

The alarm went off at 4:30 and we were up right away to get dressed, eat a hearty breakfast and head out by 5:20. We arrived at the Penton parking garage around 6am and by the time we got ready and met up with my friend Jillian and walked over to the start area it was 6:30. I was supposed to meet my ambassador group but Jillian and I both had to use the bathroom before the race so we headed off to search for the ladies room. We met back up with Steve and chatted with some friends a couple minutes before heading into our corrals for the start. I lined up with the 3:35 pace group with friends Jessica and my new friend Jen who came in from Charleston, SC for the race. As we were waiting for the start, it poured down rain for about 5 minutes before it died down. It was tough just standing there but the rain probably helped cool us down as it was a very humid morning!

We took off after a quick 10-sec countdown and the first few miles went by super fast as I chatted with friends and our pacer. Things went smooth with my nutrition and water from the start. I made sure to get water early on as I knew I would need it later in the run. I felt on track but really had to use the bathroom so I stopped at the porta-johns at mile 13. Unforunately I had to wait a bit and then after my stop for water the pace group was too far ahead of me to catch up. I decided to just try and pace myself around 3:35. My goal for the race was 3:35-3:38. My BQ time is 3:40 but it's usually necessary to have a cushion to get into the race.

I paced pretty well until before the turn around in Rocky River. I was super excited to see my husband pass and see that he was on pace for his BQ! The 3:40 group ended up passing me and I figured I could maybe get back on track so I pushed on. Somewhere around mile 18 or 19 it started pouring rain again. It was bitter sweet because it cooled me off but it was also soaking my clothes and feet. My shoes rubbed and I knew I was in trouble with blisters. I also started to labor a bit around mile 21 or 22 and the rain didn't make it easier. Then the sun came out full blast as we headed to the shoreway. I baked and baked some more and I got very nauseated and stopped to throw up. I wanted to quit but that wasn't an option. I wanted to PR but that was a long shot. So I ran and I puked and I walked. I was happy to see my friend Jillian on the course. With a hug and a sip of water from her as well as good news that Steve had a BQ race, I drudged on reluctantly. The last mile was bittersweet as I fought to try to at least run the same time as I had done last year for this race. My thoughts went to beer. I just want a beer and my husband! I was pretty elated to see the finish to say the least!

Post race with my hubby!
Unfortunately I was about a minute slower than last year with a 3:52:30. Not a time to celebrate but certainly an accomplishment for just surviving the day. Instead of celebrating right away I threw up several times. I ran into my friend Jen who had a rough day too and had actually pulled out of the race early (poor thing).

Finally after about 30-40 minutes of relaxing and icing my neck I was cooled off enough  to get a post finish picture with Steve and then walk over to the beer tent for my Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale. Beer after a race that hard is amazing!

We walked to the parking garage and got cleaned up and changed into dry clothes before heading to the Winking Lizard to meet up with some of our Cleveland Tri Club friends and my friend Jillian. I enjoyed another beer and a burger and some great conversation. After heading home I was just hungry all day basically and ready for bed at 8:30! Aside from a throbbing toenail and a little overall fatigue, I feel good. I will take it easy for 2-3 days then ease back into my training. I have a duathlon and a couple tris approaching but I may try one more marathon in late June to see if I can BQ before the serious Half & Full Iron training starts this summer. But for now it's rest and recover!

Steve and CTC friends Jim, Frode, Dan & Jason post race!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tips for Racing in the Heat this Summer

With the Cleveland Marathon forecast being a warm one again this year and having some aggressive time goals, I am going to do my best to run well in the heat. It will not be my first hot race or marathon. Many of the running races and triathlons that I do in the summer get hot. I wanted to share some tips that might help out some of my fellow racers in Cleveland this weekend as well as friends racing at Triple T and other places throughout the warm season.

Sodium Loading  - If you know that your race will be hot it might be a good idea for you to load up on sodium rich foods and even salt tabs within the 24-48 hour period leading into the race. This will encourage you to drink water and will also help you retain that water longer. For race days, I really like the Hammer Endurolites and the Salt Stick tabs. You can decide how many you will need based on your own personal sweat rate and preference. In general you should plan to have at least one of these an hour as the temperature rises past 65-70 degrees. If you prefer to drink your electrolytes, most races hand out Gatorade or something similar at the aid stations in addition to water. If you are using salt tabs just go with the water. You do not need both. Also, your gels or bars for in-race fuel will contain some electrolytes normally.

Hyper-Hydration - Drink more fluids than you think you need for several days leading into the race. Lots of water and electrolyte rich drinks like Coconut Water, Nuun, decaf herbal tea and of course plain old ice water! Beware of the coffee, soda, alcohol and black teas that have a dehydrating effect. For every cup of water, tea, alcohol that you take in, drink 2 cups of water to replenish.

Acclimate to the Heat if You Can - If it is warm outside try to get some runs or bikes in at those temperatures ahead of the race. If this is not possible you can try running or biking indoors with extra clothes on and cranking up the heat. You just want your body to have a sense for what's coming.

Eat a Cold Breakfast - avoid eating hot breakfast cereals and other foods that are harder to digest. Smoothies and cold cereal or an untoasted bagel or bread are cool options. Stick to cold fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.

Dress in as few layers as possible & Avoid Dark Colors, Cotton - This is not the time to wear your running tights and capris. Don't be shy. Show off those runners legs and don't be afraid to run in a sports bra ladies or shirtless for the guys. Try to avoid darker colors esp for tops and hats. And never ever wear cotton anything (not even socks)! And don't forget the sunscreen before the start!

Precooling - If your race is warm at the start or expected to get warm you may want to get your body temperature down before the race start. Plan to bring a small cooler with you filled with ice, you can use that ice to wet down some towels to wrap around your neck, head, back, etc. You can also eat the ice and have some ice cold water.

Reduce Your Warm Up - Along with precooling, consider reducing your warm up to a very short, light jog with some dynamic stretches. This will keep your heart rate down and save valuable energy for the race.

Start Slowly - Resist the urge to go out extra fast to put time in the bank. Starting easier and building into your first few miles will keep you relaxed and cool.

Hydrate Early and Often - Drink water at every aid station from the beginning - even if you just cruise through the aid stations to get a sip or two at each. How much liquid you should drink will vary person to person but in general you should try to get in a minimum of 6 oz every 20-25 minutes of the race.

Pour Water on Your Head & Upper Body - While you're running through the aid stations grab an extra water to dump on your head, face and shoulders. This will help cool you down. If you have a cooling towel, mat or sponge with you be sure to wet that with cold water often. Again this will help lower your core body temperature.

Pay Attention To Your Body - Even if you have lofty goals, your health must come first. If you feel sick and slowing down or taking a short walk/run break does not help, you may have to consider getting help. Heat exhaustion is serious business. If you feel bad, adjust your goals and push it harder on a better day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cleveland Marathon Race Week is Upon Us!

Wow, it's Cleveland Marathon race week! Needless to say I have a lot of excitement and emotions swirling around in my head and heart. After coming up a little short of my BQ goal in Toledo a few weeks ago I am anxious to give it another go. This will be race #7 for me this season. I don't think I have ever had such an intense race season this early in the year. It's been a good year already and I need to stop and appreciate that in itself. I am fortunate to be healthy this year and able to push myself to new achievements. Hopefully I can do that again this Sunday.

Five years ago I ran my first full marathon in Cleveland (my beloved hometown). Back then I hoped to finish but had a glimmer of hope for a BQ too. Needless to say I survived but was nowhere near a BQ! I never realized how hard it would be for me to achieve this goal. Five years later, I line up in my hometown again for marathon #5. Maybe this is the one where it will all come together for me. Toledo was close but maybe I am supposed to BQ at home. I guess that will make it even more special for me to know that it's going to happen as I run the shoreway back into downtown. 

No matter what happens this Sunday, I will put my heart and soul into my hometown race and give it everything that I can. I will walk (or hobble) away after the race knowing that I worked hard. I won't be stopped by the heat or anything else. It's me versus me, and I have a goal. Stay tuned to hear how it turns out!

For everyone racing in Cleveland this weekend - especially those brave souls taking on the full 26.2, I wish you luck. Stay strong and fight through the finish.