Monday, October 01, 2007

Big Lick Triathlon at Smith Mountain, VA 2007

September 22nd
1500k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Big Lick was my last race of the triathlon season and one to do strictly as a fun event with a good friend of mine Susan Airheart. Susan and I had not seen each other in a couple years, so I was very excited to get together. I give credit to Susan as the person who got me initially interested in doing a triathlon.

Susan, driving from NC, and I met at the Fleet Feet in Roanoke, VA to pick up our race packets. Then off for some lunch and to her in-laws house to get everything organized. Jack and Sarah Airheart's house reminded me of a Bed and Breakfast. It was absolutely lovely. Susan and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning our bikes and getting our stuff together for tomorrow.

Since the race didn't start until 9am (BONUS) we didn't have to get up super early like for most other tris. But we did make sure that we got to the race site early enough to park close to the transition area. I knew that I would have to take it easy b/c I was within my window of possible lung collapse. I usually don't workout or compete during this time, but Susan and I had been trying to get together for so long. I wasn’t going to miss this chance. (I had planned on devoting a Blog post Catamenial Pneumothorax, but have yet to get one together.)

I warmed up in the water which was refreshingly cool. It felt really good. In my second race ever in a wetsuit, I tried a sleeveless version of the neoprene and liked it. I was in wave 5 and started with the collegiate women. Wonderful.... I don't feel old, until I'm lined up with 20 year olds! It was an in the water start, waist high, so no treading water. Right from the first stroke I struggled. Struggled to catch my breath, struggled to find a rhythm. I usually swim 3 strokes b/w each breath. Maybe b/c of my lung issues and the time of the month it was, but I was unable to feel like I was getting in enough air. This causes instinctual panic on my part. My heart rate and respiratory rate sky rocketed. I tried calming myself down and decided that I would have to breath every 2 strokes. That had me pulling with the same arm almost the whole way. I ended up with a nasty little burn on my neck from the wetsuit rubbing where my head turned to breath. But, the good news was I swam less off course then in prior tris and I made it out in 29:21, which is faster then at Annapolis. Swim PR! (Easy to come by when it's only your second Olympic).

T1 was, as usual, a lot slower then I would like. 2:23. I’d like to see something under 2 min.

The bike course was hilly. You had to run uphill out of transition, and most people ran up a bit further b/c of the difficulty of starting on an incline. I thought for sure I would catch my breath now and hammer out a decent ride. But, once again, I was struggling to breath and could feel my lung was not happy to be doing this. There were a couple hills requiring me to get out of the saddle. I had to remind myself that I am not racing this thing, I slowed down and relaxed. After a few minutes I felt good again and was able to pick up the pace. So, although it started rough, my bike ride felt good and I finished strong. Susan caught me on the bike and we pretty much rode in together. Unfortunately, there was a not so lucky guy who wiped out right in front of us in the turns and twists of the finish. It took me 1:21 to cover the 40k course. I don't know what that is for an average, something like 17-18 mph?

T2 was, again, not that speedy. 1:09. I would like to see that under a minute. Susan went flying past me in transition and I never caught her again. She ran an amazing 10k.

Now, let me tell you, this may have been one of the hilliest 10ks I have ever run, let alone attached to a swim and bike. It was getting hot and the shade was minimal. It started along the bike course. The first mile was up, except right at the start. I kept telling myself that this will make for a nice finish. I did not push the run, b/c of the whole lung thing, but didn't jog it either. I would guess it to be a tempo pace. Breathing heavy, but not going as hard as I could. I tried hard to enjoy the run, but the hills were killer. There was one hill that I would say was just plan 'ole mean to include. We shot down one road for, like a quarter mile, then turned around and came right back up that monster! I was down to a shuffle but did not give in to the walking demons. I tried to pick it up slightly in the final mile and shuffled up that final hill and then down to the finish. I ran a 53:32 (8:37). I was happy with that b/c it felt a heck of a lot slower.Once I crossed that finish line, I was so hot, I grabbed a bag of ice, bottle of water and ran right back into the lake. Ahhh.....

Susan ended up winning her age group! I got 8th in mine. Total time was 2:48:21. We enjoyed the Outback lunch and awards. It was a bunch of fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Annapolis Triathlon 2007

Annapolis Triathlon
Olympic Distance
September 9, 2007

I was super excited to be participating in the first running of the Annapolis Tri and running as a member of the Annapolis Triathlon Club! Go Crabs!

On Friday, the 7th, I was one of the first athletes to pick up my race packet. Saturday, I had to go back to the Stadium to pick up my parking pass (I didn’t have the cash for it on Friday) and to set my bike up. I must admit the 2 transition thing kind of messed me up. My brain was a bit scattered that weekend anyway. I looked at all the empty racks at the Stadium and was surprised that no one had set up yet. It was already 3:30 pm. My husband began to make me doubt that we were supposed to pre rack our bikes. Then suddenly, like a brick falling on my feeble mind, I realized I was staring at T2, where we would be coming in with our bikes. Before I could take my bike to the correct location, I had to detour back home to get my bike number. I told you my brain was not working properly that weekend.

Finally I am at City Dock. Hurray! People and bikes were a plenty. I did a practice run through and examined the water from the dock anticipating my swim (and possible Sea Nettle encounters).

I was up at 4:30 am Sunday morning and was out the door a bit after 5am. Things were already hopping as I pulled onto the dark grassy lot at the Navy Stadium. I gathered my items, one more sip of coffee, and headed to T2. It took no time to find my spot and set up my running stuff. It felt kind of sparse and I was sure I had forgotten something. But, satisfied I headed for the school buses that would take us to City Dock. My (race issued) big white hefty trash bag was burdened with all the items I needed or could possibly need.

At T1, music was blaring and I could see weary eyed hotel guests peaking out from behind curtains wondering what these crazy people were doing at this insane hour. I found my bike and started to set up all my “stuff”. My general rule, with regards to tire pressure, has been to slightly over inflate the night before and then leave it alone. But, caught up in the moment, I decided to borrow a pump. I attached the foreign pump to my valve and, to make a short story even shorter, I broke that valve right off. A fellow crab member, Agnes, quickly calmed me and had me heading to the Bike Doctor tent for help. I don’t know who ended up giving me a new tube, but God Bless You! I was about to cry. I was not the only one dealing with a dilemma. One guy was anxiously running around asking if anyone had an extra pair of goggles and an announcement was made asking for an extra pair of bike shorts. Stress!

Okay, so back in good shape. Still plenty of time until my 7:30 wave. Everything was laid out. I nervously shifted my items around my mini canvas. Setting up transition is kind of like painting a picture or decorating a Christmas tree. You tilt your head, examine what you have done and tweak it until you are satisfied.

Time to apply the SafeSea, a thick creamy lotion that, I found out, really can sting your eyes. And if you are looking for a good way to remove your race number markings, this will do the trick. Before I realized it I had black smudge all over my race top.

I borrowed a wetsuit from the folks up at TriSpeed. Nice people. I practiced swimming in it once the Thursday before the race. I also strolled around the house to get a feel for it. My 3 year old son thought I looked cool, like a super hero! Love him!

The wetsuit wasn’t that hard to get on. I used some Body Glide but I don’t think it was as tight as it probably should have been. Once on, I started to sweat. Those suits are hot! I put mine on about 30 minutes too early. Not wanting to take it off or fiddle with it anymore, I just dealt with it.

My wave of neon (you’ll never wear again) pink capped ladies jumped into the water from the dock. The water felt refreshing as it rushed to fill my suit. I was certain I heard Mr. V say we had 2 ½ minutes. I was adjusting my goggles, ear plugs and cap as we suddenly were counting down from 10! Holy Poop! Within the first few strokes my left eye goggle was leaking. I planned to just deal with it, but the water stung my eye and I had visions of bacteria laden water seeping into my body through my eye balls. I pull up, adjust goggles and go again.

The 1500k swim felt pretty good. My goal was to stay relaxed and save energy. I didn’t want to tussle with the other swimmers, so in my attempt to avoid that, I ended up swimming a bit too far out. I could not stay on course! I had a hard time sighting and swimming straight. Instead of dodging legs and arms I was trying not to run into the ships and the people on canoes. The funny thing is, I still ended up getting kicked right as I was pulling up to the finish.

The people pulling us out of the water were awesome. I am sure there would have been a lot of face plants if those wonderful volunteers were not there. As I ran to my bike, a girl was spraying a hose at us. I open my mouth wide to get the yuckies out from swallowing some bay water. I finished the swim in 31:38. I was hoping for under 30, so not too bad.

If there is one thing I really need to work on it is my slow transitions. I am such a turtle. It took me 3:32 to get off my suit, get my bike stuff on, dump all my belongings in my bag and in the box they provided and get my bike out. I even attempted to be speedier by having my shoes already attached to the bike. They were not that easy to get on while trying to ride. I’ll have to rethink that.

I loved the bike course. It’s beautiful, challenging and canopy covered for most of the ride. There were some narrow spots, but all in all I enjoyed this leg the most. My goal here was to extend myself but make sure I had enough left to finish the 10k respectfully. I kept a steady pace, held back some, and ended the 40k bike in 1:14:02. That’s a 19.1 mph average. Very happy with that! My cycling has improved a lot this season. I enjoy climbing, but that one booger of a hill (on Herald Harbor?) was a beast. Ouch!

Into T2 I was ready for the run. Thankfully someone put a pink bandana on the rack I was using, so I could find it within the sea of people and their choosen machines. Rack, shoes, hat and go. I thought I was moving pretty fast, but it still took me 2 min to get out!

The organizers had issues with the city and county when sorting out the details of the run course, so even though I had run what I thought was the course the weekend before, it had almost totally changed. But the change made it slightly less hilly, which was okay for me. We started with some loops around the stadium, then an out and back to the central circle, and then up the Naval Academy Bridge, to the turn around, and back to the finish. The bridge offered a beautiful view, but at a painful price. It was also getting quite hot. I drank as much as I could, even slowed down at each water station, but did not walk a step, despite many folks around me. I felt like I was crawling at a snail’s pace but was pleased with the finishing time of 52:46, an 8:30 pace.

Running into the Stadium, down the field to the 50, picture on the jumbotron, announcing your name was really fun. Despite all the resistance that was felt putting the triathlon together, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of spectators along the entire course. The bike course was lined with people holding signs and ringing bells. People were everywhere and cheering! I felt very supported by the people the race affected. I also have to give kudos to the numerous and awesome volunteers! They were amazing!

Swim: 31:38
T1: 3:32
Bike: 1:14:02; 19.1 mph average
T2: 2:00
Run: 52:46; 8:30 pace
Total time: 2:43:54
16th out of 58 on age group
100th female out of 377
581 finisher out of 1258 total athletes ( a lot of men)

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Iron Girl August 19, 2007

The build up for this event was quite something. Emails counting down for weeks and pre race activties starting 3 days out. I was mentally exhausted, and ready to race, when I finally toed the line.
I woke up at 4am Sunday morning after several dreams of sleeping late and missing the race. I was out the door by 4:45 am and, although it was a pain to rack my bike the day before, it was nice not having to deal with it now.

It started to drizzle on the way there and I just hoped it won’t start lightening. But, the weather remained overcast and rainy, which are conditions I enjoy. A couple miles out from Centennial Park, at about 5:25 am, I was surprised it was already backed up with cars. But, things moved pretty smoothly and not too much later I was directed to a spot.
I grabbed all my gear and headed to transition. Quite a site to see almost 2000 bikes lined up. After being body marked I set up my area. You always feel like you are forgetting to do something, but finally I left satisfied.
I really wanted to get into the water to warm up. I walked the quarter mile or so, to the start. I didn’t see anyone in the water and asked an official if we would have a chance to get in prior to the start. Looking frustrated she told me no and that I can warm up by walking back and forth! This was not acceptable and apparently I was not the only one who felt this way. Off in a corner of the lake, were a few ladies testing the waters. I felt a little like I was a kid trying to get away with something, but I had to! So, I got in about 5-10 min of a warmup.

I was the third wave to start after two older groups. We were called to get in and jumped off a wooden dock into the waters. I swam around trying to find a good starting position and settled on the far side, near the bouy. I was trying to limit the amount of people near me. We had to tread water for about 3 min before we were sent on our way.

THE SWIM: was crowded, despite my attempt to stay out of the congestion, I found myself surrounded. IG is known to attract newbies. I’m not sure if this is the reason I was kicked and punched more then I recall at other tris. Once in the face and once in the abdomen! Took my breath away and messed me up a bit. The turns at the bouys, for some reason, always turn into stopping grounds for people. Lots of physical contact going on at each turn since people would come to a halt or switch to breast stroke. When I finally seemed to find a spot I could call my own, I started picking up stragglers from the other waves that had left before me. God bless these older ladies doing side and breast stroke the whole way! The water itself was great and temp felt wonderful.I am not a fantastic swimmer, and had a couple things slow me down along the way, but I finally exited the 1k swim in 21:30. This was the 61st fastest time for my age group.

THE TRANSITION: kind of sat in a bowl. So, it was up a grassy, damp slope, pushing the bike, before being allowed to mount (T1) and a decent, after dismounting, coming back off the bike (T2) and into the run. I almost busted my butt trying to control my bike running down the slope. I’m sure someone fell.T1 took me 2:48 and T2 took me 1:22. I really need to work on these.

THE BIKE: was a lot of fun. I was determined to use the knowledge I had of the course to my advantage. I knew the hills we would encounter and was ready. I worked the downhills netting a max speed of 40 mph. I felt good and didn’t let the fear of wiping out slow me on the downhills. There were also some serious climbs that slowed me to 8 mph. There were a lot of ladies out there, encouraging each other, which was nice. I mostly passed people, but was also passed by a few. I finished the 17.5 mile ride in 58:19, giving me an 18mph average. I am happy with that. And it was good enough to give me the 21st fastest bike time in my group. At this point I was in 17th place overall for my age group.
THE RUN: was slower then I would have liked. I really pushed the bike and could feel that exertion trying to run. The drizzle and overcast skies, my ideal running environment, felt good though. The course took us on mostly paved trails though the canopy of Centennial Park. The majority of the course was rolling with short climbs and descents. I started to feel better a few minutes into the run and clipped along pretty well, I believe. I’m not sure where I began my decline, but I think it had something to do with a couple ladies flying past me and a hill they named Gatorade Hill. A hill that has been honored with a name, is usually not a good sign! We got to run down it before struggling back up. I think here, on this hill, I mentally let the the discouraging voices have their way with me. The run was a total of 3.3m and I finished it in 27:15, which is an 8:01 avg. It was the 28th fastest time in my group. Being a runner, I had hoped to do better here. But I am still learning how to balance the disciplines and evenly distribute my effort during a triathlon. It’s not that easy to figure out. I also should have had a gel or goo or something along the way. I didn’t think I would need one, but looking back, it would have been smart to do so during the bike. Crossing the finish line was festive. Your name was called over the loud speaker. I received a metal and a nice visor! I also enjoyed a free massage and quick results.

POST RACE: My only disappointment in the event was how the post race festivities compared to a previous one that I did in Florida last year. I expected the same, which was a banquet type atmosphere, food and goodies, but got the usually bananas and bagels. Nevertheless, how the race is organized is what is most important and that was very well done. My personal finish results were:1:51:11 finish time82nd overall / out of 167115th age group/ out of 361

Monday, July 16, 2007

Blackwater Traverse Long Course Duathlon 2007

Cambridge, Maryland
Run 12k- Cycle 73k- Run 8k
July 9, 2007

This was a crazy event! The weather on race day was hot, sunny and humid. The right mixture that many athletes fall prey to and did. I got up at 3:30am and arrived at the race site by 5:30am. The fog on the way in was thick at times, so I knew it would warm to a humid day.

My ‘all women’s’ wave took off at 7:05am. The run was a flat out and back stretch and the sun and humidity were already doing some damage. I took water at every aid station in an attempt to be ahead of the game. I was surprised at the pace the front ladies were pushing as they quickly disappeared from my view. The plan was a conservative first run and I hit the first mile in 7:28. Faster then I wanted. I slowed a bit to my planned 8 min/mile pace and ended up averaging an 8:13 b/c of a slow last mile. I anticipated that I would finish the first run somewhere near the top, but was surprised when I counted 23 girls ahead of me as they past the turn around point. The competition was amazing!

During the final mile, of the first run, I started to get chills. It was way too early in the game to be getting dehydrated. I planned on really loading up on the bike.

In T1, as I leaned over to change my shoes (this is gross) and I peed in my shorts. I have never had such a lack of control, so I just let it flow. Hopefully no one noticed! I didn’t rush T1 too much and headed out for the first bike loop.

The riders, at least around me, were pretty strung out and I had no one to follow. I was nervous about going in the wrong direction (I heard someone had later). I was actually happy when someone passed by that I could follow. My plan was to average 19-20 mph. Well, that fell kaput almost immediately. I’m not sure what the cause was, maybe heat and fueling issues, but my inner thighs went into this precramping mode almost constantly for the entire bike ride. Getting into aero position made it worse. I kept fiddling around trying to get comfortable. Stood up and stretched and stuck my leg out to loosen up. Nothing worked.

It didn’t help that I was being passed repeatedly. One nice lady offered some advice, but I couldn’t hear what the heck she was saying. I got excited when I finally saw that I was coming up on someone, until I saw “78” on his right calf! I couldn’t catch a break on the bike so I muscled through. The second loop pretty much was a repeat of the first. Lots of pain. I’m not sure what I ended up averaging because my bike computer is messed up and I heard the course was actually a little shorter then 73k. I am guessing it was 17mph or so.

I drank and took in gels on the ride, but the second run was torture. I got off my bike and my inner thighs screamed at me to stop. The first few steps were interesting to observe I am sure. I passed quite a few people on the run despite my dismal pace. One guy was trying to deal with leg cramps and most people were doing a mix of running and walking. I decided I would walk through the aid stations, but actually ended up taking more walk breaks after the turn around. Each aid station was an opportunity to dump ice down my top and shorts. I put a handful of ice cubes under my hat in an attempt to stay cool. Thank God they had ice! It was so hot and the sun seemed to be relentlessly shining a direct beam on me.

I was determined to run the last full mile in and did so finishing the last run in 51:48, a 10:26 pace. That’s embarrassing to say. It actually felt slower with all the walking I did. It seemed like a death march for all the competitors around me. Every single person was walking at some point and guzzling water and Gatorade. I just wanted to finish.

When I came across the finish line someone offered me a spot to sit under the tent. I knew if I sat down I may never get back up again. There was a sprinkler mid field, of the track we finished on, with kids running through it, my son and daughter included. I walked over to it and stood there for a few minutes cooling off in its spray. It was a relief to be finished.

It turns out that I dropped another 10 spaces from the first run to the finish. That didn’t surprise me. There were also some DNFs and a couple people needing medical assistance. So I am happy that I finished my first attempt at the long course Du under these conditions and learned a lot that should help me improve greatly for next year. Yes, I plan on going for it again in 2008.

Official results:36th female overall, 8th in age group, time: 4:27 (ouch).

Monday, May 14, 2007

In December of 2006 my family moved to Maryland from Florida. My husband received a promotion so off we went. Unfortunately our home in FL has yet to sell! Anyone interested, let me know!
I had to get used to the colder weather running quick and actually felt very invigorated by the cooler temps. It was really nice not to have the sun beating down on you and sweat stinging your eyes constantly. I also had to get accustomed to the hills. But, like the weather, I found ways to make the experience a positive one.
I set off to familiarize myself with local groups, stores and races. I decided my first local race would be the Cherry Pit 10 Miler in Edgewater, MD. It was scheduled for April 1st. I trained solidly for this race and the week prior to the event my lung collapsed for the fourth time. I did what I would never recommend, and that was nothing. I had not established myself with a pulmonologist here and wasn't even sure where the ER was. I monitored myself and could tell from the past experiences that it felt about the same in severity. All week I was wiped out and any hope I had of mustering some strength to run the 10 miler was gone. I was pretty upset and immediately began looking for some race, anything, so at least my training wouldn't be a total waste.
April 21st I jumped into the Earth Day 5k at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. It was a sunny but chilly morning and I had zero expectations since it has been a few months since I had done any racing. The course had some short rolling hills and winded through the paved trails in the wooded park. Very pretty. The biggest hill actually came about 400 meters into the race and surprised my legs a bit. But I went out easy knowing it was there.
The 5k was a small race, a couple hundred folks I would guess. A group of kids shot off like they were on fire when the race started. I caught all of those boys, except one. He may be the runner in that mix. Well, after the first half mile I found myself within eye sight of the lead women. I was in about 5th place. I easily caught the next two ladies and kept the lead two close. I started thinking that perhaps I could win this race. During the second mile I decided to pass the lady in second place. She didn't give me much of a fight. Stayed with me for a bit and started to drop off. Hmmm... could I catch the woman in first?
I told myself I probably could if I play the game right. Wait to pass her. So, I held back until I was about half a mile from the finish and I passed with confidence, even though I was starting to tire. She tried to hang, but after a short attempt receded. I was kind of shocked at how easy it was. Now I run with fear to the finish line. Scared someone will suddenly come up from behind and steal the race. But, that doesn't happen and I come in with a nice gap between me and the next woman.
My time was 22:38. For me, at this juncture, is satisfying. It is not close to what I was once capable of, but I am thrilled with winning (it's only the second time I have won a road race). Considering the move, lung collapses, etc.. I am pleased.
May 6th was my next planned race, the Governor's Bay Bridge 10k run. This is one of the area's largest events with tens of thousands of people showing up for the run or the walk across the Bay Bridge. It's a point to point, starting on Kent Island and finishing in Sandy Point State Park. I got up before 5 am to make it there in time to pick up my packet and get on the bus that would take us to the start. It was very windy and chilly that morning. In fact, windy doesn't adequately describe how breezy it was. It was blow-your-hat-off kind of wind. It was sand-blowing-and-stinging-your-skin kind of wind. It was not comfortable and people started mumbling that the race may get canceled.
As I sat on the bus, next to an older runner, helping him get his chip on his shoe, the bus driver came in and said the winds on the bridge were too strong and the race was canceled. I was on one of probably a couple hundred buses, all full with runners. This started a mix of mass exodus and then those of us who wanted to know if an alternate course (as stated on the site) would be run.
Well, after much confusion, it was confirmed that a race would be run in the park. First it was a 4 miler, that became a 5k, that actually officially measured out to be 2.93 miles. Whew! It was a mess but I tell you, some really neat people stuck it out. The real runners! :)
During all the confusion I went exploring and put in a good 3 miles. I was very warmed up when the race started at 8am. The wind was bad on the roads, but when we ducked into the woods it was calm. The park really is a nice place to run. My plan was just to have fun and enjoy it as much as I could and give a decent effort. I finished 5th female overall, 2nd in age group with a time of 21:55. I then ran an easy mile to cooldown and counted the day as a nice 7 miler.
I have to give my thanks to the people who volunteered and organized this race. I know it was as much a disappointment to them as it was to the runners.