Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CEP Clone

Check this out, I’m getting measured for my new CEP Clone compression recovery tights. I have been reading a lot about these this year and wanted to get a closer look at them and luckily they had a booth at the Wildflower expo where I picked up my new GREEN compression calf sleeves. They weren’t measuring for the Clone at Wildflower but said that they could put me in contact with the Boise rep so I could arrange for a time and place to get measured.

As most of you are aware, I have been a big proponent of compression for recovery for quite a few years  but just last year started racing with compression calf sleeves to improve blood flow.  I have historically worn a competitor’s compression tight but they are a couple of years old and I can tell they are a lot looser than when I first bought them, now is the time to upgrade. I chose to go with CEP, not because they are a sponsor of mine [but maybe they should be], but because I have very impressed with their compression calf sleeves and the material has withstood the “Trish” test. I’m really tough gear and clothes so if something lasts more than a couple of months it is well constructed.

This process is so cool. They take 40 measurements at predetermined locations on your lower half and then turn that into your own body double in 10 days! I'm a little swollen from racing this weekend at Wildflower so I think I may need to do this over again in a couple of weeks after the swelling goes down so I get more accurate measurements.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wildflower Race Report

The 2011 season brings with it high hopes and even higher self-imposed expectations. Riding a euphoric 2010 season, I made the conscience decision to scale back the distance for 2011 and focus on the half IM distance races. After racing 3 full Ironman distance races last year, my body, my family and my marriage needed a less exhaustive year but one focused on speed that I can carry into upcoming years.

Aside from shorter distance local triathlons and some road racing thrown in for high intensity training, the 2011 season was going to kick into full gear with the Wildflower long course. I raced Wildflower back in 2007 and really enjoyed the course but got my tail handed to me with a 15th in my AG finish and a 6:04 overall time. Wildflower was a strategic race for me this year because it was one of only two 2011 ITU Long Course World Championship qualifying races which is going to be held in Henderson, Nevada this year. The goal for this race was a top-3 overall amateur finish and a top-10 overall female finish. I also figured that since I was going to travel all that way that it would be beneficial for me to also race the Olympic distance course the following day.  There aren’t very many USAT sanctioned races in the home area so adding another race with a big field would be good for USAT points for the year. Knowing I would be coming off a hard Long Course race the day earlier, I was only hoping for a top-3 AG performance for the Olympic distance. This race report will cover both the Long Course as well as highlights from the Olympic distance races.

The weather in Boise has been cold and wet this spring and I’d been watching the temperatures near the race course and wondering how much the temperature difference would play a role in my race. I was purposely wearing extra layers of clothes during training rides and runs to try to increase my core temperature. Aside from moving to warmer weather or putting up my trainer in an enclosed room with the heater running, I couldn’t think of any other way to simulate the dry heat I needed. I knew I was going to be constrained when a week out from the race the forecast was for sunny skies and highs in the 80’s. I was silently praying for a windy day with temps in the low 50’s and some rain, snow or sleet…because that’s what I’d spend the last 4 month training in. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a warm swim like everyone else and when the email came out only days ahead before race day stating that the water temp was 68deg, I knew I at least wasn’t going to freeze in the water.

Race morning brought a calm, cool morning…so cool I was mad at myself for letting my husband talk me out of bringing warm tights to wear prior to my swim wave. “We’re going to California; it’s going to be warm” he told me, “you don’t need to pack for every possible weather scenario. I guarantee it’s not going to snow. I don’t have room for you to pack the entire house.” So the only thing I have to wear on race morning is a pair of jeans I wore on the way down. That looks really professional. Jeremy said that we’re trying the reverse psychology on them. They’ll see you walking around in a pair of jeans and know that you’re just a poser with the Trek/K-Swiss Speed Concept team bike [more about the bike in the bike section].

For those of you who have never been to Wildflower, the swim is done in waves based on Age Groups because of the narrow staging area. My wave was 16 of 19 with only 1 female wave in front of me, the under 29 and 50+ combined. I used to like the wave start because I didn’t feel as threatened and beat up in the water but now it’s just painful because it means I have that many more people I have to swim around or try to pass on the bike. My wave started 1:10 back from the Pro women who started under bright blue skies and only a slight breeze. As luck would have it, by time my wave was set to go the winds had picked up to 15mph with gusts to 25mph which meant we’d have a good wind to push us on the way out by a stiff headwind for the way back into T1.
See how the balloons in the picture above are almost laying flat on the ground, that’s not because they ran out of helium.

I had about 125 women in my AG so I was purposely positioning myself at the front of the starting line to avoid getting swallowed in the slower pack. As I stood on the line and prepared to jump into the 64deg water, a race official told me that I had to put my timing chip under my wetsuit or he wouldn’t let me start. That’s a dumb rule if I’ve ever heard one especially since it meant it would be up around my calf instead of my ankle since my TYR Hurricane wetsuit is slightly shorter in the leg than other brands. Not wanting to repeat the run-in I had with a race official last year at Ironman St. George, I complied with little more than a pout and a few choice words uttered under my breath. Little did I know this would be a factor in the entire race. I was positioned right on the start line but got swallowed up pretty quickly as soon as we hit the water.

I had a good line and found a pack of girls that were all the same speed and I was able to work with them through almost the entire course. About ¾ the way though I caught arms with one of the girls as she was stoking back and I was coming forward. It wrenched my shoulder pretty good and after the race I had one of the PTs put a rib back in for me. As I got within the last 300 meters of the swim I started to kick my legs more to start getting blood flowing to them in preparation for the bike.

As I started to kick, the calf that had the timing chip cinched up on it cramped and made me pause in the water to try to work it out. As I stopped, I lost the group of girls I was swimming with but probably only cost me a couple of minutes since they came out right at 30:00 and I was out 10th in my AG with a poky 0:32:51. I was shooting for a 30 minute swim but I’ll take it since this was my first open water swim since Kona back in October plus the head wind wasn’t offering any support. Running up the boat ramp to the transition area was more of a hobble than any type of imaginary run. There were a couple of other women in the transition area but because there was another wave that started 5 minutes before mine it was hard to tell how far back I was. My calf was in a ball and it took me FOREVER to get my wetsuit off and then drag my bike out of T1.

The start of the bike course was slightly different than 4 years ago and instead of starting you out with a 1 mile grind up Lynch Hill that takes you up, out of the lake area, you instead swing through the finish line / grandstand area and then ride through the camping areas for a couple of miles before heading out of the park and onto the highway. It’s more of a gradual climb out instead of getting hit with a 10% grade right at the start. I was happy for it, hoping to get a couple of minutes to try and stretch my calf out before really hitting the tough hills. Now we are on to my favorite part of the whole race though. I figure if I’m going to be able to hammer on one of the events, the bike is that one. Goal time is a 2:35 and if you look at the totally sick new ride I have for this season you’ll understand why I get so excited for the bike leg and why I think I can put down a 2:35. Again for 2011, Trek stepped up as my bike sponsor and this year offered me my dream bike to ride for the season…a Trek/K-Swiss Speed Concept 9.9 team bike.  You know last year I really rocked my Trek Equinox TTX at every race but I didn’t realize how nice the Speed Concept is until I took it out for the first ride…it’s like butter! I honestly have never ridden a nicer bike and feel almost guilty because it is so responsive and fast, it almost feels like I’m cheating. Jeremy says that the only one I was cheating was myself because I didn’t have one last year. I want to make sure everyone sees my new green CEP calf compression sleeves. Everyone knows that green has been “my color” for the last couple of seasons and I was so excited when I walked past the expo booth at the race venue and saw that they came out with green for this year. I had on my white ones for the race and was so excited when “The Saint” walked up with a pair of green calf sleeves as an early Mothers Day gift. I have been a firm believer in compression for recovery for a long time but over the last couple of years, like many others, I have found the benefit of compression during racing as well. If you are doing any kind of racing this year you should seriously start training with compression sleeves or socks and then using compression for recovery between workouts and especially after races.

Before I provide too many details about the bike section, I have to tell you about my cassette fiasco cause you know I’ve never had a race where something isn’t causing me to stress out. About a week before leaving for Wildflower, I arranged for some equipment to be sent to me from Trek which included a Bontrager Aeolus 9.0 rear wheel with a SRAM 11-28 cassette. There is some strategy behind this, I typically ride a SRAM 11-23 and have done really well racing with it. During training this year I couldn’t figure out why my training partner “Mike” was killing me on the hills during training rides. Last year I was working him on the hills as the season began and the only assignable cause that I could come up with was that I was ~6 weeks further behind in my training this year because I wasn’t racing Ironman St. George. It wasn’t until a few weeks of taking a beating that he finally fessed up that he had sissy’d up and switched to a smaller cassette for the hills. So maybe it wasn’t me, entirely. It did make me think about what I was going to race on this season, specifically for Wildflower since it has a very hilly bike course. I did fine last year at Ironman St. George with the 11-23 which also has a hilly bike course but I did notice that it had some impact on my run. After talking to a few others that had raced Wildflower in the past, I made the decision to race with the 11-28 cassette so I could attack the hills. The day I was leaving town I learned that my Bontrager Aeolus 9.0 rear wheel with what I hoped to be a SRAM 11-28 cassette would not be delivered to George’s Cycles on Fairview until the next day. I made arrangements with the shop to Next Day Air the wheel and cassette, if it was indeed the 11-28, to me which means I’d have it on Friday. Plenty of time to adjust my derailer and make sure everything would be ready for Saturday. We left late Wednesday evening and went as far as Reno then got up early Thursday to finish the drive with plans of getting to the race venue and getting in a small bric, which would include my first open-water swim since Worlds in October. For some reason, call it Devine inspiration, we decided to stop in Vacaville, CA, about 30 minutes outside of Sacramento, for lunch. It was a last minute decision, like almost missed the last exit. Jeremy decided to stop because it was close to lunchtime even though the kids hadn’t said they were hungry and I was sound asleep. We took the last exit and had to drive back into town a little bit which brought us into the historic portion of downtown. No sooner had we stopped the car, got out to walk across the street when John at George’s called to tell me that the Bontrager Aeolus 9.0 rear wheel with a SRAM 11-28 cassette had arrived, but…to ship it Next Day Air was going to cost $250 and they would not guarantee it would be delivered to “no-man’s land”, where we were staying, until Saturday at 4:30. I felt the life sink out of me as I realized that I had put all my eggs in one basket and now I wasn’t sure what to do. During lunch I tried calling all the bike shops that I could Google that would be on the way down and asked if they had a SRAM 11-28 cassette I could buy. After about 6 shops and none of them having what I needed, I was becoming sick to my stomach. I then realized that I had seen a small bike shop as we drove into town that was only about a block from where we were.

I walked into Ray’s Cycles and was quickly greeted by a kind young woman named Stephanie who also said that they did not have what I was looking for but asked why.

After explaining my situation, Stephanie responded, “why didn’t you say so, I have a Shimano 12-27 that you can borrow. I’m not using it this weekend; you can borrow it if you like.” Skip forward an hour and we were on our way out of Vacaville with a 12-27 cassette on my Bontrager Aeolus 6.5 wheel with the derailer adjusted, ready to ride. I was relieved and hoping my last minute changes would not come back to haunt me.

As most of you know, I really like hilly bike courses and Wildflower is one of my favorite. It has over 10,642 of total elevation with almost 15 miles and 5,316 feet of elevation gain, 15.07 and 5,327 feet of elevation descent and only 25 miles of flats over the 56 miles. From mile 40 to about 45 is a section of the course that they call “Nasty Grade” that peaks out at 11% grade by time to make it to mile 45 and then an awesome 663 feet, 1.5 mile, 8%-9% descent that you can go almost 50mph if you’re comfortable with your skills. I was totally cogged out a couple of times on the descents looking for more speed but completely happy on most of the hills that I wasn’t trying to push my 11-23 cassette. Having left so far back in the swim waves I had a lot of slower traffic in front of me that I had to make my way through.

The wind was now steady at almost 20mph with gusts up to 35mph which were both disheartening when you finally got some flats but felt like you weren’t going anywhere, but then also kind of dangerous with so many other cyclists along with trucks with campers, farm equipment and regular traffic; no they don’t close the roads for the race. There was a lot of flesh left on the roads for those who were not able to keep the rubber down. Physically, I was doing well on the fitness aspect but was struggling with my calf cramping on every hill so I had to sit and ride them out instead of hammering on then and then the heat was taking its toll. The daytime temp peaked at almost 85 degrees which for most of us is a comfortable race temp, for AUGUST, but training in daytime highs in the upper 50s and providing no time to acclimate, I was starting to see signs of heat exhaustion and had both calves cramping by the end of the bike. I was certainly glad that I was wearing my TYR carbon kit and arm coolers to help keep my core temp low. I was amazed at how many other athletes were wearing TYR carbon kits, if you don’t have one yet you are missing out on some amazing technology. As I came in to T2, I had passed every female that I could see on the course which made me glad that I had made up the 5 minute swim wave deficit but I knew there were a couple women that weren’t too far behind. I ended up posting a 2:46:02. That looks like it was about 1:30 faster than the next closest female time but only about 9th for the Pro women [not a fair comparison though since they had different race conditions than I did]. My Speed Concept made this the most fun part of the entire race. If you are looking to upgrade bikes this year or next, you have to take a look at Trek’s Speed Concept series of bikes, they honestly have the fastest bikes on the market and once you ride one you will wish you hadn’t waited so long. This bike will make you faster.

The 13.1 mile run course is 60% trails and 40% roads with 4,202 feet of elevation change; about 5.1 miles with 2,105 feet up and 4.69 miles or 2,097 feet down which leaves only 3.14 miles of flats. There are some killer downhills on this dusty trail run so if any of you are thinking of doing it in the future, be sure to wear socks. The first 5 miles take you along the trail overlooking the lake and then once you run down "Steep Hill" at mile 5 which is a 0.25 mile, 200 feet drop at -21% in some sections, the course takes you back into the camp grounds where you enjoy the cheering from the campers and tri clubs on the sidelines.

Finally at mile 11.7 you run down Lynch hill back to the finish line chute. Besides the trail hills, the only limiting factor on the run was the heat. With both calves cramping I was not able to run up the hills and by mile 6 on the run I had lost my 2:50 minute lead over 2nd place and found myself running next to a Kara Nielsen from Seattle that was sporting the same grey TYR carbon kit. We proceeded to run together, neither giving more than a couple of seconds over the course of the next 6 miles. I could tell that she was struggling with the heat as well and she had pulled up a couple of times with quad cramps. The last 1.4 mile is a 464 feet, 8%-14% descent down Lynch Hill. As we started the descent Kara was in the lead  with me on her heals then I pulled up because my leg started to cramp which opened the window for Kara to jump into the lead. I tried as best I could to make up the gap but in the end I fell short by only 9 seconds. Total time 5:04:55.

In all reality, I lost the race in the transitions. My transitions times were 1:25 slower than Kara’s with most of that being in T1 when it took me almost a full minute longer to get my wetsuit off; not that heat cramps helped any. Immediately after I came across the finish line they pulled me into the medical tent and gave me an I.V. and 3 bags of fluid before they would let me leave. I was apparently pretty dehydrated. I was then off to the massage tent where they worked on my calves and shoulder and then popped a rib back in from my clash on the swim. Since Kara was in also in my AG, I was 2nd in both aspects but that was still good enough to qualify me for Team USA and race in the 2011 ITU Long Course World Championships in Henderson, Nevada on November 5th. This will be a race distance I’ve never done before with a 4km swim, 120km bike and 30km run; it’s almost like doing a full Ironman swim and ¾ Ironman bike and run. I’m totally excited and can’t wait. I’m also excited that it’s not until November which will give it an opportunity to cool off a little before trying to take on the dry Nevada heat. Make plans now to come to Vegas and cheer on Team USA.

The next day brought the Wildflower Olympic distance race. I was feeling pretty tapped from the previous day’s events and my calves were stiff but I was determined to at least place in the top 3 of my AG. This time, the weather was a little nicer, slight wind out of the opposite direction as the day before which should help push me on the back half of the swim. There were ~250 women in my AG so they split us up into 2 waves but my wave still didn’t start until 1:20 after the first men’s wave, wave 17 of 23. The swim was going well until the gal next to me decided that my cap and goggles looked better at the bottom of the lake. As we rounded the first buoy, she literally grabbed my cap and ripped it off along with my goggles and threw them to the side [insert choice words]. There was a kayaker right there and he looked at me and said, “I saw what she did but there’s no way for me to tell what her race number is.” Luckily I was able to get my goggles but my swim cap was a lost cause so I swam the last half eating my hair. Swim time was a turtle pace 24:52 for open water swim #2.

The bike was another hilly out-and-back on the same course as the Long Course race the day before; subtract most of the elevation. My legs weren’t as crampy and there wasn’t nearly as much wind but I still felt a flat and posted a lazy 1:16:21. It ended up only being about the 4th fastest split for the day and by time I started on the run I was wondering how bad I really wanted this one. I wasn’t dying but I wasn’t racing at the top of my game either. Transition times were still very slow and I was wondering if my legs would hold up to another hilly run.

As I went out onto the run it took a couple of miles for my legs to get into the rhythm but then they didn’t feel like they were going to fall off and I cranked out a 46:12 for a final time of 2:32:27. A long ways behind the Overall winning time of 2:18:56 but another day, another time and not after having raced the day before, I would have crushed it. It was still good enough for 3rd in my AG which met my minimim goal for the day.

Will I race Wildflower again? Definitely.

Next time, what would I do differently? I probably would try to rent a house on Lake Nacimento with other racers so I’m closer to the race venue. The 45min drive isn’t too bad but staying in King City leaves you with few choices for food. If I had to I would try to book a room in Paso Robles which is south of Lake San Antonio instead of King City to the north. I would opt for the 11-28 cassette for the hills and get it on my race wheel before I leave town. Leave my timing chip down around my ankle where it belongs. Lastly, try to heat acclimate as best I can.

Would I race both the Long Course and Olympic distance races back-to-back? Yep. It’s hard to find USAT sanctioned races close to Boise and you can’t beat the size of the field at both races. Good competition all around.