Monday, June 27, 2011

Pacific Crest

I was amazed at how quickly this race came and realized that this meant we were about midway through the "normal" 2011 season. This means 70.3 Worlds is only 2 months away…I’d better finalize my travel plans.

Pacific Crest is held in Sunriver, Oregon which sits about 30 minutes south of Bend and is in a beautiful location. I raced here once before a couple of years ago and vowed to return again some time when I wasn’t racing IM CDA since they are on the same weekend. I quickly learned how nice it is to have the “Saint” plan the logistics of the race and all I needed to worry about was showing up to the race start with all my stuff, ready to race. He was home with the kiddos making sure they made it to swim team practice and Tayllor was playing in another softball tournament over the weekend. This time planning the entire trip was up to me which eventually meant driving myself the 6.5 hours to the race. I had originally planned on riding and staying with friends and fellow racers which gradually unraveled as race day approached. In the end I packed everything in my car and headed off on my own. I quickly found myself singing to myself in the car when there was no radio station to be found in remote central Oregon. I was also trying my hand at camping instead of staying in a hotel or condo since I decided to race at the last minute and all the housing accommodations in Sunriver were full and staying in Bend by myself was going to be too expensive.

The week leading up to the race was chaotic, at best. I had to take a dozen teenage girls to the mountains for church girls camp that I was in charge of and came back to town just in time to drop off dirty laundry, refuel and maybe get a “Mom, we missed you” from my kids. Probably not the best pre-race activity for getting in key workouts and plenty of rest but I was going to make the best of it. I arrived at the race venue on Friday evening just in time to get my race packet and get my bike dropped off in T1 before it closed. Finally here, I was able to pitch my tent in a campsite where my girlfriend’s parents were staying.

Race morning brought sunny skies, a stiff back, a slight breeze, sore hips, watery eyes, cool temperatures and a stuffy nose…another beautiful day to race.  Even though I didn’t have a very restful night of sleep, I was up early and off to T1 to see if I could identify who was going to be my competition for the day.  I was completely out of my element since most of these women are from Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Goal times for the day were to mimic what I had done at the Boise 70.3 but this time push a little harder on the bike with the understanding that my time might be slower due to all the elevation this course brings as you climb Mt. Bachelor. I was swimming in the Elite wave of athletes which meant my wave went out first and I could keep an eye on the other women and possibly know where I was in the lineup since the “Saint” would not be there to give me updates.

As the swim wave took off, my plan was to get in the middle of the pack and pace myself with others of my ability. As we rounded the first buoy one of the guys to the side of me apparently decided he needed clearer water to swim in and as he rolled over the guys in front of me I managed to find his heel with my eye socket…he has a pretty strong kick. This snapped my head back, made me see stars and I stopped swimming for a second to adjust my goggles and regain my senses. When I started swimming again I could only breathe to the left side because turning my head to the right hurt really bad. I had lost the pack and was now swimming with a slight handicap not being able to breathe to both sides. All the swim buoys where to my right so I had a lot of trouble sighting. Swim time was a lumbering 35:41 and left me almost 5 minutes back from the lead females and 5 minutes off of my target time. I needed a good transition time and then a solid bike to make up for the poor swim performance. As I got up to my transition area in T1 it was adisaster zone because other athletes crowded into my area due to limited transition rack space. I had previously moved my gear along the fence, away from the rack, which ended up being a good choice with all the gear everywhere I would have never found anything. I had a soild transition time of 1:07 because I made the change prior to the race.

 I was glad to be out of that water and on my Trek Speed Concept. By time I reached mile 10 I realized that kick to the face did a lot more damage than I thought. My back and neck where screaming at me in the aero postion accompanied by a massive headach, not a good way to start the day at all. The part of the race I was really looking forward to was now going to be a survival test. When I raced here in the past, we had a change to the course due to contstruction so I have never summited Mt. Bachlore. I needed to be a little conservative on the bike because I hadn’t trained for any kind of climbing since preparing for Wildflower almost two months earlier. Even though I didn’t have time to pre-ride the course I knew climbing over Mt. Bachelor was going to be a beautiful ride but would require discipline not to hammer too early or I wouldn’t have anything before I hit the summit. It actually didn’t take that long and before I hit the summit I was sucking wind and feeling the burn in my lungs and legs…allergies…can you say elevation. The race course starts at 4,500ft and peaks at 6,300ft as you climb over the pass at Mt. Bachelor which isn’t too bad for elevation change until you factor in that Boise resides at 2500ft elevation. I guess I should have considered thin air in part of my race strategy. It actually felt hotter at the summit than it did on the rest of the course because the snow was so high it felt like you were going through a tunnel but there was no wind and the sun was reflecting off the snow giving you an oven effect. I actually thought about trying to ride really close to the snow bank so I could lean my head and neck into the snow and cool or at least ice my throbing head and neck it off a little. The bike was a sad representation of my riding abilities with a 2:47:43 finish time, way off the mark. After I got home I learned that I needed to adjust my power zone to compensate for the climb; mark that down for next time.

As I came into T2 my friend Dave said that he thought I was about 3 minutes back of 2nd but he wasn’t sure how far back I was from first. As I got up to my transition area in T2 I noticed that somebody had put their stuff all over my transition area and I had to sort through all his gear to get my stuff on. I still had a pretty good transition time of only 1:11 but probably could have shaved another 10-15 seconds off of that had I not been blessed with extra gear.  If that wasn't enough, as I came out of the transition area the inflatable they had at the exit came crashing down on top of me. What is with my luck this race? The run is a beautiful course that winds through the resort area and offers a fair amount of shade. I didn’t feel like I had very much to give after that depleting ride but I knew there were other girls not too far behind me and I couldn’t let myself fall outside of the top 3. By mile 6 I had made up the gap with 2nd and wasn’t going to let her run on my heels for the rest of the race so I pushed the pace even harder and planned on holding it until she fell off. It seems like she held on for about a mile but then I was on my own again trying to catch up to 1st , not really knowing how far ahead of me she was. I am now starting to realize how nice it is to have the “Saint” there  keeping track of the competition to give me regular updates. I finished the run in a 1:35:59 which wasn’t too bad after that painful ride.

Directly after the race I knew that I needed to get my neck and back adjusted to see if they could offer me some relief. I had a great fill-in Chiro, Josh. He tried all of his tricks with ART and manipulation but still could not get my neck to adjust. His advice was to to ice and rest it and see if it felt better in the morning but thought I would need a day or two before the mucsles would relax enough to allow for an adjustment. I told myself that if it was moving better and the headache went away than I would at least start the Olympic distance race the next day.

Finial time was a 5:01:42 and was good enough for 2nd OA but was more than 15 minutes back of 1st. I got chicked on the bike by almost 10 minutes  and I don’t like it. The bike is my favorite part of each race but I was unprepared for this one and I paid the price. I stuck around for the awards ceremony and was happy to see that with my fellow TYR teammates we rounded out the top 3.
I then headed back to camp to get ready for Sunday with plans of racing in the Olympic distance but I didn’t sleep well that night and when I woke up on Sunday morning I couldn’t turn my head which meant it was going to be a tough race if I went through with it. I called the “Saint” and he advised me to call it a weekend and save it for Portland in 2 weeks. Yeah, it sucks that I already paid the entry fee but I just couldn’t see myself racing without the ability to turn my head, especially during the swim. I packed up, said my goodbyes and drove back to Boise, first stop…Dr. Jim’s office at Boise Valley Chiropractic to get my neck adjusted and then my tail bone; camping did not do me any favors. Next up, Rev 3 Portland on 7/10. I’ll be looking for everyone to be there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ironman 70.3 Boise

The Boise 70.3 was one of my “A” races for the 2011 season and I really wanted to make this one of my best races of the season. It’s my home course with my home crowd; I had no reason not to put down a really solid performance. I mean, this was the "plan" until I injured my calf at Wildflower and I was off the run up to 3 weeks before race day. I knew that my origanl goal was out, so I just needed to get myself into a world spot and call it a day. I told myself that once I was in the top two in my age group to shut it down and save it for another race.

Tri racing in early June in Idaho can be a coin toss on whether you’ll have decent weather and whether that weather will last more than a couple of hours. The weeks leading up to the race have been cool and wet with daytime highs hitting 70 degrees only a couple of times. The Army Corps of Engineers has been dumping water out of Lucky Peak dam all spring because we’ve been receiving so much rain and above average snow pack meant they needed to make room. I was really surprised to see how low the water level was at the reservoir and immediately began to wonder how they were going to hold the swim at the Barkley Bay boat ramp since the water was still ~20 feet below the bottom of the ramp. I had been swimming in some of the ponds in town that warm up a lot faster and I knew I needed to get into the water to get my body accustomed to the cold, if that’s possible. The week before I went to Lucky Peak to swim a couple of times and the water temp was a bone chilling 53 degrees. I was keeping my swim time to only ~20 minutes to make sure I didn’t get so cold I couldn’t get warmed up. A couple days before race day, a cold front moved in and we received some more rain and daytime highs were kept into the mid-60s but the forecast for the end of the week was nice with temps in the mid-70s. I was secretly hoping for a little warmer weather so the water would warm up some more and even if the water was still really cold then the air temp would help warm you on the bike…but, it wasn’t going to happen. In my opinion, this race is held a week or two too early. Ironman Coeur d’Alene is actually just about perfect timing for our climate and elevation.

Race morning I found myself alone because Jeremy “The Saint” was up early with the kids headed to Tayllor’s All-star softball team tournament and they had to be to the fields by 7am. It was nice having a quiet house to compile my thoughts, make sure everything was accounted for and focus on just me. It was kind of sad though knowing that my support crew was not going to be somewhere out there cheering me on. I had my race plan and was going to experiment again with my bike because I got a new Bontrager Aeolus 9.0 rear wheel with a power tap a couple of weeks ago. I had started to collect some data and I hoped to apply to this race. I have never trained or raced with a power tap other than a couple of rides over the past couple of years on a CompuTrainer with the Boise Aeros at Rob’s House of Pain, but nothing for over a year. The power tap is in my hub so I don’t have anything on my training wheels so the data I collected was pretty limited but I thought it would at least help me maintain my effort so I could have fresher legs for the run. With limited run time over the last couple of weeks I knew I would need them as fresh as I can get to have a shot.  Unfortunately I was only able to collect a minimal amount of data which was convoluted with stops and starts at intersections. Still, I was confident I would maintain a predetermined watt but then settled on a lower number to save the legs for the run. This would prove to be a big mistake, I have told my athlete's a thousands times, your stregth is still your strength even on your worst day. In hind sight I should have thrown down the hammer and never looked back. It killed my competive spririt to merely ride in my "safe" zone. I love to ride right on the edge. I should have rode my self into first and let them chase me, some call it "smart" racing.

It was a beautiful day for racing with almost no wind and overcast skies; bummer no wind that is our only equalizer on this flat course.  The forecast for the day was a high in the mid-70s, mostly cloudy skies and a chance for a late day thunderstorm; now if only that water somehow warmed to about 60 degrees. I really wanted the wind, I feel like the Boise course is so flat and the "hills" that we have are not really hills either. They are far apart and you can fully recover between them. Not a challenging course which caters to more but is sad to me. We live in a really dynamic area with beutiful riding, but instead the course takes you through the industial park,  a trailer park, gravel pits, oh and don't forget the beautiful sage brush fields...boring.

The plan was to head to downtown early to drop of my T2 bag and then meet up with my fellow TYR teammate Jared Preston up from Utah and ride up to the reservoir with him and his friend Adam since they were charging $8 for everyone that wanted to ride the shuttle bus, including the athletes…really? That can’t be included in the $250 entry fee? J’s driving technique mirrors that of Mario Andretti and we made it up to the base of the dam in record time to find out that this year they were charging $5 for parking…are you kidding me? Next thing you’re going to tell me that they were going to charge people to use the transition areas or stand on the awards podium. Stop nickel and dime’ing me to death and make this an experience I want to come back for, not one I have to take out a personal loan to compete in.

At T1 I had plenty of time to burn, especially since my swim wave wasn’t scheduled to start until 12:33; have I ever mentioned how much I’ve started to dislike the swim wave race starts? I always feel like I get bogged down with slower traffic until the 2nd half of the bike. The swim was going to be beautiful with calm winds, sunny skies and a brain freezing water temp of only 53 degrees . I needed to complete the swim in under 30 minutes to stay competitive out of the water but with swim wave race starts I knew I was going to have to add a couple of minutes to my time as I worked my way through slower traffic plus the colder water was going to start taking some kind of a toll on my pace the longer I was in it. Little did I know that half way through the swim my arms and legs were going to feel like lead weights, if it’s even right to say “feel like” because I couldn’t feel any portion of my body that was exposed to the water. I was using the TYR polypropylene swim cap to help with the brain freeze effect and it worked awesome and is so nice because it doesn’t have that bothersome chin strap like other vendor's designs and it will not "float" your head and change your swim position. Swim time was a lumbering 32:53 and then to top it off I couldn't feel anything with my hands in the transition area to get wet stuff off and cycling stuff on...nearly 4 minutes in transition...arrrggghhh. 

The bike is always my favorite part of the entire race and today was to be no exception. The only caveat was that I was had to stay at my pre-determine wattage so I could save myself for the run. I was rolling on my Bontrager Aeolus wheel set, 6.5 on the front and my new 9.0 on the back. The beginning of the bike course takes you across the dam and then down a nice long hill that you can get going pretty fast but the wind chills you since you are still wet from the swim. I’m not sure how aerodynamic goose bumps are but I’m pretty sure mine were so big they were creating a lot of wind drag. I had ridden the course a couple of times this spring as part of general training and had been able to complete it in under 2:45 including stopping at intersections for traffic so I knew I should be able to ride at about a 2:30 if I didn’t push too hard and didn’t get any flats. You know I’m notorious for finding something to flat on when riding. I rode well and felt good the first half of the bike as I worked my way through the slower part of traffic that were in swim waves before me. As I made my first climb up the hill towards Micron Technology I saw two little boys with short hair along the side of the road that looked a lot like mine. I wasn't expecting any race support because Jeremy and the kids were at Tayllor's softball tournament out of town. Sure enough, as I got closer, I recognized them as my Hunter and Porter cheering as loud as they could and ringing their cow bells, love me some cowbell. What a great surprise and motivating for me to make them proud. It's amazing how much excitment that brings each race. I love having my family there.  In general, the bike was solid, not as fast as I knew I could go but I was trying to stay at the specific wattage so I could have a solid run. I finished with a 2:32:45 which was a little slower than I wanted but I would take it for now...if it meant I would have a faster run. I later found out that it was the fastest bike split for the amateur women but still about 5-8 minutes back from most of the Pro women. I wish I had a full disc for this course because it’s so flat and I could shave a couple of precious minutes off my bike. Only the Pros are riding on Bontrager’s prototype disc wheels so maybe next year they’ll have something available for the general public.

The run is a pancake flat cruise along the Boise river and is a nice course, if you're not allergic to cottonwood trees. My goal for the run was to maintain an sub 7:00 mile and finish just under 1:30. As I left for the run, I felt really good. My nutrition had been right on for the bike and I was confident I could maintain it through the run since I was going to carry everything I would need on my Fuelbelt, I just don't race well on the nutrition they provide on the race course. The only thing I was nervous about was my run fitness and my calf that I had injured during Wildflower. I had been going through physical therapy with Dr. Dave at Physio Therapy for the last 6 weeks but had only been back to running for the last 3 weeks. I felt good during my runs but had to keep them short so as not to prolong the recovery so my longest, non-stop run prior to race day was only 8 miles with one 11 miler broken with walk breaks; I was just wondering when the wheels would fall off.  I did a good job of going out steady and just settling in. I was sticking to the plan, a first for me.  As I went past mile 3 I saw my husband and he informed me that according to the Athlete Tracker I was currently in 3 place for the overall amateur women but was about 6 minutes back from 1st. "Keep in mind" he said, "it isn't alway accurate because they initially listed the lead women out of the water in 17 minutes." With the wave start, it was hard for him to tell for sure where I was and it became even more difficult on the 2nd lap with everyone else that had come in from the bike and were starting their run. Everything was going well and on pace until just after mile 9 and then my body began to fatigue, and fast. I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, maintain my pace and hope that the girls in front of me were going to start dropping off their pace so I could pull in front. It was awesome running through the Boise Aeros crowd cheering everyone on because that gave me that last bit of energy I needed to finish strong. My run was just off my target pace with a 1:36:58 or a 7:24/mi. My last 4 miles where not painful, just not fast. I pushed for more and they would not respond. I knew I had out run my base. So I decided to just maintain and not let anyone pass. I was happy to see the run splits for the fitness I had for that day.

Final time was a PR 4:47:58 and good enough for 2nd in my AG and 3rd OA; enough to qualify for Worlds. I took my slot and will spend the next 3 months training in the heat of the day cause I know it's going to be killer hot in Vegas in September. I'm excited for the race because it will be a similar course to what I will race on in November for the ITU Long Course Worlds in November so this will be a good practice run.

Up next is Pacific Crest in Sun River, Oregon (just south of Bend). I'm going over with my good friends Dave & Gina Green and am going to race the long course on Saturday with Gina and then the olympic distance course on Sunday with Dave. I really like Pacific Crest. I've raced there once before a couple of years ago on one of my "off IM" seasons and would probably race it more often if it wasn't on the same weekend as IM CDA. I love the bike course which takes you on a long grind up and over Mt. Bachelor and then a nice gradual decent back into town. I just wish for a hilly run...Iguess they can't all be Wildflower courses. Anyways, if I don't see you there, look for me July 10 in Portland at the Rev 3 race.

As always, I can't sign off without giving a shout out to those who are behind the scenes making all of this possible. First of all, the "Saint" and my kids for putting up with me through another taper. None of this would be possible without their unwavering support. Of course to Trek and their awesome line of Speed Concept TT bikes that get me to T2 faster than the gal I just passed and the dude I just chicked. My swim would be much longer and a less pleasurable experience without TYR and their Hurricane wetsuit and their new Orion swim goggles, if you haven't tried them yet, quit procrasting, you'll wish you went with them sooner. Those goggles are awesome! Not to mention their new line of Carbon race gear, it's the most confortable race kit I've worn; and I've worn a few. To the local guys, John and Crew at George's Cycles on Fairview who keep my Speed Concept 9.9 in top running order; Dr. Dave at Physio Therapy and Dr. Jim at Boise Valley Chiro who help put Humpty Dumpty back together every week. And last but not least, K-Swiss and CEP Compression who are both giving me a shot this year to see what I'm made of. See my earlier post on the CEP Clone, I'll have a follow-up post as soon as my Clone arrives.

Marty and Nicol, two of my IM CDA athletes

My buddy J and his friend Adam from Utah