Monday, August 29, 2011

Quest for the Capitol

The Quest for the Capitol tri is a race that I wanted to support as an athlete because it’s their inaugural year, the bike course is one of  my favorite courses to train on and because I needed one more good bric at race pace before heading into my taper for Ironman 70.3 Worlds. Being an inaugural race I wasn't sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised with the race organization, some areas for improvement, but overall a good experience and look forward to racing in it again in the future. I just hope this race captured all the bad mojo and will allow me to have a good race for Worlds…it felt like, if it could go wrong, it did. Continue reading below if you’re looking for a good laugh for the day.

I needed to put in one more hard day at a good pace and there’s nothing better than having a hundred people to train with on a Saturday, especially some of the faster guys to help push me on the course. The only problem was that the bike and the run were not going to be long enough for what I needed to put in for the day so the plan was to bike the 16 miles from my house to the Capitol building as a warm up and then run another 5k and bike home afterwards. T2 was right in front of the steps of the Capitol building so I would drop off my run gear and then ride the 2 miles to the pond to set up T1. Based on my calculations, with the race start at 8am, I could leave my house and get to the Capitol, set up T1 and still have an extra 30 minutes to set up T2.

So I didn’t quite leave the house right when I planned and I forgot to calculate stopping at lights and intersections as I rode through town. Consequently I was a late getting to T1, then when I went to get on my bike to ride to T2 my back tire was flat. No biggie, right? Except when your extra long vale stem is too short for your rear wheel, still I'm ok, I have a vale extender. Expect this type needs a removable core. I have not flatted on the rear tire ALL season and got my wheel with tire and tube already installed directly from TREK, so I was not aware of the removable core, now I'm.  That meant I had to patch the tube road side before I got going. I'm too cheap to buy glueless patches until I use all my old glue up patches so I had to wait for it to dry...time is my temper.  So a 3 min flat turned into 15 minutes. Granted, it’s better to have it now then during the race going up a hill but the timing was not ideal. I’m pretty rehearsed at changing flats, especially after last season where I practically flatted on just about every training ride and each race so it didn’t take long, but certainly had me frazzled. I know the race director so I called ahead to let them know that I flatted and would be screaming in just before the race started. I rode up to T1 as I heard the announcer say, “3 minutes to race start, 3 minutes.” Aaarrrggghhh! 3 minutes? As soon as I rode into the transition area I was literally mobbed by volunteers trying to help me get ready. There were a couple of volunteers body marking while another put on my timing chip and another helped me put on my TYR Torque swim skin and then the “Saint” took my bike to set up what would be my transition area. Getting there late didn’t leave many options since the bike racks they had set up in the Idaho River Sports parking lot were a first-come-first-serve. I had one of the volunteers help zip my Torque swim skin as the announcer said “30 seconds to swim start, I will count you down from 10 seconds.” I grab my swim cap and my now favorite TYR Orion swim goggles and try to run through the parking lot as I put them on.  As I ran past the swim exit to the swim start I hear “10…9…8”. I sprint down the asphalt path and jumped off the dock as I hear…to be continued below.

The swim is a two-loop, mass start, deep water start since there isn’t a good beach area to run out and the swim direction goes counterclockwise. We are swimming in an old gravel pit that sits along the Boise River that is known as Quinn’s Pond but is also referred to as Clockertower Pond because of the condo complex that sits on its banks. I swim here in the spring because it is usually one of the first ponds to warm up in May to get in some outdoor swim sessions before the Boise 70.3 comes to town. I was nervous about the water quality because in the past it is usually too warm to swim in by August but last year the city drained the pond and did some major work on the banks to remove overgrowth, improve accessibility and improve the water flow from the Boise river to keep the water temp cooler longer into the season. The day is unusually cloudy for August with forecasted highs near 100deg. Normally the morning starts without a cloud in the sky and little to no wind since we typically won't get any rain in the month of August. I'm secretly praying for a cloudy day, at least until about noon to keep the temps comfortable. The temp at race start is a comfortable 67 degrees while I sprint down the asphalt path and jump off the dock as I hear “3…2…1”. I jump in and feel the warm 79 degree water and quickly realize that I believe this is the first ever non-wetsuit legal swim in the state of Idaho. The field is only about 100 athletes with the men wearing swim caps that are a beautiful shade of pink and the women in a nice navy blue. I originally wanted to find my friend Briggeta before the swim so I could try to use her for pacing. Briggeta is an awesome swimmer that swam in college and was the first female out of the water two weeks ago at Emmett with a 21 minute swim. I don’t think I can hold her pace for the full distance but I wanted to see how long I could hold on. Jumping in behind the back of the pack as the starting gun went off obviously meant that I was not going to find Brigetta but I still felt I could find a pack I would work with. As I work my way through the pack someone inadvertently hooked the timing chip with their hand and almost took it off. Luckily I was able to grab it before it came all the way off so I stopped, took it off my leg and threw it inside the front of my Torque. I didn’t want to try to put that back on while floating in the water.  The rest of the swim was at a nice comfortable pace and I found a guy that tried to pass but I just couldn’t quite make it around him so we swam together most of the 2nd lap. I forgot to look at my watch or the race clock when I got out of the water so I didn’t know how I did during the swim until the end of the race when I downloaded my data. I forgot to hit the lap button on my watch but the official time said it was a 24:14 which is about a 3 minutes faster than two weeks ago at Emmett but still a little off pace of where I need to be.

The bike course is one of my favorite training routes so I could probably ride it with my eyes closed. It’s a popular training course for both cyclists and runners so I was a little nervous how we would be able to work through the numerous packs of non-racers. This is a difficult bike course with lots of hills which will likely keep a lot of athletes away but fit right into the type of courses I love to ride. I was excited when I headed out to see that it was still cloudy, hoping it would stay cool for at least another hour or so. There was good race support on the road and most of the corners had a volunteer there to make sure you turned at the right spot. There were a couple of spots where the traffic was a little hairy but in general it wasn’t too bad. As I climbed I noticed how tight my lungs were so I took my inhailer before it got any worse. It's hard having asthma and racing because some times I don't always know what sets it off. As I rode I passed the girls that exited the swim before me and I kept thinking the lead guys must have been hammering because I couldn’t see them in the distance and I couldn’t figure out how I wasn’t making any ground on them. Not knowing how long it took me to swim, I didn’t have any idea how far ahead of me they could be. As I was going up the first climb I feel something solid hit my leg on my back-pedal and then hear it hit the ground. I turn around and see my Epi pen rolling down the road and then see that the lid on my draft box is open. I must not have got it fully closed when I changed my flat prior to the race. I can’t go on without that or I would have left it. It sucks trying to restart going uphill, in case you were wondering. As I made my way up one of the steeper climbs the motorcycle cop was riding along side of me and told me that I was in 1st place. 1st place...I guess it made sense since I passed all of the women in front of me but what I didn't understand was that he was telling me I was in 1st overall, including the men. Huh? As I came up to an intersection the volunteer had traffic stopped but apparently the driver thought she could go and pulled out while the volunteer is screaming at her to stop. I had to lock up my brakes and skidded my bike sideways, narrowly avoiding what could have been a season ending T-bone crash. I'm praying that I keep it upright and that the pre-race patch job I did on my rear wheel will hold up! As I’m restarting, one of the guys flies past me that I know beat me out of the water. Now I’m totally confused on how I got in front of the guys but I figured I should be able to hang with them for the rest of the ride. Just before I came into T2 a couple of the lead guys caught up to me. Since I still had the timing chip down the front of my race top from the swim, I don’t have an “official” bike split but my watch said 1:08:22. Apparently the two lead guys took a wrong turn and then had to backtrack to get back on course which cost them about 8 minutes. It's a much slower bike time than at Emmett and the bike course is actually 22 miles but it's much harder than any other course in the state with over 1,200ft of ascent over the 22 miles and two 9%+ climbs at mile 16 & again at mile 17. I love this course!

T2 was right in front of the Capitol building’s front staircase and was fairly empty when I pulled in right behind the guys which made it easy to get in and get out. The run is essentially flat that takes you south through town toward the river, loop around and through Julia Davis park and then back to the Capitol building. I was having a lot of problems with my asthma as I came into T2 so I grabbed my inhaler and brought along with me on the run. I don’t know if I was having problems because of stuff floating on/in the water during the swim or the poor air quality in the Valley from the forest fires. It was an Olympic distance race so I didn’t have my Fuelbelt or any pouch to put my inhaler in, other than the one on the back of my jersey but I don’t like it bouncing around while I run, so I put it in my "front pouch” along with my timing chip since it was the easiest. As I was running with the guy now in 3rd
place overall, somehow my inhaler falls out of my "pouch". Are you kidding me? Just in case there weren’t any other things that could happen during the race to cause me to slightly change my pace. I had to stop and pick it up, he took off. Now I didn’t have anyone to run with now so I had to pace myself. Since this was technically part of my training for the day, I kept it at my half IM pace and cruised back to the Capitol with a 43:09. I still had another 5k to go for training, so after a quick refuel I headed back on the course with the overall race winner, Neil Bangs, for a mile, than I ran the course reverse so I could still use the aid stations and cheer on all those that where still out there. I love to support the racers and give a proper thank-you to all those volunteers. I know that without the volunteers we wouldn't have a race.

I ended up 1st overall for the females and 4th overall for the general classification with a 2:19:17. It was a good raceday-effort for training but I could go without all the distractions next time. Other than my asthma I felt good, my legs were still firing well but my lungs were burning. Next time, be better prepared for changing a flat with my deep dish tires then make sure my draft box is completely closed before starting a race and try to be there on time.

Up next...I'm going on a little trip to Vegas with my Speed Concept to test out the 70.3 World's course and check how my nutrition does with the heat. After that, more focused training until November and then back down to Vegas on the same course for the ITU Long Course World Championships with Team USA. I hope to see everyone in Vegas because what happens in Vegas...will determine what I do next doesn't stay in Vegas.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Emmett Triathlon

Emmett is one of my favorite races of the season. Not because it's the biggest or because the course is technically difficult or that the scenery is breathtaking, but because it is so well put on by the race director Ken Runyan, the Boise Aeros and the small community of Emmett, Idaho. The season they were celebrating their 10th year  and true to tradition, they hosted the best race of the southern Idaho.
The swim start & T1 are at Black Canyon Reservoir which is about 8 miles outside of town. It’s a small reservoir that’s only a couple of miles long and less than a half mile wide. The park area at the reservoir is well shaded with large trees and there's a nice sandy beach at the boat launch area for the swim exit.. The start of each swim wave is pretty cool, it’s signaled by an old Civil War cannon so there’s never any doubt when to go, even if you wear earplugs when you swim. It's a deep water start and there's no real start line so there are always a couple of swimmers that jump the start. The water is warm this time of the year and even though you could probably swim it without a wetsuit, most everyone still wears one for the obvious benefits. The women's wave starts 5 minutes behind the men's but the total women's field this year was only 67 athletes so it was a fairly small swim wave even after you added in the Teams and PC racers. This is also the Idaho State Championship race and I was hoping to regain the title after pulling out of the race last year after I was stung in the face and hand on the bike then later learned that I'm anaphylaxis to honey bees. I swelled up like Will Smith on the movie Hitch and by time I rode my bike into T2 and got to the medical tent they had to hit me with an Epi pen and then monitor my breathing to make sure my airway didn't swell shut. Jeremy said if I rode faster, when they hit they would just "splat" and not sting. I was using this race to see if I had made any improvements since racing at Rev 3 Portland last month and to gauge what I still needed to work on for Ironman 70.3 Worlds next month. My goal time for the swim was less than 25min which I felt confident I could do if I stayed focused.

At the sound of the cannon I was off towards the front and had nothing but clear water in front of me. I was trying to find someone to pace me as I swam to make sure I didn't blow up half way through but through the maze of yellow caps I couldn't find anyone I recognized and new could swim at my pace. By time I got to the turnaround buoy I was still all by myself and was starting to wonder if I was off course somehow because I don't consider myself a strong swimmer, not to the point that I should be all by myself on the swim. By the mid-point buoy I was getting deeper into the slower traffic from the men's wave but felt as though I was still on a good pace and felt strong in the water. As I made the final turn into the beach there were a couple dozen guys around me but still no other women. I started to wonder if I was supposed to have started 5 minutes earlier in the men's wave since I was placed in the elite rack of T1. My TYR Hurricane is an awesome wetsuit and I know it makes me faster but it doesn't come with a built-in motor. As soon as I got onto the beach I looked at my watch and my heart sunk as I saw 27 minutes...aaarrggghhh. That's 2-3 minutes off of where I felt I could and should be, but where are all the other women? As I ran into T1 Jeremy confirmed it when he said that I was 9th out of the water and 6 minutes back of 1st. Did I get into the wrong swim wave? Were the elite women supposed to leave with the men's wave? I was frustrated with myself. All the work I had been doing on my swim since Portland apparently hadn't made much difference in my swim time. Maybe I had so much open water because I was always way off course and swam further than I needed to, like Ironman Worlds last year where I swam 2.6miles instead of 2.4 . A 27:17 was almost a full minute faster than last year but once again I was starting at a deficit by giving away 3-4 minutes to my competition in my swim and now had to try to make it up on my bike and run.

The bike course is relatively flat other than some small rollers at mile 13 & 17, a short downhill at the beginning of the race and another short downhill into T2. There are 2 separate 180deg turns on the bike before coming back in to T2 which give you an opportunity to see your competition. At one of these I saw a gal that I did not recognize that I figured was about 5-6 minutes ahead of me and then not more than a minute behind her I saw Kate Bevilaqua who I figured was going to be my biggest competition for the day. I felt good on the bike but subconsciously I kept thinking about last year and getting stung by the bee in the face and hand. I was nervous riding past the corn fields and kept looking for bees as I rode; not that I was going to do anything about it if I saw one...I couldn't stop or duck out of the way to avoid it. Last year Jeremy was threatening to buy me a Bee Keepers suit since I was stung so many times while riding. There was no wind on the ride and the stagnant air made it feel warmer than it really was. It felt good riding past the fields that were being irrigated because you had a brief reprieve from the heat. I hammered hard on my Trek Speed Concept but kept the watts at a safe level, even backing off slightly to compensate for the heat that I was only going up as I rode; I knew would only get hotter on the run. I love riding my Speed Concept...have I ever told you what my favorite thing is on the bike? When I say, "On your left!" My bike time was going to end up a respectable 1:04:38 for the 3rd fastest of the ladies for the day. It felt even better when I knew I could still push myself a little bit harder, but it probably wouldn't have been a wise choice as hot as it was today.

Note from Jeremy: sorry, no bike picture to post here because I parked on the wrong side of the park entrance. I learned that the road from the east side of the park does not open until the last swimmer from both the Olympic and the Sprint distance races are out of the water which translates into about an hour after the lead swimmers from the Olympic distance exit the water. If you park on the west side of the park you are free to drive down the road to T2 as you safely avoid racers and race marshals. The walk into the park is a couple of minutes longer but it's worth not paying $5 to drive into the Park to watch less than 30 minutes of racing plus not having to wait for the last swimmer to exit the water before you can make your way back to town. I'll have to remember that for next year.

The run is flat, hot and fast. You run almost entirely through residential areas which offer you no relief from the relentless August heat and blazing sun. The nice thing about this race is they provide an Aid Station at every mile so you can stay hydrated or dump a glass of water on you to cool you down. I opted to carry my own hydration this race, something I've started to do lately because the fluid offered on most race courses make my guts churn. I discovered VESPA this year that has made a ton of difference in my guts and I'm excited to see how well it does next month at Ironman 70.3 Worlds with the heat and distance that have caused problems in the past. As I came into T2 there was a ton of slow traffic coming in from the Sprint race. The course is wide enough exiting T2 that it didn't slow me down at all. As I started the run I knew I was in 3rd place but I didn't know if I was able to make up any of that 5-6 minute gap I saw while on the bike. I knew Kate has a pretty good run and I was just hoping the heat would play a factor. The run is a two loop course so I knew that within the first 3k I should have a pretty good idea where I sat relative to Kate and the other gal I saw on the bike. At about mile 1 I saw Jeremy and the kids but I knew he wasn't going to be much help on paces since I didn't see him on the bike and there were a ton of Sprint distance racers on the course, I knew he wouldn't know who was in the Olympic distance race that was in front of me. It didn't take long anyways, shortly after I saw the cheer crew I saw both girls in front of me. Kate was in 2nd, back by about a minute and they were both about a mile ahead of me and running at a good pace. With two experienced racers in front of me there wasn't enough realestate for me to run either of them down; unless they both bonked. I was still having a good race, even though I was feeling flat, and needed to finish out the rest of my race plan to see what other things I may need to work on over the next month before Worlds.

When it was all done, my run time was a 42:39 for an overall time of 2:16:29. It was strong enough for a solid 3rd place overall but still more than 5 minutes off of the leaders. I was just off of my goal run pace and will continue to work to shave another 15-20 seconds per mile off before Worlds. This was a PR for this distance but with my training I should have finished under the 2:10 mark. I guess that gives me something to shoot for next year. My swim, I'm not sure what I going to do there. I don't understand what's wrong and I get more perplexed when I look at swim times and see people that I beat at Master's every morning were out of the water more than 2 minutes ahead of me. After looking at the data from my Garmin, my swim distance was a 1.6k instead of 1.5k which means I swam an extra 100yards further than everyone else. That still doesn't translate to an extra 4 minutes though. I'm going to have to hit that swim time if I think I'll be in the mix for Worlds.

Next for me is another local Olympic distance race on the 27th that will serve as an introductory bric workout for the morning and then in early September I head to Vegas to get ready for Worlds.