Monday, April 22, 2013

New Orleans 2013

Going into NOLA, I was supposed to be a little bit more rested than I was for Oceanside three weeks prior, but it just so happened that I had a crazy busy week at work and wasn't quite as rested as I would have liked to have been, but was looking forward to putting myself out there with a few new goals in mind. This was going to be a super quick trip for me, arriving in the early hours of Saturday morning and flying out Sunday evening right after the race, but I still had plenty of time to hang out with the Pittsburgh crew and other great friends!

Onto the race....
Swim - 30:13 - The past couple of years, the swim has been cancelled because of the rough waters of Lake Pontchartrain, but this year, the race directors did a fabulous job organizing a swim venue in the shape of an N in a protected harbor. To be honest, I was really confused as to what buoy's to follow. The race director told us to just look for the yellow buoy's as turns. I was a little bit nervous, because my vision isn't really that great. I wear glasses most of the time, but HATE wearing contacts, so I just go about my business not really seeing very clearly. So I just crossed my fingers that I would be able to stay with a group and let them be my eyes. I know this is a gamble, but it turned out in my favor, because I was able to latch on and follow. I got out of the water and looked around at the girls that I swam with and was pretty excited about my swim.

Transitions - AWFUL! So I came out of the water with a pretty big group of girls, and of course - every single girl was gone while I was still fumbling around trying to get my wetsuit over my calves. I did provide some entertainment for the spectators as I was dropping my helmet and sunglasses everywhere, swearing a bit, and then laughing at myself for being so ridiculously slow. The people standing at the fence actually clapped for me when I finally made my way out of T1.

Bike - 2:29 - My #1 goal for this race was to be aggressive on the bike. I failed miserably in this department in Oceanside, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could have a bike result in the same time zone as the other pro girls. Over the past two weeks, I was able to bike outside a fair amount and really get in some quality workouts, so I had my wattage goals and I worked to keep it there. The bike course is an out and back, mostly flat ride. On the way out we had a headwind that turned into a nice tailwind on the way back. I was working harder than I have ever worked on the bike in half iron distance race, but I know that I have to take these risks racing in this field. I was happy with my mentality during the race, but I would have liked for it to be a little bit of an easier effort to get this result. I know that this is a step in the right direction though, but also the area where I really want to improve.

Run - 1:28 - UGHHHH!!! I have never felt so horrible in the opening miles of a run. I am guessing that I am not quite used to really working hard on the bike. But I felt awful the entire run. I suppose that if I wanted to look at the bright side - I was still able to run a fairly respectable time feeling so dang bad, because I honestly thought that when I saw my final run time it would be much slower than it actually was. I just felt clumsy and sluggish - so my new goal is to learn how to run off the bike after working hard.

Overall - I am happy to have taken a step in the right direction, with a new 14 minute PR. I still know that I have plenty of improvements to make, and look forward to working toward new goals. Also, summer is right around the corner, where I will have much more time to get outside and train, and have lots of time to recover.

Final thoughts:
This race happened less than a week after the Boston Marathon bombings. I had a heavy heart all week long thinking about all of the victims. I know there was some justice when they caught both of the suspects, but that doesn't change how the victim's lives will never be the same, and they are in my prayers. During the race, I looked around at all of the competitors, spectators, volunteers, and families, and felt all of the love that surrounds us. I tried to smile and thank everyone that I saw, but if I didn't, I am putting it out there right now for this race and all races - Thank you for the love and the support!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oceanside 2013

Being a teacher, Live and Learn is one of my favorite motto's simply because it is so true! So I decided to race Oceanside about two weeks prior to the race for two main reasons:

1 - Pittsburgh winter has been never-ending and I don't think I could have taken one more long trainer ride.
2 - I had off Thursday - Monday for spring break. For some reason when I originally planned my schedule for the year, I totally missed the detail that Oceanside fell over my spring break. So when I got the go ahead from Jesse, I was super excited to head to one of my favorite places, sunny Southern California!

The bad part about doing this race, was I was flying solo to compete for the first time. Because of the last minute decision, Jeremy (my husband and bike builder) couldn't make it. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a homestay with Monika, who is one amazing woman. Not only is she so warm and funny, her family reminds me of my crazy cool family. Hanging out with Monika felt like being at home, which made me so calm and happy.

Upon arrival, I had to assemble my bike on my own for the first time in my life. Luckily I had a day to ride it to make sure it was working, and also to make sure that I remembered how to ride outside. Race morning came and I felt remarkably relaxed given that I was lining up with some of the strongest women in the sport. I made the decision to race in the pro field this year, mostly because I love a challenge and an adventure. I also love venturing into the unknown. This race would be a little bit of all of that!

Swim - My only goals for this swim were to go out HARD and to hang onto feet. When the gun went off, I stayed with a huge group of girls for about the first 100 meters, then a group of about 4 women (me included) formed our own little group. I was so excited that I was swimming with people, that the time went by so fast. When I got out of the water and saw 28, I had the biggest smile on my face because this would be a big PR for me....but after making it to transition and seeing only a couple bikes, I knew the course was fast and/or short. I am very happy that I did go out hard, although I would have liked to have stayed with the really big group for longer, but I did draft the entire way, which is a first. Onto transition and this is where lesson #1 comes in: Learn to transition faster! It won't help my bike split if I lose the girls before I even get onto the bike! They were in and out in the blink of an eye - while I was still fumbling around with my wetsuit. Starting the bike, I would be in no man's land!

Bike - I knew this super hilly course was going to be challenging because I have not had the chance to ride my bike outside for months, aside from an easy spin the day before, but I was also super excited because this course is stunning. This is also where lessons number 2 and 3 come in. Heading out on the bike, I was prepared to be alone, but I didn't think to learn the course very well. Even though you cannot drive the course because most of it is within Camp Pendelton, I still should have generally known the turns. Oops! Anyways, in the first few miles of the race, a road came to a Y, and I made a right hand turn. There were markings, but they were going in the opposite direction for when you rode back into town, so I was confused. After soft pedaling and looking over my shoulder for a bit, I finally saw a motor vehicle going in the opposite direction, so I turned around. This made me pretty timid every time I came to a turn in the road. Also, mistake number 3 is because I didn't know the course. At the end of the ride, you roll past T1 before heading 1.5 miles to T2. I got confused again and took my feet out of the shoes only to realize that I had 1.5 miles left (and a steep little hill) to ride with my feet like this. These stupid mistakes didn't really change anything for me on the bike, I knew I would be bringing up the rear, I just simply need to become stronger, smarter, and more aggressive on the bike!

Run - Can be summed up by looking at my garmin. I ran almost the exact same pace all day. I didn't get faster or slower, just steady 6:40 pace! At one point, Kendra (who had an amazing race and won the amateur race) came out onto the run right beside me and started cheering and pushing me to move along, so that helped a bit, but generally, I just kept right at my boring pace. I would have liked to have had some more spark in my legs, but dealt with what I had for the day. 

Overall, I am happy that I jumped into this race and learned some very valuable lessons. I also had time to hang out on the beach, go out to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant with good friends, and to meet some really nice new people.

I do have one last lesson #4: Learn how to use a torque wrench without stripping the screws! In a frantic disassembly of my bike, I stripped 3 screws so bad, that I had to take my bike to NYTRO so that I could get my headset off my bike. Lucky for me, Rocky (who is the best), drilled them out of my bike just in time to make my flight back to I said, I love an adventure!