Chisago Lakes Triathlon 2010- Race Report

I decided to race Chisago again this year, somewhat on a whim.

My race schedule originally had penciled in my first ultra, the Voyageur 50mile trail race, near Duluth, Minnesota for this weekend, but my lack of long runs at mid-June and early season illness had me grabbing for the eraser. Instead of running myself into the ground, I decided to pull out of Voyageur and look for something else. Luckily, it was the exact same time that my teammate, Sharpie, emailed me asking what I thought about the Chisago Tri. She wanted to know if it would be worth it for her to travel from Colorado to race it, and with the idea that she’d be heading to the midwest, I decided to put my chips in the triathlon bucket instead.

The more I thought about it, the happier I was with my decision. The race last year was flat, fast, and a great primer for the FullRev at Cedar Point in September. I could test out my new 54 in a race setting, master my nutrition, and get in another long race on my new-ish bike. So with some back-and-forth with Sharpie, I signed up (race week registration was only ~$115 after fees) and reserved a room at the same seedy motel I stayed at last year.

I wanted to get to the Twin Cities area by noon so I could meet my friend Leiah for lunch, but I didn’t end up leaving Houghton until a little after 9, and so I stopped and had lunch at a diner in Spooner. Unfortunately, I was a little worried that the hashbrowns were not 100% gluten free, so I scraped around on the plate, ate four pieces of bacon, and headed back on my way. I got to TC a little after 2, and Leiah was at the Red Bull Flugtag, so instead of meeting her for lunch, I headed over there for dinner of kabobs on the grill. In the interim, I watched an episode of Scrubs (downtime) and ran a few miles to get the junk out.

My pre-race meal was light and full of veggies, but I was careful not to eat too much. I had caprese salad and a few skewers worth of peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and then picked up some ice cream on the way back to the motel. I was on the hunt for some Panda Puffs, but I was hardpressed to find them, so I grabbed a box of Smore’ables and decided to go with those and a packet of almond butter for breakfast. I tried to get into bed by 10pm CST, but by the time I had everything laid out and packed up, it was after 1030. I set the alarms for 445am and woke up every few hours thinking my three alarms weren’t working. Ughhh…

Smore’ables were a good breakfast, and I wanted to keep eating them because they tasted so good. I held back though, packed up my stuff and filled my aero bottle with water, 2 tablets of Kola Nuun, and EFS (fruit punch). I noticed that I only brought one of the two straws (daaaang) and couldn’t do anything about it then, so I filled up the largest volume of the two compartment system and headed to the race.

I didn’t ask to be in the elite wave, but since I entered my time from last year’s race, they squeaked me in to wave 2. It was nice, I had a great spot in transition and a clear path to my bike for both transitions.

Pre-Race Transition

I saw my teammate before the race, and a friend from college who started racing triathlon when he started graduate school in Illinois. I felt relaxed, carefree, and I tried to not have any “must do” expectations. Being placed in wave 2 meant that I got to head out first, and they bumped our race time up because of the delay on the first wave. I thought the swim would again be a little short this year, but I couldn’t see that farthest two buoys and by the time I made it around the last one I felt the distance. It’s amazing how slow time goes when I am swimming, how a half hour in the water feels like an hour on the bike. I found a set of feet, then lost them. Found feet. They were going too slow, so I moved on. Found another set, but they were going to zig-zagged. Eventually I was just swimming by myself. The waves behind me started to catch up, and I felt like I was swimming zig-zagged too. Eventually I got to shore in what felt like an hour, but my watch said 36:40. Nice.

Swim: 37:13, 1:55/100m pace

T1 was a little slower than I wanted, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off my timing chip. I was glad that I had safety pinned the chip on, but damn was I pissed when my wetsuit wouldn’t roll over it. I yanked and yanked and eventually got it free. Slipped into the shoes and helmet, and ran out.

T1: 1:29

It wasn’t until I started on the bike that I noticed that A) the compartment I filled with fluid on my aero bottle was not the compartment that the straw was in and B) the straw holes were different sizes between the two, and I just so happened to have the larger diameter straw with me. So I had to stick the straw inside the bottle and get onto my pursuit bars with my face right next to my bars in order to drink. That was pretty crappy. So anytime I wanted to take a drink, my neck would crane downward and I felt like at any moment I would hit a bump and poke my eye out with the huge ass straw. Not only that, but I could only get a few sips at a time, which made my usual “drink as much as you want to on the bike” plan go out the window.

About five miles in, I was getting caught by some packs. Girls hugging other girls’ wheels. Men zipping by at mach 3. I realized most of them were from the sprint race, and at the sprint turnoff, even though it was fairly obvious, I was a little confused and almost turned the wrong way because so many of the athletes were going that way. Once the sprinters turned off, I tried to get into a rhythm, but I couldn’t knock the woman who was riding by me when a guy would go past only to slow down on the slight inclines. Eventually, I thought I dropped her, because I put the hammer down for about three miles. But then I got to an incline, and wanted to save my legs. I tried to get into my smaller chain ring, and I felt all my power disappear. I dropped my chain. No. no no no. Everyone went zipping past me, one guy asked if I needed help, but I was able to throw it back on quickly. Stopping on the uphill didn’t help, though, but I caught back up to drafter-girl by the end of it and cruised on by.

I was on my own for a while. I was afraid of dropping my chain again, so I tried to stay in the 54 as much as I could. In fact, so much so that at one point I was hammering so hard up a hill that I thought I might snap my chain. Ugh. Ok, just downshift, even if you have to stop and fix the chain, it will still probably be faster than this! Transition was smooth.

The bumps started getting to me too. Every ten feet, the concrete was cracked every ten feet or so, and every crack was just wide enough to send me jarring forward and backward. There were dozens of miles of cracks. Bump bump bump, and soon I noticed that my right elbow pad was moving. Soon, my elbow pad was no longer supporting my weight, and I was supporting the weight of my body through my shoulders instead of my elbows. I wasn’t sipping on my EFS as often as I wanted to be, and I was thirsty but I was out of water. And I was alone, so I was losing focus fast. This sucks, I thought. Maybe I should just stop now, maybe these are signs I shouldn’t be racing today. My legs felt like lead and I was scared about the run. How can I run fast after staying in my 54 on all these hills? I’m going to have to run fast if I want to maintain any sort of respect, because this bike split sure as heck isn’t going to be my proudest triathlon moment. I was feeling sorry for myself.

But then I rethought that idea.

These kinds of things have never happened to me before in a race. Races, for me, have always been practically flawless. My nutrition has always been spot-on. My fit has always been great. I’ve never had a flat, dropped a chain, or anything like that. I’ve always felt good, strong, fluid. And I was feeling good, too, just a little beat up. So what if I was having issues? So what if I was stupid and didn’t check my bottle beforehand? So what if the new chain ring, for the first time, dropped my chain in a race? These are things that I experienced now, the hard way, in race where it matters. But these minor little set backs were not enough to ruin my day. Heck no. Get tough, I told myself. Just deal with it. And don’t let it happen again.

So I cranked on. I hammered the downhills and calculated my time. Ok, just keep this pace, and you’ll be where you need to be. I was shooting for 21.5mph average, but that was for last year’s course, which was flat as a pancake.ย  This year’s course was not. After re-evaluating the course and catastrophes, I decided that I wanted to be under 2:45. I was starting to bonk, and then I rallied home around mile 49, when a group passed me. It sort of woke me up. And fired me up, too, because Drafter-girl was back and hugging the wheel of another drafter guy. Drafter guy was doing all sorts of stupid things, like passing on the right, blocking me in, speeding up to get by me only to slow down once he was there. He wouldn’t let go of the guy’s wheel in front of him (a Peace Coffee racer who I’d see later on the run). I took a mental note of Drafter Guy’s number, and I got around him and the drafter pack he was with. Peace Coffee racer let me squeak ahead of him because he noticed I was boxed in, and he kept trying to drop the drafters but to no avail. No way in heck was I going to let them draft off me… but then the drafters finally overtook me and rode the peleton all the way back to transition. In hindsight, since there were no penalties given, I could have just squeaked in behind these packs and dropped my time a good 5-10 minutes, but that is something I would have had to live with, knowing, and I am too proud (which is probably a fault under these circumstances).

Bike: 2:44:33, 20.4 mph pace

T2 was much faster. In and out, perfect transition spot and flawless transition. I didn’t need anything, just my Fastwitches, number and visor. Off I went.

T2: 54.5 seconds

I was a little pissed about the bike, because my bike was my best leg in triathlon last year, and I was certainly not representing. But I think the resurgence of people toward the end of the bike made my head go a little fuzzy. The mechanical, the aerobars, the hydration issues- It was all water under the bridge. I had my strength ahead of me, the leg of the race that I’ve been working on this season.

The run started great. I felt great. I tried to hold back a little because 13.1 miles is a long way to go. So I sipped some EFS liquid shot that I still had in my jersey and settled into a rhythm. I heard someone talking incessantly behind me, and I wanted to yell “Just shut up and run harder!” but then I reconsidered. Run your race, I’d tell myself. Be smart. Eventually a guy left his chatterbox and passed me, but I stayed focused on keeping consistent and fluid. I ended up getting matched by another guy, who settled into the pace with me. I noticed he was the same guy I saw on the bike, the draft dodger in the Peace Coffee kit. I was happy to see him, and we settled into a nice stride together. His Garmin beeped every mile, but I didn’t ask about our pace and just hit my lap button when I crossed the race marked miles. We ticked away the miles, and he confessed that he was shooting for 7:50s. Although that was slower than I knew I wanted to go, I held my ground and didn’t let him influence my pace.

The miles cranked by, and when I got to around mile 2 I saw the men’s leader, Dave Thompson. I ran through aid stations, I didn’t do any run-walking, and I would drop my Peace Coffee buddy because of that, only for him to catch back up after a few hundred yards. I knew the course, and I knew what to expect; it was almost as if I had ran it the weekend before, it felt so familiar. I stayed calm and tried to use mile 5 as a rest mile, but that didn’t work. I saw the women’s leader when I got to around mile 5 or so, and my teammate, Carole, when I got a little further. I gave her a high five and she gave me a huge adrenaline boost. I hit the gravel loop and focused on my form. I felt light, almost too good, considering how I didn’t feel quite so awesome on the bike. I kept it steady and eventually lost my running friend. I kept picking people off, wondering when (and if) I was going to blow up, but I kept refilling my flask and sipping on water. I wanted a pop so bad by the time I hit mile 8. I could taste the sugar, the carbonation, I wanted it. And truthfully, knowing that there might be some at the finish helped get me there. I put my head down and noticed a familiar number ahead of me, a tall, stocky guy run-walking his way in. Same number as Drafter Guy. I blew by him without saying a word (usually I at least mumble a “good job” or a “hiya hiya yip yip yip”). I passed my friend Owen on his way out and I new I was close. Weaving through the neighborhoods, I could hear the announcer over the speakers and I just upped the anty. I pushed it, all the way in, feeling good and strong. I found another gear. I didn’t even feel like collapsing at the finish, which probably meant that I didn’t go hard enough, but I was happy with my time (sub 5hrs) and knew it was a great effort (only six minutes slower than last year). Considering the bike course was accurate distance (last year my bike computer had it at 54.5miles), and was more challenging as well (last year = flat as), and that the swim course was likely more accurate at this year’s race, I’ll take it!

My splits:
1- 7:10, 2- 6:59, 3- 7:35, 4- 7:32, 5- 7:33, 6- 7:11, 7- 7:19, 8- 6:57, 9- 7:22, 10- 7:28, 11- 7:20, 12- 7:20, 13- 6:51

Run: 1:34, 3rd fastest run of the day

Finish time: 4:58
1st AG, 12th overall.

My friend Leiah showed up when I finished and we hung out and chatted while I waited for the awards. It’s always nice to be able to see friends when I travel to races! It’s become somewhat of a habit for me to have reunions with friends at races, but I hope they don’t mind, because just as much as I loooove to race, I absolutely LOVE to see and visit with my friends ๐Ÿ™‚

Carole ended up finishing 5th, which was in the money, and her friend Jackie won the whole shebang (an age group triathlete that was in the Top 10 at IMStGeorge this year).

I can’t believe how cool it was to have Carole there. Having traveled all the way to Minnesota from Colorado, for what I thought of (at least last year) as a podunk race, was really rad. To have another green machine out there with me on the course was motivating and I truly believe it helped me find another gear on the run. And, with two Trakkers athletes on the podium, I’d say we had a pretty damn good day!

I thought I would inevitably hit disaster with a bonk because of the stupid mistake with the aero bottle, but I never did. The EFS and Nuun worked great in keeping me balanced and tuned. And, yes, they did taste great together. There’s something so rewarding about a slightly-fizzy sports drink when I’m out riding in the heat.

My neck, on the other hand, is not impressed with my poor decision to not double check my bottle before leaving home. I feel like someone put a vice grip around my scapula. Doh.

Shake it up

or: Shake and bake.

or: Shake it like a Polaroid pick-chaaah.

or: I’m shaking things up a bit.

I was supposed to do my first (real) ultra this weekend.

I was supposed to train with long runs (think- 6-7hours) and lots of food and lots of rest.

I was supposed to step it up.

But I didn’t.

Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that. No one was forcing me to run the Voyageur 50mile on the Superior Hiking Trail. No one twisted my arm to register online and mail in the check. I did it on my own.

And I’m not really stepping aside, I’m still stepping up. I am just stepping up a different ladder.

There is a big difference in focusing on triathlon and focusing on ultra running. It’s true that cycling can help my endurance, and that cycling and swimming offer a great break from the impact of running but maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

But if I want to be good at triathlon, I need to focus on triathlon.

And I’ve been making excuses to not focus on triathlon. I was sick with some sort of China Funk/Whooping Cough/UP Death Flu in May, right after Rev3 Knox, and pulled out of the American Triple T. And I was recovering and traveling and recovering in June. and I was wedding-ing and traveling and sleeping it off in July.

And I stopped moving for a day and faced it: I am not ready for this type of 50 miler. The Superior Hiking Trail is hard. Rocky. Hilly. Unforgiving. And I have been training on roads, snowmobile trails, and two-wheeled machines. So I threw in the towel on my first ultra and reeled in another beast: Chisago Lake Tri.

I did this race last year, and had a blast. It’s a short drive (6hrs) and I know the course. It’s a fairly big race (1000 athletes?) and a fast course. Its competitive but not too competitive, and I have a benchmark. Plus, the bike course is flat, so it will be a great tune-up for the Full Rev at Cedar Point.

And I am trying something new. I am not going to focus on my previous best time or try to beat my swim or my bike or my run time (or all three). I am going to go into it with the same mentality as I did last year, just to try and race the race, do the best I can do on that day, and hope for the best race I can give. I am going to test my ability to let all things go and not actually hold something in the back of my head like: “Why are you just NOW getting on the bike when last year you were out of the water in 34 minutes?” or “This pace isn’t going to get you off the bike in 2.5hours like laaast year.”

Instead, I am going to ask myself questions, like:

“Are you having fun?”

And if the answer is no, I am going to shake it up some more. Carole will be there, too, so maybe I can moon her. Maybe that will be my goal…

Chisago Lakes Half Ironman Triathlon- Race Report!

This weekend, Adam and I ventured in my new wheels to Chisago City, Minnesota, where we aspired to knock down a second half ironman before the Big Race in September. We left Saturday morning and took the scenic drive from Houghton through Hayward, Wisconsin.
See the sparkle? Isn’t she a beaut? ๐Ÿ˜‰

After a long lunch at ‘Za, we headed over to Paradise Park for packet pickup and to get our feet wet in the lake. We then headed out to Lindstrom (only three miles away!) and checked into the motel.

Our motel was slightly seedy, but it had a bed, a roof, and a toilet (and a $50/night fee), so we weren’t complaining. We stopped at a local grocery store for snacks and relaxed with some air conditioning and Harry Potter in the room. After eating a whole bag of ginger snaps and taking a very half-assed nap (I couldn’t stop jerking myself awake!), we went for a run around the town of Lindstrom to get the junk out of our legs. We returned to our formerly vegetative state of watching television and laying around, eating sandwiches, and staying hydrated.

We made for an early bedtime (maybe 9pm?), and woke up at 4am. I ate a few handfuls of peanut butter puffs and packed my transition bag. I strapped a plastic baggie to my water bottle and filled it with Honey Stinger chews (the Chew Strategy), sealing it off with a hair tie so that the chews wouldn’t fall out. This proved to be beneficial in two ways, explained later. We then threw our bags in the car and headed back to Paradise Park.

We arrived just before 5, so we got a great parking spot near the race start and staging area. We put our wheels on our bikes and pumped the air in the tires, and headed over to transition. It was also nice getting there so early because we found our bike spots without a cluster of other bikes around, and it was easy to get our transition area set up.

We lingered around the transition area until it was time to clear, pulled on our wetsuits and headed to the beach. The race start was great. The water was still as warm as the day before, but the air was cooler, so I had a bit of a chill before we got into the water. It was exciting to be there, because there were some fast racers there (Dave Thompson; Marlo Mcgaver; Julie Hull). The waves went off in 2min intervals and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the placement- I think it was based on who registered first- except for the first wave that contained the Elite level. We waded into knee deep water and headed out in wave 8, 14 minutes behind the first group.

The swim went by fast. It seems to not take too long to get to the last buoy, but getting back to the beach seemed to drag on a little more. I also noticed that I wasn’t necessarily swimming in a straight line, moreso just wiggling, and I tried to stay focused and swim straight, digging my arms deep out in front, and keeping the buoys at the right distance away. I also got into a good rhythm with another swimmer, and saw her feet for two-thirds of the swim. Then, I felt my swim cap starting to pull away from my forehead. I felt my head, and my hair was exposed, and it kept peeling and peeling away… so I finally just pulled it off. I thought it would have helped to hold on to it, but it just filled with water and weighed me down and slipped out of my hand. Oops!

When I saw the balloons at the beach, I thought I was close, but no matter how many strokes I took, the balloons stayed the same distance away. So I finally just put my head down, swam hard for several strokes, then spotted, and before I knew it, I was swimming past people that were wading out of the water. Sweet!

I stood up and dashed across the beach, peeled off my suit from my shoulders and headed up the hill to the transition area. I spotted my bike area, because someone near me was clever enough to have a balloon near their bike. I pulled off the rest of my suit and threw on my bike shoes and helmet. I raced out of T1 and was on my way to a great day on the bike.

The Chew Strategy ended up being a great move, as it was the only solid aid I took for the whole bike, and it was easy to eat and access. It also had that hair tie wrapped around the top, and since I lost my cap during the swim, I also lost the hairtie. BONUS!

The bike course was fast. It started on the same course as the sprint triathlon, so it was a bit crowded. Adam went by me somewhere around mile 10, I think. Once the sprinters peeled off, the field spread out, and I went into the 20mile straightaway with a good headwind and no one to stop me. The straightaway was deceiving, though, because the road was new and one of those uphills that you don’t see but know is there. I was hammering away, and couldn’t touch 20mph. I kept flying past people, though, and my adductors would ache. I would change my riding style and use more of my quads, and my legs would get relief.

When we finally turned off the straightaway at around mile 30, I put the hammer down. I hit some higher speeds thanks to the gradual downhill grade, and continued to pass people. One guy was a little less excited to be getting overtaken than the others. He would resume the pursuit position on the few slight uphills we had, and I’d fly past him. He’d overtake me on the downhills as if I had done something wrong, and once overtaken, I’d ease up to give him room. But we kept running into these slight uphill grades, and I kept catching back up to him. Finally, I went into a higher gear and got him out of my sights. We started to bottleneck around mile 45, and it was particularly interesting when a car decided to drive in the lane that the race was using. I would have enjoyed drafting off this vehicle, but they were going slower than the speed I wanted to go, only I couldn’t pass them because the shoulder was narrow and gravely. Finally, the course turned and I threw down a hard five miles. I tried to not enter T2 after a hard push, so I eased up and cruised into the transition area. I was surprised to see Adam by his bike as I made my way to rack mine. Wasn’t he much farther ahead of me on the bike?

The run started out fast. I ran a mile or two with a guy from Iowa I had passed back and forth on the bike. I couldn’t really control my legs, though, and let them go. I started counting the women that passed me on their way back to the finish area, and they were looking strong. Ten, twelve, fourteen ladies went by, and then I turned to the loop-around at mile 6. When I hit mile 7, the guy from Iowa caught back up to me and we ran a few miles together at 7:38min/mile pace. I was surprised to see Adam on his way out, because I thought he was ahead of me on the run. He started feeling better than me, and took off. I was glad that I took a flask with me on the run, because some of the aid stations were more than a mile apart, and it was a hot day! I started feeling not-so-excited to be running around mile 11, and just kept moving forward to the finish line. When I came into the finish area, I had a huge smile on my face when I saw the time. 5:06… which was really a 4:52 (subtracting the 14min start delay). SWEET! I broke 5hours!

After I crossed the line, I grabbed some grub and waited for Adam to come in. He crossed under his goal time, and crushed his previous time by over 30minutes! We waded in the water for a quasi-ice-bath, and then I went to watch the awards. I printed out the result from the finish line computer, and I had finished 13th overall, 3rd in my age group. I couldn’t really believe it. Not too shabby. I got a really beautiful Swedish glass trophy, and then Adam and I took off back to Houghton.

Thanks to Kenny G. for the great race-day photos. I could hear him cheering me on through T2 as well. Kenny, you rock! John M Cooper Photography is also credited for some great race-day photography (watermarked images).