Race Face: June Racing Recaps #findingmyfast

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged, and I’ve raced a few races. In fact, I’ve raced THREE! Ah, sorry for not giving each their own post, but they were short and I haven’t quite figured out how to indulge literarily (is that a word?) on running events that take less time to run than it does to write a post about them.

So, on with it.

I sort of did a reverse-distance race plan for the month of June, in which I ran a 10K, followed a week later by a 5K, which was followed two weeks later by a 1 mile race. I have really been digging the idea of just jumping into races, and fortunately, the Saint Louis area has a ton of races. The weekend I did the 10K, there were over a dozen running events in a 50mile radius. But, I chose the Route 66 10K because it was the Central Region RRCA Championships, and I wanted to see how fast I could run a 10K with the training I had been putting in.

So, first race on the list: Route 66 10K. Obviously, I am not a pro at racing 10Ks. I have only ever run four in my life, including the one I raced earlier this month at the Midwest Champs. This race distance takes practice to dial in, and I think that the 10K is one of the toughest events (that, and the 800m on the track). So, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t race it well. I definitely, without a doubt, went out too fast. When my watch said 6:08 at the 1mi mark, and I was shooting for 6:45s, I panicked a little. I let off the gas, and rolled through mile 2 with a 6:35. Ok, a little slower, that’s good. But then my time kept rising. Mile 3 = 6:45. Mile 4 = 6:55. Mile 5 = 7:20. Eeek. I just pulled myself together to cross the line. Good way to get the first race of the year out of my legs.

10k

Moving on to the second race on my list: The Go! St Louis All-American 5K. This one is self-proclaimed to be the fastest 5K in STL. And it was; net downhill, point-to-point, perfect time of year (mid June), and lots of fast people. Holy, crap. We’re talking Saint Louis University’s 10K record holder, Hillary Orf, and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Julie Lossos. Fast women. I was more excited about this race;  I LOVE 5Ks, they are quick and relatively painless. Plus, I needed redemption.

I settled into the start line two or three rows back, knowing full well that lots of people would sprint out of the gate. I didn’t want to do that, but I did want to get into a good position. After the gun went off, I settled into pace after the shuffling of people in front of me toned down about 100meters in. I cruised through mile 1 feeling great, and looked at my watch. 5:55. Ok, well… that’s a little fast, considering I was shooting for a 19:45. Whatever, roll with it. Use the middle mile as a relaxed-but-tactical mile. I pushed a little on the ups, but not too hard, and I used the downhills to my advantage. Mile 2 was a solid 6:30. That felt like a 6:3o. I picked it up a little, pushed a little harder. Mile 3 was 6:25. Fantastic, I think that’s the first time in my life that the third mile was faster than the middle mile. The course, with its net negative elevation gain, did have a few blips of uphills, including three teeny ones in the last mile, but I felt strong and finished in as much of a sprint I could muster, with a time of 19:36, good for 11th woman and 3rd in my age group.

In between the 5K and the mile, I headed to visit my parents’ in Michigan. Unfortunately, my mom was admitted to the hospital for side pains the Sunday after the 5K, which – after a CT scan – led to the diagnosis of pulmonary clots… so for a week, I learned more than I thought I could about what it truly means to be strong, and to be patient. By the end of the week, she was released from the hospital on strict orders, and while I would have loved to spend time with my mom on better terms, I was reminded once again of the love and caring family I have. While she’s not out of the woods yet (she’ll need to go to the clinic at least once a week to get blood levels checked for the next six months), she is feeling better, and at home, and is also making progress on her physical therapy (she had her rotator cuff repaired 6wks ago, too). I love you, Mom!

OK! Finally, the third race on my list, the Macklind Avenue Mile. I’ve lived in Saint Louis for nearly three years now, and I’ve volunteered at this event for the last two years. It is so much fun; loads of spectators and racers, and tons of enthusiasm all around. This year, I decided to follow through with my new mantra, to find my fast, and decided to race it. I had no idea how fast I would go, since I haven’t run a mile since high school. High school! That was 12 years ago. Seriously, that’s a long time. And I don’t honestly remember what my fastest time was. I think it was 5:45. I think. Have no idea. I think that I ran a low 5 in the 1500 in college, which probably translated to roughly a 5:30 mile, but that was on a track when I was training for short stuff. Anyway, back to what I said: I had no idea what I’d do.

So I signed up for the Macklind Mile as soon as I got home from the All American 5K. The MM is really unique; the races are segregated into a “community” event, which is for those who are looking to race with their family or dogs or whatever. Then, there is a “competitive men’s” and “competitive women’s” race, followed by an “elite” race (top 10 fastest seeds from men and women are eligible). I chatted with some friends before the race, and warmed up a bit, but was not sure how quick my legs would be.

The open (competitive) women’s race was after the men’s, and I lined up in front next to a few youngin’s and some older women that I recognized from other races and group runs. The first part of the race is a steep downhill, followed by a small climb, and the last half is all downhill. I tried to not go out too fast in the first quarter but I didn’t want to lose contact with the front. Through the 400, I was at 1:20, which was about right given the downhill and my recent paces on the track. I settled in a little, and floated through the half at 2:43. I was surprised to see at this point that I was next in line behind the leader, Heidi, who crushed me in the 5K two weeks before (she ran a mid-18). I could hear a small pack behind me, and felt another girl inch her way alongside me. She got ahead of me, and around the 3/4mi mark, I realized I could be running faster.

Photo taken by Brent Newman

So I did. I pushed, positioned myself back in 2nd, and crossed the line behind Heidi in 5:22, 2nd open woman. It’s rare for me to finish in the top three overall. In fact, I don’t know that I ever have in a road race, regardless of the distance. The pessimist in me says, “well, the elite women were in a different race, so you really finished 8th.” But, really, I am proud of this race and how I did, and proud to have pushed at the finish and cross the line in second place.

Photo by Brent Newman

Thanks to Big River Running Company for being a part of two of the three events I raced in June; these were fantastic. BRR puts on exceptional events; they are well organized, well orchestrated, and I always enjoy them. The Macklind Mile is truly a unique event, and Saint Louis has such an amazing running community- thanks in part to the crew at Big River. I went to their weekly run from the South City store right after moving to this city; it was the first exposure I had to the St Louis running community, and it’s truly a great one. I am so glad to be back into and focusing more in the sport, and it’s events like the ones I raced in June that help reinforce why I love running, and racing, so much.

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Detroit Free Press Marathon Race Report

Thank you everyone for the kind words about my grandpa.

Getting back into the groove of training is going to be a little daunting, with this imposing 300pg document screaming in my face. After Detroit, I decided to take an entire week off, mainly because I had a lot of traveling/family-ing on my plate, but also because I was sore. Really sore. I couldn’t walk well the day after the race, and my feet ached. In fact, my quads screamed for the longest post-race duration I’ve ever experienced, and I was still feeling the marathon on Thursday. Which, of course, I think is odd considering it was “only” a marathon, and not a super fast one to boot. Some days you have it, some days you don’t.

So, how was the Detroit Free Press Marathon, you ask?

In one word: Awesome.

I have to start with the disclaimer that I love Detroit. Sure, it has a bad rap. I admit, I used to make fun of it. It was kind of dingy. I used to call it names, maybe even show embarrassment whenever someone would ask where I was from. And, to be honest, there’s really nothing that cool about car arson or five-story apartment buildings without any windows. But things are starting to change in that town. Detroit has shown me what it takes to be resilient, to persevere. To turn the other cheek, to ignore the naysayers. I’ve been shown that those from Detroit are proud, yet they aren’t afraid to lend a hand to a neighbor in need. They have every right to be proud; it was this city, after all, that brought everyone in the US their own vehicle. Detroit has helped make driving a right, not just a luxury. Whether or not we like it, without Detroit and the Big Three, the US wouldn’t be what it is today. Yet we are quick to judge this city and its people, throwing them to the wolves. Many Americans point their fingers at the Big Three and Detroit for the downfall of the economy.  They have used Detroit as the scapegoat for their financial strives, and that is quite unfortunate. I’m looking forward to the day when the phoenix rises up from the ashes…

But, off my soapbox, let’s just say that Detroit has a special place in my heart. There’s awesome music (and no, I’m not talking about Kid Rock… he’s not even from Detroit!). Awesome food. Great parks. It’s a blue-collar town.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Detroit Free Press Marathon report!

Expectations:

Going into this race, I was hoping to cruise to a fast marathon time with my post-FullRev fitness. Unfortunately, my post-FullRev diet and activities included a lot of junk. I did a lot of sitting at my desk, I did a lot of eating candy and not hydrating well, and I did a lot of nothing. I ran ~3-4times a week, didn’t swim more than twice, and only bike once. It was pathetic. But, for whatever reason, I thought I’d be ok. I even thought I’d have a chance to snag a PR. I was delusional.

Expo:

The expo was extraordinary. This is probably the best expo I’ve been to. Race wear was for sale, and they had some seriously cool designs. Had I not been in a penny-pinching-gonna-move-to-another-state-soon financial situation, I’d have definitely bought plenty of Christmas gifts. We went to pick up our packets on Saturday afternoon and it was not too crowded, the flow was great. We were able to get our bibs and swag quickly. There were plenty of last-minute things if I needed anything, but fortunately I didn’t.

Pre-race:

Fortunately, Big Daddy Baberaham gave Babe and I a ride to the race start on Sunday morning, so we didn’t have to fuss with parking or People-Movering. Not that the People-Mover is bad; it’s actually quite awesome. But, easing pre-race stress is always key. It was dark, and it stayed plenty dark until the race started.

The only qualm I had about the whole race was the gear drop. It was a little chilly but Baberaham decided to ditch his pre-race clothes with his dad in case we couldn’t find the gear drop. Luckily, there was a gear drop, so I didn’t lose my layers. I ended up giving him my jacket though, since he was shivering and I felt fine. Not only did that give him a little bit of warmth, but it also encouraged other athletes to think he was a pro marathoner, and a few people approached him with questions about the race start because “he looked like he knew what he was doing.” That was funny. Anyway, back to bag drop– We found it about fifteen minutes before the race start, which apparently wasn’t enough time because the queue was quite long… and not moving. Eventually, it was 8min to race start, I had to pee, and we were still in line. About five minutes to the start of the race, we were able to make it to the front of the line and I got into line to pee… then ran to the start. I found my friend and college buddy, Kaoru, who helped me jump the fence and start with the B wave.

The waves started 2 minutes apart, and I was bummed because in my run from porta john to start line I lost Baberaham. I wanted to run with him for the first few miles, but that was a lost cause (there were nearly 20,000 people). So, I started with Kaoru. The rope held us in the gate until our wave was to take off, and I didn’t feel the jitters that a pre-race PR-seeking gal might.

The course:

The marathon course was excellent. Since I was in wave B, it was pitch black when I started. I didn’t see the first mile, which was ok, but I figured that when I got to 8minutes I had passed it. It was probably the best that it was dark at the start because the first mile or two are the ugliest of the course. Around mile 3, we headed up and over the Ambassador Bridge and into Canada. The bridge was a little slower than I wanted, because the Trolls thought it was a hill, or something. After we got off the bridge, it was a few miles of flat shoreline running in Winsor. I loved it, the spectators were great and the views were amazing. We headed into the tunnel to get back to the US and it was a hot mile underground. My arm warmers came off and I cruised through the halfway.

Right around 13miles, my legs started to fight me. I could feel feet clomping on the ground, and my joints ached. It was a strange sensation, telling me to slow down. But I was on pace for a 3:15, which would be a PR, so I pushed through. Then I saw my friends, D&T, and thought “wouldn’t it be more fun to stop and cheer the other athletes on?” But I’ve never DNF’d a marathon, and I wasn’t about to start in my home state.

We headed down Lafayette, and my legs got more and more tight. Maybe I should have stopped, I thought. The pain in my legs didn’t go away. It just got worse. But now I was the farthest from the finish line I’d be all day, and if I stopped I’d have a long walk back. My quad muscles started to get shooting pains through them.

The course headed onward into Indian Village, and the spectators were phenomenal. I took in as much as I could of what was going on around me. The tree lined streets and the beautiful, old houses… the leaves crunching under my feet, the colors. It was just awesome. I was a little disappointed to run past, or get passed, by athletes wearing headphones. I wanted to chat with them, I wanted to take it all in.

I slowed a little, but that didn’t help the pain in my legs. I stopped and stretched out, but that didn’t help. My run turned to a shuffle, and I walked through the aid stations. I physically could not force myself to run any faster. The course headed over the River Walk bridge to Belle Isle, a place in Detroit where I had never been. It was an awesome 2mile loop around the island. I wanted to enjoy it more, and I felt like I had so much in the tank to burn. But the legs just wouldn’t wake up. It was as if I had left everything at the halfway mark. I walked a bit, I’d walk backward to see if Baberaham was catching up. I’d scan every person passing by and every person approaching, to see if they were wearing a blue shirt and hat, to see if it was Babe. But then I thought, if he does catch me, I won’t be able to run with him. So I would start running again, only to stop about two miles later to stretch or walk. It was mile-by-mile of sufferfest. And it was only a marathon.

Eventually, I heard a huff and puff come from behind me and a “Finally I see you at mile 24!” Babe caught up, and was going to run with me, but I encouraged him to catch the girl in the pink skirt that ran by a few seconds before. At first he resisted, but he saw I was hurting, so he took off. Two more miles, anyone can run two more miles. Or walk. I shuffled my way to the finish line, thinking to myself what a poor attempt at a marathon that was.

But I really can’t be that upset. For blowing up completely, I still hung on to a 3:30 marathon. And I was actually quite happy when I finished. Not because of my time, I didn’t really care. I was happy because I didn’t quit. Because I experienced a part of Detroit I’d never experienced. Because I had a good time, even though I had a painful time. There was no “woe-is-me” for me afterward, I was just glad to be done. Baberaham got a PR by over 15minutes, and my friend Jess PR’d in the half. I was so glad to be done to hear their stories and congratulate them.

That’s one of the few times I’ve raced where that thought has crossed my mind. Glad-to-be-done. The finish line volunteers put the medal around my neck, and I smiled. It was worth every step.

It’s amazing how the same things can feel so different on different days. Some days you feel cold when its 70 degrees outside. I think running a marathon fits in this category. Sure, I wasn’t prepared for a PR. I admit that, hands down. But its amazing to me how hard a marathon can feel, like how hard it felt on Sunday. And yet, on other days, marathons can feel like a breeze, even after you’ve biked 112 miles and swam 2.4. I guess some days you have it, and some days you don’t.

So even though it was a crappy race for me, even though I felt sore and slow, I still had an awesome time. I enjoyed seeing parts of Detroit that I’ve never seen, even though its where I grew up. It’s amazing what a marathon can show you; it’s amazing what we don’t see unless someone else shows us. Thank you, Detroit.

Cedar Point FullRev Race Report

I was thinking about this post when I was finishing up the bike leg of the FullRev. I was thinking, around mile 95, of excuses I could make to tell you about why I got off the bike in T2 and never left with my running shoes on. I was construing various stories that left you with the feeling of “Oh, I get it” and “If that were me, I’d do the same damned thing.”

But before I tell you these stories, I should tell you the first one.

I considered not traveling to Cedar Point at all.

I got it in my head that leaving work for five days (weekend included), in the thicket of dissertation writing, and with two campus visits coming up (one in New York City, and the other in St Louis), I just couldn’t go. I needed to work on my slides for a lecture at Hospital for Special Surgery. I needed to go through Chapter One with a fine toothed comb so I could send it to my advisor for editing. I needed to write a manuscript on stuff I did this spring, finish a manuscript for stuff I’ve been working on for nearly two years, and work on the transitions between chapters 3-8 of my dissertation. It just didn’t make sense to leave right now. Not like this.

But Baberaham wondered why I would do that. My friend AJ was going down with me, and if I didn’t go, what would he do? It would be a long drive by himself, not to mention that we were planning on staying at my parents for two nights. And my Trakkers teammates would be there, my parents could watch me race not-so-far-away, and I’d get a break for my brain.

So I went. AJ and I drove down on Thursday afternoon, headed to Cedar Point on Friday, and dinked around Sandusky for less than 48 hours before our race. We did the practice swim, we road our bikes on a crappy road with a strong headwind, and we took naps. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the race, but I was as ready as I was going to be. Nothing I could do now, just race and see.

Race morning was pretty low key. I set the alarm for 4:15, got out of bed at 4:30, had a cup of coffee and a cup of Panda Puffs and packed up the car. Our bikes were already checked in, thanks to Rev3’s awesome pre-race bike check-in (so convenient!) and I just needed to fill bottles and my nutrition pouch. My stay-with-me bottle had four scoops of Orange EFS and 4oz of Liquid Shot mixed with water, and I affixed a Nathan Sports Propeller carry between my aero bars for a Liquid Shot flask (fits perfect, by the way). I was a little slower than anticipated, mostly because I hadn’t planned on needing to be weighed pre-race (not sure why I didn’t think about that…), but I got it all set up to go and headed to the swim start. I sipped on PreRace and Nuun on the walk over.

Lake Erie looks eerily calm

Swim: I sprayed my ankles and wrists with TriSlide and slipped into my wetsuit. The water was cold, which was amazing. I expected the water temperatures to be high and wetsuits to be illegal because the summer temps had been so high. Before the race, I was getting nervous and excited. The pros were delayed 10 minutes, which only extended the nervousness a little more. I was looking forward to the swim, though, because I’ve been working on it lately. And to be honest, I’ve never felt better, more in control, than I felt on today’s swim. I was smooth and fluid, I found feet, and I felt fast. Granted, my time wasn’t fast, but I think that had a little to do with the chop (especially on the second loop). I am not sure if the in-and-out-and-back-in swim course made times slower, either, but I definitely felt faster than I did last year at IMWI, even though my time was the same. However, Madison was a clusterf* of people, and there were times where I didn’t have to actually swim and I was moving as fast as everyone else. The thinner crowd at the Rev3 race might have made things a little slower in that reason alone. Not that I’m complaining though, I’d rather not get punched in the head or stomach…

2.4 mile swim: 1:14
T1: 1:31

T1 was fast for me, since I didn’t grab my gear bag and just headed straight for my bike. I actually thought it would be faster, but I think the chip mat to T1 exit was a little of a long run.  I ripped off my suit, and it came off like butter thanks to TriSlide. I threw it in the box next to my bike, slipped on my shoes and helmet and Trakker device, and off I went. No armwarmers for me today, because even though the water was cold, the air really was not.

Bike: The bike is what I like to call the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The first ten miles or so were rough, which I expected and didn’t really care about because we had a slight tailwind and, well, I rode it the day before. And, it was the beginning of the ride. Once I got out onto the open roads, I could go a bit faster, and averaged anywhere from 15-26mph.

The good: We cruised through the town of Edison, which was cool and somewhat Tour-de-France-esque, and popped out onto one road that was absolutely amazing. Smooth as glass and a tailwind to boot, and cruising at 26mph was easy with a 54 chainring. But, turn the corner fifteen miles later and the road turns to chipseal. Aid stations were plentiful, miles were marked every 10, which was awesome, and draft marshals were out in full effect. Traffic on the course was minimal as well! My nutrition was spot on, and not having an aero drink bottle was worthwhile. I missed a few bottles of water at the aid stations but they weren’t essential. I always had a bottle of water in one cage and a bottle to sip from that had EFS and Liquid Shot in it. The Nathan Propeller carrier was perfect, too, and the flask and EFS bottle stayed with me the whole way.

I yo-yo’d with a woman on the bike for both laps. She caught me on the rough stuff and barreled ahead of me until she was out of sight. Then, I would I blow by her thanks to my extra toothed chainring on the flat, tail-wind-assisted roads, and not see her in my wake. I have no idea how she could catch me, and she probably had no idea how I could find her again. The last time she passed me, on the chipseal of the second lap, I stopped to turn my wheel around (I got paranoid that running it the other way would propagate the small gash in my tire I got a few weeks before), and I never saw her again in the saddle.

The bad: The chipseal wasn’t so bad, in reality, but the wind was. It was demoralizing. You wanted to go 22mph, you knew you could (the road looked flat, right?), but you couldn’t. Or at least I couldn’t. I sat at 15-17mph and just grumbled my way through it. And to be honest, I don’t know what is worse: hills or headwinds. Obviously, both are awful, and having them together is a death wish, but hills are at least gaugeable. They end when you get to the top and you get a break on the way down. A headwind is just a battle the whole way, until you turn off the road or throw your bike into a cornfield. Which I considered doing.

My left leg started getting sore about twenty miles into the bike, and it stayed sore until about mile fifty. I had a hard time shaking it, and the only thing that would relieve it was adjusting my position in the saddle to stretch out my IT band. However, by doing so hurt my crotch even more.

My stomach hurt, too, and at first it was because I was so hungry when I started riding. I ate a Snickers bar about twenty minutes in and that held off the hunger pangs, but my intestines did not want to move anything through for another hour or so. I should have sat up to let things settle, but I didn’t want to sit up going into the headwinds. Eventually, it settled.

Oh, and from the time I got onto the bike to the time I got off, I had to pee.

The ugly: One sweet part of the race was the choice of doing the FullRev or the HalfRev. I liked having the halfers out there on the course, because it split things up, took my mind off what I was doing, and put more people on the course. Not that I like more people, but there were plenty of times where I was completely by myself. One example of this was not intentional though. I was passing a halfer up a hill around mile 95, so I took to the left of the lane and passed. Only, I passed him at an intersection where people were standing. I was looking for cops, but I didn’t see any, so I continued through. I heard someone yell something about bikers, but just continued on. There was a guy ahead of me before the intersection that I’d keep my sights on, but with the rolling hills I couldn’t see farther than 200yards ahead. Eventually, I could see farther out, but I couldn’t see him. Could he have got so far ahead of me in that short of time? Hmm. Kept going, until I got to an intersection with lots of cars, no police, and no signs. What? The? Heck! I took a wrong turn somewhere. No later did I say this to myself than do I see a minivan pull up behind me to yell “You gotta come back! You’re off course!” I shook my head, tears welled in my eyes, and I wanted to be done. I missed the paint markings on the road, since the halfer I was passing at the time was riding over them. And I didn’t see the turn sign because it was probably in line with the halfer as well. Or it got knocked down from of the wind. Whatever the excuse is that I come up with, I ended up adding 2.5 miles (and 8 minutes) unnecessarily to my bike. And I was soooo over being on the bike.

I wanted to ask the minivan guy if I could put my bike in his car and get a ride back to transition. I wanted to be done. I was done with chip seal, I was done with wind. And when I eventually got to Huron and had to ride through the town, I was done with that, too. A little, fuzzy, football-sized brown and black lump of fur scurried out from a bush and nearly ran between my spokes, and I was thinking that would really make me done for the day. What the eff was that? I said to myself. Out loud. I might have even yelled it. It looked like a porcupine cat. Or a porcupine Pomeranian. For whatever reason, the fuzzy unknown being stopped before running into me, and scurried back into the bush. Eff.

The bumps, the wind, the bumps, ugggh. I told myself on the way back to the park, on the eight miles of road that was bumpy, jarring, and painful in the crotchal region, that if I wasn’t having fun, I shouldn’t be doing it. And I was NOT having fun. I started making excuses to give you, my dear readers, about why I didn’t leave T2 with my chip and running shoes on. I wanted to just rack my bike and stand next to my mom and cheer for the other, more tough, more deserving athletes. The last six miles were knocking me around, the crosswinds made me want to cry some more. Eventually, I saw the turn into the park and knew there was not much left. I could not wait to be done.

I dismounted and ran into T2, handing my bike over to an amazing volunteer.

112 mile bike: 5:49
T2: 2:11

“Want me to rack it?” I asked.
“Uh, no! Go run!” He said.
And I wanted to run.

I didn’t even notice it. It was almost as if the last twenty miles hadn’t happened. I ran along the black runway without even thinking. Grabbed my transition bag without even thinking. Ran into the changing tent and dumped my bag upside down.

Two women in transition asked me if I needed any help. I told them that I did.

“What shoes should I wear?” I asked. They looked at me puzzled. “Seriously. This is an important decision.”

My Saucony Guide 3s sat next to my Fastwitch 4s. The green of the Fastwitches looked so good with my kit. The Guides felt heavy in my hands. The women wouldn’t answer me.

“It’s up to you!” They’d say.

I put the green shoes on without thinking any more about it, and one of the women asked why I wasn’t wearing socks. “You crazy athletes, not wearing socks. I can’t believe you can run a marathon without socks.” I shrugged. I should have worn socks.

I ran out of transition quickly. My feet were turning over faster than I thought they could. I felt how I feel after riding 56 miles, not 114. I tried to slow them, but they just didn’t want to. They were having a mind of their own, those legs. I swear it had everything to do with my fast shoes. They had been racing fast all season, why would they ever stop now?

I hit mile 1 a little sooner than I expected. 8:02. No way. That seems too fast. I shouldn’t feel so good after biking so long, right? I hit mile 2 soon after. 7:25. Seriously? Slow down. The Go Fast shoes wanted to go, though.

I sipped on EFS and liquid shot from my Nathan handheld flask and moved through aid stations with ease. No stopping, no walking, just moving. I didn’t take any aid, I just moved through. I felt strong, holding steady at sub 8min/mile pace. I saw AJ’s bright kit and his wicked hair as I passed mile 5, taking a mental note of where he was on the course. I held strong, focused on my form, and ticked off the miles. I passed the point where I remembered seeing AJ and realized he was two miles ahead. The math in my brain was still working, maybe I wasn’t running hard enough. If I could run 1min/mile faster than him, I could catch him. That would be hard to do, he looked strong. But there was nothing I could do about his race, I could only focus on mine. So I did.

I came through the first loop on pace for a 3:30 marathon. That just seemed too fast, but I wasn’t worried about it. My legs would take me where they wanted to take me. I shouldn’t even be running, I should be standing by the side, cheering for others, done with my day. But my legs had other plans. They were showing me they weren’t ready to quit just yet. I held steady. Strong.

I couldn’t see any other amateur women ahead of me. I saw the pros, both Kathleen and Jacqui rocking the vibrant green Trakkers kits like me. I saw some of my Trakkers teammates and gave them high fives. I should have been in the pain cave, but I felt like giving high fives.

Around mile 14 I started drinking cola at the aid stations, mixing it half and half with water in my flask so it would go flat. My quads wanted to seize up around mile 15, and I drank a cup of Cerasport. Amazingly, that kept the cramps at bay. I kept drinking it at every aid station. Ice went down my top on purpose. Cola and water filled my flask and was emptied before the next aid station.

The liners on my shoes started to fold under my toes, and I couldn’t tell if it was just that or if my feet were cramping. My toes weren’t cramping. I started a mantra in my head. No cramping, no cramping. Stretch it out. As if I could will myself away from cramping.

The run course had a lot of turns, and it was hard to see who was in front of you more than a half mile ahead. But the amazing thing about a race this long is that you can pass (or get passed) by people you were separated with by miles off the bike. And that’s exactly what happened. I passed people I remembered on the bike. People who blew by me and must have started the run a half hour before me. An hour before me.  At mile 20, I told myself that a 60min 10K would get me under 11 hours. And then I was counting down the miles.

It started to hurt, whatever “it” was. I got tired, my legs got tired. My legs lost their pep. My feet hurt, my hips sank, my shoulders scrunched up around my ears. I felt sloppy and slow. But I kept moving. Two miles to go. One mile to go. My smile turned to a grimace and I ached to be done. And then I thought about the finish. My mom. My dad. Amy. Owie. They’re all there. They’re all watching. Owie was getting ready to run with me. I turned the corner and there he stood.

I grabbed his hand and we ran down the chute together. Sure, some dude passed me in the chute, but I didn’t care. I was running holding hands with a 3-yr-old across the finish line of my second ultra-distance triathlon. The volunteers at the finish lowered the tape, I felt everything from the day just float off my shoulders. I looked down at Owen’s smiling face and couldn’t help but feel like we just spent a day playing in the park. As I crossed the line, I didn’t have the emotional crash that I had at my first ultra distance triathlon (last year at IMoo). I didn’t feel like I just did what I actually just did. If that makes any sense. I did have tunnel vision, and I saw the volunteer inching toward me with the medal and I asked them to put it around Owen’s neck instead. They draped him with a foil blanket and he danced around. It was euphoric, watching him. It was almost an out of body experience. 26.2 mile Run: 3:39:20

Soon after, AJ crossed the line, and I convinced one of the volunteers to help me take off my shoes. My shoes were bloody, and I didn’t think I would be capable of taking them off myself. It was like a band-aid, and I encouraged the volunteer to treat it as such. Sure enough, my foot was anhiliated from a popped blister. I realized about three miles into the run that I had forgotten to spray the inside of my shoes with TriSlide. I have no idea how I forgot to do that, but I think my entire pre-race prep that included not thinking about the race influenced that incredibly poor foresight. I’ve raced all season with amazing results, and atmy “A” race I forget one of the most important things related to damage control. That was dumb!

Regardless, I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have continued through T2 with my running shoes on. To see my mom and dad, Owen and Amy, standing there, cheering, taking photos… it made all of the anxiety of the bike disappear. To feel the way I felt on the run is indescribable. My legs just wanted to go. To be honest, I don’t know what happened. I was convinced that, on the bike, I was done with the day. But my legs had other plans, and they ran me to a 2nd place overall finish for amateur women, with a time of 10:46.

I learned a lot about long course racing at Cedar Point that I didn’t learn before. My independent training really paid off, because I rode a lot of the bike without anyone else in sight. My carefree attitude going into (and throughout) the race paid off, too.  Perhaps there is something about the long course race that makes it easier for someone a little more easy-going. One bad thing can ruin your day, and in a shorter race, like an Olympic or a half, it does. But in the long, ultradistance races, you can shrug it off and continue, perhaps even pretend like it didn’t happen. There’s not always time to fix things when bad things happen, but the day is usually long enough to work through a problem, or at least stick it out.

And I am so glad that I did stick it out. Seeing the smiling faces of my favorite support crew was the best feeling this girl could have.

I love you, Mom and Dad! I love you Owie and Amy, too. Thank you for sharing this special day with me, and for helping me after the race. Your support means so much to me!

And thank you to my sponsors, especially Team Trakkers and Rev3. Being a part of this team has really opened my horizons in the sport of triathlon and has encouraged me to try new things, push new limits, and reach new heights. Being a part of Team Trakkers has brought so much to my life in the last year! Rev3 puts on the best races, awesome for athletes as well as their families. I have never had a better race experience than what I’ve had with all three Rev3 races I’ve done this season.

And as usual, my nutrition was spot on with First Endurance, Nuun, and Honey Stinger, and awesomely accessible with cool gear from Nathan Performance Sports. My feet were fast in their FastShoes, the Saucony Fastwitch 4s. My bike was a rocketship thanks to the awesome guys at The Bike Shop.

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.  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 🙂

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.

A Favorite Race- My Rev3 Quassy Report

There’s mounds of work to be done. It’s 8pm and I’m sitting in my office working on a presentation for an upcoming conference in Florida. I have two papers to write, qPCR to do, and histology to perform. But I wanted to write my race report while the race is still fresh in my head.

The night before:

I kept it pretty chill on Saturday, with my feet up and fluids in. It was humid, sticky, and hot, and I must have drank a gallon of water/Nuun/EFS (at least). At least every other bottle of water I drank had electrolytes of some kind, and since I was sweating just standing around, I knew it wouldn’t hurt me. I went for a short run to get my legs moving and came back to the hotel after 20 minutes dripping in sweat. I then took a cool shower and read a book. I just relaxed and thought about the race, the course, my strategy. I tried to avoid stalking other athletes out in the blogger-world who were doing races that day, and just tried to let my brain wrap around the next big day. I got to bed early (around 930) and set an alarm for 4:15am.

Race morning:

I got up before the alarm. Hmm. I laid there for a while until the alarm went off, and I tried to be quiet and got my stuff out of the room. I put on my uniform, ate some Panda Puffs (5-6 handfuls) and drank a bottle of EFS (1 scoop in 16oz water). I threw my stuff in the car around 5:30 and rolled up the hill to race site, which was only about four miles away from my hotel.

I mixed a bottle of EFS and Pre-Race (1 scoop each) and sipped slowly on it while I set up my transition. In the aero bottle (50oz water) went three scoops of EFS, and in my Nathan Trail Mix sling went 3/4 scoop EFS, 1 tab of kola nuun (caffeine please!) and water in each bottle. I sprayed my bike shoes with some Tri-Slide, and then sprayed down my shoulders, neck, and thighs with it too. I finished the Pre-Race mix and headed to the beach with my wetsuit, where I got into the warm water for a quick swim. The water was 72 or so, and it was definitely warmer than I expected.

The pros were getting ready to start, and after the national anthem, their wetsuit-free swim began. By the time my wave was lining up, Matty Reed and the first group of male pros were exiting the water. It was exciting to see them coming out. The amateur elite wave, which was supposed to take off after the pros, was canceled due to lack of entrants (apparently only four people signed up, and I was one of them), so I was shimmied back into my age group start which was the second to last wave to take off. It didn’t really matter, since all the women started in the last two waves besides the pros, but it might have been nice to not have to pass some people on the bike by crossing the yellow line because some didn’t know how to stay to the right…

The swim- 37:04 (1:55min/100m)

I turned my Trakkers device on a bit before the start and the red blinking lights were searching for a signal. I threw it in my back pocket and literally forgot about it. The swim was fairly uneventful, although I felt like I slowed down after the first buoy and couldn’t really find any feet. I found some, and then they left me. I found some more, and then they were swimming away from the buoys. I found another pair, and then they slowed. I quickly ran into blue caps and silver caps (the two waves that started ahead of me) and I was soon passed by red caps (the 40+ women). Overtaking some of the swimmers was annoying, because many forgot to sight and were zigzagging, but I was impressed with how spread out and low-impact the swim was. My feet were touched, but not grabbed; I was bumped, but not shoved or elbowed intentionally; and I could see where I was going fairly well. I swam as far as I could and stood up, right behind Jill from All3sports. I was right on her heels, but had to stop because I dropped my goggles and a guy behind me kept yelling “GIRL! GIRL! You dropped your goggles!” (I would have left them, because they are $2 a pop, but then I was worried I’d get in trouble for littering on the course or someone else would step on them…).

T1- 1:53

I got to my bike and there were quite a few left on the rack, which made me think that I had a decent swim (after the race, I wasn’t too happy about my time; it was a good 4min slower than my best, and I thought I had improved muchos-muchos since last year). I grabbed my helmet, clipped it, slipped into my shoes easy-peasy, and grabbed my bike. That was all I needed. Off I went.

Bike- 3:00:54 (18.6mph)

The bike was fun. It started downhill, on a part of the course that I rode with Jenn on Friday. I was excited to get my legs spinning, and I was surprised at how steep some of the hills were in the beginning. Not long, just steep. And none of the hills were really all that steep; there were just a lot of them.

I felt good, considering the past several weeks of training. My biggest fear was that I would putter out toward the end of the bike, so I tried to stay conservative. I felt my butt burn on the ups but got out of my saddle and attacked the hills. I continued to push on the crests and just felt like smiling the whole time.

The “Big Hill” that everyone was talking about- that I remembered from driving the course on Friday- was better than I expected it would be. It was long, sure, but there were breaks it seemed, and I passed a lot of people who were riding the train (at the bottom of the hill, it looked like a train of triathletes riding side-by-side up the hill). About a mile into the hill, I caught up with a Spaniard that asked where this big hill was, not knowing that we were already there. He and I traded places for the rest of the race- him bombing past me on the downs and my catching up and gaining ground on the ups.  It was so great to see my Trakkers teammates at mile 29- I was so excited I started flailing my arms and waving and smiling at them. I grabbed a bottle of water and filled up my empty aero bottle (surprised at myself that I drank 50oz in under 30 miles) and rolled through quickly.

Around mile 34, my EFS Liquid Shot literally shot out of my Nathan Propeller, and I had to stop to pick it up. It was, unfortunately, at an intersection where the downhill leading into it would have catapulted me into even MORE downhill and pushed me up the next climb a bit, but I didn’t want to get penalized and I didn’t want to be without my nutrition on this tough day. I pulled to the right, stopped, and waited for bike traffic to clear, and although a group of guys went blowing by me while I waited, it didn’t take long for me to catch back up. I tried to apologize to them for stopping as I went by.

There were a lot of flats on the course and I didn’t really know why. I mean, a LOT. I would say I probably saw at least 15 people stopped. I never saw any sharps on the road, and there were pot holes but they were well marked with red paint. I was relieved to have bought some Gatorskins a few weeks ago from The Bike Shop, and even though they are a bit heavier, I didn’t get a flat.

Sometimes gaining momentum on the downhills was difficult. One thing I wasn’t happy about- I did a really bad job of transferring my power from the downhills to the ups, and I found myself spinning without any force where I should have been at least pushing something. I would drop by gears too soon, for fear that I’d drop my chain or have some other stupid mistake, and instead it just cost me a few passes on the beginnings of the ups.

I got to the out and back and saw my teammate, Kathleen, as I was making the turn. She was flying and looked great. Not soon after, I saw Sonja with what might have been a big grin on her face. I wondered where Michelle was, because I expected them to have similar bike splits and that Michelle might have got out of the water first. Sure enough, she was close behind. I couldn’t remember just how long the turn around was, but I was glad to see that the ladies (Son and Michelle) were likely only a few miles ahead of me (maybe 4? 5?) and considering that I was a weak swimmer and they are great cyclists, I was feeling more confident. I saw Jamie and Chris, and that was it for green. I made the turn with a woman in front of me, who I didn’t expect to have as good of bike handling skills as she did. She got out of the turn faster than me, granted she was on a road bike, but she stayed ahead of me even on the downhills. I would gain some ground, and she’d go flying off the front again. She was looking strong.

I had no idea what time it was or how long I’d been biking (mileage or hours) because my bike computer sensor would go in and out, especially on the downhills. I hit mile 40, and my computer read 36 miles. I hit mile 50, and I was at 46. So the last six miles I tried to rally the troops (my legs) and get moving. I didn’t want to have too much junk in my legs, and I knew the bike ended in a climb, but I didn’t remember the exact route. I was relieved when I saw runners, because that meant that I was basically doing the reverse of the beginning of the run course, and before I knew it I was heading up Old Sherman Road and back to transition. I saw Anthony and Chris around mile 2, Kathleen, Sonja, and Michelle as they were railing down the hill. I wasn’t confident I could catch them, but I knew if I could get moving like they were I’d have a good shot at placing well.

T2- 1:29

T2 was mostly uneventful, minus the tongue of my shoe getting stuck and having to finagle it free. My bike was one of the first back on the rack, which made it easy for me to get in and out of transition (aside from the girl next to me throwing her wetsuit right on top of my shoes). I grabbed my visor, race belt, and water belt, and  I was in and out, probably one of the quickest transitions I’ve had, even with a shoe hiccup.

Run- 1:42:26 (7:49min/mile)

I was glad to have brought along my Trail Mix belt, because I skipped through a few aid stations and sipped on my EFS. I lost a bottle in transition, though, so I only had one 8oz bottle to hold me over.  I was also glad that I brought the belt because it had my inhaler stashed in it, and around mile 2 my head started throbbing and the sound was going in and out. This was not the time for me to be having an asthma attack. I took a puff but kept running, holding my breath as I passed a relay girl (she must have thought I was crazy), and my head throb subsided. A woman with a 30 marked on her leg went bobbing by me, running on her toes and just flying. I couldn’t match her speed, and I didn’t want to for sake of blowing up. Off she went, out of my sights.

I was cruising, but I wasn’t uncomfortable by any means. My feet felt light and fast in my Fastwitch 4s. I felt like I was just out running, below threshold but not easy, just comfortable. I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to push it, but I was knew I needed to hold back a little. Around mile 3.5 or 4 was the big, steep climb, and it seemed to just keep going. I walked a little, but then decided that I could just get over it and keep running, and so I did. I knew the top was coming soon, and as soon as I got there, I was greeted with a turn. Down down down, I saw Michelle and a few other women. I skipped driving this part of the course, so I wasn’t sure how long it was, but I figured it was around 2 miles or so. There was an aid station at the turnaround and I took my first cup of (not flat) Pepsi. Slurped that and a cup of water and off I went, not stopping. Run run run, I felt strong and comfortable. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was focusing on keeping my arms pumping and my form strong. I stood up, relaxed my shoulders, and just moved. I was picking off the miles, and I got to a climb with a green lure ahead of me. I was hoping it was not Michelle. I noticed then that bobbing girl was just ahead of her. She was slowing too, because she was now back in my sights. I found out on the bike path (as I passed her) that it was Michelle in green, and I gave her a not-so-gentle tap on the behind and tried to get her to go with me, but she looked in pain. And bobbing girl was limping and flailing from left to right on the bike path. I went by her, and that was when I realized that I hadn’t let a single person pass me besides her. And there I went, passing her back. I started focusing on picking people off, and I started to smile as I caught the next person, and the next. I heard feet behind me, but they were not catching up- they were falling back. I saw Sonja again at the turn around, me at little before mile 10 and her past mile 11. She looked strong, and I felt a wave of confidence as I rolled out the out-and-back. Charlie passed me on the cart, and yelled at me. I passed the coach from Terrier Tri, and smacked him on the bum too, and he yelled and we exchanged thumbs ups and I kept pushing forward. After the turn around and another cup of Pepsi (not flat) and I felt the bubbles that had shaken up in my stomach come bubbling out of my mouth. Well, at least it wasn’t vomit. I spit and kept moving.

One last hill, and I knew it would be tough. And I felt like I hit a brick wall. Under the bridge, and I wanted to cry. My legs hurt, my body was tired, my head was hoping that the next turn would be the highway, but it wasn’t. I wanted to be done. And then I was back on 64, and I had a quarter mile left, and I ran across the railroad tracks. I sprinted into the finish and wanted to topple over. The volunteers gave me a bottle of water and a medal around my neck, and I moved through the finish chute. I saw Jenn and the Trakkers team and I smiled. I was done!

I ended up finishing 2nd in my division, and 13th overall for amateurs. Count the pros, and I was sitting at 25th. Yep, there were more pros racing Rev3 Quassy than both the Honu and Kansas IM 70.3s combined. With 2nd place, I received some amazing swag, including a Fuel Belt (pink!), plaque, and a $75 gift certificate to Cannondale. The post race food was outstanding, with a buffet line of some delicious salads, burgers, slaw, and even mac-and-cheese (if only I could eat it!).

Unfortunately my Trakkers device lost signal around mile 6 or so, and anyone trakking me online must have thought I crashed my bike. Luckily I was just fine, no crashes whatsoever; I think the tree cover and lack of cell reception really hindered my device from working. I literally forgot about it in the swim, couldn’t even notice it in my pocket. I made sure every once in a while during the bike that it was still in my pocket, and on the run too, but it stayed put. The new design of the device is really cool, I was just bummed that my parents got worried about me during the race. Sorry, Mom and Dad!

I feel great about this race, even though my time is not a PR and I didn’t have a very strong swim. My transitions were spot on, and my run felt strong. I left it all out on the course, but I didn’t bonk or cramp or blow up. My stomach was solid as a rock the whole race, and my energy levels never plummeted. The heat and humidity, which I am definitely not used to because I live in the UP, was not an issue for me and I hit my nutrition like a hammer to a nail. It was an incredible experience, and it was an incredible venue.

EXTRA-special thanks to my friend, Jenn, who received the Best Friend Award for hanging out with me this weekend. Not only did she meet me in Connecticut to hang out, but she followed me around Middlebury while I did neurotic triathlete things. She held my bike when I was getting my timing chip, she drove the course with me, and she was a mega-outstanding-super-awesome volunteer for both Saturday AND Sunday. Cripes. She also got in a 3hour road ride on Saturday on the hilly roads. Daaang. She rocks.

My Trakker teammates are phenomenal. The ones that raced on Saturday stuck around and ran the show, busy-bees all day on Sunday, taking on multiple tasks and just being awesome.

Also, thank you soooo much to my sponsors, Trakkers, Saucony, First Endurance, Tri-Swim (Tri-SLIDE was amazing as always), Nuun, Nathan Sports, and TriggerPoint. Rev 3 put on an incredible race- this was by far the best race I’ve ever done and it was challenging, rewarding, and incredibly well organized. I am so excited to race in Ohio in September!

Pictures to come soon!

Update – Rev3 Quassy

The numbers:

Swim- 37:04 (1:55min/100m) – 8th in my division and 67th for women (eeeeek)

T1- 1:53 (scored ELEVEN (yep, 1-1) places in T1 alone)

Bike- 3:00:54 (18.57mph) – started in 56th, bumped me up to 37th woman- 3rd in my division

T2- 1:29 (scored another spot in T2)

Run- 1:42:26 (7:49min/mile) – started in 36th for women, came in at 25th (13th for age group women) and 2nd in my age group- behind Lindsay Wohlers who won her age group at Kona last year…

The course:

Read anyone else’s blog about Rev3 Quassy and you will see one word in each and every post: hills. Although I didn’t think the course was too overly technical, the hills were a force to be reckoned with. I drove the course on Friday so I had a good idea about where, when, and what the hills were. To be honest, the long, grueling climb at mile 24 (that lasted until mile 31) wasn’t all that bad. It was the steeper, shorter climbs earlier and afterward that stung.

And the run, well… the run was grueling and awesome. It started with a gradual downhill for the first mile and a half, and then started to climb- but it was deceiving. It was a rinky-dink little climb on Tuttle Road, and it seemed so easy. And then turning the corner, where I expected the behemoth of a climb, it was still easy. And then came the gravel part of the course, and the steep section (and I mean steep):

Near the end (specifically, in the LAST mile) there was one bitchuva hill with a 8% grade and it made me want to cry. I wanted to be done at that point. But I think it made everyone want to cry, because a guy I passed on it was mumbling something or another about hating his life at the moment.

My nutrition:

Pre race, I had several handfuls of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and a spoonful of peanut butter. I drank a bottle of EFS with breakfast. On race site about an hour before the race, I sipped 1 scoop PreRace and 1 scoop EFS.

During the race, I thought I drank more water today than I did on the bike at IMWI, but I didn’t. I was close though… It was hot and humid, and I went through an entire bottle (50 oz) of Fruit Punch EFS and probably another 24oz of straight water on the bike alone. I had a flask of EFS Liquid Shot on the bike but I didn’t drink the whole thing (and it got chucked off my bike and I had to stop around mile 32 – a downhill section no less- to pick it up so I didn’t get penalized… uuugh).

On the run, I drank a flask full of EFS and then grabbed water at aid stations after mile 3. I sipped more on my Liquid Shot because it was still in my pocket. I started drinking cola around mile 6, but it wasn’t flat so by the time I got to mile 10.5, the running/bouncing made my stomach turn into a shaken bottle of cola (and I regurgitated cola bubbles, which of all things to have come up, I was pretty stoked). Didn’t take any aid after mile 11, and didn’t need it.

Trakkers:

My Trakkers device failed to get a good signal, and apparently around mile 6 it shut down. Sorry for anyone that was following my progress. I was bummed to see it had shut itself off by the time I was done. I was hoping you guys would see my 40+mph descents. Cell service and GPS reception is not very good in Middlebury- it’s like a black hole, apparently.
Full race report to come soon!

Rev3 Knoxville!

I don’t think I could have picked a better race than the Rev3 Knoxville as my first Olympic distance tri. The crowd, the course, the competitors- everything was awesome and unlike any other race I’ve done.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

And I almost didn’t do it. I originally signed up for the halfRev, but with the team challenge I decided (with my background in team-point-accumulation with xc and Nordic) that we could always use more racers in the Oly as backups. What if someone flatted? Took a wrong turn? Lost their shoe? So I switched over to the Oly a few weeks before and felt good about my decision. As race day approached and my trip to Tennessee ensued, I started feeling under the weather. Then I thought: Maybe I shouldn’t even race. With Triple T and Quassy both less than five weeks away, I really couldn’t afford to lose a lung over a race. My body ached and I couldn’t breathe, and I wasn’t excited about entering a pain cave like that.

Luckily, I woke up race day morning, or rather at 3am (that’s not really the morning, per se), to a drenched t-shirt and sweat-covered sheets. But I woke up with a smile and a deep breath. I felt good. Really? I went back to sleep for a few more hours of snooze. Whatever bug had decided to take residence in my lungs has seemed to move on, and I felt more confident in my ability to do the race, and not have to worry about whether or not I’d pass out from hypoxia on the bike. Little did I know that you’re supposed to feel that way in an Oly. I know for next time.

PRERACE NUTRITION—
I had about a handful of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, which is less than usual, but I wasn’t particularly hungry and I wasn’t worried about being hungry during the race. I mixed a heaping scoop of First Endurance PreRace in with 1.5 scoops of EFS powder in my water bottle and sipped on that about an hour before my wave’s swim start.

COURSE:
SWIM— 0.9 miles, 23:36 (97.8sec/100m)

Photo credit: Eric Willis

The swim course was awesome. I really liked that the start wasn’t at transition, and it was clever on the race director’s part to do this with as many waves as there were. The pros were out of the water before I started- heck, so were most of the elite amateurs. I got to watch the pros take off, and come to grips with the swim course before I swam it (since I didn’t do the swim preview the day before).

I was happy with my swim. I didn’t really push it, which meant I never went hypoxic, but I also didn’t feel sloppy or slow. I felt smooth and found a good rhythm. I’m probably right in assuming that in Oly distance triathlons, you don’t really want to find a rhythm so much as just push it hard enough so you don’t crash and burn, but with my 22-hour-drive and recently-broken sickness, I wasn’t about to put myself in a pain cave that would end in a visit to the hospital. So, I just found some feet, passed some pink caps, some yellow caps, some blue caps, and just put my head down and dug, dug, dug. I swam all the way to the dock, because twenty strokes or so before I was there, I realized the swim exit was a mantel onto the pontoon. Perfect! I was surprised that I could get out of the water without any problem. It was easy, actually, and I didn’t need any help from the volunteers who were hoisting others out. But when I brought my knees to the dock to walrus my way onto the deck, my calves had a different idea. They balled up, and I made a quick decision to move as fast as I could to get into the standing position. Luckily, the muscle-seizing ceased, and I started ow-ow-ow’ing my way to the ramp. I started running/stripping my way to transition, and got into my new tri shoes pretty quick. Since transition time isn’t free time, I grabbed my gloves without putting them on, strapped on my helmet and grabbed my bike. Off I went…

BIKE— 24.8 miles, 1:23:49 (17.75mph)
Bad news was I am not very good at putting gloves on my left hand when I am riding on my bike. Good news was that I remembered to bring them along. I wish I had put socks on my feet, but that would have probably sucked up more time in transition. By the end of the bike, my feet were cold and I couldn’t feel them.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

The bike course was awesome. I went into it thinking that the hills in the downtown section were going to be the hardest because they seemed to be the steepest and longest, but I was wrong. The downhill section was fairly easy, and even the climb to the bridge felt like it was just long enough. My calves would have me thinking otherwise on some of the rollers in the first ten miles, but they never seized up again, luckily. Once I got into the meat of the course, what I like to call the covered part (where the road narrows and the trees cover), it was like spreading butter on bread. Everything was so smooth, and the turns weren’t too sharp that I had to brake. I stayed in aero for most of it, sans the climbs. There were a few climbs on the covered part that were head-down, small ring climbs, but I like those kind of climbs. Sure, you can’t go 25mph up them unless you’re Chris Leito or Julie Dibens, but man, are they fun. I even stood up on some of the climbs, which is something I couldn’t do with my previous tri bike (the QRoo Caliente didn’t offer enough clearance for my knees and I’d hit them on my elbow pad mounts).  I took a few pulls off my EFS and only got one sip off my Liquid Shot, but fortunately I didn’t give in to my desires to pull my liquid shot carrier (the Nathan Propeller 2.0) off my bike and chuck it into the woods. It did not want to stay tucked nice next to my headset on my top tube. Instead, it kept sliding down and hitting my knees, or dropping to the underside of my toptube where it would chuck out my valuable Liquid Shot. I need to come up with a different set up for that holder.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

I did see a few cruise by me that were drafting, and it annoyed me for about two miles until we got to the next winding climb. I figured that, if they weren’t still drafting each other, one of them would lose the other on the gradual but long uphill. I swapped positions with a guy who would bomb the downhills and hammer out of my sight only for me to find him again on the next climb. I played a little road-racer act on the last five miles, stood up and hauled my bike around and hammered out a strong finish, feeling great metabolically (but feeling frozen in the feet-region). Transition 2 was faster than 1, but I didn’t have to go as far.

RUN— 6.2 miles, 51:08 (7:50min/mile)
The only way to describe my run start was, I felt like I was running on stilts. It might have been my cold feet, or givin’er in the bike toward the end, who knows. I made the mistake of grabbing a cup of water at the first aid station straight out of transition and I got a side cramp right away. It lasted about 2 miles, and it stopped when I started drinking Coke (and stopping to drink it). I would have been better off to not brought my Garmin with me, because my pace was annoying to me but I couldn’t do anything about it. I tried to run faster but my quads would start seizing. I realized, after the run, that I should have consumed all my EFS powder mix on the bike. And I didn’t quite realize just how painful that run really was until I saw Eric Willis’s photos; arms are high, face is long, body is collapsing in on itself. That is me running when I am not doing well… and this is me in the first mile. Lucky for me the race was only 6 miles instead of 13, and I found my groove a little better after mile 3. Although I’m not geeked about the run split, I was out there! I can’t win ’em all, and sometimes ya just gotta go with what the day (or week) brings you.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

The run course layout was nice, because we were able to pass the runners who were finishing when we were on our way out, and I was able to cheer for my teammates as they came in to crush the field! We hopped on the Greenway for a few miles that provided some shade and great spectators. Since it was an out-and-back, I could see where everyone was, which for me on this day was probably not the best thing. I felt a little demoralized already with my GPS on my wrist, beeping at me every mile. But, after the cola, I was able dig a little deeper and actually give’r quite well on the uphill into the finish.

I felt like I kept it together- emotionally- well, considering I was coming into this race a week ago wanting to be competitive in my first short-distance triathlon. I wanted it, but it didn’t want to be mine. Things happen, plans change, and I think I rolled with it well. I didn’t get mad at myself because I was running 8min/miles in a 10K, and I didn’t get mad when I found out my bike pace was over 2miles/hour slower than my goal. I was happy that I woke up feeling like a thousand bucks worth of lungs, and that I could actually get a full, deep breath in, something I hadn’t been able to do in days.

General stuff about the race-
The REV3 volunteers and organization is simply AMAZING! One hundred huge standing ovations for the city of Knoxville, the Pattens, the Gollnicks, Carole, and everyone else who did everything they could to make this one spectacular race. If I had a question about anything, I could ask someone- anyone- and they’d point me in the right direction or answer my question. There were so many people in the park, and along the course, with blue Rev3 shirts on. Every intersection had some sort of patrol directing traffic, and there were more than enough people at the aid stations (and more than enough aid, for that matter). They were excited to be there, they were extra helpful, and they didn’t ask for anything in return. The guys from Elite Bicycles were doing FREE tuneups on bikes, and did quite a fair share of friendly teasing when I’d go to get my tires inflated. The A.R.T. was free, although the regular massage was not. But after having A.R.T. and trigger point, I don’t really like massages anyway.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

The Pro-Presence is outstanding. When I was finishing up my run, Dede Griesbauer was on the course cheering people on, about two miles away from the finish area. And even though he didn’t race, Michael Lovato was out on the course on a motorbike. There were so many big-name pros in attendance. Matty Reed threw down and finished first for the men, and pros like Terenzo Bozzone, Julie Dibens and Chris Lieto were out racing. The Trakkers athletes, including Dede, Mary Beth Ellis, Richie Cunningham and Brian Fleischmann, all finished in the top ten, securing prize money and dominating over Team Trek/K-Swiss.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

Photo by: Eric Willis

The roads were great, too- at least in my opinion. Part of the challenge of a technical course is being able to ride over not-smooth surfaces all the time. Being able to see your line and take it, and that includes taking a line around a corner or around a rough patch. The bike course did not have many spots with rough surfaces, either- and when it did (there was a stretch that ran through a road under construction), the volunteers were out sweeping it the night before with brooms. Seriously, I saw them.

The swag was phenomenal. Picking up my race packet included a visor and a tee. A sharp-looking tee, too, I might add (dare I say, classier than my Ironman Wisconsin tee?!?). But, when I finished, I got a medal and a long sleeve poly that was ridic. It looks like a downhill mountain biker’s jersey. SAH-weet! And, all the mothers got pink leis when they finished, special pink expo bracelets, pink numbers, and a special pink gift bag filled with mother-goodies (including a Trakkers race number belt and a pink Trakkers visor). Not to mention free post-race food (including sandwiches from Calhoun’s). Real food. Although I couldn’t eat it, my dad could. And being the great spectator he was today, he definitely deserved it.

The expo was small but specific. There was not junk, no random companies with tents that had nothing to do with triathlon (or were just trying to sell stuff). There was a booth for Elite Bicycles (where the free tuneups were), a booth for All3Sports for race-day essentials (like nutrition, apparel, or a new set of wheels), a Rev3 merchandise booth (although I don’t know what else I could get for my wardrobe that wasn’t given to me in my race bag), a make-a-sign-for-your-athlete booth, and a Trakkers booth.  Oh, and a massage booth, of course.

What I’ll do differently next time (aside from not driving 22hrs to get to a race and getting sick in-transit):

Swim- I felt great about my swim, but that’s an area of triathlon that could always use improvement for me. I think that the next time I do an Oly I will push it a little harder in the swim, go to the next level. Of course, this will get faster when I start swimming more and stop being a nancy about the pool. What better way to get my butt in gear than to cover it with my new Trakkers suit?!

Bike- I need to stay focused for the entire race. I got distracted by the drafters, and I got distracted when I passed people who were riding side-by-side or riding too close to each other. I took the attention off my race and put it on the race as a whole. I need to just get my head in the game, especially for the shorter distance races, because there isn’t time to be thinking about other things.

Practice faster transitions- Whatever I did, it wasn’t all that fast. My first transition was around 3min, and the second was around 2. I need to learn how to run fast with my wetsuit on and just give’r, learn how to ride my bike while putting my feet in my shoes, and/or other tricks. I did get to practice post-race with a competition by Simply Stu, although I didn’t win. It was rigged.

Photo credit: Eric Willis

I might try to put on a pair of socks in the swim-to-bike transition, or come up with a way to temporarily line my tri shoes with something so that my feet don’t get as cold at the cooler races (which are plentiful in the Midwest). Maybe those disposable foot warmer things? Hmm… Does that sound weird? Watch, my feet will get too hot and then I will complain about that.

Sleep- The sweat-ful sleep was helpful, if for nothing else but to get whatever was in me out. I should have taken better note of that, though, when I woke up, and I should have drank a bottle of EFS or Nuun at 3am. Then I might have had a better chance of replenishing my electrolytes that I apparently lost while snoozing, and might not have had issues with cramping during the race.

Food- Because I was at the expo on Saturday, I didn’t pay attention to when it was time to eat and when it was time to rest. I did a decent job (not perfect, of course) of staying out of the sun, but I definitely went from 7am to 4pm without eating anything but a peanut butter and jelly LARABAR. Oops. I also need to figure out an Olympic distance nutrition plan, something that keeps me from feeling so uncomfortable when I get off the bike.

Special thanks to my dad for coming along with me. He drove the whole way to Knoxville, practically, while I slept in the passenger seat. And he was out there all day on the race course cheering, taking pictures, and getting sunburnt. Thanks to Jim and Evy too for housing us, feeding us, loving us, and sending me home with six pounds of fudge.

And I HAVE to do something about those white legs. Can you even tell where my shoe ends and leg begins?

More photos to come when I get back to Houghton. My dad took a ton on my camera today, and I look forward to sharing them!

One last thing, online race results for all Rev3 Knoxville events can be found here!

How to write a great race report

It’s officially race season! With my first race of 2010 out of the way (and my body fully recovered), I have been extra motivated to read up on other folks’ race experiences as they start piling on. I LOVE reading about races. Sometimes it’s me living vicariously through someone else, and other times its me deciding whether or not I want to travel to that locale for my 50×50. I also love feeling like I was right there with someone when they were pushing for their marathon PR or racing their first Oly. And the really great athlete bloggers in the world know exactly how to make that happen.

One of my favorite race reports ever written is by Jordan Rapp after his monumentous win at Ironman Canada last summer. In his post, Rapp very clearly illustrated the race in an Alice in Wonderland-esque story. It was both entertaining and enlightening, and I could visualize the course as I read through his report. This unique and entertaining race recap was especially meaningful because it was the first experience of winning an Ironman for Rapp (and he then went on do to it twice in the same year, with a win again at IM Arizona). Not only was the report catchy because of its AinW theme, but he included a few key components that made his report a great one.

  1. Be explicit
    Name the race and its distance.
    Not everyone reading your blog knows your race schedule like the back of their hand. In fact, it might just be someone stumbling across your page that wants to read on. And what good is know what your time was if they don’t know what the distance? Not all Olympic triathlons are the same distances, and not all road runs are the same length. Make sure to be explicit about the race name, location, and length (Ironman and marathons can probably slide under the critical-review-radar without noting the distance, but a few more numbers on your blog doesn’t hurt. Hey, not everyone in the world knows how far an Ironman is – believe it or not!).
    What else was going on? What was the weather like? How big was the race? Were there waves, and if so- were they crowded or easy-breezy? You get the point.
  2. Break it down
    If your race was long enough for you to feel multiple emotions over its duration, break the report up into its respective parts. This method is true for multi-sport races, as well. Break up the paragraphs, use bold or italic or underline (or all three) to help the reader skip to the next part if they could care less about your swim, bike, or T2.
    Ways to do this:
    Break it up into swim-bike-run. If you just did a triathlon, break up the text into three parts- the swim, the bike, and the run. Talk about each event individually as if they were their own race (but you can include them all together in the same post).
    Break it up with images. Get your photo snapped at mile 2 of the marathon? Throw it up on your blog between the pre-race and early race discussions. Have a course map that illustrates the death-march-hill you stumbled up at mile 20? Put it right before your description of said hill as a good climax to the story.
    Added bonus- Include your splits if you know them (that is, if you want to share). Following along with your race progression is helpful for readers, especially if you had a surge in your race or you hit a wall. Seeing the progression can help the reader follow along. Describing the surge or bonk really helps, too.
  3. Tell a story.
    Remember in the movie Fight Club, when Edward Norton’s character was running in his boxers in the middle of the night to stop a building from being blown up? The narration of the movie said:
    “I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.”
    Those three sentences have so much meaning, and tell a story that perhaps five hundred sentences could portray. No, you don’t need to tell a five-hundred-sentence story. This isn’t English Composition. And telling a story in a few words can sometimes have more meaning than telling it in five thousand. Be clear, be concise, but portray your story so that the world can understand.
  4. Don’t be afraid to show emotion!
    I know first hand that racing is chock full of emotions. The longer the race, the more time you have to go through the whole gamut. There’s ups and downs, smiling and crying- its all there. There’s no need to encourage your reader into thinking you’re a robot. Write objectively, explicitly, and accurately, but include the ups and downs you felt during your race (like the emotional “wall” you hit at mile 30 out of 100, or the anxiety of an all-out sprint at the end of a 5K). And if a proper sentence won’t describe it, spell out grunts and groans. You’re reader will get the point.
  5. Discuss (and show) what you went through.
    Aside from the obvious course description that you obviously fought (or flew) your way through, talk about how the course affected you. Were the hills hard or easy? Was the gradual downhill easy-breezy or did it make your quads scream their way into survival mode?

    Everyone likes photos

    And since a picture is worth a thousand words, throw on the elevation map or the twisty-turny course map that had your head spinning in circles. Discuss the uphill mile that made you want to vom, or the flat mile that accelerated you past a dozen other racers. (if you use a photo that is copyrighted, make sure to credit its source!).

  6. Discuss what you liked and didn’t like about the race/venue/course/people.
    And don’t just list it as: I liked the popsicles. I didn’t like the bus ride at 4am.
    You’re (probably) not in elementary school. Tell us why! And you don’t need to be mean. If someone was being an extreme butthead, don’t call him (or her) obscenities on your blog with their race number and a description of his car with license plate in parentheses. Since we’ll know what race you did, we could probably stalkernet them to find out who they are and dislike them too. Or maybe realize that we are them, and then its a whole ‘nother can of worms.
  7. Don’t just copy and paste results and call it good.
    Give the reader a little more, or just wait to post. Tabulated lists of results into a blog ends up getting jumbled in formatting, and looks like a secret code to space aliens about the next invasion (it gives me a headache because my eyes are going berzerkers and I am a control freak). If all you have time to do is copy-and-paste the results in your blog, at least make sure it looks ok before you push the publish button. Use the format buttons again (b, i, or u) and make it somewhat aesthetically pleasing.
  8. Preview it!
    Is it something you’d want to read? Are there photos? Readers LOVE photos. But photos aren’t always necessary, especially if the story is good and the narrative is engulfing (like the Rappstar in Ironland post).
    Is your report one giant paragraph, or can people skip around if they get bored about reading your minute-by-minute dialogue of your first 50mile run?
    Is there meat to your report, or are you just regurgitating your race day? (eg: a bad report is similar to- “I ate this at 12min 30sec. I ate that at 30 min 20 sec. I passed a dude at mile 20. The end.”)

What’s your favorite race report you’ve read recently?

Salt Lake City Marathon Race Review

Temperature: 49F at the start, 63F at the finish
Weather: Sunny, 0-6mph winds (calm)
Participants: 5733 half marathoners and marathoners (71 of which were early starters, taking off at 6:15am)

Saturday – Expo: The expo was big and easy to find, although finding parking was a little tricky. Erik did hot laps around the block until we were done getting our race packets. The race shirts are nice, technical short sleeves that are fitted. I got a kid’s sized shirt which I appreciated. The rest of our race packet was lacking in the free-goodies-area, which some people count as a big factor for race quality. I didn’t care too much, but I could have done without all the flyers (I didn’t really look at them; I just threw them away).

Night-before meal: Gluten free Annie’s Mac and Cheese! Lots of Nuun to make sure the altitude didn’t effect me much.

Sunday- Start time: 7am.

Pre-race fuel: Couple handfuls of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, and then one scoop First Endurance PreRace and 1scoop EFS (Grape) in 20 ounces of water ~45min before start.

Baberaham and I drove Marc’s truck to the U and parked in an engineering lot, about 200yds from the start line. We were right next to a porta potty, which was awesome because there were no long lines (it was like our ‘secret’ spot). We headed over to the start area around 6:30 to drop off our gear bags and make one last porta-potty-stop, but the lines were tremendously long for the loo. I waited in line while Baberaham dropped off both our bags, and when he returned I hadn’t made any progress on the loo-line-advancement. So, without further hesitation, we headed for a tree on the far side of the field.

We made our way with 12minutes to the start The race start was crowded, but it was our own fault for not starting a bit closer to the starting line. We walked to get across the mats and our first mile was a lot of weaving in and out of people run/walking. I expected this, because the race was a half marathon/full marathon start, but I didn’t want to lose Adam along the way. Luckily, he tucked in well behind me as we made our way through the crowds.

The course was beautiful. The Wasatch mountains were seemingly always on the horizon, and the sun was only directly ahead of us for a few miles. We ran through a few parks, including the Sugarhouse Park (from the photo below) and Liberty Park.

Unfortunately, the race route layout was not the best. At mile 5, the marathon and half split, and I felt relieved because we were no longer involved in the R.R.C.F. that was nearly 6,000 runners. I followed the other marathoners through beautiful Sugarhouse Park for a mile or two, but then I saw the stream of half marathoners ahead. We reconnected with the rest of the runners, except instead of being up to pace with the runners we left at the split, we were running with those who were two miles behind us before the split. That brought on a bit of anxiety for me, and I tried to contain it because I didn’t want to be a Negative Nancy with Adam by my side running his first marathon. We weaved our way once again through the runners, and then split off again for good. Once we were alone on the course, it was smooth sailing… until the last 3 or 4 miles…

I was glad I brought along a bottle of EFS Liquid Shot (found it at the Canyon Bicycles) on the race, as this served as my only nutrition aside from an orange slice around mile 19. It fit great in one of my Lucy Propel Run Skort pockets (and my inhaler fit in the other pocket). I finished my entire flask of Liquid Shot before mile 18, and was a little worried that the lack of food along the course would cause me energy-issues. I had Powerade at one of the aid stations around mile 18, but this made my stomach want to turn a little, so I continued drinking water. Luckily, I didn’t feel any bonk, and actually picked up the pace quite a bit toward the end, even with the uphill near the finish. This was probably the first marathon I have ever done where I felt great at the end, energy-wise and biomechanically. I think part of my good-feeling groove came from my caffeination boost with Pre-Race and my sustained energy with Liquid Shot. Running a 30-miler a few weeks before the marathon helped, too. I think I have my nutrition dialed now, at least it seemed like it on race day.

The solid-food nutrition provided by the race was pretty bleak. There were no gels, oranges, or any food available for the half or full marathoners. Some spectators had set up their own tables with oranges and other nutrition (including TEQUILA! at mile 20!), but the solid-food nutrition provided by the race was nil. Marc wanted orange slices. I have to admit, I wanted orange slices, too.

The race finish was crowded. I was disappointed that the half marathon walkers were finishing when the marathon runners were, especially when I reached the cobblestone street that was 6-8ft wide. There was a lot of leaping and maneuvering that was not necessary if the finish chute were only a few yards wider.

It would have helped if the half and the full had pacers, or at least corrals where folks could start with others who are running the same pace. Also, the first half marathon/marathon split should be removed. That was a pain because it was too crowded when we reconnected, and we were running with people much slower pace than we wanted to be running with. So we had to re-weave our way through the slower crowds; very much a pain.

Gear bag retrieval was quite a pain in the neck for a lot of people. Half marathoners were in a really long line, but Baberaham and I cut in without anyone noticing and grabbed our bags from along the railing within fifteen minutes. The bags were apparently all dumped together, half and full racers, so the organization was a little difficult. Plus they organized bags based on last name, and we didn’t put our last name on our bags (only race numbers), so the volunteers couldn’t organize them. Fortunately, not many people put just their numbers on their bags, so riffling through other bags to find ours was not difficult.

Trax was closed, so Marc and Sarah had a difficult time getting back to their car to come back to get us. We didn’t plan that out very well. We should have parked one car at the finish, and one car at the start, that way it wouldn’t have been such a shit-show to get home afterward.

All in all, it was a good race with a beautiful course and lots of racers. I didn’t really like how the start was organized (or lacked organization, I guess). Salt Lake City was not my favorite marathon I’ve done, but it has a lot of potential to improve. This was its 7th year. It is tricky, because I thought- organization-wise- the race was fairly great. There were plenty of aid stations, volunteers, and helpers at the finish line. It was the course layout and quality of aid stations that was poor. I saw so many people wearing hydration packs and I know why now (not that I thought I needed to carry 50ounces of fluid).

What I wore: Saucony ProGrid Guide 3’s, Saucony Women’s Speed Short Sleeve (and Speed long sleeve that was shedded in the first mile!), Patagonia Active Sport High Impact bra, and Lucy Activewear Propel Run Skort

The Hamsterwheel Marathon: Race Report

One of the beneficial things about running a treadmill marathon is: the starting line is waiting for you to press “start”. I definitely missed my mark this morning, waking up with the sun peaking through my curtains and thinking: “SH!OOTAH!” I looked at my alarm clock and it read 8:15. Good thing it was supposed to go off at 6:45am so I could have my morning cupa brew with peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast because I was supposed to meet Marg and Erik at 7:30. Crap. I was still able to grab a cup of coffee while flying out the door, but missed the toast.

After a good panic-mode gear-up, Baberaham and I got in the car and headed to the SDC. Belts were moving for him and I by 8:40am, and Erik and Marg were already a good 4-5 miles ahead of me. The cool thing? We all got to still run side-by-side, even though they were so far ahead. Marg’s plan wasn’t to run the full marathon, but she was gonna give’r until she felt like not givin’r anymore. Erik- he wanted to shoot for a sub 3hr marathon pace to see if he was where he wanted to be in his training. Baberaham wanted to get in a long run. My personal goal: Run 26.2miles on the ‘mill. Time? Not important. Just stay steady, and increase my pace every hour or so.


Once I got moving, I tried to collect myself from the late-start anxiety by listening to an hour of Alexi Murdoch’s album “Time Without Consequence.” It helped me find my center and I got through the first 7.1 miles like a breeze. The treadmills all auto-stop after 60mins, giving us all a break on the hour to restart the speed.

Round 2- 5.8 miles, with some faster music on my ears.


Round 3- 7.4miles- slightly faster pace and faster music, and I caved and turned on the television (Geronimo was on AMC). Marg left after she finished around 18miles, a pretty gnarly job. Erik also stepped off the belt around 24miles, but was on pace for a 2:47marathon, and thought: what’s really the point of pushing it those last two miles in a training run?

Round 4 – last 6miles, faster pace yet (with a few miles between 7:15-7:30) and the last two miles were a slowed, cool down if-you-will. I got a little nervous that I might get booted from the Fitness Center because I was in there before it officially opened, but no one seemed to care. My headphones came off (intentionally) with two miles to go because I was over the feeling of having buds in my ears. I also started craving the bubbly, sweet nectar of beer. Baberaham promised me I could drink some, once I finished the run, and we went home. Talk about motivation! I hit 26.2miles at 3:36, total time, with a bathroom break and the stops between treadmill restarts.


How I felt: Not too shabby, actually. The first hour went by fast, and the second hour as well. It wasn’t until the last two miles that I thought: “OK, I’m ready to be done.” In the last 10K, I felt better and wanted to push the pace a little more. I wanted to be tired when I was done but not over-taxed. And I wasn’t over-taxed. Baberaham and Erik chilled out until I finished and cheered me on in the last few miles, which was nice. I feel good now, minus some muscle soreness which is expected (and really not anything more than I normally get after a long Sunday run). I think some Trigger Point this evening will get rid of all that.

Necessary items: hand towel for wiping the sweat off my face, Headsweats visor, two chilled-over-night water bottles, fully loaded and fully charged iPod, phone (for the calculator function, of course, so I could keep track of miles; the ‘mill autorestarts after 60minutes!), snacks (including Honey Stinger chews and EFS liquid shot).

Wanna do one, too? Try this:

  1. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area. If the treadmill-room is small, make sure you get a fan blowing air on you.
  2. Treat it like a race-day.
    • Get a good night’s sleep.
    • Eat a decent dinner the night before.
    • Test your race-day nutrition like you would follow for a race.
  3. Talk some friends into doing it, too! (helped me stay motivated, fo sho!) —>
  4. Get new music or a new podcast (something that will be enticing to listen to since you’ve never heard it before).
  5. Set up your station (make sure your nutrition is easy-access, one of the benefits of running on the treadmill. Start the run in an organized fashion and plan when you’re going to eat/drink).

Nutrition: Pre-run, I had a homemade fruit and nut bar (dates, almonds, cocoa nibs and cocoa powder) and a cup of Blue Ox Blend. In the first hour of the run, I had a pack of Honey Stinger chews and 3/4th a bottle of Kona Kola Nuun. Hour two: the rest of the Nuun and 1/4 bottle of Grape EFS, another pack of Honey Stinger chews and a few sips off my flask of EFS Liquid Shot (or what I refer to as frosting. So. good.). In the third hour, I had another half bottle of the EFS, went through half the EFS Liquid Shot flask. Last 40ish minutes, the rest of the EFS and chugged another bottle of water when I finished.

How I feel: Mood: I felt quite elated at mile 22, almost euphoric. The whole run just flew by, which is suprising since I was confined to a very finite space. Body: My legs are a little sore, and sitting for an hour means it takes a few minutes to get used to standing up. But I don’t feel like I normally do after running this distance.

Recovery nutrition: I had a glass of Nuun when I got home (because I was so frekkin’ thirsty!) and a bowl of falafel with sauerkraut. I am pretty sure I am allowed to eat whatever I want after a run like that, right? I just made myself an Ultragen shake (orange creamsicle) with peanut butter and milk. Bottoms up! (Don’t worry, the beer will be coming soon…)