Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marble Falls Triathlon

I had never done the Marble Falls Tri before, people always said it was "very hilly" and I just checked it off the list of possibilities. But after riding in and around Marble Falls for the RAAM ride with Annette and Betsy, I thought maybe the MF Tri might actually be fun!

I raced the Couples Tri last weekend and raced Splash & Dash on Tuesday, both are short, but I raced pretty hard at both. I felt great after Couples and S&D, but then on Thursday morning my quads felt super sore! Coach Jen thought it was residual soreness from racing hard, so she suggested I run a little easier at our Thursday night run, and stretch and roll my hamstrings & quads. By Saturday I actually felt fine again! I did my 1:30 ride and 1 mile run with no issues.

Since I had never done this race before and it's an odd distance, I didn't really have any goal times in mind but I figured I should be able to swim about the same pace as I did at Couples, I just wanted to survive the hilly bike- although I kinda thought I might be able to average 15.0 mph, but I knew that might be pushing it on a hilly course I had never ridden before, and I hoped to run under an 11 min/mile pace- but I knew my legs might be fried after the hilly bike and racing twice the week before. My true main goal was to have fun racing with friends and enjoy the day.

I got up at 3:50 on race morning and drove out to Marble Falls, at 3:50 the people who chose to go up on Saturday and spend the night were looking pretty smart! I got a good transition spot, set stuff up (and Kim B. ended up right beside me) and went to say hi to everyone, between Tri Zones and TWCC I had LOTS of friends racing & spectating! At 6:30 I drank my Pre-Race and Linda and Laura joked about the crazy effects it was going to have on me! A few minutes later I found Justin and we went to do a warm up swim, he called the water "bathwater" but I thought it felt good, only problem was, I was freezing when I got out.
Interesting, I look deep in thought, but I could have sworn Kelly and I never stopped talking, but she's behind me and we both aren't talking. Photo by Bart Kleiman.
I went over to the start and found Kelly G. and Kelli H. I talked with them until it was time to get in the water. I probably shouldn't have talked to them so much because I forgot to zero out and restart my stopwatch for the swim. As race director Mario counted down, I pushed a few buttons, but apparently not the right one (this problem could be solved if I actually learned how to use the watch properly!) so I had no idea what my swim time was, and I like to look at my watch during the swim to see how I'm doing. Starting the swim I did not get touched by a single person! We had a big start area and a small wave- nice! It seemed like a LONG way to the first buoy, but then the second one seemed much closer. I did end up getting run into a couple times and I had a tough time getting around a couple breast-stroking guys from the wave before mine, but otherwise my swim went well. As I got close to the boat ramp, I knew it was super slippery so I swam as far up as possible then let the volunteers grab my arm to help me step onto the carpet and avoid the algaefied slippery cement. Swim time was 23:07  for a pace of 2:18 per 100m, just a tiny bit faster than my pace at Couples the weekend before.

I ran up the little hill to T1 and got my stuff together. I felt like I took a long time, but T1 was 2:45- not bad for me.
Starting the bike and waving to Tom. Photo by Tom Marek
I started the bike knowing the first 5 miles or so were pretty much all uphill. I had been really concerned about using Pre-Race for this race because I thought it might make me really upset about being so slow up the hills. But instead I kept thinking to myself "it's ok that your average speed is 10.x right now" and "don't worry about people passing, you need to ride your own race" I guess my Pre-Race focus ended up being on NOT getting too worried about my speed (or lack thereof) on the hills. I turned onto 71 and got some good downhills, but there were still some pretty big uphills too.
I started to think that Cindy and Kim H should pass me soon and just a few minutes later I heard my name and Cindy came by me, then I heard Vickie yelling "YEEEHA"- oh yeah, I forgot that I'd get to see Vickie too, and then Kim H. rode by. At the turn around my average speed had come up to 14.0, hmm I might actually be able to do 15 if I really take advantage of the downhills on 281. My legs were starting to get a little tired on some of the long uphills on 71. I saw Kristen, Katherine & Jody on their way out and cheered for them. Even though it was a challenging ride, I was definitely having FUN! Then I noticed Allison O. was right in front of me! She's a ton faster than me, so how did that happen!?! I was right behind her on a hill, I yelled something at her, she didn't hear me, so I raced up the hill to talk to her, then passed her. Of course she passed me back about 10 seconds later on the downhill. And she yelled to me "keep pedaling, don't stop pedaling on the down!" Yeah Allison, if I hadn't overcooked it passing you on the up, I could have kept pedaling on the down, but I needed a break! Oh well.
I finally made it back to 281 and I was determined to take the downhills as fast as I could and try hard to make it up to 15mph average. It started off great, but I was a little sad when not just 1 but 2 guys over 70 years old passed me! One of them was next to me in transition and when I saw him before the start I told Kim B. he was going to kick my ass! There was quite a bit of traffic coming back on 281, we had a big shoulder so it wasn't bad, and I felt like I was flying downhill! As I rode up to the 2147 intersection, I realized my shoulder was blocked by cement construction barriers and there was a ton of traffic stopped at the light, I slowed down and realized there was definitely not enough space for me to squeeze by the cars on the right (between cars and construction barrier), and there were cars in both lanes, so I stopped behind 6 or 7 cars at the light. I was NOT happy about it because my Pre-Race focus had kinda turned to "bring my average speed to 15 mph" and I was getting really close! And of course this light was on a good downhill, it felt like I stood there forever (probably only about 1 minute), there were a couple cyclists stopped a few cars ahead of me, and as I was standing there I saw a guy fly by in the left turn lane, hmmm that looked pretty dangerous, but at least he was moving! Then the police started waving cars through, as I got to them them I yelled "where am I supposed to be???" They pointed and yelled back "LEFT, LEFT" turns out the bikes were SUPPOSED to use the left turn lane (and stay in that lane all the way til our turn off 281). A sign or volunteer telling us would have been really helpful, turns out most people had the same issue as me. I got over that issue pretty quickly and was happy as I rode to transition and saw Tom, Bart, Linda, Laura, Gina, and Justin who had done the sprint standing there eating BBQ! I finished the bike in 1:33:25 for a pace of 14.8mph, but honestly 15mph was a very arbitrary goal, and I wasn't upset even being so close (and even on Pre-Race!). My main goal of surviving and even enjoying the bike course was definitely a win!

T2 was 2:02  and as I left I ran by the crew again and told Justin "it's not fair that you're finished already!"
Starting the run. Photo by Bart Kleiman
I started the run feeling good, my legs didn't seem to be bothered by the hilly ride or by racing twice in the last week. I saw Allison O. in front of me again and I thought about sprinting to catch her, but I learned my lesson on the bike and decided I needed to run my own race. But I did get to pass both of the over 70 guys who passed me on the bike, I told one of them "wow, I hope I can be as fast as you when I'm 71!" My first mile was 10:04- probably a little too fast for a 4.4 mile run, so I slowed down a little and walked while getting water from the first aid station. I caught Allison and asked how she was doing, and she said she was hurting and having a tough day. I think we all have fun passing friends, especially those we think are a little faster, but knowing they're having a bad race just takes all the fun out of it. I offered her my emergency sport beans, but she didn't want them. I ran on and soon I saw Kim H. she seemed to be having a better day, so it was a little more fun to pass her, especially after she flew by me like I was standing still on the bike. I turned back onto the main road and saw Kelly K. going the opposite direction, then Kristen (who gave me a puke face when I asked if she was having a good race :(, then I saw Katherine who had the biggest smile on her face and replied "I'm having a GREAT race!" when I asked how she was doing- yeah! I also saw Carolyn & Annette on their way out. I really enjoyed the run, it was fun to see so many friends on the course and the volunteers were all really nice and super encouraging! Heading back into the park I passed Tri Zones corner then saw Lynn & Ed, and then up the STEEP hill to the finish with the TWCCers cheering and Tom taking pictures! Run time was 47:39 for a 10:49 pace- a little faster than my pace at Couples!
On the run, just before the steep hill at the finish. Photo by Ed Sparks
Finish line! Notice TWCCers cheering. Photo by Tom Marek
Finish! Photo by Tom Marek

 My overall time was 2:48:56, since this was my first ever Marble Falls Tri (and it's a unique distance) I didn't have an overall time goal, but I'll have one for next year now. My main goal of having fun racing with friends and enjoying the day was a huge success!

I hung out post-race and cheered in the other Tri Zoners and TWCCers, and watched quite a few from both teams get medals for placing in their age groups. Then I went to the famous BlueBonnet Cafe with the TWCCers for lunch and pie, and there might have been wine too (notice the turquoise solo cups!)
Bart, Annette, Katherine, Laura, Linda, me, Anne, Jody, Cindy, Kelly and Kristen at Bluebonnet Cafe post race. Photo by our very nice and patient waitress Stacey.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Couples Tri 2012

Cool finisher medals! Photo by Ed Sparks sparksphoto.smugmug.com
Couples is one of my favorite races. It's a Jack & Adam's/High Five event so it's really well organized and has a super fun atmosphere. The course at Decker Lake is fairly tough, but I kinda like it anyway. I had a pretty tough race at Couples last year since I raced with bronchitis and a sinus infection. I hoped to redeem myself this year. I hadn't raced a tri since February, so I was really excited!

Connie and I Coupled again this year with the same name "Heather & Connie's Excellent Adventure" and we did packet pickup and lunch together again too. We had a great time (maybe better than last year since we actually knew each other this year!).

I went to bed but got woken up by thunderstorms, I knew that might make the bike course wet and slower and it would make the run muddy, I knew my chances of PRing the course might not be very good on a wet course, but I knew I'd still have a fun race so I wasn't too concerned. I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm and got up to check the weather forecast, it said 70% chance of thunderstorms at 7am- oh no! I knew if it was stormy they wouldn't let us swim. I just hoped the forecast was wrong.

I got to Decker early enough to get a sweet parking spot and as soon as I got out of the car, I heard Logan announce "there is no chance of rain until 11am today" hmmm, I hoped he was right! I got my transition area set up with the other Tri Zoners racing in the "female friends" category, then headed to the tent to hang out. I planned to use Pre-Race for this race, I knew it could be really good or really bad. At 7:40 I drank my bottle of Pre-Race. A few minutes later Eva asked what Pre-Race was (I'm sure she was immediately sorry!) I could already feel it coursing through my veins as I jumped up from my chair and animatedly told her some of my crazy Pre-Race stories! **If my experience with Pre-Race today makes you want to try it, PLEASE see the disclaimer at the bottom of this post**

I got down to the swim start too late to do a warm up swim and I really wanted one. I couldn't stand still, I really wanted to get in the water! Finally it was our turn and I got in the water next to Nicki and Kim. The Female Friends wave is usually not very friendly at the swim start and this year was no exception, I swam the first few strokes Tarzan style to try to find some open water, I got kicked, hit and grabbed but nothing hard enough to really hurt. After a minute or 2 I found some space and could really swim, I knew I had to take it a little easy the first couple minutes since I didn't get a warm up swim. But soon I was warmed up and feeling good, around turn buoy 1 and onto the straight section, I took this a little wide to get around a few slower people, maybe I should have just swum over them, oh well. Turn buoy 2 and the home stretch felt the fastest! I crossed the timing mat at 19:03, compared to 18:10 in 2010 (my previous Couples PR, I'm not going to compare to 2011's dismal times), a little slower, but I had a good warm up swim and a great start in 2010.
coming out of the water. Photo by Miguel Ortiz
I hurried through T1 in 3:22 compared to 3:50 in 2010. I could feel the Pre-Race as I fumbled with my bike glove, then took a deep breath and chilled a little. This is actually my fastest T1 ever at Decker.

I rolled my bike to the mount line and waited a few seconds for the people in front  of me to go, so I wouldn't run into them. I hate the mount line, it's always crowded and unpredictable, I'm always afraid of accidents at the mount line. But I got going with no issues and sped down the first little hill. On Decker Lane I passed by Kim H. with a flat, Oh NO!! I've been working hard on my biking this year, so I really hoped to have a good ride. I hoped my Pre-Race focus would be on a fast bike. Turns out my Pre-Race focus was on optimal gearing. (I thought about gearing when I rode Decker with Sandra a couple weeks ago, so I assume that's where that focus came from) I tend to be a lazy shifter and am generally happy to coast down hills. But today, I HAD to have perfect resistance at all times! When I turned onto Lindell my average speed was 17.4 mph- unheard of for me! I got up Little Tard with no drama and as I flew down Blue Bluff, Sandra flew by me- wow she's fast on that new tri bike! I was having a great ride and so much fun! And I don't think I've ever pedaled so much on downhills! As I was working my way up Big Tard feeling super happy with my ride, I felt/saw someone passing me really close, I heard her say my name so I knew it was someone I knew and I didn't need to worry. Just as I looked over to see who it was, Laura reached over and pinched my ass!! haha!! Later she told me that she could hear me laughing as she came up behind me, I don't remember LAUGHING while riding up Big Tard, but I was happy enough that I believe it! Thank you Pre-Race!! I finished the ride in 42:37 compared to 48:02 in 2010, and at a pace of 15.8 mph, my third fastest pace in any tri ever (and at DECKER!)

I rushed through T2 as well in 1:44 compared to 1;51 in 2010. This is also my fastest T2 ever at Decker.

I think I'm trying to wave at Ed here. Photo by Ed Sparks sparksphoto.smugmug.com
I started the run right by Laura, we chatted a little, I told her I had an awesome bike, I assumed she'd get ahead of me since she's a fast runner, but I was keeping up right behind her! I stayed with her almost to the top of powerline hill, then I had to walk for a minute and let her go. I also saw David spectating (while I was walking- sigh), at the top of powerline hill, I ran down the hill and into the woods still feeling good. Mile 1 was 10:44, maybe a little too fast for me on the wood chippy trail at Decker. Mile 2 was slightly slower even with quite a bit of downhill, my legs were starting to feel a little tired. Pre-Race makes me hungry (faster metabolism?) so I probably should have drunk more Infinit on the bike, I only drank about half my bottle. Mile 3 includes that huge hill, I walked most of it- I'm not sure I've ever run the entire thing, but today I walked quite a bit of it, even when I saw Lynn cheering at the top and heard her encouraging me to run! But I got to the top and was able to pick it up and run well on the flat into the finish. Run time was 34:42 compared to 37:20 in 2010. Under 11 minute miles at Decker! I'm blaming that on Newton running shoes instead of Pre-Race!
Finish Line!! Photo by Ed Sparks sparksphoto.smugmug.com
Overall time was 1:41:31 compared to 1:49:14 in 2010, a PR by 7:43!!

After finishing I went back to the big hill and hung out with Lynn, then ran in with Connie so we could finish as a team, hopefully Liz got a good picture :)
Even if Liz (official race photographer) didn't get a good picture, at least Ed did! Thanks Ed! Photo by Ed Sparks sparksphoto.smugmug.com
For all my concern about the weather, it was actually a beautiful day for a race! The bike course was dry and the run course wasn't really muddy at all!

As always, post-race at Couples was a lot of fun! I think my favorite moment was when I heard my name, I turned and saw some brunette I didn't know, but then I did a double take- it was Kim H. in a brunette wig! and Eva had a blonde one! Legally Blonde & Brunette wore backwards wigs post-race!

Thanks for being such a great Couples partner again Connie!!

**Pre-Race Disclaimer- Pre-Race is a supplement by First Endurance, it is completely legal but it is very powerful. It contains caffeine-which really affects me- and other interesting stuff that does things like "increase mental focus" which sounds great, and it is when you can focus on the right thing. I have had some great experiences with Pre-Race, and some really miserable experiences with it! For me, I don't necessarily get to choose what I will focus on, but Pre-Race definitely makes me focus on something! When it's the right thing- it's great, but when it's the wrong thing it's pretty awful! If you choose to try it, please try it in training a few times before racing on it and please start with just half a scoop! The scoop is tiny, but a little goes a LONG way!! Obviously it affects different people differently, and it REALLY affects me, just ask those who hung around me today!