Friday, August 22, 2014

Clawing my way up the podium......General Smallwood International Triathlon race report

Since committing to the Beach2Battleship half, I had about 18 weeks to get back into shape. I screwed around for a few weeks, then at 15 weeks to go started to get a little more serious. I came into General Smallwood International as a kind of tune-up race for B2B--the first 5 weeks of "15 weeks to go!", but still 10 weeks from the half. From here on out I have a few road running races to fill in the gaps: a 10-miler (this coming Sunday), a half marathon, and a marathon-that-may-be-just-a-half-marathon.

That 5-week block leading up to the race started out brilliantly! As my last post indicated, I was hitting the highest volume I have in a while...but it kind of petered out by the time it was General Smallwood race week. (For the number nerds, weekly volume = 12:30, 11:35, 9:15, 6:15, and a paltry 5:45 by race week, which included the race! Oops.) I'm still learning that I don't recover as well as I used to, and my body reminds me the whole "stress is stress" concept as I work longer hours, try to train more, and don't sleep enough. It all came to a head the weekend before the race, when I woke up feeling extremely fatigued with a small cold (coincidentally or not, two days after swimming in the Potomac River for a happy hour open water swim??). I ended up sleeping all day and taking the next several days VERY easy. We'll call it a forced taper, especially since I'm a fan of the 2-day taper when I'm feeling healthy!

It's all fun and smiles until you wake up sick two days later!

Even though I wasn't training as much as I should've or could've in those last 2 weeks, I did focus more on eating better and drinking less (teehee). This was motivated by a huge cold sore that broke out on my lip after the second weekend of Team Fat Kidz cupcake tasting. We'll call it "Cupcake Herpes". It freaked me out enough that I cleaned up my eating quite a bit and by race day I was not only feeling better (not sick any more) but definitely fitter and skinnier. I'm about 5 pounds down from when I raced at Rock Hall 2.5 months prior, the last triathlon I did, and my work pants definitely are getting loose.

red eyes and sleepy eyes!
Transition selfie!

Carmen, my partner-in-crime/neighbor/emergency contact on my RoadID, and I had both signed up for both B2B and General Smallwood, so this would be our first time racing together. Our other neighbor/running partner Hiza drove us all, with Kevin crammed in the front seat fast asleep. The cool part about General Smallwood is that it's close enough (an hour's drive) that we didn't have to travel far and get a hotel, unfortunately that meant a really early wake-up time: up at 3:30am to be on the road by 4:30am, to get to the race by 5:30am, to get our registration packets and set up for a 7am race start. Ungodly early!

Kevin lends a helping hand.

The swim course was changed from a big triangle to two out-and-back loops. We've had surprisingly cool weather for our DC summer and the forecast was in the 60's for air temperature. The night before we also got the surprise of a wetsuit-legal swim! I'm glad Carmen told me, because I wasn't planning to bring it. After we zipped each other up, we were off in the second wave.

I felt like I had a strong start, and then settled in the last 3/4 of the swim behind another woman who I thought was stronger than me (she passed me at some point, so she must be faster, right?). I drafted behind her to "conserve energy" for probably 75% of the race, which in hindsight was probably a terrible decision. I would hit her feet many times and wasn't really breathing hard. By the last stretch I finally made the pass, but it was too little, too late. It ended up being another 30-minute swim (OUCH) which is way too slow for an Olympic distance race! I also realized that I should be breathing really hard the whole way for an Olympic effort, which is what I do on the bike and run, but I just need to snap out of the "lazy swimmer" mentality. I know my swim fitness still needs improvement (I've been swimming consistently twice per week but need to make the leap to 3 and start going to a coached practice once a week), so I blame that for 50% of my slow swim, and the other 50% on bad strategy and execution.

I decided to go with an aero helmet this time, since I was trying to go faster and the forecast was pretty mild. I forgot my sunglasses in my backpack, but it wasn't very sunny and I do enough fumbling around trying to get my aero helmet on. I wriggled out of the wetsuit and took a few swigs of Red Bull--my nutrition plan for an Olympic is a bit haphazard because I'm in the "Gatorade only" camp for short races. (Although for the half I am leaning towards the trusty ole Hello Panda and Frappuccino Camelbak strategy from the Ironman days.) I recenty purchased one of those big Speedfil tanks and filled it up about 3/4 of the way (30-ish ounces) so I'd be testing it out. Kevin yelled that I was about 10th woman out of the water, maybe 5 minutes back, and it was game on!

Where's the ref? This other guy is mounting before the MOUNT LINE!

Onto the bike and I felt stronger than Rock Hall already. I had adjusted my bike position after that race, as I had a relatively slack position and didn't feel powerful at all then. My seat has since been moved up 1/4" and the cockpit has gone down two spacers. I'm still on just three bike rides per week--two indoor trainer rides (one easy-ish, one Sufferfest) and a longer outdoor ride. I always intend to add a 30-minute transition run but can't say I've done it recently. I started out going smooth and steady, ticking off other riders and counting the women I passed. (But not out loud. That's fun, but rude.)

I was going fairly hard and strong up to mile 16, and must've gotten complacent and dozed off, when I got re-passed by two riders (one of them a woman!), and woke back up. Hello, this is an Olympic effort! I threw the hammer down and by the end of the bike ended up passing 8 women. So was I in second place yet? Am I winning yet?

The fun part about wearing an aero helmet and sipping from the straw in my new hydration system is that the helmet obscured my vision as I leaned down low for a drink. I'd only be able to see two feet in front of me. Good thing it was not a crowded course!

I was in and out of transition under 60 seconds: socks and shoes on, took a couple quick swigs of Red Bull (and had actually finished most of my Gatorade by the end of the bike, good guesstimation!) and grabbed my race belt as I ran out. I realized that I also forgot my visor in my big backpack, d'oh, but it still wasn't too sunny. I'll just have to cope with the helmet hair in my race photos. The race announcer yelled that I was 4th female, and I think 5th and 6th had just come into T2 as I was heading out. Yikes! And nuts, I guess I'm not in 2nd or winning yet!

It was an uphill start out of transition, which I knew whilst finishing the bike on a speedy downhill. I didn't fret and took the first mile easy-ish and steady, acting like it was one of my treadmill tempo sessions I do every other week: I always warm up with an easy first mile, then crank it up for 5 descending miles starting at about 7:20 pace down to sub-7. I've come to learn that the first mile off the bike always feels kind of crappy until your run legs come around, but I was pleasantly surprised that despite the crappy feeling, my legs also felt quick and light. Quick and light but crappy--I know, it's an oxymoron. I didn't wear a GPS watch for this race because I learned my lesson from the Firecracker 5km and didn't want to confuse or frustrate myself. The mile markers and finish line are wherever the race director put them, not what your GPS says.

That said, I was impressed that I hit 6:59 for the first uphill mile. WHAT. That mile marker must be short. Then the next one which was kind of half uphill and half downhill was 5:56. WHAT?! Maybe I am quicker than I thought? The third mile kind of leveled out at a 6:29. Dude, I'm so fast! Getting skinnier in the last 2 months definitely helped, although my race number belt was so loose that it kept spinning around on me.

It was a two-loop course and I actually enjoyed that it was hilly with a mix of pavement and shaded trail. The course wasn't marked too well and a guy way in front of me missed the turn onto the trail. Luckily the guy immediately in front of me hollered at him to come back, just in time for me to not miss the turn too! Toward the end of the loop, there's a section that goes over a bridge by the lake we swam in, but I wasn't sure I was going the right way. (Carmen later said it's because nobody was around me...funny because a couple weeks ago, my advice to a newbie for his first triathlon was "Know the course, because best case scenario is you're leading it!"). At the end of the bridge, the orange cones were back, phew.

I had passed a woman in my AG during the first mile and thought I was passing some other women, but this got confusing on the second loop as there were runners on their first loop. So yes, I passed at least 5 more women on the second loop and of course kept wondering, "Am I winning yet???" That thought was interspersed with "cadence turnover breathe relax cadence turnover breathe relax". That's how I know when I am focused and racing well--when there aren't many wandering thoughts, just cues to keep myself in the zone.

My splits ended up being something like this: 6:58, 5:56, 6:29, 6:44, 7:31 (ouch!), 5:30 (whoa!) and then 4:26 for the last 0.2 miles... now I didn't slow down at the end, so I'm pretty sure the mile markers were off! My average pace ended up being 7:01, which is hilarious because hardly any of my miles were around 7:01.

As it turns out, the 5 women I passed on my second loop were still doing their first loop. Nuts. I ended up taking 3rd overall (WOOHOO!), and the top 2 women were ahead of me from the gun, so I didn't see them at all the entire time. Yeah, embarassingly enough they swam 8 and 6 minutes faster than me...and finished 10 and 4 minutes ahead. Rock stars! They say you can't win the triathlon in the swim, but you can certainly lose it!

Women's overall podium

Overall, I'm really happy with how I did. Fun fact: I'm not sure I've ever gotten on the overall podium at an Olympic distance race! I got the fastest bike split for women and my 10km time I believe is a PR (for standalone 10k's too!). I feel like I'm getting my stride back in terms of fitness and balancing the training with work. Other than when I don't recover and sleep enough, and my body definitely lets me know. But it's all a learning process and I'm a work in progress. Obviously I need to work on my swim, as you shouldn't lose 8 minutes on something that is less than 20% of the race. For the numbers nerds: my bike speed is about where I want it for my B2B goal (2:35 or 21.7mph) and my 10k run pace was 7:01/mile, which is quite faster than my B2B run goal (1:35 or 7:19/mile).

I haven't found a Coke that says "Jocelyn" but was
handed one that said "Legend"--even better!

The reason I bring up those numbers is that I feel my Olympic and half-ironman pace and effort aren't all that different (there's a reason I migrated toward the longer stuff); I feel like I have the endurance training hiding dormant in my system and just need to bring it back out over the next 9 weeks. The speed has always been harder for me to achieve, but now I feel like I have the speed and need to back it up with some endurance. So I know what I need to work on!

Carmen ended up taking 1st in her age group, I was super proud!

Thanks Set-up Events for putting on another great race (yeah, all three of my tris this year will be Set-up Events), thanks Team RWB for hooking me up with great friends and keeping me inspired! Special thanks to Hiza for all the photos and for being designated driver, and of course thanks Kevin for being my #1 support crew!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

July in a blur

Oh, hello, is it August already!? I guess it's already been a month since I last raced (and thus blogged). July went by in a blur. Definitely some highlights and lowlights in the midst of working lots (as usual) while building up my training for the B2B half ironman. Once I committed, I was able to finally hit over 10 hours of training per week! In May, when I was training for an Olympic and feeling wishy-washy, I could only ever hit about 7-8 hours. Recently it's been more like 11-12. Huzzah!

July was marked by Kevin's birthday (high!), Randy's passing (LOW), and Amy's visit (high!).

Kevin's birthday for the second year in a row consisted of his favorites: Shake-n-Bake chicken, Stovetop stuffing, and an Oreo ice cream cake.

What a difference a year makes--his birthday last year was celebrated with just the two of us, when he came home from his B shift (11pm). We didn't have very many (or any?) local friends yet, but since then we've gotten more involved in the local Team RWB chapter and ta-da, lots of cool athletic friends! Kevin has been my rock since I left my "awkward years" in Delaware behind and has always encouraged me to get back into triathloning. He knew I was just in denial about not wanting to do it any more. ;) It's been a fun experience starting the wedding planning process together.

Team RWB shenanigans
Randy, ride in peace, as we've said. Randy was the shop manager at TBB Cyclery (formerly The Bike Boutique before it was rebranded) in Delaware and the first person I met as he picked me up from the Amtrak station. Delaware was meant to be a one-month stopping point in between Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Louisville for me four years ago, somewhere I could train. I was supposed to stay with a random person on Craig's List and Randy wouldn't have any of that. He made a phone call and dropped me off at The Bike Haus...everyone was so welcoming and I was tired of living out of my suitcase at that somehow I was convinced to stay!

This was probably taken during my first day in Delaware, autographing the wall (with my gigantic likeness):

I ended up working with Randy as a shop employee (the pro triathlete ambassador/marketing person) to help get the bike shop off the ground in those early years. I don't even know if we ever had a photo together, as we were usually taking pictures of each other in the bike shop or local cycling events to help promote TBB Wilmington.

Mike Clark ride 2010

Randy passed away from a heart attack while on a bike ride (his favorite activity). A week later, I drove up for the funeral (Monday night) and the memorial ride (the Tuesday night Toscana ride); Monday was tough as his death at age 54 didn't seem real until I was there in the funeral home. I still do the shop's email newsletters (easy to do remotely) and so had been in touch with both Mac and Randy every month, if not more frequently. Randy's last email to me was only 2 weeks prior, and he threw in a brief afterthought "BTW: congrats on your fine finish, the Wongstar is back!" I'm not sure what race he was referring to, so I'll just have to make sure I have "fine finishes" in every race I do from now on!

The Tuesday night ride was amazing--hundreds came out, we had 5 police escorts, and Randy got to lead the ride (his Cervelo was on the lead car). I did get to reconnect with Jen-Z and Super-K at their new Bike Haus as I told them it was only fitting since Randy had dropped me off at their back door step.

Randy "leads" the Toscana ride

That very sad week was perked up by Friday, when Amy flew in from Austin. She's my Maid of Honor so of course we had to kick Kevin out for 24 hours so we could go do super girly stuff, like try on wedding dresses, eat lots of cupcakes and drink wine! It was so good to have her kickstart the wedding planning, I might even hire a teenage electric cello player that we saw playing in Bethesda Row. We ate a lot and trained a lot too--we actually packed quite a bit in the 48 hours she was in town. Best of all, she shamed me into wanting to work on my swim again. That's what real friends do! Quote of the weekend was something like: we're always either training, eating, or digesting--so we can train more or eat more. #TeamFatKidz for life!

Amy's Instagram, I'm not cool enough to have it.

Overall, I think July made me realize that I've been in triathlon denial for a long time. I learned from meeting Randy's family that back in 2010, he too was living a lifelong dream: running his own bike shop. We were both "living the dream" at the same time, he with the bike shop and me as a full-time pro triathlete, sometimes it seemed like it was the blind leading the blind!

ride in peace, Randy!
BUT... he kept at it even when I took my extended break from triathlon. They ended up moving the bike shop location, switching up the hours, and rebranding it as "TBB Cyclery" in order to make it successful. As I drove home, I had an epiphany. Sometimes you have to relocate and rebrand yourself in order to succeed. Heck, I've even "switched up my hours." (Yes, I'm so corny that I made myself a bike shop metaphor.)

I once did a Powerpoint presentation on "how to become a triathlon superstar"

I realized that being a professional triathlete wasn't ever the dream (especially with the ongoing debate on what being a "pro triathlete" really means), and that success for me was never about winning the big prize money and making a living from the sport. All I ever wanted to do was to get faster, see the world, connect to people through triathlon, and enjoy the ride. And there's no reason I can't still do that (and be less stressed out financially) with the direction that life has taken me. I'm finally ready to give up all my hang-ups about being a has-been pro and embrace being a huge trigeek again. Cue the super trendy RoadID I finally bought...and yes, you should totally get one too!

Until August, wait, it's already August--this month will bring another Olympic-distance triathlon, a 10-mile road running race, and perhaps more wedding planning!