Planning Your 2014 Season?

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I feel like this is the time of year that a lot of people start looking to fatten up the rest of their race season. While I already have my biggies locked down, I'm also starting to think about what other races I want to do – whether as a tune-up, to visit some of my favorite friends and triathletes across the country or just for an excuse to visit a certain location. As a lot of you probably know, I have a lot of experience with the Rev3 race series and these are my “go tos” when it comes to filling out the season. You can check out the full list here but the races below are the ones I’ve been lucky enough to experience myself over the past few years.

This year I’m hoping to be at Knoxville, Quassy, Anderson and Florida this year but can easily speak to any of the other races! Happy to answer any questions but all come highly recommended! Making the short list, Wisconsin, Florida and Knoxville are probably three of my all-time favorite triathlons ever.

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Rev3 Knoxville

Olympic, Half, Championship - May, 18th 2014

Race Report Here, Register Here

My first Rev3 experience and 2014 would have been year number three in a row if not for breaking my collarbone last year. Yes, there’s the extra special championship for the Rev3 AG series that I’ll be racing in, but there’s still the original Olympic and Half bread-and-butter distances for folks who didn't get the chance to qualify. The swim is a chilly (usually) wetsuit legal river swim that loops under the Henley Street Bridge smack in downtown Knoxville. The bike is a fun and beautiful course that takes you through the back hills of Knoxville and then the run is a flat and fast one.

Rev3 Williamsburg

Olympic, Half - June 15, 2014

Race Report Here, Register Here

I LOVED this course when I raced the Olympic last year. I didn’t notice the strong current from the rains the night before, bombed down through the (seemingly all-downhill) bike course and was definitely challenged by the big hill on the back half of the run. Last year there were a few small glitches from it being an inaugural races but the chatter is that Rev3 is doubling down efforts to make Williamsburg shine since it’s a bit of a “backyard” race for the Virginia-based company. Rev3 already offered discounts to some folks who raced last year, is planning to totally modify the swim course (despite the fact that the 2013 current was a bit of a fluke due to the massive storm the night before) and move the expo, T2 and finish line to a completely new location. It basically sounds like they’re keeping all of my favorite parts of the race and making a few logistical changes that will make for an even better, flawless event! Plus you're in downtown Williamsburg and right in William & Mary's backyard.

Rev3 Wisconsin

Olympic, Half - June 22nd, 2014

Race Report Here, Register Here

My first overall win back in 2012! First off, the swim venue is the absolute best: everyone congregates in the open air amphitheater that overlooks a boat show course. The bike was a fun course with a bit of a roller-coaster feel to it: lots of ups and downs and no true grueling climbs. The run then takes you through parts of the Wisconsin Dells, which (I was originally unaware of) is a massive waterpark town. Seriously, it’s like a kid’s summer dream… then you’re right in the vicinity of Devil’s Lake, which is beautiful and a great post-race place to explore. The only thing I could not get on board with was the German-themed brotworst at the post-race food tent... ;)

Rev3 Anderson

Olympic, Half - October 12th, 2014

Race Report Here, Register Here

This is probably one of the best races in the Carolina regions that you can ask for! My own experience was not a great one since I was in the middle of a tough three races over four weeks in a row stint and had a personal crisis/near-death-in-the-family the day before the race... but my flukey experience aside, it’s a great one-lap swim venue, hilly but fair bike course and gentle rolling run course. I know it ranks up there with some of the other Rev3 team member's favorite courses.

Rev3 Florida

Olympic, Half - November 9th, 2014

Race Report Here, Register Here

Up there as one of my all-time favorite races! I even raced the inaugural year when the swim was cancelled due to a passing hurricane and still had a blast doing only 2/3 of the course. Flat, fast fast fast and through small-town Florida with parts of the bike and run alongside some great coastal views makes for a great experience. On the run course, I even saw a pair of manatees swimming side by side as we ran along a waterway. The older (aka retiree) volunteers are also super sweet and make for amazing on-course cheerleaders! The best part is it’s late season and right on the beach so you really get the vacation feel, even though it’s a race weekend.

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Lastly, I haven’t done it yet but am planning on racing Quassy in June – mainly to get a taste of the infamous hills that everyone talks about – and have heard great things about the plans for the new Morgantown and Pocono Mountain races!

Branson: Misery in Missouri

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Currently nursing the worst hangover I’ve had in all of 2013… and that’s without touching a drop of alcohol. I don’t know whether to blame today's dehydration on my big fat F in nutrition on the bike yesterday or not wanting to over-hydrate for a hundred bathroom stops on my ten hour drive home from Branson yesterday afternoon, but either way it’s certainly terrible. The good thing is that while my overall body feels pretty crummy, my legs don’t feel too shot! I don’t know whether that’s testament to a speedy recovery or not going hard enough yesterday but either way it certainly gives me peace of mind with Kona three weeks out on the race horizon. 20130925-164059.jpg

I went into yesterday a bit ambivalent: I wanted to race, I had the green light to race and race hard and no better place to do it than with Rev3 on this notoriously brutal course. Check out the pro recap:

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However, despite my faith in my training and my coach’s plan, I had no fewer than five separate random people warn me that I was going to give myself dead legs by racing so close to Kona. I shouldn’t have paid attention to them (I mean, look at what Maik Twelsiek managed with back to back podiums at hilly Wisco and Tahoe… and he just so happens to be married to my coach!) That being said, that chatter in the back of my head was not healthy going into race day and bottom line, I just wasn’t focused enough or wise enough to tune it out.

Race morning I said goodbye to Maggs (racing the Olympic) and Moose and drove down to the start to drop things off at T1 and then board the ducks that would take us the 20-minutes up the hill to T2 at Moonshine Beach. The only bad thing about this set-up is that it means you can’t bring your phone with you to T1 unless you want to leave it in the dry clothes bag – so I didn’t have a camera to capture the absolutely stunning sight of the sun rising over Lake Table Rock and mist rising off of the nearly 80-degree water.

After some warming up and watching the pro men and women take off, our wave started shortly after. It was a running start to the beach, some dolphin dives and then we were off! For some reason I got a men’s orange cap instead of the blue the girls got but makes me stand out (front right of the group)!

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I swam on the feet of a pack of four or so other swimmers, including two speedy aquabikers, for probably the first third of the course until I lost them and had to zag myself back to the buoy line. With the fog rising over the water, it was hard to sight at times but thankfully it was a pretty straightforward course – except for some reason the second far buoy seemed to have a weird angle coming back into the shore: as a result I went a little too wide, couldn’t find the next buoy and had to pop up and tread water for a few seconds until I saw the pack (still mostly together!) steam by me.

Head down, I pushed hard and managed to swim up alongside them and past them with a push toward the finish. As I got out of the water I beeped my watch – 29:52! First female! – and while the Rev3 time was longer (probably because the mats were closer to T1), I’m TOTALLY counting that as my first sub-30 swim. All of that pesky band work is finally starting to pay off!

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Onto the bike and from the first few seconds I knew I regretted not wearing gloves and toe warmers. Maybe I’m a wimp but the swim would be the last time I could feel my feet and hands until the very last parts of the bike. Going into the bike, I knew I wouldn’t have my powermeter (silly quarq has been acting up) but had no idea how much racing “blind” and chilly would affect me. I like to think I know my body and my efforts but right away felt clueless about how hard I was working and the first five or so miles are an uphill climb with a few rollers before the route spits you out onto the famous (infamous?) Branson highway, closed to bikes only during the entire race.

It was during the climb out of transition that things went from unpleasant to worse when in a small glimmering moment my quarq decided to send watts to my watch. In a moment of not thinking but wanting to get a correct average reading, I lapped my garmin. Whoops. Immediately I went into “transition” – I had forgotten that I was racing in multisport mode and that the lap button sent me to the next discipline. I spent the next minute fiddling with my watch to reset it and get it back into bike mode – though the only reading I was getting was distance and mph, which was pretty meaningless given the brutal hills we were up against.

Photo courtesy of Eric Wynn, from Rev3's facebook page:

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And they were brutal, long and grinding and I saw at least 4 people having to walk their bikes up at least two different climbs. The views were beautiful,  particularly one stretch of highway where the road splits and one is at a higher elevation than the other: you could look up or down across the way and see the other riders in the other direction. Once crawling up each incline, you then got to bomb down it, and I probably went a little faster than I would have liked in a few occasions, topping out at nearly 47mph on one sweeping downhill.

But with my cold hands and the wind whipping past on the descents, I was having trouble feeling my hands and gripping on and as a result, I probably spun up a few more hills staying aero and not getting out of my seat than I should have. It wasn’t until lap two when I really started to find my legs and start to push up the hills more aggressively, honey badger style (watching MBE ride is pretty insane - she's my bad-ass biker inspiration).

Cold hands and the descents also meant that I was being a pansy about taking in nutrition. I ended up about 500-calories short of where I should have been and only managed to take in just over two bottles. This was totally my fault. Of all the things you get control over, nutrition is a biggie and I blew it… again, take notes on “what not to do.” :)

At one point, the pro men came riding by me, in their staggered position. It was a large group of 6 or 7 and it was crazy to see the little song and dance they have to do as everyone was constantly shuffling positions and moving around to stay legal. They blew up the climb like it was nothing and took the off-ramp back toward T2 and the run course.

Once you take the ramp, you get to a curious part of the bike course. I’m sure some had fun with it but I’ll be honest and say that I was not a fan. After riding down through some pretty winding smaller roads, you get to switchback city where there are some turn-arounds and then you’re on essentially a side-walk. I love you, Rev3, but this was tough to navigate and my race mentality dropped to about zero here. It’s a no pass zone but it goes on for a good mile or mile-and-a-half and felt longer. I also went through here hating life because this had just happened moments prior:

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My flat kit unvelcro-ed itself from my seat and fell off. I was right by a race official and it’s like $40 of tools so I pulled over, ran the 10-yards back to grab it, stuffed it down my shirt and rode on. Of course this also happened right before a hill so I got the joy of trying to get up that sucker from a standstill. Not a happy camper at all.

I came into T2 not knowing my time because of the watch snafu but knowing that it was SLOOOOW. I went into this knowing from previous years’ results that it was going to be a slow split but I had never expected to be so far out on this side of 3-hours at a glacial (for me) 3:06. I harrumphed through transition and bolted out of there.

I was weirdly excited for the run, most likely because it was a fast and flat course and “at least I didn’t have to run a marathon!” And even though I was ticking away from pretty speedy splits on the first lap, I was having a blast. I liked this run as the three loop course took you through the town shopping center (with the aromatic ice cream shop that I nearly puked at the 3x I passed it) so you have plenty of participants, then down through some winding parts of a neighborhood and cute little neighborhood and then back along the river. My favorite part was running next to the water because a bit of a breeze over the cold water had a nice chilling effect. The only bad part about the 3-loops was that twice you had to run next to the finish line and hear Sean cheering the finishers in, before having to head back out on another loop.

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At some point in lap one, a pro passed me and I enjoyed the pace she was running so tagged along, keeping her in my sight, for about two miles. From there it was waving at people, the guy running in the police uniform, a Rev3 volunteer I thought was Sharpie, the real Sharpie, the owners of the dog/bear/wolf, photographers, you name it. Looking back, I had way too much fun out here on the run after the miserable time I had on the bike.

The last two miles I saw Summer at the final turn-around and realized I had chipped into a teeny bit of her lead and figured I might as well go for it and see what happens. I never got close but did run my last mile in 7:01… whoops! Probably should have paced a bit better earlier on but happy to only be 2-minutes off my previous HIM PR given the brutal bike and my mental state for most of the race. At the finish was so happy to be done and jumped like a spaz through the finish line in front of the awesome fountain backdrop.

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But overall a good day and so happy to go 1-2 with Summer for a Rev3-filled podium! Nearly eleven hours later, I rolled into Austin around 2am. I could NOT have been happier to be home and crash in bed. Two weeks to Hawaii, three weeks to Kona!

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Branson-Bound!

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Race weekend is here!! Tomorrow after work, I’ll be making the 9-hour drive up to Branson so if anyone along the open roads of Texas, Arkansas or Missouri sees a teeny blue convertible and QR passing by them – mostly likely 10+ above the speed limit… I have a problem – honk and wave! Image 35

In other news, this training business is hard stuff, y’all.

At this point in the days leading up to Tremblant, it was still mostly sunshine and roses. The second time around has involved significantly more trips down struggle street – physically and mentally. The good news is that it’s not that I just didn’t recover from MT or that I’m fading in the back half of the season but that the workouts really are getting tougher.

That’s the bad news about putting down a solid performance- you get harder targets. Post-race, I went back to do one of my more regular workouts, one where Hillary assigns a set pace to stick to on the treadmill for various intervals. Even though I couldn’t remember the pre-MT numbers, I knew from the first few steps that things just got significantly more serious. I emailed her after and her response was that I earned myself the paces for “someone who runs a 3:30 IM marathon”… blessing and a curse. : )

Luckily I have plenty of beautiful places to train, like Austin's many odd-length pools. 33-yards, what? As if counting laps in the fog of IM training wasn't hard enough, you mean I now have to do math? I think I ended up doing a bonus 700 yds on this set.

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To say I was going into Branson a bit nervous would be putting it lightly. We’ve had a bit of a taper but things are very much full steam ahead to Kona otherwise. Coming out of Branson, I’m mainly worried about recovery. Right now the Kona count is at 23 days, and I ship off to the big island in 15. It doesn't help that a friend and fellow athlete going to Kona has been posting terrifying quotes from some documentary or article to twitter every 10 days, with gems such as:

“Survive the toughest swim start in the world, and find space...let the body do what it is trained to do. Still 140 miles to go.” 45 days.

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“The ‘ho’omumuku’ crosswinds come in violent, unpredictable gusts. Brute 60-mph punches routinely blow riders clear off bikes.” 30 days.

or

"The Queen K is daunting for those who don't know what the lava fields feel like...haunting for those who have come undone there. 35 days.

While I’m confident that coachie of the infamous back-to-back IMs knows what she’s doing, I’m not taking any risks. I’m bringing the Normatecs to Branson, I’ve been focusing on eating clean, taking my vitamins and drinking my Biotta, and for my birthday last weekend, I partied in a way that would make even the most saintly of nuns yawn. I already have a post-Branson massage on the schedule (a  real treat for me!) and know that coachie is a pro at shaking the dead legs out of my system after a race (why the first thing I did the morning after MT was hop back into Lac Tremblant instead of sleeping in). All I know is that all of this boring today should help translate to one hell of a party come next month!

t-minus 3 days to the Big Hills of Branson!

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.... I guess this was a bit of a me, me, me post (sorry, guys…), just wanted to provide an update on why everything has been crickets around here lately.

Rev3 Williamsburg

The days leading into Williamsburg were, honestly, a little sub-par. It all started when my bike was stolen Thursday evening (granted, it was my wrecked bike but this ridiculous story is still unfolding as my bike is now posted on the local Craigslist…) and then my plans to fly in Saturday early backfired when I ended up with a cancelled flight, sprint through the Detroit airport and lost bags, all courtesy of Delta. Luckily, things worked out, Rev3 was kind enough to let me bring my bike the morning of the race and I managed to get to Williamsburg, handle all of the pre-race prep and grab a quick dinner before getting to the hotel I was sharing with fellow Rev3 and Team HPB-er Alyssa around 9pm (sorry Alyssa!). Flying in the day before a race… NEVER again!

Late flights meant I missed out on quality time with this awesome crew:

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The stress of the day allowed me to conk out quickly and before I knew it, it was time to get up and go. Alyssa and I went through our pre-race prep and then opened the door to head to transition. It was pouring! You almost had to laugh because, well, that was unexpected! Due to bike drop-off, we skipped the shuttles from T2 to T1 and I drove instead, which made the morning incredibly seamless. I brought my bike to the race day mechanics, who did an awesome job and double-checking everything after my hurried bike build the night before – thank you Rev3 for always making sure athletes get what they need on race morning!

When it got closer to race time, we wandered on down to swim start, where you’ve probably heard by now, that racers were wading out pretty far into the James River before even starting to swim. It was a mix of dolphin dives, high knees, walking through the water – as someone mentioned, it looked a bit like a bunch of Zombies heading out to sea in multicolored caps. I was a little nervous with the chop, especially because I’ve never done an ocean swim and that’s what it was looking like out there race morning. I pulled on my Helix, lined up with the crew and then got sent off by awesome announcer Sean English.

Everyone had been talking about the current and how it was pulling folks to one direction but honestly I never noticed anything pushing me off course. What I did noticed was the washing machine-like quality of the waves – probably the best “hydration” I’ve ever managed during a race swim. It took a good amount of time to get used to the up and down of the waves and figure out when to sight, when to breathe, etc. On the back half of the course, I finally got my bearings and pushed through. I was probably one of the few people happy with my times that day – and I think that’s testament to all of the progress I’ve made in the swim in the past few weeks. I got out and then started the grueling run up to T1, making sure to strip off my wetsuit at the start and carry it up.

And here I made the first of two blunders in transition – I didn’t know exactly where I was (I thought I did but clearly didn’t) and then for some reason the rack numbers were not adding up to where I thought I should be. I probably spent a good extra 30 seconds just trying to find where my bike was in transition. There were spectators directing me and I was so out of it I just couldn’t figure out where they were pointing me to! Once I found my bike, I yelled to the crowd, “thanks for helping the dumb blond!!” and laughed and I ran out of T1.

Onto the bike – I made a quick pass of one girl in transition and then in the first mile or so of the bike. Shortly after another rider came screaming by, I believe the woman who went on to win first overall. I spent a significant portion of the race busting a lung trying to keep her in my sight and I think she’s the main reason I went on to have such a blistering bike split! We cut through a good number of the half riders and most of the Olympic and were just flying through the course. I must be jaded by my time in the Texas Hill Country but each turn I kept asking myself, ‘when is this course going to regain all of these downhills?!” It honestly felt like the entire thing was downhill, with maybe 2-3 short punchy hills on the back half that were honestly pretty insignificant.

It was in this back hilly part that I lost contact with the girl I had been chasing, as there were a few technical parts that I wasn’t ready for and wasn’t going to push with the wet pavement and a still-healing collarbone. I slowed down more than I was happy about and kept kicking myself for not leaving enough time to preview the course by car the day before. But I managed to hold my watts even without a rabbit to chase and pedaled into T2, currently in third place overall.

Out on the run, after losing my bearings in transition yet again, I came out at about the same time as the guy I would ended up running most of the run course with – I love the random friendships you make out on the course, especially when it’s a mostly wordless one J Early on we were running side by side and a girl passed me and he told me to “go after her!” My response was “well then, you’re coming with me!” And so we started tailing the girl who had trucked on past. Ultimately she just had more kick then we did and powered up the big hill on the run course and put a sizeable gap ahead of us. I was happy with my run split but definitely lost time getting up the hill and in doing so used up a good bit of energy, meaning that the last two miles were TOUGH. The hill did have a nice out and back so I knew exactly who was in front of me, behind me and how far back I was… meaning that I knew that I was in fourth place and third was just in my sights.

Typical Rev3 has to put something tough or tricky on the run course and this one was the little out and back you had to conquer after passing the finish before you could turn back into the finish. The #3 girl was just in my sights and clearly fading but I just did not have the final push to catch up and make the pass. I came into the finish happy to be done and WIPED!

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New 2:18 PR and 4th overall is something I’m happy with but still think that smarter decisions and planning in the days leading up to the race and in scoping out the course, transition, etc. could have left me closer to the 2:15 range and 3rd place. I’m learning more and more as I get faster and more practice under my belt, that the little things matter more and more. I love this course, loved the medal and hope to come back next year to go even faster!

This Season & Rev3 Knox

The biggest bummer about my broken collarbone is having to cancel travel plans for races where I know I'll still be sidelined for recovery. I went to the doctor this morning and right now the initial prognosis is no running for six-to-eight-weeks and no swimming for something terrifying like three months. I was okay canceling Texas 70.3 (and, somewhat surprisingly, WTC was quick to give me the $75 max refund out of my initial $175); however, it killed me to change travel plans for Rev3 Knoxville.

You see, this is one of my favorite Rev3 races and was going to be the first time in several months after the summit to see all of my Rev3 team peeps. To top all of that off, it is also currently scheduled for CINCO de MAYO! Last year there was a big party in Knoxville's little downtown area and I was so bummed to be passing on the tequila, chips and salsa-dancing since I was resting up for the next day. This year, however, I was planning on heading straight there after finishing to get a (well-earned) post-race margarita.

It's also the site for the 2014 Rev3 Championships and since one of my main goals for this year is to qualify for next year's championship, getting to earn points toward the race AND essentially get in a practice run for the big race in 2014 was going to be huge. 

Bummer bummer bummer.

I've had some people ask me about Knoxville (probably after hearing about Rev3's little championship plans), and since I'm not racing and don't have to worry about you beating me, I thought I'd share a few insights from racing Knoxville last year:

The Race Report: "Holy Hills"

My Knox Secrets:

  • Go to the practice swim - it's a little bit chilly in the Tennessee River so you'll want to mentally prepare yourself at the practice swim the day before. Definitely not cold enough to take your breath away and definitely not the coldest swim I've ever done (not even close) but enough where you'll want to test it out to avoid any surprises/shock when you hop in on race morning.
  • Wear Tinted Goggles: I remember swimming a bit into the sun/glare as the sun was coming up last year. I'd recommend wearing goggles with a bit of a tint to make sure you're still sighting well come race morning.
  • The bike is HILLY! Fun hilly but there are definitely two grueling climbs that stick out in my mind. Be patient with these and don't try to blow yourself out on the first part of the climb because they go on for quite some time. If you are a stronger biker, you will LOVE LOVE LOVE this course. I did :)
  • The run is mostly flat except for a nice gradual downhill coming out of T2, which you then have to return back up coming into the finish. Use the slight downhill to stretch out your bike-tired legs and increase turn-over as you get started on your run.
  • That hill will be back there when you make the final mile into transition. Save a bit in your legs for this, because most racers will not have. I ended up passing a good number of people in this little stretch (of course, only to be passed in the last 10 steps - doh! - read my race report about that little slip-up).
  • Not a race tip but for transition day: the transition is a short walk from the registration, expo, etc. Make an action plan with your race crew for how you want to conquer the day. Somehow I was just an unorganized basket case and ended up walking back and forth between the car, transition and the expo site multiple times, which made for a long day.

Register here: http://rev3tri.com/knoxville/knoxville-news/

No worries, I'll be back. Rev3 Knoxville 2014 (and the championship...), watch out!