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Rev3 Half Full Race Report

To say the Rev3 Half Full was inspiring would be an understatement. But first, let me tell you about my friend Ford. In middle school, he was the top runner for one of the schools in my hometown. In 8th grade, he threw down times that rivaled the best runners at high school cross country meets. People claimed he was the next Louisiana running prodigy. I didn't know anything about him, other than the fact that he was transferring to my school the following year and I'd have a fast running buddy to chase after. That never happened.

That summer, Ford got cancer and would have to have surgery, an above-the-knee amputation that would save him but destroy his running career as he knew it. The following year, he came back to high school, in a wheel chair but he'd soon learn to walk with a prothesis. By his junior year, he was on the swim team in the fall and a manager for the track team in the spring. People would gasp when this one-legged skinny kid would climb up on the block and then go on to whoop other kids in his heat. Despite everything that life has dealt him, he's one of those people that just SHINES regardless of the situation. I don't think I'd admit this to him, but Ford's perseverance was my inspiration for toughing it out on a really tough and cold, cold day.

At one point around mile 12 on the bike, when I was having trouble breaking because my frozen fingers couldn't tell how much pressure I was applying, I sat up, looked around at the puddles on the road and felt the wind cutting through my kit and thought to myself, why on EARTH am i doing this to myself?

And you know what I decided? because I can. And because if Ford saw me being a baby, I have a feeling he'd tell me to suck it up and keep pedaling.

And with that, I snuggled back down in the aerobars, said a few prayers that I'd stay rubber side down for the rest of the bike and continued to hammer onward. Apparently the self-torture worked because I managed to sneak myself into second place overall, meaning some nice Rev3 medal swag and decent splits at an interesting distance (.9 swim, 32-mi bike, 6.5-mi run) on a hill-acious course.

But before I get into this, I have a confession: my training the past four weeks has been, ahem, subpar. Let me break it down for you:

  • swim: 2-swims since 9/9: three days and one day out from race day (had to remember how to swim this past thurday…)
  • bike: two dismal trainer rides and two 2-ish hour jaunts outside
  • run: whenever I felt like it! including a random 17-miler in san francisco and a 5k PR on Wednesday

Now top that off with way more junk in my system in the past 4 weeks than probably over the last 4 months (including a late night on the town on Friday… oops) and now you know just how not-race-ready I was going into this. what can i say, I was travelling a ton for work and was still in a post-Vegas funk.

Running around like a Madwoman

The theme of my morning was: LOST. got lost trying to leave Virginia. Got lost en route to Columbia, MD. Lost my timing chip. sprinted around between transition and my car and the timing stand and my car before booking it down to the swim start. Maybe a warm-up does me well, after all...

Before the race, there were also some very moving comments about the Ulman Cancer Fund and the amazing work they do, including a new partnership between Walter Reed and Ulman to continue to support cancer patients. What a cool, inspiring race for such an amazing cause. Regardless of the weather forecast, I hope to come back next year. :)

The Warmest Part of my Day: The Swim

Let me go on record to say that this is the only time i've ever looked forward to getting into the water as soon as possible. The swim wasn't pretty but that was to be expected. We started with a time-trial start, which was nice, until I started bumping up against earlier waves and trying my hardest not to swim over people. I felt a little clueless and zig-zaggy on the swim and came out of the water unhappy with my time, but that was clearly my own fault.

Biking on Antartica

The only saving grace of my day was my set of Pearl Izumi arm warmers. I had ordered them a few months ago and clearly haven't used them before this but they were the best choice I made for an otherwise very poorly planned race outfit. They didn't slide at all and my forearms were very toasty. The best part was that I cuffed them up so that I was able to do all the rolling-up-the-sleeve action while getting started out on the bike course.

Per usual, started out hard—way too hard—and was convinced I was burning way too matches on the hills given my undertrained self. And by "too many matches", I mean the whole matchbook. Somewhere around mile 25 I questioned whether I would even be able to run without crumpling.

Out on the bike the roads were slick and my hands were freezing and I was struggling to keep control at times. I also failed MISERABLY with nutrition: other than the one powerbar gel I got in very early on, I managed to drop the two others thanks to my useless fingers. Also, when brave enough to reach for the bottle, I wasn't able to squeeze the water out (my hands were just not working) so was mostly running on empty.

Somewhere about halfway through the veryfast/strong girl I had been chasing took a big spill on a wet curve. I hadn't seen anyone else ahead and had a feeling I was somewhere in top three at this point (in reality, there was only one girl ahead). The name of the game then turned to: don't let her catch you. That, paired with chasing down all the youngins' from the collegiate division, was the biggest motivator in keeping power on the pedals. Plus the prospect of getting warm.

Speedy Gonzales

Not MY speed necessarily but rather how fast the 6.5 miles seemed to tick by. it may just be because my last race was a half-marathon death march but today's run just seemed incredibly quick. I managed to redeem myself from Vegas and didn't even break stride zooming through the aid stations. Two sections of the run were winding trails through the woods, which for some reason reminded me of home (Louisiana) and helped keep things fun.

What I did not expect, however, was the massive cramping issues that started about 2-miles in. I've never really cramped before—on a long long run, sure—but never in the middle of a race. After one particularly aggressive downhill, I started to truck back up a hill and both my quads seized up. I had a mini-panic, backed off some and then was able to continue running mostly cramp-free. This struggle continued for the remaining 4.5 miles. Now i finally get it when you see people on the side of a race trying to stretch out a cramp...

I continued running scared but the only girls I saw were a handful of collegiate women I passed early on and two way up ahead of me that i just couldn't bridge the gap with. Only one guy passed me the entire run, which I consider either a testament to my strong run, or perhaps just the result of of my bad swim :)

Came up to the shoot, couldn't be happier to be done, hurried back to the car to change into dry clothes, continued to shiver uncontrollably for the next three hours but then was still able to enjoy the two other highlights of my day:

#1 a nice wheat beer while Normatec'ing

#2 seeing lance finish with two of his girls (and Kiersten's daughter!)

In all, a FANTASTIC race with an experience that interestingly enough mirrored its name. If I were to look at today with a negative attitude, it was cold, rainy, uncomfortable and would have probably been better spent snuggling under the sheets. But since we're all Half Full around here, it was a great experience, great race and a great testament to how much my pre-September fitness has managed to linger around. :)

Now i'm off to watch the Saints game, y'all. I took a massive nap earlier just to prepare for this. if they disappoint me (and the dome on a home game) yet again, I just don't know what i'm going to do...

Finally, a big thank you to Rev3 for giving me the chance to race with their age group team and to Pearl Izumi for the most comfortable racing gear around (including those arm warmers - seriously, get yourself a pair). To BlueSeventy for a fast swim and TRISLIDE for an ouchless one. And while i feel bad for dropping two perfectly good gels (and my favorite double latte flavor at that!), couldn't have done it without some PowerBar goodness. Lastly, thank you to Normatec for the best recovery tool ever - whether at home or in the Normatec recovery booth after the race. Thanks to all - seriously, a dream come true.

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Rev3 Knoxville: holy hills!

with eagleman as my first A race of the season, all of my long rides have been focused on pancake flat courses. no rollers, no surges, nothing but ready steady on the pedals. that's why i was a little apprehensive going into rev3 knox. there were rumblings of a HARD bike course and the forecast was shaping up to be hot and muggy. still, i woke up bright and early on friday morning and made the drive down to asheville, nc where i was planning on spending the night with family. spent most of friday kicking back on the porch with the dogs and a good book. ah, the good life:

and then friday night included a long birthday dinner for my mom's crazy/wonderful best friend. while it was amazing, we ended up not getting back and in bed until 11:30/12--the last thing i like to do in the last few days before a race. the next morning, i was up by 7 trying to cram everything strewn about the cabin into my tiny car, get my bike cleaned and tuned up and then hit the road by 9. the only problem was that in my frenzy, i managed to forget my trusty l.l.bean back packed to the brim with some of the essentials: spare tubes, garmin charger, flat kit, all of my gels, an entire tub of powerbar perform, my trislide, my visor, sunglasses--basically all of my favorite goodies and accessories. i was a little perturbed about forgetting so much but didn't realize until i was an hour away and didn't want to waste time backtracking. instead, i mushed on and figured i could grab everything needed from the expo.

i made it to knoxville just in time for the rev3 team meet and greet and kit hand-out at the lady vols boathouse prior to the practice swim. we had to do some trying on and next thing you know, i'm stripping down in a third-floor stairwell, trying not to moon the highway or any of my new teammates. but the kits fit (and looked and felt AMAZING) so it was on to the practice swim. only i had forgotten my cap and goggles (again, in the high priority l.l.bean misc. gear bag).

i trekked back to my parking spot, drove down to a better parking spot near the river, walked back to the expo and then bought (yet another) pair of blueseventy goggles to make it down to the practice swim in the river with twenty minutes to spare. i guess you could say this was saturday's pre-race theme: i was running around everywhere! i didn't get lunch until 4pm or so, after a bike and run shake-out and then racking my back in the parking garage transition.

i need to pause here and make a confession: knoxville was my first rev3 race.... and it was by far the BEST triathlon i have ever participated in to date. it's really about the details:

from the personalized pro-like rack space to the race number tattoos to all of the other little perks and goodies that i ran across throughout the weekend, i couldn't help but smile at each additional touch. my own company prides itself on "moments of wow" and going above and beyond to delight the customer, and i have to say that rev3 succeeded 100% in this regard. i couldn't be more excited to be part of a team as innovative and detail-oriented as rev3 has proved to be time and time again.

but all of my walking around meant that i felt ZONKED by the end of the day. i didn't feel great and was worried that i had spent a tad too much time walking out and about in the sun so instead called it a day early and headed to the hotel to crash. out by 8:30... perfect.

the next day it was a mass swim start for all of the olympic women. i was near the end of the line jumping in but managed to squeeze into the second row and secure a good spot up front. it was cute, the mass starts ahead of me all had a different family member "starting the race" for someone in that wave. while i didn't hear our starter, it was fun watching little kids blow the horn to send off a big group of racers. when our horn went off, i was surprised at how non-violent my start was. there was some elbows getting thrown and grabbed ankles, but for the most part, i found a decent pocket and was able to draft around a group of women surrounding me. i love how natural swimming in my blueseventy helix feels - slipped through the water like buttah. the goggles weren't so bad either--don't know what i would have done without the nice tint to help with the glare from the rising sun.

i stayed right on the hip on one woman for the first 500-600m or so, which happened to be right into the sun. i was happy not having to focus or waste any effort on sighting so i happily let her lead the way. about 2/3 of the way through, i started running into the wave of men in front of us and realized 1) i had no idea how i was doing and couldn't see any other lilac caps around me and 2) i was starting slow down as i maneuvered around the guys in front of us. i decided that #2 was unacceptable so really kicked it up a notch and came in HARD for the last 200m or so for a strong finish. i thought i had started my watch right as the swim started but looked down and only saw 00:00:00 so i had no idea where i stood. instead, i stripped off my wetsuit before the long run in t1 back to the parking garage and then ran freely, wetsuit in hand, up to the bikes.

23:45 (1:38/100m) – 15th female / 5th AG T1

after my shoe strap malfunction from last race, i opted not to start with shoes on the bike. was glad i didn't because i started off strong on the bike and passed a good number of folks right from the get-go. for some reason i think i blacked out the first 20-minutes of the bike. no clue what happened, although i'm pretty sure i passed a handful of girls. and then it was no-woman's land from there on out. i don't think i ran across a single woman from minute twenty to minute fifty when i passed one more girl. it's hard not to be frustrated by that, but i kept reminded myself that it was good that i wasn't seeing anyone!

right when the big hills started showing up, i found a race-buddy and we ended up playing cat and mouse for the next 45-minutes or so. we were riding pretty similar paces, except he would pass me on the uphills and then i would repass on the downhill and flats. it was nice to have the company and we actually cheered each other on for most of it (laughing as we passed and re-passed each other time and time again). it wasn't until the final big, never-ending hill (looked at my garmin: it took 5-minutes to summit that sucker) that i passed him for the last time. he kept saying something about his inhaler/asthma...  i wanted to say ME TOO - NO EXCUSES! but decided to hold back. anyway, he must have had a great run because i'm pretty sure he ended up taking first in his 55-59 AG.

overall take on this course was: HOLY HILLS... they were amazing! i ended up loving every single second of this challenging and technical course--yes, even those killer uphills where my tongue was hanging out and panting halfway through. i also was FLYING down the hills on the bike, with a max speed of 38mph.

there were a few dicey areas where we had to cross railroad tracks where i slowed waaaaaay down. ever since i had my massive crash on some trolley tracks in philly, i've been super careful anytime i come remotely close to rail road tracks. i passed one more girl in the final ten minutes, where everyone else seemed to be fading but i was still loving every second. i had gone into this race expecting to get mauled by the hills – but ended up LOVING them. in fact, i don't think i've spent any race out of my saddle and mashing my gears this much - at one point i was in my easiest gear and questioning whether i would make it up the rest of the hill on my bike and not walking.

took my shoes out of my straps and came skidding into T2 slightly hot - very close to eating it on my dismount but hopped off and ran to rack my bike.

1:11:49 (20.05mph) – 5th fastest bike split, moved up to 1st in my AG!

on the run, i started off conservatively and told myself i wouldn’t look at my watch for the first few minutes. i don't know about everyone else but i always feel like i'm running 10-minute miles through quicksand during that first half-mile or so off the bike. instead, i look down and see low 7's. nice! i think i passed one or two girls on the run and then it was the same wasteland as the bike--few people in sight to chase.

the savior of the day were the 82GO baggies that the aid stations were giving out. at the end of the bike, i had started to get the tell-tale dehydration headache so i went into hydrate mode on the run. and these water baggies were great - i grabbed one at each and every aid station and generally drank about 6oz or so across the mile and used the remaining to squeeze all over myself. it was an out-and-back so i kept waiting for to see girls coming the other direction from the turn-around. and kept waiting... and waiting... finally started seeing women and counting. after the turn-around rev3 teammate tara FLEW by me - seriously booking it! even with a flat on the bike, she ended up running all the way into the third: woman on a mission!

mile five really hit me and i started to fade. since my watch didn't start on the swim, i had no clue what my final time would be and was a little discouraged by the final turns by the boathouse and uphill coming into finish. down the last straight, i made a final look over my shoulder and didn't think i saw anyone coming so i didn't make a massive effort to finish with everything i had. i was coming into the finisher chute, smiling, considering what my finishing gesture should be (aka fist pump, peace sign, you know... whatever) and then at the final step, someone blows by me, a total jordan jones nipping lance armstrong at the finish kind of moment. very final step - i look down and see a big 2-6. and there it will probably be in my finisher photo: a big "OH SH*T" on my face as i realize the girl just passed me. ended up losing 1st in my age group by a single. step.

let's be honest, i was super pissed - especially since it's not very like me to ease up in the last part of a race. also a little bummed that i didn't have a better read on my overall time. had i known i was so close to the 2:25, i'm pretty sure i could have gutted it out for the last two miles to break that barrier. lesson learned: next time i'm really going to leave it all out on the course, regardless of the circumstances. still, i played nice and congratulated her on an excellent finish in the chute and then again at the award ceremony. i know i would have done the same thing had i smelled blood like she did.

46:11 (7:27 min/mi) – 2nd in AG, 7th overall

final time: 2:26:56 

overall, it was an amazing race! i had no clue how i did for my overall time so it wasn't until i had cooled down, run to the hotel to shower and check out before i saw my final time on the time look-up monitors that rev3 had set up for finishers. i hung out with some other rev3 AG'ers at the awards ceremony and got to pick up my sweet swag, including a nice stash of powerbar recovery bars, a discount at the rev3 online store and another medal that the finisher medal somehow locks inside for a SUPER-medal. :) congrats to all of the other finishers and AG winners (including a LOT of the Rev3 AG team - super proud of all of you guys!) this trip was a little crazy but hopefully there will be more time at some of the upcoming races to meet the full team - especially since i only got to sneak up on carole when i was getting my bike from transition to say hello :)

rev3's recap video for the age groupers:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/41672070]

and while i'm still on my rev3 high and race report novel, my next email update for rev3 maine just arrived. the race isn't until late august but i'm already licking my chops: "the bike course starts out flat and fast before taking riders into a series of rolling hills" and then "the run course is an out-and-back, giving athletes the chance to finish out the race on a flat and fast course", and finally: "Old Orchard Beach boasts seven miles of nothing but sand and surf." pack yo swimsuits!! 

finally, a big thank you to Rev3 for giving me the change to race with their age group team. so far, it has been an AMAZING experience to meet other age groupers from all over the country, race in top-notch races like #Rev3Knox and partner with products like BlueSeventy, Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, Swiftwick and SBR Sports. Seriously, a dream come true!

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On Repeat

HOLY HILLS. That was the hardest but most rewarding workout I’ve had to date. I am not a climber. My favorite races are pancake flat with the occasional hill or overpass. That’s why when I saw a workout prescribing five 10-minute hill repeats in the middle of a longer bike ride, I nearly fainted. The only hill that I thought would fit the bill is a climb worth ascending for the 40-mph downhill you get on the return trip. The first time I rode it, sometime last summer, I dropped my chain and nearly toppled over. Going into this, I thought only one of two things would happen: the hill would dominate me and I would manage two or three before giving into the hill, OR I would eek through it and then go pass out afterwards. Luckily, neither of the above scenarios played out.

I rode conservatively in my warm-up, a good 45-minutes to get to the obstacle. As I approached it for the first time, I passed a woman, mid-thirties, starting to make her slow ascent. I hit the bottom part hard, trying to stay seated the whole time and panted up it as fast as I could without getting dizzy and sending my heart rate too high. You reach a false flat about 2/3 of the way up and think you’re over the worst of it, but then you turn the bend and hit the second riser. I powered up the rest and then S-L-O-W-L-Y u-turned around before making the descent. Now, normally I fly down this because it’s so exhilarating. This time, however, I liberally used the brakes and cruised down the hill at maybe 15mph. I was going to make the most of this short rest before I attempted round to. Even as I approached the bottom, just in time to turn around and do it again, I was still huffing and puffing.

Round two. Really, I'm only half-way done? This. Hill. Was. Never. Ending. UGH! The poor woman from before was still riding up slowly, maybe 2/5 of the way now.

Round three. Weirdly, it felt slightly easier. Still huffing and puffing but my body had given up rebelling against the ungodly resistance. On the way back down, the woman was no walking the bike, off to the side.

Round four. I think I had one of my typical exercise black outs. I really don't remember it, other than the fact that  as I got to the top, I passed the woman for the last time, just as we both got to flatter terrain. I waved goodbye and headed back down again. Surely, she thought I was nuts.

Round Five. Final round… and this one was rough yet again. I was gasping for air. Clutching my horns, worried that I would black-out from lack of oxygen. I quickly gathered myself on the short flat before doubling up and powering through the last bit. You know when you’re right at the end, you can finally give it your all.

And then it was time to turn around and bike home. Normally a hill is a means to an end, geographically—wide open roads to bike, a good destination—but today (in the middle of it) climbing the hill seemed pointless. It was only once I got home, showered and propped up my legs did I realize: the hill’s was a means to an end—the end being physical, not geographic.

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