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Ride Like the Wind: Rev3 Florida Race Report

What. A. Race. It’s nearly three days afterwards and I’m STILL having trouble walking normally. I don’t think i’ve ever been this sore/stiff in my life!! A large part of that may have been the impromptu 11-hour road trip to Louisiana, but it may have also been the fact that I had a killer bike split, followed by my first solid half-ironman run that included NO WALKING WHATSOEVER, not even in aid stations (my usual run-time killer)!

It was supposed to be a quick trip, with a flight into Florida bright and early Saturday morning and a midnight return back to DC. Instead, thanks to Hurricane Sandy messing up the entire East Coast, I ended up driving back to my parents’ house in New Orleans (where I’m attending a wedding this upcoming weekend) and am currently alternating my lululemon pants and bike shorts as my only “pants” for the week (wedding shopping required but TBD).

But before heading up the Eastern Seaboard, Sandy brought some fun to Southern Florida, including lots of crazy winds and big surf. When I arrived in Venice, this was the scene:

After checking out the sand and surf, I listened to the tail end of the pro panel and caught up with a bunch of other Rev3 peeps, including ChloeElaine, Jaime, JordanJoel and John for dinner, where we all speculated on whether or not the swim would go on.

The next morning, the swim was cancelled—but for very good reason. with rip tides and crazy waves, Rev3 definitely made the right call… which means I still haven’t gotten my ocean/gulf swim experience… guess I’ll just have to sign up for Rev3 Florida 2013…

With so many races in October, and with the simplified bike-run format, I was very relaxed going into it: simple transition prep, bottles prepared, all ready to go. we watched the pros start off with a 1.5-mi run for their run/bike/run duathlon before lining up single file by bib numbers for the time trial start, where we would be sent off one person every three seconds. Turns out as lucky #100 I was the first non-relay age grouper! Not only did this mean clear roads and no fighting for space on the road, it also meant this was probably the closest I’d ever come to experiencing the “competing alone, against yourself on the bike” feeling that so many pros mention in their posts.

And so I rode scared. With no one else to gauge effort against, I just put my head down and PUSHED. Ten minutes in I thought to myself, ‘this is not sustainable’. Thirty minutes in I thought to myself, ‘this is really REALLY not sustainable’. But then a girl passed me and I didn’t want to a) be passed and b) worry about drafting so I fired up the cylinders and repassed to retake the lead. Again, I kept thinking to myself that I’m either setting myself up for an epic blow-up or a fantastic bike split. My watts were through the roof and (with the help of a killer tailwind) I was coasting along at 24-26mph on that first stretch. I love riding fast and this was fantastic.

This was also one of the busier parts of town and I have to pause here to mention that the Venice volunteers were AMAZING! Despite some old-fogey jokes cracked at their expense at the athlete briefing, the volunteers were out in full force on Sunday – it felt like every single stoplight, intersection and driveway had a volunteer or a cop car helping protect and cheer the riders. Almost all were cheering while on volunteer duty, which was a huge boost along the bike route. What’s even more amazing is that most of these volunteers didn’t know what a triathlon even was! I met an older gentleman volunteer who used to do triathlons “back in the old days” (his words not mine) and he was joking about how clueless the volunteers were before attending the volunteer check-ins/meetings. This is GREAT news for the sport and I hope the volunteer enthusiasm means that there will be an even-more-awesome Rev3 Florida in 2013!

And then we turned into the wind. At this point I was getting as low as I could into my already extremely aero-bike fit (thank you Josh Frick and CycleLife) and trying to find the smoothest sections of the road to ride along. a few of the men started to pass me but otherwise it was empty road for miles. It turned into a game of “how many laps of Hains Point do i have left?” for non DC-folks, Hains point is a flat, flat, flat and WINDAY 3-mile loop in the district frequented by cyclists.

The last twenty miles took a toll on me mentally: every time I saw an intersection, I pleaded to the course gods that it was a turn taking us back to T2 and out of the headwind: no such luck. It wasn’t until the last three or so miles that we got a brief break zooming back into transition.

I do want to pause here and say that unfortunately I had a bad experience with a pro triathlete that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But first: I HATE drafters and I hate drafting. In fact, I’m reckless when it comes to passing because I would rather blow steam getting past someone than worry about keeping three bike lengths between us. I hate the mental aspect of triathlon and would rather be in the zone and focusing on my bike than what someone else is doing around me.

That being said, with about fifteen miles to go, I passed one of the pro females who had started 15-minutes in front of us. I did it quickly and built up a large gap because when we came around a final U-turn with ten miles to go, she was nowhere to be seen. Out on the run, when she repassed me, she started to say “good job“, so I gave her a thumbs up as she passed. I then realized the “good job” was only sarcasm as she proceeded to make a really nasty comment about all the “drafting I was doing”. Shocked, I responded with “are you KIDDING me?!” and then “[stew] you too!

As promised in my somewhat obnoxious/dramatic tweet, here are my splits/watts from Sunday that seem to indicate very little drafting was going on. Let me also remind you that was the very first age grouper to start, meaning that it’s doubtful I even had that many opportunities to draft out there. Anyways, whatever. Maybe she should have focused more energy on her own race because she ended up dropping out halfway through the run.

The out-of-control blow up I had been waiting for in the back half of the race surprisingly never came. As long as I kept tossing powerbar gels down the hatch and a few salt pills here or there, I never felt terrible. I did wonder how on earth I was going to be able to run though…

bike - 2:28:41

I rolled into T2, grabbed my run gear and set off running. Oh boy, this did NOT feel good. The little voices kept telling me to walk but I was determined not too. Game on. Even though I started my watch, my splits were never right: I accidentally started in bike mode and switched over about a mile in but never quite synced up with the mile signs on the course. The only numbers on the watch were low-to-mid 8:00s so I wasn’t feeling too happy about my run performance for most of the run.

On the first loop, there were pros to watch and two manatees swimming side by side in the canal alongside the route. On the second loop, the winds picked up and I tried to keep myself moving by throwing as much Coke and Gatorade down the hatch as possible. With three miles to go, I took a step and it felt like someone jabbed steak knives through the soles of my feet. I had felt hot spots developing on the bottom of each foot but for some reason my blisters decided to peak simultaneously and in full excruciating force (and they now cover approximately 3/4 of each foot, meaning the only footwear i have been able to comfortably wear are swiftwick socks and my dad’s house slippers… sexy.).

The only thing that kept me going is that with the 2x out-and-back course, I could tell that no one else was making much headway on the deficit I had built on the bike (other than thealways-speedy Tara who flew into second for a 1-2 Rev3 podium – holla!!). Knowing this, I went into survival mode and gutted it out to the finish.

run = 1:42:04

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/52411444]

Also: Joel has a great race report from Florida that describes the bike and run a lot better :)

I was so happy to be done and once i stopped puking back up the massive quantities of Coke and Gatorade i had swallowed, I hobbled over to the ocean, dumped everything in a pile on the beach and started wading into the water. Once I got over the OW OW OW as the salt water stung my blisters, I dove headfirst into the chilly water and it felt amazing… until both legs cramped up fully,  another wave pushed me back down and I struggled to doggy paddle back to the shore. Great, i thought to myself, she wins a race and then dies trying to go for a dip in the water afterwards

In all, a great race and a fantastic way to end my season. In some ways it was a reassurance of my performance at Eagleman, redemption for a miserable day in Vegas and a great motivator for 2013. While I was bummed with the cancelled swim, I already know that my swim needs work so why not end 2012 on a high note? So happy to have competed and shared the experience with the entire Rev3 family.

i mean, where else do they cheer on and celebrate the final finisher with as much gusto as if the finisher had just won the entire thing, regardless of cut-off times and time limits? This truly says it all:

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welcome to the family

this week may have been one of the BEST of my life! while at a 9:30 club concert, i got a missed call from team momma bear carole—so i stepped outside to call her back, hands shaking. i ended up missing the opening band but it was totally worth it: i was too busy happy dancing outside on some somewhat sketchy U street corner to even care.

since then, i have been welcomed into the family and have been welcoming in others with my jaw dropped the entire time at how amazing and supportive and genuinely enthusiastic the entire group has been. i have known for almost a week now and reality still has not quite set in.

let me repeat myself: i will be racing with the 2012 Rev3 triathlon team.... WAHOO!!

after being announced, i received an overwhelming barrage of AMAZING emails, facebook posts and twitter messages from other team members and rev3 supporters. so when i wrote on my facebook wall that i was out of my league… it was because i was so impressed by the enthusiasm and love of my new Rev3 family. the announcements are still underway, but so far i’m joining the stellar existing crew as well as fellow newbies ryan, alisa, elizabeth, erin, dan, susan, tonya, jen and holly! and it all seems to be true: Rev3’s camaraderie and support is second to none!

i’m looking forward to cheering for and learning from the rest of the Rev3 team—whether connected virtually, racing alongside them or cheering from the sidelines. i can’t wait to take on the crazy world of triathlon with a group of individuals all in it for the right reasons and for the long haul: you can tell that everyone on the team loves Rev3, believes in charlie’s mission in developing the race series and can’t wait to see it grow even more than it already has—and i think that the reason that we’re so incredibly invested is because it is a kind of family... and i couldn’t be happier to have been adopted! we're not your typical sleek, well-oiled (cough cough, stuck-up) triathlon team but rather a more realistic portrait: with families, with real jobs, and crazy lives all across the country. in my opinion, and well, duh!, i’m biased, Rev3 has hit the nail on the head for the true portrait of triathlon today. so now i consider it an honor to represent such a quality company alongside such an amazing group of unique and talented individuals—whether they were selected for their sense of humor, their speed or just their uncensored honesty.

so what does this mean for me? 2012 is the officially the year of the Rev! i had already thought about including multiple Revs in my season prior to the big announcement but now i’m ready to go all-in crazy! which is perfect, because i’m one of those adrenaline junkies who far prefers racing to regular old training. as a result, my schedule is currently looking something like this:

  • 3.17 Rev3 Costa Rica Olympic
  • 5.6 Rev3 Knoxville, TN Olympic
  • 6.2 Rev3 Quassy (as a spectator, I think)
  • 6.10 Eagleman Half - Columbia, MD
  • 7.8 Rev3 Portland Half
  • 8.12 Rev3 The Dells, Wisconsin Olympic
  • 8.26 Rev3 Maine Olympic
  • 9.9 Rev3 Cedar Point Half - Sandusky, OH
  • 10.9 Rev3 Anderson, SC Olympic
  • 10.27 Rev3 Florida Half

yes, that is every. single. race. on the Rev3 schedule (so far!) am I obsessed? most definitely. finally going to take full advantage of the 20+ PTO days my company allows!

as far as the rest of the Rev3 details, you NEED to check out the Team Rev3 Triathlon facebook page for the rest of the team announcements, all preceded by some crazy challenge or another. love it!!

finally, if you couldn't tell from the image above, tomorrow is the last day for early bird pricing for Anderson and Portland. honestly, you can't beat those prices for a race of Rev3's caliber. and, finally, for a post that does both of these races far better justice than i could, definitely check out team member laura's blog, Wife Mother Athlete!

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officially cursed

in sum:

number of olympic triathlons signed up for: 7

number where the swim has been cancelled: 3

... should i take this as a sign to just start registering for duathlons?

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USAT Nationals Race Report

The strange thing is that I didn’t really have a terrible performance. But thanks to what I found to be an emotional roller-coaster of a day, I just didn’t have the power to quiet my inner chatter. You know how they always say "welcome to the big leagues" and sometimes you're not really sure what qualifies as the "big leagues"... but then: BAM! you're suddenly you're in way over your head? Yup, that's the realization I had, oh, about eight minutes into the swim at this year's USAT Age Group Nationals.

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning in my rinky-dink Yankee Doodle motel, tossed back my now-stale bagel only slightly edible thanks to extra peanut butter, and hopped in the car to head to the race site. I somehow beat the crowds (which I found surprising given that This. Was. Nationals. And you know how OCD some triathletes can be on race day…) But I hopped out, grabbed my wetsuit and walked toward transition for a relatively easy set-up.

After laying everything out and oogling the people who brought trainers to transition for their bike warm-up, I spent some quality time in the exceedingly long bathroom line. Twice. (You can never be too sure). After a quick warm-up jog and some moves to loosen up, the National Anthem started playing—but I was nowhere near the start. I tried to slowly edge toward the start without seeming a-patriotic, starting to slightly freak out knowing that my group was in the second wave.

The anthem ended, I booked it to the start, zipped up my wetsuit and squeezed in alongside the other 20-24 female triathletes. After the men before us were sent on their way, we were called up to the dock and were able to hop in before the start for a speedy warm-up. Even though I lined up early, it was hard to claim space without getting kicked in the side or pushed backward. Having grown up swimming strictly on my side of the lane and rarely playing contact sports, this part of triathlon continues to be the most foreign and uncomfortable for me. I like my personal space! Where are the red cards? I can’t even imagine how chaotic mass starts can be—and I thought our field of 50 was rough!

The horn blew and we throttled toward the first buoy. I found feet on two girls swimming abreast and had some nice protection as we zoomed through the first third of the course. Right around the first major turn, however, I lost my nice little path of bubbles. I must have swung too far left around the turn as I realized (a few sights too late) that I had swum pretty far off-course. From there, it only went downhill. My lack of swim endurance caught up to me as I struggled to push my normal pace. To make matters worse, on the homestretch back to T2, the sun was directly in our line of sight and I struggled to see the dock, or even the next buoy. I crawled in (really, it was pitiful), feeling embarrassed as I gasped for air while the leaders from the wave behind us started to run me over. I stumbled out, didn’t even check how I did on the swim and just focused on getting to my bike, knowing that there was a huge hill coming out of T1.

Coming into T1, I started to realize just how BAD my swim was. There were very few bikes left on the racks, which was nice made it easy to find my bike but bad for my morale. Okay, maybe I was a *little* ambitious when I marked my finish time as 2:22 but this a big blow. I tried to shrug it off and made off like a madwoman on my bike. The good thing about such a competitive race is that there are good people to chase. The bad thing is that the people I was chasing were 40+ men who had passed me on the swim. Other than a lone girl I passed within the first two miles, there were no females to be seen. There were some big hills to struggle up, some nice flats to lay down the hammer, and some really good descents which I flew down at 40mph. Other than that, however, the bike was relatively unmemorable. Or maybe my rage from the swim caused me to black this portion out since I don't really remember the specifics.

Onto the run. I flew into T2, racked my bike on the now full-again racks and headed off. The first quarter-mile was a brutal uphill. In any other race, I would have been tempted to walk it. In this one, however, 1) there was a photographer at the top and who wants to be caught walking in race photos?! And 2) this was a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, for heaven’s sake. I felt like I was running in slow motion... or in slowly-drying concrete. However, this is the one time where my “no looking at the Garmin” rule actually hurt me: while tackling the hill, I might have guessed that I was “running” 16 min/miles. In reality, it was more like a perky 8:30 based on my Garmin data. That doesn’t sound that great but if you saw this hill, you would totally understand.

The rest of the race was unusually fast—mostly flat with some nice gentle downhill. The only problem was that I was really starting to heat up, especially with the sun beating down. I grabbed as much water as I could at the aid stations (of which I think they only had three... kind of surprising) and tried to douse myself. I found and passed another girl and then started to pick off a good number of people, particularly in the wooded area—where I got my break from the sun and other competitors got a break from the crowds. There was even a little bit of off-road running on a trail, which made me smile as it took me back to my high school cross country days. In the last mile or so, I spotted a 23-year-old girl ahead of me and made it my mission to try to catch her. However, I just didn’t have it in me. Despite a (relatively) valiant effort, I finished about 20 seconds behind her—but did manage to catch and pass about five other runners in my attempt.

At the finish, I was SO happy to be done and, honestly, all I could think about was getting away from the race venue. Normally, I’m the girl who wanders around the tents and competitors and grabs each of the free giveaways (MuscleMilk, that Mint Water, stale chips from the Qdoba tent—you name it) while chatting up the vendors. This race, however, I wanted OUT. Transition wasn’t set to open for another hour or two, so I jogged back to the car and hightailed it to the motel to shower before the 11am checkout. I made it with 10 minutes to spare, showered super quickly, tossed everything in the car and headed out to get an early lunch and coffee as I waited for transition to open up.

While waiting at a Starbucks, I thought I might as well pull up the race site and see whether results had been posted. They had—but incorrectly. Of course I didn’t know at the time. Based on the online results, I had placed second. SECOND?! Did I really race that well? Was it just a really hard course? Maybe those empty racks were for an older age group?   Well, I went back to pack up transition, grabbed my bike and headed to the results tent where they were printing out the results. It was a mass list, not broken down by age group but a quick skim showed me that the actual top-5 had finished something like 20-25 minutes ahead of me. I kept scrolling down, until I found my name by the time I had seen online. Thirtieth place. My heart sank and I felt pretty stupid. Mostly because I had sunk the swim and then went thinking about how “awesome” I had done… when that was actually very far from the truth. To be fair, I thought I had a somewhat decent shot of making the top twenty. After all, my goal this year was to qualify for the 2012 race in Auckland. But thirtieth?! Ouch. I wheeled my bike to my car, hopped in and drove the very long 8-hours home.

It turns out that this just isn't my year. To be honest, next year probably isn't either. Despite what my "big fish in a small pond" race results show, I'm still a total newbie and work-in-progress—mentally and physically.

Looking back, however, what I don’t feel stupid about is the fact that I believed in myself—believed that I actually had the potential to perform at such a high caliber among a group of phenomenal athletes. Yes, it’s pretty naïve given this year’s training schedule and given some of my other past performances but such an unwavering belief in myself is what ultimately will help me succeed when I do reach that level. And trust me, give me a few years and I’ll get there. Watch out.

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The 2011 Race List

March 27th Nation's Marathon May 8th Peasantman High Cloud Olympic Triathlon

May 15th New Orleans 5150 Race

June 19th D.C. Triathlon

July 9th San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island

August 20th Age Group National Championships

September 4th HyVee 5150 Championships?

Sept. 11th Nation's Triathlon

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