Monday, March 25, 2013

13 weeks till Ironman France - Hits Ocala Race Report

Hits Ocala 70.3 Race Review

Good news first. I set a new pr at this race 5:57 so almost one full hour off my time.

Next I'll give you the end summary so you can skip the details if you want. I would not do this race again and I don't recommend it.

Now the nitty gritty.

Packet Pick-up
Packet pick-up was Friday at the race site. The race site is really in the middle of nowhere but we found it. All of a sudden we turned into a parking lot full of cars and bikes. Voila!

Packet Pickup was very simple. In fact they just gave me my stuff with a glance at my USAT card. As a note - I could have been anybody.

This is actually after the race but you can see the stools and the little bucket space you get for your stuff. The stool is really nice actually.

This is our race stickers sheet. Impressive, eh? We also had race tattoos that were very nice and actually not sticky like the Rev3 ones.
This is the athlete meeting.
The expo was super small but had every thing you'd need except the bike shop wasn't there so there was no co2 to buy. Didn't matter to me but anybody who flew in was out of luck or had to drive into to the one bike store in town. Big oversight I thought. I sat through the athlete meeting with the race director. He was very nice and they took us turn by turn through the course - which took forever but it was fine.

I did a practice swim with Diane. She thought she saw an alligator which was terrifying for her but it wasn't an alligator so in the end it was fine. She screamed "what do we do" and I remember just standing there thinking - there is no way this is an alligator so I wasn't much help. In fact, had it been an actual alligator we would have been mauled based on my response or actually lack of response. But it wasn't so we were fine. We waited a bit and I made her go out and swim more so that she wasn't afraid. Turns out she had watched Animal Planet the night before. Silly girl. The water was cool but not bad at all in a wetsuit.

We racked our bikes and we were done. The big claim to fame for hits is their transition area. I will say it is a nice setup.

Then Italian dinner  at a bizarre local place and bed. I didn't sleep very well but that happens sometimes. No biggie.
this store was next to the restaurant. The restaurant salad bar had practically no vegetables on it ... odd I thought.

Race Morning
Race morning up early breakfast and ride to the race with Frank and Diane.

Set up transition. Minor stress attack because I thought I couldn't open the fuelselage but it all worked out. I did forget my flip flops. Drat. Oh well.

Then right as it was time to head to the beach it started to rain. I dashed back to cover my shoes and we then hid in the bathroom shelter with all the other athletes. And unbelieveably the rain stopped and we headed down to the beach.

We waded into the water for the start and it was dark. Very dark. We could not see the buoys at all. The race director had said we would start at 7 even if it was dark but the cloud cover was dense and it was clearly darker than expected. They called us back to the beach and delayed the start a few minutes till it was brighter. Then they sent us back out and we were off.

The lake is shallow and the first 50 yards everybody was walking. It was funny. Then we started swimming and about 20 strokes in I got the dreaded "swim anxiety attack". It was terrible. I bobbed around and tried swimming and couldn't shake it. I was planning to grab onto a jet ski when I found my friend Diane and told her I was feeling anxiety. I think I asked her to swim with me and she said okay and then magically the anxiety passed and I just swam. My swimming mantra for the first half was "I can swim, I can swim" it was silly but it worked. It rained  hard about half-way through the swim. It was wild but didn't actually affect the swim.

Again at the last buoy lots of people were walking. That was also bizarre to swim next to walkers.

Swim time 39 including the run up the beach.

T1 3:26
The wetsuit strippers yanked off my suit and I was into transition. First time I've had a wetsuit stripper. It was great especially since it takes me forever to get out of my wetsuit. It was raining lightly. I suited up and off I went not the bike.

The Bike 2:53
The bike was on rural roads. The course is clearly marked and with 600 racers there are lots of people are out there. But the roads are open to traffic and there is plenty of traffic. It was not always safe. Once I saw a car aggressively cut in front of a pack of cyclists. Several times I was uncomfortably passed by trucks and three times I can to slow down behind cars who were leapfrogging the cyclists. I also never saw a support vehicle or referee which doesn't mean they weren't there but I didn't see them. And there was at least one group blatantly as a team drafting that I passed. Yup I passed them. It was a good moment.

I was happy with my performance on the bike. I did have some issues with my hydration/calories. My straw got out of wack and I couldn't get fluid in or out. I did resolve that on the go. I need practice pulling my bottles out from behind me on the go. I can do it but I slow down a lot to make it happen.

I did try to take a bottle on the go at bottle swap and I failed miserably. Live and learn. I only took in 2 1/2 of my bottles. I also ate 2 gu's so I had plenty of calories.

But I was strong through the finish. This is the only time I've ever not been dying to get off the bike at the end of this distance, that felt good. Really good actually.

Oh and I pee'd on the bike for the first time :-) gross but I feel accomplished.

T2 - 2:28
Uneventful. I remembered my watch and grabbed sunscreen on the way out of transition. Success all around.

These are my shoes after the race. You can't tell but they are covered in sand and dirt. I felt like I did an xterra event :-)
The run.
The half was a 2 loop course. The first 3-4 miles were a loop through the forest on a trail. The surface was packed sand/dirt. It wasn't horrible but it also wasn't great. There was some shade which was nice. Then there was a 2 mile stretch where we were on the road with cars and also cyclists it was a mess. It was very sunny and hot on this section.

There was also sort of rampant cheating on the run. Because there weren't timing mats at the halfway point of the trail portion or the turn around on the road -it was apparent that some people cut the course. You could tell because you would pass somebody and then a few minutes later after the turn around you would pass them again ... how did they get ahead of you ... hmmm. That's no fun. For the record I did not cheat.

Usually I carry my own water on the run but my fuel belt makes me crazy. So this time I decided to live off the course. Wrong race to try this. They were out of ice immediately and at 2 stops they ran out if water. There were only 2 volunteers at each stop so you had to go up and almost serve yourself. It was disappointing and if I had been gunning for time it would have been an issue. Wait I'm always gunning for time so it was disappointing. Also keep in mind that I'm in the middle of overall finishers of the half and there are athletes racing the full and they were already running out of supplies.

I was very lucky that I was running with a guy named Kevin. He was outgoing. Chatty and had a lot to say. He also ran a consistent 10 minute mile. So he distracted me and kept me on pace. I was hoping to run in the 9s but I just didn't have the speed. Also in the second loop I was definitely overheating. Kevin did the math with about 4 miles to go and said we needed to speed up to make six hours. I really wanted to hit six hours so I tried but he pulled away. I just kept pushing as hard as I could and when i got to the last water stop and they had no ice or water I was lucky because my coach frank was around the corner with a bottle of water for me. then i just told myself it was mind over matter and I only walked once uphill for 10 seconds.

The finish line was small and not very rockstar like. But all finish lines are a great feeling. I thought I was probably 6:05 or so and then Frank told me I was 5:57 ... I was thrilled. I may have cried a bit.

The post race buffet was mediocre. Potato chips, grapes and bagels. But the potato chips hit the spot. We hung out and waited. For Diane to finish. My kids were happy because there was a playground and they could play in the lake.

When Diane finished we had  more potato chips packed up and left. While we were packing up 2 full participants. Came in to transition. Seriously that has to be lonely to come into transition while we were packing up and start a marathon.

I was happy to finish this one.

In conclusion, this is a low- frills event. The medal for all distances is the same. That sort of stinks and the shirt just says the date which is pretty lame-o. But honestly I don't consider road closures to be a frill. It seemed there was no effort to inform locals that there was a race happening on these roads. The locals at the hotel and restaurants didn't know about the race and I think that showed in the automotive traffic on the roads.

So while I don't want to be too negative about Hits. So let's start with the positives. The swim was good - it's a good location. Both the bike and run were well marked and I think pretty close to exactly on target for distance.
every distance got the same exact medal. I'm sure they got a discount by ordering all the same medals but it's a bummer.

But, I want to say that I expected more. All three of my 70.3 distance races are off-brand if you will. I think I have reasonable expectations for small races. So let's compare:

Motivation Man in West Palm Beach had less than 200 racers for the half but they were able to close part of the road for the entire distance of the race. They did have other issues.

Rev3 had I think just under 400 racers and the roads were open to traffic but there were cones and volunteers and signs and I never felt at risk. They also have an awesome finish line, superb volunteer support and fantastic swag.

Hits said they had 500 people for the half although I only see 300 in the results so that might explain some things. The company which also does horse shows is supposed to be rooted in this Ocala community and in my opinion they just didn't do what it took to make this bike route secure. Also, they might not know as much about triathletes as they think they do. Given the chance there are those among us who will cheat and if you put an unattended out and back on the run there needs to be a timing mat to prevent course cutting. They ran out of water (I presume only briefly but when I was there at 2 of 3 stops no water or ice).  They also didn't have anywhere near the volunteers that they needed to pull this off and those 2 things alone are unacceptable to me as a racer. 

I'm happy with my performance but wouldn't choose this race again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Race Preview Hits Ocala 70.3 (oh and 14 weeks till Ironman France)

14 weeks and counting. Just under 100 days to go until Ironman France. Training is progressing. Nothing major to report in training except I did buy a different bike that I intend to take to France. That will get its own post later.

This week is my first race of the season Hits Ocala 70.3.

The timing of this race isn't perfect but it was the only 70.3 I could find to do before June. The bigger more popular race Haines City Ironman 70.3 is on the weekend of my daughters May Gymnastics competition - again. So it's not a surprise this year. But it's still a conflict. I briefly considered racing San Juan 70.3 which was actually yesterday but it would have been much more expensive so I picked Ocala.

So off to Ocala I go.

About the race
Hits is obviously not Ironman. But I don't really care if a race is an Ironman event so that's okay with me. It's a smaller race with an estimated 500 participants in the half-iron distance. I think that's about what we had for Rev 3 and that was great. So I'm excited.

It's a standard distance 1.2 miles in a lake - 56 miles on country roads and 13.1 miles in the park. I think some of the run is on trails and I'm not a trail runner so we'll see what that means and how I do. 

Also new to me there will be a full distance 140.6 race happening at the same time I'm racing. I have no idea what that will mean to me if anything.

This race is totally not my focus of my training. That would be the bigger race later in the summer. So I'm really trying to think of it as a supported training day. But it will be a good feeler for how the training is going so far I think.

I've done 2 other 70.3s. The first was Motivation Man the results were (s1:06,b3:01,r2:49) 6:54. I'd like to beat that hopefully by a lot. The second was Rev3 Venice (my only duathlon by the way). The swim was cancelled due to rough surf. The results were (b3:12, r2:10) 5:26. This also goes down as the hardest bike ride I've ever done in my life from the high winds. It was crazy. But I'm a better rider for having done it. And I had a cold. So I'm proud of that result - very proud actually.

What are my goals.
Swim -My goal is to have a strong swim. I've been doing more swimming now than any other time in my training - I think. So I'd really like to have a strong swim. A strong swim for me is one where I feel good - no panic and feel strong coming out of the water. This will be a wetsuit swim in a freshwater lake. I would like to finish in less than 40 minutes.

Transition1 - it takes me forever to get out of my wetsuit. I'm a spaz. This will be good practice for that. Because I'll do it again in France.

Bike - The Motivation Man bike course was at least 2 miles short. There is apparently 700 feet of climbing in this race. I hope that's fun. I would like to do 3 hours if all things go well.

Transition2 - do not forget my watch. This is my goal.

Run - I'd like to see 2:10-2:15.

That would give me a 6:03 race anything else is gravy. Of course I'd love to officially come close to 5:30 but I don't know if this is the race to do that. We'll see.

Other Details
Other details prepping for the race. I'll be riding the Shiv with the Reynolds wheels. I'll be debuting the Aero helmet that was supposed to debut at Rev3 but I was too much of a chicken.

I will be drinking Infinit on the bike and water and plain gu on the run. I will not be carrying a fuel belt most likely because it annoys the crap out of me.

The wildcard is always the weather. It currently shows rain from now until race day. I've never actually raced in rain. If I race in the rain there will be a new goal - NOT CRASHING the bike. That will be the only goal :-)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why 140.6 ? Why now? And why France? (part two)

Okay now onto the part 2 ... why 140.6, why now and why France?

This is the second part of something I started in January. Part One is here.

I've started this post a few times - saved and deleted. In it's first draft it was going to be the story of how I started this journey and the good things training does for my life. But really you can read that on another blog because many triathletes have similar stories, I think.

Why 140.6 - to be honest I don't have a great answer for that. Really. I just stepped up into it until it became, well, why not 140.6?
Is it just about the bumper sticker ... nope.

A big jump
Admittedly this is a big jump. A 70.3 is a big race and this is double that. In fact there isn't even much way except excessive training to prepare for this big jump.

To be honest this is the first race I'm going into thinking - I may not finish. In the past it's always been I wonder how long I'll take to finish. Will I be the last finisher? Not, will I finish. 

So that's a weird feeling. It did freak me out for a while but now it's kind of liberating. I'm training. I'm doing all I can and then I'm going to go try and do my race. At the moment I'm just concentrating on my training and that's okay.  
Is it for the tattoo ... nope.

Why now?
There is a motivational saying, "One day I will not be able to do this. Today is not that day." This = running or swimming or cycling or working or whatever you need it to be and it helps motivate me out the door to do whatever it is I'm avoiding doing.

Not to be too "greeting card" but that's my "why". Several years ago my dad developed heart disease went on to have bypass surgery which bought him a few years.  Then he died of heart disease. It's not an unusual story - it happens to a lot of people.

But sitting in the hospital after his first major heart attack (which happened at my house ... not fun I don't recommend it as a family event) his doctor who is also my doctor looked at me and said, "you have now gone from the lowest risk category to the highest in terms of heart disease."

I was 23 and ran marathons as a hobby. I was healthy enough that I saw my doctor twice a year. Once for the annual sinus infection and once for a checkup. And now I was at risk for heart disease ... really.

Yes, really.

I don't think about it all the time but it did stick. My dad was not yet 70 when he died. When I turned 35 I had the morbid thought that this might be my halfway point.

So that in a nutshell is what drives me to not let this pass me by. While I hope to be that cute grey-haired old lady out there in her 70s or 80s cranking out miles and cruising through races I know it might not be the case. I also thought I would be a cute little pregnant runner. Instead I swelled to the size of an elephant and couldn't move without barfing. That's just to say things don't always work out the way I plan them.

I don't want to look back and wonder if I could have done this.

So, I'm going to try my very best to tackle this crazy race now while I have the chance. Training for an Ironman is a huge drain on family time and at the moment my family is very supportive. My husband happily pays for all the crap that I buy and my kids know I'm not here on Saturday or Sunday mornings. They also think it's very normal for mommies to have a garage full of bikes and they don't even ask daddy to fix their bikes - only mommy.

I do also sort of think that this Ironman thing is a little different from marathons. You meet a lot of folks running and run/walking marathons well into their 60s and 70s and even 80s. So I've always just sort of felt like I'd be able to do that forever. But with Ironman I guess I don't feel that way - I have a little bit of fear that if I don't do it now I'll never do it.

Why France?

Oh geez. That part really is just an accident. My brother had backed out of racing IM Wisconsin with me. For good reasons and I wasn't upset but that left me needing a race. I honestly just wanted a summer race given the family schedule. I was thinking Vineman in California but it has a half at the same time which is not as much fun and my husband thought it might be too hilly. (It's a little ironic now that I look back on it).

I was at breakfast with my team and we bounced around ideas including France. It seemed to me in my addled post-ride stupor that many people were signing up.

So, I came home after this 90 mile ride and my husband said again I don't know if Vineman (the other race I was considering) is such a good idea.

I said "how about France?"

And he said, "okay."

I said, "Are you sure?"

He said," yes."

I said,  "Should I register? It's expensive and there's no refund."

And he said, "Yes." So I did.

It was not thought out very well actually. There are a lot of days when I wish I'd picked Idaho or even Lake Placid. But I didn't. I thought about backing out but then I decided let's go for it. So, off we go to France.
this is my training buddy benji finishing IM France last year. He says I'm gonna love it and I believe him because he did it.

Wish me luck. because I'm gonna need it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

15 weeks to go - Recovery's over - back to the build

Another busy weekend at my house. Newsflash - they are all busy and not because of never ending training sessions.

But it was  a recovery week and so the training sessions were smaller which was really nice.

In fact although I only actually missed one workout and still trained 7 hours last week I really felt like I did nothing. My how our perceptions adjust themselves.
My son's self-portrait during his sisters competition. He's a funny guy and notice the missing bottom tooth. big news in our house!

My daughter was sick at the beginning of the week. So I was light on child care and missed 2 swims. But I did swim Friday. I did my bike workout Tuesday but cancelled my super tough training session Thursday because after 3 days home I needed to run errands like a mad housewife or the family would have starved. And I did the track workout Thursday.
all alone on the bike. Pretty morning. Chilly temperature.

The weekend I did my training solo. Because they were short sessions and by flipping them I could make both my son's soccer game and avoid a truly convoluted commute to get to my daughters gymnastics competition. So it all worked out well. And here's a bonus. My top speed on the bike Saturday 26.1. That's not the fastest anybody can go but I was alone... yup I'm a baddass. Actually I'm not but I am proud of myself for hitting that teeny tiny instant of speed.

In other news though I totally messed up my hydration - nutrition on the bike. It was only 2 hours so I decided to try water and GU chomps. As it turns out the GU chomps are annoying on the bike because I can't get them out of the bag. It turned out I could only do that at stops.  Then I have to chew them which interferes with breathing on cold mornings when the nose is full of snot caused by the cold weather. So I didn't eat very many. And it was cool temperature outside so I didn't drink enough water and while I didn't bonk or anything I didn't feel awesome during the day after. I was sooooooooooo thirsty all day. Live and learn.
That's my kiddo standing behind the number 9! She did really well especially since she hadn't practiced all week due to her cold.

Last tidbit of the week. I stepped on a tennis ball playing tennis on Wednesday. Rolled ye old ankle a little bit. It's not bad but it's tender and it's moved up my whole leg so there's lots of stretching and icing and other fun things happening. I feel lucky actually that it isn't a bad sprain. I'm considering taking a break from tennis to avoid injuries but I'd feel bad for my other tennis ladies. So I have to make a plan.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

dumb resolutions

You may have heard of S.m.a.r.t. goals.  It stands for something approximately like this:

m - measurable
a - attainable
r - realistic
t- timely

Now I set myself some monthly resolutions for this year. February was eat as little processed food as possible. As it turns out this was not a s.m.a.r.t. goal for me. Mostly in the way that I didn't measure it and it wasn't realistic ... so um ... moving on.

March's goal is to catch up on my photos and scrapbooking. My sister-in-law is probably wondering to herself how I could ever fall behind in this because she is an avid scrap booker. She is supremely organized with her photos and memorabelia. Remember we are related by marriage. But I am envious of her scrap-booking and archiving abilities.

In my biological family I am perhaps the first person to have ever saved a photo I think. Okay, that's an exageration. But really my personal kid scrapbook was given to me with an empty album and a box of stuff my mom had saved. I put it together when I was a teenager. I'm not complaining. In the world of hardships not having a baby scrapbook is not a hardship. To be honest I remember that I enjoyed making the album. I'm just pointing out that I don't think I  inherited the scrap-booking gene from anywhere in my genealogy.

So when I had kids I was going to document each moment in their individual and personalized scrapbooks. I was sure that they would treasure these albums their whole lives. But this fell apart shortly after the birth of my son. His scrapbook has 1 page. EEEK. He's 6. Years not months.


I mean I don't put everything into their books. We have family albums and their books are just recaps for them. So it's 1-2 pages a year. Still I'm at least 5 pages behind.

So, I've got some catching up to do.

And as such I've ordered new albums and pulled the out of date scrapbooks from their dusty homes to update this month. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 4, 2013

16 weeks and counting

Holy crapnuggets. 16 weeks to go.

I had a good training week last week. I did all my workouts. Of course, today (now yesterday-Monday) I'm skipping my workouts.

I know, what happened?

Nothing. I swim outdoors and it was only in the 40s this morning at the time of my masters class. Brrrrr.... I could swim at noon but I have a kiddo home from school with a fever and so that's out the window. No biggie. Today will be the rest day of the week.

So I started this yesterday. But it didn't get posted. My biggest kiddo is sick so it was a different kind of schedule and it didn't get done. She's got the fever/cough going around and well sleep ... Sleep is so totally underrated. But I'm up and on the trainer but admittedly just going through the motions. Just pedaling today.

And it's still cold. Well - cool. It's about 50 out. So I'm wearing pants and a sweatshirt in my garage. That's never happened before :-)

Friday, March 1, 2013

A little bit of fast-ish swimming

I'm not a fast swimmer. This is fact.

But in the hope to not drown in the Medeteranean Sea in June (or anywhere else at any time actually) I swim with a masters group. Some of the folks there are very fast. Most of them were swimmers in high school and college especially the early in the morning group.  The afternoon group has swimmers and also a set of triathletes and just lap swimmers too.

Wednesday the main set included something coach Andrew calls an "elimination set." 25, 50, 75, 100 all on :20 per 25. When you don't make the interval you just swim easy until the others have finished.

We did this a few weeks ago and I didn't even make the first 25 with my fins on. Or maybe I did but it doesn't count with fins either way. But Wednesday I did make the first 25 in 18 seconds with no fins. Woot-Woot! We did the main set twice and both times I made the 25 cut off but then not the 50. I am the only one to be eliminated after the 25 but others get dropped along the way too. I think only 2-3 guys made the full group.

I did not make the next 50. In fact it amazed me how totally out of gas swimming that fast 25 made me. But I was proud of my limited speedy improvement.

So just for kicks when I got home I pulled out the program from my daughters first swim meet. In there they have a sheet of "motivational times" where they list the times by age in categories like AAAA, and all the way through B minimum which was the slowest they list. So in the 10 and under age group for 50 free the B Minimum is 39:49 so if I was able to hold my pace for the 50 (which I can't) I would make only the B minimum for 10 and under.

Humbling ... yes.