After Karel got off work on Thursday evening, we headed up to Macon, Georgia (4 hour drive) with Campy. With this being my 4th year doing this event (2009, 2010, 2012) but first time doing the aquabike, I was super excited to swim and bike and save my running legs for the next 8 weeks of IM specific training. Karel has always been a spectator for this race (an amazing one!) so it was finally his turn to truly experience this race course - on his tri bike and running legs.
As an athlete, I realize that we all can choose races that give us "fast" results on paper. Although we can't compare race to race, year to year, there's something to be said about comparing race times and deciding what is "fast" and what is "slow". In the past 5 years, I have gravitated toward challenging bike and run courses as I feel it fits me as an athlete. I love being smart on hard courses and having to rely on my mind to be strong on race day. I personally prefer and love the challenge of a hilly and hot course and I don't mind the outcome of a "slow" time on paper if it means I can use my knowledge of the physiology of the body to race a smart race and pace my own race. Again - it's not for everyone but it is important that whenever you select a race, you are familiar with the course and you race with your current level of fitness and you execute a smart race to give you a successful performance. Don't show off your best performance in a training session....save it for race day. Remember, the best race performances are not told by a finishing place or a time but instead, by the athlete him/herself and what she/he overcame to get to the starting line and what she/he battled with on race day (highs and lows) to get to the finishing line.
We arrived to the Swangers
around 10:30 and by 11pm, we were all off to bed. Waking up without an alarm on Friday was beautiful and our bodies were rested.
Stefanie (my athlete) was already on the trainer in her room bright and early and it was a big motivator to get the day going (I could hear her watching Kona IM on her iPad).
Pre race/my birthday!
Karel and I both made our own oatmeal creations to start the day, along with a nice cup of coffee and glass of water. The key for today was to focus on hydration and fueling every few hours with easy to digest foods. We both know what works for each of us so the day before a race is never a stressful or overwhelming time in terms of eating. Transition packing - well, that's a different story as it always feels like you are forgetting something.
After a Campy walk and kisses, we said good bye to Campy and then Stefanie as she headed off to work and then we headed 20 miles to the race venue.
Seeing that Karel and I had a wonderful vacation two weeks ago for 10 days, we have really pushed hard with training for the past two weeks. With a fresh mind and body since returning from Czech, this race was all part of our "plan". Although I don't always recommend "training races" for athletes, I think it is important to recognize the state of the body upon arriving to a "training" race. Certainly, if you are going to miss training to race but not "race the race", your body can not be completely destroyed, fatigued and sore going into the race. The entire purpose of training is to train the body but to also practice nutrition, strengthen the mind and get use to scenarios that are similar to race day (including making sure your bike is set-up in a way that works for you, your gadgets work, your clothing is comfortable, etc. all those little things). Whether you are training or racing, the idea of pushing your body (with or without a medal at the end) is to make performance gains or test your fitness and training. Karel and I (as well our athletes) do not do high volume training. It may look high compared to the exerciser but we are very focused on quality - no junk miles. Our weekly training hours are less than 13 on most weeks and every day we wake up energized and ready to give 100%. Rarely do we feel "off" but it does come with the territory of pushing our bodies so we just adjust to still make progress. Training is not our life, but our lifestyle.
The focus of our pre-race ride on Friday was to ride the course - 56 miles.
Since I have ridden this course 3 times, I am very familiar with the ~3000 feet of total climbing on this course. There is a lot of changing wind, steady climbs, descends, turns and lots and lots of gear changing. You have to have good cycling skills and with my progress with cycling over the past 2 years, I couldn't wait to race this course on Saturday. However, despite riding the entire course the day before, Karel made sure that I didn't overdo it. I drafted off his wheel for most of the ride and we rode steady. For the climbs - I didn't do anything crazy and I let Karel drop me and he would wait for me down the road. I guess our 3 hour ride was slow for Karel because of a few missed turns and waiting for me but all in all, I was so happy to be on my bike on my 31st birthday, sharing the day with Karel. And I must say - riding this course gave me a lot of confidence and excitement and I couldn't wait to do it again on Saturday.
We finished our ride around 1:20pm and it was hot. My Garmin 500 said it was 93 degrees and you could feel it without any breeze and on the black asphalt. We removed some of our cycling gear and rode our bikes to the water and took a dip in the bath-like water of the lake. Yep - no wetsuit needed for race day.
After we cleaned up a little, we registered for the race (aquabike for me, half IM for Karel) and picked up some swag (yay for Hammer being a sponsor) and racked our bikes. How cool...the first time we racked our bikes next to each other!! Of course, this was only our 3rd triathlon race together so that made me even more excited to share this with Karel.
We stayed hydrated with Hammer FIZZ to stay up with electrolytes and we also made sure we got in plenty of our sport drink on the bike. I also used cold water to cool my body on the bike to dissipate the heat the best I could.
(I saw so many females wearing the Oakley Women Commit
sunglasses out on the course! I just love mine - so comfortable and light)
Feeling really good after our morning adventure, it was around 2:30 and we needed something to eat. Karel found Chick-fil-A and as I went over the athlete guide with Karel, he enjoyed a sandwich and I enjoyed a yogurt parfait and fruit and some of his waffle fries.
When we got back to the Swangers, we cleaned up and I let Campy run like crazy in the fenced back yard (chasing birds in the sky) and I played with baby Colton who just loved campy! Then I had some of a fresh baguette with a little PB and Jelly and sliced banana and a glass of milk.
A few hours later, it was time for our pre-race meal which was prepared by Chef Kenny (stefanie's hubby - who is an awesome cook!). So delicious and of course, Stefanie knows me really well so they knew exactly what fuels Karel and myself before our races.
This race was no different than any other training day. Real food that made me feel good and a mind that was excited to swim and bike. No need to do anything different with my training gear (except for a nice bike clean-up from my cute bike mechanic/hubby).
Is it bed time yet?
It was bedtime around 9:30am and Karel and I both had a so-so night of rest, before our 4am wake up call. Of course, Campy slept like a baby.
Both Karel and I like to take our time in the morning. I don't like to be rushed as it can really take a number on the body in terms of nerves affecting digestion. I always try to keep myself in a happy place, around positive thoughts and people. I try to stay in the moment and think about my current level of fitness - not the would have's, should have's or could have's. It's all about the present moment and let me tell ya, both Karel and I were ready to Rock n' Roll!!
After walking Campy, I had a cup of coffee, along with a full glass of water. I had filled my bottles with powder the night before (~250 calories each per bottle of heed, + 1 bottle of 1 scoop heed for sipping with Espresso gel) so all I had to do on race day morning was fill with cold water. Karel freezed his fuel belt flasks the night before (he used 1 FIZZ for the two flasks as he knew based on past experience, he wouldn't be able to tolerate much nutrition in the heat and he knew he would drink coke so I made sure he had electrolytes as that would be the game-changer for the run. you need electrolytes for muscles and tissues along with replenishing what is lost in sweat. There are many ways to get electrolytes from sport nutrition so just find what works best for you). For Karel's bottles, he used his Infinit custom made formula that I created for him which has worked really well for him.
After oatmeal mixed with a little milk, banana slices, sliced almonds and a little ground flax, we were ready to head to the race site by 5am.
Again - nothing different today for me. Same fueling strategy as training and no nerves that would cause any GI upset with my normal foods.
This race is relatively small and I love that! The energy is so positive and everyone is really nice. I love the smaller races because often, they are very safe and fair. There is no drafting when you race against a few hundred people and the support from the community is really positive. There were tons of volunteers and for my 4th time, this race makes me so happy. It was great to be back in the race scene since I haven't done a tri since Branson 70.3 in Sept 2012.
I saw a few friends (Dee and Wes) and my athlete Roger and my friend from Jax, Brian and it was great to see familiar faces.
After we set up transition, it was time to head to the swim start for the 7am start for Karel (7:03am for me).
Thanks Colton for getting your parents up early to watch the triathlon!
The water felt great and Karel and I both swam a little to get started. We wore our speed suits and both had our Garmin 910's set on multisport zone. I took a full gel around 10 minutes before the start and that sat very well. I was ready to go and I gave Karel a go-get-em kiss and hug and we both went our separate ways.
Karel started with the 39 and under males at 7am. It took Karel a while to get his rhythm as swimming in open water is still very new for him. But progress is still being made.
The aquabike, duathlon and 40+ males started at 7:03am and without a nerve being scared in my body, I couldn't wait to get in the water.
When the gun went off - I started off strong. Knowing that this swim is known for being "slow" in terms of time, I didn't get stressed with my time as my Garmin buzzed every 400 meters for me to see how I was doing and how far I had gone.
The course is a large triangle and after the first buoy, I had really found my rhythm.
I couldn't believe it...nearing buoy two, there was Karel!! I was hoping he would see my pink compression socks which I wore in the water (approved by the race official) but he said he didn't see me. In my head, I was cheering for Karel hoping he would hear me.
I carried on swimming and spotting and felt like my swim was going really well. I was staying on course really well and after I made my way back to shore, I noticed I wasn't tired and felt abnormally strong and smooth in the water. I really focused on catching the water and reaching and rolling.
Exiting the water, I was the first female out of the water (the half Ironman females started at 7:06am) and from that point, I lead the race.
From the swim exit, you head up a steep hill which officially stops your swim time. Into transition, I put on my pink helmet (decided to not use my Giro Aero helmet as I am very comfortable in my regular helmet and with the hot course, wind and up and downs of the hills, I felt like my regular helmet would suit me better. Karel went with his aero helmet), cycling shoes and socks and turned on my garmin 500. My Garmin 910 was set on multisport so I just hit lap when i get into transition and exit so it will be ready for the bike. This helps me in case my power meter doesn't work as well as for analyzing my race.
ME: 34:38, fastest female swim of the day
KAREL: 40:26, 33rd male
I didn't have a lot to do in transition because I swam with the gel in my back pocket of my Trimarni kit so my transition was really smooth, quick and easy so all I had to do was put on my socks and shoes and helmet and go. I wore my Align sport bra
by Oakley Women which fits really well over my heart rate strap (no tightness Ladies).
I exited transition and had a few people yell at me that I was the first female. This made me smile and my competitive side started to itch and I couldn't wait to see what my trained cycling legs could do.
The first 2 miles of the bike include some steady rollers - they aren't kind to the body and Karel and I knew you can't gain anything in 5 minutes from transition. We both took it really easy until the first right hand turn and boy, did it pay off. Legs felt fresh and although the course was not easy and it was hot and windy, I was feeling so amazing.
It was around 40-45 minutes into the race that Karel wizzed by me. He told me "great job!" and later told me that he saw me and couldn't believe how strong I was riding. As mentioned before, this race is challenging and fair. You are alone, maybe with 2-3 other people in sight, playing cat and mouse but other than that, it is you against the elements.
After that first section, I hit my power meter to lap every 20 minutes. This would help me pace myself so that I could focus on my 3second power but also my normalized power. I really felt strong and all that hip work was paying off. Although I have been pushed by Karel for the past few weeks on the bike, I know I couldn't do this pace last year and it isn't just pushing hard in training that has made me stronger. It's a lot of off-the bike work and finally - I was able to have the race I have dreamed off. Even if I wasn't doing the run, I still wanted to bike strong for 56 miles and pace myself for a well executed race.
With Karel out of sight, he was still in mind. I remembered the pointers he told me on Friday about sections on the course and I stuck to my plan. Although I love to climb, I pushed just enough with a steady cadence to stay strong on the descends. There was a lot of wind but I did really well staying fueled every 8-10 minutes with sips of my drink, using cold water from aid stations to cool my body and properly changing my gears as needed, along with getting out of the saddle to stretch my hips.
Around mile 30, I checked my power and all was in check. I noticed that my average speed was better than ever but I was more focused on having a strong back half of the race. I wanted to prove to myself that I can ride strong from start to finish and not suffer or fatigue at any point. Even though I was passing several guys and enjoying my TT effort, my biggest focus on this course was to race smart.
I kept reminding myself of all the bike rides with Karel - steady intervals on his wheel. 5 x 20 minute intervals w/ 2 min recovery came to mind as that was a recent bike workout that we need a week ago. I remembered the 5 x 3 minutes that I did on his wheel at a fast pace on Thursday and I knew I could do this.
With 26 miles to go - I stayed smart but also reminded myself that I would not surrender until my body gave up. Amazingly - my body only wanted more and more and I was happy to give it everything it wanted to have a PR race.
Nearing the last 6 miles, I knew this would make or break me. Windy, tough climbs (although it doesn't seem that way on the elevation chart) and 6 miles that feel like forever...but on this day, I didn't want those miles to end. Nutrition went well and I was riding in a race, as if I was training. I was so focused on how strong I felt that I just wanted to keep proving to myself that I could do this. Nearing 2 miles to go, I realized I was going to win the aquabike and that I was going to have one of my best bike rides ever. I think it was smart that I did the aquabike because I needed this performance as a confidence builder...especially with all the obstacles I have had to overcome with my hip/back/spine issues in the past few months. Sure, I can run but there's no need to make withdrawals with performance when you can make investments.
My stats from the ride:
56 miles: 2:42.31 (average pace 20.64 mph, average power 158, average HR 143, average cadence 85)
Lap 1: 7:23 min 17.94 mph, 174 watts, cadence 80, 141 HR
Lap 2 - 7 - 20 minutes each
Lap 2: 21.33mph, 163 watts, 88 cadence, 143 HR
Lap 3: 18.86mph, 174 watts, 86 cadence, 145 HR
Lap 4: 20.60 mph, 156watts, 84 cadence, 141 HR
Lap 5: 21.34 mph, 124 watts, 83 cadence, 138 HR
Lap 6: 21.71mph, 146 watts, 87 cadence, 143 HR
Lap 7: 21.08 mph, 162 watts, 85 cadence, 145 HR
Lap 8 (29 minutes): 20.8mph, 168 watts, 84 cadence, 147 HR
2nd fastest female bike split
2:32 bike (22:02mph), 5th fastest male bike split
Arriving into transition, my chip stopped my time and I could hear the announcer say that I was first female. After returning my chip and finding Stefanie and Kenny, I got this amazing rush of energy in my body that I really really really wanted to run! Again - the cheers and excitement really made me happy but according to my plan...save it for the big day in 8 weeks.
Kenny told me that Karel was out on the run course and in 6th place. WHAT!!!! AMAZING!!
He said that he had been out there for around 15 minutes so I did a little math and I figured I would be able to catch up at one of the intersections with this clover-like course with three out and backs.
This is a very challenging run course - no flats, all up and down and as the race goes on, it feels like the downs just disappear.
This elevation chart doesn't give justice to this course. It looks like the last few miles are downhill - not so much. I guess only the athletes can say how hard a course is based on their own experience.
I ran 2 miles down the road and I was cheering for athletes when I saw 3 males run by. 2 more guys ran by and there was Karel. He looked, um, not so good after climbing for around 4 miles but I gave him a cheer and told him to hang in there. Nearing mile 6, I knew this race was a toughy but if he was smart, he could have a great race.
I ran another mile or so to another intersection and all of a sudden, there was Karel in 4th place. BOOM - passed two people just like that. If you know Karel, you know he can suffer due to years of cycling on the rivet. He has a big hurt box and he loves to fill it up during races so I knew, race or training race, he was going to give a good fight. But, still sticking with the plan - race smart and be patient. In endurance racing, you can still bike strong within your appropriate zones but you have to hold back on the bike just enough to have a good run from miles 7-13.
After cheering for Karel, my friend Dan A and Bethany and a few other lead girls that looked awesome, I started to run back to the start. Although I only had 2 miles left to run, I never imagined what I would see......
With 1.5 miles left, I see Karel's bright green Brooks Pure running shoes and his Trimarni kit. OMG - 3rd place!!!
Karel was passing people like crazy - I suppose just checking them off his list. He raced a very smart race and I knew he had to have held back a bit on the bike and the first few miles of the run to run this strong. He was walking 5-10 seconds each aid station to cool his body (from what he told me ) and fueling off coke and his FIZZ in his fuel belt.
Sadly - I wasn't fast enough to get back to the finish but I cheered for Karel and called Kenny to cheer him on at the finishing chute.
After my 6.5 miles of running, my legs were sprinting to the finish to give Karel the biggest hug. Later did we find out, 2nd place was a duathlete...Karel finished 2nd overall male!!!
Wow! What a great race for Karel. I couldn't believe it.....and neither could Karel.
Karel went from 33rd on the swim, 6th off the bike and 2nd overall finisher. Not to mention...the FASTEST run split of the day in a quad-burning 1:33.03.
Total time: 4:48.13
The time may look slow but that's how you execute a smart race on a challenging course.
After pizza, cheeze-its, pretzels and watermelon (my plate is the picture - Karel had a regular coke as that was all he could stomach), we both cooled off in the shade and I couldn't wait to share the news with Karel that I had a BIG PR on the bike and won the aquabike division (male and female) and had the fastest female swim of the day and 2nd fastest bike.
We drove back to the house to shower up and I couldn't wait to share the news with Campy. Of course, he always thinks we are winners and he was just happy that we didn't leave him in Macon. I refueled with a delicious glass of milk and nibbled on some more pizza and a banana.
Around 3pm, we arrived back at the venue for the awards and it was exciting for us both to get our top awards...and very cool awards too!!!
I want to send a big thank you to the companies which I love to support. They don't pay me to say nice things. I am a brand ambassador because I love quality gear that helps me reach my goals and live an active and healthy lifestyle.
(guess who got to sleep all the way home)
It was a great day for both of us but I have to say, it was a lot of fun. So much positive energy and support, it really got me even more pumped up for Ironman Lake Placid in 8 weeks.