Trimarni is place where athletes and fitness enthusiasts receive motivation, inspiration, education, counseling and coaching in the areas of nutrition, fitness, health, sport nutrition, training and life.
We emphasize a real food diet and our coaching philosophy is simple: Train hard, recover harder. No junk miles but instead, respect for your amazing body. Every time you move your body you do so with a purpose. Our services are designed with your goals in mind so that you can live an active and healthy, balanced lifestyle.
I'm really struggling to put a definition on this bike course. Karel says that a lot of hearts were broken on this course by athletes experiencing trashed legs on the run.
It's hard for me to properly describe this course because I am a 5 foot triathlete, from flat Florida, who loves to climb. Karel is a former (and very recent) Category 1 cyclist who spent much of his teenage years, climbing mountains in Europe.
Karel said this course was no joke and much harder than he imagined it would be from the course profile.
The Branson 70.3 bike course is TOUGH - Physically hardy, rugged, severe, harsh, aggressive, demanding, troubling
One must beTOUGH - Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and
The Branson 70.3 bike course is DIFFICULT: hard to do or accomplish, demanding considerable effort or skill, arduous, hard to endure, hard to comprehend, hard to manage.
The Branson 70.3 bike course is CHALLENGING: Demanding, calling for full use of one's abilities or resources in a difficult but
I'm still stuck on a definition but let's go with that the Branson 70.3 bike course is a challenging, difficult course that requires one to be tough.
After the 1.2 mile swim, the bike included a 6 mile section of rolling hills. Now that I think about this, I'm guessing less than 15 miles of this entirely non-flat course included the fun type of rollers where you can gain some speed on the downhill to help with the next uphill. Parts of the Branson course reminded me of San Antonio/Dade City (north of Tampa) or Clermont, Florida (well-known Sugarloaf mountain) with rollers that you could get some speed on the downhill to help with the next uphill. I love those!
But in Branson....there was very little of the course that you felt any "help" with the descends.
Many people have asked me how I train for hills. Karel is not a fan of bridge repeaters for he feels it is not a good simulation of climbs because the bridge is just not long enough to adapt. However, it is good for brief muscle memory adaptations so for many athletes living in flat areas, it can be beneficial to help with power production.
With our longest ride at 3:30 hours (majority of rides around 2:45-3 hours) and no idea as to how many miles I did within each bike session, the intervals we did were very specific and I became an efficient rider thanks to steady intervals (mostly Z3) focusing on power and cadence. I really enjoyed my entire 3- month training block (specific to Branson) but I felt as if I became a much stronger rider due to a few things....
1) riding with Karel (on his wheel, thus going much faster than I would do alone since most of my average mph for bike rides are around 17-18 mph due to warm-up/down and recovery between intervals)
2) doing more specific, longer intervals (primarily 12 - 30 min w/ 2-4 min EZ recovery focusing on power, not speed)
3) focusing more on my nutrition around my bike workouts. In the past 3 months, I have not done a single workout on an empty stomach and aside from swims (where I use water most of the time), I have had Hammer Heed and/or Hammer gels for every single workout (bike and run). I have also been in-tune w/ my recovery needs post workout (typically a smoothie w/ whey protein, veggies, fruit, milk/yogurt) and I have perfected my pre training nutrition which generally (for endurance workouts) include at least 4-6 ounces of skim milk (for the leucine) w/ my favorite carbs. I also learned that non-cooked oats or cold cereal (shredded wheat) works great compared to my old favorites of toast/bagel w/ PB or oatmeal. I do not measure my food but when it came to pre training nutrition for each discipline (bike/run), I wanted to make sure I perfected my nutrition. I did not measure to "count" or fear calories but to make sure I had enough. I found myself perfecting my nutrition before every workout (aside from swim which is typically 1/2 banana or WASA cracker w/ smear of PB) so that by race day, I would not feel the need to blame anything on nutrition. If it works in training, it should work on race day. Never overlook the importance of nutrition before, during and after workouts...it's not about calories but rather allowing the body to be consistent with training. I eat to perform...my body takes care of itself as I get stronger with every training session.
4) and lastly, what I feel is really helping me succeed in hilly courses such as Kona, IMKY, Rock n' Rollman in Macon, GA and IMWI since I live in pancake flat Jacksonville, is strength training. Not the kind w/ machines but rather, body assisted to mimic muscles I would use in climbing (and will use). I love step-ups on a block, anything for the core (for balance) and lunges and knee raises/leg lifts on the BOSU. I strength train year round but each block of training has a specific strength training routine. I kept up with hip strength until 2 weeks out and stopped my more aggressive strength about 4 weeks out from race day. I also love core exercises which I do daily. I keep things balanced so when it comes to strength, some days it is 10 min and max, 25-30 min on my swim days. I never do strength around a bike or run workout.
So with all that said, on to the race......
The bike course was beautiful. The scenery was amazing and I found myself loving it all. Karel spoke with Pro triathlete Nina Kraft at the airport and she mentioned she was really cold on the bike and it took her a while to warm-up. I was nervous about this for myself as I am not comfortable riding in cold weather (especially post swim) but I focused on my controllables and opted no arm warmers and gloves but instead, put on dry calf sleeves, socks and a jersey in transition. I was a little cold on the bike but the first few climbs warmed me up.
I'm not sure if this is exactly part of our course but a good idea as to the looooong climbs that made for a challenging, tough and difficult bike course. I felt a little cool on the first descend on the highroad (after the aid station that came after the turn around of the loop course) but it didn't bother me. If anything, it was a constant reminder to stay hydrated for the 90+ degrees in Florida make it easy to sip away. Karel use an aero bottle and 2 other bottles on his bike and I used 2 rear cages (which I can easily reach - this is a common mistake for athletes. If you have something on your bike, make sure it is practical and useful) and my front frame cage, with three bottles filled with my Hammer Heed Strawberry mix (240 calories). I didn't grab anything from the aid stations although they were well - stocked w/ wonderful volunteers. I also had a gel flask filled with 3 Huckleberry gels (a good amount of BCAA's to keep my head focused and muscles energized) that I sipped on at each turn around point). I tried to sip my drink at appropriate places on the course, where the HR was controlled. I avoided sipping during or immediately before a climb or right after a climb so I took advantage of parts of the course where my power and HR was low to ensure proper digestion and absorption of calories. I had no troubles with nutrition on this course and felt alert strong and well-fueled.
I saw Karel as I was about to start my way-back of the first loop and that lifted me up. However, the section off the highroad to the turn around (at the high school) reminded me a lot of IMWI with some rough roads and steep, punchy climbs. As I mentioned before, there was little on this course that felt like you had some "help" along the way, except on the way back to start the 2nd loop (and to finish the 2nd loop) which seemed to have a little tailwind. The way out was rough as the wind seemed to get stronger and as the race went on, the climbs seemed to get longer.
Karel didn't end up passing me until somewhere around mile 40 (a few miles before the turn around on the 2nd loop...yep, they made us do 2.5 loops with the turn off at the top of a super long climb). I was so excited to hear someone say my name and as he slowed down just enough to quickly talk to me, he said "Guess what...I swam 35 minutes!!!" and then he was off.
I smiled and yelled great job babe!!! But he was conservatively "crushing" the hills. I figured I would see him again until the run so I allowed that little conversation to give me the motivation and inspiration I needed to ride steady to the finish.
Although I felt really good, without any stiff legs or aches, I did have a few low moments where it felt really hard. Specifically, on the out section of each loop, with the wind, I was struggling at 5 or 7 mph at times. It was exhausting but I kept with positive mantra's (advice from my friend Dr. G (Gloria) and stayed within my limits for my power. I had studied past race results so I expected a time of 3:10-3:20 to be realistic and I made sure to not overdo it on the climbs as I would gain very little to power up a climb only exceeding power that my body was not trained to do.
I kept reminding myself that no race is easy and it shouldn't be easy. The whole focus of racing is to finish knowing that you overcame obstacles and the odds. I also told myself that I didn't want it to be easy. I didn't train for an easy race but rather one that I could perform well, with the body that I had trained well. With these thoughts I was finding myself at the turn off and I nearly yelled out loud "YIPPEE" as I veered to the far right, just to make sure the volunteers knew I had tackled the highroads, it's time to run.
The last 6 or so miles were rollers. I was expecting more downhills but aside from the steepest downhill I have ever experienced (Karel maxed at 49mph), the course was a lot of fun for the rest of the course. I loved the rollers, the technical turns to keep things interesting, the bike path (no passing zone) that reminded me of trails near my parents and the last steep, short hill to give the legs something more to remember on the run.
With 3 other races (Relay, sprint, Olympic) going on, I wasn't exactly sure of my place in my age group but I counted about 6 or 7 age group girls ahead of me after the bike. Not going for a time goal, I was super excited to enter T2 (different location than T1) with a bike time of 3:07 (17.89 mph).
My splits were:
Karel rode really smart, not riding as fast or hard as he could have. He said it was hard to hold back because he knew he could ride harder but we have learned from past race performances of athletes, that it always comes down to the run. To "bank" time on the bike, only to suffer, walk/jog or hurt on the run, is not worth the extra 2-5 minutes for a "faster" bike. This was a calculated risk that both Karel and I took on this course, to help us run strong off the bike. Also, with power zone tests specific to the longer distances, we were able to train with practical zones that allowed us to improve both on the bike and running strong off the bike.
Here's Karel's splits:
When Karel finished the bike, he was unsure of his place. In looking at the results, he was 6th off the bike. With the questions as to how his legs would perform for his first time running a half marathon after a 56 mile bike ride, Karel said this was the hardest thing he has ever done....embrace the unknown and push through.
Off the bike, I noticed very few bikes in transition for females. I was keeping an eye on the age group females and decided I was 2nd or 3rd in my age group (or wave of 18-34) and 6th or 7th off the bike.
I racked my bike and quickly put on my Pink hammer visor and Brooks Launch running shoes. I didn't use my back-up race belt w/ number but exchanged my mostly finished gel flask for a new gel flask, filled with 3 huckleberry Hammer gels and water (same as on the bike) that I would use as my primary fuel source (w/ water at aid stations) for the 13.1 mile run (around 300 calories).
When I started the run, I hit the lap on my Garmin 910XT multisport function and to my surprise, my legs felt good. More than good, strong.
With the crowds awaiting me on this 3-loop run course, I had made up my mind within the first 1/2 mile of the last leg of this challenging, tough and difficult race.....
I will not give up until my body gives up......let's do this body!
The normal 2 days before an endurance event dinner...
Pizza for me, pasta for Karel. We wanted local eats but the place we found was smoking inside (pub) so we decided on Chicago Pizza in the Landing.
Happy Birthday pre-birthday to KAREL on 9/22!!!
Pre race - 9/22
Saturday could have been a rushed day but I wrote out an itinerary for our to-do's and was careful to not overlook the importance of "rest" on the day before our race.
We warmed up near the race venue (pictured above is race start) with a 10 min lake swim, followed by a 45 min bike (on the first 5ish miles of the course) and then a 10 min run to open the legs. While sipping on our Hammer Recoverite, we checked in for the event at the host hotel, Chateau on the Lake and scoped out the swim/T1 scene.
We stopped a sub place for a meal and then headed back to the hotel. We had packed up our stuff for the race on Fri evening so there was ample time to rest in the room. Although, it always seems like time just ticks on by.
Around 1:30 we headed back to the Chateau (5.6 miles away, 15 min drive) for the athlete briefing which I find is a mandatory to-do no matter the race. Afterward, we checked in our bikes at T1 and decided instead of setting up transition on Saturday (like some) we would do so on Sunday morning.
We made a stop at the local grocery store for stuff for dinner. We opted to eat in our room with familiar food and an environment that wouldn't require us to wait for our pre-race dinner or risk anything w/ food prep. Also, we saved some money by not eating out, which is always a nice bonus.
My yummy creation that I enjoyed after we checked in all our stuff. All I need is a grocery store and a microwave and my favorite, trusty pre-race meal (for the past 5+ years) is easy to find and easy to make. Karel got chicken and rice (we bought the 90 second microwave seasoned rice in a bag) and I gave him a little of my salad.
We made a stop at T2 near the landing (1 mile from our hotel) to set up transition w/ our run gear. Funny to see a lot of bike racks w/ no bikes but I enjoyed having two separate transitions. Something different and new for me but I thought it was neat to break up the race and to avoid the clutter with the same transition for swim to bike and bike to run.
We both had a bag for our run gear (shoes and visor) and for me, a gel flask filled w/ 3 huckleberry gels for the 13.1 mile run. They gave us two bib numbers so with the number being mandatory on the bike, I decided to make an extra race belt w/ number for the run (I do the same in the IM) just in case I lose my number on the bike.
After a delicious and satisfying dinner around 5:30pm, we rested in our room until a little before 9pm and then it was time for a good night of rest. I prepared my bottles w/ powder only this evening so that on race day morning all I had to do was fill w/ water.
Race day morning
I sent my phone alarm (more like 3 of them for back-up) for 4:15am. The time was actually very comfortable for waking considering that we have stayed on Eastern time, not Central in Branson. We each did our own thing for breakfast based on what works for each of us.
I had a bowl of frosted shredded wheat (around 200 calories) w/ skim milk and 1/2 large banana (sliced). I topped my cereal w/ some raisins and sunflower seeds and spread a little PB on my banana. I could tell I was a little nervous (although I didn't feel like I was) because my tummy was a little off but in thinking back to almost every race, it is the same pre race "off" tummy that has never hurt my race day performance. We also picked up brewed coffee at Starbucks on Sat to reheat on Sunday. Smart call by Mr. European (Karel) for a nice change to hotel coffee. I also had a 28 ounce bottle of water for the morning to sip on as well as around 16 ounces or so w/ breakfast to help w/ digestion.
We used some Balm Bag instead of body glide before we left, for we find this much better to prevent chaffing. I forgot to put some around my arms where my jersey rubbed during the run but no chaffing during the swim w/ my wetsuit which was nice.
We headed 1 mile down the road via car to the Belk Parking lot to pick up the shuttle. Surprised at the long wait and lack of enough shuttles, we waiting in the 43-46 degree weather for around 20 minutes. Finally, we got on a shuttle a little before 6am which was good considering that transition closed at 6:45am.
When we arrived to transition, it was cold. I didn't let it get to me but glad I had a jacket, long sleeves, ear cover and gloves to keep me warm. Some people had their wetsuits on on the bus to stay warm. The cold weather was a change from the low mid 50's on Fri,Sat and today, Monday.
My transition area included:
3 bottles of Heed (240 calories) on bike + 1 gel flask w/ 3 huckleberry gels (300 calories)
Pink CEP compression socks
Arm warmers (didn't use)
Gloves (didn't use)
Jersey (I opted to put on a dry jersey post swim vs wearing a wet one on the bike)
I planned for a longer transition because it was important to me to be comfortable on the bike and not super cold with tight muscles for the first climbs out of transition.
After I set up my transition, I made a quick stop to the port-a-potty and thankfully, the line moved quickly. I guess I was well hydrated that morning. On the days leading up the race, we both took 1 Hammer Fizz daily for electrolytes to ensure proper cardiac and muscular functioning on race day. Also, 2 daily tissue rejuvinator is part of my normal routine so I don't have to consume Alleve, ibuprofen, etc. I do not take any anti-inflammatories on or near race day and it is more like 8-10 a year as needed for "serious" issues.
Karel had no trouble setting up his transition so we met at the lake for a warm-up swim. This was super important for Karel so he wouldn't hyperventilate on the swim or freak himself out. The water was toasty and just perfect at 74 degrees. I had my Xterra Female long sleeve Vector Pro wetsuit which I absolutely love (super comfy) and we warmed up with a little swimming before they closed the lake for the pro start at 7am. We shared a gel (Hammer huckleberry) around 10-15 min before the race start.
It was a little cold on the rocks on the beach but despite my knees shaking a bit, I was glad I did a warm-up swim to get the body going.
SWIM - 1.2 miles
A little after 7:10, it was time to give Karel a kiss for confidence in his first ever half ironman. He said he was nervous but wasn't sure why. I told him I still get nervous but I think nerves can sometimes be confused w/ the unknown of the day ahead and a mix of excitement thrown in. I told him he will do great and that all he has to do is think about his form on the swim and to stay on the outside to avoid getting mixed up with everyone in his wave. Once he got on the bike, I told him he will really feel at ease.
My wave started at 7:15 and was an in-the-water start. We swam just a little to the buoy and I positioned myself on the far left of the 18-34 wave (last female wave) even though we were to keep the buoy's to our right. After thinking about the mess that can come from trying to swim in a pack of people (especially wave start) I figured it would be more efficient for me to swim a little longer distance but to be able to actual swim vs. constantly spotting and navigating through the other 4 waves ahead of me.
After I started my Garmin 910XT, we were off!
I felt really smooth during the entire swim. Unable to properly pace myself on the swim, I decided to just stay smooth, draft whenever possible and to be efficient w/ my stroke.The last month or so of pushing my comfort zone w/ the fast guys, was really paying off. I found myself feeling great throughout the entire swim and there was a good amount of buoys which helped for staying on track. When I was navigating around the last buoy on the way back (it was a clockwise swim, out to buoy, then semi diagonal to another buoy then straight shot to the swim exit) I looked at my watch in the water (the lake was considerably clear near the surface) and was excited to see my time.
I stayed behind another girl in a pink cap who was about 2 body lengths ahead of me. I tried to keep her in my sight and I didn't pass her until we ran up to transition. Later I realized she was a super strong cyclist but also a great swimmer to push me to not slow down.
I exited the water in 30.03. Super happy with this time as I felt I didn't go out too hard but just enough to stay in the mix. My garmin said 1.27 for the distance which is ok for me considering that my strategy to stay on the outside really helped.
I ran up to T1 on a steep ramp and took my time in T1, putting on all my gear that I have used effectively in training. The jersey took a little to put on but I feel it was worth wearing a warm (not wet) jersey on the bike.
I started my bike computer (Garmin 500) as I was running out of transition and hit my lap button on my Garmin 910XT since I had it on auto multi sport for triathlons.
Once I started the bike, I felt good. I was really excited for the bike to see what I was able to accomplish for this was something very new to me in triathlons. I have climbed before (IMKY and IMWI and KONA) and enjoy a challenging event but this was something completely different. More than 200-400 feet of climbing at a time, this was a serious, no-joke bike course. It required me to be smart, to take a few risks and to be consistent w/ power and nutrition.
I had an idea of a respectable time (3:10-3:20) on the bike based on past performances from girls in this age group from the past two years and to average around 17 mph was very respectable on this course. I figured I would still be able to compete with the other girls within this range and it wasn't worth it to me to kill myself for a sub 3 hour bike, only to suffer on the run. I took some risks being a little conservative on the bike but to monitor my power. More than anything, I love to climb and sometimes I push too hard so I didn't want to get caught up in any time goals for this race. I wanted to race strong and smart from start to finish so that meant holding back a bit and at the same time, pushing it when needed (like, on the run).
Girls were passing me on the first climb but I didn't let it get to me. I just told myself "what will you gain in the first 6 miles of this challenging bike course?" and after the first 6 miles, I started to question my strategy......
Bike Report coming soon......
A little report on Karel's first 1.2 experience in a triathlon...in a lake.
He felt really smooth and found that swimming slightly to the outside helped his nerves for this event. He was able to focus on his form and he even surprised himself when he was passing people. He said when he exited the water he was shocked to see 34/35 minutes on his watch. He said he was so excited, he couldn't wait to find me on the bike course to tell me :)
He said the transition area was a little packed for him but he didn't have any trouble getting his stuff for the bike. He also passed on the arm warmers and wore a SL3 tri suit for the race (which he practiced several times in training). Karel has Louis Garneau Vorttice aero helmet (I have a pink/black Giro aero helmet).
First off, thank you for your support, enthusiasm and excitement for our first race experience together. Secondly, I apologize for any typos or spelling errors..my body and brain are very tired (thanks for understanding).
I am so excited to write my race report but for now, I am going to enjoy doing nothing. My season is official complete and it's time to reflect and think about next year.
A day after his 36th birthday, I'm so happy that Karel enjoyed his first half ironman....and this course was no joke. Harder than we could have imagined while reviewing info about the course but once we arrived to Branson, we knew race day would be a challenge.
The day started at 4:15am when we woke up (central time) and after riding the shuttle bus to Moonshine Lake, we were greeted with 74 degrees in the lake. This was very welcoming considering the shivers with 43 degree air temps.
The swim was beautiful. The water was clear enough to see your hand entry and the course was wide enough that there was room to navigate around the wave starts. I started at 7:15am and Karel started at 7:23am.
After the 1.2 mile swim, it was a quick run up a steep ramp (from the beach) to T1. This was the only time we would be at this transition since T2 was near the Landing (finish line/run course). It was a little chilly but I was comfortable post swim. In my race report I will go into details as to my gear/nutrition for this race.
The bike started w/ 6 miles of very rolling hills out to the 2 loop hwy bike course. I took Karel's advice and didn't not power the hills to start the bike and it paid off. Once we entered the closed course on the hwy, the long 1-2 mile climbs quickly woke up my legs. The descends were very welcoming but were not long enough. That's ok, what goes up has to go down. Between each out section was a turn off with steeper climbs than the highway and our turn around was in the parking lot of a high school.
The wind was not in our favor heading to the high school but we could feel a little give in the wind on the way back. Still, the same climbing and descending but as the course went on, it seemed like everything got steeper and steeper, longer and longer.
A few pics from the Internet of the bike course...
According to Karel's bike computer, our 56 mile ride included 5085 feet of climbing.
After 2 complete loops (out and back), we made the turn around and headed back on the out loop (again) until the turn off. The last section of the bike included some steep and steady downhills, a bike path, technical turns (just a few, nothing too scary) and of course, more climbs and rollers. With less than 2 miles to go, one last super steep short climb just to give the legs one more memory of this bike course.
After entering T2, it was time for the run. Karel had passed me on the way back on the 2nd loop of the bike (guessing around 40 miles?) so I knew he was already out on the course.
I saw three bikes on the rack from my age group but I new that there was around 6-8 girls ahead of me when I started the run. Because of the Olympic and sprint races, it was hard to tell the competition but I do enjoy having other athletes from different races on the course. It was a challenge for everyone and a beautiful day for a safe, well-run race.
The run was fantastic! Crowds and loops. That's my kind of course. The course was 3 loops, with the finish on the way back of the 3rd loop. It was so great seeing Karel on the course and every time I saw him, it would give me a sudden boost. Of course, the boost didn't always last long but I did feel great on the run...that is, until I started to race it.
After passing a few girls on the run who were super strong cyclists, I had confirmed an age group award....but I wanted more.
I had decided in my training for this event that I would race this race. Not racing a time but rather competition. On race day, I expected highs and lows and didn't try to ignore the lows. I dealt with them with mantra's, positive thoughts and trust in myself.
I want to save some excitement for my race report so I won't fill in the details as to how the run unfolded. I thank everyone who tried to track us all day (and for the overwhelming support on facebook!) and its a bummer that the run splits didn't show up because every time Karel and I ran over a mat, we thought about everyone who was tracking us, so proud that we could put our training to the test for you all to enjoy.
We are sore and exhausted but it was an unbelievable event to have in our memory bank. If you like hills and a lot of beauty in scenery, I highly recommend this race. The organization and support of the IM team as well as the volunteers and spectators was amazing I'll leave you with the final results as a little spoiler...
Total time: 4:57
5th age group, 18th amateur male
As athletes, it is easy to always want more. I was reminded of this at the 2012 Olympic Games when hearing reports (and pics) of athletes who appeared disappointed for 2nd place (silver medal). I'm sure for us "normal" people, we would be elated for a medal at the olympics - heck, even just the chance to watch would be a winning moment for myself
But oddly enough, I think we can all identify with the feeling of putting it the work with only one goal in mind. For that goal is the driving factor for every training session - the great ones where you wish the race was tomorrow and the ones when the mind and body were arguing like a bad relationship.
But for us, we aren't going for a gold medal but rather a personal best, a finish line or overcoming the odds. Although we may not be as athletically gifted as an Olympian, if it wasn't for "wanting more" perhaps we would just settle and call it quits.
I think we can all learn something from athletes who can express their feelings in a way that it is both inspiring and motivating. For the athlete who is "dissapointed" with second place is thinking to her/himself - "How can I get better, stronger and faster for the next time?"
Knowing that many athletes are grateful for the opportunity to be able to do what they do (whether it is a 5K, Ironman or an Olympic performance), we must remember that with ever great performance and with every not-so-great performance comes the ability to reflect, move on and do it all over again....but even better.
How many times have you finished a race and have been disappointed in the results? Whether you hoped to be faster, place better or if you are comparing it to old times/results, athletes can put so much pressure on themselves to forget about where they once where but also, where they can be in the future. Knowing that many athletes will put in the work, it is with this thinking that no matter the place, result or experience, you can reflect on more positives than negatives in order to learn and move on to something greater than you ever thought was possible.
After work at the hospital on Friday, I headed a mile down the road to the Lifeguard Building to pick up my packet for the Hammer Head Ocean Marathon. Karel told me he wanted to do the 2.5 mile distance (as opposed to the 1.25 mile) for a confidence builder so I signed us both up.
We woke up around 5:15am on Saturday morning and left for the beach around 6:20am.
My only "training" for Saturday was the open water swim since this has been a challenging week and on Friday at swim practice, I could feel my body getting tired. Although I don't believe in "training races", there are very few opportunities for us here in Jacksonville to have a lifeguard supported open water swim so this was a "race" I couldn't miss. No need to taper before the race, however I considered the toll the 2.5 miles in the open water would take on my already-tired body and considered it a perfect way to change up my normal bike+run Saturday workout. I also realized I had nothing to prove to anyone after the race that I could still bike afterwards. Knowing that evey training session comes down to "what can I get out of this?", the swim was all that Karel and I needed that morning. And what a swim it was!
We kept our pre-training/swim sncks simple (oats, PB, milk, banana slices) but made sure to stay hydrated leading up to the start - considering that swimming continuously for over an hour means no hydration and no calories. That's quite a toll on the body.
I took 2 Hammer amino's before the race and 2 hammer endurolytes. I sipped on 1 scoop HEED before we boarded the buses at 7:30 for the point-to-point swim.
I had a FIZZ for post race from Hammer.
After we arrived, we picked up our chips and got ready for the open water swim (Karel's longest distance since the Olympic distance tri of .9 miles and his third ever open water swim).
Not quite a transition area and certainly a lot less stuff -my TYR speed suit, COOLA sunscreen, body glide, vanquisher speedo goggles and swim cap (provided from race packet).
We boarde the buses and Karel seemed cool and collected. I tried to forget the not-so-hot swim from Fri and reminded myself that it's all about what you can give for that day. I finished the workout on Fri w/ a smile and felt like I gave a good effort and certainly, finishing that swim feeling tired (as expected considering the past 2 weeks) was the perfect moment to let Karel know that I will be taking 3 active recovery days next week (Mon - Wed) to allow my body to recover with 5 more week left for Branson 70.3. I believe for my body, I do best with a 2 week "on",1/2 week "off", 1/2 week higher volume training plan rather than the typical 1 week recovery after 3 weeks of building. My body recovers quickly but I also train really hard so I need to make sure that even with my normal Mon of rest, I still need additional recovery after I go hard for 12 out of 14 days.
We traveled 2.5 miles down the road to the swim start. The water was refreshing but a bit on the cooler side for August in Florida. There was a large group doing the 2.5 mile swim and I saw a lot of familiar faces so it was a really relaxed and laid back environment. I suppose that's the style of the true swimmers - a bit too relaxed and comfortable at times.
In picking out those true swimmers, they were ready to show off their swim skills. As I powered up my garmin 910XT and set it to the open water swim option, the announcer was starting the 3 minute countdown. After the airhorn alarm went off, I made a straight shot to the first of only three buoys, made a left turn around the buoy and starting the loooooong straight swim to the pier.
With only 1 buoy on the course, I can only laugh at my garmin file. Nothing close to a straight line.....more like the look of mountain tops from a distance.
There was a mix of being around people to being alone and a lot of mental talk to keep myself distracted from looking at my watch. To make sure I didn't get overwhelmed with the distance, I didn't look at my watch until we reached 1.25 miles and then I hit the lap button: 34 minutes.
I felt good for the first 1.25 miles and decided to pick it up a little bit. I hoped for more of a push with the ocean (wishful thinking) but it seemed like the closer I got to the last buoy, the harder the ocean was to catch the water.
With lots of sighting, I felt like I was getting no where.....I kept thinking to myself "where is that stinkin last buoy!"
I tried to think about my stroke but when I looked at my watch and saw 1 hour, I became concerned as to how much longer I needed to swim until I got to the finish. I wasn't tired but with no 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run ....and no shiny Finisher medal, t-shirt and massage post-race, this was only a swim w/ no Ironman Finisher to boast about. Surely another accomplishment but 2.5 miles is a long way to go and from my Garmin, this was longer than was predicted.
Finally, I could see the crowd at the beach. YES!!!
Errrr, that stinkin buoy was not in line with where I was swimming so I had to swim against the current to make the left turn around the buoy and then to swim home.
I enjoyed the little push of the waves to bring me to shore and I sprinted in the water to finish the swim and to run up to the mat to stop my chip.
Ok - I'll take it. Not a PR but a great swim w/ no Ironman specific training. Plus, like most races - the low moments always seem to pass when I finish and I am always happy that my body let me finish.
After rinsing off my body w/ cold water, discovering many places around my neck where I did not put enough body glide (OUCH!) and re-hydrating, I spotted my friend Susan and her sister and Susan's 3-week newborn to come and cheer me on.
We walked and chatted for about 10 minutes and after they left, I grabbed a banana, Chobani blueberry Greek yogurt with self-serve granola and strawberries from the food tent and waited for Karel.
Worried that he would be exhausted and would not enjoy the long-distance swim experience, I saw Karel sprint up to the finish line (passing 3 guys on the sand - always competitive :) ) and in a finishing time 1:32, Karel said "I felt great!"
With no pressure, Karel just did his own thing and was smooth in the water. He didn't race it and he just focused on what he has been practicing in Master Swim practice for the past 4 months. I was so proud of Karel not only for his effort and great time but also for his attitude and really enjoying the moment and acknowleding where he was and how far he has come with swimming.
As Karel refueled and rehydrated, they started the awards and I received the cutest award for winning the 30-34 age group.
After downloading our data onto Garmin and TP, Karel ended up swimming 2.75 miles and I swam 2.8 miles.
In thinking back to the beginning part of this post, I have little reason to be frustrated, disappointed or critical of my swim. I had a challenging 3 hour bike + 53 min run (both w/ intervals) today (Sun) and I realized why my season is going so well.
I make every training session count and I keep it focused and balanced. I have my race schedule in mind and with the quality training, I can have great race day performances.
Great athletes know how to train smart but they also know how to race smart. There are no second chances when it comes to making a good impression at a race but with every training sesssion, there is tomorrow.
Every athlete has the ability to be great. You mut know how to hold back or say no when it is necessary and you must know how to be smart and give a great effort when it counts. Don't ever think that you don't have the capability to be great and most importantly, to inspire others with your consistent actions.
Mind and body. I've said it in many times in the past but it is a remarkable thing when both are performing beautifully - together.
As an athlete, I strive off competition. I like to make my body perform. But in order to perform on race day, I have to train. Just like many of you, it doesn't come easy for me. I've learned from past learning "lessons" (err... mistakes) that it takes much more than putting in the miles in order to achieve success on race day.
Always enjoying the journey and putting in the necessary quality work, I have kept a common motto for my race day performances over the past 6 years of racing endurance/multisport events
......"my mind will be my only limiter on race day".
This is something that I strive for in every race and I remind myself this with every training session. Whether it is sport nutrition, sleep, attitude, stretching or strength training - I am always thinking about what I can do to set myself up for success on race day. This may seem extreme but there's nothing "normal" about turning a single sport event into a multisport event - and racing it, or in covering a specific distance for over 30 minutes....only for a tshirt and maybe a medal.
Confidence can bring a person far but there are many pieces in the performnce puzzle that must stay together as an athlete preps for an important race. As someone who doesn't belive in "B" races - my goal is to always put my training to the test....and let my mind be my only limiter on race day.
But then comes the bigger obstacle. Competition. This is an area in which I once feared and now I embrace. With a body that loves to perform, I love racing others and this often brings out the greatness in myself. I crave to see athletes who are faster than me - in order to push me to my limits. For even as I race my own race, I need others to remind myself that it is possible....especially when the mind and body start their common love-hate relationship at least once during a race. But then, I also need the newbies - out there questioning their own capabilities and wondering if it is really possible. I need to stay humble to remind myself that as we all reach the same finishing line, we all go throug the same emotions, excitement, nerves and questions on race day.
Triathlons are an amazing lifestyle. I can't even start a proper sentence when I begin to think about how tri's have changed my life. I'm filled with so many emotions and the biggest life change, besides creating a passion for helping others through my Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition business, was meeting Karel just a week after I did my first half ironman and 1 month after finishing the 2006 Boston Marathon. Six months prior to my first Ironman, Karel has embraced and supported my lifetyle and has really shown me what it takes to compete at a level beyond what one believes is possible.
And after 6 years, we finally shared the same course for our first-ever triathlon race together.
After work around 4pm at the hospital on Friday and then picking up my packet at the JRC, I came home rather hungry (I blame not having PB for 24 hours and not getting to the grocery store). Prior to packing my transition bag, I had a hearty salad w/ fruit and veggies to hold me over until dinner was ready and sipped on 1 Hammer FIZZ.
I grabbed my Iron Girl transition bag and Campy helped me pack as he was super excited - thinking he was going for a trip. Poor little guy :(
Triathlon Olympic check list:
Pre race outfit - socks, old but good Brooks running shoes (launch), hammer jacket
Race day outfit - Asics sport bra, louis garneau bike shorts, CEP calf sleeves (approved by race director to wear in swim)
TYR Torque speed suit
Vanquisher Speedo goggles
Swim cap (from packet pick-up)
COOLA spray sunscreen
Garmin 500 -bike computer (restarted to zero the screen)
Garmin 910xt - (will write a review about this - LOVE IT!)
Water bottle - water (pre race)
Water bottle - 1 scoop heed (pre race)
Water bottle - 2 scoops heed (for bike) - mixed on race day morning
Gel flask - 2 gels + water (for run)
Race belt + number (+ safety pins as I always pull my number off the belt when I put it on)
Brooks Launch running shoes
Louis Garneau cycling shoes
Giro aero helmet
Radar Edge Oakley women sunglasses
Extra chip strap + safety pins
Oakley Women towel (for transition) + extra towel for post-race
Grocery bags (for wet/dirty post race clothes)
Post race - skirt, tank top (with built-in bra), sandals
Dinner was the typical - same staples for almost every race for the past 6 years:
Sweet potato, rice (or bread), veggies (smaller portion since I had my salad an hour prior), scrambled eggs (2 whites + 1 whole) and cheese.
I like to keep it super simple as I know every time I eat during the day, I am refueling. Since my pre-race warm-up at 6am (1:15 bike + 2 mile run w/ race pace short intervals), I made sure to not let my blood sugar drop and to eat and drink regularly and to honor my hunger.
Karel had a similar dish but I prepard him a bowl of rice and a hearty salad w/ sardines.
Race day morning
At 4am the alarm went off and we started the coffee and packed up the bikes into the car. Campy was excited for his early morning walk but sadly, we had to tell him he had to stay home until the neighbor let him out later in the morning. Sad face for Campy ;(
Karel and I had a similar breakfast but in different quantities. He knows what works for him and I know what works for me.
I had coffee and sipped on my water and on the drive (as Karel was driving), I had cooked oats, banana slices, PB (stirred in) and a few raisins. Just enough for me to finish it satisfied and not stuffed. It sat very nicely and I was super excited for Karel's first Olympic distance triathlon.
We arrived an hour and 10 minutes later in Fernandina Beach, and a little after 6am, I could tell Karel was getting a bit nervous. It's hard to say the right thing to someone who is nervous for a race - for Karel wasn't nervous about the bike and the run but certainly, swimming a mile for the first time in the ocean - with a mass start - in your 2nd ever triathlon can present an anxious feeling. I tried to say the right thing as I was feeling super excited, without a nerve in my body. I suppose just having Karel with me made me super calm but on the flip side, he was anxious for what was to come.
After body marking and getting our chips, we went our seperate ways to set up in transition.
DRC puts on excellent races and the morning went by really smoothly. I loved being so close to home and seeing so many familiar faces.
After a few bathroom stops, Karel and I went for a little 10 min jog in our "old" shoes w/ a few pick ups to get the body going. Lesson learned from a few shorter races - I need a long warm-up for the short distance races.
After getting our swim stuff together, we mentally rehearsed transition area (swim enter, bike exit, bike enter, run exit, finish) and walked to the ocean to scope out the scene.
We did a few minutes of swimming and then a few faster efforts. Karel felt comfortable in his tri-suit but I could tell he was gettin more nervous for this swim.
Feeling great during my warm-up - I was about to burst with energy. I was so confident knowing that my best friend was out there with me.
After the pre race talk, we made a 3/10th mile walk to the swim start for the Olympic mass start, whereas the sprint distance started closer to the swim exit (5 minutes behind us).
I kissed Karel and wished him good luck and told him to have fun. I check out the waves and paid attention to the top female competitors (Shiver sisters and local speedster JC - who just qualified for her 2nd Kona at IMCDA) . With swimming as my background, I wanted to stick with a group to keep me steady in the water.
Swim - 23:21
The swim was great. I have really been working on my stroke in the water and certainly, the Olympic swimming events have helped me with my enjoyment for wanting to be a better swimmer...even after 20 years of competitive swimming.
Rather than focusing on the yards in the pool - needing to get to 3500 or 4000 yards, I have dedicated the past few months to working on my catch in the water as well as my body position. With this being the main focus for Karel's swim training since he started 2 months ago, I'm really enjoying the minor improvements that we are both making, which make for a great efficient swim on race day.
I swam and exited the water with a group of guys. I ran quickly to transition had our friend Jerry (who works at Trek) ran to the side of transition to cheer for me. That really helped me get excited for the bike, along with all the spectators cheering that I was one of the top females out of the water. I knew I wasn't in the lead but I couldn't wait to put my bike training to the test and my new pacing strategy.
Bike - 1:04 (YIPPEE!!)
The strategy that Karel gave me was to take it easy the first 3 miles on this out and back course. With tail wind on our way out, I went by perceived exertion and held back to prevent my legs from locking up. I sipped on my bottle every 3-5 minutes as I did intervals (yes intervals) after my first 3 miles of "comfortable" riding.
I broke up the bike into intervals and kept in mind that I was racing an Olympic - not an Ironman. Time to see some different power numbers - more like upper Z3, low Z4 - NOT Z2 or low Z3. A constant reminder for someone like myself who loves to push hard on the bike when I draft behind Karel but a constant struggle in racing to be smart with my bike race.
The strategy was 3 minutes "race pace", 30 sec ease up. I was minding my own business, in my own zone - looking at my screen which was showing me my 3second power, normalized power, lap power, current cadence, lap heart race and lap speed. Typically, I don't train w/ speed on this specific screen but I added it for the race. I also hit the lap button every 3:30 (or when I remembered as sometimes it was more like 7 minutes or 8) so I was constantly seeing a lap that would represent that moment in time, not an average over the entire race. For I knew I would approaching the head wind and I didn't want to overcook myself on the way out and not have enough in the tank on the way back. I made sure to stay well fueled and when I got to the turn around, I saw Karel in flying in the other direction....as well as my closest competitor, JC.
Karel passed me and he said "good job babe".
I suppose with Karel having a swim of around 31 minutes he had a lot of ground to make up to "be in the race".
But not to worry - Karel average 26 mph on the bike.
Shortly after, JC passed me. She is a strong cyclist (and runner) so I didn't try to pace her race but I did try to keep her in sight...but with around 4 miles to go, I had to settle down a bit as my power and HR were increasing and I wasn't racing my plan.
Still feeling great - my legs were ready to run. Mind and body were functioning the best ever and I had a bank of track workouts to keep me motivated for the upcoming 10K run.
At the dismount line, I got off my bike and ran to rack my bike. I quickly transitioned to the run with my visor, race belt and gel flask. Jerry told me Karel was a few minutes ahead of me and I smiled big as I ran to start the run.
Run - 43.44
First mile went smooth. Just like I practice off almost every bike ride, a short stride/shuffle with a relaxed upper body. The pace and HR was just where I wanted it and another confidence boost that I was executing a great race.
The run was beautiful. Most of the run was in a park where there was a bit of shade. Thankfully, there was water at each mile for it was still really hot.
I kept a steady pace for the first 3 miles and tried to pace myself so I could have a strong last 3 miles. I couldn't wait to see Karel as he was running back home as I knew that would give me some instant energy. With 3 girls ahead of me, I confirmed my 4th place overall finish when I didn't see another girl behind me for over a mile.
I sipped my gel flask before every aid station (2 gels + water) and sipped water at the aid station and used water for cooling. After my 3, I found myself getting a little tired in the legs but nothing that the mind couldn't change with a helpful reminder from a guy who was pacing me during the run. He laughed that I called some guy "babe' as I cheered for Karel "go babe" so I told him "keep up the great pace - babe". He laughed and so did I.
I received a few cheers from friends running in the opposite direction and with 2 miles to go, I took a brief look at my Garmin after switching the screens to the overall running time of the race (instead of seeing my lap pace, lap HR, distance and running time).
With a goal of sub 2:20 for this flat Olympic distance course (best time 2:24 in hilly Clermont, FL), I noticed I was putting together a race that by my standards - is super duber fast for an endurance athlete.
With 1 mile left - I decided to go for it. Just like on the track on Tues mornings when I train with Karel and Jeff (his boss), I constantly battle with myself "don't give up until the body gives up!"
I picked up the pace with whatever I had left and crossed the line with a HUGE personal best.
Dropping to my knees, my friend Owen (who won the race) as well as Karel came over to me and poured cold water on my head. It took me a few minutes to process it all - as I felt fantastic from start to finish. But oh my - what a different hurt compared to an Ironman.
Stats from the race (from my Garmin 910xt):
Bike: 1:04 (22.1 mph average)
Run: 43:44 (6:56, 7:06, 7:04, 7:18, 7:19, 7:14)
Total time: 2:15.21 !!!! 4th overall femal 1st age group
Stats from Karel's race: Swim: ~31 min Bike: 55.30 (~26mph average) Run: ~41 Total time: 2:11.27 5th overall male 2nd age group
Words can't describe this experience. With Karel saying that he wanted to quite the swim at 250 meters and me having the race of my life, I really cheerish moments like this that prove that the mind can be stronger than the body.
Karel fought the demons in his head that were telling him to quit and he didn't count himself out - after blazzing the bike and really pushing it on the run.
I needed the fast girls out there to beat me - for if they weren't out there, I don't know if I would have executed my smart race day plan.
And of course, with Karel being out there - I couldn't hold anything back - or else he would know :)
A big congrats to all the newbies and veterans out on the course - it was wonderful to share such a great race with so many inspiring individuals.
And with data analyzed and a lot of reflection - I can't wait to get back to enjoying our triathlon lifestyle.....48 days til Branson 70.3!!
I think we can all relate to the unknown that comes with doing something for the first time. Uncomfortable, exciting, weird, awkard, easy.....it's hard to describe what it feels like to do something new because well, it is unfamiliar to your everyday living.
I remember when I was less than 24 hours away from my first Ironman - IMFL in 2006. I was so freakin' excited yet a little scared of riding my bike for 112 miles. However, I could hardly contain myself. The only thing that really scared me was my heart and that it would have to beat for over 11 hours for a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. But thankfully, it did just fine since I trained it well and it worked great for 11 hours and 47 seconds.
Since I've known Karel, this has been his comfort zone. A frame and two wheels and handlebars for steering. Karel has been racing bikes since a very young age but a few months ago, he was ready for a change. He craved something unknown, new and challenging.
So, he turned to triathlons. Without a doubt, there's something magical yet intense when describing a sport that requires an athlete to be physically fit and mentally strong in three seperate disciplines.
Race belt, glasses, hat, water bottles, towel, computer, cycling shoes, running shoes, chip strap, body glide, goggles, aero helmet.
Just a bit more than packing for a cycling race :)
It's likely that any newbie would be nervous and overwhelmed for his/her first triathlon. For Karel, his nerves grew as the week went on although he has been training really smart over the past 6 weeks. Focusing more on the skills with swimming and learning how to pace better in his "tri-specific" zones (established from power tests on the bike and HR test on the run) he was capable of doing the distance of a 400 meter swim, 13 mile bike and 5K run but like any newbie - it's all about learning how to put those puzzle pieces together to make for a great race day experience. Funny thing - this is something that never goes away. I still find myself addressing my pre, during and post training/racing nutrition, pacing, zones, training, recovery, strength training, etc. to become stronger, faster and smarter in the sport.
Particularly throughout his work day on Friday, he got a bit more nervous than the days prior. Why was he nervous? Because it is absolutely natural and normal to question the unknown that comes with a new experience in life.
As a good wife sherpa, I was up with Karel at 4:30am and we were out the door at 5:20am for our 20 minute drive to the beach. I suppose my desire to not feel rushed at races transfered to Karel for we arrived in plenty of time to avoid the crowd at packet pickup. However, like every triathlete knows all too well - time rushes by before a race and it's better to arrive early than to be just a little late and feel stressed.
Karel set up his transition area and I walked him through the transition layout as to where to bike out, bike in, run out and run in. Karel officially felt like a triathlete when he was body marked and received his first ever triathlon t-shirt...it's the little things that still excite me as a triathlete and I think Karel enjoyed these little things as well - for it was all new to him.
Our friend Courtney (who ended up winning the race for women), Karel and myself went for a warm-up jog around 6:30am and did a few dynamic drills to open up the hips. Karel wasn't saying a lot but I know him all too well so I just let him stay in his zone. It was hard for me to keep quite for I kept wanting to give him little pointers like where to put on the body glide, where to line up for the swim and where to mount and dismount on his bike.
Karel listened very well but he had this look like "there's way too much to think about at once."
Karel's boss Jeff (pictured on the right above, Jerry - Trek employee on left) was racing for the first time since IM Texas and I think Karel was excited to have Jeff there with him to experience his first tri. Jeff and Karel are close friends and Jeff and his family are all great people to be around. By the way- Jeff ended up winning his age group! Congrats Jeff!
Karel warmed up - kinda - in the water. The last two races were duathlons because of the ocean waves and this time was a full tri despite the waves being super choppy. I knew Karel would have a tough time for his first time racing in the ocean (second time swimming in the ocean) so I did my best to give him some suggestions as to how the current was going, where to swim to and of course, to just stay calm and to not fight the waves.
Around 7am, it was time for the first wave - men 39 and under. Karel raced in the 35-39 age group (he will be 36 in Sept) and lined up in the middle of the group. Without a word by the announcer, the group was off. Karel still had his goggles on his head and quickly put them on as he was running (which caused a little water to get in his goggles) and he didn't get a chance to start his Garmin 910XT.
Karel said the swim was bruttal and the waves made it incredibly hard to swim "normally" - which he has been working so hard on in the pool. He said it was hard to turn around buoys and got stuck in the ropes by the buoy because of the waves. Because of the conditions, the swim course was likely not the full 400 meters but it was the same course for everyone so it is what it is. So long as everyone is safe - it's all about moving the body forward. Karel did a great job getting to the first buoy but we still have work to do with his skills in open water, especially spotting, breathing and reaching and rolling.
I was super happy to finally see Karel, near the end of the mid pack. Although Karel is super competitive, I know that this race was simply to see what it feels like to put all the sports together - in racing mode. For our big race is Branson 70.3 in late Sept. However, this is a new lifestyle for Karel and there is no reason to rush this journey. One step at a time.
I sprinted from the water to the bike-out and cheered for Karel as he "paced" his first sprint triathlon bike ride.
Well, despite Karel telling me that he held back just a little on the bike for the unknown of the final leg of the triathlon, I wasn't surprised to see him in 7th place after the bike. And to the surprise to many, I was excited to see what Karel was going to do on the run for his running has really progressed over the past 2 months. Karel likes to run..and not just for the beer at the end (referencing to his "off-season" training and his occasional Trek Store beer runs)
Karel had a nice kick in his step when he started the out and back run and before I knew it, he was rounding the courner....
.....in 5th place!!!
It doesn't surprise me that as Karel was running, his inner cyclist came out and he was likely pacing, drafting and passing people all by tolerating the lactic acid that comes with a long history of criterium racing.
Karel told me that he never thought it would be that hard and he said he had a really fun time....."after the swim."
Karel was greeted by many of his friends and customers from the Trek store - all congratulating him for his first ever triathlon finish. Our friend Owen (above) is a ridiculously talented athlete and won the race today with a blazing bike and run.
Jeff is now even more happy that Karel liked his first triathlon experience and that he know has a permanent triathlon training partner, early in the morning before the Trek Beach store opens.
It was so great to share this experience with Karel and to see him compete, do something new and enjoy every mile of it. I firmly believe that we should always have fun with what we are doing in life (specifically if it is voluntary and not mandatory) but when it comes using our body for sports, it's important to understand that a lifestyle can be created from training the body on a daily basis. I see way too many athletes become overly obessed, overwhelmed and consumed with training and it begins to interfer with other areas of life. I believe in balance when it comes to doing something that you love - especially with triathlons. There's nothing wrong with being competitive and if anything, I invite more people to welcome competiton in order to be more confident with your strengths and to build off your weaknesses. But at the end of the day, triathlon training (or whatever activity you choose to keep you fit) should be an enhancer to life. Never stop thanking your body for what it allows you to do on a daily basis and more than anything, never stop having fun and enjoying moving and using your body.....and crossing finish lines.
If you are long-time Trimarni blog reader, you likely know that I have dealt with a series of "injuries". Nothing that was able to be diagnosed by multiple MRIs, x-rays or countless PT sessions but something serious enough to prevent me from running for weeks to months at a time....over a course of 3-4 years. With poor judgement as to the serious of a confusing butt/hip problem back in 2007 (just 30 ish days before my second IM - world championships in Kona), I decided to "race" in Kona after over 30 days of not running and no surprise, it really made things worse.....for the long-term My agonizing finish over the finish line landed me on NBC for the Kona coverage....however, not how I'd like to remember that magical (painful) race and something 100% within my control at one time, that has continued to haunt me whenever I head out for a run.
Luckily, I have only be compromised in my hips and glutes, never any pain in my ITB, calves, knee or anything below the hip. Also, no fractures or broken bones in my life..just a lot of muscular skeletal aches and pains.
Back from my swimming days in HS and College, I constantly dealt with back problems due to massive inflammation that never left my back. I suppose that is my body being my body...and I am willing to accept that.
Looking back, I recognize that I have been able to accomplish a lot in my sport career since 2007 but because of my decision to race "injured", I have dealt with numerous residual flare-ups and pains in my piriformis, lower and upper back, groin and hip area. However, I refuse to let any obstacle stop my love for triathlons, running and competition...and luckily, I have been 99% pain free for over a year.
After a PR at IMKY (10:54) in 2009, I learned that I could ride on hills...and I liked them! After Karel riding the IMWI course while at Trek World, he told me this would be a perfect course for me in 2010. Scared as to the difficulty of the course, I went into IMWI in great shape and a goal to qualify for Kona. 10:57 and a roll down slot thanks to Jackie A. turning pro and I qualified for KONA again....it has been a long triathlon journey but I have not only learned to respect my body with training but also to address my strengths as an athlete. Because I don't plan on ending this fun journey anytime soon, I love knowing that I have a lot more work to do to get better..for when you work hard, results will come.
I understand that I am not crazy fast compared to some athletes but in picking my races, I have been able to succeed to the best of my ability..in other words..putting my training to the test. This is something that I strive for other athletes to do for themselves for I find that many athletes continue to race for times and speed and often compromise their own performances by focusing on elements out of their control.... only to try to have a good race on paper (AKA paper/internet race results).
For my strengths of pacing, preparation, nutrition and mentality have allowed me to succeed at the Ironman distance - which is my strength - but keeps me coming back for more fun in the sport of triathlon....at any distance.
As a coach and athlete, I focus on a balanced approach to training, working toward quality over quantity and it works exceptionally well. No workout is without a purpose and consistency is the goal.
But, despite racing in countless races over the past 5 years, I still have it in my mind that I am still "injured".
Thanks to blog world and facebook, I have met an amazing group of individuals who have helped me in my personal and athletic life. I suppose I can call these people "mentors" but I'm also lucky that I can call these people my friends.
For someone who I have never met and lives on the other coast, I can't describe the passion that Gloria (Dr. G) has for helping others who are need of help.
I have been in contact with Gloria over the past year and she has helped me out in so many ways...as a sport psychologist, she is exactly what I needed in my life.
For I did the work on making my glutes stronger, learning that I need regular massages and epson salt baths to reduce constant inflammation, religiously wearing compression when I training focusing on training hard and smart but recovering harder....however, what was missing, was Gloria.
Before my races, I contact Gloria. In my head, I have a lot of work to do. As much as I try to stay positive and focus on myself, I still have limiters with my past. Perhaps, this is part of the difficulty in being an athlete for it is easy to tell yourself to do more but rather, forgetting (or learning from) the past and focusing on the now and what you CAN do.
Here's the email I received from Gloria last week....
"So look.....I know, and you know, that you'll turn it on come Saturday. I want to challenge you to start owning the fact that you can run! All your recent road race performances have demonstrated that. It's evidence that you are doing what is right for your body. Uncomfortable is a good thing, it means breakthrough is right on the other side. Trust yourself and your experience, but don't let the past hijack your present. The point of power is always in the present moment, and the power to chose your thoughts which create your experience. You got this girl! Get your mantra or let it come to you on race day. Bank positive mental images and associated feelings with those images so you can retrieve them on race day. You got what it takes to adjust to whatever comes on race day. To me that's what being a triathlete is about...efficient adjustment to race day circumstances- phsyically and mentally.
Affirm to yourself that on race day you will have the wisdom, discernment and physical ability to make it through each situation with ease, strength, speed, and focus. That your best performance for that day will manifest. That in each moment you are doing the absolute best you can with what you have....and so it is."
And with that - I went into the race confident, positive and happy. There was no good luck needed for this race...I had prepared the best I could. More so, Karel and I have been studying the 70.3 distance - particularly from other notable coaches, professional athletes and other "top" athletes, in learning how to "race" the 70.3 distance. Because the half ironman distance allows for higher-intensity efforts (compared to the IM distance), it's easy to lose form on the swim and swim inefficiently, overdo-it on the bike and suffer on the run. We see this all the time in athletes and it was a goal of mine to race smart and to pace my race.
After our 4 hour drive to Macon, Campy, Karel and me headed to the race venue to check-in my bike and to pick up my race stuff. It was a great feeling to rack my bike near the front of the transition area with a few amazing women (and men) around me. I was #18 and racing in the open category. I wasn't scared or nervous, just excited to put all my training to the test. After doing this race 2 times (2009 and 2010) and coming back for more heat and hills, I was really looking forward to the "cool" mid-80 degree temps, great competition and friendly atmosphere.
We headed over to the Swanger's house (kenny and stefanie - two of our coaching athletes) for the weekend. We had a delicious dinner around 5:45pm at their house - red potatoes, sweet potatoes (both grilled), salad, squash, zucchini and mushroom stir-fry and a hardboiled egg for me. I made sure to eat every few hours, mini meals throughout the day. I had been eating normally all week, slightly increasing my carb intake of whole grains over the past 2-3 days. With smaller meals and portions, I alleviated the normal "bloat" feeling that comes from increasing carbs (which is due to added water with storing of carbs) and although I rarely weigh myself, I have a rule to athletes - don't weigh yourself on race week! You have nothing to prove to the scale.
After dinner, I sipped on a FIZZ from Hammer and we relaxed a little while I multi-tasked by doing some stretching on the foam roller and with my trigger point ball for my piriformis. Feeling great, I had no worries going to bed around 9pm and I slept great...until 3:30am.
Not sure why I was wide awake at 3:30am but I managed to fall back asleep until my alarm went off at 4:10am. Luckily, I woke up again feeling fresh (worried I would wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and be completely out of it - that is why I do not like athletes to wake up and eat and then go back to bed..get your full sleep!).
I let Campy outside while the coffee was getting ready and I prepared a whole grain pita (30g of carbs, which is the minimum I recommend for athletes before a race), with 3/4 large banana and spoonful peanut butter. I topped it with a few pumpkin seeds and cinnamon. Yum - went down great. Had a full glass of water with breakfast, along with coffee and by 4:50am I was almost ready.
I had prepared my bottles on Friday by putting 2 scoops Hammer Strawberry Heed + 1/2 scoop Sustaine energy in 3 bottles and that made it easy on race day morning to just put water in the bottles. I made an extra bottle of 1 scoop heed to sip at the venue. I also prepared 1 gel flask with 3 huckleberry gels for the run mixed with water.
I took 2 endurolytes and 2 Hammer Endurance Amino's and we were off by 5:05am.
I arrived to the race venue calm and relaxed. I kept whispering to Karel "I feel great". He would smile and say "I know..you will do great".
I set up my transition area (which always seems to feel like it takes forever!) and re-checked a zillion times to make sure I liked my layout.
I had my swim cap and goggles (and spare goggles for Karel to hold) and my speed suit.
In my transition area on my pink Oakley towel:
Garmin watch for bike (it isn't water proof so I put it on in T1 - I will be getting a new one soon..hint to Karel!)
Socks (I believe in being comfortable during races and I feel most comfortable with socks)
Cycling shoes (I don't put them on the bike, it takes me 5 seconds to put them on)
Giro aero helmet
Commit Oakley women sunglasses
Race belt (with safety pins for my number because I always seem to pull it off the cord that holds my number)
Once my transition area was set-up, I put on my old (but still good condition) Brooks Launch running shoes (same as in transition) to wear for a run warm-up.
After dropping off my transition bag to the car, I did around 10-15 min of jogging/walking/active stretching and still feeling good, I went back to the car to remove my Hammer jacket and to put on my TYR speed suit.
Under my speed suit I wore my Louis Garneau Elite Lazer Tek shorts and Hammer sport bra (which I wear all the time for my long bricks - super comfy!). I asked the race official if I was allowed to wear my CEP calf sleevs in the water (since they are often not allowed in IM races such as IM Texas) and he said absolutely ok to wear.
The water was 84 degrees but didn't feel hot. It was absolutely perfect considering that the air temps was in the low 70's. What a beautiful morning in a beautiful lake!!
I warmed up in the water for around 10 minutes and once I heard the race was delayed for 10 minutes, I was happy to stay in the water.
Around 7:05am, the Open/Elite group of men and women were called to the start and it was a very clam and relaxed vibe. I knew several of the open women (Kelly Fillnow and Nina Kraft) and after the race, met a few of the others (Dee Atkins and Bethany Rutledge). Another bonus of racing...meeting so many amazing athletes and wonderfullly nice and passionate individuals.
And we were off!!
1.2 mile SWIM
The swim felt great. The sun was blarring so it was hard to spot but I tried to do the best I could. I felt like I was having a great swim - ahead of a group behind me but not in the lead group. I stayed focused on my stroke since I have been working on my catch, head position and reach n' roll. Yes - after 19 years of competitive swimming I still "practice" swimming and have to think in the water.
Nearing the end of the race, I felt like I was finally getting my groove. Perhaps not doing a half ironman in 2 years but completing 2 Ironman's since 2011, I have long-distance mentality when I "race" the short distance races. I felt great and as I exited the water, I didn't look back as I made my way up a steep, short climb to the transition area.
I spotted Karel and the first thing he said as I was running up the hill was "your second female behind Nina Kraft!" WOW - I thought to myself...then he said "everyone was slow today in the water."
Seeing the 35 minutes on the clock as I entered transition, I was glad to know that others were slow as well. Oh well - it is what it is...I felt great, not tired at all and ready to bike my plan.
56 Mile Bike
And this is why I love this course.....
Well, more like love this challenging course.
It's hard for me as a Floridian to describe this course because for someone who loves hills but rarely gets to train on them, it's all very relative in my description of this course. But I will be honest and no matter who describes this course, they will say it is challenging. One big loop but a super safe and bike friendly course....although you will get the occasional 1 or 2 (or 3) dogs chasing you along the rolling hills.
The temperature was comfortable but it was getting a little warm (but not crazy). Again, as a Floridian, I didn't find the temps unbearable but rather really great for this day. The wind was picking up a bit and I could feel it on some of the flats and climbs.
My goal was to take it easy for the first 3 miles for if you see the map, the course really starts around mile 15. Therefore, I wanted to build my effort for the beginning punchy hills and to not overdo it. This has been a focus of mine in order to have a strong run off the bike and to ease some of my worries for not having the energy to run strong off the bike..now that I am not injured! :)
I was passed by Kelly around mile 1.5 and she was gone. However, I rode my race (despite my power meter not working - this has only happened twice before in training) so I just focused on what I could control and I monitored my cadence, HR and speed with my new Garmin 500 (happy birthday present from Karel!).
I felt strong on the entire bike and never tired. I sipped on my bottles every 5 miles or 15 minutes and despite being passed by several guys, I remained third female until mile 53. Dee passed me quick and knowing she is a phenomenal runner, I didn't try to go crazy and chase her down but just kept focusing on my race.
I ended up grabbing cold water at the last of 3 aid stations in order to take a sip and to pour on my body to cool my body and to reduce core temp the best I could, before the run.
I saw Karel on his mountain bike around mile 55 and he snapped a pic and cheered me on. I'm the dot in the right of the pic...way up there climbing another hill.
I felt great and had a full tank of energy...questioning if I took it too easy, I just stayed focused as I still had a half marathon to run and that would let me know how well (or not well) I paced the bike. For I pushed the best I could without my power meter working but didn't overcook myself. In analyzing my file and past races (both half and full IM), I know I have a lot more work I can do on the bike. Specifically, I need to get more comfortable pushing a bit harder in the half because I felt as if I was just getting warmed up around mile 50.
13.1 mile run
I quickly found my stride after a super quick transition. I started my garmin in transition so I hit lap as soon as I exited the transition area.
Karel has been helping me with my run by researching the strides of some of the top runners. We have really worked on me having a shorter stride..more like a shuffle and easing into my groove. It totally paid off along with a bank of memories of SUPER tough mile repeaters off the bike.
However, I did have a quick low moment at mile 2 when I thought to myself "oh, I just want to have fun and not race." But that quickly passed when Karel told me that I was fourth female and no other girl was in sight. By mile 2.5, my fun decision stayed with me but I was also ready to race.
With Dee, Kelly and Nina (3,2 and 1st) in a totally other zip code than me on the run, I was reminded by Karel (pre-race) to just "race my race". Yes coach!
This is a really great course for the mind because it has a 4 mile out section, then a u-turn and you run back to mile 6 and make a right hand turn to mile 8, then a u-turn to a right hand turn to mile 9, then eventually another u-turn and back to another right hand turn to run you to mile 10. Then you have a long road (that seems to take forever) until mile 11 and then a right hand turn to a straight shot to the finish. So, a great course for the mind..but a tough one on the quads, calves and hamstrings.
And this is why I paced myself on the run. There is no shortage of hills on this run and with a slight climb to the finish line area, you are either going up or down on this course.....my body will admit that I felt like I was going mostly up!
I sipped my gel flask every mile at the aid station and sipped cold water at every aid station. I had the volunteers pour water on my head (multi-task) as I sipped the water. The volunteers were AMAZING and the cheers were non stop from athletes. I guess I was smiling the whole race because I had a lot of people tell me great job and "great smile". Well, I was happy with how I was feeling and couldn't help but smile...I love what I am able to do with my body!
Since it was hard to monitor my pace on this course, I controlled my heart rate the best I could and when I found it getting high (either from hills or heat), I just jogged (or twice I walked for about 5-10 seconds) for a few seconds to "recover".
Amazingly, not once did I have a low moment. I felt so energized and the race just went by SO fast! I was feeling SO great and I LOVED this feeling....so THIS is what pacing is all about!!!
Having the run of my life, my legs got a bit heavy around mile 10. I saw Bethany in the other direction (age grouper who I met after the race and an incredibly talented athlete) nearing me and she was within 1.5 miles from me. Knowing that she started 9 minutes behind me, I had a feeling she would bump me out of 4th place overall female because she was running FAST but in order to place top 5 for prize money, I didn't take any chances with anyone else behind me and gave everything I could for the last 2 miles.
Something came over me around mile 11 and with my legs getting really heavy I just told myself "well, duh Marni...it's a half ironman and you are racing!"
Oh yeah...racing - Totally forgot what that felt like at this distance...and to be able to "race" a run felt A-mazing!!
My last mile - like always - was for Campy as I always do my last mile of my runs with Campy. It is always a special mile for me because it is fun to see his happy face, running so freely with his 11lb body.
I managed to pick up the pace and just smiled from ear to ear as I was nearing the last 1/2 mile. I was hearing my name from volunteers (which I later learned were blog readers of mine - thank you!) and I gave everything I could to "sprint" to the finish.
(wow - did I really do that?)
(Kelly Fillnow - 2nd place female and a 1:25 run PR!)
(The best coach....and my hubby!)
(I'm totally bummed I missed the awards that were suppose to start at 3pm. They started much earlier. By the time I got Campy who was at their house and quickly got showered, they were done with the overall awards. I always stay for awards when I receive one and I find it important that athletes stick around for awards. The race director handed me my check for $195 and Karel gave me the biggest hug - he was super proud of me...money or no money, I had one of the best races of my life at this distance).
(Thanks to Stefanie - and baby- and Kenny for cheering me on and taking pics...also for the hospitality and great food!! Makes traveling to races super stress-free!)
After the awards, Campy played in the water and showed us how he can attack the tiny waves. Then, off for pizza at a local Macon pizza joint.
Mile 13: 7:00 (thank you legs for letting me put my training to the test!)
Average pace: 7:55 min/mile (Finally!!!)
Although I didn't PR and on paper had a "slow" race compared to many, I am so happy with my execution and how I enjoyed every mile...all 70.3. Exhausted when I crossed the line, I felt so alive for all parts of the race.
You see, there is nothing to prove to anyone with a race on paper. It's what happens within a race that will drive you, motivate you and inspire you to become better, stronger and smarter...and certainly, your description of your race may or may not inspire others who may look up to you for what you are able to do..even if you "only" did x-time for x-miles.
For on race day - you are doing the work. Certainly, others helped you get to the race start feeling fresh (sport nutritionist, coach, family, training buddies) but it is up to you to execute a well-made race day plan and to have the right attitude to be satisfied with what the day offers you...for you can either throw in the towel before the race begins or race smart and feel amazing as you crosh the finish line.
This race is one of my favorites for many reasons but what I love about this race is the opportunity to race with so many talented athletes as well as a large group of people who absolutely love triathlon racing. With a distance and race for everyone (duathlon, aquathlon, sprint tri, half iron, relay), this is a great challenging course that is fair and safe. If you are seeking a tough course but a lot of fun (and great food afterward), I highly recommend the Coliseum Rock n' Rollman in Macon, GA.
Thank you to the companies who help me live a consistently great, active and healthful lifestyle...love this stuff!!!
I believe that every athlete brings something with him/her on race day to get him/herself through a race. Besides the necessary gear, proper sport nutrition and a few good sherpa's, I've learned that having a well-constructed racing plan along with a good attitude, are two critical components of a successful race day performance.
For if you only bring one with you on race day, likely you will find yourself struggling during the race, questioning your previous training or, even worse, questioning why you are out there doing this in the first place.
This weekend was jammed-packed with races all over the U.S. With many of my Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition athletes racing in events this weekend, I stayed busy tracking athletes and updating my Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition facebook page.
I think we all strive to have a good attitude on race day but sometimes that is easier said than done. Hopefully you want to be participating in the event that you signed up for, that you registered for and that you trained for, but sometimes the body is saying something different on the days leading up to the race. Sometimes you feel tired, depressed, anxious, nervous, moody and overwhelmed and you find yourself comparing yourself to others, expecting perfect performances and doubting your potential. Many circumstance are within our control - not only having a good attitude on race day but making sure your training is reflective of how you want to feel on race day. One thing I try to instill with athletes is that you don't have to spend extra energy on the other competitors, weather or terrain.... for your race day performance is solely based on your current level of fitness. For if your mind is ready but the body is overtrained or fatigued, it's hard to find that second gear when the body is running on empty. But if you accept where you are today, well, that is going to be your best tool for how you should perform on race day. Of course, surprises come when you have a game plan and you go into the race with confidence and the belief that you can let the body and mind work together.
As for pacing, it all depends on the race but for most of us, is is a deciding factor on race day. For many times, holding back just the slightest on the bike in a triathlon can make the difference of running a consistent pace during the last leg or walking and jogging inconsistently, only to wish you had conserved 5-10 minutes on the bike to save the extra 30-60 minutes on the run - sadly, nutrition can't save you in a race when the tank is empty.
I want to give a special shout-out to my best friend and Trimarni Coaching athlete Jennifer Patzkowsky who paced her race at IM Texas. This was Jennifer's first IM and she didn't miss a beat in her training. Well, let me rephrase that. With a full time job, you better believe workouts were missed, schedules were re-arranged and creative workouts were required. However, thanks to good nutrition, proper recovery and dedicating time to streng training, recovery gear/tools, massage, epson salt baths and rest days, Jennifer spent her time training and recovering. For many, when a training plan is not balanced, I find athletes spending much of their time and money on MRI's, physical therapy, lost training days due to injuries that can't heal and of course, the waiting game to get back that mojo to feel sharp again.
Jennifer is a strong runner. She loves to run and I knew that in designing her training plan. With extra emphasis on the bike and swim, I made sure that on race day, she arrived hungry to pace her race and run her run. The last thing I asked her on the night before the race was "what are you most looking forward to on race day". Her reply "the run".
I reviewed her training files in great detail and I knew exactly what she was capable of doing on race day. By developing a good pacing strategy for the swim and most importantly, the bike, Jennifer was primed for the run. And she did not disappoint.
Finishing time: 11:34
Run: 3:47 (5th fastest age group run), moving from 33rd to 16th in the last 13 miles of the run
Jennifer controlled her HR by pacing the first 6 miles as instructed and once she found her groove, she got into the zone. She walked every aid station and stayed fueled with a gel flask, filled with 4 gels + water at every aid station. Perfect pacing, couldn't ask for a better race day performance.
As a coach and an athlete, I learn a lot every day. With every training session, I am creating memories. Sure, fitness as fitness improves I am able to analyze workouts to create better and more efficient training plans for me and my athletes, but on race day, you are there to do the best you can do....on that day.
Taking into account previous training sessions, the timing of the year, the terrain, personal issues going on in your life and weather, it is only up to you, on the days leading up to the race, to decide what will give you the best favorable outcome on race day. For with every race finish, there will likely (and hopefully) be an upcoming race with upcoming goals. This is what is so wonderful about sports. You should always find yourself getting better as an athlete.
And when I say better, it doesn't mean coming in first or setting a PR. Better, stronger, faster, smarter.....never forget that your training is not defined in one race and at the end of the day, you are the one you have to go home with and decide whether or not you will reflect positively on the race in order to get better OR beat yourself up because you did have a good attitude or a good race day plan.
With my big race on June 2nd, training did not slow down over the last week and a half. I have a few unbelievable training sessions in my memory bank, which will come with me in Macon as I will need every bit of strength to carry me through this tough and challenging course. I love a tough course where my mind is my only limitor and thankfully, this year, I have stayed healthy and strong all thanks to taking every step possible to getting myself better as an athlete.
I re-arranged a few of my workouts this week due to my work schedule and racing a fun 5K on Saturday so with my long bike-focused brick being on Thursday, long swim on Fri (didn't do my normal strength) and long run-focused brick on Sunday, I was excited to run the inaugural Spa Me 5K at the beautiful St John’s Golf and Country Club, just a few miles down the road from where I live.
I just love racing in new venues but I also enjoy the community feel of races. Over the past few years, I have discovered races that fit my strengths and desires as an athlete, I invite you to do the same. For it is always fun to race with training buddies but at the end of the day, you are putting your body through the event so you may as well find a venue that fits your needs.
What I look for in races:
1) Country and beautiful scenery
2) Warm weather
3) Lake swims
5) Smaller or local races
6) Not repeating an Ironman
7) Easy travel
8) Safe race day conditions
9) Rolling hills
Of course, I can't have everything but I take a lot of time scoping out my races, especially the longer ones.
As the clinical dietitian for Dr. Townsend (family physician with Baptist Primary Care), I was really honored to be part of this 5K event as an effort to bring more fitness into the St. John's community. There was a fantastic turnout with over 100 people for this first-time event. I saw competitive runners, families and lots of kids...which all make me incredibly happy - people of all ages, wanting to challenge themselves and feel the rewards of training and racing.
I spun my legs for an hour before the race and arrived to the venue at 7:35am to help with the race. At 8:25pm, Dr. Townsend spoke a few words and I had my turn on the mic, reminding everyone to just keep moving forward.
We lined up at 8:35am and off we went.
By .3 miles, the kiddos who sprinted up the slight grade in the parking lot, were done. Perhaps their pacing strategy was non existent :) I couldn't help but smile.
The course was beautiful and Ultimate Racing INC did an AMAZING job with this event. I absolutely recommend them in the future if you are needing a well-organized company to put on your event.
By mile 1, I was so thankful that I did a long warm-up with many jogs and pick-ups because my heavy legs that I felt around 7:50am were feeling strong.
Mile 1: 6:20 min/mile Heart rate 159
I was running with a group of guys so I tried to stay with them the best I could. As we rounded the corner to the right, I could feel a little wind as the sky was beginning to get a little bit cloudy.
I managed to stay close to the guys in front and I tried not to look at my watch. For the lactic acid in my legs was not going to slow me down. I kept telling myself...."Marni, it's only 3 miles!!!"
Like every race, I was playing games with myself...so when I got to mile 1, I told myself "only 1 more mile until you only have 1 more mile to go!"
At mile 2, I was breathing heavy so I tried my best to get out a good exhale and to keep a steady stride. Thinking about my last long brick a week ago where Karel had me do a 2:30 ride with long tempo intervals, followed by an 11 mile run w/ 6 x 1 mile repeaters at half ironman pace w/ 2 min walk recovery, I had absolutely NO excuse to not give it everything I had.
Mile 2: 6:31 min/mile Heart rate 181 (I'm fairly certain, I don't see that HR very often..luckily, I know I can push hard and I'm still alive :)
I took a look behind me at mile 2 and I amazingly, I got into my rhythm when I noticed I was all alone. Certainly, I couldn't keep this pace more than the 5K course required but I felt like I was able to run a decent last 1 mile without slowing down too much at the end.
Calling every fast twitch fiber in my body to come into action (perhaps I needed to wake them up today!), I picked up my cadence, pushed hard and when I saw the clock, I was overjoyed.
After the awards and spending some time chatting with the other athletes (I love answering sport nutrition and training questions and what better than at a race!), I spun my legs easy for around an hour and spent the rest of the day on the computer (work related stuff and tracking athletes) before my last long brick on Sunday - which went amazing!!!
There are cyclists and there are triathletes. Two completely different sports, both using the same piece of equipment. Campy happens to live with one of each.
Speed Week is a cyclists dream..that is, if his/her dream is to suffer at and above his/her max, with over 100 other riders in battle for the best position at each corner, hoping not to crash, be behind a crash or be affected by a crash, only to remind him/herself that after one race is over, he/she gets/has to do it all over again.
According to the website:
"USA CRITS Speed Week is a series of seven criterium races over nine days across three southern states – starting with the Terrapin Twilight in Athens, Georgia and ending in the North Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. Speed Week features the best criterium cyclists in the world racing the downtown streets of seven cities, transforming these areas into international cycling competition arenas. Olympians and world- and nationally-ranked athletes take to the streets to contest the series, as well as to pursue qualifying positions for the USA CRITS Finals. The week of racing will once again offer one of the largest prize purses in North America with $120,000 in prize money for the week."
This is Karel's 4th year participating in Speed Week. Because of his work schedule, it is hard for Karel to take off so many days of work as well as recover and race and finish with the professionals. But, thanks to a supportive boss (who is doing his first IM in 2 weeks!) and a wonderful triathlon/cycling community, Karel is able to squeeze in as many races as he can - all while keeping life balanced.
This year, Karel was able to do Athens, Beaufort, Spartanburg, Anderson and Sandy Springs. 5 races, 5 cities, 2 states, 36 hours driving and over 1700 miles driven. Did I mention that Campy had a blast!?!?
Here's a quick recap of the week:
FINISHED!! 50th place and the title of 2 years in a row "Athens Twilight Finisher". Can't ask for a better feeling to start off Speed Week and the glory of knowing that for 365 days, only one race is on your mind and a finish is the only goal.
I had to miss Beaufort because of work and preparing for my talk at the Trek store on Wed (pics/recp of that will come soon) but Karel said that this 1 hour and 30+ minute crit was harder than he could ever remember. Perhaps having to work all day and then leaving at 1:30 for a 4 hour drive to SC affected his energy but he didn't let that get in the way. Karel refuses to quit or make excuses. The town of Beaufort is beautiful and always brings a nice crowd. The course is very technical and tight. He was suprised he finished 37th and 3 places away from being "in the money" because he said there was at least 5 times during the race that he convinced himself to finish, despite his body nearly quitting over and over again.
After a LONG day of work + my talk on Wed, Karel quickly realized that his body is not recovering like it once did 3-4 years ago. It takes longer for him to recover, despite him feeling like his body is in good shape. Sleep and lots of time with the foam roller, he took it easy on the Lodge group ride on Thurs evening and by Fri, he felt that fire again to push his body (albeit, still tired from the last two crits in the past 6 days). There is only one word to describe Spartanburg - crashes and lots of them.
Luckily, I didn't witness any of the crashes but this dark, fast and challenging course caused so much chaos that they had to stop the race two seperate times because there were more people in the wheel pit for mechanicals and for getting "Free" laps because of being stuck behind the crash, than in the race itself. It was absolutely unbelievable to see so much action on the sidelines...not to mention the rest of the race. But surprisingly, this is Karel's course. Challenging, dodging crashes (yes, he still has the same amount of skin as when he started the race), dark, fast, a huge crowd and lots of aggression from the other riders. Karel has a great finish and was really happy to have finished this race. He said he felt great and that is always something great to say after a tough week of racing.
We made a 1 hour drive to Anderson, SC after the race on Friday evening and stayed at pet-friendly Country Inn and Suites. I enjoyed a "long" run on Sat morning after a restful night of sleep on the rolling hills of SC. My legs were loving the changing terrain but Karel's set for me of 6 x 5 min Z5 w/ 2 min walk recovery really gave me the confident boost I need for my upcoming half in Macon, G on June 2nd. After finishing my "long" run of 11.5 miles (1 hour and 25 minutes), I caught up with my athletes on training peaks and Karel and his teammate Erik watched the Giro (Karel's favorite tour) on the computer.
Around 3:15pm it was time for the start of the Anderson Crit...in the middle of nowhere. An open field with a road and not a cloud or tree in sight for shade. 100% NOT Karel's course and he knew it. The course was so unsafe that there were several crashes on the same slopping corner after a descend, that was not designed for crit racing. Knowing that pro's know how to handle their bikes, saying that this course was not ideal for a race is speaking loudly for how crazy this course was for the riders (not to mention, tired and glycogen depleted riders). Karel didn't finish the race and after playing out scenarios in his head as well as his future with bike racing, he joined me and Campy and we watched the finish of the race. There was a lot of suffering going on and I think even if Karel finished this race, the heat would have completely drained Karel for weeks to come.
After a wonderful night of rest, I woke up and took Campy on a walk. Campy was quick to go back to bed with Karel and after a morning cup of coffee while on the computer in the lobby of the hotel. I went for a fantastic time-based 45 min run after doing several hip warm-up exercises in the hotel gym.
Around 1pm we headed to hot and hilly Sandy Springs for the 4:15pm start. This is a hard 50K course to finish Speed Week but Karel loves it. Despite being at 4:15pm, Karel really loves the challenge of this race. This race was driven by a lot of strong riders and sticking with the theme of Speed Week, there was a crash around 15 laps within the 50 lap race and Karel was stuck behind the crash. Karel rode to the wheel pit which happened to be in a tough place to join back with the field. As the field rode by, Karel was pushed by a mechanic to join the field, only to pedal quickly up a slight incline and then to approach the "big climb" of this 1K course. Karel said after that climb, he had about 1 lap and couldn't manage to get his legs back to get his mid-field position. Karel got dropped and all he could think about was "I felt great". Sadly, that's bike racing. We watched the end of the race as well as seeing the field dwindle as the race went on and around 6pm, it was time to make our drive home from Georgia and to conclude another Speed Week.
Just like you and me, we all love to compete. We all have goals and we have that drive, that fire, that burning itch to succeed. If we didn't, we wouldn't sign up for races and get nervously excited for the big day. Success is different from person to person and that is what makes "sports" so exciting and fun. You see, Karel is no different from me and no different from you. Perhaps from a cycling perspective, Karel and the other riders can suffer a bit more than us, but on race day, there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that your ONLY limitor is your mind (hence the importance of training smart, recoverying harder and prioritizing both sport nutrition and the daily diet).
You see, in cycling, you are racing to win. Many of these guys know they will not win and maybe will never win, but perhaps a podium is possible. In triathlons and running races, you are out for a great experience but more often than not, a PR or an age group placing. You know you will finish (well, in an Ironman, I believe a Finish is the ultimate goal) and depending on if you pace your race, a successful finish will come if your body and mind are strong and healthy.
In cycling, there are no finisher t-shirts or medals. If you don't place on the podium or bring home some money, you are just a finisher. Sounds impressive to finish a race but when you are a cyclist, you are constantly experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions and it is never just good enough to finish. For whether you are stuck in a crash, behind a crash or don't have the legs to handle the speed that is driven by the front of the pack, you are wondering to yourself "why do I do this to myself and how can I get faster so it doesn't hurt so bad?"
Karel loves bike racing and he gets it from his dad, who at the age of 73yrs old, still rides his bike in Czech Republic. Often, a Skype session with Karel's dad will involve Karel Sr. telling Karel (in Czech) that he just has to have the latest parts and accessories..why? Because all of his 70+ yr old training partners have them!
Sadly, Karel is realizing that his body is not recovering like it did a few years ago. Karel has significantly changed his diet over the past 6 years of us being together and that has allowed him to gain strength and improve overall health. Additionally, strength training has been a big part in his training routine over the past 3-4 years. Karel is very specific with his training (he coaches himself) and analyzes every workout to allow for consistent performance gains.
Although 40+ hours of working a week, in addition to helping me with my Trimarni Coaching athletes, is not stopping him from loving his bike, he feels he is just not able to respond to the training stress, like he did in past years. In my eyes, we must respect the body. Of course we "ride clean" and performance enhancing drugs would never enter his or my body, but Karel is keeping things real. We both know that dumping a bunch of supplements and stimulants into his system is not the practical approach. If anything, the longterm cardiac and liver consequences are not worth a finish at speed week or reaching higher watts during a group ride.
So, perhaps I should rephrase this - he is continuing to improve his fitness on his own level BUT it is hard to keep up with the other guys. Karel has raced several BIG races this year and has finished many of them. I am so incredibly proud of him and finish or no finish, I love knowing that Karel is able to overcome the emotional side of "sport" as well as the physical and mental side. To me, that is what sports are all about. Growing stronger as a human being and being able to achieve things that you never thought were possible. For you only fail, if you give up. He never stops wanting "it" and refuses to stop competing.
So, what's next. Well, Karel has the Crit State Championship in 2 weeks and then he will be supporting me at the Macon Halfman on June 2nd where I will be racing in the Open/Elite division on a challenging hot and hilly course.
What about triathlons???
Will Karel transition to triathlons (as many people have asked me in the recent past)??? Well, that's something that Karel will need to decide. He is driven by competition but surely, triathlons are very different than cycling. I have never asked Karel to be a triathlete nor put it in his head that he should "try" triathlons. Karel has helped me gain tremendous strength as a triathlete and has helped me (and my athletes) cross many finish lines. He certainly knows the aspect of cycling but he also knows how to train smart and of course....what it feels like to get into the red zone and stay in the hurt box.
I've learned a lot from Karel and one (of many) things that I am so fortunante to have learned from himl is that being physically fit is only the foundation in how we can succeed in sport. Determination will drive you to get out the door every morning and to see what your body is capable of achieving. But you have to want it....bad. For only when you are mentally strong, do you really start to reach your ultimate goals and you find yourself creating a more balanced lifestyle to meet both your lifestyle and athletic goals.
Trainins is never only about the miles. Nutrition is never about being skinny. We must always remember that if you want to succeed, you have to train hard, recover harder and of course, keep your mind strong to be able to overcome any and all obstacles that may come into your way and may possible hinder you from seeing what you are truely capable of achieving in life. Oh and don't forget to have fun.
The crowds were 3 rows deep and it was hard to find a spot to watch the action. The local Twilight beer filled the cups of many people around the 1K course and as the women's race came to a close, the music started to increase in volume and you could see the anticipation and adrenaline just firing within the Pro riders.
Not knowing the situation with Karel and his wheel, I finally could breath (albeit, a short and not long-lived relaxing exhale) when I heard Karel's name..and his first ever call-up! (Thanks Sean C. for the video!!)
After 35 VIP riders received their call-ups, the baracades were removed from the other 115 or so riders and the tension started to mount.
Chad does an A-mazing job of announcing, I absolutely LOVE hearing him as a race announcer. As an added treat/bonus to the evening, the course had a jumbo-tron on the other side of the course, as well as another announcer to keep the action exciting for the spectators, no matter where you watched the race.
The clock started and the riders were off.....
As written by David Crowe "If the racer is still alive at the end of the first lap, and not too far in arrears, then he must bury his muzzle in the crack in front of him and hold on for his honey's life. During the first 10 laps, a rider's pain meter is quivering at the far end of the red zone. He is feeling the scalding lactic burn in his legs caused by excessive speed. The fastest riders in the world are uncorking the top-shelf bottles of high- octane. These merchants of speed know that in the first 10 laps they can cause an explosion in the field. Over half the field will get dropped, quit the race or crash in the first five laps. The disco sprinters want to shred the field and dump as many riders as possible, now. This leaves fewer to contend with later. In most criteriums, if a rider survives the first 10 laps, he knows he will survive until the end. In most criteriums, after the initial frantic, escape from the Titantic-like frenzied free-for all, there is an ever- so slight decrease in speed. A small incremental drop in speed can do wonders for a rider's ability to stuff his lungs back down his esophagus and recover his runaway breath. But the Twilight is not like "most" criteriums. In fact, it's most unusual. The speed does not drop. It is relentless. It is like trying to play chess while your heart rate is a constant 200 beats per minute. Riders carry out silent disputations with themselves in the first five laps. See one grimace; his inner self, the rational one, has just scored with a cogent point phrased as a question: this is fun? But these two-wheeled warriors, at least the ones that are left, are also master magicians, real Svengalis. They've been outwitting pain for years. Pain, they know, is strong like a bull, but smart like a tractor. They trick pain; they confuse pain; they endure pain like a visit from a mother-in-law. They force pain to a back row. And just when they think everything is under control, the race becomes faster. A rider is pedaling 37 miles per hour and is struggling to hang on. He looks up the road and sees a group of four riding away from the front of the field. He looks down at his speedometer on his handlebars. He's going 38 now. The four are still riding away. This can't be possible."
As if the roads of downtown Athens haven't had enough beatings, they were in for a brutal night with 150 riders attacking every inch of this pavement.
The Athens 1K course is a right-turn only criterium with 1 steep climb on the backside of the course, which starts almost immediately after corner #2. I refuse to watch that corner as that is the "hot" corner or AKA "CRASH central". NO THANKS! I like to stand in a crash - free zone (if there is one in crit racing???) for I only want to hear about crashes after Karel finishes a race and is in one piece, safe and sound.
After corner #3, there is a gradual decline to give the legs a few seconds of recovery (and to try to exhale as much CO2 as possible to reduce that oh-so-painful burn from sprinting out of every corner)
and before you know it, the riders are turning at corner #4 for a gradual climb (not as steep as the backside) to the start and finish.
The first few laps were exciting (like always) as riders are trying to break away, ride solo for some glory (and fame) and to rev up the crowd. Prems were being given away left and right in order to shake up the pack and to make the race interesting for us spectators (Prems are money given to the first rider to cross the line, either in a break or the field and in a race like Twilight, prems range from $100-$500 as an example).
Karel was sitting nicely in the middle of the pack and although he had a nice draft on the wheel in front of him, speeds of 27-30+ mph on a tight 1K course (with 4 corners for every lap) make it incredibly hard to draft "easily". I am always amazed when seeing Karel's power file after these big races - so colorful with so many spikes from his heart rate and power.
Karel told me that around 12 minutes into the race, he made the mistake of looking at the clock. What a depressing moment in such an exciting race when you know that you are racing at your max, your legs are already burning with pain and you have to convince yourself "OK, only 90 more minutes to go."
Karel said that he didn't look at the lap counter until around 46 laps to go.
I remember Chad saying "Alright riders, only 6 laps to go...until you are half way!"
The action was getting fierce by the riders when a 2 man breakaway started to look as if it would stick for the remainder of the race. But, it's Athens and as a 4-time spectator, I know that teams will do everything possible to not let a break stay away - especially if the sprinter on that team in the chase field is not in the break.
Karel was still riding strong, as were Ryan and Eric (Gearlink cat 1 teammates), all staying around mid pack with Karel staying just a few riders in front of Eric and Ryan. Karel was looking really good and with a group of college girls around me, cheering for Karel (made some friends as I was explaining the sport of cycling and crit racing to them) I was feeling really good about Karel making it a 2/2 - finishing Twilight for the 2nd year in a row after 5 total years of racing in this invite-only event.
With around 20 or 30 laps to go (I forgot), I noticed that the chase group was small. Immediately, I knew there was a crash.
I see a dozen or two riders heading to the wheel pit and without seeing Karel, my stomach dropped to my feet. Karel is an exceptional bike handler and although only luck is on your side when it comes to crit racing, I was happy to see Karel in one piece, slowly pedaling along the far side of the race course, stretching his back with his butt out of the saddle.
Karel made his way to the wheel pit and waited til he could join the crowd. Because you can get a free lap for a mechanical, flat tire or crash up until 8 laps to go, I wasn't worried about Karel at this moment but rather just loosing his rhythm, perhaps having his body seize up from go, go, go to nothing and of course, having to dodge any more crashes with only 20 or so minutes left to go.
Karel managed to get back in as he got a big push-off (along with a dozen or so other riders in the pit) from the mechanics. As the field is cruising over 30mph, you can imagine how hard it is going from a crash, to soft pedaling, to stopping, to waiting, to going 30+ mph just to be able to find a wheel before corner #1.
But 4 corners later, I saw Karel - back where he was before the crash, sitting nicely in the middle.
With 8 laps to go, the tension was riding. A lot was on the line for the pro's who were racing for the big win but for me, the wife of a talented and hard working individual who just wants the glory of finishing this notorious crit, I was just counting down the laps and keeping a close eye on Karel.
As written by David Crowe:
"If a rider can hang on and hold out for half the race, something happens. The demon of self-doubt is put to sleep. Confidence begins its slow drip into the veins. You don't need to see a rider's face to know: look at the way he handles his bike. A rider with confidence does not ride with his fingers over the brake levers; he's down in the drops, gripping the bars. He's sailing through turn one in a perfect arc, coming out of the corner in front of the Georgia Theatre cruising comfortably two inches from the curb, intentionally coming within centimeters of the heads of the habitués that are stretched out over the barricade. (No one's ever been beheaded.) He's smiling. He's entered the Zen-zone. This is special. If a rider makes it to the end, there is another factor to consider. Pro teams are expected to win. This is no longer about sportsmanship and fair play, if it ever was. Riders bump and grind and jostle for position. Various invectives are hurled. Psychological tactics are employed. The best sprinters in the world play a terrifying game of chicken: hit the brakes or hit the fence, take your pick. Back off Jack! Riders may be at The 283 Bar afterwards downing a cold beer, but at this point in the race, this is a job. This is a paycheck. This is thousands in prize money. This is winning. These boys are living. The last two or three laps of this race are spectacular. The big teams are amping up the speed as high as it can be humanly maintained. The reason: it's impossible for a rider to move up if he's 20 back and already pedaling at his limit. The disco sprinter on the team - the one expected to win - is sitting forth, fifth or sixth wheel. Out of the last corner, the sprinters have moved up and are now second, third or fourth wheel. These are the spots the winner will come from. The last 200 meters is simply a stripped-bare example of sheer speed. Racers look as if they are trying to tear their bikes apart at the seams as they pull and jerk and twist and pedal in a violent display of inner angst. They cross the line. It's all over. All smiles. That was the greatest race they've ever done. They can't wait to do it again. Have you ever watched film of mountaineers climbing Everest? They're miserable. Their teeth chatter like a jackhammer. Have you heard them speak of their experiences after they return? They can't wait to go back. They're sick, the whole lot of them!"
7 laps, 6 laps, 5 laps, 3 laps.
At this point, the pace was picking up. Teams were getting organized and the sprinters were bitting their teeth for the moment they have been waiting for, for the past 364 days.
With 2 laps to go, the field was all together and I knew this would be an exciting finish.
A gambler prem was tossed out for the person who wanted the "Dough for the show" and knew if he sprinted for the gambler prem, he would certainly have nothing in the tank for the final sprint. At this point, it's all about the win and tactics for the bigger teams.
With 1 lap to go...the music was pumping as the crowd was screaming. I watched Karel cross over the finish with 1 lap to go and I finally could relax. YIPPEE - I knew Karel was going to be so happy. Exhausted, but happy.
The finish was amazing. Words can't describe what these riders go through but they love it. They breath, eat and sleep this crazy self-inflicting torture and despite being totally exhausted at the finish, most of them have 6 more races to go, with a total of 7 races in 9 days for USA crit speed week...all starting with Athens Twilight. They love this stuff and for me as a spectator - I LOVE watching it!
Thanks Sean C. for capturing this great video of the finish (from a different angle) and for spotting Karel as he rolled over the line.
After the finish, Karel did his victory lap. Beers were being handed out to the riders by the crowd and high fives were being handed out as if the Athens Twilight finishers had each just won the olympic gold medal. Each finisher is treated like a God by the crowd and believe it or not, these riders soak in their accomplishment but still, expect more out of themselves. I suppose the athlete mentality of always wanting more out of yourself is true, no matter the sport, no matter the fitness level.
Karel hydrated with a coke which was given to him by one of his friends and with his head still spinning from doing 320 right hand turns in 1 hour and 42 minutes, I couldn't wait to give him a big hug and kiss.
As I mentioned before, you are instantly "famous" once you finish the Athens twilight crit....Karel gave his autograph to a fan and I just had to snap a pic.
So proud of Karel!! He wanted this so bad and despite being really nervous (as would be expected by any rider doing this race) he pulled himself together and suffered in both mind and body.
Our friends (and Trimarni coaching athletes) Kenny, Stefanie (and baby on the way) joined Karel and me, as well as my Trimarni nutrition athlete Katie and her hubby Carlos.
Talk about a fan club....Karel's Waycross, GA customers even made the trip to Athens, GA to watch Karel. What a super nice, fun and supportive group!! That's right - Karel has Jacksonville Trek store customers who live in GA..I suppose if you love your bike, you only bring it to the best mechanic in Florida (ok - a bit biased but he is that good).
Talk about the best feeling in the world. Everything riding (literally) up to this main event and by 11pm, FINISHER can be written on the athletic resume.
Karel had a great race, a great finish but of course, a restless night of sleep.
We always joke the morning after a crit race "I didn't sleep well" says Karel "I kept making turn after turn in my sleep".
Here's a recap and results from the race: (Karel was 50th!!!!)
What It’s Like To Be On A Bike In The Twilight
"The Athens Twilight Criterium is, by consensus, the fastest one-
hour of bicycle racing on this planet. The speed is insane. The
maniacal speed is a direct result of the course - it's a one-kilometer
rectangle that riders can whip around without braking, even through
the corners. If a rider even feathers the brakes, he's (she's) losing
The Twilight is an opportunity for a rider to slap his chain onto the
big ring, open the throttle and flat-out haul arse. The insane speed
is also a direct result of the racers.
These are the adrenaline junkies, the ones with the need for speed,
the fastest guys and gals in the world over short distances. These
lunatics can lean their bikes, and their bodies, around this one-
kilometer rectangle at precarious angles and ludicrous speeds that
defy Sir Isaac's general principles, and maybe one or two of Moses'
ten tenets. Going this fast must be a sin. But if you think this race is
all fun and games, think again."
-Author: David Crowe (article from Athens Magazine regarding the "old" 60K, 1 hour Athens Twilight - passed on to us by our friend James Sweeney)
As a four-year spectator of the Athens Twilight crit, it's hard for words to describe this race.....
So, I'll let a video give you a visual from the action on Saturday evening:
After our 6 hour drive on Friday, we checked in to our nice hotel (Comfort Inn) and quickly unpacked everything from the car. Campy and I got situated in the room while Karel warmed up on the trainer for the compu trainer grid qualifier. Although there's no easy way to ride 6 loops of the Athens Twilight course on a computrainer (exactly simulates the Athens course includes climbs and descends), Karel purposely did not waste his energy in his computrainer heat. Still finishing with a flush of lactic acid in his legs, he gave a nice effort - just enough to wake up the legs for the real lactic-acid burn on Saturday evening.
After Karel got cleaned up at the hotel, we headed back 1 mile down the road to downtown Athens for dinner - at our favorite Italian restaurant (with outdoor seating for Campy) at De Palma's. Pizza for me and pasta for Karel.
Around 8:45pm, we watched the final heat of 8 riders on the Computrainer - already the madness was beginning.
After a good night of rest, I woke up around 6:15am and headed to breakfast downstairs to grab a coffee and pre-training snack. Legs are finally walking normally after Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and I couldn't wait to let my bike take me for a ride on a beautiful country roads of Athens Georgia. But just one problem for this Florida girl (who does love to ride hills).....
Where are my flat roads to warm-up??
Well, around 10 miles into my 100K ride, I was reminded of the roads at IMWI that I fell in love with and I was totally in my element. A fun ride for distance and not my typical "ride for time" as I was riding the Gambler Athens bike ride course that was planning to start later that morning. The roads were well-marked and loved every single mile and riding by sites like this (Bridge built in 1885 - I rode through it).
A few hours later, my legs were happily satisfied and I found Karel warming up with his friends Sean and Rad down by the Amateur course, just a few blocks away from downtown. Have I mentioned that I LOVE ATHENS!!! I also enjoyed trying out my new Radar Edge Oakley Women sunglasses which are MUCH lighter than my last pair of Radar's and fit nicely with my helmet.
The rest of Saturday was spent in the hotel room (for the most part) except for a few trips downtown to see our friends (Stefanie, Kenny and on Friday, Katie A.) and for Karel to pick up his bib number.
Karel and Campy did their share of napping while I worked ahead for my athletes on Training Peaks and answered emails.
Around 5:30pm, we got the live stream of Athens up and running on our computers and enjoyed watching the action from our hotel room just a mile down the road.
Over the next hour, the nerves were building for Karel as well as for myself. It is amazing the adrenaline and nervousness that one can feel....when you aren't racing!! I could barely stomach anything and was keeping my best poker face on to keep Karel calm, excited and confident.
Earlier that day, Karel found out that he was going to get his first ever call - up. Imagine being seated for a race in the top 100 and then being called to the very front of the crowd, standing right next to the professionals. Athens Twilight is the superbowl of cycling races or for better understanding for my multisport readers, the "Kona" of triathlons. You know you are "that good" just to be one of 150 riders to start the invitation-only Pro race but to be called up to the line.....well, thanks to Karel's teammates for all doing the computrainer finals, Karel was able to get a call-up for having 3 teammates in the race.
A call-up will certainly help one out for starting near the front but then again, you first have to overcome nerves to stand amongst the "real deal" professionals. Only 35 riders received an invitation to the VIP tent and for the first time, Karel, from Jacksonville Florida, riding for Gearlink, was going to be given that honor of starting in the front. In cycling - this is a HUGE deal not only for ego's but for good positioning throughout the beginning laps of a criterium.
Around 6:45pm, the hours were ticking away and only 120 minutes left before the start of the main event. Karel was ready to warm-up on the trainer when I heard exactly what you never want to hear before or during a race....
"I have a flat tire!"
Sure, change it if it is a clincher but Karel (and myself) ride with tubulars which are tires that are glued on to the wheel. Karel, being the professional "mechanic" that he is, got out his blue work gloves and glued on another tire, hoping it would be good for the race. You see, changing a tubular is quick and easy and I LOVE having tubulars on my wheelsm. However, changing a flat tubular and putting on another one with a little glue remaining on the rim is just fine to get you through a race. But in a criterium where you are making 90 degree turns with the inside bike pedal nearly touching the ground with every turn, that's a whole other story for wanting well-glued-on tires before a criterium.
Without panicking (again - poker face, I'm sure my heart rate was nearing Z4 just standing there!) I suggested to call our friend Sean who had raced the amateur race earlier that morning. His hotel was on the opposite side of the Twilight course and I knew traffic would be horrible but luckily, I feel like a local and I took a few side streets and 15 minutes later I arrived at his hotel.
Time clicking away, it was close to 7:45pm when I returned to the room. Karel was on the trainer with a spare clinicher wheel (why didn't he use that? Riding a different wheel - not your race wheel - in a race is a completely different feeling for Karel. It's like riding a bike for the first time and being expected to race on it right away) and immediately he got off to swap cassettes and try out Sean's wheel.
At this moment, I was going crazy inside. However, Karel always seems to find a way. I left Campy in the room (earlier decision to not bring Campy to the madness downtown as the 2012 Athens Twilight event was expecting record-breaking crowds...last year 10,000+ people was too much for Campy to handle) and made my 15 minute walk downtown.
I made a few phone calls to remove my mind from this prior situation, hoping that I would just see Karel at the starting line and all would be ok and I could relax...well, relax until the official start of the race.
I squeezed my way through drunk college kids, obsessed cycling fans and wide-eyed kids who envy every athlete on a bike. Karel wanted me to get to the startling line (or as close as possible) to see his call-up and never seeing the start (or finish) of Athens, I managed to get to the very front of the barricades.
After watching the finish of the Pro Women race, my heart started pounding, hoping and praying that there were no more mishaps and I would hear Karel's name - and see him on his bike...with two, safe and glued-on racing wheels.....
More from David Crowe's article (reporting on the old 60K event - still on the same 1K downtown course):
"You see them before the race - glabrous and glistening, heavily
oiled, gliding philosophically on their bikes through the parking lot.
They're wearing a tan fit for a bejeweled and bedaubed country
club wife with a heavily insured husband.
They look cool; they look calm - like an unprepared, but veteran
trial attorney. But look closely: inside they're falling to pieces;
they're coming undone. If you took their shirts off, you'd see: their
brittle torsos are as white as cotton. The tan's a façade. They may
even be smiling now, but as Conway and Loretta would say, "It's
only make believe."
The Twilight averages over 30 miles-per-hour for one solid hour.
This is no joking matter. Does a condemned man rejoice in the
moments before placing his back to the wall and his chest towards
the muzzles of a dozen pointing rifles? It's absurd to think so.
These aren't nihilists. These are disco sprinters (vainglorious fools)
who think getting dropped in this race, in front of everyone, is a fate
worse than death.
These moments of dread and despair before the race feel like a
hundred little rats chewing on the inside of your stomach. In these
worrisome moments, many riders realize that they, like Henry
Fleming, might fling the rifle and head for the hills in a moment of
impending catastrophe - their red badge of courage a poop stain in
When a racer is standing at the starting line, he does his best
impression of a relaxed rider. But relaxing when thousands are
staring laser-guided missiles through you ain't easy. And, it's too
noisy to concentrate - this Rabelaisian crowd is cackling like a
henhouse full of lusty roosters. The pretend-unperturbed rider's
heart is actually beating against his chest like a sledgehammer
pounding on a thin tin roof.
A couple hundred corralled cyclists are bobbing and bouncing like
a field full of insaniatics, waiting for the gate to fall so they can
escape from the asylum. The riders on the front row don't dare look
back; they don't want the riders behind to see the terror raging in
their eyes. Their common consideration? They might be trampled
to death in the very near future.
When the gun finally fires to start the race, a rider sprints to the first
corner as if his life depends on it. It might. It's the maddest dash of
the entire race - the dash to the first turn. If a rider makes it to the
turn first, or near the front, he can hit the throttle and floor it out of
the corner and accelerate down the road with no obstructions.
Clear sailing. If he gets to that first corner too late, its like a bucket
of sand poured into a small funnel; it just takes a little time to get all
of it through. The point: in the Twilight, if a racer comes out of the
first turn too far back, his race is over and it's only 10 seconds old.
Finis. Finito. The End. Good Night, Irene!"
There are runners and then there are triathletes.
I am a triathlete. I love to run...and bike and swim. Here in Florida, we have running season and tri-season. Who am I? I am always a triathlete-in-training.
My body will not allow me to train for marathons...but thankfully, I can train for the Ironman. Odd - I know.
My genetic make-up does not allow me to be a sprinter but I love high intensity intervals.
My body is not designed to sprint but being fast is all relative to competition and the perspectives (or race results) of others.
Over the past few years, I've seen myself get stronger and faster as an athlete. As a coach, I've learned that many athletes compare themselves to others.
Despite many of us participating in an individual sport, it's easy to compare times, bodies, races, equipment, etc. to others. My thoughts on this? Race your own race which is 100% based on how you physically and mentally prepared for the race. No one cares how much you weigh and surely, your upcoming race is likely not your last race. If you want to succeed in a sport, focus on your own goals and how you can best achieve them.
Through trial and error and recognizing my strengths (and weaknesses), Karel has had a major influence in helping me pick the best races to fit my body, our style of training (train hard, recover harder) as well as my training needs. Thankfully, because of Karel as my coach and my passion for understanding sport nutrition, the physiology of the body during exercise and overall health, it is all finally coming together.
Finishing times or places have nothing to do with the fitness status of an "athlete." If you race strong, consider yourself fit. Show up at a race where everyone is slower than you and you will be considered "fast". You may not PR but if you win your age group or overall, you are considered "fast". Show up to a race and come in last... but PR - how will you react? will you consider yourself SLOW or feel as if you failed? I sure hope not!
For if you can train smart, feel confident and be "hungry" to race and execute a good race day plan, well, you will simply have the ability to put your training to the test and will likely have a great race day performance. I'd rather come in last place, give it my all and feel as if I gave it my best possible effort, than win a race without being able to walk away with that itch or fire to keep me going. I love a challenge and I love healthy competition. I love congratulating those who are faster than me and keeping in mind that you can't beat yourself up for being beat. There will always be people faster than you...just like there will alwys be people slower than you. I love learning from past experiences in order to set new goals and to get me out of my comfort zone.
In reflecting on my past performance at the Iron Girl Clearwater half marathon, I realize I did not PR. Here's my take on PR's as it is easy for many athletes to oversee a strong, well-executed performance all because of the idea that if you don't PR, you didn't race well.
I've placed top 10 age group (and top 25 amateur female) in 3 out of 5 Ironman Triathlons. 2 of those have qualified me for the Ironman World Championships and 2 out of my 5 Ironman's were at the Ironman World Championships.
My worst placing was 7th in the 25-29 age group at IMKY 2009. I didn't qualify for Kona but I had my best ever time, with a PR of 10:53. This was my 3rd Ironman.
My best place was winning the 20-24 age group at IMFL in 2006, with a time of 11 hours. This was my first IM, so I guess it was a PR.
Fastforward to 2007, if I would have raced that same race as a 25 year old I would have placed 10th. I wonder how I would have reacted to placing 10th vs 1st with the same time? For sure, in the eyes of many, 10th is a lot worse than winning an age group. In my opinion, getting the starting line of an Ironman is worth celebrating. Finishing is just icing on the cake.
Now comes a new way of training and a better understanding of the sport - welcome 2010! In my opinion, my best IM performance occured at IMWI. I placed 4th in the 25-29 age group, went 10:57, qualifed for Kona (with a roll down) and had a strong race from start to finish.
Over the years, as we (Karel and I) discovered my strength of climbing and tolerating "challenging" courses, I've learned how to train smart (and not long), discovered how to recover better and embraced the mental component that is required to "race your own race".
But over the years, I have never lost sight of one thing......
I absolutely love and enjoy what I am doing and SO thankful for the body I have.
I try so hard to be able to gain something positive from every training session and race and I remind myself that my worst day may be someone's best day.
I believe in goal setting and making challenging and practical goals.
Winning a running race has never been one of my short or long term goals.
A total surprise to my triathlon "running" legs and to everyone else - I never imagined winning the Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon. Without a doubt...I couldn't imagine a better race to win my first ever overall title.
Karel was in Jax because he had to work on Saturday so I headed down to Clearwater after I worked on Fri, to speak at the Iron Girl pre-race dinner event. Around 6:30pm, I had dinner with my parents (and Campy). I enjoyed a home-cooked meal of mashed sweet potatoes (my favorite pre-race meal, for the past 7 years) topped with cinnamon and chopped pistachios with a selection of green (asparagus, broccoli and bok choy) topped with a little feta cheese and quinoa topped with raisins. YUM!
I went to bed around 9:30pm and was up early at 4:25am.
As the coffee was brewing, I put a piece of whole wheat bread in the toaster and Campy took me on an early morning walk around the block. I prepared my gel flask of 2 Hammer huckleberry gels mixed with 3/4 flask-filled of water and 2 sport bottles of water (1 mixed with strawberry heed, 1 scoop). I quickly prepared my pre-race meal of 1 slice toast w/ smear of Smuckers peanut butter and a few slices (1/2 small) banana and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. I poured my coffee into a mug and hit the road for my 45 min trip to clearwater.
I arrived to the parking garage around 5:45pm. Just enough time to get a good spot in the garage for with a split start (half marathon at 7am and 5K at 7:30), those who were racing later had to search a bit harder for parking spots - I highly recommend arriving to races early in the case of a split start or just to eliminate unneeded stress.
I kept my Oakley jacket on as I warmed up around downtown. Just like in training, I like to run continuously for 10 miles or a mile and then walk for a few minutes just to shake out the legs. It is an easy way to get the endorphins going without feeling fatigue or questioning fitness for the morning workout (or race).
I did about 30 min of jog, walk, stretch, walk, jog, etc. and went to the restroom afteward. I was feeling really good and I felt a similar feeling that was welcomed before Kona in Oct....I was HUNGRY to race. I felt this energy just building up inside of me and my legs (and mind) were ready to run.
Around 6:35pm, I jogged/walked down the block to coachman park. As I was heading to the starting line, I made sure to reflect on my race day strategy of monitoring my HR and being smart with the course. With a lot of turns, 2 big bridges and foreful winds anticipated for the later part of the race, I knew th 1800 women who had registered for the half marathon would have an eventful race day experience. My goal....race smart.
I wasn't concerned that I haven't ran more than 10 miles since the Donna Half marathon in Feb because my focus is on my upcoming half ironman in Macon, GA on June 2nd (with set up events). My training is very specific to intervals, pacing and HR and because of that, I knew I was able to execute a good race. It's not about covering miles but what you put into the miles and how you recover from them. Covering up my triathlete tan-lines, I wore my 110% play harder, tri shorts,
my CEP compression socks,
and wore my favorite Oakley's -
my commit Oakley women shades
I kept myself moving at the front of the starting line and kept a positive "can do" attitude despite looking around at the other girls - who looked really serious. I wonder if I look serious at the start of a race?
I spotted my athlete James who snapped a quick pic of me at the start and said hello to a few other familiar races in the crowd. The race venue was unbelievable for the start...over 4000 women (and their family and friends) all ready to conquer the bridges and reach their respective finishing line after 13.1 or 5K.
Nearing close to 7am, I made sure my garmin was ready and with some positive words by Judy (President of Iron Girl) she then gave the 3,2,1 countdown.
Off we went...right up a steep, short hill to let the legs know it is time to race (thank goodness for a long easy warm-up!).
Within the first 200 yards of the race, I could see a bunch of long legs running up the hill in front of me. Soon after making a left on the first of many turns, I found myself in 2nd place. I felt very smooth and by the 2nd corner, I was in first.
UMMMMM.....what's going on here?
I looked at my garmin to make sure I was sticking to my plane of keeping my HR around 160 and not starting out too fast. For in training and triathlons, I feel good around 3-4 miles. In a running race, I always seem to go out too fast so I made sure to hold my pace between 6:35-6:50 min/miles.
Following the motorcycle, I stayed in my own zone and just focused on my own thing. I didn't consider the thought (or even toy around with the thought) of winning the race so without looking behind me (which was hard...I really wanted to!) I just kept on running.
I felt really good and by mile 4, I was still in the lead.
Never in this position before, I remembered all the times watching the pro triathletes at Kona, running behind the motorcycle, thinking "wow - I bet that is the best feeling in the world and a total endorphin boost". As I was nearing my 5, I looked behind me and far back but still within sight, I could see the 2nd plac girl, running strong like she was on a mission. At this point, I turned the corner after climbing a series of short gradual inclines and declines throughout neighborhoods (this course was anything but flat) and when I was out of her sight, I walked for 5 seconds. I needed a breather but I didn't want her to think I needed to "rest" as she likely doesn't know that walking is part of my pacing and racing strategy.
Oh, going back to that thought of being behind the motorcycle- it is the coolest feeling ever...but it doesn't make the effort any easier!!
I grabbed water for cooling at every aid station and sipped on my gel flask at mile 1.5, 2 and every mile thereafter. Perform (power bar) was on the course and being able to tolerate that, I relied on the perform for electrolytes to aid in muscle contractions/relaxation and replenishing. I am not a big sweater but my effort was intense enough to need the electrolytes and extra carbohydrates. Thankfully, the Hammer gels have branch chain amino acids in them so that would help with my focus and energy during the entire race.
Running past mile 5, it started to get tough. I really wanted to walk more in the aid stations but I was able to control my pace by slowing to a jog at every aid station and just walking as needed. Knowing that the first of two bridges was coming around mile 9ish, I made sure to pace myself because I really wanted to use my "strength" of climbing to my advantage. I figured at this point (in playing out the race in my head on Sat), I would be passing girls up the bridge. But after passing mile 6 of the run and still in the lead, I realized that I needed to somewhat conserve my effort so that I wouldn't blow myself up.
I received so much energy from people along the course.
This was one of the most beautiful courses I have ever ran and familiar to me from living in Dunedin when I was dating Karel, I welcomed some familiar scenery...despite the winds picking up!
The wind was starting to blow and in reviewing the weathr the morning of the race, I knew I was going to get some headwind up the Bellair bridge and then somewhat side wind on the long stretch until the Sand Key Bridge. And to top it off, straight headwind for the last 1/2 mile until the finish.
That's ok - you can't beat the wind and in living in Jacksonville, I train in it all the time. I don't let the wind steal my energy so I just use it to my advantage. I may be short but I am strong....keep it going!
Errr....so the bridge is coming in less than 2 miles and I see the motorcycle guy weaving in and out on the road. Ok, thanks Mr. pacer.....I suppose I am running too slow for you???
I did find some energy to pick up my pace within each aid station so as I got closer to the bridge, I finally started to feel good. A slight decline before the bridge and up,up, up I went.
I felt amazing up the bridge and just jogged my way up with a fast and short cadence. At the top I turned around and couldn't see anyone in my view. I slowed to a jog and then ran the best I could down the bridge.
At this point, I was nearing mile 10 and having an incredibly hard time breathing. I tried adjusting my HR monitor and sport bra- no luck. I made sure to exhale fully and realized that my only limitor right now was respiratory. I was surprised that my legs were not burning (sore and achy but not filled with lactic acid) but I suppose that with my pacing strategy and monitoring my HR, I was not accumulating lactic acid and even with labored breathing, I was still able to expire CO2 (yes - I really do think like this while I am racing :)
I smiled at the girl scouts who were handing out cookies at the aid station. Before making my last turn before the last long straightaway before Sand Key, I did it...
I stopped, walked and looked behind me....here she comes!!!
I grabbed a sip of sport drink, took a swig of my gel and just started running with a body that was giving up.
Heart rate was controlled, pace was steady....I was recognizing something that we all know about...
The body-mind connection.
Between miles 10-12, I was in battle with my mind and body. Body was saying "hey, let's just have fun. Just slow down, let her pass you and celebrate your first ever top 3 finish".
Mind was thinking otherwise "You have the chance to come in 1st..win the whole race! You have absolutely no idea what this will feel like as this has never been something you have set your mind to. You are racing strong, don't give up. You want this".
So here I am questioning in my head "Will the glory of winning this race outweigh the pain I am feeling right now?
I looked behind me and with her less than 150 yards behind me...I just slowed down to a jog for 10 seconds (counted outloud as I was running) and just gave it whatever I had until the bridge.
Still racing smart, I monitored my HR and relied on my mind. For if the mind is strong, the body will respond. I figured that if I didn't give up my effort and she passed me it would be much more deserving of a finish than just giving up and just hanging on for 2nd.
Nearing the Sand Key bridge, I could hear more cheers from the crowd. I was smiling as a sign of thank you for cheering for me and for taking my picture but I was also listening closely for those cheers of "you are so close to her, go get her!"
At this point, I started my way up the steep Sand Key causeway (I have done dozens of bridge bike repeaters on in the past when dating Karel - never running up it before, I was thinking I'd rather be biking) and the wind was pushing me to the side. It was a forceful wind blowing at me but I stayed focused and found my way at the top and tried to gather my breath down the bridge. I noticed an arrow pointing right...err, but the finish is to the left....how many more turns do I have to take???!?!?!
Making the turn to the right, I made my last look behind me, she was making her way down the bridge and at that point, I made up my mind that I was winning this race.
I shut off every muscle that was aching (more like tuned it out) and gave it every last ounce of energy that I had. For I had already imagined my 30-min runs off the bike, running with Campy and long, steady intervals to get me to mile 12. What did I think about for that last 1.1 miles? Karel.
He suffers in racing more than I could ever imagine. For in cycling, your best day means nothing if someone is having a better day. On Sunday, I was having my best day ever and with that, I ran like I had a huge target on my back.
In the last 1/2 mile, I was nearing the finish in the parking lot in front of Clearwater beach. I could see the white caps on the ocean and with the wind blowing right at my face, the clouds were starting to darken and the rain was starting to sprinkle from the sky.
Hearing the cheers from the crowd, I was filled with this energy that I have never had before. I stuck my hand in the sky and spotted my dad who came outside the Hyatt hotel (he had an optometry conference...which he was late for so he could take a few pics of me) to see me finish top 10 - haha, well, that is what I told him I was hoping for!
The motorcycle started honking and the cheers were super loud.
People were taking pics and screaming for me...OMG - ME, I am about to win the 2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon!!!
Ok, forget that I am a triathlete - I am about to win a running race!!
As I was nearing the finish line tape, the announcer said my name, which was followed by "5x Ironman finisher and Iron Girl nutritionist". I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and fell reight to my knees.
My body was done.
And at that moment, I learned a new lesson.
No matter how bad you are hurting during a race, you have to find a way to make your mind stronger than your body. It is never easy. NEVER. But that finish line - it makes it all worth it.
And eventually, you will feel better...and will want to do it all over again.
A big thank you to James for driving me to my car so I didn't have to stand and wait for the Trolley in the pouring rain.
To Judy for putting on a top-notch event series and for allowing me to be the official dieititan for Iron Girl. If you ever have the chance to do an Iron Girl race (ladies), I highly recommend one of their events!! For the guys, volunteer!! The volunteers were unbelievable at this race as were the crowds and the city of Clearwater.
To Fitful, for a yummy post-race "meal"!
To Oakley, 110% and Hammer - quality training with quality products. Thank you for allowing me to be an ambassador for your brands.
To my parents, athletes, friends and family for all the kind words - absolutely so heart-felt, I can't thank you all enough from every sore muscle of my body (speaking of which, my quads are killing me!)
To Karel for inspiring me and for coaching me to a new level of fitness with every season. Love you.
I hope you enjoy the pics, courtesy of Finisherpix.com (which I will be ordering some pics for sure!), James and my dad.
Also - a BIG thank you to the girls who chassed me down and refused to give up. You made me work really really hard! I have now experienced a new level of toughness and couldn't be more proud that it was because of strong, confident women who refuse to say "I Can't".
Keep on performing beautifully!
Congrats to all Iron Girl finishers - I am loving reading the comments on the Iron Girl Facebook page - I recommend everyone head over there and be inspired by the comments/feedback on the race.
Results: (not sure what happened to 2nd place on the official results page but Angie Ave from orlando, 40-44 age group was 2nd in 1:33:59)
Karel knew it wouldn't be easy. But he didn't let it get to him. After he picked up his number, we headed back to the house where we were staying and Karel did a bit of resting for the rest of the afternoon. I prepared him a yummy lunch, almost identical to what he had before the Tampa Twilight Crit.
I made us mixed rice, eggs (Karel had two sunny side up, I had scrambled) topped with cheese, broccoli (cooked in olive oil on a skillet) and orange slices. It hit the right spot for Karel before he rested on the couch.
I caught up on emails for most of the afternoon and Campy did his share of napping with Karel.
Around 5:30pm, we headed to the race venue in downtown Charlotte. As Karel was getting the trainer ready for him to warm-up in a parking lot, Campy and I headed down the street to watch the women's race. Wow - they are fast!
The spectators were starting to line the streets so I made my way back to Karel to pin his number on his jersey and to wish him the best of luck.
Karel did not appear nervous but I know to just leave him alone so that he can get into his zone. Around 7:10pm, Karel headed to the corral to get staged...
Something new for Karel - as this was a BIG race with a BIG $50,000 purse prize, Karle had to sign-in on a big board before starting the race.
As all the teams started to crowd into the starting area, the call-ups started...
".... stage winner of Giro d'Italia" ".... stage winner of the Tour de California" ".... multiple USA crit winner"
The list just went on and on. Karel follows a lot of these guys via websites as these are some of the top cyclists from around the world.
For Karel, this is fun. Suffering may not be that much fun but he really loves riding his bike. This certainly takes him WAY out of his comfort zone but he only has three options... 1) Race local Florida races with guys at his level 2) Race as a Master's rider, among guys at a similar level 3) Race in the Pro category, among some of the best athletes in the world.
What would you choose? One thing that Karel has taught me (and I have learned to embrace), is competition. A true athlete is not afraid to be beat but that doesn't mean he/she is not afraid to give it his/her all. I read a quote once that said something along the lines of "train as if you are the worst, race as if you are the best".
Life is too short to always stay in your comfort zone for when you do the same thing all the time, you get the same results. Karel knew this race was far beyond his level as there is no way that he can train (and recover) like guys who do this for a full-time job. Karel works 45+ hours a week as the GM of the Trek Bicycle store in Jax 5-7 days a week. Karel's competition - they ride their bikes for a job.
Knowing that there was some heavy duty money on the line, these guys were not holding back.
The course was really technical and one of the hardest I have ever seen. A typical criterium is 4 corners around a block, typically less than 1K. In this race, each "lap" was 1.2 miles, with two "blocks" at each side of a long straight away (essentially the street was divided into two sections - out and back between each corner section). You can see the course here: http://www.charlottecriterium.org/pdfs/PresbyCriterium2012.pdf
Karel told me they were going 35-37mph on the straight section (with a slight grade that was noticeable on the bike) and because of the narrow corners, there was at least 1 crash at every end of the course for the first few laps. Lucky, Karel was not affected.
The problem with this course, was that with 140 starters, the line was spread out far around the corners that when the guys were slowing from the fast straight away, the front guys were accelerating back to fast speeds.
It was a constant struggle for Karel to move up because despite feeling really good during the race, guys in front where just giving up. Karel refuses to give up even when his body is screaming NO.
Around 40 minutes into the race, the field started to break into three sections and sadly, Karel was just behind the mid section. He sprinted to try to get up to the middle pack but the wheels he was drafting off of, started to drift back. Eventually, the guys gave up and with Karel giving everything he had to get back to the group, he exhausted all his extra efforts.
I finally found Karel outside the course and he was disappointed. I felt sad for him cause I know how hard he tries to finish these races. I tried to convince him that he did finish the last two crits but we both knew that this race was likely the hardest race he has ever done - all because of the course and the caliber of athletes. Even though I was so incredibly proud of him for lasting 40 minutes (considering that guys were getting dropped in the first 10 minutes and only 80 guys finished), it's hard to be an outsider (as an athlete myself) because I know when you want something so bad and it is not always within your control.
You see, that's cycling. It really makes me appreciate the sport of running and triathlon because so much of it (more like all of it except for weather and terrain) is within our control. Cycling is far from controllable circumstances. For you can be having a great day and someone is just having a better day. Watching Karel really makes me value my sport, my body and what I have within my control which is the ability to control my attitude, nutrition and pacing. For training is far beyond just putting in the miles but rather just giving your best effort on race day which is solely reflected on how you trained. It's not about training "hard" but rather, training "smart".
In cycling, you have to be strong, fast and smart. You have to be lucky and you have to have guts. Karel trains his body just as hard as he trains his mind and without giving excuses for the situation (we don't do excuses in the Sumbal household), I know Karel is in the best shape of his life. Fueled by plants and still, at the age of 35 yrs, he loves riding his bike.
After Karel changed his clothes and texted some of his close racing buddies, we all went back to the course, enjoyed some local pizza (yum for local late-night eats) and watched the end of the race. Due to the dark, I wasn't able to take very good pics so here is a video I found on YouTube from herrjohn.
Karel slept in on Sunday and we both enjoyed the morning, sipping coffee and enjoying a few last hours in the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC. A much easier drive home, it was nice for Karel to reflect on the race and re-charge before Gearlink Cycling Classic this weekend (I'll be running the Iron Girl Half Marathon the same day, earlier that morning on Sunday) and then the BIG race of the year - Athens Twilight to kick-off USA crit Speed Week!
Thanks for reading and for all your support via facebook.
What a fabulous weekend. Training, racing and spending time with friends and family. Karel, like many of his friends, training partners and teammates, are not "real pro's". They work real jobs (weekends included) and then squeeze in training with the rest of life. Karel likes to challenge himself and race at a higher level and I think that is admirable and something we should all strive for in life....always trying to be better and to not be afraid to get out of our comfort zone. Karel and his boss Jeff make the time to train (Jeff is training for his first Ironman, IM Texas). For training/exercise is part of being in good health and when you are in good health, you are more happy, productive and overall, in better spirits. It's all about how you balance it all to maintain a sense of consistency in your life.
After working at the hospital on Fri, I picked up Karel at work at the Trek Store and we hit the road to my parents down in New Port Richey.
Saturday morning came quick but due to a few nights of not sleeping well (we watched my parents cats last week at our place) I had direct orders from coach/hubby that I needed to sleep in. Orders obeyed.
I was on my bike at 8am and it was time for a challenging bike... kudos to Karel I have no idea where he comes up with my workouts but they sure do work! The wind was blowing and riding on the suncoast trail required that I had both mental and physical strength for this workout.
2 x 8 min w/ 2 min EZ 15 min w/ 2 min EZ 20 min w/ 2 min EZ 2 x 25 min w/ 4 min EZ
I had specific power zones for each part of this workout and the total ride was around 3hrs and 45 minutes. Miles were uploaded but I don't really focus on my distance. I download my data onto a free software program called Goldencheetah and then upload data onto Training Peaks for me and Karel to analyze.
After the bike came a 30 minute run. It was hot but my legs felt great. Sure, a bit wobbly during the first 4-5 minutes but it always gets better. Finished my run with a walk with Karel and Campy...sweaty, hot and ready for my Hammer FIZZ in water, a dip in the pool and a recovery meal w/ milk + whey protein.
During the day, Karel rested after his bike warm-up. I try to not talk to him much when he races the bigger races (On the National Racing Calendar - NRC) as he likes to get into his zone, but I'm always around if he needs anything. I'm the opposite at my Ironman races - I love to socialize, laugh, smile and be around lots of positive energy.
I have really worked with Karel on his race day nutrition for the evening crits so that he is comfortable racing for a long duration at such a high intensity, so late in the evening. He knows what works best for him but it is still all about experimentation based on the race course, time of the race, time of the year/weather and race distance.
For this race, Karel had as his "main" meals: Breakfast post warm-up - milk + bagel + whipped chive cream cheese + eggs Lunch - Brown rice + beans and tuna
A little bit of snacking but that's it..and it worked fantastic this time around. Karel does not like to have much food in his system before a crit but he does sip on sport drinks throughout the day and chooses more "sport" products in the 1-3 hours before the crit. Again, it's what works best for him and we've tried a lot of different things...I always make mental notes. I always make sure that he eats well on the days leading up to the race as I know that on race day, he will not be eating a lot of food, however his system is full of "fuel".
I was so excited to go to the race as it was the first year it was on the NRC list. The venue was packed with people and booths and I was so happy that several of my athletes (Gary, James, Jennifer, Stefanie) came to support Karel. I spotted several of our Gearlink friends and some other familiar faces in the crowd.
Karel drove seperately from me and my parents so that he could get his number and start getting ready. We arrived around 6pm and by that time, Karel was getting ready to get on his trainer to start flushing some lactic acid to get his legs ready for the race.
By 7:25pm...they were off!
This race was a bit shorter than other races but no less fast. 4 corners and several crashes but luckily, Karel dodged them all. Karel had a few Gearlink cat 1 riders on his team in this race and they all rode really well together. Knowing that the Gearlinkers are riding amongst a totally different caliber of riders, it was great to see them all out there, riding strong and confident.
I felt good about this race for Karel all day long and sometimes, I can just sense that he will do well. You never know in bike racing what the day will bring but I had a feeling this would be a great race for Karel.
Karel stayed near mid pack during the entire race and with over 90 starters, the field was getting smaller and smaller with every loop of the 80 minute race. The field ended up getting lapped by 2 riders near the middle of the race but the entire race was filled with excitement. I absolutely love watching cycling as there are so many tactics involved between the different teams. My favorite announcer Chad with USA crits always explains the race very well so if you are ever able to watch a USA crit race, I recommend attending.
I was really excited to see Karel sprint for the finish as that is his speciality. He loves to sprint, unlike me who loves a steady effort..not too slow, not too fast. I suppose by now, Karel is teaching me how to suffer...
Karel had a great sprint and placed 28th with one of his teammates Eric S., placing 30th. Both guys earned a nice paycheck since the event payed 30 deep, which they then shared among the team for all the guys who finished.
Karel told me that he could have had a better finish but another rider got in his way and he wasn't able to move up much more during the sprint. Regardless, Karel was really pleased with the race and finished the race, craving for more.
Well, 2 more weeks and we are off to North Carolina for the Charlotte Twilight downtown Crit and then it all leads up to the notorious Athens Twilight Criterium in downtown Athens Georgia. Then...a break for Karel and it is time for me to race some Tri's!
We will both be back in the Clearwater area on April 22nd as I will be racing in the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Clearwater, Florida and later that afternoon, Karel will be racing a Florida Series race in downtown New Port Richey.
Life is good...can't complain. I do enjoy resting as much as I enjoy this on-the-go lifestyle. It's all about balance...and lots of restful sleep!
On sunday morning as Karel was watching the Tour de Flanders, I had a 1 hour easy spin followed by my 1 hour and 45 min long run. I warmed up for 4 miles and then it was time for the main set: 4 x 12 min (7:32 min/mile pace, 7:26 min/mile pace, 7:25 min/mile pace, 7:32 min/mile pace) w/ 2 min EZ jog/walk.
Talk abou a main set! But good thing I had a lot of motivation, adrenaline and positivity after seeing Karel suffer for 80 minutes on Saturday evening. I always seem to have amazing workouts when Karel races.
Do you ever get inspired by watching other people race?
Performing beautifully, wearing my Oakley Women Overtime shades, Fly fleece hoodie and convert tank. No outfit is complete without Campy at my side.
First off, a big CONGRATS to the Category 1,2 Gearlink Team for exceptional teamwork at the Winter Garden Crit on Saturday evening. Karel's teammate Eric managed to get into the break and the team worked really well together in the last 2 loops, driving the speed and giving Karel a great lead out for a field sprint first place and 10th overall. I am SO excited for next weekend to head down to Tampa for the USA Crit Tampa Twilight! If you live in or near the area, I highly suggest coming to watch the Pro/Cat 1 race!
Campy and I enjoyed ourself by resting our legs and enjoying a yummy TriMarni creation.... In the delray crit two weeks ago, Karel mentioned that he wanted something "light" but filling before his crits. Nothing too heavy that would make him feel stuffed (he eats his last meal 3 hours before a crit race) but he wanted something easy to digest. I made for both of us a yummy pre-race meal with all the right flavors to enjoy it until the last bite. Pre-race meal: Bulgur combined with cooked (frozen) veggie medley with fresh chopped celery, sweet peppers and onions, mixed in olive oil on stove. Added scrambled eggs, marinara and farmers cheese.
(Be sure to refrigerate/keep cool when traveling due to eggs, or your choice of protein. Always keep in mind, food safety!)
After Karel's race, I said good bye to my favorite two guys and headed to Clermont (20 miles down the road) to stay the night before my triathlon. Karel and Campy joined our friend Rad for pizza in the cute downtown of Winter Garden and headed home soon after.
Throughout the race I wore my Celliant socks, which have been a new addition to my recovery/daily routine. I recommend checking them out, I can't say that I feel they will work for everyone but I am always seeking a comfortable sock and I really enjoy the feel of these socks. Karel and I both have a pair.
I was quick to bed at 9:30pm...looking forward to good sleep before a 4:45am wake-up call.
Pre-race It's been a LONG time since I have done an Olympic distance triathlon. With nerves, setting up in transition, getting on (and off) a wetsuit after a 20 minute swim and a high intensity racing effort on my mind, I was very careful with my nutrition on the days leading up to the race. Knowing it would be fairly warm and that my muscles would need to be in top shape for contracting and relaxing, I took 1 FIZZ (Hammer) on the 2 days leading up to the race (mixed in 24 ounces of water), after my warm-up on Sat (Fri was a day off so I sipped in a bottle throughout the morning). Considering that my high heart rate would possibly compromise my nutrition on race day, I kept in mind that stable blood sugar levels on the days leading up to the race would give me the best competitive edge, over any supplement or race day fueling strategy. The only supplement in my current diet since Kona 2011 is whey protein, which is a must-have in my training/recovery routine. In training for an Ironman, I realize that is far from "normal exercise" and that I must respect my body by focusing on what it isn't getting or what it may be needing. Tissue rejuvinator, a multivitamin, endurance aminos and anti fatigue (from hammer) are part of my "Ironman" supplement regime. But that's it...it's not too crazy because I really like to focus on a more natural way of training, recovering and fueling my body. It doesn't work for everyone, but I find it works for me. I focused on my foods on the days leading up to a race, not getting overconsumed with "carbs" or "sodium" but rather just eating normally but listening to my body. When my body was hungry, I fed it. When it told me I was satisfied, I stopped eating. Lots of fruits and veggies for electrolytes, vitamins and minerals and an extra emphasis on wholegrains - like bulgur, brown rice and whole grain bread, alongside fat and protein. I find no difficulty "craving" a balanced diet but with a race in sight, it's easy to lose sight of "normal" behaviors so I kept with my normal diet but was sure to assess my body and appetite during each eating opportunity. Feeling great (albeit a bit nerves for what was to come with a 4-year hiatus from "short course" triathlon racing), I had 1 slice whole grain cinnamon toast bread with Smuckers Natural Peanut butter and banana slices. Knowing that my hotel room did not have a coffee maker or microwave, I planned ahead and didn't freak out that I wouldn't have my typical morning cup of Joe. No worries, a good warm-up would give me the "boost" to get my system going. I also had around 12ish ounces of water with breakfast, knowing that the more fluid in my stomach, the easier it would be to empty the sport drink from my stomach, into my small intestines for optimal absorption....tip for you athletes who feel bloated before training/racing. 8-16 ounces of fluid in the 2 hours before training/racing, recommended a cup or two of coffee and water.
I made my drink for the race, which was 2 scoops (200 calories) Strawberry Heed as I knew that would be the best source of fuel to minimize any GI upset in a quick race as well as ensure that there would be no swings in blood sugar. I also mixed my gel flask which is becoming a must-have for my athletes during any run off the bike. I mixed 2 huckleberry gels (Hammer) with 3/4 full of water in my gel flask. Shook it up and it was ready to go.
I arrived to the race site at 5:30am to pick up my packet and to set up transition area. I am the type that will arrive to the airport well-ahead of departing time...triathlons are no different. I'd rather set up my stuff and relax rather than feeling rushed. Knowing that anxiety and stress reduces gastric emptying and can create side effects such as bloated stomach and/or diarrhea, I set up my transition area, relaxed in the car for around 30 minutes (called Karel for a quick pep-talk), warmed up with a jog and then relaxed some more in the car until 7:15am.
I made sure to bring two pairs of running shoes (Same pair, just an older pair...Brooks Launch) so I could warm up before the race. My transition area included: Swim (which I had on me) - cap, goggles, body glide, wetsuit Bike - aero helmet, power tap (on bike), water bottle (on bike), Oakley commit sunglasses, socks, LG tri shoes, towel to wipe feet, garmin (not waterproof, I put it on for the bike and start when I am finishing the bike) Run - 110% visor, race belt (pink Zoot, clipped in for easy sliding on), gel flask
The race was wetsuit legal (74 degree water per race director) and despite not wanting to wear my wetsuit as I am not a wetsuit swimmer, I decided I would put myself at a disadvantage if I didn't. I put on my Xterra full sleeve wetsuit and headed to the water for a quick dip in the lake.
RACE The race was collegiate regional championships so the men and women college kiddos started in the first two waves. All the women started just a bit later, together at 7:47am..3,2,1...
A few quick high-knee runs into the water, a few dolphin dives and the lactic acid hit my body in full force.
Oh my, what did I get myself into!
Nearing the first corner of the triangle course, I finally felt like I was getting into a rhythm. I made sure I kept my mouth SHUT during the swim as I made the mistake to swallow the Pacific ocean during the World Championships in October. I'll tell ya, there's always something to think about with swimming!
I was trying to stay with a pack of purple caps, trying to draft to the best of my ability. We were nearing the last buoy and I was careful to spot on the way back to shore, trying to give a straight shot to the swim exit.
I let the wet suit stripper pull off my wetsuit. I safety-pinned my chip so it wouldn't come off and also had on my CEP calf sleeves under my wetsuit. I wore my Hammer sport bra and 110% tri shorts and felt comfortable knowing that the day was going to get a bit warmer.
I made my way to transition area after the 1.5K swim...quickly running to make sure I didn't slow down. In an oympic distance tri, transitions are quick. In an Ironman, it's more about being smart than being fast. Today I tried to be quick and smart.
I never put my shoes on my bike, I feel it saves me no time as I can quickly put on my cycling shoes in transition area and quickly mount my bike.
The bike course started with a few climbs in the neighborhood and then became flat as we rode around Lake Minneola. What a beautiful ride as we turned away from the lake and welcomed the rolling hills of Clermont.
There was a lot of changing of the gears, from bing to small ring. Trying to keep a steady cadence, I loved every minute of climbing despite the wind starting to pick up. I guess when you are climbing, you don't really feel the wind until it is at your face or pushing you to the side.
I felt strong on the bike and kept a careful eye on my power. I knew Karel wanted me to push hard during the entire race, I watched my speed as I tried to hold around 150-160 watts when I felt like my speed was dropping but I was still pushing. This allowed me to not burn myself out but rather, be steady with the challenging course.
I absolutely loved the feeling of pushing hard on the bike for this 40K ride. In 2006, Karel and I were dating and he watched me do this race as a 24 year old. At that time, I was scared of hills, climbing and descending and didn't feel as if I was "one" with my bike. Fast forward to 2012, racing as a 30 year old with my b-day this May, I feel confident, strong and "one" with my bike...all thanks to Karel not only pushing me but giving me all the tips I could ask for...even when I am not asking for them :)
I can't tell you how many times Karel has told me to "stay on my wheel!". OK babe, if I could, I WOULD!
Gotta love him.....he is an exceptional coach, rider and husband. I know he cares and likes to see me suffer :)
I was most nervous about this run. Always running off the bike in training, I just didn't know how it would feel to "race" a 10K off the bike. I kept my mind thinking positive thoughts, thinking about Karel telling me about how much he "hurts" in some of his BIG cycling races, thinking about my athletes who are so driven by their individual goals and of course, thinking about my body. Thankful for a body that doesn't get sick and doesn't feel like it is aging, I took this 10K as an opportunity to just give it my all..whatever that may be for the day.
After dismounting my bike, I ran to my bike rack and quickly transitioned for the 10K run.
I started my garmin and off I went. I ran mostly by feel and boy, did I feel good! I questionned how long that feeling would last so I just broke down the course to keep my mind focused and happy.
1 mile out to turn around. 1 mile back to transition. Then 2 miles until the "last" turnaround. Once I get to mile 5, I only have 1.2 miles to go.
Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going.
I sipped on my gel flask ever mile while drinking water. Absolutely no GI upset and my brain stayed focused with no drops in blood sugar. My body felt great and I couldn't help but feel some power with my run. Of course, "power" that is relative to my love for endurance racing but nonetheless, I focused on my own race and own effort and cheered for the other athletes along the way.
I spotted my friend Kim and Kevin Grogan near the 5 mile mark and enjoyed a little boost as Kevin had a hose with nice cold water and cheered me (and the other athletes) along.
I picked up the pace for the last mile and finished strong to the finish line.
A PR, 1st age group (30-34) and 8th overall female.
I could not have asked for a better race and exactly what I needed to get me excited for the upcoming season.
Considering that the past 3 years have included 3 Ironman's and a stressful dietetic educational program, it was nice to have the past behind me and feel some excitement for racing.
But, truth be told, my heart still remains in Ironman and Half Ironman racing. I love the journey, the process and the outcomes. It is so much more than just a distance...I absolutely LOVE the challenge and memories that come with distance racing.
Thanks for all the wonderful cheers from afar for this race. We should never take our body for granted. You don't have to do a world championship or place in your age group to feel successful....don't compare races or yourself to others. Enjoy YOUR journey and keep making memories.
"The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give." -Howard Cosell
Before every race and many training sessions, I try to find motivation or inspiration to keep me going when the going gets tough. It always gets tough, that's competition....and that's what we crave when we aren't training. Whether it is in racing or when you are alone, competition is something that should be welcomed and not feared. But it is only with the right attitude that you will you be able to excuse the excuses and move forward in order to make for a better tomorrow and a better you.
I found my motivation while reading the Feb 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. Pg 30, an article written by John Bingham (aka The Penguin) on the Lessons Only a Race can Teach You. There's something about pinning on a race number that changes everything. It's not just that you've made a commitment to yourself; you've also decided to go public with the results. To succeed wildly or fail miserably in a crowd is both exhilarating and humbling. A race doesn't allow you to hide from the challenges of the event or from your own limitations. You can lie all you want before the race but when the gun goes off, the truth comes out and you can't be anything other than what you are. As you look ahead to your 2012 schedule, make sure to sign up for some races. I promise you that there are lessons that can only be learned between the start and finish lines.
(Results can be found here when they are posted: http://chiptimes.com/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx)
"It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts. " - Robert H. Schuller
For most of us, we will never set a world record, receive an award for acting or singing, change laws or make a discovery that will change the world. For most of us, we are just living life to the best of our ability, trying to manage life, work, environment and training.
Knowing that most of us will never be "famous" for our passionate pursuits, it's an individual effort to do things that you will want to remember. Knowing that you have control over your life, are you living your life to the fulleset?
When laying in bed on Saturday evening, I heard the news about Whitney Houston. As an amazingly accomplished singer, what affected me the most was her age. 48 yrs young. As I turned off the TV and thought about my upcoming race, I once again thought to myself how lucky I am to have a tomorrow.
As an athlete, it goes without saying that I love training and I love healthy competition. More than anything, I love competing against myself...thoughts in my head that ask me to stop, muscles that scream for me to rest and the many "what if's" when trying to execute a race day plan.
In my own journey of life, I've learned to embrace competition with a healthy mind. As much as I am willing to take chances and put it all out on the course, I also realize that there will always be another race. My ability to create a great memory of my race day performance has nothing to do with achieving a PR or winning my age group. I want to get more out of a race than what I put in...and often, that can be tough when you are competitive within yourself and among others.
Far too many athletes put so much pressure on themselves to perform perfectly on race day. Pressure is simply a perceived expectation of the want to perform well- often placing in age group, receiving an award, qualifying for another event or reaching a personal best time. In other words, all that time training for one day (not to mention money) and when race day comes, we (as athletes) put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at our best.
But when you think about it, when the race is over, the pressure comes off and you get yourself ready (and recovered) for tomorrow. For with every race the best thing you can do for yourself is reflect and get excited for tomorrow. Another day to move closer to another goal. Successful performances are created from consistent actions. For on race day, we don't remember all the missed or bad workouts but the awesome, amazing and ground-breaking training sessions that give us the confidence (and data) to execute a fantastic race day performance.
Even though most of us will never set a world record or break any record times, we all aspire to be our best, do our best and most of all, create memories for a quality life. Successful race performance are far beyond finish times, places or comparing yourself to others. The beauty in racing is that we all have our own ways of defining success and that is what is worth remembering. For your worst day may be someone's best day.
13.1 mile race report - 26.2 with Donna
My alarm went off at 4:05am on Sunday morning and I was quick to get out of bed, put on my race day outfit (CEP compression tri shorts, CEP Pink compression socks and my Oakley long-sleeve top). After I put on my race day outfit, I put on a few more layers to brave the fridged temps as I walked Campy (and his best friend Bman who was staying with me over the weekend). Karel raced near my parents this weekend for the San Antonio Road Race on Sat and the Dade City Crit on Sunday. (My amazing hubby breaking away from the Pro 1,2 field in lap 3 of the crit)
After walking the doggies, I sipped on my coffee w/ milk and warmed up oatmeal w/ sunflower seeds and peanut butter. By 4:45am I was out the door and drove to UNF to wait for the shuttle.
Keeping a positive attitude, I covered my ears and grabbed my gloves and waited in line for about 20 minutes (outside) with the wind blowing hard, right to my bones. With the wind chill around 20 degrees, I started to shiver. I could not control my shaking and I tried to hide my face in my Louis Garneau cycling jacket as well as keeping my fingers warm with two pairs of gloves. Some people were wrapped in blankets (what a great idea) whereas others were relying on body warmth and were in tight circles with their friends.
Finally, the line moved close enough to raise my confidence that I would get on the next bus. Around 5:35am, I moved my cold toes inches foward and finally stepped on a semi-warm school bus...this was one of those times when I actually wanted to stay on the bus and I didn't really care how long it took to get there.
After the quick 10 minute drive to the Mayo Clinic, I sipped on 1 scoop Hammer Heed in a sport bottle as I made my way (still shivering) to the bag drop. I removed one pair of gloves and my jacket, as well as my sweat pants. I took one last gulp of my sport drink and kept on my ear warmer, gloves and long sleeve Oakley shirt. I put on my Oakley Commit sunglasses on my head and grabbed my gel flask filled with 1/2 hammer vanilla gel and 1/4 water.
I tried to jog to the port-o-potty but my feet were not cooperating. Now dressed in less layers than before, my shaking was uncontrollable but I had convinced myself early this morning that I was determined to keep a positive attitude. It only took a few looks up at the Mayo Clinic hospital for me to be reminded how lucky I am to have a choice to be outside and run this event.
As I was waiting in line for one last potty stop, you could hear voices of others talking about how cold it was. But not once did I hear anyone complain. Sure, perhaps some of the comments could have been classified as complaining but I constantly heard positive comments such as "you will warm up, it could be worse if it was raining, this is a great cause, look at all the pink on the guys, etc".
It was nearing the start of the race and I was cutting it close to getting to the finish on time. Luckily, at 6:25am after I left the port-o-potty, the announcer mentioned about delaying the start to 6:40am rather than 6:30am due to a few late buses.
Never doing this race before, I wasn't quite sure where to go for the start so I started jogging among the masses. I weaved my way through the crowds and ended up in the front corral for the race. With marathoners and half marathoners combined at the race start, I positioned myself around the 3 hour and 3:20 marathon pacers and continued to think positive thoughts.
Without a doubt, I am most vulnerable when I am cold. Without Karel by my side and a crowd of strangers around me, I really had no choice but to remain positive - for no person is going to want to hear me complain, especially when they are likely thinking the same thing.
As my feet began to go numb, I completely broke down with tears in my eyes. Perhaps this was because I was so cold but I just had no idea how I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles in these conditions. Certainly my coldest race of my life, I started talking with the lady next to me who had a wonderful smile on her face. We started laughing about the weather and that it was going to be an interesting day for racing and I asked her "are your feet frozen like mine?" She said "Oh yes! But don't worry, they will thaw out around mile 2." It was at that point that I was ready to get the race started and oddly enough, I believed this stranger. Funny thing, when you are at races, strangers suddenly become your friend for you can be having a bad moment or the worst race of your life and someone can say something to unexpected that it can lift you up to the most positive place. I swear that I have wanted to quit almost every race that I have done in my life but somewhere in every race, I am convinced that quitting is never the answer to anything.
I wished the lady good luck and off we went!
Up the bridge, right from the gun. 2 long miles up and down the bridge and sure enough, my feet got warm around mile 2.5. Sadly, however, my gel flask that I sipped on at the start of the race (10 min before the start) didn't close and ended up pouring all over my gloves. I knew the weather was cold but I couldn't figure out why my hands were stone cold. I couldn't move my fingers or even feel them and around mile 2 when I tried to grab some water, I realized that my gel flask was empty and my gloves were pretty much like ice.
Off went the gloves and I tossed the gel flask and rather than looking at my garmin to pace myself, my race strategy changed and my new plan was "the quicker I run, the quicker I finish". It was going to be a gatorade type of day with sport drinks every 3 miles and water stops every mile. I covered my hands in the sleeves of my shirt and just kept on running.
It was around mile 3 when I saw Karel's boss Jeff Kopp and our friend Sean C. and when they said hello, I was stunned to find my mouth completely numb. I wasn't sure if I was smiling or not but I think I was able to mumble "Oh my, it's cold!" as I ran on by. I also tried to give them a thumbs up but not sure as to which finger I was able to get up at that time. Hopefully they got a good laugh out of it as I couldn't help but laugh at the cold temps in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
I was finally able to get into a groove around mile 4 and with the beach section approaching, I was constantly being lifted up by the crowds. Yes - the crowds in these CRAZY cold temps were amazing! Signs for "FREE MAMOGRAMS" by guys dressed in bras and more pink than I could ever imagine. There were dogs, young kids and lots of volunteers, all cheering loud and making us feel like we were the coolest runners (no pun intended) in the world.
When entering the beach, I was instantly hit by a forceful headwind. It was like I was running up a steep hill but rather on flat sand with the wind howling at my face. The ocean looked pretty and I couldn't help but think about the beauty in running on the beach. Painful conditions - sure. But the beauty was not taken away from this race day.
At the turn around on the beach, I counted the women ahead of me and surprised myself that I was in the top 20 of the women. I believe that within every race, no matter how the race day plan is being executed, you have to find reasons to remain competitive. I believe we all have a fire inside of us that wants us to compete against ourselves but there's nothing wrong with competition and often it allows us to achieve things that we never once thought were possible.
Running back towards the bridge, I was excited to run back up the bridge. With my run/walk strategy out the window and no idea as to my overall pace or HR, I was simply running this race by feel....something I haven't done in several years. I can't say that it was a bad thing for this race day (and perhaps a good thing considering the conditions) but I'm the type of athlete who likes to execute my race day plan.
Kinda bummed that the day was not turning out like I had planned, I approached mile 9 without any walk breaks and knew that even though bridges/hills are my strength, the anticipated thought of head wind and my body finally feeling a little warmer (although mouth was still numb) made me a bit concerned about these last 4 miles. I knew I could do it but still feeling competitive, I needed to find something inside of myself to keep me digging deep.
4 miles. On Tuesday morning I did my last "long" run of 9 miles (with intervals) and started the workout off the bike, with 4 miles with Campy. I told myself "If Campy can do 4 miles, I can do 4 miles!"
Then, I thought about my 13.1 dedications. All the people who were cheering for me and the runners ahead of me, telling us how great we looked. When running up the bridge, I saw my friend Jo Shoot as she was running with a girl a minute or two in front of me. I was so excited to reach the top of the bridge and reach the Lululemon crowd. Hoping that JO would turn around at the top of the bridge, she did just that I spotted me in the crowd. Thankful that she found me, this was just the last "lift" that I needed to finish strong to the finish. Remembering all of my dedications as well as hearing the positive words from the crowd, I was running with another girl in the last mile and we both said to each other "Cold day...but so grateful to be running".
Running off the bridge, I made a turn to the finish line. Once again, that crazy wind made it feel like I was running up another bridge. With a smooth stride and feeling a major sense of accomplishment for one of my hardest racing conditions of my life, I crossed the line in 1:35. A few minutes off my best, but hey - this was a race to be remembered and I am proud that I didn't count myself out before the race had started.
Truth be told...I wanted really badly to just stay in my car when I was about to stand in line for the bus. I never imagined it would be so cold and what I would have to do to make my mind and legs work together with these tough "Florida" racing conditions. But thankfully, knowing that we can't control the weather but we can control our attitude and racing plan, I feel as if this was one of the best racing experiences. Hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm lucky I survived :)
After crossing the line, I grabbed a water as I knew I didn't drink as much I needed to during the race. I made my way to the 110% gear recovery tent and couldn't wait to put on my 110% Clutch Tights....without the ice as my body was still trying to get warm even after 13.1 miles. The sun was finally shinning and I called Karel to tell him about the race as I was hidding under a heat lamp in the tent. The 110% tent was amazing with blow-up chairs, free compression and ice calf sleeves for the runners to wear for a few minutes after the race and plenty of food to snack on after the race.
“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” -Orison Swett Marden
I was quickly reminded by Karel that this is the beginning of my tri-season and despite not breaking my best time of 1:31 (which I did in Nov), training is built on many training sessions. For if we all peaked right before every race or in the early parts of our season, it would be likely that we would be burnt out before that big key race. Knowing what the day brought to all the runners, I felt accomplished that I was able to share this experience with survivors and passionate individuals, who all had something in common..... We all like to finish what we start and regardless of excuses, the mind is a powerful thing if you know how to use it correctly.
Finishing time 1:35.3 Pace: 7:18 min/mile Average HR 149 beats 20th overall female 5th age group (25-29) 60th overall athlete
Woke up around 5:40am. For the sake of daylight savings and a dark march morning, today was sleeping-in for a race day wake up call! The transition bag was packed (sprint races are so easy to pack for!) and the coffee was brewing. I warmed up my normal race-day morning (and training) breakfast of 1/2 banana, a few raisins and half a cup of oatmeal. Once the coffee and oatmeal was in me, I was ready to head out the door. Normal race day music is rock and alternative. The drive took me about 45 minutes so I had plenty of time to sing in the car and fill myself with excitement all the way to ft.desoto. Although I kinda new where I was going, triathlon races are easy to find. Just follow the bike racks and USAT stickers! IT works every time! Coincidentally I ran into Sarah (the girl I coach) and we chatted in the bathrooms before we headed to transition. Because I was a little late arriving to transition, the racks were packed and I was a little overwhelmed with all the bikes. In the case of a race like Subaru, not all bikes are Tri-bikes. Therefore, you have hybrids, mountain bikes and very creative looking bikes on the racks to take up space. And because there were over 300 athletes, it was a little congested in the transition area. Nevertheless, Seduza was racked. I was happy to see Blair Lahaye and we chatted a bit as I put on my wetsuit, ever so gracefully. hehe. I headed to the water and I couldn't have been more excited to get in the water. Suprisingly, the water wasn't that cold and I would have rather not worn the wetsuit, but i did anyways. I was in wave 3, so after 6 minutes behind the first wave a quick picture from my dad, I was off for the 750 meter swim. The swim was great and I felt strong in the water. I knew i needed to swim hard in order to gain some time on the girls who were strong sprinting cyclists and runners. I managed to stay right behind the top 3 girls in my wave and we all exited the water together. T1 was a bit slow (due to the stupid wetsuit on my ankles) but i managed to get out and on my bike. I must admit that this was the first time that I wanted to power it out on the bike, rather than my old self who always wanted to get the bike overwith. We started out in head wind but that is nothing knew for me. I held around 18-19 mph but i was still getting use to the bike after the swim. So I was passed by 2 girls, but no worries cause in the tailwind I held 26 mph and almost caught up to the pack. I was impressed with my cycling skills and seduza didn't let me down. We felt fast today for a PR bike split. T2 was quick and I was running before i knew it. Although I didn't get warmed up until around mile 2 of my 5K run, I was pretty happy with my 21:48 5K run. Not so shabby with only running 3 days a week (<20 miles) for the past 4 weeks. I know I can be a stronger runner (with hopes of running sub 20 min/5K soon) but for now I am happy. The overall results were 1st age group and 12th overall. So even though I am in a new age group (25-29) I managed an age group win (well, the girl who beat me in my age group placed for an overall award, so lucky for me!). I had a great time today and I'm happy to start off the season with a great feeling that this is going to be an awesome season! More to come....Iron Girl 10K on April 1st! Subaru Results at http://onlineraceresults.com/pdf/4591.pdf
Well, that's right-no finish time for the miami marathon. I never thought it would happen to me....
For the first time ever, I got injured during a race. Even worse, first time I have been injured since I started training for triathlons/marathons. What a Bummer! The marathon, all together, wasn't the best for me. Started out really rough, standing for over 30 min before the start in the pouring rain, only to start the race with soaking wet shoes and the rain to finally stop. Next part of the the race, which went bad, was when I ran up the first huge causeway and my shins and calves starting killing me. QUads hurt, everything hurt really...well, except my heart. HEart rate was fine and I wasn't showing any signs of fatigue, besides in my legs. However, I ran through it, stopped in 3 port o potties, then at mile 11, I felt like i Had just started running! I was a brand new women. I guess that is why I love endurance events. Nothing like a 11 mile warm-up! From miles 11-19 I was just dropping pace (if you saw in my 10K splits) from over an 8:30 pace to almost 5 consecutive miles of sub 7:50 pace. And even better, I was seeing a sub 3:35 finish, when at first I didn't see anything less than 4 hours! However, at mile 19.5 my achilles just throbbed with pain. I was wondering what was going on...I've never been injured during a race before! I Didn't know how i Could run anymore, but still tried. It was like a poor ironman shuffle. However at mile 20 had to walk. I knew the shuffle run wasn't normal marni running style and i felt tired cause I was using muscles that weren't designed for running a marathon. I Tried to run, stretch, whatever just to keep going and it wasn't until mile 22 that I couldn't make it anymore. 4 more miles of walking in pain or just stop. Although it was at mile 22 that I debated about stopping, it was at mile 20 then I started the self talk about my reasons for going or reasons for stopping. The tears were being held back by my pride that I still have many more races. However, when you hear a person in the crowd yelling "you can do it, just 4 more miles" all I could do was tilt my head down to the ground and keep walking. Why why why I asked, but sometimes there isn't always a Because. It just happened and it is overwith. What a bummer and it just sucks! No other words around it, but I'm thankful there is no tear or sprain, just some tendonitis or inflammation. But to be so passionate about running and see people running right by me, it was sad for me cause I just love that feeling of running. The energy, the endorphins, the feeling of moving forward and being so easy. This was not the way I would have choosen the outcome to be for that race, especially after my horrible first half of the race. I even debated about stopping at the half and just finishing without a medal, but my Marni spirit took over and I just wanted to keep running. It took a lot for me to stop and I am glad that I did. The foot is getting better and I am anxious to move on and look forward to my upcoming race season. And the worst was that I didn't feel in the mood for my celebratory pancakes!!!! Now that is the most shocking part of it all. but i did eat my ice cream in the afternoon....of course! this just shows me that I even more appreciate what I do, ever morning, of every day. waking up, excited to train, not worrying about anything hurting me or feeling weak and just loving every minute of my life, regardless if I'm swimming, biking or running. I'm read to train hard and work even harder for the upcoming season, I am very thankful that I have a strong heart and a positive mentality when it comes to racing and training. If it wasn't for many friends, who support me tremendously, I wouldn't be able to be so serious about my triathlon racing career. Thank you for being so understanding! And most of all, Thanks for your support. There's always another race, and as far as I'm concerned...I'm a triathlete/Ironman now and the marathons will have to wait until mile 114.4 of the Ironman in Kona! ;) haha. -Marn