Friday, July 26, 2013

Iron Girl 2013 Race Report!

I am an Iron Girl!  Okay, it's kind of corny, but Sunday was my very first triathlon and yes I'm going to brag about it for a while.  Let's go through a quick recap of how I got here...
Last fall I stress fractured my foot, and since I was on the running DL, Coleen somehow convinced me to start swimming.  This required a lot of perseverance on Coleen's part, because I hated all water related activities up to and including swimming.  And when I proved how bad I was at swimming by choking and being unable to get all the way across the pool and back, Coleen kept insisting that it would get easier.  Again, this required a great deal of patience on her part, because it took me about five months to build up the stamina that she promised would come.
After the Boston Marathon, I had to basically stop running because of a severe case of plantar fasciitis.  During this time Marie went and bought herself a fancy road bike and started riding with Coleen, so I jumped on the bandwagon and bought my own!  One thing leads to another and after a little peer pressure I signed up for a triathlon.  Over the last few weeks or so we've done a few brick sessions and open water swims to get ready for race day.  Ironically, running has become my weakest sport due to my plantar fasciitis, but my physical therapist Dave did a special super-awesome tape job!

I was undoubtedly the most bad-ass person on the course, from the calf down.

The race started at 7:00am, and the transition area closed at 6:30am, meaning we had to be up reeeeally early to get there!  The pre-race communication indicated that parking would be limited, so we were responsible race-goers and carpooled.

Once we got to the race site, we got body marked and then headed to the T1 transition area to rack our bikes and set up the transition.  This is something I hadn't practiced specifically but I got a lot of good tips from Scott (including several photos) and I had mentally rehearsed.  After fussing over things a few times and chatting with the girls next to me, I got it all ironed out.  Note: my bike was the only bike that swung freely from the rack, with the tire not reaching the ground.

T1 was a little overwhelming with so many hundreds of bikes, so I spent a lot of time analyzing the exact location of my bike, making sure I spotted landmarks to help me locate it from each direction.  Yes, I'm thorough like that.  Once I was satisfied with everything I headed to the porta-johns and then made my way over to the beach.

When I finally caught up with everyone (we got separated in the bike-racking process), Kristen was saying, "have you seen it yet? The swim? The beach? Have you seen it?"  I couldn't understand why she was so intense about what the water looked like.  Then she pointed out to the water, so I could see for myself.  I still couldn't understand.  She kept talking about how far the swim was, and how far away the buoys were that we have to swim around, but I couldn't even see what buoys she was talking about.  Finally my eyes focused waaaaaaaay out across the water, and realized what she was so anxious about!!  Seeing the buoys way out there, almost all the way across the lake, was very visually intimidating!

We went for a little warm up swim, in water that was almost too warm (77 degrees) due to the 7-day heat wave.  While we were doing our warm up, they started playing the national anthem.  Since we were already in the water we just got close to shore and stood in the water.  About halfway through the song, Marie tapped me on the shoulder.  She pointed down into the water, and alerted me to the school of fish that was surrounding me!  Right as she did, one of the fish bit my finger.  It was so funny and definitely helped to take the edge off!  In hindsight, I think my unusual ability to lure fish may be due to my shiny manicure --->

Iron Girl purple and sparkly!  (Apparently doubles as fish bait)
My wave started at 7:15, as a mass start in the water.  My strategy was to start in the very back of the wave to avoid too much traffic in the water, and I stuck to my strategy (even though there were nearly 100 people in my division, and in retrospect that may not have been a good idea).

Once we started, I realized that I probably didn't do myself any favors by starting in the back.  I was still stuck in a lot of traffic, and quickly had to acclimate to the feel of a lot of bodies fighting for the same piece of water.  After some congestion trying to make the turn around the first buoy, I was able to get into some free water and stayed in my own space for most of the rest of the swim.  I actually passed more people than I expected, which was a nice confidence boost!  Once I made the turn around the final buoy and headed towards the beach, I was initially excited to see the big Iron Girl banner welcoming us to shore.  But then, it seemed like no matter how long I swam, the shore never seemed to get any closer!  Just when I was starting to think that the banner was a mirage, I finally touched down onto sand and trotted out of the water.

Somewhere amongst the purple-heads

Swim: (half mile)
63/97 age group
439/632 overall

I trotted over to T1, and was surprised at how many people were walking.  Aren't we being timed?  I think we are... I dunked my feet in a kiddie pool on the way to T1 (thanks Iron Girl, that was a nice touch!) and found my bike with no issues.  A strip of my kinesio tape was falling off so I had to take a minute to carefully remove it, while keeping the rest in tact.  I put my shoes and socks on, and then realized that I had sand stuffed underneath another piece of tape.  I ripped my shoe and sock off, removed another piece of tape, and started over.  It was frustrating but figured I probably didn't lose too much time.  I finished putting on my helmet, gloves, sunglasses, and running belt, and ran with my bike to the mounting area.  It seemed so far away!

46/97 age group
290/632 overall

My bike segment started off great and I was definitely happy that I had ridden the course a couple times before race day so I knew what to expect.  I felt bad for the people that didn't know about that giant gut-busting series of hills.  I slowed down about a half mile or so before the first hill so that I could give my legs a break and take a good long drink.  As I was drinking from my bottle, going down a  bit of a hill, suddenly there were bikes strewn all over the road and there was a woman face down on the asphalt.  I had to jack on the brakes and do some evasive maneuvering to get around everyone.  I came to nearly a complete stop to get around everyone and see what was going on.  I felt that there were enough people around the injured cyclist and I couldn't really add any value, so I kept going.  It was enough to rattle me and took a while to get back into "the zone".  When I finally got to the hill I encountered a bottleneck of bikes swerving, stopping, crawling, and people walking their bikes.  I had a lot of maneuvering to do to get around everyone, which was then further complicated by the ambulance coming down the hill and squeezing all of us onto half the road.  I was pretty pumped that I made it up the hill so much better than everyone around me, so even though my lungs were falling out, I was pleased.  Once I crested the last hill I knew that the hard part was over and I could just enjoy the rest of the race.  I must say it was a real confidence boost passing so many people!  A few miles later I caught up with Coleen, who had started 5 minutes later than me and passed me in the swim.  I was excited to pass her, because it meant that I would see her again in the run when she passed me again, and that would be motivating for me.  12+ miles later and I came rolling in at high speed to the dismount area.  Scott gave me the following advice which I made sure to follow: "If they don't yell at you to slow down coming into the dismount line, then you aren't going fast enough!"  I made sure to get yelled at!

preparing to dismount!

Bike: (12.3 miles)
17.4 MPH
8/97 age group
48/632 overall

Once I dismounted, I quickly realized that my brick sessions were not nearly enough to prepare me for how totally gassed my legs would be.  I nearly fell over when I got off the bike and attempted to run to T2!  I shuffled back to T2, racked the bike, and headed out to the run.  Since I didn't have to switch shoes I expected this to be an extremely fast transition.  Of course, I expected to have working legs, too.

34/97 age group
241/632 overall

The run was more of a shuffle, since my legs were totally dead.  It seemed like a cruel joke that the run started off on grass with gravel and roots.  I could barely lift my legs!

You know it's a bad sign when you start thinking about taking a walk break, and then look at your watch and realize you've only gone .5 mile.  Seriously, it was like that.  I plodded along, and eventually Kristen, Coleen, and Marie all passed me.  It was great to see them, and I thought about running with Marie the rest of the way back but I was just too gassed and overheated.  At the water stop I grabbed two waters, drank one and poured the other over my head.  That really brought me back to life and I finished the run much stronger.  I felt great crossing the finish line!

Run: (3.1 miles)
38/97 age group

25/97 age group

All the girls were there at the finish line, and Mom got a picture of all of us "Iron Girls"!

Coleen, Marie, Me, and Lynn
Kristen and Luke (our honorary Iron Girl)
Other awesome sights that occurred while I was off doing things...

After we all had a chance to cool off, grab a snack, and get back into transition to grab our things, Kristen, Luke, Marie and I went off in search of lunch and drinks to celebrate our accomplishments.  Due to the early hour, it took three tries to find a restaurant that would serve us beers! But we are Iron Girls, and nothing if not up for a good challenge!

The payoff!
To summarize, it was an awesome day, with great friends, perfect weather, and put on by a great organizer.  Iron Girl & Athleta couldn't have done anything better to make this a more perfect day.  And yes, I'll do it again next year.  And yes, I'm already looking for another triathlon.  And yes, I'm a little bit hooked!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week in review - tire change, Iron Crotch, and Fish Bait

It's been a busy busy week here getting in the final workouts before my first triathlon.  I've been swimming like crazy, four days a week, at distances up to a mile just to feel comfortable in my half mile swim next weekend.  Since swimming is something I've struggled with so much, I really wanted to make an effort to be over-prepared for this segment.

I've been Trekking around a bunch on the new bike, "Lexi", and I love her more and more each time we cruise around town together.  She's been really good to me, and continues to capture the attention of many adoring fans.  There's just something compelling about her!

Last Sunday was Jackie's 32nd birthday, and for her birthday she wanted to go for a 32 mile bike ride.  I wasn't really worried about the distance even though it was a sharp increase from my previous longest ride of 20 miles.  We were all just out there to have fun with Jackie, enjoy some beautiful scenery, and maybe just climb a few hills.  It was a great turnout of Jackie, Marie, Kristen, Coleen, Kerri, and I, rolling through the towns of Uxbridge, Northbridge, Upton, Westboro, Hopkinton, and Mendon.  Wow, you can really cover a lot of ground on a bike!  I don't think anyone really liked the giant hill we had to start off going up.  It's a little rough, but I kept telling them how great the second mile would be!  One of my favorite parts of this ride was when we passed a radar detector and decided to try and break the speed limit.  And we did!  It clocked us going 28 in a 25!  My goal for next time is to hit 30 to make it start flashing.We took a break about halfway through the ride at Whitehall Lake, so we could rest up our legs for the upcoming hill that we knew would be a challenge.  It was also a steamy 90 degrees out so relaxing in the shade was a welcome treat!

After we rested up we headed back out for a big climb, but it was shorter than I expected and the rest of the route was relatively mild.  The last couple hills towards the end were just a cruel joke, and we were all pretty hot by the time we got back!

As you can imagine, a lot of topics are covered during the course of a 30+ mile ride.  We talked a bit about cycle shorts, underwear, chafing, bruising, and the like.  Then we all realized that Jackie has yet to start riding in padded shorts, which seems implausible.  Kristen was so impressed by Jackie's bad-assness that she nicknamed Jackie "Iron Crotch".  I think it's my favorite nickname of all time!

On Tuesday night, Kristen, Luke and I went over to Webster Lake to see where the triathlon will take place and test-ride the bike course.  We heard a rumor that there was a 2 or 3 tiered hill that's pretty nasty, so we wanted to check it out.
Finally a chance to use my oversized bike rack

I was under-prepared for the amount of traffic on the roads, and it was a bit unnerving.  We did pretty well though, and I'm very glad to have seen the hills, because they were actually worse than I expected!

After the ride we did a 3 mile run, which was difficult because, A. We just biked 12 miles, B. It was stupidly hot out, C. I haven't run 3 miles in over a month.  I was glad for the experience though and think it definitely helped prepare me for race day!

On Friday Marie wanted a chance to see the triathlon course.  We had already swam in the pool in the morning, and Friday night I met Marie and Jackie in Webster to ride the course again.  After the ride we went for a run, but my heel was bugging me so I opted to cut it short and only do 2 miles.  They turned around with me so that we could all finish together, and hey - it just means the faster we can go get a beer!  When we got back to the parking lot, Jackie reeeeally wanted to go swim in the lake.  Marie and I had both already swam but the look on Jackie's face...we couldn't let her down!  We hopped in the lake and were immediately surprised at how clear it was!  It turns out not all lake water is as brown and opaque as Kiwanis Beach.  We could actually see the bottom, and I was stunned to notice a school of fish swimming along side of me all the way to the buoys!  So cool!  When we finished swimming we just sat in the water for a few minutes because it was nice and warm, and all of the sudden I noticed there were fish swarming around me.  We put our goggles back on and dunked our heads underwater to get a better look, and it was unbelievable.  There had to have been about 30 fish all surrounding me, just looking at me.  One of them swam right up to my face and was looking me square in the eyes!  It was so cool and so strange.  Meanwhile there were people further down the beach fishing.  Marie suggested they just string me to the end of their fishing poles.  And now I am hereby known as "Fish Bait".  We changed into dry clothes in our cars (a very complicated process with no tinted windows and a one-piece tri-suit), and then headed next door to a pub to replenish some of those calories we burned!

The payoff!
Today Marie, Jackie and I went out for another 30 miler.  The first thing we noticed was how tired we all were right from the start.  Turns out our legs hadn't quite recovered from the bike/run brick we did on Friday night, so it was a little rough starting out and climbing hills.  We had a great time though, but about 20 miles in my bike started making a funny clicking sound.  We pulled over, and although I never did find the source of the clicking sound, I happened to notice that my front brakes were extremely loose.  Lucky for me, Jackie had a tool kit with her and I was able to tighten it up.  I made a mental note to pick up one of those!

At mile 26, just a few miles from Jackie's house, she blew a tire.  We stopped at the school parking lot and got our first opportunity to change a flat!  I had watched many YouTube videos on the subject last month when I was trying to swap my mountain bike tire with a trainer tire, so of the three of us I had the most "experience".  (It took me half a day, and I never did get the trainer tire on, but I got the original tire back on and it ended up being good practice).  I had no trouble getting the rear wheel off, removed the tire with the tire levers (Oh that's what those are for!) and removed/replaced the tube while Marie and Jackie checked out the tire to find the source of the puncture.  We never did find what caused the flat, so I'm not sure if it was a pinch flat or what, but eventually I got the tire back on and the last thing we had to do was blow it back up.  This, believe it or not, was the biggest challenge, because none of us could figure out how to use the CO2 cartridge!  Luckily through the wonders of technology we pulled up a video on YouTube to help us, and realized we needed the connector piece to hook onto the valve.  Once we had that in place we were golden.  Overall it was actually a great experience, and I'm glad that we all know what we're doing now!

Oops! :-)

Look how cute and color coordinated we are!  PS - How many blondes does it take to change a tire?
With the bike good as new we made the final few miles back, and mentally created our shopping list for the bike shop!  After the ride, Jackie and I went over to Landry's, dropped off my bike for a tune-up, and stocked up on CO2 cartridges, spare tubes, and a new tool kit!  We'll be pro's at it next time!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wingman update! And...what is that SMELL?

In my ongoing quest to survive the triathlon I got coerced into signing up for (just 18 days away!!), I'm trying to take my training a little more seriously.  A little more time on the bike, a little more time in the pool, and maybe a little less time drinking beers.  Well... everyone that went camping with me this weekend is begging to differ, but hey.  It's a work in progress.  We know I had my first bike/run brick session last week, which was a real eye opener.  Well today I did my first swim/bike brick with Jackie!

Jackie and I spent a lot of time on the roads together over the winter, training for the Boston Marathon.  Jackie is known for creating the most scenic and hilliest, quad thrashing routes she can find.  So I should have been more skeptical when she said, "just to let you know, there's one hill that's pretty rough".  I was all like, "yeah but I have my awesome bike, so... no worries".

Our plan was to bike from her house to the lake, go for a swim, and then bike back to her house.  We had been in contact throughout the day because the weather was looking iffy, but it ended up being a beautiful evening!  I packed up the Trek in the Prius, and headed over to Jackie's.

She fits!
I don't know if I should be psyched or embarrassed that my bike fits in the back of the Prius without even having to remove the front wheel, but... I am psyched!  And incidentally, after much deliberation I have named the beautiful bike.  Her name is Lexi.  Since she's a Trek Lexa SLX, I thought Lexi made a lot of sense, and it's a fun name!  And kind of sexy!  On a side note, I finally decided her name on the way to the campground over the weekend, so imagine how awkward it was when I met up with my friend Paul and he introduced me to his granddaughter Lexi.  I feel like I have to explain to everyone now that I didn't name her after Paul's granddaughter.  Anyways, where was I...

Jackie and I headed out on the bikes, and it shouldn't have surprised me at all when Jackie hopped on the bike and screwed out of the driveway, hitting about 18 mph before she even made it to the road!  Oh, it's going to be one of those rides!  We had a great ride over to the lake, getting in a lot of practice through intersections on her windy route.  We came to a pretty tough hill, where I said, "oh this must be the hill you were talking about", and she said, "no, this isn't it".  Shit.  

Eventually we got to the hill and it was really as bad as she said.  It was the first time I actually considered stopping in a driveway to take a break.  I swore at her a couple times, but eventually I couldn't breathe enough to conjure up anymore swears.  Let me illustrate:

The good part about going up this hill was that I was dying so badly that I was forced to drink from my bottle.  Oddly enough I've never drank from my bottle before, because I always feel like I don't have enough coordination to get the bottle out of the bottle cage, drink, and return it to the bottle cage without tipping over.  At this point, crashing my bike would have been a welcome break, so I took a good long drink while pedaling.  Unfortunately I didn't tip over, so we kept on pedaling straight to the lake!

We got to the lake and I was worried about leaving Lexi unattended, but there were hardly any people there and she was within eyesight, so I just propped her up against a picnic table.

Tonight I got to try out my brand new Tri suit!  I spared you from having to look at a picture of me wearing a Tri suit.  You're welcome.  We put on our cap and goggles and headed into the lake for my first ever open water swim!  I was kind of nervous about it because I'm not really a fan of lakes and ponds.  In fact, if it's not chlorinated, clear water, with black stripes on the floor, it's a little sketchy for me.  The first thing I realized as I went underwater is that I can't see anything!  Nothing.  Just brown, and then more brown.  And then my arm goes in front of my face and creates brown bubbles.  I have absolutely no idea where I'm going.  So then I realized that I have to actually look where I'm going while my face is out of the water.  So then I realized that my goggles suck and I can't see a darn thing out of them when my face is out of the water!  I might need to look into some fancier goggles.  A couple of times I had to stop to adjust my goggles, and dip them underwater to clear out the fog, which gave me practice for race day.  Up until this point, I've only adjusted my goggles and cap from the safety and security of holding onto the pool wall.  Doing it while treading water is much harder!

Beautiful evening at the beach!

While we were swimming back and forth between buoys, I was vaguely aware of some people that were standing on a dock in the water, and I feel like they may have been watching us.  There was a man and two children.  I, being so focused on not sinking, never really paid much attention to it.  Jackie and I finished the last of our laps and then did a cool down swim back to the beach.  As we were getting ready to get back onto our bikes, the father hauled ass out of the water and came up to talk to us.  Here's a sample of the questions he asked us:

  • Are you guys training for something?
  • How far is it between the buoys?
  • So how far did you swim tonight? Coupla miles?
  • They make you swim first in a triathlon?!
All the while he had left his children unattended back in the water.  We tried to quickly wrap up our conversation with this guy, who I could only assume believed me to be a professional athlete since after all I was wearing a tri suit, swim cap, goggles, and KT tape all over my leg.  Oh and I showed up on a super awesome bike.  

As we pedaled off to head back to Jackie's, she said, "Dude. What is it with that bike?!"  And we laughed about the magical magnetic qualities of Lexi.  She really does make a great wingman!

Luckily, the ride back to Jackie's house was much easier, but it was getting a bit late and I decided one of the next things I'm going to get is a blinky light for the back of the bike.  I did get a bit nervous that I might not be too visible to drivers.  It ended up being an awesome experience, and totaled 15 miles of biking and 20 minutes of swimming.

On the drive home from Jackie's house, I became aware of an odor.  Then I realized that the odor was coming from my body.  Not just my body, but my hair, my was permeating the air.  Oh. My. God.  Pond Smell!  In all the research I've done about newbie triathlon training, I haven't seen a single reference to the horrible pond smell that follows triathletes!  Needless to say I made a beeline to the shower as soon as I got home!  I think it's safe to say that the pond smell will counteract the attractive qualities of Lexi, so I don't expect to have any admirers following me around town!