Monday, September 11, 2017

Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, TN

Allow me first to explain what I qualified for.  So, I'm a competitive triathlete.  I truly enjoy competing and getting faster, it's really challenging, and I have always loved extreme physical challenges.  Yes, I win a lot of local triathlons, but those are small.  I come in at the top 10-20% in my age group when I compete at USA Triathlon NATIONALS for the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, and 10k run- usually takes me around 2:16-2:20).  This is within the U.S.  The past 2 years, I had qualified for the ITU (International Triathlon Union) WORLD Triathlon Grand Final Championship for the Olympic distance.  I enjoy the shorter triathlons because I personally think it's challenging to get faster at them.  When I competed at Worlds the first time, I came in 42nd place, and last year 22nd place.  That just goes to show I am competing against women in my age group that are just as fast, or much faster than I am, and that's great,  again I love the challenge and am thankful I even got the chance to compete against them.

Last summer I raced my first Ironman 70.3 triathlon.  Now, that was my 6th 70.3, but have never done an Ironman branded race-the other 70.3 I raced were put on by a small race company.  Here at Ironman races, whether they are the full 140.6 or half 70.3 distance, the top 2-3 winners in the age group qualify for the Ironman World Championship.  Last year at the Ohio Ironman 70.3 I came in 7th overall female of the whole race, but placed 3rd in my age group, and they only took the top 2 in my age group to go to Worlds, which was in the U.S. in 2017.  So I was beyond frustrated.  So much so that I decided to sign up for another qualifying race a friend told me about.  Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga in May 2017.  They only took the top 3 in the age group here.  I placed 5th after having a tough race and getting pretty dehydrated and low on energy, as I was just using liquid calories (bad news for Roseann).  Anyways if the top 3 people have already qualified from another race or choose not to take their spots, it rolls down to the next spot, so, boom, I got a spot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship!!

Ever since I started getting faster, I was having trouble figuring out my nutrition and hydration needs, particularly for the longer 70.3 distances.  I have tried all sorts of hydration drinks and gels.  I'm not going to get too much into it, but I've tried Infinit nutrition and after using it for two 70.3s I decided it wasn't for me.  I got pretty hungry towards the end of the bike portion (56mi).  And I just felt off.  One race I ended up getting stomach cramps on the run using Infinit.  (I tried 3 different types,too, not for me).  So I figured it was an electrolyte thing so I used EFS hydration and gels for the May 70.3 race in Chattanooga.  Well, that still left me dehydrated and low on energy.  I had read Stacy T. Sims book, called Roar about how to fuel for long events.  She also talked about female physiology and how it relates to training.  I now consider it my sports nutrition bible.  If anyone is still struggling with nutrition during endurance races I highly recommend it.  Basically, hydration in your bottles and food in your pocket.  I trained with a light hydration drink (called Osmo-light in calories, sugar, and carbs, but still high in electrolytes), Picky Bars (and now Cyclewerks carries them because of me haha!!) on the bike until the last 45 min)., and then transitioned to Honey Stinger chews on the last 45 min of the bike and the whole run.  And what do you know, it worked extremely well with my body!  Also, these things are all organic, so that helped on my tummy during racing, I believe!  Oh, and Peter Sagan uses Osmo nutrition.....yep!

Ok, so onto the race!!  The night before- I drank my prehydration drink to preload on electrolytes.  It's called Osmo Preload for women.  Then on race morning, I took in another 16 oz of my prehydration drink, like I had practiced all summer before racing.  And then I also ate a honey stinger waffle, both 45 min. before the start.  3 hrs before the start my breakfast was two slices of gluten free bread with almond butter spread on them and some honey on top.  Yum!

So the swim.  It was wetsuit legal-darn!  That meant more people would have an advantage, oh well, so I wore mine too.  It was a rolling start.  They only let 10 dive off the dock at once.  I started near the front but not the very front.  That was probably my first mistake because I swim faster when I'm around other really fast swimmers so I can chase them.  So I dove off the dock, and as soon as we did, the girl next to me kicked me in the eye with her foot when she dove off.  Oops.  It pushed my left goggle into my eye some, which knocked my contact off and pushed it up into my eyelid.  At least I was pretty sure that's what happened.  I freaked and felt panic start to settle in.  The girls were getting away, and I considered stopping to fix my goggle and contact.  But I blinked a few times and it was uncomfortable, but bearable, and I didn't get much water inside my goggle, so I decided just to keep swimming, and fix it in transition.  The whole swim I was worried I would lose it and not be able to see on the bike, which scared me because of all the descents down a mountain.  I need to wear contacts or glasses to see, so I can't just swim without contacts in.  I could wear prescription goggles, but then I'd need to leave them on until I got to my sunglasses, which would need to be prescription as well.  It's just easier for me to wear my contacts, and I've never had this happen before in my years of swimming.  Ok, so the swim- we swam in a big rectangle.  We swam out to a turning buoy, turned right, and had a long stretch (860m) upstream in the TN River.  I stayed as close to the buoys as I could tell- but I couldn't see a thing, really, the sun was so blinding.  I could still see with my right eye, so it wasn't so much I was completely blind, but that sun!  I just didn't feel fast on the swim at all.  I don't know if it was the contact issue, or just not a good swim day, haha, but my arms didn't want to turnover fast.  After the upstream portion, we turned right, then another slight right again to swim downstream for a short bit.  At this turning buoy I got caught on the string because I was so close to the buoy- and stopped for a bit to untangle myself lol- I could definitely feel the current here!  And then onto the finish.  I actually didn't realize I was at the finish until I was right there.  I accidently had the finishing buoy on my left, lol but oh well, I just didn't realize what I was doing at that point!  My swim was 31:54.  I can do better than that, but that's ok.  It's tough to get all 3 disciplines fast in a triathlon.  The day I do, I'll celebrate!

T1.  As soon as I got upstairs out of the water, I took my goggles off and a volunteer was right there and had me stand to the left out of everyone else's way.  I told her my contact was out.  I dug around- sure enough the contact was up in my eyelid.  That's every contact wearers worst nightmare, and it's even worse when it happens during the swim portion of a World Championship race.  I found it rather quickly, thankfully.  She cupped her hands under mine- and I made sure it was the right side, and put it in my eye, but then it fell out again.  So I had to make sure again it was the right side, and put it back in, and wooo got it this time!  Unfortunately, girls were running into T1 when it happened and passed me :(.  Ah well, I had to be able to see and probably only lost a minute there.  I had my wetsuit on still, so I went to the wetsuit strippers since I lost time with my contact issue-have never used them before.  All I'll say is I could have done it faster lol, oh well.  So my T1 was not pretty and long.  The bag thing- a volunteer handed me my bag quickly but then we had to run up a huge incline to where we had to change- a waste of time, then run out of there and into transition to grab my bike.  I did NOT like this stupid bag thing, I would rather have all my stuff at my bike spot in transition, but I understand why they do this with tons of people.  T1 was a slow 4:57.  Oh I also made sure to drink some Osmo I had in my transition bag- something I haven't done before but needed to because I sweat a lot and dehydrate easily.  

The Bike:
I enjoyed this whole course.  Loved the climb up Lookout Mountain- it was an 8-10% grade, 1,100 feet of climbing in about 3.5 miles.  I just passed everyone who was on the course at this point here :). Then we descended some, and did another 1000' of climbing to mile 22.  After that, we had a nice lonnnggg descent.  I descended really well, and it was so much fun flying down the mountain!!  Unfortunately I got caught up in some cars- but thankfully I was able to get around them ok.  The second half of the race was kinda windy, but I just tried to stay between 80-85% of my max power.  I ended with a solid age-group bike split in 2:48:31.  My power to weight ratio shined there and I was very happy with that.  It was definitely the hardest and slowest 56mi bike in a 70.3 I've ever done though, since I became faster.  I'm very happy with it, though.  I maintained 80% for the whole bike, and 3.1 watts/kg for the split.  Would be nice to one day maintain a higher watts/kg for 56 mi (not necessarily increase my FTP, though). Another thing I'm super proud of was taking in nutrition and fluids.  I drank every 10min, and took in food every 20min.  I realized after the climbing portion was over that I needed more fluids than I carried ( which was 90oz already!!), so I grabbed some plain water at an aid station and poured it into my aero bottle.  I ended up not drinking all the water, but drank some of it and it was there if I needed it.  No, I didn't drink 90oz in 22 mi but thought I should grab extra now instead of possibly running out later on in the bike course.

T2- Now this transition was a little smoother with the bag issue than T1.  Again, kinda annoying to grab the bag then go to the changing area and have to pull out your run gear, and then put your bike gear back into this bag then hand it off to a volunteer, it just takes more time.  Didn't like it.

The Run:

My plan was to start slower and move into a nice pace after the first mile, like I had practiced all summer.  Because I used to run as fast as I could right off the bike in a half which is bad news for me, I have learned.  So this worked well for me the first few miles- I was speeding up.  I was even surprised that I didn't feel too sore from the bike elevation gain.  Buuuutttt then the hills on the run came :).  This course had about 1000feet of elevation gain in 13.1 miles.  Not fun.  I figured I could maintain an 8:30 pace on this course, though.  The best I've been able to do was last summer maintaining an 8:20 pace at Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  This summer I have gotten faster at the run.  So I knew I could maintain an 8:00-8:30 pace.  And I was close-an 8:38 pace.  It was just brutal out there on the course.  We had two loops of the run, and had to do the same hard hills twice.  They were pretty steep, some of them.  If you look at the elevation profile, it's just uphill, then back downhill, the whole time.  It sucked.  But I was here to enjoy it.  I didn't walk any of those hills.  Some were a slow jog haha but no walking!!  As far as my hydration and nutrition went- they went pretty well.  When I ran out of my 40oz of Osmo on the run, I had to grab more water at aid stations.  I also carried extra nutrition and had to use it with all the hills.  I had only really practiced using honey stinger chews, but carried a honey stinger gel for towards the end if I needed it, and need it I did.  I took a honey stinger gel in at mile 10 because I figured even if it did make my stomach upset I would probably be fine for 3 more miles.  It actually energized me more than I thought, and maybe I'll just use honey stinger gels on the run, no stomach upset!  I felt a little out of it during the run but that was it, telling me I executed my nutrition and hydration really well, and will just make slight adjustments using the same nutrition and hydration in future 70.3s.  

One key thing that helped was carrying extra nutrition with me on the bike and the run.  I'm glad I did because climbing hills on the bike and run takes longer and more out of you than a flatter course, so you will need more fluids and calories during the race to keep your energy levels up.  Nutrition and hydration can make or break your race, and I'm so glad it made my race.

I will continue to get faster on the run, I know it is my weakness, but I also improved this year which makes me so happy.  I used to be REALLY slow at running :) I am very happy with my big race this year, couldn't have asked for more!  Of course, I will always strive to get stronger and faster.  Can't settle for anything less than your best, and I believe you always have to strive higher.  This is not the end :). As far as next year, I want to train like I'm going to win my age group at USAT Nationals for the Olympic distance and see what happens.  It's in my favorite city, near where I grew up, Cleveland, Ohio!  So of course I have to train to race really well here :).  Other than this I haven't figured out other races for next year.  My IT band has been injured all summer, I've just been managing it so I can still run, so a break from running is in order to let it heal. 

My final placements after all the DNFs was 57/211 in my 30-34 age group (tough, tough field, some really strong women from around the globe!!), and 281/1433 total female finishers.  So, top 27% in my age group, and top 19.6% total woooo I couldn't be happier!! :) :)  That course was a beast, the hardest thing I have ever done athletically before, no joke.  But I think it's my favorite course ever, and will never forget it.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grand Rapids Tri 2017

The swim (or should o say struggle...)

I had been putting in some good work in the pool and was swimming very well lately, so I was expecting a really strong swim, if nothing else on Sunday.  Well, that didn't happen, unfortunately.  I get more nervous when I have to wear a wetsuit.  I hate swimming with it on, because it's just not comfortable.  But everyone else was so I better wear it because I wanted to swim as fast as I could and the wetsuit does help.

In the beginning of any triathlon I have ever done, people always start out wayyyy wayyy way too fast.  There's a lot of thrashing and kicking going on.  I've been swam over before.  Well this time, during the first 500m I ended up turning my head to breathe, and swallowed a huge gulp of someone's kicked splash.  The heart rate was high in the beginning and I was gasping for air- I had to stop swimming.  I panicked a bit- I have never felt this panicked in the water before- I couldn't breathe and thought I might be experiencing a drowning-like feeling.  I almost waved my arms for help, but told myself to calm the heck down and try to breathe normally.  I was gasping for air for awhile.  I tried to swim, but still was having a hard time getting my breath.  I grabbed at my wetsuit collar to undo the Velcro, but I couldn't grab it.  So I stopped again.  At this point I had let most of the females pass me it seemed, and there was nothing I could really do about it until I felt safe enough to try swimming again.  Thankfully I calmed down enough, and was able to undo my Velcro at the neck so I could breathe better.  I no longer cared if the long zipper strap was flapping in the water behind me, I needed to breathe better.  That helped, and on I went!  I ended up passing most of the people who passed me when I started struggling.  Phew!  I was out on my own, away from all those people.  Unfortunately I had lost some time there, seemed like 40-50sec or more who knows.  I was just glad to get into a nice rhythm and relax.  I breathed almost every stroke after that incident and that's ok.  I have decided to start out at the very end from now on to avoid getting kicked at and splashed around.  Wow that was the scariest moment ever in a triathlon swim for me.  Thankfully I was only off the top females time by 50 seconds, not too bad considering things, just frustrated I wasn't up there with them.  

T1:  a note about this- I got my wetsuit off and was ready to go, however the GR triathlon has a very strange transition set up to me- it's one longggg line.  The 70.3 distance is at the front and run out, Olympic is in the middle, and the sprint is in the back.  I had to wait in this long line to get out of transition and there was nothing I could do about it :(. So my T1 was 3 min long.  Racers were coming in from the bike one way, and us racers trying to get out of transition were in a line the opposite direction.  There was no me running around these people because I simply couldn't or else I'd run right into a racer coming from the opposite direction.  For this reason, I definitely do NOT like the GR triathlon transition set up.  But that's probably the only way they can fit it in.  I guess....

The bike:  I felt pretty strong at first.  You know, I was going 24-30mph at any given time in my watt zone.  Of course we had a Tailwind.  The course was out and back.  I focused on drinking early and often, and took in some honey stinger chews to supplement my calorie intake.  Worked well.  Probably drank about 30-35oz on the bike.  

Now on the way back to transition....the wind hit pretty hard.  So I let my power drop.  Yep-couldn't even maintain correct wattage and then I decided that was probably for the best.  I wasn't going to fight it because I knew if I did, I would just have an awful run.  So I just did what I could in the wind.  1:07-pretty slow for myself, my average wattage was only 5 lower than usual so who knows.  Or maybe I'm just not as strong this year.....yet!

The run:

I actually felt really good.  Coming off the bike though I was a bit sore, so I took it easier the first mile.  I also noticed I wasn't too hot, considering it was supposed to get up to the 90s later that day- it wasn't humid yet.  I must have gotten my nutrition and hydration right!  I ran quickly, but it felt easier than it normally does for me.  I ended up passing a girl who was in 3rd on the run. This never happens on the run haha.  I stayed pretty consistent with my pace- around a 7:30ish pace until the last mile.  I thought I had seen another girl up ahead.  So I picked up the pace to see if I could catch her, and at that point- some guy was running next to me and said he would pace off me since he was doing the half.  That mile I did start to notice the heat.  I started to slow but that person kept motivating me which really helped.  At the second to last aid station I drank 2 cups of water- it was hot and I was getting a bit dehydrated.  I probably should have just drank 1 because my stomach started to feel odd right after that.  Ah the finish line!  I ran as fast as I could to the finish!  My last mile ended up being 7:15.  I actually negative split the last 3 miles too which never happens.  It wasn't a PR probably because of the heat but it was close and I'm proud of that run!  Probably could have ran faster, oh well.

I didn't know what place I had come in, but when I found out I came in 3rd which meant I won some prize $ I was a bit shocked because I really struggled and lost time on the swim!  

Now a long break from racing.  I'm going to focus on everything really.  My upper body is starting to get stronger for the swim, I need to work on getting in some 3-4hr rides, and work on some off the bike runs.  I think not racing as much as I did the past years will really help me focus on my weaknesses and get faster for the goal race.  I just hope I can swim strong and show it from now on- never want to experience this again!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Believe in Yourself, and Never Give Up No Matter How Bad You Feel

My Experience at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga.  What a tough race!

The swim:

It wouldn't be a triathlon for me without some blonde moments.  The day before I ended up forgetting my timing chip after I had already checked in, listened to the athlete briefing, and drove back to the place we were staying.  Glad my friend Daisy mentioned it or I would have been struggling around race morning trying to get it.  On race morning after setting up transition, we headed on the bus at 6:05.  Found porta potties, waited in this dumb line until 6:35.  Race start at 6:50 and I had to put on my wetsuit yet so we ran towards the front.  Get there, get the darn wetsuit on, then realize I had plenty of time because the pros started first.  Like an extra half hour.  I could relax some!  

The swim was supposed to be upstream at first, turn, then head mostly downstream with a nice current.  Well the current was too strong for us age groupers I guess( the pros got to swim it though so I was disappointed because that left me at a disadvantage, with my swim being pretty strong).  Everyone swam about a 1500m, and with the current I ended up swimming a 16:33.  I hope at Worlds they make us swim the whole thing.  Other than that it felt like a decent swim, no real complaints.

The bike:  I felt strong maybe the first 5 miles then fatigue set in.  I just tried to stay within a 10- watt range but that was sometimes hard on hills when trying to pass people.  I also forgot to calibrate my power meter so who knows what I was doing!  The hills I think took their toll on me today.  I think I also tapered too much.  Usually for races I'm not this low for form (a training Peaks terms- how well rested you are).  I was only at it for Cozumel last year, I think at Delaware 70.3 I was at 15 (if anyone knows what that means). An article I had read said some athletes do better with 5-10 (I think I'm in that range).  I'm not going to taper down to 25+ anymore.  I did not feel like I was in that "flow" state that I feel in when I race well.  It's hard self coaching yourself but I enjoy the learning experience and challenge and pressure of it all.  

So in triathlon you must remain 6 bike lengths away from the person in front of you and if someone passes you, you must drop back for them.  So I was obeying this rule, and was extremely irritated at the amount of drafting I saw.  I even said to someone, "hey it looks like a group ride up there!".  Lol.  Mainly the men.  Huge groups.  No one would drop back.  I wish the officials were around.  I've never seen that amount of drafting in any of my other races.  Frustrating.  

The bike course was beautiful, and hilly.  It had 2400 feet of gain.  Nothing too steep but a bunch of little rollers that killed me today.  

The run:

When I got off the bike my first mile was under 8:00 and I felt great.  I had planned to stay around an 8:00 pace.  After that I couldn't hold it because I became pretty hot.  Also, my hips didn't feel right and wouldn't let me fully extend for running.  So I did my best.  About halfway through I wanted to give up.  I knew I wasn't going to have a good run split at all!  But I did not come down here to give it all away.  I had wanted to qualify.  So I sucked it up and jogged and walked when I had to up some hills but it was a constant struggle.  And I slowed down.  But I knew I had to keep going to do my best just in case there was a slim chance I could still qualify.  I didn't see any but one girl in my age group pass me yet.  I wasn't giving up.  Sometimes it's ok to slow down and do what your body is capable of at that given moment.  I was going to finish the race.  I was actually shocked I came in 5th.  I thought it would be much worse with my slow run.  Even though I didn't race well I was ecstatic to have qualified for the 70.3 World Championship this year in Chattanooga!  And what's great is I will already know what to expect on the course!  

A huge congrats to my friend Daisy Brey who won her 25-29 age group!  She smoked it, and killed the run.  Amazing! 

My goal for Worlds now is to work a bit more on my run and not worry about placing anywhere at Worlds.  My goal is just to improve my own personal time on that course and worry about myself.  There are a lot of really fast people at Worlds so I'm not going to get caught up in thinking I can place high because that just makes me even more nervous.  I'm just going to enjoy the experience and race the best I possibly can because I took USAT Worlds way too seriously the last 2 years.