USAT Age Group Nationals Race Report

Intimidating. Humbling. Awesome. That sums up the USAT Age Groups Nationals in three words. When I was wandering around the expo looking at all of the incredibly fit people with incredibly expensive bikes and incredibly serious looks on their faces, I kept thinking "I do not belong here. I am in way over my head." I was under trained going in and I suddenly felt self-conscious of my aluminum frame bike and $40 helmet from REI. Intimidating.

As a side note, I stayed in Burlington with Shelley's family. They are as amazing as Shelley is, big surprise. I'll have another post just on Vermont and travelling later. But I would not have done this race if Shelley's family wasn't close and I owe them a HUGE thank you. Shelley's step-mom Mary, also raced. She is a BAMF and qualified for the World championship in New Zealand. She's my hero.

I knew before the race that I was in the 3rd to the last wave to go and I had more race-anxiety than normal. The men's 24 and under was after my wave and I wasn't looking forward to that for good reason. They had every wave corralled up at the dock and then lead us down to the water as a group. I felt like we were cattle being lead to slaughter. Did I mention race anxiety? My wetsuit didn't help the feeling of suffocation. It was a treading-water start, which was a great opportunity to get used to the water before the chaos began.

After waiting for the countdown and gun, we were off. This was probably the most physical swim I've ever done; physical meaning lots of contact with other bodies. The beginning went well - cool water temps and a good draft. Then at the halfway point, the youngsters caught us. The 24 and under men just started swimming over the top of us. Fuck, fuck, fuck, this is not good. Arms and legs everywhere. Yellow caps. Green caps. The water tasted like diesel fuel. I started leading with my elbows just to keep my head above water. Keep calm and breathe. Keep calm and breathe. Those damn whipper-snappers. No manners in the water. I'm ready for the 30-34 age group, just to get away from the 24 and under men.

I came out of the water in about 32 min, a good swim for me. I was a little dazed and had the feeling of vertigo. I found my bike and ran out the end of transition. Then kept running. Jeeze, how far is the mount line? I felt like I ran a quarter mile with my bike! The transition area routing was poor at best. Bike-in crossed over swim-in, bike-out crossed over run-out. I'm surprised there weren't any crashes.

I got on the bike and took off, ready to have some fun. It was a gorgeous course through the rolling hills outside of Burlington. I was trying not to pay too much attention to my Garmin since I knew I wouldn't place well overall. I was setting my pace based on my body and having fun. About halfway into the bike I realized why I like 70.3 races so much. It takes me 12-15 miles to get warmed up on the bike and by that time in an Olympic distance race, there's only 10 miles left. Oh well, I had a great ride and averaged 20 mph.

I passed one woman on an all-carbon set up, solid disc wheel in the back. Let's just say her rear wheel was more expensive than my whole bike. And I passed her on an uphill like she was standing still. I felt good! After the results were posted, I checked all my splits and when I looked at the bike my jaw dropped. A 20 mph average speed was in the bottom half of my age group. Damn. 20 mph average usually puts me 1st or 2nd in my age group. Humbling.

When I got back to transition and tried to rack my bike, I noticed that almost all the bikes were back already. Again, humbling. This race sold out faster than it ever has and because of that, USAT opened up an addition 500 slots for the race. I don't think the organizers in Burlington got the memo. Our personal transition area was exactly the width of a bike. It was so tight, we had to rack by our seats. So as I tried to re-rack my bike, the back wheel kept getting caught in the bars of the bikes on the opposing side. I probably spent an extra 30 seconds just trying to get my bike wedged in my spot. It was worse for the women since the racks were set so high none of our front wheels touched the ground. So if you bumped into one, they all spun around. It was a mess.

The run course was less than inspiring and there's not much to say. It was 10:15 when I started, so the sun was out and it was getting warm. I knew what pace I needed to keep to meet my 2:45 goal time and I was working hard to maintain that. The last two miles I was starting to over heat and I knew it. Two miles, anyone can run two miles. I came in at 2:43:36, a great time by my standards and also a PR. (Since this was my first true Olympic distance race, I was going to PR no matter what. Minor details.) Awesome.

It was probably my best personal race, and it was also the worst finish I've ever had if you're judging by overall finish. But I wasn't concerned with that, it was an amazing race experience and I am so glad I went. I usually finish in the top part of my age group, and top half of all racers. It was such a great and humbling experience to race against the fastest people in the country. In case you're curious, a 2:43:36 was good enough for 60/79 in my AG.

And I am damn happy with that.



...just not yet.

Let's see, there's a book review, travel and race report, new race nutrition strategy (success!), my personal food revolution, training plan and training goals, and the list goes on. But I've been swamped and I'm hoping for race pics before getting into a race report. Here's the 30 second version: I read a good book, took an awesome trip for an amazing race, tried new fuel, am changing the way I regularly eat, have a plan, have a goal, and keeping busy! Phew!!

Tonight John and I are cooking for Shelley, Kelly, and Shelley's dad, Gerry. Shelley has her second round of chemo today, so send her your positive thoughts. On the menu: homemade Vegetable Confetti Stew, homemade sour dough bread (with wild yeast John has cultivated), and mixed greens salad. I hear that fresh meals prepared with love are the best way to fight cancer. The point is you'll have to wait a few more days for any real updates.


Nothing Says "Tri-Geek" Like Compression Socks

I know you've seen them. Maybe you use them. One thing we can agree on: they look ridiculous.

I swore up and down that I would never, NEVER own compression socks. You would think that by this point in my life I would learn not to use absolutes. Because "never, NEVER" has turned into LOVE THEM!

That's right, I own compression socks and I love 'em. I don't exercise in them. All the literature I've read is inconclusive on whether or not wearing them while working out is even beneficial. And the tan lines are less than attractive. I fully believe compression socks belong in one place - underneath pants.

But no one argues that they're good for recovery. I've been wearing them after long or particularly hard workouts and I'm ready to get another pair. I wore them in the car up to WI (8+ hours of driving). I wore them on the plane to Colorado. I even wore them the day after an outdoor concert in hot weather since my legs felt like stuffed sausages the next morning. I'll be wearing them flying to and from Burlington this weekend and possibly the evening after the race.

I don't know if it's a placebo effect or if they actually help, but I do feel like my legs recover faster after a tough workout when I use them. They seems to reduce the "my legs are dog-tired" feeling when you wake up in the morning, too.

So if you've been thinking about getting a pair, I would highly recommend them. But be warned: if I ever see you wearing compression socks or sleeves during a race, I will still make fun of you.


Count Down

Summer seems to be flying by, and not necessarily in a good way. Nationals are this coming Saturday and to say that I am under prepared would be an understatement. Oh well, this race wasn't on my radar in time to actually train for and signing up for a race less than 6 weeks out doesn't leave a whole lot of room for improvement. I almost feel guilty going to this race. I am no where near the shape I was in when I qualified and I don't think even in that shape I should have qualified. So I may try to qualify again, and next time put in a 12 week training plan. Hopefully this is just the first Nationals I compete in.

This might be the first race that I feel unprepared for. It's not an issue of finishing, it's an issue of competing against some of the best age-groupers in the country. I don't like to do things half-assed and I feel like I am only half-ass prepared. I do have a goal, and I'm really trying to talk myself into a sub-2:45 time goal and forget about the other girls. I'll let you know how that works out.

That said, I am looking toward Austin with some amount of optimism. I'm going to use my plane time to Burlington to lay out my training plan. I don't really know what my goal is going to be, maybe a 2 hour run? I just really want to get back into the shape I was in last year.


Golden is Gorgeous

John and I managed a trail run while we were in Golden. We ran up the Chimney Gulch Trail. An hour up and 25 min down. This was easily the most enjoyable run I've had all year.

At the top.

We also managed to sample a few of the local brews while we were in town.

Coors put on one of the best brewery tours that I've been on. Three full sample beers at the end and a great gift shop. It was a fun weekend and nice to have a break from the hot temps here.


Mental Clarity

One of, if not THE best benefits of working out regularly is the ability of exercise to clear my head and burn off negative energy. The temperature today was forecasted to be 106 degrees, and that doesn't include the heat index. I cleared it with my boss to come in late to work so I could get a bike ride in this morning. It was great - cool temps compared to what I have been riding in, and I love getting done about the same time the sun is cresting the tops of the trees. There wasn't much traffic, just like-minded hikey-bikey people trying to beat the heat without enduring a treadmill or trainer.

Driving into work, I felt refreshed and calm, and ready to face the day. Little did I know just how much I would need that.

Today, I decided to finally speak up about an issue at work. I had been planning on meeting with my bosses tomorrow, but due to scheduling issues, my bosses asked if we could do it today. I wasn't quite prepared, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.

Afterwards, I was incredibly glad that I had gotten a good ride in before work. Even though the circumstances weren't what I was hoping for, I was at least focused and as calm as could be expected. Things at work will play out in time.

After work, I did my second favorite thing to achieve mental clarity - I went for a drink with Kelly.