Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tri the Midlands


After way too many races in a row, Chad and I were very excited for an off week from racing. That is until we say there was a small triathlon with an open water swim 90 minutes away on Saturday. We had been looking for another sprint triathlon to do, but they all seemed to fall on weekends when we had another race or a wedding. There was one other option that involved a 4 mile road race Saturday and a sprint tri on Sunday, but I wasn’t really digging that plan. Enter Tri the Midlands. 500m lake swim, 15 mile bike, 5k run. Only 90 minutes away and with a late 8am start time. This meant we’d only have to get up at 4am to get ready and head down to the race site. That somehow seemed reasonable, so we signed up. After we signed up we learned that one of Chad’s old friends from high school, who now lives in SC, was also going to be there with her husband. So our race was going to be a fun mini-reunion as well. Score.

Chad's transition all set-up
Race morning dawned pitch black, as it normally is at 4am when people are supposed to be sleeping. We grabbed coffee and our lunch box of food and headed out the door. Max barely lifted his little head up to give us a goodbye kiss. The drive down was uneventful and we arrived at the race site with 90 minutes to spare. The smaller size of the race made it very easy to get our race numbers and get body marked quickly. We ended up with transition spots next to each other in a very good spot close to the Open athletes. A nice two mile warm-up revealed that both of our legs were feeling pretty springy. That doesn’t always mean anything, but it was a nice feeling.

The race started and I waited patiently for my wave to go. I cheered Chad on as he started 8 minutes before me. Once Chad goes the time really drags for me because I’m alone and nervous.

Before long I was in the water and the air horn sounded the start of my wave. The wave was more crowded than at Latta, so there was a good deal of kicking and shoving going on in the water. That combined with the water being very murky did lead me to panic just a tiny bit. I kept waiting to get some space to swim, but that never materialized. This is what big races will be like, so it is good to start getting used to it now. I was able to have a fine swim and exited the water a little ahead of my goal time. There was a 300 yard run to the timing mat which was added to my swim time, but I count that towards my transition time, so I have a better idea of how fast/slow I really swam. Seconds count when you’re a slow swimmer! Swim Rank: 37/96

I had a decent T1 and zipped out onto the bike course, where I proceeded to get passed only once. Too bad it was by a 53 year old lady! She was flying though and I got her back on the run. The bike started and ended pretty hilly, with the middle being small rollers. I averaged 19.8 mph which is 0.5 mph slower than Latta. I was disappointed at first, but Chad was also slower, so perhaps the course was harder or the preview of Latta helped even more than I know. Regardless, I was passing people left and right, so I obviously wasn’t going too slow comparatively. I hoped off the bike and did my sad run in bike shoes back into transition. Bike Rank: 5/96

I had a slow T2 even though I swear I was moving really fast. I was about 30 seconds slower then I needed to be. But, I know I can figure out how to cut that time. Then it was off on the run. The run started uphill, which was actually helpful because I may dislike hills but triathletes really hate hills. People were already walking, so I was able to blow by people despite a not super speedy pace, and feel good. It is a really great mental pick-me-up. I saw Chad on his way back in just before the 0.75 marker. We exchanged high fives and I told him he looked good and fast, which he did. Since the course was an out and back I kept watching the back for other females, but only saw two. I was fairly confident I heard an Open female finishing as I passed the finish line on my way out, so that put me in 4th overall. There was one huge hill right before the turn around and I frankly wondered if walking would be faster. Then I passed a walker and realized walking would not be faster, just less painful.

Luckily the course went into a nice rolling up and down after the hill and I was able to run strongly to the 2 mile marker, where Chad was waiting with some much needed info. He let me know that I was rapidly gaining on the two ladies ahead of me and that I should be able to catch them. He then took off to cut through some yards and get back to the finish line. I did my best to pick up my pace to try and catch the women up ahead. They both came into view on the next uphill and I made a charge and caught them both on the way down the last hill. From there it was flat to slightly downhill to the finish so I was able to open up a tiny lead. I was very happy to cross the finish line and hear I was the 2nd female. That meant I had won my age group! Run Rank 1/95.

After the race we enjoyed bagels and sandwiches with Kristin and William and hung around to cheer everyone on at the awards. Chad ended up 2nd in his age group with a 1:11:23 and, wait for it, the fastest run split of the day. Chad has now done four multi-sport events and recorded the fastest overall run split in each one. He is good at running off the bike. Kristin was 3rd in our age group and her husband William just missed a medal with 4th place in his age group, but with a 6 minute PR from last year, he was pretty happy.

We then zipped back to Charlotte and enjoyed a lazy afternoon napping with Max. Good times :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Not So Breeze-y


With Paul at the starting line.

Saturday June 18th was the 6th race in the RFYL Grand Prix Series, the Summer Breeze 5k.  It's not particularly well named since there was no breeze to speak of.  Summer Oppressive Humidity 5k would be more appropriate. The course is pretty tough.  It starts with two hills before settling into a long downhill to the first mile marker.  The second mile is almost entirely uphill, heading up Queens Road.  After a quick turn, the third mile is mostly downhill to Freedom Park then flat around the park before the slight uphill at the finish.  While there are some nice downhill sections, the second mile makes it difficult to run a really fast time.  Well, that and the weather. 

I settled into 6th/7th in the first mile as we went over the hills to East OBlvd and downhill on East to the mile marker. Took the first mile at 5:23 with Billy on my shoulder and a solid group, including the ever present Richard Harris, tucked in behind.

In the second mile, I managed to hunt down Jim McKeon and another guy, then took down Vincent.  Billy was still right on my shoulder, with Harris running too comfortably right behind us.   During the second half of the hill Billy actually took a slight shoulder lead on me and I was pressing slightly to stay with him.   Harris continued to stay tucked in behind us.  Needless to say, I was relieved to get to the top of the hill and take the right to the 2 mile maker.  The second mile was 5:26, very good considering the hill.  Talking with others after the race, I learned that most people posted a second mile time that was 20-30 seconds slower than their first mile time, so Harris, Billy, and I did a great job of really pushing up the hill. 

Kicking to the finish line
I was concerned about Harris with the long downhill to finish.  The one GPx race he has beaten me in this year featured a long downhill finish, in which he seemed to just float away despite my dropping a fast last mile.  After the 2 mile mark Billy began to fade a bit and Harris surged.  I thought I fought well and stayed on his shoulder as long as I could. I threw a surge in myself but he was unfazed and ended up gapping me around the turn onto Princeton, heading towards Freedom Park.  I was moving, but he just had another gear.  I felt (slightly) better when I saw my 3rd mile split: 5:17.  It was all I had.  Harris must have been about 5:08 and I just couldn't match that. 

All and all I am VERY happy with my time. 10 secs off my PR on a hilly course on a warm and humid morning.  It was also my fastest 5k time of the year, soI feel like I made progress today.  It was also my highest GPx points ever (962).  I need to taper a little bit next time as my legs still seem to be missing some pop.   I've thankful for a GPx break until July 16th.   This race makes me more confident that I can take down my 5k PR on the track in 2 weeks and hopefully again at Greekfest. 


Just tacking on a bit!  One of the cool parts about Summer Breeze is the separate mens and womens starts.  The women went off at 7:30am and the men went off at 8:00am.  That allowed the ladies to finally see the men finish and it gave us ladies the full attention of the cheering fans, which was pretty fun.  Michelle took off from the gun, leaving me, Boriana, and Alyson to race for second.  We hit the mile in 5:53, which is what I was hoping for, and Michelle was more like 5:45, so it was hard to be too upset with not being in the race.  I pushed up the hill and tried to get some separation, which worked, but not as well as I would have liked.  Alyson stayed within 10 seconds of me the rest of the race, but never really made a push to catch me.  I wasn't happy with my time (19:14), but that seems to be the theme for this year.  I am happy that I took the first mile out hard for once and made a move to secure second.  It was like I was really racing.  Almost.  Minus the painfully slow time. 

Boriana & I with our awards

On a sad note, this was the last Charlotte race with Jay and Boriana before they move.  Not together, that might make their significant others mad!  Jay left right after the race to head up to his fancy new producing job in NYC and Boriana left 2 weeks later for her new job in Washington D.C.  While we will certainly see them both again, it's always sad when your training partners and friends move.  Good luck and we'll miss you guys!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tri Latta is in the books

Danielle's Recap

Saturday June 11th has been circled on the calendar for some time now. Back in January when we were asked to join the One2Tri Racing team, Michael and Nicole mentioned that Tri Latta was going to be the big team race. I looked up the race information and immediately panicked. The swim was 750m in Mountain Island Lake. Open water? No wall to push off? No handy dandy lane line to grab in case of an emergency? This sounded like a terrible idea, but with 6 months to train I thought that surely my swim could improve sufficiently so I would be comfortable in the water and not drown. The latter being the most important.

The six months flew by and there it was June 11th at 5:15am. We're standing in some make-shift parking lot at Latta Plantation and I'm wondering how the swim is going to go. I snuck in one open water practice session, which was a success, and a 750m time trial on the long course, but I was still really nervous about the swim. Despite arriving 75 minutes before the start of the race, it took me the better part of that time to get marked, get my chip, and get my transition set-up. Sarah's bike was right by mine and she was nice enough to double check my transition set-up and give me a heads up on the location of the various finish and start lines. After a super quick warm-up it was down to the swim start to watch the Open participants take off.

The race started at 6:30am with the Open wave and then every 4 minutes another wave took off. Chad was in the 3rd wave and I was in the 5th wave. It was great fun watching him fly to the front when his race started and then watching the Open swim finish up. I positioned myself to the inside and tried to be in the back, but people just kept filling in behind me. Once the gun went off I took a deep breath and started the long slog out to the triangle buoy. It was hectic with lots of people pushing and kicking and grabbing, but since I had been warned about that I just did my best to ignore it and stay calm. About 200m in the crowd thinned out a bit and I could swim without being beaten around. I got off course slightly, but not too badly. I was cruising along trying to just stay long and lean when I saw what I thought was a triangle buoy. Since the triangle marked the turn around point, this was a welcome sight! It got very crowded at the turn around, but then spread out again on the way back in. I just kept looking up and willing the shore to be closer. That didn't work, but eventually I reached land and was out of the lake. Since the swim is by far my weakest leg, I knew things could only get better from here on out.

The run to transition was long, rocky but I made it to my bike, put on my shoes and helmet and I was off to ride. Once I was on the bike I made the executive decision to really push the bike. Scott Woodbury had mentioned that the run course was re-graveled during the week, making it even slower than it already was. Since I wasn't going to be able to throw down a monster run time, I might as well try and gain time on the bike. I pushed for pretty much the entire bike and ended up averaging 20.3 mph, which is 1 mph faster than I've every averaged on a ride. My computer had it at 20.5 when I hoped off before the transition, but the run to the mat added a bit of time. Still so much faster than I've biked before, so that was awesome. The long bike taper seemed to have done wonders for my legs.

I took off on the run and passed Chad on his way to the finish about 1/3 mile into the run. We exchanged a high five. He looked like he was flying, which he was. Chad ended up with a 17:55 and the fastest run split of the day. I have no idea how he ran so fast out on the trails. About 3/4 of a mile in someone goes flying by me. Now, I expected to have one or two guys pass me. After all, the masters started after me and some of those guys are fast as all heck. But to my total surprise it was another girl. I was miffed and picked up the pace to try and catch this mystery lady. It didn't work. She was going faster than my legs were able to go. I noticed a 29 on her calf and comforted myself with the thought that she wasn't in my age group, but I was still pissed that I couldn't seem to go any faster. She was the only person who passed me. I passed a ton of people, which was both fun and annoying on the narrow path. Two 180 degree turns and two nasty hills took their toll on my time, 21:05. I later learned that my passer was Dalena Custer. While I have never met her, she is a super speedy runner who trains with Aaron. She ended up with the fastest run time of the day at 20:17. I felt less bad when I realized she was also a runner. No runner wants to be outrun by a triathlete.

I ended up 5th in my age group (32nd overall), missing 4th by 16 seconds. The woman who was 4th beat me on the swim and bike, so I never saw her. Apparently I just spent the whole run gaining on her. If only I had run a bit faster! Sarah finished 3rd in our age group, nearly 2 minutes ahead of me. I was super excited for her and then I learned her husband also got 3rd in his age group- talk about cleaning up! Chad decided to post his fastest bike mph average ever (20.8) and follow that up with the fastest overall run time for 7th in his age group. I was really proud of him. He had a solid swim, which wasn't surprising, but had a big breakthrough on the bike. Sure, we both have a good ways to go on the bike, but we're finally starting to make some big jumps. Another solid year of bike training and we'll be mixing it up for podium spots. My ranks were 122 on the swim, 38 on the bike, and 4 on the run. No one ahead of me swam slower and you have to go all the way down to 60th place to find a woman who swam slower than I did. If I can get my swim down to a respectable time- watch out!

Everyone to the right of me snagged a
podium spot.  We have fast friends.

It was also a fabulous day for my One2Tri teammates. Nicole was 2nd overall female, Kim demolished our age group, winning by 5 minutes and beating me by 8 minutes! Her bike split was just incredible. Greg won 20-24. Michael and Joey went 1-2 in 30-34, and Jim snuck in a 3rd in 35-39 despite having his P4 blow up in the middle of the bike. It's pretty impressive and a bit intimidating having such fast teammates, but I know that training with them will just help me to get faster.

After the whole triathlon business was over, Chad and I zipped home to set-up for a fun cook-out with friends. We ended up spending the afternoon sitting by the pool, eating way too much (semi-healthy) food, and enjoying a mimosa or two. It was the perfect way to celebrate my surviving the swim. Oh and Chris, Joey, and Sarah's hardware :)

Chad’s Recap: One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

Our Tri-latta ranks: 172, 43, 1 (Chad) and 122, 38, 4 (Dee). I guess you could look at it as one rank for each of us is really good, or that one rank for each of is really bad. Given the running background we are focusing on where we need to improve. I thought I had a great bike for me, 20.8 mph, and I really like the new position the clip on aero bars and fast forward seat post create. Big thanks to Chris for helping me with that. But despite a big improvement on the bike from my first tri, I still got smoked by 171 people on the bike. That is absolutely ridiculous and completely unacceptable. It is time to learn to love the bike and commit the time to getting better on it.

I knew I would get my butt kicked and Latta did not disappoint. I knew the course was not set up well for me with a 17 mile bike and a gravel trail run. My running is in a really good place right now so a 41st place finish is a good thing to keep my perspective and motivation right. I think I have potential in triathlon, but I won't know without really working at it, and even then it will take time.

Until I get respectable on the bike I am just gonna keep getting beat up. Maybe it is my bias but it seems like many tris are too much set up for bikers, I thought that the sprint distance tri was 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. The extra 4.6 miles of the 17 mile Latta bike didn't help me. Oh well, I was really looking forward to Lake Wylie/Camp Thunderbird tri (750m swim, 10 mile bike, 5k hard road run) as a chance to measure myself on a runner friendly course, until it was cancelled. So now I am trying to find a replacement tri that fits my schedule. Looks like Danielle and I are jumping in the Tri the Midlands sprint tri in Northeast Columbia ,SC next weekend. I was looking forward to a weekend off of racing as that will make seven consecutive weekends of racing with Summer Breeze this weekend and the tri next weekend. Oh well, doing too much is my MO. Right now just focusing on the Summer Breeze.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting


Saturday, June 4th, was the King Tiger 5k; the 5th race in the Grand Prix series.  The course features two relatively easy miles, followed by one hellacious mile.  Couple that with the fact that the course is completely devoid of trees or shade of any kind and the race can be rather slow.  However, Rita's is one of the sponsors, so the promise of free Rita's froze custard after the race more than makes up for the tough course and normally hot conditions.  I had the pina colada.  It was delicious. 

Word leaked during the middle of the week that John Compton was not racing.  This didn't mean much for me, but it did open things up on the mens side.  Baring a random fast guy showing up (quite possible), we knew this race was Paul's for the taking.  This left Jay, Chad, Billy, Vincent, Richard, Stephen, and Jim battling it out for the rest of the podium spots.  Stephen ran a phenomenal time on this course last year, so Chad and I figured he would be mixing it up at the front again this year.  On the women's side, I knew Michelle was racing, but that was it. 

Once again, Chad had a great race.  Paul and Jay took off from the start, with Vincent following behind.  Chad settled into a pack with Billy, Stephen, Jim, and Mike.  Richard was trailing close behind, which is dangerous in light of his incredible third mile speed.  By mile two the pack starting breaking up.  Chad, Billy, and Stephen caught Vincent at about 2.5, and Chad was able to find another gear and pull away from everyone up the final hill, to take 3rd overall in 16:55.  Billy was close behind in 16:57, and Stephen ran a 17:01.  Chad is always pleased when he is able to run under 17 minutes, but to run under 17 on a harder course is even better.  He is running very consistently right now, which I think is a good sign.  Another month of 5k specific training and he'll be ready to rip off a new PR!

My race did not go so well.  I've been up and down all year.  Generally with a down following an up.  So I guess I shouldn't be shocked that after a decent Great Harvest performance I stunk at King Tiger.  Michelle ran a solid race to get the win.  Some college girl showed up and finished second (and I can call her a girl because she's still 19 and therefore a child in my world), and I got outkicked by Allyson.  I had been trailing Allyson the whole race and passed her with about a half mile to go.  I didn't realize she was catching up and she just blew by me.  She ran a monster PR and was understandably very excited.  I'm happy she had a great race, but frustrated because I should be 30+ seconds ahead of her without an issue.  I just don't seem to be improving, even though I'm feeling better in workouts and going faster.  My times have been all over the place this year.  I think for Summer Breeze I'm just going to hammer the first mile and see what happens.  I need to stop running so terribly slow, so perhaps forcing my body to run a fast first mile will help.  Maybe not, but at least I'll be able to say I ran one of the miles fast :)

Sunday we headed to Latta Plantation for an open water swim and bike with some friends.  It was my first time in open water, so that was a bit scary at first.  I definitely was breathing hard and panicking a bit, but I felt much more comfortable when we were done.  Next, we were supposed to bike the Latta course twice to get in 30 miles, but I got a flat about 3 miles into the ride.  Sarah was awesome and changed the flat, but her CO2 head was broken, so we had to wait for Chris and Adam to finish their loop (since they were ahead of us when I got the flat) to help us out.  Note to self: Chad and I need flat tire kits.  It's embarrassing to sit roadside with no way to help yourself.  Once the tire was inflated, Sarah took off with Chris and Adam to do some intervals, while Chad and I hung back and checked out the course.  We only had time for one loop at that point, but it was still a very productive morning in that we got to see the bike course and I got to swim a bit.  Chad now has clip on aero bars, which I'm sure he will gush about in another post, but suffice it to say that I hate them.  He now rides faster with no additional effort, so I'm behind him hammering in a vain attempt to keep up.  I need to get myself some aero bars.  I had secretly hoped to average the same miles per hour on the bike at Latta, but with these new fancy aero bars I fear my goal is impossible.  I'll still give it a go though, so hopefully after the race I can razz him about that over mimosas.

We went to Zada Jane's with Chris & Sarah after the swim, bike, run, swim for brunch.  We had never been and now I'm sorry we waited so long to try it!  Both of us had a fabulous meal.  We will definitely be back to Zada Jane's again soon.  I think Chad is hooked on their soy chai latte's and apple butter.  He is threatening to bring his own toast as an appetizer.  I'm not sure how well that will go over, but it would be fun to try. 

Up next is the Latta Triathlon.  It's a huge race with 800 competitors.  Although Chad and I will get smoked, it should be a great time.  Plus we're having some friends over after the race for food and beverages by the pool.  You can't beat that.