Long Course Duathlon National Championships

Last year’s motivating phrase on my pre-race bottle has faded long ago. I was waiting for another one to come along and strike my fancy. After Saturday’s race, I’ve decided that this one needs to stay:

“How long will it take you to arrive? However long it takes you to unlearn your doubt.”
bottle
This summed up my race entirely, as I was reminded to never count myself out or give up. I went into this race with 0 confidence. And it was showing. Not only was it hard for me to get into race mode for whatever reason, I also felt that my evident lack of bike fitness would make for a very depressing race. Knowing only some of the competition that was going to be there, and their abilities compared to where I was at, in my mind this was a race for silver in my age group at best (exactly what I thought in France 2012).

It was also a race where I got to see a bunch of friends so no matter what the day brought I knew it would be fun! As we were lined up at the start the words of Gail Kattouf rang true – “I’m going to give it the old college try.” And that’s all we can do – go out there and race our own races while having fun doing what we love!

With 338 Long Course finishers at a mass start, we knew this race was going to be chaotic. And starting with the men is never good for my pace 😉 My plan had been to hang with the lead females on the first 5 mile run to get a sense of what I could expect, but as usual I went out at my own pace and totally forgot the plan! When I hit mile 1 at 5:59 I felt relieved that I was keeping it under control. Another female blazed by me and I immediately looked for the “R” for relay on her calf – it wasn’t there. But I did see the age marking of 23 and knew it was best to let her go.

The first out-and-back run was uneventful. We met some challenges on the course with some flooded and muddy spots along a paved trail which proved to be very slippery. But now we knew what to expect for the next 3 passes. I came into T1 in 30:49 and was feeling good. Now, onto the bike…

As expected, within mere minutes Gail came blazing by me. I was excited to see her doing her thing and gave her some encouragement as she sped by. Gail is the strongest female cyclist I know, and it’s always cool to see her in action, even if it’s only for a brief moment 🙂 As the short course athletes were also on the course at this time, there was some bunching to start. And also some traffic. As I was behind a car waiting for an opportunity to get around, 2 more females passed me but I barely even noticed as I was focused on finding my own way out of this mess. Shortly after things started to open up and it was time to get into my groove.

Unlike my inability to stick to my initial run plan, I am happy to say that I was able to pace myself appropriately on the bike. Since my bike fitness isn’t where it should be, I knew that going out at a “panicked” pace would only make my day tougher. Fading at the end of the bike only to have to run another 5 miles is not the best scenario. At around mile 20 the next female arrived. She was the 2nd one I was expecting to pass me, so again, no surprises there. I now had the game plan of keeping her in sight for the remaining 12 miles.

This is where my negative self-talk really crept in, as I realized that this race was playing out exactly as I had imagined it. So there it was – my expectations of a mediocre race were coming to fruition – probably in part because it was already crafted in my head to end this way. My thoughts created my reality. That made me mad. At myself. I know how important the mental game is and I was losing. So I just put my head down and carried on.

With these frustrations already clouding my mind, the last portion of the bike led to even more irritation. Around mile 25 a pace line of 3 guys passed me. I dropped back, only to find that they had slowed down their pace. So I passed them. Nothing annoys me more than blatant cheating – even if it’s not affecting me. It’s just embarrassing. Of course, they passed me again. This time after I dropped back I let them move on ahead. I did not want to be anywhere near them. I was happy to be back on my own until about 3 miles from the finish – all of a sudden packs of riders are flying by me. The effects of the mass start were now hitting. There was no way out of this. If I wasn’t being boxed into the shoulder, I was on the outside feeling like I was blocking as riders were 3-4 across the lane the whole way through. Here I was feeling like I was finishing the bike strong, only to see my position threatened by other females in the pack. Perhaps this is what fueled the start of my second run…

I came into T2 in 5th place (however I forgot about the 2 girls who passed me that I didn’t know, and thought I was in 3rd). I fumbled a bit in transition, but it was good enough to head out onto the run in 4th place. I felt strong. I thought I had mentally lost my fight, but it was still here. I was right in front of Rachel and I knew she was a strong runner. If only I could hold her off, I could take 1st in the age group.

About a mile in I look up the road and see Gail. This brought mixed emotions. I know Gail would have crushed me on the bike, and since she is an equally strong runner, she would’ve been way ahead of me. Coming back from a year off I figured this was injury-related, and no one wants to see their friend struggle. Being the amazing competitor she is, she greeted me only with a smile and words of encouragement pushing me along. Love this woman! A true athlete. Now it was up to me to forge ahead.

As I neared the turn-around I came upon my friend and travel companion Marty Stiegmann also hobbling and in pain. Man – this course was tearing up my friends! Next thing I saw – females #1 and #2 coming back. Damn! I forgot about them! I had much more work to do. It was time to dig deep and use my strengths. The back side of the course had a lot of short risers and I had been feeling strong on these. So I used them to gain some ground and try to increase the gap on Rachel whom I knew was right behind me. I finally got the first 2 in striking distance and at around mile 4 I made my first pass as we gave each other some encouragement. 1 down, 1 to go. And I was losing real estate.

The first female was looking strong. Although my confidence was building and I thought I had a good chance of taking the lead, I also knew that I had to be smart about it. Time to come up with a game plan – and quick. I knew that when I made the pass, it had to be with total conviction. I had no doubt that she would be able to respond. I also thought about the last turn into the park which had one last riser into the last 1/4 mile. I had my 2-pronged attack mapped out. Make the pass and stick it, and then find that last gear as I entered the park. I came up on her quietly and when the moment was right, I made my move. It worked. I didn’t know if she was responding or not, but my legs were doing exactly what I asked of them. I turned into the park and surged one more time. Running this final rectangle allowed more than one opportunity to see where she was. And man did I want to check. But I didn’t want to give one ounce of weakness away. So I let out my final kick down to the finish line and made it across with a 16 second lead.
finishAn awesome day of racing indeed! The weather was perfect, so many great friends were there, and many of them on the podium. Even if this race wasn’t the National Championship I still would’ve been there to compete. Marty, Dave and I have to keep the tradition going! Even as I awkwardly dangle in this photo, we now re-create it annually to celebrate our friendship and our passion in doing what we love. 2014groupshot

Marty pulled his calf during the race and still managed to take the silver in his age group – now that is grit! Dave on year 2 of his comeback, and after being hit by a car only a few weeks prior, rode 3 mph faster on the course this year. His relay team took 1st overall. I am a lucky girl to have met such amazing friends on this journey, and I am always looking forward meeting many more!

Run 1 – 30:49
Bike – 1:25:02
Run 2 – 31:34
jersey

Advertisements

Leatherman’s Loop Race Report

logoI had been looking forward to this race! When I decided to race the Spring Dual I was thinking it was short enough to not affect my performance at this prestigious race on the following day, but as the weekend approached the nerves were building. I was invited to race Leatherman’s Loop by a friend of a friend and I did not want to disappoint. Luckily I had no soreness from the prior day’s race – legs were just a little tired. But I convinced myself it was only 10k… When I arrived at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY my first thought was that this place was beautiful! My excitement was building. The energy at the race site was buzzing – all positive, happy vibes – and it kept my nerves at bay. I had received a detailed description of the course and what it entailed, and I had been going back and forth for the past 12 hours trying to decide which shoes to wear. Having choices is a great thing, and having to make such a tough decision because I love both shoes so much isn’t a bad position to be in either 😉 My inov-8 Mudclaw 265’s would provide the best traction over the many mud flats/pits we encountered, and also help me to scale the sand hills. However my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s have awesome traction at a much lighter weight, which would allow me to really open up on the more “relaxed” terrain. Love them both so much, but I went with the Trailroc’s.

inov-8 trailroc 150

inov-8 trailroc 150

The weather was beautiful which added to the peaceful, upbeat vibe at this race. With over 1200 runners making their way to the park, we had a delayed start. Normally this starts to put me on edge, but today I was just enjoying the surroundings and atmosphere. When we were finally corralled for the start, I found myself in the middle of a rather wide start chute, and a few rows back. It didn’t seem like people were lining up according to pace but I figured it would all sort itself out quickly. Boy was I wrong! leathermanAfter some course info was shared, we heard a recitation of the traditional Navajo/Irish blessing of beauty:

Beauty before me as I run. Beauty behind me as I run. Beauty below me as I run. Beauty above me as I run. Beauty beside me as I run. Beauty within me as I run.

I see Beauty all around. In beauty may we walk. In beauty may we see. In beauty may we all be.

From there, at the quack of a duck, the race began! The bottleneck was even worse than I expected – everyone swarmed front and center and I felt like I was being sucked backwards. I started to panic and let negative thoughts creep in “if I can’t make my way through this congestion I don’t stand a chance.” startI scrambled to the outside and swung wide trying to get into a better position. After running through the meadow we were greeted with the first section of mud flats leading into the trails. I was able to make some ground here, even as I hurtled over a lone shoe that didn’t survive the first of many pits. By the time I reached the first turn, less than a half mile in, I realized there were not any women in front of me. Phew – back to my comfort level of going out too hard and running scared 🙂

chris tingue

Photo credit – Chris Tingue

I was told that the 2nd half of the race was much easier than the first, so the plan was to try to keep it under control until I hit the 2nd sand hill climb (after going out too hard to get my lead of course), and then push to the end.

 What can I say about this course? It had everything! Multiple water crossings:

david gordon first river crossing

Photo credit – David Gordon

david gordon first river crossing 2

Photo credit – David Gordon

john cummings splashdown

Photo credit – John Cummings

Plenty of mud:

chris reinke mud flats 2

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

ryan reinke

Photo credit – Chris Reinke

Sandy climbs like “the wall”:

tom casper the pit

Photo credit – Tom Casper

Single track with roots & rocks, twists & turns, and wide open sections of soft terrain:

pine forest 2

Photo credit – Ciorsdan Conran

carol gordon

Photo credit – Carol Gordon

There were some short steep climbs but also plenty of descents. I was enjoying myself so much on this course that I was barely noticing the fatigue in my legs. Once I reached the top of the 2nd sand climb, I took a moment to look back to see if anyone was behind me. Coast was clear! At this point I was starting to feel very relaxed and was enjoying every second.

 I was about a 1/2 mile from the finish when I could hear the crowds cheering very loudly. As I approached the final water crossing, the splashdown, it was an awesome site to see so many spectators lined up along the climb out of the water. I jumped in, not at all expecting to sink down to where the water was shoulder height.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Blum

Photo credit – Michelle Blum

And boy was it cold! I made my way across and started the climb to the finish, spectators surrounding me making all kinds of noise Tour de France style. You hit the meadow and the finish line is in sight, but it’s also windy and your legs are feeling frozen after that ice bath. Crossing that finish line was bittersweet. Sure I was tired, but it was so much fun!

I definitely plan to return to this race. The land, the course, the race organization, the volunteers, the fellow runners – all made for a top-notch event! Awards were strudel, pies, and other local goodies. I got the motherload bag which contained a bottle of wine, 2 bundles of homemade pasta, a mega-jar of honey (looking for a good home), a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar, a jar of strawberry rhubarb jam, and curry cashews. BINGO!

I you love running trails, I highly suggest you throw your name in the basket next year for the lottery registration. You won’t be disappointed!

Top 2 lines from the race:

1) “I hope I don’t shit myself.” – we’ll leave that one anonymous 🙂 2) “Seriously” – a spectator’s “word of encouragement” to me as I ran up one of the hills