Long Course Duathlon National Championship at Cary Du Classic

carydu2016logoThis was my 2nd time racing the Cary Du Classic as the Long Course Duathlon National Championship and to sum it up – I had a bad day. I can say that I went into this race not having the best mental attitude (which I may expand upon during another post after I do some soul searching in Santa Fe), but it really comes down to not having the speed, power, and grit that I normally possess. As much as I try to squash my lack of confidence and convince myself that I’m ready to race at my best, it doesn’t always work and my weaknesses show up on race day. Here’s a brief re-cap of my day.

I arrived at transition feeling rested and ready. I was definitely a bundle of nerves for this race but reuniting with so many great friends eased a lot of that anxiety. There was Yvonne Carter and Cora Sturzl from the west coast, Erica Ruge and Jason Heimink from the midwest, Tracy Lempke, Kristin Allyne, Jeff Guara, Jackie Miller, and my wonderful host Dave Tierney representing the local crew. Although we were missing some key people, it was like a duathlon reunion! I knew that no matter how my race went today it was worth it to be here with some amazing friends doing what we love.

Yvonne and I

Yvonne and I – representing Topo

The female start time was 7:04 am – it was still cool and crisp before the heat and humidity rolled in. When the command to “go” was given I of course shot off the front. No one was challenging me and the pace was manageable so I settled in, hitting the first mile at 6:05. I heard some people behind me and soon could tell from shadows that there were 3 females latched onto me. Looks like I was the pacesetter and with the strength of the runners at this race and my lack of confidence in my run speed I didn’t think this was a good position for me to be in today. I backed off just a touch as one-by-one the 3 of them passed me. I hit mile 2 at 6:14 and soon after that was the turnaround where I could see the 3 females coming back towards me. They all looked amazingly strong – not at all how I felt. I really love watching strong runners even if they’re ahead of me so it was a treat to see this talent. I finished the first 5 mile run with a 6:13 pace and was excited to get out on the bike.

The bike course changed this year and we were now doing 2 loops which cut out some of the climbing. Normally I would be happy to have more hills since I don’t possess a great amount of power on flat courses, but since I had only ridden my bike outside 3 times prior to the race, I figured a flatter course would benefit me. It wasn’t my strongest bike but I think I fared better than I was expecting. Over the 30 mile course I was passed by 3 females putting me in 6th place off the bike.

Time to get on to that 2nd run and see if I could chase anyone down! As soon as I started run #2 I could tell I was fading fast. I was eventually able to pass the 6th place female, Allie Norman, but I wasn’t confident that the pass would stick. I started getting pretty bad stomach cramps (which I believe were a result of a minor nutrition error) and I could only imagine how bad I must have looked trying to hold it together. I remember telling myself “you’re running slower than your training pace“, which wasn’t actually true, but it sure felt that way. The first female I saw on the return was Cecilia Davis-Hayes and she looked so damn strong – it was awesome! I gave her a big cheer as I plodded along. After the turn-around I saw Meghan Fillnow storming down the hill and knew it was only a matter of time before she blew by me. I did what I could to keep my momentum going and told myself it was okay to be passed on the run, but this was the only pass I would allow 😉 Sure enough she made her pass with a mile to go and I stayed focused on getting to the finish line.

Photo: Dave Tierney

Photo: Dave Tierney

My performance earned me the bronze medal in my age group and 6th overall female for the day. Not the result I was shooting for but I raced with all I had in me that day. I absolutely love racing – good, bad, or ugly – it’s always an experience I cherish. Today was no exception. Many of my friends also earned medals for their strong races so there was much to celebrate!

Me, Kristin, and Cora

Me, Kristin, and Cora

Run #1 – 31:05
T1 – :33
Bike – 1:21:28
T2 – :29
Run #2 – 34:07

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Powerman Zofingen

Team USA - missing a few

Team USA – missing a few

I hadn’t traveled to race at an ITU World Championship event for Team USA since 2012 so it was time to get back out there and explore. Powerman Zofingen has long been on my bucket list. Known as the “Kona of Duathlon” there is a reason this race has kept World Championship status for so many years. Since its first year in 1989 Powerman Zofingen offers a challenging yet breathtaking course in a spectacular, friendly and inviting environment.

Switzerland is just as beautiful as I had imagined – and as everyone had described it. As usual I only wish I had more time to explore instead of solely focusing on my race. The challenge came with the training leading up to race day. Once I stepped outside my hotel in Olten I wanted to break loose and spend hours admiring what the countryside had to offer. Whether running through the historical section of town over cobblestone streets and onto the rolling roads on the outskirts, or riding through the neighboring towns – each more fairy-tale-like than the last – I wanted to stay out all day and play! How could I keep the volume and intensity in check when every time I saw a hill on my bike I just had to climb it and find out what was at the top? I’m pretty certain I squealed with delight more than once while out riding. At one point I passed a network of running trails in the woods and couldn’t decide if I was relieved or disappointed that I wasn’t carrying a pair of trail shoes on my bike. I would’ve ditched my bike in the woods and set out for hours. But that’s enough about how enchanted I was with Switzerland – let’s get on to the race! (you can see my photos from Olten and Zofingen here)

Race morning was definitely chilly as I left my hotel in the dark and hopped on the train for my 10 minute ride to Zofingen. Knowing this race has a history of inclement weather I erred on the side of caution and packed just about every option available for race day. The forecast called for a chance of showers but the time frame was short and as the sun came up I had my doubts that we would face any bad weather at all. I knew that first 10k was going to be fast and I would surely warm up quick. Arm warmers and gloves would definitely overheat me which would then cause me to be very cold on the bike, so I opted to race with my kit and nothing extra.

When it comes to World Championships Zofingen is a very small race. This means that instead of having starting heats we all start at once. It was great to have all of the Team USA women starting together and helped to calm my nerves a bit. However it was intimidating to start right behind the elite women knowing I would have to fight the temptation to chase them. As AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blasted through the speakers it was time to line up and start this long day of racing ahead of us.
Powerman startThe gun went off and without even sizing up the competition I went to the front (#tothefront). At least I exercised restraint and did not push to catch onto the elite field that wasn’t far ahead. Almost immediately a Belgian athlete joined me and instead of feeling the need to get away from her I was thrilled to have someone alongside me. The first loop of the 10k run starts uphill and then continues to get steeper. I was feeling strong and in control. Once we leveled out the elite field disappeared into the trails and I was content to hold a steady and manageable pace. With a majority of my running and racing on trails this year I felt right at home on the gravel trails in the woods. Before long we were descending the 2k back into transition before heading out onto loop 2. This is when Ms. Belgium made her move and I let her go – the mantra always playing in my mind “race your race.” I kept her in close range for the 2nd loop and as we got into transition one of my strengths showed itself as my fast transition had me heading out on the bike right alongside her. With a straight, flat shot out of town it wasn’t long before I passed her and I was right where I wanted to be – leading the amateur race. Time to race scared 🙂

I didn’t have a chance to preview either the run or the bike course before the race but with three 50k loops to tackle I would use the first loop to settle in and see what this course was about. What I wasn’t expecting – the long flat sections of road where you could settle into those aerobars and just hammer! It felt awesome! I was smiling and having a blast. The sun was disappearing and the rain was starting but it was very light and I wasn’t too worried about it. I was cold but it was bearable – I was having way too much fun to let a little bad weather bring me down. The climbs also weren’t as daunting as I was expecting as they twisted and turned through both wooded hillsides and open countryside showcasing some views that were worthy of taking my eyes off the road. For those who don’t know my state of mind while racing, I hardly ever notice anything around me because I am super-focused. On this course I was soaking in a lot of the beauty surrounding me.

Powerman bike

Of course I’m smiling – look at these views!

At the halfway point on the bike there was an announcer and a crowd of spectators there to lift your spirits after the longest climb. It was great to hear the announcer cheering me on as he told me I was the first amateur. The highlight of my ride came around the 40k mark of that first loop. On a swooping downhill into a turn I noticed a race official and a small crowd of people. As I got closer I saw a helicopter sitting in the field right along the road. Once I approached that spot the helicopter lifted off and flew above me, following me along the road. After some time shadowing me he flew to my right and spun around to face me. It was such a cool experience I had goosebumps. I arrived back in town feeling great and excited to head out for round 2.

Loop 2 brought worse weather – it started to pour this time causing turns to be taken with some caution. My spirits were still high as I thought to myself there is still plenty of time for this rain to stop and the roads to dry 🙂 I was definitely very cold and wishing I would’ve worn those arm warmers and gloves… On the first descent I was shaking uncontrollably and even screamed “woo hoo” out loud to let it out. Being cold is a great reason to work harder on those climbs right? Soon after that halfway point I was passed by an athlete from Denmark. She passed me and then slowed down, so sure enough I passed her back once I caught back up to her. It wasn’t long before she passed me again and this time she stuck with it. Within minutes she was out of sight. I was certain I would not see her again on that bike course. I finished loop 2 still hitting my goal pace. Time to tackle it once more!

The third time around I was starting to feel fatigued. Luckily the rain had stopped and the roads were drying quickly which was a major help. My main focus was to maintain a solid effort on the final 50k and not let anyone else pass me. I was definitely ready to get out of that saddle and of course I had Ms. Denmark on my mind. Exactly how big was the gap she put on the bike? Would I be able to reel her in at all on the run?

I entered transition happy to be off the bike with the added thrill of the 2nd and 3rd elite men alongside of me. Once out onto the first 15k loop I realized we were running the finish of the first 5k loop. Oof! This meant a good 2k climb to wake up those running legs. After climbing for what felt like an eternity we emerged into a park which offered views of the town. I felt like I was running on a CX course – following the white tape that outlined the lanes as we wove all around this park like it was a maze before heading back onto the wooded trails for one small loop. Heading back into the maze the 2nd time I was starting to see the next females behind me. It was hard to get any sense of how far back they were but seeing the competition always sparks that fear in me. I was looking forward to hitting the 13k mark knowing I would have the 2k downhill back into transition. While it was too early to attack that downhill and trash my quads I found that I could barely pick up the pace at all – it felt like I was slowing down! This is when I started to panic. I had another 15k to run on this same loop – how could I be feeling so bad so soon? Coming into transition to start the 2nd loop I used the cheers of the crowd to rally me into a better mental state for loop 2.
Powerman runBack to that first long climb. Was I walking? No. Did it look like I was walking. I’m sure it did. I knew I needed to maintain a pace similar to the 1st loop to secure the gold medal – I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. At that moment my stomach started growling. I nailed my nutrition as planned – the same as I did for American Zofingen and as I had practiced in training. My body was obviously in need of more fuel though. At the first aid station I grabbed a section of a banana and the relief was almost immediate. I suddenly felt like myself again and was picking up the pace. I figured if my stomach had been growling I was probably at quite a deficit so I continued to grab banana at every aid station in addition to taking my gels on schedule. That was just what I needed! The beauty of a long race is that sometimes you have the time to recover from an error. I’m very grateful that my stomach gave me the signal I needed to salvage that run. I was able to enjoy the rest of the race and this time on that final downhill 2k I could kick it into gear knowing the finish line was near.

Running back into the “stadium” for the finish was anti-climatic because, as those who watched the live feed know, the elite flower ceremony was taking place as I was finishing. The crowd was quiet and all eyes were on the podium. I was just happy to see that finish line knowing I was under my goal of 8 hours. As I turned the final corner there were some USA spectators cheering me on as they held out a flag for me to carry across the line. Unfortunately I didn’t see this until I was passing them and I didn’t have it in me to turn around and grab it. I was ready to pass through that finish line and head straight to the bathroom 🙂

Team USA had an excellent showing at Zofingen taking home quite a few medals! It was great to make some amazing new friends and reconnect with others – that is hands down the best gift I’ve received from this sport.

Medal ceremony

Medal ceremony

Some of the athletes have raced there more than once. I was proud to say that I had no desire to come back and do it again. I checked it off the list. Done! I will honestly say that at first I was disappointed to be competing at a World Championship event with such small numbers. After racing I had a different outlook knowing that this race is a whole different monster – there’s a reason why the numbers are low – and I was out there competing among the best. On the flight back to the states the next day I was already thinking about what an amazing experience that race was, and then my thoughts turned to how I could improve on my performance now that I know the course and discovered a major error in my fueling. By the time I arrived home I was ready to sign up for 2016 🙂
medalResults:
Finishing time – 7:53
10k run – 37:24
150k bike – 4:51:20
30k run – 2:21:20
8th Overall Female
2nd Overall Amateur Female
1st in 35-39 Age Group
Calories burned – 9,500

 

A well-executed race plan – American Zofingen

Apprehensive, intimidated, anxious – these are just a few words to describe how I was feeling in the weeks leading up to this race. I was not worried about the 20 total miles of trail running – that would be the fun part for me. My concern was the 84 mile bike in between. My longest ride of the year was 61.57 miles – 2 loops of training on the course – and that was a month ago. I actually haven’t ridden more than 84 miles since 2012 and I haven’t raced more than 56 miles since…gulp…2005! Yes, I’ve been a slacker on the bike. Not that I haven’t been riding, but when it comes to endurance training I’ve been devoting my time to running 🙂

I even emailed a few friends last week to discuss my thoughts about possibly dropping down to a shorter distance (as it turns out many racers did). Luckily along with my vote the ruling was to stick with the long course race. 1) I am training for Powerman Zofingen (for which this race is modeled after) in September, and 2) once I put it out there that I’m racing long course I don’t want to back down! I knew that completing the distance wouldn’t be an issue – my bigger concern was how much of a hole I would put myself into with my first 50 miler (2nd attempt) only 2 weeks after. It was time to come up with a smart race plan and execute it. And that’s just what I did.

My next concern was the heat. Yes I’ve talked about my infamous heat stroke quite a bit and you’re probably sick of hearing about it but it was honestly the scariest thing that has ever happened to me athletically and it is something I take very seriously. On top of that I have dropped out of 3 races since then due to heat, and that is 3 races too many for me! The temps for today were set to reach 87 along with high humidity. Add to that a very challenging course and I knew I had to pay much attention to how I was feeling.

Speaking of the course, let me give you a quick rundown. It starts with a 5 mile trail run at Spring Farm in Mohonk Preserve. The 5 mile loop contains 900 feet of climbing. You run through grass fields, over wood plank bridges, through single track, over rock and root-filled ascents and descents, and the best part – the forgiving carriage roads.

Run course elevation profile

Run course elevation profile

Next you head out on the bike for 3 loops totaling 84 miles, with 8,406 feet total climbing. The toughest climb greets you right as you leave the park so you better finish that run feeling good!

Bike course elevation profile

Bike course elevation profile

It was a very small start line for the long course athletes who went off at 7:00 am – the F1 (middle course) distance is the most popular event featuring a 5 mile run/29 mile bike/5 mile run/29 mile bike/5 mile. After the bagpipe played the National Anthem we were off to woods! The pace was totally relaxed and it felt great. I knew the key to this race was to take it easy on that first run and I picked the right person to keep me in check – last year’s winner Colin Martin. I was loving the course and loving the pace – the first 3 miles have the toughest climbs and for the last 2 you can really settle in. I finished my first run in 39:18 and was feeling awesome!

Time to head out on the bike with a plan – hold back. After tackling that first climb you meet an equally intense descent. Saturday night’s rain left us with foggy conditions and wet roads this morning and I found myself being extremely cautious – hoping that by the 2nd loop I could have a little more fun here. Otherwise loop 1 was uneventful – I settled in and focused on not worrying about what was happening behind me. Having trained on this course I felt very comfortable with the terrain which was definitely a benefit going into this race. My goal was to make it through lap 1 without being passed (by females) and I was thrilled to make it to the park meeting that goal.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Out onto loop 2 – that first climb felt tougher but I tried not to think about the fact that I would need to tackle it one more time. The fog had lifted and the roads were drying so I was able to open up a bit more on the descent. Next it was time to settle into the long trek up to Minnewaska. I felt stronger than I had on the first loop and this was a huge mental boost for me. But now it was time to focus on my hydration plan. Racers were alerted the day before the race that the nutrition/hydration sponsor failed to send the supplies the race organizers needed to stock this race. They would have bottles of water and limited bottles of Heed on the course. This meant I would be stopping to mix my own bottles of hydration – not ideal but worth it for me to take the time in order to have what I really need in these conditions.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

I arrived at the bottle exchange on loop 2 and pulled over to see what was available. Luckily they had a bottle of Heed so I dropped my 2 empty bottles in exchange for 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle of Heed. The problem was that the replacement bottles were tall, but instead of taking the time to dump the contents into my existing (smaller) bottles I worked one into the bottle holder on my tiny frame and placed the water into my cage between my aerobars. This went smoothly and off I pedaled. Not even 1/4 mile down the road I hit a bump and the bottle between my bars launched – it was too tall to properly sit in there. I stopped and turned around to retrieve it thinking it was not a good idea to go without. As I picked it up off the side of the road the water was gushing out of it – the bottle had cracked and was useless. Oh well – I wasn’t going to go back to the water exchange – I could make it to the next exchange with the bottle of Heed. I saw more of these bottles on the road along the way – I think other riders had the same fate.

Finishing loop 2 I swapped the empty Heed bottle for 1 bottle of water. No point in trying to place another one between my bars and this also wasn’t the place to stop and mix a drink as I was about to climb the toughest section for the last time (yay!). Although a snafu with my Garmin didn’t allow me to track each loop of the bike, I am sure this final loop was my slowest. But I was still holding the lead and was now determined to make it through the 84 mile ride in first place. I was very happy to get to that last aid station so I could grab a new bottle and mix what I now believe was my secret weapon in beating the heat at this race. I pulled over for a bottle and ripped open my tube of Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration Mix and it was like an egg timer slowly emptying into my bottle. I was at that anxious point of the race feeling like there would be someone coming up right behind me so I impatiently forced about 3/4 of the package into my bottle and was on my way! The plan was to drink that whole bottle down before I finished the bike.
skratchNormally I consume 100-150 calories per hour on the bike but with a race of this length I decided I should aim for higher. I decided on 200-250 calories per hour on the bike. I wasn’t sure how this would work for me because I have a hard time taking in calories in that kind of heat but I stuck to the plan and I’m glad I did.

I was so excited to see that aid station one last time as I turned into the park to transition to the run under my goal time for the bike. The transition was smooth and I grabbed my hand-held bottle of the Skratch Labs Hyper Hydration mix that I had prepared anticipating a great need for it during the run. I was really excited to be off the bike and moving onto my strength. That excitement disappeared super-quick as soon as I made my way through the torturous gazebo and out onto the loop. The gazebo is agonizing because you pass through it every loop while the racers from the 2 other distances are enjoying the post-race party. It is great to have a cheering section but when you have to go back out there and run that loop, and then again, and then again…it is tough!

Back to my legs – they were feeling nothing short of tanked. I felt really good about my bike and now I was experiencing the fallout from the effort and distance that I was not trained for. I couldn’t prevent the negative talk from creeping in. If I felt this bad during mile 1 of this 15 mile run, I could very easily destroy my whole race. I stuck with the plan of power-hiking the steep climbs. I mean, that’s all I could do at this point. Minus the “power” part. Seeing that first aid station was like a desert oasis – I was stumbling in, trying to take in a gel, and unable to answer the extremely helpful volunteers who were offering me drinks. I took a few seconds to drink a full cup of water and then dump a full one over my head. I did this at every single stop (3 per loop) through the rest of the race while also nursing the bottle of Skratch.

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

Photo credit: Martin Weiner

After leaving that first aid station I started to perk up and by mile 3 I was finally starting to come around. Yes! I’m back! Finishing that first loop I looked at the race clock and felt confident enough to change my race goal to 8:15. If I could continue the next 2 loops at the effort I finally found at the end of the 1st one, I could do this! And that’s exactly how it went. At each aid station I took the time to get what I needed to keep me going. During both the 2nd and 3rd loops Jared told me my lead was 25 minutes. Although I wasn’t running strong by any means I now knew that I could back off even more. I had the 50-miler in 2 weeks to think about. And think about it I did. If I am feeling like this at Cayuga, will I back off and just finish? NO! I will power through and finish as strong as my body will allow. So that’s what I did. Around mile 3 you have the long steady downhill on carriage roads and I ran that section conservatively throughout the race to save my quads. Now I picked it up – time to leave it out there and get that time goal. When I came around the corner with the gazebo in sight I saw 8:14 on the race clock. Yes!

I set my goals for this race based off the winning performances from past races. I set slightly higher run goals and gave myself a little cushion on the bike since I didn’t feel like I would have a strong day. It feels good to meet all of your goals:

Goal Actual
sub- :45 1st run 39:18
sub- 5:15 bike 5:08:28
sub- 2:30 2nd run 2:25:19
sub- 8:30 8:15 Overall 8:14:27

As far as I could look back at results, the 2nd fastest time for this race was 8:34:55 in 2006. I have no idea if this race course has changed over the years. Do I have a course record? I don’t know. I am extremely happy with this race because I executed my race plan and I conquered the heat. 2 big wins! And now I feel like I have a great practice race under my belt for the main event – Powerman Zofingen – in September!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this cool race video!

Congrats to everyone who endured that heat on a tough course!

Maryland Olympic Duathlon

This was my 3rd year racing Rip It Event’s Maryland Olympic Duathon and the 3rd year I’ve had a great experience with a well-run event. Dan, Suzy and their crew have race organization and execution nailed! This is what keeps bringing me back year after year.

I arrived at Western Regional Park and was greeted with the usual flawless procedure. Suzy sees me and grabs my packet for me – no waiting. Then I quickly gain entry to the transition to find my marked spot. I am a total creature of habit and thrive on consistency. Knowing that I can show up at this race each year and have everything run so smoothly means I can stay focused on pre-race prep. As an added bonus this year, the elite field had T-Blocks for racking their bikes. If you have experienced racing with these, you understand how exciting this was! Especially when you are vertically challenged like me and your mini bike always dangles from the rack. I knew that faster transition times were on tap today! (my 1st transition was 2 seconds faster and my 2nd transition 5 seconds faster than last year!)

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

Elite female bikes in the T-BLOCKS

After a short warm-up (man that humidity was already thick for my now-northern blood!) it was time to line up at the start with the tough competition this race draws year after year. I didn’t have an exact plan or strategy for this race. I feel totally comfortable with the course and although last year was a bit of a let-down, my plan was simply to improve on last year’s time. I wasn’t feeling great but I wasn’t feeling bad either. My biggest hang-up was not having race wheels on my bike, but I figured I would use that disadvantage to ride harder 😉

Elite female start

Elite female start

The gun went off – I am used to leading the first run at this race but that wasn’t the case this year! Last year Julia Roman-Duval, the super-runner, was hot on my heels and came into T1 a mere 3 seconds behind me. This year about 1/4 mile in she made her pass, and I was smart to let her go! She was running strong and it wouldn’t have been a good idea for me to try to stay with her. I finished the first 2 mile loop in 12:14 – 9 seconds slower than last year and 10 seconds behind Julia. I was able to make up that time and was first out of T1 onto the bike course for the lonely first loop through the rolling hills of Western Howard County. Once again the course was well-marked and well-staffed with volunteers – a fun yet challenging ride!

Heading out on the bike

Heading out on the bike

It was like deja-vu as I was finishing loop 1 of the bike – at the last turn I looked back to see Emily Richard closing fast. Starting the second loop she made her pass but I didn’t let it get me down. I planned to keep her in sight and reminded myself of Nationals in May where I was able to come from behind after being passed on the bike. If I didn’t let her get too big of a gap, I should be able to make it up on the final 4 mile run. The rest of the ride was uneventful. No other females passed me so I kept my confidence high. I felt comfortable but still not as strong as I would like to feel. Despite not having race wheels this year my bike was 11 seconds faster than last year.
bike

T2 - ready to run

T2 – ready to run

Coming into T2, as I was running the bike in I saw Emily heading out onto her run. I had work to do. Normally my second run is where I feel strong, but this time my legs felt like I was running through peanut butter. I was not happy about this and hoped I would feel some improvement quick. I saw Emily up ahead and she was running strong. I felt like I was slowly closing the gap but was going to need more if I wanted to make this happen. We made our way down the hill to the 180 turn to head back up. I drew from my strength on the hills and convinced myself I could do this. As we entered the park I started closing on her and at about 1 1/2 miles in I made my pass.

I don’t feel comfortable making a pass if I can’t create some cushion with it. Coming towards the transition to start loop 2 a spectator told me she was right there – just as I expected. I used the crowd to draw some energy as I headed out onto loop 2. The heat and humidity were taking their toll – nothing unusual at this race! With only 2 miles to go it was time to dig deep. Did I think about last weekend’s race up a mountain? You bet! I told myself that these hills were nothing compared to what I endured at Loon Mountain.

That was the motivation I needed to push me to the finish. I made my way up the little risers into the park and knew right where I wanted to launch my final push. At this point I saw that I had a substantial gap so I didn’t need to turn myself inside out. As I neared the finish line I saw that I was about to beat last year’s time. Success! I was over 2 minutes faster than last year for the win! Still not as fast as my first victory in 2012, but I was happy with how the race played out. Next year I definitely need to shoot for a PR!
finishAnother awesome MD Olympic Du in the books – well worth the trip. I always meet such awesome competitors at these races. Emily Richard, Jessica Koltz, Julia Roman-Duval, Jennifer Cortesi and Alison Gittelman made up the elite field of women, and they were all the most friendly and fierce athletes. It was also nice to see other familiar faces in the mix. Laura Bergmann took the age group overall, Tracy Lempke took 4th in her age group, and Jim Drumm took 6th in his age group. Congrats to all!

Me (1), Emily Richard (2), Jessica Koltz (3)

Me (1), Emily Richard (2), Jessica Koltz (3)

Run 1 – 12:14.0
T1 – :48.9
Bike – 1:16.01
T2 – :52.4
Run 2 – 27:21.0
Total – 1:57:18.1

 

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

Spring Dual Race Report

spring dualRace #1 for the weekend was the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis. It had all of the elements of a great race – less than 1 mile from home, a short but intense distance to warm up for the upcoming season, and it raised money for a great cause.

It had rained the previous night leaving wet roads, but we were lucky that the weather cooperated with us race morning. For a small local race, I was excited to see some sexy bikes and fast athletes in transition. This was going to be fun!
StartThe runs were identical – a 2 mile loop – half on a cinder rail trail and half on the road. My plan was to take it slightly easier on the rail trail, and then open up once we turned onto the road heading back to transition. The plan worked well and I came into T1 with an 11:53 split. Despite realizing during the national anthem that I left my gloves in transition (frozen fingers strike again), I had an uneventful T1 as I headed out onto the bike course.
1st TransitionThe bike was a 12 mile TT – an out-and-back on a flat road. It was here that I noticed my lack of training outside. It wasn’t windy per se, but it sure felt like it as I struggled to maintain a respectable pace. After the turnaround I felt a little more settled in and was able to pull off a negative split. That was probably due to 1) seeing the chasing females behind me, and 2) perhaps there was a tailwind 🙂

It’s always exciting for me to get off the bike and start run #2, because that is where I feel strongest. As you may have already seen in the video that was posted, as I was dismounting the bike I hit the brakes only to have the rear tire fishtail behind me. Oops! Gotta get those first race mishaps out of the way. The roads were still wet, and I had my training wheels on the bike – that tire has been on the trainer for over a year and is in desperate need of replacing!
2nd TransitionTime to finish the race with the 2nd run. And this is where I put the most thought in prior to the race. With a tough trail race the following day, I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to push if I had a big enough lead. But at the same time I don’t like getting into the habit of “letting up” when I feel confident in my lead. I was feeling good at this point so I decided to stick with a solid 2nd run. I aimed at passing a few of the guys and finishing strong. Had I been paying attention to my splits I would have tried to push that 2nd run a little harder to more closely match the first run, but I was happy with my finish.
FinishOverall the race was great! Well-organized, great volunteers, and a fun course. Other than needing some more work on the bike, I felt great. Now it was time to have a celebratory lunch at Karma Road with some friends – Evan and Jess who tackled their first duathlon – and smiled the whole way!
Evan and JessNext up on the duathlon schedule…Cary Du Classic🙂

Run 1 – 11:53
T1 – :31
Bike – 31:50
T2 – :33
Run 2 – 12:34
Total – 57:22

* all photos courtesy of Jared Avigliano