Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catching up...

I've been putting off this post as I've been waiting for some race results to be posted. It's Thursday and the race was on Saturday and still no results, what's up with that??

The weekend presented a choice as to where to race. There were three triathlons that I could choose from, Charlottesville Sprint, Bath County Sprint or the Davis Health Sprint in Elkins WV. I've done the C'ville Sprint the last two years and have done well, but I wanted a new challenge. The Bath County race is highly regarded and I knew a bunch of people racing. It's always fun to race with friends but I couldn't take the plunge into Lake Moomaw this year. Elkins was the choice, free place to stay (thanks Matt) and I could hang out with fraternity brothers. Plus Elkins is one of my favorite places, the gateway to the mountains. Elkins is where I went to school, at Davis & Elkins College. The campus hosted the race with the swim in the pool where I lifeguarded for work-study. When I got my registration, I checked to see if the ceiling tile had been replaced. Back in college there was a tile that was missing above the deep end and we would climb up into the steel rafters and drop through the tile into the pool 25 feet below. Ah memories. The run was on the trails that I raced on while on the cross country team. Yeah, I ran cross country in college, actually it was more of a jog. It was a great experience to run for Coach Will. These trails were also the first ones on which I rode a mountain bike, a purple Trek 930. Ah memories.

The swim was 8 laps in the pool for 400 yards. I'm terrible at counting laps, but there were volunteers there to count and let you know when you were on the final lap. Well, the lady counting for me was as good at it as I am and as I jumped out of the pool, I heard "you did an extra lap." That's okay, it's a training race and if it had been an open water swim, I would've zig zagged my way to those extra 50 yards.

Jumping on the road bike, I knew I should've ridden it more than once in the past few weeks. I would have been more comfortable in the aero bars. I quickly got into a rhythm and started reeling in people from my wave. After the turn around point and the screaming downhill I had moved pass everyone who had started in the wave before me. What a fun course, even with the hills. I like hills, I keep telling myself that. One day I may believe it.

Off the bike and onto the trails I pushed it, trying to keep my leg speed up. All I could think of was how much fun I was having on the run. Damn these trails are fun. I was cracking jokes with the race volunteers as I went by them. The run finishes with a long section on grass which was soft from the rain the day before. Quick Feet. Quick Feet and then I was done. I packed up and waited for the awards. My goal was to win this race, I was highly motivated to do well on a course that bestowed a lot of great memories. My name wasn't called for the overall winner and they didn't do awards for second and third place. I did win the 35-39 age group, I think my time would've placed me second overall, but that's the first loser. I'll be back next year for another go at the overall.

Back to Elkins.

( has photos here)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

XTERRA East Championship

This year's race was a helluva lot better than last year. I took over 20 minutes off of my time from last year, when I completely blew up on the run. Faster on each of the legs this year. The hard work and great training plan from Allez Training Systems is paying off.

This year's run hurt, a lot. But not as bad as last year. I had a solid swim and bike leg and if I could've had a better first half of the run, I would've taken even more time off. But that's XTERRA, it's hard to have all three events of the race come together. The swim has a lot of rock scrambling, and even with that, I sighted well and stayed on course. I felt good the entire time i was in the water, and came out ready for the ride. The bike was pretty much the same course as the off road duathlon nationals in April, with one extra section tacked on in the beginning on Belle's Island. I went over the bars once, and was happy to give the spectators a good show of it. I landed on my face, but somehow was able to knock my right brake lever out of position. Nothing too bad though. I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow.

I caught up with my IF teammate Steve on the second half of the course. He was rocking the Deluxe singlespeed on the tight sections, but was spinning out on the power sections. That's the only reason I saw him, I had the luxury of pushing a big gear. He crushed the run while I didn't. I had some stomach issues from the last gel I ate in T2. It threw my stomach into knots and it wasn't until the halfway point that I started feeling better and could stretch mystride out. I pushed it across the 'dry way' where we had to run across the dry river bed and passed a few people. Then I started to feel the onset of hamstring cramps. I knew they were coming, but kept my pace high, nothing to do but keep moving forward. At the top of Belle's, the cramp hit with a fury and I hobbled along till it subsided. I followed a couple of racers off course and once we realized it was the wrong way, doubled back and got back on track. I was pissed and even with the the hammie on the verge of seizing again I pushed the pace again on the bridge back to the north shore and the finish.

After the race, it took a while for my stomach to finally settle down. Luckily it did by the time Steve, Jeff and I went for burgers.

Speaking of Jeff, he laced up running shoes on Saturday and beat his goal in the 10k trail race. Nice Job, now he just needs to put the run and bike together in a duathlon.

That's about it, i'm going to bed.


here are a few images from the race, thanks Shawn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Age Group Worlds...

Nope, I didn't go. But my friend Connie from H'burg did and represented the Shenandoah Valley quite well. Here are her words:

HI All,
So….did I tell you it was cold in Vancouver? Air temp at race time yesterday was something like 13C (mid 50s) I know you all are sweltering in the heat…not sure which I would have rather had yesterday, but know that I had no control over that, so why waste energy on it!

For those of you that haven’t checked the results yet, the preliminary results show me finishing 13th in my age group, 5th USA athlete. I’m very happy with that and look forward to checking my splits (I haven’t accessed the website yet). Rumor is that if you wanted to, you could have followed my race “LIVE” on the web and perhaps even watched as I crossed the finish line. I was waving the American flag with pride and felt good enough to do the double clutch fist in the air. Last night I thought it would have been great to stop and say “HI MOM AND DAD” into the camera!

So, what was it like? The swim was in 12C water (this is about 55F). VERY COLD with a strong chop (some white caps). After testing the water the previous day, I knew my face, hands a feet would be very cold about 10 min. into the swim. The good news was that because of the cold water, they had shortened the swim to 1200 meters (rather than 1500). Hey, 300 helps! However, they didn’t anticipate the chop as the previous days has been crystal smooth. So, I guess I would describe the swim as “wash in cold with like colors”. After all, we were all women, 40-44 wearing green caps). However, last I knew, humans do usually need to be washed in cold! I did more breaststroke in is race than I ever have. The large waves were not coming rhythmically, which made it very difficult to get into any kind of swim rhythm. But, the good news is that with waves that big to be concerned with, I didn’t really feel the cold! I also learned that a layer of Vaseline on the face helps to keep it warmer. As the morning progressed, the water had gotten worse, and the race directors decided to cancel the swim for all of the competitors starting 2 waves after me (I was in the second to last one they let go…they had to pull so many people out, that it was getting unsafe). I think I would have felt “let down” not being able to swim at a World Championship, but like those who didn’t get to swim, I respect the decision of the race directors. They have a responsibility for safety and not making that decision could have meant something drastic, especially for some of the older competitors who were supposed to be next into the water.
Out of the water into T1. Got the wetsuit unzipped just fine, but couldn’t for the life of me undo the Velcro closure at the neck. I stood there trying and trying to get it undone with my frozen hands, but it wasn’t happening. I was getting jealous watching everybody else get out of their wetsuits and get on the bike. I had already planned a “long” transition to put on some warmer clothing (sock, gloves, vest, arm warmers)…but this was getting ridiculous! Finally, got it open, got out of it really fast, got my gear on, and took off running through T1 in my bike shoes (not easy, and different than usual, but didn’t want my socks to be wet and muddy in my shoes, so….had to run in them).

On the bike, I finally put my gloves on, while riding no handed (don’t know if that is an ITU rule violation or not, but I didn’t get caught). I had put toe warmers in my gloves and my shoes. They worked better in the gloves and my hands were toasty warm in minutes. My feet weren’t so lucky and I had cold feet and legs for most of the ride. The bike course was AWESOME. Four beautiful loops (10K each) around a park with nice rolling hills, great views of the water (when you took time to look) and trees lining most of it. One “challenging” climb that required the small chainring, but the rest was hammer time. Great downhills with sweeping and a few sharp turns. I felt good on the bike and hit my rhythm quickly. I passed a few in my age group, and got passed by a few, but think I pretty much held my spot.

Into T2, much better experience, but my feet were numb as I started out on the run. I quickly caught and passed one of my USA teammate (who beat me in Portland last year), and felt like I was running well…except for the numb feet. I left my red arm warmers on figuring if I got too hot with them on, I could easily take them off and carry them or stick them in the back of my shorts! The run was about 3 loops with some interesting navigating sections. Relatively flat, but not totally. The fun part of a Worlds race is usually the run because they do multiple loops (as opposed to an out and back or one big loop) and the run course is lined with people cheering and yelling, GO USA! Very motivating to not let your country down. So, as my feet thawed out and I started to feel the pain on the 3rd loop, I had “help” to keep me going. I think my run split was around 43 min. which, if I’m correct, is one of my better run times. I also held off (actually put time on) another TEAM USA competitor that had caught me in Portland last year on the run. So, this was also motivating. As we approached the finish line, there was a TEAM USA support staff person handing out flags to us to grab for the finish. How exhilarating.

So, I finished 13th in my age group (at least according to the preliminary results), 5th USA athlete and am very happy with my performance. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to represent my country, the health, fitness and ability, and the support and encouragement from my friends and especially my family. It is so much fun to be a part of a team while participating in an individual sport. I was cheering and encouraging my friends and team members throughout my race and afterward as a spectator. Now I’m off to cheer on our USA PROS who are competing this afternoon for their respective World Championships. This is a “preview” of the Olympics and should be awesome. Unfortunately for them, the weather is wet and rainy today. While it was cold for us yesterday, at least it was dry. So…that being said….I’m off. GO USA.

Thanks Mom and Dad….I love you.


Congratulations Connie, helluva race.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

the wilds of West Virginia...

Big Water.
Big Run.
Big Mountain Bike.
In a Big Canyon.

Minden West Virginia is the home of ACE Adventure Center, the host and promoter of this race. I arrived on Saturday just in time to pick up my registration packet and then decided not to partake in the $5 pasta meal as I needed to check in to the hotel. ACE provides free camping to the competitors, but I've had enough camping so it was off to the Holiday Inn.
This race in unique in a couple of ways; one, the transistions are in separate areas and it's a swim-Run-bike as opposed to the normal swim-bike-run format. Another quirk of this race is the Run takes longer than the Bike. Well it is West Virginia, ya gotta love it. Set up the T2 transition and caught up with some friends at the race. Shawn was there with Denelle and would be doing his first XTERRA event, he had a wetsuit and everything.
On the bus for the drive to T1, nothing but idle chatting and a few race nerves, not as bad a last year though. Set the T1 area up and back on the bus for the 1.5 mile drive up river to the start. I positioned myself at the front and in the middle of the start with the idea that I'd be more authoritative with my swim start. Last year's races I would start to the side and towards the back. At the sound of 'Go' I was in the mix and headed for the fast water of the channel. I felt good for the first 100 to 150 meters, then started to get a bit winded, time to back off a bit now that I was out of the Thrash Zone. A little ways down the river was a set of rapids, I love downhill swims but the water moving as fast as it was, well it was a bit disconcerting. I pulled my head up to sight as I entered the waves and had to switch to a breaststroke. This lasted about 5 feet as I got a face full of water and quickly went to a sidestroke. okay, no need to panic, just get through this section. A safety kayaker was staring at me and I gave them a thumbs up as the water turned flat again. Those 50 or so feet of fast water induced a nice little panic attack. I pulled myself together and got my crawl back on track. I was feeling smooth and started reeling other swimmers in, a novel occurrence for me. Soon the swim was over and I trudged my way up to T1.
The run starts off flat and parallels the river along an abandoned railroad grade. I got great advice from Bill S. last year to hold back on this flat section to keep from blowing up on the first climb/technical section and I followed it again this year. I passed a few people on this flat section but never felt taxed and was fresh for the first climb, where I moved ahead of a couple of other racers. Moving onto the fireroad climb, I reeled in more people. Looking back I think I could've turned it up a notch or two on the run as I had some gas left in the tank. But I didn't want a reoccurence of the leg cramps from last year. I'm still learning how far and fast I can push the body. Onto the singletrack sections, I had the running mantras going through my head, "Solid Feet" on the loose or technical sections and "Light Feet" on the fast sections. Over and Over in my head these kept me focused on the trail ahead. Towards the end of the run, I saw someone in front of me and I thought it might have been John, a racer I meet at this race last year. As I came around him, I saw that it was John, and he say's that this run is never ending. I laugh and agree with him. I make it to T2 just before him and as I'm entering the singletrack on my Deluxe, I can hear John behind me.
Well, it's the bike leg and time to pay the rent. I let it roll fast and smooth on the first section and by the time I hit the first climb all I hear is my own tires and breathing. I pass a few people on the bike and try to roll where I can and keep my momentum up. I had no bad sections or brain farts, didn't dab any technical sections. Other than Rigor Mortis trail, but I knew before the race I'd dismount and walk here. It's not very long, and rideable. And Sketchy, I'm of the frame of mind that you can't make up time here but you sure can lose time. Maybe it's wisdom from old age OR plenty of scar tissue... Like the run, i probably should've pushed a bit harder on the bike leg. I felt good and never felt overexteneded, ok lesson learned.
I finish the day in 7th place overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group. My time was 3 minutes faster than last year and I improved from 10th/3rd placings as well. No cramping and other than a slight upset stomach from having my cytomax mixed too strong I felt good. Jeff W. from ACE handed out a bunch of swag and after collecting my 2nd place medal I headed off the mountain and back to Virginia.
I highly recommend ACE Adventure Center and look forward to making this race a family vacation in a couple of years. Thanks to Jeff at Allez Training Systems and to Connie, the work is paying off. Also a nod of the helmet to Independent Fabrication and for all the support. And thanks to Holly and Parker. I couldn't do this without you.