Category Archives: Races

2016 Armory NYC Indoor Marathon Recap

This past weekend, I ran my first marathon—as part of a relay team known as the Flat Feet Social Club. (Check that link—race organizers interviewed us!) Comprised of endurance athletes, our group convenes for quirky events and turns off our collective competitive switch. Having fun at the inaugural Armory NYC Indoor Marathon was our top priority, but we still finished third in our division. (There were options to run the 26.2 miles as an all-male, all-female, or mixed relay.)

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What a bunch of 3:15 marathoners look like–when each person runs 6.5 miles.

At first glace, this seems like a crazy event. After all, who would willingly run a marathon around a 200m indoor track? That’s 211 laps! But endurance cray cray loves company, and when my friend proposed the idea, I didn’t shoot it down right away.  In fact, I was intrigued.  A team relay, the 26.2 miles would be broken up four ways. ‘OK, I can handle 6.5 miles on a track.’ Plus, since we were going into the race with zero time goals, I could treat it as a workout. And if this was going to be a solid sportz day, then asking my coach for permission to brick—and riding on my indoor trainer beforehand—seemed like an even better idea.  So I may be a little endurance cray cray …

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Round and round we went.

A few logistical notes:  there were more than 500 athletes registered  (either solo or as part of a two-, four-, six- or eight-person relay), and to avoid congestion, each team selected a date and time to run. The event started Friday morning and continued through Sunday, and although Flat Feet Social Club originally signed up for the “graveyard” shift from 6-9:30 a.m. on Saturday, we ultimately ran at 9:30 a.m. (We also considered the Friday evening shift from 8 p.m. to midnight, but one of our members had a work commitment.) For the relay division, each person could run a total of three times, so we decided to break up the individual workload into 20 loops, 20 loops, and 10 loops.  And during the race itself, each runner wore a bib and affixed a timing chip to their ankle (á la triathlon), and there was an exchange zone sectioned off with cones. There were timing mats at the start and end of the exchange zone that registered who was running and their split.

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It felt weird to be wearing a timing chip and not have a bunch of swimming and cycling gear with me too.

All right. I could write a play-by-play of every loop or mile or leg, but instead, I’ll share a few takeaways that made the experience memorable.

The DJ was on point.  If you have 18 or so relay teams running in a circle for hours on end, then the music has to keep everyone pumped.  There were a lot of top-40 tunes, but one of my favorite moments was when Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” played. During my high school basketball days, that song was our theme song during sectionals. I loved remembering those times, and I also loved how I was running, and Tom Petty was singing about running down dreams.

Race logistics were smooth, especially given the relay component and inaugural event status. My team totally overthought the whole keeping track of laps aspect—we talked about buying a whiteboard and marking off loops—but we eventually realized we could use the lap feature on our Garmins. (Who said all triathletes are tech geeks?) The hand-off section was clearly marked on the track, and there were various screens that displayed time, distance, and laps to go. We didn’t look at them a ton given our self-described “non-competitive” status, but it was neat seeing how we stacked up against everyone else.

I viewed the “race” as a workout; I went in very loose and without a pace plan other than to run on feel. (I had my Garmin, but only used it to count laps.) Plus, being on a 200m track provided valuable race simulation experience. I practiced reeling in people ahead of me and made a conscious effort to focus on form. I hung tough when rough mental patches arrived (like when I was ready to be off the track after 10 laps during my first stint).

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Somehow, I managed to not get any official race photos, but this is a screen shot from a video clip one of my teammates took.

And overall, it was a great workout:  I covered the 6.5 miles in 48 minutes (7:23 min./mi.). The track was fast, and I felt smooth, strong, and in control of the effort the entire time. And this feeling gives me confidence I can hit and hold a similar pace when I run off the bike at Nationals.

Bottom line, the Flat Feet Social Club had a blast, and we plan to return next year—and we’re also researching our next relay. (Hint: there’s camping involved.)

I should mention that although we didn’t stick around for the individual marathon heats, both the men’s and women’s indoor records were broken. One of our NYAC runners smashed the women’s record and ran a 2:44:44!

Have you completed an indoor and/or relay event? What did you think?

2016 NYRR Spring Classic 10-K Recap

This past Sunday, I ran my first race of 2016:  NYRR’s Spring Classic 10-K.  Normally, I wouldn’t pay to run in Central Park, but the entry fee was only $10. (It was open only to NYRR members, and there weren’t t-shirts, medals, etc. ) And that’s a cheap pricetag for quality racing experience. Also, Earl and Coach Pat wanted a check-in race to gauge my running fitness.

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No photos during the race, of course–I snapped this one as I cooled down.

Of course, I wanted a strong showing, but Earl and Coach Pat made it very clear the main objective was executing the race plan and running on feel (i.e. not shooting for a PR).  With this in mind, we decided that although I would turn on my Garmin to capture data, I would not look at my watch during the race.  Running is extremely mental for me.  Although I’m becoming fitter, faster, and stronger, seeing certain values (read: anything in the sevens) intimidates me and makes me second guess whether I can sustain the pace.  And as we determined from my splits below, thank GAWD I didn’t look at my watch.

Mile #1 – 7:56 – “Let it happen”

The opening mile contained Harlem Hill, so we figured this would be my slowest mile of the race.  I didn’t complete a long enough warm-up, so I was still finding my rhythm here, and I was pleasantly surprised how smooth I felt while climbing the hill.  Thanks to my Sunday Snowman Challenge, I’ve run Harlem Hill frequently so I knew how to pace it:  I broke it up into three sections and gradually increased the effort as I neared the top.  “Let [the first mile] happen,” Earl advised.  “It was going to be what it’s going to be.”

Mile #2 – 7:43 and mile #3 – 7:32 – “Let the course do the work.”

A few days before the race, Earl and I talked strategy, and he said it was important to let the course do the work.  That meant absorbing the “punches” on the uphills and making the necessary cadence adjustments and then smoothing out the effort on the downhills.  My mantra during these two miles along the West Side Rollers was “let the course do the work” and “smooth, strong, and controlled.”  If I had seen my splits during these two miles, especially the 7:32, I would’ve freaked out and eased off the gas—I didn’t and continued to run on feel.

Mile #4 – 7:58

With Cat Hill coming up, I ran the little hill conservatively.  This was also the point in the race the lactic acid started to make itself known in my legs.

Mile #5 – 8:07 – “Hang on”

Dun, dun, duuuun: Cat Hill.  Like Harlem Hill, I broke it into three sections, but struggled to find the next gear as I neared the top.  In hindsight, this was the race’s TKO punch.  My legs felt dunzo, and although “hang on” was not the most positive mindset, that’s exactly what I was doing.

Mile #6 – 7:45 – “I’m dragging.”

Again, I’m really glad I did not look at my watch.  My legs felt heavy, and I felt like I was running through molasses; it felt like a 9:00 min./mi. pace.  It’s important to run your own race, but around this time, I listened to the people alongside of me; they were totally gassed.  I was still breathing easily.  And that’s been the story of my running life—feeling the burn in my legs and not my lungs.

Last bit – 2:04

As per usual, I was feeling a lot of feelings when I finished.  I was surprised with my average pace because it felt like I was running 7:40-7:45 throughout—which, if you take out the Cat Hill mile, is exactly what happened.  It also gives me confidence to know that when I thought I was “dragging” I was actually fine and running a 7:45. It comes down to dialing in my mental game and trusting myself. As Earl said post-race, becoming a better racer physically is the easy part—the challenge is getting your mind to catch up.

How do you power through tough workouts and races?

 

My 2015 Running and Triathloning Recap

So long, 2015! I have mixed feelings saying goodbye to this year. It felt like a roller coaster ride right out of the gate, and almost immediately, there were some big triathlon and work changes. The highs were high, and the lows were low—and I was always on my toes. I did a lot of learning, growing, contemplating, and of course, swimming, biking, and running. Let’s take an easy, zone two jog down memory lane.

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Christmas Eve lakeside bliss

Best race experience

Several factors comprise an awesome race experience. Of course, there’s the training—dedicating yourself to the process and doing everything in your power to prepare for a successful outing—but there’s also the traveling, hanging out with friends, and soaking in the overall race atmosphere. In 2015, I didn’t complete an event that rose above the others as the pinnacle of racing. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure. But I enjoyed every race.

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Post-trail run in Denver. This is why people wear trail shoes.

When I went to South Beach in April, I had a blast hanging out with friends before and after the hotter-than-hot classic-distance event (a.k.a. eating all the food). At Kingston in July, I had fun getting to know my Tailwind Endurance buddies more and executing a decent race given the weather. At Nationals in August, I loved trying on “autopilot” and doing me. A few weeks later, I returned home and did the same course that served as my first triathlon ever, which was a neat way to look back and see my progress. And at the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in November, I proved to myself I am a mentally strong runner who can execute 13.67 solid miles.

Best swim

Swimming and I have an interesting relationship. Simply going to the pool for a workout requires so much logistical coordination: getting my cap, goggles, swimsuit, towel, and flip-flops together; walking the 17 minutes to the facility; jumping in the freezing water and attempting to warm up. It’s a wonder I manage to swim at all! (Full disclosure: I still haven’t been in the water since September.) But I never struggle to swim when I’m in Lake Placid.

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Swimming in Mirror Lake is therapeutic. During these mile outings, my mind wanders. I reflect on the past year or so—the last time I was in Placid is usually the baseline—and what was going on in my life then. I love getting this headspace. Hitting paces and making intervals are the last things on my mind.

But as far as those lung-busting swims go, the best one I had during a race was at Nationals. Not only did I lay down a respectable split, but I also knew within a 15-second ballpark what my time was. (Related: I plan to start swimming again next week.)

Best bike

Thinking back to the time I spent in the saddle, a few things jump out: starting my training early at Tailwind Endurance; sustaining a crash (and concussion); recovering from said crash physically and mentally; logging blissful rides in Placid; and executing a decent 40-K at Nationals. The happiest miles I rode definitely occurred in Placid, but I can’t discount the comeback process.

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Everyone loves a good #TrainerSelfie, especially when it showcases a black eye.

I vividly remember my first outdoor ride post-crash, and even though I was a bit twitchy, the outing restored my confidence.

Best run

I didn’t run to my potential off the bike this year; I never found that effortless, invincible feeling, and I failed to execute strong, mentally sound miles. But that’s OK. These “close, but no cigar” experiences helped me fully devote myself to Philadelphia Half-Marathon training.

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… and refocus my run training

The goal was to run strong and bring home a PR, and this running block catapulted my 2016 triathlon training. And during the race itself, I felt smooth, strong, and confident in my ability to execute.

Best piece of new gear

Santa delivered: hello, power meter!

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Watts, watts, WATTS!

Obviously, I haven’t used it yet, but this tool will revolutionize my racing. I’ll be able to see how many watts I make!

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

This year will go down as the year of the bike crash, and as I mentioned previously, it really forced me to let go and trust the process.

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Head down and getting to work

The crash affected me mentally too, and as I recuperated and approached my races, Earl gave me some sound advice: “Confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.”

Most inspirational runner

Like last year, I continue to train and work with some stellar humans who also run—and they run fast, far, and a lot.

 If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Challenging, humbling, and memorable

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#2015bestnine

Thanks for following along this year–bring it on, 2016!

2015 Philadelphia Half-Marathon Goals

Race week, race week! It’s been three months since I’ve had an event on the calendar, and even though this is not my typical swim-bike-run outing, I’m pumped to take on the Philadelphia Half for the second year in a row. Last year, I had a blast, and even though it will be tough to replicate that race-day experience, I’m excited to escape NYC, spend some quality time with my fam, and *knock on wood* string together 13.1 solid miles.

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Another way to escape the city: retreat to Central Park

As a short-course triathlete, I do not view the Philly Half as a true goal race. This event found its way onto my calendar simply so I’d be motivated to focus on my run during the triathlon off-season—because if left to my own devices, I’ve be making watts around the clock. After my final tri in August, Coach Pat started increasing my running frequency and volume. I’m at the point in my running career where gaining experience (like muscle memory from running all the miles) and confidence (like logging strong 11- and 12-mile outings) is the goal. I will definitely race the half-marathon distance one day—which will most likely be preceded by a 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike—but for now, it’s about continuing to grow and transferring this development to triathlon.

So although there is a race plan for Philly, I feel as though I’ve already won. Thanks to Coach Pat, we’ve once again made productive use of the triathlon off-season, and I’ve improved a lot both physically and mentally as a runner. Going into last year’s Philly Half, I told him that was the most prepared for a race I’ve ever felt—and I feel even stronger and fitter this year. So even if race day doesn’t pan out as planned, I’m proud and motivated by the progress we’ve made—and I’m psyched to keep working at it. Here are my big three goals for Philly; accomplishing them will put me in a really good spot for performing my best.

Stay positive and mentally sound

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Po-si-tive! Po-si-tive! Cheering on the NYC marathoners a few weeks ago.

During this year’s triathlon racing season, my mental game proved to be a limiting factor. In addition to upping my running volume and frequency, Coach Pat also suggested reading Running Within, which helped me a lot, especially in terms of reframing challenges and race happenings (i.e. not swearing when a pocket-friend passes you). You’re always going to experience highs and lows on the run, and I was able to use the strategies outlined to cope with and ultimately overcome challenges. Although I hope it’s all smiles and cute guys like last year, I know there will be low points—and now I have the tools to work through them. Bottom line, I can run 13.1 miles; my mental game will determine just how quickly they get logged.

Execute the plan and focus on the feeling

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Marathon thunderstick fun #TheRabbitLife #branding

Last week, Coach Pat mapped out the race plan and broke it into sections: miles 1-2; miles 2-6; mile 7; miles 7-8; mile 9; and miles 10-13.1. Visualizing the race as smaller chunks helps me a lot mentally, especially when there is a target pace range involved. By focusing on each segment—instead of thinking about all of those 13.1 miles—and locking into the prescribed pace, I increase my chances of staying strong for the entire outing. Thinking about 1-4-mile sections seems much less intimidating too.

That being said, though, I cannot become emotionally attached to the numbers and let them overwhelm me. We have an aggressive plan. I know what I should be feeling. I know it’s sustainable. I just can’t be intimidated by the numeral values that accompany the feeling.

Have confidence—and have fun

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#TheRabbitLife isn’t all fun and games: “For when you just can’t ‘adult’ anymore.”

As one of my triathlon coaches told me before Nationals, “having confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.” My fitness from the tri season has carried over to this run block, and I’ve been able to build on it. I’ve done everything to put myself in the best possible situation for success.

One of my elite runner friends asked how I was feeling in the lead-up, and I told him it will be nice to do a race without the pressure of winning my age group and potentially contending for an overall podium slot. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love racing. But there’s something to be said for toeing the start line and only competing against yourself. Last year, I smiled for 12.5 miles, and it was time I had fun running a half-marathon. I hope to have a similar experience this time around.

2015 Cazenovia Triathlon Recap

This past weekend, I experienced a pretty sweet homecoming at the Cazenovia Triathlon. Held in my teeny tiny hometown, this sprint-distance (0.5-mile swim, 14-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run) event was my first multisport race in 2012, and upon finishing, I was instantly hooked. In 2013 and 2014, this tri took place the same weekend as USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals so it didn’t make my race calendar. This year, though, I was able to swing it—and I notched a big PR: I placed 15th overall, 5th female overall, 1st in my age group, and I shaved nearly 20 minutes off my 2012 finishing time!

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All photos courtsey of my Mom!

Even though I registered for this race in January, I kept it on the DL. I told myself if I had a strong showing in Milwaukee, then I would mostly likely feel OK with ending the season and not doing it. Nationals didn’t quite go as planned, and although I’ve come to terms with what happened out there, I did not want that outing to be the final one. Coach Pat and I have talked at length about Milwaukee and developed a game plan for this race, which was to have fun and hopefully notch a big PR—mission accomplished!

Swim – 800m – 14:41 (6th female overall)

2012 time – 18:43

Unlike the triangular 2012 course, the route this year was a simple out-and-back.

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My wave contained several age groups (women ages 16-39), but I could pick out the “actual swimmers” pretty easily. Right off the bat, I hopped on one girl’s feet and drafted off her for the majority of the swim. I didn’t feel as smooth as I did at Milwaukee—probably because I didn’t warm up—but I was able to find my groove quickly. The best part was hearing my parents cheering for me as I came out of the water.

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They said I was number three, which I felt good about considering my strongest of the three disciplines was next up.

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Time to make watts!

T1 – 1:27 (6th female overall)

2012 time – 1:59

Not making excuses, but this was a slower transition because we had to walk our bikes up a hill to get to the mount line.

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I haven’t attempted a shoeless, flying mount yet, but that could’ve saved me some time. Maybe this is something to start practicing.

Bike – 14 miles – 44:23 (6th female overall)

2012 time– 54:15

Obviously, I wanted to smoke the bike, but within the first few miles, I could tell my legs didn’t have the “pop” they did for Milwaukee. Plus, this was a hilly and somewhat technical course so I adjusted expectations. I don’t feel great, but this isn’t the “A” race; let’s still put forth today’s best effort.

As I climbed one of the opening hills, I saw a dude wearing longer shorts (i.e. not tri apparel). As I passed him, he called out, “Hey, Carrie Stevens!” I turned around and realized it was one of my high school classmates! You know you’re doing a hometown race when …

Anyway, the rest of the bike was uneventful. I passed one of the girls who beat me out of the water and played leapfrog with another. She broke away, though, and beat me into transition.

T2 – 1:00 (6th female)

2012 time – 1:36

Again, due to the hill, I was cautious.

Run – 5-K – 23:39 (7th female overall)

2012 time – 28:20

I know this run course very, very well—part of it takes place on the 4th of July 5-K route—so I was mentally prepared to deal with the brutal hill about a mile in.

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And the hill coming out of transition

My pace dropped big time, but I was able to hang tough and settle back in at the top. I was also able to hang tough mentally when an older woman caught up to me as we neared the turnaround at mile 1.5. Her breathing indicated she was working a lot harder than me, so as she made her move, I hopped on her shoulder and challenged her to keep the pace. Ultimately, I was unable to stay with her, but I played the game (and played a little defense) and threw down a 7:05 for my final mile, which felt a lot better than I thought a 7:05 would feel.

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Am I a runner?

This confirms that top-end speed is there, but I need to be mentally strong enough to tap into it.

Official finish – 1:25:11

2012 time – 1:44:52

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Obligatory 

I couldn’t have asked for a better “homecoming.” I was able to string together a pretty solid race, and being able to see and feel the improvement has totally reenergized my triathlon outlook. (And this progress transcends triathlon.) The overall podium is within reach, and I’m knocking on the door. Let the hard work continue! And this off-season, that once again means focusing on the run … more to come … and I’m coming for you, 2016!

2015 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships Recap

Milwaukee, you really know how to humble and inspire an athlete. Last Thursday, I headed back to Wisconsin for my third consecutive trip to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.

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Yes, I bought race photos.  No, I have no idea what my leg is doing.

As always, competition came standard: between Saturday’s Olympic-distance race and Sunday’s sprint, about 4,000 folks put their training to the test.

Even though my season saw transition—I “aged up” into the 25-29 category, plus I broke off from my former team and did my own thing—and adversity—when I sustained a bike crash—training went well overall, and I had a great pre-“A” race build. In the week leading up to Nationals, I felt fit, strong, and ready to rock.

Plus, since this would be my third time swimming, biking, and running at this venue, I knew what to expect. It almost seemed routine: once I arrived in Milwaukee, I went into autopilot, checking into the hotel, wandering to the public market for fresh produce and green juice, retrieving my race packet and bike. Like my most recent trip to Lake Placid, I was flying solo, which gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. This was perfect and helped me stay loose, relaxed, and focused.

Race-day conditions proved to be perfect too: overcast and about 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it was windy, it was not hot and humid like last year, and thankfully, the weather held steady for my 8:55 a.m. start time. My training/fitness, the course itself, and weather conditions were the perfect PR combo.

I’ve given this race a lot of thought. Initially, I was not happy with my performance. My not-so-good run overshadowed the solid swim and decent bike I executed. All I could think about was the mental breakdown I had on the run. But after talking with my coaches, we figured out what happened and where improvement needs to happen. And above all, I am not tying the success of a season to a single race. Here’s how it went down:

Swim – 1500m – 24:28 (55/141 in AG)

Even though swimming and I have a complicated relationship, I knew it would be a strength during the race. And plus, since I’ve been training with a masters team this season, I was excited to see how much time I could shave off from last year.

Aside from the 63-degree Fahrenheit reading, this portion of the race was relatively uneventful. The start was not as chaotic as I anticipated—maybe because Kingston was such a zoo—and I was able to surge ahead, settle into a groove, and actually draft effectively. (One of the perks of aging up?) I felt smooth and strong the entire time and could not have asked for a better swim. I even passed dudes who started before my waves and caught a few of the older women too, so I knew I was executing fairly well. My goal was 24-25 minutes, and I nailed it.

Transition 1 – 2:54 (59/141)

I was high on life coming out of the water and immediately picked off a few girls ahead of me during our long run to transition. My heart race was though the roof, though, so I calmed down and eased off the gas. In T1, a lot of the bikes were gone already, so even though my swim felt great, I assumed it was a middle-of-the-pack time and knew my work would be cut out for me on the bike—let #Hammfest2015 begin!

Bike – 40-K (24.85 miles) – 1:09:38 (38/141)

As the strongest of the three sports, the bike was where I planned to go for it.

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#LetsTalkWatts

There was an unrelenting headwind the entire ride, but I stayed in aero for 95 percent of the time and focused on the feeling. And I felt invincible. There were a ton of people in front of me, and I passed a bunch of girls (and only two passed me).  Above all, I felt confident: I knew I could push, I knew I could hang tough, and I knew I could execute.

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Locked in

Aside from one of my contacts falling out due to the wind and one 42-year-old dude hitting on me, it was an uneventful ride. My mental game was on-point, so even if anything notable occurred, I don’t know if I would’ve noticed. As I approached transition, I felt like I executed precisely and really thought I rode a 1:07, which was my goal. When I looked up my split post-race, I was a little bummed; one of my coaches even said a 1:05 was doable. If it hadn’t been so windy, then I think a 65-67 ride would’ve happened.

Transition 2 – 1:31 (56/141)

This felt like the fastest, most efficient T2 I’ve had all season: I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my stuff, and got the heck out of there.

Run – 10-K (6.2 miles) – 53:18 (107/141)

Remember how I rode my way to the nearly the top quarter of my age group? All those girls ran me down—and then some. Sigh. There really isn’t much to say. I was trained to run a 48. The first two miles were on pace, and I was able to hang tough mentally. But each time a pocket-friend passed me (and there were a lot of them), I came out of my headspace. There goes another one. Man, she’s fast. Look how smoothly she’s running. Nope, get back in it. Run your race. Focus on the feeling.

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Unfortunately, being run down is nothing new. I wish I could say it didn’t affect me. Even though I knew it would happen—it’s a national championship, and a lot of these girls simply don’t have weaknesses—I did not mentally prepare for the constant stream of girls effortlessly passing me. At first, I was able to regroup. But being run down wore me out mentally, and after 2.5 miles, I could not get back to my headspace. “Mentally checking out” is not the right phrase, but based on how dialed in I was during the swim and bike, I know I was not in that headspace for the majority of the run.

Overall finishing time – 2:31:50 (63/141)

It’s been five days, and I’m still feeling all the feelings.

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Overall, I had a solid swim that set up a decent bike: I rode my way from 55th to 38th, which is great; I played my strengths, and both these times are faster than last year’s splits. However, my mental game during the run (or lack thereof) is unsettling. But instead of sulking, I’m ready to regroup, refocus, and rededicate myself to the process. And that’s exactly what this sport is all about: progressing and trusting the journey.

My Updated 2015 Triathlon/Race Schedule

Wait, has it really been one month since South Beach?

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All in all, it was a successful outing that served a few purposes and prompted some training/racing changes. As of now, here’s what’s slated for the swim-bike-run season:

Lake Placid training trip with WorkLiveTri

Although I originally planned to do Mighty Montauk in June, I felt pretty ambivalent about actually doing it: If it worked out, great; if not, no big deal. I also held off on registering until my tri peeps did, and no one was making moves. But when I heard one of the Tailwind Endurance coaches was leading a Lake Placid training camp the same weekend, I immediately wanted in. (Full disclosure: I have no intentions of signing up for the Ironman anytime soon.)

So why Placid instead of Montauk? First, I never need a reason to justify a trip up. It is paradise. Even though I’ve visited the past two years for Ironman weekend, I’ve never gone with the sole purpose of doing all the swimming, biking, and running. Let’s face it: between swimming in Mirror Lake and manufacturing all the watts on that brutal but gorgeous bike course (I’ll do some running too, Coach Pat!), training there for four days will be a far more efficient use of time than doing a “B” priority event. I cannot wait to get after it, lock it in, and hopefully return feeling like superwoman!

At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun—and I know I’ll have a blast in Placid.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date: Sunday, June 28

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “B” race

This race is non-negotiable. It’s my first and only Olympic tune-up before Nationals in August. Plus, it’s 40 minutes away, and they had post-race iced coffee.

On the radar: Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon

Date: Saturday, July 18

Even though it’s a sprint, this race could be a good training day. It was a lot of fun last year, and I even won a bottle of wine. However, it takes place the same weekend as the NYC Triathlon, so there probably won’t be a lot of interest. This is another case of, “if it happens, great. If not, no worries.”

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, Aug. 8

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “A” race

Well, obviously. #Hammerfest2015

Cazenovia Triathlon

Date: Sunday, Aug. 23

Distance: Sprint—0.5-mi. swim, 14-mi. bike, 3.1-mi. run

Priority: “C” race

After what will hopefully be a solid showing at Nationals, I’ll end my triathlon racing season with my hometown’s local yokel sprint. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember this was the race that started it all—and I’m pumped to take on the same course with three years of structured training!

… and then I’ll be running all the injury-free miles for road racing season. More to come.

2015 South Beach Triathlon Recap

This past Sunday, I officially kicked off my 2015 racing season at the South Beach Triathlon: I raced the classic distance (0.5-mile ocean swim, 20.7-mile bike, and 4-mile run), took second place in my new age group (female 25-29), and finished sixth female overall!

south-beach-triathlon-podium

Any day you find yourself on the podium is a good day.

Although I’m bummed about missing the top AG podium spot—and cracking the top five—by 36 seconds, I’m satisfied with this outing; it confirmed training is going well, and it helped me learn an important nutrition lesson. And it proved I have zero patience for Walls of Dudes.

Pre-Race

Even though this is my third year truly training and racing triathlons, I’m still figuring out how to navigate the taper. Especially for a shorter race, it’s important to stay sharp and not become a total taper sloth. With that in mind, I’d classify the week before the race as a “mini taper”: my swim workouts remained the same; my bike workouts were on the easier side, but still contained tougher efforts; and my run intensity decreased.

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Another reason I love Tailwind Endurance: personalized race-week workouts.  Unpictured:  peptalk.

My confidence and mental game came and went during my mini taper too, especially after Wednesday’s CompuTrainer ride with VO2 max efforts didn’t go incredibly well. Earl knew I was feeling all the feelings and gave me a peptalk: “Confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.”

One more pre-race happening that’s worth noting: Saturday stressed me out more than I would’ve liked due to bike mechanical issues. During bike unload at the team trailers, my rear tire had gone flat, and I needed a special-sized tube. One of my teammates went to the bike shop for me to get a new one, but it immediately blew out again when I rode. So then I wheeled my Slice over to the shop where a cute mechanic told me the rim tape was installed improperly, which caused the tube to puncture. There was also a hole in my tire. Seventy-five dollars later, everything was fine. Luckily, this didn’t affect my race, but it proved I need to step up my bike geek game.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, as I stood wetsuit-less the sand, I started to get in my own head–and immediately shut down those doubts.  I am locked in and ready to rock.  I’ve got this.

Swim – 0.5 mi. – 14:02 (1/43 AG, 3/249 women overall)

*Last year – 15:04 with wetsuit

Since this year’s race took place two weeks later than the 2014 one, a major concern for a lot of folks centered on wetsuits, especially because wearing neoprene was barely legal last year. I brought my Helix to Florida just in case, but assumed the swim would be wetsuit-illegal. Which is was.  Which benefited me as a strong swimmer.  Yahtzee—now people can’t hide in neoprene!

As outlined in my race goals, I wanted to set the tone early and race from the front, so I made sure I was one of the first four women in my age group to enter the water. (It was a time trial start, and groups of four were released at a time.) And immediately I hit a Wall of Dudes, a fixture that would remain constant for most of the race. (The Clydesales, males 35-39, and males 50-54 all started before my age group.) My basketball instincts kicked in; I made moves, created space, and swam over dudes when necessary—and settled into a rhythm. Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong.

As I came out of the water, I sensed it was a 14-15-min. swim, and my instincts were spot on.

Transition 1 – 2:47 (2/43 AG, 3/249 women overall)

I felt like Andy Potts coming out of the water. #fangirl

2015-south-beach-triathlon-swim-exit

Dudes, watch out—I have watts to make!

Bike – 20.7 miles – 1:00:04 (3/48 AG, 7/248 women overall)

*Last year – 1:04:39

All right, let’s talk watts. Everything about the bike made me excited: another year of training, another year of experience on my Slice, and fun toys like an aero helmet and race wheels. And although it would’ve been awesome to go all-out, I knew my run would suffer. But I aimed to break an hour, and although I rode with a bike computer, I rarely looked at it. Instead, I focused on the feeling. And the feeling was awesome. I felt smooth and strong, I stayed mentally engaged, and I read and reacted to the course without having to think: I pushed on the hills, “touched” my VO2 max effort, and then settled back in; I shifted and surged seamlessly. It was really cool to execute a strong ride where everything felt natural.

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Duuuuuuudddddde

The only times my mental game wavered was went I approached a Wall of Dudes. Like last year, the course was extremely congested, and it’s hard to execute your race when people ride two or three abreast. Yes, I was totally that athlete who yelled, “on your left! On your left! On your left!” And more often than not, those individuals would not move. In the moment, I became extremely frustrated because their actions (or inactions, rather) were affecting my race. Luckily, I was able to calm down, refocus, and make the best (and safest) moves, but unfortunately, this is probably a problem I’ll have to get used to.

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Navigating the Wall of Dudes.  The struggle is real.

Anyway, around mile 15 or so, and another woman in my age group appeared. I wasn’t sure if she was doing the classic or Olympic, but I couldn’t take that chance. All right—lock it in. We played leapfrog a few times, and as I surged, I caught up to one of my teammates who hasn’t seen me ride since last year. “Holy s***, you’re strong!” he exclaimed.

With about 10 minutes left, I tried to take a gel, but as I ripped open the top, the perforated part didn’t catch properly. My double latte goodness didn’t come out. In the moment, I figured it wasn’t a big deal. It’s only a four-mile run. I’ll be fine. Plus, the same girl made a countermove and passed me—and I didn’t want to lose time trying to take a gel.

As we rolled into T2 seconds apart, I wished the bike was longer. But then I realized something: I can run. I’ve got this.  I’ve never felt this confident coming off the bike, which is huge progress. (All thanks to you, Coach Pat!)

Transition 2 – 2:13 (7/43 AG, 20/249 women overall)

Got stuck behind a Wall of Dudes wheeling bikes into transition. Nothing I could do there.

Run – 4 miles – 32:48 (4/43 AG, 18/248 women overall)

*Last year – 30:54

As I headed out on the run, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me. Not only did the woman in my age group beat me out of T2 by a few seconds, but the cloudy skies also parted and revealed a raging sun. (After the race, locals said it had been record-setting heat.) Luckily, one of my teammates who was spectating ran with me for a few seconds and helped me settle in to my target pace. Like on the bike, I wore a Garmin, but didn’t look at it too much: focus on the feeling. I’m working, but it feels sustainable. Don’t become emotionally attached to the numbers.

2015-south-beach-triathlon

What is my left leg doing?  Ha!

Within the first mile, I reeled her in, and we matched strides for a few seconds. Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong. At this point, I wondered if I should cruise with her or if I should make a move. Although I feel comfortable controlling the race on the swim and bike, my confidence isn’t quite there on the run yet. But I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint; I needed to put on a little pressure. I was able to create a gap, and as I hit the turnaround at mile two, my splits were on track. I spotted her about 20 seconds back, and I knew I’d have to hang tough for the final two miles. I was executing, and it was my race to lose.

Around mile 2.5, my energy levels tanked. My legs felt fine, but turning them seemed impossible. Why didn’t I take my gel?! She eventually caught me, and we ran together again for a few seconds. As she slowly started to pull ahead, I knew that was the move. I had to match it, or it was over. And I couldn’t. Her lead ballooned, and even though I could see her the entire time, that second wind—that double latte—never kicked in.

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And the last half-mile was on the sand again, which was awful.

2015-south-beach-triathlon-run

Official finishing time – 1:51:52 – 2nd in age group (25-29) and sixth female overall

*Last year – 1:56:11

Going into the race, I knew if I executed and everything lined up, I knew I’d be around 1:50 and crack the top five, but Sunday was not that day. Both the controllable nutrition hiccup and uncontrollable heat/humidity worked against me, but any day you get on the podium is a good day.

So what did I learn? My triathlon training arsenal—consisting of the Bearcats, Tailwind, and Coach Pat—is solid. Which I’ve known all along, but it’s a huge confidence booster to confirm I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. It really takes a village, and I’m very grateful for the folks surrounding me—coaches, mentors, and friends. This race also highlighted the importance of sticking to the nutrition plan and remaining composed when facing tough conditions like heat and Walls of Dudes. In all seriousness, though, I’m satisfied with this race, and I’m pumped to keep working hard and improving. Bring it on, 2015!

2015 South Beach Triathlon Goals

So here we are: T-minus four days until the South Beach Triathlon, my first race of the season. Woohoo! I’m pumped to fly down later this week, avoid getting sunburned, and, of course, see how my training has progressed so far.

2015-cannondale-slice-race-ready-south-beach

Locked in and ready to rock! Wheels from MB (thank you!), tune-up by Zen Bikes, and (hopefully) all the watts from Tailwind Endurance.

Out of curiosity, I revisited my pre-race goals from last year’s SoBe outing. Aw, Carrie, you sound so cute. So young, so excited. Obviously, I’m psyched this year too, but I’m at a totally different spot mentally: This will be my third time taking on the 0.5-mile swim, 20.7-mi. bike, and 4-mi. run, so I’m shooting for process and performance goals. These specific, tangible objectives equate to improving time from past races, and more importantly, these factors are relatively controllable. And if I execute precisely, then hopefully it will lead to solid outcome goals.

educated-running-types-of-goals

And if not, that’s OK. After all, it is April; I’m not trying to peak.

Even though there are certain splits I’ll be chasing, I plan to race hard, race smart, and above all focus on the feeling (and not become emotionally attached to the numbers).

Swim: get out in front and find a pack (a.k.a. draft)

Honestly, I have no idea what my race pace is at this point. From swimming with Bearcat Masters and in a metered pool (as opposed to yards), I’m definitely faster and fitter than last year. But how will this improvement translate to 800m in the open—and most likely choppy—ocean? Slash will it even translate at all? There’s only one way to find out. #WannabeSwimmer

Last year’s swim was decent, but I didn’t swim strategically; after rereading my race recap, I remember spending a lot of energy maneuvering around people and never linked up with a group. Things will probably be different in my new age group, though. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hang with the lead pack, dial in to a perceived “race pace” (whatever that means), and conserve energy by drafting as much as possible. Obviously, I want to swim faster this year, but even if my split stays the same, I’ll probably come out of the water feeling fresher—which means I’ll have more juice for the bike and run.

Bike: be aggressive and burn a few matches

All right, #letstalkwatts: Having another year of training, knowing how to handle my tri bike (SoBe was my third time riding it), and coming to the saddle with a more fit engine, I should be able to do big things. Thus far, all of my watts have been made at Tailwind Endurance with access to a power meter; and since I will not be racing with power, my main focus during the 20 miles will be finding that comfortably uncomfortable feeling. Earl and I have talked strategy and time goals for the past few weeks, and he’s also the one who prescribed those “fun” bike-run-bike-run-bike-run bricks. These workouts have helped me figure out how hard I can push on the bike and still run afterward—and how it should feel. Focus on the feeling; don’t become emotionally attached to the numbers. Basically, I plan to burn a few matches on the bike. After all, I have a whole box at my disposal; I just need to be smart and strategic about using them. And I cannot leave my run on the bike course.

Run: work through the first mile and hang tough

For the past two years, I have not been able to string together four solid miles off the bike. This was probably due to lack of run volume, and I definitely came off the bike too aggressively. But thanks to Coach Pat, my run is the best it’s ever been. And since I’ve done a few road races and completed the abovementioned “fun” bricks, I know how my off-the-bike pace should feel. I know how the opening mile will shake out. And I know I can sustain it. Focus on the feeling.

Let’s do this—I’m coming for you, Miami!

2015 Cherry Tree 10 Miler Recap

Another weekend, another race in Brooklyn. This past Sunday, I ran around Prospect Park not once, not twice, but three times for the Cherry Tree 10 Miler.

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Rabbits who run!

Originally scheduled for February, this “race for the hardcore” gets a great turnout thanks to its versatility: You can cover the 10 miles as a three-person relay (which I did last year) or as an individual. Also, the swag is solid. Last year, we received fleece-lined Buffs; a few weeks ago, we got singlets. Yes, for a winter race.

Far from wintery, though, the weather was perfect: sunny, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, plus no snow, slush, or ice. And even though I thrive in the cold, these conditions were ideal—especially for executing my race plan. Coach Pat passed along my target splits, and our goal was to start off slightly fast, settle in for a few miles, then build the effort and finish strong. Unlike the four miler a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t be heading into the paincave until late in the race, and I knew this would be a challenge for me mentally: being disciplined enough to cruise, run easy, and stick to the plan, especially since as a short-course triathlete, I associate the good kind of discomfort with doing work; and that feeling wouldn’t surface until mile eight.

Another factor I sort of failed to consider centered on the course: three loops. Three mind-numbing loops of a short, three-ish mile route with one gradual hill. Granted, I was prepared to deal with the hill, but I underestimated how mentally taxing it would be to run in a circle three times. Case in point: During the third loop, I had to work harder to maintain focus and prevent those mental slip-ups.

Anyway, here’s the best way to break it down:

Miles 1 and 2 (7:46 and 8:10) – ‘Easy, Red. Ease into it.’

My primary focus during these opening miles was not to go out too fast (semi-accomplished?) and feel things out. My legs felt pretty good, and I knew a solid outing was feasible if I stuck to the plan …

Miles 3-5 (all 8:0X)‘Settle in. Discipline. Smooth and strong … and smart.’

… but then I hit mile three and was tempted to throw the plan out the window. ‘What if I hit my off-the-bike pace now? I feel good!’  To talk myself down, I added “and smart” to my mantra. Also, a friend/fellow EduRunner was doing the race, and told me he would be running easy. Our easy paces are not the same (read: I’m a bit faster), so I was confused when he passed me, and I was maintaining something between easy and steady for me. It became a mind game, and it took a lot of effort to keep my brain turned off and simply run my race.

Miles 6-8 (all 8:0X, except when I hit the hill for the third time; that was 8:13) – ‘Smooth and strong.’

I thought about taking off my long-sleeved Philadelphia Half-Marathon shirt, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to blink anyone with my paleness.

Miles 9-10 (7:30 and ?)‘Here we go! Smooth and strong off the bike!’

I tried not to look at my watch because honestly, seeing anything in the seven-minute ballpark still freaks me out. (I know, I know; don’t become emotionally attached to the numbers.) There was some pain, but there was also a strong finish, so I’ll take it!

Official time – 1:19:39 (7:58 min./mi.)

And I was that runner/triathlete who asked 30 seconds post-race if anyone wanted to swim.  Who am I?!  Oh yeah, #wannabeswimmer.

In all seriousness, though, these two Prospect Park races give me confidence heading into South Beach. For the four miler, I was able to run smart, hang tough, and execute the plan for the most part. And the same goes for this past weekend; I ran my race (slash solid training run), stuck to the plan, and finished feeling strong (and was back biking and running the next day).

What are your tricks for staying mentally focused?