Tag Archives: 2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

My 2014 Running and Triathloning Recap

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Can you believe it’s that time again? Wowza, 2014 flew by. But before saying goodbye to this bittersweet year, I want to reflect on some awesome, pivotal, and memorable swimming, biking, and running moments.

Best race experience

Given the number of triathlons I did in 2014, this surprised me: The Philadelphia Half-Marathon.

jackrabbit-usq-philadelphia

Pre-race cold temperatures and throwaway clothes. Good times with good friends.

Not only was it the actual race-day experience—feeling invincible for 12.5 miles, seeing a bunch of funny signs and cute spectators, hanging out with friends and family during the weekend—but it was also the pre-race preparation. I’ve talked about my running progression, but Coach Pat really dialed in the plan; I crushed key workouts, felt prepared, and simply exuded calm confidence. Above all, everything lined up on race day, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. And now I want to go 1:45 (let’s be real, 1:40), which speaks volumes: I want to run more and faster miles!

Best swim

Total no-brainer: swimming in Mirror Lake during Ironman Lake Placid weekend.

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The course, the atmosphere, everything that comprises Placid is magical. Being there always ends up being a highpoint of the triathlon season and overall year, and I’m already looking forward to going back for another Sherpa stint in 2015.

Best bike

Rather than wax and wane about nearly perfect training rides, I’ll simply say my bike split at Nationals best exemplifies progress: In 2013, I logged a 1:17; in 2014, I rode a 1:10. That’s seven minutes shaved off.

cannondale-slice-5-105-womens-nationals

I have no pictures of me doing work on the Slice. Womp, womp.

And yes, some of that time can be attributed to equipment upgrades (tri bike, race wheels, aero helmet), but most is sheer improvement. To me, that’s what this sport is all about.

Best run

Aside from the abovementioned 12.5 miles of bliss, one that sticks out is the 10-K I ran off the bike in Stamford.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

Hot outta T-2!

That’s my standalone and off-the-bike 10-K PR, and more importantly, I felt comfortably uncomfortable the entire time—and felt in control. I’ve also had some great training runs—both steady where I’ve pushed the pace a bit and long where I’ve chilled out—but that 6.2 miles off the bike is what I’ll be chasing in 2015: the split (I want to go faster!) and the feeling.

Best piece of new gear

Since I actually raced on it this year—my Slice! Yes, it’s all about the engine in endurance sports, but the tri bike set-up has been a game changer. I’ve been able to ride stronger and faster, plus run better off the bike. Now about that power meter …

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

Nothing newsworthy: trust your training, trust the process, listen to your body. But these messages resonated with me this year thanks to knowledgeable coaches (looking at you, Coach Pat!) and trustworthy teammates.

Most inspirational runner

I’m totally pulling the sap card: I train and work with some phenomenal people who also happen to run, and they inspire me to keep pushing, keep improving, and keep striving for that perfect race.

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

Memorable, nearly perfect.

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In terms of training and racing, I really couldn’t have asked for a better year. Sure, I powered through some not-so-great showings, but for the most part, I’m happy with how the cards fell. On the non-triathlon front, it was a challenging, yet rewarding year (#vagueblogging #sorryimnotsorry), and bottom line, I’m amped for 2015.

What is your best, most memorable moment from 2014?

My Thoughts on Running

Seeing as how I’ve been running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles this off-season, I finally gathered my thoughts and wrote about running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles. I’m always game to talk watts, but let’s talk … splits? Miles? Paces? Hey, I’m still learning.

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From Thanksgiving: A slow and snowy run back home.  On the bright side, the dicey conditions ensured I ran easy.

When my triathlon season ended in August, I took about a week off before I started making off-season moves. Hey, it’s the off-season not the soft season. Anyway, as I briefly mentioned in my Philadelphia Half-Marathon recap, I needed to tackle my run head-on. During the season, it was all about minimizing this Achilles heel—laying down a solid swim-bike combo so a blazing-fast run wouldn’t be necessary. But still, my run wasn’t where it needed to be, which became evident at Nationals. And I “age up” next year, which means stiffer competition—which also means a faster run is necessary.

Plus, not only did I need to shave off time, but I also needed to reformulate how I thought about the run. Biking became my favorite (watts, watts, watts!), and running suffered. I dreaded it, and my mentally further fueled this bias: ‘Why run when you can bike? … It’s fun to go fast! … you have to set yourself up on the bike, so I should bike more …’ You get the picture.

Aside from running more (than 12 miles a week, which is so low it’s not even funny), I had no idea how to structure my run-specific training. Sure, logging more miles was step one, but in terms of speedwork, tempo runs, those types of crucial sessions, I was totally lost. Obviously, it became clear improvement would go hand-in-hand with a coach, so I enlisted Patrick Hammond (the Great). We’re friends and coworkers, and he started Educated Running. Not to mention he has triathlon experience and wins races. Sign me up!

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Some coworkers “London Bridging” out of the store before Philly.  You can’t hear the cheering, but trust me–it was awesome.

Overall, since becoming an Educated Runner, every aspect of my run has improved: how I run, how I view the run, and how I think during the run. Every run has a purpose, and I’m getting better at executing workouts. This proved especially tough when I first started working with Coach Pat in September; as we built my base, I wanted to run faster than prescribed—but I trusted the process. This is common sense, but I’ve learned to take the easy days easy, and I’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable on the tough days. After all, that’s where the magic happens. Along these lines, recovery and injury-prevention have an increased focus: I do dynamic stretches, I foam roll, and I get monthly sports massages. I’m a runner now!

Above all, I run with purpose. I look forward to running. I stay mentally focused—which has been huge. Running more means more experience working through those “character-building” outings and ultimately becoming strong enough to limit the mental breakdowns.

Triathlon training starts next month, which will shake things up a bit: Official team workouts will resume, but I will continue working with Coach Pat. I’ve improved so much during the past few months so it would be crazy to change that part of the equation. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how my workouts will be structured (read: balanced) in 2015; my current bike volume needs to increase, and I will be running more than 12 miles per week. And for the time being, I think swimming twice a week will be OK.

Bottom line, 2015 will be the year of the run—and hopefully, I can find the illusive balance to execute a solid bike-run combo in Milwaukee.

To paraphrase the words of Haruki Murakami, what do you think about when you think about running?

Random Thoughts Revisited from the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

Just for fun, I thought it would be cool to revisit what went through my head at last year’s Nationals and how my mindset changed this time around.

Last year: ‘Friendly triathletes and great atmosphere—I don’t want to leave!’

This year: I really tried to avoid the hoopla this year. My flight landed in Milwaukee earlier, and I took care of the expo and pre-race stuff on Thursday when most folks were still trickling in. I also opted out of the Friday afternoon practice swim in an effort to avoid the nervous energy. Overall, I came to Nationals with a different mentality—I wanted to fly under the radar, do my own thing, and stay out of my own head. Yes, I wanted to enjoy the experience and have fun, but putting together a solid race was my primary focus.

Last year: ‘Milwaukee is a great venue.’

This year: Milwaukee is still a great venue. Going back to a familiar place gave me an increased sense of calm confidence: I knew the city, the course, and exactly what to expect. Before the race, I visited the Milwaukee Public Market several times, which was a foodie’s paradise.

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And I went to Kopp’s post-race for some life-changing tiramisu custard.

Last year: ‘Everyone looks so fit.’

This year: Everyone still looked fit, but I didn’t have the jaw-dropping reaction I did last year. This is partly because I came into the race leaner and fitter, and I also knew everyone else would be chiseled.

Last year: ‘I need a new bike.’

This year: Hello, race-ready Slice!

cannondale-slice-5-105-womens-nationals

But I still experienced some bike envy. My teammates and I were talking during bike drop-off, and we estimated transition was probably worth $10 million. And one of my teammates who has a custom bike said even his eyes were wandering.

Last year: ‘I can’t believe how far I’ve come in one year.’

This year: I’d been looking forward to this race all year; I could not wait to take on the same course with another year of training and see how much I’ve improved across the disciplines. My swim was three minutes faster, and I shaved seven minutes off my bike split. (Based on my training and racing, I was hoping to take four minutes off my run, but we know what actually happened.)

Last year: ‘I have the best team ever.’

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This year: Still true!

2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships Recap

On Saturday, I put my training to the test and took on my “A” race of the season: the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. Held in Milwaukee, this event attracted 4,850 of the country’s best triathletes. More than 3,000 folks qualified for the Olympic distance (0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run), which resulted in the biggest and arguably most competitive field this race has seen.

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Game faces and game braids!

I did this race last year, and my mindset differed greatly this time around: I was not intimidated, I was there to compete, and I felt much more confident in my training. Bottom line, I knew I belonged.

Another difference between the 2013 and 2014 races? Expectations. I’ve alluded to objectives, but I’ve never stated them outright because they scared me.

From the start of the season, my primary goals included peaking at this race and performing to a level that would give me a shot at a 2015 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Short Course (Olympic-Distance) Triathlon World Championship slot.

Because Chicago will host this race, the United States would receive 25 slots per age group. (It’s normally 18 slots.) So finishing in the top 25 was part one of the goal. However, the equation contained an interesting wrinkle for me: I’m 24, which means I “age up” next year into the 25-29 group. So even though my calf read “24” in Milwaukee, I was competing against the 25-29-year-olds for a 2015 slot.  This is also a faster, more competitive age group.

My training this season had gone well, and based on race results, earning one of those coveted slots wasn’t completely out of the question. Best-case scenario, I’d be on the brink—even if I had the race of my life: If I swam and biked to my potential, then I’d be competitive, but I’d have to run “out of my mind” in the words of Coach Pat. But that what makes this sport so addicting and exciting: making progress, putting hard work to the test, and going after that invincible feeling when everything lines up and seems effortless.

Swim – 0.9 miles – 25:50 (54/91)

The swim course remained nearly identical to last year’s route, and my wave was scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

2014-usa-triathlon-age-group-national-championships-swim-course

During my warm-up, though, everyone was pulled from the water, including the wave before mine. I’m not totally sure why, but I finally got to meet rockstar Victoria.  We obviously talked about watts.

When my wave was finally about to go off, I situated myself in the second row. Staying with the lead pack was out of the question (a lot of those girls were actual swimmers), but I wanted to set the tone early and put myself in a position to compete. I could not be passive like I was last year.

As soon as the starting siren went off, washing machine chaos ensued—and it reminded me of contact in the paint during basketball. Let’s do this.

Immediately, I hit an aggressive pace in an effort to draft and/or find clean water, but as I made moves, I took in more water than I should be—á la Pat Griskus. Even though the pace felt sustainable, I was not going to make the same mistake twice and jeopardize my race, so I eased off the gas. After that, I settled into a groove and felt good. I passed some girls who started in the wave before me, but I did not sight well, which is uncharacteristic of me.

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As I neared the swim exit, I couldn’t tell how it went overall. Yes, I felt good, and yes, I passed a bunch of girls who started before me. But I had no idea what my time was or how many girls were in front of me—both of which were probably good things.

Transition 1 – 2:45

For whatever reason, I could not get my act together coming out of the water. It took me longer than usual to find my legs. That’s all that really stood out.

Bike – 24.8 miles – 1:10:54 (23/91)

Overall, I’m happy with this bike split. It’s also a PR.

2014-usa-triathon-national-championships-bike-course

As you can tell from the course elevation, there were a few rolling hills, but this was a flat and fast course for the most part. It was also the same as last year’s ride, and I was pumped to take it on with another year of training and with some fun toys like an aero helmet and race wheels.

When my coach and I talked race strategy, we both agreed I should go for it on the bike. Obviously, I’d leave some gas in the tank for the run, but in order to contend for a top-25 finish, I would need to capitalize on my strengths. And push all the watts.

2014-usa-triathlon-age-group-national-championships-bike 

It sounds cliché, but the bike flew by. I overtook a ton of girls, and more importantly, not a single girl passed me. Aside from what seemed like a never-ending headwind, I felt good for the most part, managed my energy well, and stayed mentally focused. Sure, there were tough spells I had to work through, but I never red-lined or felt gassed.

Transition 2 – 1:41

I remember noticing how warm it was. That’s about it. I mean, it was almost noon.

Run – 6.2 miles – 50:38 (44/91)

As I started the run, my legs felt decent. They actually felt fresher than Stamford, but that’s probably because this was a flatter course.

2014-usa-triathlon-age-group-national-championships-run-course

My Garmin took forever to sync, so I ran the opening half mile on feel. When it finally loaded and displayed my average pace (7:15), I couldn’t believe it. My goal was to run 7:20-7:30 off the bike. I feel good. I am doing this. Seeing splits that low (for me) still freaks me out a little.

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Like the bike, the run was relatively uneventful. I saw teammates who finished the race already—ah, the perks of being older and starting sooner—and even passed a few girls. Miles two and three came in at 7:30. I am strong. I am doing this.

Everything changed at mile three, though. It felt like I slammed into a wall of heat: Holy $%&*, it’s hot right now. It became oppressive, and my speed slowed. At every opportunity, I dumped water on myself and stuffed ice in my sports bra, but it didn’t seem to help. I was baking and (sun) burning.

And that’s how I lost my top 25 spot: I put a lot of time into the girls on the bike, but they ran me down. It’s disappointing and frustrating when girl after girl passes you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do. It was just like Hopkins; they made the move, and I couldn’t respond.

Official finishing time – 2:31:51 (36/91)

Even though the second half of the run didn’t go well, I did what I could: I went for it on the bike and pieced together three solid miles on the run.  So I am satisfied with this race. I did what I needed to do and put myself in place to contend. That’s all you can do: play your strengths.

Since I am happy with how Nationals went overall, I am shutting down my 2014 triathlon racing season. This race confirmed what I suspected about my training, so I know exactly what needs to happen between now and when I truly start up again in January for the 2015 campaign. (Post coming soon!)

In the mean time, I’ll continue to swim, bike, and run through the fall, and I’m also going to try to be a “real person,” which means being sociable past 8 p.m., reconnecting with friends, and doing things that wouldn’t be “approved” during the season. Yoga! Maybe rock climbing! Eating out regularly!

Triathlon Training Log – Week of Aug. 4 (Week 30)

I’m baaaaaack!

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I’ve been in Milwaukee since Thursday afternoon settling in before the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, which took place Saturday. I stayed through Sunday to watch some teammates do the sprint race too and arrived home last night. It’s been a memorable trip—and triathlon season.

General training notes: As to be expected during race week, I was a total head case. Because I embraced the taper and shut down workouts early, I had a ton of extra energy. In typical type-A form, I also over-analyzed everything. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were especially rough, but by Wednesday afternoon, I changed my mindset and started to relax.

Monday – a.m. bike

Yes, this sounds dramatic, but this was the worst way to start taper week. My cousin loaned me some race wheels (you’re the best, MB!), so I installed them myself (mistake number one) and took them out for a test ride. During the 30 miles in Central Park, my legs felt absolutely awful, and my effort level did not match my speed; it seemed like I should’ve been going a lot faster for my perceived exertion. Later that day, I took my Slice to Zen Bikes, and the guys joked I must’ve had a great workout because my front brake pads were touching the front wheel and essentially braking the entire ride. Even though I looked like a moron, I felt so much better knowing it was a bike issue and not a “me” issue.

Tuesday – a.m. bike

Race wheels take two: 20 miles. Holy cow. Race wheels are incredible. I felt so much smoother on hills and flats—and my speed was, well, very fast (for me).

Wednesday – a.m. swim and run

The lane in the pool was packed, and everyone was doing their own thing—and this organized chaos did not bode well for me, so I hopped out after 1,200 yards. Then I headed to the treadmill for three easy miles, and my coach went over my race plan and goals. That’s when it really hit me: Everything I’ve done this season comes down to this race, which was terrifying and exciting. But it also occurred to me that I felt ready.

Thursday – off

Travel day to Milwaukee. And I always take a rest day two days before a race. It works.

Friday – a.m. run

Doing a light run the day before a race leads to absolutely no gains, but it gives me peace of mind. I always have nightmares about forgetting how to swim, bike, and/or run, so I did an easy run-walk on the treadmill to silence those doubts.

Saturday – USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

There will obviously be a race report, but here’s the CliffNotes version: decent swim, good bike, and good first three miles off the bike. I put myself in a position to contend for a top-25 spot, but couldn’t hold on once I got to the run. Official finishing time was 2:31, which placed me 36/91 in my age group (and 54/128 in my “new” 25-29 age group). I’m satisfied with my performance, and I know what needs to happen during the off-season. Hint: It involved running all the (smart, injury-free) miles.

Sunday – a.m. easy run

My Garmin didn’t sync, but this was an easy, three-mile-ish run through downtown Milwaukee. I even saw a handful of my teammates who were doing the sprint, so I got to wish them luck beforehand.

So what’s next? That’s a good question. Since I’m happy with Saturday, I probably will not race another triathlon this season, but I will continue to swim, bike, and run. I still need to sit down with my coach to recap the race, discuss my season as a whole, and map out some off-season goals, but I already have a few objectives. There will be a post for those, too. This week, I’ll focus on being a “real person.”

My (Updated) 2014 Triathlon Race Calendar

Happy Saturday, friends!  Like usual, I wanted to pop in earlier this week, but work was crazy.  Anyway, since my first triathlon of the season takes place in two weeks (ekkk!), I figured it’s time to share my finalized race calendar.  Better later than never, right?

South Beach Triathlon

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Date:  Sunday, April 6

Distance:  Classic—0.5-mile ocean swim, 19-mile bike, 4-mile run

Priority:  “C” race

Excited?  Yes!  Pumped to put my training to the test?  Yes!  But do I feel ready to race?  Meh.  Like last year, I’ll “train through” this event, especially on the bike.  Racing and spending time with my teammates will be great, and I can’t wait to see how much I’ve improved since last year; it’s all about personal progress!

Pat Griskus Triathlon – USAT Northeast Regional Club Championships

Date:  Saturday, June 14

Distance:  Olympic—one-mile swim, 25-mile bike, 6.2-mile run

Priority:  “A/B” race

Pat Griskus is locked in, which, unfortunately, means Montauk is out.  Why?  Several of my teammates plan to race back-to-back weekends and do Pat Griskus and Stamford.  I could get away with racing three consecutive weekends, but I’m not trying to peak in June.  Or get injured.

Anyway, the main draw for this race included its level of difficulty.  Most likely, the bike course will be the toughest one I complete this year (and thus far in my triathlon career), and I’ve heard the run is brutal as well.  Bring on the pain!  Also, since this is the USAT Northeast Regional Club Championships, I can actually race for Full Throttle Endurance and earn points for the team based on my age group placing.  I’d love to unload and do serious work at this race, but we’ll see how my training has been going.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, June 22

Distance:  Olympic—0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, 6.2-mile run

Priority:  “B” race

you-look-awesome

Yep, actual sign that was on the course.

Yes, it’s one week later, but Stamford was one of my favorite races last year.  Plus, let’s be real:  I can sleep in my own bed the night before.  Most likely, this will be my final tune-up before Nationals, so a solid outing would be ideal.

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date:  Saturday, August 9

Distance:  Olympic—0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike, 6.2-mile run

Priority:  “A” race

Leslie Knope sums it up.  Although I had a great experience last year, I did not go into the race with my standard competitive mentality.  Instead of pushing and seeing my training pay off, I savored and relished the outing—which is fine, and I don’t regret it.  This year, though, I know what to expect, and since it isn’t my first “big dance,” I won’t be as intimidated or starstruck. (Unless Chrissie Wellington gives me my medal again.  Then all bets are off.) Plus, I really, really want to smoke the bike course.  And do better on the swim and run, too.

So there we have it.  As you can see, Nationals will be my main focus this year, so my training will be structured accordingly; this means training smart, staying injury free, and peaking in August.

How many races are you doing this year?

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of November 10

Greetings—happy Sunday!  Not too much to report here:  I worked and went to a work party yesterday, and I hung out and watched a few movies today.  After spectating the marathon last Sunday, I needed a low-key weekend.

And I had a pretty low-key week on the workout front, too:

Monday – a.m. run (45 minutes) and strength train

Tuesday – a.m. run (50-ish minutes)

Wednesday – a.m. run (30 minutes)

Thursday – off

Friday – a.m. swim and strength train

Saturday – a.m. yoga

Sunday – unintentional rest day

Like last week, I stuck to my goal of running for frequency (not duration); the more I can get out, the better.  Not going to lie, though, this week proved to be tough on the motivation front.  My workouts before Thursday went OK, but each one fell under the “going through the motions” umbrella.  So when I woke up on Thursday and didn’t want to do anything, I went with it.

And in an effort to reenergize my SBR-ing, I finally made moves and signed up for two 2014 races:  Lifetime South Beach Triathlon and USAT Age Group National Championships.

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Let the road to 2014 begin!

I’m pumped to return to both races (SoBe will be the same as this year’s Nautica South Beach Tri—the sponsorship just changed) and see how much I can improve.  Aside from these two races, nothing is set in stone, but I’ll keep you in the loop.  On a related note, if anyone knows of a July short-course tri in the northeast, then please let me know.

Anyway, I think because my workouts have focused on running—with some swimming and strength training sprinkled in—boredom has become an issue:  same routes, same music, same structure (warm up, then assess and decide whether I should push or cruise).

Perhaps I needed to reach this point because for the first time in a while, I want to get back in the saddle.

Same game plan for this week’s Write It Down, Do It Up:

2-3 swim workouts

2-3 bike workouts <– and I will get that trainer tire on

3-4 run workouts

2-3 strength training workouts

1 yoga/Pilates session

How did your workouts go this week?