Tag Archives: race recap

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.

2015-pptc-cherry-tree-10-miler-jackrabbit

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?

NYRR Al Gordon 4 Mile Recap

On Saturday morning, I hopped aboard the Brooklyn-bound subway for a little four miler in Prospect Park.

2015-nyrr-al-gordon-4-mile-bib

Mangled bib … from running so fast?

Even though I wanted to do well, this race served as a training check-in point. Throughout the past six months, I’ve been working with Coach Pat to get my run dialed in, and for the past four months or so, I’ve been doing legitimate speed workouts. And yes, I did the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in November, but the Al Gordon 4 Mile event is clearly more in-line with the distances I’ll be covering as a short-course triathlete this season.

Shorter means faster, and when Coach Pat passed along the race pacing plan, I freaked out at first: ‘Coach Pat, you want me to go fast!’ But we talked it through and identified some key facts: training has gone extremely well, I’m developing at a great rate, etc. Above all, I trust Coach Pat. He’s not going to steer me in the wrong direction, and if he lays out an aggressive goal with seemingly fast-for-me splits, then he clearly believes in me—and I trust his plan. Plus, this was an exciting opportunity to see how much I’ve improved and see how precisely I could execute.

The race itself was a blur for the most part. Miles one and two (7:38 and 7:27) came and went pretty quickly, and even though both were a few seconds slower than the targeted splits, I remained calm. My brain remained “off” for the entire race, and shortly after mile two, everything clicked: it felt like a second wave of energy surged through my body. Muscle memory took over, and my legs began turning over even faster. ‘Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong.’ Cardiowise, the pace felt effortless. And when I looked down at my watch and saw 6:57 (mile three was 7:07), I could not believe it. ‘Just wait until Coach Pat hears about this!’ I tried not to become emotionally attached to the number and focused on the feeling instead: I was excited, I was happy, and I was grinning like a moron. ‘I LOVE RUNNING! THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!’ I felt like I was flying, and from miles two to 3.5, I caught that elusive, invincible feeling. And it was awesome.

I rode that high until mile 3.5 when my legs started screaming. That lactic acid buildup burned, and even though I associated this good type of pain with speedwork, I’m still building the leg strength and mental race game to work through it. (I know how to process it on the bike, which is because I have more experience on the bike. And Coach Pat says more VO2 max workouts will help too.) So I rode the pain train for the last half-mile, and my pace slowed, but I still eked out a 30:17.

So what am I thinking overall? I’m satisfied. I executed pretty well and posted a decent time. And I had so much fun. Above all, this outing gives me confidence heading into triathlon season. My opening miles felt incredibly sustainable, so hopefully this translates to solid miles off the bike.

What’s your favorite distance to race?

2014 Cazenovia 4th of July 5-K Race Recap

Before spending the day with family, I ran a local yokel 4th of July 5-K in my hometown.

2014-cazenovia-4th-of-july-5-k

[source]

Neon makes you run faster.  Also, woohoo for mid-foot striking!

I’ve done this race every year since becoming a “real runner.” In fact, it was my first ready-set-go, run-to-the-finish-line event. (And I actually removed the timing chip from my bib because I didn’t want nosey people looking up my results online.) Since then, I’ve also slugged through the 10 miler around the lake, but I downsized to the 5-K last year. Quality miles over quantity of miles, right? So I pushed, dialed into my tempo pace, and posted a 23:36 finishing time. I worked, I hurt, and I left everything out there.

This year, I ran the exact same time—down to the second. That’s right: I posted another 23:36.  However, I felt totally different both during and after the race.

My Dad and I arrived about 20 minutes beforehand to pick up our bibs and t-shirts, and I even saw my JV basketball coach. He’s a big-time runner (he podiums frequently and wins races), so he gets the triathlon thing; I always enjoy catching up with him.

Anyway, after collecting our materials, I hit the track for a mile warm-up. Initially, I planned to do 1.5 miles and some dynamic stretches, but I ran (get it—ha!) out of time.

Overall, I wanted to put forth a decent effort, but I knew truly racing wouldn’t be a viable option. Because of racing back-to-back weekends—and tapering and recovering and all that jazz—I hadn’t done speedwork in … about a month. And because I’ve been doing Olympic-distance tris, I feel more confident running 10-Ks. If you execute a 5-K right, then it’s brutal. If you run a 10-K properly, then it’s still painful, but more manageable. And I’m all about managing. So the game plan was to just run and go by feel.

There’s nothing too groundbreaking to report in terms of the race itself.

caz5k

As in years past, the course basically starts on a hill, which is why I wanted a decent warm-up. A little after the climb, I saw my 1st and 2nd grade teacher, and a high school classmate cheered for me. When I started talking to him—“Happy fourth of July! How are you?”—I realized how manageable my pace felt. After that, I zoned out a bit, took in my surroundings, and enjoyed running through the area.  And I also kept an eye on the kid who was running next to me; it sounded like he was going into cardiac arrest.  The last half-mile snuck up on me, so I picked up the pace, finished strong, and immediately started cooling down—even though I finally felt warmed up.

At first, I was frustrated I ran the exact same time, but then I realized how different I felt. Last year, that pace equated to a hard effort; now, it feels semi-comfortable and sustainable.  Sounds like progress to me!

How did you spend the fourth of July?

2014 Escape to the Palisades 5-K Recap

What a solid training day! On Sunday, fifteen of my Full Throttle Endurance teammates and I completed a cross-state brick workout: We biked across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, ran the Escape to the Palisades 5-K, and then biked more before heading back to New York City.

full-throttle-endurance-escape-to-the-palisades-2014

If you’ve been reading for a while, then you may remember we did the same race last year. Which means I knew exactly what to expect during the first quarter mile—a steep climb that makes you question your existence. With this in mind, I took time to warm up and do some dynamic stretches (unlike my Red Hook Crit pre-race routine). And since it was about 50 degrees, I raced sans baselayer, which proved to be a wise decision, especially because I run hot.

Escape to the Palisades offers three distances: 5-K, a new for this year 6-K trail run, and the half-marathon, which draws the most people. Roughly 200 people toed the 5-K start line, and even though I finished second female overall last year, I didn’t think about the possibility of placing. Honestly, I feel like you’re jinxing it if you go into a race with the expectation of winning—slash, I don’t feel comfortable with thinking that at this point. Anyway, I focused on my goals: holding a 7:10-7:15 pace after the hill and being mentally strong throughout.

When the race started, the FTE boys took off, and I tried to keep two in my sights. And I also took the lead right out of the gate. The pace I dialed into was hot (for me 6:45 min./mi.), but I wanted a cushion for the climb. As I hit the hill, I shorted my stride and focused on turning over my legs: shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker. At this point, one girl passed me. Hey, more power to her if she wants to surge up that hill. I maintained my pace, controlled my breathing, and ended up passing her back.

After climbing the hill, the course ran parallel to the Hudson River and took us through a wooded area; it felt very Zen and actually reminded me of running at home in Upstate New York. Not to mention it was an out-and-back course, so it was easy for me to shut off my brain and simply run. Aside from the occasional “shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker,” there were zero thoughts in my head. Basically, it seems like my mental game improves with each race.

With that being said, though, this was also the first race where strategy played a role. About a minute before the guys appeared from the turnaround point, the girl I dropped on the hill made a move—and I answered. Well, sort of. I stuck on her shoulder. Go ahead. Let her set the pace and do the work. Tactically, I think this was a smart move; I don’t have the speed yet where I could’ve surged and lost her for good, so I simply stuck with her. And it felt like my speedwork pace, so I knew it would be somewhat sustainable.

Anyway, when the guys came back, one of them yelled, “take her now, Carrie! Take her now!” And then she turned around and realized I was there. We ran together through the turnaround, but I knew this couldn’t continue. My kick isn’t where I want it to be, and plus, I had a hard time hammering the downhill last year. Cardiowise, I was fine, and my legs felt decent, so I made my move and hit the pain train. For a brief moment, I let myself entertain the thought of winning.  I knew it would hurt—and I knew I could tolerate it.

As I took the downhill, I thought my legs would fall off. I also thought about rolling down the hill instead. But I was doing it. I was finishing strong and holding the lead.

escape-to-the-palisades-2014-finish[source]

Yes, these are d-baggy pictures to post, but I would be surprised if I ever break the tape again. I would like to point out the clear midfoot strike in the first picture. #runnerd

Official finishing time – 23:56 (7:43 min./mi.)

For what it’s worth, everyone who raced with a Garmin measured the course at 3.35 miles, which changes my average pace to 7:09. This run felt like a seven-and-change effort—definitely closer to a Red Hook Crit level of pain than South Beach.

Honestly, I felt very conflicted at the end of this race—happy, obviously, but also a bit unsettled. I’m still trying to figure out why, but here are my two main takeaways: First, I can string together three solid miles where I’m mentally strong. Two, I can run hard and smart; this race proved I’m getting better at allocating energy, managing efforts, and deciding when to push and when to maintain.

What goes through your head during a workout or race?

South Beach Triathlon Recap

My first triathlon of the 2014 season is officially in the books:  On Sunday, I raced the classic distance (0.5-mile ocean swim, 20.7-mile bike, and 4-mile run) of the South Beach Triathlon—and took first place in my age group (female 20-24)!

south-beach-triathlon-classic-age-group-win

My finishing time also ranked me as 13th female overall and helped my team—Full Throttle Endurance—take home the overall team title.

full-throttle-endurance-south-beach-triathlon-team-champions

I love these people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better season debut!

In the words of my coach, my performance can be summed up as the following:  “You dominated [I beat the second place girl by 27 minutes], but your bike split should’ve been five minutes faster.”

Pre-Race

Heading into this race, I had a successful two-week build:  I nailed key workouts, recovered effectively, and completed brutal events like Trial By Fire and the Red Hook Crit that helped build confidence and mental strength.  Above all, I felt dialed in.  Nervous, yes; anxious, yes.  But prepared and ready to do work.

And not only do work, but perform.  For every tri I race this season, there will be expectations—specific times, certain paces, and overall finishing positions.  Thanks to my athletic background, I’m accustomed to training through and performing while being cognizant of these goals.  But I wasn’t exactly immune to the taper crazies; I was a total head case during taper week and second-guessed nearly every aspect of my training:  Can I ride confidently on my new tri bike?  Should I have run more?

Thankfully, though, my demeanor changed when I arrived in Fort Lauderdale. (I went down with one of my teammates a few days before the race, and we stayed with her aunt.)

fort-lauderdale-pre-south-beach-triathlon

We had an opportunity to relax, hang out, and not think about the race.

In South Beach, the energy returned—but it was positive.  I had a great open-water swim Saturday morning and felt fresh while riding my bike.  I trusted my training, I trusted the process, and I was excited to see it come together.

Swim – 0.5 mi. – 15:04 (goal – 14:xx)

There were two major concerns regarding the swim:  First, would it be wetsuit-legal because water temperatures taken earlier that week notched 78 degrees (and above the 76-degree cutoff); and second, how choppy would the water be.  On race morning, the mercury read 76 degrees, and the water was choppy.  This was an ideal combination for me.  Yes, the wetsuit news helped everyone, but as a stronger swimmer, I benefit from tougher conditions.  Bring on the chop!

Anyway, the swim course stayed consistent with last year’s route:  swim out to a buoy and then stay parallel with the shore.

2014-South-Beach-Triathlon-Classic-Swim-Course-Map

Unlike last year, though, it was a time-trial start, so athletes were organized by age group and then released every five seconds or so.  Although I understand why this change was implemented (mass starts can be intimidating and dangerous), I preferred the mass start.  As a stronger swimmer, I easily distanced myself from my age group competitors and caught up to folks who started 10 minutes beforehand.  Basically, I never had clean water and was constantly maneuvering around people.

Overall, the swim went well.  My coach said I should be around 14 minutes, but I would rather have a slower swim in tough conditions.  And anytime you come out of the water with essentially a five-minute lead, it’s a good swim.

Transition 1 – 3:47

It was a long run from the beach to transition, but my wetsuit came off easily—no hands required, which meant I threw on my helmet and sunglasses quickly.  Unfortunately, I got stuck behind a Wall of Dudes and couldn’t get out of transition as fast as I would’ve liked.

Bike – 20.7 miles – 1:04 (goal – sub-1 hour)

As outlined in my race goals, I wanted to spend time in aero and get used to handling my Slice.  And holy cow, I love my bike!  I felt like I was flying on the straightaways, and climbing the eight causeways/mini-hills seemed much easier than last year.  Although my handling skills were rusty, I rode confidently and stayed in aero for the majority of the time.

south-beach-triathlon-bike

How fast do I have to be in order to wear an aero helmet?

The course was extremely congested—around 2,000 athletes raced—so I basically rode on the left the entire time and passed Throngs of Dudes.  “Chicking” guys is addicting—ha!  Only two women passed me, one of whom was a Full Throttle coach/elite female.  Looking back, I should’ve pushed to keep her in my sights.  Yes, it was my first time racing my Slice, and yes, there was a nasty headwind at the turnaround (my speed dropped from 21-22 MPH to 17-18 MHP), but my legs never reached that stinging, but sustainable point.  Plus, my coach said I should’ve been two minutes behind her when in actuality I rolled into T2 seven minutes later.

Transition 2 – 1:45

As I re-racked my bike and slipped on my shoes, I surveyed the transition area; as suspected, I was the first off the bike, but didn’t know how much of a lead I had. (It was 18 minutes.) I figured it was substantial, but I didn’t want to hang on and hope.  My legs felt good as I headed toward “run out,” and since I didn’t really uncork the bike, I decided to push the run.

Run – 4 miles – 30:54 (goal – sub-32 minutes)

Going into the race, I was the concerned about the run:  could I pace the bike and still piece together a solid run?  Would the heat and humidity be factors?  But as I hit the boardwalk, I assessed things; my legs felt incredibly fresh, and it humid, but not suffocating.  All right, let’s do this!

For the miles one, two, and three, I shut off my brain and ran—shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.  When my watch clocked the first mile at 6:15, I was astonished.  Did I really just run that—off the bike?!  I knew this pace wouldn’t be sustainable, so I eased off the gas and settled into the 7:15-7:20 ballpark.  These splits shocked me too.  Sure, I was working, but the pace didn’t match the effort level; a 7:20 never feels that … comfortably uncomfortable.  This race was my first time running off my Slice, so perhaps that’s where credit is due.  Anyway, I kept my brain “off” and focused on picking off dudes, but the thought still crept into my head:  can I hold this for another mile?

And that’s when it went downhill.

Unbeknownst to most athletes and all of my teammates, the last mile went onto beach, aka sand.  And not hard, packed sand either.

south-beach-triathlon-run

Get me outta here.

This half-mile out-and-back stretch was the longest mile of my life.  At one point, I saw 9:10 on my watch and honestly thought it was all over.  And when a girl with what looked like “23” on her calf passed me, I tried to kick and catch her, but could not push off the sand.  She crossed the finish line seconds before me, and I was convinced I was number two.

Official finishing time – 1:56:11 – 1st in age group (20-24) and 13th female overall

I may have said a few choice words under my breath (sorry, Grandma!), found a teammate, and we slowly walked to the FTE cheering section as we cussed out the sand.  We watched the rest of the team finish, and then headed to the awards ceremony.  Spoiler alert:  I did in fact win my age group.

2014-south-beach-triathlon-classic-age-group-win

And Full Throttle captured 21 podium spots—woohoo!

All in all, I’m happy with how this race transpired, and it also validated what I think about my training so far:  my swim is good, but I need to keep working on the bike and run.  My next race isn’t until June, so it’s time to get after it!

My 2013 Running and Triathloning Recap

… but mostly triathloning.

Can you believe 2013 is coming to a close?  As part of Miss Zippy’s yearly roundup, bloggers post their “year in running” recaps, and since both Jen and Jamie shared their reviews, I decided to follow suit.  Below are some 2013 highlights.

Best race experience

Whew, starting with a toughie!  Three races stand out from this season, so I’ll briefly talk about each.  Going in chronological order, my first swim-bike-run contest of 2013 was the Nautica South Beach Triathlon.

nautica-south-beach-triathlon-run4

As my first official race “flying” the Full Throttle Endurance colors, this event served as a benchmark; it gave me an accurate idea of where I stood in terms of my training and showed which areas needed more work.  Due to the waves, the swim was hands down the most challenging one I’ve completed, but I put together a decent bike and run to take second place in my age group.

nautica-south-beach-podium

Another reason I loved this event?  I got to race, cheer for, hang out with my teammates!

Taking place in late June, the Stamford KIC It Triathlon was another favorite.  The race had an edge in terms of logistics:  located close to New York City, a.k.a. no overnight stay required.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

The event’s atmosphere made it one to remember too.  The volunteers and crowd support were awesome, and even though the bike course kicked my butt, I loved almost every minute.  The pictures from this race speak for themselves.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-bike-course

Last but certainly not least was USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee.  This was my first trip to the “Big Dance” of short-course racing, and wow, what an experience:  perfect venue, ideal course, and an exciting atmosphere.

usa-triathlon-age-group-nationals-milwaukee-run

I got my butt handed to me, but I loved racing and hanging out with my teammates.  I can’t wait to get back on this course in 2014 and see how much I can improve!

Best run

During the end of my season, I used to run long with one of my pace group teammates as she prepared for Timberman 70.3.  These outings were always fun; we slowed the pace, chilled out, and talked literally the entire time.  And during my half-marathon training, I had a lot of quality runs with my coach and teammates.  Gotta love going long, right?

In terms of best run off the bike, I finally started to get close to the lactate threshold “sweet spot” at the Darien ITPMAN Triathlon.  Giving credit where credit is due, my coach yelled at me, which helped a lot.  And I also wanted to leave everything on the course; after all, it was my last race of the year.

Best piece of new gear

OK, so I’m obviously pumped about my Slice (my parents bring it tomorrow!), but since I didn’t use it this season, I’ll go with my wetsuit.  As a wannabe swimmer, I need all the help I can get!  My new saddle comes in at a close second.  Again, I didn’t race on it this year, but it’s made my offseason CompuTrainer/indoor bike trainer workouts so much better. (For the trigeeks, I went with the Cobb Gen2.)

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

This has been drilled into my head:  “Shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.”  The principle of taking short, quick strides has revolutionized my running.  I’ve become a midfoot striker, which has alleviated nearly all of the calf pain I experienced last year.  Also, reminding myself to run this way makes it easier to turn over my legs, maintain an ideal cadence, and overall hit and hold paces coming off the bike.

Most inspirational runner

Between teammates and customers at the store, I see inspirational runners everyday.  One woman does stand out, though.  Earlier this month, she stopped by to get a pair of sneakers because she just finished chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.  She used to run half-marathons all the time, but things changed with her diagnosis.  Even after everything she’s been through, she absolutely radiated positivity.  We had an hour-long shoe fit and found two options that would help her start running again.  Working with folks like her in this component of my job make me feel like I’m actually making a difference.

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

Swim, bike, run, improve, repeat.

How did your year of running/triathloning go?

8th Annual ITPMAN Triathlon Recap

Cue the waterworks—Saturday morning, I completed my last swim-bike-run race of the season, the 8th Annual ITPMAN Triathlon.

8th-annual-itpman-triathlon-mug

Held in Darien, CT, this event ended up being my first and final sprint of the year (even though the distances were a bit on the long side).  Even though I had fun and strung together a solid race, this outing further confirmed I prefer the Olympic distance.

On Friday afternoon, two teammates and I made the drive to from New York City to Darien and picked up our swim caps and bib numbers at Weeds Beach.

weeds-beach-darien-ct

Yep, definitely not in the concrete jungle anymore.

After getting these materials, it started to rain, so we retreated to the car and waited it out; we wanted to stash our bikes in transition, which would give us one less thing to worry about on race morning.  As you can see, the rain eventually stopped.

double-rainbow-weeds-beach-darien-ct

How can you not be pumped after seeing a double rainbow?

Anyway, another teammate lives about 20 minutes from the race site, so we stayed with her, which worked perfectly because we got to “sleep in” the following morning.  And in terms of the race itself, it was definitely on the smaller side (about 250 participants), but it provided a great atmosphere for a final race of the season.

Swim – 0.5 mi. – 17:40

OK, so Garmin readings aren’t everything, but the swim course was probably closer to 0.65-0.75 miles.

8th-annual-itpman-triathlon-swim-course

Even though the water was surprisingly warm and calm, it still felt like a long swim (for the official distance), and several of my teammates who race with Garmins measured the course between the previously mentioned values.  Anyway, since it was a small race, there were only three waves:  red (men), green (more men), and yellow (women).  My wave was the last one, and I situated myself toward the front of the pack, put my head down, and got to work.  As usual, it took me a bit to get into a groove, but once I hit the first buoy, I started passing men in green caps.

Transition 1 – 1:27

Upon exiting the water and unzipping my wetsuit, I immediately heard my coach:  “You are the sixth girl out of the water!  Get to transition and go!”  I picked up the pace (and picked off some guys!), and a few spectators started yelling, “hey, it’s a girl!  You go, girl!”  In transition, I started talking to one of my teammates. (What?  We were next to each other, and I wasn’t going to ignore him.  Uh, rude.) And then my coach starting yelling again.  “Carrie, so-and-so is one minute behind you—get out of here!”  Done and done.

Bike – 15 miles – 49:50

Before the race, there were rumors of a flat bike course, but that wasn’t quite the case.

8th-annual-itpman-triathlon-bike-course

Yes, it wasn’t as hilly as Central Park, but it also wasn’t Milwaukee flat; “false flat” would be an accurate description.  Anyway, as usual, the bike was my weakest of the three disciplines (in terms of average speed and overall ranking), but on the bright side, I stayed in the drops for the majority of the ride.

In addition to “false flat,” there’s another phrase that sums up my experience:  Wall of Dudes (coined by Victoria).  Since I caught up to and passed a lot of guys on the swim, I “broed out” on the bike and road with them.  However, there were several points during the race that guys were riding three or four abreast across the road, resulting in a Wall of Dudes.  This was especially frustrating when we reached hills because several guys didn’t downshift, couldn’t turn over their legs, and didn’t leave the passing lane clear.  Anyway, I digress …

Transition 2 – 0:45

T2 was a little on the slow side because I couldn’t feel my feet.  Gotta love late-season tris!

Run – 5 miles – 39:43 (7:57)*

Coming off the bike, my legs felt relatively good, minus being a little numb.

8th-annual-itpman-triathlon-run-course

At the 0.25-mile mark, my coach caught me on the course and briefly ran with me.

Coach:  “Do you want me to lie to you or tell you the truth?”

Me:  “Tell me the truth.”

Coach:  “You are the tenth female overall now.  There’s a pack of girls out in front that you can run down.  It will hurt a lot, but you can get in the top five.  And getting in the top five would be huge.  But you need to embrace the pain.”

Me:  “All right.  Let’s do this.”

Then and there, I decided to run based on feel and refused to look at my splits.  This strategy worked well in Milwaukee when my watch died, and plus, I knew I needed to push the pace, but I didn’t want to psych myself out with numbers.  Aside from a killer hill after mile two, I felt good—working, but not maxing out—and my mind was right.  I tried not to think too much about what my coach said and focused on running my own race.  As the miles passed, I picked off woman after woman, and before I knew it, I had reached mile four.  And like clockwork, my coach was there waiting.  “You have less than a mile left—you need to turn over your legs and go faster!”  Yessir!  The final stretch hurt, but I held on and finished strong.

*According to my Garmin data, the course measured 5.2 miles, resulting in an average pace of 7:38.

Official finishing time – 1:49:26 – 1st in age group (20-24) and 6th female overall

And just like that, I completed my final race of the season.  Way to go, FTE!

8th-annual-itpman-triathlon-full-throttle-endurance

[source]

Way to go, FTE!  About 15 Full Throttlers raced, and two of my teammates even won first and third overall for women—woohoo!

So what’s next?  Stay tuned.

13th Annual Aquaphor New York City Triathlon (Partial) Recap

All righty, let’s get to it.  On Sunday, I attempted to complete my fourth swim-bike-run event of the season, the 13th Annual Aquaphor New York City Triathlon.

aquaphor-nyc-triathlon2

To say I felt pumped, nervous, amped, and anxious would be a huge understatement.  I couldn’t wait to race on my “home turf,” and the stakes were higher:  This event would boast the most competitive field to-date (in terms of my age group, women 24-under), and it also served as a team competition.  Based on how well triathletes placed in their age groups, their respective teams earned points, and the team that accumulated the most points would win.  My racing season has gone well, so I really wanted to deliver for the team.  Plus, the NYC Tri would be my final tune-up race before a certain event in August, so I really wanted to finish off this first half of the season strong.

I’ve written a few times that my coach says if you don’t pass out or throw up after a race, then you didn’t push hard enough.  And sorry if this is TMI, but let’s say I covered all my bases—and recorded my first DNF.  Here’s how it went down.

Swim – 1500m – 18:10 (2/36)

Prior to this race, I heard nothing except negative things about swimming in the Hudson River.  However, I went into it with the ignorance-is-bliss mentality:  Most likely, this would be my fastest swim ever because of the current.

In the week leading up to the race, my coach and I talked extensively about my game plan, and we knew having a strong swim would set the tone. (As I get further into this triathlon journey, it’s become more evident the swim is where one of my strengths lies.) Right from the start, I needed to push.

The swim was a time-trial start, so groups of 20 athletes were led onto the pier and jumped into the water every 15 seconds.

aquaphor-nyc-triathlon

[source]

Back in 2011 when it was the Nautica New York City Triathlon.

Age group placements determined starting times, and my wave began around 7 a.m. (More than 3,000 triathletes competed, so there were two different transitions:  yellow and red.  My wave was the last to go for the yellow, and following a 20-minute break, the red transition participants hopped into the Hudson.)

In terms of the swim course itself, my coach and a few teammates gave me some pointers, so I situated myself in a favorable spot on the pier.  As soon as I jumped in, I noticed the current (the official water temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit):  I felt like I was flying!  I kept my strokes long, focused on gliding, and barely kicked.  Unlike past races, I allowed myself to smile once and be grateful for the experience, but then got down to work.  As I caught up to waves that started before me, there was some bottleneck action, but I navigated it fairly well.  I also really liked how there were meter postings along the left side of the water, so every 300m, 600m, etc., you knew your progress.

Toward the end, I started to kick more to ready my legs for the run to transition, and I caught up to the group (women 35-39) that started three waves before me.  Needless to say, I exited the water feeling high on life.  I was really happy with the swim.

Transition 1 – (~0.5 mi. run) 5:16 (2/36)

Another part of the race my coach and I talked about was the run from the swim exit to transition 1 (T1).  Depending on where your bike rack was located, each triathlete had a 400-800-yard barefoot run on concrete.  My goal for T1 was to strip off my wetsuit and pick off as many people possible on the run.  It was definitely painful, but I knew what to expect thanks to my Trial By Fire experience; I knew what running right after swimming would feel like, and I knew how to work through it. (And for what it’s worth, I passed the girl who beat me out of the water in T1.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was first in my AG heading out on the bike.)

Bike – 24.8 mi./40-K – 1:26:58 (5/36)

The race plan for the bike was to push the pace without burning out, and for the most part, I executed.

13th-annual-aquaphor-new-york-city-triathlon-bike

Even though I hoped for a faster split, this is definitely the strongest and most confident I’ve felt during a race.

13th-annual-aquaphor-new-york-city-triathlon-bike2

As the ride progressed, I worked my way up the waves, so by the time I rolled in to transition 2 (T2), I was alongside women who started nine swim waves before me.

Transition 2 – 1:36 (3/36)

Got in, changed gear, and got out.  No messing around.

Run – 6.2 mi./10-K

At the start of the run, I had a feeling I was in a good spot in terms of my AG.  And now, since reviewing the data and splits, I know I was in first place—until I blew up.

13th-annual-aquaphor-new-york-city-triathlon-run2

For the run out of T2, we exited at Riverside Park at 72nd Street and ran one mile before arriving at Central Park.  Once I hit the hill, my quads immediately locked up.  Then and there, I knew the run was going to be a suffer fest.  In hindsight, this should’ve been a warning sign; this exact thing happened at Nautica South Beach before I hit the wall, but luckily, the run was short enough (only four miles), so I could power through.  This run, however, went from bad to worse—and fast.  My pace slowed big time, and even though I dumped water on my head at every aid station, I refused to walk or take in nutrition.  In hindsight, this was not a good decision. (In the past, when I’ve taken in fluids on the run, I’ve experienced stomach cramps.) Around the mile-two mark, two girls in my AG blew past me, and I knew catching them was out of the question.  However, when a third girl tried to make a move, my competitive side took over, and I surged ahead.  We matched pace for a bit, and around mile four, I surged again and hoped it would put enough distance between us.

It was around mile 4.5 that I collapsed.

The next few hours were a dizzy and hazy blur:  riding in the ambulance (with one of my teammates who was a few minutes behind me on the run), getting tests done, etc.  The doctors said I was severely dehydrated, which means I should’ve been fueling on the run.  I hung out in the hospital for a few hours as they pumped fluids into me, and two of my teammates stayed with me for a bit.  I was released later that afternoon, and one teammate brought me some clothes, and another picked me up and drove me back to my apartment.  My mom also made the trip to NYC, so I’ve been under her watchful eye since Sunday evening.

Since the race, I’ve received so many texts, emails, and Facebook messages, and it makes me feel truly blessed and grateful to have such a supportive and caring network of friends, teammates, and family.  If this had to happen, then at least it occurred in NYC, at a race where plenty of people were present.

I’m well on the road to recovery now, and I’m starting to feel more like myself.  No workouts for a few days obviously, but I’m slowly easing back into my normal routine.

So what did I learn from this race?  The importance of knowing your limits—and when you can keep pushing and when you need to back off.  This race also makes it necessary to reevaluate my nutrition strategy during the run, especially on hot and humid days. (The heat index was 107 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Oh, and in terms of the team challenge, Full Throttle Endurance came in second place—by one point.  And I know that one point is on me.

And this may be too soon, but you can bet I’ll be back at this race next year on a quest for redemption.

Have you ever fainted or passed out while exercising?  How did you handle it?

Stamford KIC It Triathlon Recap

On Sunday, I completed my second Olympic-distance swim-bike-run event, the Stamford KIC It Triathlon.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-race-bib

Located about an hour outside the city in Connecticut, this race was a ideal for NYC triathletes:  close enough that staying overnight wasn’t required, but far enough away that it provided an escape from the concrete jungle.  And in terms of my race calendar, it served as a perfect tune-up since it’s two weeks before the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon.  In theory, I was “tuning up,” but in actuality, I’m still learning how much I can push on the swim and bike and still piece together a solid run.  Overall, I pushed more than Montauk, but as you will see from the race pictures, I’m clearly not experiencing enough pain.  I still had a good race, though!

Swim – 0.9 miles – 25:10

There’s no other way to describe the swim conditions without using the word perfect:  calm water, reasonable temperatures (I didn’t hear the official reading, but it was definitely warmer than Montauk, so maybe 60-ish degrees Fahrenheit), and the sun even started to peek through the clouds.  Basically, I really, really enjoyed the swim; it felt therapeutic. (And wow, I sound super Zen—ha!) So this probably means I didn’t push enough, right?  Like Montauk, I exited the water feeling strong and wishing the course were longer.

Transition 1 (T1) – 2:36

One of my favorite moments during the race took place during T1.  During the swim, I caught up to the wave that started before me, and not only did I pass guys in the water, but I also jogged by them on the way to our bikes.  As I passed one guy, he yelled, “Oh s$#*!” and he tried to pick up the pace.  All I could do was smile!

Bike – 24.8 miles/40-K – 1:25:38

Going into this race, I knew the bike would be difficult.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-bike-course

Not only would it be a longer ride than Montauk, but it was also very technical; there were downhills, there were a ton of “hot turns,” so truly capitalizing and picking up speed wasn’t going to happen.  During the race itself, I questioned my judgment—‘why in the world am I doing this?’—but managed to get through it.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-bike-course

Approaching T2.  Can you tell I’m pumped to run?

The fans and volunteers on the bike course were phenomenal.  The volunteers wore hot pink shirts and alerted us well before every turn, and the fans cheered like crazy.  My teammates were great too.  I saw five of them on course, and even though four passed me, they were really encouraging.

Transition 2 – 1:13

T2 was a blur.  It was actually a different location than T1, and I loved how each row of racks was numbered.  When I dropped off my run gear, I memorized the number, so finding my spot during the race couldn’t have been easier.

Run – 6.2 miles/10-K – 50:23

The run was a flat, two-loop course that took us through part of downtown Stamford.  Like Montauk, it took me about three miles to loosen up and become comfortable, and then I settled into a steady pace and put it on cruise control.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run

So remember my teammates who passed me during the bike?  I caught up to and lapped them on the run.  It was nice paying forward the encouragement and trying to pull them along.  After the race, one of my teammates who was there cheering said it seemed like I was casually chatting with everyone.  She was kinda right, ha!

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run4

I couldn’t help it, though—I was having so much fun!

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run3

I did buckle down and kick it into high gear near the end.  I loved seeing my coach and teammates on the course, especially during the final 400m or so.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

Official finishing time: 2:45:02—first in my age group! (Full disclosure:  first of three.  But I would’ve placed second in 25-29 and fourth in 30-34, both of which were bigger age groups.)

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-award

As you can tell from the pictures, I had a lot of fun during this race.  However, I can’t ignore the fact that as I crossed the finish line I felt very unsettled.  Yes, I had a good race, but could I have pushed harder?  Absolutely.  And the only thing worse than blowing up during an event is finishing with gas left in the tank.  In the words of one of my coaches:  “If you finish a race and don’t feel like you’re going to pass out or throw up, then you didn’t go hard enough.”

Oh, and speaking of my team, FTE had a great day—10 podium finishes!

Anyway, onto the next one—t-minus 10 days until NYC!

Mighty Montauk Triathlon Recap

On Saturday, I completed my first Olympic-distance triathlon, the Mighty Montauk.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-t-shirt-2013

Held in Montauk, NY, this 1-mile swim, 22-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run featured tough race conditions thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea, which pounded the area with rain the day before.  The unrelenting precipitation made parts of the course challenging—and don’t even get me started on the standing water in transition—but I still had a lot of fun.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-swim-cap

Red nails and red swim cap—and I didn’t even plan this matching!

As outlined in my race calendar, I didn’t “race” Mighty Montauk because it was my first Olympic, but I did establish a few training goals.  I drafted this post the week before the race, but never published it; and this actually works out better because final finishing times are available online, but splits are not (i.e. exact times for the swim, transition 1, bike, etc.).

Goal:  Get experience in my new wetsuit.

Thanks to my big-girl job, I’m eligible for generous discounts off products we carry in store, which includes Blueseventy wetsuits.  Even though I have a wetsuit from last season, I needed to upgrade, so I ordered the Helix.

blueseventy-helix-wetsuit

I won’t bore you with its characteristics, but it’s the best Blueseventy suit on the market:  the lower body provides buoyancy, and the upper-body contains thin, 1.5-mm neoprene, which ensures flexibility in the water.

blueseventy-helix-wetsuit-full-sleeves

Basically, it feels like a sleeveless wetsuit.

Result:  Success!

The suit arrived Wednesday, just in time for a pool test swim on Thursday morning.  I only did 500 yards, but immediately loved it.  I felt faster and more streamlined, yet totally forgot I was wearing a suit because the upper body is so flexible.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-swim-exit

[source]

And on race day, I had a pretty good swim.  Lake Montauk’s temperature notched 50ish degrees Fahrenheit, and even though it took me half a mile to “warm up” (that phrase being relative, ha!), I felt strong, calm, and totally relaxed in the open water.

mighty-montauk-swim-start-red-caps

[source]

It was a bit choppy and windy, but nothing compared to South Beach or last year’s DeRuyter Triathlon.  I didn’t push the pace, and overall, I definitely like the one-mile distance of an Olympic more than the half-mile of a sprint.

Rough time estimate: somewhere in the 35-37-min. ballpark.

Goal:  Push—aka don’t be complacent—on the bike.

Based on the SoBe results and recent happenings, I have the most room for improvement on the bike.  With another two months of training under my (race) belt, which includes an expedition to New Jersey and group rides in Central Park, I hope to feel more confident come race day.

Result:  Meh.

So remember that tropical storm?  Its residual effects—think heavy winds and a partially flooded course—made the bike tough.  The course itself wasn’t too technical or challenging, but the wind and water combination made it touch-and-go.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-bike-course

[source]

Cruising into transition 2.  Clearly, I cannot wait to get out of the saddle!

(My “favorite” part of the course was the turnaround point that had one foot of standing water.  Good times.) Even our coaches commented on the unfavorable conditions.  On the bright side, only two women passed me, both of whom had tri bikes.

Rough time estimate:  The last time I checked my bike computer, it read 1:01, so one-hour plus.

Goal:  Develop a nutrition strategy.

Even though this will be the longest tri I’ve done to-date, I don’t plan to do anything different in terms of nutrition.  After all, nothing new on race day, right?  I’ve fine-tuned my pre-race eating plan and hydration strategy, and I hope this combo can adequately fuel me for a 10-K run.  Both my coach and a few knowledgeable triathletes advised skipping the gel on the bike/during the run.  I won’t #trigeek out and go into the nitty-gritty science, but basically it will take energy to digest those calories, and during a short-course event, I want that energy to be spent on swimming, biking, and running.

Result:  Success!

I followed my tried-and-true plan—GU Espresso Love 15 minutes before the swim start and one bottle of PowerBar Perform on the bike per hour—and didn’t feel my energy levels plummet on the run.  In fact, I completed the 10-K without taking any of the on-course water, Gatorade, etc.

montauk-after-party

“Hydrating” off the bike at the post-race party.

Goal:  Execute the pace plan—aka be disciplined—on the run.

So South Beach was a classic example of making a game plan and then totally throwing it out the window.  Luckily, that run spanned four miles, so I hung on and finished somewhat strong, but ignoring the pace plan won’t be OK during an Olympic-distance event.  My coach gave me a target pace I should hit and hold for the run, and the toughest part will be being disciplined coming off the bike.  I’ve also talked to my coach and teammates about the course itself, so I know what to expect at each mile.  Miles four and five head downhill and then up hill through cul-de-sacs, which means I need to capitalize on the declines to make up for time lost on the inclines.

Result:  Semi-success!

Aside from my first quarter-mile off the bike that was too fast, I executed the plan pretty well.  I settled into cruise control for miles one, two, and three, and there was surprisingly little discomfort.  It was tempting to push the pace, but I alternated between telling myself “discipline” and “shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.”  There was some discomfort that ebbed and flowed during miles four and five, and luckily, one of my male teammates caught up to me (his swim wave was five minutes after mine) and pulled me up the hill—like he literally reached back and grabbed my hand in an attempt to pull me up!  I saw only four or five teammates on the run, but it was still great to cheer on each other.  As I neared the top of the hill, one of my female teammates who was making her way down told me that’s where the mile-five maker was located, and the last one-plus mile was a downhill stretch to the finish line.  Thanks to her tip, I settled into my tempo pace for the final mile.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-run-finish

[source]

Rough time estimate:  50:XX.  I didn’t stop my Garmin exactly when I crossed the finish line, and it also measured the course as 6.4 miles.

Official finishing time:  2:33:00.5—first in my age group (18-24) and 12th in women overall!

mighty-montauk-triathlon-division-champion-t-shirt

No medal or actual podium this time, but this t-shirt is much more practical.

Given the circumstances, I’m happy with how this race played out.

mighty-montauk-triathlon-full-throttle-endurance2

[source]

(Some of) the best teammates a girl could ask for.

Overall, I definitely could’ve pushed more during each leg, and I still have a lot of work to do in terms of the bike.  Honestly, I finished each discipline feeling way too comfortable, but since this was my first Olympic-distance race, I wanted to leave enough gas in the tank.  I’ve also decided I prefer this distance to the sprint; at the halfway point for the swim, bike, and especially the run, I was glad there was more ground to cover.

Let the training and countdown for Stamford (19 days!) continue!