Tag Archives: race recap

2015 HITS Kingston Triathlon Recap

This past Saturday, I completed the HITS Kingston Triathlon, my second swim-bike-run race of the season and my first Olympic-distance one.  It was a pretty good outing.

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The Tailwind crew

Originally, I was supposed to do Stamford a few weeks ago, but my bike crash altered those plans. Shortly after going to Lake Placid for training camp, I started searching for another pre-Nationals tune-up, and one of my Tailwind friends mentioned this race. Not only was it a short two-hour drive north, but it was also one month out from the Big Milwaukee Dance, and it was a more challenging (read: hilly) course. He also has a house about 20 minutes away. Sign me up!

Even though the HITS Series produces races nationwide, its Kingston inaugural event felt very much like a yokel local race. Combined, the sprint, Olympic, half-Iron, and full-Iron distances saw maybe 300 people, and the race director told us at the athlete briefing only 85 folks registered for the Olympic. (Also, the Iron Cowboy was there!) Therefore, it was small field, but that didn’t affect my race plan: work the swim, push the bike, and see how long I could hold it together on the run. My coaches gave me the go-ahead to redline the bike and ride at 85-95 percent, which made me excited in a twisted, sadistic way only endurance athletes would understand. Why? Well, I needed to see what kind of split I could throw down prior to Nationals. And two, the only reason it would make sense to hold back on the bike would be to run fast off it. Thanks to my bike crash recovery and lack of speedwork, I did not have the top-end speed that would warrant being conservative in the saddle. Basically, I was physically and mentally prepared to blow up on the run. (Spoiler: I did.)

Swim – 1,500m – 26:39 (2/6 AG and 5th female OA)

A two-loop route, this course’s challenges included the mass start and the Hudson River’s current. Let’s start with the mass start.

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Only a handful of races I’ve done had mass starts—most notably Nationals—but even then, it’s a mass age-group start. At Kingston, there were a ton of burley dudes to deal with. Even though I’m a relatively strong swimmer, I situated myself conservatively because I didn’t want to get pummeled. So much for that. Hands down, this was the most aggressive swim start I’ve experienced—so much kicking, punching, and grabbing. At the turnaround buoy, one dude grabbed my shoulder and shoved me underwater! (“That’s some real ITU s***!” my friend told me after.) Luckily, my basketball instincts kicked in, and I was able to hold my own. Unfortunately, the Wall of Aggressive Dudes never relented because the 70.3 and 140.6 guys started beforehand; just as I’d swim away from one pack, there’d be another surge.

Second, we had to contend with the current not once, but twice. Gotta love loop courses! Initially, I didn’t think it would be strong, but I swam far, far left my first loop because the current pushed me toward the shore. My timing chip also came off during this portion, so I spent 30 seconds fumbling around and treading water trying to put it back on.

Overall, this was not a great swim, but it was effective from a tune-up perspective. Sure, the split was slower than I would’ve liked, but more importantly, it reminded me what it’s like to be in an aggressive open-water environment—and I was able to hang tough and stay mentally sound.

Transition 1 – 1:30 (1/6 AG and 5th female OA)

My transitions weren’t efficient at South Beach, so I focused on moving through these sections quickly. Case in point: I came out of the water with another girl, stayed on her shoulder as we ran into T1, and beat her out on the bike.

Bike – 40-K – 1:18:00 (1/6 AG and 3rd female OA)

As outlined in my race goals, I planned to redline the bike and ride hard miles. Although I was physically prepared to enter the pain cave, this ride ended up being much more mentally demanding than I anticipated.

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Elevation profile (also #LetsTalkWatts)

I saw only four people on the ride: two girls who I passed, and two dudes who passed me. This meant I was riding completely solo without anyone in sight. The super fast dudes were ahead of me, and I figured I was in the top five for women. A few times, I even wondered if I was still on course because there were no signs, volunteers, or fellow athletes.  That’s when it dawned on me:  I am racing myself. This was a great opportunity to dial in and execute, but I had to work harder to stay mentally engaged and not ease off the gas just because no one else was around.

Focus on the feeling. Focus on the feeling. I don’t have a power meter, but I’ve spent enough time at FTP to know what it feels like, and I was there. I also focused on pushing a bigger gear and maintaining 90 RPMs as opposed to downshifting and spinning at 93-95 RPMs, which I do by default.

Overall, I felt strong, and I also felt like I was out there a long time. This is a decent split (and the woman who had the fastest bike and won the race is a pro so …), but I was not planning to spend 78 minutes at FTP; I was actually hoping for 70. Did this extra pain cave time affect my run? Probably.

Transition 2 – 0:50 (1/6 AG and 3rd female OA)

Get in, drop stuff, and get out.

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Not sure what my tri shorts are doing, but …

While running, I fumbled with my watch and failed to press “start” at the right time, so I knew the distance would be off.

Run – 10-K – 53:10 (4/6 AG and 13th female OA)

So … there’s not much to say. It was a double, out-and-back course with each loop spanning about 1.5 miles.

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In theory, this structure would make it easier to divide the run into mini sections, but in reality, I was again left to my own metal devices.

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Where is everyone?!

The first loop was relatively OK. My splits were where they needed to be, and I spotted two blazing fast women making moves and heading back while I went to this turnaround. This meant I was the third female overall. And when I started running back, I didn’t see another women for a long, long time. I am racing myself, and it’s my race to lose.

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Watts?  Where?!  Not totally sure what I’m doing here.

However, I knew if I executed the bike right—and rode at FTP for an hour-plus—then I would eventually cook on the run. It was simply a question of when it would happen: mile two, mile three … I really hoped I could make it to mile four, but the halfway point was where things started to go downhill. It was hot. My heart rate was jacked up. It felt like I was working much harder to hold my splits. I made the rookie mistake of drinking too much water, and my stomach was sloshing. Bottom line, I went into survival mode for the final three miles. There were cones set up on the ride of the road that I used to keep myself in it mentally. OK, make it to that cone. Good. Now get to that one.

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And as the story of my triathlon career thus far goes, I yet again got run down in the final stretch. With less than a quarter mile left, the woman who eventually took third overall passed me, and I couldn’t answer. Some days you have it, and some days you don’t.

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Official finishing time – 2:40:11 (1st AG and 4th female overall)

All and all, this was a productive outing. I reconfirmed I can handle aggressive swims. I also reconfirmed I can, in fact, “grind it out” at 90 RPMs on the bike. I proved I cannot ride at FTP for 78 minutes and expect to hit and hold my target 10-K race pace after. And I learned you sometimes need to race yourself.

Time to lock it in. Next stop: Milwaukee!

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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 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?

NYRR Al Gordon 4 Mile Recap

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

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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.

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?