Tag Archives: Races

My 2017 Triathlon Life: Race Schedule

The time has arrived: let’s talk about the 2017 triathlon racing season.

The 2016 campaign seems like another lifetime, and although I thoroughly enjoyed the off-season, I’m ready to start laying the groundwork for a successful 2017. Overall, I made a lot of progress during the 2016 season—it was my first year training with a coach instead of putting together my own “piecemeal” plan—and I’m excited to continue this journey: growing, maturing, and becoming a better endurance athlete.

Favorite time, favorite place: dawn patrol in Central Park

As my fifth official tri season (wow!), this year will center on expanding my endurance portfolio. Multisport has become my lifestyle, and I love being a student of the sport; continuing to learn, grow, and challenge myself will be the overarching objectives this year. Therefore, in addition to a handful of “normal” Olympic-distance races, we’ll do events that take me outside my comfort zone—like swim meets and stage races.

My long-term triathlon goals have also prompted the diversification of my endurance portfolio, mainly because long-course events, specifically a 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run) now seem feasible. I’ve been around the sport for a good amount of time, and I’ve also seen and trained with friends who have tackled this distance; this experience has demystified the distance, and it has also showed me what is necessary to string together a solid outing. My mindset has gone from ‘someday, a long time from now’ to ‘maybe in a few years’ to ‘I want to do it.’

cRUNch, cRUNch

With this in mind, the primary focus of the 2017 season will be building a base for making the jump to long-course racing—specifically racing a 70.3—in 2018.

New England Short-Course Meters Championships

Boston, MA

March 17-19

Can’t stop, won’t stop: swim meet number three is going down in March.  The New England Short-Course Yards Championship draws tons of regional teams and promises solid competition.  Not that I’ll be “competing” against anyone else.  My only goals are to further expand my race experience portfolio and have fun.  Hopefully I can string together decent swims, and since my masters team goes every year, I know we’ll have a blast. When registration opens, I’ll sign up for all the freestyle events (50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free), plus the 100 IM. My masters team will race relays, so I’ll probably end up swimming the 200 free relay, 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay, and/or 400 free relay. And yes, I know this is an aggressive schedule for three days, but it’s all about gaining experience.

Queens Marathon

Queens, NY

March 26

For the past month or so, I’ve been guiding with Achilles, and for the most part, I’ve been running with the same athlete. He was the second person I was paired with, and we hit it off. He’s also a triathlele, and we have a lot of mutual friends in the community. Because of this connection, during our third or fourth time running together, he asked me to guide him for the Queens Marathon.

I have never run a marathon—but this is not about me.

My coach and I have talked about it, and I’m taking the necessary measures to prepare myself for tackling 26.2 miles. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ve seen my long run increasing throughout the past few weeks as well as my weekly mileage. While covering the distance will be a mental challenge for me, I am also cognizant of the time on my feet. Thus far, it looks like our target marathon pace will be about a minute slower than what would be “my” projected marathon pace so muscle fatigue will be an issue for me once we get to the later miles.

All in all, I’m very excited and humbled by this opportunity. My triathlon racing season doesn’t start until June, so the timing of this race works. I’m looking forward to experiencing a race from a new perspective, and this will be an extremely memorable way to complete my first 26.2 miler. (Did I just say first?) I never thought 2017 would be the year of the marathon, but it’s happening!

Seneca7

Making the rounds through my old stomping grounds

Geneva, NY

April 30

Worlds will collide again this year when my NYC runner friends and I make the five-hour drive to the Finger Lakes.  The core of last year’s team will return, but there are a few of us who will be running this day-long relay for the first time.  And since I’m not starting a new job, we’ll spend Sunday night in Geneva after the race instead of driving back immediately after finishing. Like last year, I plan to view my three legs as workouts and use each as an opportunity to execute a slightly faster pace than what I hit running off the bike.

Rev3 Quassy

Middlebury, CT

June 3

This is one course I can’t seem to crack, so why on earth am I going back?  Well, for that exact reason:  I have unfinished business.  A few years ago, I had a disastrous race at Pat Griskus, and although I tapered expectations for last year’s Rev3 Quassy, it was still a mentally tough day for a variety of reasons.  I’m hoping actually riding outside (woohoo for health insurance) before race day will solve those problems.  In all seriousness, though, this race will be increasingly important this year, even just from a confidence building perspective.  Quassy is hilly and technical course, much like the 70.3 I’m eying for 2018.  With Earl in charge of the training, I have full confidence we’ll be physically ready for a good day, and I feel like my mentally game has improved leaps and bounds.

HITS Hudson Valley

Hardware for all!

Kingston, NY

July 8

Aside from the training weekend in Lake Placid, my weekend “Upstate” was the highlight of the 2016 racing season.  The fact that it was a good outing was a pleasant surprise. I always want to do well at races, but this event has been about executing across the disciplines—stringing together the best possible race on that day (and seeing where the cards fall in terms podium spots)—and then spending the rest of the weekend hanging out with friends.  It’s so important to strike that balance, and this race weekend always makes me feel grateful for the people this sport has brought into my life.

New York City Triathlon

July 16

My experience volunteering for CAF at this race last year was ultimately the catalyst for me getting involved with Achilles, and this time around, I plan to participate in the race as a guide.  My role will be similar to what I do during the Queens Marathon–I will be with an athlete every step of the way–but I have not solidifying who I will be guiding yet.  Not to worry, though, as this will fall into place as the race approaches.

Cazenovia Triathlon

Chasing that first-out-of-the-water feeling

Cazenovia, NY

August 27

The first multisport event I completed, the Caz Tri holds a special place in my heart. In past years, this race has served as a capstone to my season: typically, I’d have a humbling experience at Nationals and return home with my competitive fire burning and crank out one last solid outing before heading into the off-season. Although this race will be my final triathlon of the season, it will more accurately mark a turning point in my training progression as I shift from a swim-bike-run focus to a swim-run mentality.

SwimRun VA

Richmond, VA

October 21

I am beyond pumped for this stage race!  Throughout the course of one day, my team—Two Stevens, because my training buddy’s first name is Steven, and that’s also my last name—will cover six swim legs totaling 3.3 miles and seven run legs totaling 14.95 miles for a total mileage of 18.32. This race will provide new challenges as far as training and racing go, but we’ll also need to iron out logistics and get comfortable with a few things—like running in wetsuits and swimming with in our running shoes.

It’s worth noting that for the first time in four years, I will not be going to Nationals.  Although I fully committed myself to the process, last year’s race itself left a lot to be desired from an experiential standpoint.  In turn, those feeling gave me pause to reflect: why has this event become a season staple?  Do I really want to go back to Omaha and do it again (even if parts of the course have been changed)?  How does it align with my goals as a triathlete? Also, I can usually swing one training trip and one “destination” race per year, and the Richmond SwimRun race simply made me so much more excited.

So that’s where we stand for 2017. I’m sure I’ll hop into a few road races throughout the year–and I will go to Lake Placid for a training camp–but these are the events we’re building my schedule and progression around.

Which event are you most exited for this year?

 

Being Tactical: Pre-Race Thoughts on Rev3 Quassy

Race week, race week: the next edition of sportz Saturday will occur at a sanctioned event, and I’m excited to swim, bike, and run at Rev3 Quassy!

2016-rev3-quassy-logo

Structured training began in January, so I am itching to enter a race environment, do some sportz, and execute across the disciplines. Plus, I feel like training has been going well, but it will be beneficial to have an “official” check-in point to make sure we’re on track.

Held in Middlebury, Connecticut, “the beast of the Northeast” is known as one of—if not the—toughest courses on the race circuit. It offers both Olympic-distance and 70.3 races, and for those crazy enough, there’s a “revolution” option to race back-to-back and complete both. But tackling the modest 0.9-mile swim, 25.7-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run is more than enough for me. In fact, after the disastrous Pat Griskus Triathlon two years ago, I swore I would never do this race since these courses are so similar. Yet here we are.

As Earl and I developed my race schedule at the beginning of the season, one of our top priorities included exposing me to as many different experiences as possible—both for the build-up to Nationals this year and for my general growth as a triathlete. These mini tests would serve as opportunities to practice pacing, nutrition, etc. in challenging environments before I go to Omaha for *knock on wood* a successful smashfest across the disciplines. The “challenging environment” component is key: my tune-up races will be on hilly courses while Nationals will be flat and fast for the most part. Basically, if I can execute my race plan on rolling courses, then I should be able to lock it in on a flat course.

There’s no doubt Quassy will be the toughest race I do this year—and quite possibly ever. With that in mind, this will be a very calculated outing. This course does not play to my strengths. In fact, it’s probably one of the worst ones out there for me: it’s hilly, and at 5’10”, I am far from being a pocketfriend who can zip up those hills on the bike and run.  And that doesn’t take into consideration the weather either.

Enduring a four-plus-hour college graduation. Would not do it for anyone else, Margaret! <3

We’ve experienced an incredibly hot and humid week here with temperatures reaching the high 80s. Bottom line, facing a hilly course on a hot day is my worst case scenario, and there’s a high chance that’s what the conditions will be on Saturday. Oh, goodie.

It’s all about controlling the controllables: being smart, executing the plan, and racing the course—not the other athletes. On the bike, there will be no hammering. There will be lots of climbing, cresting hills, and managing my efforts strategically.

2016-rev3-quassy-olympic-bike-course

Self, repeat after me: smooth, strong, controlled. Do. Not. Hammer.

Plus, due to my health insurance situation–due to my new job, I did not get insured until June 1–this ride will be my first true outdoor outing of the year. (Although I did spin out in Central Park yesterday in an effort to remember what it is like to handle a bike.) Therefore, I’m really managing my expectations for the bike. Luckily, Earl has data from my bike workouts and knows I’m fit. He’s not concerned about my performance in the saddle—he’s looking forward to seeing how I execute on the run.

2016-rev3-quassy-run-course

What goes up must come down …

Bottom line, this will be an incredibly solid training day. It’s going to be a grind. It’s going to be tactical. But I’m confident in my training thus far, and no matter what happens out there, the only place to go is up.

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?

My 2015 Triathlon/Race Schedule (So Far)

All right folks—let’s talk watts races. It’s no secret I’m a type-A person, and needless to say, my 2015 race schedule has been solidified for quite some time. I’ll be repeating a handful of favorite tris, and after talking with Coach Pat, I even registered for a few road races. As you’ll see, this calendar goes through August. I’d love to do another run-focused block and target a few fall half-marathons, but that will depend on how the tri season goes and how I’m feeling mid-August (hence the “so far” part of the title).

NYRR Al Gordon 4 Miler

Date: Saturday, Feb. 21

Distance: 4 miles

Priority: Uhhh

I finally, finally bit the bullet and became a member of New York Road Runners. (File this under “things that happen when you work at a running store.”) At first glance, this seems like a weird pick: four miles (as opposed to the more standard 5- and 10-K distance) in Brooklyn. But, I chose it strategically. At the South Beach Triathlon (see below), I’ll do the classic distance, which contains a four-mile run. Obviously the conditions will be different, but I want to use this race as an opportunity to see what I can piece together on a hilly-ish course. At the very least, it will give me a ballpark time to shoot for in SoBe.

NYRR 10-K Spring Melt Down

Date: Sunday, March 29

Distance: 10-K

Priority: Uhhh

Like the four miler, this 10-K will serve as a training check-in point; seeing how fast I can go will not only be a confidence boost, but it will also be a good gauge of what I can run off the bike as the tri racing season progresses.

South Beach Triathlon

Date: Sunday, April 19

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

Priority: “C” race

I mean, obviously. Thanks to this race, I find myself excited to start training in January. Plus, this will also be the first tri where I race in my new age group (25-29), so I’m mentally prepared to be a small fish in a big pond and to get my butt handed to me. Goals may change come April, but right now, SoBe will serve as a training check-in point, specifically in terms of my bike and run fitness. I’d love to crush this course—smoke the bike and unload on the run—but we’ll see how training progresses. Plus, no one is trying to peak in April.

Mighty Montauk Triathlon

Date: Saturday, June 13

Distance: Olympic (1-mi. swim, 22-mi. bike, 6.2-mi. run)

Priority: “B” race

Mighty Montauk got nixed last year for Pat Griskus, a race I have no desire to ever do again (much like the NYC Tri). Anyway, I’m hoping to round up a group of teammates and turn this into a long weekend. And like SoBe, this will be another training check-in point in which running a solid 6.2 miles off a hilly bike will be the primary goal.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date: Sunday, June 28

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “B” race

Again, this is a definite “duh.” I’ve done this race the past two years for a slew of reasons: it’s extremely organized and well-run; it’s only 45 minutes or so outside of the city; and it has the best volunteers and post-race food. I mean, there was iced coffee last year. Most likely, this will be my final tune-up before the Big Dance in August, so executing a solid, all-around race will be the goal.

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, Aug. 8

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “A” race

Third time’s the charm! I cannot wait to take on this course with another year of training and experience. The unofficial motto is #Hammerfest2015. (Thanks, Victoria!) It’s a long way off, so no concrete goals have been made yet—except for going faster than last year, of course.

Cazenovia Triathlon

Date: Sunday, Aug. 23

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

Priority: “C” race

Unexpected, yes. Totally psyched, also yes. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember this was my first triathlon ever, a.k.a. the race that started it all. The past two years, it overlapped with Nationals, but not this time. I’m pumped to return to my hometown and take on the same course with three years of structured training. To me, this sport centers on relentless progress forward, and I cannot wait to see the improvement across the disciplines.

I also signed up for the Prospect Park Cherry Tree 10 Miler (Feb. 15) as a long run; Coach Pat says we’ll make it a “fun workout.” Other races on the radar include Rock the River 5-K (May 3), the bike-run-bike training day I’ve done for the past two years and Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon (July 18), which will be tough to swing because it’s the day before the NYC Triathlon. And after tri season ends, I’ll definitely do the Philadelphia Half (Nov. 22) again, and a few friends also signed up for the Wineglass Half (Oct. 4), so that’s on the table too.

Let’s do it big in 2015!

What does your race schedule look like so far?

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

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

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

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

Last year: ‘Milwaukee is a great venue.’

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

kopps-milwaukee

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

Last year: ‘Everyone looks so fit.’

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

Last year: ‘I need a new bike.’

This year: Hello, race-ready Slice!

cannondale-slice-5-105-womens-nationals

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

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

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

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

2014-usa-triathlon-age-group-national-championships-fte-dinner

This year: Still true!

Hopkins Vineyard Sprint Triathlon Recap

On Saturday, I completed the Hopkins Vineyard Sprint Triathlon (0.5-mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run) as my final tune-up event before Nationals. My coach said I should get a sense of my “top-end speed,” and my teammates said there would be a wine tasting afterward. Sign me up! In all seriousness, though, I wanted to make sure what happened at Stamford wasn’t a fluke—as in my training is going in the direction it should.

Overall, this race functioned as a solid training day: I logged a quality open-water swim, I put forth a solid effort on the bike, and I hurt on the run. This race also confirmed what I suspected: In Milwaukee, I need to work the swim-bike and simply hang on for the run.

hopkins-vineyard-triathlon-third-female-overall

But any race that results in an overall podium finish is a good race.

Swim – 0.5 mi. – 17:36

Although the Lake Waramaug swim was advertised as half a mile, Garmin data (not mine) measured the course as 0.7 mi. That’s totally fine by me; the longer the swim, the better. Anyway, this was the smartest, most tactically sound swim I’ve logged in a race setting. Out of the gate, I found myself in the lead pack and settled into a solid-ish effort; I was working, but not taking in water like I did at Griskus. I actually drafted effectively and felt good. And like during most swims, I hit Wall upon Wall of Dudes from the earlier waves. I exited the water in the five spot and immediately heard my coach yelling at me from the sidelines: “Everyone is in front of you! GOOOO!” So heading into transition, I thought I had a lot of ground to make up. But that wasn’t the case.

Transition 1 – 1:11

As I stripped my wetsuit and threw on my bike gear, one of my teammates who wasn’t racing came over to brief me: I was fifth out of the water with the third and fourth girls still in transition. I left T1 ahead of them, moving up to third female overall. I love passing people in transition!

Bike – 10 miles – 28:18

Aside from two hills—one being long and the second being steep—the bike course wasn’t too challenging. The hills actually worked to my advantage: I was playing leapfrog with the girl in second place, but was able to attack the first hill and create a gap. Is that how you race tactically?

Transition 2 – 0:35

As I changed gear again, my teammate relayed updated information: the girl in first place just left transition, and I could catch her. And my coach was out on the course waiting for me. Oh good.

Run – 3.1 miles – 26:25

Hands down, this was the toughest and probably 5-K I’ve ever run. The opening 1.5 miles contained a steep hill (steeper than Escape to the Palisades) while the closing half mile or so went off road and through a vineyard. Anyway, coming out of T2, my legs did not feel up to par. And to sum up the run in one sentence, I could see the first place female the entire time, but could not close the gap. Even when I reached my coach and got a peptalk, I could not attack the hill and reel her in.

hopkins-vineyard-triathlon-run

Official finishing time – 1:14:01 and 3rd female overall

A woman from the last wave completed the course the fastest, so she took first, the girl I couldn’t run down took second, and I finished third.

So what did I learn? An Olympic-distance race plays to my strengths because I need a longer swim and definitely a longer bike; ten miles of saddle time does not give me enough real estate to make serious moves. A hilly bike works to my advantage; a hilly run does not.

And overall, like I experienced during Griskus and Stamford, some days you feel junky, some days you feel invincible, and sometimes, you’re somewhere in between. Saturday was an in-between day. But that invincible day where the stars align doesn’t come around often. But I’m chasing it—and hopefully I’ll catch it on Aug. 9.

Goals for Pat Griskus Triathlon

Here we are: race week! It’s been about two months since my last triathlon, and even though there have been some episodes of taper crazies, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m doing my best to trust the process and trust my training.  And I’m excited to see how strong of an Olympic-distance outing (one-mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run) I can string together.

triathlon-gear-bathroom

Your bathroom doesn’t look like transition? Oh.

Before South Beach, I outlined race goals. Instead of focusing on splits—swimming sub-15 minutes, biking sub-1-hr., running sub-32-minutes—I identified specific objectives that could be achieved independent of time. Because I haven’t trained and/or raced on the Pat Griskus course, and because I haven’t raced an Olympic-distance event since Nationals in August, my coach did not give me concrete time goals. Yes, there are still expectations, and with the hope of having a strong performance, I’ve established some goals for Saturday.

Swim solid

Thus far in my triathlon career, there hasn’t been a swim where I’ve laid it all out there and cranked it. Like really cranked it. And honestly, it’s been OK. But based on this season’s training (and #wannabeswimmer status), I can capitalize in the water. It just comes down to dialing into my solid/race pace; swimming steady won’t suffice anymore.

Bike “like a dude”

During Sunday’s ride, my coach told me I looked strong and “biked like a dude.” Before going all feminist on him, I asked what that statement meant. And apparently, it equates to not wussing out and getting dropped. Neither of which happened, by the way.

pat-griskus-bike-course-elevation-profile

So brutal. And even though it’s hilly, I’ll race on my Slice.

And it can’t happen here either.

Looking back on SoBe, I rode too conservatively; there was a lot of cruising and not enough stinging. Saturday will be different, though. It’s all about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Run smart

I mean, duh. Let’s establish a few factors: it’s a two-loop course that promises to be hot and hilly. And even though my run has been slowly improving, it isn’t where I’d like it to be. My fitness is decent, but I don’t know how everything will feel coming off an incredibly hilly bike. The key to these 6.2 miles will be working the negative split—dialing into my pace, then speeding up and trying to hang on.

All right—let’s do it!

Do you set race goals?

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?

My (Updated) 2014 Triathlon Race Calendar

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

South Beach Triathlon

2013-nautica-south-beach-triathlon-collage

Date:  Sunday, April 6

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

Priority:  “C” race

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

Pat Griskus Triathlon – USAT Northeast Regional Club Championships

Date:  Saturday, June 14

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

Priority:  “A/B” race

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

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

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, June 22

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

Priority:  “B” race

you-look-awesome

Yep, actual sign that was on the course.

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

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date:  Saturday, August 9

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

Priority:  “A” race

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

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

How many races are you doing this year?

Building My 2014 Triathlon Race Calendar

Happy last day of 2013, friends!  Have fun (and be safe!) celebrating tonight.

Speaking of 2014, t-minus one week until structured training begins—yikes and woohoo!  Before Thanksgiving, my team held a meeting to identify potential races (both short- and long-course ones) and get a rough idea of which distances folks want to race.  So far, I’ve registered for only two (South Beach Triathlon in April and USAT Age Group Nationals in August), and the list below includes some contenders.

South Beach Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, April 6

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

2013-nautica-south-beach-triathlon-collage

Well, duh, of course I’ll do the race again!  This was my first swim-bike-run event with Full Throttle Endurance, and I had a blast!  Also, since training begins in January, it will be nice (read: motivating) to have an early-season race on the calendar.  Like last year, I signed up for the classic distance, and I can’t wait to use my Slice on the bike course.  I’ll also be going after that run with a vengeance.

Rev3 Quassy

Date:  Sunday, June 1

Distance:  Olympic

This one’s on my radar.  Everyone seems to rave about Rev3 events, and plus, I’ve heard this is one of the toughest Olympic-distance courses in the country (as is its 70.3 race).  So why wait to pull the trigger? …

Mighty Montauk

Date:  Saturday, June 7

Distance:  Olympic (one-mile swim, 22-mile bike, 6.2-mile run)

2013-mighty-montauk-triathlon-collage

… because Montauk was so much fun last year!  The course itself left a lot to be desired, but that’s mostly due to Hurricane Andrea rolling in and causing some damage.  Like SoBe, I want to take on this race with another year of training and see how much I can improve—especially on the bike.  Even though I’m young enough to get away with racing back-to-back weekends, I know my performance at both will be affected negatively; it’s about quality, not quantity.

Pat Griskus Triathlon Series

Date:  Saturday, June 14

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

Here’s another new one.  I haven’t heard too much about this race, but since it takes place in Connecticut, the course probably contains a ton of hills.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, June 22

Distance:  Olympic

2013-stamford-kic-it-triathlon-collage

Another great race from 2013!  Even though the bike course KICked my butt, I loved the atmosphere; as a charity race, this event had more of a fun, laidback vibe, and plus, the volunteers were awesome.  Not to mention this tri constitutes a day-trip (as opposed to a weekend away) for NYCers, which is a huge plus.  Honestly, I’d do this race again simply because I can sleep in my own bed (#realtalk).

Sherman Triathlon

Date: mid-July

Distance:  Sprint

So this is an interesting one.  It’s a Full Throttle Endurance-sponsored race in Connecticut, but it didn’t occur last year.  My coach argues this is one of the hardest sprints in the country (“The run course is brutal!”), so if the race takes place, then I’m in.  Plus, I could not find another short-course event in July.

Musselman Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, July 13

No, I’m not making the jump up to the 70.3 distance yet, but a few of my coworkers are looking for a July half-Ironman.  If this works for everyone, then I’ll head back to my old college stomping grounds and play Sherpa for the weekend.

Ironman Lake Placid

Date:  Sunday, July 27

2013-ironman-lake-placid-collage

No plans to touch the 140.6 distance for another 10 years, but I will go back to Placid and Sherpa for my teammate; she’s tackling her first Ironman!

New York City Triathlon

Date:  Sunday, August 3

Even though I obtained an automatic entry after what happened, I did not register; “The Big Dance” is the following week, and my coach basically forbade me from doing both.  However, I will be there in full force to Sherpa, volunteer, and cheer for coworkers and teammates—should be a great time!

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date:  Saturday, August 9

Distance:  Olympic

2013-usa-triathlon-age-group-nationals-collage

Hands down, this will be my “A” race for 2014.  Last year, I approached this event with a laidback attitude; I wanted to soak everything in, savor the experience, and let race-day happenings fall where they may.  The game plan will be different in 2014.  I know what to expect, I know the competition will be stiff, and I know I’ll feel like I belong.  And I cannot wait to attack the course with another year of training.  Bring it on!

Timberman 70.3

Date:  Sunday, August 17

Another half-Ironman, another opportunity to be a Sherpa.  I will eventually make the jump, promise!

ITPMAN Darien Triathlon

Date: TBA (September 14, 2013)

Distance: Sprint (0.5-mile swim, 15-mile bike, 5-mile run)

2013-8th-annual-darien-itpman-triathlon-collage

One last hoorah before calling it a season?  Sign me up!

Have you finalized your 2014 race calendar yet?  How many times do you plan to race?