Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ford 70.3 World Championships

November 11, 2006
Clearwater, FL

Usually Treasure Island Triathlon is my last one and by the time it rolls around, I'm ready for the season to be over with. This year, however, my season was extended one more week for the 70.3 Championships, an inaugural half ironman series. I'm glad that there is this series, because it's long overdue. This is such a great distance and by the look of the numbers of athletes I'd say I'm not alone in that.
Jay and I caught a red-eye flight out of SFO on wednesday. I think we slept a grand total of about 3 hours before eventually landing in Tampa. We made it to our hotel and then to my pro luncheon just in time; the reason for us taking the meeting and the fact that Jay had taken so much time off work. After getting our packets and quickly perusing the expo, we went back to our hotel and put our bikes together. We then went for a short ride to make sure that the bikes were in order and then I went for a short 15 minute run to loosen up from the plane ride. There was an opening ceremonies dinner provided by the race management at 6pm at the Sand Key Park, so we decided to check it dinner??? Hey, we're there! This event is put on by the same organizers that do IM Hawaii, so the format was pretty much the same; entertaining and a good show.
By the time the dinner was finished, Jay and I were exhausted. We headed back to the hotel and went to bed.
The Swim Course

Friday morning rolled around and we found a cute diner to have breakfast at. After, we went for another short ride and I went for a run. Since we didn't have time the day before to check out the swim start, we did it today. The water was comfortable enough to probably swim without wetsuits, but because it would be a wetsuit swim tomorrow, we decided to put ours on. It was a short swim, but enough to test the water and loosen up.
After another short ride and run I was ready to relax, have dinner and then prepare my gear for tomorrow's early awakening.

We were up at a little after 4am. Our bikes were already at the transition area (we had to drop them off yesterday) so it made it quite easy to grab our bags and go...after breakfast that is!
It was still dark out when we arrived at the shuttle bus stop at Sand Key Park. We got on a bus and they took us to the transition area, about 2-3 miles away. I made sure that I had my gels for the bike as well as my electrolyte pills and that my extra tubular was on securely. I did a short warm up run with a few pickups before dropping off my shoes in my run bag. The way the transition area worked here was very similar to all of the IM races; what I mean is that there are specific bike and run bags and your gear must fit into these bags. Upon finishing the swim you run towards the bag pickup and enter change tent. Every person must go through the change tent and then on to where your bike is racked.
The pro men started about 5 minutes before we did. It was a beach start with a one loop rectangular course. The gun went off and we all ran into the water and jockyed for position for quite some time. I found myself in the middle of a pack and wanted to get out into some open water. I finally made it to the inside (closest to the buoy's) and proceeded to work my way up.
The further I swam, the better I felt. I kept telling myself to relax as I thought I was too tense and spinning my arms instead of gliding through the water. I eventually got behind a group of girls and I followed them into the swim finish. I was exciting to figure out that I had exited quite well, top 7 in a time of 27:32. I had a quick T1 and was out of the changing tent and running to my bike while putting on my helmet and race belt. I left T1 and was out on the ride. Within only a few miles I had caught two women. I was now in 5th place. I felt quite strong for the first 10-15 miles and then I had a few women pass me and then a pack of 3 women pass and I got irritated that they were drafting when this was a non-drafting race. I kept on pressing doing my own thing. The course was relatively flat with a few small rises...usually these were across bridges. With about 15 miles to go I got swept up in a huge age group pack of men and women. I want to make it perfectly clear that this was a pack of at least 65 people and there was no place for me to go except with them until it was clear enough for me to move around them or they continued their pace and left me. I was quite frustrated with it all because not only were these age group athletes drafting, but there were pro women mixed in as well which is not fair for anyone involved. I must point out here that if it's a drafting race (which is normally for pros only) then I'm all about drafting as it's part of the game. BUT...when it is a non-drafting race, it is NON-DRAFTING and I will abide by the rules. This is a bit off topic of the race, but I have read many arguments on drafting versus non-drafting and I often read about age group athletes who are against drafting, but when it comes down to it who do I see drafting in a non-drafting races??? Age groupers! So, I don't think it's fair for age group athletes to bash drafting when they themselves are out there breaking the rules. This is just my thought on the matter.

Now, back to the race!

I entered T2 (bike split of 2:29:58) ready to run and after grabbing my bag and heading into the change tent, I was off to catch some women! The run was mostly flat, like the bike, with 2x up and over the hill bridge. I felt good and was able to hold a steady pace and catch approximately 6 women on the run. With a mile left to go though I caught a glimpse of a women just ahead of me...could I catch her?? I was going to try. I picked up the pace and with a determined look on my face I kept her in sight and kept pushing every step a bit closer to her. I was in the finish shut now (and let me tell you, it was one long finish shut!) and I was just behind her; I decided to go for it knowing that there was approximately 100m left to go. As soon as I was just in front of her and she was able to see my number, she picked up the pace and I was unable to hang with her...she out sprinted me by only a few seconds!(Run split of 1:28:03) I finished in 4:29:28 (My predicted time was 4:30..right on!).

I was glad with my performance knowing that this year was a bit of a stuggle to remain motivated and it only showed how well I will do next year with a specific plan!

I didn't want to miss Jay coming across the finish line, so I waited for just over an hour! I was thirsty and hungry, but I didn't want to miss him! And I didn't...he had a great big smile on as he ran by me and into the finish line!

We enjoyed the post race awards ceremony and dinner and instead of going out that night to celebrate...we went to bed early knowing that getting up at 3:30am the next morning and flying home would be an ordeal in itself and we needed to be as rested as we could be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Treasure Island Triathlon

November 4, 2006
San Francisco, CA

I wasn't sure how well I would do here, but I wasn't too nervous when we lined up in the 54 degree water at a little after noon. There were only 9 of us competing and the money went 10 deep, so I found some comfort in that I would at least make a little bit of money this weekend! I did however have one goal in mind and that was to move one spot up in the overall Tri-Cal Pro Series. Now for me to accomplish this task, I had to finish in front of one particular competitor. It seems as though Kelly Couch and I seem to flip-flop in each race and by that I mean, I will finish in front of her at one race and then the next race she will finish in front of me! So, it was up in the air at this point.

The gun went off and I found myself in a pretty good position to draft off a few women. Once we rounded the first buoy, I was still in a pack of three other women and I felt pretty good. A few times I tried to manuever around them, but decided that it might be a good idea to sit in. Once around the second buoy though I noticed that there was a slight gap between the girl directly in front of me and the two other women. I decided to make a move on the inside and pass the girl that I was with. I was surprised how good I felt and how easily I was able to catch the other women by the turn around buoy. I had created a gap of approximately one minute and now found myself exiting the water with Mirinda Carfrae and Malaika Homo, whom I've never come out of the water with before.

In the past I would be about a minute behind Malaika, but today was different and I was exited that I would have some people to work with on the bike. Before we started the race, my friend Beth had said that if I can come out of the water with Mirinda, that she's a pretty strong cyclist; so I was pleased that it happened to work out like that!
I exited the water in 21:32 with a :52 T1, the fastest of the girls!!

Mirinda, Malaika and myself worked well together for about a lap or two before we dropped Malaika. We had passed Karen and picked up Linda and the new group of three worked well and we were making time on Becky, the first place woman. The course for those of you who have never been here is quite technical with approximately 21 turns per each of the 6 laps. The turns are not very sharp as you can pedal through most of them except for the u-turn at the top of a small climb. The sun started to peek through the clouds at about half way through the ride to help us thaw from the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay. A lap or two before we were finished I saw Kelly walking her bike...she must have gotten a flat. She was no longer a threat to the overall points, but it is bittersweet luck; you never want to see someone flat out in a race.

Linda, Mirinda and I entered T2 at the same time; with Mirinda and I tying for the fastes bike split of 1:05:59! Mirinda had a quick transition and was out. I was just behind her but knew that I would not be able to catch her on the run. I was in third place and wanted to at least keep it there. I didn't have the snap in my legs that I'm used to, but if I could just keep a steady pace I'd be okay and hold onto third.My run time was 37:20 and total time of 2:06:22.

I was able to do just that; 3rd place and I moved myself into 2nd place in the Tri-Cal Pro Series!!

Now, there's just one more race to go, the 70.3 World Championships is Clearwater, Florida on Saturday.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monterey Bay Half Marathon

October 29, 2006

I was graciously invited to compete amongst the elite runners in this year's presentation on the Big Sur Half Marathon in Monterey. I last ran this course in 2004 where I placed 2nd. I felt though that this year might be a bit more difficult as there were 2 Olympians scheduled to compete. I wanted to run this as a training race considering I was to race the triathlon at Treasure Island, SF the following saturday.

I woke up at 5am so that I had plenty of time to eat and have coffee before the race. My sister Erin was so excited about her first half marathon 3 weeks ago that she had decided to sign up for this one as well; so she arrived at my house a little after 5am and we got ready. I live about a mile from the start of the race, so we decided to jog down there for part of our warm-up. We got there in plenty of time to drop off our bag and run a little more before lining up in our specified corrals (like cattle!!). I was in the first corral and Erin was in the second. The gun went off at 7am and the pace didn't seem too fast in the beginning. I stuck with a few of the lead women for a few miles before I decided that I was just going to run my own race. I figured if I could hold close to a 6 minute mile average I'd be very near my PR.

The course is relatively flat with a few small inclines, but not hilly. The high-light of the course is running through the tunnel that connects Monterey to Pacific Grove. This is normally a car only tunnel, but there have been a few times where I've gotten to ride my bike through and now run through! There were a few musicians along the route which was entertaining, but nothing like the Rock N' Roll halfs. Nonetheless this is one scenic half marathon.

The turn-around point is near Asilomar Beach. There is a gradual uphill before the U-turn and I belive this is approximately at mile 8. About a mile or so before the turn around I saw one of my competitors who had passed me a few miles back stop and stretch her calf...she had cramped up and had to stop!! This gave me motivation to pick up the pace and see if there were any other women who might have "run" into trouble...pun intended!!

I began counting the women in front of me and quickly found that after passing the girl, I was now in 8th place! There was prize money to be had and 8th place was the last place to win money. I wasn't sure if I could pick off any more of the women in front of me, but I wanted to make sure that no one could come from behind. After I made the turn I kept my eyes open to see where the next woman behind me was and baring nothing happened to me, it looked as though I was good as gold to maintain my place.

I had no expectations for this race because I had been having some breathing issues for the past week and a half. Come to find (just recently) I had severe allergies, but to what I haven't figured out yet. That will come hopefully after my last race of the season.
I felt good during the race; no breathing problems, but I could tell that with about 2 miles to go that I was not in the best shape that I could have been in. I did however come very close to my PR; I was only slower by about :45. I also wasn't as sore as the Rock N' Roll half I did 3 weeks ago and even recovered quicker too.

My time for the half was 1:22:05 and I was able to hold on for 8th place!