Lindsey McIver

About Lindsey McIver

I'm originally from Chesapeake, VA and I've lived in NC since 2007. I swam competitively until college and decided swimming was no longer fun for me. I started running in 2009 after spectating a half marathon and I was incredibly motivated watching everyone finish the race. Around that time, I rediscovered my love for swimming in an effort to cross train. In 2010, I purchased a road bike and signed up for my first sprint triathlon. Since then, I've worked my way up to a few Ironman races. I've taken time off from triathlon to have two wonderful daughters along the way. My goals for 2019 are Age Group Nationals, NC 70.3, and Challenge Daytona.

The Love-Hate Relationship With Xterra World Championships

Checked In @ Ritz Carlton

Xterra World Championships is in Maui, HI, one of the most scenic and picturesque destination races I’ve done. It’s completely contained within the Ritz Carlton Kapalua resort property from pre-race dinner, entire race course, to the post-race awards dinner. You could check-in to the Ritz and never have to leave the entire stay.

We arrived on the Island on Wednesday which was about 5 days before the race. I was able to get in some good training which included one lap of the bike course on Thursday, several laps of the swim course Thursday/Friday, and a small preview of the run course during the days leading up to the race. Xterra changed up the swim and bike course to be a two-loop format this year which is great for spectators, not so much for the athletes. The multi lap course created a lot of lap traffic on both the swim and the bike. The bike course being two loops was a double edge sword in that you knew what was coming for the second lap, both good and bad 😉

Bike Course Preview With Charlie

The weather leading up to the race this year was completely dry as opposed to 2016 when I raced there and it rained the entire 4 days leading up to the race making for a very slippery and muddy day. I was really looking forward to the dry conditions on the bike course to maximize speed and minimize time out in that brutal heat and humidity.

We woke up bright and early around 5:30am on Sunday morning to a dark sky. Once it was light enough to see outside we noticed that there were some dark looming clouds right over the property. Around 7am it started raining and didn’t stop until 8:45 which was a cause for concern because I was very much mentally prepared for a fast dry course and wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like until I got out there. I tried pushing that out of my mind and focusing on my time leading up to the race.

We headed to the transition area around 6:15am and grabbed coffee and something to eat on with the Butlers on the way. As mentioned everything is on property so I only had to walk about 5 minutes from my room to get to the transition area. I setup my bike and gear in the pouring rain and then went back to the room to stay dry and finish my pre-race routine. We headed back down to the transition around 7:45am to watch the pro’s go off at 8am. Once they started I went off and got in a good run warmup with some dynamic stretching and drills. I then got into my swim-skin and headed down to the water to get a swim warmup in. Legs felt good on the run and body felt good overall on the swim warmup.

Almost Go Time!

Around 8:50am I gave Amy a hug and kiss and went to line up in my wave. Anxiously waiting, I went through my visualization of how the swim would go and getting into transition. It seemed like we stood there for forever until finally the announcer came across the microphone with “one minute to go!” The cannon went off and before I knew it there were a couple hundred of us running toward the ocean. I took a couple hop-steps and then dove in and started sprinting to get out of the washing machine of athletes. I got a good start and found some feet early. My strategy was to find someone slightly faster and stick on their feet for the first lap to conserve some energy. I must have been swimming too close to the guy in front of me because he turned over on his back about half way through the first lap and gave three giant kicks as to say piss off and stop touching my feet haha J I backed off and swam in the rest of the way by myself. The surf was relatively low so there wasn’t much fighting to get out of the water. Once on land I picked it up across the beach to head out onto the second lap. I dove in and found myself with significantly less people around me which was a good sign. I pushed a little harder on the second lap and actually found some more feet to draft off allowing more energy savings. We ran into a lot of lapped swimmers on the second lap since there were multiple waves that started behind us. I kept sighting the large Xterra inflatable to ensure I was on course still. I swam until my hands touched the sand and then stood up and took off to the transition. I was happy with my swim and was able to conserve quite a bit of energy. I ran past Amy with a smile and she mentioned I was second out of the water in the AG with a time of just over 23 minutes.

Swim 23:08

I got into transition and quickly pulled my swim skin off, took a couple gulps of water/rinsed my face off, threw my shoes/hydration pack/helmet/sunglasses on, and off I went. The bike course is by far the hilliest course I’ve ever ridden with the first climb right out of transition around 10% on loose gravel. We then headed onto the cart path as it flattened out which gave me a chance to throw on my gloves and get a couple gulps of nutrition. We then headed through the infamous tunnel where the climbing began immediately. The first 3 miles of the bike course ascend just over 1250 feet with gradients ranging from 6% up to 15% with average gradient being around 8%. My race plan was to hold back on the first lap and give what I had left on the second lap. With this plan there were a lot of great climbers that left me in the dust on the first 3 miles. I got to the top and felt really good and was able to make up some places on the technical descents however the course was very slick in spots from the couple hours of rain we had so I approached those cautiously. This course is also tricky because there are still some very steep punchy climbs mixed in with the descents so you don’t get complete recovery.

Bike 1:46:09

After the first lap I really had no idea where I was in my age group and knew I had to give a little more on the second lap to try make some positions up. We went past transition, I gave Amy another smile, and headed out for my second lap. Once again I had several people pass me on the climbs to get to the top of the mountain. Once at the top I was still feeling good so started pushing to make up some ground and all seemed to be going well until that infamous medial quad muscle twinge started happening. This was very frustrating because I felt like I had nailed my nutrition to this point and tried to be conservative on both the swim and first lap and a half of the bike course. From that point on the wheels just fell off. The combination of punchy climbs, accelerating to pass lapped riders when the trail widened up, and the heat/humidity that were setting it just made things worse. I came into transition and wasn’t really sure what to expect on the run. I hopped off the bike, threw on my running shoes/race belt, and grabbed my nutrition bottle and spicy pickle juice bottle to sip on.

Run 1:00:58

Off I went on the run and hit the same steep hill we started on the bike, no cramping at that point! It then leveled out and I was able to get into a good stride and started feeling a little better until I hit the next hill. From that point on the quads and hamstrings were locked up for the majority of the run and my legs just hit a wall where they didn’t want to turn over anymore. I was walking up one of the steep hills when I heard a familiar voice behind me, it was my buddy Charlie Ledford. He gave me a word or two of encouragement and told me to “come on.” I stuck with him for a couple strides and then locked up again. Around mile 2 – 2 ½ I stepped wrong and felt like I had broken my left foot and every step after that was excruciating.

Finish 3:15:46

Physically and mentally I was ready to quit at about mile 3 but knew that I would regret that decision in the long run. I gritted my teeth, shortened my stride and arm swing and just did everything I could to keep moving forward. Athlete after athlete started passing me on both the uphill’s and the downhills which was also frustrating. Finally I saw the beach approaching and knew that we only had about a third of a mile to go. I got one final boost of energy to run through the thick sand, get up the last uphill, and run through the finish line. I was absolutely spent and had nothing left in my legs. I went and collapsed in the shade and dumped several bottles of water on my face.

I was very upset and frustrated after the race and the rest of the day because I felt like I had put in the necessary training and year-long prep to set me up for a great race. I’ve since had time to reflect and pull out the positives which include an amazing trip to Maui with my beautiful wife and some great friends, racing with the best athletes from around the world, and cutting an hour and 15 minutes off my last race. Time to enjoy the off season and back to the drawing board to figure out this cramping. Until next time, Mahalo…

AG Nationals Report

After deciding in early June to pull the plug on Ironman training for 2019, I began training for the Olympic distance and targeted Age Group Nationals as my new “A race” for the summer. This race is qualification only and luckily I had qualified last fall and there wasn’t a time limit to accept the entry. As it turns out, Olympic distance is my jam! I’ve never specifically trained for that distance. In the past, I would complete local events in the middle of my long distance training merely as a way to change things up and keep training spicy. I always find doing short and fast races difficult (and frustrating) in the middle of Ironman training because my legs have zero 5k/10k speed.


AG Nationals were in Cleveland for the second year and the reviews for last year were less than stellar. This was my first time visiting the city and I found it to be very enjoyable. Their parks and rec system is amazing. The venue was located at Edgewater Park, a few miles outside of Downtown Cleveland and it was easily accessible. Race logistics were easy and hassle free, which is always a plus on race morning.

I was excited about this race. I was really excited to see what I could do with two months of specific training for the Olympic distance. My main goal was to have fun and try to blast the run. Training had been going really well and I was confident. Unfortunately, Thursday morning before my flight, I woke up with a fever and muscle aches. I sucked it up with a lot of complaining to my husband and decided “it is what is” and got on the plane (making sure to sanitize everything I touched).  I spent most of Thursday feeling bad and Friday sick in the hotel only doing what I had to do to get ready for the race. Also, cheering for my husband to crush a 5k race Friday night at the race site. Way to show the silly triathletes how to run!! LOL. I couldn’t eat much for dinner and decided obviously this race was no longer an “A” goal, but I was going to hopefully finish and have some fun along the way. 

I woke up fever free on Saturday, race morning, (hooray!) but my stomach was still not happy. Oh well.

The swim: Apparently, Lake Erie is usually rough and has a current, which resulted in issues last year. This was surprising to me. This year the swim was cut short, 750 meters, after several days of high winds and rain and also a sewage issue the week before the race lead to water quality warnings and closed beaches..eww. Good news – I didn’t get e coli!! Even with the shortened distance, I had a hard time on the swim. Not really due to the conditions of the water, but mostly due to internal issues of my own. Rough water and jostling for position doesn’t usually affect me at all. However, once the race started, I was kicked in the throat and my legs were pulled down. It was crazy. I started to freak out and felt like my wetsuit was choking me. I stopped and regrouped. I almost quit, but I figured it was stupid to come all the way to Cleveland and quit. I just had to swim 750 meters, which was nothing compared to my normal workout. The result was the slowest swim ever for me. 

The bike: the course was closed to traffic which is amazing!!! It’s sad most triathlon’s don’t close the road to traffic, which is resulting in many accidents and cyclists being hit by cars during the race. It’s actually quite ridiculous because we pay a gizillon $ to do the race. This course was mostly flat with a few rollers and highway on/off ramps. I couldn’t find my legs and spent this portion of the race just trying to not get passed and hopefully pass someone. As I approached the turn around point, I started seeing women I knew were in my age group going the other way as they were minutes in front of me. This was very frustrating. I passed one girl at the end, who I was chasing the entire time. Yay I guess. However, my power output was equal to my 70.3 effort, so boo. 

The run: I had no idea what to expect given my health and how I spent the days before the race. I decided just to run how I felt and not even look at my watch for a pace. I transitioned from bike to run easily and started running. The first mile was downhill with a turn around and uphill back towards the start. I looked at my watch at the mile turn around and thought “oh no” when I saw it was a 6:45 pace. That pace was my goal pace for the run overall, if I was feeling fantastic, which I was not. I know better than to start out guns blazing, but for some reason I do it every time. Oh well, I was feeling good and just went with it. I started picking people off in front of me. I would tell myself “just get to the next person and pass them”. I managed to keep that pace until mile 4 where there was a longer, steeper hill heading into the park area. That hill kicked my butt and I slowed down slightly. I started seeing the faster women in my age group and I decided I was going to catch them. I passed 15 women in my age group and it felt amazing to chase them down! I ended up with a run time of 42:38 which is a new 10k PR.   

I had few secret goals for this event. Yeah, I always say my main goal is to have fun, which is true…but of course I have time specific goals. My first secret goal was to qualify for the ITU World Championship. For that to happen, I needed to finish in the top 18 of my age group. My top secret goal was to finish in the top 10. I ended up in 15th place, which given my health issue, I was super happy about. I don’t know why I keep my goals a secret. I guess because it’s scary to say out loud and if it doesn’t happen, I will feel like a failure. Which is so lame, I know. 

I also came away with many lessons learned, which I think is important to digest and improve for next time. First, don’t give up before the race even begins or on the swim. I had the world’s worst swim for me, and I was able to pull it together and run a PR. Second, don’t let the days leading into a race dictate the race you will have. Circumstances are never perfect and I think I’ve finally learned that there will rarely or never be the perfect race you think you should have. Finally, a good support system is critical. I could have very easily stayed in bed Saturday morning. My husband was a constant in reminding me to just try my best and it’s not the end of the world. He kept me moving forward, thinking about the race logistics, and helping me prepare, which I was very thankful for. It was also super motivating to watch him race Friday and get my mindset in race mode.


It’s a Journey

A journey is the act of travelling from one place to another. That can apply to many facets of life from the big metaphorical journey right down to the journey from Swim to Bike to Run and Finish. One of the things I love about volunteering for races at packet pickup is meeting new triathletes at the culmination of their journey for their first race. It wasn’t really that long ago that I was there myself. Despite the number of races in a season or many I’ve done over time, I still get the nerves and excited anticipation before the start of the swim. There are so many ways to mix it up in the season too– sprint/olympic/half (not full for me, ha!), pool/lake/ocean swim, flat/hilly course, tried-n-true/new-n-different… Everybody’s journey is different and I love seeing that despite those differences, we all come together on those race mornings to race our hearts out.

The motivation of having those dates on the calendar is a huge push too. Last year I had a baby and the big challenge this year was working in training despite the hectic family life with 3 kids, husband, a home, and part-time work to hold up. It didn’t always work. It felt good when it did. Some seasons are better than others and we are all human. Fellow teammates’ and athletes’ stories of the trials they have overcome are heartening and inspiring. I draw from those when talking myself into and through the tough times. I also remind myself that every stage of life is so different from the next. My first half-iron feels like it was ages ago but really it’s only been a few years! So much has changed. Maybe I need to give myself the same advice I pass on to those nervous first-race athletes. Have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, it’s a great accomplishment no matter what.

There’s that quote about ‘ it’s not the destination but the journey.’ In my experience, that finish line is great but pales in comparison to all that happens along the way. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I could get all sappy and deep here but the gist is how much more of a journey I’ve experienced through the triathlon part of my life than just training for a race and for that I’m forever grateful. Looking forward to seeing everyone on the course!

2018 Santa Rosa 70.3

In July, I completed a 70.3 in Santa Rosa, California. Well, it was actually a 69.1 race since they cancelled the swim. Short story, I was bummed about the swim cancellation and decided to just have fun with the day, enjoy the beautiful wine country scenery and drink all of the wine after the race. For the long story, continue reading.

The backstory: Santa Rosa was my goal race for the summer. It was also an excuse to spend some quality time with my triathlon bff and a few other friends on a much need adult vacation exploring wine country and Lake Tahoe. Thanks to my wonderful husband (aka Super Dad) for making that happen! About six weeks leading up to the race, I had some hamstring/hip flexor tightness. I ended up pushing through a few track workouts I probably should have not pushed through. Over the next few weeks, the tightness became progressively worse until I could barely push the gas pedal driving to work, much less run well. Also, I thought it would be great idea to do the Triangle Sprint, two week before the race, and “take it easy on the run”. Yeah, sure. After Triangle, I was in a lot of pain and did very little running, dry needling, started PT, massage, and stretching. Fast forward to the race.

The race is a point to point, which means there are lot of logistical things to tackle. One thing I had not thought through was how to transport my bike from athlete’s village in downtown Santa Rosa to T1 at Lake Sonoma 56 miles away. We rented the smallest possible rental car to save money. Luckily, TriBike Transport was shuttling bikes to the lake for a small fee of $40..ugh. That’s on top of the $350 I already paid them to ship it there. Anyway, the day before the race was spent doing all the logistical pre-race stuff, which included a swim in the beautiful Lake Sonoma. The water was a nice 74 degrees (the air not so much..107 degrees), perfectly calm and crystal clear. I love swimming and I was very excited to swim in this lake. Unfortunately, unseasonably warm afternoons and cool mornings at the lake leads to fog.

On race morning the visibility was very poor which forced a delayed start of the race from 6:30 am to 7:45 am. At 7:15 am, the race director announced the swim was cancelled and a time trial bike start would be used. I had no idea what that meant. I had also spent the last hour nervously eating all of my extra snacks in my transition bag and I felt very full. Cycling is not my strong point, so at this point, I decided the race was not so much a race, but more of a fun day. I changed out of my wetsuit and lined up for the time trial start, which was a rolling start based on your bib number. It was pretty cool to watch the professionals start their bike.

The bike course consists of rolling hills with endless views of vineyards, estates and tasting rooms. It was beautiful. I’m kind of glad I took the time to enjoy the scenery. The ride went by pretty fast, but I was wondering about the run in the back of my mind. I had no idea if I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles.

Transition was in downtown Santa Rosa and went very smooth. The run course is two loops out and back on a greenway leading around and then away from downtown and it was mostly flat. The run was pretty warm, not much shade and provided varying surfaces to run. It was very similar to the ATT in some sections. I started running out of transition and surprising my hamstring/hip felt ok but I knew that wouldn’t last long. I decided to find a pace that was comfortable and see how long I could hold it. While running, I made a new friend from San Diego. It was her 50th birthday and she was doing her first 70.3. She is a runner who just learned how to swim. Amazing! Once I started the second loop, the course became crowded. However, it provided opportunities to see my friends who were racing and that was a big boost! It was also super awesome to see the professionals running at blazing speeds and cheer them on! My hamstring tightened up around mile 11 and I spent the last few miles talking to my leg asking it to not fully cramp and just finish the race. I also had some stomach issue most likely from all the snacks I nervously consumed during the delayed start. In the end, I finished. Not my worst race, but far from the best. Most importantly, it was FUN!

After the race I got to meet Mirinda Carfrae! Highlight of the day for sure!

In the end, it was a little disappointing to not actually do a triathlon, but it was great day and trip with friends! I’m going back to Santa Rosa one day for the full 70.3 and more wine!

Thanks for reading!

Lindsey M.

Penalty

A week ago, I raced in my last Collegiate Nationals as an undergrad. It proved to be a most unusual race weekend.

Like last year, the race was held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Unlike last year, due to some torrential downpours, the flood gates upstream of our race site were opened and USAT was forced to cancel the swim three days before our race. Suddenly, my teammates and I were unintentionally signed up for our first duathlon and in the case of Kelsey and I, our first two duathlons back-to-back Friday and Saturday. Ever heard of a draft legal duathlon? It was new to us!

Fortunately, Coach Dave was able to give us insightful race strategy advice the day before Draft Legal. In a nutshell,

1. run for your life

2. get in a good bike pack

3. then catch people on the second run

 

Sure. In reality, the first two steps were easy enough to achieve after a nice, fat taper week (minus the fact that the “good bike pack” became a massive peloton of swerving, unstable and competitive triathletes). However, the second run hit me harder than expected and I watched in misery as almost all the racers of our bike pack (who had been feeding off my back wheel!!!) came careening past me out of transition.

Thankfully, I had a second chance at duathlon right the next day and I was already signed up! This time, I saved some of my legs on the first run and biked blissfully free catching some 50 of the 60 odd people who had beat me on the first run. Running just short of top 10, I got to witness for the first time the calm energy and polite vigor of other coaches who cheered on their athletes with ill-concealed warmth: “COME ON [NAME]. PUSH YOURSELF. I SAID PUSH. YOURSELF. 40 SECONDS TO [UNIVERSITY]. HARDER. I EXPECT YOU TO GET THOSE POINTS [NAME]! PUSH [NAME]!!!!”

When I approached the finish, my own coach did not issue his usual “Go get her!” but instead a discomforting “Hold her off!” and I knew I’d have to take that burn in my legs one step farther, knew I’d need one more gear that I had not yet created.

Though I held her off to the finish line, she overtook me on the leaderboard some time later in the day when I was graced with my first bike penalty: a 2:00 position penalty. With close to the fastest bike split on a crowded course, that was indeed bitter. Whether it’s a mistake I can learn from or a misinterpretation, I’ll never know. However, the UNC women’s team came in 9th place, making the weekend an overall victory!

I am an Ironman

I was reminded of something the other day. Every success starts somewhere, and things don’t always come easy. I was sitting around with a group of friends, and we decided to scour the internet and see if we’d done a race together back in the day. Thereby we found the result of my first triathlon, circa 2008:

Kure Beach Double Sprint

Granted I changed a tire for the very first time in that race but, regardless, I got 100th out of 150 women. One hundredth. Every success starts somewhere.

Ten years later…Saturday, I completed my first Ironman. WTH? That’s impossible! Ironman is for superhumans. Not for people like me–middle aged moms, working full time, and trying to navigate at least somewhat sanely through life. But I did it! And not only did I finish, I smashed it.

tx

But it didn’t come easy. I worked hard for that. I put in the hours–hours which I took from my kids, my job, my husband. Man, I was surrounded by heroes who picked up my slack. I’m humbled.

The weather in NC was not particularly cooperative. Much of my training months looked like this: snow

and this:trainer

and if I did make it outside, I was usually dressed like this (it was 25 degrees for this ride):coldride

I can count the number of runs I did in temps over 50 degrees on one hand. The one open water swim I did two weeks ago was in 62 degree water, after which I looked like this: swim

It all sounds like rocking preparation for a race in Houston, TX, right? I wasn’t sure. I did all the things, but could I really finish respectfully? Would I even know how to fuel in 80 degree temps?

The swim:

IM Texas has a rolling, self-seeded start. I expected this to be a cluster. 2500 nutty triathletes self-seeding? I expected mayhem. Turns out, I was wrong. I got in the front, rolled right into the water with Bri Gaal (superhuman training partner and dearest friend), swam to the outside and found clear water. We swam stroke for stroke the entire swim, and really didn’t hit much mess until the backside (some sloppy swimmers running over us from the side) and in the canal, which I’d liken to a dishwasher with all the water sloshing around in such a small space. My favorite part, though? The volunteers who pull you out of the lake and up the steps to the T run! No trying to find my land legs on my own for this swim! Wonderful. Oh, and total bonus was this text afterwards from a swimmer teammate from college (I dove at the University of Kentucky and, um JSYK, divers can’t swim):

swimtime

T1:

I felt like royalty. I had two volunteers doing everything for me. “Please put on my shoes. Can I have that chamois cream? Oh, water? Sure, don’t mind if I do.” I realized I was getting a little too comfy in there when I saw Bri run out of the tent. Thanks to her, I got in gear and ran out too. I missed the sunscreen tent, though. Um, oops. What can I say? I was busy gesticulating frantic happiness to a friend working in transition. I was. Doing. An. Ironman! Holy crap!

Bike:

The bike was my second area of apprehension. For all the usual reasons: too many people, slower swimmers hammering by me on the bike trying to make up time, silly mistakes and potential crashes, penalties, etc. But I was rested and the course is FAST, so it was going to be totally fun, too! At first, things were pretty spaced out. The road wasn’t too crowded, and I could do my own ride. As more people entered the course, though, that changed. Packs formed. Pelotons formed. You can get the idea here: pic.twitter.com/TWUgRKbQJ6 (they aren’t even in aero!). At one point, I saw a pack of people with 4 women tucked in, all in either my age group or the one above. I let them go. I came to do an Ironman; I didn’t want to draft my way through the bike. For the first loop on Hardy Toll Road, things were manageable. Packs would roll by fast and move on. But by the second loop, smaller groups formed too, and they would work like crazy, go around me and then pull up out of aero, drink, and talk. So, I’d drop back out of the draft zone behind them and slow down. A few times I passed back so I could ride my own pace but every time I did, they surged, passed me and again, slowed down. It was so frustrating, and I was disheartened that there were no marshals doing anything about it. I’m proud of myself for staying out of it. But because of all the mess and constantly dropping back from groups, I didn’t bike as hard as I’d have liked. My final FTP was only 62%. But my bike was respectable, and I was still happy (that is, to get off and run 😉 ).

T2:

There was a super long run around into T2 (I took my shoes and socks off and did it barefoot; no coordination here for a flying dismount), but again I had two dedicated volunteers to get me together and out on the run. It was awesome. In the madness, I missed the sunscreen station again, but shortly into the run found a woman putting sunscreen on her baby who kindly squirted some in my hands; she saved the day.

Run:

I can’t say enough about this course. It was hot, but it was pancake flat. That was fantastic. I’m not used to running on concrete, and that took a toll on my legs, but the lack of hills made up for it. Second, the fans are insane. And I mean, possibly in some cases clinically insane. Right out of transition, I ran through the Moxie Multisport cheer group. That’s these certifiables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ngl_D4YmGoo. It was incredible, frightening, and hilarious all in one! After that, there’s some shaded running, some sunny running, some running through a lakeside neighborhood of the biggest homes I’ve ever seen–where the kids line the aid stations, and then back to the canal where the fans are out of control. In Hippy Hollow, I was chased by hippies banging on metal trashcans. In the Hoka zone, I think I high-fived about 30 people each lap. Kids cheered for me by name, adults cheered for me by name. It was a real high, and a hell of a way to round out an Ironman. Three loops. Each a little slower than the last, but at the end of the day a great marathon.

The finish:

I saw 10:15 on the finish clock and was ecstatic that I’d done so well. I did a 10:15! But I forgot that the clock was for the pro start. After I came down the chute, I saw my husband who announced, “Oh my god, you went 9:59!” I lost it. What an incredible day. What an accomplishment. I freaking did it!

 carpet

SwimRun Lake James: Adventures of Trail Running and Ice Baths

You may be wondering whats with the title but believe me you’ll understand by the time you get done reading this race report! Kory Gray and I (along with a group of others) decided to enter into a sport thats hit the U.S. and caught on very quickly, its called SwimRun and it may be one of the toughest races I’ve done in awhile.

We had this bright idea last fall and at the time sounded like a great one! SwimRun Lake James is a combination of 14 run segments and 13 swim segments totaling about 3.5 miles of swimming and just over 13 miles of trail running (done is teams of two where you stay together the entire race). This doesn’t sound too bad until you hear more about the details…

We all woke up bright and early Saturday morning with the usual pre race jitters except this feeling was a little more intense (something didn’t seem right with Kory but you’ll find out more about this as the story continues…). A combination of both excitement but also extreme fear of the unknown as this was something completely new to us all, oh and the water was 55 degrees Fahrenheit which didn’t help! We got to the race site about an hour before the start as there’s really no setup and its a matter of just getting dressed and warming up. SwimRun attire consists of an outfit that resembles that of a not-so-cool superhero with accessories to aid in the race.Say Cheeeezzee You’re allowed to use paddles, wetsuits, swim buoy, and fins if you really want but the kicker is you have to finish with whatever you started with. We opted for the paddle/buoy combo along with neoprene caps and calf guards to protect the legs and head from the cold. After suiting up, documenting this momentous occasion with a couple pictures and a short warm up run, me and my partner were ready to head to the start.

Race StartThe race started promptly at 8am with a total of 52 teams consisting of all men, all women, and mixed gender teams. The gun went off and there we went. Two teams took the early lead on the first 2 mile run but Kory and I knew we needed to pace ourselves for what was to come. After about a mile or so of being in a pack of 2-3 teams we decided to break away to have to space getting into the water. As we neared the water we started preparing ourselves for what was sure to be a major physiological swimrun imageshock to the body, jumping into 55 degree water and hitting that first swim segment. It was somewhat of a relief as the 2 mile run in the wetsuit and cap warmed us up quite a bit. The first swim went well and we quickly closed the gap on the first two teams. We hopped out for the first short run and then straight back into the water. Thats when Mr. Gray’s stomach finally woke up and said STOP!

Once we hit the third run segment Kory’s HR shot up and his stomach turned upside down. We stopped for him to gain his composure and then started at it again. We got through that run segment with a couple teams passing us. However we hit that next longer swim and passed them all and even passed the 2nd place team in the water! We were now onto the 7.7 mile long run of the race. Again we hopped out and Kory started having stomach issues. We took it slow and steady through the long run doing a combo of jogging/walking and it seemed liked he was good to go. We got some nutrition in and kept chugging along. We had been passed by several teams at this point but knew we would make the time back up in the water.

We neared the waters edge and caught up to a team who had removed the top half of their wetsuit and were struggling to get them on. We threw our goggles on and off we went. Crushing the longest swim of 1600 meters we made all the time back that we lost in the run and were back in 3rd place. Everything seemed to be going our way and we were making time back quickly until the stomach struck again. We had a short run straight back into an 800 meter swim and this put the body into shock as it was extremely cold and the HR fluctuated quite a bit. It was from this point that stomach issues continued and Kory’s body temps seemed to be affected. I should have maybe mentioned this earlier but he was wearing a borrowed wetsuit that was much thinner than mine, was not designed for these cold temps, and he wasn’t wearing the calf guards like me which made a big difference. Okay back to the story…

After a series of short swims and island hops we were back onto a longer run where we could warm up some but it wasn’t enough and at this point Kory had almost no nutrition in his system. We knew we only had a few more run and swim segments to go which is what kept us going. We neared the last run and could hear the sweet sounds of people cheering and finish line music but it was a trick. As if the amount of cold and short swim segments wasn’t enough already the race directors added one final 100 meter swim to the boat dock which would take us up the the finish line. Kory came to a sudden stop and said “give me a minute!” I could hear a team coming behind us so I reach up, slapped his goggles on for him and said “get your ass in the water, we’re almost there!” (said with the utmost respect and love 😉

We got through the final swim, ran up the hill, and took our last few steps to get across the finish line. We. Were. Done! I have to say I’m very impressed with my partner Kory for persevering through what was already a tough race without having any issues. We ended up 7th overall male team in a time of just under 4 hours. Congrats to Marcus Barton and his team for absolutely crushing the course. We’re motivated and ready to come back for redemption so you better watch out Marcus 😉

Anyone’s who’s not tried one of these races should give it a go. Hope to see you all out there soon!

Ebbs and Flows, you know how it goes

The ebbs and flows of a triathlon season…ah, yes.  This is what happens when the season for your sport lasts the better part of 7 months (and really could last all 12 months if you let it consume you).  There are ups and downs.  They come in training, they come in racing, they come in your mental state and they come in the form of injury.  Everyone’s been there.  And for me, this season was filled with ups and downs.  And filled chronologically, with the ups coming first and the downs finishing off my season way too early.

The ups

Starting with a nice build of training in February and March that had me feeling pretty good for an early sprint tri @ the FS Series race of Beaverdam.  It was there that I notched my first win.  Albeit not overly impressive, I felt really good about my swim conditioning and even better about my bike fitness and improvement.  All of this was important to keep my mind up for my “A” race this year, The American Triple-T in Ohio.

The American Triple-T (ATT) in early June was brutal and awesome, all wrapped in one.  The brutal part is the 3 consecutive days of racing.  It taxes you physically, with 4 races over those 3 days culminating in a 70.3 with LOTS of climbing.  It also taxes you mentally, having to wake up each day and get yourself ready to compete, already sore and knowing what’s to come that day ahead.  This was the second straight year of me completing the ATT.  I exceeded the previous year in overall placement.  Each race was improved over the year before.  This made for a massive UP heading into the summer season.  I planned to do many local sprints over July, August and September and I couldn’t wait to continue the season.

The downs

Then, my plans for the summer/fall season changed.  Insertional Achilles tendonitis (or tendinosis) struck on July 5th.  This injury has been my enemy, off and on, for the better part of 5 years.  Each time it flares up bad enough to take a break from running, it’s bad enough that I have to stop running for several months.  This one is no different.  I could still swim, I could still bike, but I couldn’t run.  So, my tri season was done.  Just like that.  It was a physical and mental down that I’m still yet to recover from.  I know the drill, though…give it a few months and I’ll be back.  And I’ll be as ready as ever to improve, learn and have fun.

Until next year!!!!

How I Was Able to Litter and Spit on the Streets of Singapore

The announcements were beautifully coordinated by the dutiful DJ.

“Orange cappers, remember these four words: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY” (*Listen to your heart*- Roxette)

“If something doesn’t feel right, slow down, take it easy” (*Take it eaaaasssyy*- Eagles)

“And if it doesn’t get better, don’t be shy to take a break or even stop” (*STOP! In the name of love*- The Supremes)

“Lastly, on the bike course, keep to the left” (*To the left, to the left*- Beyoncé)

It was hot. Already at 9.40am, the sun beat down on the group of orange-capped swimmers lined up to start the Singapore Sprint Triathlon. To my dismay, the announcer added that due to some medical attention out on the water where the men had already begun their race, we would have to “wait a while” (an expression, I was learning, meant to describe less time compared to its common use in the US). From where we waited on the beach, the medical boat was visible on the murky, light blue choppy waters beside the triangular swim course outlined against an endless backdrop of container ships. Within a few minutes, we were given the All Clear and plunged into the warm, salty ocean.

While I relished the familiar atmosphere and positive energy of the race, it was thrilling to experience the differences to races I’d done in Germany and the US. Between markers, tattoos and no-numbers, I’d encountered a variety of methods for body marking for example, but getting stamped like a horse (with ink) was definitely new! I’d also never encountered a swim course that had a lane line strung along its entire length! That’s a very long lane line! Then, when I got to the bike course, it took an entire lap to get comfortable with riding on the left, but passing on the right, while maneuvering over several speed humps. The most fun I had though was on the run course. At five different water stations, I had the privilege of spitting my gurgled water and throwing my empty plastic cup directly on the Singaporean street. Nowhere else did that feel so cool!

While this race included many novelties, those mentioned above seem very minor compared with the sobering news I received later in the day. The medical emergency that delayed my wave’s start resulted in the death of a 42-year-old Briton, who drowned. Besides the mild guilt I felt for my impatience and for racing and having fun during such tragedy, despite being uninformed, this also put into question the sense of safety and security I have developed at triathlon events until I learned that he had also experienced a heart attack during the swim.

Nonetheless, this was an enriching and fun event to participate in and even though it took place on the other side of the globe, I felt right at home!

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Returning to the Races after Baby

Take a look at the team photo and there’s something…different…about the gal on the far right. That’s me, with the huge belly poking out.  Fast forward a couple months to mid-May and that’s when my family’s new addition, Cora Kate Harrison, arrived.  I was thrilled that the pregnancy and delivery was relatively easy compared to past experiences, which included tragic loss in one and 4 months of bedrest during another.  I was also glad to hear the doctor’s were fully supportive of me returning to my previous activities as I was comfortable (though I’m not really sure they fully understood what that meant for us crazy triathletes).

Fast forward again a couple months and training was back on in earnest.  Being on the team is a big motivator for me in itself–I want to make my team and sponsors proud!  I also wanted to get back something for me.  Since all the races would have to be late in the season, it panned out that the Rex Wellness Wakefield Sprint would be my first race, followed shortly by the White Lake Sprint and so on.  The date on the calendar makes a world of difference in training focus.  The Wakefield Sprint would be when my daughter is just shy of 3 months old.  How would that go?  Well, only way to find out was go for it!

Training after just having a baby is a very humbling experience.  Yes, I just grew a human. I know. I’m not saying I expected to be right back where I was.  But I have to admit– I forgot what it’s like to try to get back into shape from a spot like this.  It’s rough.  Out of breath. Legs and lungs burning. Exhausted… at a pace slower than my old warm-up.  Ouch.  Goals for the efforts and outcomes each workout have to be adjusted big-time.  It can be done and plugging away will have its rewards, in time.

The first race back was purely about getting back into the environment of a race.    Unfortunately, a mid-August race on the Wakefield course means pretty brutal conditions–hot, humid, and hilly!  There’s a part of me that really wanted to stand on the podium with a baby under 3 months old, but the hills on the run were just too much.  On a positive note, the swim and bike legs were strong, with times in the top of my age group.  I finished 5th in the 35-39 age group, just 17 seconds off the podium (argh!).  However, it was a great morning and I was pleased to be back.

The 2nd race was at White Lake for the Fall Sprint. To sum up, the conditions for the race were much better, and the run gives me hope for the future that better times aren’t too far off.   I can’t use podium placement for comparison since I was the only one in my division, so having an overall female top 10% finish feels satisfying.  Cora is almost 4 months old. Not bad.

So two more races left and I’m already thinking of how I can work on things over the off-season.  For me, it’s a way of having a part of myself that’s just me and in turn makes me a better mom. We all need an outlet.  Some may say it’s crazy to be back racing when baby is 3 months old. But for me, it’s a way to be motivated to stay healthy for years to come, relieve stress, and keep daily life from being all-consumed by other people (namely little ones that share my last name).  Big thanks to my husband who helps make the time for my training.  Thanks too to the team for supporting me through this journey.  I’m grateful to be a part of such a great community of athletes and friends.  It’s good to be (getting) back.

TMS-IOS athletes at the Rex Wellness Sprint-Wakefield in Aug 2017

TMS-IOS athletes Tom Lehr, Geraldine Walker, Doracy Harrison, and Mary RobbinsRex Wellness Sprint-Wakefield in Aug 2017.