70.3 World Championships in Nice, France

The 2019 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France was an experience I will never forget. From the pebble beaches of the Mediterranean to the historic villages nestled in the mountains, this venue did not disappoint. It was by far one of the most challenging races I have ever done, but that only made the trip more worthwhile.

For those wanting the short version, here it is: The swim was just barely wetsuit legal, so I wore my sleeveless wetsuit and felt great. The only bad part of the swim was a bit of chop heading back in and the blinding sun. I zig-zagged my way back to shore, swimming a few hundred extra yards according to my watch. Overall my time was not fast, but not my worst. The bike course lived up to the hype with about 5,000 feet of climbing in the first half of the course. I put in a steady, conservative effort and made it up with no issues. At the top, I was most surprised by how sore my arms and shoulders were – never had I used my upper body so much while cycling! The descent was technical and chilly. Knowing how dangerous this part of the ride would be and not having a ton of experience on descents like this one, I played it safe and was just happy to make it back down in one piece. The run was long and painful, but I tried to keep my spirits up, enjoy the views, and keep moving forward. My watch died about 8 miles in, so I was happily surprised that I finished the run just under two hours. Again, certainly not fast, but not terrible for how my legs felt after all that climbing!

All in all, I was proud of myself for completing my first World’s and overcoming several obstacles along the way. It was incredible and inspiring to race alongside so many other amazingly talented athletes and professionals from around the globe. I am already looking forward to my next 70.3 – Mont Tremblant on June 21, 2020, and will try my hardest to qualify for the 2020 World’s in New Zealand!

If you’re up for it, here is the long version with the good, the bad and the ugly:

Two weeks before race day, I woke up with a sore throat. My initial reaction was, “at least this is happening this week and not race week!” I had two weeks to recover and anything I did this week as far a training didn’t matter that much anyway. The congestion immediately set into my chest, and I decided to play it safe and took several days off. During the day I did not feel terrible, but at night the post-nasal drip was so bad I couldn’t sleep. The third day of being sick my throat was so sore I decided to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t strep. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but that also meant there wasn’t much I could do. I completely lost my voice for about five days, and even a week later, I still sounded awful. We left on a Saturday, one week until race day, and landed the next day in Nice. My spirits were high, even after a sleepless night of flying and still dealing with a scratchy throat.

To my dismay, these feelings were quickly squashed when my bag was no where to be found. Because the customs line took so long, our bags had already been dispensed before we got to baggage claim… everyone’s, except mine. I went to the baggage services office, handed then my claim tag and they informed me that the bag had indeed made it on the plane and been placed on the carrousel. They filed a claim and said they would try their best to deliver the bag the next day. But if the bag was indeed put on the carrousel, how could it be lost? I could only imagine one thing: my bag was stolen. Of course, my suitcase had EVERYTHING in. All of my race gear except my bike. I had no idea what to do. My Mom tried to get me not to worry, but how could I not? Lesson Learned: TAKE ALL YOUR RACE GEAR ON THE PLANE WITH YOU!

24 hours past, and we still couldn’t find out anything. The WiFi in our apartment hardly worked, and only my Dad had service. We tried to call the baggage claim number, but nobody answered. We tried to call Delta directly, but they were of no help. I bought one change of clothes to get me through and borrowed some things from my sister. We did some touristy things and tried to enjoy the city, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of worry and doubt.

FINALLY, my Dad got through to someone at Delta who was very helpful. As it turns out, my baggage claim number was switched with my husband’s, so my claim was filed on the wrong bag – my bag was not lost! Unfortunately, it was still in New York. Because the claim was filed on the wrong bag, Delta just left my bag in the wrong city. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I was ecstatic to find out my bag was not stolen. The next day, we were able to pick up my bag from the airport, and all was well! It was a darn good thing we had arrive in Nice a week early. Phew!

With one less thing to stress about, I could relax and enjoy the beautiful city of Nice and prepare for the race of a lifetime. It was so cool to be in a city with so much history and surrounded by top triathletes from around the world. I quickly realized that everything in Nice took a lot longer and was a little more difficult than at home. For example, our apartment had terrible WiFi, no AC, only two keys between 8 people, you weren’t supposed to flush the toilet paper, there was only one towel per person, it took us three loads to figure out how to properly run the washing machine, and there was no dryer. Everything closes in the afternoon, most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7 pm, everyone smokes everywhere, you never know what you are ordering, you should expect the meal to take 2 hours minimum, and free public toilets are just not a thing.

All of this just added to how memorable this adventure was. We walked so much my feet hurt everyday (I think 25,000 steps/day was the minimum), but we got to eat delicious food, drink fabulous wine, and enjoy the beautiful views of the Mediterranean. One day, we even went over to Monte Carlo, Monaco. We walked the harbor, toured the famous casino, saw the changing of the guards at the Palace, and had coffee with the Prince (my dad is convinced he saw him). I enjoyed every minute of exploration and just hanging out with my family.

THE RACE:

The evening before the race, a massive storm blew through. It poured, soaking the bikes and all of the bags that had been checked in earlier. It cooled the air and the water enough that race morning, it was announced the swim would be wetsuit legal. I was fine either way, but happy to put my wetsuit on simply because it was a chilly morning! In the 60’s with a strong breeze, it felt cold after the week of heat and no AC! Race morning, I was tired, but unexpectedly so. It is hard to sleep with the windows open to the noisy streets of Nice, especially on a Friday night! I also was STILL congested after two weeks of being sick – it was the cold that would never end. My rib cage was sore, I assume from coughing, and I couldn’t even take any cold medicine because they are pretty much all band by WADA. But there was nothing I could do about that, so I tried to only focus on what I could control. I needed to keep a positive mindset and focus on enjoying the race, controlling my effort and getting to the finish line safely. I had no time goals; I simply wanted to enjoy the race and have a day I could be proud of.

The Swim: 36:59

Each age group went off in separate waves, but with a rolling start sending off 10 athletes at a time. This was a much better start than a mass start, but the swim was still pretty congested throughout with 2,100 or so females racing. The swim was a clockwise triangle, and the first side was quite pleasant. The water was clear, seemed calm, and it was easy to see. Upon turning the first buoy, I realized that was short lived as the chop was now splashing me in the face with each breath. Around the second buoy, things only got worse. Now the waves were head on, as was the sun. I was blinded and even if I tried to sight, I could only the see next wave hitting my face. This was the longest part, but I put my head down and tried to follow the crowd. As I exited the water, I was a little disappointed in my time. According to my watch, however, my total distance was 2,400 making my swim pace like what I would have expected. I got my bag, tried to dry off a little so I could spray on sunscreen, and continued on to the bike.

The Bike: 3:27:56

The start of the bike was flat but not without its challenges — the lane was narrow, there were lots of bumps, long “no aero” sections, weird turns, and no passing zones. Once I turned away from the beach, it was straight into a chilly head wind. My nose began run, and I knew this would be a problem. About 7K into the bike, we made a sharp turn and the climb began. It was immediately into 10% and 15%, just to burn the quads before the real climb began. The next 6 miles of climbing was not as bad after the initial steep sections. There was a good amount of variation. The first water stop was at mile 12, which seemed more like mile 20. After this, we got some relief with a fast, false flat section with gorgeous views. I had a lot fun through there but knew the real work was still to come. Next, we hit the town of Vence, meaning the famous climb was coming: the Col de Vence. About 6 miles with an average grade of 6.5%. Each kilometer had a sign denoting the total climb of the next kilometer and the average percent grade. It was always either 6 or 7%, but it all felt the same. It was relentless. We climbed above the treeline and were completely exposed to the wind and sun. My runny nose and cough made it hard to breathe. But I pushed on. I kept my legs moving and my effort consistent. When I reached the aid station at the top, I knew the hardest part was over. There were small climbs yet to come, but nothing like what I had just done. There was another false flat next, and I tried to go to aero and realized just how much my arms had been working. My shoulder thrived in pain. The descent started out slow, and it was hard to push the pace because my body was so sore from the climb. After one more short climb, we started the real descent.

This was the part I knew I was going to really bad at, but I only wanted to make it down safely. Though I had my brake pads changed and adjusted before the race, they were still screeching anytime I braked. I didn’t trust them, and I chose to take the corners with caution. For others, that was not the case. Though I had passed more people than passed me on the climb, racers blew my doors off on the decent. I couldn’t believe how fast they were going! Early on, however, coming into a sharp turn, an official was off his motorcycle having everyone slow way down. In the turn, there was a woman on the ground, unresponsive with a neck brace on and an ambulance waiting. This was gut wrenching to see, and I still had 15 miles to descend. Though the descent was easier than the climb, my body still ached the whole time, and it was FREEZING. At the both of the last two water stops, I dropped the first bottles I tried to grab because my hands were so cold. Getting to the bottom was such a relief! The sun warmed my body quickly, and I tried to push the pace a little more towards home. One last unexpected test was a tight U-turn to the right. I literally almost ate it, and would have been so embarrassed! They also had a tight confusing path into transition which was over cobblestones, and apparently several other did crash there. Fortunately for me, I made it safe and sound back to transition, ready to face the 13.1 miles ahead.

The Run: 1:57:39

In most races I think, “If I can just get to the run, the hard part is over and I will feel a lot better.” And then I get to the run and hate every minute of it, realizing how much more fun the swim and the bike were. This time, I was prepared for that. I knew just how hard the run would feel after such a challenging bike, and based on my training (or lack there-of) leading into the race. It’s not that I didn’t train, but about 6 weeks before the race, I started having shin pain. Out of fear of shin splints or a stress fracture, I chose to cut back on the run, and never did some of my key long runs. While I seem to have dodged a bullet with the shin splints, the severe cold and time on my feet race week certainly did not help. I knew the run would be painful, and it was! From the start, everything hurt. I kept thinking I would warm up into it, but it only got more painful. I got of the bike with a bit of a headache, so I tried to drink a lot at the first few stops, then I got an abdominal cramp. I think it was mostly because I am not used to the electrolyte drink they served, Enervit. It also got hot with hardly any shade, so I kept pouring water on myself. I overdid it and soaked my shoes so much they felt 10 pounds heavier. I ran water stop to water stop, and kept thinking, “I’ll run faster at the next one,” but I just kept feeling slower and slower. I tried my hardest to enjoy the atmosphere and the views, but sometimes that is hard when you can see where you have to get to, but it is still 3 miles away! Even when I finally got to mile 12, I couldn’t even make it the last mile without walking at the final water stop. I felt accomplished by what I had done, but it is so hard to not feel disappointed when you know you can do better and when so many other athletes are doing so much better around you.

In the end, I was 181st in my age group out of 246 finishers – not even in the top 50%. While that is nothing to brag about, it is inspiring to see just what is possible and I am driven to train more, push harder and see just what I am capable of. I am proud of what I accomplished on the toughest course I have ever done. I am proud I held it together and pushed through the pain. It wasn’t pretty it, but I am so happy I did it and learned so much from the race. Thank you, Nice for making me stronger! Also, thank you to my loving and supportive family who helped me get to the start line and cheered me on through the race. I love you all and would not have been able to do it without you <3

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.


Allison’s Virginia 70.3

I’m Allison Paul, and new to the team this year.  I’ve been running since I was 12 and started doing triathlons in my mid-twenties, since I suffered from overuse running injuries. My husband, who was a world-class speedskater & PT, got me on the bike doing long group rides. We often rode our tandem from Milwaukee to Madison and back over a weekend. Reluctantly, I learned to swim in the open water, started doing local triathlons and eventually Ironman Wisconsin. We had 10 bikes, no kids and lots of time to train!

A dozen years later, 3 kids & a move across the country, I got back into triathlons and started racing again. With a full-time (traveling) job in medical sales, homeschooling kids and a few dogs, I wasn’t sure there’d be enough time to train sufficiently, so I didn’t invest in triathlon gear but rather raced on my road bike with clip on aerobars. 

After winning a handful of local triathlons over a few years, I joined the TMS IOS team and decided to invest in a bike. Cid and his bike experts at Inside Out Sports helped me find a sweet ride that makes my training and racing rewarding. (It’s a FELT IA with disc brakes and electronic shifting, BTW). 

My preferred triathlon distance is 70.3 because of the longer run and I started this season with Ironman 70.3 Virginia. It was the first year Ironman put on this event, but in typical Ironman fashion, it was very well organized with a big turnout. 

In the early hours of the morning on race day, a storm rolled through Williamsburg and soaked our gear. Thankfully, the rain held off for the swim start. 

The swim was choppy and it felt like we were swimming against the current. According to my Garmin, I swam nearly 2500 yds, (which is how I justify my 5 min slower swim time!)  There’s a long, uphill run to transition packed with wetsuit peelers and sunscreen appliers. Again, race support was great. 

As soon as I mounted my bike, the rain started. The course was pretty flat, with lots of turns that required us to slow down considerably (due to the rain). Unfortunately, my teammate, Millie crashed on the bike course, but amazingly she still finished in a great time! 

The run was a 2-loop, out and back course along the paved Virginia Capital Trail. It was mostly flat with lots of aid stations and support; however, there was a short distance we had to run (twice) on the mud-soaked grass. The sun came out just in time for the run and finish. 

I ended up third in my age group (out of 91 and missed Worlds by 1 spot), with an overall time of 4:58:08. 

Swim: 34:07

T1: 3:51

Bike: 2:37:25

T2: 2:49

Run: 1:39:57

Tough Women take on Tennessee

I am pleased to say that I got to end my season on a high note this year at the Tennessee Toughman Half. To be completely honest, this race wasn’t even on my radar until a few weeks ago when NC 70.3 was canceled due to damage from Hurricane Florence. How relieving it was to find another half on the same weekend within driving distance! Clearly a lot of other former NC 70.3 athletes felt the same; the race had a strong presentation of other last minute registrants. The race director and crew put on a great race that didn’t leave me feeling like I was “missing out” compared to an IM-branded race.

Myself and two other teammates arrived in Knoxville a couple of days before the race, with plenty of time to scope out the course and get situated. I’d be lying if I said my nerves weren’t firing up at this point. This was my A race for the season and I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do well here; I have been feeling the fittest and the fastest I’ve ever been, and I really wanted something to show for it.

On race morning we woke up to chilly air temperatures and a light rain, which would continue throughout the day. After sleepily downing breakfast, we made the drive to the race site. The ride was less than 30 minutes, but I was wishing it could have been longer so I wouldn’t have to get out of the warm, cozy car. Our gracious sherpa dropped us off right by transition, where we unloaded all of our gear and picked up our packets. We were some of the first to arrive, which ensured us prime real estate since the rack spots were a free-for-all. In the light of my headlamp, I got most of my gear set up before heading out for a quick spin on the bike.

I immediately noticed that my front brake was slightly rubbing, which had not been an issue at all in the days prior. Concerned about tinkering on race morning, I brought my bike over to the on-site mechanic. The mechanic fiddled and fiddled, but my brake was only getting worse as he worked on it. I started to feel a bit of panic at this point – I had put so many months of preparation into this race, was it really going to be derailed by a mechanical issue before it even started? The start of the race was encroaching, so I left my bike behind and scrambled to get into my wetsuit. With less than 10 minutes before my wave start, I ran back up to the mechanic and saw him running towards me with my bike – “IT WORKS GREAT NOW!” he shouted as we made the hand off, and I thanked him graciously as I ran back to quickly rack it and get down to the swim start.

tenneesee_panorama

Much to my advantage, the race start ended up being delayed about 10 minutes, which gave me enough time to do a short swim warmup and orient myself to the course. I found my teammates and we all said our final “good lucks!” before our wave was released. Despite the fact that we did not start near one another, within the first 100m I found myself tucked into a draft right on the feet of my teammate Cath. To sweeten the pot, Cath was riding the heels of another swimmer in front of us. Riding this draft train kept me focused and motivated throughout the swim, and I stayed right behind Cath for the entire two-loop course. She was quick to call me out later for how much I was slapping her feet at times… sorry, Cath! I am not a subtle drafter.

It was just a quick run up from the swim to transition with a pitstop at the wetsuit strippers (insert wetsuit stripper appreciation here). Less than a minute later I was on my bike riding away. The bike course was a T shape, with two loops along the upper bar of the T. The stem of the T, which we started and ended on, had some pretty steep hills. The road was beautiful and winding, and I’m sure it would have been quite fun on a dry day, but the wet roads had me playing the descents fairly conservatively. Once the course turned to the top of the T, we were actually on a fairly large two-lane highway. I was little concerned about this when we had been driving the course the day prior, but the road had a huge shoulder and traffic was minimal on a Sunday morning. This part of the course was just gently rolling, and it sure felt fast – I ended up really enjoying it despite the wind and the rain and the cold. I couldn’t feel my feet, but my legs were holding up their end of the bargain well enough. Approaching the first turnaround I looked for other women, I realized that I was in second place behind Cath – there were no other women ahead of us. Despite some volunteers telling me to go chase her down, I focused on racing my own race and pacing as I had planned. I made sure to keep fueling and hydrating throughout, which is easy to forget when the weather is grim, and came off the bike feeling prepared to run.

During T2 I really got an appreciation for how difficult it is to take off a helmet and put on socks and shoes when you can’t feel your fingers or your feet. After an embarrassingly long struggle with these tasks, I finally made it onto the run course. The course was a double-out-and-back, decently hilly but nothing too extreme. Early on, I tried to be patient and let my run legs come under me. By the end of the first mile, I started to feel pretty good and worked my way into the lead. From there, I let my legs do the thinking and went along for the ride. It was just one of those magical days where everything comes together; I felt strong and was even more energized by all the support I got on the course from other athletes cheering me on. Not to mention that while the mid-50s, overcast, rainy weather had been unpleasant on the bike, it was downright perfection for running. And well-stocked aid stations (with competent volunteers) were every mile, which made it easy to keep up with nutrition and hydration. As I got towards the end of the run, I realized that I was on track not just to win the race, but to beat my open half marathon PR and well exceed my time goal for the whole event. That realization was enough fire to keep me going strong through the finish, even as my legs started to really feel the burden of the effort.

In the end, despite the fact that the weather was grim, my bike almost didn’t make it transition, and it wasn’t even the race we had originally signed up for, the Tennessee Toughman ended up being exactly the race I wanted it to be.

tn splits

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Ironman Chattanooga Race Report.

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report. Completed my 5th Ironman Distance event. I’ve learned a lot in the 2 Ironmans I did this year. After my first Ironman in 2015, I set a goal to do at least 1 Ironman a year, get stronger/faster and learn a lot to be ready to put it all together in 2019 when I move up to the next Age Group. Despite having my 2 slowest* Ironmans ever this year, I feel like I’m right on track. The big takeaway from this race was that I think I nailed my nutrition, finally! When I finished the race, they asked if I needed to go to medical and I said: No, I’m fine. It was a nice way to finish the race…followed by a big hug from my Mom (Valerie Lehr) & brother (Jeff Lehr)!!

Hamstring: Since straining my left hamstring on September 1st, I’ve had numerous PT sessions & dry needling (both in North Carolina at The Running PTs) & in Ohio) done to try to get it in shape to run the marathon. I rested it some and did elliptical “runs” too. Tried a longer run on Sept 13th, but had to stop running just before Mile 15 because of soreness. More PT & Dry needling, rest & elliptical “Runs”. A week before the Ironman, I rode 2 hours and then attempted a brick run. Had to stop 1 mile in due to soreness. That didn’t give me a great feeling about running an Ironman in a week after a 116 mile bike!! It’s possible it was sore due to dry needing 2 days before. The week before the race, I enjoyed my taper. Also had a 2 hour massage that ended up going to 3 hours by Lynn at Seoul 2 Soul Massage Therapy. She was AWESOME and really helped/stretched me. I ended my therapy the Friday before the race in Chattanooga with a light/laser treatment that is supposed to reduce inflammation & I also had them apply KT tape to help limit the stretching of the hamstring during the run. I wasn’t optimistic in being able to run the full marathon after an 116 mile bike, given I had to stop the training runs and that it hurt only after a mile run a week before the race. But surprise, surprise…it held up the whole race! Thanks for all the prayers & well wishes. They worked! 

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.

Fun in the Sun at Beaverdam

After a disappointing swim cancelation at Collegiate Nationals, I was eager to do a triathlon that was, well, an actual triathlon. And so I was excited to find that Beaverdam was only two weeks later, and would indeed feature all 3 legs – what a concept!

A convenient local venue meant I got to sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a plus. On race morning, after rushing around to set up transition despite the fact that I arrived early with “plenty of time to get ready,” I lined up for the start. Funnily enough, despite the face that I had signed up for this race primarily because of the swim, suddenly facing the 1500m course I wasn’t so excited to plunge into the water and get racing. Despite my qualms, the gun went off and the race was underway.

I ended up being quite comfortable in the water; the lake was pretty calm and a nice temperature for a wetsuit legal race. I drafted off a couple different fellow teammates early on before splitting off and navigating the rest of my way solo, doing my best to sight the far-away buoys as we headed straight into the sun.

Out of the water and onto the bike, I was the third female out of transition. The course was a rolling out and back that started and ended in the park; I’d speak to the scenery but to be honest I was a little more focused on my bike computer and the athletes ahead of me I was trying to chase down. I maintained a steady power output for most of the ride, until the end when I got to do a bit of freewheeling as we hit some vehicular traffic coming back into the park.

I had been nervous about the run since I had started looking at the race day weather forecast days beforehand. The forecast had called for heat and sun, and it certainly delivered. By the time I got out to the run course, despite it still being relatively early in the day, it was already getting quite toasty. Fortunately, the run course, which was a rolling double out-and-back, was at least partially shaded. I started the run in second place and felt good for about a mile until I hit some uphills and full sun. My non-heat-acclimated body rebelled and I started to slow down, slipping back into third place. I was grabbing ice and cold water at aid stations, but by the last couple miles I was really started to feel disorientated. Despite the struggle, I managed to hold things together enough to maintain my place and crossed the finish line with a podium finish.

Despite not feeling my best towards the end of the race, I still consider it a great wrap-up to my spring season. It was a blast to see all my other TMS-IOS teammates out on the course putting in work! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer holds, and promising myself that I will be at least a little more heat acclimated for whatever comes next.

beaverdam

Ironman Lake Placid – Keep to your schedule!

Completed Ironman Lake Placid in what was my toughest ironman to date on a mostly rainy, windy day.  1.75 hours of sleep is not enough sleep the night before an Ironman event!

A few reasons for the sleep issue: The AirBnb we stayed at only had a window air conditioner and it didn’t work that well. I didn’t lay out a rigid schedule & stick to it like I usually do for a race. Also arrived on site on Friday so less time required more diligent time management. So hot temps & a bit extra stress from finishing things “just-in-time” put me on edge. Good lesson hopefully learned.

Certain courses match my strengths & weaknesses better than others. I learned Placid isn’t a great fit for me. River/current swims are better for me than Lake swims for me & the bike course had one large descent instead of multiple descents spread throughout. I did enjoy the run & think I would have done a bit better on the run with more of a full night’s sleep (5-6 hours).

 

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!

Battle at Buckhorn 2017

BuckhornI have done this race a few times in the past, and it has always been competitive and lots of fun. This year was no different, and since it was at the end of September the weather was perfect! The water temperature was also cooler, so it was wetsuit legal this year.

My swim went well. I started out behind Bri Gaal, and stayed close to her for part of the swim but fell behind a little by the end. I think I was 5th out of the water, but two of the girls ahead of me on the swim must have had slower transitions because I never saw them on the bike or run. My time was 12:30, which I was happy with.

As I ran into transition and found my spot I saw Bri was already heading out on her bike. I quickly got out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear and headed out on the bike right behind Braden Walsh. Once on the bike Braden and I passed each other back and forth a few times before I was able to put a small gap between us. I rode by myself for a while, and this section of the course was a little slower due to the wind. About half way through the bike I heard a familiar voice as one of my teammates, Sara Larson, caught up to me. I was happy to have someone to pace with again and we finished the bike together. Time 49:48, not my best time on the course but still pretty good.

I made good time in T2 and started on the run just ahead of Sara. Unfortunately, Sara is a faster runner than me, so she quickly passed me and put some distance between us. Since the run was out and back I could see that Bri was the only one ahead of Sara and me. I also knew Braden and Millie Barrett were not far behind, so I could not let up on the run. I was happy to be running OK after a pretty bad ankle sprain a few weeks before the race. I managed to hold off the girls behind me to finish in third place overall. Run time 22:56, and total 1:26.50. After the race I enjoyed hanging out with my fellow TMS-IOS teammates and other tri friends while we waited for awards. This year FS Series gave cash prizes in addition to the prized belt buckles, so that was a good way to finish off the last race of the series!