Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1/2 + 70.3 = Racing is training, or "The Pert Plus: Vancouver 1/2 Iron Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report"

Please, you know why Pert Plus.

Firstly, it's a 2-in-1.
Secondly, it was promoted by Curt Harnett.  Any excuse to write about Curt Harnett I will take in a heartbeat.

Oh my.  I just went there.  Anyways, back to me.

4 weeks.
3 races.
2 more big races to go.
1 day until I leave the country.

And not surprisingly, I'm feeling a little tired.

But in race reports, as I try to be in actual racing, I am tenacious, and I can't let 2 races go by without reports!  The horror!

This is a 2 part-er.  Part I: Subaru Vancouver 1/2 Iron and Part II: Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3.

The common thread to both of them is that these were both races that I decided on jumping into even though they weren't part of my original plan.  Sometimes you can plan like crazy and nothing will go your way.  Sometimes you open up and try something new and it works out beautifully.

I believe Lake Stevens 70.3 is officially my 10th triathlon.  For me, in the 3 years I have been doing triathlon, I maybe managed 3 or 4 triathlons a year.  That was a max for me, that required a lot of preparation in both physical and mental capacities, and recovery took it's sweet time as well.  The learning curve has been steep and it takes a toll.  I think the reason I was able to do well last year was not because I trained hard, but I had lots of recovery time.  Now that I am no longer terrified of doing a triathlon (that went away somewhere around #5), I'm finding that it is possible to pop into a race and have fun doing it, regardless of the result.

It really helps when the results are good though.  So, without adieu.

(There are photos but I have no time to upload them - sooo look forward to those sometime in August! Oh the suspense...I know :)

Subaru Vancouver 1/2 Ironman Race Report:

Very important to note if you didn't already know.  This was a rematch race against my friend Carl.  I beat him last year.  But this guy has been training, I think in secret, around Pacific Spirit Park at some ninja time under cover and maybe under an assumed name.

Wow ok back to my race - this was a whole 9 days ago now - and feels like a long time too.

The long and short is that this race is great.  I hop on my Nishiki Rally at 5am and zip over to Jericho, my home beach.  I am #8, which is also my birthday.  Bonus bonus.

I get to do a mass run in start for the ocean swim, and almost think it's fun until I start hyperventilating and am constantly worried about getting sunk by some middle age man on 6am red bulls.

I did the swim in ~30 min.  This for me is great.  But as usual, I am last off the pro racks.  I'm actually getting used to the sight of it, and whereas it might get a few people down, it just makes me want to chase.  It's always easy to find your bike when it's the only one....

My plan for this race was to bike hard.  I'm always learning that I can do something better than I thought I could.  In this instance it was biking.  So I biked my little legs into the ground - and I went as fast as I ever have.  But man, biking hard is HARD!  Hope my quad & hamzillas grew a little bigger for my efforts that day.  I biked 2:24 (I think, going from memory).  Carl biked 6 min faster.  The death of me...

The bonus of biking hard - it really made the run feel easy.  I thought I would actually fall over all wobbly legged like the fainting goats, but alas - I could run - and it felt great!  I ran a 1:20:something for 20km, mostly on gravel or trail - so I was pretty happy with that!

But I had been passed by Carl on the bike, at a devastating pace - and I knew he would have to have some type of spectacular man-cramp for me to pass him.  So I tried, but I fell 3 minutes short of absolute glory.

I did, however, win the women's race!  I have never won a triathlon race before - so this was quite fun :)  I was up against some great ladies who did not just a 1/2 Ironman 2 weeks ago (as I had) but a Full Ironman.  Amazing!  Can't say I would have had the guts to race 2 weeks later.

So surrounded by friends and family and new faces to meet and greet, the Vancouver 1/2 was a great race - the race directors and sponsors did a great job to put this race together, help it run smoothly, and make it fun!

Now...the week after looks like this.  "KEEP GOING you are not done yet".  Off to the pool.  Workouts are slow and I hope the lifeguards aren't wondering what happened to this girl who was swimming fast last week.  I get short of breath going up stairs.  Commuting on my Nishiki is a workout.  And I'm going to go race again in 6 more days.  And cue the next...

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report

Whewf.  Here we go again. Do a swim workout on Friday before leaving where my arms may actually fall off and I can't feel my fingers (oxygen debt, or maybe hysteria).  Confidence, ironically, is untouched.  I just feel tired.  Start eating like a fat kid at the food court, hoping that will help.  I am not scared of racing.  Racing is like training now, just doing all the workouts in one fell swoop rather than spacing them out.  In fact, I have no time to get nervous.  Miranda Carfrae is racing, and that is exciting!

So luckily for us, Lake Stevens is about 2ish hours away, and seeing as we are proud Westfalia owners, naturally we sleep in our car for this event.  Night one is Marysville Walmart (they actually do want you to camp there - we are not hippie poacher campers (usually)).  When I have time I will show you the sweet picture of the 'Whisper Chipper' we slept beside.  That wasn't creepy at all....

Crazy thunder and lightning accompanied us all the way down on our drive.  Hmm.  Surely it wouldn't be bad weather for the race seeing as the forecast was golden all weekend.  (Haha - suckers).  We check out Lake Stevens, a cute little Pacific Northwest town, and I am reassured by the swim temp in the lake - gorgeous - and then I wonder if it will be wetsuit cut off temp.  Don't mind either way, as my wetsuit still has holes in it and I haven't got a new one yet.  Maybe non wetsuit is better for me at this point?

Fast forward to race day (after night #2 in the van with a reasonably bad sleep - but aren't they all pre-race?).  I wake up to dry skies, but I don't see any stars.  Hm.  Then as we are readying to get wetsuits on, little sprinkles come down.  Hmm again.  Our westy is parked right at transition (so convenient), so I get dressed in there.  Down to the race start, mill about with nervous people, stare at the looming grey skies, and focus on working on another swim start practice.  Aka, practice not freaking out.  I actually like swimming, but haven't yet gotten used to the start - it just induces some massive adrenaline spike in my body and it's hard to settle in after that - the 2nd half of all of my swim are so enjoyable and fun - the first half is a total battle.  That is why although I'm not the world's fastest swimmer, I totally favour a long course.  More time to swim after the race start freak out period.

This swim is great and as you likely know, a white cable runs the course under the buoys so you don't ever have to lift you head to sight, should you chose not to.  The water was lovely warm, and as calm as any water I've been in this year.  Clouds also meant no glare - so, hooray for clouds (for now).  Out of the water last (no biggie) but much closer to my competition than the last few times I've raced (yes!).

Everyone wants to know about this bike - it really is beautiful - even in the mist and rain, and then driving rain, for a while, I was enjoying the serene beauty of the course.  I love hills (the uphills) so I was also a big fan of this course.  Now, the fact it was raining and I got increasingly cold and then decided above all else that I would brake down ALL the hills and stay safe, loosing likely a great deal of speed - not as great, but, I would have rather lost 3 minutes there than end my season somewhere on the pavement in Washington state.  And hydration?  Heck, just open your mouth and fait accompli :)  I had visions of the turkeys that drown themselves by tilting their head back and drinking until they drown.  I am thankfully, at the very least, smarter than a turkey.

Due to the technicalities of the downhill and the rain on course, I witnessed some pretty big risk taking by the AG men that had passed me (pros had a staggered headstart).  I had to do some pretty fancy bike manoeuvring while descending down a windy right hand turn, to not crash into the man that was sliding 20+m on his backside with his bike over his head.  Ouch.  The sign did say "Caution"......but to be fair, sometimes you couldn't judge just how slow you needed to go in order not to crash.  I had one near miss on an off-banked turn in the first 20 miles and from there on in, I knew this was no joke.  Slow down or crash was basically your choice.  I caught up to Beth Walsh and it was nice to have some company out there, even though we both had faster and slower sections, it's just nice to not be alone.  In the rain.  When you're cold.  And for me, tired.

As the phrase goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".  So this was a quiet ride for me.  All I could say to myself in my head was "you are always rewarded for hard work".  That is a given.  And it's true.  No matter, what, in some shape or form, you are always rewarded for hard work.

As expected, frozen solid feet and hands coming off the bike made for a slow transition and I sat down to brush off whatever could have been on my feet from the T2 run.  I wouldn't know - I couldn't feel them.  So up and running I felt better - I knew I would warm up and I knew I liked running.  As we had been together for the past hour or so, Beth was right with me and we took off together - so nice to have someone fast to run with and push you - and share the same desire to run people down.  So, off we went!

Racing for me, takes a lot of patience.  So, a lot of biding your time while trying to click off 6:30 miles was the name of the game.  I liked that as I started my first loop, men's Pro Tim O'Donnell was going onto his second.  So I got to run right behind him and actually stayed with him for a good section (maybe 2 miles? maybe less, maybe I was hallucinating :), but that was a good indicator to me that I was running ok).  I like the run course, and especially like the 2nd section out and back up Lakeshore Drive as it's pretty and I am always a fan of running hills - up or down!

I had bridged up to 5th place by about mile 8 I think.  Then at the bottom of the Lakeshore hill, I knew I was about 5 min back of 4th.  Hmmph.  To make up 5 minutes in 3 miles is no easy task.  I am running against pro ladies who know how to run.  All the same, I plugged away anyways to see what I could do.  There are always bonks.  There are always cramps.  Bathroom disasters?  A few good pukes could slow someone down by 3 minutes.  So anything can happen.  So you just keep going.

Then I was at the turn around and saw how close the #6 girl (Beth) still was.  Rats.  So I did all I could to push up the hill (I consider going uphill at 6:30pace a 'push' at the end of a 1/2 IM).  Then I continued to run scared on the downhill.  And around the corner.  And up the ramp.  Then I shoulder checked and almost fell down.  But I finished 5th.  And boy, was I glad to be done.

This was not pretty, nor easy, but it was great in it's own way.  I was glad to be reassured after finishing that this wasn't the easiest day on the circuit and that I wasn't the only one that was ready to whine and complain a little :)  I did feel for new friends I have met that had crashed (poor Jared!) and people that stayed upright but froze in the rain just as I did and looked just as cold as me at the finish line (Donovan).

So, 2 races in 2 weeks is a bit tiring - but doable.  I don't know how some of these people do 2 Ironman's in 2 weeks though - nutso!  (I mean that in the nicest way).  But I was happy with the result, considering I really wasn't planning on doing either, and came out with great experience from both.  (and finally made double digits in triathlon races completed!)

Now (literally almost now) it's off to Spain for the ITU Long Distance World Championship Elite race. We'll be travelling from Barcelona, Southern France and Northern Spain to Vitoria for the race on July 29.  Then for fun we'll pop over to watch some Olympics in London - why not :)  We're very excited and although my life really seems like a vacation (well, some days...) most of the time, it really is fun to be going on a big time vacation!

So without adieu, I really must get my butt in gear and get going.

A big thanks to so many who have supported me through these last few races, including Aquadiva Swimwear, Compressport Canada, Pacific Multisport, GOTRIbal, You Got Chicked, The Massage Therapy Clinic at UBC Aquatic Centre, H20 Audio, Nathan Skirrow for the swim coaching, and coaches Jerry and Jeremy of VanRunning!  You're all great!

Ok - ole!