Felt B12 – Biking Ace?

My gear addiction has gone to the next level and I might add not without some amount of guilt, fear and trepidation.  I have now taken the plunge and purchased an awesome über cool Felt B12 triathlon bike a/k/a “Ace”.

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Being a competitive swimmer in my former life…I’m not talking Olympic quality or even top 10 college level, but rather being a swimmer as a child and through High School.  And, those of you who are in this camp will generally attest that once a swimmer, ALWAYS a swimmer.  Anyway, my point here is that I had assumed that swimming would be the strong suit of my TRI-fecta.  But, NO, who’d believe it is the bike?!  Who knows why, I sure don’t!?  But those are the facts.

Until I purchased my Giant road bike a/k/a “Zen Boy”, who by the way I adore, I had not been on a road bike since my teenage years.  I am not a technically trained cyclist, I do not understand gear ratios, I do not know all the fancy hand signals… I honestly just shift on feel, follow the basic rules of the road and it seems to work reasonably well.   But, was I satisfied with my performance on the bike?  Was I willing to say hey I’m strong enough on the bike and swim to be an age-group contender at some Sprint distance races cuz there isn’t enough time for the fast runners (since I’m a penguin runner) to catch up on my lead?  Oh NO, couldn’t do that, could I?!  The reported 1-3 MPH extra speed on a TRI bike had me like a moth to a flame.

And…now I have a sparkling new, speed machine in my garage that frankly scares the crap out of me more than just a little!  But then looking back, the first time I clipped my SPDs into my clipless pedals on Zen Boy back in 2011 I was pretty darn freaked out.  So hopefully I’ll work my way through the pit in my stomach and adjust to the Look KEO cleats and aero position, and shifting and breaking being on separated parts of the bike and my Ace and I will work together smoothly and safely as a streamlined biking machine.

Off Season Planning, Training and Purchases

My triathlon season for 2012 is over but that doesn’t mean that planning for 2013 hasn’t already begun!  @CoachCary and I met a few nights ago, chatting over a flight of wine and appetizers about:

  • What races to consider next year
  • What areas to strengthen
  • Duration of and how to allocate my off-season time

“Off-season” doesn’t really mean turn into a coach potato and shovel in French fries by the fist-full.  But, it does mean that I won’t have structured training and my workouts are not logged into www.trainingpeaks.com for several weeks.  Also, it gives me permission to sleep-in, relax, recover and reflect.

Here are the tentative plans:

Races for 2013

2013 will include a Ironman 70.3 and several Sprint distance events.  There are two 70.3 races that are finalists in the selection process:

1)      Vineman 70.3 – July 14th 

2)      Boulder 70.3 – August 4th

I hear great things about Vineman, the question is do I want to foot the bill on the travel expenses to an out-of-state event?  Also, if I got really crazy (which is known to happen with me and triathlon since I’m a bit obsessed) I suppose I could do both. Hmmm, we’ll see.

As for the Sprints those are still up for grabs. I truly enjoyed the concept of “racing” (yes, which is really subjective) at Outdoor Divas, so including a race or two that I can go all-out would be fun.

Also, an early season Duathlon (biking and running) might be in the cards to get the old body re-familiarized with multi-sport events, adrenaline flowing and heart rate pumping

Areas to Improve

Surprise, surprise, surprise…running is still on my list of things to improve.  Yes, running continues to be the weak link in the trifecta of events.  I’m planning to look for a running group.  As they say, to be a better triathlete you must swim with swimmers, bike with cyclists and run with runners.  Enough said on that.

Also, while I’m a reasonably strong swimmer I’m planning to tap into my existing credits with the Swim Labs experts to see if I can improve my technique and resulting efficiency (a/k/a speed) in the water.

New Gear

As I’ve professed before, I am a bit of a gear junkie.  I do love my toys, tools, outfits etc.  But honestly, my wish list is short this time…albeit expensive!

Momma needs a TT Bike.  Guess what!?!  The bike is by far the strongest part of my TRI events.  Although, I do love my Giant Avail Advanced, it is a road bike vs. TT Bike and I’m am seriously considering making the investment in a true Triathlon bike.  I hear that after adjusting to the aero position that my speed could increase 2-3 mph and my legs in theory should be better able to run (see previous comments about Areas to Improve) given the redistribution of muscles used on a TT vs. road bike.  I’ve already started to catalog which pros ride which bikes and how they are performing.  Of course, I don’t have a bottomless pit of money to spend, nor do I have a bike sponsor so that will constrain my options a bit!  Maybe Santa could bring me a nice Blue, Trek, Giant, Cannondale, Cervelo, Orbea, Specialized…with visions of TT-bikes dancing thru my head!

Outdoor Divas – Sprint Triathlon

I received a green light from the foot Doctor to participate in the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon but lingering foot achiness and two weeks of NO running introduced serious risk, angst, and stress in achieving my season goal of making it to the podium at Divas.  It may sound silly but that really was the BIG goal for this triathlon season.  In fact, Heather R, Erin and I had all made that our goal for 2012.  Except then Erin decided to have a baby so that took her out of the podium line-up for this year but still Heather and I were driven to get on that darn raised box setup.

For the two weeks prior to the race since I had been told DO NOT run, I had ramped up my swim and bike to compensate and to focus on retaining my endurance threshold.  I biked hard and swam like a nutcase, all the while hoping that this would keep my running abilities (or lack thereof) from crushing my podium quest.

Now for those not familiar with Outdoor Divas, it is a women’s only Sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 12.5 mile bike, 5K run) with a reasonable cap of participants–approximately 575 athletes registered for the 2012 event.  Participants include a blend of athletic abilities ranging from über competitive Elite folks to first timers.  I was somewhere in the über competitive, 2nd season rookie, non-Elite, sorta old, triathlon freak category.

In the few days leading up to the race I was SO psyched up; jazzed for the race with nerves and adrenaline.   As race weekend arrived, I was happy that most of my original group of friends that registered remained committed to participating in the event.

Pre-race dinner was a fun pasta night with guys #1 & #2 plus our friends the Bests.  Carb loading and laughs were certainly on the menu.  Race morning for me arrived earlier than planned at around 3:15 a.m.; that was NOT the time I set my alarm, but still that was the time by body said “let’s GO!”  I was too excited to sleep.

Full of nervous energy we all headed into transition and given that we were among the first to arrive we had our choice of where to rack our bikes.  We debated for several minutes on what was the best spot and finally I consulted with some competitive Elite looking gals who informed me…pick a spot with the shortest distance required to run with your bike.  Great advice, we picked a prime spot right next to bike start and bike finish.  Off on a warm up ride and run and then into Union Reservoir for a short swim.

The race directors held a pre-race meeting right before getting the event underway which included a fun little addition—the Colorado Fire Fighters calendar guys would be manning the aid station.  That certainly got a round of cheers.

I was in the 50-54 age group which placed me in the last swim wave.  I was determined to try to “race” each leg of the TRI and most certainly NOT to walk any of the run.    Soon the 1 minute notice was given for my wave and then 30 seconds, 15 seconds, finally a horn blast started my race.  I pushed myself on the swim but felt smooth and confident as I rounded the various buoys…heading into the last 250 meters the swim became a bit of an obstacle course of slower swimmers from the prior waves.  I bumped into a couple of gals but nothing close to a “water polo” type clash.  Soon I was out of the water, struggling to pull off my Helix and running into Transition I heard my time.  I felt pleased with an 11:42 for a 750 meter swim.

T1 as typical seemed to take an eternity and the run with Zen Boy (a/k/a my Giant Avail Advanced) out to the bike course was a bit of a stressful situation with a bottleneck of gals strolling their bikes out of transition and onto the ride.  To minimize time, I picked up Zen and ran with him out to the road and then as quickly as possible got to the bike mount location.  After almost skidding out on some gravel, within the first 20 feet of the bike course, I was off and running (or in this case biking) around the first of 3 loops of a 4 mile course.  Rules for the bike require you to ride on the right and pass on the left.  Now, I have a pretty nice bike and I have these big (formerly fat) strong legs and although I’m not an experienced cyclist I am pretty fast.  So since I was in the last group there were a ton of women in front of me, riding on the right wasn’t going to work much of the time as I was fortunate in that I was passing most of the women in front of me.   The bike course was quite flat which is nice if you’re opposed to hills, but on the flip side you don’t get the speed that comes with the downhill portion.  So I watched my Cat Eye biking calculator and as the bike portion progressed my average speed increased to an average of a 21.7 mph pace at the conclusion of the bike leg.

T2 went by without event and I was onto the run course which was an out and back 5K.  As I ran along I could feel my heart rate hitting the anaerobic zone meaning that I had reached my limit from an endurance capacity perspective.  Thoughts of walking “just a little bit” started to enter my head.  Then began a private and thankfully “silent” conversation with myself.   For all those early 4:45 a.m. mornings and for all those hideous, painful threshold runs that @CoachCary put on my calendar, I would NOT let myself down and I would NOT walk.  As I approached the ad station which I was happy to note occurred twice given the course being out and back.  These fabulous bare-chested specimens of manliness were handing out cold water and Gatorade.  Very nice…I certainly wasn’t going to look like a wimpy girl and walk through THAT aid station although it would have been nice to linger and look (gawk).  Did I walk?  NOPE, not this time!  As I was heading into the last stretch of the run, I saw my friend Heather B, up ahead.  We pretty much ran the last portion of the race course together.  Crossing the finish line at an all out sprint felt great and after downing a couple of bottles of water and a brief walk to recover I was no worse for wear.  Also, I thankfully didn’t get called a “Penguin” on this run.

AND…I was thrilled when I saw the result sheets.  With a time of 1:17:35, I had made it to the podium with a 2nd place finish in my age group and 30th place finish overall!  Heather also made it to the podium with a 3rd place finish in her age group!  And, Heather B and Christine also achieved PRs.  Woo Hoo!!

Harvest Moon – Long Course Relay

Three personal triathlon events was my limit for 2011, my inaugural triathlon season.  But, I was able to convince two friends to join me in a relay at the Harvest Moon long course event in early September.  While not an Ironman branded event, Harvest Moon is the equivalent distance to a 70.3 Ironman race.  Brock swam, I rode and Chrissy ran.

Leaving everything on the road, so-to-speak, I could barely stand up at the completion of the 56 mile windy course of rolling hills out on The Plains of Colorado.  Also, I realized that I foolishly had not taken nutrition into consideration and had not eaten anything during my 3 hour bike ride.  As many say, nutrition is the 4th discipline in triathlon and it was one that I had completely ignored other than my pre-race breakfast. I will not make that mistake again!  It was a fun day and tee-d up the idea of possibly completing Harvest Moon in 2012 as an individual competitor.

 

SheRox – Sprint Triathlon

My 2nd triathlon, SheRox was in early July. This Sprint distance event included a ½ mile open water swim in the fresh, clear waters of Aurora Reservoir.  Erin and Heather also competed in that event with their boyfriends and family cheering them on just like my guys #1 and #2 did for me.  While I was working through a bit of a tweaked leg which resulted in a less than lightening fast run split, but my time overall was respectable putting me at 6th place in my age group (out of 34 women).

Training Buddies

One of the things I immediately found compelling about triathlon was the camaraderie that comes with the TRI community and the friendships that can form around common training, events and goals.  No doubt that training and completing events with friends makes it that much more fun!

I was fortunate in that I had a number of friends that trained with me and some that also opted into events.  Special call outs to @KirkMac for your support, encouragement and training advance.  Bernie for “going breathless” at CAC spin classes.  Anne, Beth and Erin for joining me on those early morning runs and Heather for open water swim practices and later season training.

Erin and her sister Heather are natural born athletes who have competed in triathlon for several years.  Training with folks that are experienced, younger, stronger and faster than you is a great way to take your game to the next level.   Also, at least for me, creating a core group of committed training partners helps ensure that you stick to your training calendar.

Training and participating in events as a “lone ranger” may work for some but I enjoy traveling the road with other like minded athletes (still feels weird calling myself that).

Race Day! 1st Triathlon

The day of my first triathlon had arrived, it was May 15, 2011.

@CoachCary had also previously given me input on what and when to eat on the morning of the race.  This is what I did, the key being DO NOT eat anything new on race day.  Only eat those things you know your body likes that do not cause bloating.  Alarm set for 4:00 a.m., I got up at 3:45 a.m., no alarm needed. I drank about a liter of a blend of Gatorade and Electrolyte enhanced water.  I ate Oatmeal with bananas and toast with peanut butter and honey.  In all, I ate about 700 calories.  I stopped eating no less than 2 hours before the start of the race.  I allowed enough time to go potty; that is important.  You do not want to deal with an endurance race if you haven’t had your morning bathroom routine; if you know what I mean.  I stopped drinking volumes of liquid 1 hour before the start of the race.

It was drizzling and cold.  I packed variations of gear, all of which I had tested before as the rule is NEVER test anything new on race day.  I was prepared.

The transition area opened at 5:30 a.m., I was there.  I picked my spot, racked my bike and setup my stuff.  I then mentally, walked through the different parts of the race such as exit door from Pool into transition area, Bike Start, Bike Finish, Run Start, Finish!

Cary had suggested I do a warm-up swim.  As always, I followed the advice of my coach.  I swam about 150 yards in the warm-up pool.  We then lined up based upon our estimated swim time which we provided at the time of registration.  And, one-by-one swimmers were started about 5 seconds apart to begin the snake swim in the EPIC pool.  Getting close to my turn I was excited, I was nervous but I knew I was ready.  The starter asked, “Are you ready?”  Yes! 3-2-1 GO!

As I swam through my 450 yards, I did as Cary suggested if had doubt…and, sure enough about 200 yards into my swim.  Thoughts like “I’m tired already”, “how can I do this?” etc. started to bombard me.  And I used those words from Cary’s pre-race email; in a conversation with myself, in my head, “you’ve trained hard, you’re ready, you WILL do well”.  And, guess what, it made a different!  It erased that lingering doubt and I swam full force to the end of the swim portion.  Adrenaline was pouring through me at full force! Scary photos are proof of this fact: 

Exiting the pool the outdoor temp was 37 degrees.  I pulled on my bike jacket, put on my helmet, bike gloves and ran with my bike toward the Bike Start…oops, forgot my race number and back I went to collect that key item.  Once on the road I realized that while it was wet it wasn’t icy.  Still being a rookie cyclist I was cautious as was necessary.  I remembered the tips from Joe V at Giant cycles.  I soon realized that I was passing more people than people passing me.  Three laps of the circuit would complete the 12 mile bike leg.  Seeing my guys and hearing them cheer me on with each completed loop with little guy yelling “Go Momma, Go!” (hence the name of my website being Triathlon Momma) was a thrill and it did make me go faster, I think.  Off of the bike and running Zen into T2. After I re-racked Zen then helmet off, bike shoes off, bike gloves off, running shoes on, bike jacket off, running jacket on, running hat on.

I was off and running!  Running after biking feels weird, especially after a longer ride, which is for a later post, but even after a 12 mile bike ride you are not running on “fresh legs”.   Your feet and legs are not moving in fluid motion but after about 5 minutes or so things start to loosen up.  Each mile is marked, and I swear that the first mile is actually 2-3 times further than that.  It seriously seems that the first mile takes FOREVER, mile two and three seem better.  My run was uneventful and while I was exhausted by the time that I saw the finish line ahead, I was thrilled.  As I pressed forward and crossed the finish and timer chip was removed.  I saw my guys and heard my time.  My goal from Cary was 1:30 and I had finished with a time of 1:21.  My goal of finishing, finishing strong and finishing fast was achieved.  The fast part is all relative, but for a former FAT girl, first time age-grouper triathlete in her late forties my time was good as it earned me a 2nd place.