Monday, July 25, 2011

New Jersey State Triathlon

This past weekend was the NJ State Sprint Tri in Mercer County Park, also my first race of the season. It was a busy, whirlwind weekend that started on Thursday night with a heat wave 5K in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
All summer long I've been taking part in the Van Cortlandt Track Club summer series, but I've missed the last two due to my ankle injury (I got kicked by a big girl in a soccer game and may have sprained it) so I was really happy to be back. I went into the race with absolutely no expectations because of the heat (it was 100 degrees out) and I knew I should save my legs for the upcoming tri on Saturday, not to mention that I've not been running much in order to heal my ankle. I took it pretty easy because of the heat, or so I thought. I really held back on the final stretch, even letting some goofy looking guys pass me close to the finish. That is NOT my style, but I needed fresh legs for Sat. In the end though, the field was small-ish and I walked away with another carrot muffin for placing 2nd in my age group! It was my worst time ever in that race, somewhere close to 24:00. I was really happy to have the muffin though, I was starving! If you haven't yet checked out the VCTC 5K Summer Series, I suggest you get up there one of these Thursday nights. The next one is in 2 weeks.
So after a late night drive to Jersey to stay with my Mom on Thursday night, I caught up on some sleep and just tried to stay cool in the A/C. Friday I spent some time playing with my nieces, but I mostly tried to hydrate and keep cool and rest up for the morning. Friday night I spent with a good friend that I grew up with but haven't seen in TEN years! We met at Marcer County Park in the heat of the evening for packet pickup and to check out the course. This was going to be Mandy's first tri and she was understandably nervous about the whole process. I was really glad that I could be there for her first tri and help her with all of the little details like someone did for me last year. Looking out at the swim course I was able to see the open water through her eyes, the eyes of a new open water swimmer and it helped me really appreciate how lucky I am to be part fish. :) Mandy introduced me to some really cool folks at the Ryan's Quest tent, RQ being the charity that she and I were racing for, some of them had even read my blog! How cool is that? Ryan is a little boy with Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy who I actually met the following day, he was precious and completely worth the sweat and hard work. I highly recommend you consider checking out and donating to this really wonderful charity, you can find them here: Http://
We spent the evening catching up and preparing for the race and before I knew it, it was time for bed. Of course neither of us slept very well because of the pre-race excitement/nerves and I was still sleepy when the alarm went off at 4:45. It was already 86 degrees out when I strapped my bike to the car rack at 5:15am. Holy crap.
The ride to the park was quick and easy and we had a beautiful but ominous bright red sunrise, it was going to be a killer day. Transition setup was smooth with the exception of me setting my stuff up on the wrong rack at first, the numbers changed right near mine (#675) and I had to move all of my stuff across the aisle and away from Mandy. I remembered to take a step back, take a breath and make sure everything was there and in order.

The Race
Before the swim start we watched a few waves go ahead and I was able to "cool off" in the lake before our wave. It was nice that they let folks take a practice swim while the other waves were starting and I really should have taken a few strokes to loosen up rather than simply wading in the muck. The swim start was a floating one so we waded and then swam out to two blue buoys and treaded water for about 3 minutes. I decided at some point the previous night that I was going to try to have a really good race, so I swam right up to the front row where it was not crowded and I knew I wouldn't be behind any slower swimmers. I took off at the horn, pushing the pace right from the start because I knew I'd be in the water for less than 10 minutes. Immediately I regretted doing that 5K on Thursday, my quads were burning, but I didn't have time to think about that, I wanted to get OUT of that hot, nasty lake as quickly as possible. The one million buoys along the course helped me to stay straight, but as usual I got tangled up with at least 5 swimmers from previous waves along the way. I am not an aggressive swimmer, I don't kick or claw at anyone on purpose, so I do thing some of the "sideways swimmers" slowed me down as I had to try to avoid them. Oh well, I was out before I knew it. 9:46 was my time. Room for improvement.

The first transition went quickly, though I think it took me around 3 minutes (what was I doing?!) but I did have the sense to take a hit of my inhaler. The air was thick and the warm water had left me gasping for air a bit. I grabbed my bike and ran for the road. Why were so many people walking? Don't they know it's a race? Anyway, the bike was really nice, I enjoyed the mostly flat, fast course. Several people got 2:00 penalties on the bike course for drafting and I'm glad too because I saw plenty of it. I think penalties were also given for riding on the left when not passing which I saw as a big problem during the ride. It was all of those Jersey drivers who think the left lane is for driving, not just for passing. ;) I was going back and forth with two other women in my age group for much of the ride, but I managed to blow by them on the last 0.5 mi when a ton of people just seemed to slow down and enjoy the view. I didn't understand that, so I just took off towards the transition area at full speed and I didn't see them again until the run when they were on their way out and I was on my way in. I'm always grateful that the run is last. The bike was 36:54 for the 11.5 or 12 miles.

T2 was much quicker than T1, I just changed my shoes, slipped on my visor and took off at full speed. Again, a ton of people were walking at the start of the run. Someone should tell them that the time you spend in transition counts towards their total time! I'm such a competitive jerk. ;)
The run was HOT. There is no other way to describe how I felt during those 3 miles trotting along the path towards the turnaround. While it was my best event of the race (I came in 130 out of about 1300+ people) it was my least favorite part. I never enjoy an out-and-back course because of the mental aspects of running over the same ground twice. I ran along pretty quickly at the start to loosen up my legs post-ride, happy to pass some folks I couldn't catch on the bike and get right into a quick pace. I didn't look at the pace on my watch until I felt like I was at a comfortable pace, even though it felt slow. That's the bizarre thing about running after the swim and bike, your legs feel so weird that they can't quite sense the pace normally, I thought I was just under 8:00/mile when I was actually at 7:22. I kept doing mental systems checks to make sure the heat wasn't getting to me, Am I breathing okay? No, but it is tolerable and just from the humidity. Am I dizzy or lightheaded? No. Am I still sweating? Profusely. Ok good. I noticed as I reached the turnaround point that people on the returning side were wearing little white towels on their heads or necks and I nearly leapt with joy, They were giving out cold towels at the halfway point! I happily frolicked through the giant firehouse at the halfway point, sloshing through the 3 inches of water, and grabbed my cold towel. Woo, did that feel good on my head, face and neck. I may have gotten a little too excited about the towel because I slowed down without realizing and had to pick the pace back up for the second half. I was having fun. I sipped water at each water station, pouring the rest over my head and running on. Lots of people were walking and I managed to pass everyone I encountered along the way. That's always my favorite part of a tri. My time was 23:52, or a 7:42 pace. I'm happy with that in the heat.

Overall I finished in 1:15:38, good enough for an astonishing 3rd place in my age group. I was completely floored when I saw my name in bold on the results sheet that was posted. I had been having this conversation in my head on the walk over to see the results that went a like this:
"I can't wait to see how I did, but there's no way I placed in anything."
"But what if I did?"
"No, there's simply no way so stop even thinking about it, you'll only be disappointed."
"Obviously. I'm embarrassed for even thinking it, I'm so cocky."

But there it was: 3rd place Females 25-29. I was so surprised and thrilled that I nearly cried. That's 3rd place out of 103!
Overall I was 186 out of 1362. I still can't believe that.
I was 33rd female out of 626.

The best part of the whole day wasn't getting my award though, it was definitely giving Mandy a big hug after she completed her first triathlon!!! Congrats girl, you did it! It takes a lot of guts and hard work to get into the open water and tackle it like you did, I know a LOT of people who are too scared to do what you did. The best part of doing your first tri is that it is a guaranteed Personal best and it is always a learning experience. I had a ton of fun being a part of someone else's first race and hopefully in the future she'll be the one passing on the little tips about how to put on the timing chip, how to put on a swim cap and where to put that race bib with two numbers on it. :)
MANY thanks to the Ryan's Quest crew for hooking me up with post-race beverages and a shady place to sit and recover. I hope to join you guys again in the future for another race.
Thanks to Mandy and her friends, I have a handful of photos from the race, but this post is really long already so I'll save them for another post. I have to include this one though:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tri training is in full force

I have been keeping myself occupied away from the phone and computer lately with plenty of training, but with the heat wave in full force outside I thought I'd catch up on my blog. I finally got back on the bike at the end of June after a long hiatus and I'm actually happy to be back on it. The bike is not my favorite part of the triathlon, I'd be happy doing swim/run races forever, but the bike is there so I'd better get going on it. I am TRYING to get into a routine where I bike to work or just get out and ride at least once a week, so we'll see how that goes.

I got an early start on the weekend last week and hit the road with my bike strapped to the trunk of my car on Thursday night as I headed for the Jersey beaches. I always panic a bit for the first few minutes while driving with the bike on my car rack, but since the George Washington Bridge was the first part of my drive I was extra nervous. I made it down to Mom's without any problems after an hour or so of "omg my bike looks like it is coming loose!" which were all unfounded. I tried to make it an early night, but I didn't even arrive at Mom's until around 10 or 10:30 which sucked because I had to get up at 5 to swim.

Thursday afternoon I spent some time searching online for a swim club or tri team to join for their morning ocean swim and I stumbled upon the Jersey Shore Tri club. Someone from the group kindly emailed me back and let me know they'd be swimming in Bay Head at 6am. Perfect! I joined the group bright and early with a stunning view of the sun rising out of the sea a fiery magenta. It was gorgeous, I miss swimming in the ocean and any other open water during the week so it was great to hit the open sea. As frequently happens, I was the only swimmer out of the 8 or 9 of us there who was swimming in traditional swimsuit, everyone else was pulling on those horrid, sweaty wetsuits. People always have excuses too about why they need them, "I'm getting old" (bullshit) or "I need the buoyancy" (also bullshit, we're in the ocean) but no one in this group was like that, so I respected them for that. I still wish people would practice in traditional suits so they they could improve as a real swimmer and if they still felt the need to cheat in a race, then so be it. I digress.

The swim itself wasn't as beautiful as the sunrise had promised thanks to swarms of slimy, gooey salp which surrounded me, tried to get in my mouth and probably are growing families deep in my ear canals. Salp is a tiny planktonic tunicate, in other words it is a gooey sac-like filter feeder that eats phytoplankton. They look like this and travel in packs of like a billion:

Imagine fishing thousands of these out of your suit and hair.

The salp are supposed to hang out near Antarctica, but they appear to be lost and are hanging off of the east coast in the very warm water. People often mistake them for "jellyfish eggs" or "fish eggs". If you've ever seen caviar you'd know that they are not fish eggs, but from experience I can tell you that they taste about the same. Eww.
The group and I swam about 1.5 miles or so, swimming north a few jetties and then back to our starting point where we decided to keep going because the water was a nice ~73 or so and everyone felt fine. I liked this group. I don't regret doing the extra half a mile or so, but man was that the worst part of the entire morning. The clumps of salp were so thick that I had to put my head down and swim as hard and far as I could before taking a breath. I did not want to swallow any of those buggers. Yuck. Imagine yourself swimming in a pool full of chopped up gummy bears with little stringy bits between them. I made a vow right then and there to never complain about the weeds in the St Lawrence River again.

After the swim I changed into my bike gear (I always feel like a goober, how come some people look so COOL on a bike?) and headed out for a 30 mile ride. I picked 30 because it was my target distance a week or so before, but I only had time for 25. I'm not following any particular training plan right now, so I just hopped on and headed south. The shoulders along Rt 35 in Bay Head, Mantoloking and beyond could use a little smoothing, my hands and butt could attest to that for a few days post-ride. I enjoyed my ride for the most part though, and was happy for the nice weather and fairly light traffic since it was still really early in the day. I rode south through Lavallette and Seaside Park and Heights until I finally hit Island Beach State Park at the southern tip of the island. It is a great place to ride and I saw several other cyclists out, but I wasn't going the full 10 miles in and back out today. I hit the 15 mile mark, had a snack and turned around, I was really happy to finally have the wind at my back. I was able to kick it up and head back to the car much faster than the way down because the wind was pretty strong. Boy, I hope I don't have a headwind for my half ironman, that'd be a bitch. I managed to make it most of the way back before hitting a nasty pothole with 4 miles to go. Ouch, the thump reverberated in my hands for the final few miles. *mental note: get new cycling gloves* I finished 30 miles in 2:01:13 and I'm happy with that. I have no real concept of a great cycling time, but I felt good and I felt like I put in a good effort. I think at this point in my training I just need to rack up some time in the saddle. I should probably bring my bike Upstate with me this weekend to get in a few hills.

It was shortly after I posted my swim and ride on Facebook that I realized "Wow, I'm tri training!" I have three triathlons on the horizon, two of which are coming up pretty quickly! TheNJ State (sprint) Tri is on the 23rd, the day after what would have been my Nan's 88th birthday and I'm doing it with a friend that I've known since childhood. I'm really looking forward to racing again! The NYC triathlon (Olympic) is on August 7th, less than a month away! I also have the Pocono Mountain 70.3 in October, but lets not talk about that just yet. Yikes.

Tomorrow I plan on biking to work for the first time and I'm excited about it, but a little nervous about the logistics and forgetting something important like underwear. I'll be sure to post about my adventures soon.