Are you ready? Are you ready for this? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Out of transition, the tri bikes zip, to climb on in the heat! Dun, dun, dun…another race in the books! Dun, dun, dun…another race in the books! And another one gone, and another one gone…another race in the books!
Ah, Quassy. My what a hot, hilly, fantastic party you were. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left it was a whirlwind of less than ideal racing conditions but prime conditions for me to fall even deeper in love with triathlon. For me this was a C- race so my plan was to go uber conservatively, experiment with some new racing strategies, and finishing feeling that I had plenty left in the tank. I am so happy to say that I met my goal and had perfect race execution. But before we get to raceday we need to back it up a bit.
Helping at the bike mount line
I arrived on Friday and immediately jumped into helping out around the expo. I helped set up some of the finish area, the med tent, then jumped into helping with the craziness of preparing race packets and helping the Olympic racers get registered (fun fact: during the swim some racer’s tire popped in transition and the Rev3 crew scrambled to find the bike and fix the tire before the athlete got to her bike. She never even knew what happened!). Friday was go-go-go from 9am (when I arrived) to 11pm. Less than an hour after a dinner of a salad topped with 6 meatballs, Christine informed me we were running the Rev3 Glow Run 5k. We both promised we would go easy and have girltalk, but about halfway through we started picking it up and ended up running all out at the finish (oops. I kinda forgot I was racing on Sunday). We’re calling that one a meatball PR. Saturday we were up at 4 (I was staying in the RV at the finish) for the Olympic race. I started my day by helping with some last minute buoy alignment, then I watched the swim start and helped at the bike mount line. As soon as the last cyclist left I headed out for bike sweep duty. I escorted the last biker while picking up trash along the way. Later in the day I ran into @obie_one, @Ben_M_Berry, @DoubleDAthlete @RangerDutch @dwarfparatri and tons of other friends out and about at Quassy.
Relaxing at the NormaTec Booth
Before I knew it it was 4pm and I had absolutely nothing ready for my race and realized I had eaten nothing but trail mix all day. I switched into athlete mode and disappeared for an hour while I got everything ready for race day, found some time to compress at the NormaTec booth and dropped off my bike. Since I was staying at the park I had little control over my food, so my pre-race dinner (lasagna) consisted of things I stay away from during training: cheese, gluten, and fatty red meat. Usually this would stress me out, but since this race was just a C- race for me I didn’t get stressed whatsoever. I have to admit, it was quite freeing to not stress about a race! Saturday night I went to sleep around 11 again, and was up at 4 the next morning–this time not to work, but to race!
Race morning I went into autopilot. I had packed 800 calories for breakfast consisting of oatmeal, banana and peanut butter but could only get 500 cals in me before the body screamed “stop”. I washed that down with 4 cups of coffee and did my “business” 3 times (thanks, in part, to the crappy food I ate the night before that my body wanted to get rid of). I meandered up to transition around 6 to deposit my fluids, pump my tires, and get my bike all ready to rock. I had plenty of time to schmooze with all my friends and give hugs and kisses to everyone. I was happy, relaxed, and totally in my element. It was such an awesome feeling.
The pros went off at 7 but my wave didn’t go off until 7:30, so I had more time to kill. I took a pre-race pee in the lake with @billrisch (since we started the tradition at Timberman back in 2011) and then had an awesome conversation with a new friend who was nervous about the race (more on her later). At 7:25 I grouped up with the rest of the women under 35 plus the Aquabike participants and waited on the beach until we were called down to the water. Unlike most races, I was remarkably calm. Sean counted down and then we were off!
The Swim (31:03): At the start I unfortunately got stuck behind a pack of some slow women and watched as the lead pack took off in the distance. I managed to maneuver my way around and sprint to find the fast feet. Throughout my entire swim I kept everything comfortable yet pushed the pace and focused on staying on feet. During the swim I took some time to reflect on how far I’ve come with my swimming skills. Due mainly to experience and also to some creative training, I am very comfortable racing strategically in the water. I now have the confidence to drop slow feet to go sprint for fast feet. Before I would fear surges and would stick at the same pace throughout the swim. Now I know that I can surge when needed to stay on the feet of faster women. The swim was fairly relaxing: only some minor jostling of women for rights to feet, and for a good stretch of the swim I was behind someone who produced a gorgeous stream of bubbles that shimmered in the early morning light. I felt like a fish in an aquarium and enjoyed how it felt like I was effortlessly gliding through the water. Before I knew it my playtime was over and I hit the beach ready to run up to transition
T1 (1:55): I ran up into transition feeling super strong and passing a lot of people along the way. I certainly felt better after this swim than I did at Knox a few weeks back. I made the cardinal sin of not checking where my bike was, so I lost a few seconds running past my bike, then looking like a fool trying to find my bike. I finally found my bike, threw on my shoes, sunglasses and helmet, and ran out and quickly as I could.
The Bike (2:59:38): First off, this bike is KILLER. It has close to 4k of climbing, which I knew would be a challenge for me. For my height and fitness, I’m built a lot heavier than other girls. This heft makes me wicked fast on flat courses and downhills, but makes me suck big time on the hills. In fact on each hill as I trudged up in my watt zone I saw toothpick athletes blazing past me. This course certainly favors the skinnier athletes. But I accepted the challenge and had fun with the course. Since I knew the course was killer I went out a lot more conservatively than I’ve done in past races, and it paid off. Also, since I wasn’t concerned about my finishing time I decided to be the bike fairy and help people who had mechanicals along the way. Most people didn’t need my help, but I helped a few people with flats and helped get notice radioed in for a rider who needed the assistance van. I figured what’s a few minutes off my bike time if I can help save someone else’s race, especially since I wasn’t vying for an AG spot.
The last 10 miles of the bike everything felt crazy good, so I picked up the watts a bit and picked up some more time along the way. It was so awesome to come back into transition feeling strong and ready to run! As far as nutrition/hydration goes I took a gel every 25 minutes or so on the bike, 4 salt tabs, 2 electrolyte tabs, plus 4+ bottles of water. To avoid any sloshing on the run I stopped all fluid intake at mile 40 of the bike. Total nutritional stats for the bike: 800 calories, 2704 mg sodium, 76 oz water (for those wondering I peed 2 1/2 times on the bike, so I was well hydrated).
T2 (1:12): I came into T2 feeling crazy good, and settled right down to business. I saw so many familiar faces in and around T2, and was just beaming ear to ear and I heard my name from all my friends. I racked my bike, threw on my shoes, grabbed my race belt and visor, and was out like a lightning bolt!
Helping Kaipo replenish after the race
The Run (1:49:28): My main goal for this run was to not walk. Not walk any of the crazy hills that give you 1300 ft of elevation gain. Not walk the crazy hill that lasts almost a mile. Not walk the crazy steep uphill from mile 12.5 to 12.9. I am SO FRIGGIN PROUD to say that I did not walk one foot of that run. For the first time I felt like everything clicked. My nutrition was spot on, I felt super super strong, and felt like a real triathlete.
The first 2 miles of the run are downhill, so I let my legs fly as I picked up the free speed. From there you run about a half mile or so of a gradual uphill, followed by a steep downhill. Shortly after mile 3, you begin the long, long uphill climb on a dirt road. The other racers hated that climb and everyone was walking. I tried to encourage people, but most people were grumpy so I left them alone. I focused on keeping my heart rate below 160 and slowly picked my way up the hills. I focused on dumping ice down my bra and in my shorts at each aid station and splashed water on my head every other aid station. (Sidebar: the people working the aid stations and residents in the neighborhood totally ROCKED! It was so amazing to see the whole community out supporting us and everyone was ridiculously enthusiastic. Thanks so much to everyone who was there volunteering and supporting!) It was a super hot day and a lot of the course was exposed so my goal was to keep my body temp down so I could keep my heart rate low.
At mile 6 I met Adam, a friend of one of my teammates (Ryan) who had passed out a few miles into the run. Adam told me what happened to Ryan, and we ended up running together and chatting for the remainder of the course. My goal throughout the run was to keep my heart rate near 160 (if you recall at Knox it was to keep it 150-155) to see how I felt running at a higher heart rate. The verdict? I felt good. Really, really good. I tried some gatorade at mile 3 and mile 8, both of which did NOT sit well (immediately cramping and bloating followed shortly by some fantastic farts). I took a Powergel at mile 5 1/2 and mile 10 (felt awesome) plus 4-5 cups of coke and a few glasses of water. I’ve learned that my body really can’t handle a lot of calories and fluids on the run so I need to keep it light. Instead I load up on the fluids and calories on the bike to get me through the run. At mile 9.5 we looped back by the finish, and the crowds were SO LOUD and SO ENTHUSIASTIC! I had a fantastic half mile surge before I disappeared back into the neighborhood.
The rest of the race felt really great. Again my heart rate was up around 160 and everything felt crazy good. At the final turn around section (mile 11) I thought about picking it up and giving it my all to the finish, but I decided to hold back a bit and stay in my heart rate zone. Again, Quassy was not an “A” race for me and since my focus is on trying to really kill it at the Williamsburg 70.3 (3 weeks from Quassy) I figured I had a lot more to lose by going all out the last three miles than I had to gain. So I stayed in my heart rate range and enjoyed the fact that I was ENJOYING the RUN of a triathlon! Who is this new Frayed Laces?
The last half mile of the run is this brutal uphill, but I powered up it with pride and then entered the final stretch before the chute. The spectators were just awesome and I turned the corner to the chute with a huge smile on my face. The best part? Christine had Kaipo waiting for me at the chute and I got to run across the finish with him (yep, Rev3 lets you run across the finish with dogs and family members). I crossed the finish line beaming and was greeted with puppy kisses and hugs from Christine and John. Total estimated calories on run: 400 plus 24 oz (at most) of fluids.
Teasing out the knots
After the race I chatted with as many people as I could find, compressed at the NormaTec Boots, and then went to take a shower in the RV. Unfortunately, I realized I had a bit of a problem. Somehow the hair at the back of my neck had matted into one giant dreadlock (I think it was from rubbing against the velcro of my wetsuit during the swim). It took Christine, Jill, and Debbie (all members of the Rev3 Ohana) over an hour to gently tease out the knots. Needless to say, I am NOT going through that again. This girl is getting her hair chopped off before Williamsburg!
After I finally got cleaned up I headed down to the finish to cheer on other athletes as they came in. It was so awesome to see the emotion as people crossed the finish. What an amazing atmosphere! I have two athlete stories I’d like to share with you. The first is the story of Ted and Kathy. Ted is a dear old friend of mine, and was an active blogger a few years ago. He is hearing impaired (has a cochlear implant) and is married to Kathy, who is both hearing and sight impaired. After many years of talking with Ted but never meeting, we were finally able to connect at Quassy! He was there cheering on Kathy as she raced (with her guide) and navigated the hilly course. She had an awesome day! Here’s pictures Ted sent me:
Ted giving Kathy a kiss at the finish
Kathy and her guide at the finish. What an awesome team!
The next story is of my new friend Jessica. I met her at the swim start as she overhead me talking to some friends and expressed her concern over her nerves in the race. She’s had some unfortunate weather-related incidents in her past races and she was so nervous about Quassy. We spent awhile talking before the race and I tried to give her every pep talk I could muster. She told me that she was actually at the race alone, since her husband and kids had to stay at home for a school event. I promised her that not only would she finish the race, but that I would be there as she crossed to give her a hug and be her post-race support. I was SO HAPPY to see her cross that finish and she finally had a great 70.3 experience! Way to go Jessica!
The rest of the day was spent helping the Rev3 crew pack up the finish line and shoving food into my pie hole. The next morning I was up at 5 to drive 6 hours up to Montreal for a work conference where I gave a talk about my research. I always chuckle when I go straight from compression gear to high heels. Thankfully no one noticed the “30″ suntanned into my calf, and my jacket hid the tan lines from my race numbers!
But back to the race…my what vastly different races I’ve had this season! From the frigid and rainy Knoxville to the hot and sunny Quassy—mother nature is having fun with me! I’m really pleased by how both races have gone, and I feel like I’m getting smarter about racing and am totally ready to try to give it my all in two weeks at Rev3 Williamsburg. Thank you so so so much to all the Rev3 folks for such an awesome race, and to all our team sponsors (Quintana Roo, Pearl Izumi, NormaTec, Compex, Powerbar, SBR sports, Blue Seventy, Reynolds, and Biotta) for keeping us geared up, lubed up, and fueled up. But the BIGGEST thanks should go to the amazing volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep us cranky athletes safe and relatively happy in the heat. You guys are amazing!