triathlon race report

The Perfect Storm


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When there are so many great races being held on the same weekend every year, making a decision can be hard – Hood to Coast, Chicago Triathlon or Rev3 Tri in Maine (and be with my team mates).  The decision was tough, but I chose racing on home turf.

CHICAGO TRIATHLON 

There are few times you can actually say everything came together and you had the perfect race. The crazy thing is, that after you actually experience one, you might spend years training, searching and hoping to experience that once again. Ironman Lake Placid 2010 – it happened to me; a flawless Ironman race, where everything from nutrition, mental and physical state all came together for one day and worked together as one. 4 years and one month later, who knew it would happen again and with a whole lot less training!?

Who knew that with an unconventional Lollapalooza taper leading up to US Sprint Nationals, a strained back the week after and only 9 miles of running between that race and this would lead to my best race of the season so far? The Chicago Triathlon, while over sized by many opinions and chaotic, it’s  home court and always a fun one if you have an elite or sprint start. But this year things were run a little differently: new sponsor, new order of events, new bike course. What does that equal? BEST CHICAGO TRIATHLON EXPERIENCE EVER!

How I got talked into racing the Triple Challenge is beyond me, but I could not be happier that I did it. Super Sprint, Olympic Distance, then a Sprint all done over 2 exciting days, taking the overall accumulative times of each race to determine the winner, and while still giving you the opportunity to place within your age group.

10635729_10152760659523319_6393596099476816927_nDay 1:  I will be the first to say, never dis a distance no matter how short or long it is.  If you race it correctly, it hurts. If done right, a Super Sprint HURTS…and I made it hurt. Covering a distance of 375 meters swimming, 10km cycling and 2.5km running, I took the Female Overall win and the leader board in the Triple by about 1:30. Wanting to a greater reward than my plastic circular trophy that broke on my way to the car after the race, I decided I would find my all-time celeb/athlete crush Andy Potts and ask him to take a picture with me. That in itself was an adventure! I took my coach to the expo, asked an event organizer where I could find him and then waited at the doors until he walked up. Slightly pathetic, but well worth it.  (*note – I have never stalked down an athlete/celeb, so this was a first for me…although, I know my husband would beg to differ.) … The man could not have been nicer, which completely took my race win to the bottom of the list of great things that happened that day.

Why not stop if you are already on top? That is what I asked myself as I had one win under my belt, the idea of swimming in Lake Michigan did not appeal to me after the torrential downpour of rain in the afternoon, but after my new “friend” Andy told me I could hunt him down again if I took the overall win in the Triple, it was game on for me! But not before I celebrated with a couple cocktails during the afternoon and another pre-race pizza and beer.

Day 2:  5:15 Arrive to a mud pit transition area with standing water right in front of all my gear and bike rack.  (Let’s not consider being flexible #ChiTri Team and allow the Triple Athletes to use the two rows of empty racks on the other side of the path – PLEASE keep us in the only area in transition with standing mud puddles – THANK YOU)

6:15 Hello Arch Nemesis – Olympic Distance. I will be the first to admit, I am horrible at this distance. I become completely stupid on how to actually race 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. Never have I placed in the top 3 in my age group, nor will I ever have this expectation until I am 80 and still racing. However, something happened when I hit the water and got into the zone as I fought the tossing waves like every athlete out there. The new bike course was the most fun urban bike course I have ever ridden! Coming out of the water, I thought I was in 5th for my group, but after only passing one female rider on the bike course, I thought I was either sucking, or in second place.

The 10km run…this was it, where I always have blown up. Never before this day have I been able to go to that place and push past every dark thought, every ounce of pain felt and finish this distance strong. Especially after dropping my dry clean shoes in the the mud puddle in front of my transition spot just before the run. 10km of wet soppy shoes – I was pissed. Out and back on the run – the turn around I realize there is no one in front of me. Could I seriously be leading this Olympic race?  2 miles to go and the switch flipped, I put my head in position (physically and mentally) and forged on with a little more intention. For the first time ever, I was the one being hunted down in this race AND the 2nd place runner didn’t really stand a chance as long as I kept it together.

Across the finish line – 2:30 minutes ahead of the next female athlete in the Triple Division! Another WIN and I could not believe it.  Now almost a 4:00 lead with one more race to take on.

10:15 Time to Sprint! I love this distance; 750 meter swim, 24.5km cycle (on this course) and 3.1km run. The swim was rough, colder than earlier and continuously choppy from the start. But, what does it matter when everyone else is racing in the same conditions? 2nd place Triple female had made it her mission to beat me since the first pass I made on her in the Super Sprint. Up until now she had yet to make it happen and now was her last shot.

Out of the water she passed me on the way to transition, but couldn’t hold. Onto the bike, and off we go! At the turn around she tried to make a pass, which ended up being a game of cat and mouse fore she couldn’t maintain a steady pace. Into the final transition of the day – she chose the shortest route, I chose the less muddy. 50 feet ahead of me out on the run she went, running full speed with 3.05 miles left to go. Another 400 meters into the run it was over for her. I was lucky enough to have another Triple athlete willing to pace me and pave the way for me as we got tied up with the slower runners who were still on the course. I know I could not have come across the finish line as first Triple female without him.

DONE! It was amazing – I set out with 1 purpose this weekend, and that was to win the Super Sprint Overall Female…and I did it. But in addition to that, I won the Women’s Triple Challenge, managed to come across the finish line as the first female of the Triple Challenge in every event.

As we head started to leave, I thought I should just check to see how I placed in the Age Group Division in both distance. Good thing I did, because I placed 2nd in both the Olympic and Sprint!  HOLY COW!!!  I was beyond surprised, shocked, excited and proud.  Not only did I have a blast racing this weekend, but I also had 3 perfectly chaotic races.

THE GOOD THINGS:

  • Great new bike course
  • Volunteers, especially the Triple Challenge Valet Team was amazing
  • New sponsors = better run race?  Whether it was the sponsors or not – the race was so well done, better than any year I have ever done in the past
  • Aided – job well done with aide, especially once the course was red flagged
  • Mandatory Pre Race Meeting – FINALLY! Not a waste of time and very well done
  • Finisher medals – bottle openers are always a brilliant choice
  • First Aide at the finish line group is amazing – gave me a well deserved ice bath (that hundreds of gross bodies were already in, of course)
  • Amazing photos by Ali Engin
  • Andy Potts

THE BAD THINGS:

  • Transition mud pit (can’t control the weather) – but not allowing the group to move to the other side of the path where racks were empty and set up to hold a few hundred bikes
  • Awards were beyond disappointing, especially after 2 days of hard work

RACE RESULTS:13615_10152761032008319_5841556767626818267_n

SUPER SPRINT

  • 375 meter swim, 12km bike, 2.5km run
  • Time: 38:17
  • 1st FEMALE OVERALL out of 386, 1st Triple Challenge Female
  • 20th Overall Men and Women out of 720
  • Bike average 24.5 mph

OLYMPIC DISTANCE

  • 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
  • Time: 2:32:48
  • 2nd FEMALE AGE GROUP out of 94, 1st Triple Challenge Female, 10th Female Overall out of 781
  • 152 Overall Men and Women out of 2623
  • Bike average 20.5 mph

SPRINT DISTANCE

  • 750 meter swim, 24.5km bike, 5km run
  • Time: 1:28:50
  • 2nd FEMALE AGE GROUP out of 116, 1st Triple Challenge Female, 8th Female Overall out of 913
  • 79th Overall Men and Women out of 2132
  • Bike average 21.4 mph

TRIPLE CHALLENGE

  • 57.3 total miles of swimming, biking and running
  • Total Time of all 3 races: 4:39:56
  • 1st OVERALL FEMALE out of 31
  • 11th Overall Men and Women out of 104

NUTRITION – POWERBAR

  • PowerBar Performance Energy Blends – 1 before each event and 1 heading onto the run of the Olympic
  • PowerBar Performance Energy Bars (PBJ flavor) between the two back to back races
  • PowerBar Protein Plus post race and beer
  • 100% Fluids were pure H2O in this short race
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal for breakfast with strawberries

Can’t wait for next year!

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Even though I was not able to race with my Rev3 Team this weekend, I was there in spirit and representing!

 

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Team Rev3 represents in Chicago!

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My Super Sprint Reward! Thanks Andy for the photo.

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So much fun racing all weekend with these ladies!

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I can’t thank the man enough for dealing with all my craziness. I truly appreciate the support NShah

 

 

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10k in Tokyo

10455440_10203236137277349_5273086209704016296_nWould anyone ever believe me if I said I had never raced a 10km before?  Well, truth be told, I never had until this summer.

This season was not intended for the ‘Year of Firsts’, however, it has been, so with this, I guess you could call it my second rookie season.  After a year off from racing, I entered 2014 with my first bike race, my first trail race, and now my first 10k road race.  It is a great reward to find once again my love for racing by trying new distances and types of racing.

Every country I travel to, whether it be for business or pleasure, it is essential to find a race, and with that I had the choice of a 2.5 or 5km (too short for the distance traveled to get there), 10km (not my ideal), 21 or 42km (not in shape for either).  So I guess the choice was automatically narrowed down for me, and there I was, left with my arch nemesis of distances – the 10km.  Pick 8 or 15 and I would have mentally and physically known how to pace myself, but for some reason I have never been able to figure out how to pull of a 10km.  As a result, I have avoided the distance like the plague of all road races.

This unusual event was like the track and field of road races.  Families brought picnics and tents to make a day event of this multi-distance, all day event.   Starting on a track, making multi-loops around this beautiful park, this little local race was to raise money for the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.

After spending a winter in India, I am very unconscious of the conservative nature of clothing women wear when it comes to working out and racing.  And although I am a true believer of less is best when it comes to racing in 90F/32C degrees in the beating sun, I am also aware that I had to get my way back to my hotel, which was about 5km away from the race site.  I prefer to draw the lease amount of attention as possible when walking down streets of foreign countries, so I chose to dress Asian style – long black tights and black top (let’s be smart and make it as hot and uncomfortable as possible when exerting a massive amount of energy in the heat.)  The only thing I could not bear was covering my arms; I believe I would have overheated and died had I done that.  Although, I did bring a scarf and throw in the bushes, so I could cover them on my way back to the hotel.

11:00 a.m. – My race started.  4 laps (2.5km each)  around the park, passing through the track stadium on each round.  No shade.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Lap 1 – My start was conservative, given I had gotten off a plane from the US 12 hours previous.  Lap 2 – I started to make my slow and steady passes, one after another.  Lap 3 – Starting to have those conversations in my head, reminding me why I never race this distance…it hurts…really, it hurts.  But here, we go, one last lap.  At this point you have a choice to make.

Choice – it is something we all have.  The choices we make is what helps us forge the path we create throughout our life.  We can choose the easy way or challenge ourselves, and while it may not be easy at the time, the reward on the other side often is greater.

As much as I wanted to ease off on this lap, in this race that really didn’t count for anything on my racing resume, I made a choice to push harder; to hurt more.  Picking off 3 more women on that last lap landed me 7th place overall women in my very first 10km race ever.  The girl who sucked (really) at cross country.  The girl who has always struggled to run a stand alone road race not only conquered her first 10km race with a top 10 finish, but pulled off a jet-lagged negative split run.

There wasn’t a single second of the race that was easy.  But I made a choice to take on an overcome, and I did just that.  Just don’t be looking for me to be doing another one any time soon.
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The Chameleon

Rev3 Cedar Point Full – Sandusky, Ohio

Chameleon – a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards with the ability to change color.

140.6 Distance Triathlete – a unique breed of athlete specialized in long endurance racing with the ability to change and adapt to any situation on a course.

A Coach, a Wife, a Sister, Daughter, Teammate and Athlete were the expectations of the weekend as I traveled to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the Rev3 Full Triathlon; one of those roles, I was sure to fail, if not a few.

The Coach – Earlier in the season, I had planted the seed of my NJOY RACING team coming to Cedar Point and race with me and get a taste of what a triathlon was, even if it meant I bribe them with relays & roller coasters, so be it.  To much my surprise people committed than I had ever dreamed – 4 sprint relay teams, 3 half relay teams, 5 sprinters, 3 half distance, 1 full aqua-bike and 2 full & 1 boat volunteer.  In other words, I had over 20 people coming to race with me and only 5 of them had completed a triathlon previously.  Needless to say, if I had not raced I would have been stressed enough, let alone having signed up for the full distance race, but there was no way I was not going race.  I LOVE my Rev3 races and get to be part of a team as an athlete and not a coach.  Not to mention, I belive they run the best races in North America.

The Daughter & Sister – Unfortunately, like most people in this country, my family has lost sight in the importance of taking responsibility for their health and life more active lifestyles (and their excuses are not unique).  In the 8 years of racing with over 100 races, they have been to less than 5 of them, so I thought it would be a good idea to not only invite them to come watch, but be part of the team and join a relay team of the sprint distance.  3 agreed – I was ecstatic.  In my job, I get to change lives in a very positive way.  I give people a chance to live longer, healthier lives.  I help people feel better emotionally, physically about themselves and build confidence in ways they may have never had.  This was my chance to not only have my family there with me, but also have them do something healthy with me.  It was my opportunity to help give them a better quality of life.  Who knows, maybe once a year they might want to join me for a family event?

The Coach – Rev3 picks the best race locations!  On paper some might not seem like the most exciting locations: Sandusky, Ohio – but who doesn’t like a good roller coaster?  Fun, family friendly locations with lots to do…and doesn’t hurt to be $$$ reasonable places.  So when waking up Saturday morning to pouring rain and a flooded bike course, it was very disappointing the sprint triathlon was cancelled.  However, you make the best of it and do what you can.  Troopers on team NJOY went ahead and ran the 5k, all getting race PRs!  As the day continued it got beautiful, sunny and dry – ROLLER COASTERS!!!!  That’s what we did and had a great time doing it.  After the first ride I thought it was about the stupidest thing I had ever done before the race I was about to do, and only more stupid after the second.  But like drinking, after a few it doesn’t really matter how many more you ride once you realize your body is going to feel it tomorrow regardless of how many.

The Athlete – Race Day…could not have been more perfect with the weather as the day began.  In the morning this girl woke up as Athlete.   I have often been asked why I don’t race with the athletes I coach…this is why:  I need to focus and take care of me and only me, and I don’t like to talk to people at all before a race.  Simply, I am no good as a coach before a race and some of my athletes got a taste of that in transition before the race even started.

The race course was great, even for a flat bike course, which are not my favorites to ride.  I love 2 lap courses!  Mentally I know where I am at all times and what is coming up and makes the course easier to master.  Due to a sprain shoulder, I had not been in the water since KMD Challenge 4 weeks previous, so my swim was not fast by any means, but I still enjoyed.  On the bike I went out averaging 19.5 mph to mile 70, but after nutritional issues causing my stomach to not be able to hold in my calories I lost all energy and took a small nap in the ditch before finishing the rest of my ride.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is the second time in a long distance race I have ever gotten sick and the same thing happened:  couldn’t keep my eyes open, took a little nap and woke up feeling fresh and ready to take on the world!  The problem I believe was – using new gel I had never used before and couldn’t hold it down (and any time I ever get ‘sick’ like that I immediately fall asleep).  No, I’m not a rookie and will spare you the details to why it happened.  I know better.  After falling off the leader board with that move (I had been one of the top 5 females overall) I finally made it to the T2 and was mentally questionable, stomach was questionable, but legs felt great.  Off I went after a brief conversation with my husband who was there to cheer me out onto the course.  Time to take down some runners!

All day I had been looking forward to the run, but with my head and stomach playing games on me, I was uncertain of the outcome.  I made it to mile 6 where I had convinced myself I was not going to make it through to the 2nd lap and this is where my saving grace came to my rescue. Rev3 Teammate Tim Andrus put me back together.  I never name drop, but he gets all the credit in the world for this – I could not have done it without him.  Stopping to complain about my iffy stomach, he got me moving while he inventoried me – asking me how my legs were.  When I said they were fine, he told me we can get my head and stomach together and coached me through my nutritional changes and in no time I was off and ready to take on the next 20 miles.

The Wife – By mile 12.75, 1 hour and 52 minutes later convinced myself the only way I could complete this race was if my husband was there at the turn-around to tell me to get out there and finish the final lap.  But he wasn’t there.  He had gone back to the hotel room with everyone else.  As the world came to screeching stop, the tears flowed and the rage set in as I completely lost my mind.  I start screaming at the one person who was there to get my husband on the phone and yell at him to not bother coming because he was too late.  As I continue to run while sobbing, I am conversing with myself out loud that I would never be in this situation if I were married to a triathlete.  A triathlete would know the final turn-around is one of the most crucial points in the race.  Of course he should have know, even though I had never expressed that to him…but then again he is not a triathlete.  So he didn’t get it.

Client coaching the coach – at this point to only one out there attempting to pull my head back together was a long time client of mine who helped me pulled it back together for the next 4 miles.  Forever grateful and ever so sorry he had to deal with my crazed psychosis, as we laugh about it now.

The Husband – shows up at mile 19ish after my client told him to get there, but I wanted nothing to do with him until mile 20, where I decided to let him know he wasn’t there for me when I needed him the most.  Let’s be clear – half my family left Saturday, before the race had even started.  The other half left after I had gotten on my bike, so at this point I was left with only 1 on the run – and now he had left me.  As soon as he said he would have never left had he known, my switch flipped and I was perfectly fine and off to finish the last 6 miles.  I had never been so focused at this point, taking down one mile at a time as I tried to hunt down every female I could who was head of me.  (Still, he is banned from any important race I have from here forward.)

The Finish Line – I had made my way up to 14th overall as I crossed the finish line, taking my highest placing ever overall and in my age group at 4th in a Full Distance race.  As I came across the tape, I found my husband standing there while they played our first dance song at our wedding (Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’…our first dance was in a nightclub in Vegas).  My athletes who were still in town were all there to see the athlete cross the finish line.  It felt surreal and was a blur.  Oddly, I don’t remember much.  I felt good, but I was dazed, and then it was over.

In Conclusion – It was a great race.  It was a place where everyone was able to come together, have fun, try new things and support one another as a team.  I am a proud coach, as I see my athletes work together and try a new sport that took them out of their comfort zone.

As an athlete, anyone who loves this distance can relate to the “now what” feeling you go through once the curtain has closed.  That is where I am. There is an emotional let down for me goes beyond the race being over as I reflect on my experience with my family at this race and come to the conclusion that some don’t care (fore they left before the race had even started), others try to get it, but can’t quite get there (I appreciate them for trying) so by the time I made it through 127 miles I had been left by all of them.  Hence, why I like racing solo so much – no one can let you down but yourself.  *This is why it has taken a couple weeks to write this piece.  It has been hard for me to deal with and I want to be honest about my experience. 

As for my goal of attempting give the gift of a higher quality of life through fitness to my family…I failed.  Why do I try when I know people will never live a healthy lifestyle unless they are willing to take responsibility for themselves and be willing the break bad habits?

I walk away with this race experience looking forward to next year doing the same distance.  A chameleon can change its color to fit into its environment in order to survive.  An endurance athlete must be able to do the same in order to survive a race like such.