Sunday, May 27, 2012

Race Report: BRATS Salute to the Military Tri

Race: BRATS Salute to the Military Triathlon
Date: May 27, 2012
Location: Vint Hill, VA
Race Type: Sprint: 300 meter pool swim, 11.75 mi bike, 3.1 mi run
Division: Age Group 45-49
Time: 1:22:02
Place: 2nd in Age Group

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Race Report:

I've got to tell you - this is such a great little race. Each year the race directors recognize all the military members (serving or served) at the awards ceremony. It's one of the most touching parts of the whole race event. Each year the group recognized gets bigger and bigger. Soon there won't be enough space under the gazebo for them all! 

The race is very well organized, has both adult and youth races, and a great course. The course is a pool swim, rolling hills on the bike and a pretty flat (in the sun) run. I would highly recommend this race to anyone (except those in my age group that are faster than me - you can just stay home for this one!). :)

Disclaimer: Two days prior to this event I came down with a really bad cold/flu. I had gone to sleep two nights in a row with Niquil and was dizzy and light-headed (more than normal!) for those two days. I was just thankful to be able to get out and race this one - let alone do so well. 

I love the promptness of the race timers! My results had already been sent to my email before I made it home. A few stats on the day: The weather was sunny, 75 degrees F, 83% humidity, SSW wind of 8 mph. My overall finish place was 71st, my gender finish place was 13th, and, of course, my age group place was 2nd. Pretty happy with that!

Swim (300 Meters): 7:10 (2 seconds slower than last year) - 1st in age group
They say that you can win or lose a race based on your swim times. Well, even though I still feel slow, I guess being 1st in my age group makes that comment a little untrue. I think I would have beat my time last year had there not been an issue with seeding of swimmers. There were three guys behind me that ended up passing me and they weren't very nice about it. I never felt a tap on my foot or anything so I didn't even realize they were coming up behind me. But, having to let them go when we reached the wall made me 2 second + slower.
T1: 1:52 - (19 seconds slower than last year) 1st in age group
I'm always pretty quick in transition and T1 was no exception when it came to the rankings. HOWEVER, I had several issues in T1 this time (including my race belt getting caught in my tire) so I feel I could have made up some really good time here.

Bike (11.75 mi): 42:44 (1:07 slower than last year) @ 16.5 mph - 2nd in age group

I was very disappointed in this result. Since this race last year I feel I have gotten considerably stronger than last year on the bike. Today I blame my slowness on two things: 1) I had to blow a LOT of snot rockets (yep, I do that) because I've been sick for the past few days. 2) There were three times I had to slow down to wipe salty sweat out of my eyes. I literally couldn't see anything. I'm not sure what happened here because that has never happened to me before. Maybe I need to sunglasses or a new helmet or something to hold in the sweat. Don't know. But, I feel this is what slowed me down today. I also had a little birdie in the back of my mind saying "don't give everything on the bike today because you want to save something for the run." I'm glad I listened to that birdie.

I've not had the fastest pace on this course before because of the rolling hills but, more importantly, because of the 4 tight U-turns on the course. I can't wait to do a race where no U-turns are required to see what kind of pace I can hold.

T2: 0:46:00 (0:03:05 faster than last year) - 4th place in age group 
Could have gotten on my shoes a little faster and saved a few more seconds here. 
Run (3.1 miles): 29:28 (9:30 min/mile pace) (10 seconds faster than last year) - 7th place in age group

Although I was VERY pleased with my personal result, this is what stopped me from winning first place (again!) in my age group. I've really got to work on getting faster on the run and that means two things: 1) weight loss and 2) speed work. Not sure I'm ready for either of those but...I've gotta do what I've gotta do if I want to win 1st place!

Summary and lessons learned 

This is the third time I have raced this course. The first time I raced was in 2009 and I ended up coming in 3rd place in my age group. The second year, 2011, I also placed 3rd. This year I wanted to grab that 1st place age group really bad. But, having been sick for two days I was just thrilled to have made it across the finish line. I knew my friend Amy was on the course today and knew she was both a really strong biker and runner and, sure enough, she got 1st! I'm very proud of her!!! 

Today was no personal record but I'm one step closer to that 1st place trophy! It's a great way to start the tri season for sure! 

I need to remember that when I race a sprint I need to leave everything out there in EVERY sport. I shouldn't have held back on the bike. I should have just pressed on. I should have read my race report from last year that told me that EVERY SECOND COUNTS - particularly in a sprint! Lesson learned. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Race Report: Flying Pig Marathon

Race: Flying Pig Marathon
Date: Sunday, May 6, 2012
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Race Type: Full Marathon
Division: 45-49 yo
Overall Place: 3162
Division Place: 105
Female Place: 1153
Time: 5:19

The Pre-race report Summary:

For those of you that just want the short version of this race report here it is: I had a decent, but not great, race. I didn't meet my personal goal but I did set a personal record by 19 minutes from my last marathon and almost 1 hour better than my first marathon in 2004! The Flying Pig is a really good race with decent crowd support, great swag, and a pretty challenging, hilly course.

For those of you that want to know the whole story or just enjoy punishing yourself by reading someone else's race report then the rest of this story is for you. Grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and continue reading...

Before the Race:

A few days before this race there were a lot of things going through my head. First and foremost was the fact that my hamstring was super duper tight. I had been to yoga class on Wednesday and my instructor sent me home with some great stretches which I did at least twice a day, if not more. It helped, for sure, but my hamstring in my right leg still wasn't 100% going into this race.

The second thing on my mind was the weather forecast for race day. Race officials were giving people the option to delay their race until next year if they chose to do so. I figured it couldn't be worse than my first year running the Marine Corps Marathon (high 80's by the time I finished) so I continued through with my plan.

The last thing on my mind was the fact that I drove the race course on Friday night and saw the big hills that I would have to run. I mean, I knew Cincinnati had some rolling hills but I thought for sure they would compare to the rolling hills in VA and thought I'd be okay. As it turns out there were several significant hills in the race (I'll get to those later). But, like the weather, I knew I had run in worse. Remember the hills at the Jerusalem Marathon?

I went to the Expo on Friday afternoon around the time it first opened. There were quite a few others there at the time but the lines were minimal (except the line where Proctor & Gamble was giving out free stuff!). They had great swag for a marathon including a duffel bag!

And a cute poster I will probably never find the time to frame and hang

All in all the expo was pretty rockin and it took us more time to find a parking spot in Cincinnati and walk to the expo than it did to actually attend the expo.

The Race:

After my 4:15 a.m. alarm, I hopped out of bed, got dressed, had breakfast and was out the door in about 25 minutes. Only one of the bottles on my race belt seemed to be leaking a little. So, I held it up and used my left hand to try to check it...proceeding to spill the coffee in my left hand all over my lap! UGH! That's what I get for getting up at 4:15 am! Yes, it was hot. VERY HOT! But, thankfully I hadn't left the house yet and was able to go back inside to get a towel to dry off. I continued on to the race with wet clothes but there was no sense in changing them because they would only get more wet (aka SWEATY) throughout the day. And, hey, having a coffee smell hanging with me all day wasn't all that bad!

I was interested to see how this race compared with the others I had done. I've run the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) three times, Shamrock Marathon (VA Beach) once and the Jerusalem Marathon. Now, at the MCM the field is around 30,000 runners and about 20,000 are there for the marathon. The Flying Pig also has a field of 30,000 runners but these are spread out among several different races and the marathon actually only had about 4,000 runners. It "felt" bigger than 4,000 because the start line was both marathon and half marathon participants. You could tell a noticeable difference in the field around mile 9 when the (almost 11,000) half marathon participants split off from the rest of us.

So...the course...

Okay, here is what I remember...(because, you get all delusional and stuff when you run a marathon and you tend to forget stuff!!)

The first few miles were gorgeous...the 15,000 participants all running across the bridge from Cincinnati into KY! Of course, as a KY girl it was cool to run "part" of my marathon in my home state - something I never done before. Of course, I hope to remedy that next year but running the KY Derby Marathon (or the mini...aka half...marathon).

The spectators, for the most part, were great. I was surprised, however, to see SOME streets lined with people and nobody saying a word! I mean, I know most are there to cheer for one individual but, hey, we're all out there working hard - cheer for us all! So, there were times I (yeah, I'm not shy...) had to say "HEY SPECTATORS....GIVE US A CHEER!" or "WE LOVE YOU, SPECTATORS" (to which they responded appropriately with "WE LOVE YOU....RACE HARD...FINISH STRONG...etc.). The folks running around me were all in agreement with getting the crowd going but none of them were about to say anything. I guess that puts me in the category with the "crazy coach" who goes around making a fool of himself/herself. Um...yep!

So, mile 6 of this race is where things started to get interesting...

Mile 6 is where the road started heading up toward Mt. Adams. MOUNT...Adams...Yep...the name says it all. For 2.5 miles the road went up...and up...and up... I didn't even realize Cincinnati had hills like this! Prior to the race I had driven most of the race course and then read this article. Knowing this section was going to be a challenge was a good pre-race strategy. I knew the moment I saw the "Norman Romanesque mini castle" I had to get past some very big obstacles in my mind. I had to a) slow down my pace but b) not walk at ALL going up this hill. It was tough. REALLY tough. I slowed my pace and was determined not to walk but what I wasn't expecting was...just after passing the singing Elvis dude...I got my first CRAMP in my leg. NOT my hammy...but calf! WHAT? That kinda came out of the blue. BUT...I didn't walk! I stepped a little differently and slowed down my pace for a few seconds but I didn't stop to walk. I mean, c'mon...I'm only at mile 6...I'm blaming Elvis on this one.

Once I made it up to the highest point of the race, the rest of the race was a "NET" downhill as you can see from this elevation chart! Of course, just because it's a "net" downhill does NOT mean there won't be more UPHILL climbs (more on that later...).

From mile 8.5 - 17.5 it was pretty much uneventful in my race. I started to feel a little pain in the bottom of both feet but wasn't sure what it was for a long time (more on that later). I met some people along the course, tried to encourage others to keep moving when they started to walk, sang some songs with local bands that were playing as I ran by, saw some really funny signs, etc. Now, this is where I have to stop and mention some of the signs. With this being my 6th marathon I thought I had seen just about every sign there is to see. But, Cincinnati had some very unique signs:

  • Run hard but...Don't poop yer pants!
  • RUN! There is a Zombie behind you.
  • Free High Five Guy (Yep, I got one of those!)
  • Worst Parade Ever (I've seen this before but next time I'm bringing candy to throw at the person holding this sign!).
  • My wife is a Pig (I told him he would probably have to sleep on the sofa for that one)
  • Pretend that a bear is chasing you (this didn't really help me move any faster...)
  • There is bacon at the finish line...and beer (this was a lie!)
But, my all-time favorite was the one this girl was holding. She looked like she had a horrific hangover...and her sign said:

  • "You make this Cinco de Mayo Hangover feel like a walk in the park! Ole!"
Okay, so back to the might want to pause here and go get a second cup of coffee. I'll wait...


Alrighty then...mile 17.5...there was a small, but horribly steep, hill! And, for the first time in the race I decided it was time to take a short little walk up the hill. If my calves hadn't been on again/off again cramping I might have run this hill but I still had several more miles to go and I didn't want it to end here. So, for about 30 seconds I walked.

Mile 18 I stopped to see my dad, Cherie (his finance) and my daughter who were there waiting for me and cheering me on. I thought I had stopped for a little longer than I did but when I was shown the video that Cherie took of me I realized I had just enough time to hug my daughter and tell Cherie and my dad that they would probably have to meet me in the medical tent at the finish line because I thought I might have blisters on the bottom of my feet! Then...I was off...

Mile 19-20.5 were bad. REALLY bad. First, this portion of the race is a very lonely spot. You basically run on the shoulder of a 4-lane road and there are maybe 5 people in the whole stretch of this road to cheer you on. You know - only those people who KNOW you are going to be in pain at this point - as if they have experienced it before! This is where the sun begins to be directly overhead and hardly any shade is to be found from here to the end of the race. Anyway, it was during this 1.5 miles that I lost it. First, I knew I was hitting "the wall" from a physical standpoint. I started walking then running then walking again. Then I had thoughts of getting a DNF ("Did Not Finish") and then the emotions started to come to me like they never have before. Yeah, I've cried at the end of a the finish line...because I was so excited to have the accomplishment under my belt. But this time the tears weren't about that. I couldn't get that DNF out of my mind. The personal goals that I had set out for myself in this race weren't going to be met and I knew it by this point. That made me cry even more. Then I realized...HEY STUPID! YOU ARE HITTING THE WALL!!! SNAP OUT OF IT! Who CARES if I don't make my goal. This wasn't my "A race" and even if it were WHO CARES! I had unusual circumstances with the cramping so early, the bottom of my feet with blisters, and the 80 degree heat with 53% humidity. Just finishing this race would be a huge accomplishment and I needed to SNAP OUT OF IT! So, I dried off the tears (not before several people had seen me and a medic asked if I needed help, though) and kept plugging on. The one thing that really kept me going was that I wanted my daughter to see me at the finish line and know that mommy didn't give up! She'll never understand just how much I wanted to give up (until she becomes a marathoner herself in the future...and she will...) but I needed to do this to set an example to her and my son (even though he wasn't able to be there). NEVER.GIVE.UP!!!

So, the last 6 the sun...were tough. But, I got through them and, as I crossed the finish line (with 26.55 miles on my Garmin) I had done it! Oh...pardon was the FINISH SWINE! (Pig talk, get it?).

As soon as I could I found the medical tent because my legs were in need of some BioFreeze and I wanted someone to look at the bottom of my feet. Well, as soon as they asked me to sit down everything started spinning. As it turned out, I not only needed to be treated for the cramping and blisters but also for a mild case of dehydration.

About 10 minutes later I was up and out of the medic tent and headed home.

Summary and Lessons Learned:

All in all this was a really great race. Well organized, great swag, challenging course, etc. Two thumbs up!

I need to talk to my friends at Potomac River Running about the blisters on my feet issue. I hadn't bought my last pair of shoes at PR because they were out of my size and my old pair needed to be taken out of the rotation immediately. So, I purchased some shoes online and that may have aided to my blisters. Lesson learned: Always buy from a reputable RUNNING SHOE store!

My next marathon will be coming up in the final leg of my first Ironman! But, my next race coming up is the Mother's Day 4 Miler on Sunday, May 13th and then my first triathlon of the season - BRATS Salute to the Military Tri on May 27th. 

Until then...keep running strong and NEVER, EVER give up!