Friday, May 19, 2017

Feeling ready, feeling grateful

So, here we are again, a couple days to go between me and my target triathlon race of the year, Chattanooga 70.3. I've made it to Chattanooga and am checked into the race, traveling with my mom and my triathlon supporter extraordinaire, Brick. Workouts are complete, carbs have been eaten, and there's not much left to do. I am so excited for this race on Sunday and I feel a way I haven't felt before leading up to a race. I feel more prepared than any race I have ever run in my life.The best way to describe it is just that I feel ready. I feel prepared. I'm ready to do this.

I don't have any "If only..."'s or "I wish that I had..." in regards to my training and preparation. I worked hard and I trained smart. I'm happy and I feel good.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been working with a coach, Jerome, and training with a group, ITL Coaching and Performance, that has helped to set me up for success. My training has included so many new elements to me that always felt like what "professionals" or people way more talented and experience than I would do. It is a stark difference than a year ago when I showed up here in Chattanooga to compete in this race for the first time.

Last year, I had done ONE bike ride that was 56 miles or longer before the half ironman and did mostly all of my bike training on my own, This year, I went on many long bike rides over the 56 mile distance that is covered in a Half Ironman. Not only that, I biked through rain, cold, heat, wind, up and down hills, and over and around mountains (literally.) One of the very first rides I went on when I first started training with ITL - when my fingers and toes would go numb from the cold and I was discouraged by how slow I felt, Coach Adam said to me, "It's these long, slow cold bike rides in the winter that make a difference in the spring." This was something I told myself over and over again on rides throughout February and March - always with the image in my mind of racing Chattanooga 70.3 in the spring. And even on indoor rides, when I was sweaty as heck and burning out my legs on my trainer doing the workouts that my coach put together for me - it was always the picture of this weekend that I was working towards. Trying and trying to get stronger on the bike, knowing it was my biggest area with room for improvement.

Last year I built up my runs, always easy and the same effort level, similar to how I would for a half marathon - because that's all I knew to to do. And this year in training for Chattanooga, I started doing trail runs as my long runs. I started doing track workouts. I pushed my pace to times when I felt like I might puke or my chest might explode and I got over the fear and intimidation of doing a trail run, to the point where I really enjoy it! I kept working. Even through injury that had me call off a few of my runs - something that eats away at me to have to do. I compensated with strength training and extra biking and rest too, when I needed it. My running times have already shown improvement even before Chattanooga 70.3 when I got a personal best time at the Publix Half Marathon in March - by about 2 minutes, while running on tired legs!

I continued to swim at Windy Hill, pushing my attendance to 3x a week of regular swimming vs. 1-2 last year. I kept working to push myself in the water, both mentally and physically during the swims. I felt like a badass doing Monday morning swims after tough weekend workouts. Many mornings when I was the only female at the swim practice, I would mentally "race" some of the faster guys in the lane next to me. I got high off the times I would keep going and some of the guys would stop for a rest. Maybe I wasn't always faster then everyone else, I would tell myself, but I could keep going when others would stop. And I tried new things this training cycle, which kept swimming fun and exciting for me, such as my first Master's Swim Meet this past April.

I also worked at my diet. I continued to see the nutritionist that I began working with last summer. I followed her guidelines through the winter, but really kicking off when I started my "official" training in January. I of course break and indulge and am flexible with it every now and then as I am only human. But, by working at it I have been able to lose 12-15 lbs since January - without feeling at all like food is controlling my life, without measuring portions or counting calories. And did you see that list of restaurants I have tried within that time period? Yes, it has been hard work and a focus, which I am proud of. But also proud of the fact that I have had a healthy relationship with food throughout the time of training and watching my nutrition.

I set my goal race for this year as a race I had already done before with choosing Chattanooga. This is not something that I usually do. I am a person who likes to travel for races, new destinations, new cities, new challenges. But when I thought about my goals for this year - I really wanted to see what I could do in one year. From Chattanooga 70.3 in 2016, to Chattanooga 70.3 in 2017, how much can I improve? And for that, I wanted to control some elements, which is how I ended up choosing to do a race I had done before. I know what to expect in the swim, I know the bike course, I know the loops on the run and where to expect the hills. There is no new ocean swim or scary climbs or unknown elements to the course racing the same race I did last year - so that is something I feel good about and did intentionally in selecting this race.

So yeah, in the simplest way to describe how I am feeling... I feel ready.

And grateful. And happy.

I feel ready mentally ready, as well as physically. I go into this race with not just a drive to do well on the day, but already with a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. Because throughout the time of training this year - it hasn't all been just hard work and focus. It has been So. Incredibly. Fun. It has been about pushing myself and trying new things and having fun - and getting to know an incredible group of people in the process.

Throughout those miles and miles of bike rides and runs on the trails and roads and track, I have gotten to know an amazing and incredibly supportive group of people who have become a little family and huge support network to me in Atlanta. In between breaks to catch breathe after a big climb on the bike or push up a steep hill at Kennesaw Mountain, I've gotten to know people in a way that I have found you only can when you exercise and train with someone. We've discussed how many sisters is the ideal number for a guy to have that you are planning to date, the coworkers that have been annoying to us the most that week, and conversations about our "saddle" that shouldn't be repeated on a public blog. With many hours logged in training this year, topics of conversation have covered everything from the silly and trivial to goals and hopes around racing to marriage, divorce, dating, family, moving to new cities and our insecurities and fears in both triathlon and life.

I've laughed - a lot. Made jokes. And found support and encouragement in the people around me.

We've fallen off bikes, pushed over hills, shared snacks, and found random places to go to the bathroom together. I've seen these people more than I see most people in my life through training, post run coffee or breakfast, dinners at Willy's, coaching sessions, and locker rooms. And I've loved it all - having to find the right balance of doing my OWN workouts and training plan - with wanting to be with the group all the time.

Everyone told me that joining triathlon groups would improve the experience for me, but I never quite realized by how much until I joined ITL.

Throughout this post, I included a number of pictures from throughout this training cycled that really stuck out to me in my mind of some of the pictures that sum up this training for me. Pictures of moments where I was proud, pictures following workouts where I didn't want to be there pushed through, pictures with new friends, and of the group workouts that I love.

I originally started this post as just a list of my favorite pictures from throughout training and somehow I ended up with what I have here. It's Friday evening and the race is on Sunday, with a weather forecast that isn't looking too promising. I'm ready for the weather. I'll take rain. I'll take wind. I'll take what the day brings. I just want to race. I am focusing on what I can control and am mentally ready for whatever, but more than anything, I just want to race.

My coach Jerome told me during one of our conversations that last year at his goal race, he didn't have a good day. He wasn't happy with the race, but when he thinks back at it - he thinks back positively because of how much fun he had in training for it. And with two days to go, I am seeing that clarity for myself.  Maybe the next few days will bring disappointment or maybe they'll bring some frustration. But overall, I'm grateful for where I am, where I've been, the fact that mom and my best friend Brick are both here with me in Chattanooga, and that I'm strong, healthy, and have a great community of people around me.

Let's do this Chattanooga, here goes nothing!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Training Recap - The last stretch!

Well, here it is one. One of the final recaps of my workouts leading up to Chattanooga 70.3.  We're less than a week away from my goal race for the spring and the race that has been at the front of my mind in all of my workouts. Will do a sappy post about how I am feeling about the race later this week, but basically, the work is all here. Throughout the year all the swims, the bikes, the runs, the strength training, yoga, stretching, and rest days too - have all been logged!

This week the workouts are light and I'm not gaining any more fitness before Sunday. I've controlled what I can control and am now doing my best to just relax and not stress over what I can't control (the weather, ugh!) Let's recap the end of the workouts from May, which picked up right after the John Tanner Sprint Triathlon and Tough Mudder weekend.

Monday, May 1 - 3200 M swim + Yoga (post-Tough Mudder)

I know the day before I did a Tough Mudder and the day before that I placed 3rd in my age group at a sprint triathlon... but on THIS day, I felt like a badass. After that big weekend, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. like I have so many other Monday mornings and peeled myself out of bed to go swim. The main thing that got me there was knowing that my workouts on Monday mornings are usually longer, slower intensity stuff and I could just zone out and swim. Which is exactly what I did!

In the evening, I went to an amazing yoga class that was the perfect post Tough Mudder activity. Some of the poses were a bit difficult because my upper body was really sore from the race. But I loved the class and was happy I got it in.

Tuesday, May 2 - ITL Track Workout (5.1 miles)

Oh my gosh, I was so happy after this workout! I have been getting such a high after these track workouts where I see the paces that I am able to run when it is at shorter efforts. Today's workout was 3x1600 at tempo pace with 200 recovery in between. I never look at my pace while I am actually running, and then when I get to my car, I upload my data to my phone and I evaluate how I did. I was really, really happy today! My paces for the three miles were:

Mile 1: 7:36 pace
Mile 2: 7:27 pace
Mile 3: 7:22 pace

I was so surprised to see that I got faster each mile and actually realized that according to the times that I was given as "target" paces for tempo based on my mile test, I actually ran a bit faster. This workout made me really happy!

Wednesday, May 3 - 3000 M Swim + 17 Hill Repeats (!!!)

I started Wednesday with swim practice again, this week I wasn't as good at getting myself out of bed and I hit snooze a little too long which made me a little late. I finally got there and I definitely felt some tiredness in me but got in 3000 M in the pool. It wasn't the full workout which I hate when I have to cut something short, but it was my own fault for snoozing.

In the evening, I had hill repeats that I have been doing most Wednesday evenings. My coach had given me the instruction to "Go hard" at the repeats which I was excited and a little scared for. The most I had done at repeats was 12 times, so my plan was to try and get to 13. I was doing pretty well and definitely getting tired at around 11 or 12, but pushed to 13. As I finished up 13, I looked over to my coach and he didn't look like he was planning on having us wrap things up any time soon... so I went up for a 14th time. And then looked over.

Still nothing.

After the week before when I threw a fit and complained about only being allowed to do 8 hill repeats, there was no way I could complain this week about doing too many. So I kept going.

And going.

And going.

I ended up doing 17 hill repeats and I swear, I felt like I was going to fall over on my bike trying to get up the dang hill. I was so tired at the end and as soon as my coach called the time for the hill repeats, I was soooo glad to be done. My legs were SPENT.

Thursday, May 4 - 7 mile run at 9:21 minutes/mile average

After last night's 1000 million hill repeats, I couldn't force myself to get out of bed and run in the morning. It wasn't happening. Luckily I didn't have an evening workout, so I was able to sleep in and then do my 7 mile run for the day in the evening. It gave me the opportunity to join the running group in my neighborhood Pace This City. I did 3 miles on my own, 3 miles with the group, and then a 1 mile run back to my apartment. My mile splits were 9:07/9:00/9:29/8:53/9:28/9:47/9:37.

Friday, May 5 - 4200 Y swim at Emory

This Friday I decided to switch up my swim and I actually went to an ITL group swim at the Emory pool in Decatur. The pool where I normally swim is going to be having some construction done later this summer and this morning my swim coach was out of town, so I took the opportunity to try out a new swim.

It was different than what I usually do in a number of ways, first of all, I had to share a lane with others. Which is really not a problem since I have done that for most of my swimming career, but it pushed me in a different way this time. I felt a lot of pressure to swim fast after my performance at the sprint triathlon and was in the fastest lane. The workout was more non-stop than what I usually do at Windy Hill and I was wiped at the end of it but felt really accomplished. It was cool to try out a new pool and swim with different people, so it was a fun morning and will be a good option for when the pool is closed later this summer.

Saturday, May 6 - Chattanooga 3 State 3 Mountain 67 Mile Ride

Oh my gosh. What a day! I did a group bike ride that started and ended in Chattanooga that rode from Tennessee to Georgia and back and climbed one mountain in the process of a 67 mile ride. The mountain was about 10 miles in and had a 5 mile climb. It was my first ever doing a mountain like this and I was so proud afterwards! I kept waiting and waiting for the peak to come... it felt like it took forever because I was just grinding away in my lowest gear for a while.

It was definitely doable, but a challenge. Descending the mountain was thrilling with the downhill, but due to some freakishly cold weather in May, the downhill was FREEEEZING. I was nervous my legs weren't going to be able to pedal or my fingers would be too frozen and stiff to hit the breaks, but I finally made it to the bottom of the hill.

I struggled for the next few miles after that, feeling totally spent, but got a second wind at the end of the workout and was really happy with the last 20 miles of the route. My coach had told me to push hard at the end if I was feeling good (which he said, I would be) and I did. It warmed up and I had a really good day.

I also just enjoyed the company of the friends and group I rode with. I have found a little crew of friends who ride at my pace and really enjoy being out on the roads with them. We laughed a lot throughout the course of a tough 67 miles and there's not much more that I can ask for than that!

Sunday, May 7 - 10.5 mile trail run + 2 hour bike ride

This was a good day of workouts and I felt SO happy to be done with this. My "peak" weekend of training, two weeks out and I felt really good throughout. The trail run was one of my best trail runs yet, which I managed to get through without any pain and feeling strong. It was my longest trail run to date and one of my better felt ones and strongest paces. I ran at 10:46 min/mile, which is very good for me on the trails. I honestly just enjoyed it and had fun with the people I ran with, making it to the monument and back for the first time.

The only other time I attempted running to the monument was a day that my hip really bothered me and I ended up walking back in pain. I was very happy to have a better experience this time!

Following the trail run, I went over to the Silver Comet and did a 2 hour bike ride. It was tough to get myself to do 2 hours because I didn't have any company with me on this day, but I told myself - I haven't cut a workout short yet this training cycle, so I am not going to start today! I finished up practicing some left hand turns in the parking lot before calling it a wrap on the major weekend workouts of this training cycle!

Monday, May 8 - 3100 M Swim

I swam in the morning, struggling to get out of bed and debating if I should do the workout in the evening or not. I was happy I got up and the workout was an aerobic maintenance day with just lots of long sets. I zoned out a lot and started to begin to visualize myself on race day, trying to picture the transitions and how I would feel in the swim, etc.

Tuesday, May 9 - ITL Track Tuesday (5.31 miles total)

Track is becoming one of my favorite workouts every week.I love not knowing what to expect until I arrive there and challenging myself in this way. I push based on effort and I zone out for the most part trying to focus on what I am going to get done. Afterwards, I always have such a great feeling of accomplishment from completing these workouts and I am like an eager little kid to upload my data to my watch and check out my paces and HR rate and evaluate how I did.

This morning's workout scared the crap out of me when it was explained - a set of 3 x 2000 at tempo pace with only a 100 recovery in between each set. I'm sorry, what?

2000 is 5 laps around the track, which is a little bit of an odd distance. I usually tell myself "I can do anything for a mile" but this was longer than a mile - so no fair! I was scared, but set out to do the workout and put my best effort in. I felt a bit rushed and was not in the right mindset because I actually got a ticket for "running a stop sign" on my way to track - ugh! It was 5:20 in the morning and there was nobody around and a stop sign a couple blocks from my apartment that I drive through literally every morning and there are never cars on the road. On this day, there was a cop doing a stakeout of a place sitting with his lights off as if he was parked and I guess he got bored so he pulled me over (and by the way, NOBODY even came through the stop sign the whole time I sat there waiting for him to give me a ticket!)

ANYWAYS - back to the workout. My mind was a bit all over and after the first one I thought there was no way I could maintain that pace for the next two. However, I did them at 7:30/7:26/7:36 and I was really happy with that! Even with the recovery, I am pretty sure I ran a PR in the 5K this morning and had my usual high after track workout!

Wednesday, May 10 - 3100 M swim + 10 Hill Repeats

I had a great swim in the morning where we did lots of drill work which kept things interesting and fun. I really enjoyed it and felt good about how I did. But my evening workout of hill repeats could probably just be described as being tired. My coach had told me to do 8 hard and if I did any others, do them easy.

That made me a little unsure because what I wasn't confident about was that I had different approaches to getting up the hill. I didn't feel like I could go "hard" or "easy" in getting up the hill. For me it was more just "getting up" vs. "not getting up" - the whole thing is hard! I ended up doing 8 hard, really trying to push as much as I could at the bottom of the hill and I did start to feel a bit of a difference. However, I stopped at 10 hill repeats as I was wiped and it was a hot day. No complaining from me today!

Thursday, May 11 - 5 mile tempo run (8:06 min/mile average for 41:03... what?!)

Okay, so I was nervous about this workout all week. Aside from the track workouts, none of my running has included hard pushes and I haven't done any fast running outside of that controlled environment - all easy runs outside of Tuesdays. So to do a 5 mile tempo run on the roads with elevation and changes, I was really scared about. The coach at the track workout had given me a goal tempo pace of 7:45, and it seemed impossible for me to do 5 miles at that pace!

The night before I realized that the run included a 1 mile warm up and with that, I felt somewhat better that maybe it didn't feel so impossible.I mean, I had done essentially 3.75 miles of tempo running on Tuesday. But either way, I was really nervous and scared.

I ended up cutting my warmup a little short and at about .75 miles I started to pick up my pace and ease into tempo. Tempo I believe you are supposed to be able to talk comfortably, but I wasn't doing a lot of conversing at this pace. I ran at Brookhaven with the ITL group and one of the faster runners who I usually could never keep up with, stuck with me to pace me for the run. Having that support definitely helped me to continue to push in the last mile and through some of the hills. I was so happy to be done this workout and really proud of myself. Believe it or not, I did somewhat enjoy having that harder effort workout completed before work on a Thursday morning. My mile splits were 8:58 / 8:00 / 7:38 / 7:53 / 7:54. I didn't exactly nail the 7:45 pace, but for a hillier route, I was happy with the time. My coach asked me afterwards if I could maintain that for 8 more miles and the answer was a 100% absolutely not. My HR was very high at the end of this so it was a tough effort run for me. However, it is a good place to work from to try and improve!

This also makes me a little curious if I could run a 10K in under 50 minutes?

Friday, May 12 - 2500 M Swim

Although a shorter swim, distance wise, it was a challenging workout with a Super 400 of basically hard effort. After the tempo runs this week and the big weekend before, I was just tired of sustained, tougher effort workouts. I told myself it was just mental and to keep pushing my body to fight through, but I think I was tired a bit as well. I was ready for this whole taper thing to kick in and enjoyed spending a few minutes in the hot tub at the end of the swim!

Saturday, May 13 - 40 minute OWS + 2:00 Hour ride

I joined ITL for an open water swim at Red Top Mountain which was really fun and enjoyable. I have never done an open water swim with a big group there before and always just gone on my own so it was a bit of a different experience and good practice to swim with others around me. Usually in races though, I don't care who I am plowing into or feet I am tapping - I just am focused on GOING. Whereas in this environment where I knew everyone, I didn't want to be mean or rude so I was more aware of other people around me!

The bike ride started out a bit tough where I felt odd and couldn't get into a rhythm. Eventually, I got a second wind and I felt stronger at the end of the ride. We were trying to outbike some storms and it was a little bit of a chaotic ride, but I was happy that I was able to stick with it mentally and finish with a good speed and feeling strong.

Sunday, May 14 - 7 mile trail run + 1:30 easy bike ride

My "taper" week was starting to feel like I wasn't so much tapering when I showed up at the trail to run! In my head it felt like 7 miles was really long but it actually went by pretty fast and I enjoyed the run, feeling really strong.

Afterwards I met up with a friend at the Silver Comet for an easy bike ride that went by REALLY fast as we just rode and talked the whole way. Halfway through we met up with another one of my training buddies, so it was a great morning of just leisurely riding and talking on the Silver Comet.

Monday, May 15 - 2800 M Swim

This was one of my toughest mornings to get out of bed yet and I swear that's true even though I say that almost every Monday morning!  I forced myself to go swim and felt better once I did, completely zoning out in the water. I was probably still asleep for some of those laps and kept losing count!

Tuesday, May 16 - ITL Track Tuesday - final one!

This morning I finished off my final track Tuesday with ITL before the race.I thought it would be nice and leisurely but it actually included some tougher efforts. The workout was a 1600 at goal race pace, followed by 4 x 400 at 1 mile pace with a 400 recovery in between. So there was lots of recovery in there!

It was actually harder than I thought to run the 1600 at goal pace, but when I checked my watch afterwards I was right on target with an 8:44 mile. My 400s were around my mile time as well with 6:37/6:35/6:33/6:25 paces. I love that I was getting faster with each one as well!

With that, I am going to sign off from writing out my workouts. Tomorrow I have a swim and an easy spin on the trainer, a short run on Thursday, a short swim on Friday, and then we're into race weekend! Will be posting more so stay tuned and thank you for reading :)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Non-training fun in Atlanta

Over the years, this blog has adapted and grown with me, taking many shapes and forms. There was a time when I shared random news and information about food. A time when I shared recipes regularly. Then it turned into a day-to-day recap at some points, with things I did socially and with my friends. To a travel and training blog. To now a place where I come in now and then to post race recaps or about my workouts.

One of the reasons I continue to maintain this is because A) My grandfather and college roommate Kimmy would both be really upset if I didn't (Hi Grampy! Hi Kimmy!) and B) Because I know that in the future, I will like to look back and read what I wrote. I know I will want to do that, because I love doing it now and looking back at my years of archives and remembering fun moments and times.

So I wanted to do a post about some of the non-training fun I have been up to. Because let's be real, life isn't just about triathlon and training! Despite all that I do (and it is a lot) in that world, I always try to keep a balance. It makes me a better athlete to have some time away from training and clear my mind mentally to then be able to come back and work hard!

This spring has been a really unique one for me. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that for the first time in who knows how long, I have been in one place. I have not been traveling aside from my trip to Switzerland in January and my weekend in New Hampshire, at all this training cycle. Whereas I think back to last year at this time and between January and May when I raced Chattanooga 70.3 for the first time, I had traveled to Miami, San Francisco, Dubai, Mexico, Singapore, Wilmington, Palm Beach, and likely more -- all in the span of a few months!

NOT traveling has given me the opportunity to focus and train consistently with a group and also the ability to explore more throughout Atlanta and enjoy the new neighborhood that I moved into last November. So here is just a few of the fun things that I have been up to...

Festivals! Specifically, Dogwood and Inman Park Festivals. I think that one of the things that Atlanta is known for amongst the people that live here are its festivals. It was something I was told about before I moved here and something that was definitely not over-exaggerated. It seems like every weekend there is a different festival going on! This weekend I kicked off the spring attending Dogwood Festival.

Then later at the end of April, the weekend of the John Tanner Sprint Triathlon, I went to Inman Park fest. What I loved about each of these (besides the great company I had at both!) was the fact that I could attend without driving. For Dogwood Festival, I rode my bike a couple miles down the beltline to the park, and for Inman Park Fest, I could walk from my front door! Both were beautiful days, great people watching and a lot of fun.

"Fernbank After Dark" night at the Museum. It seems like the museums in Atlanta have a good thing going on with the various events and nighttime activities that they host. The Fernbank is the Natural History Museum and every now and then they hold events in the evenings with music, cocktails, movies, and access to walk around. I went a few weeks back with Ayanna and India and had a great time exploring the exhibits, trying out the hands on activities, and laughing and being silly with my friends!

Brazilian BBQ in Buckhead. Despite not traveling, I have still gotten to experience a bit of culture through a group of friends I met via a work friend. The whole group is very international, which makes for a lot of fun and interesting conversation - and in many cases, delicious food! We attended a BBQ at a friend's apartment that was essentially as if you were eating at a Brazilian steakhouse. There was delicious steak, pork, sausage, etc. coming off the grill all throughout the afternoon/evening that everyone would pick at and grab bites of, caipirinha's, and deliciousness all around. It was a fun evening!

Lunch or coffee dates with Brick.  Because I do go to bed early, often times seeing friends is during the day! Fridays I work from home and at times that I don't have a lot of calls, I turn that into work dates from coffee shops or lunch dates with Brick. It is fun to have a change of scenery and use a work day as an opportunity to try out new coffee shops and see Brick while we both get work done.

Hanging in Piedmont Park. With the weather nice, it just makes me want to be outside. In addition to the festivals and my training, I've had some fun days just spending time in the grass in Piedmont Park. Kristen came to visit me and we had a fun day having a picnic and hanging out outside in Piedmont. I love that I can ride my bike to Piedmont Park and I hope for more picnics in the park in the future!

Trips to the movies. Now, the movies aren't something that I tend to do really regularly...  I am not super good at sitting still if you can't tell. However, this fall, I've gone out for a couple trips to the movies. I recently saw the Beauty and the Beast movie - which was magical and fun and I loved. And then I also recently went out to see the Boston: The Documentary, a film all about the Boston Marathon. I loved it and it was so amazing to learn more about the history of the marathon, the legends who have raced it, the planning that goes into it, the bombing, and the resilience of the city. I cried throughout portions and it really inspired me to think about running Boston someday. I highly recommend it for runners and Boston natives!

Charity Gala + Night in Vinings. Always say yes when Janet invites you out! My friend Janet often gives me a call or sends a text inviting me to do something that is outside my norm. Whether it is attending a networking event, going to a basketball or soccer game, or attending a charity event... it is always a good time! This one particular event we went to, I did not really know what to expect when I agreed to go. It turned out to be such a fun and interesting event where I learned about a new charity, saw a lot of incredible costumes, ate some delicious food, and laughed and danced with Janet. We finished the evening by grabbing a drink in my old neighborhood of Vinings, where Janet recently moved (right after I left - go figure!)

Top Golf with Jeff and Co. Earlier this month, my brother was in Atlanta for his annual trip down! The first time he came, the main reason behind the trip was to see me. The second time he came, the trip was to see me and some of his friends. This third time around I am pretty sure the trip was mainly to see his friends, but I was lucky to snag some time with him both by running the Tough Mudder, but also by going out to Top Golf! I am pretty terrible at Top Golf but that's not really the point and I loved getting to spend more time with Jeff and his friends. As a bonus, our little cousin Kevin, who I guess isn't so little anymore, came out to hang with us as well. I still am not used to getting to see family in Atlanta and we don't do it near as much as we should!

Enjoying the neighborhood!! The main thing that has been really exciting me about this Spring and the extra time in Atlanta is the ability to really explore the new neighborhood that I moved into in November. Now that the weather is warm especially, it is just so amazing to be outside and have places that I can walk to. There are so many great restaurants and places to try out I have been working my way through the list. So far this year I have tried out a number of places at Krog Street Market (multiple times!) and the strip at Inman Park such as Char, Hampton + Hudson, Barcelona, Pure, and Bar Taco. I've explored Edgewood with Ammazza, BoccaLupo, Georgia Beer Garden, Revolution Donuts, and One-Eared Stag. And numerous other places that are nearby now that I live in this part of town such as Venkman's, Ponce City Market, Bantam Pub, Wrecking Bar, Ladybird, and so much more! As much as I explore, there is so much more and it's fun to keep trying new things.

This spring has been a lot of fun for many reasons. Staying in Atlanta these past few months has given me a new love and appreciation for my city. There are days that I will just be driving or running or out somewhere and think - man, I love it here. I have a great (and expanding!) group of friends and coworkers and love the balance I have in my life between work, training, culture, food, and new things. Life is good!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tri the Parks 2017 John Tanner Sprint Triathlon Recap

On April 29th, I officially kicked off my triathlon season with the first race of the year - the John Tanner Sprint Triathlon, which is part of the Tri the Parks series around the Atlanta area. I have done races as part of this series in the past, specifically my first Olympic distance race at the Richard B. Russell Triathlon in 2015. I was excited to do a local race, since last year the only sprint triathlon I did was in Upstate NY and I was excited to do a local triathlon where I now actually know people! It was my first triathlon with a team, racing with my ITL coaching kit on! I was so proud to be a part of the group when I saw everyone supporting, encouraging, and cheering for all the athletes out there at the race.

Going into the triathlon, I felt like I didn't care about it. I have had my eyes set on my Half Ironman and saw John Tanner as just another day of training for that. The distances seem so short in comparison to what I am training for in Chattanooga and I honestly was a little worried that I was missing out on a bigger day of training to do this race. My Saturday workouts have been 3:30-4:30 hours long lately and I expected the race to only take me about 1:30 hour.

The night before when I did that math, I decided I was just going to go hard as possible during the race. Not that that's ever not the goal with a race, but in longer distance things, pacing is important. My goal for John Tanner was to have a strong swim, go as hard as possible on the bike, and see what I had left to give when it came to the run.

I left my house at 5:30 a.m. and planned to get to the triathlon at around 6:30 a.m. as I wanted time to get settled in my transition area before it closed at 7:30 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. start. As soon as I pulled in, I saw the presence that ITL had at the race. In addition to having a lot of athletes there, ITL Coaching and Performance was a sponsor. ITL sponsors this race as it is a series that helps encourage athletes get started in triathlon, which the leaders of ITL love, and personally, I do as well! Our group had 3 people doing their first ever triathlon this day which I may have been more excited about than anything else (and 2 of those people have already signed up for a full Ironman, by the way!)

Before checking in for the race and getting marked, I had put my bike on the ITL bike rack near their sponsorship tent. A few of the coaches were walking around and getting things set up and when I returned from picking up my registration and getting my body marked with my number and age, I found Adam, who I ran with during Publix Half, putting grease on my chain and checking my bike to be sure it was ready for the race. I didn't ask him to. He, and other people in ITL, just do things to help and I love that. I also asked Adam for some last minute advice and he helped me out by ensuring my bike was in the right gear to start the bike course. It is an uphill start so helped me to put my bike into a lower gear. I was very appreciative for all the help and once I felt comfortable in my set up, I walked around and said hello to people I knew. It was so fun to know so many people at a triathlon!

A bit before the race, we all started putting wet suits on. I had felt the water before we started and although it was deemed to be "wet suit legal" - the water was actually really warm. There was definitely (in my opinion) not a need to wear the wet suit temperature wise, but I wanted to wear it to get the extra buoyancy and speed since I knew my competition would all have them on. I was a bit worried about trying to take the wet suit off fast (I didn't have a good experience doing that the one other time I had to!) but hoped that the time I gained in the water would account for any stumbling I had there.

For the first time ever at a race, I got into the water and did a warm up swim. Through my experience training with ITL, I have known how important a warm up is before doing any hard effort workout and wanted to get my body moving a little bit. I felt good in the water and after posing for a few pics with my teammates, I made my way over the start. I wanted to be well positioned for the swim and I also sometimes need a few moments to myself to get my mind right.

The Swim: 10:28 finish (Top 3 out of the water!)

There were 3 waves of men before we swam, and as the first wave of females entered the water, I walked towards the outside of the group and a little to the front. I typically try to get to the front of the pack of swimmers but I was also a little nervous because I knew this crowd was really competitive triathletes who blow me out of the water with times on longer distance races. I wasn't sure how I would compare in the water and for a shorter distance swim. I gave the better triathletes a bit more space than I would have in other races, but still was near the front. Once we were officially started, I went out hard to get away from the pack and settled into a rhythm and locked eyes with the first marker.

Sighting has never been a strong point for me in races so I was pretty happy that for the first part of the swim I had a pretty good eye on the buoy marker and on every breathe I could pretty much lock eyes and ensure that I was heading in the right direction. It wasn't long before I was catching up to the male swimmers from the wave ahead of me but I did my best to just keep steady and charge forward. I braced myself for there to be congestion around the buoy as it usually gets crowded with everyone trying to make as tight a turn as possible, but it was surprisingly pretty clear. After the first turn though, I had a much harder time sighting and couldn't lock eyes with the buoy. I tried to follow some of the other swimmers and swim without having a lock on where I was going, which was fine but internally I was panicking a little. Finally I caught sight of the buoy and kept it in my gaze until I had to make the next turn.

I, again, couldn't exactly see where the finish was. I knew that we were swimming towards the beach, and that is usually the hardest part for me because I find it difficult to identify exactly which part of a large sandy beach I am supposed to be swimming towards. I luckily spotted a swimmer to the left of me in a pink swim cap, which was the color of the female wave of swimmers. I knew I was swimming strong and could see that this woman was swimming strong so I took her to be a seasoned triathlete and let her do the sighting towards the shore and I just kept her right beside me and raced her in.  It is always a bit of a gamble to let someone else sight for you and follow a swimmer or pack of swimmers but I figured following this woman would make for a better swim time that trying to look around for the target at the beach. Pretty sure that's me in the bottom left with my head out of the water coming up to the shore... that'd be my friend Jodi looking awesome running out of the lake!

T1: 1:32.9

As I hit the shore, I stumbled a bit getting out of the water and fell onto the sand but quickly got myself up and head towards transition. There were two women in front of me running out of the water and one of them was my teammate Jodi. I saw our coach Adam, cheering for him and then he noticed me, which I think surprised him a bit to see me out of the water so soon but was great to have him cheering me on as well!

My teammate Jodi's husband is a photographer, so I also learned at this race that if I can just manage to stick behind her, I will wind up in the background of some of the photos :) This will likely never happen again, but love that in the background of the photo, you see the moment where Coach Adam (in the blue shirt) realizes that I'm coming out of the water in my ITL kit as I pull off my wet suit.

I heard someone shout to the two women who were a second or two ahead of me "First women out of the water!" which was pretty cool to hear since I was right behind them. I shouted to Jodi as we all entered into transition, knowing that she'd soon smoke me and I wouldn't see her again once we got on our bikes.

At my transition area, I stumbled a bit with getting my wetsuit off. I knew it was going to be an issue trying to pull it over my ankle timing chip and I almost fell down a bit trying to get it off, but once I did, I went to threw on my shoes. I thought I could get my feet into my bike shoes with the top part clipped at the lowest level, but it turns out I can't, so I had to unclip them and then put them on, which caused me to lose momentum a bit as well. I made a mental note to myself to remember to leave my shoes unclipped in Chattanooga. Once they were on, I grabbed my bike and helmet and ran out to the bike mount area. I could tell that a few people had come into transition not long after me and beat me heading out so I started to get flustered trying to move as quickly as possible, trying to get out on the bike ride and maintain whatever lead I may have been able to snag with my swim. I saw a few teammates and people that I know beat out of transition but tried to just focus on myself.

My friend Melana and others that I knew were cheering me on which felt so good. As I got to the bike mount area, I realized I hadn't put my helmet on yet and just had it in my hand. I needed two hands to snap it together, so I put one leg over my bike to balance it, put on my helmet and then head out onto the bike course.

The Bike: 44:22.7 (18.6 mph average over 13.8 miles)

As soon as I was on the bike, I started fiddling with my watch to try and get it to start timing for the bike. I really would like to get a triathlon specific watch in the near future to avoid that. I also immediately realized that my HR was really high. This was the first race, or time ever, that I wore my HR monitor in the water. I have always been a bit nervous to do that but wanted this race to be a test race in so many ways, so I tried it out and it worked great. My HR picked up immediately, although I could have told you without any gadget that my HR was really high as I started on the bike. It was awesome to have my bike in the exact right gear as I pedaled off and worked to take deep breathes and get settled as I started the first mile.

There were some rolling hills and I worked to focus on my cadence, continue pedaling through the downhill, staying in aero, and not letting up on the bike. The course was 13.8 miles which felt so short compared to the longer bike rides I have been doing! I just pushed through it, hoping that no females would pass me.

I passed a few men on the bike which was sort of cool and a few females did pass me. The head of Atlanta Triathlon Club passed me early on and when she, or any other women did, I held my breathe a little until they were enough ahead of me to see their calves and know if they were in my age group or not. I was happy that no women in my age group passed me throughout the whole bike course.

It was a really nice route, with only right hand turns, which works out awesome for me since I am far more comfortable turning right than turning left. Towards the end, a few other women I know passed me on the bike from the 40+ age group who had started their swim behind me, but nobody that I knew and still nobody in my age group, which was starting to surprise me a bit.  I told myself to get some fluid in me so I drank a bit of water and Gatorade on the bike but that's it. The majority of the time I spent focused on trying to go hard, but I also was worried a bit thinking back to how I had mounted the bike before I put my helmet on. I know sometimes races can be strict and I wasn't sure if having put one leg over the bike would count towards getting disqualified. I had this in the back of my mind for the whole bike to prepare myself in case it happened.

When we got to the last two miles, I told myself not to let up and keep pushing hard even until the finish. For a split second on a couple pedal strokes, I started to feel pain in my hip and I just thought to myself, "NO. This is NOT happening" and refused to recognize or think about it and it somehow went away. I passed a guy on the homes stretch into transition and I wasn't sure what the etiquette of that was but didn't want to let up.

T2: 1:01.5

As I came in off the bike I saw (and heard!) my friends Melana and Di cheering for me as well as my name being called a bunch of times from throughout the cheering section. It was SO fun to have so many people shouting my name and it felt really good. I knew I was still well positioned with much fewer females passing me on the bike than I thought so I knew I had to do whatever I could to just hold on during the run. I threw my stuff into transition, forgot to grab a hat or a visor or anything, but just put on sneakers and took my race bib and head out on the run.

The last thing I heard as I head off the trail was one of the coaches Adam yelling "Run, girl!" I took that to mean, "You're in a good spot and you'd better move fast if you want to keep it!"

Not sure if Adam meant to convey as much in his two word cheer, but I booked it out.

The Run: 25:25.9 (8:10 pace)

My first mile I felt good, we ran around the lake and it was shaded and nice. I could still hear the transition area and finish line and lots of cheers and I heard them announce one of our super speedy other coaches name, as he must have just finished. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be so nice to just have to run around this little lake and go back to the transition?" but alas, after going around the lake, we turned off onto a trail before heading into a hilly out and back section of the run.

I first thought to myself that maybe I would count the number of women that I saw returning back in, to calculate exactly where I was but then I realized that required too much mental energy and I needed all my mental focus to be on telling my legs to not let up. As soon as we hit the hills I felt like I was crawling up those. I kept thinking to myself, "Welp, this is where it happens. This is where you explode and people come pouring past you." as I was in a lot of hurt from that 2nd mile on.

I swear, it felt like my legs were barely moving as I tried to push up the hills, and the downhill wasn't too much better. A couple more females passed me, one 29-year old who I had been passing back and forth with on the bike, but still, nobody in my age group. I saw people that I knew, including my two teammates, Jaclyn and Jodi, heading back in on the run and just couldn't wait to get to that point myself. Eventually I hit the turn around and I knew I had to just do everything I could to get back.

Running back in, I don't think I even registered that I could possibly try and scope out who was behind me and if any women in my age group looked like they were catching me. I was in my own world of hurt at this point and mostly focused on just trying to run and also shouting out a word or two to the teammates in blue that I was crossing on my way back in from the run.

With a quarter mile or so left, I turned towards the finish with the end in sight. I was pushing so hard and still just trying to hang onto whatever age group position I had in the race, that I had spent the entire bike and run trying to hang on to. Mentally, I thought I was maybe 4th or so as I knew that at least Jaclyn and Jodi were ahead of me and was unsure of the ages of the others I knew were ahead. I had been trying to protect that position the whole race, but in that last stretch I thought, "Okay, if anyone passes me now - they can have it. I am going to collapse."  At the end, everyone was telling me that I looked strong running, which I was glad I either looked strong and/or they are kind enough to tell me otherwise, because I was hurting!

I came through the finish where all the ITL people were cheering and immediately gasped for breathe as I crossed the finish. It was a hands-on-my-knees, bent over, trying to catch my breathe and regain composure type of finish. I couldn't walk far and needed to breathe and lower my HR before I could do anything, which caused me to feel bad because I barely responded to a runner I know who told me I had done a good job. My mile splits according to my watch were 7:57/8:49/8:20 (second mile had a lot of uphill!)

Overall time: 1:22.43

Once I could breathe a bit easier, I went over to the ITL team and said hello to everyone and congratulated the others on their race. I didn't look at my paces or times on my watch at the moment as I wasn't really thinking about that - I knew based off of effort that I had given the race everything I could. It was a good feeling and I enjoyed getting to cheer the rest of the people that I knew into the finish and home stretch. I was proud of myself.

The finish was really fun getting to celebrate everyone else and I loved the feeling of being a part of a team and all being in our team kits. I must say, that they looked awesome and I loved how my kit felt during the race. It didn't ride up at all and felt very comfortable. Like with many other things, I was using this sprint triathlon as a test race for wearing that kit during Chattanooga 70.3 and I was so excited about how much I liked it.

After cheering a bit, I went out to my car to start to load some of my bags and bring my bike over. I ran into my friends Melana and Di again and thinking I was leaving, Di said to me, "You aren't going to wait and get your medal?!" I joked with them that I didn't think I would get a medal, and Melana, who had been watching the majority of the race (they competed as a team) told me that she was pretty sure I would.

I was surprised - and a little unsure - but I had also been in this position before, at my last Tri the Parks race, when I came in 2nd in my Age Group at my first Olympic Distance race. Melana said the same exact thing to me then and I didn't believe it until I actually got the award.

After putting my things away, I went back to the posting where they had the official results and browsed through for my name. They didn't have the results posted based on age groups or categorized in any way, it just showed the list of finishers. By scanning through, it looked to me like the only two women in my age group ahead of me were my teammates, Jaclyn and Jodi. I saw it on the paper but I didn't really believe it. They are both SO fast and there had to be some mistake if I was the next finisher in the age group right behind them! They are at elite level in my mind, so to be somehow bucketed immediately next to them had to be a mistake. Surely, there was someone in between where they are and where I am.

I didn't really say anything to anyone else because I didn't quite believe it, but a couple other people, Melana included, noticed it on the results and congratulated me on taking 3rd. I tried not to think about it or get my hopes up, but also was sure to stay nearby when they announced the winners and I was so excited when they got to the 30-34 year old age group and my name was called as 3rd place! I know that placing in an age group shouldn't be entirely what it is about and I should be just proud of my own progress, but I was so excited because I never thought I would get a podium again after turning 30. Going into the race, it was not in my mind whatsoever as an option, even when a few friends put it in my head the night before. I was totally sure of myself when I told that that was not going to happen. The whole time I was racing, I was expecting to maybe be fighting for 4th place. I was happy to be wrong in this case.

I was happy with how I did and felt so lucky to be able to get a podium spot alongside two amazing triathletes, teammates, and all around amazing people. And overall, just loved being a part of ITL at this race and competing with so many inspiring athletes and friends. It was unlike any triathlon I've done before to be there with the group and I was proud to wear that kit. I heard from others how amazing the ITL cheering section was and I love that I am a part of this organization.

My swim for the race was a 10:28 and was the overall 3rd female out of the water. The two women ahead of me had a 10:26 and 10:27 so I am phenomenally proud of that swim. On the bike, I finished in 44:22 and for a course that was written as 13.8 miles, that is a 18.6 mph bike. I have only seen speeds in 17 mph one or two times, so to see 18 was pretty cool! However, as far as my biking goes, there is still a lot of work to be done as my bike was significantly slower than others. Finally, my run was a 25:25 - which I am really happy with! My 5K PR on its own is 24:57 so to be within 30 seconds of that, I thought was pretty darn good.

This race was exciting for me. It was a day that I saw that the work that I have been putting in has been making progress. Last year I did a sprint triathlon and my bike speed was 16.9 mph and my 5K time was a 27:35 so definitely saw significant improvements there.

I was proud of my sighting on the swim, my execution on the bike, and pushing myself to the last bit on the run. I had a great time being able to cheer on and support my teammates and was overwhelmed by the support from my friends (non-ITL included) and teammates with the support they gave to me. The night before the race, Brick messaged me telling me to let her know what place I came in and I told her she was crazy. After the race, Melana told me that she made a bet with her wife, Diana, knowing that I would come in much sooner than expected on the bike. She said she's seen how hard I have been working and how much I put into it and believed in me. Those words meant so much. And on a different wave length, I also loved being able to surprise Adam and some of the other triathletes with my swim, since I know that many of them don't ever see me train in the pool.

I knew that my coach was busy in the morning but I was checking my phone eagerly waiting to talk to him and tell him how I did. I was so excited to share with him my race report and celebrate with him as his help has been so significant. I also felt like I needed to thank him, because earlier in the week I was resisting the "rest" that he had put on my schedule. I say "rest" in quotations because I was still working out all week, but just at a lighter load. After doing well and having the boost of confidence and adrenaline from the John Tanner Sprint Triathlon. I knew that he was correct and wanted to share my excitement and thank him.

So, with my test race done for the year and the triathlon season officially kicked off, what's next is Chattanooga 70.3! I am excited to wear my new ITL kit and race with some fun and awesome people in a couple weeks and I learned a few lessons/reminders before going into the next race. A few things that I tested out / learned from this race:

- Wear my HR monitor underneath my kit and wetsuit during the swim
- Wear my clear goggles during the swim (sun wasn't bad and they fit the best)
- Leave my bike shoes unclipped at transition
- Put my helmet on BEFORE I pick up my bike
- Put my bike in the gear that I want it to be in to start the course
- Put a visor/hat on and take my sunglasses off for the run
- Don't focus on any pain... mind over matter

Thanks for reading my long race report and have a lovely evening!