Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Peachtree Road Race Recap

This year, for the second time, I celebrated Independence Day with 60,000 of my friends with a run down Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The Peachtree Road Race is the world's largest 10K and it is really an experience unlike any other. It brings out everyone I know in the running community in Atlanta and also basically just everyone IN Atlanta. Elite athletes, runners, walkers, and spectators fill the streets and it is a party from start to finish.

I ran the Peachtree Road Race in 2015, which was my first year living in Atlanta. It was a fun experience but it started to downpour in the middle of the race. I ran the second half of the race in soaking rain and thunder and lightning. Half of the start waves were held from beginning because of the weather. It was pretty miserable at the end so rather than meet up with any friends, I just immediately got myself out of Piedmont Park and connected with my family. What made the race super memorable for me in 2015 was that my dad, his wife, and my twin brothers were in Atlanta visiting that weekend and met me at the finish. It was also the race where I had set my 10K PR, which remained my stand alone 10K PR until [spoiler alert] this year's Peachtree Road Race!

2015 PTRR
A few weeks before the race, I set a goal for running this years race to break 50 minutes in the 10K, which would also set a new PR for me. When I unexpectedly hit that goal during the Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic triathlon, I needed to set a new goal for Peachtree.  I set that at running 47-ish minutes and aim to try and run around 7:30 minutes/mile. The weekend before the race, I talked to a training partner of mine, Zach, who had helped me to reach my PR in the Publix Half Marathon and we discussed running together. We'd both hit our Peachtree goals of breaking 50 during Chattanooga Waterfront and simultaneously had to set more aggressive goals for this race.

I was a bit nervous going into the race and the night before was unsure of what I would be able to accomplish. I just didn't feel like I had much in me. Part of that was tiredness from the super busy weekend I had just had - I biked my longest bike ride ever on the Saturday before of 80 miles, then immediately flew to Albany, NY that evening. I arrived late on Saturday night, went to bed, and woke up in the morning to run 10 miles, then changed and went to the wedding which kept me up WAY past my bedtime (believe it or not I managed to stay awake until 3:00 a.m.!) After not enough sleep, I was up in the morning (my body wakes up regardless of what time I go to bed), flew back to Albany, and immediately went to the race expo to pick up my bib. It was a whirlwind but so much fun and I wouldn't change a thing about it. (Wedding pics below, because, why not?)

The downside though was that by Monday evening, I was wiped and just wasn't sure what I would be able to muster up in the morning for the race.

It made me a little more nervous because I'd discussed running with another person too and was unsure how it would go if I wasn't feeling my most race ready. And on top of that, the forecast was predicting a super hot and super humid day. Not the best time to still be dehydrated from flights, drinks, and lack of sleep.

In the morning, I got up and got myself ready for the race, then left my apartment and began my "warm up" by running 1/2 mile-ish down the road to the Marta station. One of the things that is exciting to me about where I now live is that I can take the Marta for these types of events. In the past, my neighborhood was nowhere near a Marta stop, so this was pretty cool to me. I got to the train station and made my way towards Buckhead with the tons and tons of other runners all decked out in red, white and blue on the train.

I actually stayed on the train one stop longer than the mass unload of runners going to the race, getting off a bit later as I planned to meet other runners from ITL for a pre-race photo. Then, we'd all run another mile to the race start as part of the warm up. Some of the group actually turned the race into the end of their long runs in Ironman training and had run up to 12 miles before the start of the Peachtree!! Another one of our teammates was out there, walking the 6.2 miles when she was literally 9 months pregnant. She was scheduled to be induced two days later, but [spoiler alert again] ended up having the baby the very next day. Talk about no excuses! These people push me to work harder than I have before.

After some fun seeing everyone in the morning, I eventually made my way to the start corral. I was in Wave C, which is the same wave that I ran in when I did 2 years ago. For this event, it can be an accomplishment just to achieve getting into Waves A or B as they place you based on time. I have been pretty happy with being in C the past two races and this year my scheduled start time was 7:40 a.m. The way that the race staggers the starts, many waves have finished the race before some of the latter waves even start! Knowing that, and knowing how hot it gets, you can see why people like to get placed earlier. I have heard that if you are in one of the later waves, it is a completely different experience then running in the early ones due to the amount of people on the course, time of day, etc. This year I had the same feeling I did 2 years ago, where I wished I could do the race twice. First, running for time, and then a second time, stopping for food and drinks from spectators, taking pictures, and just enjoying the party!

When Zach and I met in the morning, we both approached each other and said the same exact thing to one another "I don't know how I am feeling for today." We both seemed to be feeling the exact same way, of being really unsure given the elements, but also not wanting to let the other down. We agreed to run together but just see how things go and if we needed to separate because one was feeling good or bad, just adjust as we went. I let him know what my coach had said, which was if wanted a 7:30 average at the end, to aim to be a little under 7:30 in the beginning when it was downhill, expecting to be a bit over 7:30 in the 2nd half where it was harder with the uphill.

We set the plan and were in the start corral. It was really cool to see the massive American flag hanging overhead, the National Anthem, and to see the fly-by of the fighter planes before the start of the race. We got to watch the Elite women start on the big screen TV and I had my pre-race ritual of a little dance party to get loose and warmed up. Another friend we ran with at Publix was with us at the start corral, so it was very similar to our start of the Publix Half Marathon crew!

Once we started the race, the first half mile was a lot of bobbing and weaving around people. Zach is pretty tall so I just did my best to post him and stick behind. We were both in ITL blue shirts, but the challenge with that is that on the 4th of July - so is a third of the other people out there! There are tons of spectators all throughout the course and even from the very start it is a celebration for sure.

We made our way to left side of the road and ran along that side of the road. This is a well supported race with numerous water stops on the 10K route, even starting at the very beginning. I skipped the first ones and just tried to find a steady pace that I could feel comfortable at. However, from the very start, I did not feel good. I was pushing to a point of being a bit too uncomfortable trying to keep with Zach, and trying to run a little under 7:30. I felt tired and it just was harder than I wanted it to be in the very first mile. It just felt way too hard too early.

When we hit the first mile marker we looked to one another and checked in. I said immediately to Zach when he asked how I was doing, "I don't think I have it today. It feels too hard." He suggested we try for another mile and I said sure, but immediately after that started to drop behind. I just couldn't hang at that pace. Zach started to creep ahead little by little and at one point he looked back at me and I sort of gave him the nod to just go, and he turned back and continued on.

For the majority of the next few miles, I could see Zach ahead of me but I didn't have the energy to push harder to stay with as he slowly creeped ahead. I looked at my watch to check my pace as we started the downhills and I was running right exactly at around 7:30. I knew if I was doing that on the downhill, I wouldn't expect to average that throughout the whole race with the tougher back half of the course. But just settled in to do my best for the day. I was a little beat up and disappointed with myself that I couldn't keep up and part of me wanted to just ease up completely and turn the race into a jog. However, once I settled into 7:30 for the next mile or so, I started to feel a lot better and much more comfortable. This pace I could do.

Right around 3 miles at this course, the gradual downhill turns into uphill. They call this Cardiac Hill as it is right around Piedmont Hospital and it is a doozy. I saw my friend Tisha on the course cheering, just as I was about to head up the hill and it was so great to see her. With so many of my friends on the course running, there weren't a lot of people I knew to actually look for as spectators. It was a fun and needed surprise to spot Tisha on the route! I also love that someone managed to get this photo of the moments when I made eye contact with her and went in for a high five.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with race photos. Okay, well, maybe it has been more of a hate relationship with photos. I am not a cute runner. I very rarely find a photo of myself running that I think is flattering. When the proofs come out I usually cringe clicking through the photos, most especially the ones that are captured on the down stroke of the stride when gravity and impact is just not doing pretty things to the body.

However, I have come to appreciate race photos and pictures of me running because I now focus on how strong I look or how proud I was of that moment. Is the picture below flattering of me? Absolutely not. Do I love it? Absolutely I do. I love how exhausted yet happy my face looks and how excited I am to see a friend along the course. To me it is the definition of what a well timed high five can do for you and the boost of adrenaline it can bring in a tough moment. I'm sweaty. My hair is a mess. But I know looking at it that in the moment, I was flying. I appreciate race photos and love this one in particular.

As I passed Tisha and hit the hills, I maintained my pace as best as possible - or more importantly, worked to maintain my effort level. Having run this route many times I know that there is sort of a double hill you've got to get through. You think it's done, but then it's not done. I prepared for that. And I also enjoyed the inspiration along the course. In the middle of the, you run past the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where they had many of their patients there for rehabilitation out on the route in their wheelchairs cheering and there is NO WAY that you can run by that and not get a bit choked up and push a little harder up that hill.

I regretted that I was all the way on the left side of the route and cut across the street in order to get high fives. However, with all the people on the route it would have been tough and a lot of energy. I definitely was soaking it all in though, especially after having met people over the past year who have benefit from the Shepherd Center. There was a small group of push assist athletes that were competing that morning so I was thinking of all of them as well as I ran up Cardiac Hill.

Once you get to the top, you get a little bit of relief and then the hills continue. I knew once to the 4 mile mark, I could mentally push through for 2 more miles. This part of the course I have run so many times on morning runs from Atlantic Station, it felt so comfortable to me and I knew the elevation and the turns really well. By the time I got to 17th street, I was counting down block by block, landmark by landmark, and bump by bump in the road.

Besides Tisha I had only seen one other spectator I knew along the route, which was Coach Adam, who I saw for a split second as he yelled my name. Right somewhere around this point, another thing happened, as I was getting into Midtown. By this point I had lost sight of Zach completely but I heard my name called and turned to my right where I saw Zach, heading through one of the water stations. Apparently I had caught back up to him and was passing him through this section, continuing on!

It was a tough moment for me because I had one of those split second, "What do I do?" thoughts and moments when I saw him. I was feeling good and still pushing, feeling adrenaline knowing I was through the hills and wanting to maintain it. But I also wanted to stop and check with him and see how he was doing. And even MORE SO, I wanted him to come into the finish with me. Just the week prior, my friend Rahul had encouraged me to stick with him through to the finish, which meant so much. And Zach himself had done that for me, pacing and supporting me through the finish of the Publix Half Marathon!

With some hesitation, I waved to him and kept moving, he was on the other side of the race course and at this point I was in a bit of a zone pushing myself mentally to the finish. I still feel bad about this even writing it up now. I wish I had been able to repay the favor and am not sure if I did the right thing in continuing on.

As I mentioned, when I hit 17th street, I counted down the blocks one by one to get to 10th street where it would then just be the final stretch to the finish. I checked my pace a few times and saw I was slowing into the 8s so I had no idea where my time would land but was working to give what ever last kick I had at the end. The section on 10th Street seemed to go on forever. It is deceptively long, and I had to sustain that last kick for a while. I remember seeing the sign that marked 6 miles and thought to myself, "Really!? It's not the finish yet?"

From the years before, I remembered that the finish line is just a little bit further than you think it is going to be, and true enough this year was the same. I finished out of breath and extremely hot and extremely sloshy, drenched in sweat from the tough race and hot and humid day.

When I finished I met up with friends and got to chat about everyone's races. I could literally wring my shorts out they were so drenched in liquid from the race. I would like to think it was from dumping some water on myself on the course, but mostly it was just lots of sweat. Most people I spoke to were really happy with their races, a few other PRs to go around, but nobody that I spoke to necessarily hit their exact goal for the day. Everyone was in good spirits though and it was fun to catch up with people at the designated meeting point.

I was really happy with my time and my new PR of 48:22 in the 10K. I finished 71 / 3196 in my age group and 418 / 27785 for women competing -- numbers which I think are incredibly cool as well. 418 out of 27785?! What the what?! That seems nutty! When I looked at my data from the run afterwards, my coach pointed out that my HR had gotten really high in that first mile, so me adjusting and pulling back the pace was really a smart move. I ran my mile splits at 7:15 / 7:32 / 7:29 / 8:09 / 8:00 / 7:42 and finished the last bit after 6 miles a 6:45 pace. My finish time is something I am proud of, but I was also more proud of myself that I finished the race with the thought, "I think I could do better and improve that even more."

For some people, you might think that having that thought is a negative thing. That I wasn't allowing myself to be proud of my current accomplishment, that it indicates a deeper problem that one accomplishment is never good enough and that I am addicted to the chase. However, for me, it indicates a sign of growing strength and confidence in myself and my abilities.

In the past when I have done really well in a race, I have had the thought, "That was just a fluke. I have no idea how I did that. I don't think I could ever run that time ever again." or "Welp. That was it. Might as well retire now. I have just done the best I have ever and will ever be able to do." I doubt the numbers and I assume there was some sort of error in timing that is just waiting to be announced. To be honest, I felt and feel that way a little bit about how I did in the Chattanooga Half Ironman from May. I am scared to do another half distance race, because I don't know that I could do any better than I did that day!

But for this race, the fact I finished with a new PR and thought about wanting to do even better, indicates owning my current time. No fluke. No potential timing error. No need to declare retirement in the 10K. I ran a 48:22 on a hot day and tough course because I have been working for it. And I think if I keep working, I could do even better. And I want to!

I like that I am able to see a future for myself in running, that my mind is starting to settle into accepting where I am in my running accomplishments, that I believe improvements are out there, and that I am able to vocalize these goals. These are huge mental gains for me and I am really proud of this year's Peachtree Road Race!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic Triathlon Race Recap

Sunday, June 25, I returned to what is apparently my favorite city to race in, Chattanooga, and competed in an Olympic distance triathlon - the Chattanooga Waterfront. I signed up for this race a couple weeks before when I was in Raleigh cheering on friends who were competing in a 70.3 race. I wanted to have another triathlon on my calendar and this was one I had heard good things about and had a good group of friends that were planning to attend. Plus, my friend Kevin offered to buy ice cream to get people to sign up. And there's not much I wouldn't do for ice cream!

I had talked it over with my coach and we built it into my schedule - with the understanding that it wouldn't be something that I really tapered for and would be essentially just a part of training. That was fine with me because I am getting to the point of all eyes on Berlin. The goal was to have a fun, no pressure race, and weekend away with friends. I ended up getting all of that and then some!

The Saturday morning before the race while I was still in Atlanta, as I finished up my workout for that day, I started to realize that although it was a no pressure, fun race, I still needed to prepare a bit and work to get my mind right. I didn't want to make the same mistake as the weekend before (when I rode the Gaps) and go into something unprepared. I did some research online about the race, the course, and what to expect.

Chattanooga Waterfront consisted of a 1.5 km swim downstream in the Tennessee River (same place I swam the past 2 years at the Chattanooga 70.3), 40 km bike ride that consisted of 2-loops out-and-back, and a 10km out-and-back run. It was a new course from years prior so I didn't have any friends to give me guidance but looking online, it seemed like a lot of the route I was actually quite familiar with due to the other races I had done there. On the way up to Chattanooga I talked to my coach and we put together a plan for the race as well. This distance is now the distance of triathlon that I am least familiar with, only ever having done one Olympic distance race, whereas I have done 3 Half Ironmans now and many sprint triathlons.  I was a little unsure of how to pace or what to expect - and essentially I decided to treat it like a longer sprint in a way. I felt comfortable with how we discussed executing and after arriving and checking out the transition areas, I felt ready to go.

I drove up on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Chattanooga around 4:30 p.m. and going straight to race check in. Although an Olympic distance race, the organizers provide the option of dropping off your bike the night before at your transition area and I opted to do that, not wanting to have to worry about my bike in the morning. Check-in went smoothly and I spent some time walking back and forth from my bike area to the various transition entrances and exits.

This race was one of the most organized and detail-oriented races I have ever done. The rows were in alphabetical order with words associated to them and I was in row "Goggles." When checking in, you got swim caps and sticker numbers for your swim cap, bike stickers, extra stickers, race number tattoos, and a great soft t-shirt. I don't usually comment about this stuff around races, but I really felt like the organizers of this race did an exceptional job putting on the event.

After checking in for the race, I stopped and checked in at my hotel, which was the same hotel that I stayed at for the 70.3 with my mom and Brick just a few weeks prior. I had really like it, it was convenient, and very spacious since I was sharing a room with 3 other people. Plus, they give you candy at check-in, so what could be bad about that?

I met up with the ITL group at 5:30 p.m. in Whole Foods for the pre-race meal and was able to connect with everyone else that was in town for the race and talk about goals and plans for the day. Since the 70.3 in Chattanooga, the river has warmed up and this race was not wet suit legal. Swimming without a wet suit is what I am more used to than not, so that didn't concern me, but for some of my friends, it was their first time swimming without that - which can be really challenging if you aren't used to it. It was nice to be able to talk with everyone and I really like the Whole Foods dinner tradition.

We added a new pit stop / tradition of going out for ice cream following Whole Foods. To be honest, I was a little nervous about whether or not it was a good idea but I reminded myself that this was a no pressure, fun race so dove right in with two scoops in a waffle cone and sprinkles. Kevin was buying so why not go all out, right? :)

Back at my hotel room, my friends and I head to bed pretty early without first some chitchat and stretching and foam rolling and prepping for the morning. I decided that this race would be a good opportunity to try something different with my nutrition so I decided to try Nuun sport. I have been drinking Nuun regularly with their regular electrolyte replacement drink and enjoy it so tried one of their sport drinks. I made up my water bottles and put together the rest of my nutrition before heading to bed.

We were up early and head over to the transition area, where I set up my things, walked the entrance/exit a few more times and then met up at the ITL tent. It was a gorgeous morning and I was excited to be there.

Next to the tent was a set of porta-potties which I knew I would need to use but eventually abandoned the line to run over and be in the group picture I saw happening in the distance. This is what we call priorities.

Instead, after walking over to the swim start (there was a bus available but we decided to walk the almost mile there) I immediately jumped into line for the bathroom with some of my friends... which we ended up standing in until immediately before we needed to start the race. There definitely were not enough bathrooms and the lines were barely creeping along. Slow lines give time for pre race pics though. And we did get there eventually!

I dropped my flip flips with friends and went to get in line for the swim. This swim start was unlike any other one that I had done before. The numbers that you were assigned as your bib would be the number that you were to enter the water and start the race. We had to submit swim times ahead of the race, and they used that to place us, trying to put the faster swimmers in the front. I couldn't remember what I put as my swim time but I was placed at 307, whereas other swimmers about my speed were seeded further ahead. I really didn't think about placement too much - there's no point in it - and it seemed like I was in the middle of the pack, which was fine with me. It was funny to see where everyone ended up though. One of our teammates was 5 and others were way in the back. My friend Lauren had boosted her time a bit when she entered it so she was actually number 67. We joked that maybe if we were lucky, our timing would work out well that I would catch up to her in the swim and we could then bike together.

They had us file one by one in line and then walk down the end of the dock and hop into the water and hang on. A race official would count to 3 between each person and every individual had their own personal start. We got in the water on the left side of the river, which was the same side that we would exit on. The last two races I had done here, we had to swim across, but this one was literally just straight down.

The swim: 21:35 (5/27 in AG)
Past result - 32:52 in last Olympic race (1500 m lake swim)

I enjoyed the start of this race and once I was off, I just got into a rhythm and kept swimming. It had dawned on me that I was going to be swimming for longer in this race than I did in my half ironman. I thought that was sort of funny and just tried to settle in. I knew I was going to be swimming a 5K in a couple of weeks and was starting to get a little nervous for that so used this as practice a bit. In swim practice, I hadn't been able to get into a groove very much lately so I just wanted to find that place of happy swimming without thinking.

As soon as I started going, my first thought was "Woah - this must be why people tell you to buy your tri kits so tight!" This was the first race I had done in 2 years without a wet suit and the first time wearing this kit in the water without a wet suit. I tend to buy my tri kits a little bit bigger because I hate feeling like I am sausaged and squeezed into them, but my top was balloon-ing out and picking up SO much water. It was distracting at first and I actually felt like my chest was falling out of my suit but eventually I just made a mental note to consider a speed suit and put it out of my mind.

I was passing people immediately in the water. I enjoy the chase so I found that a bit motivating to be continuing to just swim past person after person. I tried not to swim too hard, mentally reminding myself that I wanted to try and go hard on the bike and run and trying to remind myself that this wasn't a goal race for me. I just stayed steady and practiced my sighting and staying in a rhythm and trying to get in the zone. I would lock eyes buoy after buoy and just keep making my way down the river and under the 3 bridges.

For some reason, I guess because I was more lax about this race, I found myself continuing to crane my neck around and look for people I know. Or if I swam up next to someone, I was trying to check out their kit if I knew them. I knew Lauren was nervous about the swim and was trying to keep an eye out for her in case I did come across her. I didn't see anyone I knew in the water and eventually tried to focus on just keeping my head down and straight because my neck was bothering me a bit. I don't know why I was just looking around at everything! Even the side of the river, I was sort of checking out and eyeing. I have swam there so many times I recognized the buildings and bridges as gauges of how far I had left. It was the first time I used non-buoy landmarks to sight!

Portions of the swim I felt like I was by myself and nobody was around me, then I would swim through waves of larger groups of people. I kept passing people and swam over a few people a couple times. I could tell the current was moving pretty strong and at one of the buoys could really feel it pushing me. I swam over a guy and even when I tried to move around him, could feel the current pushing me. That was the first time I have ever experienced that!

After the 3rd bridge I started to push a little harder in my pace and put some effort behind my stroke. I tried to focus as best as possible as swimming right into the exit. As I got closer I could see the ITL tent on the lawn which was pretty fun, and used that and other buildings to help guide where I needed to go. I swam as much as I could into the exit, not stopping until my hands hit the ladder to climb out.

T1: 2:10 (8th in AG)

When in the water, I had practiced visualizing what I needed to do in transition. I lost my sunglasses in Chattanooga for the 70.3 so I just had 3 things to think about - Socks. Shoes. Helmet. Grab my bike. Go.

Running out of the water, I heard lots of people yelling my name but didn't look up at them too much because you needed to climb a set of stairs and the last thing I wanted was to trip. I did notice my friend Phil was there cheering, which was awesome! I was so surprised to see him! I am pretty sure this picture was taken the moment that I saw Phil on the side in his crutches cheering for me.

I shouted to the group asking if Lauren had come out yet. I heard Krystle's voice yell back that she had and I was happy knowing that my friend had made it out of the water (not that I had any doubt!) I also knew she was ahead of me somewhere and I wondered if there was any way that I could catch her.

Due to practicing walking the entrance and looking for row "Goggles" I found my bike pretty easily. My HR didn't seem high or anything and I felt good. However, as I was putting on my socks and shoes bent over, I reminded myself not to go up too fast as I had gotten lightheaded in my last race. I didn't have any problems and after Socks. Shoes. Helmet... it was time to go!

The Bike: 1:13:47 for 40 km, average 20 mph (7th in my AG)
Past results: 1:23:09 in last Olympic - 22 miles at 15.8 mph)

As soon as you started out on the bike course there was a first stretch of uphill. This bike course actually starts off where the run course starts on the Chattanooga 70.3 so it is a stretch I am really familiar with. The course was two loops of an out-and-back stretch on the highway, straight with no turns except for the really tight U-turns to turn around at each point.

After the short uphill stretch at the beginning, the course was relatively flat. From the beginning I didn't feel very well. My legs felt tired and I was pushing but just didn't feel strong and I felt tired. My legs felt tired from the start.

I reminded myself that it didn't really matter, that this race was just for fun and I decided to just settle in on the bike and keep pushing hard with the idea in my mind that I wanted to try and catch my friend Lauren. I thought it would be fun to bike with her and had no idea how far ahead she was, but decided to just push and see what happened. I also decided to focus on trying to spot and say hello to my friends. The good thing about an out-and-back course is that although boring, you get to see people!

The bike course was really populated and I felt like I needed to continuously pay attention to going around people, passing people, merging, avoiding the cones, etc. We were riding in the middle lane on the road, so there were orange cones to our right and then traffic driving by. A few times I drifted too far to the right with people passing and had to avoid the cones. It kept things interesting on an otherwise boring route.

I started shouting hello to everyone I saw that I knew and saying thank you to all of the volunteers. I didn't look at my watch or pay attention to my speed or anything like that.  I saw Lauren a bit before my turn first turnaround and she was enough far ahead of me and we are close enough in speed that I knew it would be super difficult to catch her. I took the sharp left turn to turn around as best I could and kept pushing on my way back.

It was easily to mentally break this route into four 10km sections since the course itself was actually broken up into those sections. On the way back the first time, I started to leap frog back and forth with an older guy in a neon aero helmet and we just kept going back and forth making comments to one another. It was fun and motivating and that latest for the entire return back and then outer portion of the next lap. I think it really helped me to keep myself pushing.

This race I had decided to try new nutrition, which I did with Nuun Active stuff. It felt fine but was a bit salty so had to drink water with it too. I had a hard time remembering to even take in nutrition because there was never a time I felt like I was coasting on the bike. Given that it was a relatively flat course, my legs were cranking the entire time and I never wanted to ease up to be able to sit up in my seat and pull out my water bottle. I thought to myself that it would be cool when I eventually get a tri bike and hydration set up that I could drink while in aero.

The second turn around was even harder because after making the sharp turn to head back on your 2nd loop you had to manage the uphill section having just had to completely lose momentum. At this point I allowed myself to stand on the bike a bit and get to the top of the hill and then settled back in to aero and playing leapfrog with my friend in the neon aero helmet.

It was a bit scary because there were two crashes on the course. One happened with the cyclist right in the middle of the road so the ambulance and medical professionals were all around and the rest of the racers had to be routed around her. One of my friends was fixing a flat tire on the side of the road, and I felt bad for him, knowing that it can mess up an otherwise really good race. I had shouted if he was okay and he said yes. I felt horrible for the person who was in the accident but also breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it was not someone I knew.

Once we turned again for the last segment back in, my aero helmet friend zipped ahead and I just pushed as much as I could to get to the finish. I looked down at my watch on the way back in, checking to see how I was doing and the first time I looked down I saw that my time was at 55-something minutes and my bike distance was around 18.5 miles. Wait, what? I had to do a double take at that and thought to myself, holy crap, I could hit 20 miles in an hour. I kept pedaling, watching my watch click away and when I hit 20 miles and was just barely under an hour of riding time I literally said out loud "holy shit!" I'd just ridden at least an hour at 20mph!

I finished up the ride, trying to not slow down until the last minute, hopped off my bike and ran into transition. I had no idea if I maintained the 20mph for the whole ride but was thrilled that I saw that for the first hour.

T2: 1:10 (7th in my AG)

I immediately saw my friend Kevin who had done the sprint hanging in transition which was sort of fun! I wish I had cheerleaders in transition at every race. I threw my bike on the rack, switched out my bike shoes for my sneakers, opting not to change my socks, took off my helmet (forgetting to do this is a fear of mine), tried to put on my race belt, fumbled with it and it fell, tried again, grabbed my visor, and started to run towards the exit.

The Run: 49:15 (11th in my AG)
(56:18 in last Olympic)

Before I even get into how I felt during the run - let me just mention the age group rankings for a minute. I felt so happy with my run following this race, and heck, I still do. I am super proud of it! This run had been a PR for me, not just in an Olympic distance triathlon, but in any standalone 10K ever! YET, I finished 11th in my age group! For every transition and the bike I was 7th or 8th, then I was 5th in the swim - yet in the run, even with it being a PR and something to me that shouted "This girl is fast!" I dropped down to 11. That tells me that there are some super speedy runners out there in my age group! My coach confirmed for me that Olympic distance races usually bring out strong swimmers and runners, since there is a smaller proportion of biking and that made sense to me. But yeah - some fast runners in this race!!

My plan for this run was to try and hang in the low 8s for my pace for the first 3 miles and then try to pick it up and give it all I had on the last 3. It was a relatively flat course yet again and I started out settling into a pace in the first mile like my coach advised. When I looked down at my watch it said 7:30-ish so I told myself to ease back just a little bit and then lock it in, which was what I did. The next couple times I looked at my watch it said 8:06 and wanted to stay right there.

I started seeing some of my faster teammates returning in from their run. Gordy, Chris, etc. and it made me so proud to be wearing the same kit as sone of these super fast people. I loved being able to cheer them on as a way to say to everyone around me "I know them!" and also push them on in their last stretches of their race.

This course continued to be super well organized with lots of water stations, Gatorade, ice, cold towels, etc. The weather was perfect and overcast and not too hot so I passed on the ice and cold towels on my way out, grabbing water and eating some Gu and taking some salt when I could. I didn't want to get overconfident given the good weather and knew I needed to maintain nutrition even though the weather was making me feel better than normal. I will say it over and over, I REALLY lucked out with good weather on races this year!

I passed one teammate, saw Coach Adam, and got to high five another all right in a row. Every time this happened it was a boost of adrenaline. There was a short hill around 2.5 miles, I passed my friend Lauren, which was so fun to cheer for her, and I hit the turnaround ready to push the last miles back in. It is such a game changer to have friends on the course. I honestly cannot tell you how much it made me smile to see Lauren on the run course after having tried to chase her all around on the bike. I was so happy and proud of her for making it through the first two parts of the race and now be in her element on the run, and I loved the out-and-back nature of this course for these reasons of being able to see my teammates and friends.

At the turnaround I told myself to hold steady until I got through the hill that I'd had to run through earlier. Steady through the hill, then I would try to turn it on.

I made it to the top and worked to push my pace. I saw Coach Adam again and he asked me how I was doing - I was surprised when I said out loud "I'm doing good!" and actually felt and meant it. I felt strong and was still firing at this point. He told me to leave it all out there, and it gave me another little burst.

Coming back through I grabbed a cold towel this time and I kept taking nutrition even though I didn't have much left. Even if it was just mental I didn't want to drop.  I had looked at my watch when I hit the 5K mark and knew that I was on pace to run close to 50 minutes if I could stay on top of it. I was close to having a PR in the 5K in the first half of the race!

With a mile left, I checked my watch again and knew I was close but I was also starting to hurt more. I made a couple short turns on the course and knew I was on the home stretch back in to the finish. I started to hear someone come up behind me and I turned and looked and saw my friend Rahul. He runs with us at track workouts and on the trails sometimes and is one of the nicest people around. I'd seen him on the bike course fixing his flat earlier and was so impressed that he had gotten through that and was now smoking it on the run!

He started to pass me and got a little ahead of me but looked back then with a nod of his head and motion with his hand, signaled for me to keep going and stick with him. I did my best to kick it up another notch and keep pushing into the finish. It was definitely giving all I had at this point to keep with him.

The last .2 miles turned into a sprint (at least for me!) and we ran through the Atlanta Triathlon Club cheer squad together and then through to the finish. It was such a cool way to finish a race and I was so grateful for him to pick me up like that and carry me through the final stretch of the race. I finished in 49:15, breaking 50 minutes on a 10K for the first time - a goal that I had had for myself in my standalone 10K I had coming up the next week! It hadn't even been a thought to try and do that on this race so I was amazed when I saw it! My mile splits on the run were 8:03 / 8:07 / 8:09 / 8:13 / 7:42 / 7:53 -- right in line with the plan I had tried to aim for. But there's no doubt that my last mile would have been a lot slower if it weren't for Rahul at the end pulling me into the finish with him!


I always doubt my watch (which is really doubting myself... something I am working on) and even though I saw my speed and time on my watch, after finishing, I immediately went to get in line to get the official print out of my times. And only then was it official what my watch said - 20mph on the bike and a sub-50 10K. Holy cow!

This race was never meant to be a goal race for me, yet the progress that I have been making and the work that I have put in showed up in the form of two major milestones. I was shocked at the sub-50 10K after having swam and biked. It was a surprise - a very pleasant one - and I think some of this progress is finally starting to sink in a bit. I am stronger than I realize. I am capable of more than I realize. My body is doing things that my mind hasn't yet computed it is able to. But it is starting to sink in that maybe I just need to figure out the right way to push myself. I'm proud of this race, the fun weekend I had with friends, and the milestones that it represented.

I can't wait to keep pushing and breaking new boundaries for myself!

Following the race we hung out a bit with the ITL crew before heading back to the hotel to pack up. The race itself was such a fun weekend away. Even without the milestones on the bike and in the run, I just had such a good time getting out of town with my friends and teammates at a low pressure event. It was nice to be way more relaxed and just enjoy everyone's company, eat ice cream, talk more, and get to know even more people in the group better.

I really like this one picture from after the race because it just feels chaotic and random, but it just feels like a photo that depicts real life to me. People talking, playing with the kids, walking around, waiting, etc. I don't know. I might be weird but I like pictures sometimes that are the outtakes to the photos we were intending to take. We don't always keep the outtakes nowadays with smart phones where we can delete everything that we don't deem to be perfect. But sometimes the candid pictures tell a story in the way that the posed ones don't and this picture just makes me smile with all that's going on in it and the little stories it tells.

Following the hotel checkout we returned for awards because some super speedy ITLers were able to take home awards, which is awesome! I snagged a couple photos of the placement from this race because I enjoyed being able to look at it from my last Olympic recap so wanted to have it included here. I now have my next race recap to work on (Peachtree Road Race!) so going to wrap up for here and have a great evening!