My First Triathlon

As I finish up my 7th season as a triathlete my mind sometimes wanders back to 2004 when I completed my first triathlon. And man oh man was that race a disaster! But I guess it sparked my triathlon career 6 years before I even knew it.

I decided to do the Devils Lake Triathlon kind of out of no where. I was home from college for a semester and thought, “what the heck? This looks fun.” My training consisted of riding my mountain bike around, swimming enough laps to get 400 yards, and running every now and then while playing soccer.

Come race weekend I drove up to Wisconsin and camped out at the state park. Ate no dinner or had no plan for breakfast outside of a granola bar I had. That was just one of the mistakes I made. I also thought it was a good idea to change wheels with my dad’s bike. I mean why wouldn’t that work out? It may or may not have the same cassette, may or may not have the same gearing, but it did have thinner tires so why not?!

With those mistakes out-of-the-way things could only go up right? Wrong. I was only equipped with tri shorts for the cold swim so when I tried to put my head in I freaked out. So I hung on the buoy for a little while then somehow made it to the swim exit. I got to my bike, laced up my running shoes, put on a running shirt then started the ride. No tri kit or cycling shoes for me!

It was a hilly bike ride and the wheel change I made would quickly be an issue. I dropped my chain 3-4 times on the ride and it was a struggle most of the way. But the good thing is I had my running shoes and shirt on already so it made for a quick T2! Running was the easy part. I made it through the run and got to the finish.

What is the point I am trying to make in this post? Is that everyone has to start somewhere! Whether it is triathlon, running, a new job, a new school, whatever it is, everyone has to start at step one. Some make it to step 2 a bit faster than others but we all start somewhere. If you work hard and put in the effort then things will go your way!

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2013 Season in Review

My 2013 season was probably my most successful season yet.  I got to experience some new races and places, set new PRs, and coach myself.  I learned a lot about myself as an athlete, and a coach, and I hope to continue the upward trend for 2014!  2013 was a focus on speed, shorter races, and getting back to the fun of training/racing.  (I was also broke so I couldn’t race as much as I wanted)

My season started off with a PR 1/2 marathon in March in freezing cold weather leading up to the Boston Marathon.  During this time I was mainly run focused and I was still being coached and it led to an amazing Boston Marathon race.  I don’t want to get into details about the race or my experience since I already wrote about it but whenever I wear my Boston Marathon shirt I still have flashbacks to the good parts of the race but mostly to the terrorist attack that happened while I was on the train heading to the airport.  I am still amazed that a different decision here or there could have led to me still being near the finish when the explosion happened.  It still brings chills to me.

Finish line picture I took before the race.  The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish.  Still in disbelief.

Finish line picture I took before the race. The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish. Still in disbelief.

Starting line!!!

Starting line!!!

A few weeks post Boston I made the decision to learn something about myself as an athlete and a coach and go the self coached route.  My coach had been great and it had nothing to do with her.  I just really wanted to see what I could do alone and how I could train and race with all the pressure being on me.  I thought I did pretty well with that. I had a few races before 70.3 Muncie which would be an “A” race of the year but nothing super successful.

70.3 Muncie ended up having PERFECT weather and was even wetsuit legal.  The year before the race had to be shortened because of the heat so it was pretty nice to have great weather because I knew if I put a race together I would be able to put down a good race.  And thankfully that happened.  Swim was mediocre at best but thankfully my wave was early so when I got on the bike course it was clear and I took advantage of the nice weather and flat course.  Worked my way up then got on my runners and now was where the “money” was made.  I had a time that I wanted to run, 1:25, but the run course was hillyish so I figured it might not work out but I kept pushing and pushing and ended up in a battle with another athlete for the last mile or so that I ended up winning on a sprint right before the finish, which is crazy because this happened in 2011 when I raced here too.  That race I ended up the 10th Amateur and 3rd in my AG which was amazing.  I ended up beating some pros which was super cool too.  Granted the race a totally different race but I’ll take it!

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The weeks kept ticking by and training kept going well.  I geared my training to the Age Group National Championships and the Chicago Marathon.  So training for the swim/bike were shorter more intense and the run was keeping mileage high and working on getting speed in prep for the marathon.  Raced the AG Nationals to a BIG PR.  It was great to race a good race against the best in the country but it humbled me since I was only 38th in my AG which means I got SMOKED by a lot of people.  I had a blast either way and loved the course.

Love this picture!  Thanks Chi Tri bloggers for the pic!

Love this picture! Thanks Chi Tri bloggers for the pic!

The final triathlon of the season was the Chicago Triathlon but after the AG Nationals I was more focused on the Chicago Marathon so my triathlon training lacked and basically involved little swimming, see things I learned in 2013 below.  But I was fine with that because I REALLY wanted to race my best race at the Chicago Marathon and that would mean sacrificing some triathlon fitness.  Race day was hot, and I had to wait a while for my wave to go on but thankfully I was in the Elite AG wave so I went off before any other of the Olympic waves.  Ended that race struggling through a hot/humid 10k to finish 9th in the Elite wave which was pretty good.  I had a great bike that day too but I learned a few lessons on the bike about hydration that I will use in 2014.

Finally it was all about running.  The Chicago Triathlon was my last swim until a few weeks after the Chicago Marathon.  I was 100% focused on that race and I got hooked up with a great run coach Scott Fishman and he helped eek out all of the run fitness I had in my body and it paid off 100%.  My goal after Boston was to run a sub 2:50 marathon and I achieved that goal by going 2:48:46 on a perfect day in Chicago.  My race basically comes down to good pace and race tactics.  I made sure to race my race and it turned out great.

Tossing my gloves to Jessica!

Tossing my gloves to Jessica!

All in all I am super happy with my 2013 race season.  I hit good times, worked my butt off, made training work with my schedule rather than my schedule work with my training, and I got a job!  I am really looking forward to racing in 2014.  Right now the big race is Ironman Wisconsin but I have signed up for Rev3 half iron Wisconsin Dells and ITU Chicago but I am sure I will add other to the schedule in the near future.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope I can provide some insight to training and racing strategies and other fun stuff.

Things I learned in 2013

  • I need to swim more
  • I need to NOT cut swim workouts short
  • I am good at following a training plan made by myself
  • I am getting better at racing in the red
  • Have more than 20 oz of liquid on bike for hot Oly race!
  • Embrace the suck–but do it better in 2014
  • Have fun!

My Boston Marathon Experience

I am going to try to put together a little post about my experience before, during, and after the race.  I will not make this into a race report or anything like that.  I will write one up if, and when it becomes appropriate but right now is not the time.

I arrived in Boston Saturday morning and I was immediately greeted by thousands and thousands of fellow runners.  I took the train downtown, with the train full of runners and their family members.  When I made it downtown I was amazed by how busy the area was.  I assume Boston is always pretty busy but the sidewalks were almost can’t move busy.  So needless to say that the town was taken over by the race!  It was so cool to see all the runners from different countries and backgrounds and see how welcoming Boston was to everyone.  Everyone was very nice, from what I encountered.  Made my way to the expo then headed to the North End for some good ol pre race pizza (and gelato and canoli, oops!).

Race day comes and I am excited, nervous, anxious to race.  I had my race plan nailed down and I was ready to execute it.  The atmosphere during the race is one of a kind.  The mix of fans and runners was simply amazing.  I have run the Chicago Marathon 3 times and they have over a million spectators so I thought nothing could come close to that.  Well after a few miles I knew I was wrong.  Since Boston is a point to point course spectators from all the different towns come out in heaps to support.  Little kids handing out orange slices, dixie cups of water, flavored ice pops.  Then you get to Wellesley College and the noise they make is deafening.  Then we make our way further down to Boston College where they are handing out adult beverages.  Then the infamous Newton Hills await and they do not disappoint.  Fans cover every step of each side of the street cheering.  And lastly, the final few miles are covered by countless spectators which drive you to the finish no matter how much pain you are in.  The final 600 meters down Boylston St. is so loud I literally said “wow”.

Finish line picture I took before the race.  The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish.  Still in disbelief.

Finish line picture I took before the race. The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish. Still in disbelief.

I finished the race with my best time yet by like 6 minutes.  Legs felt terrible but was happy with my time.  Made my way to get my bags then plopped down at a restaurant a bit further down from the finish to eat and relax.  At the time I sat down the Red Sox were just winning on a walk off hit so everyone in the restaurant/bar was going nuts.  I made my calls/texts to family and friends, tried to eat some then instead of watching at the finish for a bit I decided to just head to the airport early to sit there.

Well once I got to the airport I had all sorts of messages asking if I was ok.  “Yeah, I’m fine, just a bit sore.” was my common response.  It wasn’t until I checked Twitter that I figured out what happened.  I was already still in disbelief about  my race and how I should be happy but it hadn’t really hit me yet.  Now I forgot about my race and was fixated on figuring out what happened, who was hurt, how it happened, and why this happened.  I was also trying to comprehend the idea that if I had been a bit slower or I decided to stay and watch I could have been there when it happened and those are not happy thoughts.  When I got on the plane I had even more messages from some people I hadn’t talked to in like 10 years.  The news was also worse, more injured.  Now a day after it still has not hit me exactly what happened and how close I am to all the runners and spectators who were out there.  My thoughts go out to everyone impacted by the bombings.  Right after the race I thought, “I cannot wait to come back and race here again” but I was not planning on doing it in 2014 but I think I am going to go back next year to show whoever did this that they will not win.  We are a strong nation and runners are a rare breed.  We will get through this!  I am happily sitting here typing in my Boston race shirt which I will probably wear for a few days to show my support for everyone in Boston.

My race shirt!

My race shirt!

And I have to send HUGE thanks to everyone that reached out to my family, my friends, or me to see that I was safe after they all heard what happened at the race.  The outpouring of support and thoughts is indescribable and those texts/tweets/calls/fb posts were about the only thing that put a smile to my face after I heard about the sickening tragedy.

Boston Marathon!!!

Starting line!!!

Start line!!!

I cannot believe it but tomorrow I head out to Boston for the Boston Marathon.  I have been wanting to run this race since I started running.  It is the oldest, most historic marathon, and maybe race, in the world.  It seems that everyone who runs wants to run this race and anyone who has any knowledge of running asks if I have done this race.  Being a runner and triathlete I always get the question about Ironman and if I have done that one in Kona.  But the difference between the Boston Marathon and Kona is HUGE.  This year’s race will be the 117th Boston Marathon which makes it the oldest annual marathon in the world!  That’s pretty damn cool.  I am super excited and cannot wait to get out there tomorrow and soak in the expo then relax Sunday then race Monday!  If anyone wants to follow me I am bib #2709.

 

Profiled in “Triathlon Bloggers”

I was lucky enough to be spotlighted in the blog, List of Triathlon Blogs, in their “Tri Friends” section.  This is a new blog that was originally created to link up Chicago triathletes but it has grown, and is still growing, around the country.  You can also check them out on FaceBook.  But if you go to the link I posted above it will send you to their blog which has my profile on it.  I was excited for the opportunity and hopefully I will get more chances to get myself out there in the triathlon world!

And also, PLEASE go to the Snapple Tri Team Facebook page and “like” and “comment” on my picture so I can win a new wetsuit!  I have had some people already do it through my Twitter/FaceBook post but I really appreciate the help!  Just look to the right of the page where it says “recent posts by others” and find my picture and like/comment.

Boston is less than 2 weeks away and I am super excited!

Chi-Town 1/2 Marathon RR

Felt pretty good at the start

Felt pretty good at the start

The first race of the season came and went.  It was a good opening race but not as good as I wanted.  First I’ll set up my mindset going into the race then go into a little bit about race day and all that.  I did this race last year and it was like 60 and sunny; ya know spring weather.  Welp, looking at the 10 day forecast it was looking like it was going to be like high 35 with 20-30 MPH winds.  Ugh!  That is not a good weather day for a PR.  I kept checking the weather everyday to see what it would be like but not much change.  My time goal coming into the race was 1:19.  I picked that time because it would automatically qualify me for the New York City Marathon.  I was not 100% sure I could get to that time but my training has been going amazing so far and I went 1:21 last year so I was going to give it a shot.  So I was a bit disappointed in the weather because the cold is one thing but throw in cold and wind and that is just no good for a fast day.

So I wake up on Sunday AM and have my coffee, Bonk Breaker bars (toying around with my pre-race breakfast since I don’t eat much gluten anymore), then head to the race site.  I was lucky that I have a small car and was able to park, literally, right near the start.  I got there at like 7:10 for the 8:15 start so I picked up my packet then went back to my car to sit in the warmth.  The day was not looking like a good day for that 1:19.  My race plan going into the day was to ease into the race and start off running the first few miles 6:10-6:15, which is off pace for the 6:02 for the 1:19.

Yeah, the finishing stretch was brutal.  Especially with the wind.

Yeah, the finishing stretch was brutal. Especially with the wind.

I get out of my car, head out for a little warm up jog to try to warm up my legs.  The half marathon ran alongside a 10k, but I will get into that a bit later.  Get to the start line and do the normal stand around for a few minutes and shake my legs nervously thing.  Not much chatter at this start line and I am not usually talkative pre-race so that was ok with me.  The “gun” goes off and we are off.  I hoped to find some people running my pace so I could pace off of them and do a little drafting as well.  I found a group of like 3-4 at the start but then they picked up the pace a little and I dropped back.  I figured, “run your race”, but with the wind and the opportunity to pace off of other I quickly picked it up to catch up.

We ran together for the first 5 miles but it was not in a tight pack.  They would surge a bit and I would hang back then they’d slow and I’d get ahead.  Then the women I was running with and I dropped the other few people in the race and we were doing a good job of pacing each other.  Then, here is where the 10k comes into play, right as I was about to ask her what time she was going for she made the 10k turn.  DAMN!  Now I am all alone.

Starting to kick it in a bit

Starting to kick it in a bit

So the rest of the race was me running all by myself, except for the few high school kids running the aid stations and telling us where to turn.  I kept checking my watch and trying to calculate how far off pace I was.  I told myself that once I hit mile 10 I would start to pick it up.  Once I got there I looked at my watch and saw I had 18 minutes to cover that distance for the 1:19.  Ok not too bad (well I miscalculated a little there and had less time).  So I start to pick it up and I am GASED!  I run the last 2 miles in 5:57 and 5:56.  I am still in denial that I can get that time so I kick and kick and kick.  I see someone ahead of me like 100 yards but I don’t really care about him since I am going for time.  Then about 200 yards from the finish I see my watch hit 1:19.  Damnit!  Well still a PR but not what I wanted.  I start to sprint it in and the other guy surges as well.  We sprint next to each other but I edge him out at the end before my legs basically give out and I have to lean against the barrier to keep myself up.

Here is the Garmin file for my race if anyone wants to check it out.  Chi-Town 1/2 Marathon Garmin Data

PAINFUL finish

PAINFUL finish

Results: 1:19:26, 5th Overall and 2nd AG (good for a PR)

Now time for a few more weeks of training then in 18 days it’s time to run the Boston Marathon!!!!

Race Season is Near

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Wow, all I can say is this year is flying by so far!  Student teaching is going well, training is going well, and the weather, I hope, is starting to warm up a bit.  Now that it’s almost mid March I am starting to see the beginning of my race season.  My first race of the year is the Chi-Town Half Marathon March 24th.  Then 3 weeks later I will be running the oldest, most storied marathon in world, well besides the original “marathon”, the Boston Marathon!  I have been wanting to run this race since I started running seriously a few years ago.  I missed out by like :27 seconds last year which was a blessing because I did Ironman Texas instead.  Then my first triathlon will be the 5i50 series race in New Orleans.  I went down to NOLA last year for the 70.3 which turned into a duathlon due to storms.  After that race things really kick into gear with another big race being Muncie 70.3 then the USAT AG Nationals being another biggie.  I have other races planned during the summer but those are the ones I really want to peak at.

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I have been thinking about my season goals for a while but with triathlon goals are tough to nail down because times depend on weather and course, and placing depends on who shows up that day.  But here are a few of my goals for the season.

  1. Run a 1:19 half marathon- I ran 1:21:17 last year and I am in better shape right now
  2. Run a mid 2:50’s marathon- I hope I can do this in Boston and that is the pace I have been using as my marathon pace but with a point to point course weather plays an even bigger role.  Last year was hot, two years ago had a great tailwind (fingers crossed for that again!) but a headwind could wreak havoc on pacing
  3. Qualify for the 70.3 World Championships- Not sure if I would actually race the WC but qualifying would mean placing probably top 5 in my AG
  4. Race my best race at the USAT AG National Championships
  5. Go low 2:00’s in an Olympic Triathlon- Again, course dependent but I went 2:09:xx during Ironman training last year so I should be able to go faster now that my focus is speed

I have other goals that I think about day to day but these are the big ones.  Now time to keep training and stay injury free!