Monday, October 7, 2013

Race Report- ChesapeakeMan Skipjack 75.2 2013

Or Shall We Call this Race Jellyfish-Infested Skipjack 77.2???

Apparently, the bike course has been 2 miles longer than advertised (66 versus 64 miles) for the past two years..... Fortunately, I'd read up on that and wasn't planning to arrive back at T2 until the watch hit 66. Not that I really wanted to stop at that point anyways- the tailwind was amazing and I was flying on my borrowed Zipp's!

Ok, let's back up to the start. I'm hoping I can strike a balance in these race reports between important details I want to remember for future races and being that girl who posts her breakfast on Facebook. With the photo of her 3 cats right next to it on the table. You know what I'm talking about....

After a quick toddler drop off at the Grandparents on the way, we headed down to Cambridge midday Friday. Breezed through packet pick up, checked in at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay, a regular summer family favorite but a place we've rarely been without kids! It was sunny and pretty hot, approaching 80 degrees after a very cool fall-like week.
Bikes are locked and loaded, Toddler is Dropped Off. Ready to go.

We headed over to Great Marsh Park to rack bikes and do a little practice swim. I wanted to try the full-sleeve Zoot wetsuit I had rented from Spark Running, owned by my PHPI teammate Caitlin. My sleeveless wetsuit is so tight around the neck, and the feeling of being strangled while swimming does nothing for my already sub-par swim abilities. The Zoot wetsuit went on easy and was super flexible! The water, however, was another story. The boat ramp into the choptank was rife with jellies. I managed to get out into the open water and swim to the start buoy, do a little sighting and a little light paddling around. In the process, I definitely felt my fair share of jellies- ewwww! When I got out, I was happy I'd opted for the swim- most of my energy and anxiety about the jellies dissipated on Friday, and by Saturday AM, I really wasn't concerned.

After a nice pre-race meeting and course talk thanks to the folks at TriColumbia, we ate an early dinner at Blue Point, the cute marina restaurant at the Hyatt with great sunset views. I was buzzing with nervous energy and pretty much driving my husband insane, insisting I could relax once I had made up my hydration/nutrition bottles for the next day!
Sunset from Blue Point Restaurant at the Hyatt

So, we headed back to the room to prep our fuel and bags (2 transition area race, a first for me). Coach Scott has revolutionized the whole eat/drink-while-you-run thing for me- I never really "got it" before, and I've seen over the past 2 months how critical proper fueling is to racing and recovery. I've been practicing race day nutrition on long rides over the past several weeks, so thanks to Scott, I had a perfect formula customized to my needs- fluid, electrolytes and calories- using Gatorade Endurance Formula as a base, and adding in Gatorlytes and Carbo Pro. Once the bottles were mixed and bags checked 20 x (two Type A triathletes in one room), we were able to finally rest our heads for the big day ahead- my long course debut in the 75.2 and Miles' return to triathlon 20-something years later in the Bugeye (Olympic Distance).

Race Morning:

Like clockwork, I woke up at 4 AM. Except this race started at 8 AM, and was 2 miles away. Well, I couldn't go back to sleep so I had plenty of time to attempt to braid my hair (fail!) and listen to Katy Perry's Roar on repeat (yes, I am a teenybopper). Pre-race breakfast was 1.5 cups of coffee, steel cut oats, a banana and a packet of Justin's Maple Almond Butter- my favorite. I sipped 1 water bottle of Gatorade EF that morning until race start as well.

Race Morning!

Race logistics for ChesapeakeMan are a little awkward with the two transition areas, but the Columbia folks did great job making it easy. We drove our car to Cambridge High School, which was T2 and Finish, dropped our run bags there, and boarded a bus to Great Marsh Park with our swim and bike stuff. I really could not believe people were camping out (legally) in the HS parking lot the night before! It was a pretty chilly morning, and a little foggy- but sun was coming up fast and temps were rising.

At Great Marsh Park, the Ultra and AquaBikers had just started their two loop 2.4 mile swim. I got my helmet, sunglasses and bottles on my bike just the way I like them, and then headed out to jog for my customary 5-10 minutes. After a week of taper feeling gross, sluggish, psycho and all of the other emotions and feelings that can come with taper, my legs felt pretty good on my jog and I was feeling ready! After a liberal application of TriSlide (best stuff ever), my wetsuit was on and it was finally on!!!

I followed Miles out into the water right near the front of the combined Skipjack/Bugeye wave. It was about 300 people, which made for a more crowded start than I've encountered. The course markings were pretty visible (at least on the first leg), and all of the other athletes around me, Miles included, concurred that the best strategy was to swim straight for the red turn buoy, ignoring the yellows. Wish I had known in my previous races that you did not need to keep the yellows to your right/left, only the oranges!

Back to the start- several hundred crazies were standing/bobbing in the jellyfishpalooza waiting for the gun to go off. All I could think about was that my tiny friend Alexis, who is quite petite, mentioned that the water was waist-deep the previous year and now I was bobbing to keep my head above water! I made a mental note to check with her about that during our post-race wrap up in the hot tub.

Gun went off, and I made every effort to swim hard, knowing the pace would eventually settle but that I needed to stay in a competitive pack. This is a new thing for me,  in previous races I start slow "as not to freak out" but that approach is not going to work with the goals I've set! Starting faster this time worked well, and I had my best swim yet. I'm still very, very weak at swimming vs. other disciplines, but my swim workouts and open water practice are paying off. Sighting was impossible on the back half of the course due to the sun, but I was close enough to several guys to hang on them until we finally hit that last orange buoy, 50 jellyfish stings later. I exited via the slippery boat ramp and hauled into transition, skipping the changing tent. When I arrived at my bike rack, there were still lots of bikes there- that truly is a first for me! Wetsuit off, shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on, and I was off.
Coming out of the Swim

First mile or two of bike course (same as Eagleman) had a few turns on residential streets and it was fairly crowded- I just stayed alert and tried to slow my heart rate down a bit. Passed several people but was not working crazy hard. I finally reached Hudson Road, the big out and back that constitutes most of the Bugeye (Olympic) race. It was flat, but windy, and had more traffic than anywhere else on the race course- bike and car. The first ten miles were hard for me- couldn't settle in, arms hurt from swim and didn't want to be aero, crazy drafting guy, etc. But I just kept on going and got into a better rhythm as the miles ticked away. In hindsight, I really needed to pick it up in this section- which would have resulted in getting me out of the big crowds. I had my eyes on a girl ahead whom I knew had beaten me in another race- thought she'd set a good pace but I think that was a mistake. Around mile 13 I knew I needed to pick it up and passed her and a few guys in a small pack. It was when the two races split around mile 20 that I really start to feel good about my efforts. I was keeping up with my drinking, relaxing in aero, and just feeling pretty happy to be out there in the sunshine.

Things continued to be pretty hunky-dory as the bike progressed- I was happy, pedaling away, drinking, and fairing quite well even with the strong wind- I passed lots of people and that kept me motivated and alert. I even passed a guy talking on his cellphone- WTF???? I guess he was doing the Ultra distance and just figured he might check in with friends... don't even get me started on him. I pedaled on, scrunching up in aero and reminding myself that eventually I'd turn and then this wind would be a great tailwind!
Happy on the Bike!

Around mile 35 or so was the craziest road construction- big orange barrels marking it, but there were 3 foot strips of gravel across the road to deal with- several in fact. I managed not to wipe out and it wasn't long after that we must have turned in a favorable wind direction. There is a section of the course that can actually be underwater in low tide- it's a very low-lying marsh area, but it was AMAZING at that time- fast as could be on nice smooth roads and a huge tailwind. I loved that section of the course, and before too long, I was hitting the home stretch and feeling great. All 3 bottles on my bike were empty for the last mile or so, but I was plenty hydrated. If only I could have figured out how to pee on the bike. No dice. Just couldn't do it. Stage fright I guess!

Rolling into T2 on a wicked tailwind!

Rolled into T2 and great volunteers started yelling your number and grabbing your bike. Run bag was rushed over to me, and Miles was there too!!! Helmet and shoes off, asked Miles how he did - he very modestly said "pretty well!"- come to find out he won the master division at his first tri in 25 years! I got my socks, shoes and race belt on, grabbed my flask and a gel and was ready to roll. I considered sunscreen, but worried it might have been illegal for Miles to spray it on me. To get through transition, you run through a changing tent, out onto the track, and right past the finish line- well I ran through the finish line, whoops. No worries, I was quickly out onto the long and dull Egypt Road run course. My legs felt pretty good, surprisingly. My back was a little crampy, but my hip wasn't bothering me at all- which was a relief as I've managed some bursitis this year.

As a runner-turned-triathlete, the run has always been my strength! But, unlike road races, where I sometimes have great races that feel really good too, I am always hurting on the run leg of a tri. Mentally, physically, emotionally- there will be low moments. But, as I read recently in a race report from Hillary Biscay, a pro I really admire, sometimes you just have to give your body time to start feeling better. Things can really pick up once you are a few miles in, with a little caffeine and sugar boost! And that was my mantra for the run- I was tired, but knew the end was in sight and knew I was doing well. Miles said he thought there were 3-4 girls in front of me, so I knew a Top 5 finish was a possibility and that kept me rolling.

I picked off several guys and two gals those first 5 miles, running against the wind in the hot sun down a long, less than scenic road. I kept telling myself the tailwind on the way back would feel great. At every aid station, I grabbed two cups of water to dump down my head and shirt- cooling down felt great! I was running by feel, but looking at my Garmin as well and seeing numbers in the low sevens and high sixes- not too bad.

At about mile 3.5 (out and back course, 5 miles each way), I spotted the lead girl headed back, meaning she was 3 miles ahead. Second was not far behind her- both too far for me to realistically catch- however, I saw a few other ladies that turned out to be running the 10 miler- but I was still chasing them to the finish, not knowing they were not in my race!

The road home was that classic struggle of this sucks/you are so close/ just run/ stop thinking. I channeled my inner Dory (From Finding Nemo) and just repeated "just keep swimming" mixed in with humming Katy Perry's Roar in my head. Passed two more goals at the turn onto the track and then the finish was in sight! Could hear Miles, Mom, Dad and Rory and ran that last lap on the track as if it were the 4 x 400 relay!! Yay- my first long course tri and I could see I was right about 5:11! 

I later learned I got 3rd overall women, and 11th overall. And, my PHPI Endurance Coaching mates kicked butt too- Suzy Serpico won the Aquavelo handily and Jeremy Beall got 3rd AG in the AquaVelo- an event that's missing his best event, running! All of our friends did well in their respective events, and we had tons of fun rehashing the details in the Hot tub at the Hyatt with lots of adult beverages.

Triathlon Power Couple

R was grossed out by how sweaty I was!
I felt much better than expected afterwards- sore and tired of course, but no stomach issues and I could actually walk!!

My Take Aways/ Needs Improvement:
- swim- more practice with sighting and starts- get comfortable going out harder and finding feet
- bike- go out more aggressively. Get out of the pack and settle in at a good hard clip. Find a way to get race wheels!
- run- improved mental focus- maybe a few more bricks or hard runs after bike to work on the tired leg/dead feet issue

All in all, I was excited and proud and wanting more! Speaking of, only 4 weeks until Beach2Battleship! Bring it on!!!

If you are still hanging in for this read, I applaud you. That is an endurance event in itself. Next race report will be more concise!

Just keep swimming (and biking and running!),