Wednesday, June 25, 2014

XTERRA: Live more.

"Passion is the love of turning being into action.  It fuels the engine of creation.  It changes concepts to experience.  Passion is the fire that drives us to express who we really are.  Never deny passion, for that is to deny Who You Are and who you truly want to be."

I was privileged to witness passion, grit, fire and determination at it's finest during the recent XTERRA Off-Road Championship and Richmond Sprint in downtown RVA on June 15.  It was a different world indeed, and the guys and gals who race XTERRA seem to be of a different breed.  There was a fine line between torture and exhilaration, yet despite the dirt and blood and bruises, everyone seemed to come out on the other side with a smile.  The only reason you do this is because you absolutely love it.  Richmond, you continue to surprise me.

There was such a sense of camaraderie at this race that you couldn't help but have a great time.  Nerves were eased at swim start by chatting with other racers, co-miserating in the daunting task ahead.  That guy breathing fire down your back on the bike course?  Hey, he still shouted a few words of encouragement as he snaked by.  Spectators lined the most difficult sections on the bike and run courses.  Although they were throwing out more insults than cheers, it made for some good laughs and even more determination to not F-up in front of a crowd.  Transition area after the race was where we exchanged stories and battle scars.  Ask any XTERRA racer how their day went, and they will happily show off their wounds.

My absolute favorite part of the day was watching the Pro and Championship women rock it out.  I find any and ALL female athletes to be an inspiration, but the gals who can kick it on a mountain bike?  Come on, baddest chicks out there!!  I watched in awe as they battled the river, easily rolled the gnarly sections of trail, and blew past me on the run like I was standing still.  The top Pro female finisher, who completed more than TWICE the distance I did, was pretty darn close to the same finish time I had in a much shorter race.  Wow.  Inspiration to keep getting me out there day after day.

Misery in the river...pure joy on the bike...and perseverance on the run; that was my race.  It turned out to be my race to take as I was the first female Sprint finisher across the line.  They gave me a pretty sweet (and insanely heavy) trophy.

The chance to live life to the fullest.  Never stop chasing what you love.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Raleigh 70.3

As per my usual diligence in keeping up with a blog, it's been a while since I posted an update.  Many races since last summer.....

8/24/13 - Patrick Henry Half Marathon, 1:55:42

11/16/13 - Anthem Richmond Marathon, 4:25:18

2/23/14 - Love Rox Half Marathon, 2:03:23

3/29/14 - Charlottesville 10-miler, 1:33:15

4/26/14 - Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Half Marathon, 2:16:10

5/4/14 - Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon, 2:59:57

Much like the Ultra, after hemming and hawing over doing a Half Ironman triathlon "someday", I finally resolved that 2014 was my year.  An Ironman-branded race would be taking place in Raleigh, NC in early June and I decided that would be the one!  I had really been into tri's a few years ago, but had lost touch recently as I focused more on running (and this pesky thing called grad school).  I was so excited to be jumping back into the tri scene!!

In January I decided to join the Triathlon Training Team through the YMCA.  Best.  Decision.  EVER!  I seriously do not think this half ironman race would have happened had I not found this group.  I have never been a swimmer, and my tri strategy in the past has just been to survive the swim so I could pound it on the bike.  In 5 months with the CVE-YMCA team, I developed into a competent and even CONFIDENT swimmer.  Coach Bob has been an amazing leader and truly enjoys introducing athletes to the sport of triathlon.  Our assistant Coach Amy with the Tuckahoe swim group has been amazing as well!!  My schedule has not allowed me to catch any of the runs or cycle groups thus far, but I am hoping to jump into some of them this summer.  

In preparation for Raleigh, 6 months of training total: weekly coached swim practice, individual swim sessions, Finding Freestyle, drills, laps-laps-laps-laps, bike in the snow, bike in the rain, long distance rides, sore bum, tour of Goochland county, discover Hanover county, get lost on bike, sunburn, downtown RVA run loops, run with friends, out-and-back tempos, new shoes, new blisters, 5am, 6am, kicked out of pool at closing, training rides, training races, "stress test", invest in wetsuit, reintroduction to open water, lack of sleep, no sleep, missed social events, lonely husband...repeat....pretty much how my tri training season went.  

Anyway, race weekend arrived finally, and I was feeling great and absolutely prepared for this race.  Hugh's brother and family live in the Raleigh area, and they graciously agreed to let us stay for an extended weekend with them.  Packet pick-up Friday downtown, bike check-in Saturday outside of town at Jordan Lake and go-time on Sunday.  Bike check-in was a new experience.  I have never in my life seen such a HUGE transition area, and SO MANY BIKES!!!!  There were some sexy looking bicycles too!!!

My name is on the towel!!!

Race morning started with a 3:45am alarm, on the road by 4am, into downtown Raleigh to set up T2 and catch a shuttle to swim start.  Hugh was less than excited to be up and about so early, but despite his very vocal opinions on everything at o'dark-thirty, he was a trooper!  We'd made it to the lake and T1 was set up and ready to go by to wait and wait and wait.  Race started at 7am, but I was in swim wave 21 (of 21 total), so my group didn't go off until 8:18am.  That wait and watching everyoneeeeeee else get to start was the hardest part!  

Sunrise at Jordan Lake

Ready to swim!  Wave 21!!

The last swim wave was finally sent off.  I had about 2 minutes of mild panic as the elbows and feet were flying in the swim pack, but before we'd hit the first buoy, I had settled into my rhythm.  I stayed solid and steady the entire swim course...heck yes!!  I have never had such an awesome swim course at a tri!!  1.2mi ticked by like nothing, and I was feeling great as I exited the water.  I was aiming for 45min goal swim time, and I nailed it at 43:19!

Out of T1

Grabbed my little rocket from T1 and onto the bike course we rolled.  I held a moderate pace for the first few miles, knowing it was a long 56 miles ahead, but we were soon onto a long, flat, smooth section of road and me and the baby bike started crushing pavement!  It did occur to me that slow and steady was probably a smarter strategy, but I couldn't help it.  That little bike is just so much darn fun!  She was a birthday present from Hugh in 2010, and during this training season in particular, I have just become so much more comfortable pushing those big gears tucked into aero.  Once we are at speed, if I can stay "ahead" of the pedal stroke she just rolls and rolls and rolls!!  I guess a good thing about starting in the last swim pack is that you get a great confidence boost as you pick people off one by one on the bike.  The miles flew by and my legs were feeling great!  The course didn't start hilly, but we definitely found some hills by the end.  By mile 45, I was pretty ready to be OFF the bike, but me and the rocket stayed steady, and amazingly we continued to climb well right until the end.  3:30:00 was my push goal, 3:45:00 was a more realistic bike split goal...we ended up coming in at 3:20:14.  YES!! 

Hey look!  My legs still work!!

Through T2 and onto the run course.  First 3-4mi, DONE, steady, still feeling confident.  At mile 4 the walk breaks started coming a little more frequently, but still making solid forward progress.  At mile 6.5 you turn into the 5 block finish chute...the streets are packed with people, everyone cheering, you see the finish, you see the time clock, you feel amazing....then 1 block from the finish you turn off for your second run lap, still 6 miles to go.  Major fail.  That was definitely the lowest point.  The next 3mi were rough, and that would be putting it lightly.  Physically I was fine, when I could will myself to run, my legs made progress without too much difficulty, my mind had checked out.  The last turn-around point happened at mile 10...3 to go, all headed towards home.  

I was running (slash-walking) with a girl who I'd been playing leap-frog with the last half of the bike.  We'd gotten a bit scrappy on the bike course, and I think that turned out to be positive fuel to get us both through the finish.  I started running when I saw her those last few miles...she started running too...I wasn't stopping until she did....and I'm pretty sure she was thinking the same thing!  At the very last aid station with half a mile to go, she pulled ahead of me just enough and I wasn't able to catch back up.  She edged ahead to finish 25 seconds or so in front of me.  We congratulated and gave each other high fives at the end....all in good fun!!  

A 2:22:24 run course for 6:33:57 total time.  Amazing!  My goal finish time had been around 7 hours, and I knocked it out of the park!!  I wasn't mentally prepared for how difficult that run course was going to be, so when I do this again, I should be able to easily knock 20 minutes off that run time.  We'll have to see!  When is the next race?!?!


Overall, I was HUGELY impressed with the IM race organization.  Every small detail was thought through, and I am so impressed at how smoothly such a large scale race was run!  Well done IM!  I will be back for another one someday!!  

Post-race burger and brew!

I'm now two days out from race day.  Legs are slightly heavy, but I'm usually more sore than this after a marathon.  Hope to jump in the pool today, take it pretty easy the rest of this week, and gear up for Richmond XTERRA on the 15th.  I'm hoping my new mountain bike will be ready by then, but if not, me and the ol' GT will have one last hoo-rah!  

Until next time....