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Barb’s Race Recap – Run

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

This is the finale in a 4-part series. I’m glad you’re still with me!

Part 1 – Pre-race + Nutrition
Part 2 – Swim + T1
Part 3  – Bike + T2

I kept the title of this post simple, but considered several alternatives as I was writing it:

Welcome to My Pain Cave
When A Plan Falls Apart
Kill Me Now
WTF Happened?

After a surprisingly good swim and stellar bike, I just needed to tough it out for ~2 more hours and I’d have this race in the bag. I was easily on track to meet my stretch goal of finishing in 5:45 and I was ready to get it over with. I hoped my legs would to spring to life for the run as they had for the bike, but I had my doubts.

The run course is an out-and-back with a dirty trick thrown in. We ran out 4.35 miles and then had to run all the way back through the transition area only to turn around and go back out on the same course for 2.2 more miles. That turnaround was at the top of the first big hill, naturally. We covered the same ground four times before finally crossing the damn finish line. It seems very hilly when you’re running it, but my Garmin data says it has only 338 feet of elevation gain. By contrast, the Wildflower 10K course has 556 feet of elevation gain in half the distance.

I suppose the run setup is good from a spectator’s standpoint because they get to see us run by so many times. For the athletes, it is mentally defeating. In fact, I will never do Barb’s Race again for this very reason. I will do Vineman 70.3 instead because that run course is one big loop.

My legs were cramping from the get-go. I’ve never had my quads cramp like that and it concerned me. My stomach was also cramping and I hoped the PREV I chugged in T2 would kick in (it did). I stopped to use the bathroom at Mile 2 just to make sure my cramps weren’t going to produce anything, and to pee. It was touch and go on if my legs would work after sitting down… I lost 90 seconds there, but the peace of mind was worth it.

Smiling for the camera

I walked a lot. I’m actually surprised my average pace (10:35) is not slower because I walked so much. I obviously don’t know how to pace myself. When I was running, I was running fast. Too fast. So then I’d have to walk more. There were a lot of people walking and that “everyone’s doing it” dynamic is dangerous. When you get to this part of the race, the mental game really begins. Your body will do what you need it to do, but your mind has to go there first.

Because we were going back and forth so many times, it did give me an opportunity to see Caryn a few times. I kept hoping she’d catch me on the run so we could commiserate on how horribly it was going… But she was 12 minutes behind me out of the water and 10 minutes behind me on the bike, so running/walking together was not going to happen.

The volunteers at the water stations were fantastic. Everyone was very encouraging and we were best friends by the time I passed by the fourth time… I kept my sense of humor and made jokes about walking and asking if anyone had beer instead of Gatorade. I had a couple of glasses of Coke on my last loop through and it tasted surprisingly good. Usually it’s too sweet for me, but the carbonation and sugar hit the spot.

I got to 12.1 miles and looked at my Timex. If I could run ONE WHOLE MILE in 12 minutes, I could finish the race in under 6 hours. I knew my cheering section was right around the corner. Right around the corner from them was the finish line.

Welcome to my pain cave

I finished in 6:02:15.

WTF happened?? I mentally broke down. That’s all there is to it. My usual run pace is somewhere in the 8:30 range and I couldn’t even shuffle at 12 minute pace for one mile?! This is infuriating to me and explains the overall race disappointment that I have felt all week. My official run time was 2:22:01. *sigh*

Greg ran alongside me for the last quarter-mile or so and was with me at the finish line. What a guy! Immediately after crossing the finish line, my left foot and toes cramped up with charlie horses and I hobbled over to a shady area to sit down. I took my shoes off and have vowed to never wear them for anything longer than a 10K. In addition to the cramping, the bottoms of my feet were burning for the last half of the run and the tops felt like they were bruising.

My cheering section and coach came over to congratulate me. I shed a few tears about Argus and made for the food tent. It wasn’t long before Caryn was crossing the finish line and we could compare notes.

All in all, I raced well. There were a lot of lessons that I learned and will apply to my training for next year. In the meantime, I’m basking in the off-season and not feeling even the least bit guilty!

I’ve posted all pictures on my Flickr site. Thanks for coming along on the journey!


Barb’s Race Recap – Bike + T2

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

This is Part 3 in a 4-part series.

Part 1 – Pre-race + Nutrition
Part 2 – Swim + T1

The bike course is a 56-mile loop that winds through three famous wine regions in Sonoma County — Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley. The scenery is just stunning. I had to keep reminding myself to look around and enjoy it rather than just looking at the pavement a few feet in front of me.

Caryn and I pre-rode the bike course in June and that provided a lot of insight. There are a couple of tight turns to navigate and I was able to set my expectations on the terrain. The first five miles are flat getting out of Guerneville, but the rest of the route is rolling. There is one big climb (Chalk Hill) that happens at Mile 45, so you’ve got to save your legs for that. The roads are pitted with potholes and I adjusted my tire pressure to offset this. When we rode it in June, there was a lot of broken glass and loose gravel on the roads, but they thankfully had them swept before the race. There is on-course support at Miles 18, 28, and 40 — water, Gatorade, and bananas are offered.

I was able to settle into my aero bars and keep a steady pace until turning onto Chalk Hill Road at Mile 41. My average speed never dropped below 19 mph until the climb at Mile 45. My race goal for the bike was to average 18 mph and finish in 3:05, so I felt really confident the entire time I was out there. My heart rate was under control and my legs had a lot of fire in them. I ended up averaging 18.8 mph overall and finishing in 3:00:12.

Greg and Jeff parked at a friend’s house at Mile 38 to spectate. I saw the van and gave a holler to let them know I was coming. I knew I was ahead of schedule and they’d miss me otherwise… Greg’s poor spectating skills are often joked about (as is my modesty in cheering for them to cheer for me). Paula and Kevin came down in time to see Caryn go by. They made signs!

I knew I was going to be somewhere around 10 minutes ahead of Caryn out of the water. But she’s a faster cyclist than I am and I knew she’d be chasing me down. When my average speed started to drop climbing Chalk Hill, I knew she’d catch me. I kept waiting for her to catch me. She never did!

I was prepared to pee on the bike if I needed to, but the urge wasn’t there. I did start to have stomach cramps around Mile 20, which concerned me. I was able to go to the bathroom early that morning, but it wasn’t what I’d call “normal” and I had a feeling things were going to be off because I had eaten dinner so late… I had a plan. I had packed a vial of PREV with my run gear at T2 and I willed myself to remember to drink it as soon as I got off the bike. I hoped it would kick in fast enough to thwart any GI issues that were brewing.

Ryan turned me on to PREV and I am forever grateful. I used it once before when my stomach started to revolt after a hot and hilly training session. It worked within minutes to quell my upset stomach that day, and I was glad I had planned ahead to bring it on race day.

There were tons of spectators on Windsor Road watching the bikers come in and the runners go out. My cheering section was there — Tara, Addison, Mike, and Tiff — and it felt great knowing they were there for me. The tri club was situated nearby and the two groups joined forces as I came through the chute to the dismount area.

The clouds were just beginning to break up, but it wasn’t unbearably hot. In fact, race conditions were perfect!

My Timex watch was tracking overall race time and I felt great looking down to see 3:37 coming into T2. I knew I had bought myself a lot of time for the run and the minute I took those first steps off my bike, I knew I’d need it.

The distance between the bike dismount and our transition area was far! My legs didn’t want to work and I felt like I was going to fall running on the pavement in my cycling shoes. Also, there were surprisingly few people spectating in the transition area. The whole thing was kind of surreal. Since Caryn didn’t catch me on the bike, I kept looking around for her in the transition area. I really wanted to run with her!

Official T2 time: 4:25

Click here for the gritty run details!


Barb’s Race Recap – Swim + T1

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

This is Part 2 in a 4-part series.

You can read Part 1 here.

The swim and T1 take place at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville. Caryn and I got there with plenty of time to set up for our 8:14 AM start time. I think we arrived somewhere around 7:30. Of note, they do not assign you a transition spot on the rack by number (as many races do). This is a first come, first served situation. In general, I feel like the triathlete community is very accommodating of one another, but elbow room in the transition area can be a bit touchy (literally).

The water temperature was 72* — warmer than the outdoor temperature, so it was nice getting in! This race had an in-water start, which was a first for me. Once our wave (purple swim caps) was invited into the water, the mass of us plunged in and got in a few strokes to warm up. I adjusted my goggles and made my way to the far right. My tendency is to drift left as I swim, so I wanted to be as far right as possible.

We were swimming in the Russian River, which does have a slight current. I can’t say that I actually felt it as I was swimming against it, but it was there mentally. Knowing that I’d be swimming with the current at the turnaround kept me going hard. I would love to see a GPS diagram of the course I took on this swim because I was all over the place! The worst of it was that the waves were not started far enough apart (in my opinion), so I was swimming into athletes from the three waves ahead of me.

I refused to look at my watch until the turnaround. I knew it was more than halfway from the finish and I didn’t want to psych myself out before that. As I rounded the second buoy, I looked and my time was 17:57. I was so stoked! I knew I’d finish in less than 35 minutes at that pace! The traffic thinned out and I could swim longer between needing to sight the buoys and other swimmers.

As I was crossing under the pedestrian bridge, I purposely looked up to see if Jeff and Greg were there. Yep! Spectating a swim race is very difficult, so I thought I’d make it easier for them — I hollered and waved! That way I knew they’d get good pictures of me (and know when I came out of the water). Can someone tell me how horrible my form is (and how to correct it)? I’m on the left.

I was so thrilled when I stepped up on the ramp and looked down at my watch. 32:35! (Official time is 32:43) I honestly couldn’t believe I swam that fast, especially considering my shoulder injury and being unable to swim for 6 weeks during my training. I was ecstatic, and my coach was there at the swim exit yelling my name. Loved it!

Barb’s Race was running simultaneously to the Full Vineman Ironman. The benefit of this was wetsuit strippers! I haven’t ever taken part in this before, so we walked over to see it happening prior to our race start so we’d know what to do. Basically:

  1. Come out of the water and make your way up the ramp. For me, I got my wetsuit unzipped and off my arms, down to waist level.
  2. Make eye contact with a stripper (!!).
  3. Lay down on your back and throw your legs in the air. Your stripper will yank your wetsuit off your legs and hand it to you.

As I ran to my transition area, I rolled my wetsuit up, tucking my swim cap, goggles, and ear plugs into it. Everything had to be stuffed back into the T1 Transport Bag, so I wanted to be efficient. The transition area is a gravel parking lot. Fortunately, the aisles along side the racks were carpeted. The areas in between the racks were not, so it was critical to have a towel for brushing off your feet before stuffing them into your shoes.

I quickly got into my socks and shoes, sprayed a liberal amount of sunscreen on my face, and got my helmet and sunglasses on. There is a steep-ish hill coming out of the transition area onto the street, so I was sure I had my bike in its lowest gear as to not drop my chain or fall over within the first few yards of the bike portion.

Official T1 time: 2:54

Jeff was there snapping photos and it felt great to be on the bike. Best of all, the skies were still overcast!

Click here for Part 3!


Barb’s Race – Mission Accomplished!

August 1, 2011 Fitness 3 Comments

I’m suffering from a severe hangover today. The highs and lows from the weekend have left me emotionally and physically spent.

I’ll be back with more details, but here are my race splits:

SWIM – 32:43
T1 – 2:54
BIKE – 3:00:12
T2 – 4:25
RUN – 2:22:02

TOTAL: 6:02:15

I didn’t exactly hit my goal of finishing under 6 hours (my disastrous run is the very obvious culprit), but close enough. At least I was smiling at the finish line this year!


Barb’s Race – Goal Setting

July 29, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

Greetings from Sonoma County! We arrived yesterday and enjoyed some of the wares this valley has to offer. That’s definitely one benefit of choosing this destination for our “race-cation!” We rented a house with Jeff and Caryn and are staying three nights. It’s set in the woods along a small creek and it’s a very tranquil setting to contemplate what’s ahead of us.

It’s time to set some race goals:

I’LL BE SATISFIED: Finish under 6 hours
I’LL BE ECSTATIC: Finish in 5:45

Here’s how that’s going to break down:

SWIM: Finish in 35 minutes.
Last year’s 1.2 mile swim time was 36:39, so I would like to meet/beat that.

BIKE: Average 18 mph and finish in 3:05
This is a tough bike course and it’s going to be hot tomorrow, so this is a stretch goal.

RUN: I’m giving myself 2 hours on the run (average pace 9:16 m/m)
We drove the run course today and it’s hilly. I am planning on dying on the run, so I hope this is conservative enough. I don’t want to sandbag it… but I want to give myself some leeway to totally suck.

TRANSITIONS: These will have to be under 5 minutes for me to reach my goal.
T1 may take a bit longer than in other races because we have to stuff all of our stuff (including wetsuit) into a plastic bag that will be transported over to the race finish. T2 should be quick.

It’s going to be a tight race with those splits. Greg put new tires on my bike and my legs are definitely fresh. Every workout this week has left me wanting more. I’ll give it my best!

Here we are after setting up our running stuff in T2:

I think we look ready, don’t you? Immediately after this was taken, we stood in ridiculous lines to get our packets, timing chips, and shirts. This gave me ample opportunity to people-watch. At events like this, most people are wearing gear from past event that indicate to other competitors they are badasses. In one case, a portly fellow was wearing full-length compression tights with a billowy shirt over it. In a word, he looked ridiculous. But I bet his legs will feel great tomorrow and it will all be worth it…

Back at the cabin now, I’ve got my gear all ready to go for tomorrow. My nutrition is packed, my gear is laid out, and dinner will be early. I’m enjoying a glass of wine on the deck as I write this. Ahhhh. This is how a race-cation should be!

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes along the way. I hope to make us all proud with my performance tomorrow!


When A Plan Comes Together (and WWW: July 17)

July 25, 2011 Fear, Fitness 1 Comment

You set a race goal.


You develop a training schedule.

You do the work.

Why, then, is it so shocking when the plan comes together? This is a simple cause-and-effect relationship that never ceases to amaze me.

I guess it’s because the wheels fall off right before everything solidifies. I had lost so much speed and power on my swimming. I could get through a long bike ride, but it felt like work. My legs felt like logs while running, which is to say nothing of my mental weakness just thinking about running. Pre-race anxiety was really taking its toll.

And then, just like clockwork, everything clicked:

  • My swim intervals came back to pre-injury times and my first open water swim since Wildflower went very well.
  • On the bike, I looked at my Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to see my average speed was 0.5 mph faster than the last time I rode that course without an increased HR or feeling fatigued.
  • I have been running hills like they are flat roads. My mind has been focused on other things and not riddled by pain and self-defeating thoughts.

The work is done.

All that’s left to do is enjoy the taper. And enjoy the race.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 1600-yard swim + 30 minute bike ride

Monday – 5.5 mile run

Tuesday – 30-mile bike ride

Wednesday – 1.3-mile open water swim

Thursday – 4-mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday –34 mile bike ride + 1.25 mile run


So You’re Saying I’ve Got a Chance

July 20, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

I ventured out into the beautiful morning for my first open water swim since Wildflower.

As you can see, the conditions were perfect. I ended up swimming 1.3 miles in 37 minutes. My 1.2 mile swim time in last year’s Half Ironman race was 36 minutes.

So I guess I’ve got a chance to meet or beat that time this year, even after taking six weeks off due to the injury.



To Chase Or Be Chased?

July 18, 2011 Fear, Fitness, Friends No Comments

I was having lunch today with a couple of girlfriends who just completed the Vineman 70.3 race yesterday. It’s the same course as Barb’s Race that I’m doing on July 30, so I was getting the nitty gritty race details from those in the know. I love hashing it all out!

I was remarking that Caryn and I are doing Barb’s Race together, but we are not in the same age group. I’m younger, so I will likely start 5-10 minutes ahead of her. She has been razzing me about my mental block on the run, talking smack about how she’ll be “chasing me down.” Admittedly, this scare tactic is working.

Do you push harder when you’re chasing someone? Or being chased?

I think I push harder when being chased. When Greg and I ride together, I’ll purposely try to get a head start on him and push as hard as I can to see how far I can make it before he catches me. I attribute this internal competitiveness to my improved bike speeds in recent years. At the race, I know I’ll be pushing to make it as far as I can before (IF?!) Caryn catches up to me.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 50-mile bike ride + 5K run

Monday – 2400-yard swim

Tuesday – 20-mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Wednesday – 90 minutes yoga + 2100 yard swim

Thursday – 5 mile hill run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 52 mile bike ride + Tracy Anderson


Swim Like You Mean It (and WWW: June 12)

June 20, 2011 Fear, Fitness 3 Comments

My doctor is pretty sure that my shoulder injury isn’t a tear, it’s just an impingement — an inflammation of soft tissue. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d certainly go get that MRI that he has recommended “just because he’s curious.”

But I don’t have either.

Money is one thing that I certainly do not have lying around, but the more important (!!) issue is my race on July 30. After a bunch of hemming and hawing (usually around Mile 5 of a run) that the shoulder injury is a perfect excuse out of it, I have decided that I am officially racing. And with that, I don’t have time to wait for MRI appointments and then physical therapy appointments and then for someone to decide if I can swim or not. Rather, I am falling back on my ol’ stand-by:

The power of positive thinking.

Laugh if you want, I don’t care. Sure, I’m icing semi-regularly (maybe 2x/week instead of every day) and using ibuprofen semi-regularly (maybe 3x/week instead of 3x/day)… but I simply decided I’m going to swim and it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be better than fine. It has been. It will continue to be.

My 1.2 mile (~2100 yards) swim time at my Half Ironman last year was 36:39. In the pool on my first day swimming since my race on May 1, I swam 500 yards in 9 minutes without really trying. I hit that time again a few days later, and I swam a mile (1760 yards) in 29 minutes today. I will be “fine” for the race. The best news of all is that the pain isn’t nearly as acute during the swim OR as lingering afterward as it was before May 1.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep riding and running and chanting:

“I am so grateful I can compete in Barb’s Race with Caryn and the tri club!”

“I am so lucky my shoulder has healed and I am able to swim!”

“My body is an incredible machine that responds whenever I ask it to.”

“I am a triathlete! I will swim! I will bike! I will run!”

“I’m not crazy, no matter what anyone else says!”

Sure, it’s corny, but as much as I can’t afford an MRI, I can’t afford any negative talk around here. It serves no one and won’t get me any closer to competing, setting reasonable goals for my race, and accomplishing them. My riding and running have come too far for me to bail out now. I’m going for it!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 49-mile bike ride + 1 mile run

Monday – 20-mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Tuesday – 10.5 mile run

Wednesday – 60 minutes Jefferson Ave hill repeats (bike)

Thursday – 6.5 mile run

Friday – OFF (+ Book Club hangover — ugggghhhh)

Saturday – 45-mile bike ride + core


A Shot in the Arm

June 3, 2011 Fitness 2 Comments

After nearly two months of living in pain, I finally went to the doctor for my shoulder injury. I haven’t been swimming or done arm-based exercises since May 1 and things just weren’t improving. Immediately following the fall, I had a lot of pain in the front of my shoulder. That has subsided for the most part and the rear deltoid is now in pain most of the time. I can already tell I have lost a lot of strength in this arm as a result.

My biggest concern was making a go/no-go decision on competing in Barb’s Race on July 30. I was worried that swimming freestyle would further injure the shoulder and cause permanent damage. Sure, I could dog-paddle my way through a 1.2 mile swim in the Russian River, but I wouldn’t want to put myself through that misery. So, it was time for an official diagnosis and treatment plan. As I mentioned in a previous post, my hope was to get a cortisone shot that would alleviate the pain enough to allow me to train and race. What did the doctor have to say?

Diagnosis? Acute rotator cuff impingement, obviously a direct effect from the fall I took on April 9.
Recommended treatment? A cortisone shot! And then physical therapy.

I am under strict orders not to get in the pool for two weeks to allow the shot to work its full magic. After that, “we’ll talk,” but he said swimming for six weeks leading up to the race won’t make things worse or cause permanent damage. I was glad he understood my motives and is willing to be lenient with me on the treatment plan.

Have you ever had a cortisone shot? This was my first and I couldn’t help but notice the thickness of the needle. He sprayed a cooling/numbing product on my shoulder and then went to work. I’m not squeamish about needles, so it wasn’t that bad. The general area burned for about 2 hours afterward, but I went to bed feeling good and it isn’t sore at all now.

This was just the shot in the arm (!!) I needed to fully motivate for the Half Ironman. We booked a vacation rental house and plan to make a mini vacation out of it. Up next is a trip to Sonoma County to pre-ride the race course. I hope to see my college roommate while I’m there. Both of us Iowa girls have made our home in Northern California!