Category: race

CX Nats

One warm evening in 2015, Julie Lockhart made us promise that we’d all go to Nationals and race Masters when it came to Hartford in 2017. She was insistent… I promised. we were at Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, the 1st race of my 2nd CX season. I’d come a long way in the year since my ride on the wheel of Helen Wyman, but grass, sand, and gravel still gave me the jitters. But I promised; half appeasing Julie and half hoping…

As soon as Nationals opened, I registered. I didn’t think, debate the wisdom, or question my ability. I entered my credit card, hit ‘register’, and pushed it to the back of my mind as a detail to be figured out later.

The 2016 season was great. 12 races. I met my goal of finishing more races in the top 50% than I didn’t…I met awesome people…I missed my 1st single speed race goal, but all in all a good season for me.

Then the ball dropped. 2017 arrived. It was “later” and time to figure out Nationals. Denial gave way to doubt with moments of confidence and calm. I was excited and nervous. I carefully scheduled my work to accommodate the day off in the middle of the week. I watched course preview videos. I added Hartford, CT to my weather app so I could check the forecast every 8 minutes. This was getting real.

Work commitments kept me from attending Day 1 to cheer for Jason and 545 friends. Given the weather, it turned out I was lucky. The monsoon or whatever that hit Hartford made for a slippy, sloppy, slow racing. By the time the race reports and videos of the carnage were shared, the idea of racing nationals with my current (hard earned) skills started feeling mildly insane. But this is winter in New England, the weather would change.

Wednesday was a full day on a client site, so it wasn’t until the drive home that I heard that my partner in crime had succumbed to good judgement and made the call not to race while sick and miss a day of work that she really couldn’t responsibly miss. This launched a new wave of second-guessing and doubt. Breathe. I dipped into my endurance mindset and turned my brain off. Auto pilot.

Steve (the Bike Guy) stood in for Kristin on race day. He arrived in the driveway with a planned stop at Starbucks. We were wheels up at 5:30am. The temperature dropped as we drove, but the traffic was light. As we parked at the base of the levy, I informed Steve that I still leaving open the option to not race after course preview. He nodded, wisely quiet.

Pre-ride #1. The levy run up was as draining as it looked. Riding down the steepest part I realized something was wrong with my rear disc brake. It was frozen. I tromped over frozen earth to Shimano neutral support. Steve found me as he finished his 1st pre-ride lap and looked over the bike so I could pre-ride a full lap. Thankfully, because the southern part of the levy had been opened and was added back to the course.

I’d never ridden frozen mud ruts – jarring. This was a hard course. It was do-able, but hard. I was slow, but always pedaling…this was enough to head to registration and collect my numbers – yay, arm numbers.

Pre-ride #2. After the Womens 60+ race, they closed the southern part of the levy again and racers started looking a lot muddier. Although I hadn’t originally planned to, I hopped on to the course for another lap before staging. It’s amazing how the course changed. The temperature had come up a little to 30 and the sun had warmed the frozen mud in several spots. Other spots were slippery like frozen snot. Coming down the steep levy descent I nearly endo-d. I got mad at myself momentarily, but pedaled through the course and back to the car for spikes. Somewhere along the river, riding the course back to staging  I realized that I  had no rear brake. I found Steve, finishing up another practice lap. He confirmed my assessment and that there was no time to do anything about it. So it would be.

The race. Rolling over the start line was amazing. Almost surreal.
The first 2 crashes happened less than a minute into the race. It was slippery. As a group we raced to the levy and climbed up and formed our small procession across the ridge. I ran the whole levy, so that was pretty much the end of me being with a group.  I just kept pedaling. I turned 3 laps (most of the race did 4). Each lap was a little cleaner.

cxnatsA lot of thoughts went through my head as I pedaled in my distant place. Frequently, I felt ridiculous. And then I was pumped I could do as well as I was. And in the end, I was immensely happy that I had somehow learned how to do something for love or joy or the challenge – despite a very real possibility of finishing last. (This wasn’t as easy as I made it look.)

On my last lap, I saw Julie Lockhart (National Champion. again) cheering. I yelled and thanked her sarcastically for making me promise to do this crazy race. She smiled and yelled back that I should Just keep going and then “aren’t you glad you’re here?!”

I rolled under the USA Nationals Finish not quite last it turned out. It was a great day. I was tired. I needed a beer. I raced USA Cyclocross nationals, me. Hot damn! And best beer ever.


Other People’s Shoes – A Triathlon PSA

The following is a special triathlon public service announcement:
“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes” is an idiom.*
It is not a directive nor a suggestion. It is most certainly not a good idea to do at a triathlon.

This past weekend, when I came back to collect my things after a local sprint, I was happy to find my first-timer neighbor cleaning up his transition area. I asked him how he did, did he enjoy his first race?

He looked at me (he was upset).  “I couldn’t find my shoes.”

I kept looking at him, not understanding his words. “What do you mean? They got moved?”

Him – “No this guy…took them!”

Me – “Wait, what? Someone took your sneakers?”

Him – “Yes. This guy. The guy who put his bike in my spot.”

Me – “Wait what? Someone took your sneakers?

Him – “Yes.” His wife – “And he was in second place.” Him – “Looking for sneakers cost me 5 minutes!”

Me – “ Wait. You found sneakers and ran in someone else’s sneakers? And finished?”

Him – “Yea. I found his sneakers by looking at his number and finding the same brand in an open space on his rack. They’re older than mine. Mine were brand new.”

Me- “Wait. You guys had the same brand and the same size? And wait, you were going to race in brand new shoes? Maybe he has blisters?!”

Him – “He had to move all my stuff off of my sneakers to put them on. How do you not realize that these aren’t your sneakers?”

Me- “I just don’t know; I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

So, as a point of clarification, no one comes around and cleans sneakers while you’re out riding your bike. Your worn, dirty sneakers will stay worn and dirty. If you come back and they’re clean – they’re not yours. If they’re clean and someone else’s stuff is on top of them, they’re definitely not yours. If they’re clean, have someone else’s stuff on them and are on a towel that you don’t recognize, they’re really, really not yours. Please do not put them on and definitely do not put them on sockless and then go run several miles in them. It’s terribly uncool.

However, if you do take someone else’s clean sneakers from under the stuff you don’t recognize and off the towel you’ve never seen…when you get back to transition and meet the man who’s shoes you are in…please try to put yourself in his shoes and do make a sincere effort with your apology.

*An idiom is a word or phrase which means something different from its literal meaning. Idioms are common phrases or terms whose meaning is not real, but can be understood by their popular use.

Sneaking up on 70.3

70.3 bumpah stickahshhhh…I’m doing a half ironman tomorrow, but don’t tell me.

I don’t know why it’s been so hard to accept. I’ve been signed up for the Patriot Half since December, so it’s not like it just happened. I’ve been training. The bike sessions have certainly gotten longer. I’ve got about a thousand calories of race food tucked into various feed bags, so I know I’ll be working for a long time tomorrow. Hell! I’ve even done a pre-ride of the course with a 70.3 veteran. ( I never follow this excellent advice – I like ignorance)

So why is it that I’m just getting around to mentioning it to my family?
And why haven’t I added it to the Team Betty race schedule?

In some weird way, I’m afraid of failing. And I don’t even know what ‘failing’ means to me. Being slow? Being last? DNFing? Getting lost on my way to the race? Looking foolish?
(I’ve done all of these things before and survived.)

It’s not because I’ve never done a 70.3 before, but possibly it’s because I have.

In 2012, after completing my first Olympic distance triathlon (as a total non-swimmer) a single thought inspired me to sign up for my first  – “Holy crap, you just swam a mile! You should totally sign up for a half iron right now while you can swim a mile, cuz what’s another .2?!” 6 weeks later I was doing my first. Never mind that the oly race was my only open water swim and I couldn’t even move in the 59° water…Wow! 56 miles on the bike is so much further than 26 miles!

So, now I have no bliss of ignorance. But I do have more appropriate training. I have an awesome respect for the distances. And I think it’s possibly this respect that has me a little nervous. I hope to show up tomorrow to race on the course – last time I just wanted to survive (and shake off the hypothermia). I’d like to be able to manage my pace and my nutrition so that I can race the whole course. But I’ve it before.

So what’s the worst thing that happens? I don’t hit my pace goals for some reason or another – I will learn. Just like everyone else who is now a veteran of the longer courses. That’s cool.

Ok, so world… I’m doing a 70.3 tomorrow. Holy crap!

peace - love - 70.3

Cranberry Trifest, IV

milestonesThe Cranberry Trifest is this weekend. This is my milestone race. Like I mark my kids’ growth on the doorway on their birthdays each year, this where measure my progress as a triathlete.

Cranberry 2011 – My first-ever olympic distance sign-up.
I had a good running base from doing the Boston Marathon with Team in Training. We usually cycled a decent amount in the summer. Hurricane IreneI’d have access to a pool – I’d never swum further than a ½ mile and hadn’t done that in a decade, but I felt comfortable enough about the other two.   The week before the race, I decided to rent a wetsuit. (I’d never been in one before) It was a very busy week at work, so I never got to try it out. My training was all about being able to complete each distance.  Speed wasn’t a consideration, at all.

Hurricane Irene canceled the race –DNS. There was no triathlon for me in 2011, but I was hell bent on trying out the wetsuit.

Cranberry 2012 – Do-over.  Same training approach: Run a lot, bike a lot, swim some.
I quickly broadcast my newbie status by racking my bike in the wrong place. And that’s when I fell in love with the triathlon scene. Two very supportive racers helped me find my (clearly marked) spot and answered all my newbie questions. They were amazing and I was so nervous. I thanked them both for being so nice. As they left for the swim, one of them turned to me, pointed to the other and said, “And just so you know, she’ll probably be on the podium today.”  That moment still sticks with me. There she was helping me and treating me like a peer, the whole time.Pedaling and smiling all the way

The swim was fine.  I survived being swum over by the men in the heat behind us. (I didn’t need to swim backstroke, at all.) Getting out of the wetsuit was hilarious. The bike was gorgeous.  There wasn’t a picture from that day where I wasn’t smiling on my bike.  I did lose all my nutrition from my pockets. The run not awful, the lead feeling in my legs was brief. My goal was to finish.  I did. 2:57:58.

I was hooked. I was so fired up that I signed up for a Half Iron Man six weeks later.  (That’s a different story)

Cranberry 2013 – My first “triathlon season”.  I’d  done 3 sprints and 1 oly that summer. Cranberry 2013 Finish I’d started swimming in April, and had joined a group of open water swimmers. I started cycling earlier, too.  My nervousness was now just the pre-race anxiety that I’ve always had.  I arrived and met the same two women from the previous year.

It felt like coming home. Everything went so much smoother than the previous year. I was comfortable in my wetsuit and in the water.  The bike was still my weak spot, but the route is so pretty through Lakeville, that getting passed didn’t bother me. The run was hot again.  I had hoped to feel stronger on the run, but held a good pace. My goal was to finish and improve my time over the previous year. I did. 2:43:03.

Cranberry 2014 – 2 days away. This will be my 3rd Olympic of the 2014 season. I haven’t raced since Lowell in July, but I’ve been working with a great coach this year and feel stronger than I ever have. My training has had lots of ups and downs around family situations, but it’s been steady. I’m excited for this weekend to see where I will measure on my door frame.

My coach is this awesome!

Kelsey Abbott wins Rev3 Venice OlympicI posted about starting with a new coach last week, or so.

I wanted to clarify her awesomeness.  Not only is my coach, Kelsey, awesome – she is this awesome! 

This is Kelsey. Overall female finisher for the 2013 Rev3 Olympic Distance Triathlon. She is amazing and I am completely honored that she’s coaching me this season.

Unexpected Joys of Running

Monster Inc.
image courtesy of Pixar

Sully and Mike Wizowski were right.  There’s more energy in laughter.

This past Sunday, I ran the Ashland Half Marathon.  The plan was to leave the garmin at home and run in a tutu and fairy wings,  1. It was so close to Halloween and 2. To remind myself that I was doing this one for fun.  Somewhere, maybe 15 yards past the start line, I started making plans to ditch the wings which were flapping all around.

And then I ran past a group of spectators.  The youngest were toddlers.  I was unprepared for their un-containable excitement.  There were squeals and smiles and exclamations – “mom, look there’s a fairy!”  Wow!  You can’t get that from from two cups of coffee!  And it was contagious – I smiled.  All the runners around me smiled – and we kept running.

13.1 (hilly) miles.  It never stopped.  The squeals, the excitement, the smiles.  They came from toddlers most readily, but there were no shortages from parents and grandparents. Each and every time it happened – I smiled wider and felt a surge of energy.  The wings kept flapping and bumping my arms, but there was no way I could ditch them, anymore.  I was hooked on this and I was actually having a blast  – running a half marathon.

When the race was done, I waited in line for my complimentary massage. It was such a hilly course, my quads were burning and my hamstrings were tight, as expected.  But for the first time, I was aware of sore muscles where I’ve never felt sore.  My cheeks.  The muscles in my cheeks were actually tight and ached from smiling for 13.1 miles.

I accomplished my race goal for Sunday – “have fun.”  And as an added bonus, powered by laughter and joy, I also set a new half marathon PR.  Go figure.

I may re-examine my perspective on endurance and trying hard.

Alex running in a tutu
this is why my cheek muscles ached.