Tag: triathlon

Lowell Mill City – Race Report

Lowell Mill CityLocal, fun, and such nice people!

The preparation:  Relaxed. I love my checklist. No thinking. I had everything on race day.

Race morning: Triathalife is what happens when you’re making other plans. (a theme?)
The link for directions didn’t get me all the way to the race – close, but miles away. I looked on the website for the venue address – nothing! Oh man did I need a bathroom, so I drove around looking for a Dunkins – uncomfortable! Eventually I saw a car with a tri bike cross in front of me – sweet! I made a left turn and sped off in the same direction. The car was out of sight by then, but eventually I see traffic cones – and then I see the race organizer – YAY! I park the car and walk urgently to the bathroom – Ugh!  I didn’t arrive at my planned time I and still needed to do the walk back to the car to get my bike and gear. I practiced my breathing and letting go (aka “not freaking out”) and settled in to what I had available for time.

The venue & transition set-up: This was a small race, so transition set up was easy, everyone was helpful and accommodating with space.

On the beach:  Still messin’ w/ the new Garmin. All buttons, no warm up, I know better.

The swim: Ugh, I feel like I’m swimming upstream.
Merrimack River SwimOk, I was swimming upstream. We were in the Merrimack River and this was my first river swim. The lack of warm up means my breathing needs to catch up to my effort. On the positive side, I‘ve practiced this, so I’m able to stay cool and at the edge of what I can handle until just past the turn-around for the sprint. While swimming, I can’t figure out why people aren’t near the buoys and everyone’s over by the wall – weird. (I’m told after the race that the river veterans know that they’re more protected from the current there.) With 2 buoys ahead I feel queasy or dizzy or seasick.  The whole river is rocking – not good. (I learned after the race that boats were passing, making wakes) At the turn around, I have my breathing and my stroke in a happy place and the water has stopped rocking.  I head back with much more strength and the current working with me. (Apparently, the swim was over a mile – so later I will feel better about my time.)

T1: I ran right past my shoes
I wore earplugs to see if I could manage my post-swim dizziness better. It seems to work – no dizziness. I was happy that I covered my calves in Glide; it was much easier to get the wetsuit off. All in all a pretty uneventful T1 – Yay! (So uneventful that I didn’t hit the button on my Garmin, either)

The bike: Challenge #1 & thanks for my bike angel
I felt ready. I was going for my first 20 mph average oly. The initial straightaway on the main road without hills was awesome! I worried about my run after pushing for over an hour, but rationalized that this was research and it was time to find out what happens I push 20 for 26 miles. My goal was to stay in aero as much as possible. There were some hills where I kept my left arm on the bar and body low, but moved my right hand wide to the brake and this was enough to make me feel in control. There was a long section where I didn’t see other riders and where sections of the roads were in rough shape. The volunteers were awesome.
Lowell Mill City TriathlonSomewhere near the end of the first loop, I realized that my aero bottle had cracked and water was leaking on to my legs. It wasn’t too hot, so I figured I’d be fine, but pushed up my second snack to make sure I’d have water left to wash it down. At the end of the first loop I felt strong – and overall time was aligned with my goal of finishing in 1:18 or less. On the 2nd loop, a strong female cyclist (#714) passed me. It was perfect timing; she became my bike angel. I kept her in sight and tried to mimic her lines and channel her strength.  She did bring a drafting male caboose with her. He was on my wheel for several minutes. He kept calling “car back” like we were on a weekend group ride. Eventually he passed and grabbed my bike angel’s wheel again, before moving on – very odd.  My average coming into transition was 19.7 – I was quite happy. So close!

T2: nothing notable
Belt on, sneakers on, run. Too smooth – I paused to figure out what I’d forgotten.

The run: I really wanted to hit my goal…
I got to run with the Hoyts! How cool is that?! I ran with the Hoyts! It was awesome and an honor.
I don’t know exactly why I passed on my run snack. It had something to do with the intersection of too much time on the internet the night before and the bike being shorter than Quassy. It wasn’t my best thinking. (Even if it’s all in my head. I like knowing I’ve had a hit of energy that will sustain my last 30ish minutes – 100 calories at mile 2 would have been terrific.)
I needed to quiet my thoughts and encourage my body at lot. I kept re-setting to “good form”.  I can’t ever know if anything would have been different (other than not having the “what if”) but I have a hunch that I won’t skip my mile 2 snack again. On the way out to the turn-around, I had this thought, that Olympic distance really wasn’t my thing, I’m not good at them– I should stick to the sprints. “What was I thinking?”
As I got to the turn around – I realized that I only saw 3 women go by in the other direction and felt sure the closest was on a relay (she was). Hmmn, maybe I’m ok at the oly distance.  The return felt long.  It wasn’t the crazy alp like hills of Quassy – just one long slight hill until the last ¾ of a mile.  It became mental/physical challenge and my legs were tightening. The last mile felt long and I wondered if I’d slow or walk. Then I saw the relay woman, who was just ahead of me, completely miss the left turn around the parking lot.  I hollered for her to “turn – turn – turn!”  When my yelling finally registered, she came back on course. I was happy to be competing and supporting. This is what I love about triathlon.
Lowell Mill City TriThis interaction of cooperation/competition fueled a final kick and a strong finish – and then I ran right into the river to cool down.  I really had nothing left – I’d pushed and given everything I had. Ahhhh – this feels awesome!  (In review, my lap paces told the same story – I had a 7:30 average after the first 2 miles and slowed from there – the last full mile was over 8:00 – the last .2 @ 7:20)

The finish:
By the Numbers:
Swim: 21 / 33:00 / 2:05 T1: 2:25 Bike: 23 / 1:17:11 / 2:58 T2: 1:03 Run: 15 / 48:28 / 7:49 Total: 2:42:09
3rd Overall & 1 cool new bowl

Letting Go of the Perfect Workout

inTent on VacationWhat’s wrong with this picture? It’s a beautiful day. No rain, no snow, mild temperatures in the mid-70s…and I’m on a fluid trainer. While I spin away at least ten other “riders” cycle past me…on my fluid trainer.

As they pass, I think about how I “should” be on the road today. I try to rework the day’s schedule in my head. I should’ve gotten up earlier so I could’ve done both my swim and my ride. I should’ve done the ride in the early morning and then squeezed the pool into the afternoon plans, somehow. I sure Kelsey would be on the road today.  Ugh, if I was really as committed to my training…

What you can’t see in this picture are my kids, but they’re there. They’re on the other side of the screen door, mostly getting along nicely. In addition to training, I have the secondary task of refereeing. Will bonked Hannah on the head. Hannah’s not letting Will see the screen and he can’t see the video. Will’s turn is longer than Hannah’s.

The whining and peace-keeping adds an interesting dimension to intervals. For sure it isn’t perfect.  It is damn good, though.

So why do I do this to myself? I was in the pool at 6:00am and had a great workout. I’m here on my trainer, working hard and focusing on my goal to improve my cycling strength. And I’m beating myself up by comparing myself to stories that I’m making up about other people. Contrary to some competitive thinking – this isn’t motivating me to dig in and train harder. I’m just feeling badly about the good work that I’m doing, right now.

No one likes feeling this way. I don’t want to ruin the workout. It’s time to “cough up that hairball” of crappy thinking and refocus.

 1. I’m an amateur athlete. I compete against other amateur athletes. We all have lives and responsibilities outside of triathlon. I like this about my fellow tri peeps.
2. I have other options. I could add more childcare, but I really don’t want to. I choose to mash-up my training with my family life. It makes me happy.
3. It’s called a PR. Personal Record. It’s not a record for training in someone else’s life or anyone else’s body. It’s doing my best with my own life, my own training, my own ability, and my own circumstances.

Hairball gone, I focus on pushing through the burning in my legs. I enjoy the view of the salt marshes across the road and the occasional cyclist and runner passing. I smile at the complaints about the slow internet and stalled videos as they sail through the screen door.  I take extra special pleasure in my 10 year old daughter’s warning that people are going look at me funny in the driveway. I’m letting go of perfect, and it’s damn good.

As a sports performance coach, I know this stuff. As a human being, I forget, I’m human.

Cycling Heat & Science

Hot enough to fry an eggIt’s just hot. It would have been ideal if I ‘d gotten out on my bike earlier, of course. But the best ride is the one you get, sometimes. I grab my  mostly white Craft kit and head out during the hottest part of the day.

At least I’ll be moving. I”ll have a breeze. It will be like windchill. In my head I start trying to remember how wind chill is calculated. I have this vague recollection that it was recently simplified so that 1 mile per hour of wind lowers the temperature 1 degree. I keep my mind occupied for at least 20 minutes. If I’m moving at an 18 mph average, then 91 degrees less 18 would be a “real feel” of 73. Heck, that’s totally acceptable.

As much as I try, I just can’t convince myself of this 73 degree feeling.  It is hot.  After an hour, the black on my shorts has heated up. It’s hotter than the heat coming of the black asphalt – at least 110 degrees.  It’s uncomfortable. My skin hurts.

Damn, I’m hot in these shorts!

Wind chillIn case anyone was thinking of using a similar wind chill theory – it doesn’t work.
I got home and googled up a windchill calculator.

What!? How is it possible that 92 degrees with an 18mph wind calculates to 99 degrees? I don’t understand this science. Clearly science can be dangerous in the hands of an amateur athlete.


Ashland Sprint = Race Stories

I was still feeling the impact of Quassy (2 weeks prior) in my muscles, but most importantly, my Quassy experience was still in my mind and heart.

The prep: Transition is 4 miles from my house. We have an 8:30 start. I have plenty of time in the morning.  I don’t have to leave until 7:00. La,la,la¯ – lackadaisical. I’m again happy I have my new handy-dandy checklist. Very useful when I’m stopping to smell the flowers everywhere. I arrived with everything I needed/wanted for the race.

Pre-race:  Transition was very bubbly and friendly. The 40+ ladies were all supporting each other with set-up tips and compliments on tri kits. Kristin & I walked down to the water at 8:00 (I remembered my inhaler!  During the walk down, I kept saying, “this is such a longer walk through the woods than I remember from last year.” It really was a long, root & boulder filled trail with some pretty steep sections. I felt happy that I remembered my crappy old sneakers. Kristin stayed dry for as long as possible. I hopped in for a nice long warm-up. The water was great – 68 or so.

The swim: I was feeling good from my warm-up, so I confidently put myself in the front part of the wave.  And then immediately cracked up at myself – my goggles were still up on my cap. I rock! I pulled them down and had my own little eye soak for the swim. No worries.  I’m all about keeping it real. The waves were only spaced 3 minutes apart, so I found myself swimming through a lot of white caps pretty quickly. I’m getting better at moving around people without stopping the swimming part. I came out of the water with only caps from the wave in front of mine. I was the 5th female out. Who would’ve thunk?

The trail run to T1: They should make this section of the race into a stage and give prizes. I’m not sure how long it is – guessing 1/3 of a mile? Used earplugs – less dizzy, but still a little off balance getting my feet into sneakers.

T1: I wasn’t dizzy when I got to my bike, so getting my bottom half out of the wet suit was much easier. Right sock went on easily – left one, not so much. Need more baby powder.

 AshBikeThe ride: Don’t know if it was the run up to transition, but quads actually felt heavy – this is different. Spun up the first hill and they felt clear pretty quickly. It was windy. I had a moment of doubt – “should I have switched out my wheels? Do I wish I had non-aero?”  But moved passed it quickly. I was on home turf for a good deal of the ride – so I knew every pothole and how to avoid them. The wind was Quassy-like. The course was shorter, but sections of the hills were very Quassy like (sans the 5mph hill) I had a great ride. This seems to be a trend.  *Note to self – don’t mess with things on your bike the night before a race. I moved my straw on my aero bottle – this made hydrating a get out of the saddle event– pain in the arse.

T2: I mis-judged the dismount location – that was awkward. But was in and out decently. Forgot to start the Garmin in the awkwardness – but found satellites quickly.

AshRunThe run: Here we go…The uphill start isn’t very entertaining, but it feels like a good place to start to figure out my hip flexor situation. I pretty much abandoned the Garmin and decided to run by flexor feel. I was happy to be feeling so strong to this point. Everything felt good. I didn’t want to push to the point where I was nursing an injury, again.  I wanted to be right on the edge of what I had to give and being protective of my recent injury and the state of recovery that I was still in. What a difference between this and last year. Last year was so hard and so painful. This year the run was hard, but a good strong and not suffering feeling.  I was immensely grateful for my health and the strength I’ve built.  I was past the first mile of the out and back, and still hadn’t seen any other females. By the time I made the halfway turn around, I knew that there were just 5 in front of me. I’ve never finished in the top 5 overall before. This became my new game – let’s go see. I passed 2 women on the hill to mile 2 – I was in the top 5 overall.  (Inside smile.) Kristin and I gave each other high 5s as we passed. I felt happy – she looked strong and was smiling. I was really pleased by how my legs felt – even up the last hill. The run home was all downhill. I just took the brakes off and cruised home – trusting that I was reading my flexor and was fast-ish and listening well.

The finish: Jason was right at the finish. I got a big hug. He said, “wow – there weren’t very many women done yet. I think one of them was on a mixed relay. I’m pretty sure you’re in the top 3.” Another big hug.AshTri

Oh, and I sure did bring my medal to work with my on Monday. I do love it. I just keep smiling and thinking 47. I’m 47 and look at this. The joys of being a late bloomer.

REV3 Quassy Olympic – late race report

Rev3 Quassy FinishRace Report: R3Q Oly – Thar be hills!

The preparation: I hate packing.
I made it easier by (finally) creating a packing master list. Everything was laid out Thursday night.  I had everything I needed AND didn’t have any weird forgot my wet suit dreams.

The departure: Triathlaife is what happens when you’re making other plans.
Hubby coming down with the stomach bug wasn’t part of my plan.  Getting a bit of the bug myself, was worrisome (like all I could think about was poor Uta Pippig).  A 45 minute, pre-race brick allowed me to make a plan B for how I would handle the race if I got it full force. The run gave me confidence that even with a mild bug I could pull off a Quassy finish.

The venue & pre-race : I don’t think mandatory means what i think it means.
They didn’t take attendance– so I’m thinking…  I had a friend, Susan,  to meet up with and tour the expo. ($0 purchases all weekend) The amusement park was cool.  The fried dough was tempting, but I resisted. I was happy I had plastic bags in the car for our saddles.

Race Day: On the beach:  All calm – the water & me.
This is the first race (ever) where I didn’t experience pre-race anxiety. I was clear on my goals. I was here to see what was possible for me on this day with my training on this course. I was here to learn how to move into and through challenge in a new, positive way. I was here because I love this sport and this is my idea of fun. I was aware of my stomach, but confident that I’d been taking care of myself and had a hydration / fueling plan that would give me plenty of energy and not fill my belly too much. ( I hoped)

In the water: At home.
The difference in a year amazes me. (the year-round 5am wake ups paid off) I started near the middle of the pink cap wave. I gave myself enough long, strong strokes to acclimate my breathing to the water temperature. In short time, I felt confident that I had my breathing, my legs felt clear, and I started to move up through the group. I noticed an improvement in my ability to move around other swimmers. I was happy with my sighting on the way out. The portion parallel to the beach was into the sun and I needed a friendly course correction from a nice woman on a kayak. I felt good enough to jog to transition.

T1: Dizzy
I had a hard time standing on one leg to get out of my wet suit and get into socks and shoes.  Transition was slow, but I left with all the gear I needed (mostly).

In the saddle: My biggest challenge – I was here to get over my bad attitude on hills.
My goal was to stay happy and present on the hilliest bike course I’ve ever raced. The first 5 miles went by quickly. (yay!) The route was beautiful with farms along the way. I was able to fuel and hydrate on plan.  The uphills were very challenging, as expected.  The downhills were often too much for my comfort.  If you were biking near me, you would have heard my exasperation when I crested a huge hill and saw the crazy downhill. I had the opposite reaction of most of the people around me on the course. I used my brakes and sat up and just talked myself through my fear. I was passed on most of the down hills and passed many back on the next uphill. I didn’t compare myself to the others or feel badly about my fears – I accepted that this is my current level of comfort and this was a challenging course.  Overall, I stayed positive and didn’t experience the draining negative thoughts that I have previously on hills.  I had the ride I wanted.  I felt strong and powerful and steady.

T2: nothing notable
Visor on, belt on, sneakers on, run.

In my happy place: Running trumps racing
I love running after riding my bike. A lovely net downhill start doesn’t hurt. Within the first ¼ mile I figured out why my vision seemed off on the ride. I had my clear lenses in, not my sunglasses. I make a mental note about prepping. I wish for someone to hand the silly clear lenses to, but then let it go, laugh at myself, and run. The first big hill during the 3rd mile I practiced the mindset of “embracing the hill” as part of the Quassy experience and that the hill is what makes the finish so rich.  I didn’t resent or wish the hill away. I repeated this for each of the 3 major hills and just turned my focus to the footstep on the hill and pulled my body up. On the downhills, I focused on form and not braking. I fueled up, as planned in the 4th mile.
My favorite race moment happened in the 4th mile. Running behind a woman with awesome back muscles, her husband filming her from his bike, I playfully offered to look miserable since she was kicking my butt. We had fun. And then her husband said – “ya know, if you can be doing all that – you should probably be running faster.” ….Oh, right! I cracked myself up! This was a first – I’ve never lost track of the “grind” before.  Off I went. It was a tough course for sure.  But for the first time EVER, racing wasn’t in conflict with my joy of running.

The finish: Hit my sub 3 hour goal: 2:58:21. And most importantly I felt strong, energized, and positive throughout the challenge. This was my Rev3Quassy Olympic – no bad attitude! – mission accomplished.


Pinch me. Is it really the end of May, already? Time since January has evaporated. My words and posts must have evaporated, too.

This break from writing for inTent, was unplanned and has felt beyond my control. My training didn’t come to an end, but it often didn’t match my training plans during the 2nd half of the off-season. What happened?    My life.Triathalife

Triathlon training is a juggling act – the natural state of training in three different sports. And sometimes life throws in more, additional (curve) balls than it’s possible to juggle without something dropping.  This has been my 2014.

While managing family challenges this winter and spring, I missed workouts. Frequently, I easily blamed our ridiculous winter, pool closings, etc. But a good deal of time, my body felt fatigued and I just didn’t “have it” that day. I was in my head a lot, trying to figure out how to get re-inspired and questioning my motivation and my commitment to my goals. I was always hoping the worst was behind us and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But 2014 just continued like a roller coaster ride.

About a month ago, I changed tactics and decided to accept my circumstances as my new norm. I looked at the big picture of my life and my personal values.  Understanding my intentions as a parent, provider, and athlete helped.  I went through my calendar and emails that were waiting for replies and started pulling back from the number of things I was trying to do. It wasn’t easy; I like to help people. But being halfway involved wasn’t really helping anyone. Being realistic about the time I have available for my whole life, has helped a lot.

I grabbed a Triathlete magazine on a recent flight to visit my 94 year old grandmother. The Performance Paradox, by Matt Dixon was the perfect read for me to put all of my 2014 experience with stress into a healthy perspective.

[For amateurs]…the goal is to maximize sporting performance within the restrictions imposed by the need to maintain a balanced and successful life. After all, if you win your local Olympic-distance triathlon but  you get fired, or your spouse leaves you, or your house is repossessed, it would be hard to argue that the win represents “success.” Thus, for most of us, success can be more broadly defined as improving in the sport, performing at work, thriving socially, and nurturing positive relationships (with spouse, partner, children and friends).  With this outlook, the goal of the amateur triathlete should be to maximize training load as one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.  …the full picture of your life inside and outside sport [is] your global stress environment.  The amount of training you undertake needs to fit within the constraints of that environment in order for you to be successful.

Unintentionally, I’d been balancing my global stress.  There were simply periods where my recovery was slower and where non-training stress was enough to create fatigue. This is my triathalife. My training is just “one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.”

The Performance Paradox article was based on elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon's forthcoming book, The Well-Built Triathlete.