Wausau Woodson Triathlon

It feels like I’ve been chasing an age group award in short course triathlon for quite some time. I haven’t been on any specific plan to accomplish it, but I knew it was possible. Earlier this Summer I came close with 6th at Capitol View Triathlon and 4th at Triterium Triathlon, which technically should have been 3rd, but I won’t revisit that mix up right now. Instead I want to celebrate my first age group award at Wausau Woodson YMCA Triathlon!

Wausau Woodson Triathlon is a course that I did in 2011, I was in a younger age group at that point, 29! It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing triathlons that long. It’s kind of crazy that it took me five years to place considering how often I read “I did my first triathlon today and won an age group award!” by other triathlon bloggers. Oh my god, it was driving me crazy reading that over and over while I’ve been trying so hard to get there!

A brief recap of the race…

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The swim is in a very small man-made lake. The water was warm enough to go without a wetsuit, and I knew it was a beach start swim. Knowing this I practiced running into a lake and swimming as fast as possible the week prior. I’m glad I did! I got in front of my wave, and when they yelled “Go!” I flung myself into the water and swam fast. No breathing or heart rate issues! I got out in 7:07, my fastest 400 yard swim split this year, and possibly to date!

T1 was 1:30, didn’t bother with bike gloves or socks for a short course.

The bike course was 17 miles. I didn’t remember it being this hilly five years ago, I was not mentally prepared for the hills the course had! It was also a bit windier than I expected. I was passing people, but also getting passed by girls that I assumed were in my age group. They don’t mark your age on your calf at this race, it was hard to know! Somewhere around mile eight I gave up a little mentally. My moment of “quit” lasted briefly, I got my head on right and did what I could to get my average mph up! Off the bike with 17.5 mph average.

T2 was 1:40, had to finagle with socks for the run!

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This is the start of the run

The run is flat and offers no shade from the sun. It was getting hot! I did my best not to let the heat bother me and ran as strong as I could. First split was 8:44, not where I wanted to be. Second split was 9:14, crap, slowing down wasn’t what I wanted to do either! Third was 8:43, total 5k time 27:07. It was tough to run strong and stay mentally strong while not knowing how old anyone was out there. The other tricky part was that the waves were at random, not by age. I wasn’t confident that I had a chance at an age group award during the run.

After I finished I went to the bus where the preliminary results were posted and I was second. I knew not to get too excited about that because there was a couple waves behind mine. I tried to eat the complimentary lunch, but I was so anxious waiting for the final results. We re-checked several times and my placing didn’t budge. It wasn’t until they started to announce the age group winners that it became real.

She announced the 30-34 third place winner and my heart was pounding. I was shooting for third to begin with. When she announced my name as second my heart pounded harder, but I was so relieved! And so HAPPY!! Finally!!

I was 11th overall female out of 63, and 2nd in my age group out of 6. Yes, it’s a small race, but it doesn’t make this any less meaningful to me. It makes me want to continue to keep working on improving myself, and maybe go back again in five years to get first!

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The award was a bottle of Root beer and some moisture wicking socks.

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Our Own Team

This morning I quietly slid out of bed and did my best not to disturb the dogs and spouse so they could sleep in. I hopped on my bike at 7:00am. This just might be a record time on a Sunday for me. I didn’t have a plan, any certain mileage to get, I just wanted to get out there! I rode from my home to the stem of the Ironman WI bike course. The roads were all mine!

After the ride I slid into my running shoes to make it a brick. The first few seconds of the run I felt myself wanting to slog through it, but I told myself “Get uncomfortable, get faster” so I picked up the pace. I did two fast miles, 8:35 and 8:28. For me, this is a huge WOW!! I only did two miles because I have a sprint triathlon this coming Saturday that I do plan to race, all out, uncomfortable, huffing and puffing, propelling myself forward as fast as I possibly can.

After my brick John suggested that we go out and practice beach swim starts since I had such a rough start an Ironman 70.3 Racine. He’s so thoughtful, and smart, because I wouldn’t have thought “Gee I should practice that”

When we got to the beach, the plan was to do a running start from the beach and dive into the water and swim as fast as I can for 400 yards. The first attempt was not so good, I had that same heart-pounding, gasping for air feeling I did at Racine. The second one went better except for the mouthful of water I took in and had to stop and choke on that. Then the third attempt was a huge confidence boost. It was 265 yards that read a 1:10 per 100 yd average on my Garmin. The fourth was 365 yards with a 1:15 per 100 yd average. A huge takeaway I got from this exercise was finding a starting pace that works for me.

Another thing that blossomed out of this is that John and I had a conversation about our unhealthy habits on the drive to/from the beach. We drink, a lot. Too much. I will admit this openly, it’s no secret. We’re going to cut back on that, limit alcoholic drinks to one night a week. This is going to be SO GOOD for my waistline and my wallet!

We’re a full year and fifty some days until Ironman Wisconsin 2016, but I am so excited to have John as a training partner next Summer. During my ride this morning I rode past the Monona Terrace where I saw a few triathlon teams training. I used to feel some jealousy towards teams, but this morning for the first time I didn’t. I felt a tiny bit braver, knowing that I have been doing this alone. On my own will I’ve done the miles, nobody depending on me, except for me. Now I have my best friend, my spouse. We are our own team. Together, we’re going to go beyond limits we didn’t know we had.

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Ironman 70.3 Racine 2015

Fifty miles on the bike is too far to worry about your spouse who started in a wave 20 minutes behind me, and 57 miles is too far for a half iron distance triathlon. That’s what I learned at Ironman 70.3 Racine.

For the first time since 2011 when I started triathlon, I had a scare in my swim start. I started in the front, and took off wayyy too fast. Maybe 100 yards in I was gasping for air and my heart rate was entirely too high. I had to flop onto my back to collect myself, meanwhile being thrashed into by the hundred swimmers who started behind me. I was shocked at myself to think “I need a kayak back, I can’t do this” because I’m a strong swimmer! I’m not really a quitter either.

I doggie-paddled for a bit, tried a side stroke, back stroke, and finally after the first turn buoy I got back to my regular strong swimmer self and took off. I was able to catch up to the next two swim cap colors, so I thought maybe I made up enough of my lost time in my swim start biff, but my swim finish time was 37 minutes. It’s a decent swim time, but I know I could have done 35 minutes or less if I didn’t have an out of character panic attack in the start.

T1 is a fairly long haul from the lake to the transition area. I ran it knowing that in previous years my T1 time was always grossly long. It still took 5:03.

On the bike my legs felt heavy to start and it was windier than the weather forecast promised. I didn’t fight it, just did what I could. My Garmin read an average anywhere between 16.8 to 17.2 mph. I was okay with that, for not pushing very hard. My friend Jeff passed me somewhere after mile 10, so I expected John to be passing at any moment as well. Mile 20, 30, 40, where the hell is John? I started to really worry about him getting out of the swim. If I struggled in the swim, he obviously drowned in it! What if he DNF’ed? What if he quits triathlon? Worrying about him really put a strain on my energy levels. How the heck was I going to run 13.1 knowing he didn’t finish?

Finally mile 50 he passed me, I yelled at him, “What took so long? I was so worried!”  He didn’t slow down to explain, he just blew past. But seeing him lifted me back up and I started to book it at 20+ mph and got my Garmin average to read 17.5 by the end. It’s too bad the course was a mile too long, because the official results show 17.2 mph.

Some how we both exited T2 at the same time. We giggled down the T2 chute and he took off into the distance. The run felt just like it normally does, hot, hard, slow, sluggish. I managed to run all of it and only walk through aid stations. With it being 84 degrees, sunny, it was necessary to cool down at the aid stations. My splits were reading 10:40s. I want to get my 70.3 run down to 10:00 minute miles, but given the heat, survival comes first. At mile 11 I did half marathon math and saw it was possible to PR the run, so I picked up my pace as best as I could. I squeaked in just under 2:20, making it a 1 minute 70.3 run PR.

It’s also an eight minute course PR! This was my sixth half iron distance race, third time in Racine. It’s a fickle sport, anything can happen. I know I’ve improved since my first one in 2012, and the desire to keep getting better grows with each race.

I’m also really proud of John and glad he continues to kick ass in his race!

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So many triathlons, so little time

When I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Racine I wasn’t thinking training logistics, I was just thinking ALL THE TRIATHLONS!! Well, and John really wanted to squeeze another half iron distance in this year, so we signed up! Then when I took a closer look at the calendar I realized how little time I had between Toughman 70.3 and Racine, just one little month. In that month I had to recover from Toughman since it was my A-race, and went on a little vacation where I couldn’t bring my bike, and somehow get some quality miles in before a short one week taper.

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It was tough, but at the moment I’m pleased with how things panned out. I PR’ed my A-race, got THISclose to age grouping at a sprint triathlon the weekend after, enjoyed my vacation, and am in the middle of a good week of quality training. Just a few more good workouts before I taper for Racine.

Yesterday during a slow, easy seven mile run I was thinking about what I expect out of Racine. It’s hard to predict considering I had a busy June training and racing schedule, but I’m thinking I’m going to leave it all on the course. It’s my last long distance triathlon this year. It’s flat, I’m feeling fairly confident, maybe I can snag another PR?

Triterium Sprint Triathlon

I raced(?)/participated in my fourth triathlon this month on Saturday morning. With it being just one week after a 70.3 that I did race and PR at, and then take a full week off of workouts, I had no goals going into it. Just show up, enjoy the triathlon fun!

The triathlon was Triterium Triathlon in Verona, WI. I did the Olympic distance in 2013, and I remember it being very difficult two years ago. Two years ago I was a much weaker cyclist, and it poured crazy, bad rain. On Saturday it was a perfect 70 degree day with little wind, little humidity, and I like seeing the sun!

It felt weird to not overthink packing my gear and setting up transition. That’s what happens when this triathlon thing becomes routine I guess. My transition was set up promptly, and I spent the rest of my pre-race morning chatting with my triathlon buddies.

Thankfully the swim was an in-water start. I placed myself next to the buoy line and behind one girl. The gun went off and I took off like I normally do, except I didn’t feel like I was ahead of the white swim caps. There were quite a few people passing me. It felt off, I probably shouldn’t have worn a wetsuit!

T1 was the usual, fight with the wetsuit, and go! The bike course is tough. John asked me to compare it to Capitol View Triathlon, but it’s apples to oranges. The thing that makes Capitol View Triathlon’s bike course tough is that you can’t take your downhills at full speed, because there’s a sharp turn at the bottom of that hill, and then go straight up another hill. That’s really hard! At Triterium you get non-stop hills, but you get to ride those downhills. Within the first ten minutes of my ride I realized that my legs were still fatigued from the 70.3 last weekend, so I took it easy. No sense in fighting fatigue.

T2 was quick, just socks, shoes, running belt, and GO!! The run course was immediately confusing. There was three-way traffic. What the heck. It was so weird, and I wondered where this three-way traffic was leading. I was running comfortably strong, passing several people. I tried to be encouraging as I passed, but I just don’t have a cheerful voice when I’m running. It probably comes off the wrong way. I’m probably overthinking that.

When I got to the end of the road there was a turn around, or a turn to the left. I did the turn around, which was the right choice. If you guessed left, you cheated yourself and only ran approximately 2 miles. I know this because I have a friend that accidentally went left. Why wasn’t there a volunteer here giving directions to disoriented runners? It’s completely frustrating looking at the results and seeing people with 20 minute run times, but slower swim and bike times. There’s a chance they are super gifted at running, but it’s more likely they didn’t do the full 3.1 miles.

I did my full 3.1 miles, and finished feeling pretty good about my results. The timing receipt read that I was 5th in my age group! A huge goal of mine is to win an age group award, so I was pleased to see how close I came while still recovering from a 70.3.

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Speaking of my goal of age group placing, I only have one sprint distance race left this year to compete for that, in my current age group. I’ll enter a new age group in 2016! I peeked at the next age group division results to see how I would have done in that division…Outlook not so good. I’m going to really have to work a lot harder next year to get there. Let’s not worry about that right now though, let’s celebrate this finish!

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Toughman 70.3

It took me three years to shave 14 minutes off of my best 70.3 finish time. Either I’m super lazy, or this sport is tough! Let’s go with it’s tough. All the variables with three disciplines, not to mention how to fuel, how to taper, how to peak, practicing those transitions, etc, etc..

So Toughman 70.3 was my A race this season, I wanted to PR. My goal was as close to 6 hours as possible, but at least finish in 6:15. I nailed 6:15 on the head with six seconds to spare. Hooray! The race is held at High Cliff State Park, it’s formerly known as High Cliff 70.3. For whatever reason they changed the name to Toughman WI. I’ll have a whole other blog post on my feelings about the race organization later. For now, I’m recapping my day.

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Saturday morning I woke up to a chilly 50 degrees in a tent. We camped at the park over night. Brrr. It messes with my head waking up to that cold of a morning! “Do I need my shrug? Arm warmers? A jacket on the bike?”  I really don’t need any of those things, but my entire body is so uncomfortably cold while trying to get ready for the race that I can’t think rationally. When we arrived to the race site, I got my head on right. I set up my transition area, chatted with other nervous triathletes, got my wetsuit on, kissed John good-bye before he started in his wave, and I was up next.

The swim start coral is dumb. It’s this tiny fenced in area, where they squeeze 50 people in, and it’s a narrow opening to get in and out of it. I much prefer an in-water swim start to this. Once the gun went off, all 50 people run about 200 yards into the water before actually swimming. My swim went fine, with the exception of goggle problems. My goggles fogged up and I refused to stop and clear them, so I swam pretty blindly. I got punched in the head at the last buoy, right after a moment of thinking “This is boring, when will it end?”

When I got to the shore I was happy to see wetsuit strippers, and flopped down to let them do the work for me. Then trotted conservatively up the hill to T1. Right here I want to note that the timing mat is not on the shore where it should be, it’s up a hill at the T1 entrance. My swim time includes wetsuit stripping and a lazy trot up a hill.

My bike ride didn’t start off as strong as I thought it would. I was conservative with energy. A big concern I had with this course is how flat it is compared to what I train on in the Verona, Cross Plains and Mt Horeb area. A flat course means more pedaling than I’m used to. When I got to mile 25 I kicked it in and started to push myself. The tail wind was amazing. I watched my mph average on my Garmin keep going up, up, up! As joyous as the tail wind was, it was not as ideal for the head wind. The last 3 miles were into brutal 15 mph wind that rattled my bike. I still managed to end my ride with 17.7 mph!

I had heard the run course changed this year, but I’m not good with maps, especially maps of trails that I’m not completely familiar with. The first half mile of the run course is a 500 ft climb up a path that leads to an observation tower. It was not run-able, to me. Had to walk it. When I finally got to the top of the bluff, it was a three loop course. On the first loop I took it easy, trying to get my legs to work after the bike. I thought my second loop would be mentally challenging, but it was my strongest. I was running efficiently, passing people, everything felt great.

On the third loop I felt myself slowing down, things beginning to get harder. I knew my PR was possible as long as I kept moving forward, so that’s what I did. My run goal was 2:15, but by mile 8 my Garmin stats were discouraging. It was mile 11 that zapped me. There’s a grassy, slightly uphill section that just messes with my head. I walked it! But seeing that sweet mile 12 marker and doing Garmin math got me moving more quickly again. The last mile is all downhill. I let gravity take me to the finish.

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I used black electrical tape to cover the sponsor and add 70.3 on the top. I can’t stand that the medal doesn’t say anything about it being a triathlon.

With lots of hard work, I earned my PR!

(There’s a lack of race photos because my dear husband did the 70.3 too. He kicked ass!)

My 2014 High Cliff 70.3 Recap

Capitol View Sprint Triathlon

Capitol View Triathlon.. where do I start? There are a few different ways I want to recap this race because it’s a special one to me. It was my first ever triathlon back in 2011 after coming back from severe runner’s knee. I was a complete noob, I hardly got on my bike before the race, and assured John “No big deal, it’s going to be soooo easy!”  It wasn’t easy, I got some humble pie, and then began my addiction of triathlon. Looking back, from then until now, I’m in awe of how far I’ve come. (2011 race recap here)

For this year, I had only signed up for the race a week beforehand. What in the world was I thinking? Did I really think I would not do this race? Of course I would. So it wasn’t penciled in on my training plan for my A-race next weekend, Toughman WI 70.3. With taper on the brain, my intentions were to take Capitol View easy, practice transitions, and just enjoy being surrounded by triathletes.

When I arrived at the race site on Sunday morning I was pleased to see glass calm lake Mendota, waiting for triathletes to make waves! In my wave I tried to get as close to the front as possible, and when the “gun” went off, I took off like a wild woman. With how smooth the lake was, I pulled away from my wave with ease. Around the first buoy I turned and saw a blur of purple swim caps behind me. Right next to me was a girl doing the breast stroke at the same speed as my freestyle swim. What the heck? I was having a hell of a time trying to pass her, but on the next buoy turn I lost her, I think. Who knows. All I know is that I was 2nd of my AG out of the water and that makes me giddy!

My T1 went better than last weekend in Lake Mills, got it done in less than 2 minutes. Tearing the wetsuit off quickly is tough!

On the bike I was happy there was no wind to fight, but I did have the challenge of a hilly course. With knowing I have a 70.3 this coming Saturday I didn’t push it very hard on the bike. Just used it as “easy” speed-work, if there’s such a thing? A gentle reminder to my legs that they can be speedy. It was only 10 miles too. When I got back to T2 I saw that my bike was the third on the rack. “Oh, maybe I’m doing pretty good?” I thought to myself.

That thought kept me moving as quickly as I possibly could, but it was a slow one! It had rained the night before, the run course is on trails, and in some spots the mud was slick like ice. Besides the slippery mud spots, the run course offers some challenging hills too. I was a little mad at my legs considering I’ve been training on that course for the last few weeks!

I’m happy with my finishing numbers with all things considered

Swim 400 yards –  7:27
T1  –  1:49
Bike 10 miles  –  38:10, 15.7 mph
T2  –  1:28
Run 3.1 miles  –  31:13, 10:04 min/mile (urgh)
Total  –  1:20:10
AG  –  6/20

I’m glad I signed up for the race last minute, it’s become a can’t-miss event for me. I can’t say enough good things about the race and its organizers!

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My friend Becca & I excited for the day!

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John placed 3rd in his age group!

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A sprint triathlon that gives an awesome medal! I love medals!

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Happy finisher!