Sunday, June 12, 2011

REV3 Knoxville and Quassy Videos

REV3 does a great job with media coverage, including post-race recaps. Here are the links to the Knoxville and Quassy event have to wait until the very end of the Knoxville one for any mention of me (and they slaughter my name but I'm in there nonetheless!) but I get some good coverage on the Quassy video. And they got my name right on that one. :)

REV3 Quassy Trip in Pictures

REV3 Quassy Trip

It's been one week since REV3 Quassy and things have finally settled back into a normal rhythm. Quassy is a race that I've had on my mind for the past year and I'm so glad that everything came together so that I could make the trip back east to compete, visit family, catch up with old friends and make some new ones along the way. It was a very full and fulfilling trip; one that I look forward to repeating next year.

It started with a flight into NYC. Why did I chose to fly in and out of the Big Apple, you might ask? Location, location, location! It was central enough to all the places I wanted to visit while out there so that my furthest drive would not be more than 3 hours. My plan was to visit my friend and once-upon-a-time training partner Rudy (Adam Rudin) whom I had not seen in six years (!!!), not since the last time I did the NYC Triathlon. Rudy also set me up with a place to stay while I was in New a convent! I had to chuckle over this since I am not exactly nun-worthy material, but it ended up being a wonderful place to get a good QUIET night's sleep as my friend Betsy pointed out. It's not actually an active convent anymore and there are only three (non-nun) girls living there at the moment, so there's lots of space to rattle around in. I met two of the girls, Jayne and Terry, both extraordinarily friendly and generous people. Thank you ladies for your hospitality!

After my night in the nunnery I made the drive up to Middlebury, CT, to the race site at Quassy Amusement Park. What a location! Lake Quassapaug is a perfect little piece of water to swim in, the amusement park itself is a friendly size, and the surrounding countryside is picturesque with wonderful leafy green trees and rolling hills. I knew immediately that this course was going to suit me. I did a bit of training and previewed the bike course, then met up with my homestay Kim Dubord later in the day. Thank you Kim and Sheri for adopting me for this race! Kim raced in the Olympic-distance race on Saturday, and both she and Sheri came out to cheer me on in the Half-Rev on Sunday. They were awesome!

Saturday consisted of an early morning run on the rail trail close to Kim's house, a rousing game of frisbee with Hannah the Golden Retriever, then the usual day-before-the-race routine of organizing gear, pre-race meetings, and trying to relax. It helped that Saturday was "movie night" at my homestay house. I finally wound down for bed a little later than I would have liked, but it didn't matter because I barely slept a wink anyway with all the butterflies dancing around in my stomach!

Race morning came early (why do I insist on traveling east to race?!). I was able to get to the race site without any problems (unlike Knoxville) and I had plenty of time to set up my gear and warm up properly before the gun went off. The pro men started at 6:50am and the ladies followed 3 minutes later. The water temperature was just above the allowable limit for professionals to wear wetsuits, so I suited up in my BlueSeventy PointZero3 swimskin. The swim was solid---I was able to build my effort throughout and work my way up to 6th place coming out of the water, right on the feet of defending Hawaii Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae. My transition was quick and I got onto the bike ahead of Rinny, although I almost blew my usually smooth flying mount when one of my cycling shoes flipped and I had a bit of a wobbly struggle to get it righted again. Thank goodness I didn't tip over! That would have been rather embarrassing. I headed out on the bike course and got right to work. I've been putting in a lot of cycling miles lately, what with my commuting routine and doing long rides with my awesome training partner Rich on the weekends, so I was not afraid to attack this course. I overtook a couple of girls within the first few miles then realized that I had company with Rinny and Jessica Meyers right on my tail. We rode in a nice little pack for a while and I was pleasantly surprised to not only hang with them but feel completely in control of the pace. Eventually we reeled in Liz Blatchford; at that point I threw in a little acceleration up a hill and was able to establish a bit of a gap that lasted the rest of the ride. There had been a media crew following us pretty much the whole way, and I assumed it was because Rinny was in the group---the World Champ definitely deserves the coverage! I was a bit surprised that the camera followed me on that break, and it wasn't until somewhere between 35-40 miles when a spectator yelled at me to "go get her!" that it dawned on me that I was in second place!!! Wow, that was a pretty cool position to be in amongst such a tough field of competitors. It was a MASSIVE breakthrough for me...realizing that I can ride with some of the best ladies in the world and, more importantly, giving myself permission to do so.

Hopping off the bike in second place behind the great Julie Dibens at Quassy is hands-down the most exhilarating moment of my triathlon career thus far. But there is still work to be done. My running form is not where it needs to be to compete at the top level in this sport. It was a good run for me considering where my training currently is and how challenging the course was, but there is plenty of room for improvement both physically and mentally in the third leg of the race. I slid from 2nd place to 8th place by the end of the race---a statistic I am not especially pleased with. I would have been absolutely thrilled with a top-five finish at this event; top-eight is a good showing but I am hungry for more and I know what needs to be done to get there. So now it's back to work before the next string of races!

This race was special to me not only for my performance, but also because my Aunt Candy (#1 Philly Fan) was able to make the trip up from New Jersey to cheer and share the experience with me. She is a classically trained singer and knows how to project her voice---a great quality to have in someone rooting for you! After the awards ceremony we hopped in our respective vehicles and caravaned south (through NYC traffic---ugh) to the Philadelphia area where I spent two very special days visiting my relatives in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and getting back to my eastern roots. I visited with my elderly grandparents as well as a smattering of aunts and uncles, and met one of my cousins for the first time ever. I also had the opportunity to go up in the new Comcast tower in Philly (my aunt works there) and meet a bunch of her co-workers, who apparently know all about me and are part of my Philly Fan Club. We also made a side trip to where my aunt takes horse-riding lessons (she competes in dressage) and met her wonderful trainer Joanie and her mother Joanne. Wonderful people! Crossing paths with so many great people made the trip that much more memorable...thank you each and every one for your part in making my journey a special one!

On my way out I headed back to NYC where I had a nice pizza dinner with Rudy and his girlfriend Lucy, packed up my bike, and spent one more very short night in the convent before catching an early morning flight back to Salt Lake. When Albert and I got back from the airport we were greeted by two dogs with vigorously wagging tails...I think they missed me...and by some new plants poking their heads up out of the ground in the garden! I can taste those fresh home-grown tomatoes already. Yum.

Thanks as always to my sponsors (PowerBar, BlueSeventy, Rudy Project, Maxxis, Wasatch Running Center) for their support, to the great folks at REV3 for putting on a good show, and to my family, friends, clients, training partners, and other random people I've met along the way who have encouraged me and contributed in some way to my success.

Next up: a local one at Dinoland, then REV3 Portland on July 10th---another family trip!

REV3 Knoxville Pics

Thursday, June 9, 2011

REV3 Knoxville Report

Triathlon season is in full swing and I've been a busy little bee the past month! I traveled first to Tennessee for the REV3 Knoxville Olympic distance race in mid-May, then made an excursion to the east coast this past weekend for REV3 Quassy in Middlebury, CT. One of the reasons I have chosen to race the REV3 series this year is because 3 of the 6 events are close to places where I have family...and it's turning out that I now have friends in all these places, so I'll just have to come back and do the series again next year!

Before I go any further I want to send out a huge THANK YOU to REV3 for the great races they are putting on. It's wonderful to go to events and feel like you really know the people behind the scenes...because you do! The same people are on location at each race doing what needs to be done and doing an extraordinary job of taking care of the athletes and making sure that everyone has a great experience. The races are well organized and professionally done, with great media coverage and all the little touches (like personalized bib numbers and bike rack labels, and your picture on the jumbo-tron when you finish) that make a race like this special. The courses are challenging and fair, not to mention beautiful! Keep up the awesome work, REV3!

REV3 Knoxville:
I went into this race knowing that I had some consistent hard work under my belt, but not really having a good point of reference for how my fitness would stack up amongst a tough field of competitors. My weekend started off on a less-than-smooth note when my flight out of Salt Lake was delayed 3 hours and it was questionable whether or not I would make my connection in Denver. Frustrating! We FINALLY got off the ground in a little puddle-jumper plane (one where I was looking out UNDER the wing instead of above it) and made it to Denver with 10 minutes to spare until my connecting flight took off. Whew! I watched them load my bike on too so that was a huge relief. Otherwise the trip to Tennessee went as planned. I flew into Nashville then rented a car to drive over to Knoxville, where I stayed with my wonderful host family, Kellie and Bradley Toon and their boys Kaleb and Evan. The Toons also had visitors from North and South Carolina in for the weekend who were all racing as well (Carin, Trish, and Todd) so it was quite a house full of triathletes and bikes! Huge props go out to Krista Baker for setting me up with such a great host family!

The day before the race we all headed over for packet pick-up and meetings and to check out the course. Knoxville is a really cool little city with a lot of character; the swim was in the river going right under some bridges, the bike course headed out into the rolling countryside, and the run meandered along the river, onto a bike path through the University of Tennessee campus, then back and finished up right in the middle of the Worlds Fair Park. I knew as soon as I started driving the bike course that it was going to suit me---I LOVE rolling hills! And the canopy of trees always makes me feel like I'm in Star Wars "Return of the Jedi", zipping through the forest on a flying motorcycle. We don't have close trees like that out west so it's always a real treat to race in a place with a deciduous forest! The rest of pre-race day was pretty routine: organize the gear, relax, get a good dinner (thanks for the wonderful grilled chicken Bradley!), and trying to get as much sleep as you can expect when there are butterflies dancing around in your stomach.

Race morning came EARLY. Nashville is only one hour ahead of Salt Lake, but Knoxville is two hours ahead, and that makes a BIG difference! I insisted on leaving the house half an hour earlier than everyone else, but I might as well have left with them because I got a little turned around in the old part of Knoxville and spent that extra 30 minutes trying to get myself oriented to where our secret little parking lot was. So I arrived a little flustered and later than I planned. Not much time for a good warm-up! But it turned out alright and I had enough time to set up my gear, visit the port-a-potty, slip into my wetsuit and jog down to the swim start. The swim itself went pretty well; I've been working on a higher turnover and more efficient arms and I felt really comfortable in my new BlueSeventy Helix with its super-flexible arms. I came out of the water in 5th, behind the usual suspects but ahead of some strong swimmers as well. A mile into the bike things started to go a little bit wrong: I followed a straight line of cones that appeared to mark the course through an intersection, only to discover that I was off course! This was a first for me in a race. Luckily I didn't go far before realizing my mistake, but probably lost a good 20-30 seconds getting myself turned around and back on course. It was only later that I found out I was not the only one... apparently at least four of us went of course early in the bike. Could it have been marked a little more clearly? Yes, but ultimately we as competitors are responsible for knowing the course and that's that.

That was error #1. Error #2 became evident right after I strayed off course. My front-mount water bottle was loose! This was a problem because it is an oddly shaped aerobottle that does not fit into a normal water bottle cage. It was an even bigger problem because it was the only source of fluid I had with me and I wasn't sure if there would be an aid station on the Olympic distance course. But I had to make a snap decision and risk I "took care of the problem" and crossed my fingers. Luckily there did turn out to be an aid station at Mile 15, and the weather was cool enough that going without fluid would not have turned out to be a disaster anyway.

Error #3 reared its ugly head once I hit the hills out of town. I had spent a fair amount of time on my race bike on the trainer over the winter, but had only just stared riding it outdoors two weeks before the race. The bike behaved alright on the trainer but it was NOT behaving properly on these hills in Tennessee! The chain kept shifting from the big ring to the small ring at inopportune when I was stood up to climb a hill. So while I loved the bike course, I did not love myself for having failed to get the bike tuned before racing season. Dumb mistake! One that I vow to never repeat. My bike got some major TLC as soon as I got back to Utah, believe me!

Bad thing #4 occurred at the bike turnaround on a narrow country road. It was a tight 180 degree turn, and I had two girls right on my tail...and a media or race official motorcycle alongside us. Whoever was driving the motorcycle was not paying attention because as I rounded the turn, they swerved to the left lane---the very one I was turning into! YIKES! Luckily they realized their mistake before crashing head-on into me, but it was pretty scary and got my heart rate up for sure!

Despite all these mishaps on the bike, I still rode a respectable time and felt strong. It was a good reinforcement lesson that even though things do not always go smoothly, you have to keep a cool head; it would be easy to let these things get in your head and ruin your race. I was able to react quickly and learn from the mistakes that I had control over, so I won't make those same errors again. I got off the bike just behind another girl in 6th place, then decided to go for broke on the run. I was able to establish a gap right away and just kept my feet moving as quickly as I could. At the turnaround point I was able to see who was behind was a whole bunch of really quick runners! I felt great and kept pushing, determined to hold off the chasers. And I did! I think this is a first for me in higher profile professional race; usually I get swallowed up by the faster runners. I was absolutely THRILLED to cross the finish line in 5th place female and 2nd American in a stacked field. It felt almost like I had won the whole thing!

After finishing I went back out on the course with Bradley and the boys to see Kellie, Todd, Carin, and Trish start the run. It was so great to cheer them on and be able to see them all cross the finish line...Kellie and her boys all together, of course! All in all it was a great day, and we celebrated by going out to a delicious dinner involving steak and potatoes. Thanks again to the Toons and their house-full for making me feel like part of the family...can't wait to see you all in South Carolina this October!

In retrospect, this race was an big step for me. I learned that I need to be a little more professional about inspecting my gear before a race and making sure everything is in working order. I was tested on how well I react to hitting various snags while on the race course. Most importantly, I learned that I really do belong in the thick of things; there is still much work to do and I'm certainly not resting on my laurels, but it's heartening to know that I have finally given myself permission to race with the big girls---and that I am doing the right things in training to back it up.

Thanks as always go out to Powerbar, BlueSeventy, Maxxis, Rudy Project, and Wasatch Running Center for their support; to Albert for carrying a large part of the domestic load so that I can train; to my family, friends, clients, and fans for their understanding, encouragement, and cheers; and to my training partner Rich for helping to draw out the best in me. I couldn't do it without all of you!

Coming soon...REV3 Quassy Report and pictures!!!