Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Famous Cow Photo

So there's Bree in front with the motorcycle, then the cow, then next in line just past the cow's hump is me!

Monday, March 19, 2012

REV3 Costa Rica---Pura Vida!

I can't think of a better thing to do at 6am on the morning after the race than sit in a pair of Recovery Pump boots and write a race report! A very loud bird woke me up this morning and I wasn't able to get back to sleep so I thought I'd take the opportunity to write down a few thoughts about the REV3 Costa Rica race experience while it is still fresh in my mind.

This has been a really wonderful trip, more like a vacation than any of the other races that I do. It's a nice low-key atmosphere in a beautiful country, the locals are incredibly welcoming, and of course REV3 and their Costa Rican partners put on a top-notch event. I feel like I am surrounded by friends here---funny how that works in a foreign country!

The race itself was not a great performance on my part but I think it fairly reflected my current fitness level, if not slightly exceeding it, so I can't really be disappointed. Taking the long view, the purpose of this race was to dust out the cobwebs, get a fitness check, earn some points (and hopefully some coin!) in the cumulative REV3 Pro Series, to get fired up for the long season ahead and to HAVE FUN. With the exception of the coin---I missed that by one placing---the mission was accomplished.

Race morning started with a 4am wake-up call, a quick breakfast, then a little bushwacking jog down through the golf course in the dark to get set up in the transition area. It was incredibly convenient to be staying in a condo at the host resort this year, as opposed to being a 45 minute drive away last year with less-than-reliable transportation to worry about---a big THANK YOU to Krista and Charlie for arranging the on-site accomodations this year! After a quick gear set-up and topping off the tires, I jogged a little more (and spotted a pisote doing his morning business, that made me laugh) then headed down to the water to swim a bit before the race start. The swim was 2 laps with a beach start and a run-out in between laps. I had a great start and found myself swimming comfortably right on the feet of the lead girls on the first lap. Woohoo! I've tweaked my training schedule a little this year to include more swimming so it was nice to see that reflected in the race. However, I was NOT prepared for the extreme pain I experienced as a result of the run-out on the beach in between laps. OUCH! I'd forgotten how nasty that can be, particularly in a short-course race where the intensity is so much higher. It took me almost to the first buoy on the second lap to recover from the shock---my legs were DEAD and I had to breathe every stroke. The two lead girls were obviously better prepared for this and they established a gap over the little group that I was swimming with. Overall though, the swim was definitely my strongest leg of the day and is an indicator of good things to come.

Onto the bike! The course gets exciting right out of the gate with a dicey gravel section that you have to navigate, followed by two miles of some serious hills. Last year I was completely unprepared for the hills and they about knocked me sideways. I knew what to expect going into it this year and was able to prepare more effectively, but that still doesn't mean it was a cake walk! I passed a couple of girls on the hills coming out of the resort and found myself in second place heading out onto the main road. At this point I was feeling like a rock star and decided to put the hammer down to try to catch the leader. My roommate (and REV3 Racing Team teammate) Bree Wee was right there too and we overtook the leader a couple of miles into the first straight section. Bree and I exchanged the lead a couple of times, and then suddenly I realized that maybe I was getting a little too carried away with the pace, considering that I have done just about ZERO speedwork and have put more miles in on my mountain bike than any other bike at this point of the season. So I eased off the paced a bit and watched Bree ride off into the sunrise. It was at this point that the herd of cows came across the road---only in Costa Rica! There were't any collisions as far as I know, and there is a really great photo that captured the moment (to be posted later).

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. It is a technical course with several out-and-back sections and 180 degree turns which can be tricky on the narrow Costa Rican roads, but I feel I handled them better than last year. It didn't take long for eventual winner Nicole Kelleher to come zooming by, followed by Emily Cocks who was also having a strong ride. After tackling the hills and gravel a second time coming back into the resort I found myself in 4th place starting the run, with a pack of hungry girls right on my heels.

This run course has a little bit of everything in it. The beach, packed gravel, pavement, ups, downs, you name it. It is definitely a strength course and I was excited to have another go at it this year as my running has been coming along nicely in training. However, if the bike fitness isn't there and you spend a little too much energy pedaling, the run can be a rather brutal experience. So I didn't have the run I was shooting for, and I slid back a few places within the first couple of miles. There was a large enough gap back to the next girl that I was able to ease up and just go into damage control mode in the second loop and still hold onto 7th place. I would have liked a bit better showing but again, it's early in the year and you can't always be in peak form. It's a good motivator to buckle down for the next couple of months before the next outing at REV3 Knoxville in May, and see what kinds of improvements can be made between now and then.

A big congratulations to my roommates Bree and Jesse for their podium finishes, to Nicole and Cameron for their dominating wins, and to all my REV3 teammates for a strong showing. Thanks go out to: the Costa Rican people for hosting us in their country, REV3 for another great event and awesome athlete support, Powerbar for keeping me fueled, Pearl Izumi for the new racing kit, BlueSeventy for helping me swim fast, Recovery Pump for the pre- and post-race squeeze, and last (but not least!) to all the friends and strangers who cheered me on and have helped make this a memorable trip. Pura Vida!

***Note: check back soon for a picture diary, in my classic techno ineptitude I failed to bring the USB cable to download photos from my camera.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Round Three

Last Saturday marked round three of the Striders Winter Running Circuit in Ogden, and a beast of a course it was! This infamous 10-Miler begins with the same course as the 10K two weeks prior---not an easy course, to put it mildly---and then adds insult to injury by throwing even more hills in your path over the next four miles. As my client Miriam said, it's the kind of course that chews you up and spits you out. I love it. And hate it. It's the perfect way to kick off a Saturday morning!

My mantra was similar to two weeks ago---what goes up, must come down! This rings especially true in the last 4 miles. Mile six to seven-and-a-half is a long steady grind where you just have to grit your teeth and get it over with. The legs and lungs are burning no matter what kind of shape you're in. Once you hit the pinnacle of the climb, there's a nice bombing downhill section for about a mile and a half. This is where patience paid off and I was able to make my move. There were two girls up the road who I'd been tailing for the entire run, one of whom went into the race with about a minute lead over me in the overall cumulative race series. I'd managed to stay within striking distance through the first 10K, but then they made a bit of a break going up the long grind after mile 6 and I was uncertain whether I'd be able to reel them in. Once we hit the downhill though I noticed they were coming back to me and I decided to open up and go for it. It was hard work, but it was really fun blasting down that hill! I took the lead at mile 8.5 and was able to build a gap and hold it through the finish line.

This was a great run for me on many levels. I believe it is the first time I've actually won a road running race---woohoo! I covered the distance almost 3 minutes faster than last year. It was a great tune-up and confidence builder for the REV3 Costa Rica triathlon this coming weekend. And the experience helped reinforce the principles of patience and perseverance, and of simply staying relaxed and having fun.

Albert had a good day too. His strategy this time around involved a few glasses of wine the night before (we had friends staying with us for the weekend) and a more conservative pace over the first few miles. It paid off and he ran well, nabbing 2nd place for the men and feeling much stronger in the final miles this time around.

My client Miriam also ran, along with her friend Phaedra and a few others from her running group (the Runagades). I had warned Miriam about the severity of the course beforehand, but you really have to experience it firsthand to appreciate how beastly it is. She handled it well (although she's very hard on herself) and placed in the top 20 women. Way to go Miriam, Phaedra, Mark, and Lloyd!

A really nice touch (ha, pun intended) this time around is that there were free massages offered after the race. Albert and I took full advantage, and then we went home and I sat in my Recovery Pump boots for an hour. Or slept in them is more like it. I could get used to this whole art of recovery!