Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Dirty Double

Lucky Readers---you get a two-for-one race report! It's been a busy June so far and we're not even halfway through yet. I raced the past two weekends in my first official "dirty double", which is what I'm calling doing half-iron races on back-to-back weekends. Six days apart, to be precise. Trust me, that extra day makes a difference! First up was a trip to Connecticut for REV3 Quassy followed by a jaunt up to Idaho for Boise 70.3. In between I got to spend some quality time with my East Coast relatives in New Jersey and Pennsylvania---always a pleasure. This is the second year in a row that I've attempted the Dirty Double but last year the experiment was foiled by nasty weather in Boise which led to a drastically shortened bike ride. This time around I completed the entire 70.3 miles at each race, so mission accomplished in that regard; however neither performance was particularly stunning so there's definitely some work to do!


This is one of my all-time favorite races because in addition to being a gorgeous venue the course is honest and challenging; part of the allure is trying to crack the code of the course so that it doesn't completely chew you up and spit you out. Even though my overall time was the slowest of my three attempts at this race, I feel that I raced smarter than in previous years and figured out a good strategy for handling the course. It was decidedly hotter than the past two years which made the nutrition and hydration aspects more of an issue and I did a pretty good job of managing that part of the race. I felt strong on the swim and was able to build throughout the 1.2 miles---I got caught up in a little traffic in the first leg, was able to pull away from the traffic in the second leg (partly thanks to a few of the slower male pro swimmers), then pushed hard on the third leg coming into shore. Once on the bike I employed the same strategy of building my effort throughout the 56 miles. In past years I've been so excited to ride the course that I've started off a little too hot and then paid for it in the last 10-15 miles. This year I felt better as I went along and was able to finish up strong in the latter miles of the ride. I continued with my "building" theme on the run---it's easy to start this run off too hard because the first couple of miles are downhill so I found a rhythm that would help me be more conservative in the opening miles. The middle section of this run course is where it gets REALLY tough; miles 4-8 have a lot of uphill so you have to keep pushing and stay mentally strong. I had some gray patches out there but overall I think I handled the hills better than I have in past years. The last 4 miles of this run course are really fun and I was looking forward to using whatever I had left in the tank to push through that final loop. There's one final long climb in the last mile, a real doozy of a place to have a hill, but once you get to the top you only have about 400 meters to the finish line. I wound up in the top-10 for the third consecutive year, grabbing 9th place in probably the most stacked field ever assembled at this race (I would say the top six ladies all had a legitimate shot at winning). It was a good effort and I can't wait to come back again next year!

The Highlights
This trip had a lot of non-race highlights which made it really fun, including:

Reconnecting with my old swimming buddy & high school classmate Joe McDowell, now a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy who is training for his first triathlon(s) this year!

Staying with my AWESOME homestay girls, Kim & Sheri, for the third year in a row---and being allowed to drive Sheri's Porsche for a day!

Giving a pre-race swim clinic, supported by REV3 and blueseventy, focusing on open water swimming strategies and race-day safety. Thanks blueseventy for donating really cool Brick Bags for a trivia contest!

Having my #1 Philly Fan (aka Aunt Candy) using her impressive vocal skills to whoop it up cheering for me!

Spending time with my relatives for a couple of days's always too short but a very sweet visit.


After two days back in Utah, Albert and I loaded up the car (doggies included!) and made the short trip up to Boise for the next weekend of racing. The weather forecast called for a HOT day---highs in the upper 80s on race day, about 30 degrees warmer than what it topped out at last year for this event. You just never know what you're going to get in Boise! I'm used to the dry heat though, so it didn't feel as hot to me as the sticky humid heat in Connecticut the previous weekend. Boise is an odd event because it has a noon start time, which is nice because it allows for a nice relaxed race morning...but last year I remember hating it because I ended up spending the entire morning watching the weather get worse and dreading having to race in it! No such problem this year. Race day set-up went smoothly and I was ready to go when the cannon boomed at 12:04 to send the pro ladies off. It was a small field this year---I think Boise's reputation for unpredictable weather scared a lot of people away---and I was able to get off to a fast start and find clean water right from the beginning. Lucky Peak Reservoir makes for a real swimmer's course; the water is relatively cold (60 degrees this year) and choppy, so it helps to be strong and comfortable in the water. The last two times I've done this race I've come out of the water in 2nd place; the third time proved to be a charm as I was able to build a 2+ minute lead and exit the water in first place! That was a pretty cool feeling, especially at a "local" race (out west anything within a 5-hour drive is local)---thanks to my blueseventy Helix and the friendly crowd for boosting me to the top swim! I had a smooth transition, bombed my way down the hill from the reservoir, then settled down to work on the bike. I felt solid throughout the ride---not spectacular but not bad---and focused on staying hydrated. Heather Jackson came storming up past me just before the climb at Mile 18, then it was a lot of lonely miles until Liz Lyles came by around Mile 45. At this point I made a tactical error; Liz passed me just before a descent (which I'm good at) and I should have gotten around her and tried to create a gap on the downhill, but then a media motorcycle pulled up and I found myself boxed in and unable to pass. I literally had to sit up and brake on the downhill in order to stay legal. Immediately after the downhill there was a tricky little "no-pass" zone on a bike path, followed by a left-handed aid station. I grabbed a bottle of Powerbar Perform at the aid station with the intention of taking a couple of sips then tossing it, but to my dismay the cap had been loosened and the drink was just leaking out from around the bottom of the cap rather than coming out the nipple. I slowed way down trying to figure this out then eventually just tossed the bottle, and by that point Liz had zoomed off up the road and I wasn't able to regain contact throughout the ride. Damn! So I started the run in 3rd place about 5 minutes from Heather and maybe 1-2 minutes behind Liz. I felt a little awkward running when my feet first hit the pavement, but started feeling a little better throughout the first mile. Then something BAD happened and I ran the next 8 miles very slowly. I'm not sure how much of it was the effects of having completed a very challenging half ironman only 6 days before, but I know for sure that my mind was NOT in a very good place. I'm really disappointed in the way I ran these miles and mad that I didn't have a better grip on what was going on between my ears---in addition to my running fitness I also need to improve my mental fitness! With four miles to go something snapped inside me and I suddenly started running like I knew how again and it felt really good. Three girls had passed me by that point and I thought if I really pushed hard I might have a chance to catch at least one of them. My mantra those last miles---"Get your head out of your ass"---really seemed to work and it just may become my refrain whenever I'm racing! I didn't end up catching anyone but I was glad to have at least turned the run around and finished strong.

I don't have any particular highlights from Boise, but I'll leave you with some favorite parting shots from the Dirty Double:

As always, THANK YOU to my amazing sponsors for seeing me through this endeavor! Blueseventy for the race kit & speedy wetsuit; Powerbar for keeping me fueled; Rudy Project for protecting my eyes & noggin; REV3 for believing in me; CycleOps/Powertap for keeping my effort on track; Reynolds for keeping me rolling on great wheels; Fezzari for the first-class ride; Maxxis for the rubber; Recovery Pump for helping my legs tackle the Dirty Double; and The Bike Shoppe for getting my bike ship-shape for racing.

You'll find me racing again two more times this month on June 23rd at REV3 Williamsburg and then at the Utah Spartan Beast event on June 29th!