Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Season Finale - LifeTime Tri Maple Grove

Courtesy of Andy Wyss Design

            The Lifetime Tri Minnesota Series consisted of Trinona in June, Minneapolis in July, and wrapped up with Maple Grove in August.  Maple Grove also marked my final race of the season (my 7th triathlon this summer!).  Nationals were just two weeks prior, and in the meantime, I’ve missed a lot of runs, a ride, and some swims due to the craziness of life.  Volleyball practices also started this past week (I’m the head coach at Three Lakes), adding another level of hectic to our lives.  Due to all of this, I felt underprepared and not very well focused for the race.  Nonetheless, I hoped for the best.
Courtesy of Andy Wyss Design
            There was only a slight wind on race morning, and the air was crazy thick with humidity and fog.  Fortunately there was solid cloud coverage, or else we may have melted.  Race morning didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped and I ended up cramped for warm up time, getting in only a 5-minute jog – I didn’t even do a swim warm up!  I wasn’t going to let things get to me though.  It was a time trial swim start, so partners were sent off every 3 seconds for the start.  I have now had enough of an experience with both time trial and mass starts, that I would definitely say I prefer the mass start.  Nationals were a perfect setup, with the huge age group waves spaced out about 10 minutes from each other.  This gave us space between waves, and I was able to do the most drafting I’ve ever done with a triathlon swim, which also resulted in my fastest swim ever. 
Shortly I after I got started, one of my goggles was leaking, and I paused to empty and adjust it, as I’d rather lose a few seconds than deal with that the whole time.  You could only see one buoy ahead of you due to the thick fog, and after a turn buoy you couldn’t see anything at all!  You had to follow those in front of you until you could finally see the next one for yourself.  There was a lot of swimming into and around people from the waves ahead of mine, which was very frustrating.  I came out of the water just 3 seconds off from my Minneapolis time (a minute slower than Nationals, but as I said, I wasn’t really able to draft at Maple Grove).  I was happy with the time. 
Courtesy of Andy Wyss Design
            The bike route was great – gorgeous and fast for the most part.  We went by a lot of fields, and the in-town sections were blocked off well.  The fog was so thick that you could only see about ¼ mile in front of you at times, but it sure made for some beautiful surroundings!  The air was so thick that my helmet dripped from all the condensation that gathered.  I came in from the bike just as wet as I had gone out, and I needed to wipe off my feet in T2 in order to get my shoes on!  I came in on the bike in 1:05:46 (22.6mph), only behind my time at Nationals by 7 seconds.  Again, I was quite please with it. 
Cleaned house!
            The run was a 2-loop course, using some park trails and then residential streets around the park.  After you got off the bike, you encountered the first long, uphill climb (that would be repeated on the second loop).  It was a decent route, but the hills certainly didn’t feel great.  A younger girl caught up to me on the first loop and I used her to pace me, as I was really struggling to hit a decent pace.  We stuck together and I paced her for a while then on the second loop as I finally began to find my running legs.  My run split was slightly faster than both Nationals and Minneapolis, but it was still just past the dreaded 44-minute mark.  I ended up winning my age group, being the 2nd Age Grouper Overall, and the 7th Overall Female (including elites).  I also took 2nd in the LifeTime Tri MN Series – by only one point!  Overall, I was really pleased with how the day ended up, and it was a great race to end the season with. 
            A huge THANK YOU to friends who came out and supported me at this race: Katherine, Dean, Maria, and Meredith!  Thanks to my husband, who has traveled all over with me this summer, taking pictures, video, or whatever, and helping me get out the door for some outdoor training throughout the season.  None of this would have been possible without you!  Thanks to my family and friends who cheer me on from afar, and thank you to my sponsors: Draft Cyclery and Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (chocolate milk) – some of the best sponsors and supporters a girl could ask for!

Monday, August 11, 2014

USAT Age Group Nationals 2014

            USAT Age Group Nationals (Olympic distance) took place in Milwaukee this year, which was fortunate for me since it made it fairly easy to drive to.  This was a race that competitors needed to qualify for in order to compete in.  In order to qualify, you had to finish in the top 10% of your age group at a USAT sanctioned race.  This was also a qualifying race for Team USA, which would compete in the Age Group World Championships in Chicago in 2015.  This will be the first time that it has been hosted in the US since 2005.  Normally the Top 18 in each Age Group qualifies for Team USA, however, since the US is hosting in 2015, each Age Group gets an extra 7 slots, meaning the Top 25 from each Age Group would qualify this year.  This all seemed too good to be true for me, that Nationals would be fairly local, there were more qualifying slots available, and that the World Championships would not only be in the US, but within driving distance as well!  Going into Nationals, my goal was to make the Top 25 and qualify for Team USA and compete in Chicago in 2015.  No pressure, eh?
            Fortunately for me, the week leading into this race was filled with house projects, which helped to distract me at least a little bit from the upcoming big day.  The night before, however, was definitely a restless, anxious night.  We arrived down in Milwaukee on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet and check in my bike.  We stayed with some of Andy’s family down in Racine (thanks Terri and Jerry!) the night before.  We put on my race tats and I covered my gear in their assigned stickers and numbers.  We got downtown in the morning just in time for me to set up my transition area before it closed at 7:30am.  Andy and I had lots of time to kill then, as my wave did not start until 9:18am!  I eventually warmed up and got my wetsuit on.  It was the least rushed warm-up I may have ever had. 
            The swim was in an inlet area of Lake Michigan, so while the water was cool (although up to 72 degrees, that is definitely not something I would want to be in without a wetsuit), it at least wasn’t really wavy.  After standing in a black wetsuit in the sun, the water temp actually felt really good.  We were able to warm up in an area about 15 minutes prior to our start time, then we were herded over to the in-water start corral area.  My wave consisted of females in my age group (25-29), and there were close to 130 of us.  Finally we started, and I tried to push my swim pace.  It felt like it was taking forever (the swim was just shy of a mile in length), but I thought I had decent positioning in my wave (not having a swim background amongst other former swimmers typically starts me at a deficit with ground to make up later on).  I came out of the water in 24:41, crushing my swim goal time of 26 minutes.

            Going into this race, Andy said he felt pretty confident in me that I could make Top 25.  Then he counted those in my wave exiting out of the water and counted me at 42, leaving him feeling unsure of what would happen.  We had a long run from the water to the giant transition area (that hosted thousands of bikes).  I stripped off my wetsuit, put on my helmet and grabbed my bike.  This last week I decided to take cutting down my transition time very seriously and I practiced doing a flying mount and dismount with my bike shoes pre-clipped in and held in place with rubber bands.  Wise decision.  I skipped socks on the bike and I was able to fly through transition way faster than I otherwise would have.
            We biked north along Lake Michigan, past the gorgeous beach, and then did a U-turn and headed South past transition, over the long 794 bridge (which had been closed for the race) and beyond before hitting our 2nd U-turn and heading back to transition.  I came in only 39 seconds behind my goal time of 1:05 (22.7mph) for the 24.8 miles.  I can’t remember any women ever passing me, but I knew I had made up some ground on the bike course as I passed quite a few out there (later found out that I had the 6th fastest bike split in my AG).  Heading out to the 10K run course though, I had no idea what place I was in.  I swam and biked well, and I would just have to do what I could on the run and hope for the best.  After the swim exit, Andy said it was also too hard to keep straight who was in my wave and who wasn’t, so he didn’t know where I was at either.
            We ran north along a trail that was next to the Lake, and passed the marina.  While out there, I was passed by 6 in my age group and passed 2.  I was nervous.  I knew I was losing ground.  It was hot and sunny.  The surroundings were absolutely gorgeous, and there were a lot of fans along the course, but I was ready to be done.  I REALLY wanted to qualify, and I knew that my run has not been my strong suit this year.  I picked it up for the last couple of miles and tried to hold my position.  I hit the finish line and found Andy shortly after.  Neither of us knew how I placed yet, so we headed over to the expo area to get my results.  I got my print out, looked at my times, and then Andy pointed out that it had my unofficial placement on it: 18th – I did it!!!  (I didn’t even need those extra 7 slots of cushion).  I’m thankful for the smooth race, the beautiful venue, the support of family and friends (specifically Andy!), and for God giving me this opportunity and ability to race.  Here’s to Team USA and the 2015 World Championships in Chicago!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Wausau Long Course

            This was my fifth year racing the Wausau Triathlon, with the first time being in 2010 as my very first triathlon.  It’s always fun to come back and do this one every year, since it’s not only the place I started, but I also get to go back and see a lot of people I know.  This was also my first year racing it without Katherine though, and this season hasn’t been the same racing without her (she just had her first baby in June).
            We got to my friend Katy’s to unpack for the night around 6:50pm, when I discovered that when I grabbed my front race wheel, I forgot to take the skewer from my training wheel.  A bit of panic, I must say!  Trek’s hours were until 7pm, so I rushed over and told them my dilemma.  Thankfully they lent me a skewer from one of their new bikes in stock to borrow for the race, for free.  That was so awesome of them – thank you, Trek!  I miss my old shop. 
            After a terrible night’s sleep, I biked over to the race in the morning.  The night before I also found out that wetsuits were being allowed for the swim.  Since this race has never allowed wetsuits, I hadn’t packed mine.  Apparently it was in the brochure that they MIGHT be allowed this year depending on the water temperature, but I missed that, as I was definitely not looking for it (nor was I even sent a brochure, even though I won the long course last year).  Fortunately, the two fast women that I knew I would have for competition did not wear wetsuits for the swim either.  I was thankful that I was not left at a disadvantage as a result.
            The swim was a minute slower than last year, even though I felt really good during it.  I followed Kim out of the water.  This would be a tough race.  I mounted my bike and before I even got out of the lot, I was almost hit by a vehicle.  Say WHAT?!  Yup, apparently someone in a big, black SUV thought it was an okay time to drive around.  They didn’t even see me, people were shouting at them, and I had to swerve my best to get around without being hit.  Fortunately they suddenly stopped, or else I really would have been hit.
            The first part of the bike route is flat and you’re able to cruise along pretty well.  I had Kim within my sight, but could not catch up to her until around 13 miles into the ride.  We played leapfrog for a bit before I was able to pull away and put some distance between us.  I had yet to see Tara, who I had battled it out on the bike with last year – a fast cyclist!  I worried that she was somewhere ahead of me yet, since I had a slow swim.  My bike also was not as fast as last year, despite there being little to no wind as a factor.  I came into T2 and headed out on the run.  It was a very hot, sunny run.  The run has a little loop in the parking lot before heading out of the park, and I saw Tara headed into the loop as I headed out.  I felt relief that at this point I should be in the lead for women.  Despite having a slow swim, Tara was still a minute behind me coming out of the water, same as last year.  This year though, I was the one with the fastest bike split! 
We split from the short course runners, and eventually I could see the relays and lead men returning from the turn-around.  I hit the turn-around and it was confirmed I was in first.  I passed Tara and Kim after the turn-around.  I didn’t have a huge lead, but it was good enough that I wasn’t worried about pushing the run too hard.  Wausau was not about having super fast splits, I need to save that for next weekend at Nationals!  I had slower swim, bike, and run splits this year compared to last year, but I did what I had to do in order to get the Win this weekend.  I finished as the overall female winner for the second year in a row! 
Not only was this race special because I finished as the back-to-back champion, but also because I had an awesome fan crew: our friends Katy and Dan Schield (fellow CU Trackster!), the Twietmeyer family, and my family of both Andy and Baya!  This was the only race she could be at this season, since it had a late enough race start for her.  It was also our 6-year Anniversary!  (Thanks for being willing to spend the morning at a race, Andy!)  Lucky me, I even got chocolate milk afterwards!