Race Report: TIN Tune Up Tri

Yesterday, I ran, I biked, I swam, and I became a triathlete!  It took me over  year to get there, but I finally made it!

I decided that my first would be a super, super sprint that was also a reverse tri.  The group, Tri It Now, actively recruits newbies and has a very friendly and laid-back vibe.  I attended their clinic last March and was favorably impressed.  I knew that this super sprint would be just enough to get a taste but not so much that I would totally blow up if something went south – 1.5 mile run, 4 mile bike, 200 yard pool swim.

Packet Pick Up

I picked up my packet at the race venue on Saturday.  I also stuck around for the 45 minute information meeting where the director, Ina, reviewed the course step-by-step, demonstrated how to use their bike racks, how to lay out transition, and answered any questions.  This was extremely helpful!  I didn’t really learn anything new but it definitely helped calm my (considerable) nerves.

In my packet was the normal three numbers (bib, helmet, bike) plus some samples from Hammer (one of the sponsors), Advil, and various leaflets. The pick-up and meeting was super easy.

Race Morning

I woke early to pounding rain and cold temps.  Delightful!  We were hoping that the rain would lessen but didn’t have high hopes.  When we arrived, I set up my transition area right away.  The wind was so high that it was knocking over some bikes with the racks (the racks are short and only fit 4 bikes).  I chose a rack with another bike already there and set up at the other side/end.  I put my stuff in a white plastic garbage bag, in the hopes of keeping things semi-dry.  I didn’t worry about keeping the bike dry.  In the bag was my helmet, a jacket for the bike (didn’t use), gloves for the bike (didn’t use), a water bottle, my swim cap, and goggles.  I decided to run and bike in the same shoes since it was such a short race and I didn’t want to lose time.

After that, I went inside to obtain my chip and get marked with my numbers.  I was also able to leave a dry bag in the pool bleachers.  We then proceeded to the main gym for a review of some last minute course changes (the wind was knocking down signs and the rain made one part of the run a mud pit), the Pledge of Allegiance (they didn’t have the Star Spangle Banner with them that morning), and then we were off to the start!

Run

I was in wave 1 which included ages 11 (10?)-39.   There were 4 waves set at five minute intervals.  I took off a bit fast but quickly slowed when we turned into the crazy strong headwind for almost half the run.  At various points, I could hardly catch my breath!  I was so thankful for the turn-around!  Also, the rain had lessened to a drizzle so that part wasn’t too horrible.  There were a lot of puddles, though, and many runners were trying to mince their way through or around.  I plowed through.  We were going to be wet soon enough, what is a bit more?

Let's Run!
Let’s Run!

Expected time/Actual time: 15:00/14:27

T1

I put on my helmet as soon as I entered my area, decided to skip the jacket/gloves, swung my number around to the back of my race belt, and was off!

T1
T1

Actual time: 0:52

Bike

The course was pretty flat but there were 5 U-turns and several right turns.  That made me nervous.  There was also the wind!  At some points, we had about 30 mph gusting side/head/tail wind.  It was definitely challenging!  The decision to wear my running shoes was almost tragic as my left foot slipped twice because it was wet.  Luckily, I recovered!  There were all kinds of bikes on the course – from fancy racing wheels to commuter bikes with bins on the back!  I did well when there was a bit of a hill to push against or some headwind but the flats/down hills scared me so I braked and coasted way too much.  I need to work on my fear of speed!

I just shouted out "What the F am I doing?!"
Just before I shouted out “What the F am I doing?!” Sorry to any kids I scarred…

Expected time/Actual time: 20:00/21:23

T2

I dismounted at the proper place (they had a great volunteer working the mount/dismount line) and ran into transition.  I couldn’t easily spot my area as there were several white garbage bags flapping in the wind.  Once I found it, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, stripped off my shoes, socks, race belt, and shirt.  One of the my worries for the day was my hair.  It’s not long enough for a regular ponytail or braid but I need to contain it some way to get the swim cap on.  I wound up wearing my Moms Run This Town headband and then pulled it back into a low pony (elastic in the pocket of my shorts) before yanking on the cap.  It worked vary well!  I lost a few more seconds because I was confused as to where the swim exit was.  Thankfully, the boy working it saw my confused face and started yelling and waving his flag!  I then grabbed my goggles and was off to the pool!

Actual time: 1:26

Swim

We entered the pool by a side door and my glasses immediately fogged over.  I tossed them into a nearby window sill while walking to the other end of the pool where our start was.  Unfortunately, my prescription goggles also fogged over so I had to douse them with water as soon as I got to the start so I could even see.  I carefully slid in (I have been surprised by the depth in this pool before!) and started my laps.  It was a snake swim so we all swam in one direction to the end of the lane, touched, went under the divider, touched again and went back the other way.  Twice there were bottle necks where I had to wait for the lane I was entering to clear up a bit because there was literally no room for me to push off.  I was kicked a few times but it wasn’t too bad.

Everyone in the pool!
Everyone in the pool!

Estimated time/Actual time: 6:00/6:46

Total time: 44:53

After the race, there were complimentary massages (I passed) and some food – bread, clementines, fruit snacks, Power Bars, and Rice Krispie Treats.  I just grabbed a clementine and my finisher shirt and then hit the locker room to clean up.  Overall, it was a very fun race!

I wore my Orca two piece tri suit, a long sleeve tech shirt for the run and bike, wool socks, and Asic shoes.  My legs were cold during the run but I soon became numb.  I have a monster bruise on my leg now (must have been from the bike) that can attest to that fact!

Overall:

Things were organized and started on time.  Even with the bad weather, there were plenty of volunteers to keep us on course and I never worried about being lost (a real possibility for me!).  I wish everyone received a finisher medal but that just means I’ll need to work harder next time to place 🙂   Overall, I give this race an A!  I signed up for the next race in the series when I got home!

Done! Let's do it again!
Done! Let’s do it again!

Lessons Learned

  • Wear your bike shoes, even if it’s a short course.
  • Make sure your transition spot is readily identifiable.  I had a bright yellow towel that I was going to use but the rain nixed that.  I saw some people packing up later that had used big Home Depot buckets to carry their gear and act as a stool for the shoe change.  I’m doing that next time!
  • Make sure you are 100% clear as to where the various exits and entrances are for transition.  They may not be the same!
  • Open your water bottle or at least loosen the cap before you leave transition set-up.  I could not get my bottle open because my hands were so cold and my body was hopped up on adrenaline.  I wound up prying it off with my teeth.
  • There is absolutely no mental coasting in a super sprint!  I had to be constantly on and thinking about the next phase at every step of the way.  It was almost more exhausting than a longer race where you are able to mental check out for a bit.
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Consistency

In September of 2012, I became a member of Title Boxing Club.  The club wasn’t even open yet but I couldn’t wait to sign up.  I had recently completed the Couch to 5K program and had just run my first 10K – I won’t say “successfully run” because it was a nightmare! I knew I needed to do something to improve my fitness (and thus improve my running pace) but the thought of going in to a regular gym left me a cold sweat.  TBC, with its smaller physical space (you can’t get lost or blend in there!) and welcoming staff immediately made me think that this would be a good fit for me.  After the first boxing class, I wanted to die.  I thought I was going to throw up from the warm up alone and I couldn’t imagine doing eight rounds at the bags and then the core work at the end.  I practically crawled home afterwards and was sore for days.  But I came back. Again and again and again.  I made it a habit.  I made my time there an integral part of my schedule.  My other training and some family scheduling currently prevent me from attending as often as I like but my Thursday nights at TBC are sacrosanct.

Last night, I caught a glimpse of myself doing something in the mirrors (I usually face away from them so I don’t see myself 😉 ) and I couldn’t help but think that I was looking strong.  I then started to think of all of the changes I have undergone in the past year and a half.  I can honestly say that this is the fittest I have ever been in my entire life.  Granted, I still want to throw up in the warm ups and often want to die at the end of the night (especially since I now add a personal training session to the mix) but every week I am able to push just a tiny bit harder.

My previous forays into fitness always left me impatient and unsatisfied.

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I know I’m not alone

I would see an article about “Do this exercise for two weeks and get washboard abs” or some other nonsense, do the exercise, see no results, and give up.  But, for most people, the results are gradual!  It’s tiny baby steps instead of gigantic leaps.

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Or more!

Over the past year and a half, I have seen a lot of people come through the club.  A few have hung on for the long haul but most are there for a few weeks and then disappear.  I wish I could tell every single one of them to give it three solid months.  By then, they should really see (or at lease feel) results or will be so hooked, they can’t quit!  But this is true of any exercise.  Make it part of your normal routine.  Set an alarm on your phone if you have to.  Enlist friends and family to harass you if you don’t do it.  Post it on Facebook (because we all know how much everyone loves fitness posts on FB 😉 – actually, I do but that’s another post).  But the point is, DON’T GIVE UP!  Don’t let a perceived lack of progress stop you in your tracks.  Wherever you are at that moment, each exercise will move you one bit closer to your goal.  Time will pass anyway, you might as well put it to good use!

Six Days

My first (super) sprint triathlon is in  6 days!  Gulp! How the heck did that happen?  I am so thankful that it is the super sprint distance (read: very tiny.  If a Sprint is analogous to a 5K then a Super Sprint is the kids’ fun run.) Even though it is a short distance, I am still extremely nervous!

We were discussing it at dinner last night and we all decided that the run would be a piece of cake. Did I mention that this is a reverse tri so the run will be first?  It is 1.5 miles and I’m not worried about that at all.  I just need to warm up properly before hand since it will be so incredibly short.  Even the 200 yd swim is not looming too large in my head.  Little Runner came to my swim session on Saturday and saw me really swim for the first time.  He was pretty surprised!  Up until then, he has only seen me goof around in the community pool.  We both agreed, however, that the crawl is by far my best stroke.

No, my biggest worry is the 4 miles on the bike.  Due to the Winter That Will Never End, I have only been able to ride outside twice.  I cannot clip in and out of my pedals.  Heck, I still have a problem even starting!  So, what am I going to do?  This is such a short race, I need to just pull the band-aid off and get it done.  The bike course is pretty flat but there are a lot of corners and U-turns.  I might be able to get into my aero bars but I’m okay if I can’t.  I’m also not going to worry about bike shoes and clips.  I plan to run in my Asics and keep them on for the ride.  In the first transition, I will only need to switch my bib to the back, put on my helmet, and get my bike.  I will likely lose a lot of time on the bike leg but I’m okay with that.  (sorry, just trying to beat that through my brain)

Breath in. Breath out.  It will be okay.  At least I am going in to this with just one truly horrible weak spot. The bike is taking longer than I had hoped but I know I will get there by summer.

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Never give up

Race Report: Rock n Roll USA 2014

I participated in the Rock n Roll USA half marathon on Saturday.  I honestly don’t know how this happened!  One minute I was saying how I wouldn’t run a RnR race and then next thing I knew, I was looking at the registration confirmation email!  I think I have a variant form of automatic writing that only targets race registrations 🙂

As you know, I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis and training for my first triathlon.  Because of this, I have not run any “long” or “fast” miles since… November.   All of my training runs have been “zone 2” (low heart rate) which means I’ve been exceedingly and excruciatingly slow.  I’ve been riding and swimming so my aerobic level is good but it’s not exactly the same.  This is not a good set up for your first half marathon of the year.  Just finishing this race in one piece quickly became worry #1.

Worry #2 popped up when I finally started reading reviews from last year’s race and saw some appalling reports about the water stations and finish line aid.  I decided rather last minute to wear my CamelBak and bring everything with me.  There were also gear check problems last year but it sounded like this year would be smoother as they hired UPS trucks to handle the gear instead of school buses (WTF?!).  So, even though I had not run with my pack since early October, I decided it would be a good idea.

Expo, SWAG

I stopped by the Armory around 10:30 on Friday morning, as my usual routine for DC races.  It wasn’t crowded at all and, even though there were many vendors, everything seemed rather quiet and subdued.  The bib and shirt pickup was actually below the main floor (didn’t know that was there!) and took all of two minutes.  My only quibble was they didn’t give me pins (have plenty at home!) or the zip tie if I wanted to check a bag.  I guess they were at another station.  All runners received a nice shirt, either unisex or women’s cut, and a fabric gear drawstring bag that could be used at bag check. I risked it and chose a large women’s cut shirt and it looks good – sometimes they look like babydoll tops!

Start

The start was at 7:30, north the the Washington Monument.  I decided to metro in while some of my friends purchased a parking pass which allowed them to park at the finish at RFK Stadium.  They still had to metro to the start so it was about the same time. I also managed to score a Brooks VIP Potty Pass for basically free from my local running store.  I stopped by the LRS at 6:30 on Friday night and they had a ton of passes leftover and were giving them away.  Score!!  Double bonus as some friends were working the VIP area so a bunch of us just hung out there until it was time for the corral line-up.  If you ever get a chance to get one of the passes, I highly recommend it!  Running water, real toilets, HEAT, and nice little amenities.  Why yes, I would like some TUMS, just in case!  For those who weren’t lucky enough to get the special treatment, there was a huge row of port-a-pots lining the street near the UPS trucks.  I didn’t see the lines but it sounds like it was an adequate number.20140317-180037.jpg

There were a ton of corrals, combining both the full and half distances, and it was a wave start. I moved back several corrals to be with friends so we didn’t pass the starting line until 8:10.

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Course

It was DC.  There’s only so much you can say.  The start was nice, with the monuments.  We ran out to Arlington Cemetery and then back to the Kennedy Center.  Up Rock Creek Parkway to Adams Morgan.  Past Howard University and then to RFK.  The hill at mile 6 was really long and not pleasant. Some spots on the course were really lonely and not very stimulating, visually, but what do you expect of NE DC? My favorite was seeing the guy who dresses up at Mr. Incredible and plays his boom box on Rock Creek Parkway.  I saw him a few times last year and just love his enthusiasm!  Some people had make-shift aid stations set up and one guy had beer and sausages!  I appreciated the sentiment but I almost gagged on the smell!  Oy!

Aid

There were many water/Gatorade stations but I was glad I had my own water.  The first ones were having a hard time keeping up with demand but the later ones seemed better organized.  My big beef was the cups!  Some stations used paper Dixie cups but others used big, plastic SOLO cups!  Those things are definitely a hazard, especially after being squashed and broken (because runners seem to be unable to hit a trash can…) There was also a station offering GU and they seemed to have a good supply.  There were some port-a-johns along the course but they all had HUGE lines.  We passed a construction site by Howard and lot of runners even took over their construction johns!

Finish

Thanks to the help of a friend keeping me moving the first eleven miles and some minor miracle, I managed to finish in exactly 2:25, just a hair over an eleven minute pace.  I still don’t know how I managed that!  It was a 13 minute PR from my time at least year’s Historic Half!  I briefly entertained 2:20 but mile 11 was a struggle for me.

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20140317-184719.jpgHeavy Metal, natch!

The finish was well organized.  I somehow managed to try to run down the marathon chute rather than the half but they didn’t move over until after I hit the last mat so I appreciated that.  There were several photo ops and plenty of food and drink for everyone.  Chocolate milk, chips, pretzels, and clementine oranges.  I did not see a first aid station at the finish but there was a huge tent at the other end of the parking lot.  I also didn’t see any port-a-johns (which I needed).  There was a band playing but not a lot of people were listening to them.  There were also several vendors set up but I just wanted to get back to the metro and head home.  I really appreciated the foil blanket they gave us because my temperature quickly dropped and I would have been a sad panda, indeed, if I hadn’t had it!

As for using the pack, I’m glad I was self supporting but I am still paying for it.  My shoulder and back are still very sore because I was carrying it unbalanced the last few miles.  I couldn’t raise my left arm on Sunday and had to resort to prescription pain meds and it managed to kick off a migraine.  Not good.

Overall

I would give the race a B+.  Some parts were well organized and some needed help.  It appears that they did make a lot of improvements over 2013 so I think 2015 will be even better.  I would not be adverse to running this race again but I would definitely try to do early bird pricing or some other deal because this wasn’t a cheap one!  I would also still bring my own aid, but maybe after I had adjusted to using a pack again!

What I Wore

Athleta compression shorts, t-shirt, Buff band, gloves (which were removed at mile one but carried along because I’m a little nutty), wool socks, and Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. I also carried my CamelBak Annandale (which is now super cheap, if you want one!) and consumed two HUMA Chia Gels. I also had a “fat” sweatshirt that I wore until the start and tossed in the corral.  The race crew collected the discarded clothes for the local homeless shelters.

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Just Run

I have been cross training like crazy to prepare for my upcoming triathlon but I have been light on the running portion.  At first I was worried about aggravating my (almost totally resolved) plantar fasciitis and then I was limited to “zone two” runs.  A zone two run is one in which you try to keep your heart rate way low for the entire run, even if it means walking.  The theory is that, as your fitness improves, you will be able to maintain that zone at a higher pace.  That’s the theory but for me it still means sticking to a 15+ minute mile.  Needless to say, this has been messing with my head, especially with the half marathon coming up this weekend.  I have no hopes of a PR (well, maybe a little…) but I also don’t want to be swept due to exceeding the course’s time limit!

Last night a friend wanted to talk so I asked her to join me at our running group’s track night at the local high school for some laps.  I decided to leave my heart rate monitor and Garmin at home and run completely “naked”.  We ran and talked and fought some crazy wind gusts and just enjoyed ourselves.  And busted out a couple of sub 10 miles without really trying.  Where did that come from?!  Needless to say, I’m feeling much better about Saturday now!

In addition to the ego boos, it was also a good reminder that sometimes you need to dump the tech and let your body just do its thing.  Chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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Poser

I often don’t feel like a “real” runner. as if there are fake ones! I have raced over 204 miles since I started running two years ago. I have absolutely no idea how many miles I have run in training. Some days it feels like a million! I have done a lot in the past 2 years. First and foremost, I got my butt off the couch! But, I’ve also completed a marathon and set some significant personal records and overcome a lot of mental crap. Yet, even with all of those miles under my feet, I still feel like a fraud when I line up for a race. I imagine looks and whispers – “what is she doing here?”, “I hope she doesn’t get in my way!”, and maybe “oh my God, Becky, look at her butt!”

On Sunday, I ran a local trail race called Hemlock Overlook. It was a 5.5 or 10 mile trail that had a reputation for being a real bitch. I have been sweating it for a year and finally screwed up the courage to try.

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It was everything that was promised, and more! Tons of massive climbs, thick mud, exposed rocks, the works!

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I finished with a 13 minute average pace. Considering how hard I was sucking wind on some of the climbs, I’m okay with that.

Even more important than tackling that beast, though, was the fact that I felt like I actually belonged. I wasn’t intimidated by the super fit cross-country boys nor did I feel like I stuck out like a big n00b. I just jumped in and did my best. The race director had to adjust the course because of ice (no falling off cliffs, please!) so the 5 milers did one big and one little loop while the 10 milers did one big and two little. There were so many people passing and being passed that it was impossible to worry about your place in the pack. I didn’t worry when others passed me or became too cocky when I passed others. It was so nice to just run my own race and not worry about imaginary whispers and looks! Okay, so the ten year old who finished in 45 minutes kinda pissed me off…;)

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My next race is the Rock n Roll DC half marathon in two weeks. It is (obviously) a road race with very clearly defined corrals. Even though I will be more aware of the others, I will do my very best to keep my head high and “own” my place at the starting line.

I run. I am a runner.