Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rev3 Dells

The Dells.  I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time- since the race last year, even more when I was selected onto the Rev3 age group team in December, even more when it was confirmed as a Midwest Collegiate Conference race again in January/February, etc.  The excitement has been building.  For a while, I wasn't sure whether to tackle the epic half course, or compete in the Olympic so I could do the collegiate race.  The exact plan wasn't finalized until a couple of weeks before the race, but all along I had planned for it to be an "A" race, and wanted to be firing on all cylinders.

The quick summary:  I had an okay race.  Not a great one.  But I certainly did put everything I had on the day into it.  And I came out with a great finish- 2nd overall amateur in a race with a pro prize purse of over $20k, which meant that my finish qualified me to apply for a USAT elite license ("pro card").  But I know I am fitter right now than I showed on Sunday, I believe I can be much better than I am right now, and I WILL have to be much better before I will feel comfortable moving up.  There are a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head right now.  So this is less a race report than a reflection about how the race fits into the rest of my life.  Those of you who know me know that I like to be thorough, so this is a particularly long post- feel free to skip around; I tried to make that easy.  Grab a cup of coffee and settle in.


My last tri was the Pewaukee Olympic 4 weeks ago, though it seems like it's been much longer than that.  A lot has happened outside of my triathlon life.  I had an incredibly stressful ~ week-and-a-half long period soon after that race in which I did very little other than work.  I skipped almost all of my workouts, and the couple that I did do were cut very short.  I got just enough sleep to remain functional on large doses of caffeine, and I stress-ate my way through a lot of mint M&Ms, Topperstix, and the like.  Looking back, I'm surprised that I didn't end up very sick.  I got through it, a little worse for the wear and without time to really build fitness for the Dells, but with enough time to get back into the swing of things.  Accordingly, I mentally downgraded the Dells race from an "A" race to a "have fun, go hard, and see what happens" race.


One thing that has been in the back of my mind for a while now-- almost since I started the sport, really-- is the possibility of one day racing as a pro triathlete.  I kept this pretty quiet the first few years, afraid to really own it publicly until it seemed more tangible.  It was a dream, not a goal, too far away to seriously consider. I have continued to make steady progress each year, and last year I began to mention the subject to my coach and a few close friends.  Coach B. and I also took it into account as an outside possibility in planning my 2013 season.  I wouldn't be chasing qualification, but I'd put myself into a position to qualify at a few races if things went well.  There are a number of ways to qualify for an elite license through USA Triathlon, but one of the most straightforward was to place within the top 3 amateurs at a race that had a pro race in the same format offering a total prize purse of at least $20k.  I had figured that the Dells would be one of my best chances to qualify, between the timing of the race in the year and USAT's unfortunate placement of the Olympic distance age group national championships in Milwaukee the day before (don't get me started on that).


I caught a ride up to Wisconsin Dells on Friday afternoon with Rev3 teammate Ron and his family, who were coming from the Chicago area.  Up there we met up with teammate Ryan, who proved to be a good buddy since he was also traveling solo (my Wisconsin Tri Team friends wouldn't arrive until Saturday).  Friday night festivities included dinner with the extended team and staff and a trip to the Tommy Bartlett water show, which was pretty cool!

Saturday brought a nice slate of Rev3 activities, including the morning official practice swim, blueseventy "worst wetsuit contest," and swim clinic with super pro Cameron Dye. In the afternoon I met up with Coach Bill and buddy Ansel to check out the run course by bike.  There were some good hills, but on the bike it's easy to underestimate some of the smaller rollers, and I fell victim to this.  Momentum doesn't carry you as far on foot as it does on a bike-- but more on that later.

Game time

Despite a beautiful few days leading up to the race, the morning forecast didn't look promising, and by the time transition closed, it was raining steadily.  I have of course had plenty of practice racing in the rain this year between Rev3 Knoxville, Triple-T, and Rockford, so I thought little of it except that I'd have to corner more cautiously on the bike.

Swim. The swim start was time-trial start by twos, and the age group women were sent off immediately after the age group men.  I love to have people to chase, so I placed myself about 15 women back in the line. I felt pretty strong the first half, and felt like I was swimming fast despite having to weave through the back 2/3 of the age group men.  On the return stretch I could feel my recent lack of swim yardage coming back to bite me a bit, so I just tried to stay focused and maintain turnover the best I could.  I relaxed quite a bit in the last 100m trying to bring my heart rate down before the beast of hill that leads up to transition.  It didn't seem to work.  I took my wetsuit off immediately, like I usually do for long T1s, but as I started "running" up the hill my stomach retched repeatedly, threatening to expel my breakfast.  I kept moving and managed to keep everything down, but I really need to get the situation figured out soon since it seems to happen almost without fail whenever T1 involves a good hill.  From talking with other athletes it seems that swim times included the run uphill to transition, which makes my particularly slow split make more sense.

up the dang hill and getting my bearings back
Bike.  I got my legs back under me pretty quickly, and this turned out to be one of my better rides of the year, power-wise.  However, at the end of the day it's not the numbers on the device that matter- it's how fast you get from point A to point B.  And my split was not as fast as I'd have liked it to be.  So, where did I lose time?  
1. Corners.  I still can't get myself to corner well on wet roads.  Why?  I haven't practiced it in training.  I always end up thinking "I don't want to wipe out on a training ride."  But there's no way to get more comfortable with it other than to practice.
2. First half mile/last half mile.  There were a number of bumps leading between transition and the main road, as well as a few big puddles.  I could've stormed through them quite a bit faster.

Still, I am happy with the ride.  I felt strong, and held my position in the field pretty well. Since the run route out faced the bike route in I got to cheer for a few friends who were up ahead, and that was great!

Riding is fun, rain or no rain.

Run. I felt pretty strong, steady, and under control in the first miles.  There's not a lot of net elevation change until the long hill at about 2.5 miles, but the steep parts of the little rollers each zapped a bit of strength from me.  I haven't done much hill-specific work this season, so that might have been a contributor to the problem.  The long hill near halfway was the only out-and-back section on the new run course, and therefore the best chance to see where everyone was.  The lead female was quite a way in front of me, but the next female behind me wasn't too far.  On the second half of the run, I used that knowledge to keep pushing through the pain as my wheels were coming off.  Each hill took longer and longer for me to recover from, but there's no walking when you're being hunted from behind. 

yep, can tell this was taken in the first 2 miles
The last significant hill on the run course was on Adams St. at 5 miles.  It just about killed me.  Afterward, my whole body felt weak and my brain did everything it could to keep my limbs moving forward along the rollers of Wisconsin Dells Pkwy.  Approaching the last turn onto Lake, someone cheered for us "girls." Uh, oh, plural.  Sure enough, just after the turn the woman I'd spotted earlier charged past me.  I couldn't match her pace, but I picked mine up as much as I could and prayed for the end to come swiftly.  I should've checked out the configuration of the finishing chute beforehand, because it twisted around for what seemed like the longest 100m or so of my life.  Like at Lake Mills, I felt everything start to come up as I ran towards the line, so I don't really want to see my finisher picture.  I didn't quite make it to a trash can.  Oops.  I'm getting pretty good at scaring spectators and volunteers.  Sorry, everyone.


I knew a lot of  people at this race, and it was great to catch up with so many of them! If I missed you, I apologize!

It turns out that with the time trial start, I was actually 10 seconds faster than the girl who passed me before in the last quarter mile, so I came in second overall.  I'm so happy I didn't ease off at any point on the run, because it would have been really, really easy to lose those 10 seconds.

As always, Rev3 gave their award winners ridiculous amounts of cool stuff!

I also learned that coach Wild Bill qualified for his elite license as well by taking 3rd OA on the men's side- this has been a long time coming, and I am sooo happy for him!

Thanks to having the generous Mr. Cagle as my ride back to Madison, I was able to stick around to help start cleaning up the expo area and cheer in the final Half Rev finisher.  The final finisher is a big deal at Rev3- this person has worked hard for longer than anyone else out on the course.  At so many races, the back of the pack seem to be forgotten about, left to fend for themselves. People pack up aid stations and finish lines and head out.  Not so with Rev3-- the final finisher is where the party is at! After hearing about it and seeing videos from other races, I'm so glad I was able to participate in this for myself.
Congratulations, Robert!

What's next?

Qualifying for the elite license was a good milestone.  But I don't want to be in the pro field just to finish-- I want to compete.  I want to be in the race, in the mix, not dangling off of the back.  Whenever I move up, I want it to be clear that I belong there.  Do I expect to be winning pro races?  Certainly not.  It's not about winning.  It's about being pushed to new levels, about becoming the best athlete I can be.  Right now, my swim and bike splits pretty consistently put me in the mix with the back third of the pro field.  On my good running days, I am about even with the last pros.  But on my bad running days, I'm WAY off the back.  My running has been better on the whole this year, and good more often than in the past, but frankly it's not yet where it needs to be to race at an elite level.

I think I can get it there, but I'm not sure how soon. One of the nice things about elite qualification is that an athlete has a year from the date of qualification to apply for the elite license.  My current life timeline has me finishing my dissertation and defending my PhD next May, and at this point in my life that has to be the priority over athletics.  Will I continue to train the best I can while working on it?  Yes.  But when time runs short and the two butt heads, I will be choosing academics.  So I'm not sure where I will be able to have my fitness at come next spring, and I will be holding off applying for the elite license for now.  If I'm at the level  I need to be at to move up, I should be able to re-qualify anyway.  I'm still young (relatively :) ).  I've got time!


Lastly, I just want to recognize some of the people who have helped me get to this point on the journey.  Be prepared, things are about to get a little bit sappy...

My amazing family, for their unflinching support in whatever crazy endeavor I've been hooked on over the years. I love you more than you could ever know.

My coach, Bill.  We've been through a lot of ups and downs over the past 4+ years, personally and professionally.  The things I think are most valuable in a coaching relationship are 1) trust, and 2) open communication.  You are fantastic at both with all of your athletes, and I have faith that you will keep me moving in the right direction.  To the rest of the SBR coaches: Jessica, Kory, Kitty, Scott; plus Pete at Rocket Bikes: I appreciate all of your help and your feedback. You always make me feel valued and welcome, even when I pepper you with questions.

My newest team, Team Rev3.  I don't know if I can say enough.  Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and letting me be a part of the family.  You are some of the kindest, funniest people I know, and it is an honor to be part of your ranks. The same goes for the Rev3 staff.  I believe in what you do, and you do an incredible job.  The Team Rev3 sponsors: PowerBar, Pearl Izumi, blueseventy, SBR Sports, Biotta JuicesCompex, NormaTec, Quintana Roo, Reynolds.  Thanks for keeping us happy, healthy, comfortable, and fast!

The Wisconsin Triathlon Team, past ("UW Triathlon Team" :) ) and present.  You keep me motivated, inspired, and having fun, day in and day out.  When I joined, I knew next to nothing about the sport.  Now I get to pass on some of the things I've learned to the people who are just discovering it.  Each of you brings a little something different to the table, and that's what makes us such a strong group.

Last but certainly not least: all of the incredible friends that I've met through this sport-- particularly the collegiate athletes, and those from the Madison tri scene: the folks out at Endurance House, the Race Day Events clan, my friends over at Team BBMC, and more others than I can name.  Training and racing wouldn't be the same without you.

Onward to the rest of 2013.  Let's make it great.


  1. Great report Summer!! You did a great job staying mentally strong in tough circumstances!! Nice work out there and CONGRATS on reaching a very nice milestone!

  2. Nice race lady and way to represent the Team albeit some challenges leading up to the race. You're inspiring!

  3. Great Race Summer. Pushing through so much adversity makes it that much sweeter. Congrats!!!

    1. Thanks ladies! I'm trying my best to make you guys proud! :) #Rev3Love