Thursday, October 10, 2013

Out with a Bang: Rev3 Branson

I came into this season in an interesting place.  For the first time in years, I didn't have a big "A race" in mind. I wanted to perform well at the Olympic and Half distances and had quite a few "process" goals for the year, but that was it.  I'm a big believer in keeping things flexible and doing what motivates you, and there was no single event that I wanted to qualify for, etc.  I kind of had in mind from the beginning that it would be a building year.  Some of this was probably the need for a mental break after my borderline-obsession with Ironman Wisconsin last year (which went very well and turned into one of those sobs-of-joy-at-the finish-line type races, despite the fact that I didn't end up with a Kona spot.  I was not a blogger yet, but my coach wrote a good recap of my race on his blog here).  Anyway, our plan this year had an early season peak and an extended peak for my end-of-season tris: Iowa's Best Dam Triathlon (MWCTC  Championships) and the Half Rev at Rev3 Branson.

I enjoyed rocking the Team Rev3 tats with the UW kit for IBDT!  Justin Torner Photography got some cool shots.

At this point, some of you might notice that I never published a race report for IBDT.  And I don't plan to.  My approach to blogging is a lot like racing: I do it when I feel inspired to, when I feel passionate about it.  I need an angle, some broader perspective than just a play-by-play race recap.  As with any Badger road trip it was a really fun weekend, but the race itself was unremarkable for me. So-so non-wetsuit swim, pretty fast bike with a few stupid mistakes, and a run that started off well but faded to the point that it ended up only 30 seconds faster than in the previous year's race (which was 1 week post ironman).  The brightest spots were that I nailed the mount and dismount I had been practicing all week (woot!). I came away with the collegiate female win, which was my primary point in making the trip, but I left with a fire in my belly for Branson.

With Branson, a number of factors collided that made me strangely (for me) at ease in the the lead-up to the race.  I mentioned the fact that I wasn't really viewing it as an A race.  One of my goals at the beginning of the season was to break 5 hours in a half this year.  I have been close now many times-- Door County 2010: 5:01:49, Racine 2011- 5:01:49 (NOT A TYPO, I went the same time down to the second!), High Cliff 2012- 5:00:12, Oceanside 2013- 5:01:43.  However, I knew going in that Branson would not be the course to do that on, unless I turned into Wonder Woman overnight (the winning female pro in 2012 went 4:57), so I didn't feel any pressure about that. I'd also already hit a long-shot goal for the year by pro qualifying at Rev3 Dells, so that wasn't an issue either.  I was just excited to race, and that pretty much blocked out everything else.

home away from home for the weekend

I made the trip down to Missouri with Badger teammate Simon, who was racing the Olympic Rev in the collegiate division, and Milwaukee-area tri friend Pete, who was also racing the Half Rev.  The drive went quickly, and our hotel was pretty entertaining and Branson-esque.  Saturday was a busy day with the official practice swim, packet-pick-up at T2, easy ride and bike drop off at T1, and a quick drive of the bike course.  As usual I was dealing with a few minor crises (this time, some foot pain that kept me out of running the second half of the week, and a painful insect sting on our shake-out bike ride) but I tried to focus on managing the things I could control and hoped for the best in the morning!

green screen fun at the race expo!
5 a.m. rolled around quickly, and it was chilly (mid-40s) but we were pretty well prepared.  All of the week's little niggles melted away.  We parked at T2 and dropped off our run gear, then were able to board one of the Branson Ducks right away (no line!) to shuttle us to the swim start.  It was pretty much as stress-free as a two transition race can be.  There was space to warm up in the water while the earlier waves went off, which was great since the 76* water felt much nicer than the air did, and my sleeveless blueseventy wetsuit was perfect.  The air-water temperatures and humidity were working together to create a fog layer right at water level, though, and even during my warm up I could tell that it was going to make things interesting...

^ hey look, I'm running
Our wave start was a beach start, and I was able to line up just where I liked- on the front and to the inside- in hopes of avoiding the fray.  I found myself following some fast feet for the first 400m or so.  Quickly I noticed that I could see the candy-corn-like orange and yellow Olympic turn buoys just fine (great), but not the red buoys that signaled the Half Rev turns. My stroke felt good, and it seemed like the people in front were veering off course (at least, if the red buoy was where it seemed like it should be) so I left the person in front of me in hopes of swimming a straighter line.  But after a little while I realized I was lost in the fog: I had passed the Olympic turn buoy, but I couldn't see the Half one yet.  After failing to sight it a few times in a row, I did a few breaststroke strokes to take a better look around.  Nope.  My only choice was to keep following the path of the swimmers I was catching from earlier waves until I saw the buoy myself.  This  continued throughout the swim, and I completely lost momentum.  It was hard to trust the people in front of me, and I know I was swimming much too tentatively.  This is definitely something I need to work on. Slowing down wasn't helping- I needed to trust that I was going the right way, and periodically check for appearing buoys.  I might try out a different colored goggle tint in the future as well.  Finally I hit sand and started running, and heard RD Eric yell that my speedy Rev3 teammate Maggie was up just ahead.  I charged up the steep path as quickly as I could manage, did a solid bike mount (yay!) and set off in pursuit.  Split: 30:57


The first two miles were very decidedly uphill, and my legs felt good but I tried not to get too excited.  The next ones were more gradual, and I slowly reined Maggie in and gave her a cheer as I passed.  It was fun to glance around and remember running the same road a couple of years ago. At about 6 miles we popped out onto our playground for the day, the Ozark Mountain High Road.  The Half Rev athletes had about two and a half laps on there before turning off towards Branson Landing.  The entire multi-lane High Road was completely closed to traffic for us, so crowding was never an issue, and there were 5 opportunities to get fluids at aid stations on course, which was great.  This whole middle section of the bike course was filled with long slow climbs followed by open sweeping downhills.  Normally I'm not a big fan of hills, but the fun of carrying high speeds through the descents just about made up for all of the climbing.  My ride data shows that I went over 40 mph 16 times during the Branson bike.  Crazy!  The climbs weren't too steep, so you could get into a rhythm and grind them out.   

great bike course photo by

I tried to stay as steady as possible on the climbs, and use them as chances to eat, drink, and move around.  Coach Bill and I had discussed power goals for the flats (ha!) and power ceilings for the climbs in the week before the race, but I ended up climbing a little bit above what we had discussed.  It allowed me to ride at a more comfortable cadence, and since my legs felt strong it seemed like the smartest thing to do.  I was getting plenty of rest of the downhills, and I knew from hilly rides earlier in the summer that I could climb hard repeatedly without destroying my legs.  I feel like I'm getting better at identifying different types of pain and what they mean for me.  My legs hurt for most of the bike ride, but I still had plenty of power, and that was the important part.  This is the kind of situation when I appreciated having power data as an independent measure of how hard I was working.  Without it, I probably would have backed off to make sure I wasn't  killing myself before a half marathon. Still, I was a little nervous turning off the High Road that I'd done too much. With 9 miles to go, I looked down and realized that on most other half courses I'd be getting off the bike around then.  From my scouring of previous years' results, 3:00 seemed like a competitive amateur bike split, and would be in the mix with the back half of the female pros.  So that was a smaller goal for the race, and I knew I could get close if I stayed focused.

in the zone on the High Road

The final miles down to Branson Landing were really fun and mostly downhill.  There was a screaming fast descent at mile 53 on James Epps Rd.--  I was grateful that the RD intelligently routed us up around the corner and through a wide turnaround to run out some speed instead of having us making a tight left into the park right at the bottom of the hill.  The path through the park was narrow and twisty, and I was all alone so I was momentarily concerned that I missed a turn.  Soon enough, though, I found myself at the exit and ready for the last hill- a sharp little kick that was actually the steepest section on the course (ouch!).  I was really glad I knew it was coming, because I probably would've dropped my chain otherwise.  My wind-chilled feet made for a less than graceful flying dismount, but oh well.  Split: 3:01:48 (gah!)


The Branson run course is 3 laps (more like 2.9 laps) and pretty much as flat as I could hope for.  It's lovely.  From T2 we ran right through the middle of the Branson Landing shopping center, along the river to a big loop turnaround in Sunset Park, then all the way past transition along the water to a quick out and back in North Beach Park.  Like the bike course, the run was incredibly well-supported, with 14 aid stations in 13 miles.  And I appreciated every single one of them.

In my pre-race meeting with Bill we'd decided I should go out at about 7:30 pace if I felt good, or about 8s if I was having trouble getting my legs to come around.  Well, as I headed out of transition my legs felt GREAT-- like all the bike did was warm them up for the run.  What?!  My excitement combined with the rush of heading through the crowds at the shopping center caused me to take it out hot.  I came through 1 mile and hit my watch: 7:01, crap.  I tried to convince myself to simmer down.  Mile 2: 7:06. Double crap. Even if I was having an awesome day, that was probably not going to be sustainable.  Attempt #2 to back off: 7:22.  Ok.  I tried to hold it there.

The day had slowly been warming up and the sun was shining brightly.  I had taken a few salt tablets on the bike, and packed some for the run even though they would be on course.  I tried to stay on top of cooling myself and fueling: at each aid station I dumped water on myself and grabbed a drink, and  make sure I was taking in calories and salt regularly. Around mile 6 I started getting toasty, and running wasn't as easy.  I focused on my cadence and kept an eye on my splits.  It was great to see Sharpie and my Rev3 teammates and other friends around the course: every time I ran into one of them it was a pick-me-up.  The third quarter of the run is always so mental.  I grabbed cola, which is always a nice treat in races.  I chased people.  I'd been keeping tabs on where Maggie was, and I could see that she was slowing pulling time back.  She is a solid runner who's had a few fantastic races this year, so I couldn't afford to ease up at all.  Since we were now mixed in with Olympic racers and doing multiple laps, I couldn't tell where anyone else was.  I made an effort to pick things up at the start of the third lap, but it cost me.  My lower body was tightening up. At mile 10 I found myself above 8:00/mi pace for the first time in the race.  Nooo.  At that point I realized the aid stations had ice, and shoved a bunch down my top.  Mile 11.  My left IT band felt like a rock.  HOLD IT TOGETHER, SUMMER.  I imagined ticking off every tenth of a mile.  Past 12 miles, a woman came floating by me looking impossibly fresh.  It was the final kick in the butt I needed.  I fought to stay on her heels, and was delighted when she continued straight as I veered left towards the finish.  I got an enthusiastic greeting from Rev3 announcer Sean English and couldn't help but grin as I crossed the line.  Split: 1:39:59 (!)

Time: 5:15:14, 1st OA amateur female, 11th OA female

Whoa.  I am very, very happy with the way this race went, and as such, it will definitely be my last triathlon this season.  It was my first time breaking 1:40 in a 70.3 run (by the skin of my teeth! but still!), when at the start of 2013 I hadn't cracked 1:50. To do it off of a difficult bike ride is icing on the cake. It would have still been the slowest run in the women's pro field by a couple of minutes, but at least I'm moving in the right direction.  1:40 was a big mental barrier.  Maybe by the end of next year I'll be able to take my run out in 7s and actually hold them.  Time will tell... 

My travel buddies turned in solid races too, with Simon winning the Olympic overall and Pete placing in the top part of the amateur field in the half.  It was also great to see some of my collegiate friends down at the race, too- they always make things more fun.  And of course the Rev3 family was out in full force!  It was a great trip.

Rev3 girls represent

This weekend I have my final real race of the year- USAT Aquabike Nationals at Rev3 South Carolina in Anderson, SC.  I referred to this as the "dessert of my triathlon season" to a friend recently, and it totally is.  A 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and I'm done.  I signed up for it last year even before I made it onto the Rev3 team.  For once I get to go out and leave it all on the bike, without worrying what it will do to my run.  In the second half of that bike ride, the gloves are coming off, and the claws are coming out.

I can't wait.

1 comment :

  1. Congrats on the win! Glad I wasn't the only one who felt that way on the run.