Tuesday, September 13, 2011

LJ's Kelowna ITU Report - 3rd, I got Finlay'd

Thanks to my devoted homestay, I have more pictures in my race report than ever before seen at The Slog... for DC Rainmaker fans, this amounts to the number of shots Ray includes of product packaging.

I ventured to beautiful British Columbia, Canada for my first international race, the ITU Continental Cup in Kelowna--also Canadian Nationals. Leading up to the race I was stoked to see Paula Findlay's name in the start list as she is among the top women in the world in ITU racing. It's good to race the greats as they can pull you up to their level faster. Plus, I wanted to use the term Finlay'd in my race report.

For my homestay in Kelowna, I matched with a couple, Susanne and Frank. They made me feel like part of their family and I did my best to fulfill Susanne's wishes of making myself at home in their house. Both of them attended the race on Sunday to cheer on me and the Puerto Rican Rios twins who stayed with Susanne's sister, Denise. Next time I'm in Kelowna I will take them up on their offers to go sailing, blueberry picking and wine-tasting.

Immediately before the race starts, each athlete is announced in order of ranking and picks a spot on the pontoon or, in this case, a starting mat thing on the banks of Lake Okanagan:

I was ranked 22nd in the field of ~30 women, however, I was a few minutes late to the race briefing and got booted to the back of the line. I knew I wouldn't get a spot next to the higher ranked athletes anyway, but in a small field such as this, it wasn't a big deal.

As we waited for the starter, the dramatic ITU music played. I flashed back to last year when I was broken and would longingly watch the ITU action unfold on my computer, wishing to be a part of it. "Here I am," I thought, and without further ado, we were off.
I merged with the pack on the other end of the field before we hit the first turn buoy and was dragged into the trenches. After the first turn I got around a few women, but it feels like everyone was on top of one another.

The Kelowna swim course is two loops, where you pop out of the water at the half-way point and run around a buoy on the beach. At the start of loop two I was flanked by compatriot Amanda Felder and one of the Rios sisters and we had a civil thing going, until more people came along to drown us.
I thought I was positioned well in the water and felt good heading into transition... not a time to chill:
The bike was nothinggg like the Life Time Fitness races where I feel like laying down when I get off the bike. The 6 loop bike course in Kelowna included a hill, but our front pack of 9 didn't do anything too wild and we stayed away from the rest of the field.
T2 trying to hurry the hell up:
Paula had a gap right away and I ran up to Annie Warner and Sarah-Anne Brault (the race winner). Annie didn't stay with us too long, but lurked behind the whole race. Brault pulled away from me before we reached the halfway point of our first loop (4 loops on the run course). I FELT like I was moving fast and thought, TODAY I WILL RUN 36 and get under that 37 minute barrier. I just pressed forward as much as I could.

Ow. Ow... OW In the last 90 seconds I felt a tug in part of my quad. I had a vision of hobbling over the bridge before the finish line and potentially losing my podium spot, but then summoned all my zen energy and channeled it into the freaking muscle.
I finished third behind Brault and Findlay. I saw my run split, 35:40, and was so happy and proud for running hard.

Onto the awards ceremony...our homestays, Susanne and Denise, with Militza and Melissa Rios in front. My dad asked: and who is that on the right? (I roll my eyes): that's me.

Awards ceremony with the dolphins
I'm ready to smuggle my newly acquired plantlife and apples back to the USA
Egged on by the crowd, I made use of the champagne
The men's podium was not safe either, not even the CNT (Canadian national treasure, Simon Whitfield)
All six of us squeezed on the podium for more pictures. Good thing we're triathletes.
That evening Susanne fixed me a bowl with her blueberry pie and ice cream for the car ride to the airport for my red eye (love those)... and there you have it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 8th Bitch at Ironman Canada - A LAHP season update

DNF - nothing good can really be said about those letters. From an academic perspective, I've always lived in fear of getting a "D" or an "F" in school and never liked seeing an "N" (category for: needs improvement) on my elementary school report card. Unfortunately, I was a talker and always got "N's" for "listens to class instruction" and "self-control." Anyway, in my entire 5ish years of racing triathlon, I have prided myself in always finishing a race.This past month, however, I have DNF'd two races in a row and have learned more then I ever really wanted to learn about NOT finishing a race.

Consumed by the Kona Points Ranking (KPR) system and the siren call of Kona, I made an idiot decision to race Boulder 70.3 as there were more points to be gained by racing there. (Quick aside here: I liken the KPR and the whole giant Kona points chase to the power of that lame ring in Lord of the Rings...or even the horcruxes and their hold over Harry Potter. Don't judge my movie selections. The closer and more involved you get with the ring, and the horcruxes, and the freaking kona points chase, THE CRAZIER YOU GET.) ANYWAY - apparently, I thought I was above science, like many of our current GOP candidates, and clearly the altitude at Boulder would not affect sealevel lauren. After hyperventilating in the water and not being able to crack 100 watts on the bike and subsequently blacking out, I knew this race was not meant to be and pulled the plug.

I came home, regrouped, and then put together two excellent training weeks. My swim was improving, I was seeing good numbers in my run and on the bike. I was ready for Ironman Canada. I had unfinished business there, and I had an OUTSIDE chance of amassing enough points to qualify for Kona by only doing three ironmans and thus preserving my body provided everything went according to my spreadsheeted plan. Canada race week was good. I was chill. I was focused. I was ready to execute my plan. The sherpa was ready and had my bike dialed into perfection. My back and glutes were 95.5% and I was happy.

Race morning I was ON and FOCUSED. I did my pre race deal and got down to the water for the swim start. I lined up next to girls and away from the men, so as to avoid my typical face kick by male pros at the swim start. The gun went off and so did I. I felt strong swimming in the water and found some feet about halfway through the swim. These feet tended to swim crooked so I stayed on them only when they held the line. The swim was over quickly and per my plan, I decided NOT to look at the clock. I heard an excited Pataky scream that I was 5th out of the water. what? FIFTH? Did he really say 15th?? This was uncharted territory for me, so I decided I better use this to my advantage and get cracking. Loeffler passed me in transition and we started the bike together. I kept her in sight and tried to use her to mentally move me down the course. After the first few miles I started to pick up the pace and power and really felt good. Things were coming together and I was rolling along - HAPPY to be racing.

I stayed in this euphoric state through the bottom of Richter pass..somewhere over 40ish miles into the race. As we started climbing Richter the 2 people ahead of me dropped me quickly. I couldn't seem to get my bike to move. After what seemed like forever, I made it to the top of the pass. Something felt wobbly on the back of the bike and indeed, my tire was flat. At that point, I threw out about a million F bombs in my mind. This had never happened to me before and WHY in the MOST IMPORTANT RACE OF MY YEAR, did this have to happen?

After 12 minutes of battle with a new and stubborn tire, I finally changed the tube and extricated a large staple/tack from the wheel. Off I went....with the knowledge that almost every pro girl had passed me while I was sitting on the side of the road. I spent a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and cursing in my mind, and then I heard Pataky yell that I was "only" 7 minutes out of 5th. Avoiding a group of age group men sucking each other's wheels and passing me on the right down the descent, I made my way down Richter and into the first of the 7 bitches (for you non tri people, the 7 bitches are 7 big rolling hills after Richter pass). Unfortunately, I felt wobbly on the descent on the first bitch, and when I looked behind me, I saw yet another flat tire. I pulled over and found another tack/staple in my tire. At that moment, I became the 8th bitch on the IMC course. It took all of my energy not to pull a Stadler and throw my bike into the field. I waited for tech support as I only had one tube, but they were helping all of the other people who had flatted farther back on the course. At this point, I knew my race was over. While I completely respect the age groupers who waited patiently by the side of the road for over an hour and then got back on their bikes and continued on, I knew that I was not going to do that. My back only has so many marathons in it, and I decided to save it for another day. I called up Pataky from the phone of a very nice spectator and then just sat down and cried.

To be honest, I feel like the idiots who sabotaged this course really robbed me of a race*. Last time I felt this way was when my back blew up in 2008 and I felt like my L4/L5 discs had robbed me of part of my season. I could take the DNF from Boulder, because that was just stupidity on my part, but this second DNF was painful. Rather than sit in our depressing motel room, Matt and I went to the finish line and cheered for our friends who had put so much time and energy into preparing for this race. Watching Nina, Matt, and Jen finish despite their own flat tires, nutritional issues, and off course swimming made me happy to be part of this sport. And that is where I found my motivation to carry on......

A few weeks ago I decided to sign up for IM Wisconsin, which happens to be two weeks after Canada. Now that I DNF'd IMC, my body is still prepared to race an Ironman....SO RACE IT I WILL. In order to be successful there, I realize that I have no time to feel sorry for myself. So, rather than tubing down the river with an aching body the day after the race, I did a long run on the course. I did, however, feel like scratching out my race number on my calf and putting a big DNF to wear like a scarlet letter. While these past 2 races have been less than ideal, I have learned much, including the notion that I should focus more on racing and less on trying to qualify for Kona as a pro. If I focus on racing, the qualifying will come when I'm good enough to legitimately qualify. Most important, I have rediscovered my passion for this sport of triathlon and am ready to do what it takes to make it to the finish line next Sunday. And, to borrow a phrase from LJ's mom, when I cross that line I will get down on my knees and thank God.

* this is LJ hijacking Lauren's post--I view the course saboteurs as intervention by the merciful hand of fate, as Lauren will race Wisconsin fully marinated and rested.

Friday, September 2, 2011

LJ's Chicago Triathlon Race Report - 4th

I have four race reports in the posting pipeline, starting with the one freshest in my mind, the Life Time Fitness Chicago Triathlon. I split this into 3 parts for ease of reading, concluding with the most important section: gratitude.

1) INTRO: I raced the draft-legal ITU in Kelowna, British Columbia the weekend before Chicago, so it was interesting to see how I would recover and race back-to-back. I was effing sore the entire week after Kelowna from the run. Since the bike ride was a FAR CRY from the effort I've had to put out in my non-drafting races, I felt zippity and ran an unprecedented 35:40 10k... Paula Findlay's presence certainly helped me step up my game. Thusly, the week in Cleveland between races involved molasses-slow swimming, biking and running, with lots of bed rest and family time.

On Friday, my dad dropped me off at megabus which began my journey to the windy city. Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of any good food offerings in Chicago. By the time I got to my hotel to nap, run and visit the race expo to chat up my favorite Frenchman, Andre of Kiwami triathlon race wear, I only had time to grab a turkey sandwich and a few bananas from Walgreens with a redbox movie.

I met up with my dad and his girlfriend Saturday afternoon when they came into town and was whisked away to Chicago's finest, The Drake Hotel. I love when Marlene comes to races, haha. We waited 1.5 hrs for our room to be ready so my nap and ride went out the window. As a consolation, the Drake gave me my own room on the floor of the Diana suite instead of pegging me with the other two. I reveled in the solitude, leaving my crap all over my room, offending no one.

This was the first time I almost didn't get to eat my pre-race egg bomber and had already poured milk over rice cereal when the waiter planted a bowl of rice in front of me. During this time my dad was canvassing nearby convenience stores for instant rice--never again will I travel without microwaveable rice packets! The other low point of the morning (more from my dad's perspective) took place on my bike ride to the transition area. I got trapped on some pier then lost, which garnered a frantic call to my him. Dad: Ask someone for directions. Me: DIRECTIONS TO WHERE? I'VE ALREADY ASKED. NOBODY'S FROM HERE. I stopped the haranguing and found transition 5 min later... haha

2) THE RACE: The swim was ~400m one direction, then a 180 degree turn the other way and straight on until the swim exit. Intel and common sense suggested I go out hard to get around the turn buoy before the masses. Plus, I wanted to see how long I could stay with the expert swimmers.
Sara McLarty (who just lost her father in a cycling accident--so sad--and told me to love my dad everyday) started on the left side of the field but I resisted her magnetic pull and started on the far right to avoid the onslaught in the water. I went out hard and by the time I cleared the group, I met Alicia Kaye's feet--she was on the heels of the two speedy sara(h)'s. I hung on as long as I could and was gapped by the time I reached the turn buoy and went around it completely alone. At least I got that part right.

I made my way back to Alicia, who had fallen off WRP (world record pace of 2XSARA), as Flora Duffy came by me. Again, I drifted back of them and swam the second half solo--not ideal. Just as I reached the swim exit steps, I felt a touch on my foot which turned out to be Radka, my awesome new Czech friend (country adjacent to my motherland). Moral of the swim: the sara's are FAST. MOG.

See my pretty new Kiwami suit:
There was a long run to our transition area, ~600m. My bike shoes jammed in the grass (time to finally learn that damn rubberband trick) and I realized my chain had fallen off after I hopped on my bike. I had zero momentum and got off to put the chain back on, then fumbled some more while the entire field passed me by.

I felt awful on the bike so my first goal was to hang with the women nearby--I was in 10th position at one point early on. The bike course is 2 loops out and back on Lake Shore Drive. The out section lead into a VERY strong headwind which meant a healthy tailwind heading back toward the transition area. This allowed you to see the whole field and I could see Alicia really going for it which I admired.

On our first loop, our effort eased up slightly when riding with the wind (this was a welcome break), but on the second loop, I decided to keep up the intensity and came into T2 with a tiny gap--5 were already ahead of me on the run course.

Expert photography, compliments of my father:
I extended the margin a bit on the run and passed McLarty and Lavelle around mile 2, then hung dearly onto 4th place. I FELT hunted and was a tired Lindsey out there and very happy to cross the finish.

Chicago was the deepest field I've been in this year and I am happy with my finish place.

3) THANKS: While in Canada I got to spend time with my friend, Andrew McCartney, and his lovely girlfriend. Andrew mentioned that consistency in training leads to consistency in racing. That registered with me and instilled confidence in what I've been doing as I AM consistently progressing in training. It makes sense that it would translate to races, too.

Also worth a mention, I really hit the jackpot in nabbing Margie as my coach. She knows her stuff and is a master at the make or break aspect of sport: cultivating a healthy and strong athlete mind. She teaches me to look at the bigger picture and reminds me that there is more to life than triathlon. As a result, I do not read too much meaning from any single workout--good or bad. I appreciate our brick workouts as much as our Blizzard runs to DQ with her kids.

During my wkd of exhaustion at the end of July when I moved apartments, completed all my training AND attended a friend's wedding, Margie encouraged me to go to the britney spears concert that Sunday night when I brought it up because... it's BRITNEY SPEARS and how often can you see the princess of pop perform for free? Only once in my lifetime, anyway. When I got my schedule for Monday AM it said: Sleep in, recover from Britney. That's empathy.

And, thank you, Dad. :)