Monday, August 26, 2013

Pigman 70.3

Race Day Write Up-IM 70.3 Pigman Long Course

I’d signed up for this race at the tail end of last year’s race season-I figured it would give me something to train for all winter and I’d be ready by August 18 to kick butt and take names. Then I got engaged. The winter wasn’t spent in the pool or at spin class, but on the couch and in the kitchen. I’d been waffling as to whether I should just put this off until next year, since the race was 20 days before my wedding, but a friend convinced me we’d do it together and signed up on the spot. I was committed. And terrified.

We loaded up our bikes Saturday morning and headed to Cedar Rapids. That is one long, boring drive. Not a lot else I can say about that! Got to packet pick up, looked around, and boy did I feel outclassed. I run triathlons not because I have any designs on being the fastest girl at the race, but because I simply need to do it. I have a desire to participate, to keep moving forward, and if I’m at the back of the pack? More motivation to get better. Every triathlon I get to, I feel honored to compete with such clearly seasoned athletes. Their bikes look shinier, their helmets more aero, their gear so clearly designed to shave seconds off each movement they make. In the parking lot, we were getting ready to go in and the couple next to us looked over at our bikes hanging on the back of the car. “Who’s riding the cyclocross?” they asked. I proudly told them I was, but they laughed and wished me good luck. That took a little air out of my sails. After a nice pasta dinner, we headed back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub and head to bed for the big day. As is customary, sleep was terrible that night. Tossing, turning, flat pillows, noisy hallways. We got up before the alarm and went through the motions, and then headed out on the road.

Arriving at the site, my mind was blown. I easily had the bulkiest bike there, again. I thought once I got rid of the mountain bike I did my first few tri’s on, it was smooth sailing from there. But it took me right back to that first sprint triathlon I did at Holmes Lake. These people weren’t messing around-and why should they be? We had 70.3 miles of sunny road ahead of us. Shiny spandex, alien looking aero helmets, quads of steel. I did meet some super nice ladies at the porta pottie line who had also asked the race director how long they’d leave the finish line up (9.5 hours is the answer we both got). Guessing ages would be impolite, but I peeked at the post race stats and they were around 50, and were doing the race for a friend with cancer.

Got our transition areas all set up, nutrition attached to the bike and laid out for the run, and went down to wait on the beach. Newbies can always seem to find other newbies at a triathlon and we got to talk to a few more nervous souls completing their first half IM. I was pretty zen at this point, and just ready to get this thing started. I know I’m not fast at any of the segments-my normal speed at the run isn’t a given after 57.2 miles of bike and swim, so I mentally budgeted myself an 8  hour “work” day to get this thing done. The swim start was a time trial entry, instead of the normal mass release we’re used to. I think I actually prefer this method-it’s a little less flaily, and I didn’t get kicked in the face as is customary at a triathlon. The main things I remember from the swim were really wanting to pee and not being able to, and constantly realizing how off course I was. Orienting yourself during the swim portion of a triathlon is a constant concern, and periodically I’d have to check buoy position and right my course. The swim ended up taking me about 53 minutes, and yes I did pee in the lake. I should also mention that I’m one of a handful of people not in wetsuits for the swim. It’s my understanding that they help with buoyancy in the water, because it’s certainly not to keep warm. But the down side of that is that I could probably have gotten done 5-10 minutes earlier if I was to suit up. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make because a) watching people get into those wetsuits looks like a new level of humiliation, b) Peeling said wetsuit off after a race seems terrible, and c) spending the money on a wetsuit I’ll end up wearing a handful of times a year is just not an expense I need or can afford. Only other thing of note from the swim is about halfway through, I started feeling something pull on my neck, but there’s not a lot you can do for adjustments to your swim cap in the middle of a seaweedy lake.

Ran up the beach to transition, and was really bummed to see how few bikes were still left waiting to be ridden. Our classification (group 8, women under 40) was 8 out of 10 in transition, meaning I had a long run to get to my bike, but a short walk out of transition to mount up and start riding. Got my helmet secured, feet wiped down enough to get my socks and cycling shoes on, and was on my way. I want to point out that as you increase the distance of your triathlon, it becomes more important to make absolutely sure you get all the sand off your feet before you put your socks and shoes on. That tiny grain of sand stuck to your big toe is livable for a sprint distance, but during the half marathon portion of the half IM, it’s going to wear a formidable blister into whatever surface it’s attached to. I bring a squirty water bottle and rinse off before drying them and getting my shoes on-you know, for safety.

Hopped on the bike and pedaled as fast as I could onto the course. The 56 mile course took us through 2 towns, a couple of railroad tracks, and a boatload of rolling hills. I was prepared for this, but my partner for the race Kristina was really not happy about all the hills. Again, I’m riding a Jake with my knobby tires still on, so I was pretty happy to check my computer and realize I was maintaining about a 15 mph pace. The reason I left my bumpy tires on was twofold: I did the majority of my training and long rides on a crushed limestone path, so that is what I was used to, and I figured sturdier tires decreased the chances I’d pop a tire on the course. One mantra you’ll always hear a triathlete preach is not to make any equipment changes on race day. You always want to make sure you’ve trained in your tri suit, nothing you’ve never ate before, no new shoes, etc. Nothing like getting 30 miles out and finding your suit gives you a killer wedgie.

While on the bike, I consumed a Smuckers Uncrustable PB&Honey, some shot blocker chews, and not nearly enough water. They let us know there were bottle exchanges about every 10 miles, and made an effort to keep us hydrated on the course. I brought one bottle of my own water, and one of the bottles they’d given us at check in. When I traded out my Pigman bottle around mile 28, I realized they were filling them with HEED, the electrolyte replacement fluid they’d talked about on their website. It tasted, quite frankly, like warm pee. Salty, faintly lemony, and due to my slower performance was completely warm. I couldn’t drink it, so I lost out on that hydration which would end up being a bit of a downfall during the run. They had some disposable squeeze topped water bottles out on the course as well, but those didn’t fit in your bike cage so I’d have to take a big gulp and throw it away (and they tasted like warm plastic anyway, which didn’t help my burgeoning headache). My legs still felt pretty strong throughout the ride, but I did notice that the chip timer seemed to be wearing a nice hole in my shin. And it turned out that the feeling I’d had on my neck earlier was my swim cap or goggles burning some nice holes in my skin on either side. We’d talked about how stinky the caps were the night before, but that they were thicker than the race caps we’re used to. As a result, I decided to forego my normal double cap approach to keep my “regular” cap on and put the race one atop it. See, kids: nothing new on race day.

Pulled in to the recreational area after the bike, and saw a bunch of people finishing their run. Those seasoned IM athletes are animals! I came in at 3:45 for the bike, threw it on the rack, changed into my running shoes, and headed out for the last part of my day. I made it about 3 miles before my first walk at a water station. From there on out, I had to stop at each station, walk a bit and double fist the water cups. My lips had a fine crust on them, the water was so cold, and I knew I was in real hydration trouble. So I just ran/walked as best as I could, and just kept moving forward. The run would have gone a lot better if I’d taken in some more water on the bike, and if the route contained as much as a tree’s worth of shade-there was not a single respite from the 90 degree day, and starting my run at around 1:00 PM didn’t ease the sun beating down on me at all. When I got to around the 9 mile mark, my feet started letting me know that they were pretty displeased with all the abuse they’d taken. Around mile 10, I knew it was almost over and picked up the pace as much as possible. Came in to the park with about 2 miles to go, and passed a girl. Stopped and walked a bit up a particularly steep hill and she passed me back. One thing about triathlon racing that you may not know is that they mark you on your calf with your age. I saw she was exactly my age, and my competitive streak kicked in. I’d beat at least one person in my age group, gosh darn it! Kicked it into gear and realized I still had something left to give. Ran it into the chute, and even gave a little sprint at the end. Looked up and realized I’d come in about 35 minutes ahead of “schedule”-7:24:55. Kristina had done amazing and came in right around 6 hours.

We had been going back and forth about whether or not we wanted to stay in Cedar Rapids and relax that night before driving back Monday morning, or if we just wanted to go back home that night. Well, around hour 2 on the bike all I could think about was how much I wanted to sleep in my own bed. Kristina agreed, and we decided to head back that night. Took some much needed showers, fished the seaweed out of our sports bras, and headed over for some Jimmy Johns for the road. Sandwiches seem to be my go-to after a big calorie burn-not too tough on the stomach, which was just what I needed.

 I saw the race results, and I know I was in the last 25% of finishers. I’ll say that all things considered, I’m happy with how I did. I realized during this race that I’ve probably hit here the pinnacle of what I’m going to be able to do. And a lot of that has to do with the monetary investment I’m willing to make. I enjoy doing triathlons because I like to challenge myself, but the amount of money you would need to invest to really be successful is more than I’m willing to spend. Time trial bikes, wetsuits, trainers, aero bars and helmets, I mean there’s even fancy water bottles that just have straws so you don’t have to change your focus for a second; I on the other hand don’t even have a Garmin or a Heart Rate Monitor. I now know what I’m capable of, and it’s more than I ever thought possible, and I don’t even need fancy equipment to tell me that. Would I do it again? Probably. Would I train differently? Probably. But considering I did this race and all my training while simultaneously building a giant patio at my house and planning a wedding that is 3 weeks after the race, I think I did the best I could expect. Race photos still haven’t been posted, so I have nothing pretty to pepper this report with, but I thank you for coming on the journey with me! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gravel Worlds 2013

Gravel Worlds launches this Saturday at 6 AM. Sheclismo's Elisabeth "Grindcore" Reinkordt put together this video to get everyone excited. The women's field this year is bigger than ever, and we're proud to have several of our own in the ranks.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Moxie Cycling Jersey: Another Review

I gave the Vixen jersey a go and I found it to be very comfortable. It was definitely one of the more comfortable jerseys I've ever worn. The fabric is durable and cooling and the fit is nearly perfect for my shape. I really appreciated the cut around the under arms and front of the shoulders. Didn't pinch at all. I thought the length was spot on.  Though Elisabeth didn't particularly like how loose it was at the bottom (we have very different body shapes), I like it because it doesn't stick to my belly which is an area of insecurity for me.

After reviewing the size chart I would say the fit is true to size for a curvy gal.  I tried a Large.  My bust is a 36 C, waist is 29" and hips are 39"  It fit snug at the bust and I was happy with the support it offered. I like having the option of extra padding but I think I prefer to leave the pads out.  Around the waist and belly it was a touch looser, yet still followed the curve of my body closely.  The cut is flattering and the design of the Vixen is particularly flattering. As Elisabeth mentioned, I too appreciate a pattern that strays from the pink and purple floweriness I usually see for women specific clothing. I also LOVE stripes!

I had one complaint about the fit.  I wanted more clearance between the base of the back of the neck where the straps meet. It pulls on the shoulders and neck a bit, though It's not enough of an issue to prevent me from wearing it.

I would wear this for a variety of riding.  I initially tried it for a ride out to Eagle and was really satisfied with it. Since then I've mostly worn it on my commutes to yoga and then the grocery store. I like long distance, all day rides and I will be using it for those rides, especially on warmer days.  It's plenty comfortable and offers enough space in the pockets to keep your stuff. However, it's flattering and casual enough where I don't feel out of place or uncomfortable wearing it to the grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant or bar after a ride. It dries quickly and doesn't show or hold sweat. I really just want to wear it everywhere.

I  have recommended it to friends and teammates based on comfort and style and I will continue to. Can't wait to try another fit!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Product test: Moxie Cycling jersey

Occasionally, we'll get contacted by folks looking for women like us to test out things we might like to buy. Recently, we were contacted by Moxie Cycling, a company based in Minneapolis that's designing women's cycling apparel. Always on the lookout for women's cycling gear that doesn't go by the rule of "pinkify and cover in flowers," I gave their Retropolitan jersey a go.

I really liked the look of this jersey -- the design and color combo is great -- but while the bottom half fit a little loose, the top half, and particularly the cut right under the armpits, was too snug. This was not as bad when I was riding (arms forward) as when I was just walking in the jersey. It did seem to stretch a little bit after an hour or so, or I just got used to it. I wore this on a relatively warm day, and appreciated the sleeveless cut. The fabric was not particularly breathable, so I don't see wearing this in the very hot and humid part of our Nebraska summers! Also, and this may be just because I'm used to wearing team kit, too, but I felt like with the snugness of the top part, the bottom seemed loose -- I had the urge to pull it down, as it didn't seem to stay in place.

Based on the size chart, I should be a small, but as mentioned above, this was too tight around my armpits. I have quite narrow shoulders and a small chest, so I was kind of surprised at this. I exchanged it for a medium, which is still snug, but fits much more comfortably. I'd advise ordering a size up. I see this jersey as wonderful for casual group rides, and those days when you have a lot of places to go by bike but don't want to be fully lycra-clad. On the day I took these photos, I rode about 15 miles around town, then went to a coffee shop and worked in an office for a couple hours. Though I packed an extra t-shirt to change into, I didn't feel the need -- I didn't feel like I was wearing kit. Also, because it's sleeveless, it would serve as a nice addition to the female cyclist's wardrobe for evening out the farmer tan lines from sleeved jerseys! 

I would recommend this jersey to friends and teammates, with the caveat that trying it on (rather than trusting the size chart) is a good idea. There are several designs that are truly great looking and stylish, not falling into the typical "throw some flowers on it, make it pink or purple" trap. I'd love to see a fleet of women wearing these.

As mentioned above, this jersey is all about look. I didn't think I'd like the padding, but wow, that made me look good! I think women get used to the uni-boob look that sports bras give, and this padding just made me look like my normal self, not bigger, but not squished.

I suggested to Moxie that I think making the lower half of the jersey a little more form-fitting to correspond with the snug top part would be good. Not skin-tight, but not quite so loose. The fabric is thick enough that this isn't billowy, so it just doesn't quite fall right. That said, now that I have the medium, I'll wear it again, especially in situations where I want to get in a good ride but want to look somewhat normal at the bar for my recovery drink!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

London Summer Cross Series: Week 3 The Grass Crit

The evening was a very warm. The temperatures were in the 90’s. This is very unusual for a country where summer normally consists of one week of weather in the seventies. I was already covered in sweat after a long and crowded train rides from Egham to East Croydon. Once I had arrived at East Croydon station, I still had to bike another three miles in London rush hour traffic. Cars, trams, and red double decker busses were rushing past me.  In that moment, I was really missing biking in Lincoln where there were so few cars in comparison. It takes a good deal of focus to stay calm in this sea of metal. I finally arrived at the race site, a little frazzled and quite sweaty, not the ideal state to be in before a criterion race.

This time the crowd of bikers is much smaller. I am guessing the idea the doing a grass crit in this heat has encouraged several of the racers to stay in tonight. Before the race begins, we have a chance to get in a practice lap. The course is fairly simple. It is mostly flat with a few sharp turns and we are mostly riding long stretches on grass with one small section of gravel and another of trails.  Also, the entire course is in direct sunlight, so there will be no shade. This type of racing does not highlight my strengths. I am not much of a sprinter and my cornering needs improvement. So this is the perfect opportunity to practice these skills. My goal is to feel spent by the end of the race.

We line up at the starting line and we are told, to no one’s disappointment, that we will only be racing for 50 minutes instead of an hour tonight. I spend the first lap peddling furiously and I was able to keep up with the back of the pack for a while. Then the heat starts kick in followed by nausea. I tried taking a small sip of my water and instantly regret that choice. By the time I start the second lap, my stomach was making a threatening churning noise and I have sweat pouring down my body. I look down at my gears and realize that I have been riding in way too high of gear for this type of terrain. This is the moment that I decided that I am going to use this race as a chance to practice pushing through the pain. I told myself that if I am really going to get sick, I can pull over at anytime, but until then, I am going to push through and make the best of the experience.
At the start of the race

Thinking Too Hard About a Corner and Making a Funny Face

Focusing on My Goals
With a new resolution, I force myself to sprint the straight sections. My legs are gradually turning into jelly. I do not think I really care for criterion racing, however it is helping me gain new skills that I desperately need to advance in the sport. I am not sure how many laps, I went around, my only focus was on trying to maintain a strong pace. At around 40 minutes in, my second wind kicks in and I am able to use that to finish strong. At the end of the race, I pulled my bike off the course and collapsed on the grass, relieved that the experience was completed. I feel much more spent after this race, so I have achieved one of my goals.

My favorite picture, taken near the end of the race

Next I went over to the stairs for the awards and I have come in third place. There were only three women participating, but after the effort I put out, I will take my win. I think I may actually try to do crit races more often to develop my sprinting and cornering in race settings. Though this race was not my strongest performance, I was still able to walk away a better cyclist than when I started with greater knowledge. Sometimes this is the best reason to participate in races.

The Winners

And here is the video from the race where I am still known as Isabel.