Monday, October 22, 2012

MS150 Ride to Jack & Back

   The past few weeks have just been a blur. Now that Augusta was behind me, I could start doing races for fun, rather than trying to hit a specific training distance or time. And it's been a busy three weeks.
   First up was the MS150 Jack & Back charity ride. This is a GREAT ride that supports the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It's a ride that starts in Franklin, TN on Saturday morning, and makes it way to Lynchburg, TN, which is where the Jack Daniel's Distillery is located. Jack Daniel's then hosts a huge dinner / party for the riders that night, and then you ride back to Franklin on Sunday. We have a friend, Lisa, who battles MS and put together a team, so Dudley and I signed up to be a part of it. We had actually done this ride previously a few years back without knowing we had a personal connection to MS. And we've since done the ride a couple of times in Lisa's honor. Soon after registering, I found out that Karen, who is the sister of my running friend Kim, also suffers from MS. For those who don't know - MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is mainly diagnosed between the ages of 20-40 years old. Symptoms include a loss of balance, double-vision and painful muscle spasms. There is no explantation as to why this disease strikes some people and not others, and there is no cure. Dudley and I were proud to ride in honor of both Lisa and Karen in the MS ride this year.
   Though it was 80+ degrees on Friday, the temperature was mid-40's and overcast/drizzle on Saturday.  Not the best day for riding and the weather was kind of a shock after such a nice day before. But we bundled up and went on our way. It was nice to just "ride" and not "race." We took out time, had some nice conversations and took in the scenery. It was pretty cold though. Cold enough for the rest areas to have fire-pits. And let me tell you, they were REALLY appreciated.

FIRE PIT!  The rest areas even had fixin's for smores!!  

  After a long day in the saddle, we made it to Motlow Community College, which served as the staging area for the ride. Here we would leave our bikes for the night, grab some food and catch the buses for the hotel.
Team "Lisa's Longhorns" hanging out with Jack D.

   After a long shower and a short nap, we boarded the buses again to head up to Jack Daniel's for dinner. What's interesting about Jack Daniel's is that even though it's a distillery, it's in a dry county - so no drinking. They aren't even allowed to have tastings during their tours. I, personally, don't drink, so this is no big deal to me, but it's kind of ironic that a famous distillery is in dry country. HOWEVER - the distillery has an event space that gets an exemption to the non-drinking rule, so yes, there was plenty of Jack served at dinner.

A little dinner and music at Jack Daniel's

   This dinner was particularly special because our friend Lisa was the keynote speaker for the night. MS is such a bitch of a disease. It's one thing to read about a disease from a website or brochure, but to hear first-hand experiences from a personal friend is a whole different experience. She was nervous to speak, but she did a great job and received a standing ovation.

Lisa sharing her story. So inspirational!  

   Morning came WAY too early, but we were on our bikes and riding by 7:30 am. It was, again, cold but not rainy. Unfortunately, it was CRAZY windy and we were in a strong headwind for most of the ride. We tried to pick up pacelines when we could to get out of the wind, but they were few and far between. We generally don't stop at all of the rest areas on charity rides, but we stopped at all of them this day - we HAD to get out of the wind. It was just exhausting. Of course, the weather really cleared up with about six miles to go. Isn't that usually how things work?

MS 150 Jack & Back - DONE!

   It was a great, inspirational weekend. The ride also raised an insane amount of money for the MS Society, which is awesome. As cold, rainy and windy the ride might have been, we were always aware that we were riding for the bigger picture - the MS Society, and Lisa and Karen specifically. Those two women were on the top of my mind the entire weekend. It's funny, because I know I can complain about how tired/sore/frustrated I am from all of the training I do for races. I look back on that and laugh because my pain is nothing compared to what people like Lisa and Karen face everyday. And the biggest difference is - I can stop my suffering at any time.  My pain is voluntary. Their pain isn't. This ride was for them and it made every shivering pedal stroke worth it. 

FYI - There are MS rides all over the country - check them out or just donate: 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Augusta 70.3 Recap

   Early last Friday morning, Dudley and I packed up all of my tri gear and headed down to Augusta for my second Half-Ironman - my "A" race for the year. The main thing that goes through my mind when packing for a race is "WHY did I pick a sport that needs so much stuff?" There are so many little things you can forget - like your goggles - that can ruin your race. It's stressful. But after triple-checking my gear, we were on the way.
   The trip was uneventful - a little under 7 hours. Upon arriving, we went straight to the Marriott to check-in for the race. I have to say, checking in on Friday was probably the smartest thing we did on this trip.  Unlike last year, when Holland and I waited in a line that wrapped around the entire hotel, there was NO LINE at check-in at all. NONE! And everything in the Ironman Expo was stocked! No line to check out there either. It was great. Possibly the easiest check-in for a race ever.

Why thank you, Marriott!  I feel welcome!

That's right - I'm a triathlete! 

   I have to say - there is something about the Ironman expo that is very cool. I know this was only a 70.3 race and not a full-Ironman, but just seeing the M-Dot logo is pretty inspiring. It kind of makes you feel like a bad-ass. Yes, I know - I'm in marketing - the M-Dot is just great marketing by the Ironman brand. Don't care. It's still cool and being in that expo made me want to buy everything with the race logo on it (I didn't).
   Saturday was spent wandering around Augusta and waiting for my parents to arrive (they decided on Thursday to make the trek down to watch me race. I was really excited about that. They hadn't left DC since the fire and I was happy for them to focus on something else for a while). Random fact I found out about Augusta while we wandered - James Brown was from Augusta. How I missed that last year, I don't know. There's JB stuff all over the place.

Hello James!
   After meeting up with my parents, we headed down to transition for the mandatory bike drop-off.  You have a set racking space at IM70.3 races. I kept looking for my spot - #1626. And I kept looking and looking and looking...  I FINALLY found it. It was in the VERY last spot in the VERY last row. Are you kidding me? But what can you do? I racked my bike, went to eat dinner and tried to get some sleep. 
This shot is from last year, but was the same setup. Those are all bikes. My rack was
the last one on the right. I had to run ALL the way to the left of this field with my bike to get out.

Poor, sad bike.

     Before long, it was Sunday morning. Race day. The 4:30 AM wake-up call came WAY too early. I then turned off the THREE alarms I set (you can never be too prepared). Due to the insanity that was my 2012 - I had only two goals for the day, 1) to not be eaten by a gator and 2) to not get sick on the run. Sure, I could have set time goals and what not, but I'm a big believer in setting achievable goals. And I've learned that in a race like this - ANYTHING can happen to ruin your times. So for me - no gator and no getting sick and I'd consider this race a success.
   Dudley drove me down close to T1 where he dropped me off because he couldn't park there. Note to self - buy a transition bag. I was being cheap and just using what I had around to carry my stuff at races. Which is fine if you have a short trip to transition, but I had to walk about a half-mile. By that time, the paper bag I had my waters in broke AND the handles of plastic bag I had everything else in broke as well. I must have looked pretty pathetic trying to carry all of that gear.

Sure - I'm smiling now that I finally made it to my bike!

   Next up - head down to the swim start. It was a little over a mile away.  Some people walked. I took a bus. I was fortunate to meet up with my EN buddy Daniel on the bus and we were able to find other East Nasties at the start.

GO EAST NASTY! Daniel, me, Jim and Meg.

  Then it was time to wetsuit up and head down to the start line. I really only have one thing to say about this part - putting on a wetsuit sucks.

Lovely, huh?  And yes, that is a Honey Stinger Waffle I'm eating.

SWIM: (Finish time: 29:29)
   Unlike last year, when all of the women in my wave were joking and laughing before the start - we were all just standing around this year. It was pretty quiet, which was weird. I started getting nervous. That "what the heck am I doing here," awful pit in my stomach kind of nervous. Funny thing is that this was the first real emotion I had felt about this race (see previous post). I started getting concerned I would have a panic attack in the water. So I made a few jokes about alligators to lighten the mood a bit. I don't know of the other ladies appreciated them or not, but it calmed me down a bit. 

Walking down the starting ramp

Hanging on out the pier

We're in the water!  I'm one of those yellow dots.

   The swim itself was OK. The current was strong, which was really helpful, but I didn't feel great. I didn't know why. I never felt like I was in any danger of drowning, but the swim just seemed like it took forever. I used this time to plan the rest of my race strategy. Yes, I was IN the race, and just now thinking about how I was going to tackle the rest of the day. Basically, I decided to see how I felt and push when I could. Very scientific plan, huh?  

Out of the water!!  
   First thing I noticed out of the water is that I had a headache and was a little disoriented. The latter was expected. Try swimming and then immediately running and see if you're not disoriented. But the headache was a surprise. One of the reasons I didn't feel that great in the water, I guess. 

BIKE: (Finish Time: 2:58:06)
   After running a football field distance with my bike in cleats, I was out of transition and ready to ride.

   The bike is, by far, my favorite part of a tri. From last year, I knew that this course wasn't that difficult compared to what I usually ride, however, I forgot how bumpy is was. And it was rough. There were dropped water bottles and sunglasses everywhere. I was bummed because I lost most of my secret weapon because of the bumpy pavement - my Smarties. You see, my dear husband had bought me a giant bag of Smarties a few weeks back because they are my favorite candy. I would mainly eat them after coming home in the evening. Of course, being pure sugar, they would keep me awake.  So I thought "hey - these would be great for maintaining energy on race day!" So I put a several packs in my Bento Box to eat on the ride (along with other nutrition). Unfortunately, I was only able to eat one pack before I hit a bump and the rest went flying. I'm sure the people behind me were like "What the...?  SMARTIES?"
   So I never got my sugar fix, which was bad because I needed it. I had ZERO energy on the bike. My normal "I'm going to catch the next person" attitude was non-existent. Not to be a complete whiner, but I'd also been having back pain in aero position over the past two weeks (long story - one hip was higher than the other which caused pain to shoot from my hip to my knee) and while it has gotten better, it still was "there." Nothing to quit a race over by any means, but enough to kill my desire to really hammer on the bike.  
   One thing I saw this year were wrecks. Prior to this race, I'd never seen a bike wreck during a race. Today, I saw two. I've been very fortunate when riding and it's scary to see things like this. I'm hope everyone was OK and able to finish the race.

Coming back in to the finish!

RUN: (Finish Time: 2:20:48)
   Considering I didn't feel great for the bike and swim, I wasn't expecting too much for the run. The heat wasn't an issue this year. It was around 70 and overcast. But running is my weakest event. I just thought to myself "take it one mile at a time." I grabbed my remaining packs of Smarties and ran out of transition. I was VERY happy to hit the one mile mark feeling OK, because I was already feeling sick at this point last year. Unfortunately, this was the point where my Garmin battery decided to die, so I couldn't track my time.

Starting the run

   This race is great in that you run through town several times so you can see your friends and family a lot over the 13.1 miles. I think all of Augusta came out to cheer. It was LOUD out there. It was awesome and definitely helps the morale of everyone out there. It was really cool to see my parents and Dudley cheering for me. I think my parents really got a kick out of it. My mom seemed so surprised to see me every time I passed. It was funny.

At least I LOOK fast...

   This course is also cool because you can see the other competitors. I was able to see all of my East Nasty friends out there, AND my FTP training buddy Kathy who I'd somehow missed when we started the race (we were in the same wave). It was great to hear "Go Kristine" or "Go East Nasty" from the crowd. I know encouragement annoys some people, but I'm all for it. Go ahead - ring a cowbell in my face. Lie to me and tell me I'm looking strong. Don't care. I'll believe you.
   Mile-by-mile the race got shorter and shorter. I walked through the water stops, but ran the rest. For the most part, I felt OK, but my back started getting to me at about mile 9. That slowed me down until about mile 11. Once I saw that mile marker - I just sucked it up until the end. I didn't know my exact time, but I figured I was hovering around the 6:00 finishing time - which was my goal time for last year. I just put my head down and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I remember thinking "I need to buy all of the Ironman crap while I'm here because I'm NEVER doing one of these again!" Finally, I turned the corner for the finishing line.  
   I don't recall them saying my name as I passed through the finisher's chute, though I'm sure they did. I had kind of blocked everything out other than just getting to the line. Again, the crowd support was crazy. The chute was cacophony of screaming, clapping, cowbells, whistles and vuvuzelas. It was awesome. And I was so happy to be finished. 

   After getting your medal, you're ushered into the athlete's only area for food. I wasn't hungry at all, but I took some pizza, a coke and a beer for Dudley and headed out to find everyone. Kicker was - I couldn't find them. I thought for sure they would all be at the exit of the athlete's zone, but they weren't. So I hovered a bit, but still no husband and no parents. I sat and ate a little and waited. Still no family. After about 20 minutes, I saw Dudley across the park. I "ran" to him (still carrying his beer). Turns out, they had been on the course waiting for me to pass by. They totally missed my finish! Bummer.  

With my parents.  :-)

    Yep - I did it. Broke 6:00. I'm happy about that. I now wish I had a better mental attitude towards the race because I think I could have hit 5:45. I totally lingered in T1 and definitely could have pushed more on the bike. Had my Garmin been working, I might have seen my time and pushed it more on the run, too. But what can you do? You have the race you have.
   Looking back, it was a great experience. At the time, I didn't enjoy it so much. And though I swore during the race I wouldn't do another Half-Ironman, I probably will. It's kind of addicting. Plus, I now kind of want to come back and see if I can hit 5:45...

   Thanks to my husband, who I'm sure would much rather me do a sport that doesn't require me to get up at 4:45 almost every morning. He's extremely supportive and I hope he knows how much I appreciate him being there. Love you D. 
   Thanks to my parents. This year has sucked for my family, but we're closer because of it. I appreciate them even more now knowing how easily I could have lost them to the fire. They drove 8 hours each way to watch me race for 6. I love them dearly and I was thrilled to have them at the race.
   Thank you to Andrew, Jessica and the athletes at FTP Coaching for your guidance and support. Triathlon is by nature a singular sport. It's been wonderful to have a community to turn to for advice and encouragement. Plus, you make me faster. Bonus.
  Thanks to my awesome running club - East Nasty. You guys inspire me in so many ways.  ENFL!
  And thanks to all of my friends and co-workers who have supported me this year. Some race - some don't. Some think I'm insane - others have been inspired to give exercise a try. Either way - thank you for hanging in there with me this year. Hope to see you all on the roads soon!