Thursday, October 31, 2013

Healdsburg Half Marathon Race Report

   Two days after my disastrous Goosepond 70.3 experience, I headed across the US to California for a little family reunion. We were celebrating my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. While they live in Wisconsin, they decided to celebrate by touring vineyards in Sonoma County. Nice, huh? OF COURSE, the first thing I did when I found out about this trip was see if there was a half-marathon I could knock out while I was there. Because that's what I do.
   Fortunately, there just happened to be a half-marathon the day after the big anniversary dinner. AND - it was only 20 minutes away from where we were staying. It was as if the Race Gods said "And Kristine shall cross California off from her quest to run in 50 states." It was perfect. So I signed up.
   The race was the Healdsburg Half Marathon, which is part of the "Run Wine Country" series. They have a duathlon and three half marathons as part of the series. Basically, as the name implies, you run through wine country. I have no clue how the other races in the series are, but let me tell you - the Healdsburg Half rocked.

Probably the prettiest bib number I've ever received.

   We went to the expo on Sunday. Most expos are in a convention center or a hotel ballroom. The Healdsburg Half Marathon's expo was held at the Kendall-Jackson winery. They even had a special wine tasting for runners picking up their packets. Well done, KJ, well done.

My race expo was prettier than your race expo.

It was a small expo, but with the wine tastings, I don't think anyone cared.

   Packet pickup took all of five minutes. I bought a couple of GUs and a new race belt so I could carry my phone with me on race day. (Sidebar: I generally don't carry my phone or take photos during races. It's actually a GIANT pet peeve of mine when people STOP in the middle of a race course to take a photo or futz with their music. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS, PEOPLE! But I figured that I'm never going to do another half out here and I wanted my camera in case I saw something cool - off the race course, of course.)
   After packet pickup, we headed back to the family reunion and did the family thing until the next morning. Unfortunately, I got in a little later than I would have liked the night before a half, but it was fun to hang with my family.
   Race morning started at 5:00 am for a 7:00 am race start. We weren't 100% sure where the race started, other than it was in the center of Healdsburg. Fortunately, Healdsburg is small enough that we didn't need any more information than that. We parked on the street and just followed the other runners to the start. It was around 6:40 by the time we got to the start. There were some runners milling around, but it was pretty cold - in the 40's. I think most people stayed in their cars until the last possible moment. It was also dark. Really dark. I had asked the volunteers at the expo about starting us in the dark, and I was told not to worry; that there would be plenty of sunlight for us to run. At 6:50 and still no sunrise, I wasn't quite sure I believed them.

Taken about 10 minutes before the start of the race. No sun to be seen.
   Sure enough, right at 7:00, the sun started to rise. Within 5 minutes, we had plenty of light to see, which was perfect because that was when the race started. 3-2-1 GO! And we were off! We headed out of Healdsburg and into wine country. I have no words for running in this area other than it was just stunning.

Sunrise over the vineyards.

   The course was great. It was rolling, but nothing too hard. If I hadn't just raced Goosepond 70.3 the week prior, I would have thought about going for a PR. Well, I actually DID think about it because I felt pretty good - a complete turn-around from last week's disastrous run. But then I looked over to my right and saw the sun rising over the vineyards, and I HAD to stop and take a photo. Bye Bye PR, but totally worth it.
   The only issue I had during the run was around mile 8-9. The balls of my feet started to hurt. Bad. I was using relatively new Newtons during the race and I was questioning my decision at this point. At the mile 9 rest area, I loosened my laces and VoilĂ ! No more pain! It's amazing how a little change in laces can make such a big difference.
   After two hours of feeling like I was running in a post card, we headed back into the Healdsburg Town Square and across the finish line. I was then given one of the coolest medals ever.

Love the finish line with the wine barrels.

It's a wine stopper AND a medal.

   After leaving the finishing area, I found Dudley and went to get something to drink. Here's what's funny. Rather than the usual bottles of water, sports drink, chocolate milk and soda most races have, this race only had a small cup of water offered at the finish... And then you got a wine glass and were ushered into the wine tasting area where 10 local wineries were having tastings for the racers (and friends of racers for $20). 

Runners drinking wine at 9:00 am.  Why not?

   They did have some post-race mexican food for the runners there as well (which was quite good), but come on - this race was all about the wine. The race winners even got special bottles of wine as trophies.
   I absolutely loved this race. Those of you who know me are probably thinking, "wait a minute...Kristine doesn't drink wine!" And I don't. And I STILL loved this race. That's how cool it was. It would be a perfect destination race for a group a friends. My only regret is that we didn't have the chance to really check out the City of Healdsburg, because it looks really cute. I would definitely do this race again, or check out one of the other two half-marathons in the RunWineCountry series. They put on a good show.

Healdsburg Half Marathon: 2:12 gun time / 2:06 watch time.  Six minutes of photo taking.  ;-)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goosepond 70.3 Race Report - Part 2 - RACE DAY

   Need to catch up?  Check out Part 1 here!

   Like probably most  people, I don't sleep well the night before a race - especially a triathlon. There are so many little things to remember for the race that I spend most of the night running mental checklists of everything I need to do.  The night before Goosepond was no exception. It was past midnight before I actually fell asleep. So you can imagine how annoyed and kind of horrified I was to wake up to the sounds of a screaming couple at around 3:30 am. SCEAMING. They were staying across the hall. Dudley went out into the hall to check things out and then called hotel security. I don't know exactly what happened after that, but I do know they weren't kicked out of the hotel and the police weren't called. The latter definitely should have happened because when we left for the race at 5:30, there was BLOOD on the outside of the door. Lovely.
   So we headed down to the race site. Dudley unloaded my gear while I went to get body marked and pick up my timing chip. I was so tired, I kind of just going through the motions of checking in and setting up. I'm usually pretty obsessive about getting everything set just right before the race. Not this time. In fact, I actually put the front water bottle on my bike on backwards, which is pretty hard to do since it's kind of molded to fit exactly into water cage.
I'm barely standing at this point.

   This race has pre-assigned transition racks by race number. And the race numbers were assigned by age and gender, so my rack consisted of all women. I'm sure isn't any scientific data about this, but I've personally noticed that women seem to 1) carry more stuff than needed into transition and 2) spread it everywhere. It's crazy. Stuff was all over the place. I was racked next to a guy at Chattanooga a few years back and he had a bike, his helmet, bike shoes and running shoes. That was IT! Some women pretty much carry a bike shop, a grocery store and a pharmacy into transition.
   The race started at 7:30 and it was 7:15 and I still didn't have my wetsuit on. I HATE putting on my wetsuit. There's just no graceful way to do it. I mean, it's makes it hard to breathe, your arm fat sticks out... It's just bad. But after a few minutes of tugging and pulling, plus using almost my entire bottle of Suit Juice, I got the dang thing on.  (Side bar: Funny thing happened while I was putting on my wetsuit. A woman walked up with all of her gear looking very disheveled at 7:15 and started setting up. That's REALLY REALLY late considering the race started at 7:30. She announced to no one in particular, "I slept through my alarm. I'm SO hungover!" REALLY? You go drinking the night before a half-ironman? She was going to have a LONG DAY.)


The Swim: 
   There were four starting waves and, of course, I was in the last one. I hate that. Sure, it's easier to find your bike when 90% of the race starts before you, but it's still a little disheartening to be last before the race even starts. At about 7:45, my group was called to get in the water. There was this dock with temporary stairs that we used to get in the water. Let me tell you - the swim area volunteers ran a very tight ship. They wanted you in the water. So as soon as you got to the end of the dock - you were IN. They didn't exactly throw you in the water...but it was pretty close. Which was a little scary because I had no idea how deep the water was, how cold it was or what was lurking in it. Turns out - about 5 feet, not that cold and a TON of seaweed. 

This is my "what the hell am I doing" look.

   Once in the water, we had about 30 seconds before our wave started. I spent it trying to get untangled from the seaweed. It was wrapped around my arms, legs - it was pretty much everywhere. The RD said they had cut it back the day before. If so - I would have hate to have seen it before. 

I'm the cap in the middle of this mess.

   The swim was a two-lap course. It was, by far, the most well-marked swim course I've ever done. The buoys were HUGE. Sighting was so easy. Every race should use these. 

Biggest. Buoys. Ever.

   My swim felt really good. I didn't kill myself - just kept a nice, steady pace. My only complaint about the swim was that the volunteers started pulling in the giant buoys before everyone had completed the second lap. Picture eight buoys set up as a rectangle. Once the last swimmers passed a buoy for the 2nd time - they pulled it. I get it - the race organizers want to pack things up as soon as possible. Kicker is - we were told to keep the buoys to the left of us. So what did they do? They moved the buoys to the RIGHT of the finish line.  I turned the last corner and started heading toward the finish and didn't know exactly where to go. I KNEW the yellow buoy on the left was the finish, but there were orange ones there too. Last thing I wanted to do was aim to the yellow and get disqualified because I cut the course. So I pulled up from the swim for a minute to figure out what the heck was going on. And yes, the yellow buoy WAS the finish. But it was a confusing situation that could have been easily avoided. 
   I also lost my ROAD ID during the swim. Felt it float right off my arm. That was a bummer. I've had that thing for years and have run all over the country with it. Who knows? Maybe someone will find it and call one of my contacts and it'll get returned to me. I'm mainly hoping that someone doesn't find it and think that I drowned out there.

Yes, that is seaweed wrapped around my right hand.

   Getting out of the water wasn't any big deal. They had plenty of volunteers to help you back on to the deck. They also had wetsuit strippers, which was nice. You have to be careful when removing your wetsuit though. I've heard horror stories of tri suits being accidentally removed along with the wetsuit - especially with wetsuit strippers. Fortunately, mine suit stayed on and I made my way to my bike. It looked like I was one of the first ones from my rack to finish the swim. SWEET. I grabbed my bike and off I went.

   I had heard the bike was flat. I was REALLY wishing I had race wheels because I know it would have made a big difference on a flat course like this. But oh well. Gotta do the best with what you have, right? My race plan was, like the swim, to ride semi-conservatively and not kill myself. Get a decent groove and stick with it. I haven't done enough 70.3 races to really figure out my pacing, but I knew I didn't want waste my legs for the run since that's my weakest event. 
   We had about three miles before we got onto the main road. I used this time to kind of calm down and regain my wits a little. Getting out of the water is kind of a confusing state. Your equilibrium is all thrown off. Once I'm on the bike, it's good for me to take the first couple of miles and figure out what the heck I'm doing, and get some nutrition in me. Unfortunately, I quickly got passed by four women - three of which were in my age group. And when I say "quickly got passed," I mean these women FLEW by me. Even if I had wanted to throw my race plan out the window, put the hammer down and chase them, I don't think I would have been able to hang for very long. Those women were FAST.
At least I look kind of fast.

   I got out on the main road and hit some railroad tracks at about mile 10. I watched the riders in front of me hit the tracks, so I knew it was going to be a hard hit. And it was. Hard enough for me to lose BOTH of my back water bottles. Fantastic. Considering I had 46 more miles to go, I had no choice but to stop and pick them up. Plus, you can get a penalty for discarding items on the course. I don't think the possibility of a penalty bothered most people though. There were water bottles littering the entire side of the road. In fact, three men passed me while I was getting my bottles and all three lost one bottle while riding over the tracks. None of them stopped to pick them up.
   Other than that- the ride was pretty uneventful. Once off the main road, we rode through a lot of farm country. Since it was a small race, there were several times when I was riding completely alone. It's a weird thing being in a race and not seeing anyone else. The route was well-marked, but you start wondering if you missed a turn. I actually thought about slowing down and seeing if someone caught me - just to make sure I was on the right road. And it was flat. VERY flat. And boring. More than once I looked down at my watch and realized I was going WAY slower than I should have been. Without any kind of terrain change, I just got kind of lulled into this complacency and totally zoned out about what I was supposed to be doing - i.e. RACING! This course would have been awesome if you could draft and have a pace line.
   There was one sight of interest on the course - a rock zoo. I wish I had been able to take photos of this thing. It was about 20 oddly shaped boulders that had been painted into various animals. There was a giant chicken, a cow, a penguin...all sorts of unrelated creatures. There was even a sign that stated "Please Don't Feed the Animals." It was completely out of place in the middle of the Alabama countryside, and it made me laugh.

Almost done!  Hi Dudley!  

   Pulling into transition, I thought I felt OK. It was getting hot, but I was OK. And then I actually got off the bike and tried to run. And nothing happened. Seriously. My legs wouldn't work. I could walk, but running just wasn't going to happen. Turns out - flat courses trash your legs more than hilly ones. It makes sense. I never stopped pedaling the entire 56 miles at Goosepond, so my legs didn't get any recovery. And the Goosepond run course was hilly! You immediately had a hill right out of transition. It was terrible!     

I am so not happy at this moment. 

   As I passed Dudley less than a mile into the run, he asked me how I felt. I said, "I have no idea how I'm going to finish 13.1 miles." And I didn't. I've trained enough that I know how my legs are supposed to feel after a long ride. This wasn't it - it was way worse. And it was starting to get HOT. Add on the fact that I was about a month behind on my training, and I figured I was screwed. I'm generally not a quitter, but at this moment, I was pretty much trying to figure how to drop out and at what point. 
   And then about a mile in, a guardian angel ran by and saved my race. Her name was Sonja and we just kind of fell into pace with each other. And then we started chatting. And then, before I knew it, we hit the three mile mark. It was still hot and painful, but for the first time I thought I might actually be able to finish this thing. Slowly, we made our way around the course. We walked some - mainly up hills - and took our time at the rest stops. We agreed that this course kicked our butts and we just needed to make it to the finish. No need to kill ourselves at this point. Just get to the finish and live to fight another day. 
   The course didn't really have any highlights. It meandered through a campsite and through some of the vacation homes around Lake Guntersville. It was hilly, but nothing too terribly scenic. And, unfortunately, no spectator support from the locals. Well, there was ONE family who had set up chairs on the course. One. They were great, though. 
   The best part about the run course? The volunteers. They were very helpful and enthusiastic.  My favorite was a man at an intersection we had to run through three times. He was clapping and yelling for everyone who passed. When you're in as much pain as I was, that's really helpful. Plus, all of the water stops were well-stocked with COLD water. It was wonderful.  
Sonja and me with about a half-mile to go.
       Fortunately, that hill we had to climb out of transition meant we got to run downhill to the finish. If we had an uphill finish, I probably would have cried. Six hours and twenty minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line.

With my new BRF (best race friend) Sonja.

This one was EARNED.

   Looking back, I learned several things during this race. One being that flat rides are deceivingly hard. I had no clue. Another is that, for long races, I need hoopla. This race was really well-organized, the roads were well-marked (contrary to my fears from the day before) and they had great volunteers. But man, did I miss the atmosphere of Augusta during the ride and run. Maybe if I did this distance more, I'd be able to psych myself up better. But at this moment - I need the streets lined with cheering people holding funny signs for a race this long.
   The only real negative with the race itself was that the race director was a bit too efficient with breaking down the race. I already mentioned the confusion with the swim and the buoys. Well, they also started breaking down the transition area by the time Sonja and I finished. Yes, we started in the last group, but we were BY FAR not the last people out there. I know this because the run course was an out and back and I could see who was still out there. They had also sent away the ambulance, which is just ridiculous. Dudley said they did this about 5:30 into the race, which is pretty early considering you get 8 hours to finish the thing. Why was it sent away? I have no idea. Maybe there was some emergency and they had to leave. I do know that they had to call for an ambulance a few minutes after I  finished. I just hope it wasn't anything too serious.
   Would I do this race again? Maybe. As I mentioned, I need a crowd for motivation - especially on the run, but that's not the fault of the race directors. I wasn't crazy about the course, but that's just my personal preference. If I had been better prepared physically, I might have liked the course more. However, every person I spoke to who did this race said that the course kicked their asses, so it must be pretty tough. But the race was well-organized and well-supported. Oh - and the race photos were free to download. Ironman charges something like $30 a photo. Overall, it's a very good, small-town race. 
   A HUGE thank you to my husband, Dudley, for always being so supportive. I promise we'll go back to Lake Guntersville to go boating sometime (it's actually very pretty and apparently a great spot for fishing). And thanks to Sonja for totally saving my race. I'm not sure I would have finished without you! Hope to race with you again soon!

Goosepond 70.3:
Swim: 40:02 (2nd AG)
T1: 1:47
Bike: 3:06:14 (4th AG)
T2: 2:43
Run: 2:30:53(6th AG)
OVERALL: 6:21:37 (6th AG out of 14)

Photos courtesy of Dudley Lightsey, Greg Gelmis and WeRunHuntsville.

Next up: Healdsburg Half Marathon race report!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Goosepond 70.3 Race Report - Part 1

   About a week ago, Dudley and I headed down to lovely Scottsboro, Alabama for the Goosepond 70.3 triathlon. For those of you who haven't been to Scottsboro, there really isn't a whole lot to do there. In fact, there is pretty much only one thing TO do...the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This is where all of the luggage that was left on airplanes goes when it doesn't get claimed after a certain point in time. Once it's at the center, it's put up for sale to the public.

Where leftover baggage does to die.
  Need some random crap? Go here. This place has everything. Clothing, sunglasses, shoes, bicycles, golf clubs, iPads, cameras, a xylophone from Neil Diamond's tour - EVERYTHING.

Words can't describe how badly I wanted these.

This made me sad. A Boston 2013 jacket. Only $5.

  I ended up buying a pair of Gucci sunglasses for $15. I have no idea if they are real or not, but for $15, who really cares?
   After our little shopping spree, we headed over to the expo. It was held at the Scottsboro Civic Center, which was about 1/2 mile from the Start/Finish line. One of the reasons I wanted to do this race was to compare it to the only other half-ironman I've ever done - Ironman Augusta 70.3. While Augusta was this huge "thing," Scottsboro was MUCH more low key. Only about 400 participants as compared to 3,500 in Augusta. The expo only had about 6-7 vendors, which is pretty much the same as what Ironman had except their inventory was bigger. But the main difference was that the Ironman had a huge room full of overpriced Ironman-logoed stuff. Cowbells, water bottles… it was kind of like the Unclaimed Baggage Center but with Ironman. Now, don't get me wrong, I love me some overpriced Ironman swag. But it takes about an hour to go through everything and you walk out from an Ironman expo about $200 poorer.  It was kind of nice to just walk in, pick up my race pack and go. Plus, along with the standard race shirt, we got calf compression sleeves. Pretty cool, huh? You'd pay $50-$100 for Ironman compression sleeves.

So much swag!

   We had signed up for the official pre-race pasta dinner, which was being held at the same place at the expo. We had about an hour to kill before dinner so we went out to drive the run course. I was worried because I had heard it was really hilly. So we got the map and went out for a little drive. You know what's frustrating? Maps that are wrong. And streets that don't have street signs. We were able to figure the route out for the most part, but when we were finished with the drive, I was really hoping the route was clearly marked on race day. If not, it was going to be a cluster.

   Part 2 coming up soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013

So Tired

   It's been a busy week.  I raced Goosepond Half-Iron distance triathlon a week ago Sunday, came home, worked 13 hours on Monday and then flew to California on Tuesday morning for a visit with family. We just got back in to Nashville this afternoon after getting up at 3:45am (!) to catch our 6:00am flight. And, because I'm insane and and am still on my mission to run a half-marathon in all 50 states, I ran the Healdsburg half-marathon yesterday while I was in California. To say that I'm tired is an understatement. I'm flat-out beat.
   So - rather than writing the Goosepond race report that I had planned on posting tonight, I'm going to watch football and rest. Oh - and I'm taking the week off of any exercise. Well, I'll probably swim with FTP this week...and I don't want to miss East Nasty on Wednesday. But other than that- I'm resting. At least, I'll try to.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Friend Bob

   I'm racing a big race Sunday - the Goosepond Island Half-Distance triathlon. It'll be my hardest race of the year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not exactly ready for this race. But that's Ok. I'll suffer more than I should and it'll take a little longer than I'd like, but I should finish baring any mechanical issues (knock wood).
   Here's the thing though - my head isn't into the race. You see, Dudley and I lost a friend this week - Bob. I've known him for over a decade and he was one of the centers of our social network. Bob was, as one friend put it, the "perfect example of a modern Southern gentleman." He was funny, generous and just so, so kind. And he LOVED to entertain. Over the years, I've celebrated every major holiday and some not-so-major holidays at Bob's house. Christmas? Check. Thanksgiving? Check. Fourth of July? Check. Halloween?  Well - you get idea. Bob welcomed everyone into his home for these parties - whether you knew him or not. I met many, many of my friends at Bob's house. Heck - I met Dudley at one of his Titans parties. For that I'll be forever grateful.
   Bob's burial service was today. While I've known about Bob's death for a few days, it didn't really sink in until today. And honestly, triathlon isn't all that important to me right now. I should be creating race-day checklists and putting all of my gear in little piles so it'll be ready when we head down to Scottsboro tomorrow. But instead, I'm here. Thinking about my sweet friend Bob and hoping he knew how much he meant to all of us. He will be greatly missed.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

   The past few weeks have been a blur of work and training. I have a half-ironman coming up next weekend and I hit peak training over the last two weekends. I'm exhausted. But I've had some fun, as well. Here's a little recap.

The Good:
   My ankle is getting stronger and my speed is increasing little by little. In fact, of the past three races I've entered, I've hit the podium.

Heroes in Recovery 6k - 2nd AG.  We all won hats!  (I love me a running hat.)
Hustle for the House 5k - 3rd Place Masters. My first running trophy! 

Shelby Bottoms Boogie 15k - 2nd Place AG. We all got towels.

   I'd say two of these awards these are actually legit - as in I ran well enough to win something and beat other people. Yesterday's run though - well, I think I actually got fifth. Normally, not a high enough placement to win something. However, three other women in my AG were so fast that they got bumped up into the overall winners or the Master's winners divisions - so I kind of placed by default.  But hey- I'll take it. I can always use a workout towel.

The Bad:
   I can pretty much only run a few miles without wanting to die. My endurance just isn't back yet. Yesterday's run was a 15k, which is 9.3 miles and I faded like a delicate flower at around mile 6. Well, not so much a "faded flower" as "cursing, crying, questioning my life-choices hot mess." Seriously. It was bad. Granted, it was about 85-90 degrees yesterday, which is just stupid considering it's October. Way too hot.
   This regularly wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I have a half-ironman next weekend. This was supposed to be my "A-Race" for the season. The big one that you train for all year and that you're all "I'm going to kick this race's ass" for. Well, you know how my year has been. And based on yesterday's run, I have NO idea how I'm going to get through 13.1 miles after the swim and the bike. Not. A. Clue.

The Ugly:
   So - I signed up for this little thing called Ironman Chattanooga. Now, I did my due diligence and checked out the bike course prior to signing up. Considering how bad a bike course in Chattanooga COULD BE (there are MOUNTAINS there), this elevation profile didn't seem that bad. Something like 2,000 feet of climbing. Totally fine.
   But - hey!  Guess what? Turns out that the Ironman elevation was wrong! They changed it this week to over 3,000 feet of climbing! And, according to people who have ridden the course- that's even wrong. It's more like 4,000 + feet!
   So I went from signing up for a relatively "easy" Ironman as far as elevation profiles one of the hardest. Awesome, right? JUST what I wanted for my first Ironman! Fortunately, I live close enough to Chattanooga that I'll be able to ride the course a few times before the race. I see lots of road trips in my future!

Next up: Goosepond Island Half Ironman...yeah...we'll see how this goes.  :-)