Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tripple Session!

Wow what a day! Thinking back to my race I know I have to improve on my swimming. Today's morning workout: open water swim. It's been raining for 5 days straight so lakes and ponds have cooled quite a bit, which didn't cross my mind when the alarm went off at 5 am. A little fuel then I pack myself in the lower half of my wetsuit and I'm out the door to a local swim hole. Quick fact I am the biggest baby when it comes to cold water,  I take forever to get in and sometimes I don't get in at all. I make it such a huge process. I've been told a million times just jump in! I can't. So kinda half asleep I still don't think of how cold the water is. I wrestle into the top half of my wetsuit, after about 5 minutes of shaping it to my body. I step into the pond up to my calves, I have no idea what the temp is, but it's so cold I start to feel nauseous. There's no way I will succumb the rest of my body to this. I'm out! Plan B: the Royalty Health Club. Now my training swim time has been shortened so I make the most of it. I get 50 laps in,  5 each for warm up and cool down. 10 laps at 80% then sprint 5, repeat 3 times. 35 laps here is 1/2 mile making 70 a full mile.  I'm out and headed back home, shower, eat a real breakfast then the long commute to work about 25 steps (I live at a cottage 30 feet from work).
Today is the last day of the Salomon Spring Trail Running Series here at Great Glen Trails. I have already missed two races so I have to run to be entered into the raffle. Not just any raffle, I could win a $140 pair of Salomon trail running shoes!  The course is 3.2 miles. Toady is also the first day of the Red Jersey Cyclery Summer Mtn Bike Series-course: just over 9 miles. I can't miss either one. I'm out running the course by 3:40 at about 70-80%, have to save some for Red Jersey. I finish in 27 and change, my fastest is 25:39. Quick cool shower, some food, load my bike and sponsor board and I'm leaving the parking lot at 4:50, perfect! It's about a 20-25 min drive.
The first thing I do when arriving at a race-check out the competition. Now it's our nature to have a little judgdement of others by their clothing- Guilty. When I see a cyclist or mtn biker decked out in full spandex, wearing a bike kit (matching shirt and bike tights) I just assume they are good! Same thing, if they are wearing a cotton t-shirt, no spandex, aren't riding clipped in (like ski boots click into bindings, bike shoes clip into pedals-so your feet don't slip off) I just assume, well you know. I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous to have your feet attached to your bike as you ride over rocks, roots, and through the woods at high speeds, but after a few falls you get used to it. Then it becomes second nature. Ok back to my judging, not a good idea, you never know what their athletic ablility is. I remember my very first mtn bike race. I'm at the line with the cotton t shirt, I look to my right and this girl is so decked out she even matches the color of her bike! Whoa, I wish I was as good as her! She takes off. I finished 4 minutes ahead of her.

There was a mix between spandexed racers and sporty ones, I never take my guard down. I'll just give my all and see what happens.

I register in the Expert category - 4 laps at 2.3 miles long. I didn't have enough time to pre-ride the entire course so 5 mins out and back will have to do.
It's a mass start mixed with Novice, Sport and Expert categories both male and female, so I have no idea who my competition is. Brief race course description by Carl and we are all off. Double track for the first 5 minutes then singletrack climb, exactly where I turned around when I warmed up, so glad I went that far. Pushed it to get in front of the little pack I was in before the big cluster. I settle in as first female. Course is pretty easy, not technical at all, but some steady climbs. I always have a hard time keeping track of laps and second guess myself towards the end, I lobby for lap signs! Remember I said I grabbed some food,  yeah one bar, 1/2 of banana and 2 cookies was not enough. Honesly forgot to check how long the race was, that fuel doesn't cut it for 9 miles especially after running 3.  I threw 3 clif shot blocks (high energy gummy squares) and half a bar in my pocket. I had the hunger growls the whole race, surprisingly though I never got near the bonk zone. It's a bad bad place, I don't suggest you ever visit.
I save one block per lap and have bite of bar with it and of course sip water the whole time. Still wasn't enough, but I kept my pace and ignored the growls.
There are two ways to hydrate; wear a small back pack with a bladder holding water equipped with a hose for hands free drinking, most commonly know brand: CamelBak. The second, a water bottle that sits in a cage on the frame of the bike. For longer rides I use the CamelBak, when I am racing it sloshes around too much, so I use the latter- good ole' H2O bottle. Using a bottle when racing makes you think a little, you've got to time taking a drink right. Stay with me here... the end is funny. The process is simple; remove one hand from the handle bar, either look down at the bottle or when you're good, just grab and pull from cage-ride one handed-drink-fit bottle back into cage-place hand back on handle bar and it's like you never missed a pedal stroke. You've covered about 10-15 feet depending on how much water you take. Now the timing, complete this process on easy terrain and you'll be fine.
So here I am cruising though the woods, mind is wandering. It's time for a drink. I remove my hand from the handle bar, reach down and feel the bottle, I take a quick glance down. Just as I'm bringing the bottle to my mouth I see it! The biggest root ever! I've got no time to correct, I hit that sucker so hard my life flashed before me. Speed was my friend I rolled up and over, bounced like 6 inches off my seat-another reason to be clipped in to the bike-and kept hold of my only water source. Holy $@*% I yell, my heart is in my throat and now I can't drink. So lesson learned, make sure the coast is very clear when hydrating or just suck it up and wear a hydration pack.

I am the first female over the line and probably the hungriest. With the rush of leaving after my run I have nothing to eat. I make the drive back home. The last night of the running series means potluck so I know I won't have to cook. Everyone will be gone when I get there, but I've got a key and I know where the fridge is! I'm met by a few employees, we chat a little about my race and I'm informed about my raffle winnings- YUP I won the shoes!

Dinner- macaroni salad with pineapple and a sausage, not the ideal meal, but it sure tasted good!

Now it's way past my bedtime but I had to share my day. No morning workout so I get to sleep in until 6:30 well 7:00 after I hit the snooze a few times.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racing Webster Lake

Ok so here goes, putting my thoughts and experiences, mostly pertaining to triathlon training and racing out there. It’s a new endeavor for me and is pulling me out of my comfort zone and I kinda like it.

Hope you enjoy!
I wanted to start a few weeks ago but I could not come up with a title that excited me and captured what I'd be blogging about.  I finally fell in love with Training...Racing...Living and immediately thought, what if I come up with a better one next week, I was told by a friend never ever...ever...engage in self doubt-that's rule one, so I committed.

The week leading up to my first triathlon of the season was not ideal mentally and physically. I had been thinking about looking to local businesses for sponsorship for about a month now and things fell into place last week, which is awesome but not for the week leading up to my first race. I put together a contract and made some appointments. I felt really good about my meetings and earned enough support to cover my registration fee for the US National Triathlon Championship in Burlington VT mid August.  Oh yeah for those that don’t know I qualified for the Nationals! I moved from my apartment in Randolph to my summer cottage at work, we all know how fun moving is! I also met my new roommate, Allison. My friend and manager Regina and I planned to leave work around 4 on Friday but didn’t get on the road until 5:30, which put us home in CT at 10:30pm- it was a long day. We stayed at my Gramma’s, she and her husband Gene just moved back home from North Carolina, so it was perfect and relaxing. 
After breakfast at Zips Diner with Gramma and Gene, Gina and I traveled to my moms and went for an easy 30 minute road ride in the afternoon. I enjoyed a small cook out with my family while I put together my sponsor board. I was in bed by 9:30 with my alarm set for 4:45am to be in Webster MA for 6:30. I’ve raced the Webster Lake Triathlon for 6 seasons now and could do the course in my sleep but I travel home every year so my family and friends can watch me race. 

I wake up to Corn Bread and Butterbeans a song by the Carolina Chocolate Drops a Bluegrass/Folk group I’ve come to love. A quick shower followed by the daunting task of fueling my body. I have a very hard time eating first thing in the morning but somehow I seem to choke down oatmeal. I really don’t like it, but it makes a difference. I’m going to need to change that. I double check to make sure I don’t forget anything and we are on the road, Gina has to drive everywhere because of severe motion sickness. Works for me, I can focus on the race and work on that darn oatmeal! 

We arrive early enough for great parking. I check in and notice the transition area is quite a bit smaller this year due to low registration –the date had been moved away from Father’s Day.  I prep my race gear-number on bike, timing chip on ankle and number on race belt. The belt holds the number around my waist so I’m not bothered by it in the water and on the bike. 

I headed out on my warm up-a 12-15-minute spin mixed with some quick bursts. I clear my mind by envisioning each leg of the race. I return a little more relaxed and start the transition set up. Seems simple: mat for gear, bike, tri shoes, helmet, sneakers, sunglasses, hat, and race belt, but it has to be perfectly organized for a flawless transition. A quick run through of the actual transition lets me know everything is in place. Next I walk through and figure out the entire transition area: where to enter and exit for each leg, this is crucial. I learned the hard way last year when they changed the exits. I ran to the wrong corner finding myself trapped by fencing, it must have been pretty funny to watch. The last visual: locate my spot in the sea of bikes and hope my things are exactly how I left them. In the chaos of transition other racers are focused on their spot. I’ve come in to T1 (transition from swim to bike) with a wetsuit covering my gear, it threw me off, but now I’m prepared if it happens again.  Down to the water with my mom, dad and Gina. A quick check of the water exit headed up to T1 and I find it changed from last year, good to know. After warming up in the water the National Anthem played and a few minutes later the men were off.  In three minutes I would be starting. I am always nervous before a race but this time it was different, I had the support of my sponsors. Don’t get me wrong I always give 110% but now with sponsors there is a bit more pressure.  Women and teams were next, we approached the water up to our knees, there was no official start line and normally we start waist deep so this threw me off a bit.  I took one last look at the first bouy and hear the count down. My heart kicks into overdrive. 3! 2! 1! GO! Starting with more than 40 people in a wave is quite overwhelming. Hands, feet and arms are everywhere. It’s like a washing machine, oh and you have to figure out how to breathe above all the mayhem. A few minutes in I can settle into my pace and around the first buoy, most everyone has spread out. Not this time, with the very large wave it was a cluster most of the course. I keep myself occupied by focusing on technique, sighting the next buoy and breathing. After 13:33 minutes I was running out of the water. Not very happy with that time, but I was ready for my favorite part of triathlon- cycling!! With more than 2 football fields to run from the water to the transition area it’s a challenge but I knew what to expect and was able to make up some time. I completed T1 in 2 minutes and 44 seconds (third fastest in the entire race) No socks, tri shoes, helmet, sunglasses and I’m off. I push it pretty hard from the start and settle into my aero bars. I ease up just a little before the 3-tier hill at mile 4 where there is always a jam. To the top and down the other side in highest gear but I know I have to down shift and get on the brakes for the 90ยบ turn at the bottom. The rest of the course is pretty flat from here on out. At mile 11 of 12, the run course overlaps the bike course so I can see who is ahead of me. I checked my watch it read 43 minutes- I knew I wasn’t going to beat my best time, but I don’t give up, I just went harder.  As I approach the transition area I quickly run through T2 (transition bike to run) in my mind; sunglasses off, helmet off, shoes off, hat on, sneakers on, sunglasses on and race belt on while running.  I go hard right to the dismount signs, unclip and run in. I rack my bike, make the switch to run- I’m guessing in about 30 seconds as no T2 times were recorded nor were bike times for that matter. On the way out of T2 my coach Gina yelled, “you’ve got 2!” referring to the two women in my age group ahead of me, -I’m third, that’s ok but not good enough. I also knew I only had 4 or 5 women ahead of me including them, so I felt awesome about where I was for the women. I see both women in my age group, they had already passed the turn around point so I knew I couldn’t catch them. I put my head down and repeated to myself as I always do during the run “just a bit faster, just run a little bit faster” I felt pretty strong and tired. Coming into the homestretch the crowd always pulls just a little more out of me, I give it my all and finish the 3 mile run in 19:27 a personal best for this race!

It was over in 1 hour and 13 minutes, just a minute behind my personal best of 1 hour and 12 minutes.  I caught my breath, hugged my mom, dad and Gina. I was excited about where I finished but deep down, I know I can do better.  I drank some water and recovered while Gina checked the results, I was third in my age group, 6th overall female . While we waited for the official results, I gathered all my things from the transition area and got photos with my sponsor board. It had been hanging on my car all morning and got quite a few looks!  Awards got underway by starting with the top 3 female and male finishers, then went on by age group beginning with ages 75-79 and continued to the youngest. I waited patiently to be recognized. As my group got closer a tingling feeling ran through my body I did it again, I placed in the top 3 in my age group! I hear over the PA -“Female age 25-29 from Randolph NH in first place –Meg Skidmore!” I was shocked and confused. Because the top 2 overall female finishers were in my age group the awards get bumped down. I stood on the podium in the first place position wearing the first place medal knowing I finished third. To make it more uncomfortable, I was alone, the 4th and 5th place females left not knowing they would be bumped up to 2nd and 3rd

Gina took a photo of my mom, my dad and me. I don’t remember the last time that has happened. It made me so happy they could be there for me and agree to be in the same photo.

More sponsor board photos with my medal and we were on our way back to the mountains of New Hampshire.

As we drove out of the parking lot, my emotions were all over the place. I finished 3rd, I was recognized as first and I spent the morning with my parents.