Friday, August 24, 2012

5th Place at Nationals!

I made it! I qualified to compete in the WORLD TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS! Honestly, its never been a goal of mine. I've seen it advertised in Triathlete magazine but that's where it has stayed; on paper.

My goal for Nationals was to have fun but place at least 18th in my age group. I had no idea what the competition would be like. It's the Nationals, pretty much the best racers in the entire nation. I researched results from last year and there were only 10 women in my age group, this year 40 of us had registered! Last year the top five females overall finished between 1:11 and 1:14. In my age group the span was 1:12 -1:39. I would have been second in my age group with my 1:14:38 finish time. Huge difference this year, the top female finished in 1:05:25, almost 10 minutes faster than me!

We watched some of the Olympic distance race on Saturday. I needed to see how the swim start went and just watching others race gets me pumped! The water was very choppy that morning and I thought- oh man I'm in for a rough swim! It looked like the ocean, nothing compared to the glass like surface at Echo Lake where I've been training. The start was quite a bit different than I'm used to. Transition closed at 7:30am and some had to wait almost 2 hours to start. I knew that would throw me off a little but now I knew what to expect at my race.  I met my family for lunch, got a few things at Skirack and showed them how transition would go and the best spots where to view my race.

Mandatory bike check in was at 4:30pm on Saturday. I've never had to leave my bike overnight nor go through the flow of the transition area the day before. Some people were putting bags over their seats, wheels and entire bikes. I thought thats a waste since everyone is going to be wet when they get on their bikes and there was no forecast for rain. In the sea of over 1,000 bikes it's easy to loose your place especially when you are going at race pace. Each row had a letter assigned to it, I was between C and D. The back side of transition was lined with flags of different countries. My bike was lined up with a blue flag don't ask me what country it was, all I needed to know was that it was blue. As I practiced coming in from the swim I didn't visualize my bike, I found C & D and then the blue flag. With my bike checked in the only thing left to do was to eat, apply my tri tats and do my hair.

As I jogged back to the campsite my mind was focusing on each leg of the race. All I have to do is excute what I have been doing in training, thats it! Dinner was chicken and veggies with Gina Tami Sue and Sinea-then it was tatoo time! My numbers were temporary tatoos, perhaps the most exciting part of this race for me. Tami Sinea and I made sure they weren't upside down and were perfectly lined up. Once I peeled away the backing I got such a rush, I felt like a professional racer!
Since my hair isn't quite long enough for a low ponytail I wanted the front part sectioned and in small elastics so it wouldn't distract me during my race. I described how I wanted it to Sinea and she did a great job!
I packed my transition bag while listening to music, making sure I had everything. I was in bed around 9 and fell asleep rather quickly, only to be woken up at 10:30 by the campers next door tinkering with stuff. Then I was awake worrying if I had trained enough, hoping my race would run smoothly -the typical stuff I think about before any race. Because it was Nationals the worrying was multiplied by 10! Alarm went off, but I was already awake. I needed to focus before anything distracted me so I put in my head phones and let the music run through my body.  I wasn't getting nervous, breakfast was egg and cheese on a toasted multigrain roll. I double checked my bag just in case I forgot something. We walked about 1.5 miles down the bike to the start. I felt a little bad that I wasn't talking to Tami, Gina Sinea or Sue but I knew they understood. I gave Regina my bag halfway there and jogged the rest of the way.

Arriving at transition was a bit overwheling, this was it-this is what I've trained all summer for. I organized my spot, went through the exits and entrances pf transition one last time. I couldn't leave my bag there, I had to check it. I pulled out my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and had almost 45 minutes before my wave started. I never have that much time. I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't bring extra sneakers to warm up more so I put my wetsuit on. I had borrowed a friends that fit a little better than mine-thanks Sally! I stretched as I watched other waves starting. I was surrounded by the support of Team Skidmore which felt good but did not calm me.

8:05 it was time. I made my way over with all the other red caps, we shuffled down the ramp and into the water. We had a few minutes to warm up while we waited for the wave ahead of us to start. I wanted to throw up but knew that wouldn't be good for the water or others trying to swim. We lined up and I made sure I was off to the side not to be caught in the chaos. "2 minutes to start give the girl next to you a high five and have fun!" came over the megaphone. I high fived some girl only wanting to kick her butt :). I had my finger on the start button 3.2.1 Go and we were off. I swam as hard as I could and kept to the outside. As I rounded the second turn and went to sight the next bouy all I could see was the glare of the sun out of one eye, my right goggle was half filled with water. I could see a few swimmers ahead of me so I did my best to follow them. Turned the last bouy and saw the exit-"just get there and then you can fly on your bike" I repeated to myself.  If I feel good about my swim I'll check my watch, I didn't feel fast so I didn't look. I heard someone yell under 15 and that made me smile.

T1- rip off wetsuit put on sunglasses, helmet and shoes and run as fast as you can out of the transition. Not very easy after swimming a 1/2 mile. Some racers keep their shoes clipped in to their bike pedals and get their wet grassy feet into them as they start riding. I find that very difficult especially in this race where we started on a narrow bike path. Being already clipped in I passed alot of people and powered out of the cluster. I saw my mom and Jim and gave them a fist pump-which I never do but I was here to have fun too! Around the tight corner and over the carpet covered train tracks, over the "cobblestone" around 2 more corners before I could get up to speed. I had ridden the course before so I knew about the turnaround just ahead. I'm a pretty decent mountain biker so I felt confident making the 180 turn. My coach Steve Vosburgh told me not to come out of those too hard and kill it, I stuck to the plan and got back up to speed quickly. Up next was a steady climb. Not steep enough to get out of the saddle but steep enough to make you think you do. I raised my cadence and looked down, I peddled hard and got up with enough to maintain the speed I was at before the climb. I passed a few more people. The next section was on Highway 127! I was very excited for this. The highway was closed and it was awesome coming down the on ramp at 30 mph! I passed more people. We exited the highway and had to get back on to make the 12.4 mile distance. I was passed getting off by a girl in my age group and then by another. I made sure they didn't get far. The first girl got away but the second one who's name I found out later was Dana, and I leapfrogged the rest of the course. There were officials on motorcycles passing us the whole time I felt like I was in the Tour de France. It was awesome! We came back down the same hill and Dana was just ahead of me, we rounded the corner and hit the straight away. This is were I pull my feet out of my shoes for a speedy transition.

I saw the blue streak of Team Skidmore and gave another fist pump I was loving this!! Dana dismounted right before me and I passed her going into the transition. I didn't have to take my shoes off -she did. Bike racked, helmet off and running shoes on. I put my race belt on as I'm running out to save even more time. Ran out of the shoot and heard my friend Christine "looking strong Meg!" I felt it too. I ran the course a few weeks prior so I knew about the huge hill we faced starting out on the run.

Steve was right there and said "just settle in". I couldn't until I got to the top. I felt so good still hadn't looked at my watch. Down then up by the high school and down through North Beach Campground right past our campsite to the Island Line Trail. 1.5 miles left. It was all coming to an end, all the work I put in-the early morning swims, the hill repeats, the intervals and it felt good it all came together. I got passed by a few but that was ok because I couldn't give much more and they weren't in my age group and most not even my gender. I wanted so bad to go harder but I knew I couldn't hold it to the end. I glanced at my watch 1:11 not bad! As I came around the last corner I picked it up a bit, then hitting the finish chute I turned it on! I ran as fast as I could.

I felt my form kinda go and I must have looked like little Forest Gump -head down fists pumping so hard they are raising overhead and knees so high I'm almost eating them. I saw the finish and threw my hands up and almost collapsed. I was handed water, and a wet towel and was pretty wobbly- a volunteer asked me if I needed assistance- I was ok. I was handed a finishers medal and went with the flow of racers pouring through the chute. I did it- I left it all out there. Then I started crying, I don't really know why at that point, it just came out. Maybe because it was all over, all of it, my training, all my effort, all had come to an end. I've never cried after finishing a race. I was quite the mess so glad I had sunglasses on to hide it.

Team Skidmore came and met me and the tears kept coming. All I wanted was results and that's exactly what everyone else wanted. It was a cluster near the posted results. The page for my age group was posted to 4th place with a time of 1:13:37, unofficially I finished at around 1:14. Gina said you have it but I needed to see it with my own eyes. There was a very long line to get a receipt of your official time, splits and placement. Christine had found me at that point and she insisted she'd wait in line for me, I wasn't about to argue. I talked about my race with everyone while we waited for Christine's phone call to say she was nearer to getting the results. It came and Gina and I ran over. I gave my number and in just 2 seconds I had my "golden ticket". I didn't look at my finish time or my splits, all I saw was 5th in age group. I smiled ear to ear at Regina and Chrsitine. I made my way back over to the group and held up five fingers, they went wild! I completely lost it. I did it. I made it into the top 18 and was 5th, I didn't believe it. I hugged everyone and was beyond myself. I didn't think I'd finish so close to the podium.
Thank you Gina, Steve, Tami, Sue, Mom, Jim, Austin, Emily, Maryann & Paul, Jane & Paul, Sinea, Shaun, Christine and Ellie for being there and supporting me!

Also thanks to all my sponsors: Mt. Washington Auto Road, Great Glen Trails,  Porky Gulch Bike Shop, Corrigan Screen Printing & Awards, Peak Health Sports Massage & Medical Massage Therapy, White Mountain Celebrations, Gorham Hardware, Jay’s quick Lube, Lydia’s Golden Touch Hair Salon, Gorham House of Pizza, Top Notch Inn and Saladino’s Italian Market

Age Group Results
For more photos check out my Facebook Album

All week long I pictured myself telling everyone "I'm going to London" Now it's a reality and it feels amazing!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Nationals are here!

Two days out and I've got a war going on in my mind. I think-I've got this I can easily place top 18! then I think what if I have not trained as hard as the other women in my age group and don't make top 18? At this point there is nothing I can do, but I have experience-I've done this a hundred times. A great friend and Olympian gave me some advice she learned from her coaches; "Do your best but separate yourself from the competition and enjoy the moment, you are racing in the Nationals Meg" I will carry that with me the entire race, thanks Sue Wemyss!

Last night Regina and Tami threw a small send off for me. Friends and co-workers came and shared dessert and wished me the best of luck saying they'll be there in spirit and will send me good vibes on race morning. It was perfect thank you both so much! Oh and I painted my nails red white and blue for good luck and watched USA defeat Japan in the Olympic gold medal women's soccer match.

This morning I do a mini tri. I will go through both transitions and get my legs ready for the quick pace of the race. Then its over to Burlington! We are staying at North Beach Campground just a few miles from the race venue-Waterfront Park. I'll check in and get my race packet which normally consists of lots of brochures, a gel, some sunscreen, coupons and my racing numbers. For Nationals the goody bag is like a prize bag to me. I watched an informational webinar the other day and my race numbers come as a sheet of stickers!! I get a racing belt that I wear running and my timing chip that I cannot loose over the next two days I'll probably just wear it the whole weekend. The most exciting item in that packet are the Tri Tats, temporary race number tattoos! I've seen them in magazines, on TV and on Olympians. I feel like a kid looking up to a my hero wanting the really cool bib they wear. It's just a tattoo, but to me its like official war paint.

Early afternoon Regina and I get picked up by Paul Giblin, the Vice President at Vermont SportsCar and Subaru Rally Team USA for a personal tour of the facility! Yes, Travis Pastrana and the current Auto Road record holder David Higgins have raced for him and I have met and spent some with both Travis and David! This will be a good distraction for a few hours and an amazing experience. 

Saturday another mini tri at North Beach then the Olympic distance Nationals. For me there is nothing better to get me more amped up than watching others race. I know their efforts, I feel their pain and see their face crossing the finish line and that's how I know this is where I belong. 
The rest of the day will be spent hydrating, relaxing and spending some time with my mom and brother. Late afternoon I have to check my bike in-it gets inspected making sure I have not motor rigged up and it meets all other specs. Then I leave her in transition overnight-that's going to be very different, but it's one less thing I'll have to worry about when I pack for race day. Home made dinner chicken and veggies all mixed up. In bed by 9pm hoping sleeps comes easy-no guarantees there, I'm racing the most important race of my life! 

Until Sunday evening......wish me luck!
It is sometimes said that with all the training, one doesn't need luck -to the heck with that. Yes, I'm ready but with good luck comes better chances I won't be faced with uncontrollable situations. So send me as much luck as you'd like!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Maine State Triathlon

Part of training is researching the competition, checking results and tweaking the training accordingly. Every Sunday I do a triathlon at race pace around a local pond-Durand Lake. Although I am going hard its much different than race day where the adrenaline, the other racers and the atmosphere are a factor.

Looking at last years National results my run times during these mock triathlons, are not super competitive. I need to take off about 3-4 minutes to be closer to the top three. However that's last year, the competition will be different this year. Ten women raced in my age group in 2011, this year there are 38 registered! I worked with my coach Steve Vosburgh who I cannot thank enough! We did some interval training and he cacluated what my race pace needs to be. After doing two sets of 3 x 200's then repeated downhill relaxed running -near impossible but I figured it out after a while, followed by 2 x 400's. I know exactly the pace I need to run to finish in the low 20's. Not feeling like I can keep it for the entire three miles but I've got two weeks left.

The five days leading up to the Maine State Triathlon I was guiding a mountain bike camp with seven 13 year old boys and raced in two weekly mountain bike race series. One of the campers did not speak english-try explaining how a bike shifts, how to use the correct gears for the terrain traveling upon, having correct form and describing the next trail to a kid from Tokyo.  He was here with his dad who was on a business trip and got to see the Yankees and to try mountain biking! Back to my race.

I felt pretty prepared except I knew my legs would be tired from all the riding, but I had to give it my all. I checked in: goodie bag, timing chip and body marking then set up my transition area so  I could be closest to the entrance.

Warm up was a 10 minute spin on the bike with some sprints, 5 minute run with some quick spurts and then into my wetsuit which was a challange today with 100% humidity!

I walked down to the pond and the water just about had white caps it was so windy. Warming up almost made me sick being tossed side to side. This will be a tough swim. Most races start on a beach so there is usually enough room for each wave to be relatively spread out. Not here, we started at the Bethel Inn Lakehouse, with your typical lake front- small with a short set of stairs. All the men started together then a few minutes later the women and all Aquabike competitors followed by all novices. We were asked to come down the stairs single file, I wasn't worried about where I was in line I would make my way to the front of the pack once we got into the water. I was about halfway down the stairs when the race director yelled "10 seconds to start!" I ran and was in the water to about my ankels when she announced "GO!" I was stuck in the back of the pack. I got kicked, grabbed, swam over and elbowed in the face. All the swim training was going by the wayside it was survival now. I couldn't get into a groove and siting was near impossible. The bouys were pretty small, the waves I swear were 5 feet high, and my goggles fogged up which shouldn't happen, I forgot the anti-fog. I finished in 17 minutes which didn't show for how hard I've been working on my swimming- so glad that was over. I transitioned from swim to bike in 1:29 fastest in my age group!

Now my strongest leg; the bike! The course was very flat with just a few short hills so I'd be in the aero bars for most of the 15 miles. That works your legs in a different way. I averaged 20.5 mph and again was the fastest in my age group. T2 transition bike to run 55 seconds-fastest in my age group.

I went out slower than I wanted but was able to pick up the pace as I settled in. I passed a few runners and was passed by one guy. I caught and passed him around the 3 mile mark. As we came into the finish chute I heard him on my heals so we sprinted our brains out. Photo finish has me beating him by a hair! We chatted after and agreed we both pushed each other the last 1/2 mile. I was spent and very frustrated with the way my swim started and that my legs were tired from bike camp- the only thing I can do is learn from it.

Much happier after cooling down & elevating the legs

Yup...that's exactly how I felt!

I finished 2nd in my age group, 11th female, and 43rd overall out of 139. I completed my race in 1:30:19 my slowest sprint race ever, but all my other races have been a 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run this was a little longer with a 15 mile bike and 3.6 mile run. I can't be too hard on myself considering a five day bike camp and the rushed swim start.

It was nice to share the post event with Regina and my friend Sally Micucci and her family. Sally raced the Aquabike consisting of the 1/2 mile swim and the 15 mile bike. She also finished 2nd in her age group!

Thanks to Regina for the great photos and coaching and supporting me throughout the race.