Sunday, September 25, 2016

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

Augusta 70.3
by Marsha O'Mara Henry

I’ve been trying to knock items off my bucket list for the last 10 years or so.  It all started when I wanted to complete a marathon the year I turned 30.  And you know what’s been happening since then.  Running has become my true love (behind God and now my husband) 😀.  But I went to be a spectator at a friend’s triathlon, and I was like, I’m adding something new to the bucket list.  I’m going to do a triathlon. 

I had no idea what participating in a triathlon entailed.  I was so new to the sport.  So a year or two later, I started taking swim lessons and my swim coach mentioned he was participating in an Ironman race.  I was like, OK.  So what’s that?  Then he starting "talmbout" he would swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles (what?), and THEN after all of that, run 26.2 miles.  Now I wasn’t new to marathons so I know how beat up you can get doing them.  How on earth do you run a marathon after swimming and riding that long distance?  So I knew I wasn’t doing that.  But I then heard they have what they call Half Ironmans.  That means half of all of those distances.  And I said, “I can do that.”  I’m going to put a Half Ironman on my bucket list for when I turn 40.  I tried to do one last year when I really turned 40 but the race I wanted got canceled and there was no other race to sign up for that I wanted to do.  So I deferred to this year and that’s how I ended up doing the Augusta Half Ironman.

The Swim

Everyone knows if you know me in the least, that I’m scared of open water swimming.  I mean, I just can’t…  But in order to finish the race, you have to get through the swim.  So I did open water practice swims down at the National Harbor.  I really never went around the big loop though.  I just stayed near the dock and went around in small circles.  But a teammate of mine (Laura) offered to go around with me one time and so I actually went around one time and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  But I never did it again!  But going around that one time gave me the confidence I needed to complete the open water swim at the race.  Plus, the race is usually wetsuit legal.  I had never worn a wetsuit before, but I tried it out one time at the Harbor and would you know, it kept me afloat without me even trying.  So I was like, “I got this.”  We get to race day and the first thing I hear when I get to transition is, “The water temperature is too hot and the race is not wetsuit legal.”  What in the world????  How on earth is this happening to me?  I was all sorts of freaked out.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the swim now.  But they were offering a wetsuit wave as the last wave.  So I was thinking I would go in that wave and still wear my suit.  Our triathlon coach (disclaimer – this is also my husband) told us not to wear the wetsuit and just swim in our wave.  We could do the distance.  But I was like, you’re not the one swimming and you have no fear.  So I had made up my mind to wear the wetsuit.  But when I got to the swim start with wetsuit in hand, he came over and once again told us not to wear it.  I had to make a decision – (1) don’t wear the wetsuit and risk panicking in the water and not finishing, or (2) wear the wetsuit and have him looking at me funny all the way home.  I decided to risk the panicking to keep a happy home.  So I decided not to wear the wetsuit.  It wasn’t too bad without it.  There is a very strong current in the river where we swam so I made it to the finish of the swim way faster than my normal swim times.  I started at the back of my wave to give myself space from people.  Others coming up behind me ran into me sometimes, but for the most part, I wasn’t bothered by anyone.  I spent a lot of time on my back which is something I really need to work on, but hey, I got out of the water in one piece and without swallowing too much water, so I’m very happy with the swim.

Swim time - 47:06

The Bike

I got out of the swim not really being able to see out of my left eye.  I assumed I lost a contact lens.  I bring extra contact lenses and solution to races for this very reason.  But another athlete was in transition and her bike had an issue so she was no longer racing.  She looked in my eye and could see the lens stuck in the corner.  I put some solution in there and the contact moved back into place.  So I was good to go.  Then I looked for my bike gloves to get going and could only find one glove.  I know I had two that morning.  So I’m still thinking someone has my other glove.  I made like Michael Jackson and rode with only one glove.  The ride had some long climbs so I’m glad I had trained on some hills for my long rides.  Also, it was hot as blazes out there, so my drinks had turned into hot tea.  I had to refuel with cold water and Gatorade at the aid stations.  Also, my chain kept popping off when I changed from my small ring to my big ring.  I’m not sure why it does that.  I had to put it back on about 4 times.  Other times, I was able to ride it back on.  After it wouldn’t go to the big ring around mile 50, I just decided to ride in my small ring for the last 6 miles.  Then my right foot started hurting so I had to get off my bike and stretch a few times.  Also, not sure what is going on there, but it did that in training too so it didn’t come as a surprise.

Bike time – 4:06:09

The Run

Well, this is usually my favorite part.  Thought it would be a breeze.  But when I got off the bike, it was probably 90 degrees outside.  I started running out of transition, but I could barely make it a tenth of a mile before I had to walk.  There were plenty people walking so at least I wasn’t alone.  The problem is Ironman has very strict time cutoffs.  I knew what my times were swimming and biking, but I wasn’t sure how long I had spent in transitions so I didn’t really know how long I had for the run.  Thank goodness I had a great math teacher in high school because to take my mind off the heat, I started doing calculations in my head of how long I had to finish the race.  I was like, well, my swim was 47 minutes, bike was 4 hours…I estimated I had about 3 hours to complete my run, but I initially didn’t think I would take that long.  I thought maybe 2:30.  But when I got halfway, I knew it was going to be more like 3 hours.  So I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t make my cutoff.  I ended up finishing in 8:15 and had 8:30 for the cutoff so I did cut it very close, but looks like my long division wasn’t too far off the mark.  I just wish it wasn’t so hot out there, because my legs felt great and I think I could have run the half marathon in 2:15 if the weather was good.  I usually muster up enough speed to sprint to the finish line at my races so with about 0.4 miles to go, I took off.  I saw my triathlon team near the finish line cheering and that gave me the boost I needed to get across the finish line.

Run time – 3:00:52

Overall Finish time – 8:14:09

I’m just so happy that I got a chance to complete this race.  I have to thank my cycling coach, Robert Clarence, for giving me some great training plans that tested my abilities.  I had never trained that much on the bike like I did for this race, and I really could tell the difference due to the training.  Also, of course, I thank my triathlon coach for the training program and the encouragement.  He didn’t make it easy on me but I’m very sure that’s why I was able to finish the race.  Thanks also to my triathlon training team who trained with me and thanks to any other running/biking partners who came out as well when I didn’t want to wake up early on the weekends.  My support team is awesome!!!!  #OnPointFitness

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Luray Triathlon 2016

Luray Triathlon
By Mylah Garlington

Luray 2016

My training for this race kind of started in October when I joined UMD Master’s swim team.  I used to let the swimming slide and focus on the weaknesses.  This year I thought it would be good to work on my swimming so I could complete the same time/distance with even less effort.  Plus, swim meets are fun.  I had oodles of laps under my belt by the time I got to Luray.  I signed up for a June ½ marathon to make sure I came into the training season with something of a base.  By race day, I had 24 weeks of pretty consistent running under my belt.  I was also doing some of the injury prevention and strength training that I needed to do to make it to the start line limp-free.  My bike goal was just to try to not to go backward while focusing on the other two.  I’d already looked at past Luray times so my expectation was that I’d be near last.  I just wanted to have a good race.

Swim- 33:09
I watched as each wave went out and noticed that there were very few stragglers in each group.  Everyone was staying pretty tight which meant everyone was fast.  One game I like to play during the swim is to catch anyone I see from the wave in front of me.  That wasn’t going to work in this race.  The previous wave wouldn’t be in sight.  I went to the back of my wave, looked at the people in front of me and told myself, “I have 1500 meters to pass all them.”  The horn blew and I went to work.  So, this was a mistake.  The tightly packed group was like swimming in a can of sardines.  Everyone was all over each other and it took about 2 bouys to clear up.  I had to “stand my ground” against a few people and vice versa.  The Luray visibility was the best I’ve experienced and I could see well in front of me.  I came out of the water with 1545m recorded on the Garmin.  I can’t complain about that given my history of previous sighting issues.  I was 16/35 out of the water.  Can’t complain about that either.  I came out of the water feeling good.  Luray has a looooong flight of steps between the Swim Out and T1, but the steps are shallow and easy to climb.  At some point during the swim, I remembered that I racked my bike without putting the chain back on.

T1- 4:16
I really wanted to have a good solid bike so I didn’t go huffing and puffing to rush out of T1. Starting the bike already out of breath has been an issue in the past.   I took my time getting out of T1.  I should have taken the time to manually put my chain back.

Bike 2:02:40
While I didn’t put my chain back on by hand, I have “ridden” it back on many, many times.  I just pedal and shift up and it clicks onto the gears.  I usually closely supervise this, in no particular hurry, before a group ride.  But, this was not a group ride.  This was a race.  I wasn’t looking down and didn’t realize that the chain overshot the big chain ring and fell off to the outside.  Because I didn’t recognize this soon enough, the chain got wedged between the big chain ring and the crank arm.  Metal wedged between metal is no bueno.  I got off the bike, pulled a few times.  No luck.  I had to move out of the lane for incoming bikes.  An awesome Luray volunteer came to assist.  I pulled.  He pulled.  No luck.  A third, equally awesome, Luray volunteer came and we worked together.  I held the derailleur down so that it would stop moving every time we pulled.  Volunteer #3 held the slack of the chain from the depressed derailleur taut from the bottom.  Volunteer #2 and I pulled hard a few times and it came free!!  Thank God!  I thought my race was going to be mechanically over.  I pulled away with my Chamillionaire mantra in my head “They see me rollinnn, they hatinnn, patrollin’, they tryna catch me ridin’ dirtyyy...”  I was riding dirty.  Both my hands were pitch black from the chain grease.

The Luray bike course will work you, but it won’t kill you.  It’s a lollipop-type thing with 2 loops around the pop.  On the first loop, I was feeling my quads talking. I popped some Margarita-flavored shot blocks and drank some water.  My nutrition goal was to come back from the bike with an empty tube of ShotBlocks and 2 empty water bottles.  I told myself to ignore all the “on-your-lefters” and just chill out.  It was all good until a long false flat at the end of the lollipop.  My bike goal was to keep my lap speed above 12miles/hour.  Seeing it go from 12.3...11.8...11.5..10.9 really had me frustrated because I was in my lowest gear doing the best I could at < 60 rpms. I made the wise decision to switch my Garmin to a different screen with no lap time.  I was encouraged by my 154 HR, that’s light work for me.  At least I wasn’t burning out cardio-wise.  On the second lap, I hit one of the nice downhills and when I came out of it, my legs were back!!  Just like that.  I was like “aw shoot, let’s go!”  After a few minutes I reminded myself not to get too hype.  The run was coming.  The next time I hit the false flat stretch, I just tried to focus on my pedal technique.  It helps me alot if I remember to keep my ankles loose and use them.  I lost a lot of time on that stretch, but it felt much better the 2nd time around.  After a nice downhill stretch you approach the “bitter end” of the ride.

The end of the ride is the worst of it with 2 hills you won’t forget.  The first of the last 2 killers has a gradual, relatively benign incline followed by a quick steepening.  I got up this one surprisingly okay.  The next one steepens quickly and stays steep.  I stayed in my lowest gear and committed to grinding until I was done.  I heard footsteps behind me.  Someone was walking.  I kept pedaling. Two ladies who passed me earlier were also off the bike.  I was grinding, but not suffering the kind of muscle-burning fatigue I expected.  At one point, I almost tipped over a bit because I was going that slow.  I reminded myself about my form and started to use boths leg and all joints as evenly as possible.  My cadence picked up and I saw light at the end of the tunnel.  The walkers cheered me up the hill and I actually felt pretty good going into T2.  I finished the bike 31/35 with no shame.  I put some work in for that one.

T2- 4:32
Again, I was in no particular hurry.  I sat on the ground to put my shoes on and headed out of T2 walking with the Gerber Graduates applesauce squeezee that I have grown to love mid-run.  Sorry boys and girls, I’m eating your food.

Run 1:34:51
My teammate Tiffany was there cheering me on and walking with me to the main road. I had my positive run mantras on tap.  I thought about the many successful training runs and bricks and just told myself to repeat those.   I hit a respectable slow jog and I felt like this was going to be a pretty good race. This is where I would like to end this race report.  Let’s just say two miles into the race someone handed me a piano.  As I have experienced for almost every race for the past, ohhhh 7 years or so, my legs started to stop.  It was struggle time and there was no getting the legs to pick up for more than a few strides.  I had been steady with shotblocks and water.  I had eaten my fruit pouch.  I stopped at every water station for water and Heed. I’d trained for this run for 6 months.  I’d had a good bike and swim.  Nothing was even hurting.  I trudged, I walked, trudged, walked.  Tried to run faster than a trudge.  Legs like “nah.”  This is where I got pissed off (not a good thing).  But seriously, WTF was all the training for is this is what the race was going to be?  Why bother?  These are bad, bad thoughts.  Somewhat irrational and bad, bad thoughts.   I saw Jessica, Christy and Tiffany at the finish line chute and they forced me to pull it together.  They brought my smile back and I finished the race with a strong 50 meter run.  This Luray run is incredibly hilly.  I finished the run 33/34.

End of Season Thoughts

It’s not all bad!!  I know that I am a stronger runner this year than I was last year.  My endurance is actually better most of the time.  I still have such a long way to go and it takes a mile of consistent work to see a millimeter of variable improvement.  Not to mention, few people know more about running than I do.  I help people to run better for a large part of my job.  I live this stuff all damn day.  Those who can’t do, teach, right? I’m hype that I dropped 5 seconds off my 50m swim time (about 50” to about 45”) and I’ve got sighting down.   I’m in lower range of where I was last year on the bike according to course comparisons.  So, I didn’t lose much.  Now, I have to decide if I really want to work my butt off all winter and spring to see if I can maybe be a little bit better at running next summer or if I should just stick to a sport I can actually do well.  Right now, I’m super sore and walking like a penguin so it’s not a good time for clear decision making.