Our EPIC and Crazy weekend of Multisport racing across the country. Two races, in 24 hours, thousands of miles apart. It can be done. USAT Duathlon Nationals – Standard Distance, St. Paul, MN Saturday, July 19, 2014
Qualifying race for TeamUSA: 2015 Duathlon Worlds, Adelaide, AU (October 2015)
After having the chance to race for TeamUSA in Spain this past June, I could hardly pass up the chance to race in Australia in fall of 2015. It didn’t take much twisting of my arm, by teammate Ken to join him in the trek to MN for the race, and hopefully, qualify to 2015 Worlds. Albeit nervous about humidity, heat and mosquitos.. I decided to go for it. Weekend Plan: Fly into MN Friday am, race Saturday am, fly home Saturday pm, build bike back up, prep for race, sleep, race Seafair with our team (already had signed up, but Seafair Tri allowed me to change to sprint versus Olympic distance, thank goodness)! Sounds doable.. maybe, when I considered it a few months back.
Pre-race: Woke up Friday with a stuffy nose.. uh oh. Hoping for the best.. allergies acting up, but gearing for the worst.. a cold? so got my “kick ass immune” drops and started taking them. Arrived in St. Paul, Friday at noon (2hrs ahead of Seattle). Up at 4:45am to pick up Ken and catch the flight.. so not a lot of sleep night before. Drove straight to packet pickup, drove the course, walked transition, ate a quick late lunch (rice/bean/salad bowl), checked into the hotel and built our bikes. Enjoyed a good stone fired pizza dinner with Ken, race number tattoos on (cut them down for easier removal), layed out kit and race things, and headed to bed at 10:15pm. Hoped for earlier, but had a lot to do.
Morning of Race: Alarm set for 5:30am. Woke at 4:20 thinking I only had 10 minutes, so stretched until I remembered I had an hr. Oops. Made my morning shake and had more water with nuun electrolytes. Ken had a great warm up idea.. he was going to ride his trainer in his room, and I didn’t want to do a run warm up since you run twice in a Duathlon so opted for heading down to the hotel gym to ride for 30min, z1 with some rampups. Arrived late.. and got in 25. Better than nothing. Nose was still stuffy but can breath through my nose, so off we go to the race. Rode our bikes about 1/2+ mile to transition, and setup. Easier than triathlon since just run and bike shoes. Laid out my visor, gel, transition water/nuun, and asthma inhaler (this am, 2 puffs pre race and in case of emergency later). I opted to wear my glasses on the first run. Weather was overcast at 7am, but was already starting to get sunny. Weather report called for 85′ with 70-75 dewpoint (still not sure how that translates to humidity levels.. but it was humid already).
Standard course 2:01:03 20AG Nationals
Not 100% sure what was going on with my sinus’ I needed to focus on what I could do.. run (as fast as I could without wearing myself out for run2) and bike.. haul on the bike. Wearing a TeamUSA kit, comes with some urgency to go faster, so that didn’t hurt either. Fun to recognize several faces from Spain and get to reconnect before the start. Ken started at 8:05, then all women 25-49 at 8:20. I stretched and ate a honey stinger waffle before the start for some added fuel. I started mid pack on the right, as I know these ladies would be fast, but didn’t want to psyche myself out by going to the back. Sometimes you have to fake it to make your mind believe.. you are fast.
Run 1 26:07, 2 laps 4.6k total
I started out feeling okay but within just a few blocks I knew I was in for some trouble. Duathlon is known to be the sport of “non-swimmers”, I think it is the sport of “crazy fast runners, who can also bike.” So needless to say I was left in the dust even with a 9min/mile pace. I know I am not a fast runner, but seriously these ladies were fast.. at least I didn’t get lapped on the two lap course, phew. I held my 4 mile tt pace for first mile then slowed a bit, but still was last coming into transition in my ag. Ok, so not a great start.. but I was determined to not let this get to me.
Transition 1 0:54 Knowing I am fast at transitions I told myself I could take a few people just running through.. and I did. Quickly found my bike. Easy since the hundreds of others were out on the course already one bonus of being a slower runner I guess. Helmet on, shoes off at the same time, quick drink and off. Shoes were rubber banded and attached to my bike. (shoes are new and a bit different to get on/off than my well worn/loved first tri shoes, so this was going to be fun). Running 100yds (long for this race) in bike shoes on concrete is a no go for me.. socks are so much faster. Hit the line, and hopped on. Shoe one on, shoe two on, check. Off I went.
Bike 1:06:20, 3 laps 31.2k total This is where I needed to make up time. Within 2 blocks, you head up the first hill, a bridge from Harriet Island, across the Mississippi River to St. Paul. Then an immediate 160 degree turn on a tiny downhill road with ruts and potholes everywhere. Down to the river then an out and back flattish section along the river where being aero was king. Head wind on the way out, tale on the way back. (about a 6mph difference in speed between the two). Then back up to city level and back across the river to transition area, where you u-turn and do it all again. 3 laps, 6 hills and a ton of turns. I was able to pass a few on lap one, then didn’t see any women for awhile. Lap 2 brought a few more passes and loved my inside u-turn pass of a man and women at the same time on one u-turn.. yes technique can help in races! Final lap, fast downhill, shoes off, flying dismount and another 100yd run to my rack. Had one gold honey stinger gel on lap 2 of bike, and a bottle of plain water.
Transition 2 0:50 Helmet off, run shoes on, glasses, quick drink of nuun water and off. Kept it simple and fast.
Run 2 26:51, 2 laps, 4.4k total
Weather was heating up and my body was feeling it. Pushed to zone 4 and my lungs weren’t happy. Felt like I was breathing in thick air. I just needed to make it under 3 miles and I was done. Why did it feel like an eternity. At least there were people behind me, but since the race began starts at 7:30 and mine was the last one, most athletes were already walking back from the finish with their medals and I can make it mentally challenging. I took a deep breath said something on the lines of “come on Mary, just do this” and forged on.. literally.. like I was running through water. My watch was reading 10m/mile.. and the rolling park path that we were running on felt like huge hills. Lap two got easier as I knew I was heading to the finish. It couldn’t come soon enough and I tried to pick up the pace 1/2 mile out but was doing all I could. At the last turn angled turn along the river, 150 yards out I picked up speed and sprinted to the finish. (Why couldn’t that have started sooner.) Crossed the line and couldn’t breathe. First race where I almost took up the medics offer for an inhaler.. but knew if I didn’t talk, stood quietly (albeit hunched over) and drank a bit of water, I could get my lungs back.. and I did. Crazy how fast athletic induced asthma sets in (and how quickly you can recover from it.. when not moving.)
Post Race Thoughts: Nationals (and Worlds) are extremely humbling and amazing experiences. Not only do you get to meet wonderful people but the caliber of age group athletes competing blows me away and always will. Watching 65-80 yr olds race at speeds I can only dream of, might help paint the image. One such man we met post race at the hotel yesterday. He asked how my race went, and I said okay, hot, but grateful.. then when I asked him, he said “which one?” HE RACED BOTH Duathlon National distances. Standard (like us) and got 2nd place Age group, then 2 hrs later raced Sprint (2.5k/20k/2k) and got 1st in his AG. Seriously amazing and puts our back to back weekend racing to shame, not to mention that he could be my father.
*Racing in heat and humidity. Both Spain and St. Paul (although St. Paul was even more so) had both. I need to do a better job to either acclimate (arrive sooner to the race venue) or train in a sauna once a week! Clearly, weekly hot yoga isn’t enough.
*Nutrition has been great during my races and I am grateful for that. Stick to what works.. and bring what you need with you when you travel.
*The need for speed. We ALL want this.. but I am determined to pick up my run speeds this year. Only 4 years ago, I was able to go for 17-18 mile runs at 8:30 avg pace.. so why can’t I run that for 6 or even 3 in a race? Okay, I know my bike speeds have come way up so trying not to complain, AND I learned to swim just a few years ago (that takes time too) but I am going to focus, this coming year, on more speed work.. short intense, whatever I need work.. to get these legs moving quicker.
Finishing at the end of the pack in Run 1, hit it home for me. World’s Qualifications: Top 18 in each AG qualify for Worlds. I was 20th with age roll up. All those who will be 40-44 by the end of 2015, thus all 39 in this race roll up, and those 44 roll out of my age group. Due to my time and theirs.. I stayed at 20th place for Worlds qualifying times. Since two athletes declined their spots, I was given the chance once again. Thus, I have another amazing trip with my husband to save up for! TeamUSA, Adelaide, AU – October 2015!
Always grateful for my health and the opportunity to do things that I love and enjoy! ~Mary
Seafair Sprint Triathlon – Seattle, WA Sunday, July 20, 2014
I signed up in January to do the Olympic distance triathlon at Seafair since it was one of our team races. I wanted redemption from my slow time last year while preparing for Ironman. Since I was training shorter distances, I surely would be faster. All changed when teammate Ken, talked me into going back to Duathlon Nationals, this time in MN, the day before Seafair. Instead of opting out of Seafair, I struck a deal. If he did the new Seafair Duathlon (he is like a cat in water when it comes to swimming), I would race back to back, but switch to the sprint versus tri. Obviously he agreed. Thus our crazy race weekend.
Ken Nakata said it best with his race report, so I’ll borrow from him. “Typing this race report, it’s a little hard to separate out Seafair from the overall weekend experience. Yesterday’s Duathlon Nationals in St. Paul feels like a week ago as so much has happened in just the last 24 hours. The only descriptor that Mary and I seem to keep saying over and over again is “epic.” Part of the feeling of enormity comes from the logistical scale of it all. Up at 4:30a each day and going to bed late with race prep, flying around and racing multiple times in different cities in a 24-hour span like a grand tour cyclist. If you have a chance to do something as nutty as doing a big national event across the country and then flying right back and doing another race, don’t back down from the challenge. There’s nothing that makes you feel like you can handle anything that life throws at you quite like doing this.”
Race morning: Alarm went off at 4:45. Up and had my usual Nutrimeal shake, water, vitamins and more “kick ass immune” to hold my sinus issue at bay. Could breathe through my nose, but still warding off sinus pressure, etc. The swim was going to be a test. Had everything packed and ready to go, loaded my bike (And a bag to cover my transition things while I got ready, since it was raining,) and headed off at 5:15. My start time was 7:47, but I needed to still pick up my packet, etc. Arrived and found parking, and walked to packet pickup. Saw some teammates racing and those there to cheer us all on for our team race. Loved seeing them all, as it got me out of my own mind. Most athletes were riding their bikes down the hill, and I was just too tired to even think of getting on my bike. This was going to be a real test of my will today. Got in, Racked bike, setup quick transition (left a bottle of nuun with my shoes), did a tiny jog (All I could muster for a wu), wetsuit on and headed towards the water.
Sprint Triathlon: 1:32:02 , 10/29 AG
Started in second row, far left in the water. Blew some bubbles in the water to see how my sinus’ were feeling and to make sure my heart was settled down. This year was a standing start, so wasn’t able to be horizontal for the gun (nice to do to get an edge on faster swimmers in a deep water start.) Started off and already should have started ahead of two who were blocking my way. I am not fast, but like to swim consistent speed and tend to swim straight so had to go around them and then after the first turn kept getting hit by someone zig zagging, so needed to pass her too. Tried to stay consistent, and did, but knew I wasn’t going fast. Was worried about picking up my heart rate too much, since it seemed harder to breathe today than usual. Swam all the way into the beach (way past where my fingers could touch) so that I didn’t have to slog through the water on foot. Not a great time, but did what I could with sinus pressure, little sleep, and more importantly, limited swim training due to adding run workouts for duathlon.
Transition 1: 1:38
Ran in, wetsuit off, helmet on (shoes were on the bike) so grabbed it and ran. Shoeless transition in the new shoes (day two, to perfect it). Went a bit smoother than Saturday.
Wanted to stay in z4 for the 20k, so that was the goal.. but I had a feeling that it might be a touch slower since I was tired from the day before. I was going by many, but there were so many out on the course that it was hard to tell who I was against. They run both distances at the same time. Up the steep hill onto the highway express lanes uneventfully, and headed across the bridge. Enjoyed knowing this was a “recovery” race – so to speak – so cheered a few athletes on that looked like they were really struggling. I know I appreciated it when I was new to the sport. Loved being on Leschi headed back to Seward Park (where our team trains). I pretended it was just another Thursday team brick 20min tt, that I needed to nail. Felt fast, but forgot my bike computer in my suitcase from race day before. Didn’t take time to change pages on my watch while riding so just went for it. Figured my run would be slow, so wanted to get what I could from the bike.
Transition 2 1:25
Shoes off on the bike, fast flying dismount. Got to pass 3 cyclist, off the line. Ran in racked bike, helmet off, shoes on (no socks first time in nearer shoes and felt good), grabbed visor and race belt, sipped a bit of nuun (should have waited until exit of run since could have drank there) to shorten transition, but flew past many heading out to start run.
Felt strong running through transition and then about 100yds out it hit me. My lungs were tired, my legs were tired, truth is, I was tired.. but needed to finish. I headed toward each turn happy to know I was almost done with a challenging weekend. Hit the mid run steep hill and decided to do a fast walk up, to conserve energy. On the top picked up some speed and tried to hold it to the downhill. Fast downhill and reminded myself I only had the final stretch. Pushed myself to sprint to the finish and enjoyed seeing other team members there to celebrate. It didn’t really matter how long it took me to finish, just that I finished.. at that point. BUT, either way, that was the fastest post-race recovery 5k I have ever done!
Final Thoughts: As I told Ken after the race.. Racing and training with friends, new and old is really what we all enjoy. It makes us feel “normal” in this crazy sport we enjoy. ~Mary
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