Flying to Minneapolis, Thursday before the race. Bags packed, family kissed, another adventure awaits. This year a bit calmer than last, but nonetheless and “A” race (important on the scale for the year) so always a bit of mental nerves. I am traveling with my training partner Ken, a dedicated, and dare I say diehard Duathlete. Spend a few months training multisport with him and you will forget you ever knew how to swim. Since my shoulder has been recovering since October, I have had a lot of time away from the water. Thus 2015 dubbed the first full year of Duathlon only for me. I might dabble in a sprint triathlon with my teammates in September, but truly a year that I want to get my run faster.
Although I have had some success with faster track workouts, my priorities shifted in the past nine months. After several years of a multisport and health focus, I moved my sport training to a lower priority, added school, yoga teacher training, and time spent writing and publishing my first book. Oh, and I have two daughters and clearly an amazing husband who puts up with my high energy lifestyle. Health is and always will be a huge priority for me, so that didn’t change, but I did have to move many workouts around to fit in everything else this past year. To add to that, I was injured in October and have focused on hours of recovering shoulder rehab. Thus, there we many ride’s and runs that didn’t happen as scheduled.
Whatever we put first on our list of priorities, we are sure to accomplish. While self-care and my family are always tops, my training was right there for the years but this year that changed and so could my results. That is just the way life works.
Flight to St. Paul was enjoyable. I was able to sit next to fellow duathlete from Seattle, Heather L. (reining national champion in her age group, Grand Masters champion and current 2nd fastest in the world, in her AG. She is a busy business woman who maintains a structured training program and consistently finishes on top the podium. This year she is recovering from a calf strain, but hopes to still pull off a top 18 finish to requalify for Worlds 2016 (she took 7th!) Not much slows her down.
Thursday, arrive in St. Paul and get to the hotel, checked in. Still light out we chose to drive the bike course a few times, being that it was different from last year’s course (that was changed due to it being under water.) One large hill in the course (shown as 250ft of gain) seemed surprisingly higher than we pictured. The hill comes right out of transition and makes it way atop the cliff through a nice neighborhood and down a fast, well paved descent before a 360+ degree turn under a bridge and along the water for an off and on good to crumbly pavement road along the Mississippi river, NE back to transition. After the drive we were ready to head outside. We did one lap of the 1.5 mile run course which, this year, has us running across a small bridge to Raspberry Island for a short loop on the pavement/cobblestone path, and back onto Harriet Island. Dinner at the hotels wood fired pizza bar, with a vege pizza and water. Built my bike and headed to bed.
Friday, slept in, enjoyed a Usana chocolate protein shake (something I carry whenever I travel as it is my regular pre- workout meal) and headed out the door with our bikes. Ken and I met up with a teammate Marta. We rode the bike loop, taking note of any potholes, dangerous turns, or anything we might need to know about the course. At transition we practiced a few shoeless dismounts. This course bike in was different than 90%. They had us go around a full rounder while dismounting. Usually you can get a near straight road to remove your shoes, ride on top of them, throw your leg over the back of bike and run off the bike before the dismount line. Here you had to remove your shoes well in advance, and ride half way around the circle on one leg while running off. Newer bike shoes make my transitions slipperier than normal. Tricky usually, this was even more so. Well deserving of a practice.
Went to packet pickup, purchase CO2 cartridges (for our fix a flat kits – since you cannot fly with them) and off we went to the hotel to drop off bikes, grab our tennis shoes and go for a jog. Finished our short run, by finding a lunch spot. Custom made salads while you wait, were a hit and just what we needed before a shower and relaxing in the room for an hour and took a walk and lounged in a park dedicated to cartoonist Charles M. Schultz.
In denial about our wonderful gelato find from 2014 nationals, closed this year, we drove to the neighborhood to pay homage…but more, just to see with our own eyes, that the best grass fed ‘Cow Bella’ gelato shop in the US was no more. As much as I am a non-dairy fan for skin related sensitivity issues, I do enjoy some good ice cream or cheese on a special occasion. After finding this 5 star rated gelato shop in a University town in St. Paul last year, we were hooked, and frankly super excited to return for a post-race treat. We were on a mission. Alas, it was closed, but enjoyed a nearby family run Italian restaurant meal of vege pizza for me, (this is becoming a trend) and a house salad with water.
Headed to the hotel, prepped race kit, water bottles, gear and nutrition for the morning, applied race number tattoos to both arms and legs, stickers to helmet, bike and went to bed. Alarm set for 5:45am.
Woke at 5am on my own and decided an extra 15min of sleep was more important than added time on the hotel bike machine in the gym. Good idea.. so changed my alarm to 6am. My waves start time was 8:30am, so even though I needed to exit transition by 7:20 for others start waves to begin, I had plenty of time to stretch and warmup while others were racing. 6am – got up, drank a choc. Protein shake, took allergy inhaler puff, shorts and a shirt on, grabbed my water bottle and rode the bike work out machine for 20 minutes high cadence, low resistance to wake up the legs. Back to the room to put my kit on, drink more water, sunscreen applied and head out the door by 6:45am.
6:50…walking to the elevator, bike shoes on, small transition pack with running shoes, race nutrition, inhaler and glasses. Ride to transition area…about 2 miles away and setup. Pick up timing chip to place on your ankle, have a volunteer write your end of year age on your right calf next to your race number, and head in to find your pre-numbered race space.
Must exit transition by 7:20. Good thing Duathlon is a quick setup, especially if you have done them before. Grass a touch wet, so a smaller than hand size towel on the ground with visor, glasses, one Honey Stinger gel, one Honey Stinger waffle (pre opened), my inhaler and bottle of Nuun water. Bike shoes ON the bike, Water bottle mounted to the front aero bars, fix-a-flat kit created from an aero bottle mid frame, and helmet face down on bike (so to quickly spot my bike AND to put it on while I remove my running shoes with my feet.) Tough decision on one bottle or two on the bike. It will be 80 degrees and 80-85% humidity, so warmer than I have been training. Opted for one and hoped for the best.
Out of transition just in time before it closes, I head to a nearby park bench with my glasses, a tiny disposable water, and a Honey Stinger waffle for pre-race nutrition. Remember it is only 7:20am and I don’t start until 8:30am, along with all other 17-49 year old women doing the Standard distance race. Stretch, do some warm up exercises, eat my waffle, have some water and use the porta potty. Sun was out but wind was picking up. I knew I would be just fine once I started running. Fun to see some faces I recognize at the start line since this was my 3rd Duathlon nationals and met several from the US team in Spain last June. ALL of these athletes are fast, fierce and while start with a smile, go out fast. I placed myself half way in the pack on the right side like last year. I am surely nowhere near the fastest, but all of our times start with the bell, and I wanted to get across that line asap like the rest of them.
Standard Distance Race: 5k, 21.44 mile, 5k (World’s is 10k/20k (24+m)/5k, so this course is short for the run and bike)
RUN 1: (2 laps = 3.1 miles)
A smile on my face and gratitude in my heart, I hear the cowbell (they forgot the air horn for the start) and off we go. Starting off trying to pace myself but excited too. I settle into about an 8:30 or faster pace for the first mile, then let it drop a bit. Now, I have mentioned that I am working on my run…and last year I ran a 9:05 average for the first 5k. If I could hold under 9m pace, I would be happy. We made the first lap onto Raspberry island where we have to cross small sections of stone bricks and cobble stone. Tough to run on so picking up your feet is a must. There were still ladies behind me so there was hope that I wouldn’t be the final woman to finish the run in our wave this year. I guess my run training was working. 2nd lap, I felt tired, as I should, but pressed on.
27:31/8:51 pace/9th AG (~15 sec/mile faster than last year, and a longer distance this year)
Headed into transition. Glasses off, helmet on, run shoes off, bike off rack and run to the bike mount line. Jumped on my bike, and rode up the incline before putting my shoes on. So grateful to know how to transition fast in order to pass a few on my way to the bike.
BIKE: (3 laps = 21.44 miles)
Within blocks of the bike mount, you are headed up a hill. ~260 feet of climbing with 2 spots averaging 10% grade. Short but steep and challenging enough to take energy from your legs. Once at the top of the climb (smile for the camera) you head along the cliff for a time before barreling down a great descent- all out, no brakes, aero position, and fun. Left onto the circle underpass and down to river level where it gets straight, mostly flat, with a mix of road quality. Vibrations in some sections force me out of my aero bars, but did my best to stay down, low and fast. I felt pretty good, other than my allergies making my eyes and nose run while cottonwood flew in our faces. I was worried about dehydration with my nose running so kept drinking. Opting for a helmet shield versus sun glasses on the bike was a great choice to keep more of the pollen out.
Mid bike (top of the second lap hill) I ate one Honey Stinger Gel (taped to my bar) and continued to take on water. Ended up that only needing one water bottle as it hadn’t warmed up completely yet, but always good to have more than not enough liquids on the bike if there is a chance. Next I noticed that my brake was rubbing on my back wheel, so in a slight incline of the road, I stopped quickly, fixed it and back on the bike, hoping to not lose much time. Three women and a man passed me then, but I repassed the women before the bottom of the hill. 20-30 seconds worthwhile.
Since clearly I am better at the cycling portion of duathlon, it is nice to have picked up some speed to pass a few on the bike. As I finished my third lap, I started mentally preparing for the dismount. As I mentioned before it was tricky with the full circle turn mid dismount. I got my feet out and rode to the circle. Started to put weight on my outside foot and felt slippery. Socks a bit wet from the grass in transition pre ride, so too risky. Since we had to slow to almost a stop anyway to dismount, due to the turn, I opted to brake and run shoeless, versus dismounting while running. First time since my first year of racing. Safety first. I still had a 5k to run.
1:16:34/16.8 mph/7th AG (slower pace than last year, but bigger climb x3 to slow us all down.)
Hustled into transition. Racked bike, took off helmet, slipped on shoes, grabbed my sunglasses and ran.
RUN 2: (2 laps = 3.1 miles)
Came out of transition ahead of a few others and took off running as I could. I knew right away this was going to be tough. I was getting warm and my eyes were still running from the bike and allergies. I did all I could to bring my pace from 10:50 down. I pushed through the first 1.5 mile lap and kept moving. Walked 15 paces up the ramp and kept running. I could see a woman ahead of me and I wanted to catch up. She was walking and every time I got close, she started up again. I tried my best to keep her in my site but on the next incline, I took 10 more paces, then started as I could.
I could hear two women behind me and I knew I had to pick up the pace. I wasn’t going to let anyone get passed me. As we made the corner at about a mile plus to go, they came upon me, saying “oh, this is the ‘43’ group.” That is my age group and the adrenaline kicked in. I had come too far and passed them on the bike to NOT stay in front of them. I knew that if I let them get more than 6 feet ahead of me, they would be gone. I pushed hard to keep up with their much faster pace of about 9:15, I needed to hold on their tail. I did so for a half mile or more, then over the ramp headed back from the island, my lungs got the best of me and I had to take 5 paces to get my heartrate down.
I started up again and was determined to pull them back in. I knew I could do it. At every track workout I come from behind in the last 1/4 mile. I turned the final corner and there they were. I slowly made up time and space. I was determined. It hurt, but it didn’t matter. Two years ago I finished a race seconds before another because I pushed hard at the finish and it paid off. I could do it again. I was 250 yards out and one started to slow to grab water, this was my chance, “what was she doing?” I took it as a sign and passed both of them at 200 yards to go. I never looked back and went for it, but my legs wouldn’t turn any faster. My arms wouldn’t budge, I came across the line with no regrets…ahead of 2 others. Not just women but in my age group. Finished 23 and 26 seconds ahead of them.
30:42/9:52 pace/9th AG (2 sec/mile more than last year.)
Pushed to the end and couldn’t give my usual all out run at the finish so I knew one of two things. Either I pushed earlier and really gave it all I got, or my allergies were so bad, I just couldn’t give any more than I did. Likely both. I bent over quickly after the finish as usual, but this time my wheezing wouldn’t quit. My lungs were burning and opted for medical attention. They brought me in, and gave me an inhaler. Thank you medic volunteers for taking such good care of us all. By finishing 7th in my age group, I automatically qualified for Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain, June 2016. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to represent the USA and wear the stars and stripes again. I know I am not the fastest running or cyclist out there, but having a big heart and racing from a place of gratitude brings me to a lot of wonderful places and I get to meet some of the most wonderful and inspiring people out there.. Living the dream once again!
2:17:04 /Overall 7th AG
Afternoon was spent at the Podium celebration for Nationals and accepting my spot at ITU Duathlon World Championships 2016 in Aviles, Spain. Ken also qualified, so we will both be headed to Spain to race next summer. So Grateful. Had dinner with teammate Ken and fellow Seattle duathlete Heather. Sunday was another lazy day. Slept in, took bike apart and packed it into my bike travel bag. Next Ken and I headed out to explore a bit more of St. Paul before we headed to the airport. We drove back to Grand street, where we ate dinner on Thursday night. There was a huge celebration going on to celebrate the coming of summer, called “Grand Old Days.” Miles of street were covered with street vendors, local artists and great food. All of St. Paul must have been there. We happened upon an amazing French bistro with delicious pasteries, for lunch. A wonderful way to finish our trip and celebrate a great race.
- Having to blow my nose a minimum of 15-20x per lap on a three lap 21+ mile bike course is NOT reasonable and clearly a problem with all the blooming trees in June in MN. Take two puffs of allergy inhaler prior to all spring races.
- Bring two asthma inhalers to a race where my start time is significantly later than the time we need to exit transition by. Take my inhaler with me out of transition and throw it away (or give to a friend) near the start line, so will be more effective 20 minutes prior vs 70-80 minutes prior to the race.
- Triple check that your brakes aren’t rubbing before you start the race. I rode from the hotel to transition and they were fine, but without going all out or standing up you won’t know if all is working correctly, even if it was the day before when you previewed the course.
EVERYONE deserves to truly LIVE ALIVE FIT!
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