Monday, June 25, 2012

Ozark Valley Triathlon Recap

Yesterday I crossed something off my bucket list: Complete an outdoor triathlon! 

The Ozark Valley Triathlon was simply amazing. From the course, to the volunteers, to the after-race drawing and prizes (I won a box of Powerbars and a coffee mug!), I couldn't have picked a better first outdoor triathlon! While my performance will never be in the record books, I had an absolute blast and I am officially in love with triathlons!

This past week a friend reminded me with a wonderful verse from scripture that kept me mentally tough during this entire race. 
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31. (<--DGR represent!)
I repeated this verse over and over again, which gave me a sense of peace and strength during tough moments. What could be a better mantra than God's own words?! I wonder what took me so long to figure this out?

The morning started early with a 5:30 alarm. I always thought I needed a lot of stuff for half marathons, but my goodness have I been enlightened. Here is everything I needed:
  • Tri shirt, shorts, and shorts bra
  • Swim Cap
  • Goggles
  • Swimming watch
  • Towel
  • Hand towel
  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Running shoes
  • Socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Headband
  • Garmin
  • 2 bottles of water + 2 bottles of Gatorade
  • 3 Gu packets for fuel
  • Change of clothes/shoes for afterwards
Whew, thats a lot!

The race was held at Lake Weddington, a state park 20 minutes from my front door. We got to the park at 6:45, just enough time to get body marked, set up, take a Gu, use the rest room (again), and attend the pre-race meeting before we headed to the start line. The transition area was a little overwhelming for me and I kept looking around to make sure I was setting things up right. As far as I know, I didn't do anything faux pas. 

After setting up the transition, I tried to keep my nervous down. Don't I look relaxed?

As the countdown began, I watched the first two waves go ahead. Females age 39 and under were in the third and final wave, 10 minutes after the official gun went off. See, still nice and relaxed:

My fellow female competitors were incredibly nice and encouraging. A few women I was wading next to found out this was my first outdoor triathlon and they gave me plenty of tips for the swim. Such a great camaraderie among runners and triathletes! My main focus on the swim was to start in the back so I wouldn't get tackled at the start. See me waving? Yep, way in the back!

The hardest part of the swim was staying on course. I kept veering every which way but straight, which left me frustrated and using way too much energy searching around for the right direction. I definitely chugged some tasty lake water more than once. Open water swims are seriously legit and completely different than pool swims. I'm glad I did at least one open water swim during training so I wasn't totally naive, but I wasn't prepared for this.

Nevertheless, I still ended up with a great time (for me)!

1000 yard swim: 00:22:15.4

We then had to run 200 meters uphill to the transition area where I was completely under prepared and became flustered. It went by too slow and I had way too much to think about: Gu, hydrate, fix my hair, clean my feet, put on socks/shoes, helmet, start the Garmin, etc. Then I had to go back for my racing bib and had to repin it because it kept falling off. I definitely need to work on my transitions!

T1: 00:05:01.0

I absolutely loved the bike course! We road along country roads with beautiful northwest Arkansas scenery: big ranch houses, cows, beautiful rolling hills. Well, the hills were nice to look at, not climb. This course had a major hill and consistent rollers which left me exhausted. My goal was to keep about a 16.5mph pace and that is exactly what I did.

19 miles bike: 01:06:26.5

My second transition went by much more efficiently even though I could barely rack my bike because I was so fatigued. All I had to do was take off my helmet and down another Gu + water and I was off, with legs that felt like lead.

T2: 00:01:58.6
{via Jessi}

Surprisingly, the run was my biggest struggle. Before the race I felt confident tackling the four miles, but by the time my body had swam and biked for 88 minutes I was spent. I think the biggest mistake I made during training was not making my workouts long enough; my body was not prepared to be pushed for that long.

That being said, I am really proud of the running leg. The weather was HOT and the course was brutal! It was a two-loop course with a long, steep hill I had to climb twice. Each time I got to the hill, I willed myself to run but my body couldn't do it. I resorted to walking the hill both times, and was completely out of breath by the time I reached the top. I could have easily puked if I let myself.

The one good thing about hills is that you get to run down them, which is where I made up my time. The last quarter mile was downhill to the finish and I pushed it to the very end, reaching a 6:09 pace at one point.

4 mile run: 00:40:25.6

Total time: 2:16:05.9

Crossing the finish line is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating feelings. So overwhelmed!

After I cooled down (by pouring ice water over my head) and caught my breath (90 degree heat with humidity is brutal!) I was finally able to relish in the joy of finishing this triathlon. While there are things I can work on, I am so proud of myself and feel so blessed God has given me a body capable of this. With three long months of training, my body was ready to be challenged and I accomplished my time goal of a sub 2:17:00. Success!
{via Jessi}

And major credit to the amazing support crew who kept my spirits up the entire race. My dad drove up from Little Rock and the Leonards woke up early to cheer me on. Also, so many of you texted, tweeted, and facebook'ed me to tell me good luck and sent prayers my way.

I can't forget my awesome Ironman boss who helped me train, cheered me on, and pushed me hard! Thanks Andy- you rocked this race!
{via Jessi}

And of course I had my wonderful, amazing and handsome husband who never complains of these early mornings, is my official race photographer, and is proud of me no matter the finish time. Truly blessed I tell you.

Ladies and gentlemen, tri season has just begun. I can't wait for my next one! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Case the Anticipation is Killing You...

...I finished!
Now I am just waiting for the official results so I can upload my race recap.
Spoiler: It was amazing!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nerves Are High

I picked up my race packet today and oh boy am I nervous. I'm trying to remind myself that I'm in this just to have fun, but this is territory I've never traveled before.

An open water swim with people swimming over me. Transitions. Racing on bikes. Hills.

Oh Lordy. Oh well, here goes nothing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ozark Valley Triathlon Game Plan

Remember when I was all gung-ho (gun-ho? gun-hoe? Seriously, what is this word?) about this triathlon and I was all "I don't want to merely complete it, I want to compete in it" and I made lofty declarations of this being my "speedy summer". Well, true to Alex-fashion, this spunkiness has worn off. After almost 3 months of training, I'm no longer tackling each workout with full force. I am merely checking them off and wondering to myself if my "dog walks" could count as the day's workout. 

What? This pup can walk a mean 15min-per-mile pace.

So, to confess, I'm currently coming to the end of a 3 week long taper. (What? Taper weeks are only suppose to be about a week long? I'm such an over achiever.) Because my workouts have been slacking in intensity, I knew that I wasn't going to be winning any awards, but then I had a look at the treacherous elevation charts:
Bike: 19 miles

Run: 2 laps of this course= 4 miles

And then I found out that this race is a regional championship! Holy shnikies! Talk about intimidating. 

As a result, I gladly scaled back my intensity going into the race and have developed the concept of "just have fun." Monumental, right? 

Now that I'm using this race as just a really good workout I'm sure all the other 25-29 year old females are ecstatic that they now have a chance to place in the age group. Go ahead and pass me. You're welcome. 

So what are my actual goals this Sunday?

Goal A: Don't get a flat tire because 1) I don't have an emergency repair kit, and 2)even if I did, I have no clue how to change a tire. 
Goal B: Finish under 2:17. I'm a little unsure of how I am going to do on the run because I'm sure to be exhausted by then. Fingers crossed that I'm not wiped out by the time I get off the bike. Here are my hopeful splits:
T1- 4:00 
Bike- 1:07
T2- 2:00
Run- 40:00
Total- 2:17
Goal C: Finish under 2:20. If things aren't going well, this is my backup plan.
Goal D: Have fun experiencing my first outdoor triathlon! My dad is coming up and I have some friends participating as well so it should be a blast!

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

My New Lady

Since I'm taking triathlons and cycling a bit more seriously, it's about time I got a bike that can hold up. Introducing my new lady- The Black Pearl.

Yes I named my bike. What of it?

My sweet little hybrid bike has done me well over the past few months, but no matter how hard I huffed and puffed, I couldn't keep up with the big boys on their fancy road bikes. I have been searching for something used within my price range and knew I had to find a bike ASAP if I planned to ride it during the Ozark Valley Triathlon. Riding a road bike is way different compared to a hybrid or mountain bike and I need amble time to get accustomed.

On Saturday, following my brutal 5K, Josh found Pearl and I was immediately in love. We promptly took it on a 20 mile bike ride and I was flying! Even though it took me a while to get use to the new positioning, the ride was much more efficient! I easily knocked 13 minutes off that 20 mile route with minimal effort. 

Oh, how I love going fast(er). I'm definitely going to love this.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Holy Hills 5K

Holy Hills 5K- Not the name of the race I ran this weekend, but one they should definitely consider for next year. 

On Saturday I ran the Harding Bison Stampede 5K in Rogers, Arkansas around Lake Atalanta. I had lofty goals for this 5K. With my triathlon training going surprisingly well, my "speedy" legs were hoping for a sub-26:00 5K. That equates to approximately a 8:26 pace.

I figured that would be a completely bearable pace for 3.1 miles since I've been easily completing longer workouts at a 8:45 pace. That was until I discovered what the course actually consisted of:
Not drawn to scale. Obviously.

Yes. You are interpreting that amazing drawing correctly. That is a dirt/gravel road on crazy (for me) hills. 

Um, excuse me Harding University, I love being able to give back to my Alma Mater by running this race, but how about you cut me some slack and go easy on the hills. Capish? 

This race was the smallest I've ever run. By my rough counting in the picture below, looks like about 25 people toed the start line. Can you spot me? I was unknowing going for a patriotic theme.
A little after 8 o'clock, we had a briefing of the course (very important for a few miles later...), a prayer, then we were off.
I smoked that big-haired boy to my left and that little girl to my right. Suckers.

Josh won the best-husband award and came along to take photos cheer me on. He was stationed at the start and finish spots along the course, hence not much variation of scenery in the pics. 
Thumbs up for smelly trash cans and heel strikes!

We first looped around the park for a couple of laps before we headed around the lake- aka: where the dirt/gravel road started. I've got to say, I've never ran on trails before, but if it was anything like this course then I never want to do it again. I was constantly having to watch my footing and on the downhills I couldn't gain too much speed in fear of tripping on my face. 

Despite being out of my comfort zone, my first mile was right on pace. Mile 1- 8:23

After the crazy climb at Mile 1 (please refer to amazing drawing above) I was exhausted! {Insert whiney excuse of how terrible hills are and how much I suck at them} My legs were already feeling the beating and my pace was slowing up a bit. Mile 2- 8:53

Although my pace wasn't ideal during mile two I knew if I could pick it up I would still be able to reach my time goal. Then began the quick, but steep climb after the two mile mark. I did not dominate that hill. While I didn't walk, I was trucking along at a snails pace. And to make matters worse, at the top of the hill two volunteers were sending runners the wrong way! After some breathless conversations and me recalling the course briefing before the start, I finally headed down the correct path. 

At this point I was starting to feel mentally defeated knowing I wasn't going to reach a sub 26. The hills were sucky. The road was sucky. The direction-givers were sucky. Complain, complain, complain! I allowed myself to walk for 30 seconds then looked down at something I had written on my hand. 

"You only have this one chance to do this"

This was it. This was my one chance to give it all I got. So I lit a figurative fire under my booty and started to high tail it for one last lap around the park and then onto the finish. Mile 3- 9:26
I'm sure I was saying corny running mantras at this point.

Mile .20- 7:55 (<--A little extra mileage due to some course confusion)

Total (unofficial/Garmin) time: 27:38

A new PR! And 2:57 off my old 5K time! Considering the conditions, I'll take it! 

My goal now is to start training on some dadgum hills and stomp being such a wimp. And also to find a flat, fast course so I can kick some booty.