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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Questions of science, science and progress (Swimming: Part 900. Nobody said it was easy.)

   After Muskoka, as I previously eluded to, my tolerate/hate relationship with swimming shifted towards a frustrated hate, yet again.  It's been almost nine months of nearly doubling my swimming volume and trying all sorts of different approaches to fix and improve me in the water, but it seemed like I was just getting nowhere.  Well, sometimes when that happens, I do a couple of things: A. Look back in the logs, and B. Put it in running terms.  So here we go-I spent a couple of recovery rides reviewing my running career, making some calculations, figuring out that my running improvements never came as easily as I want to make it seem like the did, and pondering what it's taken me over the course of 16+ years of competitive running to turn a 5k pace into a marathon off the bike in an Ironman pace.  Which leads me to this table (Note 1: I get bored on recovery rides on the trainer.  Note 2: I know I'm a giant loser who likes numbers.  Got it.  Note 3: I know I'm a giant freak for remembering my 5k pr from my freshman year of high school.  I'd say that these are estimates, but in reality, there's only like, one time on there that I was ballparking.  That'd be the 2000 10k time.)

½ marathon
70.3 half
IM marathon



















Anyways, the top number is time, the middle number is pace per mile, and the bottom number is percent change from the previous year.  1997 was when I ran my first 5k, as a 13 year old at the end of modified cross country season.

1. I've shaved a total of 5:20, or 23%, off my first 5k time (over 15 years), 5:50, or 13.4% off my first 10k time (over 12 years), 9:18, or 10.2% (I'll use the 70.3 half time from this year, given it's faster than my best open half) off my first half marathon time (over 8 years), and 16:35, or 8.7% off my first marathon time (over one year).  15 years of running for 5:20-doesn't seem hugely significant for that amount of time, but I've kept at it.

2. If you look at my longer distance prs-in 2008, and more or less again in 2012 (one second is close enough), my 10k pace was faster than any 5k I ran in 2004 and earlier.  My half marathon pr pace, set off the bike this year, is faster than my 5k pace was in my first six years of running.  My marathon pr is faster than my 5k pace was in my first three years of running.  And my marathon off the bike pace is faster than my first 5k pace.

3. My big training changes came in 2002, when I entered college, and again in 2009, when injuries led me to begin triathlons.  The results of the volume and intensity increase in 2002 weren't immediate-I took off some 5k time in 2003, but the bulk of my improvements came in 2004 and 2005, when I was able to train consistently at those volumes and absorb the work that I was doing.

4. 2006 was obviously a big setback year, due to a series of injuries due to pushing it beyond what my body could handle at that time.  I lost a lot of fitness in that year.  I barely ran that summer, limped through an xc season that fall, resumed training that winter, and then was injured again a few months later.  Finally, in early 2007, I was able to resume somewhat normal training, even with a few smaller issues in there.  Again, though, it took until the next year to see the results of the work I'd been doing.  In 2009, after some of my best races (at random distances) earlier in the year, I again went beyond what my body could handle, and the pattern repeated somewhat-I got injured, my performances dropped a bit from the previous year as I started back up racing again, but then recovered in the subsequent years as consistent training was resumed over time.

5. While my prs haven't improved every year, I still feel that I've improved as a runner every year.  I've learned what works, what doesn't work, what to work on-and I've become more consistent overall.  I've trained my body to be able to handle volumes that in previous years might have broken me down.  I didn't wait so long to run a marathon because I wanted to-it was because I couldn't handle the training until then.  My 5k and 10k prs may be from 2008 still, but I've come within a couple of seconds of both of them in the past year, without specifically focusing on those distances.  I've been able to objectify my performances and put them in context in order to be satisfied when I've done well given conditions, recent training, race focus at that time, etc.  I've known when I'm in pr shape, and I've known when I wasn't.  And when I wasn't, I never beat myself up over it.

  What does this all have to do with swimming?  I know running and swimming have their (many, many) differences, but oftentimes, it helps me to put swimming in terms of running, just to have some perspective.  My running performances over the years show that progress is slow, and maybe not always steady-but put in the work, and progress will happen.  It's not always immediate, either (refer to #3&4 above).  Putting in significant increases in work sometimes only results in 1-2% improvements.  I've only been swimming for three years now.  I can now hold the same pace in a marathon as I could in a 5k after three years of running.  So, my first swimming lesson from all of this is to not get frustrated over the pace of any progress in the water.  Although I'm not exactly the most naturally talented runner ever, I at least have always had some natural proclivity towards running-and my running progress has still been modest through the years.  In seventh grade, I was one of the top 10 modified runners in the county at the end of my first cross country season.  I then went on to be the worst Sea Dragon swimmer on the team that winter-I wasn't born as a fish.  So, if I didn't do it early on in my running career, I shouldn't expect to drop 10% from my swim times and magically go from a 33min to a sub-30min HIM swimmer in one season, just because I'm swimming more.  When I first started running, I was pretty new to endurance sports.  When I first (re)started swimming in 2009, I'd been an endurance athlete for 12 years-thus, I just don't have as far to go in terms of improvements due to immediate aerobic development as I did in 1997.  

    So, in reviewing this, it's helped me to stop getting as hung up as I have on my perception that I'm not improving quickly enough in the water.  Mary thinks she can make me a 60min IM swimmer someday.  This works out to ~1:26/200y pace, which is the same pace as the best 1000y I've ever swam at the moment (trust me, it's not readily repeatable).  I used to think she was nuts when she told me this.  But, well, apparently it's taken me about 5-7 years to turn my 5k paces into my half marathon paces, a race just over four times as long-just as an IM swim is just over four times as long as 1000y.  So, I have to hit the pool each morning with that hope-but I also can't expect it to happen tomorrow.  And just because the improvements aren't vast and immediate doesn't mean that they're not there.  I can look back in my logs, and I can see that they're coming.  Maybe it's only 1-2 seconds/100y, but by and large, it's there.

   That's the patience aspect of it-the other part is the whole idea of "it'll come".  I've been guilty enough myself of using this term to dismiss my swim performances, but, to be honest, I sometimes feel that it just sounds too passive.  I can't go to the pool every morning, throw on some flippers, float around on my back, sip from my drink with an umbrella in it on deck, and expect to improve, just as I didn't skip around in the woods and pick flowers during all those years of cross country and track practice through the years, then expect to show up to sectionals and place well.  Running improvements have come-but only because I actively went out there, and devoted some part of myself every day for years upon years to chasing them down.  They came because of all of the afternoons I've spent doubled over on the track, hands on my knees at the end of workouts.  They came because of the early Sunday morning long runs, the perimeters sprinted in high school, the steady run that I did and did well despite the two hours of sleep I was on thanks to that paper I had to write, because I tied my shoes, took a deep breath, and forced myself out the door in heat, rain, snow, sleet, wind, whatever else, no matter how much I might not have felt like it at the time.  They came because I had the ability to put every workout, every run, ever race into the perspective of my training and my fitness at the time. The improvements didn't come because I decided I was washed up, that it was worthless if I ran my mile repeats in 5:48 one week and 5:51 the next.  They didn't come because a 15 second improvement wasn't good enough for me.  They didn't come because I gave up on myself, ever.  I'm trying to take this attitude into the pool.  My workout this morning featured a 1000y swim in the middle of it.  Last week, I'd swam it moderately hard, and finished in 14:54.  My goal this week was to beat that.  I started off steady, checked the clock at 200y, and was dismayed to see 2:59.  The doubts immediately came-usually, that first 200 is my fastest.  Before I had the chance to give it up, though, I reeled myself back in.  If you were on the track, doing a 5k tempo, would you give up on making your pace just because the first 800 was slow?  No, you wouldn't.  You might not hit your interval, but if you didn't, it wouldn't be because you hadn't given it what you had on that day.  With that, the splits started to get faster; I started to slip further and further below that 1:30 pace, until I finally hit the wall in 14:48.  Not my best ever, not competitive, not where I want to be in a few years, but for today...victory.  No one ever got faster by stopping an interval just because it wasn't a pr.

  Saying, then, that swimming will come is true-but it'll come because of enduring and relishing pain, because of gritting out intervals no matter what, because of getting myself out there to get it and not giving it up.  If there's one lesson to be learned from the past 16 years of my life...then that's it.

  Thanks for the hope, running.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Muskoka-the good, the bad, and the ugly!

  Before I get to the race report, I just wanted to share some info on an important event to come-the Heather Boyum Memorial Iron Angel Run/Walk to be held on October 14 at 7:45am.  The event will benefit Heather's children's educational fund, and I encourage everyone who is available to participate or donate.  More information on this event can be found here.  Thank you!

  This past weekend brought on my next 70.3(ish) adventure, as Dave and I took off from work a couple hours early on Friday and headed north of the border to compete in the Muskoka Ironman 70.3.  I hadn’t done a 70.3 in over three months, so I was ready to get going on the second portion of my season, and Dave was hoping to finally capture a Vegas slot (for 2013, of course).  The prerace happenings started off with an uneventful drive up (during which it took me a bit to realize that the gas prices were in liters, and the road distance signs were in kilometers).  We crashed in a free Residence Inn (thanks, Dave’s hotel points!) Friday night, loaded up on their pretty awesome continental breakfast spread the next morning, and then headed up to the race site (after Dave screwed around with his bike a bunch, as per usual).  After check in and a brief swim and jog (despite the pouring rain, the cool temperatures were an absolute gift!), I insisted that we drive a loop of the bike course, so we met up with Welby and went on a little jaunt of the loop.  The technical portions, which probably constituted the first and last 20k (in my book, at least) did concern me, especially given that my prescribed wattage target seemed optimistically high, but I reassured myself that it’d be a good opportunity to push the boundaries of my bike handling comfort zone a bit, and that I could make up some time on the less technical, more open sections of road.

Massive hotel room bed.  It was awesome.  I could sprawl out, and didn't have to touch Dave.

The children's book stories of our Hansen lives, found in a Canadian supermarket.
  Saturday evening, Dave and I met up with our fantastic hosts Lowell and Katharine (I’d met them when we all helped present material at a course in Buffalo last May), who graciously cooked for us, let us crash for the night, offered some insight into the race, and even had some sweet dogs to make us feel like home.  The 8am race start time meant that our Sunday morning started at our normal wake up time, and the prerace routine went off normally.  A cold morning greeted us; my car thermometer had read 45, and even a short jog didn’t warm me up much.  Still, the sky was (thankfully) clear, the water temperature was reading in the low 70s, and overall, the morning promised to warm up to a comfortably cool level, so I wasn’t concerned about being cold during the race, especially after the cold, damp weather we’d raced in at Mooseman.  Before the race, I found myself chatting with fellow pro and LP podium finisher Kelly Fillnow about swim strategies, we decided we’d try to swim together.  She’d outswam me by a few minutes in Placid, so I was unsure if I’d be able to hang with her, but I figured I’d do my best to try!

Totally random, but apparently Canadian milk comes in bags. And it costs a lot. 
See?  Sweet dog.  Juno helped us feel at home Sunday morning! (Plus, she can run...a lot.)

  The swim course was sort of a modified point-to-point rectangle, with the buoys on the right (yeah!  My breathing side!).  The cold air and warm water temperatures created a foggy cloud off the water, somewhat obscuring the buoys from view in the morning sun.  I made sure to count the buoys (three out, one across, four back, and a couple in) prior to the start, in order to have some idea where to turn, given that I do possess the capability to get lost on the swim.  Soon enough (after I was announced as second place at Lake Placid-there’s actually something to say about me now), we were off, and after the initial froth and sprint, I found myself alone again, gasping for air because I’d legitimately tried to stay on feet for once.  Darn!  Well, nothing to do but continue onward, which I did.  After recollecting myself and getting my breath back, I finally managed to make my way back to Kelly by the first turn buoy.  For the first time, well, ever, I then managed to force myself to stay in her draft (thank you!!) for the majority of the rest of the swim (even when we made the last turn and both stopped because neither of us could spot the next buoy at first, I wasn’t kidding about getting lost on swims).  I felt like I had pushed on the swim, so I wasn’t too thrilled when I exited the water, and saw 36:15 on my watch.  Then, I saw that my garmin had read the distance as over 2300 yards (and I knew that I hadn’t deviated majorly from the course).  Still.  Ugh.  The swim frustrations continue.

  I used the long uphill run to transition to recollect myself (even though my heart rate was probably higher at that point than it was throughout the rest of the race), performed my normal crappy transition, non-flying mounted my bike in a semi-coordinated fashion for once, and took off on the bike course.  The first part of the course was one of those technical sections, and we started climbing off the bat-no time to settle in and get comfortable, for sure!  I passed a couple of pro women in the early miles, but that was it for females-my company for the rest of the ride would be the occasional age group male who passed me.  I tend to be a bit bolder on the bike when I can see others (i.e. if they’re not crashing from taking that turn at that speed, then neither will I); unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for most of the ride, so it was up to me to coerce myself to just stay aero a little bit longer, brake on the downhills and curves in the road a little bit less, and remember that I was in a race, that a year ago, I had thrown my bike fears into the wind in order to get myself to the point where I was starting in that pro wave.  It was still far from perfect, of course-there was braking, there was sitting up down hills, there was my old friend half aero, there was some questionable shifting, there was a little swerving here and there when unzipping and retrieving from the bento box (I miss you, taped on gels), there was certainly lost time-but it was far better than it would have been at any point in the past.  And, while there was some degree of tentativeness at times, there wasn’t abject fear-any time I felt like I was crossing the line between pushing the boundaries and losing control, I was able to pull myself back into control.  I also managed to do something-twice-that I’d never been able to do before, which was to get my chain back onto my little ring after it jammed while shifting (my chain also hasn’t been too keen on moving from little to big rings, as evidenced by the fact that I basically had to be in one specific back chain ring in order to get the darn thing to move…might be time for a new one). 

  Race-execution wise, Mary and Jesse had set my pre-race wattage target in the 205-210ish range.  Personally, I thought they were a bit nuts, given I’d have a bunch of zeroes in there from the aforementioned technical stuff, the best I’d managed to pull in a 70.3 was 196 in NOLA, and because I was at the end of a build week.  But, no time like the present to go for it, I supposed.  After the post-Placid mini-break, I’d recouped my bike numbers within a couple of weeks, and 200 did represent some sort of mythical barrier in my mind.  Within the first 5-10 miles, I was feeling surprisingly strong, though, and found that with a hard but not unreasonable effort, I was hitting my target.  I continued to push throughout the middle portions of the bike, still remembering to keep myself under control on the uphills and use my smaller gears to sort of save my legs on the grueling course, simultaneously cursing (darn you, Mary Eggers!) the fact that I’d been given what I thought was a very lofty target to hit, yet relishing the burn in my quads that was accompanying chipping away at it.  The first ~25mi of the ride seemed to crawl by, but after that, the miles (or kilometers, we were in Canada, after all) began to tick away more quickly.  I have to admit, was rather enjoying the metric system markers-not only were the 5k markers passing by more quickly than the 5mi laps on my Garmin (yes, I realize that there were more of them, but still), but converting kilometers to go into miles to go gave me something to entertain myself with (thank you, years of cross country, track, and road racing in the metric system!).  At 94k, the bike course was ~2.5mi long, but I had been aware of this heading in, so I was mentally prepared to be on the bike just a bit longer than normal.  

   When I hit the 75k mark, I began to push a bit more to the finish, just to see if I could bring the wattage up at all heading towards T2.  I felt as if I was walking (riding?) a very fine line in terms of what I was doing to myself with the run still to come, as I had been pushing pretty darn hard on legs that hadn’t exactly been rested heading in, but Mary had pointed out to me that we hadn’t been able to kill my run yet, and that it was time to try to push that boundary just a hair.  Plus, I knew ahead of time that the run was going to be a total crapshoot anyways-other than the Rochester tri, the last couple of miles of my long run the previous weekend when I’d just gotten fed up with a solid month of slowing down to a trot to stay in my zone one, and 25 glorious minutes of zone two at the end of my run the previous Wednesday, I’d done virtually no hard run training (and by hard run training, I mean running under 7:00 pace) since Placid.  So, I figured that I might as well hammer a little on the way in on the bike; who the heck knew what would happen after that.  As I was finishing up my bike, I saw several of the other pro women already well onto their runs, so I knew I’d have some major ground to make up.  Finally, I was off my bike and into transition.  My bike split came out to 2:51, which I was ok enough with, given the extra distance and the terrain that more or less highlighted all of my weaknesses, with a wattage of 207-a fair amount higher than what I’ve been able to hold in previous 70.3s, and another step in the right direction.

  Admittedly, I was in no great rush in T2; I was feeling pretty shot, and the other pro women were so far ahead of me that I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence that I’d be able to chase anyone down, anyways.  The rolling hills of the bike course continued onto the run; my one mental pick-me-up was the knowledge that the second half of the run was a net downhill.  The first couple miles of the run felt, in a word, awful.  I was supposed to start off at a heart rate of 170, which normally isn’t too difficult for me.  But, the cool temperatures combined with the fatigue in my legs was making the low 160’s feel like a battle in the early stages.  I briefly questioned the whole idea of the half Ironman at the end of a build week, but again told myself to shut up, and carried onwards.  My mile splits for those first two miles were in the 6:30-6:40 range; for whatever reason, my brain wasn’t functioning correctly, and I was running a horrible pace, even accounting for the hills.  Shortly after that, though, I finally felt myself perk up a bit.  I was at least passing a few of the age group men who had gotten ahead of me on the bike (one of them called me “brother”, or something along those lines, as I passed him, apologized profusely for the gender mistake, told me I didn’t look like a man, and then said he was relieved that I wasn’t in his AG, all pretty entertaining).  My splits were up and down, but then again, so was the terrain of the course.  Around mile 5, for the first time in 60+ miles of racing, I finally saw another pro woman up ahead.  I managed to catch and pull ahead of her shortly after the turnaround, but I didn’t really think that I had a chance at anyone else.  Still, I began to try to use the downhill miles to make up some time, and pressed on.
Here we find "the ugly"-one of the worst run pictures of me, probably ever. I'm eating Clif blocks....which means that this was taken in the first couple of minutes of the run.  Goes to show how great I felt getting off that bike.
  The non-functioning brain continued for a few more miles; I still was hoping that I’d be able to hang on for a sub-1:30 run.  Finally around mile 9, it occurred to me that I was making much better time than that, and I began to will myself through the rest of the race.  Sure, I was a little tired heading in, and never truly found my running legs, but the difference between my run and my swim (and, to a lesser degree, bike) is that I’m not afraid to push even with those feelings-after so many years of competing, I know I don’t need to feel great to run well.  During the second half of the run, we turned onto a windy, up and down path through some woods, during which, for the most part, I was completely alone (a couple of times, I questioned if I was even on course anymore).  As I began to near the end of that seemingly never-ending section, I finally spotted another pro women, and managed to make the pass as we exited back onto the road. 

  By that point, I was within 5k of the finish, and I had realized that a 1:25 run was within my reach, which I felt would be surprisingly solid for me on that day.  That alone was enough to get my butt into gear, despite how much I was hurting.  As I neared in on the 19k mark (yeah metric!), pro Miranda began to come into view.  The two of us had shared a couple of podiums together as AGers last year, both making the jump to the pro field this year.  She’d put a huge margin on me in the swim, and has been running very well this year, so I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to catch her at that point-it initially seemed like I was going to run out of real estate (and gas).  No big deal, I’d told myself; you’re still going to have a good run, the placement makes no difference, you hate having to kick, she’s led you all day, she always been a gracious, supportive competitor and she deserves it.  But I remembered what Mary had told me in an email heading into the race-you don’t give up.  Well, she’s right.  As much as I try to bargain myself that it’s ok if I let up a bit, the little fight to the finish, no matter what, voice always wins out.  Even though we were within a mile to go, and I had over 100m to make up, I grasped at whatever I had left in me and chipped away at the lead.  I was running out of space, though, and was barely able to move up a couple of the short hills towards the end.  But then, with about half a mile to go and the turn towards the finish around the resort parking lot in view, I had managed to put myself within striking distance.  I made the pass just before we made the turn, and continued the push around the parking lot, all the while wondering where the heck the finish line actually was.  I held my position and finished with that 1:25 run, good enough to move me up to seventh place overall, aka, the same place I’ve come in in my last two 70.3s.  Sigh. 

  As a whole, I was satisfied enough with the day-minus that whole swimming thing.  I ended up finishing just over a minute out of sixth, just over two minutes out of fifth (and the podium), and just over three minutes out of fourth-all of which were well within the swim margins.  Visions of how many places I’d lost due to my crappy swim at nationals last year danced through my mind.  So, it’s not true that the swim doesn’t matter in a HIM or IM-it does if you relatively suck a lot at it.  This continues to frustrate me to some degree, especially because I’d put tenfold more effort into my swim training than my run training before the race, yet I’d still managed to pull off a pretty darn good run, but had lost the podium by the time I exited the water.  I know that I’m currently capable of more than I’ve showed in the water in races this season, but I also know that it’s not a ton more-it’s going to take work, I’m not going to magically come out of the water in 29min in the Poconos.  I’ll start with 32.  Mentally, spending over 60 miles of racing without so much as seeing another pro woman just kind of sucks, to put it bluntly.  I know from trying to stay with Dave in training that I ride better when I can see others (half of that has to do with bike handling), so swim improvements will become a huge priority in the offseason.  Biking, it’s coming.  Mostly, I was just proud of myself for not giving up at any point during the day.  My body hadn’t totally been there-a little rusty, simultaneously a little tired and a little out of shape (put down the spoon, Hansen), and just lacking overall sharpness-but I’d rekindled the fire within myself, to some degree.  Better yet, Dave and Welby both got themselves up onto the podium and snagged the Vegas slots they’ve been chasing all year-finally a breakthrough for both of them!
What happens in Vegas...the wife will still find out about.
  Next, I have the Poconos 70.3 planned.  The course still looks challenging, but not nearly as much so as Muskoka (as hard as it was, though, the area is beautiful, and it's definitely one of those races that made me feel a little tougher for surviving).  I’ve made it through a few tough swim sets this week, and should actually be going into the race a bit more rested.  I’m still looking for a 70.3 where it all comes together this season, so…we’ll see!  Thanks as always to QT2, Kestrel, PowerbarWoolsports, and of course, all of my family, friends, and supporters!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rochester Triathlon report, what's next, and other musings

 A month ago, when discussing my later season race plans, I was instructed to jump in an Olympic distance tri in late August.  Sweet!  I hadn't taken on the distance since age group nationals over a year ago, so I was immediately excited about the idea of some good, old-fashioned hurt.  As good fortune would work out, the second Rochester triathlon would fall during this time, held at Durand Eastman Park-aka, in our backyard, on the roads and in the water we've spent countless hours training on and in.  I've always loved supporting local races, which is something my schedule doesn't allow me to do too much of anymore, meaning that I was eager to get back out there.

   Training-wise, I'd taken a week off after Placid (it took about that long for my foot to come back down to normal proportions), followed by a week of well, easy moving, which then led into a three week base phase-the hours were back up, but the intensity wasn't there yet.  My swim and bike numbers rebounded pretty well, with my running, as expected based upon the training, lagging behind.  At least this time around, I'm not too concerned, and have actually been enjoying the mindset this is forcing upon me-don't just rely on the run, learn how to really race in the water and push on the bike.  So, heading into the race, my main goal was to force myself to be uncomfortable during the swim, hit some good wattage on the bike (which included keeping it up on the downhills and throughout the sort of technical portion of the course on Kings Highway, which we'd pass through four times), try to transition in a moderately coordinated manner, and then just survive the run.

   Race morning, the lake was picture perfect-calm, smooth, temperate.  Soon enough after going through the normal routine, we were watching the men take off on their swim.  Just a few yards into the swim, the lake had decided to form a sandbar where the water was maybe a foot deep, max.  I'd figured out how much running I'd have to do to get across it while warming up, and had my strategy set-until Mary, who was announcing the race, made a comment when watching the men about how much energy it'd take to run over the sandbars.  She'd later rescind this once we were in the water, after realizing how shallow it truly was, but this was too late to help me.  Sure enough, I was the one jerk that actually swam over the sandbars, all while watching people run past me.

    Anyways.  My wave consisted of women and relays, so it ended up being pretty small, which suited how spoiled I've become with non-crowded swim starts.  I did my best to take it out hard, which isn't saying much for me, and once I swam over the sandbar and got going, I looked up and realized I was pretty much alone.  However, in a pleasant change from the pro field, I wasn't in last, waiting for male (and female) age groupers to begin swimming over me.  Instead, I only saw a couple of green caps ahead of me (both ended up being relay swimmers), with the rest of the field back.  This represented uncharted swim territory for me, but I'd take it!  Even though the buoys were widely spaced, I actually managed to sight decently (only went off course once, very briefly), and I forced myself to try to not get comfortable, which has been the bane of my open water swimming existence.  Luckily, the vibrations of my Garmin on my wrist every 200 yards (and my knowledge of triangle geometry) meant that I knew that the swim was going to be long by the first buoy, when I'd already felt a couple of buzzes.  So, when I exited the swim, my eyes darted not to the time but to my average pace first, which still wasn't great, but was better.  In talking to others with the 910 after the race, common consensus was that the course was ~4min long, which would have put my swim in the high 25min range.  For a pro female, this still sucks, but for me, it's improvement over the high 26/low 27min Olympic swims of my past, so I'll take it.  Plus, I felt like utter crap upon exiting the water and trying to run towards transition-usually, I relished long runs to transition, because they represented a chance for me to get past people and make it look like I'd swam faster than I actually had (ha), but this time, I was beat.  Guess that's what happens when you try in the water?

Heading to transition.  I'm about to be really confused by the presence of all of the other bikes that are still in there. Usually the Kestrel is all lonely.
  Entering transition, it became clear that I was the second woman out of the water, and that the first woman had been in a relay.  So, this put me in the completely unnatural position of leading out onto the bike course.  By that point, I'd begun to catch a few of the men, and the sprint athletes weren't on the course yet.  The bike course consisted of four loops for the Olympic and two loops for the sprint, and, as I'd mentioned before, it was a loop I've done many, many times in training.  I knew the one climb like the back of my hand, which meant that it seemed dwarfed to me.  I had a bit of trouble getting up to speed and hitting my wattage goal on the first go around, but by the time I started on the second loop, I was feeling strong.  By that point, the sprint athletes were also out on the course, making it a bit crowded and tricky to maneuver.  But, with enough yelling "on your left!" (I always feel like such a jerk screaming at people mid-race, but I suppose it's better than squeezing past them or running into them), I made it through without trouble.  I really pushed the middle two laps, enjoying the support of my parents and the volunteers (nothing like getting cheered for by name throughout!), and made an effort to smile here and there, trying to disguise the hurt of the intensity.  After insisting to Dave that I'd only need one bottle on the bike the night before, I ran out of fluids midway through my third lap, thus setting myself up to feel pretty darn awesome on the run.  After scaling back the effort just a hair on the final lap, I rolled into T2 knowing that I'd gone a bit above what my wattage goal had been, and was overall pleased with the 1:05 effort-I just edged out what I'd ridden at Nationals last year by a hair for my best Olympic bike time, too.

I'm in full aero-and the guy behind me is in my formerly utilized "half aero". Go bike skills!
   Onto the run!  My goal at that point became to survive-I knew I wasn't in shape for anything spectacular, and I also knew that the path we'd be running on had some hills.  Plus, I was thirsty coming into T2-never a good start.  And, well, survive is what I did.  Given my recent lack of fast running, I never was able to find any sort of extra gear; this wasn't too surprising to me.  Also, despite slowing down to a practical crawl to grab as many cups as I could at each water stop, I never was able to shake how thirsty I'd let myself become.  The hills kept on coming, as well.  I think I ended up holding my position in no-man's land throughout most of it, and was more than relieved to get to the line, where the awesome volunteers kept refilling my giant finisher's mug with water until I'd gotten my fill (even after several more glasses of water and recovery drink later on, I still was down 4 lbs that afternoon-guess there was a reason I'd been looking for an oasis).  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to start my Garmin upon exiting T2 (somehow, I always do that!), so I had no idea I'd run 40:00 until after the race-argh!  I do wish I could have found one more second from somewhere, but such is life!

  Afterwards, we discovered that Dave had would have been his first ever overall victory taken from him by a penalty for cross the double yellow line on Kings Highway.  That definitely isn't the way that anyone wants to lose (especially to his wife), and I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed that several of those penalties were handed out on a crowded, curvy road, yet no blocking penalties were given.  But, that's another soapbox.  Dave's penalty gave me the overall victory, though, which was sort of fun!  I was generously rewarded with a nice glass trophy and a new aero helmet for my efforts.  I've been debating a new aero helmet for some time now, purely for aesthetic reasons, so that was certainly a plus.  As a whole, I enjoyed my foray back into shorter racing (and racing in general); a big thumbs up to the race crew and volunteers for putting on a great hometown event for us! it WILL look less dorky when I'm not making some awful face. I swear!

The Hansens.  Dave wanted the banana peel in the picture (he's famous for leaving them in my car all the time...gross).
  Next up: Dave and I will be heading north of the border to take on a 70.3, Canada-style, out in Muskoka.  I've heard that the venue and course are beautiful, so I'm looking forward to it (even though I'll be heading in on a build week, always fun).  Mostly, I'm hoping for a good swim and bike, as the run will likely be another crapshoot.  Swimming-wise, I've finally got it through my head that because I'm not a natural swimmer, for me, comfortable=sucky, and that I'm not swimming faster pool times because I'm having a little party in there.  I'm recognizing that swimming isn't running, and in order for me to swim anything even within the realm of respectable for a pro women, I've got to hurt in that water.  Biking-wise, that course has been described as technical and all either uphill or downhill, with some steep.  Three or four months ago, I would have run scared from that description.  Now, though, I can feel my comfort level on the bike growing bit by bit.  I'm still cautious by nature, but the element of abject fear is gradually dissipating  .  Do I love refilling my aero bottle yet from my downtube bottle?  No.  But I can at least do it.  I can't say I really love descents, either but I'm not gripping the brakes, and I'm not jumping out of aero every time I get over 25mph.  So, small steps are being made (knock on wood), and I'm sure that Muskoka will test my mettle a bit with all that!

  Once again, thanks to QT2 systems, Powerbar,, Woolsports, Kestrel bicycles, and all of my family, friends, and fellow triathletes for their continued support!  I've moved into part 2 of my year, which is really part 1 of 2013.  Up until Placid, it was about finding my way in this new pro world; from now on out, the points chase has begun!  Time to put on my big girl pants and dig in!