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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Barrelman race report-won't back down

  A few weeks before Tremblant, I had checked some dates and realized that my life schedule would leave the weekend of Barrelman open, so of course once I made it through Tremblant in one piece, I registered to go back.  I was really glad that I would be able to make it back to that race, as I'd had a great time there last year, and I love racing relatively close to home.  I ended up pressing on training a bit more than my not used to being post-IM body was ready for (especially given I'd been a little high strung pushing through sessions beforehand, so I never really felt like I freshened up all that much heading into Tremblant), and ended up having a mini-breakdown of fatigue race week.  Pretty much everything I did felt miserable, and summer weather was returning.  In retrospect, though, this all ended up benefiting me-I respected my need to rest and I didn't force anything, which got me to the race probably feeling better than at any point this year, and my race plan became a bit more conservative at first, allowing for me to handle the warmer temps on the day.  I'd be returning to Barrelman as the defending champion, which maybe added some pressure, but I kept reminding myself that in reality, maybe a dozen people there actually knew this or cared.  I was getting to race again, which, good enough!

  Race weekend was actually pretty fun-Dave had to work in Buffalo on Friday, so we went out a couple of days early.  I was able to volunteer at UB's home cross country meet to stir the nostalgia in me, and then we had a nice evening poking around Buffalo's waterfront.  I hadn't really spent any time in downtown Buffalo in years, and really enjoyed seeing all of the improvements since my college days.  Saturday was the normal pre-race stuff, with a side of sweating in the heat.  F2C nutrition, our BSR team nutrition sponsor, was providing fluids at the race, so I got to meet them in person (and got hydrated at the expo!).  Everything that night and Sunday morning continued to go smoothly-Barrelman caps their participants at a manageable level, and really is the best-run two transition race with shuttles and what not that I've done.
Buffalo hotel room view!

   Like last year, the swim was wetsuit legal, with male and female pros starting a minute before the younger age groupers.  This year, faster relays were also allowed in our wave, which ended up helping me out.  I figured that in the six women pro field, I'd actually probably be mid-pack, but that the women ahead of me would be light years ahead.  So, when we were set off, I worked into the swim, and about halfway through the outbound leg, found myself swimming with a couple of male relay swimmers.  A couple of times I tried to see if I could move ahead, but was unsuccessful, so I tucked back in and took the draft-no need to work harder to go the same pace.  Around the far turns, some of the age groupers behind started to catch us, and shortly after the second turn buoy, a larger pack swallowed up my little group.  This was fine, and I was prepared for it.  It got a little rough and tumble in there at times, and I swallowed my fair share of canal water, but I was able to uneventfully hang with the pack for the remainder of the swim, and exited the water in 31:14.  The Barrelman swim is 2000m, so slightly over 1.2 miles, and I'd knocked 30 seconds off of my swim time from last year, so I was pleased enough with it.  My frustration over the bike dynamics at Tremblant and getting mixed up with the age group men has been enough to spur me to really put in a strong swim focus lately.  Whether or not it'll help has yet to be seen, but I figure at least it gives me more of a leg to stand on when complaining of such matters if I'm doing everything I can to improve. :)

   Once onto the bike, I was able to quickly settle a bit above my initial power target.  If anything, it was a low ball, and I could tell, but I was ok with that.  I've been feeling pretty forced on the bike in both training and racing the past couple of months, and so being comfortable was a nice change.  I'd actually gotten out of the water far enough towards the front of the race that my early miles were uneventful in terms of race dynamics, with a few clean passes and passes back here and there.  About 15 miles in, Dave (racing the aquabike) passed me with a comment about how horribly he'd swam.  I'd actually thought he'd passed me in the water (which, given our pool swim speeds, he should have), so I concurred, like a good wife who will NEVER pass up the opportunity to rub it in when I rarely outswim him.  Shortly after that, a few semi-legal pace lines and definitely not legal packs started passing me, bringing me back to my place of frustration.  I did a lot of sitting up, soft pedaling, taking deep breaths, and trying to take care of things that would slow me down a bit anyways (bottle refills, eating) in those miles while letting the groups ride away, which thankfully never took too long.  Despite hits in the power every time I had to slow up to let people past, I was able to bring things back up to my goal range once I could settle back in, so at least the legs were doing ok enough.

   About 30 miles into the bike, I was beginning to question my ability to hurt on the day-was it mental or physical flatness that was preventing me from pushing harder?  I felt like I could, but at the same time, I honestly felt like maybe I didn't feel like it on the day.  When I went through the second aide station, I ended up having to slow up considerably after missing the first F2C grab, at which point I saw a couple of women, Nicki and Katy, sneak past me.  Well, crap.  I wasn't feeling confident in my run at ALL, and I'd hoped to enter T2 with at least a little buffer on those two very strong runners.  I was also a little angry at myself that for once, I'd given myself a lead after the swim, but was blowing it on the bike.  At that point, I went through a little mental dialog about how actually, if I didn't defend my win, life would go on and my family would still love me, and there was no shame in losing to women who were simply better on the day.  This is how triathlon works.  But, then I snapped myself out of the self-soothing.  Could I ride harder and try to repass and create a gap?  Yes, I could, and I knew that.  I'd held higher power at the end of a 5 hour ride a week before that, so there was no reason I couldn't step on it a bit and see what happened for the final 20ish miles of the bike.  So, that's what I did.  I pressed on the pace and made a few passes back, bringing the power up a bit.  Nicki stayed with me and eventually passed me back and moved ahead, but that was ok.  Some of the earlier packs had broken up a bit, allowing me some space to move up in the field overall.  I was unable to drop the AG woman who eventually came in second, and over the final few miles I let up a bit just because I would have had to burn a ton of matches to pass a whole bunch of people in the final 3-4 miles of riding, which didn't seem worth it.  Overall, I was happy with my effort and power over the final 20mi or so of the ride.  My bike split as a whole wasn't hugely impressive, but my second official split was far more competitive than my first one, so it had been a decent enough strategy.

Of course I'm not in my bars.  Must have been having to steer my bike or something.  Photo credit to Irina Souiki!

   Once in transition, I was as remedial as normal, but exited just behind Nicki and the AGer (Christina), hearing reports that the top couple of women, Sheila and Miranda, were a couple of minutes ahead, making for a good race.  As I had mentioned, I wasn't feeling so confident about what was going to happen with my run that day.  My training runs that week had felt really awful with high heart rates, complete with a day of walking and contemplating all my life choices on one particularly warm morning.  Plus, I'd been enjoying food since Tremblant, because food tastes good.  I'm generally better able to handle training loads and recover when I'm a few pounds heavier vs when I'm always hungry trying to stay sort of near what supposed race weight is, but I still had that in my head, too.  I also knew I was going to be dealing with run temps in the low/mid-80's, some humidity, and a lot of direct sunlight (the race has a later start time), so I was pretty worried how that would work out, given we'd had a (wonderfully) cool stretch of weather up until then.  As it all turned out...I was ok.  I naturally started out complaining to Dave about how a 70.3 four weeks after an IM was stupid, so he gave me the standard "work into it" line.  So I did, although honestly I've felt worse coming off the bike.  Right off the bat, my working into it pace was pretty decent, though, and my HR was more than under control.  I came up on Christina somewhere in the first couple of miles, who kept surging to try to pass me back and drop me.  Honestly, I was sort of entertained by this, given it was mile one, not mile 12, and I didn't need to play games.  I just stuck to what felt right to me, and chugged along.  

  About 2.5 miles in, I finally saw a port a potty, so the bike pee that never happened but needed to happened.  I didn't want to stop, but I was in and out in about 15 seconds.  I caught Nicki and Christina once again on the short uphill after that, and when that uphill/pee stop mile popped up in 6:50, I finally started to feel like I might have a pretty good run day out there.  Shortly after that, I reached the best part of the course, running past Niagara Falls and along the river (and even scooting down a set of stairs, which was more fun than I remembered).  I was still clipping along and feeling chipper enough through all of that.  I caught (an also in the post-IM boat) Miranda along the stretch back towards the park and exchanged some encouragement, and a mile or so later, did the same with Sheila.  I entered the park at the end of my first loop with a slight lead, which was a definite pick me up, especially since many familiar faces were gathered there to cheer.  I thought I still felt good enough to smile here and there for them, although in reality I probably was making some awful face.  But I did appreciate the cheering!

Coming around for the end of my first loop, I saw Dave taking a selfie with me running in the background, because he's a jerk.

I told him I was in first with my favorite finger.

  The second loop was the normal amount of things getting real, pain faces, and pushing.  At the one turnaround on the course, somewhere around 9 miles (I don't remember exactly), I saw that Christina and Katy were hanging strong behind me, so I knew I had to lay into the final few miles with whatever I had.  I was also pretty hot and thirsty, and really just wanted to be done-always good motivation.  Downhills and aide stations were welcome breaks.  I was also looking at my overall time, and I knew that I had a chance to run the fastest half marathon off the bike of my post-crash life with some heat and hills in there, which, can't lie, I kind of wanted to do finally.  I managed to run the back half of my second loop faster than I had the first time around (although I wasn't nearly as chipper), and was more than happy to make the final turn for home and successfully grab the banner again-no easy task against some women who had put forth some tough races!  I was pretty pleased that despite the fact that my run had seemed really iffy just a couple days earlier, my body had come around and remembered what to do out there.  Mission accomplished.
Yay!  Finish smiles (of relief)

   Post-race was the normal socializing and eating while waiting for awards.  I also got to catch one of my coached athletes out there on his way to a big PR, which was pretty awesome.  There were a lot of awesome dogs around, too.  Put me in a park after a good race and surround me with dogs, and I'm a happy camper.  Later that evening, Dave and I sought out Chinese food, because that's apparently become our post-70.3 thing these days, walked around Niagara Falls, and enjoyed a fallsview room in a sweet hotel thanks to his important person Marriott status.  I even had an adult beverage-big day.  All in all, I was really glad that I had been able to return to Barrelman, and that it had worked out well-I wasn't sure what I was going to get coming off of Tremblant, but I was grateful to have gotten another chance to race again so quickly.

Dave did another aquabike.  He won 39 & under.  Here he is.


Amy and I!  Amy absolutely DESTROYED the women's aquabike.  Rock star.

Chinese food is my new thing after hot races (because, salt).  But first I got a tequila sunrise, because, Mexico.  It was my first drink in like, five months, so it had to go on the gram.  So, of course, Dave had to make sure that the act of me putting my drink on the gram went on the gram.

Fortunes.  Let's just say Dave got the one about financial problems.  Beyond appropriate.

I'm not really sure what Dave was looking at and we look kind of like we're on an awkward first date, but requisite Niagara Falls selfie

   From here on out, body permitting (always a big if), my fall race plans have changed a bit.  Obviously now, given that it's sort of way past the fact when I'm finally getting this report up (oops), but I feel like I should still explain, since I did get a few questions about why I wasn't in Louisville last weekend. Originally, Dave was planning on racing IM Louisville, and I had been planning to tag along with that.  But, he's down for a bit now (turns out his ankle pain/sprain over the summer was actually a small fracture, and, new development, ended up with a DVT after a month of travel in the boot), so it's going to be a few more weeks for that to heal.  Additionally, I can't deny that I was pushing a bit too hard right after Tremblant.  I also got a later start on my season, and had a fairly significant interruption in the middle of the summer, with 3 weeks in June where I barely did anything.  So, I just wasn't feeling ready to be done quite yet.  I also have been dealing with a bit of a foot issue.  It's fairly non-specific, mostly dealing with some of my midfoot joints (I haven't had any imaging), and has been going on since well before Tremblant, but I ended up flaring it up around the time of Barrelman, and had to decrease my run volume substantially for a couple of weeks to get it back under control  And finally, well, the heart what the heart wants.  And my heart wants a different ending in Mexico.  I do best when I'm emotionally connected to something, and that's the case with Cozumel.  I want to finish what I started four years ago.  I've had it on the radar for some time now.  So-shocker-I just raced the Miami 70.3 (report coming next, I swear), and then I'm planning on heading the Los Cabos 70.3 in a few weeks (because I was supposed to race there once too, but then got sick), and then finally, if (I always hesitate to state plans) I can keep it together, Cozumel.  We'll see.

   As always, thanks to my support crew, family, friends, and sponsors for all of the cheers and support out there!  I couldn't (and wouldn't) want to do this alone!  One of the highlights of this race was getting to meet the F2C crew in person (and my stomach was rock solid throughout this one with their products on course!).  Also thanks to all of the Big Sexy Racing team sponsors (and Ownway apparel for the comfy kit!)-Zone3, Ice Friction, Quintana Roo, Lake Cycling, Kask, Ruby's lube, Hiball energy, and Bonk Breaker for getting me through training and to the line as quickly as possible!  Now, it's onto maybe not being as delinquent on my Miami 70.3 report (oooops), and putting in a few more weeks of work for Mexican adventures!

And then it was home to these things.