Monday, September 20, 2010

Branson 70.3: A Win & Much More

I have always believed that racing triathlons as a professional, even if you can manage to win the race, has always held a 'bigger' meaning. It is not just about winning, or posting certain times, but to go out and push yourself to the limit for so long, there has to be a larger drive coming from somewhere. This weekend racing in Branson, Missouri, taking the win in front of a spectacular crowd and most of all my family was definitely all the more special with my Aunt Sandy along the sidelines, cheering her heart out, as she is my reason for fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for my Ironman Hawaii race.

The Race: I knew when Branson 70.3 was put on the list of events, I wanted to come. It is a 10 hour drive from Austin and I was able to stop in Oklahoma to see my aunt and uncle en route. My mom flew down to Austin, and she made the drive with me, which was great as well. So we arrived to Branson on Friday and I realized all of the hype about the 'hills' was for real! In addition to the hills, Branson has lots of old people and a 'strip' much like that of a mini-Vegas. That said, it does not feel overwhelmingly big because the 'strip' is only a few miles long and despite the busy-ness of the main drag, the town still maintains a bit of a cozy, quaint feel to it (probably all the cute old folks around). Friday and Saturday were the usual pre-race happenings, along with the arrival of my Aunt Sandy, Uncle Del, cousin Brian and his fiance Leigh and their baby Ava. Such a treat to have so much family here to support.

Swim: I was feeling quite unsure of what to expect from my body, being about three weeks out from Hawaii, but as we all know how you 'feel' going into a race rarely equates to how you perform. We kicked off Sunday morning in beautiful and crystal clean Table Rock Lake right at 7:00 AM, in the warm 76-degree water and a wetsuit, and my body felt quite mediocre. I was able to stick on the feet of strong swimmers Nina Kraft and Pip Taylor, and while I thought I could make a pass a few times and take a pull, I did not quite have the gear to do so; so every time I drifted back, I told myself to focus and stay in the draft, as my mind started to drift as well. I tend to enjoy solo swims, but I have realized this is not so efficient when racing! The swim felt endless, but was a nice out and back well-marked course and I was glad to get out and take off my Zoot sleeveless suit as it was much too warm to use one at all. The run up to transition was like a slap in the face, up a very steep hill with steps! Quite cruel actually! But forced you to find your running legs.

Bike: We exited the park and immediately were hit with hill after hill, on a gorgeous and foggy winding road. I was able to exit transition in 2nd place, and Pip and I exchanged the lead for the first 15 miles or so at which point we finally hit the 'main highway' were we would proceed to do our two loops. I was able to pull ahead here and through non-stop work, maintain the bike lead. Picture a long tree-lined highway ahead of you that is either a long uphill or a long downhill; this is what the course entailed, for the entire two loops. Despite the fast descents, the miles seemed to creep by! I recall seeing the Mile 20 mark and looking at my watch, throwing out a few choice words, shocked it was taking so long! I could see the gap between myself and the other women, but I know there were strong girls behind me so I stayed on the gas the entire time, even on the descents. We finally exited the roller coasters and took the final 8 miles back into downtown Branson, which was predominantly downhill, a good place to fuel up and spin out the legs a bit for the run.

Run: I literally said to myself upon coming into transition "SWEET, held the lead, now legs what are you going to give me? Are you still there? Please have something left after that punishing ride..." I hopped off and ran to my shoes, which felt quite snappy, a good sign I hoped. The crowd was incredible and it was so great to hear the cheers from my family! But, I stayed focused and started to push the run right off the bat. We had a 3-loop course, which took us through the Branson Landing (an outdoor mall) along Lake Taneycomo and then into neighborhoods. I knew I needed to run hard from the start to put a gap on 2nd place, as she had gained on me on the bike. I pushed the first loop and was feeling strong, yet the heat was kicking up. I knew I had increased the lead, but tried to keep pushing on Loop 2 as I like to run fast even if I do have a lead. By the time I approached the 9 mile mark, I started to hurt a bit. I had been watching my splits, seeing 6:00, 6:10's, 6:20... I told myself I could probably safely drop to 7-min pace and still win, so I dialed it back a bit as to prevent a full on blow up. When I started to hurt, I tried to look relaxed and strong because when you start to grimace, I think it only gets significantly worse. I finally saw the 12 mile mark, and knew I had it from there on in and started to think about the finish.

The Finish & More: I was hoping that my Aunt Sandy would be there along the finish chute as I approached, and she was. I spotted the finish area, fountains and all, which is always the most welcome view of the entire day, and started to celebrate a bit. When I saw my family, I ran over to her and gave her a big hug before crossing. She was so happy, as was I, and it was a bit of an emotional moment. My Aunt got MS when she was 30 years old, and while it has limited her in ways physically, she has an incredible attitude and she never makes an excuse. She is one of the most caring, genuine women you'll ever meet, yet she is also honest and tells it like it is. I figure when I am out there hurting in a race, or in a training session, who am I to complain about it. I am inflicting this pain upon myself; some people in life have pain they do not choose for themselves. She never complains. I know she appreciates all she has in her very blessed life, and this inspires me to appreciate the ability to go out and push by body to its limits. The win was incredible, especially coming after winning Steelhead 70.3; almost even more special to see that I could win another one, but having my family there to support meant the world to me, and I just try to keep it all in perspective; appreciate every single minute of it because we never know what tomorrow may bring.

I need to send out a HUGE thanks to my sponsors, who have been instrumental in my success' this year: Zoot Sports, Quintana Roo, PowerBar, Katalyst Multisport, Xcis Software, Jack & Adams, Hill Country Running, Advanced Rehabilitation, Go with the Flo Acupuncture and 3 Cosas Massage. And a thanks to my family for having supported me on this crazy journey for the past 10 years, and my husband Derick, who on our 2 year anniversary weekend was across the country in Bend, Oregon doing Xterra Trail Nationals, picking up 6th overall and an age group win!

**I am in the final push to Kona, and I am racing for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and raising money through the Janus Charity Challenge. I am just shy of my goal of $5000, so if you are interested you can donate here. ** Thank you for your generosity, not from me but from every person who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis every hour of every day.

Onto Kona! Thanks so much for reading ~

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Austin Triathlon - A Win!

The Austin Triathlon is quickly becoming one of the best multisport events in Austin. It is very local (right around Auditorium Shores, in the heart of downtown) and is a well organized, loop format course, which makes it very spectator friendly. High Five Events heads this one up along with Jack & Adams. Dan Carroll is the 'man in charge', and when he is working, he may be better called Mr. Attention to Detail. Just as in the past few years, the Austin Triathlon did not disappoint this weekend.
This race came about 5 weeks out from Hawaii, so, of course my trai
ning has been rather heavy the past few weeks. I actually had to change things up a bit last week since I found my energy levels were beginning to drop. This seems to be a very tricky time, since you have the cumulative fatigue from the season building up, yet a good level of fitness; my husband Derick is a great sounding board, as when he sees me dragging around the house talking of needing a nap, he usually tells me to take an extra rest day. And he is usually right. Anyhoo, I had thoughts of not racing this event, but I knew that despite slightly tired legs, once race morning came around I would get in the mood and once the gun went off, I'd go into race mode and love it.I spent Sunday at the expo doing a brief transition clinic, followed by a pro panel, which was entertaining even on my side of it listening to Richie Cunningham and Michael Lovato talk smack to one another; definitely crowd pleasing. We kicked off Monday morning promptly at 7:00 AM (sans the usual Shawn Colvin, who often sings the national anthem! ) in the wetsuit-legal 1500 meter swim, down and back up Town Lake. It was actually a very pleasant swim, despite a large Open wave, people seemed to spread out nicely and there was no jockeying for position. I found some calm water and cruised along pretty much solo, coming out on the heels of Todd Gerlach, and about 20 seconds down from Tenille Hoogland, the first woman out. I hustled through transition and was out on the bike which consisted of 3 loops (24 or so miles total).
This bike is fun in that we head up South Congress Avenue (a hot spot in Austin, in terms of restaurants, bars, trailer park eateries and most definitely people watching) which gives
us a long steady climb then come bombing back down it towards the Capitol. While it is a 'fast' course, it has a few hills which keeps it honest. I hammered away from the start, as I had about 45 seconds to make up on 1st place. I finally caught her on the third lap, but just as I did Desiree caught me so I knew that I needed to stay on the gas. I was quite surprised my body was giving me this much knowing how my legs had felt prior to the start! I guess this is called the 'adrenaline effect'. I had taken my two PowerGels and as the loops became a bit more crowded as we progressed, I was anxious to get off the course as it was also getting a bit wet with some spitting rain. We entered T2 together (Desiree and I) and I knew it would not be easy from then on as she is a great and tough runner! Photo by Mario Cantu

We started the 10k run out of transition and right onto the grass, talk ab
out a cross country course to start! I was using my new Zoot TT 4.0's which felt great, and were a nice bright PINK. Very visible! We had two loops, and the first couple of minutes we spent on a grassy section before we hit the road. I pushed hard from the start, knowing that Des would be tough to stay away from. After about 1.5 miles, we hit another grassy stretch winding through a park and then hit pavement again, as we also hit the crowds. This is always nice, especially if you do not want to 'look back' because they seem to tell you what is happening! I knew I had gapped her a bit, but I never take that for granted and kept pushing hard. We started the second loop, and I took my Raspberry PowerGel to ensure no bonking. I tried to stay on pace, but also tried to keep myself controlled, starting to feel the race catching up to me. Once I hit First Street bridge (and the final mile), I knew I likely had the win and I really enjoyed the crowds cheering. It felt so good, as I had gotten passed the previous year (by Des!) about halfway through the run and lost by 30 seconds or so. I was able to come away with the win, and about a 6 minute improvement on last years time, along with a 2-hour flat overall time! Very pleased with this result, and so nice to do it in a 'home crowd'!

Thanks so much to all of the local support that I have in this amazing town, including Jack & Adams, Hill Country Running (Jamie & Andrea, the watermelon post-race was delicious...!), Advanced Rehab, 3 Cosas Massage, and Go with the Flo Acupuncture. Also a big thanks to my sponsors Zoot Sports, Quintana Roo, PowerBar and Katalyst Multisport. And a huge congrats to the top men Ph
ilip Graves, Richie Cunningham and Michael Lovato for duking it out for Top 3. And thanks to fellow women made me work so hard for this win, Des, Tenille, and fellow Zoot'er Sierra Snyder.
Next up is a bit of recovery from this event, and then Branson 70.3 right
around the corner on September 19th. Then the season finale, Hawaii, on October 9th. It's been an incredible year, and I already feel very blessed with this season. That said, I still want to finish with a bang! Thank you for stopping by.

**Please note, I am in my final weeks of raising funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through the Janus Charity Challenge via my participation in Ironman Hawaii. My goal is $5000, and I am about $1500 short right now. I really think I can make this goal! Please contact me ( to find out about how you can donate to this cause. It is one very close to my heart, and your support makes a huge difference, no matter the amount. Thank you!**