Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicago's supposed to be hard...

I just returned from the Windy City. Yes, I know it is called that because of the POLITICS but this past weekend, I think it was called that because of the wind. I can take tough conditions...well, I try my best to suck it up and be mentally tougher than anyone else there...but wind can be so defeating!

I arrived Friday, Southwest Airlines on a direct flight. I even snuck by with only a $25 bike fee; FYI, Southwest is the way to go with bikes. I built the bike first thing and hit up a nice easy 30 minute run over to Lake Shore Drive, which I was familiar with from last year. It was extremely muggy but I got rained on which felt GREAT! I then hopped on the 'Brown Line' (chicago-train-talk) and met my friend Jen at the Expo to get our race bags, which we tried to do quickly. Those Expos can really suck the energy right out of your legs! We hit up a nice little italian place with her boyfriend Zach and were back to her place early. Saturday I took the day off, mostly due to the circumstances. She lives in Lincoln Park, not the best place for riding; so I just slept in, went out to brunch with our friend Noelle and really sat around all day. It was nice but boy did I feel LAZY by the time Saturday night rolled around! Good and ready to race (...kind of...).

This race is unique in a few ways. 1) It is the largest triathlon in the world, I believe, at ~8700 entrants! They start waves at 6:00 AM, but unlike many non-drafting races 2) The pros do not go off until 11:00. This is nice in theory (sleep in, not have to go to bed nervous, do not have to wake up to cram food in at 4:00 AM) but the waiting is AWFUL! I was up at 6:30 automatically, and I just ate breakfast and killed time until I left Jens condo at about 9:15. I am sure that they do this because it allows for more spectators to be out (as most Chicago-ans are probably up and about by 11:00 on Sunday) but I have to say, I definitely favor the 6:30 or 7:00 am start...less time to get nervous, the gun goes off before you actually wake up fully. It's great.

**NEWS FLASH**: My mom called me on Saturday night at 10:00 estatic about the fish she caught at their lake (pond?) in Southern Indiana...can't you just HEAR the excitement in that smile??? That fish makes her look miniature....

...OK back to the race now...
So; Sunday morning finally arrived and I got to the transition area at about 9:45, with 1 hr 15 min to spare before start. I had ridden my bike from Jen's apartment which was about 3 miles; more warmup than I do usually! Then factor in the 1/2 mile walk to the swim start and wow, I was good and warm. It was really fun to see Jen, her boyfriend Zach and a few other friends prior to the start. Soon enough we were treading water, waiting for the gun and off right as scheduled, 11:04! I made a HUGE improvement on last years swim...I got buried behind the lead 'row' last year, as we only have about a 25-yard distance between a rope and the wall. So, if you are not up front, you are BEHIND or jockeying for position. I stayed up front until our first turn buoy, when we headed back in the opposite direction and into a decent current. No wonder it took 2x as long to get back to the swim start (which we passed and had another 10 minutes or so to go). I lost the lead pack but I felt very strong and was only about 20 seconds behind. I tried a few times to bridge the gap to no avail; which was ok, I did see a very pretty large fish swimming below (at which point I said, "Focus, Kelly!"). I exited the swim in a decent position and began the 1/4 mile run to T1.
No beating around the bush here, the bike just sucked. I felt very flat. Lately having been working a lot on my cycling, I have been feeling so strong and looking forward to the bike, especially only 25 miles (instead of 56!). However today, I just had a lot of trouble 'getting going'. As we headed down Lake Shore Drive (away from transition) we faced a very tough head wind. I had trouble being very positive but I tried the saying, "It's SUPPOSED to be hard!" I think it worked well, because I kept my head in the game and tried to keep pushing when I saw my power (on my SRM) start to drop. Soon enough (after 2 loops up and down Lake Shore Drive) I was nearing transition and thinking about the run; wondering how many people I had to try to run down...

I had a lovely transition, as I dismounted my bike (feeling very swift; I cannot say much about my mounts, but my dismounts are good!) I then proceeded to drop my bike, watching the left side of it go crashing into the ground. Spectators watched, I said "Shit" and simply got back to work...thinking 'at least I wasn't on it...'. I knew I had serious ground to make up so after mounting the bike I was off quick on the run. I definitely felt tired, but I felt strong. You run on grass for a good 1/2 mile or so out of transition here and then onto a running path for the remainder of the 10k. I passed one girl pretty quickly and had moved into 9th. Ah...good but definitely not what I came here to do. I could not see anyone else yet but tried to just run as hard as my little legs would carry me. At the turnaround, I saw Amanda Stevens and Jillian Peterson a bit ahead of me...quick assessment: Both strong girls; Jillian a great runner, Amanda put up a solid result at Timberman one week prior...then I realized of course this does not matter! Just keep running and try to catch them.

There is a point in every race, usually on the run, where I want to just go FASTER...but I know that there is a 'maximal speed' so to speak...I had checked a few mile splits and seen 5:50+'s and knew that was probably close to my high end. At mile 4, it started to feel a bit tougher, so despite wanting to catch them NOW I tried to be smart and say "Keep on this pace and if you catch them you do..." I passed Amanda and she gave me some nice words of encouragement. I was able to pass Jillian at about mile 5 or a bit beyond, but I knew I had to keep the hammer down as she is a tough one. I held pace until about 1/2 mile to go then just gave it all I had. I saw the finish (AH! The best feeling!) and just tried to lay it all out there.

I crossed the line in 7th place. I had come here to get top 5 or 6 (well to win, but realistically based on the field to be Top 5). I am a bit disappointed in my lack-luster bike split but all things considered, very pleased with the end result. I get a double-whammy when coming here, I am able to re-connect with so many Illinois swimmer friends as well as get in a very quality race. I know that this race is huge, and I know the city comes with a few more headaches. but they do a very good job and I recommend this to anyone who has considered doing it before! Anita Kalhan coordinates the pros and she does a great job. I was able to enjoy a cookout with Jen and Zach that afternoon, followed by some margaritas with my friend Noelle and her parents that evening.

To wrap things up; I have to admit I was a bit nervous before the start. Some of the women that come here are the 'real deal'...yes, I consider myself to be part of this group but I don't know if you ever really 'feel' that until you have laid down the consistently TOP results that some top pros at Chicago have behind their names. That being said, I LOVE to compete against the best. I absolutely love it...I can come out of this race and see on paper, fair and square, where my weaknesses are and what is required of me to be in those top 3 places. Do not ever be afraid to jump into a competition or a situation where you may feel intimidated or over-shadowed. Admit the fears, then face them. And realize that your self-worth is not what is on the line. But when it comes down to it, we are all human and anyone can be on their game on any day. Take the chance, give it your all and learn from the experience! While the challenge may seem scary, I guarantee you that you'll come out stronger, more confident in your abilities and having learned something.

Thank you for reading! Next up is The Austin Triathlon this Monday, on Labor Day...wish me luck. :)
Oh, and by the way, my dad is showing off the SECOND one she caught; a 5-lb 22-inch catfish...but he is not as cute as the bass, catfish are scary looking creatures...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Swimming in Lakes...It Is FUN!

Austin Triathlon anyone? Anyone? Bueller...Bueller...Bueller...

Quick update here, I recently did a little article/column for the Jack and Adams monthly newsletter on 'swimming in Town Lake' (now, 'Lady Bird Lake') as the Austin Triathlon is just around the corner. Read about it at the bottom of my blog.

Let me dispell a few is NOT THAT BAD, people. One thing that really irritates me (actually it just makes me laugh) is people who get so freaked out about certain lakes to race in. Yes, some are not terribly clean. The little pond we spent a few minutes splashing around in for Jacks Generic (Texas Ski Ranch) yes, smelled somewhat of um...exhaust from motorized boats...but we all came out of in one piece. Some lakes are muddy! Unbelievable isn't it. Yes, some lakes are not totally clear and we may even encounter a bit of moss or seaweed or other crap in our swim. To me it is a bit disgusting, but it is funny, because we are all so accustomed to swimming pools which are clean and perfect. This is part of what makes triathlon so FUN! UNPREDICTABILITY! And, this is part of what makes getting dirty, tired, sweaty and oh-so-worked out there feel all the better when you get home, take a shower and eat a big meal.

So...Best of luck preparing for the race. And if you can, try to find some lakes and other swimming holes to get an idea of what race day may be like. Most of all...have the ability to roll with the punches and if it is dirty or smelly, suck it up and let it bother you LESS than everyone else! Then, you have created an EDGE on your competition, just by being a bit more laid back than everyone around you...

Training 101
With Pro Triathlete, Kelly Handel
Swim like a River: Preparing for the Austin Tri & Lady Bird Lake

Whether you are an Austin Triathlon veteran from 2007 or a triathlon rookie, Lady Bird Lake is a very nice swimming hole for a race. It is situated around the 'hub' of exercise in Austin, with the running trail lining its shores. Scouting this course is not too difficult, as it is essentially one large rectangle, most of which you should be able to view from shore before plunging in.

After setting up your transition area, head towards the swim start with plenty of time to spare (20-30 minutes before your wave takes off). Find out the wetsuit call. This is sometimes not made until race morning, so be sure you know if wetsuits are legal or not. In making your decision, remember a few things. While they are faster (up to 2-3 minutes over the course of a mile), they are very warm; so if you tend to get hot easily, consider how warm the day is and if you may overheat. Acknowledge what is most important to you, speed or comfort?

Scope the course. Look at the path you'll be swimming and try to see all the buoys you will pass. Note their color, location and also if there are any 'large, immobile' objects beyond these buoys. These large objects can be used to 'sight off' in case your view of the buoy is blocked from fellow swimmers, waves or sun. If you can, count the number of buoys you will 'pass' before making a turn. Try to locate the turn buoys, sometimes these are a different color or shape. Decide based on weather if you need dark or light goggles. An overcast day may call for lighter lenses, while a sunrise on the horizon may require dark lenses to eliminate glare.

This race will be a deep water start, so you'll be treading water. With about a minute to go, try to start to move to a 'horizontal' position. When many people standing in a small space go from vertical to horizontal, crowding entails. Try to 'mark your space' before the gun goes off, so you are ready to move forward. Start to the 'outside' of the crowd, so you can make a diagonal line to the first buoy or turn buoy. If you are directly in front of the buoy, you may have to fight your way 'around' it because people will converge there. Starting to the outside or to the back of the crowd may eliminate some fighting when swimming.

When the gun goes off, go hard at the start but be careful of maxing yourself out. Many people will sprint and fade quickly. If you monitor your intensity to a strong but sustainable pace, you will likely catch people as you swim and gain confidence in the process. These first few strokes focus on getting into a rhythm, and do not worry about sighting too much until you settle in and the congestion calms down. Once you feel comfortable, begin to sight often (every 6-8 strokes or as needed) and each time you look up try to get a glimpse of your guide buoys. Do not blindly trust the feet in front of you!

As you near the finish, start to think about what you will be doing next. Once you feel the ground (the swim ramp or the bottom of the lake), start to stand and get vertical. Catch your breath, and immediately begin to unzip the wetsuit (if you have one), remove the cap and goggles and get running to transition. As you run, think about the steps you'll do in preparation for the bike leg...congratulations, you are already 1/3 finished!

Kelly Handel is an endurance consultant for local company Source Endurance, and she has been racing triathlons professionally for 7 years. Contact Kelly at to find out how she and Source can help you toe the line the most prepared! Check out Kelly's website...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Missing Snow....

This is me at Breckenridge back in 2006...2006! Oh so long ago....

Every so often (ok...about 2-3x/week) I check in on the weather in Manitou Springs, CO. Today happens to be the Pikes Peak Ascent...which starts in Manitou Springs at about 7,000 ft and climbs to the top of Pikes Peak at 14,-something. When I noticed a friend had posted a blog about 'Eric is warming up after cheering on runners' I figured 'what is Eric warming up from...?' Knowing they are probably being blessed with COLD. So I checked out Colorado Springs' forecast for today:

Severe thunderstorms are possible in the afternoon. Periods of thunderstorms in the morning...then periods of showers and slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Highs 55 to 63. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation 80 percent.
ZIP Code Detail
Severe thunderstorms are possible early in the evening. Showers likely and slight chance of thunderstorms early in the evening...then thunderstorms likely overnight. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Lows 46 to 52. East winds up to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 70 percent.

Just for shits and giggles lets look at AUSTIN!

Rest of Today
Partly sunny with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph.
» ZIP Code Detail
Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 70s. East winds 5 to 10 mph.

You are all intelligent people and can deduce that the highs in Colorado are LOWER THAN the lows in Austin. While this is what we have been dealing with since about May, it gets old! And Derick and I miss the mountains more than you could imagine however, I have to say while that sounds incredibly nice (a 46-52-degree evening), seeing that I rode my bike for 2.5 hours today and will be able to do this up until the week I leave for Clearwater in November, this point in my life, I am glad were are in Austin. I tell myself this often. To live and play, I want to be nowhere more than a Colorado-like environment. However for now, with a lot more to accomplish in this crazy world of triathlon, Austin is an incredible town and as much as it sucks to be soaking wet after any bike ride or run (at any time of day)...I would not change this position for anything! (note: We already booked our honeymoon in Januray, when Derick is off school, to BOISE Idaho! Yes you can say we are crazy but it will be an alpine skiing, XC-skiing and cabin-ing haven and I cannot wait!)

That is it for today. Side note, my friend Mel and I were riding and we saw a few cyclists out towards Manor where we rode. I noticed a guy who motioned something to us coming the opposite direction...I said to her, "Dog?" (thinking it was something alarming)...Mel kind of laughed and said, "No, he said 'hill'." It was pretty cute...very nice of him to 'warn' us of the upcoming hill but it really was not much of a hill, more of a decline in the road. But, hey, it puts things into perspective! It can force me to step back and realize that 'just a 2.5 hr ride' for today IS enough, despite it feeling pretty light.

Happy Weekend. Tomorrow is Derick's birthday. While I wanted to make him a nice dinner, he wants Fried Chicken. I told him, "I will make you anything you want but I will not fry you chicken." I am not opposed to it but why would I try to make some 'really good fried chicken'? I guess we'll hit up some chicken joint in town. Though, he mentioned a burger may be better...I'll push for option B. Thanks for reading my ramblings!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jacks Generic : Today, I am a Winning Barcode

Today was Jacks Generic Triathlon, put on by none but Jack and Adams (and the entire crew at the shop). It was a fun time out there, as it always is, at the good ol' Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels. Derick and I both went out to this one (and he raced, too!) which is always see, last year, as I recall, he and I got into a little 'tiff' (argument) the night before Jacks Generic. Something stupid, I cannot even remember what, probably me saying "are we ever going to get married?" So once we made up, we decided to go and enjoy an evening 'out'. We had a nice dinner at Opal Divines (burgers, beer) and then hit up Zak's (local yellow happenin' place near our house) for some wine. Little did we realize, we both woke up with headaches the next morning...maybe that contributed to me leaving my helmet at home, and us turning around half-way to New Braunfels to get it. So we contemplated that again this year (tradition! we got a little tipsy last year pre-Jacks, we should again this year!) but over a very lazy Friday night of Bocce Ball and Gueros Tacos for dinner, well, we accomplished this the night, Saturday night (pre-Jacks) was spent watching a movie at home, eating Austins Pizza. Good pre-race evening if I do say so myself.

We arrived early enough, about 7:00 am (what is there 'really' do do before the start anyway?) and were ready for the 8 am start. Gun was off and so were we, splashing our way through the little Texas Ski Ranch pond. I found Andrea Fisher's feet and stuck to them for most of this swim, which was pretty pleasant; clear water, no fighting, my kind of swim. We exited 1-2 and were off on the bikes, whereby Andrea quickly passed me a couple of miles in. This always kind of irritates me, however I had put in a good week of 'speed' in prep for Chicago Triathlon and could feel the fatigue in my legs. So, I just tried to keep her 'in sight', which I was able to do. I came off the 13.8-mile rolling bike course about 45 seconds or so behind her, so I knew I had to get on the run quickly. Surprise, running legs felt quite snappy! But I don't like to wait until the last minute to do things, so I tried to overtake her as soon as I could (sorry Andrea...just the competitor in us!) which I was able to do by about mile 1, though she was very strong out there today. I believe I caught a run split of about 5:45 in the middle of the 5k, but I may be mistaken...anyhoo, I was able to finish strong (in 6:02/mile pace) for the win today which was great! I just love these races, as I know so many people out there, familiar faces...Derick had a very solid race for himself (especially the swim and his run, which was 5:29/mile pace despite not really 'training' much...I think the last time he swam was about 3 weeks ago!) and I guess that he lept across the finish line...that's my guy... :) While he can be just as competitive as the next, he knows how to keep it all in perspective and just have fun, which is so important. It's just a sport, after all.

Sidenote, Source Endurance's own Stefan Rothe was the 4th overall male out there...a day after finishing 3rd in the Texas TT State Championships! I think that Stefan could have a triathlon career for himself, if he so chose. And nice race to Andrea Fisher and Hollie Kenney (3rd), who is new to Austin! Thanks to Jack and Adams for putting on a hell of a fun day as they always do, to AJ Zelinski of Advanced Rehabilitation for taking care of me and my oh-so-sore (jacked up) back immediately post-race. Thanks as well to Zoot Sports for the continued support, and to Matt Tanner for helping me rig up my fancy ride with the kick-ass pink flowers on my wheels. Have ya'll seen them yet? Check out Wheeltags. Great little new biz out of Indianapolis. (See below)

That is it for me for today...amazing how a 1-hr race can really waste you. Derick and I hit up Taco Deli after the race and I ate as much as he did, I impressed myself. Thank you for reading...and if you are in Austin, please, stay cool! And if you do choose to do Jacks Generic ever in the future, remember, it is the only race where

"You're more than just a number, you're a barcode!"

P.S. 41 & Counting...Just heard on the news that we have had 41 days over 100 here in Austin, thus far...sounds awesome, doesn't it? Especially since I hate the mountains and love the heat...yea...riight......