Thursday, August 19, 2010

Puget Sound Blood Center Swim for Life

Yesterday, I participated in the Puget Sound Blood Center Swim for Life. It's a 2.5 mile swim across Lake Washington to benefit their Bone Marrow Registry program. I learned that it's very hard to find a perfect match when one needs a bone marrow transplant. Turns out it costs $100 to register each donor in the national donor registry. The more donors are able to register - the more people in need of a transplant can find their perfect match and more lives can be saved. About 350 people participated in yesterday's event and raised over $42K which will pay for 420 donor matches.

Dream swim team plus safety officer Alan
I was invited on a team by my friends Lyset, Stu, Nico and Alan. You had to form a team of up to 4 swimmers plus 1 kayaker who would escort the swimmers across the lake. In the days before the swim, it's been really hot and the lake has been smooth like a mirror. Of course, on the day of our swim it had to be cold and the lake was covered with white caps. The water was warm though, so as soon as I started swimming I warmed up and felt pretty comfortable except for occasional wave hitting me in the face right as I was trying to breathe.

Swim across Lake Washington begins
We started at Medina Beach and would finish at Madison Beach. We did pretty good at staying together as a team. Lyset was setting the pace. Stu, Nico and I followed and Alan (our safety officer in a kayak) tried to herd us back together if we ended up too far from each other.

Swimming across Lake Washington
The swim distance is similar to an Ironman swim (a bit longer). It went by way faster than I expected. For some reason we were put in a slower Red wave (second to last). But we quickly caught up with the previous Orange wave and even passed some people in the Green wave, 2 waves ahead of us. We finished in 1h 25m. I am quite happy with this time, given that I wasn't swimming at race pace and also given the stormy water.

Our dream swim team after the swim
We took some finisher pictures and enjoyed some bagels and coffee. Unfortunately, the organization was pretty poor when it came to bringing people back to Medina Beach. There was only one shuttle bus that only fit a handful of people and a couple speed boats. After waiting around for 30 minutes longer than I would have liked, I ended up catching a ride with one of the volunteers in her own car. Other than that, it was a great event. I hope the event keeps growing and they organize the transportation better next year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report

On Saturday, I went up to Everett/Lake Stevens to attend the pre-race meeting and drop off my bike. Rode 20 min easy on the course one last time to make sure the bike was good to go. Managed to lose my driver’s license during that short ride :( If anyone found it during the race yesterday – let me know. I guess I should get one of those road IDs.
I enjoyed fresh linguine with smoked salmon as my pre-race meal and spent the rest of the evening packing my gear and going over my race plan. I froze solid my bike nutrition and water bottles overnight given the hot temps that were expected for race day. Went to bed at 9:30pm.

Race morning
Up at 3:30pm. Quick shower, breakfast of champions (bagel with Nutella, coffee and OJ), out the door at 4:15. I arrived in Lake Stevens close to 5am and took the last parking spot at Bike Works 2 blocks away from transition (the owner does bike support for the race and is cool with athletes parking at his lot for free). Arriving early gave me plenty of time to prepare my transition area, stand through the bathroom line twice, get my wetsuit on and still left some time for chatting with a few friends and just relaxing before the start of my wave. I always get a major case of butterflies in my stomach the day before the race, but somehow I manage to be totally calm in the morning before the swim start.

Swim – 35:46
The swim started out very smooth. I found the underwater cable right away, found myself behind a couple ladies who were keeping a consistent pace. I settled in and enjoyed a pretty relaxed swim – didn’t even need to sight – it was like swimming in the pool behind someone who’s slightly faster than you but makes for a perfect person to draft. It was the most enjoyable race swim experience yet. This changed after the turn around as we caught up with some folks from the previous wave. Since everyone else also enjoyed swimming along the cable I kept having to go around people. I still tried to keep the cable in sight but lost the girls I was drafting.
Came out of the water and realized that my stop watch was completely dead, so I had no idea what my split was.
35 min was my goal for this race, so I am satisfied with my swim. Also, this confirms my suspicion that the course at Troika 2 weeks ago was short because I feel like I swam just as well at Lake Stevens as I did at Troika.

T1 – 2:45
I felt great coming out of the water and passed a couple people on the run to the bikes. Found my bike rack fine, but missed my bike on the first try and ran too far and had to track back. As I was taking off my wetsuit I saw my friend Cathleen and asked her what our swim time was, she said around 35 min. Great, right on goal. I sprayed on some sunscreen, put on my shoes, helmet and race number. As I was putting on my sunglasses, a lens popped out :( (This has happened before when I dropped them but not if I put them on carefully). I rushed to put it back in, but as I put the glasses on for the second time, it happened again. Finally, on the third try I had my glasses on, all smeared with sunscreen which, coupled with the sun glare made it hard to see. Sorry if anyone heard me swearing in T1!
I feel like this time is ok given that I missed my bike and had to mess with my glasses. Buying new glasses before my next race!

Bike – 2:49:54
It was really nice to be intimately familiar with the course and know exactly what’s coming after each turn and when the true top of the hill is, etc. I knew the main trick yesterday was to not screw up my nutrition/hydration because of how hot it was. I drank some of my carbo pro mixture every 20 min, took salt capsules regularly and drank A LOT of water. Originally, I planned to drink 2 bottles of water, but I think I ended up drinking 3+.
I watched my watts and made sure I stayed below my cap on the climbs when possible and kept it in my target range on the flats (I think there were about 4-5 flat miles on the whole course). It was pretty crowded the whole way which made me check my speed on the descents a bit more than I do in training. It was nice to get some friendly competition from my rock-star-bike-racer friend, Carly. We kept passing each other back and forth for the majority of the ride. She kicked some major butt yesterday!
At mile 48 I stopped getting the speed reading. It’s not a big deal since I ride by power, not by speed, but turned out that the sensor piece got knocked out of its cage and was just hanging off by the wire that connects it to the computer. It was ok at first but with a few miles to go it got caught between the wheel and the fork and made a terrible noise. I thought for sure it was getting torn off my bike, but it got pushed out the other side of the fork and was just hanging like that the rest of the way.
My bike split was a bit slower than I hoped for (my goal was 2:45), but I don’t think I made any mistakes in my execution, so I’m happy with it.

Lilia biking

T2 – 1:31
T2 went a lot smoother than T1. Changed my shoes, took off my helmet, grabbed the small bottle of coke and some gels for my nutrition and I was on my way.

Run – 1:38:52
Felt pretty good at the start, especially after I drank the Coke during the first mile. (This time I de-fizzed it the night before so I didn’t spill quite as much on myself.) Unfortunately, my watch was dead, so I couldn’t take my splits and didn’t know my heart rate. I ran exclusively by effort. I consumed 2 gels over the course of the first hour and made sure to drink extra water or Gatorade at each aid station to stay hydrated and keep up my electrolytes. I think I did a really good job with hydration, nutrition and electrolytes on both the bike and the run because I never felt hungry, thirsty, dehydrated or overheated. I never got cramps either which happened in the last 2 races.
The long hill on the out and back seemed particularly steep yesterday. I usually barely even notice that it’s a hill on training runs, but that was not the case yesterday. Despite the fact that I was managing my temperature ok, it was still a tough run. I felt like my effort and pace stayed consistent the whole run, but I have no way of verifying that since I don’t have my splits. On one hand, I think maybe I could have pushed a bit harder if I had my watch and knew that I was behind on my splits. On the other hand it’s hard to imagine working any harder than I was, so maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t have my splits.
I picked it up a bit when I knew we only had a half a mile to go. It was weird crossing the finish line having no idea what my finish time was. I did know that I left it all out there on the course though. I couldn’t even walk after I crossed the finish line. I just wanted to lay down and not move. The volunteers even made me go into the med tent for the first time ever. I wasn’t feeling sick or dehydrated though, just really spent. So I laid in the tent for a few minutes with some ice bags on my legs and drank some water. It was kind of nice.

Lilia running

Overall – 5:08:46
I did notice that the clock said 5:36 when I crossed and I found out that it was from the pro start which I knew was 28 minutes earlier than our wave, so I figured I was in the 5:08-5:09 range. I was a little disappointed to not break 5 hours, but I kind of knew it wasn’t going to happen after the bike. Given the heat, I think it’s a respectable time for me and honestly, I feel like I executed well. I can’t think of anything I’d do differently... except for maybe run a bit faster, but don’t we all wish that :) It was just a tougher day than I planned for. I am sure happy with getting 3rd in my AG!
It was nice to get a massage after the race and to watch some of my friends finish. I got to watch Sister Madonna go into the finish chute. That lady has some kick! She sprinted in the last 100m, it was awesome to see!
I hung out for the awards and for the Clearwater spots roll-down. Only 2 slots in our AG this year, so I didn’t get one automatically. None of them were claimed though so I knew I’d get one. Really happy that Carly and Daniel got their slots too! Lots of friends to train and go down there with!

Carly and Lilia after the race

Monday, August 2, 2010

Troika Half Ironman - August 1, 2010


Arrived in Spokane just in time for the packet pickup at 3pm on Saturday. For some reason, they didn’t have a pre-race meeting. I found that to be weird. Even though it always seems annoying to listen to the same thing over and over again at each race, without a pre-race meeting it seemed like a part of the race experience was missing. Maybe I just like to check out the competition :-)
After picking up the race packet I headed to Medical Lake to drive the bike course. I did Troika 2 years ago, but the course was changed due to construction in the park and one of the roads being freshly cheap-sealed, so I wanted to see what to expect. Like the original course, the updated one has lots of rollers in the beginning including a beautiful twisty road around Clear Lake which wasn't part of the course 2 years ago. One of the added hills had a pretty nasty grade, I was glad I got to see it the day before. I rode my bike on the trail part of the course that wasn't accessible by car which gave me a chance to ride my bike one last time before the race, go through all the gears, etc. Overall, the new course doesn't lose quite as much elevation in the middle section, but on the plus side the climb out of the park back into town wasn't as long.
It was dinner time when I finished, so I headed to Olive Garden. Apparently, so did the rest of the 200 racers, because the wait for one was 45 min. Thankfully, there was an Italian-American Grill place around the corner that had no wait and a selection of pastas on their menu. Their grilled veggie pasta turned out to be just perfect for me.
The rest of the evening was spent making sure all the gear is ready to go and going through my race plan and visualizing the race. I was in bed by 9:30 and asleep shortly after.

Race morning

Woke up at 3:45, went through my usual race morning routine. My breakfast consisted of a scone, OJ and coffee. At 4:30, I headed out to the parking lot where the shuttles were supposed to pick us up. There were a bunch of other athletes there, but no buses. At 5am our bus driver walked over from the Red Lion Hotel across the street and said they were told to wait there. Funny thing, some of the people in the parking lot, actually stayed at that hotel, but came to the parking lot where athletes were told to wait at. Once we boarded the bus and headed over to Medical Lake, the bus driver asked us "Does anyone know exactly where that Waterfront Park is?" Of course, most of us knew how to get there, but still hilarious that they told the bus drivers to go to the wrong parking lot and didn't even tell them where they were supposed to take us.
At Troika, it does matter when you get to the transition, because the bike rack space is on the first come first serve basis, so the closest spots to the swim exit and bike exit are gone fast. We arrived to the transition at about 5:30am and I still got a pretty decent spot. With it being a point to point course, they give you a big garbage bag, in which you are to put your wetsuit and all your morning stuff once you are ready to go on the bike. This forces to pack lightly and not bring lots of extra stuff "just in case" (the less stuff you have to put in the bag, the faster the transition). Less stuff to mess with in transition also meant faster prep time. I had everything ready to go, visited the bathroom twice and it was still 30 min till race start. This never happens to me! I sat at a picnic table overlooking the swim and studied the swim course. It was great to have this quiet time.

Swim – 32:04

Unlike the previous 2 HIMs this summer, I started the swim at an easier effort. I focused on reaching as far as I could with each stroke and keeping my motions smooth. Felt great at the turn around, so I picked it up a bit and even a bit more in the last 500 yards. I couldn’t believe my watch when I came out of the water! I've never broken 35 min in an HIM swim before, so cutting 3 min off is HUGE. I don't know if the course was short or my new 2010 Helix is doing its magic – whatever it is, I'll take a 32 min split!


T1 – 1:40

The wetsuit came off quick and easy, dropped it the bag, put the shoes and race number on, sprayed some sunscreen on, put on my glasses and helmet and off I went. Unlike the other two races I did this season, the run from beach was really short which helped with a fast split, but still, happy to finally see a sub 2 min T1 :-)

Bike – 2:36:58

Felt good getting up to speed and into my target watts range. Got passed by a girl (who later won the race) in the first mile. I tried to pass her back, then tried to hang with her, but she was riding stronger, and I wasn’t going to ride harder than my plan, so I watched her slowly ride away. Passed a few women in the first few miles and then it was mostly passing and getting passed by guys. There was about 5-10 miles in the middle when I was mostly riding by myself. I saw a porcupine in the middle of the road that was killed by a car. How sad is that? You never see porcupines, what are the chances of running one over? Also I can't imagine that the little guy sprinted out in the middle of the road out of nowhere like a squirrel, he must have been slowly crossing and the driver wasn’t paying attention :-( Once I got on the descending part, I was surrounded by other racers again. This was also when the official motorcycle decided to start monitoring me. He stayed within sight for a few miles during the decent/faux flat section. I obviously wasn't going to draft, but having the motorcycle right there made me nervous about trying to pass people. I may have soft pedaled or coasted in some cases where I would have otherwise tried to pass the person ahead. Oh well, I don’t think I lost that much time there if any at all. Once we got to the park, the motorcycle reappeared and followed me for a while again. At this point it was a slight uphill and I was actually passing a lot of folks. I got tired of worrying about the official. I was riding clean, so if he wanted to watch me – fine. Overall, I feel like I nailed the ride. I rode consistent and strong the whole way – kept my watts in the target range on the flats, climbed the rollers a bit harder, drank some water or Carbo Pro every 10 min and ate salt caps every 30 minutes. I don’t think I could have ridden any harder.


T2 – 0:57

They make it easy for you to have a fast T2. A volunteer grabs your bike and helmet/shoes, another volunteer has your T2 bag ready. There's a bench right there to sit down and put the shoes on. I think I should have been a bit faster, but I'll take sub 1 minute T2.

Run – 1:31:04

Felt great from the start. I had left a small bottle of coke in the T2 bag. That tasted wonderful in the first mile (after I sprayed half the bottle all over myself trying to open it). Some spectator or volunteer told me that I was the 3rd woman. That was good news. I thought I had a chance of catching one or even both of the women ahead of me even though I had no idea how far ahead they were. I was passing a lot of guys, but didn't see any women until after mile marker 6, when I saw both of them coming in the opposite direction, pretty close to each other. The turn-around is at 6.5, so I must have been less than a mile behind them, so I needed to be running about 0:40-1:00 a mile faster than them. Not entirely unreasonable given that I was dropping sub 7 minute miles. I caught the second girl about a mile or two after the turn around. After I was ahead of her, I heard someone yell "Go Kara!" and I realized that it was a friend and ex-Microsoftie Kara Nielsen. I kept running really hard and passing lots of guys and hoping that I'd see the woman leader's blue jersey as I passed every turn. I only got passed once during the whole run (by a relay guy), but still I never saw my leader girl. At mile 10, my calves started having slight spasms. I basically ordered them to stop it and just kept running through it. My last 3 miles were a little slower because of it (7:08-7:09), but it didn’t get nearly as bad as it did during the Desert Half 3 weeks ago. (Note to self: I probably should have taken more salt caps on the bike.)


Overall – 4:42:43

It was pretty awesome to finish hearing the announcer say "Our second female finisher Lilia…" Turns out that the winner beat me by 3 minutes. She was running pretty strong too! If I didn't have my spasms in the last 3 miles, I could have maybe finished 1 min faster, but no way I could have caught her. Glad she was there to push me to go as fast as I could though! Overall, I feel like it was a very well-executed race for me. Great confidence builder after not having a good race at Desert Half. Of course, it helped having cooler temps yesterday, but I feel that I would have done well even if it was hotter.

Desert Half Ironman - July 11, 2010

Swim – 36:56

  • Picked a good line at the start and had a very clean first 200m – avoided the washing machine
  • Stuck with a pack of women in the first lap, my split was just a little over 17min for the first lap
  • For some reason didn’t feel so hot on the second lap and slowed down, ended up with a split over a minute slower than my time at Oliver half iron a few weeks ago.

T1 – 3:11

  • Didn't make any obvious mistakes, like knocking over my behind the seat water bottle
  • Everything was just slow. The wetsuit got stuck on my heals and the wetsuit strippers had to pull pretty hard to get it off. The run between the beach and the transition was slow. Still felt a bit off after the swim.
  • This time was pretty slow compared to the rest of the top 10 women... Maybe I need to learn how to put my shoes on while riding

Bike – 3:00:43

  • Climbed steady and kept it at my own pace, watts below my climbing cap. Didn't get caught up in a mini king-of-the-hill battle at the beginning of Richter Pass with people getting out of their saddles, etc. And sure enough, I passed most of those folks later in the climb.
  • Did well on the descents. Somehow, I managed to pass bigger guys on the descents a few times. How did that happen? I guess I have a pretty aero dynamic setup :) Also I must be more comfortable going down at 45mph in my aero now… I used to chicken out and reach for the breaks.
  • While I did well at keeping my watts below the cap, I didn't do so well at keeping them above the lower bound of my target range. A few times I would look down and see 160s or 170s instead of targeted 190. Felt sluggish. I know this is still a good bike split for this course, but I think if I was feeling 100%, I should have been a few minutes faster.
  • Didn't stick to my nutrition plan. With the 95 degree heat, my Perpetuem bottles got so warm and nasty. I finished the first one, but opted for the cold Gatorade that they handed out on the course instead of my second bottle. Only got through half of the Gatorade bottle, which put me at almost 200 calories less than I planned.

T2 – 1:25

  • Pretty happy with this transition – everything went pretty smooth.
  • Perhaps could shave off 10 sec if I could learn how to take my shoes off while on the bike...

Run – 1:46:05

  • Managed to run the whole way despite my legs cramping up
  • Very slow run for me! The slowest HIM run split in the last 3 years. I felt really sluggish right from the start. Kept waiting for it to go away, but it never happened. Probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t eat enough on the bike.
  • My calf muscles starting cramping at mile 9. First, I started getting spasms in my right leg – it happened once, then a second time after about half a mile. Then I got them in both legs and they started happening more frequently. Similar thing happened to me in the last mile of the Yakima Canyon Marathon so I altered my stride in the same way I did at the marathon – basically, didn’t push off with my feet anymore, and ran by just using my quads and my hamstrings. This helped mitigate the spasms, but definitely slowed me down.

Overall – 5:28:18

  • 4th in AG, 7th overall – not a bad standing for having a crappy day
  • A very pretty course and superb race organization. Highly recommend! Don’t go looking for a PR though :)
  • Bummer to miss the podium by about 2 minutes. I keep thinking "if only I could have stuck with the pack at the swim" or "if only I could have had faster transitions" or "if only I didn't get the stupid leg cramps"... But 2 minutes is 2 minutes. I just didn't have it yesterday.
  • I need to learn how to manage the heat better – not sure how to do it in Seattle though. I guess I'll just keep going to hot places to race (next up – Troika in Spokane!)
  • Definitely need to work on my climbing strength – I just didn’t have the stamina to keep my watts up for 7 miles up the hill...

Oliver Half Ironman Race Report - June 6, 2010

  • 35m and change, 1:41 per 100 yards. Fastest half iron swim for me by over 2 minutes.
  • Perfect water temp – not too cold, not too warm.
  • Mentally focused on my form the whole swim – it seems to do the trick when I start falling apart by the end of my long workouts, I guess it works in races as well.
  • Pretty violent start. The waves were huge with all women under 45 starting at once. I got whacked with an elbow in my head a couple times and swallowed some water one of those times, but managed to keep it under control, cough it out and keep going.
  • Didn’t catch any feet to draft off. Still need to work on that.
  • Fast run between the lake exit and the transition (it’s over a 1/4 mile run!) – 2:29. Passed quite a few people there.
  • Wet suit strippers rock!
  • 3:11 for the actual transition – from when I got into the transition area till when I clipped into my bike pedals. Slow
  • Messed with my helmet too long – probably lost all the advantage that I gained in the quick run between the lake and the transition.
  • Knocked over my behind the seat water bottle while hopping on my bike – need to practice with that setup some more.
  • 2h40m, 21.3 mph, despite the fact that the course is at least 1 mile long. Fastest bike split ever for me.
  • Fun course – rolling hills are my favorite terrain, gorgeous views of the lakes, mountains and vineyards. Perfect for spectators with the athletes passing the transition area 6 times.
  • Lucked out on the weather – nice temps in the 70s, cloud cover kept us sheltered from the sun and the winds were very mild.
  • I love my SRM power meter! Used it religiously to keep the wattage up in the 170-180 range on the flats and to keep it controlled on the uphills.
  • It was nice to see Polita out there and pass each other back and forth a few times. Always good to cheer each other on!
  • I need to change my saddle. My inner thighs started cramping in the last 10K. I think the saddle is too wide for me.
  • I do not like it when people draft. After working hard against the wind all by myself for the whole last stretch of Hwy 97, I got caught and passed by a pack of 3 girls who were clearly working together. On the positive note, it got me kind of angry and gave me an extra boost of energy to crank out those last 10K and not let them get far ahead of me.
  • Some guys just can’t get over the fact that there are women who are faster than them. If a rider catches you from behind despite the fact that they started the swim 10 min later, and passes you – there is a good chance that they are stronger than you. No need to crank it up and try to get ahead of them repeatedly for the next 5 miles just because it happens to be a girl.
  • Nothing w00t about this transition :-(
  • 2:11, slow T2!
  • I was slow getting off my bike, slow changing and managed to forget my race belt and had to run back to grab it after I was almost out of the transition
  • 1:31, 6:57 per mile. Fastest half iron run split and second fastest half marathon time for me. Wow, didn’t know I could go sub 7 in a half iron!
  • Didn’t get passed once.
  • It was great to see Rhae finishing her first lap as I was just starting on the run and then again, in the final winning stretch as I was starting on my second lap.
  • Narrow bike path and bridges/sidewalks made for a crowded second lap. A lot of folks were still on their first lap and I had to pass a lot of people.
  • Gravel which makes up about half the course is not my favorite surface to run on.
  • I planned well and executed well
  • 1 Cliff shot before the swim start (100 Kcal)
  • 2 bottles with 2 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem in each + one package of Cliff blocks (total of 740 Kcal) during the bike
  • 1 Cliff shot (100 Kcal) + a random mix of Gatorade, water and Coke at aid stations during the run
  • Never felt too hungry, too full, too thirsty or too fatigued, never cramped except for the inner thighs cramping which, I believe, resulted from my less-than-perfect bike saddle fit.
  • No complaints here, I think I did well.
  • Took off over 16 min from my previous half iron PR of 5:11 at Clearwater 2008. (Full disclosure: I did quite a bit of drafting myself in that race, so breaking that dishonest bike split makes me feel doubly good! Also, after my experience yesterday, I never want to draft in a race again!)
  • Came in 2nd in my age group and 9th overall. I’ve never made top three my age group or top 10 overall before in a half ironman. It feels really good!
  • Great race. Fun course, nice town, well organized, good for spectators. I recommend!
  • Both of my transitions were really slow and I made stupid mistakes in both of them. What’s up with that? I guess I just lost my short distance racing edge. In an Ironman, 3 min transitions are normal and you have volunteers that help you make sure you have everything and put your stuff away. I must have gotten lazy. Need to practice more and race more!