Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ironman 70.3 World Championships (Clearwater ) Race Report


I flew into Tampa on Wednesday with 2 other friends from Seattle – Carly and Sean who were also racing in the 70.3 World Championships. We rented a three-bedroom condo half a mile away from the start which was very convenient. After a long flight and our commute from the airport, all we had time for Wednesday night was dinner at a local Italian joint, Gondolier's Pizza, and putting our bikes together.

I started Thursday with a short jog along the beach (no more than a mile) – just to see how my right leg felt about running (I had been staying off running for almost 2 weeks due to a hamstring injury). It felt totally fine which made me happy. Sean and Carly met me at the beach and we dipped into the Gulf for a quick 20 minute swim. The water temperature felt perfect for a wetsuit swim.

After a satisfying breakfast at IHOP where we ran into a few other friends who were racing, we picked up our race packets and checked out the expo for our last minute needs (CO2 cartridges and carbon-specific break-pads) I also wanted to have someone give a once-over to my bike to make sure I put it together right. They were charging $35 at the official Ironman Bike Tech tent, so I thought I'd ask the Cervelo guys for help. Sadly, they didn't have any tools with them. Meantime, Carly was getting her Felt serviced in the Felt tent next door. I asked them if they could take a quick look at mine too. The mechanic made a face and mentioned something about his hands burning if he touched a Cervelo, but he did help me nonetheless (thank you, Felt Tech guy!!!) He tightened a couple screws and then said that my rear disk wheel was wobbly, most likely it was because the hub was loose and I'd better have it looked at. Luckily, the Zipp tent was right there and a very helpful Zipp mechanic took a look at it and noticed that there was a small spacer missing inside the hub. He found a replacement spacer and was done with my wheel in like 10 minutes. Whew! Glad I had it looked at! Otherwise, I would have been wasting precious watts on Saturday.

We went for one last hour-long ride in the afternoon to loosen up the legs and make sure the bikes were working well. It was so much fun riding in the warmth and the sunshine. Makes me a little bit jealous of Floridians!

Later that night we went to the Welcome dinner and the pre-race briefing on the beach. There were speeches from the race director, a local pastor and race sponsors. There was the usual business of calling out the oldest and the youngest competitors. It didn't even come close to what Kona pre-race celebration was... The pre-race briefing consisted of a pre-recorded generic video lecture by a dorky dude (not even dorky in a triathlon way, just plain dorky!) about using common sense if the weather gets bad and the cutoff times for an Ironman distance! Really? People flew from all over the world to participate in the 70.3 World Championship and they couldn't even edit the generic full Ironman video? Or better yet have a real person talk about it?

Friday morning we went for an early swim again. This time we saw a dolphin by the pier. :) The rest of the morning was spent preparing our race bags, doing a little bit of work and napping. In the afternoon we checked in our bikes and gear bags. I had an early boring dinner of Walgreens-bought pasta, marinara sauce and canned salmon. We went to bed at about 8pm.

Race morning

The alarm went off at 4am. First things first, I started some coffee and took a quick shower. I had my usual bagel with Nutella, banana, OJ and coffee for breakfast. I got into my race outfit, covered myself with sunscreen, braded my hair and was ready to go. There wasn't much to get ready since our race bags were already in the transition.

As we were walking towards the start, a golf cart shuttle drove by and asked if we needed a ride to the start. How lucky! We didn't even have to walk that half a mile. There was quite a line-up for body marking at 5:30am.

Once body marked and in the transition, I borrowed a pump from someone and filled up my tires. After I got back from the bathroom I realized that my front tire was almost completely empty. That was disconcerting. Sean suggested that most likely the valve extender got loose after using the pump. Thankfully, he had the valve extender wrench with him and after we tightened it up and pumped up the tire again, it was no longer letting out air. Relief!

I visualized my race step by step and realized that my bottles were placed incorrectly on the bike. I have one bottle on the frame and two in behind the seat cages. I am most comfortable reaching my frame bottle cage and a lot more comfortable getting the right behind the seat bottle compared to the left one. I normally place my first nutrition bottle on the frame, my water bottle in the right behind the seat cage and my second nutrition bottle in the left cage. This way, I only have to reach back with my left hand once, to get the second nutrition bottle after I'd gone through my first nutrition bottle and tossed it. For whatever reason, that morning I placed my second nutrition bottle in the right cage and my water bottle in the left cage. I corrected my error. I am glad I do my detailed race walk-through in my head before my races. This would have caused me unneeded stress on the course!

We got kicked out of the transition just as the pros started their swim at 6:45. My wave didn't start till 7:50, so I had some time to kill on the beach. Sean, Carly, Heather and Kevin were also there. We hung out, took some pictures, made a few more bathroom trips. Finally, came our time to line up in the starting corals.

Swim – 34:23

Even though our wave was pretty small (under 100 people), it was really crowded for most of the swim. I think it's because people are much closer in their ability at this race so there's no spreading out like at other races. I tried to line up at the front, but I still had to pass quite a few girls in the first 200 yards, so I guess I need to line up even more aggressive. It was also really choppy, definitely, more so than during our practice swims on Thursday and Friday. After the first couple hundred yards I got on some girl's feet. She was going about the same speed as me (not much faster) but I figured at least I would save some energy in her draft, which I've been spending plenty of fighting the waves and trying to swim around people. This was working out well for me – I stayed right on her feet while she did most of the navigating and picking the lines to swim around people – until the turn around where she started having some issues with her goggles and stopped to adjust them. I kept swimming and was able to get in a pretty good groove on my own. It was really hard to sight on the way back with the sun rising above Clearwater, but I managed to at least locate the next buoy I had to swim to. I even passed a few more red caps (my wave) and a good number of blue caps (the previous wave) which made me wonder if I picked the wrong girl to draft. Despite the crowds and the waves, I thought I was having a really good swim. I was unpleasantly surprised when I saw 34 minutes on my watch as I came out. I later learned that most folks had slower swims than normal (due to the chop), so I don't feel quite as bad about it anymore. Still, I have some work to do! Particularly, I need to get better at finding the right people to draft of and navigating around the slower swimmers in a more efficient way. I will need that at the Ironman where there will be 2,000 people instead of 100. Not sure how to practice this though? I guess I should join some group open water swims.

T1 – 3:17

I stripped the top of my wetsuit on the way out of the water, slowed down for a couple seconds in the showers to get most of the salt water off my body to avoid chafing later. The wetsuit strippers were amazing! They took my wetsuit off in literally half a second. I ran through the transition, picked up my bag, got in the tent and grabbed a volunteer who was stuffing someone else's stuff in their bag at the time. I just said: "I need you to help me, please". She was really accommodating: helped me put some sunscreen on my face, got my shoes and race belt for me, then – my sunglasses and helmet. I was out in no time. Grabbed my bike and ran towards the Bike Out. My T2 certainly wasn't the fastest of the day, but I think it was pretty efficient. I didn't waste any time at any point.

Bike – 2:31:27

I got up to speed quickly and passed a couple folks in the first mile, before we even got to the bridge. I made sure to gear down on the bridge to avoid burning any matches early on the bike. I tried to keep my power in the 180s and watched my HR. It was a little high in the first 30 minutes (high 170s), but that seems to be normal for me (happened at other races this year), so I wasn't concerned. I didn't worry about my speed too much. I'd look down at it occasionally and I always saw a number above 21, and sometimes it was 24-25. Flying :)

The packs started forming right away, but I was determined to race honestly. I got passed by a bunch of draft packs. It was a little bit scary – they'd come 2-3 abreast and some sections of the course were fairly narrow. Plus I was passing a lot of people myself, and the packs would sometimes go into a double pass while I was passing another rider. Yikes! I just made sure to be extra alert when they flew by me and had my hands on my breaks to be ready to react in case they pulled anything stupid. Luckily, I didn't personally witness any wrecks, but I sure saw a lot of people on the side of the road who had crashed. I didn't count but I must have seen at least 8-10 people bloodied up, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time, and one poor guy was being taken away on a stretcher. I don't remember it being quite as bad in 2008 :(
It was a bit windy on the course, mostly side winds. I kept on schedule for my nutrition, hydration and salt intake and stayed strong the whole time. As per plan, I controlled my power for the first hour and allowed myself to go higher for the rest of the ride if I could. Looking at the power trace, it didn't work out quite the way I wanted – my highest average power was in the first hour and it got a bit lower (not dramatically) later in the race. I passed 13 girls in my AG during the ride (though I don't remember seeing that many) and got passed by 1. I did see a couple under 25 girls, who I'd passed early on, fly by me in a pack of guys a few miles down the road, but I didn't let it annoy me too much especially since they weren't even in my AG.
I am a little disappointed that I didn't meet my time goal of sub 2:30. During the ride it felt like I was giving it all I could, but knowing that my power output did drop a bit in the second half I wonder what I could have done differently... Control my power more in the first half? Eat more?

T2 – 2:30

A volunteer took my bike and I ran to grab my run bag unclipping my helmet on the way. I had another great volunteer help me in the tent. I put my socks and shoes on quickly while she opened my bottle of Coke for me. I might have lost a couple seconds putting on my visor. I should have put it on while running out instead of inside, but I don't think I lost that much time. Overall, it was an efficient T2.

Run – 1:35:55

The run course consists of 2 loops including a mile-long steep bridge at mile 2. You cross this bridge 4 times – out and back on each loop. My left quad cramped up in mile 1. It was very weird because I've never had my quads cramp up in a triathlon before. I've had my quads completely shot at the end of marathons that had some significant downhill, like Boston or Yakima River Canyon. But the way they tightened up this time was different. They weren't completely shot, just super tight. I was still able to move at a pretty good pace – I was dropping 7:10s, but running was not as easy as at Oliver or Troika earlier this year. My range of motion was definitely constricted.

After I finished the Coke I picked up in T2 and drank some sports drink, the left quad released at about mile 2 and I was able to put a couple faster miles and catch the folks who passed me in the first mile. Then at about mile 3, my right quad tightened the same way. I dropped down to 7:20s again and lost my faster pace group. More sports drink and a gel – it released in a mile or so and I was able to run faster again. Then both of them tightened up again as I ran up the bridge. A guy with "28" on his calf passed me as we came down the other side of the bridge. My quads loosened up on the downhill and I tried to hang with him. It worked and I stayed with him through the end of the first lap. Then at the start of the second lap (mile 6.5), the cramps came back. I lost my pacer just to catch him again at mile 8 after the cramps released on the downhill side of the bridge. At mile 9, I got caught by a speedy Lithuanian (could tell by the flag on his race bib) who was running low 7s. He said: "Come on, stay with me! Is this your last [lap]?" as he passed me. I decided to give it a shot. My 28 year old pacing buddy couldn't hang with us, but I was able to stay behind my fellow Slavic runner for a good 2 miles. The cramps kept coming on and off in waves, but I kept playing mental games with myself, ordering my legs to stop cramping. As we hit the climb up the bridge, I had to let him go. This last climb was painful, but I at least I was in the home stretch. As I descended down the back side of the bridge I saw one of the sub 25 girls who passed me on the bike in the pack of guys. She was a couple hundred yards up the road. Even though she wasn't in my AG I really wanted to pass her back. That gave me enough motivation to speed up in the last mile and finish strong in 4:47:30.


I got my finisher hat and my medal, stood in line for the photo op. My legs were in pain after I crossed, so I went straight to the massage tent. After a 10min massage I went to get some food just to find out that they were out of veggie pizza :( I had to resort to ice cream. It was perfect though :)

I finished 27th in AG. My final time was slower than I hoped for (was shooting for sub 4:40), but given the choppy swim and the cramps on the run, I think I managed it pretty well. I am proud to get such a fast bike split without drafting. I wonder what my place in AG would have been if everyone raced honestly. I guess I'll have a chance to find out in Vegas next year :)

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!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yakima River Canyon Marathon Race Report

The day before

I don't consider 100 mile drive a destination race (thanks to all the bike races 2 hours away), so I just drove over the morning of the race and worked all day the previous day. Drank lots of Hammer+Noon mixture all day at work to stay well hydrated. Had some veggie pizza and salad as well as one beer as my pre-race meal. Then packed all my stuff for the next morning. I was surprised how easy and fast it was to get things ready compared to preparing for a triathlon - just running shoes and a running outfit - no need to go through a 50 item checklist. Went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep pretty easily.

Morning of the race

Woke up at 4am on race morning, took a quick hot shower, braided my hair, ate breakfast and was out the door at 4:45. Breakfast: toasted frozen waffles with cream cheese and peach jam, banana, OJ and tea. Drank 2 more bottles of my Hammer+Noon mixture on the drive over (about 1.5 hours). Showed up right in time for packet pick up opening and just before the shuttle bus with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs arrived, so managed to go to the bathroom before the lines got crazy. It was still 1.5 hours before the start, so I had plenty of time to pin my number, go to the bathroom a couple more times, and debate what I should wear for the race. It was below freezing at the start, but I knew that as soon as the sun comes up, it would warm up the temps. Ended up going with shorts and a long sleeve T-shirt. It worked out just right, though the start was freezing! I wish I had a hat and gloves to throw away.

The course

Course profile

Net downhill of 300ft. The course winds along the Yakima river in the canyon. Most of the course is slight downhill slope, but there are some hills at miles 5 and 6, then again 14, 15 and 17, and finally a brutal uphill at miles 21 through 23, then one more slight uphill at mile 25. Gorgeous course, but this kind of profile was absolutely brutal on my body. The quads and hips were not happy during the race and even more so now, the day after.
We were lucky with the weather. Even though the start was freezing, it warmed up to around 50s pretty fast - perfect marathon running temperature. We also didn't get much wind which I hear can be a major factor in this race some years.

The race

My strategy was to start right on pace for my goal of 3:10 finish - around 7:15 and hold myself back from going faster down the hill until the first uphill at mile 5 in order to save my quads from locking up later. I planned to let my legs cruise on the downhills after that point and get some fast miles in. I also knew that due to my recent right calf injury, I had to take the uphills really easy if I wanted to run the whole way since calves are usually stressed on the uphills and if I blew my calf out I would have not been able to finish anywhere near my goal. I was also hoping to find a solid 3:10 looking runner to follow so I didn't have to run on my own the whole way.
I didn't quite follow that plan. In the first mile, I found myself following closely behind the 2nd woman and 2 guys who although did not 'look' like 3:10 runners, were holding a steady pace that I felt comfortable with. (I don't mean to sound condescending when I say they didn't look like fast runners. What I mean is they were not tech'd out and geeked out like your usual marathon runners are at that pace. They were wearing cotton shirts and khaki shorts and did not have a perfect long distance runner stride, they also didn't take any gels and didn't always stop at water stations for a drink even though the water stations were 3 miles apart. But what the heck, they were hauling it pretty consistent at sub 7 so more power to them.)
I knew that starting at sub 7 was risky and that it was against my plan, but it felt doable (thanks to the slight downhill grade) and I liked the idea of sticking with some runners to make the pacing easier so that I wouldn't end up all by myself later on. And no lie, I also started having visions of 3:06 or something like that, so figured I should just give it a go.
One part of my plan that I was going to stick with no matter what was my uphill tactic. I took shorter more frequent steps on the first hill at mile 5, so I had to let my pacers get ahead. I still could see them right ahead and as soon as we reached the top of the hill, I resumed my normal stride so I kept pacing off them even though at a distance.
I crossed half way point at 1:32 and my legs still felt good. I knew that the hills in the second half were harder, so I would run a slower second split, but I still thought that 3:10 was very doable and possibly even a 3:07-3:08.
The second hill came right at miles 14-15 and I did my short step/high turn over steps again. I got passed by a guy who's been running a few meters behind me the whole time near the top of that hill. As we started down the hill, I let my legs go and was able to pace off him for the next few miles. It was at this downhill that I realized that my quads were quite shot by now after all the 'slight downhill' running. I was still able to cruise down the hill at a sub 7 pace, but the legs felt stiff.
Mile 17 hill was gentle, so it didn't slow me down too much. It started to get hard at this point so I had to start employing a lot of mental powers to keep the pace. My hips and quads hurt even on the very slight downhills. And I was just plain getting tired after running at this intensity for so long. I started counting down miles to the big hill. I knew that was going to be a suffer fest so it was important that I stay strong and don't lose any time before it if I wanted to stay on pace for 3:10. So I kept telling myself "mile 17, only 3 miles left till the big hill... mile 18, only 2 miles left till the big hill... " as if the big hill was the finish of the race...
When the big hill came I just squeezed my teeth and went up it keeping my steps short and my leg turnover as fast as I could. The worst part about it was that it had a fake summit. You see what you think is the top of the hill, but in fact after you make the turn at that point, you realize you only ran up half of it and the remaining part is even steeper. Oh well - I kept putting one foot in front of the other one step at a time. I got passed by a couple more guys on that hill, but there was no way I could have gone up it any faster.
As the downhill finally came, the quads and hips were hurting even worse, but I knew I only had 3 miles left at this point, and I had to run them fast if I wanted to finish in 3:10, so I just had to tune out the pain and let the gravity do its job. Slight uphill on mile 25 almost did my calf in. I felt it wanting to cramp up, so I had to take a deep breath, shorten my step and literally tell it to wait 1.5 miles before cramping. I managed to avoid the cramp, but I no longer had the full range of motion even on the downhill after that, I kind of had to 'fixate' my foot at the 90 degrees angle to my leg and not really push off with it any more, just keep placing one stiff leg in front of the other and let the gravity take me down the last hill. That last sub 7 mile on the last downhill took a lot of mental focus, I even managed to pass one of the guys who passed me earlier. I really wanted to cross the line while the clock still said 3:10, but was a few seconds late. Oh well - that will be a task for next time. I'll have to work just a little bit harder for it.

Time: 3:11:22
Pace: 7:18 per mile
Overall place: 3rd female
AG place: 1st in 25-29 age group

Mile Splits

mile # - time - AHR
mile 1 - 6:55 - 172
mile 2 - 6:51 - 182
mile 3 - 6:53 - 183
mile 4 - 6:48 - 184
mile 5 - 7:12 - 185
mile 6 - 7:08 - 184
mile 7 - 7:01 - 182
mile 8 - 6:55 - 182
mile 9 - 6:57 - 182
mile 10 - 7:09 - 182
mile 11 - 6:59 - 179
mile 12 - 6:46 - 180
mile 13 - 7:17 - 179
mile 14 - 7:34 - 179
mile 15 - 7:57 - 180
mile 16 - 6:53 - 175
mile 17 - 7:30 - 178
mile 18 - 7:06 - 177
mile 19 - 7:04 - 178
mile 20 - 7:32 - 177
mile 21 - 7:39 - 173
mile 22 - 8:10 - 172
mile 23 - 9:16 - 174
mile 24 - 7:19 - 170
mile 25 - 7:32 - 174
mile 26 - 6:58 - 172
last .2 - 1:51 - 178


I took one Cliff Shot Gel 15 minutes before the race, and 3 more at 30m, 1h 15m, and 2h into the race. I also carried my own bottle with Hammer+Nuun mix for the first half of the race because I knew that the water stations were sparse and like to be able to drink whenever I want to during the first half of the race. After that point I took a sip of each, PowerAid and Water at each water station (they were about 2.5-3 miles apart).

Post race

After I crossed the line, my legs locked up so bad, I could barely walk around, I couldn't manage to stretch out my quads - they were in so much pain. I made my way to the massage table and the 15 minute massage didn't really make them feel a whole lot better. I chatted with a few runners who I saw on the course including the female winner Annie - she is such a nice lady who runs 10 marathons a year all around 3 hour pace.
On the bus back to the start I chatted with one of the guys who didn't really look like a runner. Turned out it was his first marathon and he ended up with a 3:09 - BQ! He told me when he trains he doesn't even drink water at all on his 20 milers just because he doesn't like the idea of carrying a bottle. Crazy! Sounds like if he joins a runners group and does some proper training and speed work he can probably get really crazy fast... Made me jealous - I have to work so hard to get to this level and do everything "just right" to get even close to his result.. Oh well, we all have different level of abilities and ultimately just race against ourselves. That's why I love running!


I wonder if I would have been able to run this race faster if I held back a bit at the beginning. To be honest I don't think so. The sub 7s felt good then and if I didn't bank up that time at the beginning, I don't think I could have made it up later in the race. And with that terrain, my quads and hips would have gotten sore at any pace, so the amount of suffering would have been the same. The 2nd woman only came in 2 minutes before me and I could see her the whole time, so she slowed down similarly in the second half, her only advantage over me was that she could run the uphills normally, that's why she was a couple minutes ahead.
I think given the terrain and my injury I executed just about the best I could there yesterday. I think if my calves were healthy I would have hit my goal.
Great local scenic race. But probably wouldn't do it again just because of all the damage to my body is too much.