Impending Doom?

I am currently 20 days away from my second Ironman 70.3 and that familiar pre-race feeling of impending doom is started to set in.

There’s no way I can swim that far, especially if the race isn’t wetsuit legal.  I’m definitely going to get eaten by a shark.  I will be forever lost at sea.  I don’t even know if the mermaids will save me.

If I somehow survive swimming the high seas, then the bike portion will definitely do me in.  Our ride takes us out towards Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, which is Cajun for Bayou Savage- Training Center for Animals that Want to Kill Triathletes.   There are alligators and snakes and bears and bobcats.  And bears that throw snakes like spears while riding alligators.   And bandana-clad bobcats that leap out from behind bushes, mug you, and steal your bike.   It’s basically Jumangi- Triathlon Edition.

If I emerge from the wilds of the Louisiana Swamp alive, I then have tackle a 13.1 mile run through Suburbia.  This will likely be the most challenging portion of the race by far, as the route is littered with spectators, creatures of judgment and distraction.  Oh, you think you’re so cute don’t you Miss Middle-Class Housewife with your perfectly put together outfit and matching 2.5 children.  Sorry that I look like a half-drowned moose lumbering down you street, but I just fought a snake-wielding bear!  And what’s that to my left?  A PUPPY!?!  No, Heather, no, don’t look directly into its soft brown eyes, that’s how they suck you in.  And just when I think I’m safe, the finish line is a mere two miles away, I round the final bend and there they are- shirtless college boys handing out beer!  Oh the humanity!

Basically, there is no way for me to survive this race.  I should probably give up now, and spend my Sunday on the couch watching football like sensible people.  But, alas, I have already paid the money, so I might as well give it a go.  Plus, I’ve never seen a snake-spear in real life before!

Pedal Clip Woes

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. I finally managed to fall off my bike trying to unclip my pedals. I had literally almost stopped, but for some reason decided to try and stand up with the foot that was still clipped in. And down I went, just toppled right to the side. I can’t imagine how graceful that must have appeared to all of the traffic passing by. Alas, my knee is skinned and my ego bruised but other than that, I lived to tell the tale. I’m sure it won’t be the last time….

Alabama Coastal Triathlon Race Report

This weekend I raced in the Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon (Olympic Distance) located in Gulf Shores, AL. This seemed like a good training race for mebuilding up to Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, and let’s face it, I’m always looking for an excuse to visit the beach!

Truth be told, I was actually pretty worried about this race. I had developed a nice case of sinusitis the week building up to the race which had morphed into a URI two days before race day. I was congested, lethargic, and my chest hurt any time I exerted myself. Not exactly my best race shape. But, I had already paid the money so I thought, well I’ll go, and if I feel terrible during the race, I’ll just stop.

I loaded up Scarlett and drove out to Gulf Shores from New Orleans on Friday afternoon.

Scarlett loaded up and ready to go!

We arrived with enough time to catch packet pick up that evening, so I wandered down to the race location, The Hangout, and grabbed my stuff. The location was excellent – right on the beach, tons of space inside The Hangout’s large outdoor patio for an organized packet pick up (and post-race shindig), and transition was huge, meaning not cramped! I was even able to leave Scarlett overnight in transition, which I took full advantage of.

Tucked in for the night

I was planning on having a quiet evening by myself, but I realized two friends of mine, Michael and Patrick, were also in town for the weekend, so I went to meet up with them at the world-famous regionally-famous Florabama bar. To make things more interesting (amazing!!!), the bar was hosting a touring rodeo that we stumbled into, making for an entertaining evening. At that point I decided that even if the race was a bust, at least I saw cows (and cowboys)… at a bar… on a beach. 🤣

rodeo things

Race morning was pretty straight forward. I woke up feeling very congested and coughing and was really not feeling it. However, Mr. Big had arrived to meet me AND was also racing himself for the first time (more on that later!) so I focused on making sure he was set up to take my mind off things.

When we arrived at the beach I noticed that the gorgeous ocean from the night before had been replaced by a choppy mess of surf and the wind had picked up. Ugh. I assured Mr. Big that the ocean swim would be fine, but as we stood and waited for his turn to start in the sprint portion of the race, I was having second thoughts. The current had a strong pull to the west and the waves were a good 5 ft. I told Mr. Big not to think about anything I had taught him in our swimming lesson the week before and just to focus on literally keeping his head above water. He only has 300 meters to go, I thought, hopefully the gods of the sea aren’t looking for a handsome land creature to sacrifice today.

Swim

I saw him off, watched his swim cap bob and weave around his first buoy, and then realized I needed to line up, as the Olympic distance was about to start and somehow I’d seeded myself second overall for the swim start. Yikes. I dashed to the front of the pack and found myself clustered with six or seven very fit men, all dressed in sleek black tri suits, black goggles, and with very serious looks on their faces. They were most certainly part dolphin. I felt a little out of place at first as I caught one of the dolphin-men giving me the side eye, but then I realized he’d obviously never seen “The Little Mermaid” – gingers are naturally aquatic, after all.

To make a long story short, the swim was a shit show. The waves were horrific to get through, the current was super strong and pulled tons of people off course, and getting out of the surf back onto the beach was a major struggle. To make matters worse, we had to do the swim loop twice to make our 1500 meters so that meant two bouts of entering and existing the swim through the battering waves. It was awful. I’m fairly sure I batted a few jellyfish, I’m pretty sure I gargled a good chunk of The Gulf, and I’m completely sure that if I wasn’t as confident in the water as I am, I would have given up. I give serious kudos to the weaker swimmers of the group that stuck it out in the swim.

Swim pros: no sharks

Swim cons: everything else.

Swim time: 38:00/ 1500 meter. 2:19 HM

Bike

Shockingly I felt ok enough after the swim to keep going and tackle the bike portion of the race. I took my sweet time in transition and off I went. We had two 12.5 mile out and back loops on a nice flat course and I felt really great starting off. I settled into aero position, had a nice pace of 20 mph going with not too much effort, and I felt good. I saw Mr. Big heading back to finish his 12 mile loop when I was just a couple miles in. Looks like the Sea spared him this time, I chuckled. The rest of the ride was uneventful. The headwind was pretty impressive (18 mph) after the turn around, so on my second loop I decided to push my pace a bit while I had the tail wind, and not fight the headwind on the way back in. I knew my pace would be bad, but overall, legs felt ok, spent 90% of the time in aero position with no problems, and even remembered to drink some water.

Bike pros: no seat pain, legs felt solid, hydration.

Bike cons: the headwind destroyed my pace

Bike time: 1:30.30/ 25 miles, 16.4 mph

Run

This is always the worst part of my race. I was dreading it, but I figured I’d come so far, it was silly not to finish. The run was a 6 mile out and back course. The first 3 miles were literally up hill and into the headwind, but heading back was blissfully downhill with a nice tailwind. Not a bad way to end a race. My chest was struggling during the run, and I was feeling hot and beaten down. I decided to take it easy and allowed more walk breaks than I’d like to admit, but for the girl was questioned even starting the race 4 hours before, I was doing ok.

Run pros: pace was faster than it was 6 weeks earlier in a sprint tri.

Run cons: pure exhaustion

Run time: 1:11.17 /6 miles. 11:53 min/mile

I compared my times to the Olympic I did in 2015 and all of my paces were much faster, which gives me hope for my upcoming 70.3. I plan on putting in some hard time for the next 5 weeks before a quick taper for Oct. 22. Hopefully I can keep the paces dropping.

After the race we hung out at The Hangout (hehe, get it!?) ate some food and had some beer. Mr. Big proclaimed that he 1. Enjoyed himself and 2. Would do another one. (Don’t worry, I’m having his head scanned later this week!!) His times were pretty good for roughly 1.5 weeks of training and he didn’t let the swim beat him down, which I was proud of him for. All in all, we’ll chalk this race up as a success!

Adventures in Bike Maintenance Part 1 (Fail #1)

Earlier this week, in my attempt to become a well-rounded triathlete, I decided that I need to learn some basic bike maintenance. I had a flat tire, so it seemed fitting that changing a tire might be my first try at solo bike maintenance. My friend Brian had given me a tutorial on changing bike tires a couple of years ago, but I never had to utilize my newly learned skills, so unfortunately the knowledge faded over time. I thought a couple of YouTube tutorials would be a sufficient refresher, so I googled “how to change a bike tire video” and memories of the procedure started rushing back to me. I’ve got this! I thought with confidence.

I successfully removed my front tire from the bike (step 1), put it on my table, and started working on popping one side of the tire away from the rim (step 2). Once the side of the tire was off, I extracted the inner tube (step 3). So far so good. I started to feed the new tube into the tire and all of a sudden became completely convinced that the new tube was way too big for the wheel. I checked and recheck and triple-checked the size of the wheel and the tube and they said they matched, but it really didn’t look it. I decided to call to my professional cyclist friend, Terry, and ask him about my concern, and he assured me that the tube would indeed fit the wheel and to keep going. So I did.

I fed the new inner tube into the tire (step 4), and then began the task of feeding the tire back into the rim of tire (step 5). After much pulling, pushing, straining, sweating, and swearing, I had successfully got the tire back onto the wheel and BAM! I had changed a tire!!

Feeling like a complete bad ass, I placed the tire back onto the bike and began to inflate the tube. Damn, I’m good, I thought to myself, I’m a like real bike mechanic, look at me go! I was pumping away on my bike pump, basking in my awesomeness, when BOOM! The inner tube exploded inside my tire and my bubble of inflated self-confidence burst all over the floor.

Well, shit.

So back to the sports store I went. I bought another inner tube, I successfully installed it, and I was careful not to celebrate my victory to early this time.

But hey, I got some good tire changing practice. Maybe I’ll make a YouTube tutorial of my own one day 🙂

August’s Training Schedule (on my wall)

I’m a visual person.  I like lists, I like calendars, I like being able to cross-off items,  and I love when things are color-coded.  I’ve made a few training schedules in the past, both on paper and electronically, and I’ve never really stuck to them.  So, I decided I needed to do something different while training for my upcoming 70.3 in October. 

I decided to go big! Literally…

I decided to paint a chalkboard on one of the walls by my side door, the door I use on a day-to-day basis, and put a massive training calendar on it.  It’s color-coded, it’s organized, I can check things off, it’s a Type A Triathlete’s dream!

So far I love it, and I feel like it’s large and central presence will be a big motivator for me.  And I guess if it doesn’t work, I’ll have room to make a very long grocery list 🤣

Bring It To The Bay race report

I did it, and it was painful, but I did it.  And it was fun!

As you may have noticed, triathlons have taken a serious backseat recently to pretty much everything else in my life.  My new goal for myself is to stop making excuses about/for/regarding all kind of things, including myself.  Give reasons, yes, but not excuses.

So as part of my effort to get my shit together grow and progress personally, I’m getting back into triathlons.  I signed up for the New Orleans 70.3 this coming October, so I thought it best to ease back into triathlons with some smaller races over the next few months before the main event.

The Bring It To The Bay triathlon is a sprint triathlon held in Bay St. Louis, MS.  It is an 800 meter swim, 14.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.  It seemed like a good race to get my feet wet again, both literally and figuratively.  I wavered back and forth on whether to sign up and finally decided to stop making excuses, and the day before the race and signed up.  I’m glad I did!

At 4:30 am I loaded up Scarlet (the bike), my gear, and Mr. Big (my cheering squad) into the truck and off we went.  The race was at a great location.  Bay St. Louis is a cute town, an easy commute from New Orleans for me, and boasts a nice beach backdrop to race along.

Pre-race stuff was pretty usual.  Found my spot, set up my stuff, realized my bike tire was flat (oopps!), realized I forgot my pump (double ooooppps!), borrowed a pump off a handsome man with a nice accent, inflated my tire, and prayed that it wouldn’t immediately deflate again (it was fine).  I made some friends at the swim start while we were waiting our turn to start and got some good info on local tri clubs that I want to look into.  Then it was go time!

Swim:

The swim was an 800 m open water swim in the gulf, which was the first time I’d done an open water swim since Lake Ponchatrain in my last 70.3 two and a half years ago. The water was very shallow so it ended up being a 300-ish meter walk/run out through the water before it was really possible to start swimming.  This shallow-water-ocean-jog looks super slick on Baywatch, but turns out it’s actually quite hard on the legs, so much so that I was relieved to actually start swimming.  I passed a ton of people on the swim, and had a respectable swim time of 14 mins (my watch had me at 12 mins, but I’m not sure where the transition cut off was), so I’m happy with that performance overall.

Lining up for the swim start.

The running out of the water

Bike:
The bike route was a flat out-and-back 14.5 miles along the shoreline.  My bike portion was basically just “Ok”.  Nothing great, nothing bad.  I was averaging about 18 mph on the way out, and then hit a bit of a head wind on the way back and dropped to a 16 mph average.  Overall, I finished with a 16.9 mph average speed for the 14.5 mile split, which is obviously like to improve upon, but I consider it a decent baseline to build on.  Plus, I even spent some time down on the aerobars, which I still find terrifying, so I’ll consider that a personal win!

Off I go!

Approaching transition


Run:
By this point, it was HOT.  I mean, to be fair, it was the middle of July on the Gulf Coast, I didn’t expect it to cool, but after that bike ride I was feeling particularly toasty.  My legs were completely busted when I took off on the run so I walked for a couple of minutes at first.  Mr. Big was waiting for me about a quarter-mile into the run and after hearing such as encouraging words from him as, “Hurry up, I’m getting hungry, I’m ready to go get breakfast,” I decided to pick up the pace a bit and broke into a trot.  The run ended up being not that bad. I intervalled it, but ended up with a 12 minute mile pace, which I decided was acceptable for this event.

Toasty ginger

Overall, I felt satisfied with the race.  My times weren’t great, but I had done so little training approaching this race, that I actually performed better than I expected to.  It definitely lit a fire under me and has me feeling very motivated to get my training schedule organized and get to work.  October will be here before I know it!