Some Things I Saw at LKN Sprint

08/29/2011

I will begin by clarifying that I am no professional bike rider; however, I do know a thing or two about riding a bike.  I’m not sure if the race this weekend had more novice’s in it because it used to be a 2-day event with a specific novice day on Sunday or if I’m just not paying as close attention as I was paying this weekend at the race, but I saw lots of interesting stuff out there on the bike course.  Some I had to chuckle, others my heart just went out to because these people simply didn’t know better.  We’ve ALL been novice’s one day or another so I get it.  Trust me.  I put my wetsuit on backwards at my first triathlon and got called out by the race announcer!  I get  it.

So here are some general biking tips that I think can help just about any rider in their next race:

1.  First and foremost…use your small chain ring people!! I think I passed no less than 40 men on the bike course absolutely grinding up hills, into the headwind, in their big ring.  Suffering to death.  I passed them like they were stopped…in my small chain ring spinning away.  If your cadence is less than 60 rpms, chances are you’re not in the right gear.  Actually, if your cadence is less than 85-95 (depending on how you ride), then you’re probably not in the right gear.  I don’t know why, but I see this with men in particular…like they think it’s “weak” go to into their small ring.  If you’re a super strong rider, and can power the hills in your big ring, have at it.  But I’m talking the gear grinders who are hardly moving and refuse to lighten the load.  You have two rings on your bike, use ’em!

2.  Aero bars…this is a good one.  What’s even better, coming up on a gear grinder, pushing 55-65 rpms up a monster hills, going no more than 9 mph…in their aero bars.  Aero position loses its effect below about 15-16 mph (I’m sure there’s a very scientific mph to which aero position becomes ineffective, but that’s just my estimate).  So crawling up a hill in your aero position is actually very ineffective.  Sit up, take some gear off your bike, and spin your legs.  Alternatively, get in your aerobars on the flats and downhills.  I saw no less than 10 people on Saturday cruising along on a flat road, on a TT bike, in the upright position!  Why have a fancy TT bike if you’re gonna ride upright?!  Get comfy in those bars and stay!  Practice drinking water, wiping your nose, taking each hand off, and being at ease.  You will see minutes drop from your bike splits, guaranteed.

3.  Drops….for those that don’t have aero bars on their road bike or a fancy TT bike, use your drops!  Same rules apply as aero bars above.  Get comfy in those bad boys!  Using them will take minutes off your bike splits, promise!

4.  Clothing…ok, I understand if it’s one of your first triathlons, you’re probably not going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on new, designer triathlon gear.  However, something more snug than board shorts and a XXL t-shirt is likely your best bet.  Borrower something from a friend, wear something even slightly more fitted….something.  I passed a guy whose shirt kept flailing up into his face because we were riding into the wind.  Poor guy, but come on!

5.  Fuel…this is a good one.  An apple?  Really?  Who eats an apple on their bike?  I don’t even know if this elicits any more discussion.  Advice, anything but an apple.

6.  Lastly…running with your bike holding the seat.  Practice this skill!  Practice with your bike when walking to the race, when leaving the race, anytime when you’re walking with your bike.  I got behind a gentleman running into T2 running with his bike holding his handlebars.  He was weaving all over the place, tripping over his pedals, getting hit in the shin by his pedals….and most importantly, slowing me down 🙂  It’s an easy skill that can take 10-20-even 30 seconds maybe off your transition times in bigger races!

I think that’s all I can come up with.  All of my “mocking” is with ALL my due respect.  Trust me, I get that some people just don’t know….I was a beginner with my wetsuit on backwards at one time too!


LKN Sprint Recap

08/28/2011

So yesterday was the LKN Sprint which is a fun race to me.  I spent quit a bit of time riding the roads of the bike course training for IM Arizona and when I was a nanny in Cornelius, I worked out at the Lake Norman Y every morning and ran the roads of the run course quite often.  It’s kind of feels like my old “home” up there.

So I was very calm before this race.  No real race day jitters which I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I wasn’t “excited” to race or because it’s a sprint and the distance doesn’t get to me anymore.  Nonetheless, I got up at the ass crack of dawn and headed up there.

The first 400 meters of the swim were awesome!  I was in the lead pack, feeling very strong for once.  I felt very smooth in the water and refused to let the bumping, shoving, waves in the face get to me today.  I knew we only had 750 meters to swim so I was going to try to enjoy it.  We turned the first buoy, all good. We got to the 2nd turn buoy, and all was not that good.  For some reason, I thought this turn was a hard right, not a very gradual right/straight.  I was getting completely beat up at the turn and I was so confused why at the time.  I continued on for a few seconds, look up to sight and was blinded by the sun.  Kept swimming a few more strokes, blinded when sighting.  After about 45 or so seconds, I just stopped in my tracks, looked around, only to find out I was no where near the swim course!  JEEEZZZUUUSS, what the hell is wrong with me and the open water!?  At that point, I was thinking to myself, “well, there goes this race”.  By the time I’d swam myself back on course, I’d added no less than 2 minutes to my time.  Wonderful….as if my regular “on course” swim times aren’t slow enough!  Nonetheless, 16 min 45 sec later (71st, hahah), I was running to transition feeling like a ding dong.  Another “failed” swim.

All good through transition, and onto the bike.  Normally I’m thinking “ok, the race starts now” when I exit the water but I honestly didn’t think that today because I assumed a 16+ minute swim would completely take me out of contention for even an AG position.  So I plodded along on my steed…the first 5 or so miles are on a great road in Davidson that was recently paved and Irene’s winds were at our backs.  I averaged 26.4mph for that stretch….it was fun!!  We took a right and not only did the hills kick in, we also turned into a nice headwind provided by Ms. Irene.  That was interesting.  I passed so many people who were really suffering – SO many of them I wanted to give suggestions on how they could easily reduce their suffering.  That’s the next blog topic.  So, 17 miles goes by pretty quick.  47:53 later (21.3mph / 3rd) I was back in transition.  Stephanie Hucko, you are one strong little rider!

I got behind a knucklehead who didn’t know how to run with his bike headed in so after getting frustrated with him and doing my best to get around him, all else in transition went ok.  Struggled a bit with one of my racing flats but nothing too detrimental.  10-15 seconds lost.

The run went great!  I made my way up the hill from transition and knowing this course, planned to hit my threshold heart rate (around 185) and hold it.  My threshold heart rate equates to a 6:45/mile pace as determined by my blood lactate testing, so that was the goal.  I passed about 50 men on this run but never saw any girls.  I assumed the fast ones in my AG were probably a few minutes ahead of me at this point after my lousy swim.  I just kept plodding along but I will say it’s tough to be out there racing the men.  I think that’s how I know I need to step into Open next year – cause even though I’m gonna get pummeled in the water for a while, I’m hoping it’ll make me faster and I’ll actually be “racing” those that I’m truly competing against.  Nonetheless, I continued to run…there are a few rollers that made me definitely want to slow down but all miles kept ticking off at 6:40, 6:38 and 6:34…woooo hooooo!!  I ran a 20:39 (6:38/mile pace), a 5k PR and I’m excited.  I was the 3rd run split of the day which is slowly improving for me.  I’ve always been 7-10th, usually.  It feels good to be getting faster.

So I ended up coming across the line as the announcer said “and we have our 4th female finisher of the day and the 30-34 1st place female” so I was somewhat shocked.  I figured my swim would completely destroy me of any chance of a good finish.  Sweet!

Lesson learned…know the swim course.  Funny thing is, of all the swim courses in the series, I should know this one the best since they do the practice swims there every other week and I used to do those pretty often. I haven’t been in Charlotte without a race for one of them this year and now I’m wishing I had.  Only 40 seconds behind the 3rd female which coulda been my mishap in the water.  Oh well, that’s racing!


Stop the Music

08/25/2011

My volume has been pretty light this week recovering from Nationals and was pretty light last week tapering, so needless to say, I feel….like a whale.  🙂  I feel rested too but I am definitely looking forward a normal, intense week of training next week.  Right Stacey?  😉  

Speaking of Stacey, I have thought of her an awful lot for the last 10 days or so.  After dealing with injury on and off for many years, Stacey raced her last triathlon as a professional  at Steelehead 70.3 in Michigan two weeks ago.  Post race (and a lot of pain later) her MRI results showed that she has ruptured her posterial tibial tendon, her plantar fascia is compromised, and that her Achilles is full of scar tissue.  My amazing coach, and pretty much the best triathlete in North and South Carolina, will undergo reconstructive foot surgery tomorrow in Chapel Hill tomorrow…and it has struck a cord deep inside me.  

Not only have I spent hours thinking about what she’s going through physically, I have spent more time putting myself in her shoes.  Several times during Nationals, I thought about her telling me “fast leg turn over” while running and “you are a good swimmer” in the water, but I have also spent a lot of time thinking “what if I was forced to stop?”  At this point, I truly cannot fathom.  My heart hurts for what she is going through.    

In the matter of about 3 years, triathlon has taken my life by storm…and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Between my own training, coaching, teaching spin class, and bike racing, pretty much all my free time is consumed with this sport, in one way or another.  My love for coaching is a very close 2nd to my love for my training.  At this point in my racing career though, if push came to shove, I would have to give up my coaching first.  I love to race too much and I love to train just as much!  I look forward to probably 9.9 workouts out of 10 – and that is not an exaggeration.  Yes, they are hard… but they are also fun.  I realize it’s a different kind of fun that not everyone understands, but it’s fun for me and that’s what counts.  

But what if that got swept out from under me??  

Throughout this week, I have concluded that it will almost definitely take something similar to Stacey’s injury to make me quit.  Perhaps one day I will have children and I will be ready or “forced” to slow down a little and I’m prepared for that, but at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever stop completely…unless I was forced.   One of the coolest things about Stacey is that she is a mom of two and has been kicking ass in the triathlon circuit – both as a local athlete and a professional – for a long time.  Lots of women race post children, but not all bounce back to get their pro card post children.  How cool is that?!

So as Stacey prepares for not only a painful surgery tomorrow morning and a long recovery ahead, I can’t help but feel so very sad for her, but also thankful for being healthy and injury free myself.  Nationals kicked off my 8-week long race schedule and I am beyond grateful to be in a place in my life that I am able to do what I love as often as I chose.  I am hopeful one day my life will be much different and I’m prepared to shift my my priorities accordingly, but for now, I am going to enjoy every single minute of what I am capable of.  Seeing someone stripped of something they love (that you also share a love for) has opened my eyes immensely.  I will bask just a little more in my “successes” knowing that they could be taken away from me as quickly as they came into my life.  I will be more thankful for my health and appreciative of recovery and rest.  Most of all, I will continue to have fun….because you never know when the music might stop.  

I am thinking about you Stacey and wish you an uneventful surgery and a super speedy recovery small fry!  XO


AG Nationals in a Nutshell

08/21/2011

Alright, here it is.  The skinny on my race.

Day before, disaster as you know.  But I made it and I got my packet and I was able to race!!

Given I had to be out of transition at 7:30, but still had to actually locate the race site, find the information tent (not an easy feat!), get my packet, set up transition, and get to the swim start – the morning was a bit hectic.  I got up at 5:20, took my shower as usual, had my breakfast and we were on the road.  I felt ready to race, albeit “behind” and unfamiliar with the race site, and honestly, a little stiff.

The actual “closest call” of the weekend ended up being as I picked up my bag to leave transition and head to the swim start.  All my gear was laid out meticulously, set up and I was ready to go.  There was a plastic bag sticking out of the pocket on my bag and as I went to stuff it back in my pocket, I felt my PEDALS for my bike that had been removed for bike transport!!!  Can.  You.  Imagine….if I ran into transition and went to hop on to my bike to find no pedals to clip in to?!  Holy crap.  Bike support put those puppies on for me and I was officially ready to race.

My swim start was a 8:15am, the 14th swim wave.  We swam in beautiful Lake Champlain.  It was a great 72/73 degrees and very clean!  I lined up in the center of the pack, front line, and was ready to swim MY race for once and try to find some fast feet to hang on to.  The swim course had us swim about 150 meters straight out to the first turn buoy then hooked a hard right.  The “funnel” effect where everyone merges to the center to round the buoy made my line up in the center a big mistake.  It got ROUGH at the buoy, had my head dunked, all that good stuff that happens during open water swimming.  Nonetheless, we made the turn, all was good and straight for a while.  I was breathing solely to right which was ok given the direction the water was hitting us at this point.  The next 500 meters or so were fairly uneventful but the fast girls were definitely pulling away by this point.  The second turn was another hard right which turned us directly into the sun.  Breathing on the right, the waves were hitting me right in the face.  I took in no less than 10 enormous gulps of water during the next 400 or so meters.  A boat flew by right around this point so we got to taste its gasoline and feel its waves moments later.  I actually felt sea sick for a few seconds.  After that 2nd hard right, it was ROUGH, there’s not better way to put it.  I kept finding myself to the left of the pack.  I’d swim a few strokes aiming to get back in the slipstream but never seemed to be able to get there.  The 25-29 year old men who started 4 minutes behind us were catching us by now and we had caught some of the wave in front of us so the water was just choppy.  I desperately needed to be in the slipstream, but seriously couldn’t get in there.  We proceeded forward, a hard left turn, uneventful, proceeded through the “rock barrier” and to the finish….all uneventful.  Saw 28.55 when I stood up and though than still does suck, I had to be pleased.  I didn’t swim a good line, certianly added 75-100 meters on by my HUGE sweeping left turn but my goal was to at least swim sub 30 and I did.  I know I have SO much improvement to do swimming before Worlds, but I have to start somewhere.

Exiting the water

Dawn was instructed to notify me of “less than 20” or “more than 30 / 40 girls” with blue caps that had exited the water in front of me.  I heard her usual awesome loud cheering and “more than 40” as I exited the water.  Despite being pleased with my (still-not-fast) sub 30 min swim, per usual, I had some ground to make up.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy given this was a National competition. We’re not in Charlotte anymore Todo, I literally thought to myself!

 I did my best to not let my lackluster swim get to me, as it usually does. I have faith in my riding legs, if nothing at all and I literally pep-talked myself out of transition that all my riding would pay off today.  Transition went perfect, nothing to report here and I was out in just over 1 min.  On the road!

The bike course, per Tom (my One2Tri Racing teammate) was “flat with one or two small rolling hills early on”.  I would not agree.  I thought the climbs were pretty steep for the first few miles, and a few longer graduals.  What made the bike course tough though was the WIND!   The road surface was also total crap and I saw at least 20 people with flats on the side of the road.  The ONLY good part about being a sucky swimmer is passing people on your bike.  I must have passed 250 people, about 12-15 girls in my age group!!  The back half of this course was fast as hell and I was hauling some serious booty headed back in with HR sitting nicely in zone 2-3- sweet!  The most disappointing part of the whole race is that my legs never really “woke up” for the first 18-20 miles of the ride.  I felt sluggish and almost just tired.  I usually get on my bike and within 5-8 minutes, I’m ready.  I feel it, grab a hard gear and take off.  Traveling?  Perhaps a factor.

T2 also went off without much hitch, other than blazing past my little “area” by 5-10 feet but nothing to detrimental.  I took a one second glance to assess the amount of bikes in the 1400 #’s area…25-30 was my quick glance assessment.  I still had some ground to make up.  

I headed out to run which actually felt good!  My legs just felt like they wanted to stretch the whole time I rode.  Immediately out of transition was a HUGE, I mean .40 mile, 15-20% grade climb.  It sucked so bad.  The hill was absolute carnage.  I was please for my first mile to be 7:55 given this hill.  I was 1 of 2 people around me, of about 30 or so in the vicinity to be actually “jogging” by the time we reached the top.  The course was then flat for a while….loooong flats, where you can see forever and it seems like there’s never a turn.  I felt just “ok”.  A 31 year old girl that ran out of transition in front of me, took off a little during mile 2 but I refused to let that bother me.  I planned to just run my pace and, for some reason, knew she would fade.  By mile 2, I started to get the “oh wow, I have 4+ more miles at this pace, I don’t know if I can do it”.  My energy was low.  I took in my “emergency gel” praying that it would give me the boost I needed to get through the rest of the 6.2 mile run.  

Getting an idea of the hill – pix don’t do it justice

The worst part of my run was the man who ran on my heals for 5 miles (the way that the pros do it).  It is so mentally challenging to hear someones foot steps so close, breathing in your ear, feeling them behind you.  I felt so confused at to why this man wanted to “get in the head” of someone he wasn’t even competing against and it was so very hard to not let it get to me.  The run took some turns and we headed back on a gorgeous shaded path.  I kept a nice pace, picked off 2 girls in my AG at some points during that time.  I was truly exhausted though.  I had zero energy, zero pep in my step but I kept plugging along thinking of my coach, my sister at the finish line and my athletes.  I would not let another race defeat me.  

I am making huge strides on the mental side of this sport and this race proved to be probably my biggest stride. I wanted to walk SO SO SO badly.  I was totally out of gas after mile 5 but I dug harder than I’ve ever dug before.  I had passed the girl who took off early on and I was reeling in another girl in my age group.  The guy on my heals continued to annoy the crap out of me, but honestly kept me going in a way.  I hated him, but thank him now.  🙂  The finishing shoot was long and I felt like I gave it the biggest kick I could….then I saw the video my sister took of me and it looks like I’m crawling!  I knew I had recently passed two girls in my age group ans I refused to let them out-kick me at the finish.  I thought of the final sprint in bike racing and decided to make this equal to that pain.  It was.  I nearly collapsed as I crossed the finish line, made my way to the grass, and laid down. 

So, general thoughts are, I bonked, hard.  Or did the day prior really take a toll on my performance?  I guess I’ll never know!  What I do know is I was mentally strong enough to keep it together.  I am proud of that.  I also ran my 10k PR by 15 seconds (43:53) – stand alone and triathlon included.  I swam sub 30 which was my goal.  I crushed the bike course (22mph average) but did not crush my legs, they were never really “there” to crush.  Though not comparable on courses, I PR’d this distance by over 2 minutes.  I have to be pleased.
Registering for WORLDS!!!!

But, I have SO much room to improve and I realize that and races like these against the “big girls” fuel my desires to continue to train hard and perform well.  The most amazing part about the whole journey was the conclusion.  Despite not ever feeling strong, I was able to nab a spot racing for TEAM USA at WORLDS in October 2012!!  I’m going to New Zealand – a once in a lifetime opportunity!!!  I’m not sure anything could be more exciting!

Check back for some race photos this week!  I hope everyone had a great weekend of training or racing!  Now I sit again, with another delayed flight, another missed connection, likely a night in DC, a flight to Cincinnati and then to Charlotte…by tomorrow evening.  Clearly I used every bit of potential luck I might have to grab a Worlds spot this weekend.  Traveling has not been in my corner.   


The “Perfect Race”…Not So Much.

08/19/2011

One of the missing elements of the perfect race that went without mention yesterday was travel hiccups!

Well, for those that know me, know I don’t always have the best of luck… particularly with traveling.  If a flight is delayed, it’s usually mine.  If a flight is cancelled, it’s probably mine.

Well today proved no different and I’ve already learned a huge lesson for future races.  My wonderful mother was amazing enough to book my and Dawn’s flights for us.  Unable to see our itinerary online without a confirmation number and mom unable to locate the confirmation, we were unable to see even what airline we were booked on.  As a result, I was a little stressed this morning wanting to get to the airport in time.  We knew we were on a 10:15 flight, just weren’t exactly sure what airline.  Ooops.

So, we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, quickly got to the United desk and found our flight with ease.  Phfew.  As we continued at the kiosk printing our passes, we were notified that “your departing flight to DC is delayed and you will in turn miss your connection.”  After waiting 15 minutes while the putz behind the United desk punched away on his keyboard (think Meet the Fockers) giving no head nods, smiles, nothing, we were notified that the next available flight gets in to Burlington at 10:30pm!!?

Given that packet pickup ends at 6pm and USAT is typically extremely strict on their times, policies and rules,  10:30pm obviously didn’t work.  So as the putz behind the desk just stands there staring at Dawn and I, we immediately start asking for surrounding airports and such that might get us in earlier.  Said putz behind the desk truly earns his name when he just blankly stares at us with no suggestions of potential alternative options.  So, luckily for Blackberry’s and Iphones, we frantically google and discover Boston is only 4 hours from our destination.

The Boston flight is due to leave at 11:30 with an arrival at 1:45pm giving us exactly 4:15 to de-board the plane, pick up our car, and drive the 4 hours to Burlington.  Pretty tight, but feasible.

At this point, our Boston flight is delayed till noon, not getting in till 2:15, thus nearly eliminating any chances to make it to packet pickup by 6pm.

My amazing sister tracked down 4 different people with USAT until she tracked down someone who told me if I can get to the Information tent by 5:30 am tomorrow morning, I should be allowed to get my packet then.  It will make for an extremely stressful pre-race morning, but at this point, I will be happy if I am able to race at all!

Lesson learned:  Don’t fly in the day before a big race.  Plain and simple.  Going forward, I will be sure to leave myself a cushion when traveling to these A races. The airlines are just too unpredictable and the additional stress of such situations are not conducive to pre-race relaxation and recovery.

I will keep my followers posted on if / when we make it to Burlington and at this point, given the stress of today, I’m hoping to fair ok tomorrow.  Wish me luck!!


The “Perfect Race”?

08/18/2011

I would like to know if anyone that reads this blog believes in the perfectly executed race?  A race where every discipline and transition goes exactly as planned?  I guess that would require people to actually reads this blog too.  🙂

Take for instance, your best race (time wise) from this season.  Maybe you walked away with a PR and some hardware, maybe you felt the strongest you’ve ever felt running off your bike, maybe you had the fastest bike split of the day!  Don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome!  However, in hindsight, did everything really go as planned?  Did you drop your gel coming out of T2 and have to pick it up?  Did you run into the wrong row in T1 or fumble around with your bike trying to get it off the rack?  Did you run out of T1 while steering your bike with both hands on your handlebars cause you “don’t know how” to steer your bike with only one hand on the seat?  All of these, and many many more, should be considered in your response to the perfect race.  Chances are, the answer is no!  Join the club.  🙂

Perfect and racing, in my opinion, don’t typically go together.  Let’s be honest, perfect and LIFE don’t all too often go together – there’s always hiccups.  I’d venture to say that even most seasoned racers, and probably the pros, would completely agree.  That’s how triathlon gets people hooked!

The sport is a constant challenge which drives us type A athletes to improve!  We train hard day in and day out for the physical aspect of triathlon – we swim meters upon meters, run endless miles and ride our bikes till our butt’s hurt – but what we all so often forget is the 4th discipline of triathlon…transition!  I’m guilty of it myself.  Who wants to spend 30 minutes of their precious time looking like a total geek with a mock transition area set up running in and out taking on and off your shoes??

Truth is, spending just 30 minutes practicing your transitions can make a huge impact on your race.  I have hosted a few transition clinics and they have always gotten very receptive feedback.  Taking the time to teach someone how to transition, seems silly.  Run out of the water, put your crap on, and go.  Hang up your bike, change your shoes, and go.  But when you start talking with less experienced triathletes, transition is typically the one of the most stressful concerns, second to the swim.  30 minutes of practice can make a world of difference, as I have seen with my very own eyes!

Transition aside, I still think it’s pretty tough to say a race was 100% perfectly executed, unless you’re like Chrissie Wellington or the likes.  However, I think we all owe it to ourselves to spend 30 minutes to potentially eliminate some of the most petty reasons that races don’t go 100% according to plan.   Let’s be honest, we’ve ALL had the man-if-only-I-went-30-sec-faster-in-T1-I-coulda-placed-4-places-better moments.

Here’s to more perfect races in your future!

T-1 day till Nationals!


Schedule of Upcoming Events

08/17/2011

I have a lot on my plate coming up and its no wonder I’m starting to feel a little stressed.  I’m not exactly sure how my race schedule ended up getting quite so packed this late in the season but at this point, I’m in head first and I plan to take it one day, one week and one race at a time!

This is what my next two months will look like:

August 20 – AG Nationals – Burlington, VA – Olympic distance triathlon

August 28 – LKN Sprint – Cornelius, NV – Sprint distance triathlon

September 10 – Brenner Pro Am – Winston Salem, NC – Crit race

September 11 – Carolina Cup – Greensboro, NC –  Crit race

September 24 & 25 – MS 150 – Century Ride and 50-100 (TBD) mile ride

October 1&2 – Pinehurst Olympic & Sprint (TBD) – Pinehurst, NC – Olympic & Sprint distance traithlons

October 8 – Half Max Nationals – Myrtle Beach, NC – Half Iron distance triathlon

No, all of these are not “races” and not all of these are “A” races per say, which is how I’m gearing up to handle this schedule.  I plan to race hard when necessary, and enjoy the other events and my weekends home resting.  No doubt there is a looming pressure to perform, which primarily comes from pressure I put on myself.  Several races on my schedule take priority for various reasons.

AG Nat’s – important for obvious reasons.  This is a big national race and there are women coming from all over the country who are very very talented.  There is also the opportunity to qualify for Team USA!! I want to perform well, and given how my training has been going, I feel that that is possible.  I have no real expectations because I don’t know any of the competition, nor the course, so I plan to race hard and see how I fair.  I plan to try to focus on my own race.  If I have a “perfectly” executed race (is there really such a thing as a perfectly executed race?) and feel strong all day, and come home with a 50th place in my AG, I am going to try my best to feel good regardless.  I will admit though, that’d be a tough pill to swallow!

LKN Sprint – I typically would never consider a sprint race an “A” race but the circumstances around this are unique.  Right now, I am 2nd in the NC triathlon series (click) and the 3rd place girl is right on my tail!  The series keeps your 5 best races and Cool Breeze and White Lake Sprint (*) are bringing me down right now.  At this point, there’s no way I can beat Tanya so it’s truly a race for 2nd!

* Notes:  The entire Navy Triathlon team showed up at Cool Breeze (a.k.a COLD Breeze) and my “easy points race” turned into a 9th place overall finish.  Given there was only one girl from Charlotte in the rankings ahead of me, so had the Navy team stayed parked in Annapolis, a solid 2nd place finish would have been great for my points.  Grrrr.  Despite having a good race at White Lake, the bike course is too flat for me to gain any of my usual lost time out of the water, so my 11th overall finish was also sub-par and weighing me down.

Nonetheless, I’ll be gunning for a good, solid race at LKN in order to hopefully hold my position in the series, thus making it a more important race than it normally would be.  The LKN race on Sunday in 2009 was also my first triathlon victory ever!!

Pinehurst Olympic – This race is also important, particularly once the results of LKN are determined.  Pinehurst is a good course for me bike-wise so hopefully I will feel strong and have fast legs that day for a strong run.  I’m still deciding if I’ll double up and do the sprint on Sunday since I’ll already be down there.

Half Max Nationals – It goes without saying, anything with “nationals” in its name is likely an important and competitive race.  This will be my first half of the season and my first race of any length since Augusta in September 2010.  I’m excited to see how my running has progressed in the past year.  The year long break from long-course training has been a huge breath of fresh air for me and (exactly as I hoped / knew would happen) I’m itching for some distance in my life!  It’s so hard to force yourself to step back from time to time, but in the long run (no pun intended), it’s the best thing you can do!!

So, wish me luck as I embark on a crazy few weeks of racing.  It will be Thanksgiving before we know it and this crazy season will have come to an end.  In the meantime, I set out to post some solid results, create awesome memories of racing and traveling with family and friends, and continue to learn about my strengths and limits!

First up, Age Group Nationals!  T-2 days.