Friday, April 22, 2011

NOLA 70.3…err 69.1…Race Report

Sometime at the end of the last season I got the crazy idea that I wanted to race New Orleans 70.3. As I saw it, nothing better than a good 70.3 in a city that knows how to throw a post-race party. Luckily I found 10 friends who saw things the same as I; so off we headed to the Big Easy.

Going into this race, as the first of my season, like everyone I had hopes and goals; some for this race in particular and some for the season in general. Life has been crazy in the past 6 months, and a lot of my focus has been away from triathlon. With that said, I knew I was feeling good in my training and could tell in the last few weeks leading up to the race that I was peaking. Imagine that; the training plan works…. So I set my race goal to qualify for 70.3 Worlds without having to get a roll down spot (ie Top 3), and my season goal to win my age group at a major triathlon. I didn't tell anyone my goal to win my AG, not even my coach. Sometimes I like to keep my personal goals to myself. I had won my AG a few times at smaller events, but never at a BIG race. I figured since I was aging up, it was go time!

"Who wants to swim in that nasty lake anyway?"

In case you didn't hear, the swim was cancelled. Can't say I was too disappointed. We had checked out the lake the day prior, and it was nasty; like Tempe Town Lake nasty. It was cancelled due to high winds making unsafe conditions for both the athletes and support crew. They could not even place the buoys! Good call on the WTC's part.

So we all stood around trying to figure out what was going to happen. Here is where I learned my biggest lesson of the day. From now on I will always take extra food and warm clothes. We ended up starting about an hour later than our scheduled wave times, and I ended up starving. Luckily Angie saved the day with her huge bag of peanut butter filled pretzels. Plus the temps were a lot cooler out at the lake than in town, so I froze for a good 2 hours. Couldn't even go out and do a warm-up run as they closed transition, with the athletes in it. Lines for the porta-potties were well over an hour long!

Finally they were announcing the plan was to do a TT style start by wave. I was unsure how to best approach it, so I cruised over to watch how the pros would handle the start. As the majority began with bike shoes on their feet, ran to the mount line, hoped on their bike and took off, I figured that was the way to go. Before long they were lining up my wave to get out on the bike course.

"This is stupid! I can't NOT draft!"
In the end they had us line up two-by-two going out the bike-out. We were sent off in 3 second intervals and I was about 10 pairs back in the wave. I looked out toward the mount line and it was jammed up with people trying to figure out how to get on their bike. Realized there is no rule about mounting a good bit past the mount line, so when it was time for me to go I ran out hard, passed the mount line into the clear, jumped onto Speedracer and off I went.

We started off with a strong tail wind. Made me feel like a superstar as my speed was high and I was flying by people. I was able to pass a bunch of girls in my AG the first 5 miles. All of a sudden we made a u-turn and bam! the headwind hit. Yep that same wind that made it unsafe to swim, added a whole new challenge to the bike. It seemed like 75% of the race was straight into the wind and the rest was had a nasty cross wind. I actually felt sorry for people rolling discs. If I had been, I'm pretty sure I would have been blown into another state. I knew with a headwind like that I had to be sure to stick to the power and heart rate goals Lesley and I had set, or else I would cook myself and not be able to run, let alone have a good run. Just got into aero, put my head down and started grinding out the miles. Let two girls in my AG pass me; just told myself it's a long day and you never know what will happen.

The course was super flat and quite narrow (and boring!), which lead to a lot of drafting. All of the young AG guys started behind me, so I knew it was just a matter of time before they caught me. About mile 15 they began coming in packs. You would have thought it was the Tour de France. Really packs of 15-20 guys flying by. At first I tried my best to not draft, but after I while I realized it was futile. There was no clear road to go to. So I switched my focus to drafting as little as possible. I can't even imagine how the race officials could enforce the drafting rules. All I know is I saw no one in the penalty tents, and pretty much we all deserved to be there! They say Clearwater was bad, but I saw nothing like this draft-fest last November.

Finally the last 15 or so miles the roads opened up and I was able to take it back to transition under my own power. The bike flew by for me and before I knew it I was putting Speedracer back on the rack.

"Do you think Coke wants to sponsor me?"
Off on the run I went. My legs felt heavy but not too bad. Within the first 1/2 mile I came upon a girl in my AG. I gave her words of encouragement as I ran past, but she did not look like she was going to have a very good run. Ouch! Unfortunately about a quarter mile later I began to cramp. My medial quads always cramp about a mile into the run. Not convinced it is a salt thing. For me I think it is a electrolyte, hydration, fatigue combo thing. I did what I always do; a couple of salt tabs, a bunch of water and a little conversation with the quads. Luckily this time the cramps eased for the remainder of the run.

I really enjoyed this 70.3 run. The majority of it was in a very pretty city park with wide tree lined streets. Like the ride, it was totally flat, which I was not complaining about for sure. I build into the run in the first few miles and then settled into my pace. At first I was not paying too much attention to my competition, as I was dealing with the cramping issue. Then I realized it was time to start trying to get some calories into me, as I had not met my goals on the bike. A friend at Honu last year swore Coke was magic. I tried it a bit at Worlds, but only a few sips for fear it would make me sick. For some reason it just sounded really good, which is crazy as I never drink soda and usually have a lot to say on the evils of HFCS. I know they say never do anything new on race day, but I grabbed a cup at one of the first aid stations, and I swear in 30 seconds it kicked in and I was a new girl. Ended up fueling the entire run on coke, water and a few shot blocks. It truly IS magic and I am now considering asking them to sponsor me!

About mile 5 I realized I should probably pay attention on the out-and-backs to anyone who may be in my AG, as I did not have anyone out on the course to help out. I must say it is pretty hard to tell what AG people are in from the front; some of those 40+ ladies are looking good! The race induced dementia doesn't help either. Luckily at this point there were very few ladies out on the run course with me. I spotted one girl ahead of me whos jersey I recognized from the bike when she passed me. I slowly made my way up to overtake her. Figured I was gaining on her at my current pace, so no need to blow up at mile 6 for the pass. Also no idea how many more girls were ahead, so I needed to reserve some energy.

This was also about the same time I spotted Greg "The Commander" Garrison a bit ahead of me. If you know Greg, you will understand how much fun it was going to be for me to drop him. If you don't know Greg, well I just can't explain. Let me just say Greg and I are actually friends and were hanging out with the same group the entire time in NOLA, but this was going to be SO much fun! Once again I realized it was not worth blowing up for, but I knew if I just kept up a steady pace I could overtake him. Slowly but surely I made my way up to him, and at mile 10 I caught him. Unfortunately that was right when he decided to stop and walk a bit to ease his cramps, so it was not quite as fun as I had anticipated, but still….

Miles 11-12.5 took us out of the park and down towards the French Quarter. I had a plan to pick it up just bit when I hit this street. The plan would have worked beautifully, except for the fact that the street was super rough and uneven. I was having enough trouble keeping myself going in the forward direction at this point, let alone dealing with cracks, potholes and other road obstacles. My mind was taken off of this as I was passing a guy right in front of a race photographer. He yells out to her, "I'm going to kill you if you take a picture of me getting passed by a girl for all my friends to see!" She yells back, "I took two and just posted them on Facebook!" I was cracking up!

The last bit of the run took us straight into the French Quarter with the finish in front of Jackson Square. It was great as it was lined by cheering spectators, a lot I'm sure were tourists who got tangled up in this crazy race. As I was trying to look for the finish a guy yells out, "You better hurry. She's right behind you!" Now I have no idea if he was talking to me or what was going on, but you better believe I took off. Heart rate maxed out and I was not seeing straight. Gave it all I had left until I crossed the finishline.

I didn't know anyone at the finish, so I wandered off to get my gear bag, as I was expecting a special call from someone tracking me from far away. Got my bag and the call came in. The cliffnotes version is:
Special Caller: "Wow! You're superfast"
Me: "I had a good day"
SC: "Yeah but you rode x:xx and then ran x:xx"
Me: "You could do that too. You did a lot of my training with me."
SC: "But you won your AG!"
Me: "What?"
SC: "You won. I have it here on Athlete Tracker"
Me: "What? F%#@. Your kidding. Are you sure? &*$#!"
For some reason having no glucose going to my brain makes me have a really bad potty mouth.

Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would be able to accomplish both of my goals in my first race of the season. It was super sweet to be able to share the day with a bunch of good friends and party the night away! OK I admit I didn't make it out too late.

Not too sure I would hurry back to do this race again, but is defiantly one I am glad I did. Vegas here I come!


bex said...

I', too, wasn't disappointed in the no-swim "triathlon." I did, however, sneak out for a 2 mile "warm up" run on the "beach" before my wave start.

Great race to you - you KILLED IT :)

I really enjoyed the course and plan to go back again!! I missed out on most of the tcsd activities though :(

idropboys said...

Congrats!!!! Rockstar!

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

So what I address should I send Greg's get well card to? Hee Hee Hee! Nice job chica. Amazing performance. Such a treat to read your race report.