This was a fun local race right around the corner from me. It was offering $1250 to each male and female winner of both the 5k and 10k races. What did I have to lose since it was going to be part of my long training day! Well, I should have known that $1250 would bring lots of amazing runners out to race. I decided race morning that I was only going to run the 5k. I had been putting in some pretty hard runs in training and racing over the past few weeks so I though a quick 5k might be some nice relief. I got smoked…the winner was a Kenyan champion in the time of 16:23. I ran an 18:51 which was a PR for me (6:04/mile). Even with a decent time like that, I only placed 5th in my AG and was the 6th female overall. But I was happy with my performance and then continued the day with a long training day with Matt Russell – a 70 mile bike ride and an open water swim. Nice little Saturday.
Both Matt Russell (a Pro from my hometown) and I traveled to Tucson to compete in the USAT National Duathlon Championship. My age group was stacked with girls names I had seen on the 70.3 World Championship roster. I had only ever done one local Houston duathlon so I wasn’t quite sure I was going to fare at elevation, against some amazingly talented girls and competing for a spot on Team USA for World Championships in Spain in September. This race consisted of a 5k run, a 35k bike and a 5k run.
A few days before the race, we ran and rode the course. This was the first time I had ever previewed a course before racing (and would be the start of something that is routine for me now). I thought that I would be very excited about starting off with a run as opposed to a swim, however, starting off with a run is much more difficult than one would think because your legs are already zapped getting on the bike. So, after doing a couple mile pre-race warm up, it was guns up. It was like an all out-sprint from the start. These girls took off! I simply sat back and held my own pace now knowing how I was going to feel getting on the bike.
Coming into T1, I felt pretty good, as I had averaged 6:32/mile. Not super fast, but legs felt warmed up and ready to ride. The ride was a pleasant 2 loop course with a few climbs. I could definitely feel it in my lungs and my mouth was so dry – we were racing in the desert afterall! I kept drinking and drinking but felt like I could never get rid of that dry mouth feeling. My legs were already pretty fired up due to the run, but I managed to maintain 20.8 mph. I know that I am an inexperienced rider and have a lot of work to do, but I never realized what “sprinting” on the bike meant until I saw some of these girls fly.
Coming into T2, I had no idea what place I was in or where I was in relation to others in my AG since it was a mass start for all females. So all I did was take off sprinting again…or what I felt like was sprinting. My mouth was extremely dry, the run course had a long uphill, and it was starting to get very hot. My time slowed significantly during this 5k (7:12/mile), but in the end, everyone’s times were much slower for this 5k. I finished 8th in my AG and did secure a spot to Duathlon World Championships in Spain. I later found out that I had received a 2:00 drafting penalty on the bike, knocking me down to 10th. Now, I am a rule-follower and am disappointed in people who decide to draft during a race when a race marshal is not around so I am not quite sure how this happened.
It was a good day for Matt as he ended up winning the overall men’s title. Post-race, instead of relaxing poolside (which is a pastime favorite of mine), we decided to ride up Mt.Lemmon (yes, on our bikes!). We were only able to make it up to about 7000 ft. elevation and then had to turn around to come down in order to make it back to the award ceremony in time. I enjoyed climbing but coming down was very scary for me, especially since it was so windy and I was on my race wheels. Although Matt had easily “glided” down the mountain on his bike, my knuckles were white and my brake pads were worn out by the time I reached the car. No joke. I guess I need a lot more experience on the bike in order to learn how to corner sharp turns down a mountain at 40+ mph. Racing and then post-race training inTucson was definitely a good experience and I look forward to maybe doing a few more duathlons in the future.
I knew starting the race that there was some competition because I saw one of the girls that competed at the Conoco Phillips 10K with me…a young collegiate runner. I hadn’t done much speed work up to this point so I wasn’t really sure what I would be capable of running. And again, this race was being used as a training race since I had to go ride 75 miles immediately after the race. I felt pretty good during the race, settled into a nice comfortable pace and finished with a personal best 10k. I was 1st in my AG and was the 2nd female overall with a time of 40:31. Well, there are not many races I have done so it is becoming easier to PR each race. And I know that my time was not spectacular but as long as I am improving, I am moving in the right direction. But more importantly, my legs felt great during my long training ride post-race.
The week prior to the race, I had been traveling a lot for work and had been on a plane for 4 days. I knew I was coming down with something. What I didn’t know was that I had bronchitis. A few days before the race, I decided to not go to work and stay home and rest to see if I could shake it, what I thought was simply a cold. Well, needless to say, this did not work. The morning of the swim, I was feeling about the same. I knew I just had to muster whatever I had in me to get through the race (with, again, what I thought was simply a cold). Guns up – cold water and I was off. I was coughing throughout the swim (although I PR’ed in the swim). I was very excited to exit the water and get on the bike to see if I would be feeling any better and my lungs would open up.
The bike course was extremely windy since it was along the seawall of Galveston Bay. As I pedaled, I could hardly breathe (sharp pain radiating though my chest). I kept thinking to myself to stay out of aero as much as possible to see if sitting upright would open up my lungs/oxygen flow. This did not work. The deeper I tried to breathe, the more it hurt. After 56 miles of a sharp pain on my right hand side (lower lobe of my lung), I was off the bike and onto the run.
By this time, it had become very hot and humid. The run became unbearable for me. I found myself walking through aid stations, bending over with my hands on my knees to see if it would help my breathing, etc. I was staying hydrated, I just couldn’t breathe. I wanted to stop so badly but there is not a DNF cell in my body, unless I am 100% physically incapable of finishing. So, because I was hardly able to manage a 10:00/mile pace and had to walk most of it, I ended up running a 2:01 half marathon.
I finished in a punishable 5:33, a performance that would take me to the Emergency Room immediately following the race to get proper treatment. In hindsight, I was 100% physically incapable of even starting this race so lesson learned that if I am ever not feeling well again, I will not even attempt to start the race – it buried me and I was out of training for even a week after Lonestar.
I arrived in San Juan on Wednesday afternoon, as did my father (who came to support me in my first Half Ironman of 2011). Upon arriving at the host hotel (Hilton Caribe), I put my bike together, although my pedal tool got taken by airport security, and went over to the Expo to check in Athlete Check-In. Because I couldn’t get my rear brakes from rubbing on my wheels, I had to take it to the bike mechanic the next morning…he fine tuned up my bike so I was feeling very confident. The weather was extremely warm, sunny & humid. For the next couple of days, I was basically on lock down in my hotel room, with the exception of my morning training runs, afternoon practice swims and evening dinners in Old San Juan.
Saturday race morning came quickly: it was warm but there was some much appreciated cloud cover. I walked over to the transition area to be body marked and set up my stuff around 5:30. My swim wave was not to start until 7:25 a.m. so I went back to hotel to relax for a bit before walking over to swim start. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a plain bagel and a Gu gel; along with some water and EFS sports drink. I was feeling pretty good, especially since I knew the water would be warm.
The swim course was a good course and the water was relatively calm. It wasn’t like any of the other open water swims I have raced in, where I was getting slapped in the face by the waves. I was hoping to swim 35 minutes (considering the amount of time I have been putting in the pool) but unfortunately swam 38 minutes.
Transition was a run along the street, about 500 meters. Got off on my bike and felt great for the first 40 miles or so. I was pushing over 23 mph. Around mile 40, I threw up while on the bike…that was a first!! I think it was the PowerBar Energy Smoothie bar I ate around Mile 20. And at this point, I was also feeling really dehydrated. There were aid stations at miles 12, 22 and 40 and on the second loop around, I missed an aid station because as the guy handed me a water bottle as I was whizzing by, he dropped it. Note to self: slow down to grab a water bottle no matter what! I felt really dehydrated on the bike, as one reason would be that I missed an aid station. I looked down at my tri bottoms around Mile 44 and saw how dehydrated I was from the salt that was rimmed around my tri shorts. The bike course in general suited my racing style very well (translation: no steep climbs), although it was hot and windy. I got off the bike in 2:39 although I believed the course to be 2 miles long.
Coming into T2, I was feeling pretty good. I had a Gu Octane about 15 minutes before I got off the bike so I was ready to go. I grabbed my EFS liquid shot and off I went. Upon exiting T2, we had to run up a pretty steep hill. Ugh, a hill….already?! Encountered many hills on this run…hills on cobblestone streets, hills near the Fort, it was like the hills were never-ending. When I got to a turnaround point at Mile 5, I asked the guy if we had to come back and do it all again and he said Yes! I ran with sponges in my sports bra, in the back of my shorts, tried to hit every aid station for water, coke, Gatorade, ice, oranges and fresh sponges. I finished my run in a lethargic 1:48…only averaging a 8:18/mile. A very slow run for me considering my run is the strongest part of my race. I guess the heat and humidity got to me, along with the dehydration from the bike. I just could not get my legs moving.
Crossing the finish line was a great experience for this race because my father was there and Team Winter was there. As I crossed, my father had tears in his eyes and was telling me that I finished 3rd in my AG in a time of 5:12:12. I was the 25th female overall, including the Pros and was the 8th amateur overall. I am very blessed to have gotten through my first race and qualified for World Championships this early in the season.
Texas Independent Relays – 203 mile relay race from Gonzales, TX to the San Jacinto Monument – March 3-6
This might be one of the most insane/incredible/fun racing experiences of my life. We loaded up 2 vans with 11 runners, 4 coolers full of beer, water, & Gatorade, homemade sandwiches by our team captain (Dave Lee), bananas, apples, oranges, granola bars, pretzels, chips (and tons of other snacks), Gu, etc. We left Houston around 9:30 a.m. to reach Gonzales in time for our 12:51 p.m. start time on Saturday. I was assigned to legs 8, 20, and 32. Leg 8 kicked off at 4:56 p.m. It was 4.57 miles all uphill with gusting winds of up to 39 mph. I ran 7:15/mile and was very exhausted after that. Around 7 p.m., we stopped for some BBQ in Schulenberg. Not the greatest idea for me to eat a BBQ turkey sandwich, potato salad and pickles. That is all I could taste for the next several hours and my stomach was a bit unsettled. Leg 20 started at 12:55 a.m. and it was all in the dark on back country roads. Not a person in sight, except for 2 male runners that passed me in the very beginning of the leg. It was very scary. Running with only a headlamp and on the shoulder facing oncoming traffic. Surprisingly, I felt much better than I thought I would during this leg because after eating all that BBQ It was very chilly out by this time also. I ended up running a 6:42 pace for 4.57 miles again. My last leg was around 8:00 a.m. through Terry Hershey Park. It was 6.69 miles and I averaged a 7:00/mile pace. After having only slept for 3 hours, I felt pretty decent. It was relatively flat and a bit chilly but I felt like I held my pace pretty well. I ended up passing 12 people so I got 12 “roadkills.”
Last year, that was the first true race that I participated in post-collegiately. Wow –hard to believe! And last year, I averaged a 7:55/mile pace and finished in 49 minutes and some change. This year I ran a 6:41/mile and finished in 41:26. I was the 7th overall female out of 2890 women and was 2nd in my AG. The woman who won my AG was the 2nd place finisher overall. It was an out and back course – relatively flat except for the elevated aqueduct, which was tougher on the way back. After the race, I still had to finish my long run of 15 miles. Happy about this year’s performance though.
I had debated whether or not I was going to run the Austin Half Marathon (hilly, challenging course) or the Mardi Gras Galveston Half Marathon (fast, flat course) up until 2 days before the half marathons were to take place. I decided on Austin because I knew I could make a great training weekend out of it. What I did not anticipate though was how windy and hilly the course would end up being.
I finished as the 28th female overall out of 6291 women with a time of 1:34:19. (Averaged 7:09/mile). For this early in the race season, I was okay with my performance based upon the conditions. Now I know that conditions are unpredictable variables in every race but my lack of training on hills made this a particularly tough race for me. I ran with Steven Karpas the entire race. He is the Houston Marathon race director. But for him, I would have been destroyed by the wind going uphill. Tucking in and drafting behind him and several other runners helped to shield me from some wind. It was a tough course. Not entirely sure my hydration/nutrition was up to par but it was a learning experience at best.
Nothing like the start of a Saturday morning with a quick 5k race, followed by your long Saturday run. This race was through the Medical Center of Houston at 45 degrees. I wore compression tights, long sleeve shirt, hat, gloves, and a Nike pullover. Meanwhile, at the start line were several high school cross country runners wearing skimpy shorts and small tank tops. And these would be the girls that would end up beating me. I ran a 6:18/mile finishing with a time of 19:39. I was 1st in my AG and the 6th female overall. As soon as I crossed through the finish line, I kept running since I had to finish my long training run for the day.
Well, this was the first official race of the 2011 for me. I have been in the pool, on the trainer and running in warm clothing for the past couple months so it would be interesting to see how the first attempt at racing in 2011 would go. It was a chilly 34 degrees out at Bear Creek Park to start the race. The duathlon was a 3 mile run, 15 mile bike, 2 mile run. My first run went pleasantly well – averaging 6:30/mi. I was the 2nd female to come into T1. Jumping on the bike without any arm warmers or gloves was a HUGE mistake. I froze on the bike and my wattage output surely showed, as I got passed by 4 other women on the bike (which I was not happy about). Coming into T2, I knew I had to make up some time. My T2 time was 34 seconds. I felt great going into my last run and passed 2 women in the last half mile. I ended up averaging a 6:35 pace, shivering.
I finished 1st in my Age Group and 6th overall female.
My friend Kim was my sherpa that day and was a great one at that. She was completely clueless about the triathlon/racing scene so this blew her mind that so many people get up so early to do multisport and race in such frigid conditions.