PART II – Race Report: 2017.08.27 Ironman 70.3 Maine (Old Orchard Beach) & visiting York, ME

Continuing from Part I!

Race Day – Sunday, August 27 2017

Pre-race

  • 4:20am – Woke up. Couldn’t get any poop out. Had breakfast (where José joined me with his oatmeal), which was water, Chinese big bun, and a banana.
  • 4:55am – Tried to poop again. Nothing. (But not feeling constipated; just thought it’d be good measure to poop.)
  • 5:05am – José & I started walking to transition (77 Milliken Street).
  • 5:30am – Done setting up transition except my swim stuff. Walked over to portapotty to see if I can get that pre-race poop out. Stopped to talk to Erich Manser and his guide, Alex, along the way to the potty. Portapotty had super long line & I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t get to use the potty before transition closed (at 6am). I was able to get in & get a pre-race poop out.
  • 5:55am (transition closed at 6am) – José & I left transition to walk to swim start at Old Orchard Beach Pier (~7 min walk from transition).
  • Some time before 6:20am – Arrived at swim start and self seeded ourselves. José & I split up because I wanted to start up a bit more ahead than he did. It was just a long line along the shore line south of the Old Orchard Beach Pier. It was a time trial start where two people ran into the water at once. Heard water temp was 60 degrees F (definitely wetsuit legal).
  • While waiting to start the swim, I really had to pee.
IMG_20170827_064036.jpg
Waiting in line for my swim start. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

Swim 1.2 miles (actually 1.3 miles; 43:29; 48/95 AG; 2:02/100 yard for 1.2 miles or 1:53/100 yard for 1.3 miles)

Gear: ROKA F1 goggle dark vermilion mirror; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT
  • 6:40am – Started my swim. Official race start time was 6:20am, but I got my turn to run into the water at 6:40am.
  • Goggles got water inside so I had to stop and adjust. Good thing it was toward the beginning where I could still stand up & touch the bottom.
  • Tried to pee toward beginning of swim, but couldn’t.
  • With 2500+ competitors, I was expecting a super crowded swim, but it was no more crowded than the local races I’ve done. Very manageable.
  • Swim was counterclockwise with 2 left turns:
    Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.29.09 PM.png
  • After the first left turn, the buoys were yellow, which then made me think the orange buoy in the distance would indicate the second left turn. However, when I reached that orange buoy it was not the second left turn and I had to keep swimming. All in all, my mental game was pretty good during the swim and I never once had negative thoughts during the swim.
  • Started the swim kicking quite gently. Unfortunately, any time I tried to kick harder, I’d get a bad foot & leg cramps. (This is a common problem for me in OWS; any suggestions?)
  • After second turn buoy, managed to pee! Yay, saved portapotty time in T1!

Comments on performance: As shown in my Strava screen capture, I’m pretty darn sure the swim course was laid out at 1.3 miles (not 1.2 miles) and it wasn’t due to me swimming off course. I also bothered to check a few other competitors’ swim tracks and they were all about 1.3 miles. Given the actual swim distance, I’m ok with my swim speed and was able to improve 0:02/100 yard compared to my best half iron swim split time.

IMG_20170827_072457.jpg
Running out of the swim. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

T1 (09:39, not able to easily see AG ranking)

IMG_20170827_072610.jpg
Running to T1. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

Yelled “Wetsuit strippers!!” as I ran out of the water. This was my first race with wetsuit strippers and I was so excited to use one. It ended up being a 0.4 mile run (on sand and then pavement) to get to T1. The wetsuit strippers were closer to the swim exit; I thought it would have been more useful for them to be in transition. Anyways, when I finally reached the wetsuit stripper, I was asked “Would you like to be peeled?” by a group of kids who looked no more than 10-12 years old. I am super grateful for these kids who volunteered to help “peel” (not strip) me on race day, but I gotta give them the feedback that it wasn’t the smoothest “peel” job.

After the “peel” (not strip) job, I continued my jog to T1, which was on pavement & barefoot. When I got to my transition spot, I sat down to put my shoes on and ate 1 Chia bar.

After I was done “suiting up” for the bike, I popped 2 Clif bloks (w/ caffeine) into my mouth.

As I approached the bike mount line, I noticed a lot of discarded cleat covers on the ground. I use cleat covers and a fear of mine is forgetting to take them off before a race, but so far hasn’t happened yet (knock on wood).

Bike 56 miles (03:11:11, 17.57mph, 42/95 AG)

Gear: Javelin Amarone road bike; Giro Synthe MIPS helmet; Specialized Ember (2012); Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Nutrition: 1st bottle = 12 oz buckler & rest water; 2nd bottle = 4 oz Buckler & rest water; 2 chia bars; 6 Clif shot bloks; 1 Gu (caffeinated)
IMG_20170827_073459.jpg
The start of the bike. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

For me, bike was very congested for pretty much all of it. There were maybe two 1-2 mile stretches where I felt racers were a little more spread out, but otherwise it was hard to obey the no drafting rule due to the congestion.

I felt good the first 36 miles and was averaging 18mph for the first two hours. I was excited that maybe I could get a bike split PR for the half iron distance.

Starting around mile 38, I started to be in a lot of pain & discomfort from the waist down. Hips, legs, and feet were all very uncomfortable. I’m not sure if this was due to not having done enough long rides in my training or the bike fit. Started to get a bit concerned that if my lower extremities weren’t feeling well, would I be able to finish the run? Kept talking myself through mile by mile and was a little sad that I’d lose my 18mph average speed.

For nutrition, I consumed what was noted above, trying to intake ~100 calories every 25-45 minutes. For non-liquids, I tried to ingest from most solid to least solid since least solid is what I’d be using for run nutrition. I also like different textures to keep things interesting.

Comments on performance: The 17.57mph split is actually a bike split personal record for me in the half iron distance! Though, only a PR by 0.07mph. Either way, I feel I’m allowed to be proud of the fight I put in after my lower extremities started to feel a ton of discomfort during the bike.

T2 (03:42, not able to easily see AG ranking)

Racked bike, switched into run sneakers, put on racebelt, and grabbed 2 Gu’s for the run. Really had to pee and went to the portapotty. A dude ripped the door open while I was peeing. IM needs to get portapotties whose lock sign is more obvious (noticed the locked position wasn’t super obvious when I used the portapotty in the morning). There were only 2-3 portapotties in transition for 2500+ athletes. The human waste in the portapotty I was in was only a few inches from the toilet rim. IM either needs to put more portapotties in transition or hire someone to clean up the waste throughout the race.

Run 13.1 miles (02:05:05, 9:32/mile, 38/95 AG)

Gear: Newton Gravity V; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Nutrition: Had to rely on race nutrition. Gatorade; 2 Clif energy gels (caffeinated, mocha flavour)
IMG_20170827_124658.jpg
Towards the end of the run. ~Mile 12. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

I felt great mentally and physically when I started the run! All the discomfort I had in my hips, butt, legs, feet, & more were all gone! At the start of the run, I reached for my back packet to double check that my 2 Gu’s were still there. They were not there. Where did they go? Did they fall in the portapotty during T2? There was a short second of panic, but I reminded myself that this race has aid stations full of CLIF products and Gatorade. While I don’t usually use CLIF products during the run in tris, I stayed positive that my body would react fine to them. I ended up sipping on Gatorade at most aid stations and ate one CLIF gel ~4 miles and another CLIF gel ~8 miles.

Since I didn’t want to feel awful during or after the race, my race strategy was to go at an easy pace and stop at every aid station. Aid stations were super plentiful being either 0.5 or 1 mile apart. I mentally broke the race down mile by mile and this made the distance seem to fly by. Around mile 11, my ankles had a funny feeling like they were going to give out on me and they cramped a little. I wanted to quicken the pace but was worried about my ankles giving out. I saw Roger around mile 12 and that boosted my spirits!

When the finish line was in sight and the carpet-trail began, I started an all-out sprint, which is how I finished the race!

Finish (06:13:06, 42/95 AG)

IMG_20170827_131519.jpg
José and I at the finish line. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

Given how my training turned out this past summer, I’m happy with these results. I know I’m not considered fast and there are lots of areas where I can improve, but we need to recognise what we have done well! I achieved (small) swim and bike PRs for this triathlon distance; I was strong/positive mentally throughout the race; and most importantly I had fun. As noted in my Part I blog post that I only averaged 8-9 training hours/week, I’ve also learned that, to an extent, training is about quality and not quantity, and making sure you are healthy mentally.

Post Race – York, Maine

My friend, Stacy, came to Old Orchard Beach after the race with The Holy Donut, my most favourite donuts to date! José, Mirko, Roger, Stacy, and I ate the donuts, and then headed to the York Cliff Walk. I would highly recommend the York Cliff Walk as something to do when in southern Maine.

IMG_3184.jpg
Stacy and I at the York Cliff Walk. Photo credit: Roger Yeh

As always, huge thank you to Roger for everything he does! He also carefully tracked me and was at swim start, swim out, bike out, bike in, run out, and run finish.

Advertisements

PART I – (Pre-)Race Report: 2017.08.27 Ironman 70.3 Maine (Old Orchard Beach) & visiting York, ME

Please note that this is the PRE-race report and that the actual race report will be in a PART II blog post. The date in the title is the race date and not the date of what is written below.

IMG_20170826_195240.jpg
Old Orchard Beach Pier at night. Photo credit: Mirko Hanke

Signing Up

The half iron I did in 2016 had the run canceled, which left a desire to complete a full half iron triathlon in 2017. I also suspected 2017 may be my last summer for a few years where I’ll have the time to train for a half iron. I have consistently heard great things about the Rev3 Old Orchard Beach half iron triathlon, but was hesitant when I found out the race was going to be under the Ironman brand for 2017. From my research, it meant the number of competitors would be going from ~500 to 2500+ and I questioned how well the race could handle a jump that big in one year. Anyways, I decided it was time to race my first Ironman branded race and signed up on April 28, before the tier 3 price increase. Registration was $280 plus $22.40 processing fee, which meant I paid a total of $302.40 to participate in this race.

Training

Since joining the (recreational) triathlon world, my training has been quite seasonal and follows something like the below & I note what I did in 2017 in preparation for the half ironman.

  • September/October through April:
    • Road bike off the road except for the rare, exceptionally sunny, dry weather & no salt on roads (I’m a priss with my cycling)
    • Maintain running fitness of 5-6 miles (in one run)
    • Maintain swimming fitness of at least 2000 yards (in one swim workout)
    • Get on spin bike at least 60 minutes week
    • Strength & stretching at least 60 minutes a week
    • For 2016-2017, I estimate I averaged 5-6 hours/week in workouts
  • May through August/September:
    • Road bike back on the road
      • 2017 training goals: Start off at 30-40 mile (in one ride) cycling fitness level in May; be at 60-70 (in one ride) mile cycling fitness in July/August; do hill repeats at least once a week or every 2 weeks
      • 2017 actual: achieved 30-40 mile cycling fitness in May; only achieved 45-50 mile cycling fitness in July/August; never did a single hill repeat workout
    • Use spin bike for more focused training for cadence, resistance, and sprinting (I don’t have a trainer to put my road bike on)
    • Run 3 times a week
      • one 4-6 mile run at easy or moderate effort; one intervals (hills or sprints) workout; and one long run at easy effort
      • 2017 goals: average ~20 miles/week at the end of July; be at 12-14 mile (in one run) fitness level
      • 2017 actual: 3 weeks achieved 20 miles in running; only achieved 10-11 mile fitness level (did a half marathon in May, though)
    • Maintain swim fitness of at least 2500 yards (in one swim workout)
      • 2017 goals: swim 2-3 times a week; get open water exposure specifically in ~60 degrees F salt water
      • 2017 actual: swam 1-2 times a week; in July/August was doing one open water swim/week (huge thanks to Jeff & Liane); got 1 cold salt water swim in
    • Strength & stretching at least 60 minutes/week
    • For 2017, I aimed to average 10-12 hour workout weeks, but I ended up actually averaging 8-9 hour workout weeks. My work was particularly bad in May & June, and this really threw off my training & sleeping groove. I was a bit worried I was not well prepared for the half iron. Also, suffering from nose issues, which have made me cut a lot of my intended workouts. (If you have a great ENT in the Boston area, please recommend them to me. I’ve already seen 5 doctors about this issue to no avail.)

Race Week

Just a week before, I was training myself to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I decided to continue with that habit during race week since I estimated I had to wake up ~4am on race morning. Workouts for the week were less than I preferred, but ended up being a total of 8 miles running, 14.6 miles cycling, 1900 yards swimming, and 1.5 hours strength & stretching. Eating wise, I avoided spicy foods and cruciferous vgetables, but did not abstain from caffeine due to many of these articles that I’ve been reading.

Pre-race day – Saturday, August 26, 2017

Morning – workout, breakfast, driving

I like doing a short workout the day before a race. Started the morning with a very short workout of Hubway-ing (Boston’s bikeshare program) to a nearby track, running 1.2 miles and then Hubway-ing back to my apartment. The biking was a total of 1.4 miles.

After the short workout, I made breakfast for Roger & me: egg-in-a-hole (with potato bread), baby spinach, grape tomatoes, breakfast sausage, and a Greek frappe.

Roger & I packed the car and arrived at José’s place around 11am. José is my friend from MIT Triathlon Club and he was competing in the aquabike. His husband, Mirko, also joined us for the weekend. We finished packing the car and got on the road around 11:30am to head north!

Afternoon – York, Old Orchard Beach, athlete check-in, bike drop off

There was some traffic and we made a pit stop in York, Maine for some sight seeing. First stop was around 1pm at the Stonewall Kitchen Cafe. Here, we enjoyed the free samples, had lunch, and walked through the garden (which happened to have a lot of butterflies). For lunch, I split the Pilgrim sandwich, curry mango chicken salad wrap, and a chocolate milk with Roger.  After lunch, we made our way to see Cape Neddick and the lighthouse there, arriving around 2:30pm.

IMG_20170826_144727.jpg
Roger and I posing in front of the Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse. Photo credit: Roger Yeh (selfie mode)

We only stayed at Cape Neddick for ~15 minutes because we needed to make sure we got to athlete check-in and bike drop off before they closed at 5pm and 5:30pm respectively. Ironman races require all athletes to do athlete check-in and bike drop off the day before the race.

We checked into our accommodations, Beach Villa Motel & Cottages*, at 3:45pm. Then the four of us (José, Mirko, Roger, and me) walked to athlete check-in, which was located at 11 1st Street in Old Orchard Beach. Athlete check-in is where the Ironman Village is and also where the finish line is. Athlete check-in had LOTS of stations/steps and had a methodical flow: pick up waiver, sign waiver, submit waiver, get wristbanded, get race numbers & tattoos (no Sharpie bodymarking), get swag, get ankle timing chip, and get marked off (for finishing athlete check-in). To be quite honest, I was a bit disappointed by the swag and my comparison is the swag I’ve seen friends get at other Ironman 70.3 races. The swag this year was a small shoulder bag, a visor, and a t-shirt.

With José and me done with athlete check-in, the four of us walked to transition for the mandatory bike drop off and arrived there 4:45pm. Transition was an 8 minute walk from the Ironman Village/finish line and located at 77 Milliken Street. When Roger saw transition, he commented that this must be the largest number of bikes he has ever seen at once. This race is definitely the largest I’ve participated in to date. Being an Ironman-brand newbie, I was curious if anyone would have set up any part of transition the day before. I personally didn’t think it was a good idea to set up any part of transition the day before, and looks like pretty much everyone else racing had the same opinion. After racking my bike, Samuel (we bumped into him at transition; he is a previous member of the MIT Triathlon Club), José, and I asked a volunteer to get a better idea of the flows for swim in, bike out, bike in, and run out. I walked through the flows to/from my transition spot so that I could take a mental picture.

Evening – dinner, walking around, tattoos, sleep

We arrived back at our motel at 5:20pm. There was a short down time and then Mirko & I started preparing dinner, and Roger & José went to the nearby Hannaford to get some breakfast items for José. We ate dinner at 7pm, which consisted of garlic olive oil mashed potatoes, TRI-color rotini w/ veggie pesto sauce (yellow squash, red pepper, baby spinach, zucchini), filet mignon for Roger & me, and seitan for Mirko & José.

Around 7:45pm we were done eating and went on a walk to explore Old Orchard Beach at night. We got to the Old Orchard Beach Pier and found the starting chute for the swim. When we looked out to the water, we saw that some sighting buoys were already set up for the swim, but didn’t look like all of them were set up yet. We decided to walk along the beach and essentially do a walk through of the swim course and through transition. While we walked along the beach, I was getting nervous that we hadn’t passed the swim finish chute yet and was starting to conclude that maybe the finish chute hadn’t been set up yet. But then, after what felt like a long distance (I’m sure it actually wasn’t and I was psyching myself out), we saw the finish chute! I looked back at the Old Orchard Beach Pier and it seemed like too far a distance to swim! We continued to walk through the finish chute, onto Walnut Street, and then left onto Milliken Street to see transition (and there were indeed guards watching all the bikes overnight).

IMG_20170826_195159.jpg
Old Orchard Beach at night. By the Pier and the Ironman 70.3 Maine swim start. Photo credit: Mirko Hanke

We returned to the motel at 8:20pm. Did some dinner clean up and then José & I had to start the tattoo process of our race numbers. This is the first race I’ve done where I got tattoo race numbers! They sure look more legit, but they’re more annoying to remove (than Sharpie) after the fact.

IMG_20170826_204459.jpg
José helping me with my race number tattoos. Photo credit: Roger Yeh
IMG_20170826_205404.jpg
Showing 3 of my 4 race tattoos. (My hand one is upside down.) Photo credit: Roger Yeh

After tattoos, I finished checking and packing my race stuff and was in bed 9:55pm. I did wake up around 2am due to feeling overheated (my body’s fault, not the motel’s) and had trouble getting back to sleep.

And you’ll get my race day report in a separate post!

*Review of Beach Villa Motel & Resort

First, one must note that all the lodging options in OOB are mom-pop establishments. There are no big name chains there. I researched lodging options in April, which is still considered the off season for OOB, but I thought places should at least be responsive to phone or email (a lot were not), especially since the season starts in May. I was looking for lodging options that were: walking distance to the Ironman Village and transition, reasonably priced, included parking, and ideally would allow us to only stay one night (I wasn’t interested in staying longer). That left me with Beach Villa Motel & Resort located on Imperial Street. I thought location was great because it was equidistant to the Ironman Village and transition (only 5-7 minute walk) and it was not on the main road that gets closed on race day. It’s also only a 5 minute walk or less to the beach.

We stayed in a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit (unit C2 to be exact) and I thought it was plenty of space for the 4 of us. In fact, the room has a pull out couch and can accommodate up to 6 adults (at no extra charge), but I think 6 adults sharing one bathroom could be a little rough. Amenities and condition wise, I’d say it equated to a 2 or 3 star hotel. The owner was very nice and always thoroughly answered any questions we had. Although we were only staying one night & check-out was 11am, they let us park our car until we were done with the race (~2pm next day). So huge plus there. Otherwise parking can be quite expensive in OOB, especially on race day.

There were 2 gas grills, which was awesome for cooking for dinner.

2 gripes: while wi-fi was free, it basically did not work; after we checked out, they would not let us use any bathroom.

Given the experience, location, and price, I’d recommend this motel, especially for Ironman 70.3 Maine.

 

Race Report: 2017.08.20 Cranberry Trifest Olympic Triathlon as a guide

20170820_Cranberry_Olympic_run_finish copy.jpg
Approaching the finish line of the run. Photo Credit: Capstone Photography

Background

Last year, Kate did an olympic triathlon where I guided the swim and run, and Phil on the bike, but Kate’s time was disqualified. I’m unsure if this was due to having 2 different guides or one guide of the opposite gender; the rules keep changing! This year, Kate had the goal of doing another olympic distance triathlon, and I wanted to make sure her time wasn’t disqualified again.

In March, Kate and I went to Race Mania to better shop around the Olympic races in the area. Kate ultimately signed up for Cranberry Trifest Olympic – the two Joes behind Cranberry were super helpful, a discount was offered at Race Mania, the race was later in the summer (so more time to train), and the swim would not need a wetsuit.

Preparation

Training

Throughout the year, Kate and I have been pretty good about aiming to workout together once a week (usually on the weekends). Though, with scheduling conflicts it probably averages to about 2 times a month. Leading up to Cranberry, the longest open water swim we did together was ~800 yards, longest run we did together was 5 miles, and longest tandem ride was 12 miles. Of course, she and I also did other workouts separately.

Tandem Cycling

Entering the world of tandem cycling has been quite an experience for me (maybe I’m just a baby about this).

May 29 was my first time ever captaining a tandem, and I did so under the excellent tutelage of Phil (Thanks, Phil!). (For reference, the front position is referred to as “captain” and the second position is referred to as “stoker”.) When June and some of July passed with Kate & me still not having a tandem, I was getting a little worried about racing Cranberry in August. I browsed the web, but nothing reasonable stood out. Then our friend, Jeff, brought a tandem posting to our attention, we checked it out, it fit us, and Kate bought a Santana Arriva on July 22 (Thanks to Jeff & Lianne for helping with this)!

Prior to Cranberry, Kate and I practiced once on an antique fixie tandem (that thing was hard to ride), and only had 2 practice rides on the Santana.

Week leading up to race

We knew we’d have to arrive at the race site at 5:30am because we wanted the bike mechanic to check the brakes alignment on the tandem. This meant having to be on the road by 4:20am and waking up before 4am. I don’t naturally wake up before 4am. Therefore, throughout the week I tried my best to train my body to go to bed earlier than usual and also wake up earlier than my usual. Also tried my best to focus on getting good sleep throughout the week since I knew the night-before-sleep may be tough. I also had a wedding the day before (Congrats, Karl & Gabriela!), but that didn’t stop me from eating and drinking – I asked for my 1 cocktail to be made on the weak side, avoided cruciferous veggies, and avoided spicy sauces.

The night before, I tried to pack and prep everything in order to reduce what I’d have to do in the morning. Roger helped me load the tandem onto our trunk rack. I got to bed ~10:30pm.

Race Day – Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pre-Race

Jeff was volunteering at Cranberry so he, Kate, and I drove together. We arrived ~5:25am, and Jeff put the wheels back on the tandem while I ate my Chinese big bun for breakfast (I ate a Lara Bar ~6:45am to add to my breakfast). Kate and I then went to the mechanic to get our brakes alignment checked – we’ve had issues with the brakes rubbing before and I was unfamiliar with adjusting the type of brakes on the tandem. The mechanic adjusted our brakes for us and also pointed out that the back wheel was not true. This was annoying because Kate had just sent it in for an expensive tune-up at a bike shop (and no, we did not ride into any potholes between the tune-up and race day).

Then we were off to packet pick-up, getting bodymarked, bathroom break, and setting up in transition. We were racked right next to the bike exit and also a rack full of men with spiffy bikes (there were at least three elite men on our rack). The Cranberry race staff were super accommodating with us and made sure we were comfortable with our transition space.

We were done setting up in transition before 7am, then went on another bathroom break, and kept finding some last minute items we needed to do (e.g. pinning race numbers on Kate, putting lip balm on).

Swim, supposed to be 0.9 miles

Kate’s gear: Spark tri top & short; blueseventy Element goggles
My gear: Castelli tri top & short; ROKA F1 goggle dark vermillion mirror; Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Tether: 2 therabands connected by a resistance band

Water temp was 77 degrees F, which was barely wetsuit legal, but Kate and I decided we would not wear wetsuits for this race. Race start was 7:30am and, being in the paratriathlete category, we were put in the first wave with the Elites. I found it amusing to be put in the Elite wave because that’s a wave I personally would likely never end up in.

Kate and I are tethered at the hip with therabands/resistance bands. While we were lined up for the swim start, the theraband around me broke. I quickly thought of the solution of connecting the tether to the drawstring of my tri shorts. When the swim started, I did not feel like the “new tether” allowed Kate and me to have as good feedback to each other.

The swim seemed to be going smoothly. Any time I looked at Kate, she had a good rhythm going and looked comfortable in the water. Though, there were a few times where people swam through our tether, which caused Kate to be on my left instead of my right (we practice with Kate on my right) and I’d have to maneuver to correct this. She had requested that I stop to communicate when we’ve reached the halfway point. What visually looked like the halfway point was certainly not reflected in the yardage on my watch; I only had ~500-600 yards on my GPS watch. I thought I should not let Kate know about the halfway point until my watch at least reached 700 yards (half of 0.9 miles is 792 yards). As we kept swimming, I debated whether I should stop us since Kate’s swimming was going smoothly. When my watch passed 700 yards and we were visually well past the halfway point, I decided to honour Kate’s request and stopped us to let her know we were past the halfway point.

Not too long after we resumed swimming, the force from the tether pulled my drawstring out of my tri shorts and Kate & I became untethered. I quickly looked for the tether and swam the last ~300 yards with the tether in my right hand. This obviously wasn’t the most comfortable or efficient way to swim, but I just kept thinking in my head that this is similar to the “swimming with fists” drill I’ve done in swim practice and I could work on making sure I get that full forearm catch (Thanks, Coach Bill!). =0)

When we reached the swim exit, I was super happy to no longer swim with the weird form and my GPS watch only said 1,155 yards (~0.66 miles). Either way, I could tell by the time that Kate swam a little faster for her 100 yard split than her olympic last year and I was very proud of her swim performance.

20170820_Cranberry_Olympic_swim_exit copy.jpg
Exiting the swim. Photo credit: Capstone Photography

 T1

My nutrition: 3-4 Clif Shot Bloks (caffeinated)

There were very uneven stone stairs after the swim finish. Pre-race, we arranged for one of the Joes to hand Kate her cane as we exited the swim. We took it on the slow side between swim exit and transition since the terrain was a little uneven. When we got to our transition spot, we changed into our sneakers (not using clipless on the tandem yet), I took in some nutrition, and off to the bike mount. It was great seeing Jeff and being cheered on by him!

Bike, 26.2 miles

Gear: Santana Arriva; Bell Solar helmet (Kate); Giro Synthe MIPS helmet (me); Asics GT-2000 sneaker (Kate); Nike Free sneakers (me)
My nutrition: 1 bottle of Buckler non-alcoholic beer & water

Admittedly, this was the leg I was most worried about. The bike is my least favourite leg and I am not the most confident on the bike – and this is me speaking for riding on a my single road bike. For me, captaining a tandem is a different way of cycling and one that I am still building up my confidence and bike handling skills.

Mounting the bike and the start of the bike went smoothly for us. Though, somewhere around a mile in, my Clif Shot Bloks fell out of my pocket and onto the ground. I wasn’t too worried because I carried extra nutrition with me on the bike, but as you can see from above, I didn’t end up eating any of it.

We had good speed on the bike, but I did take turns very widely and slowly (I definitely need to work on improving this). Kate and I had to communicate a lot any time we reached for water bottles or nutrition, since that does change the handling of the bike.

A little after mile 10, the pedaling felt weird, and I wasn’t able to change gears. My initial thought was that the chain may have dropped and we stopped to check the bike. Chain looked to be on the bike perfectly fine so we got back on, and I was able to use the shifters fine again.

I was impressed with Kate’s power output on the bike. I can’t compare it to last year since I did not ride with her, but it was strong and consistent, and stronger than the previous times we’ve practiced together on the bike. I was a little concerned if Kate would be tired on the run from her strong bike effort, but more on that in the “Run” section of this post.

Finishing this bike marked the longest and fastest ride Kate and I had done together!

IMG_3171 copy.JPG
Toward the end of the bike. Photo credit: Jeff Dusek

T2

We were welcomed by the cheering of Jeff! He was a great cheerleader throughout the day! I had to change shoes (I’m very neurotic about only putting running miles on my running shoes), but Kate did not. The race number was originally pinned to a fanny pack  Kate wore during the bike and we realised we had to re-pin it to her tri top for the run. We both really had to pee, but there were no port-a-potties inside transition so we decided to start the run and stop at the first toilet we saw.

Run, 6.2 miles

Gear: Kate wore the same shoes as on the bike; Newton Gravity V (me)
My nutrition: 1 GU (chocolate outrage, caffeinated)

Saw a toilet within the first ~0.1 mile of the run! After we relieved ourselves, Kate was off to a strong run start, pacing a lot faster than our practice runs. About 1 mile in, Kate either mentioned that her legs felt tired or that she was tired (? sorry, my memory is failing me here) so I suggested we eat our GUs at this point to make sure we don’t bonk. Around 2 miles, Kate suggested implementing a run-walk strategy. I told her we can do that if that’s what she wants (of course, Kate should dictate her race strategy), but based on what I’ve observed in her breathing and physical demeanor it looked like she had plenty of gas left in the tank and I did not believe she needed walking breaks. And so we carried on without really any walking breaks except at the water stations.

The water stations were great at this race! They appeared about every mile and some had cups of ice (and Gatorade, but we never opted for Gatorade). I found great enjoyment in pouring the ice into my sports bra and running around with clinking-ice-bust.

For about the last mile of the run course, there were cones set up, and the runners path was extremely narrow. It was barely enough space for one runner and definitely not enough space for me as a guide. I had Kate run in the race path and I tried my best to not twist an ankle by running off the path.

The last part of the run course to the finish line is “off-road” and I sensed Kate got a little nervous/hesitant that we were off pavement, but I assured her it was pretty open and flat grass and the finish line was super duper close. Kate crossed that finish line strong, and in faster split times than last year’s olympic triathlon!

Post-race

Kate won the paratriathlete division at the 2017 Cranberry Trifest (olympic distance)! Her prize was a pair of Rudy Project sunglasses, which was perfect because she’s been wanting sport sunglasses. I’m very proud of her performance at Cranberry and there is clear evidence of improvement from last year.

I don’t like calling out specific thanks in written pieces, but I’d like to acknowledge Roger, who does more behind-the-scenes help than is visible.

IMG_3170 copy.JPG
Done with the race! Photo credit: Jeff Dusek

2017.07.09 – Mass State Olympic Triathlon (my 5th time doing this race!)

IMG_3069.jpg
My spot in transition. My company (Jobcase) should be proud that I give them free advertising at races. =0) Photo credit: becca yeh

Cambridge was super hot and humid in the AM, but when we arrived at Lake Dennison, it felt super cool. Mass State has historically been very hot, but this year was more comfortable.

Goals & Training

Between Harvest Olympic tri and Mass State, my training hours have only been 8 to 9.5 hours per week (this time includes strength workout time). These training hours and my training intensity thus far are not where I’d like them to be and likely not where I was the past two summers. While I would have loved a Mass State course PR, I knew my training didn’t justify it. Therefore, I adjusted my goals to beating my Harvest Tri splits.

Week of Race

Workouts wise, I worked out a little over 6 hours. Food intake wise, I decided to experiment with not being as strict as I have been in the past. I ate a little bit of spicy foods (I LOVE spicy foods & regularly eat this, but sometimes I get tummy issues & usually refrain from spicy foods 1-2 weeks leading up to a race), and had more fiber leading up to the race than I usually let myself have (I don’t feel well when I don’t eat enough fruit & veggies).

Here’s what went down the day before (Saturday, July 8):

  • Breakfast: peanut butter & blueberry toast
  • Workout: cycled 9 miles on an antique fixie tandem with Kate & swam ~800 yards at Crystal Lake in Newton
  • Morning snack: 2 Black Forest fruit snacks
  • Lunch: Chinese big bun
  • Watched the musical Wicked in the afternoon at the Boston Opera House
  • Dinner: Went to my mom’s because my 2nd cousin was in town. We had a Chinese family style meal that consisted of pork shoulder, lobster, leek & beef, a Chinese green, and a Chinese vegetarian dish. It was great and one reason why I had to be looser with my typical race week diet!
  • Was stressed about leaving dinner at a reasonable time to make it home to finish packing and get to bed at a decent hour.
  • Went to bed ~11pm.

Race Day – Sunday, July 9

Pre-race

Woke up at 4:40am. This time I was driving so I drank a half cup of water and ate some blueberries to get something in my system before getting behind the wheel (I’m not great at driving and eating/drinking). Olivier met me at my place at 5:15am and we packed the car. Breakfast was a Chinese big bun that I ate in the car and I drank 17 oz water.

We arrived at the race site ~6:25am. What I love about this race are that parking is right next to transition and there are flush toilets! I finished packet pickup and setting up my transition ~7:15am.  I then ate two cooked fingerling potatoes and 3 Clif shot bloks around 7:30am. Race start wasn’t until 8am so I had a comfortable amount of time to visualize swim out, bike in/out, and run in/out. I even had time to do a (super short) warm up swim, which I’ve never done before any race.

Swim 0.9 miles (0:34:03, 2:09/100yd, 5/8 AG, 0:02/yd slower than Harvest)

Gear: ROKA F1 goggle dark vermilion mirror; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

The race claimed the water was 78.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and, therefore, not wetsuit legal. When I was swimming, the water actually felt colder than that, but I don’t mind no wetsuit for shorter transition time.

I’m pretty disappointed that my swim split is slower than Harvest and I doubt that it’s all due to the fact that I was allowed to wear a wetsuit at Harvest. Admittedly, I’ve mainly been swimming only 1 time a week this summer.

Similar to Harvest, I never once had a negative thought in my head during the swim. Looks like I’m getting better about the mental game while I swim at tris.

T1 (0:01:42, 6/8 AG)

It was nice to not have to spend time taking off a wetsuit. I’m glad I decreased the time difference between my T1 time and the top T1 time in my age group.

Bike 22 miles (1:14:19, 17.8mph, 6/8 AG, 0.7mph faster than Harvest)

Gear: Javelin Amarone road bike; Giro Synthe MIPS helmet; Specialized Ember (2012); Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

The start of the bike was not great for me. I dropped some of my Clif Bloks on the ground and I felt super wobbly on my bike. I have no idea why. Since I felt so wobbly, I was wondering if something was mechanically wrong on my bike and I was unable to drink or eat without feeling like I was losing control & balance of the bike. But finally around mile 10, I started to feel normal on my bike.

Although this bike course is not too hilly, the hills felt a lot harder than they did last year. This is a metric that I’m clearly not as bike-fit as I was last year. I haven’t been doing hill repeats this summer when I did them about once a week last summer. I’m also riding less mileage this summer. And, boy, am I seeing the results!

For nutrition, I ate 2 Clif Bloks at the start of the bike, ate a black raspberry GU (with caffeine) a little after mile 15, and drank 2/3 of a water bottle that had Clausthaler non-alcoholic beer mixed with water. I was surprised I only went through 2/3 of a bottle, but the weather really was cooler than previous years and definitely cooler than Harvest Tri.

T2 (0:01:02, 4/8 AG)

One of my higher AG placings for T2! I was sad to see a lot of bikes already racked, which was not a good sign for my position in the race.

Run 6.2 miles (52:21, 8:27/mile, 4/8 AG, 0:49/mile faster than Harvest)

Gear: Newton Gravity V; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

The run is my favourite leg and I felt good on it.  A little sad I did not get a course run PR when the weather was not bad for it, but happy I improved my run split from Harvest. For nutrition, I had a salted caramel GU (with caffeine) halfway on the run.

Finish (2:43:26, 6/8 AG)

A list of racers were available before the race and I saw 6 in my age group. After I crossed the finish line, I did the usual thing of printing my results from the All Sports Events tent. When I saw I was 6th for my age group, I assumed I was last and was pretty disappointed in my performance. When I view the results online after the race, I saw that there were actually 8 women in my age group so 2 must have signed up last minute. Well, that made me feel better I wasn’t last place. Glad I was able to make some improvements from Harvest Tri. While I was initially sad this wasn’t the best race of my life, I’ve become ok with it. You can’t expect every summer to be better than the one before, and sometimes other things come up in your life schedule. No matter the result, I’m always grateful to be able to mentally and physically complete a triathlon.

2017.06.10 – Harvest Triathlon

IMG_4648
Sunrise over Tihonet Pond. I was not here during sunrise. Photo credit: Josu

The first ever Harvest Triathlon, put on by one of my my favourite race organizers, Max Performance, took place this past June. When deciding my race schedule for this summer, I wanted to make sure I raced 2 olympic distance tris before Ironman 70.3 Maine in August. There aren’t many local olympic distance tris in June so Harvest Triathlon fit the bill.

Goals

Ironman 70.3 Maine is my A-race so my primary training goal for the summer is to build up proper fitness for that race. A secondary goal is to see improvement in splits in any race I do, but I’ve never done an Olympic distance race this early in the season. The next section will explain why I didn’t feel great going into Harvest Triathlon and ended up adjusting the goal to “finishing and not feeling awful.”

Training

Training is/was not where I’d like it to be (but it never is).

Swim wise, I’ve been consistently swimming 1-2 times (closer to 1) a week throughout the entire year, but I prefer this to be 2-3 times/week in the spring/summer. I never had any open water practice prior to Harvest, which also wasn’t ideal. I felt good about being able to complete the swim, but didn’t feel good about doing it in good time.

By May/June my bike fitness was at ~40 miles (in one ride), but wasn’t really getting more than 2 bike workouts in per week. I felt good about being able to complete the bike, but felt lacking with my training.

Run wise, I was training for a half marathon in May so I thought my run fitness would be fine. My only concern was that Harvest was two weeks after the half marathon and sometimes I need 2-3 weeks after a half marathon to properly recover for running.

Week of Race

As mentioned in my previous race report for Run to Remember Half Marathon, I was working a lot of extra hours, which was not leaving much time in my schedule for working out and sleeping. Week leading up to Harvest, I was still running on 4 hours/night of sleep (even the night before the race), and the only workout I had all week was one 2300 yard pool swim. And the 2 weeks before that weren’t much better workout-wise.

Nutrition wise I did a good job sticking to my usual race week nutrition regimen.

Day before nutrition:
breakfast – Chinese chive egg sandwich with mozzarella cheese & tomato
lunch – pasta from Sebastians
dinner: Zhongzi, dumplings, roasted asparagus & carrots
drank lots of fluids throughout the day

Race Day – Saturday, June 10

Pre-race

Woke up at 4:40am and my friend, Olivier, picked me up shortly after 5am to drive together. Breakfast was peanut butter & fresh cherries sandwich (yup, I bothered to pit the cherries), cherries, 4 fingerling potatoes, and sipped on ~24 oz of water.

We arrived at the race site ~6:20-6:30am and parked the car. Parking was a good 10min (or more) very sandy walk to the transition area. I didn’t mind this on race day, but I could see this not being very fun in wet weather.

As per usual with Max Performance races, the volunteers for all the pre-race stuff were super friendly and polite. They definitely put me in a better mood when I wasn’t feeling very good about the race (due to my lack of training and sleep).

For some reason, the time from parking to getting to transition took more than half an hour (I guess this is not too unreasonable) and I was in transition some time after 7 and only had ~10min to set up. I’ve had to set up in 10min several times before, but it definitely wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t able to do my usual pre-race visualization of my spot in transition, the swim exit, bike in/out, and run in/out.

After I set up transition, I ate 3 caffeinated CLIF shot bloks, found the 3 other MIT Triathlon members racing Harvest Tri, and we headed to the swim start.

Swim 0.9 miles (0:33:31, 2:07/100yd, 7/9 AG)

Gear: ROKA women’s Maverick Elite fullsleeve wetsuit; ROKA F1 goggle dark vermilion mirror; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

A bit ashamed of this swim time. This 100yd split is slower than my swim times last summer, even my half iron distance swim time. While my time wasn’t great, I did make one item of progress during this swim – I was mentally positive throughout the entire swim. Let me explain – every single triathlon I’ve done, there is always a point during the swim where thoughts like “I need to be pulled out of this race” or “I don’t think I’ll finish today” always cross my mind during the swim portion. This did not happen once throughout this swim. I mentally took it one buoy at a time and never once thought I would not finish.

The sighting buoys throughout the course was fine, but there was no good marker to sight the swim finish. My feedback to the race is to please bring back the HUGE MaxP inflatable arches for better sighting of the finish. I did suffer a very bad left calf cramp in the last ~5min of the swim, which continued into T1.

T1 (0:03:08, 8/9 AG)

My transitions have always been slow and I know I need to improve them. However, for this particular T1 I was suffering horrible calf cramps; I got stuck trying to take off my wetsuit; and I realised my triathlon watch (which I still do not know how to fully operate) had not recorded my swim and I was fumbling to figure out how to make it work.

Bike 29 miles (1:41:30, 17.1mph, 7/9 AG)

Gear: Javelin Amarone road bike; Giro Synthe MIPS helmet; Specialized Ember (2012); Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Nutrition: 1 caffeinated Clif shot blok at the start; 1 Clif shot blok at mile 5; 1 shot blok at mile ~16; 1 bottle of half maple water, half water.

Not long after I started the bike, an older male racer biked up next to me and asked “Is drafting allowed??” I was thinking who is this dude??? I let him know drafting is not legal and it felt like he dropped back and then he said “I’m not trying to draft you!” and I replied that it doesn’t matter to me if he does because I know I’m not in placing contention (and I had a feeling neither was he).

29 miles is on the long side for an olympic distance bike leg. It’s usually closer to ~40km (24.8 miles). Bike route was on the flat side, but I did have to go into my small ring once (I think this is mainly due to lack of fitness than it is due to the road having a real incline).

I had one unfortunate error during the bike. Around mile 15, I missed the right turn onto Black Cat Road. According to my watch, including the extra distance I cycled, I was averaging 17.5mph (and not 17.1), but that is still on the slower side for my race pace. The right turn I missed was manned by one ~10(?) year old girl who was meek, didn’t say a word, or gesture for a turn. All races ought to make sure they have turns manned by volunteers who are not afraid to repeatedly motion and say out loud the direction. It is even better if the volunteer stands on the opposite side of the turn to act almost like a barrier preventing cyclists from making the wrong turn.

T2 (1:20, 5/7 AG)

At least my T2 AG ranking is higher than my T1.

Run 6 miles (55:33, 9:16/mile, 5/9 AG)

Gear: Newton Gravity V; Castelli Core tri top & short; Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Nutrition: sipped on caffeinated GU for first 2 miles.

This race day felt really hot. For the ~3 weeks leading up to the race, the temperature was in the 50s (degrees F) and that’s what I was used to training in, but race day was high 80s. Quite an adjustment and I wasn’t quite acclimated to those temperatures yet.

The run was an UNSHADED trail run. (Many friends have questioned how a trail run can be unshaded, but it is possible.) I really wanted to quit during the first mile. Somewhere during the first mile I passed older-male-racer-from-the-bike and he recognised me. He introduced himself as Paul and asked if he could run with me. I welcomed the company and I think it gave me the extra boost to keep going when I really wanted to stop running in this unshaded heat! Thanks, Paul! Paul and I ran together for the first two miles and then I pulled off ahead. I ran with a conservative mindset since my body had never trained in this kind of heat this season yet.

Finish (3:15:01, 7/9 AG)

Well, everyone who raced Harvest Tri in 2017 can say they got a course PR because this is the first year of the race. I’m not happy with my splits, but I was happy I finished when going into the race, I doubted whether my poor training would allow me to finish. Goal for next races this summer is to have faster splits than I did at Harvest Tri!

IMG_3628.JPG
The MIT Triathlon Club members who raced at Harvest Tri. The person who took the photo was a spectator we did not know so I can’t give proper photo credit.

 

The start of my 2017 race season & a race report

Race schedule for 2017 is updated in the “Schedule” section!

IMG_20170528_082524
In between mile 9 & 10 at 2017 Boston’s Run To Remember. Photo credit: Roger Yeh.

My triathlon coach recently told us to write our race reports as soon as possible after a race, and I’m totally seeing why right now (not that I ever doubt what Coach says!). I had a lot I wanted to make note of when I ran Boston’s Run to Remember half marathon for the 4th time on May 28th, but now I’m not sure if I may forget something in this race report.

My Training & Goal

I really tone down my training in fall & winter and end up running anywhere from 4-8 miles/week, but I make sure I am in good enough shape to do 5-6 miles (in one run). Starting in April, I aimed for 3 runs a week: one 3-6 mile at easy to moderate effort, one 3-4 mile interval run, and one long run. Every week I’d add 1-2 miles to my long run and the longest run I did was 11.4 miles (the weekend before the half marathon).

Goalwise, I wanted to beat least year’s time of 1:51:13 (8:29 min/mile).

Week of race

Struggled with horrible nose allergies throughout the week. Did not do a great job sticking to my usual race week nutrition (documented in 2016 Mass State race report). Work was particularly tough in May (and still is right now), which has caused me to be running on 4 hours sleep/night and not have much time for working out either. Because I was so focused on work, I totally forgot about my race week nutrition until 2 days before race day. Some offenses to note: caffeine and spicy foods (yea, hot Cheetos!) until 2 days before the race and eating cruciferous vegetables (because I like broccoli & bok choy!).

For workouts, I did 3 short runs during the week which totaled to 7.6 miles: one failed run at 1.5 miles, one 4.1 mile easy run, and one 2 mile easy run the day before the race.

Day before nutrition:
Breakfast – Swissbäkers spinach croissant & energy roll
Lunch – Oath Pizza
Snack – smoothie made from greens, banana, greek yogurt, coconut beverage, kiwi
Dinner – leftover Japanese curry (potatoes, cauliflower, carrots), bok choy, stir fried chicken tenders, & Shandong noodles

Race Day (2017.05.28)

Thanks to Roger picking up my race materials 2 days before, I had the option to arrive as close to the race start time as possible. Below is a run down of the day:

  • 5:30am – Wake up. Breakfast was a peanut butter & blueberries sandwich. Drank 1 cup of water
  • 6am – Drive from my place into Boston.
  • 6:20am – Parked car in Chinatown. Headed to South Station to get my last bathroom break in. Historically, I’ve had trouble getting a toilet at the race site before the race start and have had to run on a full bladder.
  • 6:30am – At South Station, realized I left my caffeinated GU in the car so panicked to get back to the car. Still had a 20min walk ahead of me to get to the starting line.
  • 6:50am – Arrived at starting line. Realized my bladder is full again, but won’t have time to empty it.
  • little after 7am – started the race
  • Miles 1-3 – Felt ok, but watch claimed I was pacing faster than 8:29min/mile. I was half excited that maybe I can beat last year’s time, but also half worried that I might be going out too hard. You can see my Strava of the race here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1009668436
  • ~Mile 5 – Saw a friend on the course (Katrina!) and ran a little together. That lifted my spirits. I did not end up hanging with her for the rest of the race (can’t keep up with her for that long).
  • Miles 6-9 – Started to feel tired and slowed down =/ These were also the points where the race course got a tad hilly. Opened my caffeinated GU and sipped on it for a mile (~mile 7)
  • Miles 9-10 – Roger showed up to cheer! I thought this was a crucial place for him to show up since I was in lower spirits after mile 6. Even my Strava shows that my pace speeds up after seeing Roger =0)
  • Miles 11-13 – Felt less tired than miles 9-10, but still felt slow. Started to feel my big toes bruising. Did my typical sprint at the finish, but this time it didn’t feel like my best sprint.

Finish

Pleased I finished when the ~2 weeks leading up to the race were not ideal with regards to my work life, sleep, eating, and workouts. As you can see from my Strava, my Garmin says I ran 13.3 miles and in 8:16min/mile splits. But the official race results said my final time was 1:51:08 and at 8:29min/mile pace. Puzzling that the times are different, but either way both times are a PR. Just one is a more impressive PR than the other. As a good friend said to me:

Segal’s law: “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”

WordPress doesn’t allow you to embed videos unless you upgrade. Since I can’t justify upgrading (gotta save that money for race fees!), here is a link to a video Roger took when he came to cheer: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j1CIm9m0Qh-HXs8QxNV_H3CL0R5Bw1dTKA/view?usp=sharing

Race Report: 2016.09.18 Pilgrimman Olympic Triathlon as a guide

img_8142-copy
Crossing the finish line at Pilgrimman. Photo credit: Jen Yao

How I got into guiding

I’ve generally known guiding vision impaired (VI) athletes was a thing that existed, but I’ve always been self conscious about my speed (i.e. not sure if I’d be fast enough to guide) and wasn’t too sure how to get into guiding. I started seeing a few emails from Jeff, one of my teammates, to the MIT Triathlon Club mentioning he guided blind runners; this was how guiding in the Boston area was first brought to my attention. I finally decided to ask Jeff about guiding in the new year (of 2016), but specifically asked if it would be possible to guide someone in triathlons. Jeff put me in touch with Kate, a VI runner who was looking to do her first triathlon in 2016. Kate and I met for the first time in January 2016 and, since then, we’ve been training together about every month, usually on the weekends.

A balancing act

Balancing personal life, personal training goals (& races), and Kate’s training goals (& races) is definitely a balancing act, but a challenge I have been happy to take on and where people & things in my life have had to compromise (that includes Roger and Kate, so thank you to you two!).

Guiding logistics & Kate’s first triathlon (in the northeast)

Kate was originally aiming for Hyannis Sprint I (in June) to be her first triathlon. She had guides willing to do each leg of the triathlon, but no tandem bike (especially one that could fit my size as the captain). I reached out to my friend, Phil, who has a tandem and he agreed to captain for Kate. However, Kate was offered an opportunity with Team Catapult, the same weekend as Hyannis Sprint I, which meant we had to back out of that triathlon and Kate did her first sprint triathlon in Texas.

When Kate got back from racing her first sprint, she was interested in doing a triathlon in the northeast with Phil and me as her guides (Phil on the bike, and me for the swim and run). After figuring out our schedules, we agreed on the Pilgrimman olympic distance!

Race day – Sunday, September 18

Pre-race

This is how you know I’m nervous; I’m super early.” Kate arrived at my place around 5:10am, which was earlier than the 5:20am time we had planned. That was fine by me because I’d rather someone be early than late! Phil and his fiancée, Jen, then arrived and we started packing the car. Phil & Jen’s tandem fit beautifully on my Saris bike rack with both wheels removed. It was probably no wider than a normal road bike with the wheels removed. I should have taken a picture so people could have a reference of how to travel with a tandem bike without having to use a mini-van or putting all the seats down!

Since I’m a food enthusiast, I have to note what my breakfast was:
breakfast sandwich with enoki mushroom, egg, guacamole, and tomatoes.

We arrived at the race site, College Pond (part of the DCR Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth), by my targeted time of 6:30am, but parking and other things took longer than I expected and, before I knew it, it was 7:30am when Kate and I got to our transition spot – this meant we only had 15 minutes until transition closed! Neither Kate’s or my backpacks were unpacked; we both still had to pee and bathroom lines at races can sometimes be 15+ minutes; and I hadn’t yet done a dry run & visualization of finding our transition spot from the swim exit (I like to visually take in finding my transition spot at every race to make sure I can easily find it). I was definitely very stressed! And Kate seemed quite calm. But I tried my best to hide being stressed because that’s the last thing I want Kate to be feeling.

After we were all set up, we beelined to the bathroom*, which surprisingly did not have a long wait! Then it was off to the beach for the usual pre-race announcements and a long wait for Kate’s wave, which was about 45 minutes after the 8am race start. The half iron, olympic and sprint races were all happening on the same day, and Kate was the 2nd to last wave in the Olympic distance.

*Feedback for Pilgramman: I liked that there were both portapotties and flush toilets at this race site, but the bathrooms were not easily accessible for athletes. Would you please consider making the toilets easily accessible? Or maybe stick a couple portapotties INSIDE transition? 

Swim 0.9 mile

Kate and I swim tethered at the hip. We each wear a Theraband around our hips and then use a resistance band that has a clip/hook on both ends to connect each of our Therabands. The swim was 3 loops of 0.3 miles and, after each loop, we had to exit the water, run on the beach, and re-enter the water. Because I’m not a fan of looped bike and run courses in races (feels more grueling mentally), I went into the race assuming the looped swim would be unpleasant. To my surprise, I ended up enjoying the 3 loop set up; it was like the swim was split up into 3 short, manageable sections.

The water at College Pond was probably the coldest Kate has ever swam in. I forget the announced temperature, but I estimate it was in the high 60s (°F). We both wore wetsuits, but Kate hasn’t been training in one, which we realised may not have been the best idea. There were a couple times during the first lap where Kate would stop and tell me she really wanted to take the wetsuit off. I kept thinking (i.e. did not say this out loud)please don’t take it off right here in the water!! I don’t want my wetsuit to float away!! I asked Kate a few times if she was super sure about taking it off since it’s not uncommon for swimmers to feel less confident and cold without a wetsuit. She assured me she was super positive, and, thanks to the course design of getting out of the water after each lap, we were able to ditch the wetsuit on the beach before finishing the last two laps.

I could feel Kate swimming better with each lap we did. Though, one struggle I had was trying to guide her around the buoys. The course was clockwise with 2 right turn buoys. Kate often veered to the right and I was trying my best to make sure we did not miss a buoy by cutting it (sorry, Kate, for the couple times that you may have bumped into a turn buoy).

img_8129-copy
Exiting the swim and what our hip tether looks like. Photo credit: Jen Yao

T1

It was nice to be greeted by Jen when we exited the water. I remembered to grab the wetsuit that Kate had left on the beach after the first lap and we jogged our way up a slight hill to transition. Kate had to take a bio-break, which had the added challenge of contorting and squeezing through the awkward metal barricade due to the illogical race set up (as noted above in my pre-race section). Phil was told to wait with the tandem bike close to the bike mount/transition exit area; this meant Phil was not near Kate’s transition spot and we had to run over to him.

Bike 25.6 miles

Since Phil was Kate’s captain, I can’t write anything firsthand here. I do know that they kept things interesting on the bike by counting each racer they passed on the course. I also can report that Kate used bacon and potatoes as part of her nutrition. While I have not met many tandem captains in my life, I know for a fact that Phil’s captaining is second to none – anyone who has ever stoked for him would understand. Also, let me note that I enjoy how helpful and even-tempered Phil & Jen are – they definitely make race day so much better!

As for what I did during the bike – I hung out with Jen and took my sweet time getting ready for the run (though, some of you may be laughing at how long I already take in T1 from my previous race reports).

img_8140-copy
Kate, me & Phil after bike dismount. Ready to head for T2 & the run! Photo credit: Jen Yao

T2

Kate and Phil narrowly missed the bike dismount line when they finished the bike! I met Kate at bike dismount, we ran to her transition spot where she dropped off her unused nutrition, took a bio-break (ugh, that annoying bathroom setup), and off to ‘Run Out’!

Run 6.6 miles

The run was two 3.3 mile loops through the Myles Standish State Forest, which was very beautiful, scenic, and secluded feeling, but pretty spectator-bare. Thankfully, the volunteers and fellow racers were all very friendly and cheery. Each 3.3 mile loop was an out and back format, which meant each of the 3 aid stations served both sides of the course. Aid stations were well placed at about every mile and well stocked with water, Heed, gatorade, and gels.

The course was rolling terrain, and Kate made a deal with me that we’d run on flats and downhills, but walk up the hills. I have a feeling Kate could have ran the whole course, but was just trying to play it conservatively in her first olympic distance triathlon. I think my biggest struggle was trying to verbalize the course and our progress to Kate. Had I done a better job of that, Kate could better anticipate, pace, and adjust her efforts. Something I need to work on.

When we passed the last aid station on our 2nd loop, that meant the finish line was near, but it wasn’t in my line of vision yet. I let Kate know, but she seemed a bit in disbelief that she was almost done! As soon as the finish line was in my sight, I let Kate know right away and she still seemed a bit in disbelief, but soon kicked up the intensity and crossed the finish line of her first olympic triathlon!

img_2388-copy
Me, Kate, & Phil post-race. Photo credit: Jen Yao

Post-race

While Kate received splits and times for her olympic distance debut, she was unfortunately disqualified from the race due to not having the same gendered guide on the bike (Phil should have spruced up a bit to be ‘Phyllis’ for the day). We knew going into Pilgrimman that she would not be eligible for prizes due to this reason, but still wanted to race it for the experience. During the run and after the race, Kate repeatedly told us that she had a great time and really enjoyed herself. This was definitely evident as Kate has a huge smile on her face in every race picture Jen took. I’m really glad that Kate enjoyed her first olympic distance triathlon and first triathlon in the northeast.

After the race, we all went to Dillon’s Local in Plymouth for lunch and to celebrate Kate. It has a cute location near the water (though, no water views inside) and great football vibe (which I appreciated since there was a Patriots game that day). Food was tasty and we appreciated that you can get tater tots with your sandwich instead of the usual fries.

Huge congratulations, Kate, and I look forward to seeing you progress through your triathlon journey!