College!

April 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last weekend prior to my race (we’ll get to that soon!) I had the pleasure of coaching the UVA Triathlon team at collegiate nationals. I met this great group last fall and I have been so excited as I looked forward to nationals. I’ve written before about what the tri club was for me in college, and I wanted to make sure that if nothing else I was a reliable resource for the team. Whether they just wanted some advice on what races are fun, they actually wanted structured workouts, or they just wanted to chat about life – I wanted to be there for them. Over the past few months I got to know a handful of them pretty well, and they made up the core group of ten athletes headed to Tempe.

On one hand, standing in the hot sun for 2 days prior to my own race was probably not the best idea for setting myself up for success. On the other hand, however, those two days gave me more motivation than a little bit of sun could have ever sucked out of me. On Friday I was witness to the first draft legal college race. I may have even sent coach a text probing to see if she thought I’d ever survive an ITU race…..needless to say, we decided that’s probably not the route for me 🙂 Either way, it looked FUN! One of my rock stars, Lauren, did amazing: swimming with the pack, blowing through T1 to have girls to ride with, then making it a race on the run. And she had a smile on her face this whole time – which is even more amazing when you consider I was asking her to race again in the 90 degree heat a day later!

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On Saturday everyone got to shine. It was a full day of racing (7:30 – 5:30 between the men’s, women’s, and relays) and the land around Tempe Lake was packed the whole time. It really doesn’t get much better than watching college kids be excited for something. Costumes and cheers abound, if you are looking for a reason to have fun in this sport I assure you that you need not look further than some of these college teams!

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I highly encourage you to reach out to a local college team if you have one in the area and go for a swim or ride with them. These kids are AMAZING and really help keep things in perspective. I am already excited for next year!

Boston

April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

When my plane landed yesterday and I turned on my phone, the amount of texts coming in were the first sign something was wrong. A quick glance at twitter and the nightmare is confirmed. I can only echo the sentiments of everything which has already been said by others. My experiences at the Boston marathon years ago are ones that I will never forget, and my heart breaks for those who will also never forget their time at that race, but for very different reasons.

As every runner knows, running heals. We will all continue to lace up, and get out there in our own time. The finish line will continue to be a symbol of hard work and dedication, perhaps even moreso now than ever before.

Boston Finish mile 19

Keys to Keys: They’re off!

April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

This morning for a little weekend training motivation I had the honor of attending the send-off for the Team Fight Keys to Keys ride. You may remember last year Rev3 partnered with UCF to run across america. After my short weekend with that group, I have no doubt that this year’s ride to Key West will be just as meaningful. The Rev3 team is being represented by our own Kiersten Henry. Kier was the first person to welcome me with open arms into the Rev3 team and for that I am always grateful. I have been following along this winter as she got herself in epic biking shape, and I know she is going to have an amazing journey over the next week.

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Listening to the riders speak about who they are riding for in this morning’s dedication circle was truly inspiring. They are out there for something larger than themselves. Please support them as they continue the fight against cancer!

To follow along on their journey, follow @TeamFightUCF, @UlmanCancerFnd, @BSatola, and @KierstenHenry on twitter!

IM Los Cabos Race Report

March 22, 2013 § 8 Comments

I was kind of hoping this race report would just write itself while I relaxed on the beach earlier this week, but alas, it did not 🙂

Coming into this race I admit that the logistics made me nervous. Having chosen not to rent a car, I was just going to wing it in terms of getting everywhere I needed to be – check in, dropping off my bike, and most importantly the race start. The fact that our condo ended up being directly across from the host hotel was a huge blessing. The race was providing shuttles from the hotel to pretty much everywhere we needed to be, so that solved most of my worries. On race morning April and I walked across the street and within 20 minutes we were deboarding and walking down to transition at Palmilla Beach. I was able to find coach for a last minute chat – in which we also learned this was going to be a beach start, not an in water start as advertised. Not a huge deal but I do have some apprehension on mass beach starts after CDA, so that added to my prerace nerves. I decided to line up all the way on the far right and that ended up being a great decision. The energy I saved from not having to fight the crowds of men was much more valuable than the handful of meters extra I may have swum to that first buoy. The beach was fairly calm but as we were starting a few swells were coming in, making that start quite a spectacle I’m sure for those watching!

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As I began swimming I felt that there was a crowd pulling away from me but I also felt like I was at the front of the next pack. I was able to find some feet here and there as I was pulling some of the stragglers in, but I did spend most of the longggg way back in to shore without any feet. It’s hard to say if it was a long swim or just a slow swim, but when I came out with a 1:07 on the watch but still plenty of bags and bikes in transition, I wasn’t worried.  There is a short climb out of T1 before it pops you out onto the coastal highway and you head down to Cabo San Lucas.

By the time race day rolled around, I had accumulated 6 hours of riding that stretch of highway, and I was well prepared for the ride ahead. I already knew that winds would be a factor, and that the “rolling coastline” which was advertised would have been called quite hilly if I had written it! I had a plan which was to ride comfortably for the first 50k or so, at which point the course turns onto a tollroad which was closed to bicycles so I had not seen it yet. However, one look at the course profile tells you that is where the hills really begin. After Tucson camp, both Hillary and I were very confident with my bike fitness right now and we knew that it would be advantageous to capitalize on that. As I turned onto that road I kept the old Blue in her big gear and began to pedal past large groups of riders who were spinning more lightly up the climb. I was able to spot a few girls that I knew would have been out of the water a handful of minutes ahead of me, so I was pleased I had made up that time. After the climb you are rewarded with a nice long decent. Having my 808s in the wind was a bit tedious but I kept focused and relaxed and had no real issues…..until a bee flew into my tri top! Yep, heading down at 35 mph a bee took the opportunity to just get right in there. As panicked as I was, I think he was more scared and stung me 2-3 times. I had popped out of my aero bars and after not being able to scoop him out the top of my shirt, I had to just grin and bear it, lifting up my top completely and thereby flashing any lucky rider coming in the opposite direction. I mean…..it IS spring break, right?

I was a bit distracted after that but soon was pushing back to Cabo for lap 2. By now the winds had picked up considerably making this much more work than it was just a couple hours before. The one thing keeping me going was that even though I was going slower, I wasn’t get passed much at all (only one girl caught me the whole ride), and I was making good ground on those ahead of me. Because you have 3 turnaround points, this was a great bike course for being able to see the competition.  When I saw Hillary coming out of the Cabo turn she yelled that I was catching “them” — and I knew who “they” were: the girls leading the race. This was good motivation and I was able to keep myself in 5th place throughout the last portion of the ride.  There was plenty of cold water on course and the volunteers were amazing. The crowd support along the bike route was also pretty great. Very few sections of the course left things to just you and your thoughts.

T2 was in the heart of San Jose del Cabo and after I handed off my bike I realized I made a mistake by leaving my shoes clipped into my pedals. There was no carpet over the asphalt on the way to the changing tent and it was far from smooth. I basically had to tiptoe slow-walk my way there, but again the volunteers were amazing and helped me get changed quickly for the run. Heading out onto the course the first thing I noticed was that my legs felt good. Not great, but good – and I can work with good, especially coming off what I was hoping was a fast bike split. The run is 3 loops and is really well contained within the town. Again, this is phenomenal in the sense that you are only without support for maybe a mile of the whole loop. The rest of the time you have a ton of spectators, or are in an out-and-back portion so there are plenty of other runners around. I was also super lucky to have Hillary out there racing as well….before I could even see her bright orange and pink shoes she had spotted me and was passing along encouragement. And a huge shoutout to Jordan Blanco must be given –  this woman had her hands full all day tracking not only her husband, but several friends as well. She is the one who was giving me updates on my place and trying to sort out the mistakes within the results on Ironmanlive. Thanks JB!

This was also a very hot run – there’s no way around that. I think it ended up being about 85 degrees around this time an there was a lot of direct sunlight (would love to know how they got away with advertising the average temperature is 68 degrees in March!). Again though, plenty of agua and ielo (apparently when I run Ironmans I’m fluent in Spanish because I was even passing along my bib number at the check point in Spanish!) The only downside of the run here was that the coke was passed out in these tiny plastic shot glass cups – wide brimmed and totally impossible to drink from on the run. I’m not even sure I was getting 20 calories out of this when I was taking it.

As with any ironman marathon I had plenty of peaks and valleys. The heaviness set in around halfway and I also realized I had stopped eating off the bike with a sensitive stomach. Thank goodness for Powerbar gels on course as those were a lifesaver and I was able to contain the damage of my slowing pace. The places shuffled around a lot on the run too – a lot of the girls who biked hard ended up falling off on the run, while some of the girls who held back maybe 15 minutes on the bike were rewarded with a solid marathon. This is most certainly a course where you should take those factors into consideration, along with the heat. Certainly no “gimme” finish, and quite honestly I’m not sure you could get a course that is more comparable to Kona!

Holding myself together with a 10:53:30 was a fantastic day for me. Going into this race Hillary talked to me about stepping up my game and thinking of myself as a competitor across all age groups. I was going for the age group win but I was also competing for the overall race – never before had something like that quite been within my reach. I’m really proud of the fact that I did go for it – and I think it shows in the fact that the next girl in my age group was almost a whole hour behind me. I have a lot of work ahead of me this year, but having this race under my belt and it’s only March puts me right at ease. I know we’re on the right track.

After the race it was time to celebrate with a beach rave (okay, so we had drinks at the restaurant next to the beach rave, but still). I was lucky enough to be staying through Wednesday so I even got in some quality sun time the past few days too.

Thank you and congrats to my Cabo BFF April, who had a HUGE breakthrough race, looking strong the entire time and was 8th in the pro field. It was super fun to share not only the condo but also the race course with you. To my Team Rev3 Sponsors who kept me going this winter at a time when it is most people’s offseason, thank you: Blue Seventy, Powerbar, NormaTec, Biotta, TriSlide, Compex, and Pearl Izumi. To the ladies at Oiselle, who remind me every day to go fast and take chances.

And of course, for coach Hillary. Thank you for continuing to push me to be my best and make my dreams come true.

Aloha 🙂

Donde está Alyssa?

March 16, 2013 § 3 Comments

Hola! You may be asking yourself how to follow along with the race mañana? Unfortunately I don’t have the best of news, but I do have options, and who doesn’t like a good old fashioned wild goose chase.

Option número uno: Ironman live. This somehow right now appears to be the least viable option as when you go to the live coverage page – only one event is listed….and it’s not the one I’m doing. Interesting.

IMLive

Option número dos: Ironmanloscabos.com ……but this option doesn’t seem promising either seeing as this is posted under results:

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Option número tres: A website that seemingly acts as if it will have live tracking! Only time will tell, and you may want to brush up on your español and kilometers!

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Not too surprised though…..considering I received this as a last minute “course map” (they just sent the screen shot, not an interactive link or anything….):

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But if you’re in town, tracking me will be easy…..just look for the:

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Cabo!

March 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

Well, despite TSA’s best efforts to detain me when my NormaTec was deemed suspicious in the airport (just kidding, but I did have to answer a few questions!) I made it to Mexico!!!!! The travel day was long…..BWI–>LAX—>Cabo. But, no delays or any real hiccups and soon enough I was in paradise! April, my bff for the week, was already at our condo and greeted me with two things to make me feel like I was still at home – a chocolate chip cookie and some Dr. Phil! Nothing puts nerves at easy quite like either of those.

It’s not all fun and games though – I am still working full time out here (just lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely). Working on east coast hours gives me plenty of afternoon time though to relax and go through my pre-race routines. I’ve been able to check out a lot of the bike course as well as the run course…..it is going to be a challenging course that will keep us honest, that is for sure! And it appears there will be plenty of elements like wind and heat to spice things up 🙂

In the meantime I have also learned that my Spanish is not nearly as good as I thought it was in my head. April and I have found an amazing restaurant that we’ve had dinner at twice. I am watching the water I drink and staying off my feet. All in all – things are adding up to a great day on Sunday! I’ll post tracking info here this weekend….For now, time for bed!

This carrot was very carrot-like.

This carrot was very carrot-like. And I ate pork chops.

FlipBelt = A must!

March 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

While I was never actually a girl scout, I do like to be prepared. That means that at any time in my purse or gym bag I have anything that I could possibly need in any circumstance. Getting hangry? No problem, I’ve got snacks. Chapped lips? I probably have 5 tubes of chapstick (all serving different purposes, of course). Work stuff, cell phone, to-do lists, pens, clothes, books, you name it….I probably have it.

I tend to take the same approach with running. For one thing, living in Baltimore, 90% of the time I’m an urban runner. Which means that carrying my housekey is a must. A phone is even better for safety. And of course I still like to bring snacks along! I used to be a pro at stuffing everything I could need in my sports bra – but eventually had to give up that habit because of chaffing. Determined not to buy a fanny pack, I not just stuff everything in the pockets of my outfit – not always a very flattering look – nor is it always easy to run with. But, it’s always been the better option to something flopping around my waist. I can never get Fuel Belts to stay put on my hips where they’re comfortable….and running with something tight enough around my waist so it doesn’t bounce is impossible for me. I stumbled upon the FlipBelt from a fitness blog and knew I needed to get my hands on one.

A quick look at the website drew my attention to one thing — 178 product reviews, giving it a 5 star review. The other thing that caught my attention was it is actually cute…..or at least the girls in the pictures who wear it are cute. Either way, I was sold. I had my FlipBelt sent to Tucson so that I could put it to the test at camp. Sure enough, our first long run day was the perfect opportunity. No better way to test some gear than during 18 miles of a progression run, right?! I slid the belt on and had a good feeling right away – it felt snug and fit nicely on my hips. I am a size 6 in most bottoms, and I got the small. I then packed the belt with 2 Powerbar Gels and an iPod (running a 3 mile loop – even I use music!). And then run began. The only time I even remembered I was wearing it was when I pulled the headphones out to start my music. Other than that the FlipBelt was literally just a part of my outfit. If anything, it kind of helped my shorts stay put while I ran too. Nothing bounced, nothing came out……it didn’t budge.

In summary, it was awesome. Just as a quick test afterwards I packed my cell phone in there with the same result. This is definitely the first product of its kind where I haven’t had to adjust/tighten constantly. Conclusion? This is a must for every runner!

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