Family First: I Support Rev3 and UCF

September 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

To be honest, I have a lot of things that are on my mind right now, and Lance Armstrong isn’t making the top 5. That’s why I’ll make this quick.

When I left the world of ultras (I only consider this a sabbatical – don’t worry!) to focus on triathlons, one of the hardest parts was the loss of a “family” in my sport. I don’t have a huge family – we don’t have large gatherings at the holidays, there’s no huge family reunions. And that’s always been okay because I’ve found a family in my soccer team, my lacrosse team, or later in life, my trail-running-ultra-crazy friends. At first, that wasn’t something that I had in triathlon. And then I met the Rev3 crew.

Words can’t do justice to what this group of people has meant to me over the past year. This group has helped me through it all – the petty frustrations that life hands you, to the larger stuff – like when I got hit by a car while riding my bike in July (details of this are still being withheld from the internet until the insurance claims are wrapped up). I can assure you that the reason I made it through all of this in the past year – and came out on top – is because of the Rev3 family.

Rev3 is my family. The Ulman Cancer Fund is my family. And therefore, each and every life that these organizations touch, becomes a life that I care about. I believe in the work he does and the decisions that are made by Charlie Patten. I believe in the tireless dedication and sincere devotion to changing lives that Brian, Brock, and the rest of the crew at Ulman has. I believe that there are many others out there like my date for homecoming in my junior year of high school, John Petrovick, who were taken from this world too early by cancer, and whose lives are changed by UCF.

Family. Friends. An open heart. An open mind.

Those are the things that I believe in. And those are the people that I will stand behind.

Now if you excuse me, I have a little race in Kona to prepare for.

Finding Hidden Treasure

September 15, 2012 § 6 Comments

I can’t  help but shake my head a little when I think about the past couple months. And if you take nothing from this blog post, it should be that every cliché about the value of patience in endurance sports (and probably life, but that’s another post) is absolutely spot on. Having patience to grind out day after day of training, being an observer of the sport, and taking it all in can eventually add up to some pretty great things.

But, 6 weeks ago, I wasn’t so sure about that. Coming off of IM CdA I felt pretty good – I had, after all, put down basically the same time as Arizona on an arguably tougher course. But, something was still missing from the race. I didn’t have the hunger in the race that I was hoping for. I felt fit going into the race, but something was missing. Arizona was the first time where I ever had the fitness to match the hunger and execute everything together, so I knew what that could feel like…and I wanted that again.

Hillary and I put our heads together and came up with a plan that, frankly, I had no idea how it would turn out. My instinct after CdA was to go full-introvert….crawl into my little cave of training, put my head down, and stay there until I was ready to come out, hungry for a race when Kona rolled around. Hillary pushed me outside of that comfort level and we threw some races on the schedule. In the span of 4 weeks I was going to race 3 times: two 70.3s and a half marathon.

Going into race #1 (Rev3 Dells) I was confident. I was coming off of a 1,200 mile bike month. My legs were strong and I knew it. With a mini taper I was able to throw down the much aspired for PR of 4:59, finally breaking through that 5 hour barrier. Doing so on a hard course was icing on the cake.

Race #2 (Rev3 Maine) was another story. Another mini taper, but with a long week of training in between the races, going into the race my head wasn’t 100% there. I knew I had plenty of excuses that would make sense to explain how I was slower on an easier course this time around. There was a moment on the bike when I had to make the decision: let it hurt, or give up. Honestly, in this race, having to face Hillary and tell her “it hurt too bad to ride faster” was reason enough for me to suck it up. Why? Because I am coached by a woman who is about to take on an Ironman….one week after she just did one. And you better believe it’s going to hurt. And you better believe she’s not going to complain. My coach sets the standard that I hope to match, and in Maine on that day, I needed that. Eventually I found my rhythm, pulled through the low, and was able to execute on the run. Another PR, 7 minutes faster.

Race #3 (Hidden Treasure Half) I was battling the excuses all week, yet again. Having warned me that “we won’t be going into this race rested” I was nervous. I know how much it hurts to have to run hard when you don’t have the legs. That’s part of the reason I shy away from road racing – the trails are always so much more forgiving on your slow days. I couldn’t help but remember when I attempted a similar situation with a half marathon following a big week last year and ran a 1:48, suffering most of the way. But I headed down to the eastern shore for the Hidden Treasure Half Marathon, inspired by the promise that it would be a smaller venue so if it went poorly I could suffer (mostly) alone, and also by the potential of earning some money if it did go well.  As I warmed up, my legs felt okay. Not great, but definitely not terrible. I looked around at the start and chatted with another girl who was bold enough to be standing on the front line.  She also had twelve pack abs. She looked legit, to say the least. We talked about pace and it sounded like we could run together for a bit. As girls like to do though, she completely undersold herself, and that “bit” ended up only being a mile.

Starting out with her I saw 6:30s on the watch and thought it was in my best interest to slow down early. While I had the sub-1:30 barrier in mind, there was no point in getting greedy here. So I let the couple people I was running with inch away, and attempted to settle in. Around mile 3, the good legs started to disappear, and the legs that had been training hard all week were found. As I assessed how I was feeling overall, the only real observation I could make was that it was the type of day where it was all or nothing – I would stick to the pace, or I would be running 8+’s all the way in. There wasn’t going to be a happy medium here.

In that moment, I made the decision to let it hurt. And this week it wasn’t because I was afraid of having to face Hillary – in fact, I think that in this instance we could have accepted a tough day and chalked up to fatigue. It was for no other reason than I wanted it. Really, really badly. My mind wandered to a quote that has been my inspiration throughout this training block. I found this print back in July, and it has stuck with me:

There would be no more waiting for things to happen. It was time for me to capitalize on the work I had done, take advantage of my hard work. I had the hunger, and I was bound and determined to find out if I had the fitness.

The Hidden Treasure course is pretty technical as running races go. It weaves in and out of neighborhood streets, down through little pedestrian tunnels, etc. We were fortunate to have a cooler day, though the sun was shining brightly making it feel a little hotter than it should have. I guess that’s what happens with a 9am start. My mind was complete mush and doing the math to figure out if I was going to be near the goal time was impossible. All I could remember was that back in March when I raced a half, I was trying to keep 6:50s. So I paid no attention to any number on the watch other than trying to keep the pace as close to that as I could. There were some spectators out in the last mile and they reported to me that I was close, and that’s when I started to feel like I was actually going to make it through this effort alive. The finish of the race is pretty neat as they have you actually enter the civic center for the finishing chute. I took two steps in and looked up at the clock and saw a 1:28. That number was enough to nearly make me stop dead in my tracks. I crossed the line in 1:28:49, ninety seconds faster than the half I ran last March, and knocking the 1:30 mark out of the water. And, it earned me a nice little payday!

The past 8 weeks of training has pushed me out of my comfort zone more than ever before. Starting with bike camp, I was able to do more than I ever thought possible, both in training and in racing. I still have some hay to put in the barn before Kona, but I know what I can do now. And with that comes a sense of peace, rather than a sense of nervousness or the unknown. Having the patience to carry out a training plan day-in and day-out for the past 18 months has gotten me to this point. I have a long way to go, but my mind is clear, and I am ready.

Guest Post: How to Build a Carbonator!

September 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

You asked, and here you go 🙂 Carly was kind enough to write up details on how she built our awesome carbonation system.  I have to say, since it’s inception not a day goes by where we haven’t been carbonating!!

Okay, so full disclosure, I didn’t come up with this all on my own.  I got my instructions from this website.

 
It’s SUPER sciencey, but for nerds it’s a fun read about how it works and the chemistry/physics behind carbonating.
 
My “simple” version…
 
MATERIALS:
1 – CO2 tank – 5lb is plenty big, ours is a 20lb, but mainly because that’s what I could find on Craigslist for cheap. This is the most difficult thing to find without spending a lot of money.  You can buy them new online or in a beverage store, but they’re pricey (~$100).  Also, like propane, most places you swap out your tank, so its sad to trade-in a nice shiny, new tank for an old clunker.  I’d suggest keeping an eye on craigslist.  I paid $35 for mine empty, and a fill was $23 (at Robert’s Oxygen) and should last for quite some time.
 
1 – dual gauge regulator (The only other pricey gadget you need ~$45).  I have this one and it works great!  http://www.amazon.com/Premium-Series-Gauge-Draft-Regulator
 
1 – piece of 6ft of vinyl tubing (non-braided as a safety against over-pressurizing) – I got mine at Ace Hardware.  For that regulator you want one with an internal diameter of 1/2″, external of 5/8″.  Costs a few dollars – $3-4 maybe.
 
1 roll of plumbing tape (PTFE tape) – Also Ace Hardware.  $2
 
2 hose clamps – Ace Hardware $3
1 tire valve with the stem removed (you can use needlenose pliers to just twist it out).  I bought the clamp in kind to be sure I can get a tight seal on the cap.  You can find these at an auto parts store, and they should be less than $5.  They make a “snap-in” kind that should work as well, but I’ve never tried it.  Make sure the cap has that little plastic washer underneath it.  Pepsi bottles still have it.  Drill a hole in the cap and put the valve up through the cap.  Tighten it down and connect to the hose.
 
You then just connect all the parts!  Tank to Regulator.  Regulator to Hose.  Hose to valve.  Clamp the hose on both ends.  I wrapped all the connections in the PTFE tape to be sure it was sealed.  Also, the regulator needs to have a washer between the regulator and the opening of the CO2 tank, otherwise you’ll get a leak – There should be a washer attached to your tank when you get it filled, but if not, you can find one at a hardware store.
 
To carbonate, take a regular soda or seltzer bottle filled with cool water, squeeze out the air, attach it, turn on the gas and shake.  I set my regulator to 45psi to get nice bubbles.  You can freeze a little water in the bottoms of the bottles to chill the water better.  The colder your liquid, the better carbonation.  

Happy carbonating everyone! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, and Carly will help you out!

No Maine, No Gain: A Rev3 Race Report

September 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

Only a week behind things here, so that’s not too bad! I wanted to make sure I had time to properly give this trip all the credit it deserves. If I had to pick the next “up and coming” Rev3 event, I would say that Maine will be following closely in Quassy’s footsteps! Not that the other events aren’t great – but this one really has it all.

I was able to fly into Portland, Maine on Friday night, catching a late flight after work. This meant that I was driving to Kennebunkport in the darkness of the night to find my homestay. Yep – that’s right, my teammate Jen hooked it up for me and I was doing my first homestay! Despite the late arrival, everything went off perfectly and I found myself fast asleep in a top bunk in the quiet town of Kennebunkport shortly after midnight. The next morning I got up and properly introduced myself to my host for the weekend, Nick. He offered to take me on a tour of the town, so we hopped onto bikes and pedaled the half a mile into town for breakfast at the Wayferer. It was like going back in time, and I loved getting to meet the locals. Everyone was so welcoming, and so excited to be having the race coming nearby. After eating we pedaled out to the pier and I was able to take in the sights of the quiet New England town. We even ran into some real Maine lobsterman! I have to say, I was already sold on the concept of a homestay at this point – it was a much more enjoyable way to see the area, rather than sitting in a small hotel room by myself!

Then it was time to get all of my pre-race stuff out of the way: building my bike, heading to Old Orchard Beach to pick up my packet, and do some easy pre-race shakeouts. As usual the Rev3 fam was around every bend and it was so nice to have so many familiar (and friendly!) faces. After this it was time for some relaxation before heading into Portland for dinner with the team. I realized how exhausted I was though when I was fast asleep in my top bunk again by 9:30! This was advantageous for me though – with a 6:32 start time the wakeup call comes at 4:00, so getting to bed as early as possible was only a good thing.

Getting to the race was pretty flawless the next morning. I arrived around 5:10 and was able to park in the library right next to the transition (totally work $10 if you ask me). I set up my transition stuff – I was actually racked next to some Baltimore Team Fight friends, Alan and Rachel, so that made transition more fun than usual, and headed down to the ocean for the start. I did learn one lesson here though  – totally makes sense to put on your wetsuit before you’re walking in/standing on the sand. I waited, which meant I was putting sandy feet and legs into the wetsuit – not so comfortable! I was just going to have to live with it though. We had a beach start and it was super fun getting to run in and dive through the breakers. I felt good the entire swim, though was out there for a little longer than I would have liked 🙂 Oh well. T1 here is a long run up from the ocean, so I got my bearings and it was actually pretty fun to be running through a crowd the whole way up to the bikes.

As I started riding I began to get a sense of how my legs were feeling. Only two weeks after a big effort at the Dells – with a 20+ hour training week in between – this was going to be foreign territory for me. And after a few miles I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy day. No matter what gear I was pushing, or my cadence, my quads were feeling the burn. The good thing at least was that lightly spinning wasn’t even much better, so that was motivation to at least keep pushing. If it’s gonna hurt, I’m going to make it count for something! You may have heard that this bike course is flat, but let me tell you that it is “flat” in Rev3 terms. There are no monster climbs, but you have a fair share of rollers and a few that suck the momentum right out of you. I was passed by a couple women so I did my best to keep them in eyesight. I was conscious to walk the red line with my legs though, never quite getting past it. I wanted to be able to have a solid run and that wasn’t going to be possible if I wasn’t conserving the tank of gas I had in me. When you’re only running with half a tank anyway, it means having to stay very in tune with how your legs are feeling. The bike course was beautiful though, and before I knew it I was coming in towards transition.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the run given the state my legs were in, but I was going to give it a shot. And, while my legs were definitely tired, running actually felt much better than riding did. I think I was able to use less power from my quads which were feeling the brunt of the fatigue. I began clipping off the miles, and that’s easy to do when a large portion of the run is on the Eastern Trail. While it’s a little rocky (I wouldn’t run on flats here), it is shaded and absolutely gorgeous…..and flat. There were a couple hills in the neighborhood beforehand, but once you’re on the trail you can cruise your way along. At the out and back  I was able to check out where I was in the rankings, and I saw 3 women ahead by about 3/4s of a mile. Grr. But, the best thing about 4th is that you’re not stuck running scared, you having nothing to lose. After about 10k I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I did everything I could to stay focused, keep my cadence up, and keep my mile splits down. I knew I was tired becuse every quarter mile I was adjusting my shorts and tri top – rolled up, rolled down, zipped up, zipped down – all that fidgeting is a sure sign I’m not comfortable. As I hit the neighborhoods for the last couple miles, I caught sight of one of the women ahead of me…..and I caught sight of an “R” on her leg! Ah ha! She was a relay. Well, maybe I am running scared then! Luckily there wasn’t too much further to go, and I came through the finish with a new PR of 4:52.

Afterwards it was all smiles as I learned that I lobster bake actually means you get LOBSTERS to eat! (I thought it meant lobster was baked into something….like a casserole…I don’t know…it made sense at the time.)

I enjoyed hanging out at the race and getting to see all of the finishers come through. In the afternoon it was time to head back to Kennebunkport, pack my bike, and then I had the opportunity to get to know even more of the locals at the Kennebunkport Tri Club end of season party. Again, everyone was just so inviting and friendly, they proved that they are a wonderful group of people and I hope that they continue to support and race Rev3 events!

Unfortunately it was another 4am wake up on Monday morning to get me home for work, but any of the fatigue I felt on Monday was totally worth it. I loved getting to see Maine, and I have a feeling that I will be back next year!

As always, thanks to all of the Team Rev3 sponsors for getting me to a 7 minute PR! Fueled by Powerbar, kept chafe-free by Trislide, looking cute in Pearl Izumi tri kit, leak-free goggles from Blue Seventy, no blisters with Swiftwick, and of course a post-race recovery sesh with NormaTec. It really does take a village!

 

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