Kansas 70.3 Race Report

There are some advantages and disadvantages to planning your race schedule many months in advance. The advantage is that you have goals to work towards to motivate and shape your training. The disadvantage is that things can change between the time you hit the “register now” button and the event. Something that seemed like a good idea back in the fall suddenly might seem like a very bad idea as the date looms closer.

I thought I had things planned out for this season, but jumping into IMStG last month caused me to rethink those plans. After that event, I was finding it hard to gear up for the two more Ironmans I had planned for this year. Specifically, I was sort of dreading doing all of the work that needed to be done this summer to get ready for IM Wisconsin in September. That race was going to be my attempt at a Kona qualifier for 2013, but IMStG had shown me that there was much work to be done between now and September. I was not feeling so excited about doing it. The kids are out of school now, and I was really wishing I had planned a more relaxed summer. I wanted to go to the pool with the kids rather than for a 4K workout, enjoy time with friends, and not feel stressed about getting in the training that I knew had to be done. It was starting to feel like a burden more than something I was enjoying.

I felt like I had been trying to drink from a fire hose for the past two years. I was starting to get tired of it.

So that was where I found myself mentally last week. Mark and I had planned the Kansas trip a long time ago, but as the date grew closer, I wasn’t feeling excited. I was feeling overwhelmed and guilty for leaving the kids on a weekend when they had a lot going on, and not excited about racing. I even suggested to Mark a few days prior that he go without me, but he really wanted us to go together and we had already made all of the plans. So I decided to change my attitude and try to get a little excited about it.

We had decided to fly to Kansas City on Saturday, the day before the race. We were both not quite in the right frame of mind though. The kids had their first swim meet of the season that morning, and all of my mental energy was going towards making sure they had everything they needed and were set for the weekend. It seemed like we would have plenty of time to register, get the bikes checked in, and get organized Saturday afternoon, but by the time we got to the race site, it was already mid-afternoon and we started to feel like we were in a rush. Bike boxes were opened and parts and tools were strewn all over the ground. It was immediately evident that neither of us was really firing on all cylinders. Mark’s breaks were rubbing and my derailer was unhappy. We didn’t know where anything was. We hadn’t stopped for lunch and I had already eaten half of my pre-race breakfast I had packed for the next day. It was getting close to the cut-off for bike check-in. The wind was blowing pretty hard and it was hot. The whole thing was feeling like a very bad idea.

Finally, we got squared away at check-in and we headed to the hotel. That’s when I realized I had forgotten some gear, like my race belt and a bag to carry all of my things to transition. I was so used to Ironman, that I was assuming they would give us several different bags for bike gear and run gear. It hadn’t occurred to me to bring my own bag. To top things off, I put one of my KE temporary tats on upside-down without realizing it. Clearly I was a bit out of sorts.

The Race

Race morning is always an early wake-up, but this one was a little earlier than usual since my wave started at 6:40-something. We got to Clinton State Park and had to walk what felt like several miles to get our run gear into T2. People were joking that it should be called “Kansas 80.3” since there was so much walking involved. I was carrying my wetsuit in hopes that they would find the coldest spot in the lake to measure the water temperature. As I was setting up my run gear in T2 (there is a split transition), they were announcing that it was closing in 5 minutes. They were also announcing that the race would not be wetsuit legal. I had prepared for this by bringing my TYR Torque swim skin, but I was not at all excited about it. They were letting people who wanted to wear wetsuits start in a separate wave after all of the other waves, and I contemplated it for a hot second, but decided against it because I wanted to get out on the course earlier in hopes that it would be less windy and hot.

The Swim: 46:08 – 21/59

I forgot how nice it is to start in waves rather than a mass start. My wave seemed pretty small and I was not at all worried about how to seed myself. We got going and it was feeling a bit like St George all over again with the chop, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. If I hadn’t gone to St George, I might have been more freaked out by the conditions, but because I had gone through that experience, I felt much better equipped to handle the waves at Kansas. Once again, I was unable to find any feet to swim on, but I felt like it was a pretty good swim for me as far as keeping up a consistent effort and not letting the conditions get to me. I exited the water and had no idea what the time was, which was just as well.

The Bike: 2:56:20/19.1 mph – 10/59

We had taken the time on Saturday to drive most of the bike course, which I was really happy about when I got out there on Sunday. The course is pretty hilly and even though there were some flat sections, those sections seemed to be straight into a headwind. We had to climb a few steep hills getting out of the park, and I was a little bummed to realize that my derailer was cranky and seemed to only operate well in the high gears. So I did a lot of standing climbing on the hills, which I’m not sure I would normally do in a longer race.



Standing again

Around mile 20, Mark passed me and congratulated me on my swim. Apparently, he had thought he might pass me in the water or in the early miles of the bike. We stayed together for a little bit, leapfrogging each other a few times, but then I let him go. The course had several out and backs, so it was easy to keep track of who was in front of you and by how much. About halfway through the course, some of the fast girls from the younger age groups passed me, including fellow KE athlete Kendra Lee, who was totally flying. KE had a bunch of athletes at the race and it was fun cheering each other on all day. After mile 40, there seemed to be a good amount of tailwind, which is when I realized how hot the day was going to be. The rest of the bike was uneventful and went by pretty quickly. I had wanted to ride a split closer to my Boulder 70.3 time, but with the wind and hills, I was happy to break 3 hours.

I have to mention again just how much I love my QR Illicito! I am so comfortable on the bike and it is so fun to race on it. I don’t know if the bike itself is fast or if I just have convinced myself that I am faster riding it, but it really doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that if you convince yourself that your bike is magic, you will do magical things while riding it. 

The Run: 1:42 – 2/59

I rolled into T2, racked my bike, grabbed my run gear and heard someone call my name. Mark was standing by the exit and I was confused. “What are you doing?” I yelled. “I’m putting sunscreen on you!” he yelled back. His hands were coated with sunscreen and he quickly slathered my shoulders and back. He had come off the bike a couple minutes ahead of me, but had decided to wait for me at T2 so we could run together. At first, I was a few steps behind him, but then my legs showed up to run and we were side-by-side. It was oven-hot out and very sunny. Although we had familiarized ourselves with the bike course, I hadn’t bothered to do the same for the run. I figured we would just run around the park through the campsites.

At mile 2, I realized we were about to run down (and then back up) the steep hill from T1 to T2. And we would have to do it twice. My new race goal was to not walk that hill, which some people were already doing in mile 3. The first trip up the hill, Mark dropped back and I knew I would be doing the rest of the run without him. Even though he is a faster half marathoner than me, he has a hard time running in the heat and by then the temperature was in the high 80s or low 90s.

The run course at Kansas is fun. Aside from the gnarly hill, the rest is flat and runs through all of the campsites, which are filled with people cheering. Some parts have a tiny bit of shade. A lot of people were spraying water. The whole thing is out and back and looping, so I was able to see and cheer for lots of KE teammates, which was great since I didn’t have anyone spectating. My last 3 Ironman runs have been a little disappointing because of all of the walking I have done. They have all been hot, and I have gotten in the habit of walking the aid stations because I felt like I needed a lot of fluids, ice and whatever else was being offered. My goal in Kansas was to not walk at all, and I mostly accomplished it except for a few steps here and there at aid stations. The last few miles I started fantasizing about all of the water and ice cold soda I planned to drink at the finish line. Finally, I was in the chute, running down the cute “yellow brick road” carpeting they lay down at this event. I had no idea what my finishing time was and I really didn’t care. I had a strong race and felt satisfied with the effort I had given.

They had a neat thing at the finish where you could go to a tent and they would immediately print out your splits and placement. I was excited to see I had finished 6th. Then I knew I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I wanted to go to the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. This thought had occurred to me on the bike, “maybe I will get a Vegas slot?” I wondered. “Do I want to go?” The issue was, Ironman Wisconsin is the same day. So I could do IMWI, which I had already registered for, or I could change my plans and go to Vegas. I had an honest discussion with myself. I didn’t really wanted to train for IMWI through the summer. I would rather train for a 70.3. I probably would not be ready to go for the Kona spot at Wisconsin and that would be a disappointment since that was the whole reason I picked that race. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do Ironman anymore. Vegas was closer and was a trip we could potentially travel to as a family. I could drive if I wanted to. The decision was made and I accepted a slot for Vegas.

Many thanks to Kompetitive Edge for all of their support.  You guys are so much more than a tri shop to me. To all of the KE athletes out there who took energy from their races to cheer me on, I am proud to wear the same kit as you. To QR for making the best and sexiest bike on the planet. The Illicito is the envy of the bike rack. Thanks also to my husband for all of his support this past weekend and always. This journey wouldn’t be worth it if we weren’t in it together.


Changes and a brief race report – Vail Pass TT

It’s been a few weeks of big changes around here. The kids finished first grade last week and we are transitioning to the summer schedule. For me that means 6 a.m. swims at the local pool several days a week and cobbling together a schedule that allows us to enjoy fun summer activities while also trying to figure out how to get my training in for the two 70.3s and two full Ironmans I have planned for this season.

The other big change is that Sonja and I have parted ways. This has been a big adjustment for me, and frankly, it is feeling like a loss in my life. Sonja and I had communicated on an almost daily basis for the past 14 months and we tried to get together to train a few times per month. I didn’t seek Sonja out as a coach to start. Really, I think I was looking for a friend and training partner. She was much more than just a tri coach to me and I am pretty sure I haven’t given her the credit she deserved for turning me into a triathlete. Much more than the physiological changes, she helped give me confidence by believing in me and probably more than anything, I learned by her example. She is an amazing athlete and an even more amazing person, and I am hopeful we will remain friends.

I have decided to go forward self coached. Well, sort of. Self coached with a lot of input from my husband, who has been a tri mentor to me for two years and is my most frequent training partner. He knows our daily commitments, the local weather, my training routes and my current fitness on any given day. I did my first two Ironmans without a coach, so it’s a place I’ve been before. More than anything, I am enjoying the freedom that comes from deciding my own schedule. I have never been an athlete who needs someone else writing me a schedule to motivate me. I believe the motivation is best if it is self-generated. There is no one else to turn to if the results aren’t what you were hoping for. It is just you.

On to the race report:

I did my second ever bike race yesterday. I had originally thought it was my first ever bike race, but I was apparently suppressing the memory of the Bear Creek TT series race I did in 2010. This was a little different. It was the same TT course the pros road in the US Pro Cycling Challenge last year. A route I have ridden countless times. I figured I was ready to give it everything I had and see what I was made of.

The start was a little nerve-wracking. Everyone went off at 30 second intervals off a ramp, sort of like at a pro race. There was a countdown and a few spectators watching. I was mostly concerned with making sure I was in the right gear since there was a steep uphill right after the start.

Excuse the lousy quality iPhone pic

I was a little intimidated by the crowd, but that’s typical for me. A lot of girls had TT bikes, but some had road bikes with clip-ons. Almost everyone had race wheels. Most people were wearing regular bike kits, but there were some speed suits, aero helmets and shoe covers. I had debated riding my road bike rather than the Illicito, but the first few miles of the course are flat and I wanted to take advantage of that. I also wanted to collect power data, even though that wheel is heavier than a regular training wheel. (Ooops! Now I’m making excuses).

I’ll make my actual report brief: I gave it a good effort, but it was hard. It was sort of like the 5K race I did a few weeks ago, except it lasted twice as long. Like that race, I was afraid I might lose control of my bodily functions. I had to reassure myself that even though my heart rate monitor was showing a scarily high number, I was not going to die out there. This effort level is scary for me and definitely outside my comfort zone.

I am easy to find in the results because I was almost last in my division. But, as Mark had to remind me, the point wasn’t to place well. It was to test myself on a route that I can easily repeat throughout the summer to measure my progress. Data was collected and lessons were learned.

A huge thanks to the Vail Teva Mountain Games for a fun weekend. We hadn’t been to this event in a number of years and we couldn’t believe the number of events and the great organization. There is truly something for everyone. Mark did the Vail Pass Half Marathon on Saturday and the kids did their first mountain bike race, which was no joke – the course was steep!

Kids could choose to do 1 or 2 laps of the course. This kid chose two.

We had a fun time watching some of the kayaking events, slack line competition and the kids’ personal favorite, Dock Dogs, a contest where dogs take a flying leap into a pool and are judged on the distance of the jumps.

We’ll definitely be back next year.