Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cedar Point 140.6 Race Report

...I am still calm. It's 3am on Sunday, September 8th and it is time to get up, get ready and get going.
It's race day.
And I am still calm.

I had prepped everything I needed the day before and gone over each bag 10 times to make sure I did not forget anything. My bike was already checked. All I had to do was suit up, load the car and head on over to the park.

The winds were picking up and Lake Erie was pretty wild. Rip current warnings were issued and Rev3 put into action their swim back up plan--we would be swimming in the cove/marina which was on the other side of the peninsula that Cedar Point is situated on...this meant an added bit of distance from the swim to the bike but whatever. Only worry about what you CAN control on race day, right!?

I got to see and wish my awesome teammate, Laura (Frayed Laces) good luck! She would end up having a stellar day out there, check out her race report.

We walked on over to the new swim start, about a half a mile from the finish/transition area. I was still calm for the most part but I was starting to get into my race head-thinking about the plan for the day, reviewing my options for the "what if XX happens" and planning for a day against the wind.

I said goodbye to my family, got suited up and tried to get into the water for a bit of a swim

With the swim change, we would be starting off a boat ramp, we would be doing a time trial start and two swimmers going every 3 seconds. I found several of my teammates, Brittany-Susan-Kelly (who was doing the half later on but was there cheering!). We were asked to self seed based on our swim times. I tried to line up around 1:15-1:20 and found Brittany. We lined up together and help hands while we waited.

Then the song FIREWORK by Katy Perry came on...Now, if you were at Rev3 Maine you know that my daughter, Lola, sang this song up on the awards stage like a total rockstar.
She sings this song all the time.
I have always LOVED the message in this song.
My teammates went NUTS yelling, cheering and screaming for me! The dance party in line was ON and all of a sudden, every nerve calmed and I was just filled with JOY and CALM.
This song reminded me that I am strong. I had done all the training, today was a day to put all the training into motion. I said a little prayer asking that my body be strong, my mind focused and to be safe. 

It was into the water. 
I started steady and focused on my form and effort, taking it easier than I thought I should. I got out of the marina and out towards the island, which we would lap twice. I got away from a scrum of people hugging the island. It was still somewhat dark and the water visiblity was 0. I did not want to swim onto any rocks or kick anything to risk injury this early. On the first 1000 yards or so, there were several spots where swimmers would get clumped up but I would just add a bit of effort and move away from them. I tried to find some feet to hang onto...once we got around the island, the winds were hitting the water for a bit of chop and spray. This did not bother me because I am used to swimming in the ocean. I kept effort in check and kept it steady. Before I knew it, it was time to make the second loop around the island-swim swim swim. Just after making the left turn around the orange buoy to swim the length of the outside of the island, I felt a big kick right to the mouth! It stunned me, I could taste a bit of blood--checked, teeth still there and my lip was in one piece so it was time to keep swimming back into the wind which seemed to be picking up. I got smacked in the face several times with chop and spray but kept moving. I felt like I was moving very slowly, even when I tried to pick up the pace. I opted to save my energy for the last bit of calm water on the way to the swim exit. And there it was-

The SWIM EXIT arch, the screams from the crowd were now audible and I was feeling fantastic. I had no idea what my swim time was and I did not care. I felt like I swam smart, steady and strong. I ran up the boat launch, hit STOP on the Garmin and flopped down on the carpet. The WETSUIT STRIPPER yanked my blueseventy Axis off like lightening, I was up and running over to throw on my Pearl iZUMi N1's for the run to transition.

SO excited to see Lola on my run to T1

As I was running, I glanced at my Garmin and smiled.
a 2 minute PR at that distance.

Now, it was time to have a little fun!

I grabbed my bike gear bag and ran into the change tent, threw on my Rev3 jersey (pockets pre-filled with all my Powerbar snacks and some beef jerky!) and onto the bike. I was prepared for the winds ahead and had my bike race plan ready to be executed. As I got out of the park, the mighty winds were coming off Lake Erie on my left and I was very much reminded of home. The waves of the lake were very much like the ocean during a storm, rough and loud. Beautiful "beach" homes lined the lake to my right. I smiled and pedaled easy, letting my heart rate settled, got on some fluids and my first bar of the ride. Once I got away from the Lake Erie shoreline, it was off into farm country. I put my head down and got to work-keeping my HR right where it needed to and enjoying my favorite part of triathlon. I was holding a pretty solid 20mph pace and the wind was knocking me around a bit, but I was stready and strong. Right on top of my nutrition and being smart. I passed quite a few guys and had not seen any females at would be a theme of the day. I played cat n mouse with a dude on a QR for the first 50 miles or so; I took in corn field after corn field and wondered if the corn was giving any protection to the winds. The sky got dark and it started to rain. It would be wet, dreary and dark for a while..

I had been joking with Coach all summer that if it was raining and cold at Cedar Point, I was going to win it. All summer, the weather was either 95* and hot as hades or 50* and raining. My training days were excellent in the cold rain...not so excellent in the hot. 

I flew past special needs without so much of a thought and kept on top of fluids at the aid stations and finally met up with one of the very few females I would see all day-Kate from Team Fight. We had chatted at the swim start so we cheered each other on and played the cat/mouse game for a few miles before I pulled ahead.

I thanked as many officers and volunteers as I could and battled on. The wind was getting stronger and the last 30 miles felt like a battering ram of wind--my upper body was getting a bit tired and I had pulled back on the effort a bit to keep within the HR parameters. Coach and I had discussed the wind and her words echoed in my head "a smart bike will set you up for the marathon" and "the energy used to gain 10 seconds won't be worth it in the wind". I finished the bike smart and feeling soooo good.

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The ride was over before I knew it. 110 miles in and I was passing the beach homes I admired on my way out. This time, the wind was pushing fiercely against me or pushing me sideways. I still had lots in the tank but I was ready to be off the bike and get to running.

I entered the bike path to T2 and saw Lola and Casey cheering and taking pictures!  I got off my bike and ran to rack my bike. There were not many bikes back...into the change tent. I got a high five from Trevor on my way. It was time to run!


I knew the bike would be the highlight of my race but my projected time was going to depend on the weather and the winds. I was projecting a time of 5:45 to 6:15 so I was pretty close.

The Run

Ahhh, the run. The wildcard for the whole day. I pretty much was right on with my predictions for the swim and the bike--even with the winds but I really had no idea how this run was going to play out. In training, the weather strongly impacted my run and since it was not 85*+ degrees, I was hoping for a good day.
The legs felt good exciting T2 and I reviewed the race plan once again in my head-miles 0-5 were steady and setting myself up for the rest of the marathon.  I got in some sips of liquid and a gel, I was feeling good. Things were going great until mile 3.5 when I started to feel the oh-too-familiar right sided diaphragmatic cramping--SALT needed. I have experienced this many times over the years and during several bricks this summer so luckily, I knew I just needed MORE salt... I did not take in as much salt on the bike due to cool temps, rain and wind but in hindsight (it's 20/20 right!?) I probably should have popped one last salt tab at the end of my ride...I walked/jogged to the next aid station and took in some salt. Soon enough, the cramping was done. Running resumed-steady and I felt good. I made a loop through the park and remembered being there with my family for an early morning walk on Friday and this made me smile. I took in the scenery and just kept moving.
Thoughts were positive, my body felt good and the skies had cleared! The sun was out and depending on where you were on the course, you were either completely protected from the wind, or hit was right in your face! Running into the headwind was a blessing at times (ahhh! how cool it felt against my sweaty skin!) even if it did slow me down just a teeny bit.

 Mother Nature loves to mess with me anytime I tackle a new distance in a race (remember Timerman??) and she did not leave me alone for Cedar Point either...I guess two weeks prior to race day wasn't enough for me to suffer with the "monthly curse" and apparently I did not have enough stress with Lola being sick and delaying our departure to Ohio. On Friday, two days before race day, "Aunt Flo" decided to make another visit. THANKS. Awesome. 

Oh well. Luckily for me, it was just a minor inconvenience and required an actual potty stop on the run (vs. just peeing myself and running). I'd walk the aid stations to take in hydration and/or calories and just keep moving. Things were progressing along nicely and I was headed back to the park and ready to tackle Loop 2.

One of the highlights of the entire day was getting to run with Lola!!

I tend to get blisters-especially if I am hot, sweaty, and wet (rain, sweat, dumping fluids on my head) and I had planned ahead for this with a spare set of running shoes, dry socks and some special blister band-aids for my special needs bag. I hit mile 13 and ducked out to only change one sock, the right, as I had felt a nagging pain on my pinky toe the last several miles. Sure enough, that sucker was totally one giant blister! Clean sock, Band-Aid blister on and OFF WE WENT> Seriously, those things are like magic! I had a message from Coach waiting for me at Special Needs and that made my day!! GO JEN GO!
I had just passed special needs and decided to make the loop around the 13 mile marker first! I saw Lola waiting for her HIGH FIVE! I have to laugh at this picture because I just look so dang confused. Just run around it Jen...that's all you have to do!!

Around mile 16.5 it hit me--WE NEED A POTTY STOP! Not to pee and no GI distress at all, I just needed to go. I tried running through it but NOPE. That's wasn't happening or things would escape. Around this time, Lola and Casey caught up to me and I walked with Lola a bit. Casey yelled at me to start running and I explained why I was taking a break. He offered up the van and Lola's puke bucket but I did not want to risk a penalty or DQ for "outside assistance".

That's when Casey told me-- "Jen, you are in second place in your AG right now. You cannot slow down, you cannot walk. GO GO GO". I made it to the next aid station and hit up the potty! Awesome.

And I went. I was looking at my watch and counting. Doing math. I could possibly go sub-12!! Coach had said that my race would start at mile 15 and it was time to go! I saw my teammate, Laura pass by with the lead cyclist and I was just thrilled for her!! I cheered her on and it got ME fired up!

There was finally a potty around THIS corner!! 
I gotta hand it to Casey and Lola--they were ALL OVER that run course cheering! Lola became an honorary Sandusky Police Officer and she even got to direct traffic for a bit!

I don't recall much detail about the couple of miles from 16-19 but I saw friends out cheering loudly, I cheered on other runners. I thanked the police officers. I thanked the volunteers. When I got to the 20 mile marker, I felt new.  I felt alive and it was go time. Only 10K left. Once final gulp of fluids and one final gel. I passed MattyO and Heather out cheering loudly and it gave me new vigor!
Then two miles were left. I kept looking behind to see if I would get run down. That last mile just flew by...

I was crossing the bridge over the inlet and the sun was getting lower in the sky. It was beautiful. I was almost done. I felt amazing. Alive. PROUD. I smiled and got choked up a bit. Casey and Lola drove by me in the van and were honking the horn!  Then I could hear the crowds...

I was there. Just a loop around the transition area, down the finishers chute and there it was! The finish line. Lola and Casey met me on the way to the chute--I saw a ton of Rev3 Staff lining the chute! I saw the clock 12:14 and I was just pumped!!
RUN TIME: 4:43

I did my best MattyO impersonation and airplaned a bit down the chute. I was done.

I crossed the timing mat and Lola wasn't next to me--I turned around and there she was with a huge smile! I picked her up and swung her around.

I got my medal and sat down.
And then it hit me. I did it. I had my girl. I had my husband. I had my finish line.

All the emotion and months of hard work bubbled up into tears of joy.

The fat girl who wasted half of her life doing nothing was now an athlete who just pushed her body across 140.6 miles of awesome. 

She believed she she DID

Due to the time trial start, I was actually 10 mins faster than the clock! That's right!!

13th Overall Female
2nd in my Age Group

I hung out with Lola in the Normatec boots and then hung out with team mates

I cannot say enough about how great this race was from a racers point of view. 
The volunteers were AMAZING. So nice, happy, upbeat, CHEERING and helpful.
The course was so well marked, police everywhere and well supported with aid stations and staff.
I could not have asked for a better race for my first full, Rev3 you are amazing and I am so proud to be a part of the Rev3 Team and Family. 
Thank you for making my day so special.

Thank you to my family for the months (and years) of being patient with me as I find my way. As I grow as a person, athlete and Mother. Thank you for your support, your help and for standing strong with me so I can chase these dreams with wild abandon. 
To Casey & Lola, there are not enough thank you's in the world for you two. I know that the time away is hard on you guys and I thank you so much for being understanding. 

Thank you to my sponsors who make it possible for me to chase this crazy triathlon dream on a daily basis. Withoutyour support, half of this would not be possible. I am blessed to be able to work with such amazing brands that I truly love. THANK YOU 

To Coach Sharpie, thank you for your time, your love, your firm hand (when needed) and for your understanding. I have learned from you more than you. You are amazing awesome and I adore you. You made me physically and mentally strong for this day. I adore you! xo 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Destination: Cedar Point

 And we finally arrived in Sandusky, Ohio! No more vomiting. No more drama.
(you can catch up HERE)

For the final hour in the car, all Lola could talk about was getting into the hot tub at the hotel. So as soon as we arrived, the van was unpacked and we jumped into the hot tub and did some swimming. Then it was time to eat and get some rest!

Jumping for Joy in the Hawwt tub!

A little post ride "recovery swim"
(and yes, those are black dots on her eyes, she played with make up in the van)

Last year, I worked the race at Cedar Point and the staff meal one night was as a very cool pub/restaurant called The Thirsty Pony. We are talking obscene burgers, huge salads and wings that are very yummy! I could not wait to hit this place up again with the family so we drove the one mile from our hotel to this joint and got a giant sampler of wings-

Casey opted for a GIANT burger. This picture does not do this thing justice. This burger was MASSIVE. A 1 1/4 lb patty with horseradish, bacon, mushrooms...and delish (yes, of course I took a bite) and I got a GIANT salad (and devoured a gazillion wings).

Friday morning, I slept in with Lola and Casey went out for a run. When he came back, he said he wanted to show us something pretty we were off on our first adventure in Sandusky!

A couple miles down the road, we round this beautiful little park by the marina and overlooking Cedar Point amusement park in the distance. It was so peaceful and beautiful, a great way to start our first full day in Ohio. Little did I know, on Sunday I would run in this same spot...

watching the sun rise on our family walk

a beautiful black swan-there were TWO!

The Smalls

Daddy and his little girl. Cedar Point is in the background

Lola LOVES chasing down sea gulls

Then it was time to head to the park, see all of my Rev3 peeps and get in the water for a little swim. The weather was absolutely perfection. A sunny sky, a bit of a breeze and the water was smooth!

I had been keeping a close eye on the weather report for Sunday and things were expected to change. Winds and rain and cool temps.

Must get in my beet juice! Loved the pink shadow

Lake Erie on Friday morning

itty bitty lake waves-this would change by Sunday

fun times with my best girl

I am very easily sucked into the hubbub of social activity and being at the race site with my friends and team mates was great. I got to see "Tall Chris" who has spent most of this year in Costa Rica so it was awesome to see him!

I got out for a quick run (2 miles) and a bit of biking (10 miles) and my legs were feeling GOOD. After hanging with friends and getting out to move, I knew I needed to get off my feet and rest! So it was back to the hotel for a break, lunch and a nap!

So lunch was some poolside salad and playing with Lola. We took a bit of a rest and then back to the park to HIT THE ROLLER COASTERS!

I was so excited to hit up these roller coasters-some of the biggest and fastest in the WORLD-since I missed 'em all last year (working these races is serious business, no time for play). There were tons of kids rides too and it was awesome to see Lola have so much fun.

My first big coaster was "GateKeeper"

Literally on the ascent UP the coaster stopped and I could hear some sort of announcement over the PA system. I could not make out what they said but we were not moving. We were suspended here...for an eternity.

Finally, a ride attendant walked up the stairs along side the ride and said that the ride had been stopped for mechanical issues and we should be moving soon. Now, all kinds of panic and thoughts are screaming through my head. I eyeballed the stairs and was glad I was HERE when the ride stopped so I could escape if needed. My palms started to sweat and I got really nervous...then we started moving again. Being suspended almost straight up into the air was was the thought of WHAT IF that scared me!

Once we started moving, it was a blast! It was over before I knew it but my face hurt from smiling and I convinced Casey to give it a go! And he did!! We hit up some more rides and a couple more coasters and it was time for food and bed.

Saturday morning was swim practice and swim time with Lola

Another beautiful morning on Lake Erie

the cutest Lake Monster I've ever seen!

with team mate, Heather

with Ron or as we call him, The Bearded Dolphin

the swim course

with MattyO

with team mate, Rockstar Ryan

I got in a good half mile swim and made sure to sight out the course well, a two loop swim around triangular buoys and after the second loop, head in at a diagonal to the arch of swim exit. With talk of the weather on race day--expected high winds--there was already whispers of the swim being moved into the cove on the other side of the Cedar Point peninsula. 

I kept my spirits positive and focused on what I could control but prayed that the weather would cooperate. It was time to head back to the hotel, get in my big lunch and rest. 

Later in the day, I returned to the park to check in my bike with Lola to gave Casey some much needed "off" time to just chill out. I was pretty sure Sunday would be a long day for the both of them. 

Lola and I loaded up :PinkiePie: 

Then it was time for the athlete meeting. Considering the weather for tomorrow, I figured it was important to attend and find out the swim plan. The RD, Eric Opdyke, addressed all the athletes concerns and assured us that Rev3 had a plan in place and we would have a definite answer in the morning. My gut already knew the answer and I was prepared for whatever the day would bring. 

The weather had already changed-the winds were picking up, clouds were coming in fast and we had some rain showers. PinkiePie was covered well and tucked in for the night under the watchful eye of the transition team.

Lola catching rain drops during the meeting

 On our way back to the van, we stopped to talk to the dinosaur and chase a few sea gulls.

Time to get back to the hotel and chill. I was still feeling very calm. The race day nerves had not hit me yet. It really freaked me out that I was so calm about the whole thing. Especially my first shot at 140.6, I thought for sure I SHOULD be feeling stressed.
I wasn't.
I was calm.
I was ready.

On the way back to the hotel, I saw one of my fav Rev3 staffers, Len who shouted GOOD LUCK from his van. Thanks Len!!

Back at the hotel it was a hot shower and bed.

I found this SELFIE Lola took and had to share. It cracks me  up!

Tomorrow was the big day. The culmination of months of training. Literally, years of preparation and I was excited.

NEXT UP: Race Day!