Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Colonial Beach Olympic Aquabike

Obviously I need to work on my race update reports...I post them way after the fact...what can I learn if I can't even remember how the race went? However, this one happened in July, so it's a little more fresh in my mind that Challenge Williamsburg was. Let's see how it goes:

Aaron and I met at the shop to load our bikes and stuff up at 3am, leaving at 3:30am to drive the hour and a half to Colonial Beach, VA, a tiny town on the beach where hotels are a rare thing but they have gorgeous sunrises. Taking what I learned from Williamsburg, I took a lot of food with me and ate five scrambled eggs at 3:30am. On the drive, I proceeded to eat two LaraBars, some pretzels and three peaches; much better than the 200 calories I consumed at Williamsburg.

Learning Lessons/Things Improved On:

#1 Good Food: Probably not enough, but it was a significant improvement over my last race, and I didn't see any of it again. #success

#2 Warm-Up: Spent a great 20 minutes in the water warming up. I was the last wave and had a lot of time to prep and just float around to get my muscles ready.

#3 Need Anti-Fog: My open water goggles are great, however fog very easily. I spent some quality time doing breaststroke kick as I cleared out my goggles, not one, not two, but three times. Imagine how fast my swim would've been if I hadn't of had to stop to clear them out.

#4 Kept on Swimming: Listened to my training partner and kept on swimming until I couldn't swim anymore, then stood up and ran to transition.

#5 Bike Course Loops: Are awful because you catch up to everyone who is on their first lap when you are on your second lap and it becomes a passing frenzy.

#6 Long Bike Course: The bike was supposed to be a 40K, we had an additional 3 or so miles tacked on. Not cool, mate, not cool.

#7 Shoes: I neglected to bring shoes (other than cycling shoes) into transition for when I finished my race. I then proceeded to cheer on the run course for Aaron shoeless...in the mud.

Final Thoughts:
Even with the long bike course, I managed to ride 3.5 minutes faster than my ride in Williamsburg, probably due to all the food. I averaged 21.4mph on the bike.
Swim: 23:39
T1: 1:29
Bike: 1:12:59
Overall: 1:38:05 First

Compare my results to the top woman finisher in the triathlon:
Swim: 24:26
T1: 1:22
Bike: 1:10.34
I wasn't far off at all. Goals and work-ons for next year!

The Key of Wanting to Travel (and Train)

After my tip to New Zealand and Australia, my eyes had been opened to so much. I had done things I'd ever done, I'd seen things I'd never seen, I ate food I'd never eaten before, I showered the least times I'd ever showered in a three month time span and I was in the best shape of my life (thanks to all those mountains)! For all those reasons and more, I wanted (still do!) to travel the world and take everything in. Before, I wanted to go as the tourist, and now, I want to go as the adrenaline junkie, culture seeker and foodie. What can you learn about how people live if all you do is go to the over popularized tourist attractions? What food can you enjoy if all you go to are American chains and American dive bars (yes, there are such thing in Australia)? When in a country with mountains and a beach, how can you get the adrenaline, the raw nature, the inshape(ness) from that which mountains provide if laying on a beach all day? That's the reason, after I graduated college, I wanted to travel.

But seriously? How realistic is it for a fresh out of college individual to go and travel (with their own money)? Probably not tremendously likely. So, as I start to make more money, all I want to do is travel more and more.

I think I have found the key: triathlons. Triathlons can take you anywhere in the world--yes, expensive, but all travelling is. I could handle staying at a hostel the night before a race, and I could certainly handle the training and racing in a gorgeous and new environment. You could stay longer than the race or proceed somewhere else. You'd be able to see the world in a different way. And hey, I have already made it to Raleigh, NC and New Hampshire (my road trip to the North East).

All I have to do now is find a job that would allow me that time off....maybe I should keep thinking about this whole travel thing....Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Challenge Williamsburg Oly Aquabike

Better two months late, than never, right? Opposed to writing about the whole weekend (I probably don't remember it all), I am going to focus on what I learned from my first Olympic aquabike of the season. This was going to be my first Olympic Triathlon ever, until I got injured. Yay!

Here goes:
After a long battle the night before of "What's the wifi password," boops (NormaTech Boots), HeadsUp, and trying to find a bedtime melody we both agreed on, I finally went to sleep, only to be woken up a few hours later by my bed mates alarm...then a couple hours later by mine. But I felt great...if only that feeling would've lasted...

Lessons Learned:

#1 Nutrition
   -Race morning I took in 200 calories. No, I did not forget to add a 0 to that. With nerves and being so early in the morning, my stomach refused to take in anymore.
   -When I got out of the water, I ate one LaraBar, which then proceeded to throw up during the bike because I had too much water slouching around in my belly.

#2 Drink More
   -More water = less cramps

#3 Warm-Up the Right Way
   -I'm a swimmer first, which means I need a good 20-30 minute warm up in the water. I had about 15 minutes. I felt good, until about half way through the swim course when I no longer felt good.

#4 Listen to your wise training partner
   - When he tells you to swim until you can't swim anymore, then stand up. I didn't do that. I stood up too soon and had to fight off water past my knees until I got to the beach

Other than these four, I did well. First woman out of the water, and averaged 20.4mph on the bike. I was first overall aquabiker, got a wicked sunburn and tan line and had a lot of fun cheering my friends on. I learned and corrected for my next triathlon...Colonial Beach.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why I Chose Triathlon

A few months ago I posted "Why Swim" listing the reasons why I have and continue to put my body through intense training and hours of waking up before the crack of dawn to jump in a cold pool, why I don't shave my legs for months on end...the list goes on. (That's why I wrote it). So what made a swimmer like myself make the change and enter the world of triathlon?

Lately, I've been getting asked why I chose triathlon. Do people not think the progression of swimmer to triathlete is an appropriate jump, or at my age I should be focusing on other things? I'll tell you my reasons, and maybe you'll consider a life of awesomeness.

I think that everyone begins triathlon because of one person or one challenge. I began for both reasons. My sister, Julie Patterson, was THE person who brought me to the sport. After years of sneaking into transitions as her 'coach', making matching coach and athlete t-shirts, and watching her succeed, I think I was ready for it. My first 6 sprints were because of her, then came college and a busy collegiate swimming career, so my triathlons stopped. Then came the challenge....

Coming from a swimming background, I know what commitment and dedication is. I know what it's like to look at a workout and have your heart crushed, but through the thought of getting better, you put those feelings aside and you put your head down and swim. I know my body and I know my psyche. My body craves the workouts, the repetition and the constant conditioning to get your body to a point where you'll be able to hold up in a competition. In simpler terms, my body craves a challenge. My mind craves that competition. Although my mind craves it, it also doubts it. It doubts the ability of my body to overcome the competition and do well with the challenge. (I'm working on that!) So being able to know this about myself, I was able to find a sport that offers both things; competition and a challenge. Triathlon certainly offers both:

What a better way to challenge your body by throwing in two additional sports to swimming? My workout plans typically consist of 15-17 hours of workouts, on top of my 40 hour a week work week. Not only is it a challenge for your body, it's a challenge to stay on top of things. Are you a multi-tasker or planner? You could be if you want to try triathlon. It's a busy life, it challenges you in more ways than one. But along with the challenge comes the sacrifices you must take in order to achieve your goals. What are you willing to give up within your week to fit in that 5 hour long ride? Are you willing to give up something for that 5 hour long ride? Back to commitment and dedication. I've given up a lot for the sports that I love. For triathlon, sacrifices are certainly another challenge.

What better race offers a competition where hundreds of people are on the course with you?
The triathlon community provides one of the best I have seen in my years. If you are hurting on the bike or run, people will motivate you, cheer you on and urge you to keep going. However, with that community still comes a great competition. People will swim on top of you to get better positioning in the water. People will race you, people will push you and people will challenge you, giving you the best competition you can get. Because you know what? There are a lot crazier people out there in the triathlon world than you, and they want to be the best.

If you're not in it for the competition, though, that's okay, too. Triathlon is home to the competitive and the just for funners, the young, the old, the experiences and the novice Every race has something to offer an athlete.

Breakdown of my race:
The swim is easy for me. I have a special connection with the water. The water just makes me feel so alive and at home, it's easy to move through and fly by people. The part I struggle with is knowing people are on my feet. Not okay in the pool, so that mentality transfers to open water. People touch my feet, I kick them off my feet. I see people out of the corner of my eye, I dart ahead of them. I want to be my own swimmer...I should probably learn how to effectively draft, though.

The bike has certainly grown on me and its to the level that the water is, now. Being on a bike, staring only slightly ahead at the road, or wheel, in front of you, feeling the wind move past you is a wonderful experience, because you know your legs keep you moving. Your legs are hammering the pedals beneath you...speechless. Nothing better than completing a 50-100 mile ride and just feeling so accomplished.

Now, my run. Never in my life had I said, "I like running," until I couldn't do it anymore. My run was getting really good and I was confident I could do well in the triathlons, until I over pushed and got myself injured. It's a hard road back and it takes a lot of mental toughness, which is fading fast on me. I want to run. I want to train bricks, because I want to be the great athlete my coach knows I can be. But my coach believes in me, and I am on the right path to an injury free athletic life, so keep pushing, keep doing the right things and I will be getting back to running soon. (Fingers crossed)

Why I chose triathlon:
With the right dedication and commitment, the want for a challenge and the competition, triathlon chose me, I did not choose it.

The Importance of Community Dinners

Imagine working a long day. You're tired, you're probably grumpy and you're hungry. By the time you get home, changed out of work clothes, you're checked your mail and make it to the kitchen, you find 1) frozen meat and fresh vegetables that would take you 30 minutes to an hour to make something with or 2) eggs, fruit and cereal. You opt for option number 2, the quick and easy route. However, you continue to choose option two until you realize it's not longer healthy for you--eating the same bland meal (and by now you're probably out of fruit). Not to mention the fact you have only talked with your roommates or your dog briefly before everyone scrambles to their next thing for the evening, leaving you to seclude yourself to eat dinner in  front of the TV or computer or with your phone out. This is not the ideal community dinner.

Growing up, even now when I go home, dinner was a time to turn technology off, sit down at the table with each other and chat about how our days went and what was going on in the world. It allowed us to take breaks from eating, opposed to stuffing our faces quickly so we could do whatever needed to be done that night. It was a community environment that allowed us to eat good and healthy food. (My mom even made us switch off who cooked dinners every so often).

This being said, I am so blessed and thrilled to have people in my life who see the importance of eating healthy (or just really want free food). Whether be once or twice a week, I am able to make or eat a delicious home cooked meal and have that community feel. It started with just three and now has grown to five or six people. We are all athletes who understand the importance of good food, but even though we are all busy with work, school and training, somehow make time to share dinners together.

So do you have community dinners? If you don't, I challenge you to strive to do so. Share your recipes or a funny story from dinner. Enjoy the food and the people, for every gathering is a blessing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Timberman 70.3

Four months ago is when I realized all my triathlon friends were signed up to compete in Gilford, NH at Timberman 70.3. Of course I didn't want to be left out of the New England fun, so I put in a request to take off that weekend from work--I got denied. I got denied not because I don't have the hours, I got denied because another co-worker was going to be on vacation.

One month goes by, we are actively involved in the summer season and my friend reminds me of Timberman. He let me know they were offering a sprint triathlon the day before and for the first time ever, an aquabike. I had to compete. Before, I wanted to cheer, dance and motivate my friends and family, but the aquabike provided an excellent opportunity for injured me to race. So, I put in request #2 at work. Denied.

Two weeks later, request #3, denied.

Three weeks later, request #4. My boss could tell I was disappointed, she apologized before she denied it.

A few weeks go by and I talk to the big boss about it, and she gives me a few tips of what I can say to potentially get the weekend off. I e-mail my boss four paragraphs of pleading and bargaining. A week later when she came back from vacation, I was approved.

I was going to New Hampshire. I told Dan and he told me I had to ask my coach before I signed up. I think he thought it was a bad idea. I e-mailed my coach and received exactly what I needed to hear to motivate me in competing in a half ironman aquabike. I signed up for the race about 12 days out. Last minute planning, eh? That's how I roll in the triathlon world. I spoke with a friend from my past about staying with him on my drive up, I didn't want to drive all 10-15 hours by myself. He was cool with it.

All my friends left for NH on Thursday, while I stayed behind and finished work and coaching. I got a text from my lodging, saying he didn't want me to stay anymore-I went into a panic attack at work because I didn't know how I would survive driving for that long by myself...and in the dark.

Friends are what got me though the drive. I couldn't have survived without them. Thank you to Rachel, Claire, Elizabeth, my mom, Julie, Beth, Aaron and Dan for keeping me company through the east coast traffic, accidents and many many states. I'd never been to Delaware (spent a total of 13 minutes in it), Connecticut or New Hampshire.

Packet Pick Up
I was stoked to be able to get a little Ironman 70.3 black backpack that I saw so many of when helping Dan move (he's a real Ironman). If I'm gonna pay that much money, I better be getting a sweet backpack and t-shirt. So I take my bib number to the backpack station and a volunteer begins filling it with goodies. Until, volunteer #2 looks closer and says, and I quote, "Oh, she's not an athlete, she doesn't get one of those." And hands me a green grocery bag tote bag, with a white DriFit Aquabike t-shirt. Excuse me, what did you just say? I was pissed. Apparently those who swim 1.2 miles and ride 56 miles aren't considered an athlete. Well 17 year old volunteer #2, I'd like to see you beat me, and we could see who isn't the athlete. Just because I can't run, doesn't mean I'm not an athlete. It's not that I don't want to, I do, I just physically can't. Don't ever tell me I'm not an athlete, and give me the damn black backpack. Thanks Dan (or Aaron) for giving me your backpack to make me feel like an athlete.

The Race
Yes, I did skip all of yesterday, but I bet most of you don't care about my day before the race--just getting ready, loving the NormaTec Recovery Boots, salt loading, practicing open water swimming with my wetsuit...for the first time. I'm skipping it.

We got to transition at 5am (so we could get parking) and set up transition area, talked with other athletes, stood in the never ending porta potty lines and took a nap in the car. At 6:40a I said bye and good luck to the boys and went on my way to the beach. It is a battle just getting the wetsuit up, so I needed a good amount of time to put it on and get a warm-up swim in.

Competitors, families and sherpas were flocking the beach--it was a lot of people! Typically that would make me nervous, but I felt good. I felt like I was ready to go out and win this thing. My wave was lining up and I fought my way to the front...being a swimmer, I knew I had to get away from people. Triathletes don't mind (I think) when people touch their feet when swimming. Being a swimmer...I hate it. That just motivates me more to swim faster and get whomever is on my feet, off my feet.

I've never had anyone to draft off of. Does this hurt me in the long run, absolutely, but I'm not going to slow down just so I can grab someone's feet and ride them. I'm going to swim my own race. I'm used to seeing the colors of the rainbow in caps in front of me when swimming, none the same as the one I wear...however there was one person with a bright green cap swimming right next to me. I tried drafting, they weren't having it. They tried drafting, I wasn't having it. So, we swam side by side, swimming over the colors of the rainbow in front of us. I was convinced they were a man. Typical man stroke and usually I'm the first woman by at least 15 seconds out of the water. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the water to see that it was a woman (we talked afterwards and she thought I was a man, too). I got out of the water at 27:40.The swim hurt. I tweaked my shoulder putting my wetsuit on and that pain continued with me for the extent of the swim, but I pushed through and did what I could. I can definitely see room for improvement in that category.

Shout out to the wetsuit strippers...y'all are amazing!

Run to transition was a little slower than I'd like. I was running behind a really slow lady and she wouldn't let me pass, so I slowly ran to Zeke. Clipped on helmet and put on sunglasses and off I went. The first ten miles on the bike went real quick, I was movin', until that mountain we had to climb at mile ten. I felt better seeing everyone else struggling to get up it, but just being in my easiest gear possible was not fun. People were cheering from their house about 3/4 of the way up, screaming "you're almost at the top..." I was not amused. That may be true, but I still have 1/4 of this mountain still to climb. All I was thinking was that there better be an epic downhill at the bottom of this...I was only slightly disappointed. For the next 22 miles or so, I played tag with another Endorphin Athlete. We would chat and cheer every time we passed each other. He took the down hills, I conquered the uphills. Although unsure of who he was, he kept me going and motivated me to dominate those hills.

It was the turn around where I started feeling it. I had nutrition and water with me, but I was in desperate need of salt, so I started licking my lips hoping that the salt in my sweat would provide. Either that did, or God did, but I felt a little better. Because of the nature of the out and back, I began seeing hundreds of racers going the opposite direction from me. I was definitely enjoying the time of not being around people, but that also became very hard mentally. I saw lots of people, but no one was around me. Was I going faster than everyone or was everyone in front of me just killing it? My speed proceeded to go down, but I kept hammering my legs and passed a handful more people. I was hurting a lot around mile 40, so I prayed. When I don't have anyone to talk to, I either talk to myself or I talk to God, and in that situation, He provided. The first time was when I looked up from aero and saw Danny Royce on his hot pink bike. The familiarity of that racer gave me a little kick in the butt and I was able to climb more easily up a hill. A few miles later the hurt set in more and I prayed. I looked up and gave a little smirk and wave to Dan when I saw him pass me going the other direction on GrAce 2.0 and he shouted my name and something else, but I heard my name so it lit a fire under my ass and off I went.

I trained well for this, but I needed to train more in hill work. I was proud of bike but definitely see room for improvement. Working on the hills and being more comfortable in aero going down hills opposed to holding onto my brakes in fear of falling off and dying (legitimate fear). 

I got first overall woman in aquabike and third overall athlete in aquabike...who's not the athlete now?

The Aftermath
When all was said and done and I was back in Richmond, I got sick and my legs hurt...so bad. Even with the pain, my eyes are set on next season when I hope that I am healthy enough to run....It's a great sport.