USAT Age Group National Championships Race Report

I qualified for the USA Triathlon Nationals about a year ago by placing 1st in my age group at a local sprint. I haven’t raced many Olympic distance triathlons…I prefer sprints for going fast and now the endurance challenge of 70.3’s…however since this was a national championship race and I qualified to race the Olympic, I was stoked for this opportunity. It was only my third Olympic distance race.

The top athletes around the country compete at Nationals for a chance to make Team USA and compete at ITU Worlds. I had no expectations of qualifying for Worlds, but I did have some personal goals: (1) PR the Olympic distance ✔️ (2) PR the swim ✔️ (3) PR the bike (didn’t happen) (4) PR the run (didn’t happen, but close) (5) sub 3 hours (6) don’t come in last ✔️ 3 out of 6 goals achieved isn’t bad. Although I knew the competition would be stiff, I was in no way prepared for just how fast these ladies would be!

I flew in on Thursday and met up with two of my Team Betty teammates, Jennifer and Jill at the airport. Jill drove in so was playing chauffeur all weekend…she’s awesome! We headed to the Betty House shared by 6 of my teammates for the weekend. I had only met one of them previously, but they were all so amazing and I felt instantly at home.

Friday we checked in, picked up my bike from TriBike Transport and did a little shake out swim / run. There was some talk leading up to the race that the lake temps were dropping, but by race day the lake temps were still 80, so any hopes for a wetsuit legal swim were dashed. Glad I was able to get a practice swim in the lake. It felt like bath water and took away any nerves I had about my first non wetsuit swim.

Saturday morning I woke up at 4:00am and had my usual pre-race peanut butter toast with banana. We got to transition right when it opened at 5:00am. I was in wave #2 which went off at about 7:37 after a 30 minute delay to the start of the race.

The swim start was off a dock with all the girls in my wave lined up in a row in the water holding onto the dock. It was the first time I did this kind of start and it wasn’t bad. I didn’t get kicked or punched like I usually do in a beach running start and there were over 100 girls in my AG. It felt like a REALLY long swim. A few of my teammates mentioned they thought the course seemed longer as well. It was a pretty uneventful swim. I felt like I was swimming really slow, but managed to take 6 minutes off the time of my last Oly swim a few months ago without the buoyancy of a wetsuit and salt water.

Swim Time: 40:50

T1 was pretty long. A guy yelled at me I when I was running out with my bike that I still had my swimskin on. Oops 🙊 Lost too much time taking it off and running back to leave it by my rack.

Once I was on the bike I felt like I was flying, hitting 22+ mph no problem until I got to the hill I was warned about on Mile 7. I slowed dramatically. There was a sign that said “Welcome to the Nebraska alps.” Haha. It wasn’t the largest hill I’ve encountered in a race, but tougher than I was anticipating. Once I got over it my pace was right back up, but that didn’t last long. After the turnaround we were hit with strong headwinds. I fought to hold a 16-17mph pace and my legs were screaming the whole 12 miles back. I ended up with a 17.2mph avg which was super disappointing considering I felt so strong in my training on the bike going into this race having raced a sprint 2 weeks prior with a much faster avg. I had also dramatically increased my FTP since my last Oly race. Need to think about riding more hills before Santa Cruz.

Bike time: 1:26:20

T2 took too long at 3+ minutes. Not sure what I was doing? I popped 2 Clif energy gels and off to the run.

The run was on black asphalt with very little shade, but I felt strong. All of my Betty teammates started in later waves that went off hours after mine, so I didn’t experience the energy of seeing them and the cheering I did at Oceanside. I did spot my TriTats teammate Nate during the first loop and got a high-five which was awesome and gave me a huge boost! It’s a two loop course. After the first loop turnaround I was able to push the pace and held an 8:45 pace to the finish.

Although I didn’t PR the run (3 minutes off) I was happy it was a faster split than my last Oly AND I ran negative splits which is something I’ve been working hard on.

Run time: 55:26

Overall time: 3:09:37

I beat my previous best for the Olympic distance by 2 minutes which is great, but I couldn’t help feel disappointed that I didn’t reach my sub 3 goal. I finished 117/129 in my AG which was a blow to the ego, but it was a super fast field and I gave it what I had that day.

The next day I raced the sprint and it was HARD! I’ve never done back-to-back races. My legs felt so heavy and I just didn’t have it in me to push the way I wanted to. Definitely wasn’t a PR day, but the experience was awesome!

The best part of the weekend for sure was hanging with my teammates, especially since my family didn’t travel with me for this one. It reminded me of why I love this sport so much and how being a part of a team is beyond awesome!

Special thanks to the sponsors who make this possible @bettydesigns @rudyprojectna @tritats @irwincycling @jaybirdsport.

Up next: Santa Cruz 70.3 in just over 3 weeks!

Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

Race season has officially begun and Oceanside couldn’t have been a better race to kick it off!

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I woke up at 4:20 am prior to my alarm going off. I rarely sleep well the night before a race and this was no exception. I ate my usual peanut butter toast with banana, kissed my sleeping boys and headed out to walk to transition around 5:30am.

We were at the host hotel which is a good 2 miles from the transition area with no shuttle service. Ironman requires you to check your bike in the day before the race, so I had no bike to ride over either. I didn’t want to wake the boys and K obviously couldn’t leave them in the room alone to drive me so I just started walking. I saw buses picking people up in a nearby parking lot which I assumed were for athletes, so hopped on one. I chatted with the driver and turns out they were for volunteers, but he was super sweet and drove me to the transition drop off point anyway.

Most of the races I’ve done had much smaller transition areas. This one was massive which was a little intimidating, but it was awesome to have the buzz in the air from such a large and stacked field of competitors! I quickly set up my area, tried to stay warm (it was freezing), ate a couple Gatorade energy chews, then found two of my amazing Betty Squad teammates, Jilliene and Misty. We headed down to the swim chute together. I read a tip from Katie Hart Morse’s 2014 Oceanside 70.3 report about wearing flip flops to discard before entering the water and wish I hadn’t forgot them. The ground was pretty rough. The swim chute was packed. I heard the gun go off, but couldn’t see the pros who were off and swimming. We made our way to the back of the 40 minute pace group. My target was 50 minutes, but my coach advised me to start with a faster group so I could try to draft. I’m so grateful Misty and Jilliene were there with me in that group. We joked, laughed and gave each other pep talks which really helped to calm my nerves.

Swim:

The swim was a rolling start with athletes self-seeding. The idea is this should help spread out the field and keep the faster swimmers together and slower swimmers out of their way. It’s a good idea in theory, but there were so many people in the water it was still a fight to find open space. I kept lifting my head after a few strokes, treading water until I got my bearings. I could feel my heart-rate rising and I knew I had to get it under control quickly or I was going to burn out fast. After about 800 meters or so I finally started to calm down and got in a decent rhythm, but I was still getting hit left and right. I picked up momentum after the turnaround buoy and started getting more aggressive with my swimming, not stopping if I got whacked. Overall it was a decent swim and if I had started out swimming in the beginning instead of mostly treading water, I know my time would have been a lot faster. Lessons learned. I feel less anxiety about swimming now and got the huge Superfrog swim monkey off my back.

Official Time: 51:45

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T1: 8:34 

There is a long run out of the water back to your bike, so it’s not a fast transition. Even so I was way slow. Need to figure out how to get out of there onto the bike faster for the next one.

Bike:

It felt great to be out of the swim and on the road. The first 15-20 miles were rolling hills. In fact it was a pretty hilly course the whole way with the exception of the last 10 miles back into Oceanside. I love rolling hills, but I also don’t have a lot of practice getting into aero on rollers, so I ended up staying up on my handlebars for most of the 56 miles. I also didn’t have much practice grabbing hydration from volunteers and refilling my bottles while riding prior to this race, so I pulled over to stop and refuel at the first aid station which cost me a few minutes. The second aid station came right after entering Camp Pendleton. I decided to try to roll through without stopping and managed to grab a banana and water! Success! The first big hill (which many people warned me about) came around mile 30. It loomed large in the distance. I’m a decent climber and wasn’t phased. Many people got off their bikes to walk up, but I powered up and over passing a ton of people here.  I was re-passed by a few going down the hill. I’m scared of descending and like to hug the brakes, but didn’t ride the brakes as hard as usual, so that was a win.

After this hill there were a couple more decent sized hills and a no passing zone / speed trap where you would be DQ’d for going over 25 mph. No issues there. The last 10 miles back to Oceanside was mostly flat, but there were pretty brutal headwinds. I had left enough in the tank and was able to power through the wind, again passing a lot of people. It was a fun, beautiful bike course, but I was ready to be done and onto the run.

Official Time: 3:37:02

Nutrition –  Gatorade Endurance, Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates, 2 GU Roctane Energy Gels , BASE salt 

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T2: 4:54 – Much faster than T1!

Run:

The run is my favorite and this course did not disappoint. My watch froze on T2 mode. It was my first time using the triathlon mode. Note: make sure to practice everything in training. I was able to see elapsed time, but not pace or heart rate, so I had to do it all on feel. The first couple miles felt great! Maybe too great because when I was able to retrieve the data later (turns out it was still recording pace and hr info, just wasn’t displaying) discovered I was running in the low 9’s for those first few miles. The game plan from my coach was to run 10:00 min/miles for the first three miles, then pick it up to 9:30’s and hold that pace the rest of the run. I ended up doing the opposite and ran 9-9:30 the first 3 miles and averaged 10:30’s the last 10. I started out in this sport as a runner first and I usually finish strong on the run, but I failed badly on my nutrition and it totally blew up my run. I was mindful enough to take a few licks of salt every mile or two which is definitely what got me through, but I didn’t take in nearly enough water or Gatorade and forgot to pop energy gels until around mile 9. I’m usually good about keeping up with my nutrition while running. I didn’t do more than 5-6 mile run bricks in training, so I think I just didn’t realize how much fuel I would need to finish strong for a half marathon after a long swim and bike. All good lessons to take with me to the next one. Even though I didn’t finish in my goal time, I had so much fun on the run. The energy from the spectators and other participants was amazing! There was a Betty teammate there to give a high five and shouts of encouragement all along the course. I seriously have never had so much fun at a race. I will definitely be back to Oceanside next year!

Official time: 2:16:50

Overall: 6:59:05

Division Rank: 63, Gender Rank: 438, Overall Rank: 1801IMG_6040

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Thank you to Betty Designs and all our amazing Betty Squad sponsors! Couldn’t do it without your support!

Next up are a couple local sprint and Olympic distance races. My next “A” race is USAT Olympic Age Group Nationals in August and then it’s onto Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 in September for a chance to put everything I learned from this race into a 70.3 PR! 🙂

Happy racing!

XO

Christina

Race Week and Betty Epic Camp Recap

It’s  race week! Oceanside 70.3 will be my first race representing Team Betty! One of the best things about being on Betty Design’s  #BettySquad17  is the amazing group of like-minded women I’ve connected with! I had the opportunity to meet about 40 of them at Betty Epic Camp in San Diego two weeks ago. This training camp was organized by five of my kick-ass teammates who did an amazing job bringing us together for three days filled with training, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing, singing, sleeping (not really) and bonding.

There were so many amazing photos taken of all the epic things we did, so I’ll just let them do the talking.

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Can’t wait for Betty Epic Camp, Part 2!

5 days until Oceanside! Ahhhhhh can’t believe it’s here! It you want to track me live on race day go to Ironman.com, click the link for Oceanside 70.3 and enter Bib #1562.

XO

Christina

My First D.N.F.

D.N.F.

Those three letters every triathlete dreads. Did not finish. Not going to lie, it stings, A LOT. I knew it was bound to happen, but for it to be my first Half Ironman makes it all the more painful.

Ironman 70.3 Superfrog just wasn’t my race. Race week started off with a bad cold/flu. I spent Monday and Tuesday in bed. I took my bike out for a test ride on Wednesday and still felt lousy, so at the advice of a fellow triathlete friend, I called my doctor and begged for a z-pack. I started it Thursday before the race and within 24 hours started feeling much better. My spirits and excitement for the race really kicked in by the time we packed up and headed down to San Diego on Friday. I was so ready to DO THIS. Mother Nature had other plans for me.

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Our hotel was 2 blocks from transition and the start/finish. Nice! I picked up my packet and race bib Friday afternoon. Saturday was a fun family day at the new Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego (I highly recommend it if you have kids and are ever in the San Diego area). After we got back and put the boys down for a nap, I headed down to the beach for a quick practice swim. There were warning signs posted everywhere to stay out of the water because it was contaminated. Yuck! Just as I was about to turn around and leave the lifeguards told me the water quality was OK, the advisory was being lifted and it was safe to go in the water. The waves were big and the swim is not my strongest event, so I was definitely beginning to regret that I had not done more open water swimming before the race. I got in a quick 10 minute swim, but didn’t go out very far. Followed it up with a 15 minute shake out run on the sand.

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Afterwards I checked in my bike and despite my extreme nerves about the swim and what conditions would be like the next morning, I felt pretty relaxed and ready to do this. I had my traditional pasta dinner with family, including my mom and grandma, then it was back to the hotel and lights out early. Thankfully the boys went to bed right away and I was asleep soon after.

 

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The next morning my nerves really set in, but it was more a nervous excitement.  I was up at 4am, took my time double checking I had everything and headed out for the short walk  to the transition area around 6:20. Shortly after I got there they announced transition would be closing at 6:45am and everyone needed to be out and at the start. They don’t mess around at Ironman. I quickly set everything out, popped a GU and true to word they had everyone out by 6:45 sharp.

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I headed down to the beach and once I saw how fast and furious the swells were coming, I said a silent prayer. I usually pray that I won’t get eaten by a shark, but that never crossed my mind. The ocean never looked so scary to me. It was a rolling start with athletes seeding themselves based on expected finish time. I lined up with the 45-60 minute group and watched as the people in front of me battled the huge swells. When it was my turn to go I said another prayer and ran into the water ready to do battle.

Imperial Beach is very different from what I’m used to in Santa Barbara. The beach is long, shallow and takes a while to get to deeper water. I tried to dive under the first wave and was violently pushed back. I stood back up and charged towards the next wave and instead of diving under this time I stayed standing and again was knocked back. I repeated this over and over and after 15 minutes hardly made any forward progress. I was using so much energy just fighting the surf and hadn’t even really started swimming yet!

Others around me were having similar trouble. When I saw people getting rescued and brought back in to shore by the lifeguards on jet ski’s I went from scared to petrified. I stood and waited in the water for what seemed like forever hoping there would be a long enough break in the swells for me to make a go for it, but they just kept coming fast and furious, getting bigger and bigger.

I knew time was not on my side at that point so made another attempt to dive under the next wave and got thrashed HARD swallowing tons of water in the process. I asked a lifeguard for advise on what to do. People were getting through the surf, but I was struggling BIG TIME. He told me to swim into the rip current that was near the pier as it would help push me out past the surf to calmer waters quickly. Only in an Ironman event does a lifeguard tell you to swim INTO A RIP CURRENT. I swam toward the pier and got hammered again. At this point it was over 30 minutes in and I was becoming seriously deflated. Even if I made it through the surf, it was a 2 loop course, so I would have to fight the surf again to get back out a second time. There was a group of people in the same boat. At least I wasn’t the only one struggling. Another girl and I made a pact to try a couple more times together, we both continued to struggle and saw more people getting rescued. We both finally decided to through in the towel. We made our way back to shore and with another group of people who were struggling to get out as well, asked the race director if we could continue on the bike/run knowing we would receive a DNF. She gave us a flat no.

Devastated, I picked up my broken heart and bruised ego and made my way to find my family who was in the crowd at the swim finish waiting to cheer me on. As soon as I saw them the tears came and came. I was in serious shock and couldn’t comprehend that it was over and this was how my first 70.3 was going to end. In hindsight, I wish I had continued on to the bike and run despite being stripped of my timing chip and being told I couldn’t by the race director, but at the time I was too distraught to think about that. All I wanted to do was shut the blinds and crawl back into bed.

Bad days happen to every one. Sunday was my turn. It’s easy to say I wish I had fought those waves harder, but I gave it what I had on that day, in that moment. There were more than 250 DNF/DNS’s and for one of the smaller Ironman 70.3 races on the circuit, that’s A LOT. Several veteran Ironmen and Ironwomen later told me it was the toughest swim they have ever experienced. Knowing this softens the blow, just a little. Since becoming a mother my mindset has changed some. I love this sport and thrive on challenging situations, but I discovered when faced with those kind of extreme conditions I’m not as willing to take on the risk anymore. There will be other races. I will bounce back and have another shot at a 70.3 in Oceanside next year. I learned a lot from this experience and although it’s not how I ever envisioned this race would go down, I don’t regret the decisions I made that day.

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On to the next!

XO

Christina

Ironman 70.3 Arizona Training Kickoff

Training for my first 70.3 distance triathlon officially commenced last week!  After reviewing lots of different plans on Training Peaks, I finally settled on Matt Fitzgerald’s Half-Ironman Training Plan – Level 4. I decided to go with this one because it’s touted as a good fit for you if your half-Ironman goal is more ambitious than just finishing, yet time efficiency is very important to you in your training.

AND just started reading his new book How Bad Do You Want It? which argues the greatest athletic performances take place in the mind, not the body. He raises many interesting and fascinating points including how faith in your training is as important as the training itself, your attitude in daily life is the same one you bring to sports, and the only way to improve performance is by altering how you perceive effort. I have always been a strong believer in “mind over matter” and take this psychology to heart in my training.

Technically it’s a 20 week training plan, but I modified to 18 weeks to give my body two weeks of proper recovery from my marathon. I started at week 3 of the plan which is the base phase. Here is a summary of the week’s workouts:

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As you can see, the workouts in red I completed on different days than what was in the schedule. It’s important to me that I fit my workouts in when it works best for my family and “life” schedule so that means most weeks will require me to reorganize the workouts, still getting them all in, just not always on the days set in this plan.

Total time on the bike was right on target (4:25 all done on the trainer!), run slightly over target for the week (2:09), while my swim was under (1:06). It’s all about prioritizing for me. Pool time is the hardest for me to fit in, but it’s also my weakest link. I plan on doing my best to make all the swim workouts really count and squeezing in more pool time as this training cycle progresses to the build phase.

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Two hour sweat fest on the trainer during the peak of the heat wave in CA on Sunday!

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Nite Moves Wednesdays

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Total hours for the week = 7 hours 41 minutes

It was a great kickoff to a tough training cycle that will build to over 13 hours per week in the peak phase.

Ended the week celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday and riding a Surrey with my family by the beach! So much fun!

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Happy training!

XO

Christina