Race Report: BCS Marathon

Wow! Well I wish I had blogged more frequently leading up to this event because there is a whole load of stuff that happened that I could have shared about.

Anyway more excitingly – Sunday the 11th December 2016, I ran my first FULL MARATHON!

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(I was letting it sink in for a minute).

 

I ran BCS marathon at College Station in Texas which is Aggieland (Texas A&M for the non Texans amongst us). What a race! The volunteers were amazing and everything was well organized with clear, frequent communications from the organizers. It was a much smaller race than I realized and I think I loved it more for this reason! It was so much more personal and every single person out on the course was happy and friendly.

I ran with my friend and I am so grateful that I had someone to run with; it would definitely have been a different experience solo. If you are planning on running with someone, make sure you know them fairly well and get on enough that you can zone out or tell them to shush if you need to (I didn’t need to shush my buddy but I was pretty quiet the whole race – just taking it all in and mentally keeping myself on track).

In my racing/training strategies for my longer runs I like to count down the miles which I know some people hate but it keeps my mind focused and doesn’t let me quit until I reach 0. I was surprised how quickly the miles went down on this race – way quicker than in my ‘training’. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t trained for the race and I wouldn’t recommend it to people as a healthy approach to racing but weather conditions and the course were in my favour. The longest training run we did was 13.1 miles at Thanksgiving (see photos for the beautiful trace we ran in Louisiana)

 

The weeks when I had planned 15 and 18 mile training runs I was so ill with flu that I couldn’t even get out of bed and then my asthma flared up big time – to the point where I couldn’t even speak more than a word or 2 before dissolving into coughing fits and being unable to breathe. (Ironically I can run perfectly with asthma as long as it’s not too cold!). I just can’t go anywhere without my inhaler in the winter.

Anyway.. side tracked (obviously still in that post race daze/high stage).. so the race was amazing. My friend got a huge blood blister just after we passed 13.1 (high five for making it beyond our longest training distance) so we switched to walking through the water stops at each mile marker after that point. At about 18/19 he started to feel unwell (I’ll admit around mile 10 my stomach started to feel rough for a few minutes and then luckily I was fine without any issues for the rest of the race). By mile 23 my knee felt like it was about to give out and I was experiencing quite a bit of pain and my buddy was feeling like he was about to hurl so we walked until 24. We rallied and kept going, looking at the photos of the child slaves freed this year because of this race (WOW!!!) as we ran towards the finish. My buddy had said to me that he wasn’t going to sprint finish as we usually push to do.. but then he picked up his speed so I said ok.. if we’re going to do this, let’s do this properly! We flew into the finish at top sprint and everyone was cheering and screaming (and I later found out our friends were watching us finish!!). It was an amazing end to the race and I didn’t even cry! Yay me!

As soon as I crossed the finish line my feet felt soggy and I could feel some intense pressure points and potential blisters on my feet which I guess I had blocked during the race. Other than this and the knee pain at 23/24 (and maybe some ankle/inner foot aches from the pounding) I felt pretty good the whole race and mentally I was clear and with it throughout. I didn’t hit a wall but I’m pretty sure this was because I had someone with me to push me and keep me going.

There were way too many people milling around in the finish enclosure and when my legs were buckling I was worried about falling into people or things but hey ho.. I made it out upright, with my super duper medal and off we went to have pictures taken!

 

Would I recommend this race to others? Yes! It was awesome!

Pros: 

Cheap sign up if you join early

Marathon only $5 more expensive than half marathon

Fantastic communication and social media support

SWEET medal and finisher jacket (plus a tech shirt)

Great volunteer support

Yummy food at finish

Benefitting a fantastic cause

 

 

There weren’t really any – we decided not to stay in College Station over the weekend and drove up for the race, if I did it again I would stay overnight probably. I would have liked maybe a portapotty or two more dotted around the course just in case!

On a side note, if you’re in College Station and you’re looking for great food – head to Mad Taco near Northgate – best tacos I have EVER eaten!

 

 

TriDot training.

TriDot training

I wanted to write a little bit about TriDot training as I’ve been following their outseason programme for the last few weeks and I felt it was too valuable a resource to hide away and not share.

I stumbled upon TriDot through a tri acquaintance online and I decided to get in touch and see what it was all about!

I was accepted into their outseason free for feedback programme – you have to complete assessments and submit the data every two weeks as well as complete at least 75% of the workouts to be able to get your money back.

First step was completing the initial assessments and submitting those numbers. It was definitely a wake up call just completing the tests without having done much of anything concrete for a fair while. I requested my plan and although the recommended turn around for receiving a plan is within a week, mine pinged into my inbox the very next day. MUCH. EXCITEMENT!

Cindy, who is the TriDot support system online, has been amazing from the off. She emails me regularly just to check in and see how I’m getting on or throw an encouraging word my way. She took the time to talk through my plan carefully and check that I understood the terms and codes and go through things she likes to do with her workout plans (like printing the overall week and having the HR and speed codes printed and laminated so they’re to hand for each of your workouts).

I’ve thrown myself a curveball by training for a marathon before the Ironman 70.3 which turns out to be a less than bright idea but hey ho I’ll get through it, it just means I have to add additional running into my schedule every week and my long runs are my need based distance rather than their prescribed times.

Once you know the codes the workouts are really easy to understand and very easy to follow. It’s motivating to log in and be able to follow it and then check off that workout. I’ve managed to talk several friends into joining with me so we can talk TriDot scores. These are your scores based on your ability and fitness in that discipline. I was super pumped to have a 37 for my swim, until my uhhhhmazing buddy (she truly is amazing) casually dropped into conversation that she’s a 49!!! WHAT?!?!?!?!!!!

Anyway, the scores change based on your assessments and every set you are set targets (achievable ones) to shoot for based on what you’ve been working on.

If you were looking for a training plan for your A race this year and weren’t sure where to go I would honestly suggest TriDot. If you feel you need more than online support and the odd phonecall then you can select a different level of coaching and pick one of the coaches you would like to work with and they can call you and check in more regularly and answer any questions you may have.

Check them out and let me know what you think! In the mean time I’ll be shooting for a 49 in my swim (because Lord knows I will never make it there with my bike!)

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Race Report: Oilman Half Ironman TX relay.

Packet pick up Saturday November 1st 2014 at La Toretta Spa and Resort.

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Excitement and nerves about the first hint of anything half ironman related.

The night before the race checking that the tattoos were applied ready for the next day!

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Sunday November 2nd 2014.
Waking at 3:30am to pick people up en route and even the cat didn’t wake up at such a ridiculous hour despite my shuffling around in the dark!

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A very chilly 47 degrees for a Texas morning and a 1.5 hour drive to get from Houston to Conroe. Parking was simple and we arrived in plenty of time (unlike Firethorne where we felt like we were rushing).

IMG_0116.JPG We arrived and it was still pitch black out – thank goodness for that extra hour with the clock change though!
A relatively long walk to transition (for someone with an acute achilles/calf injury) and my team mate D set his bike up before we headed into the lovely conference center so I could change in the warmth!

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A stunning morning despite the cold! Women under 39 were the first wave (individual competitors) in light blue caps.

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The swim started in the calm little cove area by the hotel. It then looped out into the lake and doubled back onto itself and back into the calmer waters to the area over by transition.
The course was a completely different set up from last year; I am reliably informed by previous competitors. They switched everything to the opposite side of the complex.
Despite it being really cold out, the water was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. I had a mini panic about 300 yards out when I couldn’t breathe – probably half from the stinking cold I’d had these last 2 weeks and half from wearing a pretty snug wetsuit. Anyway I rolled over to catch my breath and do breast stroke to get my confidence back and carried on to get a rhythm. The second we left the cove all hell broke loose and the waves battered us! Even the pro swimmers were complaining afterwards which made me feel a lot better!

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(waiting to get in the water!)
The swim was so much harder than I could possibly have imagined and having been sick before the race which had kept me out of training for a couple of weeks probably didn’t help!
Anyway, it gave me a huge wake up call about how much training I need to do before April and I got through the swim by dreaming of a Starbucks Vanilla latte and a bagel with cream cheese! (YES, I am one of those people who constantly imagines what they’re going to eat at the end of the race!). I also spent a fair amount of time thinking about what I could take away from this experience as it was less than satisfactory in my performance book!
But I’ll save all the recommendations for another post!
To finish the swim there was a short ladder climb out of the water and an almost as brief run into transition! Wetsuit strippers were on hand and willing to help. I ran on past and got my pic snapped!
D set off in his super cool bike attire for a hearty 56 mile ride!

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According to him the ride was fine for the first 20 miles and then became hilly and windy beyond all belief.
The first 2 bikers back in! (Ridiculously fast!!) We were still eating breakfast when they got back in!

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Then G started warming up for her run. D arrived back and they swapped the chip over and off she ran!
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(coming in over the finish line!)

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IMG_1106.JPG Us with our wonderful friends Y and K who came to support! And then us with our medals and L who did the whole 70.3 on her own – WOW!

I’d love to give you a more detailed run down of the race but since I only did the swim portion I feel like it wouldn’t be accurate. What I will say is that it felt very well organised and supported. Everything was very clear including the course. The bike section was hilly and they battled winds and the run was 3 loops of a course around the resort – nobody I know of is a fan of loops so I know that people would have preferred a ‘long course’ on the run. The comments from runners were also about markers and they felt they were out, longer to start and mixed reviews about distances at the end but according to GPS, overall it was an accurately measured run!

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And lastly, credit to L who came 3rd in her age group on her first 70.3 ever, huge well done for persevering and pushing through the pain and wanting to give up!!!! And my swim coach C who is awesome and came first in her age group (the same one as L). So well done to the both of them!

Oilman Texas Triathlon Race Day

Went to scope out some of the race course at packet pick up yesterday and I see some eager/anxious people checking out previous posts about the Oilman so here are some photos to enlighten you!

Parking appears to be mostly before you enter La Torretta resort and then you walk down the main road leading into the resort. There’s a left turn on Del Lago and the small car park is a few hundred yards ahead – transition is just behind it!

There are lots of tents sent up on the left for post race. Swim start looked to be set up behind the hotel and the finish is a mere few yards from transition with a small ladder to climb to get out.

Orange buoys mark the swim course up clearly. Weather today is cold – wetsuits advisable if you have them.
Transition racks marked up and relays are free racking at the back.
Bike in and out clearly marked on the opposite side to swim finish and run out on the same side as swim finish.

The bike course takes you out of the resort and around some of the beautiful local area. Run course mainly local and there’s a key spot that apparently you can get your cheerleaders to stand and they will be able to see you up to 8 times on the run – it’s by the bit where the runs hit the 8 loop.

Here are the photos and wishing everyone taking part today a safe and wonderful racing experience!

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Race Report: Katy Firethorne

Getting There:
An early start to get to the location. It was raining pretty hard on the way there, about a 40 minute drive and high hopes that it wouldn’t storm as the weather forecast suggested.
No real signposting on the way into the subdivision of the race which for a first time attendee wasn’t great. We eventually found parking which seemed to be well manned (and about 2 miles from transition).

Setting Up:
The delay meant we were later than planned to set up. It was open racking for the bikes – not something I am overly familiar with or fond of, very poorly organised and people had really spread themselves out. I forgot to check my brake pads – we will come back to this. Made it out of transition with everything I needed and went to wait for the swim to begin. Met up with my colleagues and other friends. A lovely cool low 70s to start, partially cloudy but no rain!

The Swim: 500m
An out and back swim 500m in a small lake (all lakes in Texas are man made). A short paddle out to the starting buoy. Reasonably well supervised with kayaks dotted around. I’m a confident swimmer so even if I panic I can manage myself so perhaps less confident swimmers would have liked more people around. Visibility in the water was poor/low. I started in the middle of my group as I’m not ‘super fast’. I felt strong and comfortable in this swim and got into a rhythm quickly. On the way back in a swimmer near me started to actively drown, being a qualified lifeguard my moral obligation is to assist (that and I couldn’t conciously keep going knowing someone else was in difficulties and not assist). I tried to help as best I could and once he had inflated his own buoy – have to be careful not to put yourself at risk too, I swam to the nearest kayak and yelled for them to help. The guy was hesitant so I yelled again and he started to head over. I continued with my swim and came out of the water to transition feeling pretty pleased as I was still one of the first several in my group to leave the water (this is where my advantage ends).

Transition 1:
Short/Medium run into the transition. Slightly less than efficient fiddle with socks, shoes and HRM. Almost forgot to check my helmet was done up and then running out with my bike.

The Bike Course:
A 13 mile course of pretty smooth roads, not too much traffic and also well supervised by local police. A loop around the local neighbourhoods and over to the local outlets/mall and back in. My average speed was only 17 today :-/ Headwinds and trouble with my achilles meant that my pedalling power wasn’t optimal. Then dufus moment of the day… remember how
I didn’t check my brake pads.. yup… The back brake pad was completely pressed against my bike tire. THE. ENTIRE. WAY! Grrrr!!! I figured it wasn’t worth me stopping to adjust it.

Transition 2:
Quick run in off the bike and racked my bike. Fumbled with my shoes to switch to sneakers and put my race belt on and headed out for the run. The temperature now had suddenly shot up into the late 80s/early 90s. Not so pleasant!

The Run:
A large loop of a group of lakes and a couple of kiddy parks. Plenty of hydration stations (1 or 2 at each mile marker). No shade sadly. I felt better on this run than my run a couple of weeks back but that’s not saying too much. I still have a long way to go. Consistency in training will definitely help with this but I really need to go see a physio about my achilles/knee post surgery.

Summary:
Overall a pleasing performance despite not really feeling it this morning. My goal was to beat my 1:45 time (on a shorter course) and I came in at 1:27! 🙂 I came 13th in my age group (22 total) which I’m not over the moon about but I obviously need to put in the time to reap the rewards and seeing how much my friends have improved with training is very encouraging. I’ve tried to keep perspective – less than a year ago I couldn’t even walk so to be competing and RUNNING, no less, is a personal achievement in my book (as well as a PR for course distance).
The course itself was nice and simple, well supported and fun. The medals (yes, the bling) were lovely as were the shirts. However; the transition area.. not so much fun, very poorly organised and the open racking not a good thing in my book (on such a big race).

Tru Gem on the 290.

Tru Tri Sports is far enough out of town to be a fair drive (and for me to not bother in weekday traffic). However, this gem of a store, which opened in 2012 just off the 290 in Cypress is definitely worth the drive!
I’d gone with a friend to check out a bike that she wanted to look at buying if the fit was correct. The store is big and well stocked with a variety of goodies and has absolutely AMAZING sales!

I bought some calf compression sleeves (which I had been looking for over the last few weeks anyway) at 60% off. I also bought some Zoot Tri Shoes in my favourite colours (all in one go! – now I can be sporty and stylish!) and a pair of Five Fingered Vibrams at 70% off. Despite the recent negative press I am very excited to give the Vibrams a go and see if they will add any value to my overall performance. I shall be very cautionary in my introduction of them into my workouts as I want to give my body the chance to properly adapt without causing injury!

I shall post pics of my goodies later but in the meantime if you’re in the Houston locale, I suggest you get your tush over to Tru Tri and check out their store!

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