Monday, September 13, 2010

Race Reports - Early September 2010

Quakerman "Olympic" NECTC Race
Quakertown, PA

Shaena Berlin:

This was a kind of odd distance, with a .6 mile swim, 39 mile bike, and 10k run. It seemed ideally suited for me, because it made the bike extra long compared to the run; since my bike is usually much better than my run, it seemed a recipe for success!

However, let me give an overview of the past three weeks: Three weeks ago, I went on a camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, a full 7 days without a bike (although it was a fairly active trip). When I got back, I rode ~30 miles two days in a row and then shipped my bike off to campus. 9 days later, I finally received it again, but then it was raining very hard so I couldn’t ride again until Thursday. Then, 7 miles in, my chain broke (so I “ran” back to campus in my bike shoes). Then I got in an 18-mile easy ride the day before the race. So, essentially, I didn’t ride for 3 weeks before this bike-centric tri. How depressing…

Anyway, Scott did a great job driving us the LONG way to Pennsylvania, mostly in the dark and at speeds that made me not want to look at the speedometer. I “navigated” with Google Maps on my phone, which mostly worked. We arrived just before midnight and went to sleep, grateful that at least this wasn’t a race we would have to wake up ridiculously early for.

Woke up in the morning and ate some DELICIOUS banana-zucchini-chocolate chip whole wheat oatmeal muffins (email me if you want the recipe; I’m trying to hide vegetables in my food, and this definitely worked)

Swim: .6++ miles/~21 minutes/~6th woman?/~30
The lake water was fairly warm, I’d say just below the legal wetsuit limit (mid-70’s), so the swim was quite pleasant. It was a bit crowded, though, and I may have accidentally groped a few people inappropriately – thank goodness for wetsuits!
I felt like I swam very well. Over the summer, I averaged a measly 1 hour per week in the pool, but the past 2 weeks I have gotten in a bit more and some real workouts; to my surprise and indignation, my times have improved by several seconds during my time not swimming (at least for fast 50s and up to 200 – haven’t tried anything above that). If only that would happen to my run…

Bike: 39.6 miles/~2:05 (19mph avg)/~4th woman
The bike course was very nice, with several long flat-ish sections and a few decent hills. I had some very bad shifting problems (my own fault – the other day, it was shifting weirdly so I messed with the derailleur things in the front, thinking that was the problem when in reality my chain just had a stiff link. My chain broke, I put it back together one link shorter, but I didn’t know how to change the derailleur settings back to the way they were), so I ended up in too hard of a gear for most of the race. My legs, which usually feel super strong, could definitely tell that I hadn’t ridden in 3 weeks. Still, I pushed through and managed a very good average time, though today some muscles are sore that I didn’t realize even existed. I kept going back and forth with a few people, strong men and tiny little women who would pass me on the uphill and say with a tone of superiority “Nice job, keep it up!” and who I would pass again a mile later when I powered down the flats.

Run: 10k/6.2 miles/~52 min/~9th woman
This was a very interesting run for me. Usually, I get to the run with still-strong legs but a very high and unpleasant heart rate and low blood sugar. This time, I started out with dead-feeling legs but barely breathed hard at all! That, I suppose, is the result of coming down to sea level after ~12 weeks at high altitude – a FABULOUS result, I might add. Almost makes the adjustment period when I go back worth it. Almost.
So I trotted along a rather hilly and completely-pavement (ouch) run course, weird inner-side-of-leg muscles threatening to cramp on the uphills due to my bike ride in too high of a gear. Drank some Gatorade at the aid stations, turned around, trotted back, felt glad to be almost done when some people were still on mile 1. I figured that with my current running state if I ran a 50, that would be fantastic, while if I ran a 55, that would be acceptable; I came in at 52 min, which made me happy enough. I actually have been running quite a bit (though still not nearly as much as when I used to run cross-country), but I have never been a fast runner and much prefer trails to roads, so speed isn’t really my objective.

Results: Disappointingly, the timers did not receive a chip time for me! I am not sure if it was because they gave me the wrong chip (at packet pick-up they switched my race number, saying the old one had problems – I guess the new one may have too), or because the chip was faulty. There were several others who complained about not being in the results, and apparently a few people who were in the results but never actually showed up for the race. In any case, I timed it roughly on my watch and told them what I thought my finish time was (between 3:21 and 3:22, with a 21-min swim, 2:05 bike, and 52 min run, then approx. 2 min T1 and 1 min T2). Unfortunately, they decided to enter me in at 3:23:00, which dropped my placing by a few collegiate women and took me out of 3rd place for the under-24 women (but I wouldn’t have gotten a prize anyway, since they scored collegiate separately).

I just hope that the time still counts and doesn’t drop me too far in the USA Triathlon Rankings; before this race, I was ranked #12 in my age category nationally, and I would quite like to keep it that way or improve. Hard to believe that I’m even the same person who came in 2nd-to-last in the entire state in cross-country and couldn’t even run 3 miles just 5 years ago!

It was an enjoyable race and good distance, but very far away from Boston; maybe next year they will re-add Lobsterman to the NECTC schedule, because that was a wonderful and nearby race.

Age Group World Championships 2010
Budapest, Hungary

Zuzka Trnovcova:

Originally one of my A races, due to a difficult last semester and summer at
MIT, I ended up far from being in top shape for this event. Despite the fear of
huge embarrassment, I did not want to give up yet another race this season. So
after many ups and downs, both in Cambridge and at home (Bratislava, Slovakia),
fighting my fears, lack of motivation, as well as common laziness, I arrived in
Budapest this Friday ? with my mom, my brother, 3 bikes and 4 sets of wheels
(a bike for each of us + my disc wheel and trispoke for the race).

The fun started on Saturday morning, when we left our hotel bright and early to
cheer on my US friends, whom I met at the last year?s World Championships in
Australia, this year competing in the Sprint World Championship. I got to see
all of them getting on the bike and one of them running and loved their
surprised but happy looks when they heard and saw me and my family :-) The
drizzle gradually changed into heavy rain as we watched the following U23 women
category (including a girl from Czech Republic who we all raced against back in
Slovakia and who I beat a year ago ;-) - unfortunately due to her bike
crash?) The U23 were swimming 2 laps of the sprint course and were very fast
and organized in the water ? except for a few stragglers, they swam in a
tight pack, which disintegrated a little bit only in the last quarter of the
race ? a fascinating thing to watch ;-)

After my friends were off for the run, which finished 5km from the transition
area and race center, we came back to hotel to get dry and to get my bike ready
for the evening mandatory bike check in. And that?s where a little drama
began? It turned out that the pump that we brought was more of a mountain
bike pump and by pumping my front wheel to 120psi, the pump started leaking
from its side (personally, I think it was not completely alright to start with,
but oh well). So as we kept pumping my rear wheel, it went from about 90psi to
maybe 40? I started getting nervous. My brother kept trying to fix the pump
by reassembling it and lubing it everywhere he could think of. But it would not
work? Finally, he took out a hand pump and managed to pump up the wheel to
about 60psi, while sweating out a gallon :-) Even though I really appreciated
his effort, I got pretty impatient and insisted on heading to the race center
right away to find a pump. However, before we got to the car, the wheel
deflated almost completely. I forced myself to believe that it was because my
brother forgot to close the valve after he pumped it up? Just in case, we
also pumped up my regular, not-so-aero wheels at the bike service and headed
over for some sightseeing. Unfortunately, before we left the car to see the
castle district, the disc wheel deflated again. My biggest fear became true ?
I got a flat tire on a tubular and did not know how to change it, nor had
anything to change it. My brother assured me that they will have something at
the bike service, but I was hesitant, so the two hours we were sightseeing I
could not stop thinking about my poor disc wheel and how ?terrible? it will
be racing on a regular wheel after I lugged a special wheel case for my disc and
trispoke across the Atlantic? So I rushed my family back to the bike mechanic
an hour before the start of my mandatory bike check-in, determined that I would
pay anything to get my disc fixed. As one would guess for a bike mechanic at
triathlon world championships, they had extra tubulars and knew how to replace
them. I was greatly relieved, even after they charged us 58 Euros.

The second pre-race mini-drama happened at the transition entrance. A young,
strict but not very trustworthy looking lady told me that the front wheel must
have at least 12 spokes. I was pretty sure that I saw many people around with 3
and 4 spokes in front, so I tried to argue my way out, but she relentlessly
wrote my number down and said that one of the officials will go check my front
wheel in the morning. I was desperate one more time and so I spent part of my
evening researching ITU rules to prove her wrong and hoped that someone more
knowledgeable will be there in the morning?

The following morning I woke up at 4:45am and felt pretty non-dramatic ? like
before just another race... I just hoped my wheels survived the night. And they
did. I did a very ?leisure? warm-up ? running around for maybe 5 minutes
total and then swinging my arms around like everyone else did. This was
probably not enough? Unfortunately, we were not allowed to have a swim
warm-up (what a stupid rule!) and they allowed us to enter the water and hold
on the pontoon only 30 seconds before the start, so after the gun went off, I
was pretty shocked by the 59F water and resorted to swimming breast stroke for
the first few minutes. In addition, my goggles were leaking, so I stopped
several times and tried to fix them. I was getting really behind and the
kayakers asked me if I was OK. I was, except that the water was cold and I was
getting nowhere. After 5 or 10 minutes, I got accustomed to the water and my
goggles, though foggy, held tight on my face, so I actually started swimming
normally and catching up with one swimmer in front of me. Eventually I passed
her and was swimming very close to the second to last swimmer (out of 56
starters), which made me pretty happy since last year I was last out of the
water :-)

Running through the transition felt pretty hard, which was probably a good
indicator that I was not slacking too much in the water. It took me some time
to get to a steady pace on the bike. After that I was cruising and managed to
pass a couple girls and one guy. I got passed by a lot of guys and towards the
end by quite a few 25-29 year old girls. However, towards the end I was running
out of steam, so I was trying to drink more and as a result got passed back by 2
or 3 girls. My mom and brother were cheering on me loudly during each of the 3
laps, which felt great. Towards the end of the bike, I was ready to be done
(with the bike and everything), but unfortunately, I still had to run 10K?

Transition 2 felt even harder than transition 1. My back hurt and running was
hard too. Just running through the transition was at least 1/6 of a mile if not
more. I managed the transition OK, leaving for the run without socks. My mom and
brother were cheering on me right outside of the transition before they headed
back to the hotel to eat their breakfast (since my finish was 5km from the
transition and it would be cumbersome for them to transport themselves there).
The run was in beautiful scenery ? first along the Danube, then in the city
center. I saw a lot of nice buildings, bridges and boats. However, I was
running very slowly. I felt tired and didn?t want to overdo it, but I still
got cramps in the side of my stomach (or lungs?) with maybe 2 miles to go. I
walked a bit, but it would not go away, so I walked-ran for a while and then
after one of the British athletes tapped me on my back and told me that I can
do it, I resorted to my slow run again? I drank twice during the run, which
is also unusual for me because I usually don?t drink at all during the run in
an Olympic distance. Another confusing situation arose with the laps on the run.
We were supposed to run 5K along the river and then do 2 laps around the city
center. But the laps were really unclear, so on the second lap, I was trying to
ask several slower runners whether I was supposed to do one more lap or I was
done. It turned out I was going to be done very soon (had I known it sooner, I
might have run faster, but one can always say that, so I won?t elaborate
here), so I sped up for the last 1/6 of a mile or so and did a very lame
?sprint? and was done ? yay ? relief? My US friends were waiting for
me at the finish and we took a boat back to the race center/transition area
where my mom and brother were waiting for me.

I didn?t have any expectations of this race, so I was not too upset at when I
finished 51st out of 55 finishers (I guess one girl did not finish?) with a
time of 2:38:00 (this seemed an OK time, but it was actually pretty slow since
the first girl in my age group finished in 2:01:18). My split times were
nothing surprising either:
Swimming: 32:54 (54th ? considering the initial chaos, it was surprisingly
T1: 3:27 (50th ? as I said, the transition was really big?)
Bike: 1:02:32 (39th ? the bike was entirely flat and the fastest girl in my AG
did it in 55:48)
T2: 3:26 (51th)
Run: 55:40 (50th ? my worst 10K race time ever ? oh well, but considering I
had to walk and the last 2 miles hurt quite a bit, it was OK?)
Full results can be found here:
and a news article here:

Being my last race of a not very good season, I?m happy the Worlds are over
and after a month or so of totally unstructured activities, I?m going to
start training again. Should be good. And I believe next year Worlds in Beijing
will be much better.

Espirit Triathlon (Ironman Distance)
Montreal, Canada

Melissa Dell:

Time: 11:41:46 (S: 1:28:51/T1: 9:56/B: 5:38:14/T2: 7:49/R: 4:16:57)

This past Saturday, I finally did my first triathlon, an iron distance race in Montreal. My goals going into it were pretty basic: I wanted to have fun and when the opportunity arose, I wanted to be able to encourage other participants. Ok, maybe this sounds a little cheesy or cliche, but for me, the essence of doing ultra distance events is about forming a bond with other participants, people who don't even know your name but who share a very particular passion and the experience of doing one of these events. In my first ultra distance race a few years ago, a 56 mile run in South Africa, I started to feel really dizzy and sick during the latter part of the race due to low sodium, as the aid stations had run out of salt. Some random participant saw that I was struggling and asked if there was anything she could do to help. When I explained that I needed salt, she walked with me for a mile and asked every single person by the side of the road cheering for salt until we found someone who did. I felt much better and was able to safely finish the race, with the encouragement of lots of people who were themselves exhausted. It's a bit hardr to be encouraging when your face is under water or everyone is zooming along on a bike, but I still really wanted to have the chance to form this kind of bond with the other participants. I definitely did, especially on the run, and also really enjoyed the majority of the race.


The main thing I can say about pre-race is: Murphy's law of triathlon. Don't fight it, just embrace it and deal as effectively as possible.

For example, several days before the race, I got some pretty nasty road rash on my elbow, hip, and knees. I was quite concerned about getting a wetsuit on and off. It turned out ok, Tegaderm bandages work miracles. I can't drive, and two days before my race it turned out my ride couldn't get me to Montreal until midnight the day before the race; for awhile I wasn't sure whether I could get a ride there at all. It turned out ok, the race director let me pick up the reg packet morning of the race. Some personal issues arose a couple of days before the race, in part because I was stressed about race-related stuff going wrong. It turned out ok, but wasted a lot of energy. En route to Montreal, we stopped at Subway and a scraggly looking guy on a bike made off with a couple of my water bottles that I'd sat down while loading the car. Um seriously, I'm not kidding. Thankfully I had extras. And so on...

Morning of the race, we get up at 4 am after only a few hours of sleep - ughhh. We left plenty of time to get to the race venue, located quite aways from our cheap hotel in the suburbs of Montreal, and it was a good thing because there was insane road construction that had shut down the highway and took us on a really long detour. It took a ton of concentration to keep following the sparsely placed French signs without getting lost. We finally arrive with less than an hour to go til race start and so much to do: pick up my race packet, mix my protein shakes for the bike, lay out everything for transition, bodymarking, waiting in line for the porta-potties, I even had to take off my front wheel to put the Champion chip on the skewer, and yes, the skewer was on way too tight and it took forever to get it loose.

I really, really did not want to be THAT dude - you know, the one who is sprinting from the transition area to the swim start with a wetsuit half on with just a few minutes to go til start. But it happened despite my efforts otherwise and it turned out ok. It was not ideal, and if I was doing it again, I would fork out the money to stay closer to the race start, to minimize the chance of having the very bad outcome of missing a race due to getting lost or hitting massive road construction. But at that point all I really cared was that I made it to the start line with a couple of minutes left to relax, and things had been so crazy that I didn't have time to get at all nervous.


My conjecture going into triathlon (which definitely turned out to be true) was that the toughest part of doing an Ironman would be to make it to the start line, relatively healthy and fit, with the necessary skills and equipment. So when the starting gun finally went off and we started the first lap of the two lap swim course around Montreal's Olympic rowing basin, I felt an enormous sense of relief. The swim start was not too aggressive, and it was hilarious when I took a breath to see a bunch of spectators walking (very!) slowly along the side of the rowing basin in which we were swimming, keeping pace with the swimmers and taking pictures. About 600 meters in, I started to get a headache from the goggle straps not being put on quite right, and more generally the first lap of the swim was surprisingly enough the overall low point of the day. By the second half of the first lap, I had that sick stomach feeling that I always get when I haven't slept enough the night before. I thought I might puke - yikes, the race had barely started! Besides the head and stomach, my draft was zig-zagging back and forth, and it was driving me crazy to stay on his feet. There was no way I could breach the gap between us and the next pack without expending way too much energy, and I found that it took slightly more energy to swim in a straight line by myself than to draft off the circuitous swimmer. Why wasn't anyone else passing us? Were we in dead last place? Seriously?

Running for a few meters between the first and second lap was the best feeling and gave me a fresh burst of energy for the second lap. I discovered that in fact I had not been in the back, and was able to hop behind the feet of a woman going at a relatively relaxed pace and take it a bit easier for the rest of the swim. The stomach ache started to go away. I contemplated going with a slightly faster swimmer who came by, but my calf started to cramp and I decided there was no way a few extra minutes I made up in the swim could be worth it if it wore me out for the rest of the day. My swim was almost 1:29, taking nearly three times as long as a half iron swim for an aquabike I'd done on tired arms and legs had taken a couple of weeks before. But it was well worth the lost time to stay relaxed, given that I had a long day ahead and my number one priority was to enjoy the race.


Um, I seriously took nearly ten minutes in the first transition? Definitely need to work on hustling more if I do this again, you would think that I took a nap or called my mother... But in reality I just yanked off my wetsuit, praying it wouldn't irritate the road rash too much, and helped a guy in transition next to me who said he couldn't get his off by himself. Drank some protein shake, made sure I was smothered in sunscreen so I wouldn't fry uncovered slivers of skin like I had in the half iron race a couple of weeks ago, put on arm warmers, stuffed my pockets full, and changed my bike computer to just read off my power in giant numbers since I had unfortunately forgotten to do this before the race. And ran off with my bike...


The bike course consisted of 41 loops around a Formula 500 race track. It was pretty flat except for one hill each loop, which I used as an excuse to get out of the aero bars and stretch my back. The course had several tight turns each lap, and I definitely felt my lack of cycling experience come into play. There were a lot of racers in close proximity, and I thought during the first lap after some guy almost clipped my front wheel: ``it's not a matter of if I crash, it's when.'' A substantial number of riders were pedaling aggressively through the corners, but I had to lean my bike quite a bit to get through them in a tight line. Would I clip the ground with the inside pedal, wipe out, and potentially end my race if I tried to pedal through? I'd never pedaled through tight turns in training because the info on cornering I'd read said it wasn't a good idea, but I was falling behind on curves. What should I do? In the end I ended up playing it safe and focusing intently on leaning the bike the right amount so I could steer well clear of other riders and not worrying about pedaling. I definitely lost time and some momentum on the turns, but was so happy that I didn't crash or get a flat. There were also guys on motorcycles calling various people out for drafting, and I was really glad to avoid that.

When I started the bike, the pro half iron men were still on the track. It was pretty cool (and slightly horrifying) to hear the whoosh of disk wheels and suddenly be surrounded by a big pack of them pedaling past me at high speeds. Slowly the half iron people cleared, then came the Olympic, sprint, and duathlon people. After like four laps, I lost track of where I was and didn't figure it out again until the announcer yelled well into the race that I was on lap 26 of 41. It was pretty easy to get into a rhythm; my PRE felt a bit too high with the power I had planned to hold based on my long training rides, so I knocked it down 10 watts and it was fine. I ate gel every other lap, sipped perpetuem throughout, and made a few stops: once to pee, once to take off my arm warmers, and once to grab the special needs bag so I could reapply sunscreen.

I started counting down the laps with ten to go, and they went fairly fast. I was passing lots of the sprint and duathlon racers, which I have to admit was pretty fun. And finally felt an immense sense of relief to be off the bike and running it towards my rack in the transition zone. 5:38.


I'd realized right before I dashed off for the swim that I hadn't laid out my Garmin. No way I can run without that. So the first line of business was dumping out my hiking backpack that I stowed next to my bike, fortunately found the Garmin without too much difficulty. I was convinced that these pesky bees who were in love with the gel flasks I'd laid out were going to sting me when I reclaimed my gel, but miraculously that didn't happen. I smothered my feet in blister ointment and put on a fresh pair of socks, which was the best investment ever. Totally saved my feet on the run. Pulled on running shoes; grabbed fresh gel flasks, gel chews, and my perpetuem fuel bottle; and I was off through a maze of bikes searching for the run start.


Now it was only the run left, only a marathon... and running is what I do, one of my biggest passions. Spending the better part of an afternoon on a beautiful day outside running was almost heaven. Just almost, because 1) the run was on pavement (soooo hard on your body compared to dirt) and 2) given I'd already been out there for seven plus hours, I needed to choke down a lot of calories. But minor details, I love to run! My legs felt really good going into the run, looked down at my Garmin and was like ``yikes, I absolutely have to slow this way down.'' Due to a hamstring injury, I'd only been able to do a few moderate-to-long runs, and my goal was to keep the pace between 9:30 and 10:00 min/mile. The course looped around the rowing basin that we'd swam in earlier, with the loops just shy of 5 km each. I was in total ultra-running mentality. Translation: I knew that the most important thing I could do was to consume as much gel and perpetuem as I could, let the slightly queasy feeling in my stomach subside, and repeat. At a 100 mile race I did in Colorado last year, I seriously felt like it was a multi-sport event, some sort of combination between running and an Oscar Meyer wiener eating contest, where instead of shoving down hot dogs, the goal was to stuff down as many hammer gels as possible. The marathon of the tri had a similar feeling. At each aid station, I yelled out for two waters ahead of time, slowed down briefly to dump one over my head and used the other to water down the gel and perpetuem.

Eating aside, I loved the crowd support. Each time I came around the basin, there were crowds of people screaming in french, my boyfriend encouraging me on, and a squad of cheerleaders (like football game-style cheerleaders) who I'm convinced must have burned more energy doing loud cheers throughout the bike and run than any of the race participants. Once I settled in, I was holding the pace at a little bit under ten minutes, and it felt pretty decent besides for how tight my hips and hamstrings got. I loved having the course marked in kilometers and not miles, after thinking about all my training runs in terms of miles, it was so nice to have things broken up into smaller increments. I knew I might crash at some point, in which case the name of the game was to keep running, however slowly, until I got a fresh burst of energy. I knew from my ultra-marathon training that low points have upturns, as long as you keep eating and getting some sodium, and I can run through them. But thankfully, my pacing worked such that the crash didn't happen, and I was able to continue running at the same pace through to the finish line.

Finish and some general thoughts

By the time I finished, the other tris and duathlon were done, and the crowds had thinned out quite a bit. But it was nevertheless awesome, and I was really happy that I didn't need to go to the medical tent and was still able to walk (after my 100 miler, I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to walk into the hotel and the receptionist brought me a wheelchair, so did United Airlines:-). Yay, I'd actually trained for this event rather than doing only about half of the necessary training, and the result was that my body was actually prepared. And I absolutely loved that they gave out a super-plush, big finisher's sweatshirt to put on as soon as I crossed the finish line. So much better than an emergency blanket! I walked around a bit, talked to a guy from a Montreal foundation for visual impairment who'd noticed that I had albinism and was really excited I'd been able to do the race despite not having full vision. This was pretty cool, and it was nice to chat with him since he'd done the race for many years and had a great perspective on it. Then finally a massive ice bath and bed, I love being outside working hard all day, with other people who understand why this can be cool and lots of encouragement from the sidelines, great race overall!

I give the Esprit Triathlon really high marks. The organization was great, the volunteers were great, it is much cheaper than an ironman brand race, and it is barely commercialized. No powerbar, no gatorade, no cervelo ads all over the place... I did a half iron aquabike in Vermont a couple of weeks before this race; it was a great race, but was so commercialized that I felt like I was at some sort of radio party or something. Esprit, which has been around since 1974, felt more like a fun local tradition, that nevertheless had top caliber athletes. It doesn't have giant crowds of people screaming at the finish line, it doesn't have kona slots, and it doesn't have armies of volunteers to help you pull of your wetsuit, rack your bike, etc. But these things weren't very important to me, and I didn't see them as drawbacks. Another great thing is that it definitely feels like an authentic international experience, with most people cheering in French, but is within easy driving distance from New England. If you plan to do it, though, just be sure to learn to count to 41 in French, so that you can be sure to understand the lap countdown.

I also have some general tips on ironman training. First, know that it can be a lifestyle change, especially if you have little-to-no experience in a couple of the sports. A LOT of time is spent training, and it takes time to figure out all the gear and equipment that you need. It is also really expensive relative to a sport like running. Second, it is not necessary to have experience with shorter triathlons to do an ultra distance one. It does help a lot to have some endurance experience, either in the form of half iron triathlons or long distance racing in one of the disciplines.

Third, nutrition - and particularly getting enough protein and sodium during the race - is really, really important. I love perpetuem for protein, even though it tastes pretty gross. I use Nunn electrolyte tablets on the bike and salt stick pills on the run. In my training, I have found that I need a very precise amount of electrolytes not to feel sick and implement this in the race. Getting enough salt is hugely important to me, as I have extremely salty sweat and have had dangerously low levels of sodium in the past before I knew how important it was. I use hammer gel throughout. It's not my favorite gel, but a big jug of it is fairly cheap and convenient to squeeze into flasks. Gel chews can be nice for something different, but you may have trouble getting them liquified enough to swallow by the end of the race when your throat is unlikely to be working so great. It's also nice to have a couple of bars along on the bike in case your body demands solid food at lunch time, and I carry a bit of crystalized ginger, which can be good for upset stomach. Finally, I take a little bit of caffeine in the form of gels and chews, around 50 mg in two doses on the bike and 50 mg on the run. I don't consume much caffeine on a daily basis, so more than this upsets my stomach, but an appropriate dose will vary a lot depending on your tolerance.

Fourth, learn as much as you can about the physiology behind training. Phil Skyba has a couple of fantastic books, and there is a lot of information on the internet. Relatedly, read other people's race reports and learn as much about the event you are doing as possible. Fifth, try to find a swim coach if you can. I was lucky to have a fantastic coach, Bill Steele, through MIT triathlon. If you can't afford a coach, try to get feedback from friends with swimming experience and check out Swim Smooth, a great online resource about freestyle technique.

Sixth, plan for contingencies. If you get hurt, what's your backup race (I was originally going to do Lake Placid but couldn't due to an injury). Non-ironman iron distance races make great backup races, because they are more likely to have spots left close to race date. Seventh, prevent injuries by using a foam roller, doing some dynamic stretching exercises, making sure you have a good bike fit, and being careful to appropriately space your hard workouts. Seventh, learn some basic bike maintenance. For example, my seat kept on slipping down on long rides because I didn't know that I needed to grease the seat bolts. This hurt my knees, wasted good training time, and would have been avoidable if I'd learned a bit more beforehand. Finally, and most importantly, have as much fun as possible with it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Headwaters 1/2 Iron - Bozeman, Montana

Headwaters Half Iron
Bozeman, Montana

-Shaena Berlin

On Saturday, I drove up to Bozeman, Montana (4.5 hours away) to compete in a small, rural half ironman race, the Headwaters Half. There were 40 entries total, and I was the only one in the 19-and-under age group – as long as I finished, I would win! Anyway, it seemed like a good pick for my first Half, because (1) the registration fees were much lower than the big events, (2) it was close to home (relatively – living in the West, the scale of “close” becomes rather large), and (3) the course was supposed to be pretty fast and reasonably easy.

Point (3) was overthrown about a week ago, when the race directors realized that extensive construction over the road where the bike was supposed to take place would not be done in time for the race. Originally, the race would begin 15 miles west of Bozeman in Three Forks. So, they did the best they could and moved the entire race into Bozeman itself. Instead of a flat, fast bike course with one big climb at the turnaround, it was now a grueling mountain pass. Still, the swim venue wouldn’t be noticeably different, and the run course looked flat, so it seemed that there might remain a possibility for a nice low time. Also, it was at “low” altitude (i.e. 4000 feet above sea level, and I live at 6200). Yay!

Swim: 1.2 miles (+all of my swerving around), 40:02, 67oF (water), 55oF (air) I really haven’t been swimming much this summer, for a couple of reasons: First of all, the swim is such a small part of a triathlon, especially once you get to the Half distance, that it really didn’t deserve a ton of my time. Second, when living in one of the most beautiful outdoorsy towns in America, it seems almost a crime to spend too much time swimming laps inside. Anyway, I always have done perfectly fine in the swim, even before I started training with Coach Bill (although I improved immensely and noticeably throughout the school year while doing that training).

The swim course was three clockwise laps, with a funny stipulation that we get out of the water and run across a point of sand in between each lap (I think this was so they could keep track of us and make sure we all did the full distance – no fancy timing chips or anything at this race!). That was kind of a drag, definitely messed up the flow of things, but overall the swim was fine. The water seemed unbearably warm (they said it was 67, but I don’t believe them; either that, or my recent daily short plunges into our glacial meltoff river really have acclimated me to cold water).

So, I finished in something ridiculous for how little I’ve been swimming (~12th place overall, 3rd/15 women) and moved on to the bike.

T1: 1:45 – realized how much easier the transition is without numb fingers!

Bike: 56.6 miles, 2000 feet of climbing, 3:33, 55-85oF The bike was rather more brutal than expected, but I ride quite a bit so did reasonably well. The first 21 miles were mostly climbing, sometimes gradual, sometimes steep. Plus there must have been a few significant downhills (which I don’t remember riding down, but certainly remember riding back up on the way back). At the top of Battle Creek Ridge, there was an aid station where they gave us water bottles with water or Heed. As a side note, I had never tried Heed before (yes, I know, you’re not supposed to try anything new on race day, but I couldn’t help it), and it was DELICIOUS and didn’t even hurt my stomach during the run. I think watermelon flavored. Anyway, I think I’ll buy it again in the future. Also, I was excited for the bottles, because I labeled my own bottles with my name and picked them up after the race, and then I ended up with two more nice ones! I guess I’m a loser cyclist, because I really have a pitifully small stash of bottles.

Then there was an 8-mile descent/flats, then back up. I started swearing at the flies and bees that I suspected of wanting to sting me in hopes of stealing some of my Shot Bloks; maybe I was a bit crazy from lack of food/water, but they do sting me on a regular basis when I have sugary things in my back pockets.

Finally, I reached the top of the pass again and started a flying descent back to the transition area (with the exception of two particularly nasty and surprising uphills). My original time goal for the bike was 3:20, since I recently did a mountainous 110-mile ride that averaged 17mph and thus figured I could carry that pace into the triathlon. However, a combination of WAY more climbing than expected and not drafting with anyone made me miss it slightly, coming in at 3:33. Usually the bike is my strong point, but I think it must have been the strong point of a lot of these women because I ended up in 7th

T2: 1:21

Run: 13.1 miles, 2:30, 85-90oF

Oh, the run, how I’d looked forward to running a half-marathon after already racing for ~4 hours (not).

The first mile of the run, I felt GREAT. Psyched, I thought that it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as I had thought; I did a few big long brick workouts in the mountains, and this course was flat, and I felt relaxed and fast (for me).

After the first mile, I realized how hot it was outside, and I felt terrible. I know many of you probably don’t think that 85-90 is that hot, but you also probably don’t typically go skiing in May-June. I had fueled myself as well as possible during the bike, but I was just losing water like crazy. At the aid station, I had them put some ice into the water bottle I was carrying, but between there and the next aid station (a nasty 3 miles away), my drink was so hot that it barely helped at all. I started shivering, which seemed like a bad thing, so I slowed down and basically stumbled along until the aid station, where I replenished my ice. Surprisingly, I finished the first 6.5 mile lap in 66 minutes, which didn’t seem nearly as bad as I expected. (I am not a fast runner, but can usually manage a sub-2 hour half-marathon. However, for walking and stumbling a large portion of the course, 10-minute miles was not bad at all)

Second lap was worse. The course started with a 1.5 mile out-and back lollipop, which took me 15 minutes the first lap and 25 the second. It was dreadful, and I was trying to ration the liquid I took in because my stomach usually cramps up when I drink too much while running. After the aid station, I decided that that method wasn’t working, so I set little miniature goals every couple hundred yards and let myself drink sips of ice water upon achieving each one. Unfortunately, about 1.5 miles into the 3 miles between aid stations, my water supply was quite low and also quite hot again. I felt the shivers coming on, and a throat closing with despair at how far I had already come and how impossibly far the remaining 3.5 miles sounded. So I walked for a minute, then stumbled along some more.

.5 miles from the finish, my calf gave a couple of spasms, and it felt like the bottom of my foot was going to seize up – electrolyte depletion or something? I was glad to almost be done, before my body freaked out any more. Crossed the finish line in 6:47, in 7th place out of the 12 women finishers (several dropped out during the run)

My overall goal had been sub-6, readjusted to sub-6:30 once the course was changed…Not good, but considering I almost never run in temperatures above even 70 degrees (since I run in the mornings when I wake up, when it’s usually around 40-50), surviving a run in the heat was an accomplishment.

Lessons learned:
1) Buy a sleeveless wetsuit someday
2) Get some HEED watermelon
3) Always have a depleted water bottle so there is an excuse to take a new free one at an aid station
4) Doesn’t matter how much I push on the bike, I’ll always feel like crap on the run anyway so may as well go all out (as long as I’ve done enough brick workouts beforehand)
5) Bring along a race crew or someone who is willing to drive around and dump ice or ice water all over me when I vainly attempt to run in the heat (or, alternatively, perhaps I should do my longer races in the spring, fall, or winter, when it’s cold)


Friday, July 16, 2010

Patriot Half Ironman, East Freetown, MA

Patriot Half Ironman Race Report
Saturday, June 19, 2010
East Freetown, MA
Matthieu Talpe
The pre-race officially started Saturday, May 22nd after a week of finals. Having the Patriot Half Iron on my calendar gave me an excuse to resume a structured training regimen, so with four weeks left before the race, I scrambled together three solid training weeks + one week of taper--during which I eliminated my daily coffee and piece of cake at noon, what a shame because I didn't even have time to enjoy my rejuvenated caffeine tolerance during race morning.
At 3:50 AM on Saturday morning, I woke up, and after the usual "why the f am I doing this to myself", crawled out of bed and 90 minutes later, found myself registering at the race area in East Freetown, MA. I absolutely love pre-races. It was early in the morning, the sun was rising on what was going to be a cloud-free day, the dew was still on the grass, the music was perfect, and as usual, everyone was subtly eyeing each other in the transition area. Man, what a great time. Did I mention that I love pre-races?
Swim (1.2 miles ?)
Wow, 1.2 miles drawn out by buoys on the water seems disproportionately long. The conditions were nearly ideal: water temperature in the mid to low 70s, small waves of competitors, calm waters, and only two turns.
I'll spare you the details of the swim--long story short: I never got to latch on to a reliable set of feet to draft off of, but found a good rhythm pretty quickly and never felt the triceps burn I typically feel after awhile. Thank you Mrs Taper.
Bike (58 miles)
The course was fast. Again, nothing extraordinary to report and I don't want to bore you with uninteresting anecdotes. I held nearly constant pace throughout the two relatively flat 29 mile laps, passing perhaps 50 people while getting passed by 4 tree-trunked-legged men. I'll reetirate what I wrote in my Collegiate Nationals report: a strong bike is crucial to a good overall time and I'm very grateful that I spent hours and hours on the bike--it pays off! As they say, "cycling is a blue-collar sport; you gotta crank out the miles." Notable criticism of other athletes' strategy: unless you feel particularly uncomfortable grabbing bottles at the two aid stations (they offered Heed and water), you shouldn't need to carry more than two bottles--that's a lot of extra weight! Food-wise, while I usually don't eat much during training rides, I forced myself to 2 gels and 1 powerbar. Other notable comments: plain vanilla powerbar >> tropical fruit powerbar AND next time I need to remember to open the powerbar beforehand instead of fiddling with the plastic and going over a pothole that nearly swallowed my bike FOREVER.
Run (13.1 miles)
Again, I am very fortunate: everything went smoothly. It was a very hot run with long stretches of road in the sun, but overall, my pace remained consistent--while on the flats. Running around the Charles has not gotten me used to hills so I slowed down way too much on the course's several rollers.
I have to admit that I distinctly remember hitting the mile 3 marker and thinking that I was really looking forward to this run being done. Not the greatest positive attitude, I know. As cliché as it sounds, I just took the run mile by mile and tagged on to people as long as I could--although most of the run no one was within 100 yards of me. Other cliché thought: in the moments I just wanted to stop and walk, I thought back to other long training runs during which I had felt much worse but didn't stop, and knew that I was physically able to continue running--I had no excuse to stop.
The numbers are one thing, sensations are another. Overall I felt very happy with the race, and especially, as I've mentioned [too] many times, very lucky. So much can happen in a 4, 5, 6 hour race, so many things that are completely out of your control, unaffected by your preparation, and luckily, I experienced none of those--everything went according to the plan. I was never exceedingly sore, thirsty, or hungry and finished the race with a solid quarter mile 'sprint.'
I am happy to have chosen the Patriot for my first HIM as it was low-key (no major pro contingent), cheaper ($180 instead of $225 or $250 for other 70.3 HIM), extremely well-organized (numerous volunteers, I never had to stop at the many intersections, good food, etc), well located (60 min south of Boston), and a pleasant event. Furthermore, the bike leg being flat allowed for fast times and therefore, a nice confidence boost for future long course triathlon training. I would strongly recommend it for any first timers. And, admittedly, I had a great time with Kristin and all the other triathlon peeps.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Escape the Cape Triathlon, Onset MA

Liz Santorella

Escape the Cape was technically my first triathlon, since the swim had been cut for my wave during the New England Season Opener. I felt that I had a satisfactory grasp of where I had to go and what I should be wearing, and I entered this race with a lot more confidence.

The swim, I had been assured, was almost nothing. This was sort of like the time in third grade when a hair dresser accidentally gave me a floppy afro and everyone said it looked fine. Apprehension led me to swim extremely conservatively, but this likely backfired, as breathing
every two strokes caused me to continuously veer to the right. I don't feel too bad about my slow time; I used my first swim segment to familiarize myself withf it, much as I had raced the Season Opener carefully to learn what I was doing, and I'm ready to swim hard next time.

T1: I've doing a good deal of cycling and knew I wouldn't do well on the swim, so I was looking forward to the moment when I would dash out of the water and gleefully hop onto my bike. I was, however, rather surprised to find that my whole body had decomposed into jello. I stumbled to the transition area, snapped on my bike shoes, and left in a reasonable amount of time. As I was about to mount my bike, I came to the unpleasant realization that I had left plastic cleat protectors on the bottoms of my shoes. I pulled to the side of the course to pull them off. I didn't lose much time, but I felt a lot dumber.

Bike: I expected this to be my best segment, but I was, frustratingly, unable to average a pace much higher than I would on a long training ride. I was trapped behind slow cars at least four times, but all in all, the bike was... okay.

Run: By this point, I'm used to the odd dead feeling in my legs concomitant with running after biking. Running in a triathlon seems nothing like a straight-up 5k; for me, at least, it seems to involve just moving my legs at whatever pace I can. When I heard race volunteers announce that there were only 400 meters left, however, the cross-country girl in me woke up and decided to kick. This did not work and resulted only in my making weird faces.

The thirteen minutes of swimming felt like at least an hour, and the run also felt protracted; I left the race convinced that my times on each segment may have been nearly equal. When I later compared my times to those who had finished in a similar overall time, I was surprised to find that my bike time had been average, my swim had been a bit slow, and the run was relatively fast. I had thought I was better at cycling than running, but since I'm a new and quickly-improving cyclist, I confused ability with its first derivative.

All in all, it was pretty fun and I'm looking forward to the next race.

Christy Bonstelle

Pre-Race: The morning was a series of firsts – my first body-marking, my first transition set up, etc. Basically, I just followed Christina around and did what she did until it was time for the pre-race instructions. I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all. Down on the beach, I herded myself with the rest of the pink-capped Newbies. In a state of pre-race Newbie shock and disbelief at what we were about to do, we waddled wide-eyed and seal-like in our wetsuits to the start. It was warm enough that we could get in the water pre-race without worrying about getting chilled. The first wave went off, and the Newbies cheered. Two minutes later, we collectively paled – one of the first wave athletes (the Elites) was getting pulled in by a jet ski before reaching the first buoy. It was The Great Newbie Fear: Trouble with the Swim. Then someone told a joke, and collectively the Newbies relaxed and walked to the starting coral.

The Swim: Wonderfully event free, with a few minor collisions and a slight “biff” from a woman doing the backstroke perpendicular to the course (I guess it’s hard to sight). And I passed people, which never happens at the Z-center except with aqua-joggers.

The Bike: T-1 went better than I expected (finding my bike laying on my transition gear notwithstanding). I had a very rocky mount, and then went off, passing people on the left consistently until the “no passing zone.” I then immediately got caught behind a woman cycling 12-14 mph (grrrr). I told myself to consider it a recovery period, since there really wasn’t another option. Out of the “no-passing zone,” I began the “passing-fest” again, until I got behind a truck that was unable to pass a cyclist at 12-14 mph (grrrr). The truck moved left then right, trying to figure out what to do, while a stream of cyclists piled up behind me. I noticed that the passenger window was open, so when the truck moved left again I yelled “Car, we’re passing on the right” and I lead my stream of cyclists pass the car. Several of them passed me, and then we leap-frogged around each other for the last few miles.

The Run: T-2 was fine, although I somehow managed to switch my legs with anvils when changing shoes. I waddled out of the transition period with a goofy smile on my face – the scary legs were over, but the tough leg was about to begin. I went through the first mile mark in 7 min, and was motivated to push harder. I then when by the second mile mark @ 5:55, and I realized the mile markers were only loosely correlated with the actual mile marks. By then, some of the molten lead in my legs was replaced by oxygen carrying blood cells. I ran to the finish. My first tri. I practically yanked the finisher’s meddle out of the volunteer’s hand.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mooseman Half Ironman, Bristol NH


As you might have noticed it was pretty rainy. NH was not exception. It rained
from start to finish.
The swim was fun, the water was comfortably warm even for me - somewhere in the
mid 60s. My swim time was not great, but given that I did not really swim for
the past two or even three months it was not too bad.
The bike course was hilly with steep uphills and steep, fast and scary since wet
downhills. I am glad I made it through it without crashing. As soon as it went
slightly downhill the triathlon bikes with disk wheel were zooming past me. I
caught them again on the next uphill. I guess aerodynamics make a difference.
I finished with 33km/h average speed - could have been faster, but since I was
scared of the run, I did not want to push it too much.
The run was a disaster. End of Feb I ran a good half marathon in 1:32. That was
also when my running training stopped. Let me say that much. This triathlon
half marathon was nowhere close. ;-) I did my first mile in 8min. From then on
my mileage pace went downhill and the pain level went uphill (exponentially). I
finished the last 2miles with a 64 year old lady as pacemaker. She was awesome.
Unfortunately she had to do another lab of 10k. I hope (am sure) she made it.
After the race my knee started to hurt again, but it isn't too bad (yet). I hope
that it will be better by tomorrow.
On a good note I recovered pretty fast since it was mostly my running muscles
that limited my pace.
and the main reason I even finished the run was that Stacy kept pushing
me while
accompanying me on the bike.
I was ready to bail after 10k. ;-)
A big thanks to Stacy, for helping at the price of getting soaked.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Black Bear Duathlon, Waterville Valley NH

SCOTT LANDERS - Short Course

So, Christina and I took our little vacation up to New Hampshire this weekend to take part in the 2nd annual Black Bear Duathlon. We made up there in record time (thanks to some expert driving) and found our hotel with no problems. Soon after that, though, things got interesting. The duathlon was being held in a ski resort, and for those of you who have never been to a winter ski resort in the's quite strange. There aren't many people, and the empty shops and hotels look just a bit too quaint and picturesque seeming too perfect. In our relaxed state of mind, we totally spun a screenplay of how we could be in the middle of a horror film...needless to say we had a good time.

Also, we met this guy at packet pick up who was...a bit too serious. He asked us if we were going to wear socks during the race and looked strangely perplexed when we told him we were. Anyhow, his car was parked next to ours and we managed to see that his license plate said "MOBSTA." I then made it my goal to put the beat down on a mobsta...ironic, no?

We got back to the hotel and had a craving for some ice cream. Of course in the ghost town there was nothing open, so we came back dejected, but the amazing hotel hosts happened to have some leftover desert, which we accepted with huge smiles. We got to eat it outside on the patio as we watched the sun set behind the mountains. It was finally bedtime.


I've never done a duathlon before, so I wasn't sure how to handle the first run. I went out with the lead pack of guys and just focused on running a smooth even race, trying not to push too hard and die on the bike. I clocked in at about 6:49 min/mi pace, which was a little faster than I thought I was running, but I felt strong at the end, which is what matters (I still have my goal of getting back down to 18:00 for a 5K).

T1 went fine and then I was off on the bike. After half a mile, we had to bike up this 2mi hill which wasn't easy in the least. It took me about 12min to climb it and then about 4 to get back down it. The rest of the ride was similar (just smaller hills) I got passed by a couple people, but managed to average 17mph for the whole 30km.

T2 was less efficient than T1, I almost ran out of the transition area with my helmet still on...lame, but I figured it out pretty quick, tossed the helmet and was off for the second 5K...this is where I really got to push myself. I immediately caught MOBSTA and managed to pick off two or three more over the next 4K. One guy even told me a run like a sprinter! (I'm still partial to my sprinting...=) Then came the last half mile and there was one guy about 50m ahead of me. I could see he wasn't going strong and I was exhausted, but I made the choice that I was going to catch him and launched into my final attack calling on my years of 400m/800m running (this is why). I started closing the gap and caught him going up a hill with 100m to go. I then proceeded to finish (with less of a sprint than my last race, but still strong) in 1:50:38 which is significantly faster than the 2hr I thought I was going to run.

All in all my splits were

5K run - 21:10....8/57

30K Bike - 1:04:56....28/ second slower than Christina!!!
5K run - 22:24...10/57

So, apparently I'd be top 10 with my running, but need to get my bike up to par!

This was good enough to get me 15/57 overall and 1/1 in my age group. I was the youngest male by almost 10 years! Those older guys are super fast (like Michael!).

All in all it was a great experience and I can't wait to go back again next year.



Scott gave an excellent description of the race, so I'll keep my report short and sweet and share with you some of the Christina-specific incidents:

Pre-race: The duathlon was the final workout of my 13-hour base training week. My pre-race activities included a Saturday long run, free wine and cheese provided by the hotel, and (for once!) a good night's sleep.

Run 1: [Thought] "Oh, I actually do like swimming. I wonder how long it will take me to run a 5k." (Answer for R1, about 25 minutes.)

T1: I was ecstatic to be done with the first run.... I was so anxious and excited to get on the bike where I have my confidence. [Thought] "I have the sexiest running mount ever. People must think I'm so cool!" (Like I said, confidence on the bike!)

Bike: Big hill to the ski slopes right off the bat. I dig into the hill and pace myself, passing a female competitor on the way ("Yes!"). The downhill was safe, thrilling, and still had beautiful scenery, whizzing by at upwards of 38 mph. Not long after I hit the rolling hills that comprised the rest of the bike course's out-and-back loop, both my calves started cramping in a pattern that was suspiciously Morse code-esque. I made an effort to throw back the liquid calories I had with me, but ended up dumping about 4/5th of the sticky, cherry-flavored liquid all over my chin, chest, and thighs. [Thought] "Oh well, at least I'll smell nice."

T2: My dismount was not quite as impressive, but rather uneventful (in a good way). I was in and out super fast thanks to my Chris Carper Co. elastic laces. I passed several guys I was duking it out with on the bike while they were still bent over in transition lacing up (they later passed me on the run).

Run 2: Pain. Train. I added 3 minutes to my 5k time (Doh! Pushing my total finishing time just 19 seconds over the 2 hr mark!) What was worse (and ironic) was that I had Britney Spears' lyrics "Gimme gimme more, gimme more, gimme more" stuck in my head. I was ready to be done.

All in all, I was 4th woman overall (top 3 women were between 15 and 30 years older than me-- damn) and by virtue of being the only early-twenties female present, I happened to win my age category. (Hey, I'll take it.)

The short course taught me to have huge respect for the long course athletes who suffered through those hills -- twice.


After my major calf cramp in the NE Season Opener Tri, my training has not gone that smoothly. I aggravated an old upper quad issue during a track workout before my calf had fully healed. I got a good long run and ride in last weekend but no fast training for the last 2 weeks. I was hoping this would be a perfect tune up for my HIM in mid-June. My mom and Sarah came up to cheer me on. We made it up in time to pick up numbers and drive the 5k run loop. I was off to ride one loop of the bike course (30k). Legs felt good with no quad issues that were bugging me all week.

Race morning:
Super small race with ~50 in the short coarse and ~27 starters (23 finishers) on the long coarse. Well organized race and transition area. The weather was nice and cool at 8am but no clouds and temps rising quickly. It was going to be hot. I get ~2mi warm up run. I wish Christina and Scott good luck on their race and get my transition area set and my final strides in. Quad is still feeling good.

Race: 10k run, 60k bike, 7.5k run

Run 1: (Goal ~6:00min/mi pace) A 5k loop with a couple short steep hills but mostly flat with ~1k on trails.
From the results last year, I figured I would be in the mix at least during the first run. I started leading the charge from the gun. I was quickly joined my 2 other runners with a couple a few steps behind. Mile 1 was at 5:50. A little fast but felt comfortable. The other two runners slowed a little so I back off too. We all seemed to know that it was going to be long day. Mile 2, 3 at 6:10, 6:13. I took the lead after trying to follow on the dirt trail. I forgot how hard it is to run at 6:00min/mi pace on trails without being able to see your footing. At the end of the 5k, I felt the pace was slowing so I took the lead again. I wanted to keep the pace honest in case we had some fast bikers hanging on. We dropped one runner so just the two of us. The second 5k was at ~6:10 pace. I take the lead going into the trail and into T1. The 2nd place guy is right on my heels.

10k - 38:00 (6:07 min/mi) 1/23

T1: Pretty quick. My new Giro is super tight to get on. I get out of T1 ahead of 2nd place guy and I am off.

Bike: (Goal - go hard and still have enough to run afterwards. My HIM goal is ~23mph but this coarse was hillier so ~21-22mph). One hill up to base of the ski area and then a long downhill off the base area and then down river. Turn around and back up the river. Almost no flats beside the start loop around the village.

The first 2-3k are flat/down hill. I try to get my legs back to normal and get some fluids in before the first hill. I hit the first hill pretty hard to separate myself from the chasers. On the downhill, I catch the lead car!!! I have to wave to get them ahead. I do not think they were expecting some one to go from 14mph uphill to 45mph downhill in about 1/4mile. I relax and go easy on the long downhill. I focus on keeping as aero as possible. Trying to drink all of my HEED before the bottom of the hill so I can exchange bottles. My stomach is not liking all the sugar. As I was not pushing too hard on the downhill, I was waiting for people to pass me but nobody came. Hit the bottom of the hill, grab a bottle of water and start pushing again. ~28mph on the downhill (down river) and ~17-18mph on the uphill (up river). Still feeling good. At the end of loop one, a little confusion on which way to go but luckily I pick the right way. (A kid at the intersection just waving his flag but in no direction!!!). I hit the hill to ski area hill hard again knowing that this is my last chance to put a lot of time on the others. I start feeling a little tired on the way down to the turn around. I am just in cruise mode and waiting to get passed. At the turnaround a see someone right behind me! Not sure where he came from. He motors away from me and try to keep close for the next mile but have nothing left. I am now starting to bonk! Crap. I have 10k more to bike (mostly up hill) and then 7.5k to run. Not good. I shift into an easy gear on start spinning. Another Gu and water to get the body going again. The next few miles hurt. No shade/temp rising and I kept thinking about how hard the run was going to be. Limp into T2 with no one passing me.

60k - 1:45:11 (21.3mph) 2/23

T2: Grab my water bottle. Shoes on and I am off.

Run2: (Goal - ~6:15 pace) Two laps of shortened 5k
I hit the run and my legs are actually moving but I know there is not that much left. I hit M1 6:42 and see the leader coming the other way. Only a min or 2 ahead! He yells across that he is in the relay and I am still in the lead. Sweet! M2 6:31 and baking in the sun and energy leaving me quickly. I see I have a good gap on 2nd/3rd place guys so try and hold steady pace. The wheels start to come off and I shuffle to M3 7:11. I only have under 2miles to go and a solid gap so hopefully my shuffle is fast enough. If they come then there is nothing I can do anyway! M4 7:05 and the last mile was just putting one foot in front of the other. It actually felt like my last 10k of my marathon where I went from 2:45 marathon pace to finishing in 3:01. I hit the finishing shoot with nobody behind me and break the tape for the win. They actually had a tape across the finish line. Pretty cool! I was completely dead.

7.5k - 31:58 (6:52) 3/23

Overall - 2:56:47 1/23 (win by a little over 2.5min)

Post race: Great to have Sarah and Mom cheering me on. Congrats to Christina and Scott on great results on the short coarse and thanks for cheering for me on the coarse and at the finish. No warm down at the race because I was so out of it but I did drag myself on the trainer at home for very very easy 45min.

Lesson learned:
Winning is great!
I need to either pace better on the bike or eat more food for my HIM


Sunday, May 9, 2010

New England Season Opener Sprint

Elizabeth Santorella

Triathlons seem to be rather complex and confusing things. I knew I would have no trouble completing any of the distances, so I shot a little higher than “I just want to finish” to “I just want to do things right and not fall off my bike.”**
4:20 am – 8 am: Cold.
8 am - ~8:40 am: Cold. Feet cold. Swimmers struggling. Police boat flipped?
Beginning of race: Swim canceled for last three waves. Run to transition area on numb feet. Try to do things with numb feet and numb hands. Let wetsuit get bunched up around ankle, get stuck, watch everyone leave transition area while tugging at ankle.
I think I biked a bit slower than I should have, but my goal wasn’t to race super-fast, so whatever. Since I started at the back, I spent nearly the entire race passing – I barely was on the right side of the road – but four years of high school running taught me that if I was passing people, I was probably going too fast, so I didn’t push as hard as I could have.
I had a 2:21 T2, which was probably the best I could’ve hoped for since I’m… slow.
The run was quite interesting. I didn’t suffer the infamous “jelly legs” or feel particularly tired, but I was frozen from the knee down. I couldn’t feel my feet, and they worsened from numb to feeling oddly lumpen as I ran.
I should probably put a nice conclusion here, but… I crossed the finish, and my feet were cold.
Next up: Something longer! With swimming!
Lessons learned: I think learning how it works was pretty valuable. Many thanks to Andrea and Rachel for going over everything with me in minute detail.
You all are amazing as athletes and as people and I’m proud to be a part of this team. :)
*I don’t sleep well if I don’t expend my energy. I had to keep ramping up my mileage just to sleep. Ask me if you want funny/concerning stories or elaboration.
**This has been a problem and is a running joke in my living group.

Seniovio Shish

The most exciting part of the season opener, from the "Newbie wave" perspective, happened before our part of the race even began. First off, we noticed that the splashes from the first wave of swimmers became sprays that the wind carried 20-30 feet. Second, the buoy marking the swim course was actually a moving target, pushed 30+ yards down the shoreline by the wind. Third, the high winds caused a safety boat to capsize and a kayak to smash into the rocks. At that point, the race director decided that we had a serious problem and the swimming portion of the race would be cancelled. So I'm 0/2 on completing a triathlon with an official length swim.

Despite these nuisances, my rivalry with Scott Landers would continue. We began the race on the beach as if we were just exiting the water from the swim. The transition area was less hectic than we thought it would be with such a mass start, but before I was able to get my bike shoes on Scott was already out of transition. It took me a couple of miles before I could see him, and a few more before I was within passing distance. Distractions included numerous bumps/imperfections in the road (at one point I was almost jolted out of my handlebars) awkward turns, and winds as strong as Nationals, but less predictable due to hills/trees. When my front wheel finally overtook Scott's about half way through the course, he actually didn't drop back but pedaled harder! This was clearly a cutthroat race. I managed to pass. In the mix of people going about the same speed were some serious-looking bikers with fancy frames and aero wheels, some of whom we BOTH passed. Scott passed me again, but when we got back to the hills near the finish, I was able to prevail on that segment of the course. (I think my hill climbing abilities improved thanks to some 'training' on the monster hills of the ECCC road race two weeks ago, and a no-nonsense spin session with Katie Quinn).

During my Bike-Run transition I tried two things that improved my T2 time from nationals: 1) removed feet from shoes prior to dismount (I practiced the night before) 2) put my running shoes on with no socks (I had planned to put on new ones, but they were wet due to some spillage near my transition are). The run felt strong, and I saw that Scott was only 20 meters or so behind at the first turnaround at mile 1. He was able to catch up by mile 2 and I could tell he had no intention of sticking around and chatting. I was pretty happy with my performance so far and decided not to pursue right away - maybe I would just sprint and catch up at the end. That was a FAIL. As you can tell from the pictures, Scott was definitely hucking it in the last 100m and there was no catching him at that point. I congratulate him on a race well won (for a Newbie)!! I strode in 5 seconds later.

In all, great race, despite the disappointment of not swimming after so many months of training (and I figure it might have given me a >>5 second lead on Scott). However, I think I'm in great shape to build up to the half-iron distance in Syracuse this September. Watch out, Scott!

Katie Quinn

As my first triathlon in 16 months, the NE Season Opener was a great re-introduction to the sport and reminded me why I love racing triathlons! …

Previously, my race would invariably follow a storyline of getting out of the water near the lead (I was a swimmer until I was 15, so it’s nothing to be too proud of); pedaling along while getting overtaken by all the stronger riders and hoping that they didn’t get too far ahead (I could never work much above zone 2 on a bike); and then bounding off the bike and chasing my competitors down in the run … but not so anymore!

The swim went about as well as I expected, though for different reasons. I was really worried about the cold – last weekend I could barely keep my face in the water but, the sole advantage of the race day weather was making it warmer in the water than out! Unfortunately, it also meant that the swim was shortened even further (as it all too often is!) and was no longer in flat water! Nonetheless, I managed to get the swim over with and before I knew it, my wetsuit was off and I was riding up the first hill …
The bike was quite uneventful. I love that I’ve finally learnt how to work on a bike, so the longest leg is no longer my weakest (thanks to MIT cycling!). But I know that I was much lazier than I would have been in a pack race and was sad when the 10 miles was over so soon …

The run … left great room for improvement! T2 was the low point of my race: After overcoming my jealously of Alex R (who pulled off an amazing T2, placing 2nd out of 208), I was so excited that I’d been able to get my elastic-laced shoes on despite lack of feeling in my hands and feet that I started running without my number belt. I’d run out of transition and a good 50m up the hill before I realized that I’d forgotten it, and proceeded to say (loudly, and not just once) a particular word that seems to become a part of my vocabulary in and only in races … before running back into transition to get my belt. I don’t know why I thought that the officials of the NE Season Opener would be so strict as to disqualify me for running without my race belt. Perhaps it was just that I didn’t want to waste all the effort of bringing and pinning my number on it. At any rate, I could have avoided forgetting it if only I'd kept my transition area tidier so that I could see it! Anyway, I finally started running up the hill again (keeping my head as low as possible while running past the spectators who’d heard my earlier exclamations!) only to find that, like most other competitors, I couldn’t feel my feet! This, and the fact that I simply couldn’t find my running legs (anyone for brick sessions?!), occupied my thoughts for the rest of the race. The good part of the run, however, was getting to call out, or wave, or feebly gesture to each of the other MIT racers on the track – definitely my favorite moments during triathlons!

The finish was rather anticlimactic. I guess this is common of triathlons, since they rarely have exciting sprint finishes (unless you’re Scott Landers and haven’t quite yet transitioned into an endurance athlete!). It’s probably also one of the main reasons that I prefer longer races – where, after pushing and doubting and pleading with myself for hours, simply finishing is satiating enough!
Nonetheless, any race finish has a great feeling and I loved having so many teammates around to debrief with! This was my first win in a triathlon, and it was great to share good results with so many other MIT racers (e.g. we were 4 of the top 9 females)!
Next up: More work on the bike (especially individual time trialing), more work on running (and not just long jogs along the river!) and more work on running after biking … Only 27 days ‘til the Mooseman Half Ironman – crikey!!

Lars Imsdahl

While deciding if I should participate in the NE Opener, I went for a run to cough up parts of my lung so I didn't have to do that during the race. I noticed I wasn't quite in shape as I only got some speed after about 5 miles of my 6mile run. Fortunately, my knees weren't in pain as they had been in the last weeks when I had wanted to train.

After IronMan (II), I got about 5hrs of sleep before Chris and Gordon picked me up and gave me advice on the race. It was so cold and windy that I put all of my spandex and Chris' wetsuit on. Luckily, I got a lot of practice in taking off my wetsuit as I couldn't decide how many layers to wear.
Twenty minutes before the race started, I found stickers in an envelope that will remain on my bike and helmet until my next triathlon.

Once they announced that we were only swimming in a triangle rather than a square, I thought this would mean there is less of chance for me to fall behind. This was not the case. I swam a less acute angle than most people and had the desire to punch each wave that came my way...which seemed to be all of them. The water was warmer than it looked (~60F) but I probably would have died without a wetsuit (Thank you Chris). I wasn't able to crawl through the waves as desired so I had to quit swallowing nasty brown water and revert to breast stroke, which is when I saw a bunch of orange caps pass me...if Walden Pond had a jacuzzi near by I'd practice swimming in the open waters.
T1: Much slower than I had hoped. I got dizzy and had to sit down to change.

My bike started quite slowly but then I picked it up once I saw a sweet Cervelo. My right hand was frozen white, so I had difficulties switching gears. We passed each other about four times and then I decided to push ahead and was pass only by a dad-age guy with a seemingly cheap bike. On the last hill I felt sorry for a dude with his $5k aero, all carbon Orbea, who was in his lowest gear peddling at 120bpm taking the hill inch by inch. Right before I finished the race a BU dude decided it was cool to do a double 360 with a twist to put some manly scrape marks in his all carbon ride. I wish the bike had been longer and with fewer hills.

T2: My feet were so cold and white, it felt like I was putting socks on a stranger. Again, this took too long.

During my run it took a while to get started. This first mile was painful. The second I almost got lost in a parking lot and the third I kicked ass (nobody passed me on the run).
It was disappointing that I fell so far behind in the swim and have none of the fast people there in the bike and the run.

When finishing, I wish I had powered my way through the race more than I had...kinda like Michael who gained at least 7min. on me.
All in all I felt like I was quite distracted by all of the different kinds of bikes I wish I had and that I didn't know the terrain as well as I should have to have done well.
Hoping to get my see my finishing time soon.

I enjoyed the race and was glad that you guys and gals made it possible for me to complete my first real Sprint Triathlon (the IronNerd was my first Ultra Sprint ;-) ).
Thanks for the picture with Mr. Centerfold: Scott Brown.
Thank you again for the great experience. I'm sure it won't be my last triathlon. I hope you guys did as well as you wanted and I think it's amazing that some of you are going to do a half or an entire iron-man.


Christina Birch

Pre-race (4:30am): Spend 15 minutes repeating the following action: reversing a Zipcar two inches, cranking the wheel, pulling forward two inches, cranking the wheel... Finally free our transportation from it's traffic jam. Breakfast was apple oatmeal and instant coffee (yuck). Cold. Put the wetsuit on in the car (very difficult!! Sorry if I kicked you in the head, Scott). And ran around in the suit for a warmup.

Swim: Chaotic, fun, too busy trying to sight to really work hard... Swells were moving us huge vertical distances while the wind caused the waves to break over my natural breathing side. Two failed breath attempts and breathing on the left side became very desirable. (I now practice breath control, thanks Coach Bill!)

T1: A little disoriented-- made decisions about clothing ("Brave the cold, save the time, skip the LS cycling jersey") while jumping around on one foot trying to put socks on.... SOCKS?? I never wear socks in a Sprint tri. My feet were just too cold after the swim. It ended up being a blessing in T2.

Bike: I had a fantastic mount... ran through the mount line past two stopped athletes, pushed my bike extra hard, jumped up, and swung my leg over and was off... I didn't see those athletes again, and being able to get on the bike fast was an advantage. Then: Strength on hills! I felt fairly comfortable... which means I should have been pushing harder. Of all the people I passed, nearly all of it happened on the bike.

T2: Blazing fast. Racked the bike, slipped the shoes off fast (thanks to socks), and yanked on my newly-elastic-laced shoes (Thanks Chris!) while running toward the transition exit with my race # belt in my teeth. This was the only point of the run where I was in front of Kristin!

Run: Better than I was expecting given my recent plague of knee pains. I kept a constant pace, high heart rate, but should have really tried to open up my stride... Knee didn't hurt too badly.

Finish: 4th in my age group, not quite making the Top-Three-Who-Get-Pint-Glasses list, much to my displeasure. With the exception of the rough swim, this will be a good starting point in the season to gauge my progress over the upcoming months.

Enchiladas y piña coladas,

Friday, March 12, 2010


MIT Triathlon breaks into the blogosphere!

Check out our website: MIT TRIATHLON CLUB