Monday, May 25, 2009

American Triple T Race 4: The Death March

I finished!!!!

Going into this race I honestly thought my chances of finishing were about 30%. I had been slowly and steadily rehabbing my knee from the injury I sustained during the Cali 70.3 but not at all confident in its ability to take me uphill 13.6 miles and downhill 13.6 miles in 3 days. Miraculously, thanks to ice baths and TP massage, when I woke up on day 3 it wasn't hurting at all! Not to say I wasn't in a world of hurt. I spent the night tossing and turning from the soreness and the sound of my heart exploding in my ears. But that is to be expected coming off back to back olympic distance races in the heat.

We got to transition about an hour ahead of time and slowly got the transition area ready. People were definitely moving slower than the past few days but not quite the zombie walk that I remember from last year. One thing that was obvious, though, was there were not nearly as many people starting race 4 as there were at race 1. Curious to see the numbers...

Here I am putting on my race chip. Hurts to bend down a little. Not the best way to start the journey of 70 miles, but that's life.

The forecast was for rain, but there was not a cloud in the sky. I was really hoping for rain. The humidity was 92% at 5am.

Being goofy before the start:

The start of race 4 is pretty funny. Rather than a full on sprint into the water, most people leisurely walk to the first cone before slowly starting to swim. The contrast from day 1 is hilarious!

Doing my best to run in:

The swim went really well. It's the only discipline that doesn't suffer very much with fatigue. I'm not sure if the course was short or not, but when I looked at my watch on the exit it was under 32 minutes. Which would be a new PR!

Heading out onto the bike is when things get interesting. The course for race 4 is again very challenging. Near the start is a long 1.3 mile switchback climb. My rear derailleur wasn't loving my 27 tooth in the back and was trying to shift down. Making it to the top is a minor victory. It becomes major on the second loop... The descent out of that climb is very technical with several 90-150 degree turns. I am a big big wuss and always err on the side of safety. I'm sure I lose some time on these, but I'm a big fan of skin and collarbones, so it's all good.

Later on during one of the other long climbs on a single lane fire road an ambulance came screaming by. There wasn't room for him and us so I had to jump off my bike. I felt something give in my bottle holder but was more concerned with how on earth I was going to clip into the pedals in the middle of that hill. After walking for about 20 seconds I just gave it a go and was able to get moving again. Towards the end of lap 1 the legs were definitely starting to feel the fatigue. The hills just keep coming and coming. The only saving grace is the last 3 miles which are all downhill. It was getting very hot and I was really thirsty. I made the big mistake of trying to drink some gatorade while descending. So of course at 30 mph with my hand on my bottle in the aero position I hit a bump and the water bottle went flying out of my hand and down a steep ditch. DOH! This race is self supported and I just launched one of my 3 gatorade bottles. crap.

Headed into transition to grab my last gatorade bottle from the special needs table I noticed what gave when the ambulance went by. I managed to break one of my rear bottle cages. Double crap! I took one of HFPs water bottles that they supplied at the turnaround and just wished that it would hold:

And then ate a banana!

Loop two was pretty uneventful besides my rear derailleur having increasing testiness with the 27 tooth. Oh, and getting stung multiple times by a bee that got stuck in my singlet... Towards the end of the loop my legs were so tired I started to doubt my ability to get up over the final hills. It's a very lonely bike course, often going several minutes at a time between seeing another racer, so I was happy to have some company going over the final hill. We were all complaining about having to do that run. One guy told me that he was ok with it since he needed to finish in order to go to the Golden Corral to eat an entire carrot cake. I thought that was hilarious!

Coming back into transition was so bittersweet. Happy to be done with the hills on the bike, but REALLY not wanting to tackle that run course...

This was one of the last smiles in quite some time!

As you can see from the pictures, the rain and overcast day hadn't happened. The humidity was still in the 90's and the temps in the high 80's. At high noon there was no shade on that run course. And being in the middle of the woods there was also not a hint of wind. I simply could not believe how hot it was. I made a decision to allow myself to walk up the steepest hills. The problem was, every time I would walk I would get immediately hot, light headed and I thought I would pass out. Not good. The saving grace was the best volunteers on the planet! They would fill my Nathan bottle with ice and water and were so fast with getting us all the water we needed and even had some salt tablets ready.

I think that if the run course was designed in the opposite way there would be a lot of DNFs. But having the last 2.5 miles before the turnaround be all downhill is a nice boost. Coming into the turnaround I knew that I would finish, but also knew that it was not going to be fast. I told my mom not to expect me to finish quickly and headed back out. The best thing ever happened during loop 2. The clouds rolled in. The temperature dropped (slightly) and I stopped feeling like I was going to pass out every time I walked up the steep hills. To give you a taste of how steep some of the hills are, my heart rate never dropped below 165 walking up them. The run course is so brutal.

Getting to mile 10.5 is HUGE. From that point the rest of the run is downhill. The only drawback is that since you have already run countless hilly miles up to that point, every single step sends shocks of pain up your quads. Running downhill is killer on the quads, shins and knees. But at least it's not uphill...

I was so happy to finish I would have done a cartwheel if I thought I wouldn't faceplant.

The finisher's medals and T-shirts at the Triple T are more coveted than my Ironman finisher's stuff. I really think this race is harder. The courses are harder than any Ironman I know of (except maybe Silverman) and you have to pull yourself out of bed two mornings after racing, sore and beat up to start another tough day.

But although it is a grueling race, it is honestly the most enjoyable race I have ever done. The race organizers are absolutely top notch! HFP and everyone involved with the organization are the most positive, caring, adaptable and fun group of people putting on races. Their attitude is contagious and attracts a truly outstanding group of competitors. Everyone out there cheers on everyone else, regardless of whether or not the person who needs encouragement is your direct competitor or not. This race is a celebration of the sport of triathlon. A race that I think every triathlete should experience at least once. And then promptly say there is not a snowball's chance in hell they will do that race again. And then sign up for next year...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

American Triple T Race 3!

Race three in the series is the first team race for those doing it with a partner (I did it solo this year). They do a time trial bike start with partners going together. The weather was HOT for the start. About 90 degrees with equal humidity. I am a really late seed and all of us late starters thought we were going to wilt waiting in the sun for our chance to go. I was so tired from the first race that I'm pretty sure that I could have rolled up on the concrete and taken a nap right there. I knew I was dehydrated but my gut was pretty shut down from the morning. I drank what I could and we were finally off, around 3:20.

Pic from the start

The beginning of the ride was TOUGH. For those of you who ride, for race 3 you feel like you stopped at mile 90 of a century ride for about an hour and have to get back on the bike. The legs are just so stiff. And contrary to how I remembered this race, it's really really hard! I think it helped that I had Tony to draft off last year. Doing race 3 solo is almost as tough as race 2. The key hill in this race is a 1.3 mile climb that is a consistent 8-10% grade. It's almost exactly the grade of Old Mill Westbound for those of you in Cleveland. I was seriously melting but got a great second wind on the way back and was finally THIRSTY! That is always such a good sign after going through a gut shut-down. There was hope for this race yet!

Coming back into T1

Putting a wetsuit on a hot sweaty body really blows. I bring my old sleeveless for the job, but it was still tough. One of the race organizers was nice enough to come over and help me get it on. HFP is awesome. I will say more of that in the next post, but these guys are top notch.

Wetsuit donning:

And off to the lake!

By the looks of it, I was one of the only ones delighted to go in the water. I love to swim and it was ungodly hot. Getting in that lake was such a breath of fresh air. I swam nice and easy and just enjoyed every second of it. It was a great break to cool down the core body temp. I felt so good when I got out that I had to let my mom know, who was on the side taking pics:

When I started this run I knew that if I made it the same sufferfest of the morning it would be a very long day tomorrow. So my plan was to Ironman race pace the uphill section and if I felt ok, I would Oly pace the last half, which is downhill. It worked so well! I got such a runner's high on the way back to the finish line. There was about a mile where I was just so happy I was beaming. The finish line looked so good!

Coming into the finish:

Unlike the first race, where I couldn't speak and had to find a chair immediately (this is pretty typical, unfortunately), I felt awesome after this race. I had anticipated my knee to give me a ton of problems this weekend and truthfully thought I would be limping by now. But it has (knock on wood) been remarkably good to me.

Chip removal:

Tomorrow will be a very tough day. Everyone will wake up really sore and wonder why on earth they signed up for this. Getting on the bike is brutal. The half iron course is hellish. But if all goes well, finishing is absolutely priceless.

Race 2- Hardest Oly Course ever!

When I finished this course last year I proclaimed it the hardest course of any distance that I had ever done. Now I can proudly say that it is the hardest course that I have ever done at any distance... twice. The bike course is sick, and the run... well the run is the same for the two races today and the Half tomorrow, and it's just a cruel, cruel joke.

So here is my photo race report for race 2/4 of the Triple T

Here I am donning the wetsuit. This race definitely merited the full suit.

And off to start the hardest race ever...

The swim was great. I love this course. The time trial start makes it relatively contact free and the lake is like glass. The consistency is a little nasty, but as long as you don't mind swimming in pea soup it's all good. I think I took around 24 minutes for the 1500 meters

Coming out, SOOOO excited to hit this bike course (NOT!)

The bike was hilly. Big Thompson hill was grueling as always. You start the hill at 18% from practically a standstill after a 160 degree turn. The first 50 meters are 15-18% and then the remainder is about 9%. It's not a fun thing to do when you know you have a hilly run in your future. But the field is much stronger this year. Last year I saw several people walk up the hill. This year most people took it with no difficulty. The bike course took me in the ballpark of 1:25. Close to what it took me last year.

Here I am starting the run:

The run was really, really tough. It is never, ever flat and quite steep for much of it (all trail). The humidity when we started was 88% with a high of 87 degrees. I absolutely wilted in the heat. There were several times where I took 10-20 step walk breaks up the steep hills. My HR stayed around 180 for the majority of the run. When I started to get the chills towards the end of the run it made me a little nervous. But the last 2.5 miles is all downhill, so it is quite the mental boost after the crazy climbing.

Here I am coming into the finish. I think I did the race in around 2:46, a couple minutes slower than last year, but for this course and conditions it's fine with me!

One of the toughest part of this race is trying to recover between races. There isn't much time with the starts at 7:30 and 3pm. This is my strategy...

Step one: Ice bath

With Peanut butter bagels (I choked down 2 between races):

Then step two is sitting with my legs in the air for 10 minutes. Lets the blood flow out:

And finally TP massage! I can't say my legs feel awesome, but I think I'll survive the afternoon. No telling about tomorrow though...

The next race is in a couple hours and features a Bike - Swim - Run. It's always fun getting the wetsuit on in transition. I bring a sleeveless for this race because it's easier to get on. I can't believe I have to do that run 3 more times. This is a sickness....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Triple T Race 1!

We arrived today in Portsmouth Ohio, Home of the American Triple T, otherwise known as:

It was very hard to leave the dogs at home, especially when they looked at us like this:

But alas, with 4 races waiting we headed down and picked up the outfit that I will be wearing for 3 days of races (yeah, it will stand on its own by Sunday). That's one neat thing about this race. Everyone wears the same thing. Makes it feel like a big team. Very cool and unique (I did wear my Timex visor, though!)

Then time to set up transition for the first of four times in the next 3 days.

And it was time for the prologue- 250 meter swim, 5 mile hilly bike and 1 mile run. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to resist going out a little too hard for a race of this distance. Here is the start. It is a time trial start with 2 people leaving every 3 seconds.

The water was WAY, WAY warmer this year. Most people, myself included did the race without a wetsuit. Just easier for a race of this distance. And it was very hot tonight. So standing around in a wetsuit for 30 minutes before the start would have been grueling. Here I am headed to T1

The bike went by fast. It's just basically 2 big hills within the park. I took it way more conservatively this year (downhill) because it's just not worth crashing on the first day. But it was very fun. Here I am coming back into T2:

And then off to the run:

Being only 1 mile it's over before you know it. I think my heart rate maxed out around 190. Oops...

All in all a total adrenaline rush! I had a great time and saw a bunch of old friends and met some new ones. Then it was off to carb load and then now to BED! Well, after I spend about 20 minutes doing Trigger Point Massage. 2 very challenging Olympic Distance races tomorrow. 7:30 am and 3pm. Forecast is for 86 degrees and very humid. I'll be wearing my Nathan hydration belt on the run. The results of getting behind in hydration this weekend are NOT pretty.

Talk after the next race!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two huge weekends in a row!

I've been absent from blogging lately, which usually means my life has been crazy town... but in a good way! I just sent off my parents who were in town for graduation. It was an absolutely wonderful weekend and I enjoyed every minute of it. Training was a little neglected, but you only graduate from Medical School once! It was so fantastic to have my parents (from Milwaukee) and my aunt and uncle in town (they drove all the way from South Carolina!). Roger was gracious enough to open his house up to my family and we had a great BBQ and bonfire on Saturday, and Sunday was a marathon day of two graduation ceremonies (whole-school convocation and the med school diploma ceremony). Some of my favorite pics from the weekend...

The yard looked fabulous for the dinner on Saturday:

It was definitely a bit chilly

But we kept warm by singing some campfire songs and eating marshmallows

Then came graduation day. The day started with breakfast followed by the class photo. My dad snapped this one when the photographer was taking the pic of the whole group

We also got some pics before the ceremonies. Here is one of me with my aunt and uncle:

And here is my "Supreme Court" shot.

Then it was time for 2 ceremonies followed by a nice lunch reception for all of our guests. I love this pic that Roger snapped of my parents and I:

Later that night was dinner at my favorite Indian Restaurant. Here is a pic of me with my family away from home (the Solomons- Lanny, Kathy and Daniel)

And here is Roger and I. Not sure I can be happier :-)

And finally, a family shot after dinner.

Next weekend is another HUGE weekend. My mom had been super bummed that she couldn't make it to Triple T. It was just too much driving to come out here two weekends in a row. So I went onto my frequent flier site and got her a ticket to Cleveland on Thursday so we can have some mother daughter bonding as she sherpas me through 4 races in three days at the Triple T! I am excited but a little nervous for the race. It's absolutely hell on the body and I'm only about 90% recovered from the knee problem at Cali. But the good news is I am now running pain free for up to 9 miles! We'll see how 27 miles in 3 days after climbing 10,000 feet on the bike is, though. Only time will tell. My one and only goal for this race is to have fun. Finishing would be super sweet too....

Monday, May 04, 2009

Riding heaven!

I am going to miss this place a lot once I leave. Every year in the spring I am just blown away by the cycling in this town. Now that I'm on a bit of a vacation I am taking advantage of every opportunity that I can to hit the roads. In the past week or so I've done...

-An 80 mile ride starting with Lanny, Roger and former roomie Matt (Roger and I finished) to the Holden Arboretum and then through Chagrin Falls (Hills!)
-A 50 mile ride with Roger and Lanny down to Geauga Lake and back
-Hill repeats with Lanny- 5 times up Sherman + 1 time up Old Mill
-A short but very nice 18 miles with Roger in threatening weather conditions
-33 miles with Matt- tour of Chagrin Falls
-Hill repeats on my own- 5 times up Berkshire plus once up Old Mill

Things of note...

1. Cliff Shot Blocks come in much better packaging now. And they are delicious!
2. I made it down Old Mill for the very first time WITHOUT touching my brakes. Hit 40.5 miles per hour
3. Sherman Hill repeats are evil in every way. Hit 43.5 MPH WITH my hands on the brakes. I am told the next time we go there it will be 6 repeats. I am going to call the local EMS in advance so they have the defibrillator ready.
4. Road bikes are just way more awesome than tri bikes. My love affair with Red was rekindled. I'm sure it just might have SOMETHING to do with the fact that I have a compact crank - 11/26 on that 650 wheeled beauty and it's my only carbon fiber bike...
5. Tri saddles and Road saddles are different beasts. My butt is thanking me for finally buying a road saddle for Red.
6. As many hills as I ride in the next 3 weeks, I unfortunately know that they will pale in comparison to the hills that I will encounter at the Triple T. Those are just sick. Especially on day 3...

Time for a run. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it longer than 4 miles this time!

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's been awhile!

So much has happened since my last update, where do I even begin??

Oh yeah...


The family is coming in to town in 2 weeks for the graduation and I've already hyped up my mom's ukulele campfire songs. Should be good times! It's all very surreal to me though. I started my MD/PhD 8 years ago and it seemed like this day would never come. Now that it's here it's all so... weird! What do I do with myself?

The past few weeks I've been busy finishing up my last elective. I spent the month working with local fire departments, the ground critical care transport team, and MedEvac. Here is a pic from my first day with the flight crew. I think the flight suit is damn sexxy.

And now I'm free to train my little tush off for the next few weeks. And train I will. I plan on hitting the roads to ride every day that the weather allows because Triple T is just around the corner. I'm a bit worried about my knee still. It's finally to where I can run 4 miles without any pain. But 4 miles and 26 miles in a weekend are very different things. I will keep plugging along, every other day and slowly building it up.

In other news, I got my schedule for intern year. Let's just say... me racing this summer or fall will be a bit of a stretch. Here is my schedule:

Surgery wards (80-100 hours per week, lots of call)
Medical ICU (80 hours per week, lots of call)
Medicine wards (80 hours per week, lots of call)
Emergency (YAY!!!!!!)
Burn ICU (More hours than I care to think about, every other night call)
Anesthesia (YAY!!!! practically a vacation month)
Medical ICU (Christmas/New Years. Ouch. Big ouch)
Emergency (YAY!!!!!)
Emergency (YAY!!!!!)
Emergency (YAY!!!!!)
Neurosurgery (Heinous. Get to wear the intern pager belt of justice every 4th night or so)
Emergency (YAY!!!!!)

So the good news is I'll get the hell months out of the way early. Bad news is that it is summer. Triathlon season. If I make it to the start line of Boulder 5430 awake, it will be quite the interesting day!

One final note for the day-

Go check out the new Timex website. They have all of our new pics up and profiles. The age group woman page is here. They've worked a ton on the new site and I think it looks pretty awesome!