Category Archives: triathlon

race report: raleigh 70.3

My first 70.3 triathlon!

I did my first sprint triathlon in 2008, and continued with a once-a-year shorter distance until jumping to the Olympic distance in 2012. I’d been thinking about moving up again, but needed a little push to pull the trigger.

That’s where the Annapolis Triathlon Club comes in. I had joined the club and made some friends, and when a few of them decided to race Raleigh, it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to sign up. I was ready for it, I just needed to know I wouldn’t be racing alone!

We ended up with a large group down in Raleigh, with 17 of us participating in the June 1, 2014 race.  I drove down the Friday before the race with two friends who would be my roommates for the weekend. We stayed just outside of town at the Residence Inn, which was more like a townhouse than a hotel room, complete with a loft, murphy bed and two bathrooms. And plenty of room for three bikes and all our gear.

We watched the Iron Kids race on Saturday morning before hitting the expo. Not too big, but I got some excellent souvenirs — a bike jersey, a visor and a T-shirt with all the racers’ names on the back.


After the expo, we headed over to the lake for a quick swim. There wasn’t access at the race site, but there were public areas open so we could get a feel for the water. It was nice! Next we went over to the transition area where we’d rack our bikes, but went out for a short ride first. I was a little nervous about riding before race day, but took it super easy. One of our tri club members wasn’t so lucky — his chain broke during his shakeout ride, and he crashed. Probably a bit bumped, bruised and sore from that anyway, but a gash on his leg was too deep to risk lake swimming. He was unable to race, but was a trooper and provided excellent support, cheering and taking photos of us on the course.

We didn’t have time to head back to our hotel to shower before dinner (oops!), so we had to settle for a quick change in the car. Good thing it was a casual place. We were able to get two huge tables at an Italian restaurant in a back room … that we were sharing with two birthday parties! I got pasta primavera with grilled salmon — a perfect pre-race meal. Salmon has been kinda lucky for me, resulting in lots of good races and PRs!

When we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of packing to do — T1 and T2 were in different places (we biked from Jordan Lake back to downtown Raleigh). We would set up our run gear before boarding buses in the morning, plus had a bag we could gear check pre-race in the morning, and another to pack up our swim stuff before hitting the bike. We’d claim all our bags when we picked up our bikes post-race.


It took a bit more thinking to make sure everything was in the right place than when you just have one transition area! We were all a bit nervous and got to bed later than we should have, but who sleeps well the night before a big race, anyway?

I got a little sleep, at least, but it was a very early morning. We prepared our breakfast (peanut butter sandwich, which I would eat on the bus ride), grabbed our gear, and headed downtown in the dark. Parking was easy and close by, and we quickly got our run gear set up and hopped on a bus.

It wasn’t until the bus ride to the start that we learned the race would be wetsuit legal — just barely at 75.4. That was definitely the news I wanted to hear!

I had a lot of time to kill before my swim wave would start (women 35-39 went off at 8:10, wave 19 out of 21), but it want quickly. I got my tires pumped, waited in a ridiculously long porta-potty line, and then hung out with my fellow tri-club members until one by one they started their races.

And then we were off. The lake is beautiful, and I was calm right from the start. I remember thinking how this would be the most relaxing part of my day, and tried to really enjoy it. It got a little crowded at times, but nothing too crazy. I’m a non-aggressive swimmer and I’d rather just move out of the way. I finally found some open space after the final turn … when I realized I drifted a bit far from the buoys. Oops! I pulled myself back on course and swam to shore.

raleigh swim exit
Swim time: 45:11

I had my first experience with wetsuit strippers once out of the water. I had unzipped myself on the way there. Two people would pull the suit down, sit you on the ground, pull it off, and help you back up. Awesome!

The transition lot was pretty big, but my bike was in an outside row so it was easy to find. I packed up my swim gear, and quickly got ready to ride.  I stopped briefly for some volunteers to spray my shoulders and arms with sunscreen — another new amenity!

And then I was on the road. I started slow, well, because I’m a slow cyclist! I’m also pretty conservative on the bike. I was especially cautious around other cyclists because I don’t want to end up accidentally drafting! It would be really silly to get a drafting penalty when only riding 14mph …


The ride was great, though, and I was well prepared. I had simulated the course on a CompuTrainer, and done some hilly outdoor rides. I was ready for the elevation.


It was still pretty exhausting, and I found myself itching to be finished around mile 43 … only to get a second wind around mile 50. I actually passed a lot of people going uphill!

It felt great to return to downtown Raleigh and get off the bike!

Bike time: 3:57:51. I thought it was going to take four hours, so this was a win!

I racked my bike, got my run gear on, and hit the porta-potty before hitting the road. I knew I’d finish at this point … I felt pretty good!

Not as good as a guy who flew past me in the first quarter mile, shouting, “I finally got to my sport!” I yelled back, “Me too, but I’m not going any faster than this!”

I didn’t know how fast “this” was … so I glanced down at my watch, only to see it in mph. Oops, forgot to change sports! I changed it then, which restarted my run.  I’d be a little bit behind every mile marker, and I had no idea how much time had passed already. My run finish time would be a surprise!


The course was a double out-and-back. The ‘out’ portion was mostly uphill and in the sun, while the ‘back’ portion had a little shade and some downhill. My first ‘out’ went pretty well, I had a decent pace. I slowed a little on the way back, starting to feel the hills, and by the time I got to the second ‘out,’ the heat and the hills had taken a toll. I was walking through every water stop, taking sports drinks and dumping water over my head.

Around mile eight I started losing speed. And so did that excited runner, I recognized him walking up a hill. I asked, “are you the runner that was so excited to run?,” and he sighed, “yeah.”


I fought to keep shuffling up that hill. Even though miles 10-12 were in the easier part of the course, I slowed quite a bit, probably extending my walk breaks. But after mile 12, I picked it up a bit. Rally to the finish!

I ended up with a 2:12:49 half marathon time — and I was thrilled! While I can run faster in a standalone race, 2:13 is kind of a benchmark for me. From my second half marathon in 2005 until the summer of 2009, my PR was stuck at 2:13:11 … and I’m still happy enough finishing races in that timeframe.

Going into the race, I had given myself a 7:30 goal. A bit conservative, but realistic. That’s a long time to race, and I didn’t know how my body was going to react. I thought that 7:30 could possibly be a best-case scenario …


It was a good day!


changing gears

I only ran 32 miles in January. Less than my 39 from last November, when I was injured.

I’m feeling fine now, though. But my schedule has changed. I’m not “mostly running” at the moment.

I started swimming with a masters swim group twice a week in the beginning of the year. It’s a tough time — 8-9:15 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Nights that I usually run.

I was pretty casual about my running in January. As I got used to this new swim schedule, I’d often skip weekday runs, or do just a short run once a week before a swim class. Running on the weekends has been short, usually just six miles or maybe eight, and at least once I bailed on my weekend running completely due to bad weather.

But I was OK with being a winter wimp a few times. Being a lazy runner. Because I’m getting ready for something bigger.

The first month and a half of this year have been a bit of a reset for me.

And this week starts a 16-week journey as I train for my first half Ironman.


Yup, back in August I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh … and now it’s time to make it happen!

I put my plan into a spreadsheet this weekend, knowing it was go time. It’s a bit scary looking at everything I’ve got lined up for myself. I based it off of this plan, rearranging things to make the swim days line up where I need them, and expecting I’ll flip many of the scheduled Saturday/Sunday workouts, since my run group usually meets Saturday.

I know I won’t follow it exactly, but it’s a start.

I do know I won’t be overbooking my race schedule before race day (June 1) . I’ll have a few, but so far it doesn’t look like I’ll be too far off my training schedule. I hope to add a few organized bike rides to help with those long-mileage training rides, and I’m doing at least one short triathlon in May.

Scary and exciting!

So what are your big plans for 2014?

If all goes according to plan … this won’t be my only big event 🙂


2012 mileage

2011 was the first year that I ever run more than 1,000 miles. I had to work hard for it with a 100-mile December, and finished out the year at 1,001.

I’m happy that this December, it didn’t take until the last day of the year to cross that 1,000-mile mark. I suppose it helps that I didn’t have any injuries limiting my running this year, but I also didn’t run a 50K in 2012. My weekly (and monthly) mileage never got quite as high as it did in the fall of 2011.

Total: 1,063

Finishing the year strong, huh? That higher-mileage December was likely due to my first-ever running streak this winter. The Runners World #RWRunStreak required at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. It wasn’t even that hard! Sure, I had a few late nights on the treadmill (including a four-miler on the hotel treadmill at 8:30 on Christmas Night!),  but most of the time it was easy enough to hop on the treadmill or run down the street for a quick one- or two-miler.

Courtesy of PavementRunner

You can tell running is my first love if you look at my crosstraining. I’m only motivated during triathlon season 🙂
(January – March and probably part of April would have been on spin bikes during off-season tri training classes)

Total: 443.5

Oh, I really do love swimming … once I’m in the water. It’s so tough to motivate myself to go to the pool unless I’m taking a class! (April – May: cramming for early triathlons. June-August: masters swim class!)

Total: 40.5

Total distance traveled in 2012: 1,547.

In 2013, I won’t set any firm distance goals. I just hope to keep running (and swimming and biking) and racing all year long!

race report: columbia triathlon

In the mid-April, I had a dream that I had a triathlon the next day, and I forgot to train for it. This was about a month before TriRock (May 12), five weeks before the Columbia Triathlon (May 20). Sure, I wasn’t ready yet … but I had plenty of time!

Well, that month went by fast. While I did fit in some swimming and bike workouts, it didn’t feel like enough. And after a pretty rough  TriRock 500-meter swim, I was a little concerned about the 1500 meters I’d be swimming in Columbia. I also knew Columbia’s 25-mile bike course was very hilly, and my longest training ride was 18-miles, mostly flat.

Still, I had a pretty good attitude going into the race. This was my first Olympic-distance triathlon, so I had nothing to compare it to. Automatic PR!

When race day came I wasn’t as nervous as I expected. I was really glad I did TriRock the week before, because I knew exactly what I needed to pack for race day.  I was able to get my gear together quickly the night before.

I had a very early morning on race day, even though my swim wave didn’t start until after 8am. I was in the second-to-last swim wave, with the first starting at 6:40am. We had to be out of transition by 6:45, and I had to factor in potential traffic since there’s one road in to the park. This is the same venue as the Iron Girl triathlon, and I was prepared for cars to be backed up for quite a while, but I got into the park pretty quickly.

I had plenty of time to get my transition area set up, pump tires, get body marked, put on sunscreen and eat my peanut butter sandwich. And then it was time to head to the start!

Of course I had a lot of time to kill. Much of it was spent in the bathroom line. Sure they had plenty of port-o-pots, but there was an actual bathroom, too. I decided that was the better option. In line, I ran into a woman who was racked near me at TriRock. We chatted to pass the time then, and did the same here.

The wait didn’t seem nearly as long as I expected, and before I knew it, we were getting in the water!

I knew ahead of time that the lake temperature was nearly 71 degrees. I was pretty happy about that since I was pretty sure most of my TriRock swim troubles were because of the cold water.

I’m also happy to report that I was right about that hunch. I felt amazing during the swim! It was still a little rocky at the start — I don’t like to be crowded!  But once the fast swimmers pulled away and I got a little room, I settled into a pretty comfortable stroke.  I actually really enjoyed my time in the water.

And when I got out and looked at my watch, I was in shock. I figured in a worst-case scenario, I’d probably finish the swim in 45 minutes — my slowest Iron Girl swims took 30 minutes (1000 meters), and my slow TriRock 500 meters took nearly 15.

My swim was 34:23. Wow!

I jogged over to transition and stripped off my wetsuit in a reasonable amount of time. It didn’t take long to get my shoes and helmet on and grab my bike. And I was off!

Parts of this course are familiar because of Iron Girl, but I was happy to learn one of that course’s worst hills was not included in Columbia’s course. Of course they replaced it with a bigger hill!

Yeah, that was pretty tough. There was one incline in particular that I underestimated (I believe it was that little one after mile 10). I didn’t shift my gear low enough, and got to a point where I could barely move my pedals. I really thought I was going to fall over! I was even watching the grass to my right wondering if I should head off the road for a soft landing … Fortunately, I managed to keep moving and stay upright. At least nobody was near me at the time, so  I wouldn’t have had any witnesses if I did tip over!

Even though it was a hard ride, I had a great time on the course. The weather was perfect, and the course is beautiful. Lots of farmland and amazing views.

I’ve only ever ridden 25 miles or more three times before — two rides of 28 and 30 miles on my hybrid bike on vacation last year, and a 25-mile recovery ride with a friend after her first half ironman. All three of those rides were pretty slow, so I set my worst-case scenario pace pretty low. I figured I’d be happy to finish the ride under two hours.

I finished in 1:41:29.  Pretty slow when compared with the other racers, but pretty great for me considering just a handful of outdoor training rides and minimal hill training!

After dismounting my bike, I jogged my bike back to my transition area, accidentally knocking over the bike next to mine. Oops! No time to fix! (I got back to transition before her post-race and put it back before she noticed!)

I was feeling a little discombobulated as I started to take off my hydration pack … oh wait, I still want that! I still managed to change shoes, put on my visor and start running without losing too much time.

My legs didn’t feel too bad as I started the run. I kept waiting for the jello-legs to set in, but I felt good! Well, when we weren’t running up hills …

This course was pretty tough, too. I was familiar with some of the hills from the Iron Girl course, and the additional three miles added plenty more. My legs felt surprisingly good the whole time, but the hills wore me down. I gave up and started walking up them (as did most of the other athletes on the course!), but I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. Actually, at one point I was walking faster than a girl who kept running uphill. I knew I made the right choice to walk!

The run was the only part where I had some expectations. Running is what I do, and I know my 10K pace! But I also knew that this was not going to be my best 10K, and set reasonable expectations. I hoped I’d be able to finish under an hour.

Run time: 58:39.

With all my worst-case scenarios plus transition time, I was looking at close to four hours. I’d say this was a success!

overall time:  3:21:28.21
overall place: 1327 out of 1696
division place: 71 out of 96
gender place: 377 out of 564

Not nearly as good as my TriRock stats … but far from last!

This is a tough course, and has more experienced triathletes and fewer first-timers. The numbers seem about right — I know I have a lot of room for improvement!

race report: trirock annapolis

Whoa, what’s with all these race reports?

I didn’t set out to create such a crazy spring race schedule … there are just too many great events!

May 20 is the Columbia Triathlon. I signed up months ago, and it will be my first Olympic distance triathlon. When I found out TriRock was coming to town eight days before it, at first I hesitated.

I really wanted to participate, but two triathlons in just over a week?

And then I realized what a good training experience it would be. The distances for TriRock were pretty short, 500 meter swim, 12 mile bike and 5K run, so it seemed like a good opportunity!

The location was perfect — only two miles from home. I actually packed all my transition gear in a backpack and rode my bike to the start. I was a chilly ride at 6am, but the garages recommended by the race organizers were almost as far away! And hey, I didn’t have to pay to park!

There was a bit of a line to get into transition once I got there, which I didn’t really expect, but I still arrived with plenty of time to set up and wedge myself into my wetsuit for only my second open-water swim of the year.

Oh yeah, it was also only my second time ever swimming in a wetsuit. While this was my fifth triathlon, I’ve only ever done the Iron Girl race. In August. No wetsuits allowed!

My one test swim the week before went fine, but we were in shallow water. Much warmer shallow water.

I knew it was going to be cold. I kind of dreaded the swim (in fact, the first thought I had when I woke up was, “I don’t want to jump in that water”), but was pretty relaxed as I waited for my wave to go off. I was distracting myself by chatting with some other women in my swim wave.

The five waves ahead of us seemed to fly by, and all of a sudden we were next. I still didn’t want to go in, but at that point there wasn’t a choice! Still, I felt fine as I half stepped/half jumped off the dock into the chilly water.

My feet were cold, but it didn’t seem that bad … until they sent us off and I put my face in the water. Brr! I took a few strokes and started to panic a little bit. Not in a way that would require assistance from the support kayaks/paddleboards. I knew I could handle the swim, but I just couldn’t calm myself down. I did some sidestroke — which I haven’t done for years! — and then tried freestyle again. I’d have to breathe every stroke, still not comfortable. I did some breaststroke — slow but at least I could catch my breath. I’d flip back and forth between freestyle and breaststroke, but never really got my groove. Fortunately, 500 meters is pretty short, and was over kind of quickly even at my slow pace.

The next challenge would be getting out of my wetsuit. I had a bit of a wetsuit fail during our practice swim, when I got stuck at the ankles. I tried practicing at home, but it’s a lot easier when it’s dry! I was happy that on race day, I didn’t have too much of a struggle.

The bike ride went well. It was a bit of a hilly ride, but it was expected. Part of the course was a double loop that included going over the Naval Academy bridge and back … twice. It wasn’t too bad, though. Even though I had way too much of my training on spin bikes and not enough outdoors, I felt pretty good out there.

Still, I was happy to rack my bike and put on my running shoes. The uphill start up Main Street was a little bit of a rude awakening — my legs were definitely feeling the ride! I did my best to keep moving and ignore any protests from my legs. I felt decent enough, but I didn’t really have a good grasp on how fast I was running.

I had my Garmin on the whole race (I have the waterproof 310XT), but in multisport mode it kept my time and distances cumulative. Huh? I was sure I’d used multisport mode before and it would reset as I changed sports. But this time, the time and mileage stayed from the previous sport, and it just said “BIKE” or “RUN” in the bottom right field. Well, that’s a good way to make sure I’m not obsessing over the pace!

I had no time goals, anyway. This was my only triathlon at this distance (Iron Girl is longer), and it was a training race, anyway!

Since the  run course was an out-and-back, it ended with a downhill. It was a fun, fast finish!

The finish line festival was great — breakfast burritos, two free Red Hook beers, and an AC/DC cover band playing from the top deck of a boat. I had fun chatting with both friends and strangers in the beer garden!

TriRock was a great event. I’m really glad I did it!

I’m disappointed that my swim was so uncomfortable, and am a little bit freaked about Columbia’s swim. I’m trying to stay positive, though. It always does take me a while to warm up during the Iron Girl 1000 meter swim. Perhaps I need a 500 meter warm-up, and I just wasn’t there yet!

I’m happy with my results, though. Rankings below are out of 65 in my age group.

Swim: 14:58 (45*)
T1: 4:00 (30)
Bike: 46:29 (27)
T2: 2:16 (28)

Run: 27:00 (22)
Total: 1:34:45
#31 in age group
#572 overall**

*actually, I kind of expect to be in the bottom third. The swim my weakest even on a good day!
**it doesn’t say out of how many.