Athena National Championships – long course, 2016   1 comment

It’s been just over 18 months since my last half ironman distance triathlon, but for some reason, the distance didn’t seem to phase me all that much this time around. Well, not at least until just about midnight the night before. Of course, at midnight, my eyes flew open, and the panicked thought of, “WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK AM I DOING TO MYSELF???” came crashing into my brain. Thank, brain. Thanks.

My alarm went off stupidly early (I don’t like getting to the race site much later than the open of transition… Who needs the extra stress on race day?) I got my shit together, and headed out. At the race site, I did all my pre-race weirdness that I normally do (fuck off, waste time, post a selfie of Sara and I… Then panic because transition closes in 5 minutes and I don’t have mine set up even though I’ve been sitting there for a fucking hour… You know, the norm.) I tried to round up the rest of the BAWGs who were racing so that we could get our pre-race photo of badassery together. Quite a few were missing, but it was time to get the wetsuit on and head down to the corrals.

I have been spoiled by time trial starts in Austin. It’s been a while since I’ve done a mass swim start. As a matter of fact, I think last year’s Athena Nat’l Championships was the last mass start I’ve done. For some reason, I don’t remember it being nearly as chaotic as this year’s. I’ll tell ya, I sure as shit was not ready to be in a washing machine again. My wave was about 200 women. I got kicked in the eye about 100 m in and had to stop to fix my goggles. That tells you how hard that bitch nailed me; I use Aquasphere Vista goggles, which are closer to a mask than goggles. If THOSE moved? Yeah, she NAILED me! I ended up with a shiner, so that’s pretty cool. Anyway, after that, I had a really hard time finding my groove. I was windmilling and not focusing on my form AT ALL. I was just trying to survive that damned washing machine. My brain went into squirrel mode, and it probably took about 400-500 for me to realize that I was still swimming like shit, even though the field had cleared and I was swimming without 100 other women right on top of me. I started paying attention to things like my kicking (I know I tend to drop my knees instead of kicking from the hips when I’m not EXPLICITLY focusing on it.) I started focusing on my glide and rotation, my pull, not pulling out too early, (which of course elicits a George Takei style, “ohhhh my!”) It was a pretty uneventful swim, AFTER taking a beating in that first short stretch. I come out of the water, and BAM! PR for the 1.2 mile distance! Yessssssss! OK, it was by, like, a minute, but I’M CALLING IT A PR DAMMIT!

T1 was speedy! There were wetsuit strippers at the swim exit, so that made getting out of my wetsuit SUPER FUCKING SIMPLE. Side note: Thank you to all the volunteers who choose to work as a wetsuit stripper in triathlons. I completely respect the shit out of you, but would NEVER choose to do that job. Why? Because we all PEE in our wetsuits, and when you strip that shit off, little droplets of water fly all over the stripper (huh huh huh,) thus coating them in a fine mist of every athlete’s urine. Nasty. Just… Nasty. Wetsuit stripped, I head into transition (which, by the way is on the other side of the goddamn world). Sunglasses on, helmet secured, shoes on, bike unracked. I notice that I am the last bike off my rack, which means I need to make up some time. There are other racks for the half distance Athena competitors, but because of a snafu with the racks, we weren’t in the same place and I couldn’t scope how far behind I was from the entire field. Looking back through the results, I was 6th Athena out of the water, and 3rd in my AG. My transition was SUPER FAST, and I made up a shit ton of time (MINUTES) in getting out. Another side note: Man, this is the longest transition area ever. It’s like a gun barrel, with racks on either side of one central aisle. I’m pretty sure it was about 3 miles long (OK, maybe only 1/4 mile, but STILL! That’s really FAR in cycling shoes!!!) I hop on the bike and *whoosh* I take off!

I felt really strong on the bike until mile 20. Then I had to pee. Like REALLY pee. But the next stop wasn’t til 28, AND I knew that I had someone on my heels. I didn’t know how far back she was, but she was close enough that I didn’t want to stop. So I tried to pee on the bike for the first time. Yes, I tried. And tried, and tried. I went through the aid station, and there were 4 fuckers in line for the ONE porta-potty. So I kept trying. IT TOOK ME 20 FUCKING MILES TO PEE. And when I finally did let loose, holy shit. I’m glad no one was around, because I think I peed 29384729 gallons. So there you have it. I earned my “Pee on the Bike” merit badge. Did it save me any time? Probably not. Over those 20 miles, I would take little breaks in my intensity to try and pee off the back, or side, or something, try to get into any position where my stupid bladder would let go. And it just wouldn’t (Aren’t you happy to read all about my fucking PEE?) Back to the actual biking. The course was about as flat as a pancake (1115 feet of climb total), but the wind was a bit much. Heading out, I have a lovely tail wind and was cruising at a nice 20 mph pace for the first 15 or so miles. Then we hit a few baby rollers, and true to form, I slowed way down. But I still held 15 mph for most of those baby rollers, then the whole 20 miles trying to pee fiasco. I think I held 17-19 during those miles. The last 15 were into a pretty nasty headwind, and the roads were shit, but I felt good coming into transition. Averaged 17.someodd. I think my PR is 18.5 at Galveston a few years ago, but I felt MUCH better after this ride. One thing I noticed, as with the swim, I had a hard time staying present during the bike. When I stopped being present, I’d start mashing. I have been working hard for a few years to work on the pull through of my stroke, but I was a mashing fool for a while (especially when I was trying to figure out the whole “how the fuck do I pee” thing.) BUT my cadence was fucking amazing. I kept an 88 average cadence, and it DIDN’T FEEL WEIRD! Or hard! And I never once had to think about it! My legs just SPUN! 2 years! 2 years of focusing on cadence, and for ONCE it worked! WIN!!!

T2: Yup, still a goddamn transitioning rockstar. I put on socks though, because I use socks for anything longer than an Oly. My poor feet would blister to all hell and back if I ran a half marathon without my beloved Balegas!!! That might have cost me 14 seconds or so, but I still was #1, and I beat #2 by about 2 minutes here, so I’ll call it a win. I did notice that most of the bikes that were on my rack were still out on the course, so I made up good time. I don’t remember passing anyone specifically, but I obviously did somewhere. I hope I didn’t pee on them.

I felt strong, y’all. I felt really fucking strong on that run. I decided to not look at my pace except when my watch dinged at the mile markers. I went by heart rate and kept it at around 3.5 for the first 10 miles. When I hit 4.0 or above, I took a 10 second walk break (only happened 3-4 times). Last 2 miles, I didn’t look at my watch at all. I walked the water stops where I drank, because I still can’t drink and run. First mile ticked by, fueled by a verrrrry slight downhill. 9:17, and I barely felt like I was moving. I really wish I could have kept that pace forever, but alas, it didn’t happen. I stayed steady between 9:25 and 10:10 until mile 9. Then it started to feel like the wheels were falling off. It got warm (80, sunny) and miles 9-11 were uphill. 10:30, 11:04, then 11:27…. I really had to keep telling myself to push it. After mile 11, it flattened out, and I was able to pick it back up for the end. According to Garmin later, I saw that mile 12 was 10:20, mile 13 was sub 10. Those last few miles were a mental battle, that’s for sure.

Some dude tried to high five me as I entered the finishers’ chute, and I was just like, “NO!” I NEVER don’t high five people, but I wasn’t having it. That was my second fastest half marathon EVER, and a HIM half marathon PR by 8:30. I came across the finish line feeling like my lungs were going to EXPLODE and my legs were going to fall off, but I didn’t feel destroyed. It felt stronger than any other finish I’ve had. The chute had the GORGEOUS USA Triathlon “national championship” flags, and I couldn’t have been happier to pass that finish line. Funny, my finisher’s photo pretty much looks like I’m dying. There might be some truth to that photo…

My friend Sarah was at the finish line when I crossed, and she walked with me to shove a piece of pizza in my mouth and throw water down my throat. I decided to go to the area where times were being posted, and it was good timing, too! Just as I got there, the announcer says, “And this year’s 2016 40-54 Athena National Champion is CC ROWE!!!!” So that answered my question! I took first in my age group!! That felt really damned good, y’all. Really good. I didn’t go into this race with any kind of expectation. I didn’t want to destroy myself a mere 8 weeks before my big dance. And here, I finished, feeling strong, feeling fit, winning my AG and getting that beautiful National Champion jersey. And, like the icing on a cake, I set a Personal Record for the 70.3 distance by EXACTLY 10 minutes. Oh fuck yes, I will call that a successful race!

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Shockingly, I’m not saying something like, “FUCK THIS” in this photo. WIN!

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Posted June 23, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

The Running Event – Austin 2015   Leave a comment

Back in December, I had the fortune to get to go to something called The Running Event. It’s basically a gigantic trade show for retailers showcasing all the vendors you could ever imagine jam-packed into one giant convention center hall. It was GIIIIIIIIGANTIC! And a little bit overwhelming. It literally took 2 days to meander through all of the exhibits and booths, and even then, we were scrambling to get through it all. This is where you got to see all of the new gear, tech stuff, clothing, shoes, water bottles, nutrition for miiiiiiiiiiiles, you name it. It was here. Everyone was trying to get a foot hold in the retail market in the states.

How did I get to go in to this expo if I’m not a retailer? Luck, really. And a little networking (which I’m pretty talented at, tbh.) My friend and I worked the 5k that morning, where we handed out about 83749187 little packs of Power Bar Gels to runners from all over the world. We got there late (bad planning on my part) and had to scramble to get our asses in gear to hand stuff out. It was about 300 degrees below zero, but running around to get everything set up got us all nice and toasty. (Not really, we were still freezing our asses off.) Once the 5k started, we had the first opportunity to kinda look around at things being offered for free. Really nice Nathan water bottles. Free tech tee shirts. Nutrition. ANd this was just the people who were out at the 5k… I had no idea what we were in for when we actually got to the convention center. I was told to bring any leftover gels to the convention center, then work for a couple of hours at the Power Bar booth. Sure, no problem. We had to do a leeeeeettle finagling to get both of us in the door (which is where having connections and networks help a ton), but in we were. As we stepped through the doors into the exhibit hall, my friend’s and my jaw dropped. This was a fucking candy store for runners. All of the big players in the running world were there: Mizuno, Brooks, Nathan, Ultimate Direction, … The list goes on and on and on. There were also start-ups, little companies, entrepreneurs, foreign clothing companies. So we wandered over to the PowerBar booth and settled in for an easy 3-4 hour shift.

Once released from our duties, we started wandering the hall. Up and down the aisles, past beautiful tech clothing, various forms of self-care and massage therapy tools, socks, every kind of bar and gel and chew and sports drink imaginable, shoes, headphones, bras, are you starting to get the picture? Insanity. Sheer insanity. The thing is that most of these booths were giving out samples. Just giving shit away. That first day, I think I ended up with about $300 worth of shit. I got a new style of sports bra called a SheFit, a pair of these KICKASS leggings by Liquido, a little ball called the Oh Ball that’s used to work out the knots of your plantar fascia, a couple of shirts… Shit, I forgot what else. I met the people who made the sling that I was wearing (sure, it’s a really high quality sling, but I certainly wasn’t happy about needing it…) Anyway, we had only gone through about 1/8 of what was there before we both had to leave and head back to the real world where you actually have to pay money for things.

We decided to head back the next day, and I started talking to people and randomly offering myself up as a product tester / gear whore. I mean, if people are going to GIVE me shit, I feel like I need to give back to them. Also, it turns out, when you run into things like the Balega socks booth, and you are SUPER OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT HOW FUCKING AMAZING THEIR SOCKS ARE (seriously, these are the best socks in existence!!), they invite you to be an ambassador for their brand. Uh, SURE! I’d be happy to stand on a mountain top and talk about your products!! Anyway, my little jaunt through the RUnning Event proved to be quite beneficial for me. This blog is really just a warning to those of you out in Blog Land that I will be doing some product reviews on here, too. Again, if people are going to be giving me free shit, the least I can do is sit down and test that shit and put out some honest info about how that shit worked. I’ve spent the past month testing out some of that free shit, so yeah. Be prepared for a few honest product reviews in the days ahead.

Posted January 29, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Race Report – Decker 2015, The actual report   Leave a comment

Alright, so you’re all caught up about how this race ended up being an event instead of a race. Cool, now I can tell you about the BEST WALKING RACE EXPERIENCE EVER EVER EVER!!! When I started on this whole racing journey a gabazillion years ago, I walked everything. I walked triathlons, I walked marathons, I walked 5ks; it didn’t matter the distance, I walked. Anyone who has walked a race will all tell you the same thing… It’s fucking hard. And I don’t just mean that it is physically difficult to be out there for HOURS on end, which – don’t get me wrong – it is, but there is no support for walkers at most races. We come in sometimes hours behind the winners, we cause the race course to be open for longer, for volunteers to stick around long past they wish they had gone home, and for race directors to make arrangements for there to still be food and water at the finish line (which there rarely is for the last person.) In short, we are the red-headed stepchildren of the racing circuit. When I started running, then speeding up, then getting to the middle or front of the pack, I can’t say that I wasn’t happy to be in a more accepted group of athletes, because it was kind of a relief. So THIS is what it’s like to be a part of the in-crowd! Huh! I never knew! Anyway, even though I have always identified with the back-of-the-packers (or BOPers), I was finally a RUNNER! It was with all the memories of not-so-stellar race experiences as a BOPer that I went into Decker this year, becuase I knew that I was going to be walking the entire half marathon. I think my best time walking a half was abour 3:30, and was…. like… about 8 years ago. I was trying to be all happy and positive and shit; you know, like “YAY!! At least I get to WALK!!” But inside I was kinda dying. It sucked and really made me angry that I was in a situation that was completely out of my control and not able to rock the fuck out of this race like I had anticipated being able to do. Yes, it was a relief to be ableto participate at all, but disappointment is a bitch.

So fast farward to race day morning. It was cold, about 39 degrees, but sunny and clear. I’m glad it was cold that morning.  I had walked a bunch in the sling, but was a little nervous about having it chafe or – worse – get super sweaty and disgusting. I got there early to get in on the team photo with my Tough Cookies and to get a warm-up in. Althouhg, looking back at that, who warms up for a 13.1 mile walk? Old habits, I guess. Getting there early turned out to be a miraculous stroke of luck, though. Decker is run by the Austin Runners’ Club, and it turns out, they have devised a way for walkers and BOPers to feel included in the race. They let anyone who felt like they would have a hard time making the time cutoff start 30 minutes early. I was in line for the bathroom when I heard that, and was like, oh fuck this, I’m heading out! So 2 of my fellow BOPers and I hoofed it to the start line and asked if we could hop in on that 30 min early start time. The time keeper took down our numbers, and we headed out. My 2 companions started their running, and I started walking, and we were OFF like a herd of turtles! At that time, I just thought it was a cool idea to have the walkers/BOPers start early, but I had NO IDEA HOW COOL it was really going to be.

  
The first couple of miles was pretty uneventful… Just me and the black ribbon of road ahead of me stretching out into the distance. The biggest event was that I got to a portapotty and didn’t have to wait in line. THAT makes starting early even better! While in that first 2-ish miles, I started thinking about it… The runners would start at 8, which was 30 minutes after us. I walk about a 15-minute mile, and the fastest of the runners will be averaging something close to lightspeed. I figured that I would get a chance to see the top runners around 2.5 or so. I was just about to the 2.5 mile tick when I heard the pace truck behind me. I look back, and here they come. Runners so fucking fast that they are being paced by a goddamn truck. Runners that make their 5 min/mile pace look smooth and easy. Runners that are fucking GODS by my standards. The first and second guys came and passed me, and I’m pretty sure that I felt a gust of wind as they did so.

   
 It was amazing. But that was about all I had thought was going to happen. In my slightly distracted mental state, it didn’t dawn on me that, by starting 30 minutes early and walking, I was going to get passed by everyone. Friends, strangers, fast runners, slow runners, teammates, you name it. After that first group of speedsters whooshed past me, the slow and steady stream of people started passing me. It was amazing. It was inspiring. It was a fucking blast. I’ve been racing in this town for YEARS, and am pretty well-known on the circuit. I am pretty sure that every minute or two, someone I knew passed me. I got lots of “low fives” (sling version of high five… I made it a thing while in the sling), cheers, a few cat calls, and hugs. I took selfies with EVERYONE! I was trying to take photos with people as they passed me, making goofy faces, whatever. By starting 30 minutes, I spent the entire race course (minus those first 2 miles) with people. It was so fucking heart-warming that I kinda want to walk Decker again! I am sure that ARC was thinking about the logistics of having people on the race course for later in the day, and that was their reasoning for letting us slowpokes start early, but the impact on the EXPERIENCE that us BOPers had was a world of difference from the usual “you’re all alone in the universe, no one cares about you, we are running out of water on the course, oh and maybe the finish line is gone when you get there” experience.

So thank you, ARC. For thinking of us BOPers and letting us start a bit early. It was a phenomenally inclusive event that gave even the BOPers a great race!

Now enjoy some obnoxious photos 🙂 

    
    
   

Posted January 29, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Race Report – Decker Challenge 2015, Back Story   Leave a comment

Yeah, I know that I’m a million races behind schedule when it comes to writing race reports. Forgive me? I’ll give you a quick recap:

I raced. I swam. I biked. I ran. I won some. I didn’t win a lot. I had a blast. I raced again.

TADA! You’re all caught up now. HAH.

There’s a little back story to this race report, and it kind of sets the stage for the race itself. I have a hard time actually calling it a RACE, per se, which will become more evident as to why in a bit. Anyway, back story:

In October of 2015, I was hit by a car. While running. Now, most of you who are reading this probably know me in real life, so you already know this. If that’s the case, feel free to skip this blog and head on over to the next entry where I actually talk about my race. For those of you who DON’T know me IRL; yeah, I got hit by a car. While running. The funny thing is that it is exactly as horrifying as it sounds while at the same time, thankfully, not anywhere close to as horrifying as it sounds. The details aren’t terribly important, except that I was not nearly as good at parkour as I would have needed to be to be able to come out of that shit unscathed. So scathed, I was, but HEY! I DIDN’T DIE! so, I have that going for me. But my injuries did result in surgery. I ended up needing surgery on my shoulder, and got to spend some amount of time in a spiffy, handy dandy, supportive and sexy sling. I know what you’re thinking, “sexy sling?” Yes, the sling made me sexy as hell. I promise. ROWR. I had surgery, and was in a sling, and was not allowed to run because it turns out that the only thing that holds your arm onto your body are all the little muscles and tendons that I had just had fucking surgery on, and the downward force on that shoulder that running causes would basically make my arm shrivel up and fall off. Or something like that. My doctor explained it to me right after surgery, but I was on narcotics at the time, so the details are a little fuzzy. I just know he was very clear: DON’T RUN.

After about 10 days of no running (or biking or swimming or hammer throwing or mountain climbing or any form of physical activity other than trying to put on a goddamn BRA), I started losing my shit. So I called the doc and asked if I could walk. The answer was a blissful YES. HOORAY!!! So the follow up question was, “Uh. How FAR am I allowed to walk?” Here’s a rough sketch of the conversation:

Me: How far am I allowed to walk?
Doc: As far was you want to.
Me: Well, when you say “as far,” could that be… like… 13.1 miles?
Doc: Sure. I see no reason why not. You’re really going to walk 13.1 miles?
Me: … wouldn’t be the first time. 
Doc: Man, you’re a fucking weirdo.

OK, so the doctor didn’t EXACTLY say that last sentence, but I’m pretty sure he thought it. The thing is that I had registered for the Decker Challenge half marathon back in early September because it is part of a race series that I was competing in. I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to run Decker, and I had actually already contacted the race director and asked for (and was granted) a year deferment. But that didn’t mean that I really wanted to NOT do this event. I was seriously down and depressed that I couldn’t do Decker. I love Decker, and it’s a course that is very dear to my heart. I know the course like the back of my hand. I know every incline, every decline, every turn, every pothole. Plus, if I didn’t compete in Decker, I would be disqualified from the Austin Distance Challenge. I don’t need to run an event to stay qualified. I just need to start and finish the event. On top of that, not being able to be as active as I usually am was making me coo-coo for cocoa puffs. Like, put-me-in-the-loony-bin-because-I’m-going-bat-shit wonky.

So I asked the doctor if I could walk, and if I could walk a half marathon, and he said I could and the world was just a little less crappy. I had very clear marching orders: you can walk, but just don’t fall. Aye, aye, captain. You got it. That day (or maybe it was the next) I started walking. Since I had been training for a marathon before that fateful day in October, I was still in pretty good shape, even though I hadn’t been doing much for the last couple of weeks. That first day cleared, I ended up walking about 11 miles. It was MAGNIFICENT. The weather was beautiful that day, it was cool and great walking weather. I just meandered through the city. But I went 11 miles, and had that blissful feeling of tired legs that I had already begun to miss oh, so much.

And that is the quick back story to my race report for the Decker Challenge.

Posted January 29, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

An open letter to the driver that almost hit me this morning.   3 comments

Dear woman who almost hit me this morning while I was on my bike:

Thank you for stopping and apologizing. As a cyclist, we get a lot of near misses all the time because we choose to ride on the same streets as distracted drivers, stressed drivers, sleepy drivers, etc. Often, those drivers see us as a hindrance to their passage through the city, and don’t see us as actual human beings. We are. And a car can take us out in the blink of an eye. We try really hard (or at least some of us do) to be visible, predictable, and to follow the same laws you do. When a driver gets angry, starts yelling, or even worse, tries to run us off the road, it’s easy to get cynical against drivers.

So, I really do sincerely thank you for taking a moment to realize that you could have really done some damage to me by turning in front of me. I could see that the sun was in your eyes, and that your windshield was dirty, so your visibility was crap (please wash that windshield!) But the fact that you stopped and apologized, and looked completely horrified at what almost happened actually warmed my heart a little. You see me as a human being. I see you as a human being. We all make mistakes, and I’m just so thankful that this was a mistake that didn’t result in some horrible event.

Love, Me.

Posted August 25, 2015 by CC in Uncategorized

Race Report – World DOMINATION (errr… championships)   7 comments

Thank you to everyone for being patient with the lack if information coming out about the race. It was a whirlwind after the race, and I just didn’t have time to sit down and write for a couple of days.

I could pretty much write a book about this race, and the events that lead up to it. But for the sake of some sort of brevity (and its not brief in the least bit…) I’ll just jump into RACE DAY!!!

I don’t really get much in the way of race anxiety anymore; I have the thought pattern of, “there is nothing more to be done at this point” on the night before a race. This race was different… The night before this race was FILLED with anxiety! I set three alarms and kept checking to make us they were all set to AM not PM, I wrote myself a note and posted it on the door to remind myself to turn on the electronic shifters on Armando, I even woke up to check to make sure the brake calipers weren’t rubbing against the wheel. It’s fair to say I slept like shit that night, but that’s okay because adrenaline is a helluva drug.

My alarm went off at some stupidly early hour (ok, it was only 5 AM, so not THAT bad.) The team manager, Tim Yount, had warned us to get to transition early; the ITU (international triathlon union, for the uninitiated) officials had pretty much said that they were going to go through everything on race day with a fine toothed comb. They were being extraordinarily strict about everything (competitors could only wear the most recent country uniform, no temporary tattoos, no stickers on your helmet or bike except for your race numbers, your bib had to be on a race belt, etc etc etc) and it was expected that it would take a zillion years to get through bike check-in. I’m an early bird when it comes to races anyway since I hate the feeling of possibly missing transition setup because I was running late, but Tim had us all concerned. So stupid early it was. Turns out, I only needed the one alarm, because that sucker went off and I hit the ceiling!

Sherri met me at my hotel at 6:10 so that we could walk to the race site together. Those silly ITU officials were LIARS! It took us an entire two and a half minutes to get through bike check-in. Sure, they made sure that we were in uniform, and that we had our helmets on our heads and buckled (yup, to walk through the gate), but seriously, they didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary. We found our racks, set up our stuff, and chatted with the folks around us. Each country was racked together and then broken down by age group, so I was racking with the ladies that I raced against at Nationals. I have to say, that was pretty cool. I didn’t remember who I raced against until I got into this transition, then it was like, “HEEEEY! I know you!” Everyone was super excited; sure, some women had their game faces on, but most of all, the atmosphere was one of nervous electricity. Once transition was set up, a few of us wandered around to find an open cafe… No coffee and this girl doesn’t get going. At this point, it was about 715, and the race didn’t start til 830…

Sherri and I went for a nice little warm up just before the race.  Since she hadn’t run the course yet and it was short, we just went through the course as our warmup. I had been concerned when trying to follow the course map a couple of days earlier, because the course looked like a drunk kindergartener’s drawing. There was a turn every 50 meters or so, with the longest open stretch being maaaaaaybe a block long. No need to worry, though, this was the best marked course I’ve ever run. It isn’t marked, per se, but rather COMPLETELY barricaded off. You want to feel like a fucking rock star? Run on a completely barricaded off course!

We make it back to the venue with about 15 minutes left before the first wave went. Sprint duathlon is not the most popular sport, so the entire field was split into only 3 waves separated by 4 minutes for each wave, with the men 39 and under going first. Hanging out with a bunch of women competing in an international race for 8 minutes before gun time? Fucking amazing feeling!. So, most of you have seen my uniform, right? If not, there’s a picture below. The point is that my uniform makes me feel like goddamn Wonder Woman. Now, take little, old me, in my Wonder Woman outfit, and put me among 75 other women, ALSO in their Wonder Woman outfits, and put that group of people smack in the middle of a group of 200 women all wearing something that makes them feel like Wonder Woman, and shit gets pretty powerful. People are hugging, wishing each other luck, laughing, chatting… It didn’t matter what country you were from, you turned to that woman next to you and said, “good luck, congratulations on getting here, you’re a fucking badass rock star!” Ok, maybe not EXACTLY in those words… But you get the idea.

It’s a self-seeding start, and there’s no timing mat at the beginning. Everyone runs on gun time, meaning that your time starts as soon as the gun goes off, so the clock starts ticking even before you cross the start line. Does that matter to me? Not really. I’ll take that 5 second hit to my time to seat myself towards the back. I am more comfortable passing people who are slower than me than I am being passed by the SUPER CRAZY ULTRA MEGA FAST women. The announcer says, “on your mark,” then *BANG*!!! I am sooooooo glad I didn’t start closer to the front, because yeah… some of those ladies are mutants.

My goal was to keep my pace, not get caught up in the excitement of the start which would cause me to push too hard through the first lap, because I wouldn’t have been able to hold up for the entirety of the race. I have spent months working on keeping a pace, and that shit totally paid off. That gun sound shot through the stadium and women bolted. W went out the track and onto the streets. Like I said before, the course was exceptionally windy but for the most part it was a relatively easy course. Flat track, then down a block to a u-turn. After the turn, there is one small hill, probably only about a 50 or 60 foot climb over a block. At the top, you take a right and end up on a cobblestone street that has been well-used and has huge gaps between the cobblestones. Basically, this stretch of streets is a fucking ankle breaker and it’s SUPER important that you run carefully and take care where to put your foot on every stride. This surface lasts for a couple of turns, the course flattens out, then the fun begins. The middle third of the course winds and twists though the old city, and is a pretty steep descent. The road that we are following is pedestrian only, only a couple of meters wide, and is lined with beautiful old buildings with balconies that have pots of azaleas dropping over the side. Everyone has azaleas, I swear! The road surface is large stone pavers that have almost no unevenness to them, it’s smooth as glass, and did I mention downhill? So we come off this cobblestone ankle breaker of a surface, then WHEEEEEEEEEE OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS RUN IS AMAZING!!!!!! The first lap, there aren’t that many spectators; it’s still early by Spanish clocks, but it doesn’t matter. I’m running on a barricaded course, through a medieval town, with a smooth surface, downhill, it’s about 55 degrees, AND IM IN FUCKING SPAIN, Y’ALL!!!!!! I’m pretty sure I was averaging about 2 minute miles at this point, because I was fucking FLYING! I don’t know that I’ve EVER felt that much exhilaration on a run! At the bottom of the hill, we hit a regular street, then run by the river and back to the stadium again. At the stadium, we take a half a lap, then head out to do it all over again. The water station is at the bottom of the hill, and instead of giving you a cup of water, they hand out bottles… Full bottles of water, with lids on them, and they’re cold, and the mouth is really small, and I definitely failed miserably at getting any of that into my gullet. But my chest was nice and soaked, so I guess that’s something. I drop my bottle in the litter zone and take off up the hill. This lap, there are more spectators out there, and they’re cheering us all on. Because the course is so tight and windy, it’s pretty tough to know where anyone is, and you’re running blindly. I’m absolutely okay with this, it gives me the opportunity to really, truly run my own race and not worry about anyone else. I’m mostly running by myself, but there’s crowds of people gathering, and they’re all cheering in various languages, and some are trying to say my name as I pass, and occasionally I hear a “GO CC!!!!” from one of my teammates who’ll be racing in the standard later. Seriously, y’all, this must be what it feels like to be a rock star. I was there, by myself at times, with crowds cheering me on, and FLYING down this course. Never have I felt like I was running a more powerful 5k! I come around that last turn and back into the stadium and shoot in to transition.

Now for the part you are all waiting for with baited breath: the riiiiiiiide. If you know me personally, you already know that Orbea provided me with a sponsorship. For those who are just stumbling onto this incredibly long race report, let me explain. I ride an Orbea road bike when I race. This bike is a sexy, sexy Spaniard, and I am completely in love with him. When I qualified for this race, I was trying to figure out how to get my sexy, sexy Orbea to Spain without breaking the bank… or my bike. I decided on a whim to contact Orbea and tell them about my hot, torrid love affair that I have been having with one their bikes and and told them that they should hook me up with a sponsorship. did I think it would work? Hell no! But it did. Apparently, when you say completely ridiculous things about your bike, someone notices, because they agreed to sponsor ME!!! The deal was that the lovely, amazing people of Orbea would send a bike to Pontevedra for me to ride for this race. I would then ride that gorgeous machine, box it back up, and the shipping agency would pick it up at the hotel and ship it back to the factory. The original bike they were going to send me was similar to the one I ride at home, but there was a problem securing that bike so they changed bikes on me last minute. The bike they sent me? Shit, it’s not a bicycle… It’s a Lamborghini! This bike weighs about a pound, has Campignolo electronic shifters (that I had to have the team mechanic call back to the states to figure out how to TURN ON), and was pretty much made for me. The geometry was perfect for my super long torso and stumpy, yet powerful legs. I put my pedals and aerobars on it, so I was able to steer, power and control using what was I was accustomed to using. I don’t think I have ever, nor will I ever, have the opportunity to enjoy a machine of this quality. And I enjoyed the HELL out of that sexy Orbea! Now back to the report…

I run into transition, and I am feeling good. I didn’t look to see what my 5k time was, I didn’t care. I felt strong and didn’t want to throw myself off in case I had a bad time. I got through transition in what felt like 20 minutes (you had to run down the entirety of the center of the stadium, do your transition, then go back alllllll the way around the stadium out to the bike out spot. I cross the timing mat and the mount line, and IT’S ON MOTHER FUCKER! The first mile is out through the town, over this really kick ass suspension bridge, then out into the hills. I had ridden the course once before, so I knew exactly how uphill that first half was going to be so I started my bike portion with a bit of a quick spin to shake out the run and get my legs ready to cliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimb.

After a few hundred meters, I drop the gears and start to speed up and turn on the power. The bike course is gorgeous, but it’s no joke. Spain has hills and mountains, and Pontevedra is no exception. Coming out of town, the road surface is shit, it’s concrete with huge cracks and potholes, and a really rough surface. It’s easier to ride than chip seal, but still is not an idea ride by any means. Getting out of town only takes about a mile, and when my gps clicked that first mile out, I looked at my pace. I did that first mile, on shit roads on a slight incline at 22 mph. Did I mention that this Orbea was a Lamborghini? Yes, I know that the motor is as important as the bike, but this was AWESOME! Just outside of town, there’s a change in surface and you go from concrete to newly resurfaced, glass-smooth, super fast asphalt. The next 2 miles has some good climbs, and a cute little town (it’s Europe… All those little towns are cute). There were race officials dotted along the course, and volunteers, and cops, and a few people yelling, including one old woman sitting on her balcony yelling something incomprehensible from what I can only imagine was a toothless grin. But for the most part, it was just me and my bike and gorgeous views (and other competitors, of course… on the bike course you could actually see where everyone was.) Miles 3 and 4 were the bitches. This was where the bulk of the climb came in, and it was longer with a steeper and more sustained grade than anything that we have in Austin. Yeah, I trained on hills, but I just don’t have the access to train for this. 2 solid miles of up, up, up.

At the bottom of the hill, I came up behind my friend and teammate Sherri. She’s a bit slower on the bike than I am, but we were entering th long haul of a hill together. I didn’t have the opportunity to actually get past her before the climb started and I had to make a decision. Here’s the thing. In age group competition, you are not allowed to draft behind other cyclists, and the rules about passing another cyclist on the course are super strict. You have 15 seconds to come up into what’s called the drafting zone (and per ITU rules, that zone is 10 meters, or about 4-5 bike lengths) and make your move to pass your opponent. As soon as your front wheel breeches the line of their front wheel, your opponent must drop back out of the drafting zone. 15 seconds is plenty of time if you’re on a slight incline, a flat, or on a descent, but on a long, steep incline, 15 seconds is an impossibility. I got a penalty at Nationals when I tried to pass on an incline, so maybe I’m a little more sensitive about it than most, but I decided that I was not going to pass Sherri going up the hill. I could have done it, but doing so in a time that would guarantee no penalty would have meant blowing out my legs, completely wasting myself, all while STILL HAVING TO CLIMB, and still having plenty of time left in the race. So I hung out about 10 meters behind her and we climbed. And climbed. Ad climbed. Sure, my final time probably took a hit, but fuck, I don’t care. Here I was, on the hottest bike ever, climbing though gorgeous countryside with trees and vistas, on a beautifully maintained road, and my friend was right there, too. I have no problem that I took my time to savor and enjoy every. fucking. moment of that climb. When my legs were SCREAMING, I looked off to the left, and there was a little village on a hillside, with little houses with red tiled roofs. It was peaceful, and beautiful, and suuuuure, we weren’t the fastest people up that course, but fuck it. (I will say that no one in our little area of competitors passed each other on the climb… I think we were all in kinda the same boat… Pass and kill ourselves? Or settle in for a good ride…) All the while we are climbing, the men were coming down the same hill (it’s an out and back course). These guys were FLYING!!!! I was so, so, so looking forward to that. We crest the hill, and I make my move. My Orbea was so responsive that the minute the grade flattened out even a MINUTE amount, he took off. I passed Sherri, yelled something supportive at her, and took off. Mind you, just because we were done with the big climb, that doesn’t mean that we were at the top, there was still plenty of climb left in the last 2 miles heading up. It just happened to be at a more… reasonable grade. A this point, my legs are a bit jello-like, but I have a grin from ear to ear… I made it up the monster of a climb that has been haunting me for weeks. Ad I did it in style, dammit, and loved every moment of it. I come up to the u-turn, and now it’s time to flyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

I don’t typically have any fear coming down a hill, but the next few minutes of my life were possibly the scariest I’ve ever experienced. I started the beginning of the descent with strong legs. I did do a little spin to shake out the hill, then dropped the gears and turned back on the power. Before hitting the monster hill, I think I was averaging about 25 mph… I am not sure because I sure as shit didn’t feel comfortable looking at my speed on my watch. Then I crested that hill and OOOOOOOOOOOH MYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD it was like a fucking roller coaster! You know when you get to the top of that first incline, and the little chain that’s pulling you up lets go, and the roller coaster cart drops back onto the track, then there’s that half a second of anticipation, then WHOOOOOOOSH? Yeah. That. Exactly that. I’m putty sure that everyone in the valley below, and all the poor people who were trying to have a peaceful and quiet Sunday morning, and everyone on the race course heard me. I was whooping and a hollering coming down that mountain. About halfway down the hill, I hit my terminal velocity and couldn’t pedal anymore (I was just spinning out) so I just got into as aero a position as I could get without completely freaking out, and held on for the remainder of the ride, tucked and terrified. That lasted about 0.000000001 minutes but felt like an eternity. I hit 40 mph on that descent, and probably held that for a good 30 seconds before coming to the bottom of the hill… Yeah, it was FAST. The last couple of miles coming into town are kinda a blur, because I was pumping some serious adrenaline through my veins from that down hill. I do remember coming back into town, and hitting that stupid, pitted concrete surface and feeling like I was going to be shaken off my bike. I actually had to slow down a bit for fear that I was going to pop a tire, and at this point since I was still going about 25 mph, that would have been pretty bad. The last two turns back into transition were pretty tight, and I had to hit the brakes a little so that I could navigate the narrow little buggers without doing something incredibly stupid like laying down a $13,000 bike… Silly, I know…

Heading back into transition, I’m grinning, I don’t care about my time, because I just had the ride of my life. All I can say it, wow… Wow!!! I rack my beautiful Armando (yes, I named him, even though I shouldn’t because when you name something, you get attached to it) and swapped my shoes out. Putting on my running shoes again, the tongue gets caught, and I lose a little time because I have to take the fucker off and reset the tongue so that I don’t completely murder my feet on the last lap. Then BAM! Off again. I feel good, I feel strong, I feel like I can only push it for a couple more minutes before my body gives out and I fall over and die. Perfect timing for that feeling, because I only have 1.6 miles left to go before that beautiful, beautiful finish line. Out of transition, down the street, up the hill… I’ve run the course so many times now that I know every nook and cranny and cobblestone. Right turn, left turn, flatten out… There’s hundreds of people outside the barricade, all cheering and yelling my name. Down the hill, through the old town, tight right turn, slight rise through the plaza… I’m hurting, my knee is taking a beating, my quads are screaming, my hamstrings feel like they are ready to pop… Down the last hill and to the river… The longest stretch I’ve ever seen, it looks like a million miles from here to the stadium (in reality, it’s less than a half a mile). I’m pushing hard down this stretch, and the team manager, Tim, is yelling from behind a barricade. He hands me a little American flag and screams, “this is the final push! 500 meters left! Goooooo CC Goooooooooo!” Who knew that a little 25¢ flag and a few choice words would hold the power of the universe in them? I try to pick up the pace, but I don’t have much gas left in the tank. Around the corner and into the stadium… Just a quarter lap around the track to the finish chute then 100 meters to the finish line. I think the announcer yelled my name, but since Spanish speakers find my last name impossible to say, I am not sure. All I know is that I am coming home to that finish line, there are about 20 other Americans and some Brits and some other finishers all standing there to cheer me in. I cross and get hugged by a zillion stinky and gross competitors. My friend and fellow central Texan, John, is there and so are the people from the Mexican National Duathlon team who I had befriended over the last few days. I try to breathe, recover a little, then see Sherri come barreling down the final chute. After cheering her in, we just stand there, dazed and a bit dazzled, hugging, slapping high fives to others, and soaking it in. We did it! Competed in the top level of amateur duathlon in the world. And rocked the SHIT out of that race!

Did I win? No. Did I have the best race I could have had, feel like I pushed it as hard as I could, and had an amazingly great time doing it? You fucking bet!

Months of training, pulling off a couple of fundraisers, more support than I would have ever thought possible all paid off. It was INCREDIBLE.

I don’t have my stats available right now, but I know I finished in 1:25 or so, well below the 1:30 I had arbitrarily given myself for a goal time. Also, I didn’t come in last in my age group, I was 23/25. But even if I had come in last, I would have been fine with it. Someone has to come in last, and this race was all about the experience, and what a fucking experience it was.

Oh, and for the record, I PR’d my 5k (the first leg of the race)!!! My previous best 5k was 25:59, and I finished this one in 25:15 and STILL had a long way to go before I was done.

Thank you all for the immense amount of support, for the love, for the encouragement, for absolutely everything that you all did to help me get here. Without each and every one of you, I could have never made it here.

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Posted June 3, 2014 by CC in Race Report

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Retro Race Report – Oil Man Half Ironman 11-3-2013   Leave a comment

For those who don’t want to read because it’s long, here’s a recap recap: IT WAS FUCKING AMAZINGLY AWESOME AND SO MUCH FUN AND HOLY SHIT I CANT WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN.

OK. Now onto the real report. Let me start by saying that I couldn’t imagine having a better HIM experience ever. Sometimes, you just get lucky with… well, everything, you know?

I slept SURPRISINGLY well the night before this event, and woke up with a start literally TWO minutes before my alarm went off. Hooray for the end of daylight savings and an extra hour of sleep! After my oatmeal and peanut butter breakfast, I grab my faithful steed, Rafael, and head down to transition. The transition area was about 3 minutes from the front door of my hotel, which turned out to be just enough time to realize that it was FUCKING COLD and that the beginning of this race was going to be rough. When I say cold, it was 40ish degrees, which by Texas standards is dead-of-winter cold. At least I had a wetsuit to put on, which helped, but mine is sleeveless, so by the time my wave start came, I was a rubberized popsicle.

The start was a beach start (you know, where everyone starts on a beach and there’s a mad dash to get into the water, and then you just start pummeling and getting pummeled for the first 100 meters until everyone calms down and gets into the rhythm of their swim? Yeah, that.) This was a first for me, and I was concerned that the running start into chilly water was going to give me a heart attack. I was happily shocked when, since I had been standing on wet grass in 40 degrees, the 68 degree water felt like a warm bath! “Hoho! This is going to be GREAT,” I think to myself. For once in my ENTIRE racing career, I was right about that! The swim was GREAT! The first 15 minutes were choppy, but not bad, but as we turned the second big buoy, the chop started picking up. By 25 minutes in, we were in full-on waves coming at us from the side. No problem, just breathe on one side, and time your breathing to the crests, and you’re fine. The last turn puts us with the waves at our back, which not only gives you a bit of a push, but also is so much fun to swim in. Why? BECAUSE YOU FEEL LIKE A FUCKING DOLPHIN, THAT’S WHY! If you time your strokes just right, you can come out over the tops of the waves, ride them juuuust a little, and come down like, “I’M A DOLPHIN, BITCHES!!!!!” Sure, I probably played a little too much and could have been a more focused, but fuck it, it was SO MUCH FUN!

Transition to the bike was tough. Remember that whole “it’s 40 degrees?” Yeah, well, it had warmed up to a *balmy* 45 degrees by then, which meant hopping on the bike wet, and cold. Not my favorite conditions, but oh well. I thought about throwing on a jacket, but knew that within 20-30 minutes I would regret the decision. So off I go! The beginning to the bike course was AMAZING! The roads were smoooooooth, we went through about 5 miles of ranch homes, then plunged into the pine forest, and I was FLYING! My first hour was at about 19 mph, even though we had lots of rolling hills. Mile 24, we turn off the main road onto a little county road which SUCKED (chipseal… why oh why Texas do you use so much chipseal?) and the next 5 miles was a slow uphill. At the end of this stupid road, we u-turn and come into a water stop. I was really nervous about being able to grab a bottle of Gatorade, since I’ve never done it without getting off the bike. I had total success on the first try! I held that bottle overhead and whooped with joy! Took a swig, and then went to put it in my bottle cage when it slipped out of my hand and plummeted to the ground. I could have cried! I DROPPED THE DAMNED THING! Oh well, I still had one bottle left, and another attempt at getting liquid in 15 miles. So off I go, hoping that the long slow 5 mile uphill will translate to 5 miles of FAST EASY downhill! Not so, says the elements! Just as I turn, the wind started picking up, and that lovely downhill turned into just another slogging stretch of country road. We had a head wind from that point on for the remainder of the bike ride, so the second half was not nearly as awesome as the first, but it was still pretty amazing. The temp had risen to the mid-60s, which was LOVELY and made for the perfect day to ride. The back half was a little lonely, The people I had been leapfrogging with for most of the race either had stopped for the bathroom, or were stronger in the wind than I was and I was a little lonely Tough Cookie, all by herself. The last turn brought us back into the resort, and the streets were lined with spectators, which was really heart-warming. 56 miles, in the bag!

Into transition again, and out in a fairly respectable time, even though I had to backtrack because I had left my inhaler on the bike. And after last week? I’m not going ANYWHERE without that thing!

The run course was weird. It was a loop that went up a street, then u-turned and down the same street, then over a block and up a street to a u-turn and down the same street, and over a block and… well, you get the idea. Basically it meant that you had an opportunity to see a lot of runners while you were on the course. OH, also, it was a small loop, so we had to run it 3 times. I thought this was going to be disheartening, but is was GREAT! The run course was crazy flat, and the weather was a perfect 65-68 degrees. I ran 2 minute intervals with 1 minute walk breaks, and averaged about 11 min/mile. Again, I probably could hae been more focused, and been a little speedier, but I was having a great time. I got to see ALL of my teammates out there at some point, we high-fived, and cheered each other on, and just had fun! When I started, the REALLY FAST people were still on the course, so, I got to run with some rock stars for a bit. On the second lap, the herd thinned some, and by the third, it looked like any normal race, where you are only running with the people who are your same speed. The spectators were magnificent! There was so much energy on the sidewalks of those streets you couldn’t help but grin the whole time. There was a group at miles 5/9/13 that were just so damned supportive, I wish I had stopped to get their address so I could send them a thank you card! The last push into the finish was a sliiiiight downhill, which was all I needed to pull off one last sprint for the finish line. I have to admit, I cried. A bit. But that was honestly the most fun I have ever had in a race, and I don’t think that I stopped smiling, except maybe on that crappy road in the country.

So there you have it. First half Ironman in the bag.

Stats:

Swim: 45:37

T1: 3:06

Bike: 3:23:34 (16.5 mph)

T2: !:53

Run: 2:24:26 (11:02/M)

 

Posted April 14, 2014 by CC in Uncategorized