Trinona Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report

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I haven't done an Olympic distance triathlon since 2009. I did  a couple of halfs in 2010, but I was pregnant then postpartum in 2011 and definitely in survival mode last year, where I got to try a few sprint races. The last 6 months or so have been the first time where I feel like things are finally settling into our new normal as parents. This probably coincides with Henry finally consistently sleeping through the night - I have time to get in a workout after he's in bed, and sometimes while he's awake if Steve is feeling generous. My speed (if you can call it that, but on my spectrum it's speed), is coming back, and my body almost feels back to normal. When Steve and I got the chance to head down to Winona for Steve to do the bike time trial the night before and for me to do their Olympic tri, we jumped on it. Conveniently, Grandma Connie was itching to take Henry for a few days. This was going to be a vacation.

The race was June 9 - one week after the Minneapolis Marathon. I knew that it was a little crazy to do these two races so close together, but I have felt pretty strong in training this spring and figured my goal would be to be able to bike on tired legs. After a full spring of marathon training, a 10K is doable, even though I knew I'd be tired. I followed the FIRST marathon training program for Minneapolis almost to a T. I love that program. It focuses on quality over quantity and covers a long run, a tempo run, and intervals over 3 days of running each week. The rest of the week is cross training, which I have mostly spent biking. I've been trying to get 1-2 rides on my trainer in at night when Henry's in bed and at least one long ride outside each week, usually on the weekends. Alas, swimming has taken its usual back seat in training, and I've only been getting to the pool once or twice a month. I know I need to be swimming more, but it's tougher to squeeze in with the rest of life, and the benefit tends to be only a minute or two off of my time.

Steve and I headed down to the race late Saturday Morning. We had sent Henry home with Grandma on Thursday, and the ability to pack uninterrupted and with confidence that I wasn't missing a half dozen things was fabulous. We checked in to our hotel and headed straight to the race expo where we spotted tons of local race buddies. It was fun to catch up with them all! Oh, and we also met up with Amblyn, my sister's partner in crime when she was volunteering in KY for 2 years. The swim temps were expected to be pretty chilly, and I had an extra wetsuit to lend her. We gave her a few pointers for rocking her first tri, and she did. Way to go, Amblyn!

The Trinona TT bike race offers a brief warm up then a ride straight up Garvin Heights, a hill that's over a mile long with 10% average grade. We would be racing up that hill during the oly the next day. Steve was signed up to do the TT, and it made me feel both better and worse to be able to drive up and down the hill a few times to cheer him and the other bikers on. Some folks only did the TT, but many of the racers were signed up for the triathlon the next day, too! It's only 3 miles long, so I can imagine it wouldn't take too much out of your race legs. I would totally consider doing both, though I admittedly stink at hills. It was fun to spectate, and the food (beer, wine, pizza, fruit) and swag at the finish line were top notch. I think Steve had fun, and we joked that by the time we got back to the hotel, it was past Henry's bedtime.

Our hotel (The Plaza) was really close to the race start, so we were at the start in no time. Fitting in with the rest of our spring/summer, it was cold (around 55 degrees) and raining. We found Amblyn right away in transition. She was ready to conquer her first triathlon!

Amblyn's first triathlon!

Transition was filling up quick, and our rack was really full, but I didn't realize until just before transition closed that I had racked in the wrong spot. There wasn't enough time to move my stuff. Sorry ladies for crowding you out! Transition closed at 7, but my wave didn't start until 8:42, so there was a lot of time standing around in my wetsuit trying to stay warm. It helped that we got to catch up with a few more tri buddies in the process! I was in wave 16 of 17, and eventally it was go time!

Heading into the water!

The Swim: I was a little worried about the water temp. It was in the low 60s and my first OWS of the year, but after standing around in 50 degree air temps and rain, the water felt great. My swim wasn't fast, but I sighted pretty well. I was out of the water in 35:12.

Out of the water. Why do I always forget
to Bodyglide my underarms? Holy chafing!

Trying to squeeze into my bike jersey while wet

T1: I was wet and my fingers were cold. I couldn't get my shoes or long sleeves on. It was so frustrating. In retrospect, I probably would have been fine with just arm warmers. I didn't know if I'd be warm enough wet in sub 60 degree weather on the bike. Total time: 3:02

Just out of T1

The Bike: I had worried about "the hill" all week. I have been out on plenty of rides and crammed all of the hills I could find in St. Paul into most of them. I had to remind myself that I survived the hills in Chattanooga just fine and that the rest of the course was mostly just rollers. Still, that epic hill that the race is known for brings a lot of people to their knees. Thankfully, it's around 10 miles in - plenty of time to warm up and plenty of time to regroup. Also thankfully, it had stopped raining, making the climb and subsequent decent less scary. I was holding a good average until the start of the hill, but that quickly went down the drain. I am happy to say that if it weren't for my lower back, I could have done the whole thing seated. My legs felt fine, but I had to stand every once in a while to take the pressure off of my lower back. It felt like it was going to snap! I made it up the hill in 10:47 (they check your chip time at the beginning and top of the hills). Thankfully, we had a tail wind once we got to the top. There was a nasty cross wind up there at times, too, but for the most part, we were spared the head wind that they had last year. I rode my brakes all the way down the big descent. I heard that many of the pros get upwards of 55 MPH down that thing, but I couldn't handle much more than 30 or 35 MPH. I was jockeying back and forth with several guys on the bike, but I saw so few women out there. I came into T2 in 1:31:25 - a 16.3 MPH average. I know I can get that number up, but this really isn't the course to do it.

Finishing up a hilly ride

T2: I stripped off my sleeves, loaded up with Gu, and was back out in 1:53.

Starting the 10K

The Run: This was going to be the real test to see how well my legs had recovered from the marathon the week before. I knew the endurance training I did for the marathon would prepare me to run on tired legs, but I didn't know how tired my legs would be from the hilly ride and the previous weekend's race. Unlike the bike, the run was pancake flat and followed the lake. When I hit the first mile at around 8:20 feeling pushed but OK, I started betting that I'd be good to go. Mile 2 came in 8:00. I laughed to myself thinking that my running partner Laura would be amused and disgusted by all of my "Miss Congeniality" comments. The run was an out and back, so I spent the whole thing cheering on the other runners - Nice legs! Great pace! Looking good! Way to go! Finish strong! I'm sure anyone around me was thoroughly annoyed, but I just do so much better when I can take some of the focus off of me in a race and get outside of my own head. That's not to say that I'm not paying attention to the way I feel, my pace, my form, etc. I'm regularly checking on those things, but if I just tell my legs to GO and get my head out of the way, I do so much better physically and mentally. I hit my watch late after the 3 mile turn around spot, and it came up as an 8:37. I was picking tons of people off and was gaining confidence that I could hold pace. Mile 4 then came in 7:44, and it took me a good 3 minutes to figure out what the average would have been for those 2 miles. Pharmacists don't do mental math. Mile 5 may have been a bit short, but I hit it in 7:37. My internal drill Sargent was in full force by then, and I was really trying to push it those last 2 miles. Run till you puke was our motto in cross country in high school, and it kept going through my head. I hit mile 6 in 8:07. I was really kicking for the last section, or so I thought. When I passed a very motivating volunteer shouting, "KICK IT IN! THIS IS WHAT YOU TRAINED FOR! YOU'VE GOT THIS! FIND ANOTHER GEAR," I did manage to find one last gear and really started pushing. There were 2 guys in front of me, and the one on the left obviously did not want to get out kicked by a girl. He found another gear, too, and kept checking over his shoulder. I'm glad I could push you, buddy! I hit the last 0.2 miles in 1:55, so either the run was closer to 6.3 or the other mile markers were off because if anything, that pace was significantly faster than the rest of my race. Run time was 50:33 for an overall time of 3:02:03 - my 2nd fastest Oly.

Booking to the finish! 

My finish medal, my trusty QR CD.01, and a smile

 Final thoughts:

1. This race pulls in most of the elite locals, and for good reason. The bike is epic, the race is well-organized, the swim is in a good-sized lake (warms up easily for early June), and the run is flat and shaded. There were a TON of people doing the sprint (which doesn't include the huge climb). I would definitely say the sprint is beginner friendly. Also, between the bike TT, the kids tri, and the sprint and Olympic distance races, it can be a family friendly weekend event.

2. The finishing medals have a typo and say "battle for the buff." Awesome

3. My Oly PR is 2:56:04, and while I'm not sure that I can hit that this summer with my current training, I'd love to go sub-3.

4. My 10K was a PR for me both in stand alone races and triathlons.

5. I've got the racing bug. My next official race on the books isn't till Twin Cities Marathon, but there will be more before that. I can't not race.

I Owe You a Lot of Race Reports

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So, we certainly have some catching up to do. Last time I checked in, I had done a number on my ankle and was calling it quits for a while to let that bugger recover. Well, suffice it to say that the ankle has mostly recovered (though it still hurts a bit kicking in the pool now over 6 months later). Also suffice it to say that working full time, chasing around a toddler, and marathon training have not meant lots of extra time to sit down and blog, though 6 months in between posts is obnoxious. We're stuck in the house right now since Henry has contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease just in time for us to miss our vacation, and I thought blogging may help to ease my feelings of going stir crazy.

I ended up running on my ankle once or twice before doing the Fast Before the Feast 10K on Thanksgiving Day. I've done 5Ks on Thanksgiving in the past - The Turkey Trot sponsored by Lifetime and the Giving Thanks 5K sponsored by Charities Challenge. Though I really like to be able to get out and celebrate my health with my family, I don't love 5Ks, especially crowded ones (I don't think I'll do the Turkey Trot with 7000 of my closest friends again soon). On Thanksgiving, I want to earn my turkey, so when the opportunity came up for Steve and me to run the Fast Before the Feast 10K, we jumped on it. The distance was great - far enough to feel like we got in a good workout, short enough to make it to Aunt Lisa's house for lunch, and a perfect distance to push myself and suffer a little bit. Plus they were collecting donations for the food shelf and managed to amass over 6 TONS of food! Having only run once since the ankle sprain, I had no idea where my pace would be, especially since I'd never run a non-pregnant 10K. I settled into a comfortably fast pace, though, and managed to average 8:15s for the race for a total time of 51:14. This was good enough for 6/25 women and 34/178 overall. Of course I made a friend out there. Steve and I always joke that I can't do a race without making a friend, and this time it was Rachel who just happens to read Steve's blog. Thanks for the push, Rachel! If you ever get a chance to do a race put on by Tri Fitness WBL, do it. Jason puts on fun, well-organized events.

I really took it easy in November and December, but by January, I had decided that it was time to sign up for the Minneapolis Marathon. I had been eyeing it for the past few years, but it had never worked out with my work schedule. this year it didn't fall on my weekend to work, so I signed up! After running Grandma's a few years ago, I swore off spring marathons, but I decided to give this one a try. It wouldn't involve a ton of travel, I now know that they plow River Road trails after snowstorms, and I somehow managed to convince my coworker Laura to sign up, too (she ran Twin Cities with me last fall).

April brought with it our annual Evotri training camp, and as was expected, it was hilarious, exhausting, humbling, and confidence building. The hills down in Chattanooga are nothing like I can find around here The folks at Quintana Roo and Hub Endurance were so welcoming, and just like last year, our personal chauffeur on the bike could have kicked our butts but instead hung back to chat with us, push us up their versions of rollers (they were big hills by my standards), and teach us about their local race scene. I was SPENT by the end of it, but my endurance was so much better than last year (credit the marathon training?) that I was still up for a run after our long ride.

In May, I kicked off multisport season with the Cinco Du Mayo Duathlon. My rides in Tennessee had given me confidence that I would be fine on the long course, so that's what I signed up for (plus then I could just replace my 15 mile long run for the week with the race).  The long course was a 5K, a 20 mile ride, and another 5K run. This spring has been and continues to be miserable for us weather-wise, and May 4th was no exception. It was cold and raining hard on our drive out to Stillwater, but miraculously, it stopped just before the race start. The temp was around 35 degrees at the start - perfect running weather for me but a little chilly on the bike. I knew my transitions wouldn't be stellar. For the first run, I took out at a maintainable fast pace for me and was surprised to look down and see that I was running just over 8 min miles for the first 10K. This time, I made a friend in Coleen on the first run. By the time she and I hit T1, we were really pushing each other and running stride for stride. Total time for the first run was  24:25. T1 took me forever, mostly because I had to take off my socks (I bike sockless), add an extra shirt, gloves, and pants over my bike shorts. Plus, everything was hard to get into because it was all wet! The bike course out there was HILLY, and for some reason, my top 4 gears decided not to show up. Biking without my granny gear on hills does not make me happy or fast. My bike was making all sorts of scary noises, and I said a prayer each time I shifted. I finished the 20 mile bike in 1:10:15. I joked that I had more wardrobe changes in this race than an Oscar host, but I'm a hot bodied runner and never would have survived my second 5K in all of those clothes. I easily lost 2 places in my long transitions - T2 was 2:00. Colleen and I had leap frogged throughout the bike, but because of my long T2, I was chasing her down on the run. She had a bit more left in her tank, though. I finished the second run in 24:58 which gave me a 2:04:13 overall - 6th out of 38 women. We were so lucky.The rain held off during the race, and Henry had fun at my sister Steph's house with Jon and his cousin Evie. This event was also put on by Tri Fitness WBL. Many of the volunteers wore sombreros, and they served tacos at the finish line. It was a blast!

A month later, on June 2, Laura and I headed to the start of the Minneapolis Marathon together. We parked in downtown and took the shuttle from The Depot to the start in Theo Wirth Park. Given Team Ortho's somewhat rocky history of busing people, we got there with plenty of time to spare, and I think we avoided the rush. Unfortunately, that meant that we were SUPER early to the start line - about an hour.  I had feared that the fact that I'd been training in unseasonably cold weather all spring meant that race day would be 85 degrees as it has been in years past. Fortunately for us, the day aligned with the rest of our spring and was a bit on the cool side - around 50 degrees at the start with temps eventually warming into the high 60s. This meant some chattering teeth while waiting around at the start line (I didn't bring a drop bag, and our house was out of my favorite pre-race trick - big black garbage bags). They lined the marathoners and half marathoners up together, and at 6:30, the start horn sounded. I figured we'd run right around 10 minute miles as that's what we'd been doing in training, but we actually started out a little faster than that. Not "oh crap, we're toast because we're not pacing ourselves properly" fast, just "our legs are fresh and it's great weather" fast. Laura and I talked with each other and with the other runners throughout the course. It really was beautiful. It started in Theo Wirth, headed north and east, and then pulled us in over the Stone Arch Bridge, past the Mill City Ruins, and down along the river. I did get a little sick of hearing, "You're almost there!" at around mile 12. We had realized by then that most of the runners (around 2500 of them) were doing the half, and only around 700 brave souls were doing the full marathon.

After we passed the turnoff where the half marathoners finished the last 1-2 blocks, River Road became pretty sparse. I am so used to the number of runners and spectators at Twin Cities Marathon that I'm just plain spoiled. If I hadn't brought a friend to run with, there's a good chance I would have been lonely out there. We did manage to make a third friend - Kate was from Omaha and had come up to do her first marathon. Congrats, Kate! The last 13 miles were an out and back, which I actually liked. I enjoyed seeing the other runners who were headed into their finishes and being able to cheer them on as we met them.

We continued along River Road, through Minnehaha Park, and nearly to Fort Snelling before turning around. The fact that Laura and I have mostly been running on River Road and the scarcity of spectators left us both wondering if we were on just another training run where we were running on the road instead of the trails! A definite positive was that Steve and Henry, who came down to cheer near the Lake Street Bridge, got to see us twice - at around mile 15 and mile 23.5, and I didn't have to worry when Henry screamed, "Mama!!!" and came running to hug me on the course. There weren't enough people for him to get in the way. That big hug left a smile on my face for miles. We finished together in 4:24:48, a time that included 2 bathroom stops, for an average of 10:07. I need to look them all up and write them down, but I think that's a very average marathon for me. Laura would comment later that she was voting me Miss Congeniality of the marathon because I was always thanking or encouraging someone out there, but that's the way I've learned to get out of my own head and ignore the pain.

Some final thoughts on this marathon:

1. This was number 15 for me! I'm heading into territory I never thought I'd be in when I was training for my first marathon.

2. Overall, this was a well-organized fun race. Packet pickup Saturday could have been smoother, but in general, the info was timely, the bus option to the start worked really well, they had Cliff Shots on the course, water stops were appropriately stocked, and the volunteers were knowledgeable. The one beef I had is that sometimes they'd put the water first at the aid stations and sometimes they'd put the electrolyte drink first. It should have been consistent. Or I should have been paying better attention...

3. This was a really pretty course. We had beautiful weather (including a great breeze), lots of options for shade while running, and the start was early enough to account for rising temps. We didn't pass The Lakes, but we did get to see several of the highlights of Minneapolis.

4. Would I recommend this race? Absolutely. Would I recommend it as someone's first marathon? I'm not sure. It would definitely be easier for a cheering section to show up on multiple places on the course, and it would be easier for said cheering section to spot their runner out there, but it didn't have the hype or magic of Twin Cities Marathon. There were no huge block parties, bands, and big speaker setups, but this race is only in its 5th year. You can't really compare 700 runners to 11,000 runners on a course. Minneapolis was still fun. It was just smaller and more low-key. I would recommend bringing or finding a friend out there to run with. I would definitely do this one over Grandma's again. There's just something nice about being able to sleep in your own bed the night before a race, parking in your parking spot for work, and knowing the course really well. The course was prettier and better shaded. I ran Grandma's on a hot year, and it felt like hot asphalt and no shade for 23 miles. There's a HUGE party at the finish at Grandma's, and it's on a Saturday night, but by the time I had finished that year, I was just ready for a nap. They did offer free beer at the end for finishers.

5. This is very girly of me, but the finisher shirts for Minneapolis were AWESOME - super cute, fit well, and very comfortable. The pictures didn't do them justice. I've been wearing mine every time it's clean, and sometimes when it isn't.

6. I am still loving the FIRST marathon training program. It has fit so well into my tri training, and I'll have more to say about that with my next race report - Trinona. I promise it won't take me 6 months. :)