HITS Naples 2017 Race Report

12 01 2017

Why yes, it’s January 12th and I’ve already done my first triathlon of the 2017 season. Pretty crazy, eh? This year is shaping up to be a season chock full of racing and training, and I’m really excited about it. I’ll be doing a post soon with my schedule so you can see for yourself what I’ll be up to, but for now I’ll start you with my first race report of 2017, the HITS Naples Olympic Distance race.

It seems to me that January/February in Florida can sometimes have unpredictable weather. Some days it will be that beautiful cool weather in the morning and then warm up to a comfortable mid to high 70s. Other days, you’ll ask yourself, “Where did winter go?” as you sweat it out in 85 and 90% humidity. And sometimes, we’ll get a cold snap and temperatures will drop into the 30s-40s. Well, the weekend of the  HITS Naples race we had some less than ideal triathlon weather. On Saturday, for the Half and Full distance, though it was in the 70s, it thunderstormed off and on all day. The race still went off as planned, but the athletes dealt with wind and spurts of rain, often coming down in buckets.

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On Saturday night, temperatures dropped dramatically, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was 42 out with a real feel of 35 degrees. BRR! I had been watching the weather pretty closely, so I had made sure to stop by the Naples Cyclery on Saturday and stock up on cold weather cycling gear since I don’t really own any. This would prove to be a very, very, good decision.

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Sunday morning I had my typical breakfast of oatmeal, banana and nut butter, and then my parents and I drove to the race site around 6am. Transition for the Olympic distance athletes was open until 7:05, and we were staying about 10 minutes away, so this would gave me enough time to get there, deal with traffic, park, and get set up in transition. We did have to wait in a little bit of a line to get into the parking garage, but I think we were parked by 6:20/6:25.

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I got set up in transition, and then went back to the car for a little to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible. I put on my wetsuit and then made my way to the beach in time for the sprint start. When I got to the beach, I was shocked at how close the buoys were to the beach. And, that they had guards holding them by their lines!  The current was moving swiftly south and it was windy out. Oh, and there was a riptide warning in effect until 7pm that night. NBD. I huddled behind some stacks of beach chairs to stay out of the wind and watched the sprint start. Many of the athletes struggled to get out to the first buoy- they walked back out of the water, moved further north on the beach and then tried again. There wasn’t much swimming to get to that first buoy either. It was a few dolphin dives, and then a lot of people just walked. Once the athletes had made the first turn, there was more walking. I joked that they probably could have just floated to the other buoy faster than they were walking. This was certainly not a typical triathlon swim, and I was soon to experience it myself.

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After the sprint swimmers were done, the RD actually had the guards move the buoys a little further out, but the northern buoy was moved south of where it had been, so it was now south of the starting flag. Smart move! I stayed bundled up as long as I could, did some mobility work to get my joints and muscles a little warm, and then when it was 4 minutes from the start, I quickly disrobed, did some more warm up/mobility work and then it was go time!

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Swim:00:10:08.212

I’m not so certain I would call this a swim. It was more like a surf dash, which I used to do as a guard back in the day. But this was the longest one I’d ever done, and the air was definitely colder than the beautiful summers in Jersey. The water was much warmer than the air, so it actually felt good to get in. However, the current was not fun (and this is coming from someone who loves rough water!).

img_5576I basically dolphin dived my way out to the first buoy, and I could kinda start swimming to get around it. Then, I tried swimming parallel to the beach towards the other buoy, but it was really hard to get into a rhythm. We were right in the break, and the waves were coming in sloppy. The current was moving so fast that you were at the next buoy before you knew it.

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When I approached the south turn buoy, the lovely rising sun was directly in my eyes, but I turned and tried to catch a wave. At that point, I saw another female catching me on the left. On the way in, we were stroke for stroke. The way in was challenging because you were getting pulled hard to the south, and you really just needed to let it take you, rather than to fight it in hopes of a shorter run. It was also the deepest part of the whole swim! Finally my fingers touched and the girl and I got up and high knee-d it out.

img_5610We ran on the beach about 125 yards or so, and OMG was it COLD. My feet!! At this point, my heart rate was spiking, and I knew I needed to chill out a little for my own safety in the rough water. So, I backed off a little, let the other girl go (who, by the way, wasn’t wearing a wetsuit!!), and repeated that same loop. The second loop was much of the same. I had to fight the current to get around the first buoy, and then again, no falling into a groove at all as I went parallel to the beach. It was a matter of just making it through this water part of the triathlon and getting to the bike!

I made it out of the water in second place, and up on the beach I heard someone say I was 40 seconds behind. The competitor in me was like, “go get her!” but I was just here to have fun, so I tried not to worry about it!

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T1:00:04:22.384. Yes, I spent nearly 4 and a half minutes in transition during an Olympic distance race.

img_5637OMG slowest transition ever. But, I totally expected it. I was going to take my sweet time to make sure I was going to be warm for the bike. And, man was it worth it! HITS provides these nice stools to sit on, and in a normal Olympic I would NEVER sit on it. But today was not a normal Olympic. I sat on it, with my wetsuit half off and my towel wrapped around me and I dried off as much as I could. My toes and fingers were SO cold. I had more trouble than usual getting the wetsuit off my legs, and I’ve never had toes that numb before. I seriously was wondering if this is what it felt like to have dead toes. I took my time putting on my base layer, arm warmers, jersey, knee warmers, gloves, socks and shoes. I did not want to be miserable on the bike!

 

Bike: 01:09:16.716

img_5639I started the bike and I wasn’t sure if I was actually warm or if I was just numb. But, I realized that hey, I was actually warm! All the layers, the new knee warmers and the toe covers were doing their job and it was amazing. I’m pretty sure this was the first time ever I was happy to be out of the water and on the bike. I smiled and told myself just to have fun and think about my RPE. Be strong and don’t over do it!

The course was an out and back: we pretty much went due east for 12 miles and then came back. I think the wind was blowing 15-20 mph from the north, which meant that most of the course would have cross winds. There was a short section of the course where we rode on a North/South street so we got the benefit of a tailwind on the way out and a direct headwind on the way back, but the rest of the ride was all cross wind. For the most part, the roads were lined with trees and/or developments which blocked a little bit of the wind, but when we crossed the north/south streets, you really felt it blow. There were several times where I definitely felt my wheel get blown a little by the wind. I was thankful I wasn’t using 808s! I tried to stay around what I perceived to be Z3/4. I was passing people and it was great! The best part of the ride was certainly the short part where we went south. Hello 25mph without really working hard! Unfortunately, it was short lived. I passed several woman on the bike, and I was a little surprised by how many had made it in front of me during transition. I was really, really slow! In the last 5 miles, I passed two women who were looking pretty strong. The three of us traded places a few times, and I tried really hard to stay legal. In the last mile or so, I told myself I was NOT going to let these girls beat me, so I pedaled in HARD to leave them behind. Right before dismount, there was a bit of traffic, and some oblivious drivers. I had to slow way down and sneak past them. It was a little scary, but I still was able to get into transition in front of the two women. I think this put me back in second place.

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T2: 00:01:08.233

I quickly took off my helmet and shoes, and put on my run gear. This was a much faster transition than T1. I saw one woman get out of transition in front of me. I wasn’t sure if it was one of the two ladies I had just passed on the bike or if she had been in there before. Regardless, I was in and out pretty quickly, and I was ready to have a solid run!

Run: 00:53:19.069

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It was a beautiful day for a run, and my plan was to run strong for the first four miles and then really pick it up on the last two. I left transition in 2nd place, and settled in to a comfortably pace pretty quickly. My biggest problem was that my feet were still numb. Every step hurt, but not in an omg I need to stop kinda way- it was like my feet were asleep, but beyond that tingling feeling. I was worried that if I actually did run on a nail or anything crazy like that, I wouldn’t have known! Eventually, my toes moved into that tingling feeling and then I could finally feel them about halfway through the run.

img_5660The run course was an out and back which we did twice. About a mile and a quarter in, you made a right turn, went over a small bridge and then hit the turnaround. Then, of course, you went back over the bridge, made a left onto the straight portion until you turned around and did it again. Out and backs are both good and bad because you can see your competition all along the way! I wasn’t in 2nd for long; the girl who eventually won passed me less than half a mile in. She was speedy! I was running comfortably, focusing on my form and just enjoying this part of the day. I was pleased when the first mile beeped at 8:40- not bad for the effort I felt I was putting out.

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img_5666The rest of the run I tried to stay laser focused on execution. Yes, I was paying attention a little to the girls behind me as I made the turnaround, noticing that they were gaining ground, but I really felt like I was being in the moment during this run. Mile 2 ticked off at 8:40 also. Solid. I picked it up a little too much on mile 3, perhaps because I was close to the small crowd at the finish line, so I slowed a smidge. At around mile 5, at the right turn to go over the little bridge before the turn around, two girls wearing Iowa State kits passed me. “College kids”, I thought to myself. They were moving, and I wasn’t going to try to stay with them. I made my last turn around and was headed over the little bridge, when I noticed two girls behind me, maybe a quarter mile or so, one of which looked like she was running strong, and making up ground. I told myself that now was the time to dig deep and let it all out of the tank. So, I picked it up a notch. My watch had just beeped for 6 miles, when a group of girls yelled “Go Tiffany!” OMG the girl behind me had caught up. Go Steph, Go. Just then, she passed me, and the competitor in me said “Oh no she didn’t!” and then I passed her back. At this point in the course there was a quick left, right, left before the finish chute-  I really pushed hard here. But, whoa, that effort was not sustainable, so I backed off a smidge and she passed me again. We were just about in the chute, and hearing the crowd energized me to give it all I had for the last 50 yards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and I ended up .4 behind her. img_5672h_img_2948

img_5672j_img_2950img_5672n_img_2954Gah! Despite being out run, I am still quite pleased with my result. It was a solid was to kick of these season, especially considering I hadn’t done any specific training for this race. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

Big shout out to my mom and dad for being out there all morning to cheer me on and take photos! Thanks!

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2016 Highlights

31 12 2016

So, I know I haven’t finished my Australia/New Zealand recap, but I’m getting caught up in  all the end of the year hubbub and thought it might be fun to look back on some highlights from my year- some things that I have blogged about and others that I haven’t.

Here we go, starting with January:

 

Perhaps this isn’t quite a “highlight,” but it was definitely something significant for Steph the triathlete. While out on a long run in preparation for the Best Damn Race half marathon only a few weeks away, I sprained my ankle. Oof. 2016 was off to a great start…

A few days after the sprain, it was my birthday, and it was quite possibly one of my favorite birthdays ever. 33 is nothing special in itself, but Bill and our friend Domenique made sure I would never forget this one. We got dressed up and went to Ciro’s speakeasy for some fun drinks before hitting up Edison for a delicious meal. The best part of the evening was my gift, which was so incredibly thoughtful. Bill had collected notes from my friends, which highlighted what they appreciated about me, and put them in a jar for me to read. We read each and every one of them, and my heart overflowed with joy. I still read them every so often- its a great way to cheer up when you’re feeling a little down!

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February:

Bill and I got to spend Valentine’s Day together. Sure, he was performing, but it was a fun excuse to get dressed up:-)

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I took the plunge and got myself a power meter. I’m still learning more about how I should best use it, but it has definitely given me some interesting data to look at and analyze so I can keep improving!

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And finally, I started classes for my Certificate in Project Management at the UW. It was fun to be a student again and to learn something that was totally applicable to the work I do!

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March:

In March I had the pleasure of attending my first ever triathlon training camp with TriMarni. I had an absolute blast spending three days doing some of my favorite things: swimming, biking, running, EATING, and learning about how to be a better triathlete. On top of all that, I got to meet my amazing coaches and teammates in person for the first time. It was awesome. img_2889lgls1679

I also did my first tri of the season, on the last day of camp. I went out with ZERO expectations because hello tired, and I had a blast! It’s amazing how different a race can be if you just let go of all expectations and your only goal is to enjoy your day.

 

April:

 

Since I didn’t get a chance to run the Best Damn Race, I was looking for a redemption race, and I found it in the IronGirl Clearwater half marathon. I was still getting my fitness back from the sprain but was definitely well enough to race. So glad I did because I PRed! (caveat: I haven’t done that distance stand alone in a very long time!)

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I also did the St. Anthony’s Triathlon for the first time as an individual athlete. In 2015, I did it as a relay, but this year, it was all me. It was a hot day, but I PRed the Olympic distance and ended up with a 5th place AG award. Oh, and I met Rinny!

 

May:

The highlight of May would most certainly be our hiking trip! We spent several days on the AT, saw some beautiful scenery, and met some pretty fantastic people. We spent our last night at the Top of Georgia Hostel, hanging with our new friends, learning from Sir Packs a Lot about the top tips for a successful through hike, and relaxing after some long days of walking. It was awesome. Unfortunately, the fall of 2016 wouldn’t be so good to TOG- the surrounding area was overtaken by fire, causing parts of the trail to be shut down, and thus, the steady stream of hikers that TOG relies on to survive all but came to a halt. They’re currently doing some fundraising to help get back on track, so if you feel so inclined, please donate here.

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June:

June was pretty busy for me, work-wise. I had two trips to Madison, and one of them was a longer-than usual trip so I could finish up my last course for my Project Management certificate. I “graduated” from the program this month, and can now put MCPM behind my name if I so choose!

One of the reasons the Madison trip was so long was because the two weeks I needed to be there were back to back, so I stayed for the weekend. It just so happened that there was a 70.3 that weekend, so of course I raced! Oh, and the Madison farmers market which is Ah-Mazing. It was really fun to race with my SOAS teammate Kathy! (I’m coming back for this race in 2017, and it will be an IM branded race then!)

I had one other race in June, a sprint tri, the 2nd in the Crystal River Sprint series. I won my age group!img_4715

July:

In July, we celebrated the 4th with our friend Domenique, who recently bought a home in Tampa. We helped remove tile from the inlay suite and then stuffed our bellies with delicious food.

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August:

In August, my friend Domenique got some chickens, and I learned that I think chickens are pretty cool. I’m adopted mama #2 for these babes, and I had so much fun watching them grow in 2016!

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I also hunkered down and got in my last push of training before my A race in September. Hard training meant I needed some good recovery, and I tried a float tank for the first time. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I also wouldn’t say I hated it. It was a different experience, and I think it’s one of those things where you need to do it a few times before fully “getting it”.

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September:

The triathlon I had been working towards all year was in September: Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City. It was a great excuse to get home to Jersey at one of the best times of year there. I didn’t have the race I wanted, but I still had fun!

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October/November:

Australia and New Zealand. ‘Nuf said.

New Zealand pics: (hopefully I’ll find some time to write up these posts!!)

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I spent Thanksgiving with some friends and then had a 2nd thanksgiving with another friend on Black Friday, and then had a 3rd Thanksgiving when Bill got home in early December. I love thanksgiving!

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I also started training with TriMarni as a one on one coached athletes. I felt the excitement of seeing my workouts loaded into Training Peaks for the first time (#triathletenerd).

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December:

In December, we celebrated Bill’s birthday with a surprise party. I’m so glad I was actually able to pull it off!

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I also was able to spend Christmas with my cousin and her family. It was so fun to experience a Christmas with children (6, 2.5, and 4 months old); seeing Christmas through their eyes really helps bring back the magic and joy that we can sometimes lose sight of as adults.

 

Thanks for the memories 2016. I wonder what 2017 will bring!

 





Three Sisters and Back to Bondi

2 12 2016

I awoke to the sound of the car starting. It was still pitch black out, but I knew immediately that Bill had gone to the car to warm up. His sleeping bag is actually a camping quilt, overstuffed so that it is 40 degree bag. Despite all his layers, he was definitely not comfortable in this temperature.

I most certainly was not going to get out of my warm sleeping bag, so I closed my eyes and kinda fell back asleep. Soon, the sun arose and I joined Bill in the car.

“So, what’s the plan?”

I could tell Bill hadn’t gotten much sleep (I mean, look at how small the car is! He’s 6’4″!) so we opted to start heading back to Sydney. But first, we needed to stop at the Three Sisters again, and actually hike over to get up close and personal with the girls:-0

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On the way back to Three Sisters, we were able to check off another thing from our “must do/see” in Australia list: we saw wild kangaroos! Just like deer in the states, a few shot out in front of the car, and we had to quickly break. I was only able to get a shot of this guy, who was still hanging out in someone’s farm, separated from his friends.

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We got back up to the visitors center and boy, was it windy! We followed the trail, went down some steep steps and crossed wooden walkway that was just a bit sketchy. Don’t. Look. Down. I told myself!

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We grabbed some photos, watched the crazy cockatoos (which are wild there, and are obnoxiously loud!) before heading back up. Some other walkers stopped to chat with us and told us we should check out the falls that was just up the road a bit. It was still pretty early, so I convinced Bill to stop. Well, not after stopping at this super cute coffee shop where I had the most amazing fruit cake ever.

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Absolutely NOTHING like the boxed sticky stuff you get. This was clearly homemade and outstanding!

We didn’t spend a ton of time at the falls; we actually saw them from a distance but didn’t want to walk all the way over and down to the bottom. It was chilly and we were both ready for a nap.

On the way home, we found a safe spot to stop and pulled over to take a 30 minute nap. Much needed!

We still had plenty of time before we needed to return the car, so I asked Bill if we could go back to Bondi and do the Coogee walk to see the sculptures. He agreed and navigated us back to that special place:-)

Today however, was a completely different day than Tuesday. It was much, much cooler, cloudy, and rainy. The surf was much calmer and the beach was empty.

We waited out the rain at a noodle shop and though it was quite good, it wasn’t quite as tasty as roach soup place. With full bellies and drier weather, we headed to Sculptures by the Sea. On the way, we passed the Iceberg club, which to my dismay was closed. Apparently every Thursday the pool is closed for cleaning. Argh! I guess that just means I need to go back!

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The art walk was really rad- so many beautiful and interesting sculptures. Here’s a few of my favorites!

 

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After we had seen all the sculptures, we headed back to the main drag to a brewery that had caught our eye on Tuesday. We grabbed a beer sampler at the Bavarian Bier Garden and played some foozeball. I am absolutely terrible and Bill whooped my butt every game. Tired and over foozeball, we headed back to Sydney since it was certainly not a beach day.

We returned the car and walked in the rain to our AirBnB, a loft studio in King’s Cross. King’s Cross is definitely more of an interesting neighborhood than Circular Quay: eclectic, artsy, and just the right amount of seedy.

The rainy weather did not make it an appealing night to be out and about, so we grabbed some take out Mexican, bought a bottle of wine, and had a relaxing night in.