Race Report: USAT Nationals

USAT Nationals was my A race this year, the big kahuna. Going into it, I knew not to have a time goal since it was quite a hilly course. Time goals aren’t really something to shoot for in this sport anyhow as terrain, currents, waves, wind and weather vary, distances are often a little askew, high temps can wreak havoc, transition lengths differ, a larger number of participants can slow you down (you get stuck behind or frequently have to weave around them), etc. Anyway, my main goal was to qualify for the World Championships which will be held in New Zealand next October. A side goal was to place top 5 in my Age Group as I placed 8th last year…I accomplished one and I am happy about that, especially with the competition being SO incredibly fierce this year across the board! And Burlington, Vermont was quite the venue for this fantastic event! The area was simply beautiful, the volunteers were incredible, and the food was wonderful too! Fortunately I was able to share it all with Scott, Dick, Kathy, and 4 of my clients pictured above; Bruce Noxon, Mark & Kim Morgan, and Stephen Ban. I really enjoyed spending some quality time with them and getting to know them a little better. How lucky am I to have such wonderful people and athletes in my life?!?

Race morning was awesome as our hotel was just a few minutes walking distance from the transition area. Plus we didn’t have to be out of it until 7am, late compared to most races so I was able to stay in la la land until 6:15am!!! Upon arriving at the venue, I soon saw Mark and he looked like a ghost! The poor guy had a blown tire so you can imagine where his head was. Fortunately, super sherpa Scott had an extra wheel in our car so he saved the day. As Mark’s coach, I felt badly though as I wanted to stay with him and calm his nerves while waiting this out, but I had to stick to my routine and get a warm-up in. Luckily it all worked out. Whew! It didn’t work out so well on the swim though. My stroke and speed were fine, but my navigation skills, well, not so much. This is really nothing new for me, I certainly lack in this technique, yet it always surprises me when I go off course. From the sidelines and start, the buoys always seem to be of such magnitude. It’s totally different in the water as they usually just look like other swim caps. For 2/3 of the mile, I was good, right on course, then we had to take a big turn right into the sun. Immediately I went from seeing several caps around me to just a few splashes about 15 yards away. Where did everyone go? I always oversight (look up very frequently) so how could this be? I looked everywhere and could not locate the next buoy, just the golden sun so I stopped. Did it help? Nope! I just put my head down and went in the direction of the few splashes I could see. Some may think this smart, but no, I just ended up going way left. Of course now that I am off course I can see the next buoy! In the scheme of things, I probably didn’t lose more than 40-60 seconds, but that can cost you, especially at Nationals! Oy, this scenario can really mess with your head, but I would not allow it. I got back on course and came out of the water 2nd…again. (There is a second place curse on me as that’s position I’ve come out my previous 3 times at Nationals as well as the last 2 times at Worlds and was beat by different people every time! So weird)! At least this time I was beat by a mere 7 seconds and by a former Olympian, Susan Williams, who placed 2nd at the 2000 Olympics in triathlon.

Screaming, that’s about all my legs did the remainder of the race.

Riding several rolling and some steep hills will do that to you. I didn’t ride too hard per se, but regardless at what intensity you ride hills, it’s going to hurt. This type of course makes it really difficult to get into a groove and attempt to pace. You just do your best to ride well, but not well enough to trash your legs for the run. And this one started with a pretty steep 1/4 mile hill. Ouch! Going into the race, I had it in my head that I would chill on the hill and then get into a groove soon after. Well, that didn’t happen. I just did my best to keep moving as I was in a bit of pain. Not wearing a watch, I had no clue what pace I was going, but I would have bet my life that I was holding at least 9 min miles or slower. By mile 4, I was going to retire after this race. My legs were in knots, my stomach was a mess, and I was just praying for the finish line to hurry the heck up and show itself. Finally….it did. I tried to pick it up a notch with all the spectators at the end, but I had NOTHING left. I crossed the line, immediately found a trash can, and released some bile! Ew! Ok, now that was a first! And at least I felt a little better. 😉 The result? 10th in my AG with a spot to Worlds! As badly as my run felt, I was no where near the 9min miles I’d suspected. I did 7:20 somethings, so not bad for me at all! This is why I always tell people not to gauge their races/paces strictly by how they feel. (I’ve had one of my worst run times feeling great on a flat course too). And although my 10k time wasn’t super for me, it was pretty good for this course, as was the rest of my race.

My fastest part? The transitions! They rocked! 😉

Even better, my clients laid it on the line too! I am so proud of them and their great races!!! I have to say though, the best part of the weekend was this: What a way to end it! And, the cold water really helped with our recovery…or was that the beer? 😉 A GIGANTIC shout out to Sandy who watched the girls the entire weekend…and they were really sick! 😦 A big thank you to Dick and Kathy for making the jaunt to cheer me on! It’s much appreciated!!! Love you! Scott, you are simply the best sherpa ever! You not only coached and supported me, but you took great care of my friends/athletes! Thank you so much!!!

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On the Flip Side

Too much negativity in the last blog, so here are the good parts from the latter part of July. Oh, but first allow me to wish my parents a very 51st Happy Anniversary!!! Love you!

1) My parents stayed with us for a week, loved it!

2) Sarah and Courtney saw their first flick in a theater, Winnie the Pooh. It was rather boring though, even the girls asked to leave in the middle. 😦

3) Sarah and Court turned 4 on the 20th! Lots of great gifts: personalized luggage, shades, cute briefs, jewelry making kit, clothes, blocks, personalized shirts, fun guitars, bikes, money, oodles of cards, and more! Thanks everyone!

4) A fun trip to Great America with Augsburgers and Sandy! Court LOVED the roller coasters too!

5) I placed 2nd overall in back-to-back races a couple weeks ago.

6) Lots of swim lessons and pool time for S&C.

7) Still working on the good news we hope to announce within a couple months! 😉 All for now!

When it Rains, it Pours

July, it was not our best month:

1) So, as noted in my last blog, we had a couple rough weeks between a tornado and another big storm which knocked out our power for 4+ days.

2) And after another week, we had 8+ inches of rain in less than 2 hours. Floods galore, such much so that our street flooded, enough to deem my car totalled. 😦 AND, it caused a sewage back-up in our basement, about 7-8 inches. Fortunately, I wasn’t feeling great that night so I opted to crash on the couch in the basement. Within 10 minutes, I heard the toilet begin to gurgle. For 30+ minutes, that’s all I heard, but I kept checking. After the 4th bathroom inspection, the tub was half full of sewage and the john began to overflow. SCOTT! I woke him up and we started moving as much as we could upstairs. My parents were here too, so my dad pitched in as well. Thanks dad! So, thanks to my illness, we were able to salvage a lot.

3) Poor girls, their birthday party was slated for the next day…we had to cancel as we had rented a bouncy (not good in a flooded yard) and the house was a mess! They are troopers as they didn’t seem to be down about it, especially after we told them we could celebrate at Sandy’s the next days with my p’s and the Augsburgers. Fortunately, we are all safe and sound!

Catching Up…

It seems impossible to do these days. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get enough done; from house work, to work, to keeping in touch with anyone except my parents, not enough sleep, etc. That’s life I suppose, but I hate having such long to-do lists all the time. So, in lieu of catching up in my blogging world and boring you with a slew of separate blogs, I will try to capture the last few months with bullet points:

  • In April, our immediate family celebrated Scott’s 40th with a surprise dinner. An even bigger, and quite wonderful, surprise to Scott was having his father and Kathy fly in for it. It was quite a night and I am blessed to have such a fabulous family!
  • A few months ago I woke up with a nice pain in my lower back. It turned out to be a spasm so I’ve been getting chiro treatments ever since. They worked and the spasm is gone, but now I have 3 bulging discs. They are minor as they can be treated with more chiro visits. The worst case scenario would be a cortisone shot, no big deal at all. In the meantime, I have the green light to continue training although flip turns and open water swimming aggravate it so I am no longer doing those. Sitting isn’t fun either, but I don’t do much of that. 😉
  • We enjoyed a fun Father’s Day at the Arlington Race Track. It would have been even more enjoyable had we won any money. 😉
  • My race season has fared pretty well. Last weekend I won a 2 mile open water swim in Crystal Lake. Well, it was supposed to be 2 miles…it was 3!!! I had a few clients do it too so I felt terrible about the extra mileage as 2 miles was long for them. Sorry guys, way to hang tough! The next day I did an Olympic distance tri in Lake Zurich and defended my title. Ouch that hurt, but it felt great to win!
  • I’ve been happy with my running for the most part this season, especially since I’ve only been able (doctors orders) to run 40 minutes at a time since November. I’ve worked even harder mentally because of this. I still want, and believe, I can go faster, but I no longer feel it’s necessary for ME to put in long runs in order to do so as I’ve been right on my best times. *After 6 years of coaching with New Trier, this is my first summer with them. Unfortunately, I am only able to be on deck a couple evenings a week, but it helps me stay connected to the swimmers and coaches.
  • I love love love my masters coaching gig with Glenbrook Aquatics! It’s been a great 1.5yrs thus far and the team has flourished from about 15 members to over 60! The best part? It’s simply a great bunch of people! And, sometimes they allow me to be entertained by doing some silly/fun/different sets; swimming with one leg in the air, vertical kicking while playing duck duck swim, mass swimming sans lane lines, get out width sprints followed by push-ups, tombstone kicking, etc.
  • For 4 consecutive years in Seattle, we had a Bradbury Bash where everyone had to bring an item which started with the letter ‘B.’ It was awesome so we thought we’d make an attempt to do something similar here. 80’s was the theme and there were some great costumes and good times.
  • The 4th of July was a blast at our family cabin in Michigan. We had about 20 people for a couple nights so many of us had to camp, real camping that is with tents and sleeping bags. Sarah, Court, and of course Clayton loved it all too, yay!!! *Tornado!!! A few weeks ago, we had one hit just a block away! Quite the scary experience as several huge old trees came a tumbling down in our area…and so did our power. Fortunately, no one was hurt and we had no damage.
  • Storm #2! No tornado, just some nasty winds, enough to take out more trees and cut our power for 4 days. Thankfully our neighbor Jake across the street kept our refrigerator plugged in! Thanks Jake! (A neighbor of ours has been a resident here for over 50 years. She said our side of the street always loses power, but she has yet to see the other side of the street do so. Odd).
  • Thanks to Weeji, we have a vegetable garden again this year. I think she put steroids in the ground as all is growing in leaps and bounds! The corn, cucumbers, and beans are HUGE! It’s fun to have as the girls, like us, love to pick things daily and eat them too. A few types of tomatoes and peppers and a plethora of herbs are also in the mix. Yum!
  • Great Grandma Trudy (to the girls) was here last week for a nice little visit. Unfortunately we aren’t able to see her often as she resides in NC, but we try to make the best out our time when she’s here. S&C had a ball with her! Love you Trudy!
  • Scott’s doing great. Work remains a joy and he is quite the father, coach, sherpa, and husband! His run training has been going really well too…although we are not certain which race he is shooting for…
  • Sarah and Courtney have been busy this summer as they had a month of summer school, gymnastics weekly, 3 weeks of swim lessons, and this week is bible school, all of which they love. They also did their first race, a 50 yard dash. They loved it so much, they did it again, and again, again. But like mom, they are truly like a pig in mud when it comes to the pool. Smiles abound!!! 😉
  • I’ve been in mourning the last couple days as S&C will no longer be 3. Where did time go and how did the get so tall??? 😦 They are a hoot now though. They get mad when they can’t exercise, they always want to put on ‘exercise clothes,’ they cry because they can’t run with us, and Sarah even requested a heart rate monitor for her birthday. Yep, so we’re getting them bikes for their birthday. <a href=”http://villagecyclesport.com/”>Village CycleSport </a>was a huge hit for them to test out their cycling skills only Courtney whined when she first hopped on as she complained that she couldn’t clip in her shoes!!! At this rate, they’ll be burned out of triathlons by the time they are 8!
  • And last, but not least…big news will be coming your way within a few months! ;)</

The Husbands’ Race Report – Part 2

More from Scott on his race at the North Shore Half Marathon:

I got to the race site nice and early, probably 6:40 or so for the 7:30 start. Like I mentioned: perfect weather. Mostly cloudy with temps in the 50s. I went over to the info table and got switched to the A corral so I’d be close to the front at the start, then got a good 1 mile warm up done. Just some easy running with a few hard pickups. My right knee has been a little loosey goosey lately and popping and cracking a bit but I had none of that during the warm up so I felt good about that. I headed to the start to watch the 5k go off at 7:15. I saw Mark Morgan…he ended up having a great race. Once the 5ke’ers cleared the 2500 13.1’ers and I got in position. The start corrals are very narrow so we were packed in tight.

The gun goes off… The field spread out very quickly so I had plenty of room. The first half of the race is basically all a long very gradual downhill. I felt solid and tried to focus on staying relaxed and not going out too fast. My goal was 7:15s and I felt if I could keep myself no faster than 7:10s for the first few miles it would really pay benefits.

Now let’s talk about pacing. Any serious runner will tell you the way to a PR is to even pace, or slightly negative split if possible. It’s great in theory but very hard to actually implement and in every race I’ve ever been in almost everyone starts out to fast and ends up fading in the end. I saw the same thing on Sunday as dozens of people flew past me in the first mile…especially anyone under the age of 20…ahh the stupidity of youth. Most of them would all come back to me at the finish. The first mile marker approaches: 7:08. Thank god I’m not overdoing it. My Garmin had been slow to get things going but I was able to get it synced up at that point and that gave me one less thing to worry about. I saw Mary and my mom and the twins at mile 1.5 or so. Always great to see the cheering section!

From there I settled in and focused on staying calm and running the tangents. The miles start going by: 2. 7:10 3. 7:16 4. 7:08 5. 7:18 6. 7:13 Just before the mile 7 marker the course goes through a couple of S curves and drops 70 feet straight down towards Lake Michigan. From there you make a left-hand turn and go straight back up Park Ave. towards Sheridan. Because of the downhill I ran mile 7 in 7:02. Then it’s up the hill. I knew it was coming, but it hit me harder than I remember from the year previous. I tried to stay steady and stay under 8/min miles but it was tough. My heart rate spiked to 182 and I could feel my legs burning. The hill is steep, but short, and within 2 minutes it’s mercifully over. I felt a bit crummy but was determined to not panic and get back in my groove.

Mile 8 went by at 7:25, meaning the hill only cost me 10 seconds or so, which is totally fine. Mentally, however, I felt like I had to try and make up that ground, and started pressing a bit…which led to me running mile 9 at 7:05. Stupid. My average HR for that mile was 178, about 3-5 beats higher than what I had been doing the previous 5 miles. I could feel myself losing my mojo, and decided I had to calm the fuck down and get back to my goal pace. At this point the race has turned into Ft. Sheridan and between mile 9 and 10 the race winds up and around the parade grounds and under the clock tower. It’s a long slow uphill…very gradual, but a little demoralizing because it feels like you are going nowhere as the road slowly curls around.

I went through mile 10 at 7:12, and stabilized for 4-5 minutes, but the gradual incline got to me and I started scuffling a bit. My breathing got hurried and erratic and I started getting a nasty side stitch. I was far from comfortable. I checked the Garmin and the pace had dropped to 7:20 or so. I was determined to stay tough. I was so close. Less than 3 miles to go. I knew this was the race right here. Either hang tough and hang in and try to recover on the way back out Ft. Sheridan, or worst case this is where it starts to unravel. I was running with a group of 2 guys and one woman and I guess they were in the weeds as well here because in spite of my slowing I surged past all of them except one. That perked me up mentally. We also finally crested that hill and crossed under the bell tower and had a little slight downhill stretch. I started to recover, felt the stitch stabilize, grabbed some water and Gatorade at an aid station, and hit mile 11 at 7:19. I’d survived and not given up too much time.

As we came out of Ft. Sheridan I saw my cheering section again. I don’t think I even mustered a nod at this point. Right thereafter I hit mile 12 at 7:15. Home stretch, right? The problem with that was the whole last mile is a long gradual uphill. It’s a grinder. You just want it to be over…but it’s not…you’ve got about 30 feet to gain back to the finish. I worked on just keeping my cadence up high, cruised through the last mile at 7:13 and picked it up for the last tenth to cross at 1:34:28. Bullseye. It’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together. I beat my goal time by 32 seconds, and averaged 7:13’s overall. No complaints. I was elated. I planned my race raced my plan. Not easy, but very satisfying. What’s next? Maybe a winter marathon, but more likely I’m going to try and PR my 10k here in the next 2 months…then maybe try another half in the fall.

Thanks for reading! Scott

The Husband’s Race Report – Part 1

No racing for me this week so I’ve asked Scott to drop by and blog on his race at the North Shore Half Marathon. I thought a little different perspective and commentary might help keep things fresh around here:

Mary asked that I take over the mantle of family blogger for a day so I thought I throw in a little race report from over the weekend. For those of you who have no idea who I am or what I’m doing with myself, a little background. I’m Mary’s husband and coach. I’m a sometimes but not currently a triathlete. Back in the day (pre-kids) Mary and I would race tri’s together but post-kids we realized logistically it wasn’t going to work to have us both doing triathlon training full-time so I switched over to run-only mode. Believe me, I’m totally fine with that. I’m a mediocre swimmer (in spite of Mary’s exuberant attempts to rectify) and while I do miss the biking sometimes, I love the simplicity and solitude of running and have been quite content just spending the last few years chasing various run-only goals and personal bests.

Now let’s be clear. I’m not a “great” runner. I have very little natural athletic talent, so I have to work my ass off to get anywhere, but I’ve made some gains. I trained and ran the Chicago Marathon last to disastrous weather-related results, and while my ultimate goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, that’s a little out of reach for me at the moment.

So this spring I decided to focus on getting a PB in the half-marathon. I always have to have a goal, and by goal I mean race to shoot for. I like training with a target in mind, and training with a structured plan to follow. Great race…did it last year. Beautiful rolling course mostly flat with one steep but very short hill stuck right in the middle.

My half-marathon PR is from back in 2004 when I ran the Seattle half in 1:36:38. Back in the day. When I was young and…young. That’s a 7:23 pace and my goal this time around was 7:15 even. If you run long enough, you get to really know (with the help of McMillan’s formula) what pace goals are doable or not. Throughout the last 3 years I’d been running shorter stuff regularly so I pretty well knew where I was and what I was capable of. I also ran this same race last year and did 1:36:46, in spite of some weird health issues that derailed my training but turned out to be an undiagnosed sodium deficiency.

This winter and spring my training has been going great. I was nailing all my training runs. I was injury free. My (normally) wonky IT band and ankle tendinitis were not flaring up. I also switched to Newtons and really liked them and that was also helping me improve my form and efficiency. Usually the thing that has bit me in the ass has been the weather. Either snow and ice (Shamrock Shuffle, Santa Sleigh Run) or hot as heck (every other race I’ve done in the last 3 years). This year for the North Shore – the weather was perfect. 58 degrees race morning, no wind, slight overcast. Going in it was like the stars were aligned. I felt great, the weather was ideal, and I was confident I could do my 7:15s.

Race morning arrives…to be continued.