Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Springtime is here and my crazy idea for this summer

Two days ago, I returned from my three-week, multipurpose trip to the US. (I usually make it back about one a year since we moved to Germany three years ago.) It was a great chance to re-charge my batteries, soak in some sun, and put myself in a new mindset. Plus, I got to spend lots of time with these awesome people: the Timex Multisport Team!

One of the usual questions people ask is "so what races are you doing this year?" But due to my injury and the unknown of where we would be moving, I did not have an answer. The need to sign up for Ironmans a year ahead of time does not jive with the Army's policy of not telling you where in the world you are moving until about three months out. 

But, I knew that I had to come up with some kind of goal or event to work towards. I had to be able to do this on my own terms so I could remain flexible. I was inspired by an event that my husband's unit would be doing this summer - driving their vehicles from Germany to Estonia as part of a training exercise and public relations tour. 

So I thought it would be cool for me to independently ride my bike and wind up in the same place in the same timeframe. It works out to about 1900 kilometers or 1200 miles in two weeks.

(Not my exact route, but it gives you the idea)

I am going to do this self-supported, but I intend to stay in hotels. I have never done any kind of bicycle touring before, so this is going to be a major adventure. On the plus side, a major portion of the route is through a country where I speak the language (Poland), and this route will be mostly flat. 

I will take lots of photos, post my progress on Strava, and keep people updated. I am not sure of the vehicle for doing this, but I will pass it along. My tentative start date is June 1st. 

So stay tuned...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My 2015 wrap up: Limp to the finish

Now that my less-than-stellar 2015 season is over, I suppose I could post a recap of the things I remember, or would possibly like to forget.

March - IM South Africa
  This was my main training goal throughout the winter and I went in feeling very prepared. I was travelling by myself (a novelty!), but I remember smiling on the starting line and thinking “I feel ready.” That is a good way to start the race. Most of the race did actually go pretty well. My only two low points of the day were 1) seeing the time for my bike split, and 2) checking my age-group placing after shuffling the mile back to my hotel room. I made qualifying for Kona my only objective, and fell short. Again. Well, it was a top-10 finish at a Championship event.

You know you would rather see cheetahs than race photos....

April - The London Marathon Expo
  Since I was recovering and my husband was gone on a month-long training exercise, April was jam-packed with extra work and helping out for four days in the Timex booth at the London Marathon. I had a great time selling watches and talking to people in English. It was very interesting to watch the race and see the thousands of people running in costume or trying to set a world record for fastest marathon dribbling two basketballs. (What does that guy do at the aid stations?)

June - The Bundesliga does not have a masters division
  After doing so much long-distance training, it was now time for a sprint triathlon, competing for my tri club. The German club triathlon union has different leagues, with the Bundesliga being the highest level - thus meaning that the best clubs in Germany were racing. I was not the only foreigner, as one of the other teams had hired short course star Andrea Hewitt from New Zealand. This race was also the national juniors championship. When I checked the results list, I was the only racer born in the 70’s. In all, it was a cool, but humbling, experience.

Eh...close enough

The next week in June - Injury strikes
  For some reason, I lost feeling in my left foot. As I write this (at the end of September), I still do not have an answer why. The military health care system here in Germany is a HUGE source of my frustration.

July - Roth Marathon
  I remember standing in line to register last year and being so excited for this race. We held a contest to find a swimmer. I had grand plans for a new marathon PR. But with my mystery injury, I was absolutely dreading it. Plus, I flew back to the US for my grandfather’s memorial service and returned to Germany the Friday before a Sunday race. I remember seeing the 2km sign and thinking “well, 2 of 42 down.” I toughed my way through it, but it was pure torture. I am still not sure if I am proud of myself (you are a tough cookie!) or mad at myself (you are an idiot for doing this!).

August - Red Bull 400
  I also did an Olympic distance race in Frankfurt, where my major accomplishment was running 10km without stopping, although slowly. The next week I competed in the Red Bull 400 in Bischofshofen, Austria. It was only 400m...but up a ski jump. The atmosphere was fun and the race was pretty cool. The hardest part for me was getting my footing: the hill was covered with nylon bristles and there was a cargo net over that. Slipping and then stabilizing myself took a lot of energy out of my legs. The next day we went to cheer on the bike course for the 70.3 World Championships.

Our spectating spot. The sign says "14%" uphill.

September - My Sherpa debut
  Timex teammate Tim Stutzer raced IM Wales, so I went along to help drive and carry things. (The drive from Frankfurt to Tenby was about 14 hours, including the Chunnel.) It was a strange feeling to be in the race environment, but not racing myself. After we drove the bike course, I was very glad I was not racing, since it looked tough! We lucked into good weather for race day, and I had a great time biking out to parts of the course, talking to people, and ringing my cowbell. Tim got second in his AG and the coveted Kona slot, so I was happy about that. It is also great to be able to walk around the day after instead of hobbling/shuffling.

Apparently, this guy is a police officer for his day job.

What’s next?
  That’s a good question. Lots of factors play into that:
  1. WTF is this injury and how can I fix it?
  2. When are we moving and where are we going? The need to sign up for some IM races a year ahead of time does not mesh with the Army’s assignment policy. We might know more in December, but that is still a question mark.
  3. Do I have the effort in me to do an IM next summer, assuming I can enter one? I am still trying to figure this out.

So, I have exactly zero races on my calendar, for the first time in a great while. Priority #1 is fixing myself, then I’ll see what the situation looks like. Until then, I will have to live vicariously through all of my awesome Timex Multisport teammates. Good thing they are tearing it up!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

All ready to watch Kona!

Here is my setup:

Livestream video on my "smart" TV. We'll see how long this lasts.

Ironman blog, IronFan page, and leaderboards all have their own tabs on my laptop.

Also following the Slowtwich Race Thread.

Perhaps I should mention that the coverage starts at 6pm my time...so I am going to be up all night. Totally worth it!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

IM Frankfurt Race Report

I was dragging my feet to write my race report for IM Frankfurt. I didn't particularly want to re-live the experience, but since I do want to write about my next two races, I forced myself to write this one.

So, here is the full report from the Team Timex blog.

In addition, here are some tips if you are actually doing the race:

1. Think carefully about the logistics of getting yourself and your supporters to the starting line on race morning. I elected to take the bus solo and my husband and friend rode down to the lake, where I saw them as I headed to the swim start. Even though I got on the bus with plenty to time, we got stuck in some bad traffic on the way to the lake and it seemed to take forever. Plus, I was sitting in the back, right by the engine, so all of us were getting very hot and sweaty. Then I was too rushed in transition. There were pumps available, but the lines for them were long and I wasn't familiar with how the valve worked. If I had to do it again, I would have left even earlier and brought my own pump.

2. Pack the stuff you want for the athlete's garden in your white pre-race bag and turn it in. They will deliver it to you within 5 minutes of finishing. It was so awesome to be able to put on my flip flops immediately. There is a shower trailer in the athlete's garden, so pack accordingly. I put some travel size toiletries and a small towel and comb in my post-race bag and that was a great idea.

3. Make sure that your rear bottles are super secure. A lot of people assume that they will have problems when they get to the cobbles in "The Hell." Since there is a bottle station right after that, it seems like it shouldn't be a big deal. However, I saw more people lose bottles in the pothole section in Frankfurt (about the 16km mark) than I did on The Hell. So before the race, find the roughest road you can and check that your bottles stay in place. This is also great practice for the cobbles....

4. Double bagging transition bags. Since it was supposed to rain after we had turned in our bags, I made sure to put all my things inside a trash bag, tie it closed, then put that in the T1 and T2 bags. This would up being a great idea even if it hadn't rained. In the change tent, I could pull out the trash bag and immediately the other bag would be free to hold the stuff I was taking off. I think I'm going to do that for all future races with bags for transition.

5. The bike course has permanent direction signs, so it is easy to pre-ride the course. However, there is usually a lot of traffic as well as stop signs and intersections. I would suggest riding it on a Sunday morning if possible. Don't even bother with the sections within the Frankfurt city limits - you'll probably be forced onto the sidewalk.

6. When you heading into T2, there is only about 200m left after you make the right hand turn to leave the loops. So if you're taking off your shoes, do that before you turn. The guy in front of me waited until right before the dismount line, so I had to avoid him swerving around.

7. If you are looking for a Kona slot and you are a woman...pick another race. They advertise 100 slots for this race, but since they are based on the demographics of the starters, there were only 13 slots for the entire women's field. My AG had 2 initially, but we got a third when one of the older age groups didn't take it.

I am trying to think about something to say about the run...the one major thing is that you can run on the course without issue all year long. In my pre-runs, I thought that some of the sections would get lonely, but that did not happen on race day. Also, most of the crowd was cheering for everyone and just their racer, so there was plenty of motivation.

Overall, I thought the race was very enjoyable and well organized. The crowd support was unbelievable and made the bike course so much fun. All in all, an amazing experience that is hard to replicate! Hopefully in time, I will remember all the good parts and not how worn out I was at the end.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lots of racing...but not race report writing

Ironman Frankfurt was 2.5 weeks ago...the Challenge Roth relay was last weekend...and I am racing a half IM in Poznan this weekend. So I've got plenty to write about, but nothing on the page.

There are a few reasons (or excuses!) for this:

1. IM Frankfurt wiped me out and I spent the following week in a daze and shuffling around like a senior citizen. Part of this was the heat and humidity of race day. But a bigger part was probably my disappointment in not qualifying for Kona. I knew that it would be tough, but I felt that if I gave my best performance it was possible. I dedicated myself to this for months and pushed myself to the limit on race day...and came up short. Instead of looking at all the positive things, I was focusing on the one negative that was completely out of my control. I was not too eager to re-live the whole ordeal by writing a race report.

2. I now have a part-time job as an instructor on base. I have been doing a lot of prep work for this and I teach my first class next week. I am looking forward to it, but it is taking up a lot of my time. Once I find my rhythm, that will be a huge help.

3. I am still tired. I pride myself on my ability to get stuff done and have the discipline to do all my workouts that my coach gives me. Maybe it was because I was in the Army, but I have lost the ability to physically assess if I am tired. But I have finally figured out that my mood/mental state is my best indicator of fatigue: if I am cranky or sad or easily frustrated for no good reason, I need to rest.

So now that my late-season race calendar is empty, I think I have decided on doing the Munich Marathon. I also signed up for the relay again for Challenge Roth 2015, as well as Ironman South Africa in March 2015. I have not completely lost my motivation (that's a good sign!) but I recognize that I need to step back and regroup. I have learned a lot about myself over the past few weeks and I know that will help me as I move forward.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ironcat race video

I have no idea what they are saying, but this is pretty cool...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ironcat Race Report

This past weekend was my first race of the season: the iron-distance Ironcat triathlon in L'Ampolla, Spain (about an hour south of Barcelona.) This is a small race put on by the local club; there were only about 250 participants.

I will write more about my own personal experience over on the Team Timex blog, but I figured that I would include basic facts about the race here, since there is not a lot of English-language information about this race.


L'ampolla is a small-ish town on the Mediterranean at the south end of Catalonia. We chose to drive from Germany, but I talked to several other people from the UK and Germany that flew into Barcelona. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in town, as well as grocery stores. It was a little bit touristy -- enough that there were menus, etc. in English, but not so much that everything was overpriced and annoying.


It was about 24C on race day and the winds weren't too strong. One of the organizers told me that in previous years, it has been very windy. For the first half of the bike, there was almost no wind, but it increased slightly in the second half. However, this meant there was a tail wind for the last half of my final lap, so that was great. On the run, the only time I noticed the winds were very occasional cooling gusts that were very pleasant.


The course map on the race website (www.ironcat.org) is very detailed and is in Catalan, Spanish, and English. All of the e-mails I received from the organizers were also tri-lingual. This was the 11th edition of the race, so they have this down to a science.

The race briefing, however, was entirely in Catalan and there didn't seem to be any instructions for English speakers. I had looked at the presentation before attending, so I was able to follow along and note where they seem to suggest special attention. After the brief, I came forward to ask my questions individually and they found someone to explain the answers. With that, I was clear on how the race would go.


Transition opened at 6 am, 1 hour before the start. They verified our numbers and helmet and we went to our racks. The numbers appeared to be sequential, but my number was missing. I then realized that the women were consolidated in a different rack (our race numbers were randomly in with the whole group, so they were not sequential.) In transition we laid our stuff out by our bikes and didn't use gear bags like other long-distance races.


The swim is three laps counter-clockwise around a rectangle, before you peel off and swim into the marina. The start is on the beach, and you only need about one or two steps before the water is deep enough to swim in. However, it is still pretty shallow at that point, so I was careful not to dive too deeply.

There are not a lot of natural sighting landmarks to use, but I didn't have problems seeing the buoys (big yellow spheres). The water is pretty clear, so it was easy to see other swimmers.

The exit of the swim is up the boat ramp in the marina. They had put down rubber matting to facilitate getting out of the water. There were also some fresh water showers a few steps away. The run to T1 is only about 100m.


With such a small field, the transition zone is pretty small. For both T1 and T2, we entered one end and exited at the other.


The bike course is 6 laps of an out and back. When you start and finish, it goes a bit farther to the transition area, but the usual turnaround is the roundabout in front of the Flamingo Hotel. The turnaround at the far end is just before the village of Camarles. There was a tent set up, so it was easy to see from a distance and the actual turn point was marked by cones.

I drove the course ahead of time and found it difficult to figure out exactly where to go, but once I rode it on my bike, it was much easier. However, there are no paint markings that I could see. On race day, there are plenty of arrow signs, as well as volunteers and police at the intersections.

Generally, the course is very flat and the road surface is good. I noticed a lot of little bugs hitting me on the section out to Camarles, so make sure you breathe through your nose! I was only out of the aero position a handful of times: the Hotel Flamingo roundabout, and the 90 degree turn to go out to Camarles. Be ready to spend a lot of time on your aerobars.

Here is where things were a little different then a usual IM race: At the race brief, I asked what they meant by "individual" and "organization" aid stations. The guy explained that you could get outside assistance (unlike WTC races). Since the water was only provided in 33cl screw top bottles that wouldn't fit in water bottle cages, I pressed my husband into service and had him give me a new 750ml bike bottle at the Hotel Flamingo roundabout. I would toss him my used bottle and he would give me a new one. This worked very well, and I was very thankful that I happened to put an extra bottle in the car before we left. The volunteers at the aid stations had unscrewed the water bottles and the water was cold, so that was a nice treat on the last few laps. If you just want to refill an aerobottle, you'll be fine with the on course water.


I was not completely sure of what to do when I came back to the transition zone, but the race officials had things roped off well and someone pointed to the entrance area. I knew I was following then same flow as T1, and someone else showed me where the run section started and also handed me a water. The transition area has an aid station, portajohns, and a sunscreen table. You'll pass through this area once per run lap.


The run is also 6 laps of an out and back. One end is along the coast, heading south. The other end is the far end of the pier. After leaving the transition aid station, the next one is at the south turnaround at 3.5km. The course is slightly rolling as you go through town and at 3km, you'll head onto a dirt road that ends at the aid station. This is also slightly uphill heading out, and this is where you'll receive your band for each lap. In this case, you got a black band every lap until the sixth and final lap, when you got a white band.

So the run course broke down to:
Head out of transition >>> aid station and turnaround @ 3.5km >>> back through transition @ 5.5km >>> turn around at end of the pier @ 6.25km >>> back to transition @ 7km. Repeat 6 times.

The course alternates between the road, the boardwalk, and the sidewalk. It is well marked with cones/tape/arrows and there are lots of spectators cheering. In some places, there are dips in the sidewalk, so be sure to pick up your feet. Also, there are various bollards you need to avoid in the area by the pier.

On the final lap, they will direct you to the finishing chute. I saw lots of people finishing with their family members.

Post race:

There was plenty of room to relax, plus there were massages and a station with various drinks, sandwiches, and paella. This area is immediately adjacent to transition, so it was no problem to go pack up all my stuff. After the awards ceremony, we enjoyed a pizza dinner before heading to our rental house.


This is a huge advantage of this race: many people may find the lap format boring (I don't), but it gives your family plenty of opportunities to see you. There is a raised area near the swim where you can easily watch the whole course and the exit. For the bike, spectators can hang out at the beach while you are out of town. And there are a couple restaurants on the run course. My husband enjoyed a leisurely meal, and would walk a few feet to cheer when I came by. There is also a playground right in the middle of town.


I thought this was a very well run race and I really enjoyed the laid back, party atmosphere. Another bonus is that all of the food we ate while in L'Ampolla was so delicious. There were a few times when I wasn't completely sure of what was going on, but it didn't bother me. I would recommend that future racers really study the information provided and learn some key words in Spanish to make race day a bit less stressful.