Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tri The Gulf and Possum Town Triathlons!

Two final race reports!

Tri The Gulf! Dauphin Island Triathlon!

I finished up my 2016 race season with a great new race at Dauphin Island, Alabama called Tri The Gulf. I enjoy first time races; they did a nice job with this one. A couple little things that could use improvement, but overall I would highly recommend this race. Of course it helps that Dauphin Island is our favorite vacation beach. We rent a beach house here every year in the summer. It’s a family friendly, pet friendly, laid back beach. We even made the trip here after we moved to North Carolina for our annual beach vacation. If you’re looking for bars, and restaurants, and amusement parks then DI is not for you. There is one little store called Ship ‘N Shore, they have a little grocery section and a big hardware store in the back.

Bill wasn’t able to make the trip so I stayed the night before with one of my friends from Jr High! Lisa and I were Gautier Jr High cheerleaders together and we’ve kept in touch. She and her husband live in Mobile. We had a great visit, it was like we see each other every week. Love friends like that; when you don’t see them for years and pick up exactly where you left off!

Got to the race early (as usual) and they parked those of us that arrived early at the far back of the lot. I overheard some people around me talking about how why is it that the early arrivals get parked the farthest away? I wondered the same thing, get there early… relegated to the farthest parking place.
It was a little windier on race morning than the day before at packet pick up. Wind was out of the south east at about 10, made the thought of going up and over the DI bridge a little scary. But that was one of the best parts of the race, the chance to ride over the bridge twice for the out and back.

When my husband and I vacation on the island and drive that bridge at night, it feels like you’re going over the edge at the top, so I had really looked forward to cycling on it! It did not disappoint!
Racks were numbered by range, and numbering was the “Line Up as You Sign Up”, meaning if you were the first person to register, you were #1. I signed up pretty early and was #15, great rack position by the bike in and out. Just before transition closed I watched at a guy with a number in the 200’s came and put his bike on the rack……really?? Thought about letting an official know, but it’s his problem not mine, if he feels good about himself with “not doing the right thing” then I’m not going to be the one to rat him out.

We had a little bit of a wait before the swim start; they had to make sure that the traffic control on the bridge was set. They closed vehicle traffic to one lane, and had a police escort for the cars, taking turns going and coming on to the island. Really well planned!! They started us in time trial for the swim, but instead of going one at a time, we went by twos (brilliant idea!). Cut the swim start for the last competitor by half the wait time. Cajun Timing does a very professional job. They announced that the swim was wetsuit legal, saying it was 77; I decided to go without mine and just wore the speed suit. I’m glad I did, the water temperature was perfect for swimming hard. I must have passed everyone except one woman (#8 – she wore a full sleeve wetsuit and came out second). Had a good swim! 1:24/100 yard average, but this included some pretty shallow water where you needed to do several dolphin dives in and out.

Had a really good T1, 32.2 seconds which included fumbling with the speed suit on my ankles, it was a pretty good run up the beach and on the boardwalk they had built, so I was a little shaky taking off the suit. I noticed only one other set of wet footprints and that was how I knew I came out of the water second!  Had the fastest T1 of the day!! Felt pretty good on the bike, and on the flats was averaging 22-23 mph. Could see the woman ahead of me, she was powering away. That’s okay, I overheard her saying something in the swim line up about bike racing, and she was really tall and strong. Ended up with a 20.5 average on the bike, happy with that with those two big climbs.

Just before the end of the bike course two or three guys passed me, one was Joey Lee. His wife Casey and I are friends, we cheered each other on as he went flying by. I saw Casey on the bridge too, and we yelled for each other! I love seeing friends at races, and I am so glad that they were there! The ride over the bridge wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, nothing worse than some of the hills that I ride in Tuscaloosa. The wind was a little scary, a gust got me and I had to take one hand off the aero bars for a bit on the downhill.

Back through the neighborhood and into transition. Off onto the run, the first mile was straight down the Dauphin Island Golf Course fairway, it took some navigating to avoid the soft sand, but it wasn’t bad. Then up to the bike path that runs along the main road on the island. I was in familiar territory, because I run this path daily when we are on vacation! A new race but being familiar with the run course was great!

I’ve gotten into a bad habit in my racing this year, it started with Sunfish. When my heart rate gets high, I walk 10 or so steps. I did it twice in the race...this came back to haunt me. Really need to break this bad habit. When I came to the second aid station on the run there was a little boy holding out a cup of water, and behind him a little girl, I tried to get it from the girl and she had pulled it back just before I reached for it thinking I was taking the first cup. I heard her mom yell “Girl Power – Thank You!” and then the little girl “I’M SORRY!!”, she was so cute!!  I finished the run with an 8:04 mile average.

Awesome post race food and drink! They had jambalaya, and shrimp and grits, beer, sodas, and sports drinks! We got a finisher’s mug, and a medal that doubles as a bottle opener – great swag! The pool was open for us, so Casey and I went and cooled off in the water! Awards were held quickly, no waiting around for hours (more kudos to Cajun Timing!) and Lisa Ann McCall (RD) for doing a great job. The awards were some very nice handmade pottery just for the race!

I finished 4th Overall Female – AND MISSED 3RD BY 1.5 SECONDS! Remember when I said it would come back to haunt me? The girl that placed 3rd has beat me every time this year, darn it! NO MORE WALKING!

Along with the awards they gave special awards for the fastest male and female swim, bike, and run. AND my friends Casey and Joey Lee both won the swim prime!! Very cool!! I had the 3rd fastest female swim, 8th fastest overall swim!! Some people I know seem to always talk about what went wrong in their race, make some excuses for one thing or another. I like to find the great part of my race and dwell on that!

Casey and Joey Lee - Fastest Swim of the day!
I loved this race! I would have to say it was my favorite of the year! The venue, the race course, and OH.. the spectators!! The people that live there had tshirts on that said “LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE!” They were out in force all along the course, cheering and taking pictures. On the bike in, I saw a woman taking pictures on her phone, and when I ran in she said “Got you that time!” I waved and smiled, and it gave me a little added boost for the last section of the run!

Award and Swag!

Possum Town Tri – Columbus, Mississippi

Possum Town was another great race for me this season. I will be adding it to my schedule for next year, too! Columbus is within race morning driving distance, so no overnight hotel stay! Save money, race more! Bill was able to go with me to this one! When I was warming up on the run I found a little path that led to a nice little dock surrounded by lily pads. It was secluded and peaceful back there, so I told him about it so he could check it out while I was racing, next year bring a fishing pole!

This was another “Line Up as you Sign Up” race, so I was up toward the front. I tend to sign up early for races, it not only keeps me motivated in my training but also allows me to save money before the price goes up. The savings usually pays for an additional race per season! The water was a little murky, but it had been raining in the days leading up to the race so it had the water stirred up. 4th fastest female swim on this day!

The bike course was flat and fast! Averaged 21.3 mph, I think that is the best for the year for me. One tiny section that was rough, but overall a really fun course.

Smiling at Bill!

The run was also flat!! We lucked out with an overcast morning on race day, if the sun had been out this could be a pretty steamy run! No shade, but since it was an out and back with one little dog leg it was a great course to see your friends and competitors! I was the first female across the line and got a lot of cheers from the crowd, and was even interviewed by the local paper. I didn’t think my placing would hold and I was right, I ended up 2nd overall female. The same woman who beat me at Dauphin Island was over 5 MINUTES ahead of me!

All three top females were over 50 at the race! After we stood on the podium for our picture I reached over and shook hands and congratulated the other women. Now… this is an observation that I’ve noticed, you rarely see anyone acknowledging or congratulation anyone else anymore. I think this is sad, and telling of the times. Another thing that I can’t control others, but I can absolutely try and lead by example, who knows maybe it will spread. I always say that “We’re not putting food on the table” with our racing, these small races are fun and while we are competitive and want to do our best we should be good ambassadors for the sport. If you’ve read this far down in this blog post, I challenge you to cheer on your fellow competitors and show your sportsmanship at the end of the race!

Possum Town had a good post race party, beautiful awards, great swag, and a good course! It will be on my schedule!

Oh.. post race note. One of other local Tuscaloosa triathletes also did the race, he typically has been doing only Ironman and half Ironman races. He made a great comment about not realizing what he has been missing by doing smaller local sprint races, seeing everyone out there racing and doing their best was inspiring for him, and he said he will be adding some “non-branded” races to his schedule!

Lesson today: Be gracious. Be a good ambassador. Be friendly.

The off season has begun! Time to work on swim technique, and lay the base for 2017!

 See you at the races!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Emily Post Race (a.k.a. Podium Etiquette)

Last weekend at my race, I noticed something... something that I used to do but haven't in a long time.

If you're up on the podium do acknowledge the other athletes up there with you?? I don't know what made me all of a sudden do this, but after the awards were presented, I reached over and shook hands and congratulated the other women. It was contagious because after I did it, most of them all did the same with everyone else.

I remember always doing this in North Carolina. I can remember doing it at a lot of races in the past, but not this year. Maybe it encourages it if a race has actual podium blocks?

I would like to start this initiative. If you make it to the podium, commend the other athletes, shake their hands and congratulate them. See if it starts encouraging other people to do the same. Who is in?


It's so hard to keep moving and racing in new places. Wandering around alone after the race, not knowing anyone. Trying to meet a few new people. A guy at my last race spoke to me after and told me that he followed my blog! He even knew my name! That was really nice!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

River Cities Triathlon and the USAT Hall of Fame!

I’ve been thinking back all the places I’ve lived and raced, and tried to think of which was best for swimming, cycling, and running. We moved from Dallas in 2008 where I had lived since 1990, so I’d raced primarily in that area. Since then we have lived in Fayetteville, NC; Sunset Beach, NC; Hattiesburg, MS; Shreveport, LA; and now Tuscaloosa, AL. I've listed my favorite places, based on several factors. Consistency, safety, challenge, variety.

Best Swimming 

Hattiesburg, MS - Kyle Joplin (now Assistant Coach at Centenary College), pushed us harder than I ever thought I could swim. The challenging workouts designed for triathletes, but conducted like an Age Group practice made me swim faster than I ever had before. No other Masters Program that I had ever or since swam has been that intense, I loved it.

Best Cycling

Sunset Beach, NC – The Ocean Isle Beach Cyclists were the most consistent group. Every Wednesday, and Saturday we had a regular ride. This works out for me, because I like my training scheduled and consistent. I named our group “The Usual Suspects”.

Hattiesburg, MS – For riding solo, Hattiesburg was my favorite. The Long Leaf Trace is there, 42 miles of blacktop with no vehicle traffic (a few crossovers). Albeit a little monotonous, it was a safe place to ride by yourself and not have to worry. And the bonus is I could ride the 7 miles over from my house, so I didn’t have to drive anywhere to ride.

Shreveport, LA – Absolutely the hardest training rides. These were rides with the other triathletes, 70 miles, consistent tough pace, everyone on their aerobars taking pulls. Riding with these people made me the fastest I had ever been. Smooth, no drama, tough training.

Best Running

Sunset Beach, NC – This area of the country is filled with golf courses. We lived on one and I could run the cart path, or leave our subdivision and easily run over to another one and run all the roads there. On the other side was a deserted, overgrown golf course, and I could run on what used to be all the fairways. The beaches on the East Coast are flat with hard packed sand, so for a change of scenery I could run on the beach.



I was back in Shreveport this past weekend for the River Cities Triathlon. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that this is one of my all-time favorite races. This weekend was the 21st time that I’ve done this race.

I drove over from Tuscaloosa on Friday, so I could volunteer for the IronFish Kids Triathlon on Saturday morning. I’ve helped at the race for the past couple years and I’ll tell you what, if you’ve never helped out at a kid’s triathlon then you’re missing out! I wanted to be there because several of the kids that I used to coach in swimming would be racing. This year I was going to be in the swim, it was really amazing watching the run from the beach that these little guys do for the start. They look like pros! After the last kids were out of the water, I headed up and helped out in the transition area. Sportspectrum does a great booklet that comes in each packet with all the instructions for the parents, it never fails to amaze me at how many don’t bother to read it, and go through it with their kids. There were kids with no race numbers…. kids with no wristbands…. kids that didn’t do all of the bike course. But even with all the fiasco they all had a great time! I know I did!

Evangeline and Harrisen! Two of my favorite kiddos!

Oscar's first Triathlon! One of my former swimmers!

Saturday night I got together with some of the people that I rode with in Shreveport, the very ones that I mentioned above, and my good friend, Hallie - we coached together at COSST. Two of my friends from Dallas came and joined us! We went to one of my favorite places, Superior Grill – it was great to catch up with these folks! The only bad part was that I couldn't have one of their awesome frozen margaritas since I was racing the next morning.

Race morning – this year the race started at 7:30, instead of the typical 8:00, so the park gates opened at 5:15. The race fills to capacity with 1200 people so they have to have enough time to get everyone in the park. And It’s a pretty good walk from where you park to transition, so it’s good that the gates open that early. I was racing in the Invitational Wave which went off first. Now, I have to admit that the only reason that I race in this wave instead of with my age group wave is because the 55+ women go off dead last. That means almost 1200 people in the water ahead of you, and of course later in the morning so the air temperature is higher. It was a beautiful morning, we had rain the evening before so the temperature wasn't quite as bad as it had been in the preceding days, it was still really humid though. We also lucked out with a slight cloud cover which kept the sun from killing us. Shreveport had been making the national news with their projected heat index of 115, I think it hit 111 on Saturday, and Sunday.

I had a good swim. At just about the half way point I was able to get on a guy’s feet and draft for a bit. But then you know what happens… it feels too slow… should I go around… should I stay here and save energy? So I tested it a couple times and moved to the side a bit to see and I found I was moving up on him, so just before the second turn buoy I went around. I tried to bridge up to a swimmer about 15 yards ahead but wasn’t able to. I came out of the water 2nd female, and ended up with the 4th fastest women’s swim.

The bike…oh the bike. I rode so badly, that I thought I had a flat. My legs didn’t have any snap. Every time I have a long drive before a race they feel like this, so it wasn’t unexpected. Even giving myself the extra day, and spinning in the hotel room for 20 minutes didn’t seem to help. And also adding to my bike frustration was seeing the drafting. I know I shouldn’t let it get into my head, and it’s not even like I was in the same league as her, but seeing a woman drafting with a couple men just made me mad. Play fair or GO HOME. Period.

I suspected that I wasn’t going to have the best run after I saw what my legs felt like for the bike, so I was pretty much resigned to that. I’ll tell you what, I was running much faster at the beginning of the season, it’s the heat. I wonder if it affects you more as you age? I need to go do some research and see if this may be true. I would sure like it to be… then I’d have an excuse for my run. Frankly, I think I need an attitude adjustment and stop feeling sorry for myself about getting older.

I finished 15/346 women, and 123/933 total. 2nd Grandmasters.

Finishers Medal

THE BEST PART of the race was being around so many people that I know! Hearing all the cheering, high fiving friends on the run course, visiting with lots of people after the race. So far for most of this season, I’ve been standing around by myself after a race, trying to make some new friends. I got to see Cobb Mobb teammates, Sunrise Tri Club Teammates, friends from Dallas, and swimmers I coached. It was a great post race day!

Casey Lee - 5th Overall Female, Angel Martin - 3rd Overall Female!!

And the pinnacle of the post race festivities was getting the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame award. I mentioned in a previous post that friends had nominated me and I was supposed to get it at one of the Regional Championship races. It was supposed to be Sugarman Triathlon, in October, but the race was cancelled. At the last minute the HOF Committee sent the award to River Cities for presentation. I got choked up as Matt Brown, the Race Director read the Nomination Letter that was submitted by my former Team Aquaphor teammates. Having this happen in Shreveport was icing on the cake. It is a humbling honor to be nominated for something like this by your peers, and receiving it here made it even better.

HOF Award

I wonder if I should stop now, and let this be the highlight of all the years of racing…… NAH!

OH.... and the FAMOUS RIVER CITIES RACE PACKET!! Once again Sportspectrum and Matt Brown did not disappoint! Embroidered backpack, Tasc Bamboo T-Shirt, Fleece Jacket, and a really cool Hat. Sportspectrum also sent out a coupon for another free t-shirt with any $25 purchase at the store, so I got one of those, too!!

Two more races this season, Possum Town in Columbus, MS, and then Tri The Gulf, in Dauphin Island, AL. I'm really excited about this one, inaugural year, at the beach where we vacation! Beach time, yah!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July Racing

Know the course, know the transition area.

Sunfish Triathlon – Meridian, Mississippi. 

I haven’t raced Sunfish since we lived in Hattiesburg, and since we are now only 90 minutes away I was excited that I would be able to come back to this event. I’ve been on the track once a week for a month or so and was looking forward to seeing if there was any improvement in my run. The short answer is: “Not On This Day”.

The swim for Sunfish is supposed to be “Line up as you sign up”, at least that is how it’s been in the past. I know for certain that this isn’t true, because I talked with my friend Barbara just before the race and she was way up in the front and told me she had signed up that week. I was back quite a way, and had to swim around a lot of people. Fortunately, I didn’t have too much of an issue with this. I did, however have an issue getting out of the water… there was a pretty good step up from the water to the grass (pretty good if you’re a short girl, like me). They had put a piece of black rubber, plastic… not exactly sure what it was, and when I tried to climb out of the water I slipped on it and face planted. Nice. While I didn’t feel any issues from the fall during the race, later in the week I wondered why in the world my right shoulder was hurting so much, then realized it was from the fall. I instinctively put out my arm and the shoulder (which I have some problems) got stretched pretty good, when I reached out to catch my fall.

I don’t remember this bike course being so hard! And my bike was creaking and squeaking the entire ride. I sounded like a family of mice had invaded my bottom bracket. The road was really rough too, and it was super humid. (What a crybaby!) My hands felt like they were slipping off the bull horns on corners. Came in from the bike and turned down the wrong isle. What is wrong with me today? I looked at the row from the swim exit, but didn’t pay attention to where the row was from Bike In. Another fumble.

Off onto the run and I immediately knew that this wasn’t going to be my day. I pretty much felt like crap. I came up on a fellow Cobb Mobber on the dam, and he wasn’t looking too good. He said he felt bad, too. When I saw him stop for the second time, I told him I thought he should turn back. I think it was the heat. I pretty much resigned myself to plodding along, and although I hate to admit it, pretty much gave up on the run. Even walked a couple times. Ended up finishing 9th overall female, and won Grandmasters. It sounds silly to be disappointed in a finish like this, but when you know that you can do so much better than it is somewhat of a letdown.

Cobb Mobb!
Clay Emge (1st Overall at IM Boulder), Les Carr, Sean Kwiatek, and Me

Now for the good things about the race! First - I had 3 Cobb Mobb teammates there! We all racked our bikes together, and it was great to have people I knew to hang around with after the race!! Second – the shirts for the race were really nice, North Face dri fit! And we got a visor, and a Tervis tumbler. Nice job Sunfish!! Third – the post-race food and drink were fantastic! I didn’t eat anything but there they did a really good job! And Fourth – the awards were awesome!!
Would I go back? Absolutely! Nice job Sunfish!!

My friend Casey Lee, 4th Overall Female!

Barbara Kerby from the Coast, 2nd Overall Female!
If I can't be fast, at least I have very fast friends!!

Capital of Dreams – Montgomery, Alabama.

This was another Team Magic event. They do a pretty good job.

The swim for this race was something different and fun! We boarded the Harriot II riverboat and it took us upstream for the swim start. We got to swim downstream with a current, however on race day there wasn’t much of one. The swim for the sprint was only 400, and there was an Olympic distance race being held that day too. I wish the race was like the YMCA Tri in Wilmington, where you have a 1500 meter swim, and then a sprint distance bike, and run. We jumped off the boat in order like lemmings, it was pretty funny. It was a really long run up from the swim finish to the transition area and along the way I dropped my swim cap. Now Team Magic gives you a set of stickers for your helmet, bike, bag, and swim cap… and like the dutiful rule follower that I am put them on my cap. Well….. I got a 2:00 penalty for “Abandonment of Equipment”. REALLY? I do have to say this is a crappy (I wanted to use a different word for what I thought about this) penalty. I’ve been at this for a long, long time and have NEVER seen this. So, a word of advice to anyone doing one of these races. Leave the cap numbers off. I saw lots of people on the boat with no numbers on their caps. Apparently it’s not an issue to not have it on there in the first place.

The transition area for Cap Dreams is under cover in the old Train Station. It is a long transition, and the surface is painful and rocky, like chip seal. They had some indoor outdoor carpet but it only went about half way to the mount line. Being under cover was awesome! Shade!!

Transition was under here!

The bike course for this race is FAST! So fun to have a flat race! I was holding 22-23 mph, I felt like I was flying! AND THEN….. not knowing the course, I followed two athletes ahead of me and took a wrong turn just before the end of the race. We went up a steep hill, before we figured out we were going the wrong direction. I looked up the time added to my bike split for the off course section and it added 2:12 to my time. Grrrrr. Without this mishap I would have had the 16th fastest bike with men and women included! Yah!

The run is pretty much uphill for half the race and then downhill for the rest. Much better than the alternate! We climbed up to the Capital building, looped around it and back down, finishing through a tunnel and over to a really nice lawn.

Results showed that I was the 5th overall female, and won Grandmasters. But then when they were calling out awards they said I was 2nd Grandmasters female – this is when I discovered the penalty. If I hadn’t gone off course on the bike I would have been 4th. Rats! My friend Jen beat me again. Man, that girl is fast! Someone thought she was my daughter.

Do we look alike?
So on this day I’m going to go with “Performance over Placing”. I know I had a good race, swam well, rode really well, and ran pretty well. When I told someone about all the mishaps of the day, they commented "Well, it's all for fun anyway." (i.e. it doesn't matter). Yes that is true, to an extent. But when I go out to race I'm going out to test myself, not just on how fast I can go, but getting everything right. That means smooth transitions, following the rules, knowing the course, in general being the best triathlon ambassador that I can be. So these mistakes of going the wrong way on the course or in transition are not "okay" with me. Maybe I do take this sport a little too seriously. But my husband is being awesome and letting me do this without having to work, so come race day, even though I am just an age grouper, it is my job and I want to do it right. I'm 55 years old and racing against girls that could be my children (or almost grandchildren for that matter), I want to see how I can stack up against them.

Good finish line food and drink, Mugshots burgers – I didn’t have any food though I did have a beer. (there is a Smashburger on the way home and I was dying for a SmashChicken sandwich). Tervis Tumbler and a pick off the table for awards (I grabbed another pair of those Stuffit things that go in your shoes.) The shirt was ok, drifit but nothing super impressive for the logo. Looks a lot like the one from Buster Britton Tri. Would I do this race again? Yes, and I think I would do the Olympic distance next year, so I could enjoy the longer swim and bike course.

While we were picking up our race packets I saw this in downtown Montgomery. Very cool bike friendly city!! A bike stand, tools, and a bike pump for public use! Awesome!

Next up is RIVER CITIES! Going back to Shreveport for one of my favorite races! Get to see friends!