Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunfish Triathlon 2012 - Race Report

Swim Like A Fish!

The Sunfish Triathlon was a week ago Saturday in Meridian, Mississippi!  Lucked out with a slightly cooler morning and a little bit of cloud cover during the race.  It's been raining every single day here in South Mississippi and the air is thick and muggy.  When you step outside it feels like someone throws a hot, wet blanket over your head.  Bleh....

Meridian is close enough to Hattiesburg that we can drive there on race morning.  Only had to leave at 4:00am for the race instead of the 3:15am for the last race!!  Set my alarm for 3:00, got up and had my oatmeal with peanut butter and banana for breakfast. Met Deanna and Judy and we headed to Laurel to pick up Lesley. 

It's nice that a lot of races have moved to letting you pick up race packet on race morning.  This is something slightly newer to triathlons, in the past there was absolutely no race morning packet pickup. The SetUpEvents races in North Carolina were the first that I saw to do this.  In Texas there was mandatory race morning packet pick up the day before the race.  I can understand this, with all that is going on the morning of a race I can see why having volunteers needed to hand out packets is one more thing to hassle with.  But for us it is awesome!!   With the rising cost of race entry fees it's good that you don't have to pay for a hotel the night before in order to get your packet.  Hey.. one less hotel stay means one more race that I can do!!  So I don't mind the early alarm and drive to a race.

Hattiesburg Triathletes!
Hattiesburg had a lot of triathletes entered in Sunfish!  It was going to be a good day!!

We got to the race and I got the bikes out of Deanna's truck and aired up my tires, Judy took care of hers and then I helped Lesley and Deanna out and took care of their tires too.  Judy noticed that I was getting more and more stressed out by being at the car too long.  She was smart and headed off to packet pick up and transition with Chris and Brad.  I've got to remember to take care of myself but I just want to help.  They're big girls and I know they've got things under control without my help.  Note to self.

By the time I got to the front of the line to get my race number I was informed that there were no more small shirts.  Okay.... this is a huge pet peeve of mine.  More so just out of principle that anything else.  When you register and are asked what size shirt you want and you indicate a size then that size should be available for you when you pick up your packet.  A lot of races take care of you and have the size listed that you requested and hold it for you.  But not here, I guess they ran big and people changed sizes.  Arrrruuugggh.... so another shirt for my husband Bill.  Shirts at Sunfish - FAIL.  Big disappointment.

Racks are not numbered for this race so its first come first serve.  I found an open area midway down a row of racks and got set up.  Felt a little pressed for time - hate that feeling.  Still needed to do a little warm up run and swim and heard them announce that the transition area was closing in 15 minutes.  Threw on my shoes and ran up the road, bypassing the long line at the port-a-loos to a park rest area.  Ran back and threw on my speed suit and headed to the water.  A nice man saw me and offered to do up the zip.  Thank you kind man!  Did a little swim warm up, not as long as I would have liked and heard them calling for all athletes to exit the water.  Darn.

This race has a time trial start (groan...) and last year they lined us up based on age group, so I started way at the back.  Apparently they had quite a few complaints so this year the line up was based on when you entered the race.  "Line Up as You Sign Up".  Much better, I was number 88 and my friends Judy, Lesley and Deanna were right behind.  They started us 2 seconds apart and the beginning of the swim was slightly congested.  I felt good on the swim and was working pretty hard.  I breath to my right and I watched Judy (she was number 90) swimming to my right.  We rounded the first buoy together and then I saw her pull away.   The swim was rectangular in shape and after we rounded the second corner there was one more buoy and then we angled slightly to the right toward the swim exit.  Good swim for me 7:13 and fastest female swim!!  (3rd best overall swim even with the men!)  One other thing - no swim caps in the race packets again this year.

Ran to my bike and was doing something different in transition than I usually do.  There is a pretty steep little hill just out of transition and I put my shoes on before getting on the bike this day.  Typically I have them on the bike.  Sam had said to try it, that he passes a lot of people when he gets on his bike just at the start as they are fumbling trying to get their feet in their shoes while they are riding.  I did it but am not sure I will again.  Trying to balance on a Speedplay cleat while putting on the second shoe wasn't easy.  I wobbled a bit and felt really unsteady.  Off onto the bike course after clip-clopping in my shoes through transition.  Didn't like that at all.

This bike course is Tough!  I ran out of gears up and down the hills and spent a good part of the time climbing in my granny gear.  Got passed like a fencepost on some of the hills. One idiot guy who passed me called out "On Your Right" as he passed me on my left.  Hmmmm... really??  I said to him "you're on my left", and he replied "Oh.. stay on your right." I used to know a cyclist in Dallas who would reply "You gotta be somewhere" in response.  My ride wasn't pretty.  I don't lift weights for strength, but I've decided after this race that I'm going to do some weight work on my legs.  The goal in triathlon is to have "Enduring Strength" so I'll be doing some high reps with some weight before my next race.  Working opposing muscle groups in sequence.  Started on Monday.  13th fastest bike - stinky average of 19.8.

Second transition was fine.  Looked at my Garmin once on the way out across the dam during the first mile and saw 7:40. Hey.. not too bad!  In my last race I was really pleased with my mile splits for the run... this one, just the opposite.  Went out too hard and each mile was progressively slower.  Bad.  Bad. Bad.  Note to self... you know better than this.  7:26, 7:40, 8:00 and 6:29 for the last .22 - granted the last mile had two little climbs in it but that was sad and bad.

Anyway.. finished strong with a little help from Robin Ryder telling me to catch the guy in front of me.  (Robin coaches the Oak Grove High School's track team in Hattiesburg).   Ran right to my transition bag by the fence to get my camera and try to get some pictures of my friend finishing!  Managed to get all three of them (see photos below)!!!

My hope was to place in the top 5 like last year.  Preliminary results had me 5th, then 6th, then 5th again!  Yay!!  The awards around here are awesome, lots of thrown pottery and other unique awards and Sunfish didn't disappoint.  The top 5 awards were HUGE!!  And the platters and coffee mugs for the age group awards were great!  Good job, Sunfish!!

Chris Boyd, Sam Hudson, Brad Smith, Judy Hudson, Me, Lauren Hill
Robin Ryder, Lance Ward, Deanna Lynn.
The Hattiesburg area triathletes did really well at the race - here is a hardware picture of everyone!!

After the race I grabbed my bag of Aquaphor samples and wandered around handing them out and telling people about the usefulness of Aquaphor!  It always amazes me that some people haven't heard of it, but understandable.  There was one man in the transition area that I gave a sample to.  He was grinning from ear to ear.  I asked him if he'd had a good race as I gave him a sample and he told me he had just finished his FIRST triathlon!  How cool is that?  Then he asked me if I wrote a blog online, and told me that he'd read it and it really inspired him too!  He said that he really enjoyed the race reports.  You know... I wonder a lot if people do read what I write and being told that I'm helping someone is really great!!

Deanna - 1st Masters Female!

Judy - 1st Age Group!

Lesley - 4th Age Group!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Are You Balanced?

Front and Back Body Balance

When I first started writing this blog this was one of the first topics that I wanted to cover but for some reason just never got around to writing it.  I've hashed it around in my mind on some of those long solo bike rides. Here goes... let's see if I can make any sense.

As athletes and pretty much most people in society these days we have very unbalanced front and back bodies. We are all typically stronger in our front body muscles and weaker in our back body muscles.  When I was in college my gymnastics coach told me that my quad to hamstring strength was about 4:1!!  Ever see a little old man walking in a "C" position with his pants hiked way up in front?  How much time do our older population live in a seated position?  Pretty much all day.  What happens is that our hip flexors - the illiopsoas and the illiacus - get strong and shortened.  These are the muscles that help hold us in a seated position.  And when the front body muscles are overused the back body muscles are overstretched and weak.  Long ago we spent most of our time standing up and working.  Think about our lives today.  We sleep, usually curled on our side, get up and sit at the table to have breakfast, drive to work in a seated position, sit at a desk all day.  All of those front body muscles are being used all day long.  Arms in front of you using chest muscles.  Mostly front body muscle -  all strong and short.

All of the muscles in your body have antagonist or opposing muscle groups.  Quadriceps vs. Hamstrings,  Chest vs. Back, Biceps vs. Triceps.. you get the picture.  Think about when you get a headache that starts in the back of your head by your neck.  Usually it is from having a forward head position and the muscles attaching to the occipital ridge are pulled tight all day long. They get achy from the tension. While at the same time the scalenes, SCM (sternocleidomastoid muscle) and the attachments at your clavicle are shortened as our head leans forward.  So what do we usually do when it starts to hurt?  Pull our chin to our chest - just exactly the opposite of what you should do.   Or how about when you've been driving in the car for a long time and your upper back starts to get sore?  Again we usually drop our chin to our chest and stretch forward with our arms, maybe across our body.  Next time you feel this soreness, contract your upper back muscles and hold for 5 seconds, repeat it 10 times and see if the soreness decreases. 

As triathletes and runners pretty much all of our motion is forward - moving down the road.  Utilizing the front body way more than the back.  How about when your bent over on your aerobars for hours on end.  Overstretching the back body again.

As a massage therapist for 17 years I always started my clients face up rather than the typical face down that most therapists use.  The last 4 years spent working for a wonderful Chiropractic office where I learned so much about the back and neck. Why did I start them face up??  Because most people come in complaining about their backs and necks. Why would you work on an overstretched and weak muscle before you loosened up the tight opposing muscle groups??  So first I would release the front shoulder and the pecs, the anterior neck and all the attachments at the clavicle and sternum.  I could see their shoulders can come back and rest on the table once the front body was opened.

So what does this have to do with how it can help you??  It's simple.  "Stretch the Front Body and Strengthen the Back Body".  And every morning when you wake up, before you get out of bed flip over onto your stomach and bring yourself up into a modified cobra pose.  Legs out behind you and gently raise yourself up onto your elbows bringing your chest off the bed.  Then slowly lift your face up to the ceiling.  Lower back down and do this a couple more times.  For a great hip flexor stretch stand backwards at the edge of your bed, bring one knee up to your chest and hold it there with your arms, lay back on the bed letting your standing leg hang off the bed (continue holding your bent knee).  You'll feel a great stretch in the hip flexors - be sure to keep your core strong while doing this, don't arch your back.  Lie backwards on a stability ball letting your arms fall out to the sides to open the chest.

Think about your posture, keep your shoulders back (like your Mom always told you to do) and keep your head up, as if there is a string pulling you through the top of your head toward the sky.  Do exercises that strengthen the back of your body.

And here is another totally unrelated tip.  We use the front and sometimes the back of our bodies way more than the lateral sides.  So while you're brushing your teeth do some side leg raises to use the abductors in your hips.  Left leg while you brush the top teeth, right leg for the bottom teeth. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Fast Year - Race of Grace Triathlon Race Report

I can't believe that we've been in Mississippi for an entire year.  This last year just flew by for me.  I did the Race of Grace Triathlon last weekend in Philadelphia, MS.  A year ago we moved to Hattiesburg and this was the first race that I could find after we got here.  I had to go back!  Last year I saw my friend Pam Schilling at the race, this year she said she wouldn't be going back - phew!!  I was 2nd last year and was hoping that maybe I could win it.

It's a long drive from Hattiesburg to Philadelphia and this year Bill couldn't take me because he had to work, so the girls and I all piled in Deanna's car and headed out at 3:15 am to the race. They were all gracious enough to leave that early for me since I am such a "Nerveen" and need to be there with plenty of time to spare.

It's been really warm and humid here in South Mississippi, not a big surprise, it is summer after all.  Last year the temperature was cooler, I remember wearing a jacket in the morning.  Race morning temperature on Saturday was about 77 and the water a blissful 88 degrees.  No problem.  I'm used to the heat.  My pre-race hydration ritual is a couple big bottles of Smart Water - it's the only time I buy it.  Supposedly and according to the label it has some Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium in it.  Probably not enough to do anything but it's part of my pre-race stuff so I continue.  It's important to me to be consistent in the days leading up to any race. 

Lesley Slaughter - 5th Overall Female
My legs had been cranky towards the end of the week though.  I helped my friend Lesley with her girls triathlon camp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and wonder if running around like a banshee for three days made my legs extra tired.  Lesley mentioned that her legs just didn't have it for the bike either so it could be....
I am definitely finding that the older I get the more recovery I seem to need.  I guess age does have a subtle way of creeping up on you!

Lesley has been putting on a Girl's Triathlon Camp (ages 8-13) for the past 3 years and Deanna, Judy and I all agreed to go to Laurel and help coach the camp!  Her company is Titus2Sports - "Training us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives..." Titus 2:12.   I think there are some future triathletes in the making!!

The water was warm... really warm.  Not expecting a really quick time this year even though I've really been consistent with my swimming for the past year.  Started off #6 in line - they had us submit our seed times when we registered.  Judy went off 1st!  I would hate that - when we warmed up together on before the race we definitely talked about which way the bike went out so she would know where to go!  I passed three other guys who were ahead of me.  Wonder what they entered for their predicted time????  My split for the .25 swim was 6:38, a little slower than last year - but swim courses are never comparable, "It Is What It Is."  Had the 2nd fastest women's swim, Judy of course had the fastest split!  That girl is a fish!

Judy Hudson - 1st Age Group
Had a fast transition (:30) although my speedsuit kind of got stuck on the timing chip.  The chips that they use here are HUGE!  They stick out from your ankle about 3/4".   I ALWAYS safety pin the end of the neoprene strap that they give you with your chip. I started pinning the strap years ago after I felt it almost come off in the swim when someone grabbed/brushed my ankle. 
Last year at Sunfish (July 14th this year) just before the race I was talking to Judy and Deanna who were standing in line waiting for the start.  They were chatting with Deanna's coach Chris, and I mentioned to them all about pinning the strap.  Chris made fun of me saying "why would you worry about something like that."   After the race Deanna told us the story of how in the swim her strap came OFF, she stopped went back and found it floating, started swimming with it in her hand.  Then the chip slipped off the  strap.  Hmmmm.... guess it's not such a bad idea after all.

Triathlon tip #873 - Consider safety pinning the end of your timing strap so you don't have to worry about losing it during the race.

When I started the bike I knew that this wasn't going to be a great ride.  My legs just didn't have it today.  The results proved what I was feeling was true.  I hung in there and did my best though, it's all you can do when you're not feeling it.  Stay focused, work the down hills and flats.  I saw a girl at the turn around with #60 something on her arm... uh oh.... she was gaining.  After the turn I tried to pick it up.  20.2 mph average on the bike - last year it was 20.4 (I find that the short cranks 155 make it a little harder to climb - still testing them).

Another quick transition.  About 6 or 7 men passed me on the bike so I came into transition around 10th or so and I heard the race director announce, "Look at this lady - great ride!"  That made me smile inside.  (:34 - which includes putting on socks for the run!!).

The run is an out and back.  Judy's husband, Sam caught me at about the 1.5 mile and ran beside me for just a bit.  It actually gave me some encouragement.  Sam is super fast and holds the record for the course (set last year).  For some reason this year they didn't get his entry and he went off dead last on the swim.  Remember I went off 6th - and he caught me on the run - yiy! he is super fast!! 

Saw girl #60 again on the run as I was headed back and tried to pick it up - she looked close.  Also saw my friends Deanna, Judy and Lesley too and they were all running strong!  I even tried to cheer for them, but I think I really just managed a wave.  I did see my friend Mac on the way in and gave a forced smile (he was the one at the last race who told me that speaking to me was a "kind of a bummer" because of the look on my face).  Don't these people understand the "Race Face"? Read this post from my friend Carol in North Carolina (she re-posted her coach's blog):  Triathlon Training Blog - The Face That Wins.

1st Overall Female
When I got home and downloaded the race data I was pretty happy to see the splits on the run.  (7:51, 7:41, 7:24)  According to the Garmin the race course was 3.12 - my average pace was 7:37! Waited after the race to see how I did - time trial start and all, you never know until the results are posted.  Found out that I won overall female even though my time was about 15 seconds slower than last year.  Slower swim, slower bike, faster transitions and faster run.  2nd fastest swim, 2nd fastest bike, and 3rd fastest run. Glad to see that I negative split the run, it used to be the other way around - go out too fast and die.

Deanna Lynn - 2nd Overall Female
Deanna had an awesome race and placed 2nd overall female and also had the fastest bike split for the women. Lesley came in 5th overall.  Judy won her age group and had the fastest swim for the women. (We are a competitive bunch aren't we?) Hattiesburg pretty much cleaned up with the awards - Judy's husband Sam Hudson won overall male, Deanna's coach Chris Boyd was 3rd overall male, Jason Marshall (Bill plays golf with Jason's Dad!) placed 2nd in his age group and Brad Smith was also 2nd in his age group.  Complete results here.

As I was handing out Aquaphor samples, I remembered what a great reception to Aquaphor I had at this race last year!  Lots of "I love this stuff" comments and even a couple doctors who said they recommended it all the time too.  Probably the best attitude and feedback to the product of any race.

One other really nice thing - as I was lining up for the swim a woman came up to me and told me that my blog was really inspirational for her.  I saw her again after the race and she said that this was her first triathlon ever!!  That she'd googled Race Of Grace Triathlon and a link to my post from last year came up.  I hope it helped her to "see" the race before hand from the perspective of another competitor.  I don't remember her name but hopefully she'll read this and see how much it meant to meet her!!  Congratulations on your first triathlon!!  Hope to see you at maybe Sunfish or Mighty Magnolia!!!