Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shue Racing for the US NAVY!

Mid-A Bella Nikki Shue was selected as a member of the Navy Women's team to race in the Armed Forces Triathlon championship!

Each branch of service has 6 men and 4 women on their team. Well, turns out that Andy Baldwin "The Bachelor" was on the Navy team! Yikes! He's as hot and hard-bodied as he was on TV, and a very nice guy, and actually a pretty good triathlete to boot! And I can neither confirm nor deny if I had anything to do with his recent breakup with Tessa.....

Friday dawned, and after another fantastic swim (sans wetsuit) in the Pacific Ocean, we headed to get our uniforms issued. Oh the schwag we got! Race kit, extra bib shorts, running shoes, polo shirts that were WAY TOO BIG, backpacks, arm-warmers, socks, on and on and on! It finally hit me; this was the big time!

Saturday arrived much too quickly and I was filled with more angst than I've ever had pre-race! there were only 75 racers; just 23 women. How the hell was I going to save face!?! I decided I only had three goals for the race: not be last, Beat Army!, and revel in the fact that I was racing with Elite athletes! While it wasn't my best performance, I can happily report that I met all three goals (but just barely!).

THE SWIM (31:01)
The thing about ITU/draft-legal racing is that it basically negates the bike leg of the race; if you aren't out of the water with the rest of the pack, you are screwed. I had a great first loop, and when I jumped back into the water for loop #2, I was right in the middle of the pack, well on my way to a PR. Unfortunately, I somehow failed to make the turn around the last bouy to shore, and I continued down the coast heading to San the time I realized my mistake I was a good 300m off the back. Pathetically, I was 72/75 on the swim.

T1 (1:38)
Fortunately, teammate Kristen was still in transition when I stumbled to my bike, and we were able to work together to close the gap. Horay for Kristen!

THE BIKE (1:07:05)
As I said before, the importance of the bike is significantly reduced in a draft-legal race; unless that is, you need to crush the bike to catch up to the pack. Kristen and I hammered like I've never hammered before. We had a headwind coming off the ocean for half the course, and it was a 4 loop course! We did two loops ourselves, then caught a USMC gal who tagged along in our pace line, and on the back end we picked up fellow Navy teammate Lindsay. Unfortuately, neither the Marine nor Lindsay were experienced riders and they tapped wheels. Luckily, noone went down, but Kristen and I decided it was time to make a break. So, on the final lap we charged ahead and ended up passing 3 or 4 other riders right before coming into T2. I moved up significantly in ranking to 59th place in the bike (14th Female).

T2 (1:00)I got off the bike to run to my rack and nearly fell to the ground. My legs were toast. No, they were jelly. I knew I had absolutely nothing left, and this was going to be the worst run/race of my life!!

THE RUN (do I have to tell you? 58:34)
The Run. The--long, straight, into the headwind, up the sanddunes, down the sanddunes, back around the sanddunes, and up the sanddunes over and over again--Run. Thank God I had my friend Catherine there to cheer me on, and make me smile 5 times as I slowly turtled my way back and forth, back and forth, back and forth across that course. It was brutal.

THE END 2:39:18
I was being passed left and right, and there was nothing I could do about it. The brain wasn't computing with the muscles. It just wasn't happening. All I had going for me was that there was one Army chick behind me. And that's where she stayed!
I finished second to last, within one minute of my teammate Lindsay and 3 other girls, but a good 6 minutes ahead of the Army girl. And, technically, it was a PR. However, considering it was draft-legal and pancake flat, I should have been in the 2:25 range.

Overall, the Navy Men's team took the Gold, with Elite triathlete Tim O'Donnell taking first overall (1:49:32), followed by Tommy Brown in second place (1:56:12). The fastest female was former Navy-turned Marine Justine Whipple (2:05:45). The Bachelor beat that with a 2:05:05, so he is definitely legit! The Navy Women's team was last, but we did get Rachel Beckmann on the podium with a 4th place finish (2:15:55) and a spot at the CISM World Championships in India in October!

I had a fantastic time, and was lucky enough to race with some very elite athletes--look for Tim O'Donnell and Justine Whipple to be in the Olympics in Bejing next year!

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I know, I know, it's been nearly a week, and I'm behind on my race report! Well, wait no more, here it is:

I arrived in Portland, OR on Monday, with a full week of visits and vacations to get in, as well as some taper workouts. I drove to the course on Tuesday and took a slow, easy one-loop ride around the bike course.
It was unbelievably scenic! The excitement of making the Age-Group Nationals was coarsing through my veins, and I was inspired to see other triathletes riding as well.

Thursday brought two more Bellas to the venue, and the three of us--me, Raja (San Diego) and Ashley (SLO) did another easy single loop of the course in the Oregon drizzle with a smoking-fast guy named Kevin (who ended up taking 4th place Clydesdale). We were definitely ready to race by this point! The girls then headed to McMenamins Grand Lodge for the biggest carb-loading dinner ever! We couldn't even come close to finishing all that we ordered: smoked salmon, freshly fried calamari, huge garden salads, and 3 heaping bowls of pasta!!

Finally, Friday dawned, again rainy (it is Oregon) and we went to packet-pick up and bike check in. After protecting our bikes from the Oregon weather, we headed off to Hagg lake to get in one final swim. I went sans wetsuit, and everyone thought I was crazy. The water was crystal clear, no silt, no marshy grass, and unbelievably clean and refreshing! After the swim, Raja and Ashley headed back to their families, and I went with my friend Scott, also from the DC area, to the Macaroni Grill for one final pre-race meal.

One of the things I miss most about Oregon is with it being above the 45th Parallel, the summer days are long! The sun was peeking up at 4:30, and twilight didn't fade until nearly 10 pm! I had a horrible night's sleep, even though I went to bed early, I never fell asleep until about 3:30, and with the alarm set for 4:30, it was quite the restless night. I arrived at the lake just before 6am. The caliber of athletes was unbelievable, everyone seemed to be picture-perfect and in top physical racing condition! It was very intimidating! Of course the usual "I'm undertrained, not worthy to be here, should have run more hills, should have ridden more hills" thoughts were running through my head, but at this point, all I can do is hope to have a great race and enjoy the moment that I had actually qualified for this race, and deserved to be here, with the best amateur athletes in the United States!

SWIM (~0:27:00 exact time unkown thanks to incompetent USAT timing)My wave started 1:15 minutes after the official race start, there were 65 women in my wave.
It was a chest-deep water start. I stayed to the near side of the bouys (all left-hand turns) and we swam directly into the rising sun. I fell off the front pack before we reached the first turn, and by the second turn I was being passed by the 40-44 men who started 4 minutes after us. It was a long, slow, swim for me. Not sure what happened, but I was really struggling on the swim, and while I'll never know for sure, I was definitely towards the back of the pack.

T1 (~0:3:00 exact time again unknown)
It was a long run from swim out to get around transition to my bike. I struggled getting into my bike shoes. Next year's goal is definitely to learn how to get into shoes on the bike.

BIKE (1:16:47)My plan was to go all out on the bike, ride as hard as I could, embrace the suffering, and just keep going until it hurt so bad I simply couldn't go any more. This course had two options: UP and DOWN. There was only one section that was flat, and it was about 1/4 mile long. Everything else was up or down! It was a really fun course, and while it did hurt, I enjoyed it. Apparently there was over 1500ft of climbing all told.

T2 (0:1:20)I was close to bike in, so racked my bike quickly, grabbed my Velo Bella "flair", hat and racebelt and was off.

RUN (0:52:01)As with the bike, the run had two options: UP or DOWN. And there seemed to be a helluva lot of UP! Seven hills in all, I believe. I did my best to push my legs up the hill out of transition to gain speed heading down the first long hill. But by the third hill on the out-and-back course, my hip flexors were screaming. I was getting passed left and right by the 40-44 Women, and really cursing that I hadn't run more hills back in DC. At one point I remember commenting to myself on the lovely wild roses growing alongside the concentration was waning and it took everything to hit the turnaround and head back. I was upset that there was only water on the whole 10K course. I was dying for gatorade.

FINISH (2:40:02)
I believe I lost about 3 spots on the return portion of the run, but somehow I (as usual) found my final kick at the last little hill coming into the finish line, I finally felt good and stretched out my legs and had a strong finish. Turns out I actually had a Personal Best. It was only by 35 seconds, but considering I took a full 5 minutes off my time at the not-quite-as-hilly Columbia last month, I know that I've improved and will smoke this time on a flatter course!

All in all, the race was a wonderful experience, I finished 43rd out of 65 women in my age group, and am definitely going to do my best to qualify for Nationals again next year!

Overall Stats:
Overall 760/1061 finishers (1300 started race)
Female 279/475
F 35-39 43/65 (winners time 2:12:41)

USAT Age Group Results

Race photos