Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shue Finishes Strong at the Nation's Triathlon!

What a difference a week makes! I went into this race with zero expectations, bummed about last week's poor finish and podium miss. I was ready for the tri season to be over!

I awoke to a fantastically fabulous fall day. Not a cloud in the sky; cool, clear, crisp air and a definite electric charge all around! It was awesome to walk out my front door and ride my bike to the race site in Georgetown. The Georgetown waterfront was beautiful, clear blue skies--a perfect "San Diego morning".

THE SWIM (29:53)
Age group 10/31
The Potomac isn't the nastiest water I've ever been in. It was actually quite nice. Didn't smell bad, didn't taste bad, and it was actually better visibility UNDER-water than above. We jumped off the floating dock into the water, swam down to the Key Bridge, and then turned around for the down-stream, slightly longer leg back. Problem was that the sun was right in our face. It was a total white-out. The entire river seemed on fire with light. I couldn't see anything. I had to stop 3 or 4 times to try to hear others around me, and look backwards at the bouys to know where to swim forwards. Needless to say, it was a brutal swim!

T1 (3:12)
Age group 4/31
It was a fairly long run from the swim to the transition area--about the same as last week at General Smallwood.

THE BIKE (1:07:58)
Age group 3/31
I took off flying past the Kennedy Center, checked my computer and it said 24mph! WOW, I thought, this is going to be a good race! I was flying all the way until the tip of Hain's Point, and as I rode around "The Awakening" statue, I "awokened" to the fact that my 24mph was a result of a heady tailwind, which was now a full-on brutal headwind. It was all I could do to keep it in the 15-18mph range. Two loops, where 3/4 of each loop had the headwind or a nasty cross-wind. I was passing folks left and right, and really enjoyed the ride through all the Monuments. What a gorgeous course!

T2 (:56)
Age group 1/31 (Yeah!)
No cramping, no need for water, in and out, lickety-split!

THE RUN (46:42)
Age group 3/31
I had no idea where I was time-wise, but after last week's fiasco and my 5-second loss for 3rd place, I knew I needed to just run. Run, Forest, Run! The course took us up Whitehurst Fwy, then over a makeshift staircase to the other side of Whitehurst and back down again. The motorcycle camera caught up to me and I had a brief conversation with them, but then I was off! It was great seeing so many DC-Tri folks running, and we were all giving each other the "thumbs-up" as we passed; volunteers were shouting and encouraging, and the energy was unbelievable! Next thing I knew I was at mile 3. Completely afraid to look at my watch, I just kept on plowing, telling myself that I didn't have to do another run this year, so you better run your heart out and leave nothing in the bank! And then I saw the "Mile 5" marker. And I felt great! I picked up the speed again. Then some guy behind me actually asked me where the Smithsonian was; having told him there were numerous ones, but the Natural History Museum was right in front of us; he then asked which one was best!? Really. We had a total conversation while I was running a sub-8 minute pace; my fastest 10k run ever (triathlon or otherwise)!

THE FINISH (2:28:40)*Personal Best*
Age group 3/31
Overall 29/230 women (845 total participants)

As I turned onto 12th street from Constitution, I noticed that there were runners running in both directions. How long was Mile 5 anyway?!? Then I turned right onto Pennsylvania Avenue, running straight at the United States Capitol. WOW, what a sight! And then, at the foot of the Capitol, we did a U-turn around a red-hot new Porche, and it was a 4 block straight-shot to victory! I picked up the pace, saw a few folks ahead of me and kicked it in. There wasn't a chance that I was going to give up this week. This week I was going to FINISH STRONG!

It wasn't until I saw the finisher's clock (which was ~45 minutes ahead of my time) when I realized I might actually have run a sub 2:30 race. And then I looked down at my watch. I couldn't believe it! My watch said 2:29:17, and I started my watch about :40 seconds early before the swim (so I'm always a bit suprised by my "official" time). Not only did I finish strong, but I had CRUSHED my all-time-best, and finally made the "sub-2:30 club". I also managed to requalify for USAT Age Group Nationals again next year!

For all the nay-sayers, and folks who never thought it'd happen, the Nation's Tri is one of the all-time best triathlon experiences I've ever had! I can't wait till next year!

NBC News Coverage
Race Results

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cyclocross Season Begins

Today was the start to the cyclocross season - kicking off with the MABRA series race in Baltimore at Druid Hill Park. The numbers and rowdiness of the racers and spectators in attendance prove that cyclocross is hot (and so is the weather) in the Mid-Atlantic and growing.

The women's B field had about 30 racers (the biggest women's B field ever) - including two Velo Bellas - veteran cyclocrosser Marisa Peacock, and first time racer Hillary Styer. Both of them looked great and held their own against a stacked mixed field ranging from first time bike racers to the winner who is a top local road racer and already experienced cyclocrosser. The two Bellas looked great and raced well. Marisa is coming into form and will have a great season as a Bella. Hillary learned a lot from this first race - especially about warming up and what not to eat before races and will continue to get stronger as the season progresses.

Later in the day (after literally 100s of racers had already crossed the finish line) the elite women took off. For the elite women, the promoter was offering a huge payout for the women's purse ($900 total). I think 25 women showed up to take their chance to get some cash. The Velo Bellas (Jen Bodine and I) were at the front and for the most part in control of the early race, growing a sizeable gap with our lead pack of 5 riders over the rest of the field. We set Jenny up for the honorable first lap prime offered by which she claimed. Mel's race turned into a melee of mechanicals and mistakes brought on by heat and frustration and bad luck and was able to finish thanks to the support of Morgan as pit crew. Jenny rode strong and was always there willing to drag her teammate back to the other riders if needed. The Velo Bellas ended up finishing in the money and in the top 10.

Alicia battled the boys in the juniors race. Some of them may have been faster, but she looked the smoothest going over the barriers. And she's mastered her dismounts and mounts of the bike better than most of the pros! Alicia may be the first junior woman in the MABRA series to ever race. If she keeps it up she may be paving the way for a new junior women's category next year.

Mel, Hillary, Marisa, and Alicia are going to carry the cx momentum in to next weeks MABRA race at LilyPonds in western MD, and will be joined by a few more Bellas - including Kim Wendell for her inaugural cyclocross race.

Jenny is heading to Vegas to join the Velo Bella cyclocross elite team to work at Interbike and to race the UCI cyclocross race Wednesday night, followed by the World Criterium Championship race Thursday (also in Vegas). Needless to say, Jenny will hopefully be taking Sunday off to rest while we are playing with our bikes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hard Lessons at General Smallwood

The morning arrived hot, humid, and horrible! How it could be 40 degrees last weekend and 80 degrees at 5 am this race morning are beyond me!

My friend Jean and her boyfriend Ken (both Coppi riders) came to volunteer, and it was great to actually have people who knew me cheering me on at a race for once! Ken was on the bullhorn for the swim start....

THE SWIM (29:30)
Age Group 9/23
Overall 29/77 women

This course, same as last year, was very grassy--tons of hydrilla in the water made for a swampy swim. It's two loops out and back, easy enough. It was really hot in the wetsuit, but I had a pretty straight swim, only veered off course once!

T1 (3:46)
Age Group 5/23
Overall 18/77
Again, same as last year, a long, over .25mile run up to the transition. I stashed my flip-flops and they helped with the concrete/gravel to transition.

THE BIKE (1:15:40)
Age Group 2/23
Overall 7/77
I rented Zipp 404's from Conte's, and they were great! I had a great time on the course. It seemed flatter than I remembered it--guess that's what happens when you ride the Pyrenees a few weeks earlier! I had a smoking bike, and even got kudos on the course from a number of the women I passed. Go Bella!

T2 (:56)
Age Group 2/23
Overall 5/77

THE RUN (52:58)
Age Group 3/23
Overall 17/77

I thought I was mentally prepared for the out-and-back hilly run from last year. But, the race director, David Glover, had a trick up his sleeve! The final mile of the race was a trail/cross country route instead of back down the road through the park entrance.

THE FINISH (2:42:48)
Age Group 4th place
Overall 16th place

At about 400m to the finish line, a lady caught up to me, shouted "We're almost there, come on" and took off ahead of me. Well, she looked to be in an older age group (no number on her calf) and the course wound down a narrow path where it then went uphill over a wooden bridge. At this point, I was just not mentally tough enough, and I let the lady pass me. Turns out she was in my age group, and beat me by 5 seconds and ended up taking 3rd.

I learned a hard lesson today; never, EVER give up a strong finish. I don't care if it's a 90 year old man next time, I'm racing strong to the end.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Annapolis Inagural Triathlon

By Nikki

I had to set up the two transition areas race-morning, so my day started at 4:30 am, but my race wave didn't go off until 7:30!

THE SWIM (29:33)
I felt like I hadn't swam in months when I hit the water--pretty much because I hadn't swam in months! The water was really warm, and very murky brown. Apparently the wave behind me was a vicious attack of drowning attempts, and pulling legs to propel ahead, but I didn't get any of that in my wave. Perhaps because I just don't look like much competition in the water!

T1 (2:09)
I felt fine running out of the water, but when I got to my bike, my suit got stuck on my left ankle, so I flexed my toe to remove it and my calf seized up with a Charlie Horse. Nearly took me to the ground in excruciating pain! Had to stop and massage the calf for a good minute because I figured better once in T1 than have it cramp again on the bike.

THE BIKE (1:08:07)

The course was very crowded, single-file many portions and hard to pass, and had to use brakes to keep from drafting where there was no room to pass. Way too crowded! My calf was still very tight, but never seized on me. Had a good chase with the USNA and USMA girls--between me and the Middy we pushed really hard and in the end we pulled the USMA girl out of her comfort zone and she bonked on the run. Go Navy! Beat Army! The last few kilometers, a guy in a Mid-Maryland kit commented on my Bella pink, and we battled each other all the way to the transition, it was fun, but if he's reading, you still got beat by the older chick in Pink! While this was my fastest split ever, since the course was 2K short, no idea if this would have been a PR for me or not.

T2 (1:40)
It was an uphill dismount and people were stopped all over the place way before the dismount and I nearly crashed. Once I got off the bike and tried to run with the bike, my calf seized again; so I limped my way all the way to the back of T2 to my rack and had to re-massage my calf. Took 4 more thermalites and 2 excedrine and limped out of T2.

THE RUN (53:39)
I started out very slow, small steps, and rolling my foot fully to stretch my calf muscle as I ran. Mid-Maryland guy was right behind me, and I kept expecting him to pass me but he never did--took 'till mile 2 before my calf finally loosened up and I didn't feel it at all. By mile 3 I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was at 2:09 overall. Quick calculation said that I could probably get under 2:39 so I picked up the pace. At the top of the bridge my hip flexors were hurting, but I knew I had more in me so I took big strides coming down the bridge and picked up the pace.

THE FINISH (2:35:05--a Personal Best!)
At 400m to go I smiled to myself and thought of the last 400m on the Port de Bales climb and knew this was gonna be a piece of cake; then a chick with a "36" on her calf ran passed me, I kept pace, she picked it up, and at 200m we were in a full sprint, everyone cheering us both on, and as I saw the opening to the Stadium I bounded ahead, leaving her in the dust!

Overall, I was really frustrated that it wasn't a standard 1.5k/40k/10k race as originally advertised, but the finish line was pretty cool! And I got to see fellow Navy teammate Tommy Brown (what a cutie!) take the overall Professional Win too!

Complete Results
Overall Rank = 50/377
Age Group Rank = 8/53