This July, runners from across the country will converge in the heart of the bluegrass for the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor National Championship. This four day meet will host events on Thursday, July 28 through Sunday July 31 at the nationally recognized University of Kentucky Track and Field facility.
This historic event began in 1968. Over the years it has been held in states like California, New York, North Carolina and Iowa, but this will be the first time the venue has been in Kentucky. The athletes competing have everyone from ex-Olympians and NFL stars to centenarians and recreational runners. Some athletes will have the sole goal of completing their event, and some will be out there to duke it out.
Although any event with the word “championship” in the title can be intimidating, don’t let that stop you. This rare opportunity has potential to be a fun and memorable experience.
Spectating will be just as exciting as competing. While there will be hundreds of inspirational athletes out there, here is a quick look at a handful to watch. All photos are provided by Rob Jerome.
*Michelle Rohl: 2021 USATF Athlete of the Year in the W55 age group. This versatile athlete competed in race walking in three Olympic games, and broke three American records at last year’s USATF Masters Championships (800m= 2:23, 1500m= 4:54 and 4 x 400m relay in a world record 4:23.)
*Brian Hankerson: standout long jump and high jump specialist in the M60 age group
*Nolan Shaheed: this well known 73 year old has broken age group world records in the 800 meter, the mile and the 1500 meter run.
*Betty Lindberg: At 97, she is currently the oldest competitor registered. She will be competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500 meter. What a workload! Betty recently smashed her 5k age group world record by over 30 minutes!
*Gloria Krug: This 91 year old will be competing in the long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer and weight throw
If you are interested in registering, you must be a current member of USATF. Price will increase on June 29. Detailed schedule with times will be released two weeks before the meet begins.
Until recently, I was a triathlete who dabbled in marathons. All four marathons I did (other than my first) involved a lot of biking and swimming during the build, and not that much run mileage. But in 2019, I broke 90 minutes for a half marathon and decided I wanted to properly train for a marathon. I would put the triathlons on the back burner for a while, and see if i could get closer to my potential as a runner.
I traded in the Pearl Izumi tri shorts for Rabbit gear (what real runners wear,) started listening to running podcasts all the time, and began following all the pro runners. I upped my mileage to about 70 miles a week for a month or two, and toed the line at A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale in January of 2020. I surprised myself with a 16 minute PR of 3:07, finishing 2nd overall female. The spark was ignited. Unfortunately, the beginning of Covid was just around the corner and I wouldn’t get a chance to have another shot at a marathon for over a year.
During Covid I ran….a lot. I was thriving on long runs and 70, 80 even 90 miles a week as I trained without a goal in sight. Sometimes on my long runs I would run the marathon distance just for fun, since no races were on schedule. I loved everything about it, and kept looking for races.
Finally, in September I had a chance to test my training at the Indy Women’s Half. I ran a strong 1:26, and started thinking that maybe I could knock out a 3:05 full.
As races started to come back, I figured Indianapolis was a safe bet. The Carmel Marathon organizers had successfully put on that women’s half, and seemed to be very organized. I signed up for Carmel, along with a handful of my athletes.
We spent the winter training, and we trained hard. There were long runs in the rain, sleet and one very memorable one with pace miles on treacherous ice with Caroline. That was the hardest run workout of my life. We hit the track, we did hill repeats and we trained until our legs felt like they were bricks, and then we trained some more.
My athletes stayed relatively healthy. I did not. I had a chronic calf issue that would rear it’s ugly head every time I overdid it. I had to take a few days off going into races and long runs, and then take a few days off after. But, I knew I could run through it and also knew if I could get to the starting line I could probably make it through the race and then I had all the time in the world to let it heal.
I had one prep race- the Greenville Half- and it did not go great. I ran another 1:26 and finished third master, but felt uncomfortable and off the entire time. My legs locked up (an unfortunate occurrence that happens to me on flatter surfaces and treadmills) and I couldn’t shake it. I was still pleased with my time though. It was good enough that I planned to go for 3:05 at Carmel.
The day before Carmel, my friend/ athlete Sarah and I drove the 3+ hours and got to packet pickup around 3. We did a little shopping and headed to our hotel (Spring Hill Suites.) Sarah loved driving through all the roundabouts.
After a decent, plant-based bowl at Public Greens, we headed back to the hotel early and got a decent night of sleep. I woke up at 5:30 to have my Picky Bar How About Dem Apples oatmeal, and then relaxed in bed for an hour. After that, I did the Myrtl Routine and sipped on a Nuun electrolyte drink. Sarah drove myself, Shannon M and Caroline to the start of the race.
We got really lucky with the weather, other than the wind. It was mid 30s and sunny. Last time I did the half here it was pouring rain.
We parked at a church about half hour before the start, and headed to the port a potties. That was a mistake. The lines were crazy. Operation Find A Bush ensued. Thankfully, there was an isolated area near the car.
We warmed up for about ten minutes with easy jogging and drills. My calf hurt when I put weight on it, but I knew it usually loosened up. I ate an Untapped waffle and lined up. My plan was to run with the 3:05 pace group, and I was so excited to work with a pack. Unfortunately, the 3:05 pacer was not there so that plan was aborted. I freaked out a little because I hadn’t thought of a strategy, so decided to just wing it at about 7:05 pace.
The gun went off and so did I. There was a lot of chaos, as people darted all over the place while blindly taking off their masks. I tripped mildly a couple of times and then found running room. My legs didn’t feel great, and I was worried this might not go well. I decided to focus on just one mile at a time. The first mile was 6:54… a little quick.
I didn’t feel much better the next three miles, but around mile 4 or 5 I found a rhythm. My legs showed no sign of locking up, and my calf had warmed up and I knew it would be OK. The next few miles I settled in smoothly and averaged about 6:53.
At mile 6.5 we went over a timing mat and I had my first gel- an apple cinnamon Huma gel. I was also making sure to drink every time we passed an aid station. I carried a 20 oz electrolyte bottle of water and Nuun right in my Senita shorts pocket, and it was super handy to just reach down instead of pull off to the side of the aid stations. It definitely saved me some time, and I plan to keep doing this.
A couple miles later, I made a friend. Jonathan and I had been running together for a little while, and struck up a conversation. He was with a big group from Knoxville. One of his training buddies, Andy, was about 150 yards ahead. Jonathan said he was trying to stay behind Andy, because Andy would be closer to a 3 hour marathon. I made a mental note to stay behind Andy too.
Around mile 11 things got a little tough. We were running into a headwind, and there are a couple uphill miles heading back into the finish area. It was motivating seeing some of the half marathoners pick up the pace and take off toward the finish. I was also starting to notice a couple female elite bib numbers around me, as well as runners in briefs, and that made me question whether I was in over my head. I don’t think I am worthy enough as a runner to don briefs. Those women are hard core.
I crossed the half marathon timing mat at exactly 1:30:37. I remember this part clearly, because that is almost the exact time I ran in 2019. I was trying so hard to break 90 minutes that day, and was struggling at the end. This time, I felt so comfortable and like a different runner altogether.
The comfortable feeling didn’t last long. About mile 14 the wheels fell off. We had been running into a headwind, and that mile was kind of an uphill grinder. I was trying hard to hang onto a couple guys, and felt them getting away. I took another gel, and that helped tremendously. It had just been a rough patch, as happens often in 26 miles. It wouldn’t be the last.
Once we were out of that nasty headwind, things were better. I passed a few runners and caught up to Andy. I talked to him a little bit, and we played cat and mouse. My miles in this stretch were about 6:57 pace.
Mile 17 was my hardest mile. It was also my slowest so far, at 7:05. That was another rough patch. I had to keep reminding myself that pain was temporary. At this point, the sun was starting to beat down. Even though it was a cool day, the glare off fresh blacktop and no shade was a factor. I even started pouring water on myself at the aid stations.
About mile 19 I had another gel. They were going down well and my stomach felt very good. But, I ran out of my water and from this point on I would drink at all the aid stations. That definitely slowed me down a bit, as I have to walk to get water down or I choke on it.
Getting through mile 20 was a mental positive. I had a solid 21, clocking a 6:56 even with a water stop. I caught back up to Andy and we played cat and mouse again. We didn’t say much at all, but suffering with another person always seems to help.
Mile 23 to the finish was a battle. We turned back into the headwind around 24, and I took my last gel. My fueling plan worked out well, but my legs were not working so well at this point. I was so relieved they never locked up, but muscle cramps started. My quads, my hamstrings and my calves were all protesting. But I knew I could push through it, and I was starting to get excited about my time. At this point I knew 3:05 was going to happen.
The last thing Andy said was that his legs were cramping. There were a lot of people pulling off to the side of the road and rubbing their muscles. I remember seeing one girl pull off in these late miles, getting her vitals checked and taking off her bib. I felt so bad to see that.
Miles 25 and 26 were back up that bike path and straight into the headwind, which was much stronger now than it had been 90 minutes ago. I tried to suck it up and grind, even though I saw the pace on my watch lagging. My last two miles were 7:16 and 7:30, but I was still passing a lot of people. There were definitely a few that passed me too though!
Finally, with about 150 yards left we took a right turn out of the wind and even down a little hill. The finish was in sight, and the crowd was cheering loud! I looked at my watch and knew I would be in the 3:03s. It was too late to break 3:03, so I slowed down and took in the moment. I was grinning from ear to ear, and even though everything hurt, I was so happy. Unfortunately, another Master’s women took that opportunity to fly by me and beat me by a few seconds. I must not have a competitive drive because instead of trying to race, I was just super happy for her!
I crossed the finish line with a huge smile and other than the cramping legs, I felt fantastic. I was still energized and fresh. But I just couldn’t move too fast! Within about 30 seconds I was walking like Frankenstein.
I grabbed a water and headed to the finish line to watch my runners come in. Like any other race, there was excitement and there was disappointment. No matter how well we train, it is not always our day, and I hate to see people not have the race they hoped for. However, everyone came back sound and will live to fight another day. Cheryl had a solid half even though it was just off her goal. Sarah was sick during her race and still gutted out the half. I did get to see Caroline crush it with a 3:10, Austin finish his first marathon, and Shannon absolutely smash her PR and finally achieve her dream of a BQ after many attempts, with a 3:26!
In retrospect, there is not much I would have done different. Training build was ambitious but doable, with a few 300+ mile months in there. If I could have stayed healthy I would not have had to cross train through the taper with almost no running, so I may have overdone the build by a week or two. Fueling was perfect. Clothing choice and shoes were good, although the laces on the Next bruised the top of my feet.
I feel lucky to still be improving and running PR’s in my 40s. I am fairly confident there is a sub 3 in my future, which still is hard for me to believe because I spent years chasing a sub 90 half. I guess high mileage is magical, and has been key in all of this improving. Having only trained hard for two marathons, I keep learning. I never thought the marathon would be my distance, but there is something addictive about it.
For now, it is time to step back and let the calf heal. I’ll be back on the bike and swimming more this summer, and work on my 5k speed which is pretty bad. What 3 hour marathoner can barely run a 20 minute 5k?! And as soon as I forget the pain of miles 24-26, I’ll start thinking about finding a fall marathon.
As light at the end of the pandemic tunnel began to appear, my athletes (and myself) were chomping on the bit to find a live, in person event. I read about the Greenville Half, touted as the “fastest half in the south” on a flat and net downhill course.
It didn’t take much arm twisting to get a few friends and athletes on board, and we all decided to make a long weekend of it. My friend Shannon offered to drive. As a professional passenger, I packed an incredibly delicious cooler of snacks, to hopefully avoid being compared to the scrub in the TLC song (the one hangin’ out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride.)
On the six hour ride to Greenville (more like 12 hours after Shannon stopped to inspect every item at the Restoration Hardware outlet in Asheville) we passed through severe storms and torrential downpour. Shannon was meticulous at navigating through the hollers and winding roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We pulled into the super cute downtown of Greenville, and checked into the Spring Hill Suites. It is a beautiful hotel with a great staff, fluffy clouds for beds. It had swings, a huge bar, an outdoor courtyard with a pool and firepit, and a nice sized gym.
After checking in, we hooked up with some friends and grabbed dinner at Green Fetish, just across the street. Our friend Sarah had graciously picked up bibs for about 20 of us, so we were able to collect them at dinner. I had a delicious bowl of rice, tofu and veggies. Shannon and I went back and passed out by 8pm.
The next morning we were ready early, as “we” (Shannon) had to drive about fifteen minutes to the start of the race. It was a point to point course, starting in Travelers Rest and finishing near the hotel. One of my more ambitious athletes, Austin, was thinking about running to the start but we talked him out of that idea.
After a little hiccup of a forgotten bib (Caroline) we finally made it to the start. Fortunately, the rain had almost stopped. It was mild and even a little humid. We all warmed up together with a short jog and some drills, and then it was time to go.
Shannon, Caroline and I all lined up together. Sarah, Shannon M and Cheryl lined up in the corral just behind us. The gun went off, and so did the masks. We were racing!!
I had been nursing a posterior tib injury (deep in the calf) and hadn’t run much the week leading up to this race. Being in a marathon build of 80 and 90 mile weeks, it was probably an overuse injury. It had plagued me last fall, but always seemed to improve with rest. It felt OK now but the rest of me felt sluggish and flat.
The first four miles felt bad. I could not find a rhythm. It was much hiller than I expected, and I could feel my heart rate through the roof. Splits ranged from 6:25 to 6:44 these few miles. At about mile three, my left leg locked up. This happens sometimes on the treadmill and on flat courses, and is really terrible. I feel like I can’t control that leg, my gait changes, and I almost feel like I am going to fall. Unfortunately, it would last the entire remainder of the race so I never got comfortable.
Turning onto the bike path for a fast few miles with a nice decline made things feel a little better. Splits dropped from 6:40s to 6:20s and low 6:30s. I was in no man’s land, but saw a big group ahead of me so worked on bridging the gap. Eventually I did, and started to pick off a few runners one by one. I saw some runners in briefs, so knew I was approaching the fast crowd. I am always in awe of runners in briefs!
My stomach was not perfect, so I was not interested in getting any gels in. I made a mental note to work on this, because while a half is doable on no fuel, a full is not. I did not drink much either. I think I had one gulp of water at about mile 10.
My calf hurt, my left leg was locked up and I was being a Negative Nancy in my head. I knew the last two miles would be tricky, with twists and turns and road construction and a couple uphills. I was not quite on pace to PR anyway, so I just tried to maintain through that hard stretch. I held it together, but my last two miles were 6:35 and 6:40. It was a relief to finally see the finish line. I did not celebrate and looking at my race photos did not even smile. I was over it by then, but in retrospect I am really happy with my time of 1:26:49. It was good enough for 3rd Master’s in a really competitive race.
Two of my athletes, Caroline and Austin, and also Shannon, finished around the same time. We snapped a few pics and cheered on Shannon M, Sarah and Cheryl as they came roaring to the finish. It was great to be able to walk to our hotels and take the hottest shower of my life.
The race itself was an A+. Greenville knows how to put on a show, and the atmosphere was great. As the day went on, the sunshine came out and we had fun exploring the town and grabbing pizza. I was even a good sport when I found a slice of ham the size of a small cat on my vegan pizza! I couldn’t finish the pizza after that, but made up for it with some Insomnia cookies.
Shannon and I spent the night listening to live music at our hotel bar after indulging in some fabulous chocolates. We explored the wooden sculptures around the lobby, requested 90s songs, chilled out in some swings, got invited to spend the night on a floor at a nearby party, and sat around a campfire, all while wearing our fancy slippers from Restoration Hardware. We know how to party.
We finished the Greenville trip with a fancy shakeout run the following morning. We threw in some flexibility and mobility exercises, and recovery ran like rock stars. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a bagel place, grabbed a few juices from the Southern Squeeze and hit the road back to Kentucky. It was definitely an enjoyable weekend and I hope to be back!
“You Can’t.” There are not many two-word phrases in the English language that are more powerful than this pair. How many life paths have reached a dead end after hearing this phrase? How many dreams have been denied? How many lives have been uprooted?
It was 1999. I had spent the summer learning to exercise-ride racehorses at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. I was 20 years old, turning 21. I was new to the sport, and was thrown off so many horses. But I would always dust myself off, and fearlessly (or maybe ignorantly) hop back in the saddle. I worked my tail off, and slowly improved throughout that year. Toward the end of the summer, I had an encounter that I will never forget. A cowboy hat-wearing horse trainer, Johnny R, stopped me in the track kitchen.
“You can’t make it as an exercise rider. I know you are trying, but you are not strong enough for this. You won’t make it.”
That was the fuel I needed. I pledged to do everything I could to make it as a rider. I started getting on more horses for more trainers. I started hanging out at the receiving barn (a barn where horses ship in from farms and questionable places, and there is more of a danger factor.) I continued to fall off occasionally, but I learned something new every day. And I never forgot Johnny’s words.
I did make it. I made it my career for over fifteen years. I was no super star rider, but I rode at the best tracks in America. I worked at places like Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Woodbine and Saratoga. I rode for Hall of Fame trainers. I rode graded stakes winners and Breeders Cup winners and champions. And I look back and thank that man (who passed away many years ago) for igniting that spark, and challenging me to prove him wrong.
“You can’t run. You’ll hurt yourself with those knees.”
I’ve always been knock-kneed. If you want to get scientific, I have externally rotated femurs and internally rotated tibias and it causes me to run with a swinging gait, swooping my feet out significantly (see photo.)
As a kid, I was always told not to run. Gym teachers, parents of friends, and other adults all were concerned. Even in my own family (thanks mom’s side of the family for these genetics, lol) they are referred to as Grandma Tora knees and definitely not run friendly! But again, I took it as a challenge.
I began running in grade school. I “ran” in high school. I wasn’t too serious about it. In fact, we used to take the city bus a half a mile to the running track rather than jog half a mile as a warm up! I was a 400 meter sprinter, and I wasn’t very good. I never made it to state, or even regions. But I raced every week and had a lot of fun with it.
I set running on the back burner for over a decade (doing an occasional 5k race every few years and sporadic jogs.) In 2008, I picked it up again and got serious about it. From there, I became a competitive runner and triathlete. I run 70, 80, even 90+ miles a week when marathon training, and am rarely injured. I do stay on top of strength and mobility work to keep those knees healthy, but it works. I never hung up my shoes, and don’t plan to anytime soon. I’m so glad I never listened to those voices.
The year was 1999. I had just returned to my college campus at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. I was torn between wanting to finish school, or follow my dreams of working with the racehorses. This was right after the summer I started riding them.
It was hard for me to go back to college that fall. I had changed my major a few times, and even spent a semester at another college before returning to Gustavus. This was my senior year and I knew I would probably graduate late, but I needed to strategize and figure out the right path. I was a communications major at the time, and set up an appointment with my advisor, Terry M.
“You can’t do this,” he said in a frustrated voice. He told me my credits were too varied after changing my major several times. “You’ve wasted all this time. I don’t know how you expect to graduate.”
That was the time I did listen. Maybe he was right. We were only a couple days into classes and I remember sitting on a bench outside the chapel, and letting the tears flow. I decided he knew best. I went to the office of the registrar, filled out the paperwork to terminate school and had to do the walk of shame from teacher to teacher, getting all of them to sign off on my decision. I turned it in at the end of that day, gathered my belongings, and left that school. It was one of the hardest choices I ever made.
Fast forward to about fourteen years later. I was coming to the end of my riding career. My husband and I had decided to move permanently to Kentucky, after following the circuit from NY to FL for a long time. I thought of Terry’s words often, and I had never stopped wanting to finish school. There was no time like the present.
I applied to UK. They asked for my transcript. Gustavus wouldn’t release it. They said I owed $6000 and that I hadn’t signed the paperwork in time. In their own way, they were saying “You can’t.” I was not going to pay them for their mistake, so I had to come up with another life plan.
I found one school that didn’t require a transcript. I could do a full time, 13 month program to get a degree in personal training. I jumped on it, and I ended up loving every minute of my time in that program at Lexington Healing Arts Academy. I hit the ground running as a trainer. I became a running coach and triathlon coach. I started my own business, Rocksport Training. And I never stopped educating myself. If Terry hadn’t discouraged me, I might not have found this path to happiness.
Instead of seeing the words “You can’t” in a negative light, they can be a positive. They can ignite fires. They can be the best motivation. And they can be the driving force behind the will to succeed. Never let words stop you from achieving your dreams.
The other morning I was doing my leg swings and chatting with a few runners prior to a run. I mentioned I was apprehensive about an upcoming interval workout that was still five days away.
“I’m surprised you worry about workouts,” one of my run buddies said.
That got me thinking. I was honored that someone thought I was confident and worry-free about the hard days. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Speed days have never been my forte. Give me a 20 mile long run at aerobic pace and I look forward to it all week. But hard interval days? That’s a different ballgame. Hitting paces (especially shorter intervals) is no guarantee. I envy the runners who head out for mile repeats knowing they are going to nail their splits.
When I had a coach, I remember him programming intervals at paces I knew I couldn’t hit. I would lose sleep for two nights beforehand, knowing I would be slow on the watch. My mile pace is only seconds faster than my 5k pace, which is only seconds faster than my half pace. Coach Greg McMillan categorizes runners into two labels: Speedster and Endurance Monster. I am a poster child of the latter. The vast majority of runners are a combo.
Endurance runners often struggle with intervals. Endurance monsters are more likely to have anxiety before speed days, just as speedsters are more likely to be apprehensive about long runs and long tempos.
That said, show me a runner who has zero apprehension about certain workouts. I’m sure they are out there, but the majority of us have some inner demons.
The thing is, I like those inner demons. They turn hard workouts into a gritty and challenging adventure. We might not hit our splits. But we also might crush it. When that happens, it is a sense of satisfaction that is going to have us on cloud nine for the rest of the day. Our confidence goes through the roof, and the dreams of a successful race day ignite.
So I’ll lose a little sleep, and stay a little nervous the day (or week before) a key workout. The sport of running is all about unknown adventures, and taking chances is something we all do. Fingers crossed we slay the workout, but if not I know there will be others to crush down the road. Those demons can hang out and keep us modest. Who wants to be around a cocky runner anyway?
In a pandemic year, it is close to impossible to find a competitive race with a sizeable field. When I first heard wind of the Indy Women’s Half Marathon, it sounded too good to be true. This all women’s race offered a flat and fast course, all the swag, and prize money to the top TWENTY! I registered and crossed my fingers it would happen. The afternoon before the race, I headed over to my friend Shannon’s and we packed into her Volvo wagon with the fancy rims. Indianapolis was only a three hour drive from Lexington, and we made good time. I brought the snacks (rice crisps and Swedish fish), and then proceeded to demolish them all. So much for sharing…
We pulled up to our hotel, a nice, little Marriott in a group of about three hotels on the western edge of downtown. It was also almost directly across from Military Park, a pretty, little venue where the race would start and finish. The weather Gods had blessed us, and we noticed the first chill of fall weather while making the five minute walk to packet pickup. After a really toasty summer of training (and almost heat stroking on our last mile repeats the week before) the crisp, fall air was very welcomed. Packet pickup was quick and easy, and the swag was great. Shannon and I then headed to Yard House for a bite. I had eaten there the night before the Monumental Half Marathon, where I had PR’d with a 1:29 low in November. I knew the Gardein orange chick’n and rice bowl worked for me, so why change? We were the only people in the entire restaurant, so didn’t have to wait long!
On the way back to the hotel, we ran into my friend/ client Caroline. She and her fantastically weird and wonderful boyfriend Matthew were walking down the sidewalk, so we chatted with them for a few minutes. Caroline was around the same current pace as Shannon and I, so we all planned to work together the following morning.
Shannon and I got to bed early, and fell asleep to some really stupid comedy of my choosing. I often sleep better on race nights, as I force myself to turn the lights off earlier, and this was no exception. I woke up early, had my Picky Bar Can’t Beet Chocolate oatmeal three hours out, and did the Myrtl Routine (a hip mobility sequence.) It was dark and chilly on our way to the start line- perfect! We ran into Caroline, as well as Jess and Heather (and Heather’s husband Scott.) Jess and Heather are two friends/ athletes who I coach, and it made me so happy to see they were both sporting their Rocksport singlets. The girls in green would be representing! Jess was doing the 5k, and Heather was doing her first half. We chatted for a few minutes, and then it was time to warm up.
Caroline, Shannon and I did a ten minute jog with a bathroom-I-mean-bush break peppered into it. We did a few strides, and a few drills. I was happy to note that my strained calf was quiet and not very noticeable for the moment. By the time we got back, I had to line up for the final Port o Potty stop. The line was long, and after that I had to make a mad dash to the start. The three of us got into the first corral, with the elite runners and faster amateurs. I took a Huma gel, and opened the other one that I would nip on throughout the race. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was playing, and there was just this great energy in the corral. So many of these speedy women had come in from all over the country, and we were all elated to be out competing again. I noticed a ton of women in PBR singlets. PBR is a huge racing team based in Indy, and they seemed to have a ton of camaraderie and fans. I would see their jerseys often in the next hour and a half.
Shannon, Caroline and I took our marks and before we knew it, the gun went off. We took off at a speedy clip, speedier than I had ever gone in a half. Everyone else took off quickly too, and there was a lot of excitement that first quarter mile. Finally, we settled into a low 6:30’s pace. The three of us were elbow to elbow, and there was plenty of competition around us too. I had planned to go out in the 6:40s, but my training going into this race was sharp. When I saw 6:36 on my watch for the first split, I decided to go with it. It felt comfortable. My calf was not a problem. Shannon and I were working together, while Caroline decided to back off a hair. She was newer to this distance and wanted to finish with plenty in the tank. Shannon and I continued to work together, and as the pack thinned I could hear another woman on our heels, pacing off of us. All the spectators seemed to know her, and there was a lot of cheering. This helped motivate me too. The next two miles were a few seconds faster, and I remember thinking if it was a 5K I could have run a big PR, as the pace was not that far off my 5K PR, a distance I have always loathed and struggled with.
Mile 1: 6:36 Mile 2: 6:33 Mile 3: 6:33
Around mile 4, my left leg became “locked up.” This is a sensation I deal with sometimes, and it is very frustrating because it hinders my gait. It isn’t painful, but it feels like I have no coordination/ control on my left side. It almost always happens on the treadmill, and rarely outside. But if the course is super flat it can appear. It happened in my marathon earlier this year, and I knew if I was patient it would go away. It annoyed me for about two miles, but then as expected it dissipated and I found a comfortable rhythm again by the end of mile 5. Around that point, Shannon started to retreat just a little, and I found myself solo.
Mile 4: 6:33 Mile 5: 6:36 Mile 6: 6:42 (this was an odd mile that wound down a narrow path along the river with a ton of twists. It was hard to keep momentum going, and with this two loop course it would also be the final mile)
Coming out of the twisty section and back through the start marked halfway. The announcer called us by name as we came through, and there were plenty of spectators so it was a great boost. Also, around this time Caroline joined me again! It was fun to catch up with her again, and she looked great. She would run with me for a while, drop back and repeat throughout the next few miles. There were also two PBR women about 100 yards ahead of me, and they were the only girls in sight. With my history of getting lost during races, I HAD to keep them in sight. So I picked up the pace a little. We also repeated an out and back section we had done earlier in the race, which I loved. I got to see some of the pro runners and leaders, and how many girls were in front of me. There were about 14, so I had a big chance of getting some of the cash prizes!.. I also saw Caroline and Shannon after the turn around, and they both looked strong. Lexington is home to some very talented and capable women athletes, and the talent of my small training group always amazes me.
Mile 7:6:29 Mile 8: 6:29 Mile 9: 6:33
I was starting to make up some ground on the PBR runners, especially one of them. I made the pass around mile 9, and now was about 20 yards off the other. She was a tall gazelle of a runner, and her graceful run was motivating. I was finally starting to feel it at this point, but I should have. I had run a 10K PR, and was shocked I was still holding that pace. And I was slowly gaining ground on Lori. I drew alongside her around the 12 mile mark, but I knew I would not be able to finish the last mile very strong. I was just trying to hang on at this point, and even told her so!
Mile 10: 6:34Mile 11: 6:33Mile 12: 6:30Mile 13: 6:42The last .15: 6:02 pace
1:26:19 chip time. First half: 43:19, Last half 42:58 13th overall
Coming up and out of the last, twisty mile Lori pulled away a little, and would beat me to the line by 4 seconds. I was all smiles though, coming to the finish in a huge PR. I could literally not believe the time on my watch, and never thought I would achieve that pace. At the finish line, I was definitely tired but not bad. I caught my breath for a minute and then cheered in Caroline, who came in at 1:27 with a huge PR. Shannon was right behind her as well. Jess and Heather both had good days too, and it was fun seeing Heather come in just over 2 hours for her first ever half! I also talked to Lori after the race, and she ended up connecting me with her friend Ashley, who had just moved to my area. We now run together often! I am always amazed at how small the running community really is.
With the three of us women all finishing in the top twenty, we got to take part in the most fun award ceremony ever! They took all of us on stage (in our masks,) and took a bunch of photos while they presented us with some nice glasses, beautiful winter scarves and of course the $$$. Then, they opened a bottle of champagne and sprayed it on the group. It was awesome!
This race was definitely a milestone, but it was also a huge confidence booster to learn that I am capable of more than I thought. I am excited about the next racing season, and focusing more on running races for 2021 vs triathlon. Now for more races to open back up!
In these times of Coronavirus, most endurance athletes are taking one of two options. The first option is base-building. These athletes are putting in the training volume, mostly easy, as they anticipate a fast fall (and hopefully one filled with numerous races from which to choose!) The second option is to have fun with some virtual races. These athletes are also working on consistent mileage, but they are incorporating some virtual races on their calendars as well.
Lately, our Facebook feeds and emails are overflowing with ads for virtual races. We see 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons and full marathons. There are backyard ultras and virtual triathlons (which are really duathlons at the moment, with no pools open.) There are so many options that it can be overwhelming to choose! Let’s look into picking, and ultimately racing, the perfect fit for you.
What distance should I pick? Here is where you want to tread carefully. Pick a distance that you feel comfortable with. This is not the time to charter into unknown territory. If you have been running all 5K’s and 10K’s, do not opt into a full marathon. Why? The risk of injury is high, and although virtual races are fun it’s not worth risking your fall season. Also, the weather plays a huge role in long course races. If you run your first full in the blazing heat of late June or July, it’s going to make for a miserable experience and leave a bad taste in your mouth. Save that epic first marathon for a fun spring or fall event with thousands of your closest friends once the world reopens! On the other hand, if you are a big endurance junkie I would avoid targeting a fast 5K in the very near future. Going straight into speed work to prepare for a hard, short course race is also going to raise the risk of injuries. So choose wisely and go with a distance you enjoy and that you have done often.
Now that I know the distance, which race should I pick? The choice is completely yours on this one. If medals are of utmost importance to you, shop around to see which medal and swag catches your eye. You can stay local and support your local race companies. For example, our local company RaceRise has an upcoming virtual half marathon that has attracted over 2400 runners from at least 44 states. If you are very results-oriented, you can look at the big name companies like Ironman that host large fields with frequently updated leaderboards. Beware though, as the cheating can be rampant. Always think of these events as a race against yourself if you want honest results.
How do I plan my course? This is the tricky part. You want a route with as minimal traffic as possible. If you have a park with a two mile (or longer) loop, that can be ideal. If it is a popular park plan for a quieter time of day, such as an early morning or week day. Long bike paths that you can run as an out and back are a smart choice. Another option is to search for certified race courses in your area. For example, we have a rural half marathon outside of Lexington, KY that is on quiet roads and would be a nice option. And the terrain is up to you. Find as flat as possible for maximal efficiency. You can do it on the trails if you prefer. And if you are sadistic and love hills, go ahead and plan a painful route. Of course, not many routes could be as painful as Pan Shancu’s recent course. He ran 31 miles around his living room while in lockdown in China.
How should I warm up? Warm up just as you would on race day. Eat your typical race day breakfast at your regular time. For example, I eat a small bowl of oatmeal 2.5 hours before a longer race and then sip on a watered down sports drink until the start. Dress in your race day outfit, and wear your fast shoes if you have them. The shorter the distance, the more of a warm up you’ll need. For a 5K, you might warm up anywhere from 1-3 miles. Include drills. I suggest side shuffle, skipping, butt kicks and a few wind sprints. For longer races such as a half or full, 5-10 minutes of easy jogging will suffice but drills are always beneficial. After your warm up, make sure and reset your watch so that you will have the accurate distance of your virtual race.
How do I pace my virtual race? This is the million dollar question, but the answer is relatively easy. Virtual racers will be at a handicap compared to actual racers. We do not have the adrenaline and crowd support. We will not be surrounded by our competitors. We are probably not fully tapered and trained specifically for this event. Unfortunately, all of these factors can often set us up for failure. They make an incredible difference. So, rather than going out at your usual race pace, I suggest using the triathlon pacing rule of thumb. Double the distance, and think of your race pace for that specific distance. For example, if you are running a 5K, aim to go out at your 10K pace. Running a 10K? Aim for your half marathon PR pace. A half? Dial it in by trying to perfect your marathon pace. If you are feeling good as you hit the second half, give it a little gas. But there is no reason to be a hero in a virtual race, so I suggest finishing with a little more to give. Do know that the longer the race, the tougher this will be. Holding marathon pace for 13 miles is no easy task and would be a very challenging key workout in a marathon build. But, using this strategy should set you up for success. And finishing with a negative split is always a huge confidence booster!
After your virtual race, take an easy day or two of rest and/or active recovery. If you enjoyed the experience, you might want to start searching for another event. If you are targeting a goal fall race, be mindful of giving yourself plenty of time to get in quality training mileage between events. Just like in real life, racing every weekend or two can be detrimental to achieving your best results. But if having fun is your goal, that’s a different story. It’s important to remember we all race for different reasons.
I’ve never enjoyed the marathon distance. After my first one (Hudson Mohawk Marathon in 2010) I crossed the finish line and swore I wouldn’t do another one. But I felt obligated to do Boston the following spring, so that happened. Five years later I did Winter Warm Up Columbus (a one mile loop 26 times) on a whim, qualified for Boston, and ran it again. And that’s my marathon history.
Every time I tried to train for a marathon I seemed to get injured, or bored, or lose interest. I never thought I’d grow to like that event. Triathlons (and even half marathons) were more appealing.
But earlier this fall, I was really enjoying my long runs and decided to register for A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale in late January along with some friends and Rocksport teammates. It would be a nice way to break up the winter with a little Florida sunshine.
I began training in October, and it went extremely well. I averaged 50 miles per week, with my peak weeks in the high 60s and one 70. There were a few things I did differently in this build, including a few split long runs (for example running 13 miles with my 5am group, and then another 10 on the trails later that day with my training partner Sarah.) I also did a medium long run on most Sundays with my husband (in the 10-14 mile range.)
I had three races during this period- Monumental Half Marathon (1:29:12,) a bust of a 5K at Thanksgiving where I couldn’t get going, and then a pretty solid hilly 10 miler on New Year’s which I won first female while running marathon pace the first half and then putting down the hammer the second half for a 6:54 avg. So the two longer races had me optimistic about A1A.
Three key runs stick out in my mind as particularly helpful. One was a 21 miler in Minnesota over Christmas. I was listening to podcasts and felt like I could run all day. My goal was 8:30s or slower, but I kept having to slow down. It was a huge confidence booster, and I threw in a hard final (uphill) mile at 7 minute pace.
Another was two weeks out. Sarah and I did a 16 miler that included six late miles at race pace. I averaged 7:00 and felt strong in the wind and warm temps. She crushed it too.
Finally, one workout I did about 10 days out before the half and full was a set of 8-10 800s with a minute cruise recovery after each. Before Monumental I averaged 3:22s on the track and before A1A I averaged 3:17s at a hilly park, so my fitness had definitely improved.
Aside from running, I tried to get in three swims a week and an easy bike. I also strength trained a couple times weekly. Everything worked well, because I never had so much as one little ache or pain throughout the whole training cycle.
My husband Damien and I also really cleaned up our eating. We are plant based already, but cut flour and sweets a month before the race which allowed me to get down to racing weight of about 123. I also continued to do intermittent fasting about 5-6 days a week.
Damien, Sarah and I flew into Fort Lauderdale the afternoon before the race, which was not ideal. We felt pretty rushed going to packet pickup and lunch. But we got to hang out with our friends Bo and Kara at lunch, so that was nice.
For dinner, we went to Vegan Fine Foods and I had a big plate of macaroni and cheese with chorizo. This was after a big buffalo tempeh burger at lunch. I hadn’t consumed flour since Christmas, so why not stuff myself full of it the day before the race? What could go wrong?!
Damien and I woke up at The Granada Inn (lovely boutique hotel) the morning of the race at about 4am, since it would be a 6am start. I didn’t want to get up for my typical Picky Bars oatmeal breakfast that I usually eat three hours out, so I had a stroopwafel with a little peanut butter about at 5am. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling like I had a brick in my stomach from poor food choices the previous day.
The good news is that the weather looked spectacular. The humidity was low, and it was 55 degrees at the start. There wasn’t much wind either.
The three of us took an Uber to the start, with the strangest guy I’ve ever encountered. It reeked of BO in the car, and from what I gathered, he was dishonorably discharged from the military. He also had a big duffel bag in the front seat (full of weapons or maybe body parts) so we squished into the back. I felt grateful to have made it to the start line.
Because of the early start, it would be pitch black for several hours. Sarah and I went for a very easy jog to loosen up the muscles, and found a really nice bathroom. My lower GI system was not cooperating, and I was a little worried about bathroom breaks during the race.
Finally, we made our way through the crowds to the front of the starting line. My plan was to go out with the 3:15 pace group, but I didn’t see them. The gun went off, and I just went by feel because I couldn’t see much in the dark.
The first mile was quick, 7:01. I felt great but had planned closer to 7:15s, so slowed down a little.
At mile two, I had a sudden debilitating pain in my foot. It lasted about a mile, and fortunately disappeared as quickly as it appeared. It would be one of many sensations related to wearing Nike Next % in the wrong size. I had worn them on a training run, and could tell they were a little too big but my correct size was sold out so I figured I would put up with them.
Around mile two, my husband Damien joined me. I don’t think we have ever been able to run in a race together. He was doing his first half in six years, due to a long time knee injury. We also joined up with another guy and were able to chat and take our minds off the impending 24 more miles of doom.
A few miles in, as we got to the coast, we were herded into a loop around the Hugh Burch State Park. It was like going into a haunted house. It was dark, eerie and there were creepy animal noises. Maybe our Uber driver was lurking in the trees. You couldn’t see at all in there, and a few people tripped and collided. However, once we exited, we turned onto A1A along the water just as the sky was beginning to turn a muted pink. Watching the sunrise during those earlier miles would be magical.
Damien stayed with us until mile 8 eight or so, and then he hit the turnaround of the half. He was all smiles, and I knew it would be a good day for him. I hated to say goodbye though!
My new friend and I stayed together a while longer, and we picked up another guy Kevin. We came across the half split at 1:33 and change, about 7:08 avg. Kevin said his goal was to stay with us until the turnaround at mile 15ish. He did, and at the turnaround I found myself pulling ahead of them and entering no man’s land.
This race has a lot more participants in the half compared to only about 600 of us in the full. The turnaround was a mile loop through a residential neighborhood, and the cones marking the way were a little confusing for me. The road was also a little uneven so this was the toughest part of the race for me (so far.) I eventually came out, and was surprised to hear the volunteers shouting “Second place female!”
It was about mile 17 when I started to feel the effects. My left hip/adductor had been bugging me for several miles and I kept debating whether to stop and stretch it. I didn’t. Now my muscles were starting to tighten and I was having to put in some effort.
I stayed on top of nutrition well. I ate a Huma gel at the start, and would nip on them throughout the race for a total of three gels. I also took a couple good gulps of water at most aid stations. In the later miles, I walked for a few seconds to get the water down without choking. It was also getting warm now, so I was dumping the extra water behind my Headsweats visor and down my back.
About mile 23 I was starting to pick up a lot of the slower half marathoners, so there was a lot of weaving in and out of people. I was also feeling rough, and was going to need to hit a bathroom soon. In that regard, I would make it. The woman behind me would not, as she mentioned on Instagram that she “crapped her pants at mile 16,” and I love her for owning that.
Fortunately, the scenery was changing into lots of beachside shops, bars and more spectators. This helped with the motivation. I could feel my pace slowing now, and I had to really push to keep moving. 7:20s was all I could do now, and I did fall off pace about a minute on the final 5k.
Finally, I could see the beach park where we would finish. I started smiling, and couldn’t stop. This was going to be about a 15 minute PR!
I turned into the last stretch and could hear Damien and Kara screaming in excitement. I tried to pick it up, but I think I just finished steady in 3:07. I was handed the biggest medal I’ve ever seen, and then went straight to the port o’ potty.
I found my friends and was able to watch Sarah finish in an amazing BQ performance that gave me goosebumps. She trained incredibly hard for this race, and being new to marathons we knew that a BQ would be a stretch goal. But she did it and it was just awesome to bear witness to that. I almost cried, and I am not an emotional type!
Damien was also super excited about his half. He picked up the final miles to finish in 1:32 and loved every second of it. Kara had really enjoyed the half too, despite battling some injuries.
We watched our other teammate Bo come to the finish with a huge smile too. His goal was to break four hours, and he ran a 3:57. That was about a half hour PR for him. What an exciting day!
Afterward, we all hung out (along with other friends Grae and Gilly who also had big days.) This race has the best finish line atmosphere of any race I have ever done. It is right on the beach, with palm trees and ocean backdrop. The sun and the temps were perfect to prevent that typical post-race chill.
After collecting our awards, Sarah and I decided to walk the 1.2 miles home. The sand and ocean water in our toes felt amazing, and was the perfect way to end a perfect morning. I also managed to get lost trying to cut through a huge parking garage, so that was fun 28 miles into my day. There was no cursing or anything. Damien hitched a ride home and was chilling by the pool by the time I arrived.
I would hands down do this race again, but I don’t know if we would get so lucky again with the weather. At any rate, it made me realize that maybe the marathon is my distance, and it would be fun to buckle down and do another one later this year. We’ll see what happens.
I am not usually one to write race reports, but since this has been a long time goal I want to get it in print before I start forgetting the details.
Although I focused on triathlons this season, I had some solid races this spring (1:30:33 at Carmel, and 1:30:47 at Derby) so I knew that I was knocking on the door.
They say the average runner who begins racing in adulthood only has seven years before they reach their peak. I’m 41 and have been racing consistently since 2008, so should be on the downward trend. But as a coach, I have seen numerous athletes defy the odds. Masters athletes can not only excel, but continue to improve for much longer than predicted.
On the day before the Monumental Half Marathon, Wendy, Kara and I piled into Sarah’s Jeep for the three hour trek to Indy. We checked into our downtown hotel, walked to the very crowded race expo, and then searched for a restaurant. With two of us being being plant based, dinner could have been tricky but the Yard House was perfect for a mix of meat eaters and veggie eaters. I had the Gardein orange chick’n bowl with rice, and the hummus appetizer. Everyone liked their food and the ambiance was good.
After watching some HGTV, Wendy and I went to sleep early. I set my alarm for 2.5 hours before the race, so I could eat my Picky Bars beets-and-chocolate oatmeal. It sounds weird but don’t knock it til you try it. Since the weather was pretty frigid (it would be 27 at the start with cold winds) we headed to the hotel gym to warm up. Why had I never done this before? I biked for 20 minutes, ran for 6 minutes on the treadmill with a couple pick ups, and then foam rolled and did the Myrtl Routine to loosen up the hips. It all felt much better than battling the elements outside!
About twenty minutes before the start we headed out, and finished with a few form drills. We all wished each other luck and headed to our separate starting positions. I was dressed appropriately in a tee shirt with arm warmers, gloves, Senita capris, Nike 4% shoes and a Headsweats cap. A winter hat or headband would have been too warm, so I glad I didn’t wear that.
The gun went off, and I quickly muscled my way into the huge 1:30 pace pack. The first few miles were total chaos- feet clipping each other, elbows flying, people swearing, people apologizing and lots of stress. It was also kind of exciting, so the first few miles went by fast. By mile 4 the pack started to thin out just a bit. Michael, the pacer, had done a really good job keeping it steady. At this point I can usually tell if it going to be a good race, and I had definitely found my rhythm and was feeling optimistic. He did take the next two miles “a little hot,” with a 6:35 and 6:38, but he quickly dialed us in with a few slower miles that allowed me to regroup.
This course is pretty uneventful, being almost completely flat aside from a couple very gentle inclines and declines. As the miles ticked by, I engaged the pacer and a few others into conversation. I learned at Carmel that disassociation is a useful mental tactic for me. We talked about favorite races, injuries, training and pacing. One of the girls mentioned she was a high school senior coming off an 11th place finish in the KY State Championship Cross Country Meet, so that was pretty neat.
As far as fueling, I didn’t do much. I had sipped on Tailwind all night and morning, so was well hydrated. I had one strawberry Huma gel that I nipped on every few miles. I took a small swig of water around mile 6 and a small swig of Gatorade later in the race. At mile 10 I was feeling fantastic. I thought about surging ahead, but this goal had been coming for such a long time, and I didn’t want to do anything risky. Usually at this point in the race, I am slowing by 5-10 seconds per mile and trying not to dry heave, as I watch the 1:30 pace pack disappear into the horizon. So this was a breath of fresh air! We now had a very small pack of about seven guys and one or two other women. At mile 11 or so, we turned into a substantial, cold headwind. I was happy I decided to stay with the pack, because the group provided slight relief from the wind. At mile 12.5 I felt incredible, and knew it was time to go. I could not stop smiling, because I knew I would achieve that elusive sub 90 goal. That mile ended up being one of my fastest at 1:40, and I sprinted to the finish to officially get a 1:29:12.
At the finish I found Wendy and Azurdee. We all train together often, so it was no surprise that we finished within one minute of each other. Sarah finished a few minutes later with a huge 15 minute PR, and Kara crushed her first half. Another client, Sandy, had a strong race too. Monumental is a perfect, late season race. The flat course combined with chilly weather is conducive to fast times, so it is always popular for Olympic Trials qualifiers. They had 39 runners qualify this year! Now that the sub 90 is in the bag, it is time to find some new goals. With that race being as comfortable as it was, I feel like there is plenty more gas in the tank. It will be fun to pick out some new goals over the off season!
Rocksport Training’s first official group trip took place in Greenville, SC, after several of our members elected to compete in this early season race. We booked an AirBnB, and traveled down from Lexington, KY (and Louisville) with plans to race Sunday.
We all arrived Friday afternoon to a beautiful house in a peaceful and wooded neighborhood less than ten minutes from the venue. The house slept ten, and we filled all ten of those spots with two of us having to utilize the sleeper sofa (thanks Caroline and Matthew!) Several of us headed to White Duck Taco for a casual, outdoor bite while waiting on others to arrive later that evening.
Greenville is a lovely venue, and we had time to do some exploring Saturday despite intermittent rain (which would be par for the course over the weekend.) We started off the morning with a planned shakeout ride through the neighborhood. On the second mile, we came around the corner and suddenly faced one of the steepest hills I have ever seen! In fact, I worried about our riders running out of gears before reaching the top. Fortunately no one toppled over, and we were able to re-route and do an out and back into town.
We followed that adventure with a quick drive to packet pickup. The draft-legal races had just finished up, and we were impressed with the venue. Being a USAT Nationals event, everything was top notch. It had all the bells and whistles of the Triathlon Nationals, with the huge finish line, bleachers, transition area, etc. Volunteers were everywhere and there appeared to be millions of cones marking the course. No one would be getting lost! The expo was small with only a couple vendors but packet pickup was painless and super fast.
After packet pickup. we headed to Sidewall Pizza with our other friend Sally and her mom, and then walked down to check out Falls on the Reedy park. The sun had miraculously appeared, and the flowers were in full bloom. The waterfalls were spectacular, and everything was so walkable, Kids, dogs, couples and athletes were all milling about. What a great destination!
At 6am on race morning, we made the long journey (about 5 minutes) to transition. It was humid and it was also a little rainy, which would continue all morning. Transition spots were numbered, so it was easy to get set up. And the best thing about this race? With only a few hundred competitors, port o potty lines were non existent!
Everyone from our group was racing the standard, non-drafting race with a distance of 5.25 mile run, 25 mile bike and a 2.85 mile finishing run. We were all in different age groups, but I would be starting in the women 50 and under wave along with two of my athletes, Caroline and Sarah. (Sarah would also do the sprint later that afternoon in stormy weather.) After a short warm up, we had to duck for cover for a few minutes due to a torrential downpour. Thankfully, it lightened as we headed to the start.
The starting line was impressive! They had a wonderful announcer, who was introducing some of the strongest competitors and reading their race resumes. I heard the words “Champion” and “All-American” a lot. One thing about this race, the athletes were in it to win it. They had flown in from places like Texas, California and Oregon. I felt very humbled to be standing up there with such dominant women athletes.
When the gun went off, this group of women took off like a bat out of hell. It was hard not to get swept away with the crowd, so I aimed to hold back along with my athlete Caroline. I knew our run speed would be similar, so we had elected to go out together. The first quarter mile was straight up a hill in humidity that we were not ready for, so our heart rates were surging early.
Once we found a rhythm we started to pick off a few of the girls who had overexerted themselves early. We held a high 6:40’s pace most of the way, and backed off a bit the final mile to regroup a bit before the bike.
I lost a few seconds in transition, as I was more careful due to the rain/ wet conditions. Jumping on the bike, we were met with about a half mile of twisty and winding curves through the parking lot, so it was not super easy to get the shoes adjusted. But once we left the park that was the end of the technical portion.
The bike course was not easy. It didn’t have any particularly steep or challenging hills, but it seems to be a constant battle against high wind (especially crosswinds) and long grinders. I never did find my rhythm. The only thing that kept it interesting was that I played cat and mouse with a strong cyclist who was in the age group ahead of me. She was on a road bike, and was killing it. Any time I would get too comfortable, she would pass me, and then it would be a challenge to keep her in sight.
25 miles later we re-entered transition. Again, I rode into the park at a very conservative pace being careful of the wet, twisty roads. I made it through transition with a less-than-impressive time.
For our second run, it was back up the steep hill. I passed a couple girls on the hill, and then settled into some kind of rhythm. This was my first duathlon in years, and despite preparing well, I had forgotten how heavy-legged you feel on race day!
My second run was less than stellar, but I seemed to be holding my own and continued to pass a few folks. About half a mile in I passed the girl I had cat and moused with on the bike. She was looking strong. I managed to hold about 7:00 pace but just couldn’t find that extra gear. The bike course had been more fatiguing than I expected.
With a half mile to go, I started chatting with a local guy and we stuck together for most of the homestretch. The downhill finish was awesome, and the announcer was great about calling us each by name as we crossed the finish line!
After grabbing some water, I was able to watch our other athletes come in. Caroline came in just about a minute ahead of Sarah. Dolores finished strong, and so did Luke. Ben had an impressive race as well! Between our group, we had three podiums and all of us were invited to compete for Team USA in the Netherlands.
As far as my race, I was in a very tough age group. Despite being 7th overall with a 2:08, I could only swing third in the women’s 40-44 age group. I was pretty consistent across the three legs, with my bike being slightly better than my runs as usual.
Next year this race moves to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I am already putting it on the calendar. It is later in the season- May 31, so we will have to get ready for a heat wave!