MAZATLAN FRUSTRATION – 2:16:34, April 21, 2012
I was very excited and mentally prepared for Mazatlan, my first ITU race of the season. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was not feeling as fresh as I would have liked in workouts, but I was still optimistic for race day. The start list for Mazatlan had a perfect group of talent to see where I stood so early in the season. I was confident in the swim, because I knew I had gained a lot of experience and “toughness” from last year. I was not too worried about the bike, because I knew if and when I made the first swim pack, I would be able to handle anything they handed me. The run however, was my big question mark. I’ve been feeling off and heavy especially in the run since March and have been unable to shake it, but was feeling lighter in the days leading up to the race.
Swim – 1500m (2 laps) 22:17
Going into the swim I felt confident I would be in the lead group, swimming strong and not being bothered by all the pushing and shoving as I was last year. At the gun, I got out fast and strong leading the pack to the far right, while another group was forming to the far left. But as I approached the first sight buoy just to its inside, there was a breakdown in communication between the officials in and out of the water. Before the race, I was told I could swim on either side of the sight buoy, but the lifeguards in the water must not have received that memo, because I was blocked and told to alter my path and swim to the outside. This cost me precious seconds and I soon found myself in the middle of the main pack, fighting for a spot. This race was insanely brutal, with girls from behind purposely pulling on my heels and those next to me elbowing me in the ribs every time they took a stroke. I’ve been hit during the swim portion, but this was the first time I was blatantly attacked.
As we rounded the third turn buoy, again there was a lack of communication. The lead girls started swimming to shore, but though the lifeguards corrected us, they directed us to the wrong buoy and had us swimming back out to sea. At some point in the first lap, everyone was so confused; we all stopped swimming and started treading water trying to figure out where to go. Each official was pointing in a different direction, so everyone just decided to turn for shore. Because of the confusion and breakdown of communication we all came in at once. There was no order, as the fast swimmers were in the back, with the slower ones in front. I was able to make up some ground on the run between laps and worked my way back into the top seven. Though it was a very frustrating, violent and confusing swim I was still able to come out in the lead group and make the first pack on the bike. Unfortunately, so did the majority of the field as well. All in all I am happy with how I was able to handle all the craziness and keep a somewhat level head and finish in a competitive position.
Bike – 25.4miles (6 laps) 1:08:17
Due to the confusing swim, the lead bike pack was about double its usual size with ten women. I knew that because of its size, there would be attempts to break it up with attacks coming at every turn around. I positioned myself in the front of the pack and was able to respond to all take offs, but after each strong effort we would turn to find the main pack right behind us, unaffected and intact. After the fourth attempt I knew this pack would be together through the end, so I stopped shredding my legs. Because of the size and various nationalities of our lead pack, we were never able to get organized and work together. About half the girls, myself included, were willing to pull and work to distance ourselves from the chase pack, but could never get organized due to the unwilling half. It was very frustrating to see efforts and energy wasted while the chase pack got closer and closer.
The bike pack aside, I’m happy with the bike splits and with the efforts I made. Though I did not have a high overall watt average, my surges were well over 600watts and I was able to respond to all that was thrown at me. I am pretty confident that I can now stay in most front packs, as I may not be the strongest biker in the field but I’ve been able to hang in there more consistently.
Run – 6.2miles (4 laps) 44:44
After a quick T2, I started the run in 4th place, but was unable to hold it. As each girl caught me I made an effort to stay on her shoulder, but unfortunately that didn’t last too long. I actually felt pretty good for the first lap averaging in the 6:30s, but as each lap came and went, I started to feel heavier and heavier. I finished the run a minute faster than last year’s split, but it was still very disappointing. For the weeks leading into the race my run was off and sluggish and that’s what I got on race day. Oh well :(
Going into the race, my main goal was to win ITU points. Though I was hoping for a better placing and a faster run, I still earned my first set of points for the season. It was less than I was hoping for but points are points and I’ll take them. I did improve my ranking and am one step closer to qualifying for Cancun World Cup in October. I’m now eagerly awaiting my next ITU race in Dallas on June 2nd, and will restructure my training around ‘running’, as that is still my Achilles heel.
The Myrtle Beach ITU Pan American Continental Cup Triathlon was my sixth and final race on the ITU circuit for the 2011 year. It was a great way to close off my inaugural season as an elite triathlete finishing in 10th place with an overall time of 2:06:55 (my personal best to date). Holding on to top 10, I earned some valuable ITU points and even took home some prize money! With my strong finish at this race I bumped up in the ranks to 61st in the Pan American Cup standings and 238th in the world standings. This ranks me in the top half of each category after only one season of racing and just two scoring races. Although I am pleased with how I finished off, this season has taught me a lot of valuable lessons which didn’t always come easy.
Swim – 1500m (2 laps) 23:04
The swim started with a pontoon dive into a calm marina. Once the gun went off, the marina was anything but calm and I found myself charging half a body length ahead of a ferocious pack. After a very short 170 meters, we hit the first buoy at the mouth of the main waterway. Unfortunately, 170 meters isn’t long enough to spread out a group of swimmers before a tight turn. Couple that with a very strong current and you get a bunch of bodies pinned against the buoy with their feet being tangled up in the rope below.
The current was so strong that when we all tried to round the buoy at once, we all got caught up in the rope. It was absolute mayhem! I was almost pulled underwater and the poor girl to my inside was holding onto the buoy for dear life because she was getting pushed underwater by the all the bodies and current. I went from second to twelfth place in a matter of seconds and was instantly disconnected from the front pack. For the remainder of the first lap, I worked my way back to the front of the second chase group, but was still 50m
back from the lead pack going into the second lap. I was not happy with my current position, so when I dove back in for the second lap, I buried my head in the water and powered my way up to the back of the lead pack. As I was climbing out of the water, I realized I had made up 40 meters, which was good enough to catch the feet of Kaitlin Shiver. I had come so close to blowing it all in the swim, but found the strength to pull myself back up into contention.
Bike – 23.8miles (8 laps) 1:00:54
Once on the bike with Kaitlin, we worked together to catch the five girls ahead of us by the end of the first lap. All season I had worked to position myself with the lead group of riders, and that’s exactly where I had found myself. I was beyond thrilled and not going to throw this opportunity away, so I did my best to help the pack out without tiring myself out too much. Though I was in a strong group, I wanted to prove to my fellow racers that I deserved to be in their pack.
After five of eight laps on the bike, our pack had opened up a gap of nearly three minutes on the chase pack, but the stronger riders had grown tired of doing all the work, so our lead dwindled down to 2:10. The bike was a mile short at 23.8 miles, but I still averaged over 23mph and 195 watts.
Run – 6.35miles (4 laps) 42:25
I flew off the bike so fast that I ran a few places past my spot in transition, but still had one of the faster T2 splits. The run itself was a bit long at 6.35 miles but the final time of 42:25 was good enough for my second best average ever at 6:40/mile. Three strong runners eventually passed me in the middle of the run, but I was able to hold off Jessica Broderick for tenth place. I know my run needs to be faster if I want to contend in the big leagues, but for this season, I am satisfied. During the offseason, I plan to focus on improving my run speed and technique so I can be stronger and faster next year.
Overall, I am pleased with my race and the experience I gained this first season of racing ITU. I accomplished my goal of making the lead bike pack and finishing strong in the run. Though it was not fast enough to hold my seventh place position, it was my best split of the year, so who can complain? The swim was very challenging, but I had the will and strength to overcome the rough first lap and learned that it is never over until it’s over.
I have come very far in my first season and owe a lot of thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way. I especially want to thank my parents and family, Coach Nancy Reno and everyone at CVMM, and all my coaches and sponsors. I am very excited about next year and am going to spend the winter in Boston working on and improving my run. I will be a runner the next time you see me!
Throughout my first season competing professionally, I gained a lot of experience and learned something new in each race I participated in (Clermont, Mazatlan, Monroe, Treasure Island, Malibu and Kelowna).
Below you will find a brief recap of my past races and experiences for the year from March to September:
Clermont, FL – 1:03:50, March 2011
Clermont was my first introduction into the world of ITU racing and my first experience in a draft legal race. One lesson I learned very quickly is that ITU is very different from standard, non-drafting age group racing. Having no idea what to expect, I went into the race with eyes wide open. When the horn sounded, I was very surprised by the fast and aggressive racing methods of the other girls. I soon found myself in the middle of the main swim pack, and came out of the water in fifteenth place. I managed to hold my position on the bike through the first of four laps until I was dropped off the back of the pack. With a lap and half to go, I noticed it was becoming difficult to pedal, and discovered that my seat had dropped six inches to lie even on the top tube of my bike. I did what I could to finish the bike portion, but my legs were shot for the run from the awkward biking position. Upon crossing the finish line, I was relieved, but eager to race again and perfect my skills.
Lessons Learned at Clermont:
- Learn how to swim well in a pack
- Bike mechanic skills need some work
- Learn to ride in a pack
Mazatlan, Mexico – 2:18:14, April 2011
After the learning experience at Clermont, I was determined to have a better race at my first Olympic distance ITU in Mexico. I set out to stay in my bike pack, and was successful! Starting the swim, I was in the lead after 200 meters, but after rounding the buoy I was passed by four girls and lost focus. Trying to make up lost ground, I tired myself out and was not able make up enough of the gap in the second lap. I came out of the water with Gwen Jorgensen and we worked together until a group of girls caught us a lap in. Though we all worked together, we weren’t able to make up any time on the lead pack. When it came time for the run, the sun and humidity proved overbearing and got the better of me. I didn’t have my best run, but I was able to hold on to tenth place and earn my first ITU points.
Lessons Learned at Mazatlan:
- Get out strong on the swim
- Learn to maintain composure in tight packs
- Learn to use drafting to my advantage in a bike pack
- Proper race nutrition is crucial for sustained performance
Monroe, WA – 2:13:10, June 2011
With two races under my belt and the confidence in my bike from Mazatlan, my goal was to get into the lead bike pack and stay there. With my swim getting stronger, I just needed to maintain composure in the pack. Unfortunately, a day before leaving, I was practicing my mounts/dismounts and was caught off-balance and kicked my crank, ultimately splitting my big toe and lifting the nail nearly all the way off. Having no idea what this would mean for my race, I found and super glued a protective sleeve to prevent my injury from getting in the way.
The race started off well and, after the first lap of the swim, I came out of the water in the lead and finished the swim in third. After stripping my wetsuit, I was set up perfectly to make the lead pack. However, coming out of transition, I slipped off my bike shoes. I told myself it was ok, stood up, and tried to mount again, only to slip and fall all over. With scraped up knees and girls passing me left and right I rushed onto my bike only to find I had gone from third to ninth place, about 100m back from the lead pack. I pushed as hard as I could for the first half a lap to catch back up, but they had already gained too much ground. Soon after, I was joined by the chase pack a couple hundred meters back. This time our group actually worked well together, pushing good speed and power. With two laps to go, there was an attack to break the pack up and surprisingly I covered the move and helped successfully drop the second half of our pack! Coming into transition I flew in with the fastest T2 split of the day and proceeded onto the run. Though it was not quite good enough to earn points, I had one of best run splits ever averaging just over 6:40 pace for 6.5 miles. I was thrilled with my performance!
Lessons Learned at Monroe:
- Be cautious practicing any technical bike skills so close to a race
- Get out fast and maintain a calm rhythm in the swim
- Do not try anything new on race day!
- Be confident in my abilities and training
The Bike Crash, July 3, 2011
The weekend prior to the San Francisco race I was in an unfortunate bike accident on the Pacific Coast Highway. I was riding in a paceline and as I was putting my water bottle back in its holder, I accidently drifted too close to the biker in front of me. My front wheel collided with his back wheel and I went down hard face first. Thankfully I landed off the road and onto the gravel shoulder. My helmet protected my head, but my face was not so lucky. Landing on my jaw, I broke a tooth, cracked two teeth, skewed my jaw to the right, and scraped and bruised my hip, chin, cheek, nose, elbows and knees. It could have been a lot worse, and I was extremely lucky things did not go differently. Initially I wasn’t too spooked, but the mental trauma hit me later on in the week when I had another near collision while warming up on the San Fran course the day before the race.
- Bike handling skills
- Always pay attention in a paceline
San Francisco, CA – 2:18:31, July 2011
With six laps, 120 turns, and strong winds, San Francisco was not an ideal race course after a bike crash. That being said, I was determined to race and put my best effort forward. I had never DNF’d or pulled out of a race before and I was committed not to make this my first. The swim took place in the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay at Treasure Island. Two girls managed to break out early, but I found myself in the middle of an aggressive pack; it was so aggressive that one girl had her wetsuit unzipped half way through the swim! I still managed to come out in seventh place, but was never quite in touch with a pack. Eventually four of us drifted together in a bike pack, but there was no cohesion or cooperation in the group, more like every girl for herself, so we did not make up any ground. I found it especially nerve wracking because our group was very skittish and the last thing I wanted was another face full of asphalt. My run felt stiff and my hip was popping from the fall, so I did what I could to stay with the girls around me. On the final lap, I found my second wind and was able to make a strong move to pass two girls on the home stretch.
- Don’t let frustration get the better of you
- Run with the pack
Kelowna, Canadian National Championships – 2:24:59, August 2011
Ever since my crash, something had been off with my performance. Before that holiday weekend, many of my workouts had felt strong and productive, but in the past month they had been “off”. I was hoping that Kelowna would be an exception and a way to snap me out of my funk, but that didn’t work quite as planned. From the start, my strength and energy was not there. My swim felt decent and was good enough to come out of the water even with Paula Findlay in the top pack, but when we hit the long hill for the first of six laps on the bike, I did not have the energy to keep up and I was dropped. After the race, I saw that my average power for the bike was about 30 watts lower than normal and I knew something was off. When I got off the bike to start the run, my legs felt like lead and my calves were cramping. On the final lap, my legs finally loosened up with a mile to go and I was able to re-pass two girls before the finish.
- Strengthen hill cycling
- Run through fatigue
Nautica Malibu, CA – 2:17:35, September 2011
After a disappointing race in Kelowna, I decided to cancel my plans to race Buffalo and rest for Myrtle Beach. Instead of another grueling ITU race, I did a fun local race near my home in Malibu. It was a perfect day for racing, and I decided to just have fun. It was great to be back racing in my home town with family and team members around. I felt good in the water and came out first among the women, and fourth overall including the pro men. My run and bike felt off and flat like Kelowna, but I did not let that get me down.
Though I was not thrilled with my performance, I did have the pleasure to meet the legend Siri Lindley, head coach of Team Sirius, and her assistant coach Misato Takagi “Takka”. Siri was coaching some of her athletes at Malibu and, after hearing my story, invited me to train under the tutelage of Takka with her elite squad in Santa Monica to help me prepare for Myrtle Beach. She explained how my fitness was there, but my body was not responding. I needed a change, and I agreed. So, for the next two weeks, I woke up at 5:15AM to drive out to Santa Monica and trained with her elite group of triathletes which included Annabel Luxford, Chris Foster, Collin O’Brady, Magali Tisseyre, and Jenny Fletcher. Switching things up with my new training plan must have done the trick because two weeks later I had one of the best races of my life at Myrtle Beach!
- It is never too late to turn your season around
- Have confidence in underlying fitness