AGNC 2013: Think Local to Race Global

Team USA logoMost athletes will freak themselves out thinking about this as a big, national event.

So don’t do that.

Pretend it’s just another local race. Execute what you are capable of on your best day locally and you’ll have a great race at Nationals.

My coach doled out this advice to a small clutch of his disciples I mean athletes during a breezy lakeside lunch at Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the Friday before The Big Day, or should I say The Big Days since there were two: on Saturday the country’s top age groupers at the long-course distance would compete for coveted slots on Team USA 2014. Come Sunday we sprinters would get our chance to make the team and race on the global level—against athletes from every continent even—in Edmonton, Canada in August 2014.

The table where we sat dissecting our sandwiches wasn’t “local” to any of us; Coach Tim came from Clermont, Florida; Evan from Portland, Oregon; Mike, George and I call Central Massachusetts home. Indeed, the vast majority of the 5,000 Rudy-helmeted athletes in town for either of the weekend’s races (or, for a subset of those Rudys housing truly certifiable brains, both races) had to pass through TSA screenings to get here…

...and stow our gear in overhead compartments :)

…and stow our gear in overhead compartments 🙂

fashion faux pas spotted at packet pickup. No backwards helmets, people. Just not OK.

This dude must have raced both distances, since he is clearly in the “truly certifiable” camp. People, please! No backwards helmets! Triathlon has enough of a sideshow-freak-PR problem without you adding to it!

If you’ve followed this blog even casually, you should know I am pretty darned accomplished at this whole “willing suspension of disbelief” thang (aka “lying to oneself”), so it should come as no surprise that I sunk my teeth into Tim’s advice. Which was nice, since I hadn’t sunk my teeth into anything for five straight days prior to boarding Southwest Flight 431 BOS to MKE, and by that I mean from Friday to Tuesday I was on a strict Pedialyte-only diet thanks to a seriously nasty stomach bug.


silver lining: it comes in both powder *and* ice pops…

Bill and Wendy in front of the FIRM mobile

Bill, Wendy, and the FIRM Race Series mobile

Scarlett Johannson and I share a Nordic heritage and most of a last name...but clearly we couldn't share a tri suit for, um, a couple of significant reasons.

Scarlett Johannson and I share a Nordic heritage and most of a last name…but clearly we couldn’t share a tri suit for, um, a couple of significant reasons.

NBD as the kids would say…just another local race. To complete the ruse, I even picked a local race company;  the number on my seat post would be “3517” so clearly this was a FIRM race since all season long they’ve issued me numbers heavy on threes and ones—I was 31 at Ludlow, 13 at Wayside, and 331 at Lowell.  Any minute now I’d see Bill and Wendy Fiske pull up in the great big old FIRM mobile they drive from one race to the next. Elaine Vescio would be milling about under the Vmps tent and Mike the DJ’s voice would soon boom over the loudspeaker, teasingly calling me “Scarlett”. Heck, since I’d placed 2nd overall at all three of those “3” “1” FIRM races, this’d likely be a good weekend for me. (While I was lying to myself I mean suspending my disbelief, I also decided that my stomach-bug days were actually the world’s-greatest-taper days. All those Pedialyte pops and naps and skipped workouts were actually good for my race. That was my story and I was sticking to it.)

Bill and Wendy had clearly stepped up their marketing efforts to attract such a crowd and invested some serious cash in venue upgrades:

Gorgeous, huh? The Milwaukee Art Museum in the background isn't too shabby either ;)

Gorgeous, huh? The Milwaukee Art Museum in the background isn’t too shabby either 😉

“They” say to never do anything different on race day, and my coach is totally one of “them”. So while he has been riding me to get a power meter for, like, years, he banned me from installing and using my brand-new-super-nifty Garmin Vector, which, btw, qualifies as a PR for me—a new personal record for Most Expensive Race Expo Purchase.

The long-awaited Garmin Vector finally went on sale Wednesday, and every bike shop in the country that carries Garmin got only three of these beautiful boxes; I got the third and final one available at the Expo. Feeling all super-exclusive and early adopter-ish, oh yes I am.

My stunning new pedal-based power meter. Every Garmin-selling shop in the country was alloted three Vectors; I scored Milwaukee bike shop Emery’s last one at the pre-race Expo. Feeling all super-exclusive and early adopter-ish, oh yes I am. As for you, it’s OK to covet; seriously, how could you not.

(Post-race update: Viper is all Vectored up now…check this out! The Vector gives left-right balance data; it should come as no surprise that I lilt ever-so-slightly to the left.)

Viper, Vectored. Oh, yes. As if the boy wasn't already unstoppable. Thanks to Mark and Jeff at FitWerx in Peabody for the install assist and ensuring the Vector will also work with Maverick the IIIs Campy crank arm--you guys rock!

Viper, Vectored. Oh, yes. As if the boy wasn’t already unstoppable. Thanks to Mark and Jeff at FitWerx in Peabody for the install assist and ensuring the Vector will also work with Maverick the IIIs Campy crank arm–you guys rock!

Coach Tim did approve one significant exception to the “nothing new on race day” rule: at Nationals I would for the first time ever ride with a disc. Coach would have nixed the switch-out had it been a ploy to gain a few seconds, but this wasn’t about speed: during a routine Viper inspection I spotted a small nick in his rear tire. NBD if he had clinchers but Viper runs sew ups (nothing but the best for the boy), so properly fixing that possible race-ending gash would take three days…not gonna happen. Saving grace: my friend Jim had shipped his bike to Milwaukee but pulled out of the race due to a hamstring injury…all parties agreed I should steal I mean borrow the gash-free wheel off Jim’s sidelined steed and that wheel was a disc.

Something borrowed *and* something blue...neither Viper nor I cared for the color clash, but we got over it since it came with the promise of both a flat-free ride and some free speed on the long stretches of flat Milwaukeee pavement. Mark at Race Day Transport called Jim back in Boston to make sure I wasn't "some crazy-woman trying to steal your wheel"...Jim assured Mark that while I am a crazy-woman, I am not a thief :) For the record, the disc in question doesn't actually belong to Jim--he was borrowing it from George, who would in turn race on a bike borrowed from Tim. Did you follow all of that TC2 equipment swappage? Net-net thanks to all involved for making this happen so this crazy woman could race without fear of flatting :)

Something borrowed *and* something blue…neither Viper nor I cared for the color clash, but we got over it since it came with the promise of both a flat-free ride and some free speed on the long stretches of flat Milwaukeee pavement. Mark at Race Day Transport called Jim back in Boston to make sure I wasn’t “some crazy-woman trying to steal your wheel”…Jim assured Mark that while I *am* a crazy-woman, I am not a thief 🙂 For the record, the disc in question doesn’t actually belong to Jim–he was borrowing it from George, who would in turn race on a bike borrowed from Tim. Did you follow all of that TC2 equipment swappage? Net-net thanks to all involved for making this happen so this crazy woman could race without fear of flatting 🙂

Nasty stomach bug notwithstanding, I felt like I was ready to race hard. The course appeared to be tailor-made for cj and heck the stars just might align perfectly for PRs on all three legs. I have recently been experimenting with racing without my watch, but since this might be one for the record books I decided the Garmin Forerunner 910XT would record it for posterity. If star-alignment occurred I thought I could swim in the 1:30s, ride above 23 mph and cap it off with a 5K close to—heck, maybe even a smidge under—seven-minute mile pace. That’s not quite as fast as the other Elites at Cohasset but again—this is not Cohasset it’s a FIRM race. Work with me here, would you?!? We’ve totally got this.


swim course map

swim course map

Unbeknownst to me, this silly local-race ruse allowed me to avoid fixating on something very serious; I didn’t mentally link it to last year’s Nationals in Burlington, Vermont, August 18th 2012, the day fellow TC2 triathlete Rich Angelo died in the waters of Lake Champlain while trying to qualify to race in London for Team USA 2013.

While I was sculling at the start and awaiting my airhorn, I did not go back to the panic that spread through last year’s awiating-the-airhorn F45-49 wave as they watched EMTs on the dock adjacent to them clearly failing to breathe life back in to Rich’s wet, limp body. I did not go back to how I Mother Henned “my” athletes when I got word of some water-based crisis—I had one, two, three, four water-bound teammates…located one, two, three…thought “there are 5,000 freaking athletes here, what are the freaking chances?”

Rich Angelo shortly before he died at Nationals in Burlington.

Rich Angelo the morning of August 18, 2012.

I did not go back to scrubbing my skin raw so Rich’s much-too-young-for-this widow wouldn’t have to see my race tattoos. I didn’t go back to the transition mat re-created at the foot of his coffin—race belt, running shoes, number “494” meticulously affixed to the seatpost of his Cervelo. I didn’t go back to the words my coach said over post-wake beers: I can’t believe this happened…Rich was one of the stronger TC2 swimmers up there.

I know for a fact that many who were in Burlington last year did go back “there”, swam alongside Rich in Lake Michigan.

Not me. Mercifully, thanks to my ruse, when the Wave 2 airhorn bleeted I simply pushed START on my 910 XT and set my sights on the yellow buoy, then the footbridge beyond it.

My wave prepares for the start as spectators watch from above.

My white-capped wave prepares for the start as spectators watch from above.

Spectators line the footbridge.

Spectators line the footbridge.

First the yellow buoys then under that distant footbridge. Above it and to the left you can see the Hoan Bridge, of bike course and Blues Brothers car chase scene fame.

First the yellow buoys then under that distant footbridge. Above it and to the left you can see the Hoan Bridge, of bike course and Blues Brothers car chase scene fame.

The blue caps of Wave 3--George's wave--wait their turn on the dock.

The blue caps of Wave 3–George’s wave–wait their turn on the dock.

What I did go back to was a saying George and I saw on a T-shirt earlier that morning:

                                                            SWIM SMART
                                                            BIKE STRONG
                                                            RUN TOUGH

We liked that a lot and our goal was to Swim Smart and get to our bikes (in George’s case, Tim’s bike) as quickly and calmly as possible. (For the record, we also really enjoyed the “Tri Yuppie Scum” shirt, but that didn’t really, like, meet our swim-leg mantra needs.)

The most significant barrier to my calmness would come at the very end of the swim; it took the form of an impossible-seeming swim exit:

I kid you not the ramp leading from the water to solid ground was at a 45 degree angle. Was there no better way to get us out of the water? The orange-shirted volunteers were there to literally pull us up the ramp. I wanted the undivided attention of those orange shirts, so I actually aimed to exit the water solo; being part of a pack would mean fewer helping hands and a potential swim exit fall.

Yikes! Volunteers push/pull athletes up the 45-degree angle (!!!) ramp. I’ve endured jagged rocks, clam-shell shards and insanely slippery pool decks, but this totally wins for Most Impossible Swim Exit Ever.  I watched athletes handle it both well and poorly during Saturday’s race and tried to learn from them. Clearly having the undivided attention of the orange-shirted volunteers was best…so emerging alone became my goal,  even if it meant trailing the pack.

Super-fast, yet slightly unbalanced. I'll take it.

Super-fast, yet slightly unbalanced. I’ll take it.

I had a great-for-me swim, which is to say I actually used my newly emerging lats more than the itsy-bitsy arm muscles I have historically relied upon. I entered at an angle, reached out as far as I could and grabbed as much water as possible, which appears to be The Goal. I imagined myself as a Catamaran, which probably sounds really weird but hey, it worked for me so don’t judge.

It is exhausting being a Catamaran, and by the time this multi-hulled vessel was heading back under the footbridge she was seriously wishing she came equipped with an outboard motor. As I took the final turn I sighted and saw what appeared to be the lead pack emerging en masse onto that heinous ramp. Got what I wanted: all those orange shirts would be free to focus on me and me alone.

The results show the cold hard truth: that wasn’t the lead pack I was trailing. It wasn’t even the chase pack…when I hit the ramp (figuratively not literally, thank goodness) at 15:01 I was in fact packs of packs behind the leaders. A dozen chicks swam 14:00 – 14:33; another eight were “in the 13s” and yet another eight emerged between 12 and 12:30. Three F 40-44 rockstars went sub 12 (!)…net-net count ’em all up and you’ll see I emerged from the swim behind 31 F 40-44 chicks. (Another 3! Another 1! This is getting weird!)

Viper and I had our work cut out for us. But that’s OK; we like the work oh yes we do.

My swim time / place : 15:01 (1:49 per 100 yards) / 32nd of 64
Fastest F 40-44 swim: the incredible Sara Cannon of Portland Oregon, in an awesome (and, it should be noted, a rather rank-reflective) 11:11.1, which also gave her the 15th best female swim of the day. (For those of you who speak TC2-ese, I will put Sara’s effort into TC2 context: the incredible Mike McCombs swam this course in 11:01…so Sara is like, nearly Mike’s kind of fast.)
Fastest swims overall: The fastest boy swimmer was the amazing Scott Gentles of Atlanta, Georgia (9:26, which is to say 1:08 pace). The best girl dolphin du jour was 23-year-old phenom Erin Dolan, who swam 10:05 / 1:13 per 100 yards. I am triply impressed with Erin’s performance since she hails from Nebraska, which (geography lesson forthcoming) is a triply landlocked state; it does not border the ocean…nor do any of the states it borders…nor do any that they border. Probably her parents had a pool???


transition map

transition map

I might have been an unspectacular (and not-Team-USA-worthy) 32nd out of the 64 F 40-44ers, but per usual as soon as I hit the timing mat I made it clear I wouldn’t settle for middle of the pack. By that I mean that by BIKE OUT I had blasted past a competitor who had clawed her way up that impossible ramp more than 30 full seconds before me.

We can forget about all 31 F 40-44ers who both swam and T1’d slower than me (sorry ladies) with one exception: Alison Gittelman of South Riding, Virginia. At this point in our little story Alison is nearly a minute behind me—she lost 43 seconds to me in the swim and another 15 in T1—and the gap will widen by another 90 seconds once Viper unfurls his fangs. But mark my words, remember her name—you will quite literally hear it again by the end of this story. (I know…the suspense is killing you!)

My T1 time and place : 1:55. That’s  3rd of the 64 in my age group,  33rd of 418 females
Fastest F 40-44 T1: The incredible Chris Wickard of Crown Point, Indiana with a mat-to-mat time of 1:46.
Fastest T1s overall: The best boy T1-ing du jour was done by 29-year-old Eric Burnett of Pasadena, Calif, who rocked it in 1:26 (!) while 17-year-old Megan Dustin from Feeding Hills, Mass (where the hell is that?!? I had to Google it; turns out it is a subsection of Agawam) reigned Chick Supreme with a 1:37.


bike course map

bike course map

Oh, this is fun. It was just like a FIRM race because I passed and passed and was never passed. I passed 17 women from my wave who had swum far better than me and too many Wave 1 boys to count. I passed athletes from Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Hawaii, Utah, and the lone lady in my race who actually may have done a FIRM race before: Boston Triathlon Team’s Margaret O’Toole, from Cambridge, Mass. I even smiled when I reached down to grab a quick swig of my water and nicked my Garmin against my knee, causing it to dislodge. (Missed that story? Catch up here.)

Climbing towards the Hoan Bridge, on the northbound side. It has a maximum grade of four percent but felt like more than that.

Climbing on the Hoan Bridge, in the northbound lane of I-794 but heading south. According to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, the bridge has a maximum grade of four percent but felt totally more like ten. Seriously! That’s all sorts of OK; hills separate the wheat from the chaff.

Another view, with Milwaukee Art Museum in background. Towards the left of the frame you can see one of the speedier boys from Wave 1 returning from his out-and-back ride. I say one of the speedier ones, since I passed a lot of Wave 1 guys ;)

Milwaukee Art Museum in background. Towards the left of the frame you can see one of the speedier Wave 1 boys descending towards transition on his return from the Russell Avenue turnaround. I say one of the speedier boys, since Viper passed a lot of Wave 1 guys even though they started seven minutes before us Wave 2 chicks 😉

My bike time / speed: 34:43 / 21.5 mph
My place:
9th of 64 in my wave/ 34th of all 418 females / 359th of all 1,099 sprint athletes
Fastest F 40-44 cyclist: The incredible Chris Wickard of Crown Point, Indiana, who must have been a sight to see on what was certainly a solo time trial; she rode the course in 33:24.3 aka 22.3 mph. Since she was such a speedy swimmer we never saw each other on the course.
Fastest rides overall: An absolutely HUGE shout-out to the powerhouse 57-year-old Barbara Sullivan of Carlsbad California who was the ONLY chick to break the 23 mph barrier. In doing so she captured the national title in her age group and easily qualified for Worlds in Edmonton. As for the boys, 33-year-old Matt Migonis of Hamilton New York somehow rode an average 25.8 mph. (His time: 28:52. Five of the 681 male athletes rode 25 mph or better.)

Parting is always such sweet sorrow but the boy had done his job well and deserved the rest, although I sure could use his help on my weakest leg but I think that might, like, get me disqualifed.
My T2 time and place : 1:02. That’s 2nd of 64 in my 64-chick wave, and 11th of all 418 females. We said our bye-for-nows quickly.
Fastest F 40-44 T2: Top kudos goes to Julianna Batizy-Morley of Centennial CO, who stabled her steed and jammed into her running shoes a second faster than I did (1:01).
Fastest T1s overall: Eric Burnett of Pasadena California and 43-year-old John Reback of Jupiter, Florida both aced T2 in 49 seconds flat. Erin Dolan rocked it for the girls, in 56 seconds.


run course map

run course map

Just outside RUN OUT I fly by my coach and fellow TC2-er Evan Pardi. (An aside: 19-year-old Evan is one of the certifiable; he not only raced both days but qualified at the sprint distance and earned the first roll-down slot in the Oly!) As I pass they excitedly yell, “YOU’RE 14th!!!!”

OK, cj, it’s time to get real with yourself, I thought. Even at a FIRM race when it comes to the run I am apt to be the pass-ee not the pass-er, so I expected a bullet-train phenom or two would plow past me. I just couldn’t let four bullet trains plow past or I’d miss that Magic #18 and the automatic qualifier slot Viper had slithered us into.

For the bullet trains, the run is the fun bit. For me, its a war of attrition and the longer we fight the less likely I am to win. Since this was an itsy-bitsy 5K and a flat one at that I knew I had a really good shot; how much of a shot I wasn’t sure, since I had no way of knowing how large a chunk of time Viper and I had put between Us and Them.

Approaching the one-mile mark, which I totally missed during the run

Pretend this is easy pretend this is easy screw the pretending, this is *not* easy….Approaching the one-mile mark, which I totally somehow missed seeing.

I really did feel good and strong and was running well-for-me. My Garmin, had it not spontaneously ejected on Lincoln Memorial Drive, would surely show a nice 92-ish cadence and a pace somewhere in the “lower sevens”. It felt right and I thought, keep doing this or even a little better and you’ll be totally fine.  At that moment, somewhere just before the turnaround after Lagoon Drive, the first bullet train approached, with a warp-speed cadence.

Julianna Batizy-Morley of Centennial, Colorado, sped past, running an impressive 6:45 pace.

OK. 15th. That works.

I am alone again for awhile and then I hear another one–it’s runner extraordinaire Murphee Hayes who, appropriately enough, comes from Marathon, New York. I tried but there was no way I could keep up with her 6:27 pace.

Now 16th. Still works.

Ack there’s that familiar bullet train sound again…this time generated by Heather Butcher of North Point, Florida. Six freaking nineteen pace.

Crap. 17th. This is totally no longer OK.

I have quickened my pace as much as I can and I can barely see let alone think straight so when I hear my coach’s voice with a quarter mile to go I at first assume I am delirious. But I am not–he is actually there, and he is talking to me in those dulcet tones I’ve heard a few times before–the ones you’d use to gently coax a friend into action when a mountain lion is looming large.

Now’s the time to kick, he tells me. Lean in and crank it up.

Crank what up??? How??? My crank must be broken, my engine overheated, the wheels are soon to come off. The finish line is ahead but I refuse to look at it because it is, like so freaking far away.

And then suddenly it is not so far away and I am crossing it but not before Alison Gittelman appears out of thin air to make her cameo appearance in my race. And in my finish line video, which, firm believer in public shaming I apparently am, I provide here for your entertainment:

As you can see, I was a wee bit happy…I am not so sure how much of the happiness was a result of qualifying and how much was a result of the fact that the freaking run was finally freaking over.

My run time / pace / place: 23:15.1 (7:29). That makes me 29th of 64 on this hardest-for-me leg. I refuse to calculate my gender place since it is just too darned depressing 😉 If you must, then you must do the counting yourself; full searchable results are here.
Fastest F 40-44 run: 41-year-old Heather Butcher from North Point, Florida. She’ll be taking that super-awesome 6:19 pace 5K (19:40.1) to Edmonton, Canada as part of Team USA.
Fastest runs overall: I don’t know how either of them run this way, especially after a swim and a bike: well done to the jaw-droppingly fast (and, you may recall, triply landlocked) Erin Dolan  for her 5:58 pace 5K (18:35) and to 23-year-old Dustin Thomas of Broadview Heights, Ohio for his (insert dramatic pause here) five freaking minutes eleven freaking seconds pace run which came after a 1:27 pace swim and a 22.5 mph spin through scenic downtown Milwaukee. (Believe it or not, that amazing effort didn’t earn him the first slot in his division at Worlds. Or the second, third or even fourth. Nope, it was “only” good enough to earn him the 5th slotthose young thangs sure can fly!)

When in Milwaukee be sure to visit our new friends at Lake Park Bistro. Ask for Paul and Carlos--they rock!

When in Milwaukee get thee to Lake Park Bistro. Ask for Paul and Carlos–they rock!

Post-race we did a little celebratory Tour de Milwaukee: attempted to have a Rochefort at the Palm but its Sunday hours aren’t conducive to post-race celebrating. So we headed down the street to the St Francis Brewery, where the beers are named after the Seven Deadly Sins (Wrath was my favorite beer but it’s not my favorite sin; talk amongst yourselves to guess which one is.)  Then we ended up at our new favorite restaurant, the rather fancy Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, where they overlooked the compression tights that conformed perfectly to our legs but not-so-perfectly to their dress code. They even gave us the best seat in the house and treated me like a total rock star for qualifying. As if I didn’t already have enough to smile about!

Actually, later I’d find I had even more to smile about: two women in my age group got 2:00 penalties on the bike leg, so even though they crossed the line before me their official finish time once the penalty was added ranks them lower than me. (I don’t know what they did but all ya’ll triathletes should really make sure you know the rules; there’s a list of common penalty-worthy practices you should avoid here.) So instead of being 18th and getting the last Worlds-qualifying slot, I was 16th. Which is kinda even more cool, even though it is lousy for them since one now has to cross her fingers for a roll down slot.

So, I have a new goal and a lot of work ahead of me!

That’s all for now. As usual, thanks for stopping by.  Remember Rich Angelo, kick like Alison Gittleman, and be willing to suspend your disbelief like me; sometimes triply land-locked Nebraskans rock open-water swims, kind strangers return ejected Garmins* and 42-year-old single mothers who were too slow to make their college track teams freaking qualify for freaking Worlds.

If you’re truly local to me, see you at tomorrow’s Cranberry Sprint. If I merely imagined you were, I’ll see you in Edmonton! 🙂

Take care,

– cj
* breaking news! The Garmin arrived from Colorado the day before yesterday! And it actually still works! I immediately removed it from the quick release mount and put it back on the standard wristband it came on–anybody want the quick release kit? FREE! 🙂

Hurrah! It has some serious road rash, which I am all sorts of pleased about. Gotta have battle scars.

Hurrah! It came home with some serious road rash, which I am all sorts of pleased about. Battle scars rock.

Retails for $19.99. Your price: FREE! Ping me if you're insane enough to want it! :)

My quick release kit has been released of its dutis and put back in its original packaging, which I for some unknown reason actually kept. Retail: $19.99. Your price: FREE! Anyone insane enough to want it?

Posted in My Race Reports, Nationals, World Championships | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nationals 2013: Sometimes You Gotta Lose to Win

I just qualified for Team USA at the Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee, but lost my $400 Garmin in the process. I guess “they” are right when they say winning comes at a cost, but I am so giddy about representing the United States at the World Championships in August 2014 that I don’t even care 🙂 The top 18 in each division qualify for Worlds automatically; if any of the top 18 don’t want to go, the slots “roll down” as far as #25. Check out who got the last of those automatic slots 🙂


Short version of the race since I am doing this post on my iPhone: the swim was great-for me, which is to say as I exited T1 with my handsome steed someone screamed “you’re 30th!” That’s out of something around 70 chicks, so Viper and I had our work cut out for us but as the kids would say, NBD.

By the three-mile mark we had made short work of 12 of them, by six miles the body count was up to a lucky-for-me 13, and I reached down to get my water bottle at precisely the wrong moment and my knee hit my wrist and my Garmin popped off the bike mount.

My quick-release wristband, forever released of holding my long-lost 910XT.

My quick-release wristband, forever released of holding my long-lost 910XT.

Naturally, it occurred to me that the ejected item was worth a wee bit more than, say, a spent Gu tube…so much so that some riders would even pull over and fetch it. It made me smile to realize that I am so not in that camp. So I mentally let go of what my wrist mount had already expelled and pointed at a pack of spectators and yelled, “Garmin! Get it! 3517!!!”

Who knows if they understood this shorthand for “Hey! You guys! Help! I just lost my Garmin! That’s it bouncing around wildly on the pavement! Would you please risk life and limb to run out into the middle of the road, dodge in between all those cyclists speeding past at 25 mph, and get that Garmin which is probably broken anyways due to the force of the impact? And once you’ve done that can you schlep all the way to transition, locate the lost and found and tell the nice people there it belongs to athlete # 3517? Thanks so much; you totally rock! Beers on me after the race!”

Yeah, so, right. I guess time will tell if they got that message, and then acted upon it.

I continued passing cyclists, both males from Wave 1 as well as a few more Wave 2 chicks (it was great being Wave 2, as I knew that every girl out there was my competitor–this is a luxury I rarely have.) I transitioned well and noted that the majority of bikes in my rack area (ie, my competitors) were still out on the course (as they should be).

My coach and fellow TC2 athlete Evan Pardi were at Run Out waiting for me, and they yelled, “YOU’RE 14th!!!!” Which was both exciting and terrifying.

I will save the blow-blow-blow for another post; short story is that I have a lot of work to do on my run–clearly, as I dropped four places to #18 over the 5k course–but game on and I will be ready for Worlds next summer! Canada, you have been forewarned!!!! 🙂 -cj

Posted in My Race Reports, Nationals | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Two Thumbs Up For Milwaukee

Milwaukee loves us :)

Milwaukee loves us 🙂

Truth be told I wasn’t sure how this whole Nationals-in-Milwaukee thang was going to work out. I was more than a little spoiled by the whole Nationals-in-Burlington-Vermont thang for two years, and Viper and I were pretty sure we wouldn’t fit in, assumed we’d stick out like a Rochefort (yum) in a cooler-full of Miller (yikes). Word on the street was that San Diego was the also-ran host location for the 2013 and 2104 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, and I was really mourning San Diego’s loss.

Update: well done, USA Triathlon…this city totally-completely-wholly gets two thumbs up from cj. (Site Selection Committee, you are free to breathe a collective sigh of relief.)  So far Viper and I both love it! Well, I should say so far one of us loves it; Viper has yet to get his sea legs in this city by Lake Michigan, since he spent the better part of yesterday stuck on this truck, poor boy:

When I told the nice guy at Race Day Transport I was eager to be reunited with my trusty stead, he smiled and said "you and about 200 others whose bikes we shipped." I assured him that while they might want their bikes, their want pales in comparison to mine :)

When I told the nice guy at Race Day Transport I was eager to be reunited with my trusty stead, he smiled and said “you and about 200 others whose bikes we shipped.” I assured him that while they might *want* their bikes, I was the only one who truly *neeed* hers. Guess who got her bike first? 🙂

With Viper out of commission for a few hours I was left to my own devices which in this instance means I had ample time to not only be issued my timing chip, but also ample time to lose it and find it again. (File under: Things That Only Happen To Me. What can I say? I don’t function well when Viper’s under duress.) Once I was done with that nonsense (I had left it at the Race Day Transport booth, whilst attempting to cajole the boys to pick up the unloading pace), I then had plenty of time to scope out the course…and check this out Viper and I get to ride not only on the highway but ON AN OVERPASS AND ON THIS BRIDGE!!!

Hoan Bridge, northbound side of I-794...the same side that will be closed for the race :)

Hoan Bridge, northbound side of I-794…the same side that will be closed for the race 🙂 Don’t tell my father: this bridge is named for a Socialist. Yep, it’s true: it is named after Daniel Hoan, one of the longest-serving mayors of Milwaukee. If this bridge looks familiar to you and you’ve never been to Milwaukee, it is probably because it was used to film the car chase scene in The Blues Brothers. Oh, HOW COOL IS THIS I ASK YOU?!?!?

….and here is the overpass…isn’t it great???

weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! :)

weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! 🙂 Yep, right up that overpass on the way out…then right back down it on the way into transition. With that super-sweet decline, Viper is hoping to break the speed limit on the way back in, oh yes he is.

The non-highway half of the course is gorgeous, too…

Bike course, Part 1: hugs Lake Michigan. Flat and oh-so-fast, as this triathlete illustrates. Yum.

Bike course, Part 1: hugs Lake Michigan. Flat and oh-so-fast, as this triathlete illustrates. Yum.

Since this is a triathlon, there are legs other than the bike and believe it or not I did a little recon on those too. The swim start is rather awesome, though I am a little concerned about that bridge…it is an out-and-back course, so swimmers will be going in both directions under that rather narrow span. Hmmmm….

the good news is I am in Wave the course won't be terribly busy. I'll also get to watch the Oly athletes duke it out on Saturday. My coach is racing then and he says he is looking forward to the "combat" of it. I am pretty sure he's not joking.

the good news is I am in Wave 2…so the course won’t be terribly busy. I’ll also get to watch the Oly athletes duke it out on Saturday so going into my Sunday race I’ll better know what I’m in for. My coach is racing the Oly and he says he is looking forward to the “combat” of it. I am pretty sure he’s not joking.

The run course is totally tailor-made for cj, and by that I mean it would take a very active imagination to think there is anything remotely like a hill here:

Flat as a slice of Wisconsin cheese. All 3.1 miles of it. I know because I ran it yesterday. I am insanely excited.

Flat as a slice of Wisconsin cheese. All 3.1 miles of it. I know because I ran it yesterday. I am insanely excited.

I won’t have time to enjoy the scenery on race day, so I was glad to see it yesterday since the course is rather beautiful and not just on the lake side…

random scene of beauty on the bike course. Can't really tell from the pic but that's a waterfall cascading down. Really cool.

random scene of beauty on the bike course. Can’t really tell from the pic but that’s a waterfall cascading down. Really cool.

We both bike and run right past the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is a piece of art in an of itself.

We both bike and run right past the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is a piece of art in an of itself.

This shot is for Daughter #2, who would LOVE this store!

This shot is for Daughter #2, who would LOVE this store!

As a devoted ocean snob I have always thought lakes should not be able to call their shorelines "beaches." Lake Michigan is an exception to the rule.

As a devoted ocean snob I have always thought lakes should not be able to call their shorelines “beaches.” Lake Michigan is an exception to the rule.

apparently beach volleyball is a huge hit at Bradford Beach--there are nets as far as the eye can see!

apparently beach volleyball is a huge hit at Bradford Beach–there are nets as far as the eye can see!

Net-net, Milwaukee is turning out to be just as cool as San Diego–perhaps even moreso since I never in a million years expected it to be cool. I found awesome coffee here…

Awesome coffee here

OK, I was *told* to find it…my dermatologist is from Milwaukee and she suggested I seek this place out. Her coffee knowledge is clearly more than skin deep since this place rocks

identity crisis

Alterra is actually undergoing a name change…it is now Colectivo, but is in that awkward brand transition phase where all the logos don’t quite coordinate yet.

…a great place for a pre-race dinner Saturday night…

Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. The Barlotta family owns a restaurant in the Wynn in Vegas, too, or so I am told.

Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. The Barlotta family owns a restaurant in the Wynn in Vegas, too, or so I am told.

…and, mercifully, a bar that serves Belgian beer (hurrah!)

The Palm is on Kinnickinnic Street, which locals just call "KK". The name comes from the English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word meaning "tobacco."

The Palm has a gazillion Belgian and is very, very dark and is in a very very unassuming building  on Kinnickinnic Street, which locals just call “KK”. The name comes from the English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word meaning “tobacco.”

One more lake shot…sorry, I am a little smitten with it…

Pretty huge for a lake! I inda covet that lifeguard's job.

Pretty huge for a lake! I kinda covet that lifeguard’s job.

And now I am ready to race 🙂

Transition mat message from Daughter #1.

Transition mat message from Daughter #1…

...and from Daughter #2... :)

…and from Daughter #2… 🙂

super exciting


That’s all for now! Don’t doubt the Site Selection Committee, don’t judge a city by its bad beer and I’ll update you after I cross the finish line! – cj

me at Lake Michigan

me at Lake Michigan, trying to look like this is not a self portrait 🙂

Posted in My Race Reports, Nationals | Leave a comment

Cohasset 2013: Not (Yet) Palace Malice

packet pick-up has never been so fun

packet pick-up has never been quite this fun; here’s my silver cap  Wave 1 Elite cap and already-assigned age group #

I got my very-first-ever chance to race in the thoroughbred division last month, and by that I mean I abandoned both my F 40-44 age group and what was in all likelihood my last sip of common sense to race as an “Elite”. At the 2013 Cohasset Triathlon. Which, you may recall from my 2012 so-called race report, attracts an ever-so-slightly competitive field. If you require evidence of the “current calendar year” variety, how’s this: Olympic swimmer extraordinaire Gary Hall Jr. chose to race 2013 Cohasset not as an Elite but as an age grouper.  Yeah, sure—the world-class athlete who owns ten (ten!) pretty pieces of Olympic hardware is an “age grouper”…while the 42-year-old single mother of two with a desk job who only recently stopped looking like she might drown mid flip-turn is “Elite”. Makes perfect sense, right? Oh you betcha.

Gary with his gold hardware in Athens, Greece, circa 2004 (credit: Getty Images)

Gary with one-tenth of his Olympic hardware, circa 2004 (credit: Getty Images)

Now, maybe prior knowledge of Gary’s “age grouper” status would have sent me scurrying right on back to Wave 8 with the rest of the F 40-44ers. (Since we all look like neoprene-clad seals at the start, I assumed he was in my silver-capped midst; didn’t find out his cap was green til a few days post race when I stumbled upon this crazy YouTube video.)

On second thought, knowing about Gary wouldn’t have changed a thing—not after the kind of year it’s been here. I guess handing your daughter over to a neurosurgeon so he can drill into her skull, peel back her dura and remove not only the brain tumor within but a  “margin” of the good stuff—tissue responsible for memory, behavior, emotions—“just in case”… well, that kinda-sorta streamlines what qualifies as “scary” and a little ol’ race no longer makes The List. It also kinda-sorta clarifies: if you want something, chop-chop and carpe diem because who the hell knows what’s around that river bend.

So here we go, chop-chop-carpe-diem.

Blame Becky?
I could blame that brain tumor for my Cohasset decision. (Aside: If this whole brain tumor thang comes as breaking news to you, here’s a 68-character update: Gone! Benign! Dr. Joseph Madsen at Boston Children’s Hospital rocks!) Or I could blame Becky, since she unwittingly planted this arguably malignant “race Elite” seed in my own gray matter at the 2012 Title 9 Tri. I definitely can’t blame Cohasset race director Bill Burnett, who encouraged me but at the same time made certain I knew precisely how far over my head the water was:

Subj: Elite at Cohasset?
Jun 23, 2013, at 10:36 PM
TO: Bill Burnett
FR: Christine Johansen
Hi Bill: I would like to race in wave 1 as an elite at Cohasset if I can. I am already signed up as elite for Title 9 in September. Curious if switching is possible? Thanks!
Sent from my iPhone
Subj: RE: Elite at Cohasset?
Mon. Jun 24 at 3:23 AM
TO: Christine Johansen
FR: Bill Burnett
Hey Christine – this is possible…..please consider:
1) by racing elite you are no longer eligible for any age group awards
2) our elite women field went a 1:04 (total time in hour:minutes) or better last year
3) we have 10 women in the elite field
4) finally your number has already been assigned – so by switching to elite – you will still be racked with your age group – not a big deal but wanted you to know in the spirit of competitive fairness.
This is entirely your call and naturally I want to ensure you have a great race experience.
Let me know by 10:00 am this morning your decision.
Subj: Elite at Cohasset?
Jun 24, 2013, at 4:58 AM
TO: Bill Burnett
FR: Christine Johansen
Game on! Switch me!  Thank you so much!!! See you next weekend! Crazy-fun 🙂
Sent from my iPhone

Thanks to my newly streamlined Scary List, Bill’s email energized me. I felt like I really did have a chance; I’d burst into Elite-dom like 15-to-1 odds Palace Malice at Belmont Stakes (just minus the mane) to win by three furlongs (swimmer translation: 660 yards).

June 8: Belmont Stakes favorites Oxbox and Orb were relegated to chasing long-shot Palice Malice. June 23: History does not repeat itself at Cohasset, but I did have as much fun as the bay-colored boy.

June 8: Belmont Stakes favorites Orb and Oxbow were relegated to chasing long-shot Palice Malice. June 30: History slated to repeat itself at Cohasset… just sub in cj  for the bay-colored boy. That was my story and I was stickin’ to it.

The “Who” and the “How”
There were a lot of words in Bill’s email, but I fixated on the numbers: 10 (the size of the F-Elite field) and 1:04 (the slowest F-Elite circa 2012). I wondered the “who” of that 10 and the “how” of that 1:04…since my 2012 time was 1:09:06.5. Five minutes and six-point-five seconds is, like, a lot to shave off…especially since I had a pretty awesome-for-me 2012 race; I took 3rd in my age group, right behind the aforementioned seed-planting Becky who just the year before had been completely out of my reach.

Given the crazy competitive field at Cohasset,  I had zero expectations of being on this, the F 40-44 podium. But there I am! :) Kinda wicked fun.

2012 podium flashback…super-super-super fun day.

Still, I felt like I could cover that 5:06.5 for a few good reasons. First, my frame somehow slimmed down a full ten pounds between model years 2012 and 2013, and I’ve heard that lighter = better on both the bike and the run. More importantly, the newly-svelte 135-pound cj comes fully equipped with more muscle (confirmed by both Daughter #1 and my obsessive-compulsive-ridiculously-expensive Tanita body fat scale) and more myelin (confirmed by me).

A thing of beauty: a well-myelinated neuron. (If you have a perplexed look on your face right now, get thee to a Barnes and Noble and buy yourself The Talent Code or Bounce or The Genius in All of Us...or if you have an incredibly short attention span just Google myelin for chrissakes.)

A thing of beauty: a well-myelinated neuron. If you have a perplexed look on your face right now, get thee to a Barnes and Noble and buy yourself The Talent Code or Bounce or The Genius in All of Us…or if you have an incredibly short attention span just Google myelin for chrissakes. Or just take my word for it: unlike tumors, myelin’s something you want in your brain. The more the better.

As far as the “who” question was concerned, I sensed that was better left unknown since I have a tendency to get a wee bit fixated on the competition. This was most definitely (as Coach Tim would say) a Good Call since I’d later learn that toeing the sandy start line alongside little ol’ me would be:

Brianna Blanchard. At 24, the former Pepperdine queen of the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyle is presently fixated on traveling to Rio…with the 2016 Olympic team.

–  Kaitlin Anelauskas. Captain of her high school cross-country, swimming, AND spring track teams, the now-28-year-old Kait set records as a Bentley College swimmer.

Jessica Barton. At 24, she’s not just a professional triathlete but also a professional runner who earned her pro card at the Clermont ITU Pan American Cup in March.

Rae Bastoni. Also 24 (are you sensing a theme here yet?), Ms. Rae will compete at Worlds in September—on the very same London course the Olympians raced this past summer.

Sonja Kent. I saved the best for last: this 21-year-old phenom is the reigning Sprint Nationals freaking champion.  Let’s put that into perspective: according to my sport’s governing body, 50,136 US females raced triathlon in 2012. Out of all of those females, Sonja won the Numero Uno sprint spot.

Check out that shot glass; I so want a set. Norwegians rock.

Check out that shot glass; I so want a set. Norwegians rock.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that I was the only Cohasset F-Elite who could legally slug down a shot of Linie Aquavit whilst the rest of the pack was still suckling at the breast. No no no,  that would be entirely misleading since there was in fact one other elite woman who blew out more than 20-something candles on her last birthday cake: Maynard’s very own Becky Paige has also crossed The Big 4-0 chasm. Hurrah! The similarities end there; a card-carrying member of the aptly named (and invitation-only) Team Psycho (perhaps my invitation got lost in the mail?), Becky was the 8th woman overall at Ironman Regensburg and posted a top-ten finish (6th!) in her age group at the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas.

Right. As the kids would say, NBD. (Baby Boomer translation: No Big Deal.)

As “they” say, what you don’t know can’t kill you. (Aside: “they” are usually right, unless what you don’t know happens to involve a grade IV glioblastoma lurking in your brain. I’ve done lots of awful research this year, and trust me—that really can kill you.) So silver lining, I was blissfully unaware of all of the Wave 1 Psycho-drama and ergo basked in my newfound, Bill-bestowed Elite-dom. I took it all very seriously and by that I mean I was even more unbearably stringent than usual when it came to training, sleeping and eating…this proved to be a bit of a challenge since in the 21 days leading up to Cohasset I had not one not two but three freaking business trips—that’s more than I had in the previous 24 months combined.

This robot ate my month of June; to launch the iRobot Ava 500, which is half iRobot, half Cisco technology, I traveled thrice in June.

The robot that ate my month of June: the iRobot Ava 500. It is half technology made by iRobot (aka the super-cool Roomba vacuum cleaner guys) and half (you guessed it) Cisco stuff. It was super fun hanging out with iRobot founder Colin Angle (whom Forbes called “our very own Tony Stark minus the suit”) and Cisco’s Chief Futurist Dave Evans (whom I say wins for Coolest Job Title Ever)…but also a wee bit exhausting and not exactly conducive to Elite-level training.

I did my best to keep my cells Elitely fueled…

everyone brings their coffee pot and blender to hotels, right?

Business attire? Check. Laptop? Check. Blender, bananas, and vegan protein powder? Check, check, check. Keepin’ things interesting for airport security and puttin’ hotel-room kitchenettes to good use, oh yes I am.

…and didn’t miss a single workout even when it meant swimming in this monstrosity…

If you want to simulate swim-start pandemonium or practice your sighting, this pool's the place to be. If you want to do a serious workout, not so much. I got cozy with the security guard and he unlocked the gate extra early for little ol' me ( was our little secret.)

Silver lining: staying in a hotel four miles away from Disney gives a triathlete ample opportunity to simulate swim-start pandemonium and practice sighting. The security guard took pity on me and bent the rules by unlocking the pool’s gate extra early each morning so I could avoid this scene. Sssshh…it was our little secret.

Even during off-site junkets to Disney I kept my Elite-dom front and center, and by that I mean I forced myself to ride roller coasters as Mental Toughness Training (you know, just in case I didn’t get enough Mental Toughness Training between the diagnosis-triggering grand mal seizure and the sleep-deprived EEG and the too-many MRIs and the virtually-impossible-to-fathom surgery and the terrifying recovery.)

Heck, when a vacationing wee one made off with my swim gear (!) I even made a mad dash to the only store in Orlando I could find that carries the lone brand of goggles that fit my “unique” face…

Thank goodness the Diver's Direct on International Drive in Orlando, just a few blocks from the convention center

Thank goodness for the Diver’s Direct on International Drive in Orlando, just a short cab ride from the Orange County Convention Center.

Decided to go all girly; bought the pink. Here they are pool side the next morning, circa 6 am

For a change I decided to go all girly; bought the pink. Here are my Orlando acquisitions pool-side the morning after I procured them.

In a way, the craziness of training through business travel made me feel all the more confident of my Elite-dom. After all, how many other humans would have ventured to smuggle a Ziploc baggie of protein powder past TSA? Jus’ sayin’.

Totally Intolerable
Eventually my travel ended and The Big Day arrived. I woke up smiling. Viper woke up smiling too, and it is noteworthy to add that he and I woke up completely devoid of further human company; when Daughters #1 and #2 learned of our Elite-dom they quite literally sent us packing…made us get a hotel room near the race venue and refused to come, claiming we would be totally intolerable heading into our first Elite race.

Fine. Be that way!

oh. yes.

oh. yes.

No question about it: this ride is 100 percent Elite.

No question about it: the boy is 110 percent Elite.

This shot never gets old: Viper racked and ready June 30th.

This shot never gets old: Viper racked and ready June 30th.

Pre-Race: Concessions to Elite-dom
I have always worn my heart-rate monitor for races, but having it around my rib cage can cause me to get a stitch during the run. I knew I’d need all the help I could get to keep up with the Elites (whoever they were), so I made a game-day decision to forego both the data and the potential cramp. Viper approved and wanted to streamline his own race kit, too (not that he was afraid of those other bikes, nor did he have reason to be) I removed his Garmin bike mount:

keeping it simple by shedding some gear

keeping it simple by shedding some gear: Viper’s Garmin mount and my HR monitor

Swim Start: “You Look Like You BELONG!”
I was hellbent on not getting frazzled when Bill rounded us up for the start. I did a bunch of bigdeepbreaths and was thankful for my goofy ear plugs since they let me burrow into my own little safe place like a hermit crab in a nice cozy shell. I pretended this was just like any other race despite ample evidence (ie, the exquisite neoprene-clad specimens swarming around me) to the contrary. (What can I say; I have mastered the art of Willing Suspension of Disbelief, otherwise known as Lying To Oneself. A handy yet occasionally dangerous skill.)

There was one thing my hermit-crab shell didn’t block out: moments before the start my friend and training partner Jim tapped me on the shoulder and leaned in so I could hear. (He has swum with me scores of times, so he knows precisely how loud to speak so his voice travels through the silicone plugs.) He shout-whispered: “CHRISTINE! You look like you BELONG!” That put a great big ol’ smile on my face and earned Jim a great big ol’ kiss on the cheek. Which in hindsight is totally awkward but…whatever happens in Cohasset stays in Cohasset, right? (Unless you blog about it. Duh.)

Bill had the silver caps gather in a circle and do that hands-in-the-center-cheer-thang. I separated from the pack, hung back. I glanced at Jim and he shot me a glance that nudged me into the circle. OK then! I don’t remember what Bill told us to chant-yell, but I did it and it was really fun.

Then we were crossing the timing mat and we were off with a bang:

Wow! These guys take off like they mean it. I know ya'll think we all look like seals in our neoprene, but clearly I am the fourth seal from the left, right leg straight left leg bent. Note the chick with the orange and blue Blue Seventy suit directly in front of me...

Bang! Silver caps take off like they mean business while the rest of the field watches. How fun is this? I am the 4th seal from the left, with right-leg-straight-left-knee-raised. Note the blue-striped seal (Blue Seventy wetsuit) directly in front of me…

...that orange and blue is now a dolphin kick or two behind me. That's me in the forefront--look closely and you'll see the pink strap of my Orlando goggles :) I guess I can hustle like I mean it, too :)

…because now that blue-striped seal is a dolphin jump or so behind me 🙂 Yep, that’s me in the forefront–look really closely and you’ll see the pink strap of my Orlando goggles…I guess I can hustle like I mean it, too 🙂 I found these pics on Streamline Events’ Facebook page–thanks to whoever took ’em! 🙂 None of my usual photographers came to Cohasset so I was thrilled to find these.

If the photos aren’t enough, you can even watch this video of the swim start, which is kinda cool (NB: this is the first time I am attempting to embed a YouTube video in my blog, so fingers crossed; if all you see is white space instead of a pretty click-on-able video below, then I failed and here’s the Old-School-Plan-B link to the video.)

~ The Swim & T1 ~
The Pack: Brianna sure must have looked worthy of the Olympic 2016 slot she covets; she emerged from the water in a blazing fast 6:21…ahead of every Elite with the exception of the amazing Michael Emmons, who was eight seconds ahead of her but not for long since Brianna T1’d faster than anyone that day: a jaw-dropping 20.6 seconds. Now, that’s some super-fast wetsuit shucking; perhaps she employed an Xacto blade??? She had a nice lead but the bulk of the pack exited T1 close enough to make it a “game on” moment—Jessica trailed by a skosh, with national-freaking-sprint-champion Sonja in hot pursuit.
Order out of T1: Brianna, Jessica, Sonja.

CJ: I had a great-for-me swim, but great-for-me clearly isn’t great-for-Elite. Of the 21 non-cj Elites who started the race—that’d be 14 not-Gary-Hall amazing male athletes and 7 not-cj incredible female athletes—I emerged from the water in front of only two: my 8:56 swim split put me a few steps ahead of 37-year-old David Souza of Brookline MA (9:02) and 29-year old Allison Hall of Charlestown, MA (9:10). I T1’d in a time fast enough to land me a spot on Jet Blue’s Top Ten Fastest Transitions list, but at 56.2 seconds it didn’t, like, get me any closer to Brianna et al.

~ The Bike: Not in Kansas Anymore ~ 
I was a skosh over two minutes behind the bulk of the pack; their cumulative times were “in the sevens” and mine was “in the nines.” Now, in any other race, this would not be a crisis of epic proportions. Viper is darn good at his job and two minutes is not an insurmountable gap for him to close—especially since at some races the fastest chick in the water comes out of T1 with a mountain bike.

But this wasn’t just any race. Remember: I was riding with the national sprint freaking champion and women aiming for Olympic medals.

So, yeah: with 90.47619 percent of the overall elite field and 87.5 percent of the F-Elite field ahead of me out of the swim/T1, I clearly needed divine intervention…perhaps they’d all en masse for some reason heed this bike course sign:

No such luck. Heed they did not.

No such luck. Heed they did not. David apparently whizzed out of T1 faster than me and Allison apparently dropped out at some point during the bike, so by the time I passed this sign I was the last Elite.

Remember: I am pretty good at that Willing-Suspension-of-Disbelief thang, so I harnessed that, pretended the pack was just around every corner and was genuinely surprised as each passing corner failed to produce them.

In reality, the chasm between their race and my solo time trial was getting wider by the second. From the race results, it looks like they had quite the ride. Brianna lost her 1st-place standing, dropped to third as Kait and Rae pulled off the two best female bike splits of the day, riding a super-impressive 23.4 mph and 23.0 mph respectively.

Out of T2: According to my race-day reconstruction math, this would have been quite the T2 to see: the powerhouse cycling done by Kait and Rae knocked Jessica and Sonja out of their top-three spots. Looks like Kait, Rae, and Brianna zipped out of T2 pretty much en masse, and really it was an anything-could-happen moment, since the rest of the pack was capable of closing their gaps with stellar runs…

CJ: …everyone except cj that is! I rode an average of 21.4 mph, which isn’t the best I’ve got and likely had to do with the fact that there was no “fresh meat” in sight to entice Viper. It felt like a solid effort though; I was happy with my ride though I was surprised I wasn’t faster. Three other Elites rode “in the 21s” so I wasn’t completely out-classed. Still, to be in the running, I’d need to run the 5K at something close to 6:00 pace…and that only happens during repeat 400s on the track.

~ The Run: O, Jerusalem! ~
File under “fitting”: my fate was sealed on the road named (I suppose) for the city of the Last Supper and Crucifixion. It was here that I failed to heed Ephesians 4:29 and by that I mean I uttered an expletive when I glanced down at my Garmin and saw this:

No, I am not crazy enough to have snapped this photo mid-race. I am, however, crazy enough to reenact it during a post-race workout so I could have a pic for illustrative purposes. Does this surprise you in the least? I thought not.

Remember what Bill said? 2012’s slowest Elite went 1:04. So it wasn’t a good sign that I was at 1:04 on Jerusalem Road, a little less than a mile from the finish line. (Aside: No, I am not crazy enough to have carried my iPhone with me throughout the race; only Christy is that kind of crazy.  I am, however, crazy enough to have done a little crime scene reconstruction during a post-race workout so I could snap a pic for illustrative purposes. Does this surprise you in the least? Before you answer, remember: I bring blenders on business trips, people.)

Yep, last year’s entire elite field had quite literally beaten me by a mile. Which is, like, a lot.

By the time I uttered that expletive, the 2013 non-cj Elite race was totally over: Becky (who swam 1:35 pace, rode 21.7 mph and ran 7:01 pace)  was the last of the lot across the line, at 1:03:55.1. Jessica set a new run course record with her 5:51 pace (!!!) run, which secured her a silver medal only 1.5 seconds behind first-place Kait, whose 6:22 pace run combined with that awesome 23.4 mph ride earned her the top step on the podium. Brianna took home the bronze–the only podium finisher to be over the one-hour mark (1:00:35.3).

Exiting the Expletive Zone
I didn’t stay in the expletive zone for long, since I knew what I was doing here and it had to do with making more myelin (see? I told you you should have Googled it) and this quote from Mia Hamm:

, page 91. Get your own copy; I am not done yet. Daughter #1 urged me to break out of my usual yellow highlighting; pink seemed appropriate as it matches my Orlando goggles.

Page 91 of “Bounce” by Matthew Syed. Get your own copy; I am not done yet.

I was definitely “playing up” that day in Cohasset, and I knew it. So when I finally (mercifully) crossed the finish line I did so with a smile on my face and a feeling of accomplishment; by some measurements it was a lousy performance, but by others it was completely-totally-wholly awesome and I wouldn’t change a thing. (Well, unless I could magically run 6:15 pace; I would so totally change that.) That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

That’s all for now. Thanks to Bill for giving me the chance to race against these superior players, to Tim for coaching me through it and to Jim for enduring that awkward pre-race kiss. As for the rest of you: follow Mia’s lead and “play up”; follow my lead and chop-chop-carpe diem. Streamline your Scary List, keep on myelinating on whatever the heck it is that matters most to you and don’t fret—you’ll catch up to your Orbs and Oxbows yet.

Elitely yours,

– cj

Posted in Life and Training, My Race Reports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Triskaidekaphobia and Fear of Cats (With a K)

Sad but true: no Marlborough Tri in 2014. Fingers crossed for a 2015 comeback

Sad but true: no Marlborough Tri in 2014. Optimist that I am, my fingers and toes are crossed for a 2014 comeback.

Since Streamline Events axed the Marlborough Triathlon from its 2013 lineup, I’ve been as befuddled as the Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon when the Syfy network unceremoniously dumped his fave show. I mean, seriously, Streamline—Marlborough wasn’t just any race. It was my race…where F-ELITE Vicki showed nervous newbie-me how to rack my brand-new bike (2010)…where I earned my first ever “1st AG” (2011)…where I honestly thought I could beat Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference on the bike leg (2012who knew that dude could crank the pedals?).

Streamline cancels it without my consent? Cruel and unusual.

Resilient chick that I am (read: resilient chick that I am working reallysuperhard to become), it didn’t devastate me. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I healthily went in search of something to fill the void, another hometown race. The search was short, since there’s only one other tri in town: Firm Racing’s Lions Spring Pool Sprint at Wayside Swim and Racquetball Club.

In a way, it’s weird that I didn’t choose this as my first race oh-so-many years ago. After all, I’ve been a Wayside member for a gazillion years. I met my coach here and did my very first triathlon pool workout here too (in a string bikini; nuff said). The maintenance guy knows that if I am looking for him it means the Vasa needs new batteries. Heck it is even the club at which a teensy-tinsy Daughter #1 cowered in the corner during racquetball lessons (sadly she inherited her mother’s fear of flying orbs) and an even teensier-tinsier Daughter #2 learned to love the water:

Lida with her favorite instructor, circa 2003. I am pretty sure her name is Melinda though I can't be sure since she hasn't worked at Wayside in, like, a decade.

I kindly did not photograph Daughter #1 cowering in the racquetball court but I snapped lots of photos of Lida with her favorite instructor, circa 2003. I am pretty sure that instructor’s name was Melinda though I can’t be sure since she hasn’t worked at Wayside in, like, a decade.

Another gratuitous cute kid shot. How could I resist?

Another gratuitous cute kid in the pool shot. How could I resist?

Like Cheers, everybody at Wayside knows my name…unlike Cheers, they aren’t always glad I came. I’ve been known to become “difficult” when, say, the earbud-wearing power walker on the next treadmill randomly blurts out lines from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. Or when an eighty-year-old acquacizer meanders into my lane when I’ve 200 yards left of a 500 TT. Still, they do a stand-up job of loving me through my hissy fits.

Pre-Race Perks
Membership does have its perks: the manager of Wayside’s fitness room also happens to be my massage therapist and friend. Steve offered to let me stow my stallion in his massage room overnight, so the boy would be all sorts of freshly rested and ready to roll. I got a huge kick out of this offer and giddily took him up on it. Yes, Viper got the VIP treatment. I guess that makes him “VIPer” for the day. Here’s the oh-so-special boy, the night before the race, reclining against Steve’s torture I mean massage table:

My high maintenance guy.

I spend a *lot* of time in this room…so it was fitting for my high maintenance guy to rest here the night before the race.

Lucky 13
I arrived at my preferred insanely early time, unapologetically parked the Prius in a staff slot, said hi to lifeguard Ryan and waited for Steve to arrive to release my race-ready stallion from his stall. (Yes, I was that early—I beat the manager to the club). I checked the numbers list—ya’ll know I have a thing about race numbers—and did a double-take to make sure I was seeing straight:

Find your name, find your number, pick up your packet...I do love it when I get a unique number, and it doesn't get much more unique than 13!

Find your name, find your number, pick up your packet…I do love it when I get a unique number, and it doesn’t get much more unique than 13!

No triskaidekaphobia here–I immediately decided #13 was the best thing that could happen to me. I texted it to my coach and his reply sealed the deal, confirmed it was an omen of awesomeness; Tim told me he was #1313 earlier this month when he posted a top ten finish at the Kennedy Space Center’s rather cool Rocketman Tri:

I interrupt this blog to brag about my coach: at the Oly distance Rocketman 2013 Tim placed fourth overall and won his age group by more than ten minutes thirty seconds. That's, like, A LOT. Here he is with his #1313 rocking the bike leg.  So. Insanely. Awesome.

I interrupt this blog to brag about my coach: at Oly-distance Rocketman 2013, the incredible Tim Crowley placed 4th overall and won his age group by 10 minutes 37 seconds. That’s, like, A LOT. Here #1313 rocks the bike leg. Pure awesomeness.

I love symmetry just as much as I love race-day numerology, so this numerical tidbit connecting me and my coach was exponentially awesome, nearly sent me into orbit (I almost inserted an apology here but on second thought you really cannot expect me to resist those puns so I will not apologize). I borrowed Steve’s scissors and obsessively trimmed my twist ties to the perfect length before giddily affixing my Supremely Lucky Number 13 to VIPer’s seatpost. It was kinda fun to be me 🙂

The low numbers get the primo spots in transition, so I beelined directly to the first row of racks and got to choose my real-estate. I naturally chose the best one and had just started setting up when #12, another girl racer, whirled in to transition and selected the slot right next to me even though, like, we don’t have to rack consecutively:

I love it when girls have pink bikes. So much easier to track down and kill I mean pass.

12 and 13. Viper appreciates it when girls have pink bikes… It makes it that much easier for him to hunt them down.

If it weren’t for the pink wheels I might not have known the owner was female and that’s not because she was one of those muscle-bound types my friend Kate calls Quadzilla. It was because I couldn’t see any muscles or skin at all; for some reason #12 was wearing a black skull cap and down parka that went all the way to her knees, as if it were the dead of winter and not a clear spring 60-something morning. Sure, it was slightly chilly, enough to make me glad I had the foresight to wear my track jacket and running tights over my itsy bitsy tri suit, but a feather-stuffed coat felt like overkill. But maybe she knew better than me—maybe this is, like, the latest pre-race prep philosophy. Ack! I wasn’t prepared enough! She didn’t talk to me or anyone else. She moved about transition with an air of efficient precision that had the potential to rattle me. OK-OK it went beyond “potential”…truth be told her intensity was totally freaking me out.

And then her upended helmet caught my eye. Her name was written in Sharpie inside of it. At first I wondered how the ink didn’t run, what with all the sweat it must be subjected to, and then I didn’t care, because I read the writing on the helmet:


O-M-G. Kat lurked under that coat.

Now, if you’ve read this blog once or twice, you know I can get a little fixated on the competition. I’ve raced Kat before and she is great–she beat me handily at last year’s Ludlow, like by more than a minute 30 over the sprint distance, placing first to my second AG. She is not only great but she has been doing this a long time. And she’s also the RD of the incredible 70.3 Pumpkinman Triathlon. And the wife of the incredibly talented triathlete Jeff Donatello (read: built-in kick-ass training partner).

My brain signalled to my body to initiate Full Freak Out Mode.

And then my phone rang. And it was my mother, who was in her own freak-out mode, over where she should park to watch the race. Try as I may, I could not summon the ability to be nice. “This is not my problem today,” I growled and hung up, leaving her to her own devices, which is, like, not a good thing. (Sorry, Ma. But you should really know better by now. Expect no pre-race kindness.)

I needed to drown my fear of Kat, quick. I beelined for the pool, where I claimed my very favorite lane (the center one–it keeps me away from the lane 5 aquacizers plus it’s the only lane in which I can manage to stay straight during backstroke because I can line myself up with the midline of the peaked roof). I was the first one in and the last one out when they told us it was time to get this race started.

The swim: Home Pool Advantage

In a pool sprint, your number is determined by your self-reported projected swim time. It was fun imagining myself as the 13th fastest swimmer and I went with that thought, convinced myself I was speedy on the swim and the brain thang worked; I actually felt as fast as this photo looks and had a fantastic swim start to finish:

I absolutely love this photo...especially all those feet of the athletes lined up awaiting their very fun!

I absolutely love this photo…especially all those feet of the athletes lined up awaiting their send-off…so very fun!

Post race I sent my Garmin file from the swim to Tim with this note: “I am thrilled to report that the Garmin recorded my pace on each length as follows: 1:23, 1:31, 1:36, 1:40, 1:39, 1:39, 1:40, 1:47, 1:38 and the last one I am mortified to say shows up as 2:15 but that’s only because it includes the attempt to get out of the pool–it was much harder than usual, and even though I didn’t feel like I had toasted myself on the swim while I was actually swimming it sure did feel that way once I had to get myself up and out! The slowing down in lane 4 I think may have been just as much about worrying that the guy behind me wanted to pass–remnants of my yucky swim at Ludlow–as it was about getting tired. I cannot wait to do this race again next year and make those all 1:20s instead 🙂  Lots of room for improvement”

My swim split: 4:21
My place on the swim: 25th overall (6th if you weed out the boys)
Best swim splits of the day: The first male was the super-speedy Blake Wheale (M 25-29) in 3:11 (he would go on to finish the race 2nd OA). Best female was the seemingly jet-propelled Carol Pearle (F 45-49) who zoomed through 250 yards in 3:26 and went on to finish the race 34th OA.

The bike: 13 Chases 14
Once we were on the bike it was easy to forget about #12; she quickly receded into my rearview mirror (not that VIPer has a rearview mirror; you get my point). It was all about #14, a boy-powered bike that showed some serious giddy-up. There’s my riding partner, I thought.

Well, I thought wrong. That boy was blazing fast and after the first descent all I could do was look in vain for him around every corner.

Whilst looking for him I caught several riders, including the incredible Jo Poole, #11, who I misjudged when I first passed her. I say I misjudged her because I thought she was as gone in my rearview as #12 but she kept coming back for more. We played this crazy cat and mouse game, passing each other three or four or five times in the last few miles. Naturally, I made sure the last pass was mine and had serious incentive to speed through transition as we were neck and neck.

I should note here that there are no photos of me on the bike, since my mother was race-day photographer and she claims I am too fast to photograph. Clearly she needs a photography lesson but I did think that comment was kind of awesome.

My post-race notes to my coach on the ride: “This is the ride I had in me last week but that didn’t get to come out then due to the rain 🙂 The only thing I would change is that I would have been faster so I could have avoided seeing the poor raccoon limping off the road to a painful death (but I would have had to be much faster, as the #1 rider (bib #14) saw him too–we commiserated about it afterward and I told him I thought he might have been the one to inflict the damage as he was just that speedy. His name is Steve O’Brien (M 25-29) and he lives in Clinton and he rode 24:53 to my 26:03. I am just a little excited that I had the 5th best bike overall and the best overall of the girls…and also a little irked that George called it “talent” although I know what he means and I know he means it as a compliment but…you what what I am saying!…That said, if anyone ever accuses me of having “talent” on the swim or the run, I will fold that compliment right on up and put it in my back pocket, save it for a cloudy day 🙂 This year I descended at 33.3 mph; next year I want to do 40, if the weather gods cooperate :)”

My bike split: 26:03
My place on the bike: 5th overall
Best bike splits of the day: The non-raccoon killing Steve O’Brien was the first guy, in 24:53. First female was yours truly.

My T2 split: :24
My place: 6th overall, 3rd girl
Best T2s of the day: The first male T2 of the day was former senator Scott Brown; I can’t help but wonder if running away from Democratic trackers helped him do this in such a super-speedy 16 seconds. The girls’ race to dismount was insanely fierce: Jo Poole and Carol Pearl tied for best, both ditching their stallions in 23 seconds.

Me and the Speedy Senator Brown

Me and the Speedy Senator Brown

The run: The Incredible Jo Poole
Jo put on her running shoes a second faster than me. As I exited transition I worried that I wouldn’t have anything left for the run; I really did give the bike leg my all, and it’s a hilly one to boot. So I had to use that brain control thang once again, telling myself that it isn’t the bike leg I am best at but the run. (Apparently on race days I am not above yelling at my mother or lying to myself.)  I told myself this was my leg and #11 would soon be trailing #13.

Since she was seeded 11th to my 13th, her race began 30 seconds before mine. Our accumulated times at this point: Me, 30:48. Jo, 31:18. So while I am a step behind, I am actually in the lead. Someone else will need to explain this concept to my mother, who despite teaching math her entire life struggled with this concept.

Since she was seeded 11th to my 13th, her race began 30 seconds before mine. Our accumulated times at this point: Me, 30:48. Jo, 31:18. So while I am a step behind, I am actually in the lead. Someone else will need to explain this concept to my mother, who despite teaching math her entire life struggled with this concept.

That thought didn’t work for long…we haven’t even crossed the street and look how quickly that gap is widening! Jo Poole is an awesome runner.

The lead did not last for long. Here we are seconds later. Seriously, this is seconds later! Jo you rock.

The lead did not last for long. Here we are seconds later. Seriously, this is seconds later! Jo you rock.

Didn’t matter. The run totally rocked, all 3.2 miles of it. I channelled the best of my training partners, becoming George on the hills, Sumner on the flats and me in the last mile when I knew I could get this done in something around seven minutes or something a lot closer to six; my best pace in that final mile was 5:20.

Less than a quarter mile to go...

Less than a quarter mile to go…

Post-race notes to my coach: “I thought I ran well last week but this run was even better 🙂 Hillier course and better splits and I am thrilled that I no longer look at my HR data while I run because I definitely would not have run this good of a race had I looked since the file shows my HR averaged 172 and maxxed out at 180 and the steep Cook Lane descent was the only time it went below 165 (to 164)–those are numbers I probably would have tried to control by slowing down had I seen them. My average run cadence was 87 and max was 101, and for a hilly course that makes me smile. Like a lot. :)”

My run split: 24:06 My place on the run: 26th overall Best run splits of the day: first male was Steve O’Brien, in 17:37 (!!!). First female was The Incredible Jo Poole, who placed 13th overall on this leg, with a time of 22:40

For the .000001 percent of you who actually care to know more than that, full race results are here.

2nd OA

Add all those splits up and I was 2nd OA

pet peeve: stay for the awards ceremony, people!

Pet peeve: stay for the awards ceremony, people! This is the Overall female winner’s podium. Minus Jo Poole on the first step and Kat Donatello on the 3rd. Ggggrrr.

lots of goodies

lots of goodies…they gave me a plaque for being the first female Wayside member to cross the line

That’s all I’ve got. As usual, thanks for stopping by. Don’t let yourself get freaked by the number 13 or cats (whether spelled with a C or a K). Transition like a former senator, sprint up hills like George and if you’re  Bill Burnett bring back the Marlborough Tri in 2014!!!! Just make sure it’s not too close to the Wayside date, as I’ll want to do both next year 🙂


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New England Season Opener 2013: “Suffer Like It’s Childbirth”

NE opener logoStop calculating. Compete and win the damn race. Swim bike and run 100 percent— don’t look at the clock. Dig deep and suffer like it’s childbirth.”

That was my coach’s doubly perfect comeback when I announced my oh-so-obsessive plan to go sub-one-hour at the 2013 New England Season Opener.

I say my plan was “oh-so-obsessive” since it involved a mathematical  equation of my very own formulation: [(1:40 pace x .25 miles) + (22.2 mph x 10) + (7:25 pace x 3.1 miles) + (T x 2 like a pro) = 8:00 + :55 + 27:00 + :40 + 23:00 = 59:35 ]. I say his “childbirth” line was “doubly perfect” because a). this race coincided with Mother’s Day and b). I kinda-sorta win hands-down whenever women kibitz about labor and delivery.

Now, not to belittle all ya’lls childbirth experiences, but truly I say, my story trumps yours just as surely as “rock” beats “scissors”. Unless you too woke up in labor the morning of your recently deceased mother-in-law’s memorial service and you too told your near-tears-then-husband to fear not, you need not head to the hospital, no, no, no, you could “hold it” through the memorial service and you too even stood up and eulogized her in between contractions and you too were then driven at ridiculously high speeds to a hospital where you too delivered naturally—no drugs, zero zilch zippo—not the seven pound five ounce cherub they’d prepared you for but a TEN POUND, NINE AND A HALF OUNCE CHILD.

In the event you forget your fourth-grade math, here’s a refresher: ten pounds nine and a half ounces rounds up to FREAKING ELEVEN POUNDS. Let me also reiterate that this brutal trauma I mean blessed event occurred NATURALLY and WITH NO PAIN MEDICATION after an INSANELY STRESSFUL WEEK. (Make that month. No, year. OK, decade–we’ll go with decade, that sounds about right.)

See? Told ya so. My rock smashed your scissors, right?

My coach had never heard this story and so of course I regaled him with the abbreviated version via text message. He had a perfect comeback then, too: “Oh. So 90 percent should seal the win.”

I liked that thought quite a lot, oh yes I did. Here’s how the race played out:

Pre-Race Prep
I did some serious (read: ridiculous) prep work for this race the week prior. Since it’d be the first open water race of the year and wetsuits would be mandatory, I got in the lake near my house four days out of five to re-familiarize myself with being hermetically sealed in neoprene. After each session, I terrified dog walkers and their furry companions alike by blazing out of the water as if fleeing a lake-shark attack and then frantically ripping off my neoprene as if it were infested with fire ants. When my wetsuit-shucking failed to go as quickly as I hoped, I even wielded scissors (not yours; they are smashed) and snipped two inches from each leg of my beloved (read: insanely expensive) Xterra Vendetta, to widen the ankle openings:

So sorry,, I don't have a vendetta against you. I swear this hurts me more than it hurts you.

Oh, Vendetta…I swear this hurts me more than it hurts you.

I made the pilgrimage to Hopkinton State Park the day prior to pick up my packet so I wouldn’t have to wait in line on race morning. Back at home I took my time affixing my number–185–to Viper’s seat post and my helmet and  made my girls pack themselves breakfast and lay out their race-day clothes since they were both signed up to volunteer. On race morning I made them wake up at 5:30 am (all I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be first in transition). We arrived in time for me to claim the very best spot on the F 40-44 rack, the spot Max Performance’s Megan Gurley calls “California” since it is as coveted as oceanfront property.

The early bird gets the best rack space

The early bird gets the best rack space–happy Mother’s Day to me! 🙂 I remembered to bring my iPod Shuffle to deter energy-draining banter. Yes, I am *that* type of annoying on race day.

Since I was there so early, I had a gazillion hours to burn before race time. That’s always a drag but was made even moreso since it was drizzling and chilly. The forecast called for mid-morning clearing and a high of 70 degrees.  I prepared for 70, but not for chilly bits preceeding it. At home I had slathered myself with sunscreen in anticipation of running in full sun, but at 6:30 am the yellow orb  was nowhere to be found and the sunscreen did nothing to keep me warm. As all those late-sleeping triathletes waited in line and racked their rides and affixed their bike helmet stickers, I spent a lot of time hanging out in the bathroom and the big tent where the massage tables were being set up to stay out of the elements. I was happy when it was finally time to hermetically seal myself in neoprene.

spoiled rotten yes he is

Of course, the boy didn’t have to get wet:  Viper donned his super-spiffy bike coat. Spoiled rotten yes he is.

The F 40-44ers were in Wave 2, as were all females who self-selected as Elite. I was super-excited about that. As an F 40-44er I’d get to try to keep up with The Elites on the swim, would know where I stood as we exited the water, assuming my minions I mean friends and family did a good job of counting yellow caps for me.

Swimming With the Big Girls
I was totally ready for and excited about this swim. It is a point-to-point, meaning easy sight lines and no pesky turns. I had high hopes that I could find one of the super-fast chicks and tuck in behind her, get some free (and legal, I might add) speed. While we were queuing for the start, I sought out one athlete in particular: the one assigned #1. (Duly noted that my Uno Obsession apparently continues.) Her name is the impressively unpronouncable Medena Knespl and her swim time last year at this race was an impressively superhuman 6:51 (compare that to my 9:07). If I could tuck in behind her for even a buoy or two I’d feel like a sea turtle catching a ride on the East Australian Current.  I moved about the pack of yellow caps like a Secret Service agent, covertly scanning each athlete’s right hand for the Sharpie’d Numero Uno. I never did find her; if I hadn’t seen her bike in transition–a schnazzy red, black and white Colnago with its signature clover leaf logo–I would have thought she was a DNS.

No matter; we all know where the fast swimmers go once in the water–to the front line–so that’s where I went, too. The neoprene did its job keeping me warm and slightly more buoyant than usual. When the horn bleeted to start our wave I took off with the big girls and kept up with this aggressive, fast-moving pack. Until, that is, the pack seemed to turn on me. Apparently we were not EAC-bound sea turtles but wolves and the alpha female had ordered me culled from the herd. I got run over and my goggles knocked totally askew; both sides filled with water. I tried to swim that way (heck, it’s only a quarter mile) and did so for a few strokes, but then came to my senses and stopped long enough to get them back on. And then I was run over again. But this time only the right eye piece was knocked off, and the left one somehow managed to stay put. Since the shore was to the left, I just closed my right eye and swam the remainder (read: most of) of the race this way, wounded and trailing the pack but still pleased with my performance. Hey, the only way to learn how to be jostled around is to be jostled around, is the way I see it.

SWIM GOAL:                 8:00
SWIM ACTUAL:            9:17
MEDENA’S ACTUAL: 6:41 (!!! Rock star!!!)

T1: “Run Really Fast”
It was on my coach’s advice that my Vendetta got snipped. But his overall advice on improving my already-pretty-darned-good T1 time was to keep it simple, “just run really fast from the water to your bike”. Like most things in life, keeping it simple really helped. I wish my Garmin collected pace data for transitions since I swear my pace per mile would’ve registered in the fives for this T1 dash:

the fourth discipline of triathlon is transitioning.

That chick behind me actually exited the water well before me.

girls rack still full--always a good sign

Escaping the imaginary fire ants

the rack to the left belonged to boys in the wave before me, so it's empty...but my rack is pretty full, which is always a good sign

The rack to the left belonged to the Wave 1 boys so it’s appropriately empty…but my rack was good and full which is always a good sign

bike out

bike out

the bike split officially begins here

the bike split officially begins here

T1 GOAL:      55 seconds
T1 ACTUAL: 1:06 (11 seconds better than last year, so I’m OK with it)

Mutiny on the Bike Leg? 
As I took off up the initial hill, I looked to my minions I mean friends and family to give their reports: they had all been instructed to count how many yellow caps emerged from the water before me and yell out that number as I biked out. The idea being that I would then go catch at least that many riders. (I say at least that many because there was a whole wave of boys who were sent off five minutes before us, and a whole race of duathletes who were sent off five minutes before them, so there was a chance for even more.)

But here I was, biking out, and I got no info. Dead silence. I saw friends. I saw family. But no one said anything to me. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.

Is this a mutiny? I obsessed about the lack of information for the first mile of the bike until I realized the source of the trouble was me not them: in my transitioning frenzy I had forgotten to remove my goofy swim plugs. I couldn’t hear a damn thing through the silicone. Yes, it took me a mile to figure this out.

Now, lack of ability to hear on the bike would normally be a crisis of epic proportions, but another problem loomed even larger: the skies opened up and rain started coming down in buckets. Seriously, I have not seen such instant-puddle-formation since I was in the Costa Rican rain forest. During the rainy season. This was nuts. It came down so fast and hard that the ground was littered with race numbers–the stickers actually unstuck from athlete’s helmets.

After the race, my friend Jim got irritated about my obsessive whining about how bad the bike leg was. He gave me 40 seconds to complain about it. “You’ve got 40 seconds to complain about this and then you are banned from ever complaining about it again,” he told me.

I agreed to this, so I guess I can’t really whine here. Unless, of course, I provide a loose transcript of that 40-second discussion…that’s not an infraction, is it? I think not so here goes:

Jim: So how bad was it?
Me: Oh my gawd it was awful.  The course is riddled with frost heaves and potholes, so wheel-catching danger could lurk under any given puddle. One volunteer grabbed a broom and was actually sweeping water out of potholes, so we would see them.

Jim: I bet your bike split was really bad, compared to past years.
Me: Ugh! Yes! Last year I did this course twice and went 30:19 and 30:07 on it then. Heck, even in my very first year of racing I did it in 31:41, and that was on Maverick–on an aluminum frame! This is just really really awful.

Jim: Wow, that is really awful. You must be really embarrassed.
Me: I am really embarrassed. I am such a fair-weather rider, meaning if it is raining, I mount my bike on the trainer and ride inside. Both of my “boys” are just too fussy to get wet; plus, I feel incompetent at chain-cleaning, so why create a mess you can’t fully fix? Net-net: this “riding in the wet” thing is not my forte. I think I need some serious bike-handling lessons. Actually, I think we all need some serious bike-handling lessons. There were some superfast boys who zipped past me and I swear they didn’t have any more control over their bikes than I did but they didn’t really care, and that was really scary.

Jim: It doesn’t sound like you did anything right out there.
Me: It’s true. I sucked. But at least I followed my coach’s advice…he told me not to look at the clock and suffer like this was childbirth.  I was certainly suffering and there was no way I was going to look at my watch since a). both eyes were required for puddle-dodging purposes and b). even if I did glance at it I wouldn’t be able to make out the digits on its rainstreaked display through my rainstreaked glasses.

Jim: What was the worst part?
Me: Hard to say since it all sucked. It was, like, a Nightmare on High Street. I guess the worst part was that I could just never get up to speed.  My heart rate normally averages 168 or even higher on the bike, but I couldn’t do that due to the rain. I bet if you looked at my Garmin file you’d see the only times my HR approached 168 was due to fear–not effort. I was so scared of crashing. I kept thinking about how much last summer’s crash hurt and kept reminding myself that the bike would go faster if I kept it perpendicular–not horizontal–to the road.

[OK. You will never hear me complain about this again. Promise.]

BIKE GOAL:        27:00
BIKE ACTUAL: 32:46 (argh!)
BEST FEMALE BIKE SPLIT OF THE DAY: The amazing Zuzana Trnovcova aced it in 29:26. Clearly, she has some serious bike-handling skills.

Grumpy in T2
Daughter #2 was on transition area patrol duty when I ran in to T2 to park Viper in his oceanfront California slot. She pointed to the towel that I had used to keep myself warm pre-race and said, “you should dry your feet off before you run.” I was so flustered by my insanely bad ride that I simply growled at her, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” (Sorry, Lida!)

T2 GOAL:     
40 seconds
48 seconds (I am good with that.)

The Run:
The one good thing about such a sub-par ride is that my legs were unusually fresh for the run. Plus, while the weather was not conducive to riding, it was made to order for me on the run; full sun tends to wilt me, but the day’s cloud cover was perfect.

That doesn’t cancel out the fact that this is a challenging run course for me–it starts with a significant hill and has another, five-telephone-pole-long hill towards the end. My sub-one-hour race equation took those hills into consideration and also figured in the fact that in the three times I’ve done this course so far my times have been 23:19, 23:24 and 22:57.

I felt really strong on the run. I didn’t look at my watch once but I knew I was having a good run. It was odd to have the run be the most fun leg of the race. I guess super-hard hill repeats, track and treadmill work pays off 🙂 Only one female blasted past me–a 20-year-old chick on the Boston Univeristy Triathlon team. She was awesome and I found her after the race and told her that; she is Anna Geary-Meyer of Lowell and according to the race results she ran 6:43 pace and I would say I want to be her when I grow up but as I mentioned earlier she is, like, 20 years old.

RUN GOAL:      23:00
 RUN ACTUAL: 22:53 (whoo hoo!)

trying to figure out if that heavy breathing I hear to my right is male breathing or female breathing.

trying to figure out if that heavy breathing I hear to my right is male breathing or female breathing.

grr he got me

grr he got me



When all was said and done, two females recorded sub-one-hour times and neither have the initials “CJ”. I did, however, place first in my age group. By the time the awards ceremony rolled around, it was full sun, 70 degrees and the roads were perfectly dry. How’s that for cruel race-day irony? (Full results are here.)

girls got flowers

F 40-44 podium: the girls got flowers

So, that’s all for now. Transition like there are fire ants in your wetsuit. Roll with the punches, especially when they bring behemoth babies or rain on your bike leg. Keep your bike perpendicular to the road and tell someone you think they rock.

Saving the best for last: happy birth-week to that freaking ten pound nine and a half ounce cherub of mine…she turned 13 on May 14th! 🙂 Love you, Lida Rose!


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Ludlow Pool Sprint 2013: Rusty, Foggy, Naked

“Time to get the rust off.  The main goal is have a clean race. No big errors and get a solid race under your belt.”

That was my coach’s pre-race pep talk in the early-morning hours of April 28th, as I was about to begin my very first race of my very fourth triathlon season.

Oxidation happens during the off-season, especially when you are a captive I mean a resident of New England where the weather from October through April is a heinous wasteland I mean a winter wonderland. Snow and sleet and slush sure muck up the works.

It wasn’t just rust I’d need to grind off in Ludlow—I needed to burn through some serious fog, too. The day prior, Daughter #2 and I had literally gone back to the scene of the crime, and by that I mean the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings. Two weeks post-bombs, it was time to stop postponing, carpe diem and retrieve the satchel Daughter #1 had abandoned at Stefanie’s Restaurant when the bombs went off and we fled to Cambridge—a satchel that contained, among other things, my friend Christy’s post-finish line change of clothes and Daughter #1’s driving learner’s permit.

I had hoped this trek would provide a bit of closure—a suture or two to stimulate mental healing. I focused on the happy fact that the bag was fetchable at all— a complete stranger had seen Christy’s 2013 Boston Marathon jacket peeking out of the bag, and in the post-bomb chaos he had the foresight to realize some thieving schmuck might see more than sentimental value in that jacket and snatch it. By tossing it in his car and tracking us down through a random friend’s phone number scribbled on a Post-It Note in the bottom of the bag, he performed one of the gazillion small acts of kindness that warmed the country’s heart and carried Boston through the darkest days.

Pick up the bag, bask in being benefactors of this small act of post-bomb kindness and maybe even sit down at Stefanie’s… actually eat this time; this was the plan.

Yet once we were downtown, I felt no mental healing, did no basking. Instead, I felt raw and frazzled and rattled. Duck Boats filled with tourists were rolling down Boylston. The bombs are already part of The Script. Even worse, pedestrians were posing for photos in front of Marathon Sports—the running mecca that impossibly morphed into a triage center moments after a bomb exploded in front of it. We watched in awe as a fit middle-aged man jauntily leaned on the store’s freshly replaced window while his female companion stood on the freshly re-poured concrete (they replaced the bloodstained stuff), snapping photos. People lost limbs and lives here, folks. I have no words for you.

I also had no stomach for lunch—I was suddenly very queasy. We collected the bag and returned Stefanie’s freshly laundered patio blankets, the ones that were still wrapped around our shoulders as we ran away from bombs that day. Said our thank you-s and pointed the Prius westbound on the Pike.

So I brought some serious baggage to Ludlow. In the event you don’t believe my thinking was muddled, how’s this: in packing my race bag the night before, I actually removed my race belt. As if I would have no use for a race belt. During a race.

Something old, something my race bag will forever have two. When I realized the err of my ways I sent Daughter #1 scurrying back to the car for cash and to the race-day vendors to procure a new belt. Naturally, she selected a loud light blue one.

Something old (left) something new (right)…now my race bag will forever have two. When I realized the err of my ways I sent Daughter #2 scurrying back to the car for cash and then to the race-day vendors to buy a new belt. Naturally, she selected the loudest one.

While I brought a muddled mind to western Mass, I also brought my brand-new, never-been-raced-on-before, super-spiffy Corima race wheels, too. Yes, we had gone straight from Boston to Ata Cycle to fetch my freshly shod stallion:

My main man.

My spirited thoroughbred just got faster. Oh. Yes.

I also brought some high hopes that I’d rock the swim leg at Ludlow. I have worked hard to strengthen my weakest link this winter—the hard work has happened not just in the pool but also  in the weight room and even in the kitchen, which is to say I have a new obsession with muscle-building protein (just not the type derived from animal sources. Sorry carnivorous family of mine—this tri obsession will never extend to eating animals).

I’ve amassed so many strength-building “pool toys” that simply lugging around my overstuffed Speedo swim bag should count as a strength workout:

So much torture, so little time.

So much torture, so little time.

In my single-minded focus to improve, I even acquired an STD. Head out of the gutter, people; this STD is a Swimming Torture Device.

Trust me--this thing is more evil than it looks.

WARNING: Objects in image are more evil than they appear.

THE SWIM: Well, so that didn’t quite go as planned. Rock it I did not. In fact, I never felt like I got beyond “warm up” speed and I failed to nail even a single turn. Which is impressively bad, since there are a grand total of eleven turns. Silver lining: my swim was a second better than last year’s, so at least I didn’t, like, exit the pool last.

My 2013 split: 5:18
My 2012 split: 5:19
Best female 2013: Amy Parent (F 34-39)…a blazing fast 3:45 (!)

Now on to the stuff we actually know how to do. So here's a cool tidbit: see that yellow racer running out? That's Number 3, Amy Parent. ***Spoiler Alert*** she actually *did* rock the swim but I will end up beating her overall by ten seconds by the time this thing is over.

Now on to the stuff we actually know how to do.

T1 / THE BIKE: No rust here—not only had I selected a proper gear for bike out and positioned my shoes so they wouldn’t whap the ground as I ran Viper out, I even remembered to violate Velominati Rule #37 and put my shades on under my helmet straps, to make T2 go easier (since the shades stay in place for the run).

rudy girl

…and we are off!

Oh yes - the debut of my Corimas.

Oh yes – the debut of my Corimas.

The bike leg is always too short, but in Ludlow it is way too short: just shy of nine miles. Viper and I both would have preferred far more quality time together (he begged for a full second loop). Parting was such sweet sorrow. Despite the time-trial start of a pool swim, we passed 12 people on the ride and yes, we *did* count and yes two of those passed were boys who ran over me during the swim leg. Atta boy, Viper.

My 2013 split: 24:45
My 2012 split: 25:04
Best female 2013: Mary Guertin (F 45-49) in 24:17 (you rock!)

T2: time to run

Bye for now, Viper; time to get this run done.

Another sign of my race-day muddled mind: For the first time in my Garmin-owning life, I failed to grab the Garmin off its bike mount and put it back on my wristband. So as I exited T2 with my screaming new race belt, I was “running naked” ie, without any way to gauge my pace and heart rate except, gasp, by feel. This is not good.

race belt, check...Garmin, not so much.

brand new race belt around my waist but no Garmin on my wrist.

Truth be told, I knew I’d forgotten it before I exited transition. So I could have gone back…I mean, that was a physical possibility. Maybe someone else would have, but not me; it would have added to my T time and would not have made for the “clean race” my coach implored me to have. It felt cleaner to keep going.

Besides, there was something terrifyingly appealing about running without it. “Gut feel” has been all I’ve really had to navigate these last few months and weeks. It has been pretty darned scary at times, but I’ve left-foot-right-footed it through to the best of my ability. Having to execute the last three miles of this race by gut feel–this felt poetic and scary and appropriate.

A friend and training partner was spectating a hundred yards or so out of transition; as he encouraged me with the usual words (“you look great! You’ve got this!”) I simply tapped my right index finger against my naked wrist to draw his attention to my dilemma. He immediately understood, uttered a commiserating expletive, and started stripping the watch off his own wrist. I declined it and kept going. After all, he was right: I’ve got this.

Running naked was both “cleaner” and cleansing. I couldn’t watch my heart rate, but I sure could feel it. I navigated through a lot more than Ludlow’s streets, focused on planting my feet firmly on the ground and propelling myself forward as I sorted through all sorts of events that have freaked me out, from the last Friday of summer vacation through November 14th straight down Exeter Street on Marathon Monday and right up to the present moment.

A pack of men ran a hundred or so yards ahead of me; I glanced up at that pack from time to time. I took it as a good sign that the gap between me and them did not widen.

Before I knew it I was approaching the finish line. No rust here; I have serious muscle memory for what to do at a finish line and by that I mean the darned dry heaves started the minute I was on that mat.

On the Green Mat of Agony

On the Green Mat of Agony

My 2013 run split: 25:03
My 2012 run split: 24:52
Best female run split 2013: Mary Guertin (F 45-49) in 22:24 (you double rock!)

When you add those all up I was the second female overall; Mary was first and Amy was third. The full results are here.

getting my medal from race director Bill Fiske. When the announcer called my name and city I am from, Bill asked if I am doing FIRM's tri in Marlborough in a few weeks...the answer is yes, since Streamline isn't doing it's Marlborough Tri anymore and I have a thang about racing in my hometown.

The freaky “43” on my calf is rather visible as I get my medal from race director Bill Fiske. I tell you, this triathlon gig sure does age you prematurely; I don’t actually turn 43 until December. When the announcer called my name and city I am from, Bill asked if I am doing FIRM’s tri in Marlborough in a few weeks…the answer is yes, since Streamline isn’t doing it’s Marlborough Tri anymore and I have a thang about racing in my hometown.

overall female podium

overall female podium

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you are finding ways to grind off the rust and cut through the fog. Trust your gut and be OK with your nakedness and I will see you at the New England Season Opener on Mother’s Day!

– cj

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