Thursday, July 2, 2015

Challenge Atlantic City - Take 2

Can’t believe we’ve been so quiet recently on our posts. Really… not a lot out of the ordinary has happened since the move, just that we’ve been so busy that the blogs went a bit dormant for a bit. Hopefully now that Puli is getting used to his train commute he can maybe get back at it and keep us active, sometimes he just chooses to sleep on the train though.

This past weekend we tackled Challenge Atlantic City 70.3, you probably remember last year’s Race to remember when Puli had his crash. In a way we had decided to get on this one as a redemption from what had happened last year. We also wanted to try the changes from the recommendations we (the athletes) had made to the race directors after their inaugural events. There were quite a few and of course we knew going in that a new event had always room to improve and we were more than happy to be part of it.
trail riding

Move forward a year and we were toeing the line for what it would be our 4th half distance triathlon which is what is also known as 70.3 or half ironman however this isn’t an IRONMAN branded event. Backing up a little our training has been somewhat consistent for about 2 months. The move, winter, and new jobs really took a toll on routines. It is difficult to get back to it, particularly when you have to find new training grounds. Luckily we had signed up for this race so we had the pressure to get training and on the other hand we were able to get a pool nearby, our trail by the house is great for running and cycling and also we have plenty of cycling routes to do around. Some of the perks of living out in the country is the lack of traffic sometimes, which makes it for a safer way to train.  On top of that,  we found a great lake by the house which is making our open water swims super easy to get done and if we want to swim with our friends at Beacon Endurance we can always go with them too.

country side riding
They have been great too in terms of keeping us accountable and showing us around the area, and they are really nice too!

So while our training was probably not optimal, we were trying really hard to get it done, had about 6-8 weeks of consistent 75%-80% workout completion rate, which means maybe we were missing 2-3 workouts during the week. Which for the busy weekend warrior.. that’s pretty good. Of course the goal is the greens on TrainingPeaks and we had a few of those weeks but for sure wasn’t the all greens type of training that our coach would love and hope for.

Lake Walton kayaking after a long swim

So anyways… our race weekend started on Friday, we had a bit of a fiasco with our accommodations this year. We had gone to VRBO last year and found a great condo/house for our headquarters, however this year it wasn’t available and we wanted something near the boardwalk, so we went for it again. This time, of course some people got the best of us and stole our money. After a few calls to hotels around the area we found a Homewood Suites in Absecon which turned out to be a great location. So having solved that situation we headed to Exit 9 to pick up the inlaws. They were ready to go, so we packed them up and off to the shore we went. We knew we probably weren’t going to make it for athlete check-in but we were able to, got our packets and we were hanging around to get one of our friend J (Sherpa crew from last year) that was getting in from Philly later. We decided to go to the athlete dinner last minute with the inlaws. Best decision we made, for $20.00 per person (since ours was paid for) we had a pretty awesome dinner.

Saturday, the weather was pretty crappy. Cloudy, cold, rainy, windy, you name it. We were actually happy that it was happening Saturday and not Sunday so we weren’t complaining too much other than racking our bikes would’ve been messy. We got our Profile Design free demo TwentyFourSeries wheels and headed to rack bikes.

Pimping our rides
We didn’t stick around for the athlete meeting. Not  that we didn’t care but we wanted to go rack before the rain really hit hard. We made it just in time, we racked and when we were leaving hail broke loose… literally and figuratively. There was hail, rain, wind you name it. Benefit from it was that since there was ice dumped into the water, it made it wetsuit legal. We headed back to the hotel after getting the ritual hair cut for Puli and some shopping done for water and that kind of stuff. Another perk of the hotel… it had a Shop Rite right across from it. Then it was just the usual prepping of nutrition, bags, getting dinner for the sherpas, all that good stuff. Lights out by 9 pm.
Wake up call at 3 am, this race starts a little earlier than usual. Transition opens at 4:30 and since we knew the parking lot was going to get ugly we wanted to get there early. So the goal was to leave at 4 the hotel. 4 came and we were leaving the parking lot, sherpas in tow. By 4:15 we were entering the parking swamp. It was literally a swamp, water above our ankles but nothing we could do. Walked to transition, did our usual nutrition, bottles, Garmins setup, the usual pre-race rituals and then wait time. It was still dark, foggy and humid so we didn’t want to suit up until it was needed.

When the time came, we got the sherpas to their location and went to the masses. This year it was the first one to have a 70.3 (or 72.3 which we will get to later) and the full which we did last year. The half distance started first, it was a 6:00 am start, but Coast Guard had to clear it so we didn’t get going until almost 6:15-6:20 didn’t really paid attention. We were together and then when it was time for Puli to go in, we said our good-byes and wished each other good luck.

Swim (according to Puli with inserts from Res)

(PULI) The swim was a rectangle, the difference from last year is that it didn't have a million turns. This swim whenever you take it will have a current, it isn’t a closed body of water so if you are looking for an easy swim be ready to get into a current. I was able to keep a constant pace. Pushed a bit harder at the beginning knowing that we were going to go with the current after the turn so trying to even out the pace. The current got a bit stronger coming back to the dock where I felt I had to push harder there. Time (41:00 and change) in my defense it was 1.3 miles according to my Garmin.

(RES) Nothing out of the ordinary… just happy I had my wetsuit on. Managed to have a 2:01’/100 yd swim which is pretty awesome for me and coming in wasn’t too sure I could do it. Had taken my Lava Pants off at the pool last couple of weeks in anticipation of a hot swim without my safety blanket, needless to say I was so relieved when they announced a water temperature of 74-deg which was perfect for the sleeveless.  Time (43:00 and change)

Bike (according to Puli with editorial comments from Res)
Getting out of the water was tricky as the dock has some ramps that you swim up to and pretty much hope that someone can pull you up. I aimed for one and got pulled by one of the volunteers (they are always awesome). Went into transition, helmet on, nutrition to the back pocket and off I went. Didn’t noticed that when I put on my helmet my sunglasses had fallen off. Oh well… I managed the change and went on to ride. Getting on the expressway I tried to get the HR under control and get a rhythm going. All I kept thinking is don’t get to excited and control the nerves, I knew I wasn’t going to go over where I had crashed last year, but still the thought of being on the Expressway just brought too many memories for me. Once on the Expressway my goal was to try to keep a 20mph-21mph speed.
I didn’t find too much of a problem doing that, found more of a problem trying to keep it at that as I was feeling great but didn’t want to blow my legs so early. I give the credit to a slight tail wind and also the awesome TwentyFour Series Profile Design (78/58) wheels we were demoing. Those wheels are fast. Once off the Expressway I was able to calm down a little since I trying to stay within the HR and cadence and trying to slow down a little as I knew I was pushing the pace too hard at that point. Then I got with a group of guys which just kept a good pace and I didn’t want to blow pass them to burn out later, so I stayed behind no quite sucking the wheel but the referee did stay there for a little bit at one point so I guess we were a bit tight. It definitely is a fast course. Not overly complicated. Downfall is that it only has 2 aid stations for the half distance about 15-20 miles apart. Something that wasn’t too much of a big deal since it was cooler than usual so the heat wasn’t affecting as much.

(RES)… bike had tech issues the break started rubbing again I guess the wheels are wider than normal so that didn’t get adjusted and had a bit of a slowdown. Instead of burning my legs I managed my HR and cadence so I rather had a longer ride but had legs left on the run.  The aid stations really affected me, when I hit the bike it was already cleared up and temps were higher than Puli’s, so it made it for a close call on the bike almost running out of water. Not as a matter of rant, but it would’ve been nice going in that the bike wasn’t quite 56 miles, the route made perfect sense so I think that’s not the problem, the problem was that we didn’t know going in so it was one of those things that your mind is prepared for something and then something different happens and it has to adjust. One of the many things about this sport is that it always throws curve balls at you and your reaction time has to be quick and your mind has to stay in the game. It can be hard to not let that bug you for a little, but you move on.  Finishing the bike was to some extend the main goal of the day. Finish without crashing, getting a PR was just an added bonus, definitely was an accomplishment feeling to an extent, however the job was not done yet at that point. (Puli’s time 2:48, Res’ time: 3:38)

Over the Boarwalk
(PULI) coming into the run I knew I had left some legs on the bike, there wasn’t a chance I was going to have an easy run after going 21 mph on the bike. So off I went, I started to get a rhythm but I knew the legs were cooked to some extend so of course what do I do? Let’s see how far they get me… that didn’t last, at about mile 6 it just wasn’t maintainable to have a 9:30’/mile pace so I started slowing down and the boardwalk started to get hotter and hotter, aid stations seemed spaced out oddly so it was hard to know when we were getting water and I tried this time a new thing… not carrying my water bottle as I didn’t want to bother with it. At one point I also was starting to worry because I didn’t see Res on the way back and when I saw our sherpas they didn’t have tracking info on her, so the most horrible thoughts happened from mile 6 to mile 13. Saw the sherpas two more times and went in the shute to wrap it up for a 5’ overall PR on a 70.3 err.. 72.3 and a 5:55.52 time for me.

Once I got in and got my medal, I was able to pull her results that were more updated inside than those on the website. Saw that she was off the bike and that she had just gone by the sherpas. Went back outside and saw the Sherpas who told me she was on her way to Rebel which was the turn around. It was about 3 miles out and back so I just sat there and waited for her.

(RES) I was happy to see him all done but wasn’t too thrilled when he said that I still had one more loop. The watch was messing with my head because I was at 70 miles already on the watch and I thought I was done. I went to the half turn around and back to see them. I had ran out of water and the stations couldn’t keep water flowing so one didn’t have water when I went by, added to my frustration of wanting to be done but I just kept my shuffle and went on. He came to my rescue and gave me a cold towel with water to cool me off. I went back to Rebel and then when I was returning I was super surprised that he had organized my parents to come in the finish line with me. I have to admit… all my frustration and pain went away at that point. It was just happiness and smiles then knowing that for the last 3 years that we’ve done these crazy races, they have seen us finish 1 sprint (where I had a podium) our Rutgers Half Marathon earlier this year and a couple of 5k’s but they didn’t see us finish last year since we finished so late. Finishing with them side by side and with Puli has been probably the coolest finish of all times. I’m so glad that after our move they will be able to be now more involved with our activities and now “they get us” they get up with us at not even the crack of dawn… 3 am there is no dawn… to get ready… put on their Sherpa shirts and get to transition.

All in all, we accomplished our goal. Puli was able to redeem himself and not visit the ER this year, nor the medical tent on the way either. We knew our training was maybe not up to par but were confident that we would be able to do it without a problem. It was more like do it safe and get it done. Times are just numbers at that point. Sound great when you say you PR but sound even better when you say you didn’t crash, and that you finished with your family. This sport gives you sweat, blood and tears… but it also gives so many great moments when you are able to finish with a smile on your face and share it with your special ones. Now off to Ironman Cozumel training!.... Viva Mexico!!!