I’ve been very lax in my blogging updates, and the further behind I get, the more insurmountable it feels to start again. So instead of doing full race reports for the summer’s races, I’m going to do top highlights and memories of the summer’s races in this monster combo blog. We’ll say monster in honor of the haunting month of October. Why not?

Verona Triterium Olympic Distance:

This was my first Olympic distance race and I have to admit I was quite nervous going into it. I didn’t really have a great idea of what goal times to shoot for, so I decided to just say under three hours was my main goal because it seemed like a round number and a reasonable timeframe.

The highlights:

Bathroom milestones:

About a year ago I was reading a 70.3 race report and mentioned to Josh that this woman had a great idea: if you sit down on the grass during transition to put your shoes on, you can go to the bathroom without having to waste time in the portapotty. He said, “I will never do a sport where I need to intentionally soil myself.” He is a wise man.

Me, on the other hand, not so much. I’ve never needed to use the bathroom during the race, and Verona was no different, but before the race was a different story. There were literally 7 portapotties at this venue (there were 433 participants total in the sprint and olympic races, plus relay teams). I had to go to the bathroom after I’d set up the transition area and the portapotty I went into was so disgusting by that point that I spend most of the time retching and trying to hurry up and finish.

Mine was the very last wave to leave, and it was an in-water start. When faced with the decision of whether to try to use the portapotty again or wait to relieve myself in the water before the start, I chose the latter and I don’t regret that decision.

Seven portapotties, and the line continues behind this truck

Seven portapotties, and the line continues behind this truck

Timing malfunction:

Unfortunately, I was so focused on doing what I needed to do that I forgot to start my watch before the race. Verona’s Olympic-distance swim is three loops of the quarry. In between each loop you have to get out of the water and run around a tree on the beach. I started my watch the first time I ran around the tree, but forgot about this fact later in the race so I thought I was doing about 9 minutes better than I actually was.

Looped swim:

As I said, my wave was the very last to leave, and the swim was three loops. This meant I had a lot of people to swim through and around as I passed the slower folks in the waves before me. There were three women who took off way in the front of my wave and I was a part of the chase pack of about 6-8 women. On the plus side, it kept things interesting, as there was plenty of maneuvering to be done.

I loved the swim. I felt calm and smooth the whole time and I feel like I made up a lot of ground on the earlier waves.

Holy hills:

I knew the bike course was hilly. I rode it a week or two before the race and was suitably impressed. This race has one of those “king of the mountain” hills (Observatory Hill, in this case), where there’s a timing mat at the bottom and at the top and the fastest bike splits get prizes. I knew I had no chance of being in the running for that. Originally, the course had you doing two loops, so you’d go up the hill twice. Due to road construction, they had to change the course at the last minute to be sort of a pronged out and back. This meant you still had to go up Observatory twice, but now those two rides were immediately one after the other. So you went up to the south, rode down, turned around, and went right back up again to the north. It was an exciting feeling in the legs, to try to put a positive spin on it.

Not unexpectedly, I was passed by lots of men on the bike and some women. I took solace in the fact that anyone passing me was someone I had to have beaten in the swim, given that my wave had left last. There were a lot of men passing me on the bike, so at least I out-swam them!


I love the 10k distance for straight up running races. I was nervous about doing it after the leg pounding of the bike, but it was actually fairly comfortable. I had a stomach cramp most of the way but nothing too bad. I think I took things a bit too easy on myself, though. For the first time at this distance, it’s understandable, but I think I could have gone faster. I was running about 8:45 pace, but I was straight up strolling through the aid stations. In the future, I’ll walk if I need to so I can make sure I get in the hydration, but a power walk with some purpose would be more appropriate. I really wanted to finish the 10k in under an hour (my PR for a 10k when I’m only running, not triathloning, is 53:30). I came in at about 58:xx, so I was happy with that.


Swim (1500 meters): 28:20
T1: 2:18 (the run from the swim out mat to transition is pretty long, to be fair)
Bike (22.1 miles): 1:26:35.
T2: 1:31
Run (10k): 58:44
Total: 2:57:26

6th in my age group and 38th female overall.

I finally did a decent finish line pose!

I finally did a decent finish line pose!

USAT Age Group Nationals Sprint:

My next race was a return to USAT Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee for another crack at the sprint race. I was definitely excited about this because I felt like I’d been working a lot on my running (specifically doing quite a bit of speed work with the Fleet Feet SpeedPlay group) and had improved my bike since last year.


Again, my wave was towards the back of the race. I got my stuff set up in transition early and then waited three hours until my wave took off. My friend Leslie is one year older than me so was in the 35-39 age group, which was the second wave to take off. So I got to see her swim, her T1 and T2, and then got myself suited up and ready to go. She ran up behind me right before the swim start, having just finished her race, so it was awesome to see my partner in crime before heading out.


The swim was in Lake Michigan, and it was COLD. Like, take your breath away cold. I was nervous about it, and although I had enough time to get my breathing under control and loosen up that clenching in your chest that you get when you jump into cold water, the wait for the horn to go off was long enough for my feet to really start to feel it. This year, we all had to have a hand on the dock before starting the swim which was different than last year when we were treading water. I get why they did it (people were creeping up like crazy), but it did make for some close quarters with everyone crammed in together. It was nice to chat a bit with the women in my wave before we took off, though.

Once the horn went off, adrenaline kicked in and I was plenty warm within about 45 seconds. I felt like I was pushing the pace a bit. I knew I wasn’t in the front of the group, but I felt like we were all pretty much one big pack and I was in line about where I’d expect.

The best part about the nationals course in Milwaukee is swimming underneath the little footbridge. You can hear the crowd cheering, which you normally don’t get to experience during a swim, and it’s just cool and echo-y under there. I was happy that I was noticing these things and enjoying the experience. The second best part is that when you get out of the water, you go up a steep and slippery ramp, and there’s a line of volunteers who grab onto your hands and pull you up.


The transition area at Nationals is huge, but all the rows are marked by letters, so you can keep track of which row you need to run down. Last year I was between I and J, so I remembered that by saying “I Jive” when running around. This year, I was between H and I, so I went with the perhaps less fun but more straightforward “Hi!”

When running out of transition, I was booking it. There was a little plywood ramp set up leading out of transition and onto the sidewalk, and I was running a little too fast and trying to pass a woman at the same time, so my bike wheel bounced sideways off the ramp and my bike almost fell over (would probably have taken me along with it). I caught it mid-air in a semi-ninja fashion and kept running. I heard a guy in the crowd yell “Nice recovery!” and took off with a smile.

My sweet T1 setup - photographed before the race, not during.

My sweet T1 setup – photographed before the race, not during.


Not shockingly, I was passed by a lot of women on the bike. However, my speed looked good on my bike computer (in the low 20s) and I felt really good. I was able to stay in aero for most of the time. At nationals there are always a lot of bike marshals on the course so I was careful when passing and being passed to fall back quickly and pass quickly.

The third coolest thing about nationals is that you get to ride your bike on the interstate. They shut down part of I-794 and you ride up the entrance ramp and across a bridge over the water. It’s actually a pretty painful ride, as it’s really bumpy and there are a lot of cracks that shake you around, but it’s so cool to be in forbidden territory that it’s totally worth it.

As I was climbing up the surprisingly steep entrance to the interstate, a huge pack of the 24 and under men passed me. They were the last wave of the day and the only one behind my wave. There were probably 30 of them in this pack and they were all riding so close together, drafting like crazy. There was absolutely nothing I could do to ride legally in this situation, and right as this was happening, a motorcycle drove up and stayed with the group as the official on the back furiously wrote down race numbers. I was really frustrated and just hoping I wasn’t going to get penalized, but there was nothing I could do about it other than come to a dead halt, so I just kept riding and they moved on soon enough.


I knew I wasn’t in contention at this race and had no illusions that I would be, but I was excited to have a good run. My legs felt as good as you could expect and the weather was perfect. I don’t remember much all that significant on the run, but I felt like I was keeping a good pace and was enjoying soaking up the race atmosphere. It’s hard to compete with the excitement and atmosphere of nationals.


Swim (750 m): 14:31
T1: 1:46
Bike (12.4 miles): 39:54. I was happy to see that I didn’t get a penalty on the bike. Out of curiosity, I looked at the 24 and under men’s group, and there were a huge number of penalties given out to them, which felt fair.
T2: 1:24
Run (5k): 26:30

Total: 1:25:02
45th in my age group, 190th female

I was pretty disappointed with my performance in this race. My swim was slower than last year (which is weird), my bike was only very slightly faster, and my run was not as good as I had expected given all the work I’d put into it. Plus, my rank dropped within my age group, although that always depends on who shows up.

So, to make myself feel better, I found a small community triathlon being held just two weeks alter, and signed up. Coming up in part two of the monster recap I’ll let you know how that turned out, so stay tuned!


I have another race tomorrow morning, so I should really get off my butt and write this race report for my first tri of the summer. This is the third year in a row that I’ve raced Capitol View (fka Couples Triathlon fka Capitol View). In 2013, it was my first ever triathlon, and I raced it in a rented wetsuit and on my old mountain bike. In 2014, I did the sprint again. And this year, I raced with a friend, as part of a “couple.” A couples triathlon is not a relay, where different team members complete different parts of the triathlon (one person swims, one person bikes, one person runs). Rather, with a couples race, both participants complete the entire triathlon and then they add the times together. Each individual is still eligible for age group awards. I was racing with a friend and former co-worker, Leslie.


When Leslie and I got to packet pickup the day before the race, there was no record of our registration. I’d chalk it up to a random mistake, except the same thing happened to me last year. Maybe it’s because both times I/we registered quite early to get the cheaper prices, but it just seems weird. It’s not a big deal in that they didn’t make us pay again – we just had to fill out another form. We had originally signed up in the “Just Friends” category of couples (there were divisions for married couples, dating, relatives, etc.), but that category was getting real weird every time I saw it. On the website it said something along the lines of “ready to compete together, but not ready to be in a relationship,” which implies it’s meant to be somewhat of a romantic pairing. When we were filling out the new registration form at packet pickup, we also noticed that the Just Friends category said “M/F” after it, while other categories said “M/F, F/F, M/F.” Well, we didn’t want to be competing against men, so we switched to the watercooler division, meant for co-workers. We became friends when we worked together and spent a couple years in the office together, so it seemed legit. Plus, it was really the only option we saw for two females who were not related biologically or romantically involved.

My other plan during the packet pickup was to win the Blue Seventy wetsuit they were raffling away because i need a new one and I don’t want to spend the money on it. That plan did not come to fruition, oddly, so I went with old holey for the race.


Although we were both competing against other individual women in our age group, Leslie and I started in a wave with other couples. In fact, we were the very last wave to start the race. So, I did my usual pre-race ritual of setting up transition, going to the bathroom 400 times, putting my wetsuit on and off. It’s a fun drill. I was wearing my new Betty Designs trisuit for the first time. The suit is amazing – it feels great and it looks awesome and it somehow makes me look good in it (not that I don’t think I can look good, but I mean we’re talking about a spandex onesie). After the warmup swim, I was so disappointed to see that the stitching was coming apart underneath the zipper even though I had hardly used it. I contacted Betty Designs after the race to let them know what had happened, and they sent me a brand new replacement suit immediately, no questions asked. I’m super impressed with the customer service and I would totally recommend their stuff. It’s just so cool and I found it very functional.

Also, like the amazing teammate that she is, Leslie found a secret bathroom that no one else seemed to know about. It was in a little standalone building and was incredibly clean, spacious, and had a door that locked. Much better than the portapotties, and no, I won’t ever reveal its location.

The Swim:

Our wave was pretty small compared to the age group waves, which is a plus, but it also involved quite a few men, which I consider a minus. No offense to men in general, but I have personally found women to be more gracious competitors in a mass swim start. I wish i could remember which blog I read this on so I could give credit, but I read a race report once where a woman wondered what makes a man turn from someone who holds a door open for a woman to someone who thinks “Ima punch a woman in the face” when the starting horn goes off.

Anyway, our wave was small enough that I felt justified starting in the front and that worked out just fine. I got horizontal during the countdown and noticed no one else around me was, so I figured I’d have a jumpstart on everyone. And I did. The whole time I was swimming to the first buoy, I was putting distance into the people around me who were walking/wading through the waist deep water. The Capitol View swim is very shallow on the way out to the first buoy and the way back from the last buoy, and you can walk those entire lengths of the rectangle. When you’re going parallel to shore, it is deep enough that you have to swim.

The swim was mostly uneventful. The water was the calmest I’ve ever seen Lake Mendota, in my entire life. It was cold, but not too cold. After 30 seconds of swimming the cold was not noticeable. I had one guy pawing at my feet for awhile, but after I kicked with a bit more force just once, he backed off. I couldn’t find anyone to draft off of.

I caught the wave before me at the buoy where we turn back towards shore, which took some maneuvering to get around. The rest of the swim back to shore was mostly weaving in and out of folks walking in the waist- and then knee-deep water. I swam all the way to the exit – I promise, it’s much faster to swim than it is to walk – and ran up to transition.

Swim: 7:04 for 400 meters. This includes the run to transition. This was a good 45 seconds or so faster than last year, and a minute and a half or so faster than my first time when I did backstroke the whole way.


I remember nothing about T1 except running very hard and running a long way in bike shoes. I still haven’t gotten back on the bike horse of putting my shoes on while I’m on the bike (still scarred by my embarrassing mishap at Verona last year when I managed to fling my shoes all over the mount line while everyone stared at me). My transition spot was right by the swim in/run out, so I had to run the entire length of transition in my bike shoes to get to bike out.

Still, though, not a bad time at 1:20.


I really like this bike course. It has a few good hills but lots of opportunities to hunker down in aero and pound away. Being in the last wave, I had a lot of people to pass which kept things interesting. I was passed a few times, too, but not very many (I didn’t keep count). There are a few notable hills, one of which starts ascending right after a 90 degree turn, so you don’t really have much speed going into it.

The volunteers on this race are all really great, but I especially liked the bike volunteers. This wasn’t a closed course (meaning that cars could drive on the streets), but I could see the volunteers speaking in to a walkie talkie as riders approached so that police at an intersection could manage stopping and starting cars. I had one close call where a very large SUV was passing me at the same time I was passing a girl, so there were two bikes on the right side of the road and an SUV trying to pass us. I don’t know if drivers realize that it’s very difficult for us to hear their motors, especially when we’re racing – when I’m going fast, I make a lot of wind sounds myself (insert fart joke here) so I can’t hear a car until it’s right up on me. This SUV passed me close enough that I could have touched it if I reached out four inches. I didn’t do that, although I very much wanted to slap the car. Instead, I held my line and yelled something creative like “asshole.” In retrospect, I just hope the girl I was passing didn’t think I was saying that to her.

I was really pushing on the bike – I’ve been working hard on it, and I wanted to make some gains. My time was 35:40, with an average of 16.8 mph. This turned out to be the fourth fastest bike split of the day among age group (non-elite, that is) women.


As I ran into T2 towards my transition spot, I saw someone sitting right in the place I needed to rack my bike, and there were no open rack spots. In triathlon, you should rack your bike in the same place you unracked it. Capitol View doesn’t have assigned transition spots, but the racks are assigned. That is, there are 20 people for each rack, and it’s up to whoever gets there first to get a spot. I was on the very end of my rack, and when I returned from my bike ride, there was no room to put my bike back.

As I ran up to my spot, I yelled to the person blocking my way, “Dude, you have to move your bike!” The person turned around, but didn’t move herself or her bike. I ran up and pushed her bike to the side (moved it down the rack) and said, “I don’t want to hit you with my bike” (which I would have if I had just racked it without her moving). She said something along the lines of “don’t worry about it,” but did move about an inch. I squeezed my bike in and looked down – my running shoes and socks (sorry – still working on going sock free, and by working on, I mean I haven’t done anything about this except think about it) were scattered all over the aisle. Someone had clearly come in like a wrecking ball and didn’t bother to put my stuff back where it had been. Not cool.

I gathered my stuff and put on my shoes, socks, and race belt (not even remotely in that order). Time: 59 seconds.


It was on the run that I noticed it was suddenly incredibly humid. Like, unbreathably humid. Capitol View has a very nice trail run through some shaded woods for the first half, and then a prairie/grass run for the second half. The trails in the woods were very muddy, and despite me noticing this, commenting to another woman that “this is really slippery,” I did end up wiping out by tripping on a tree root, face-planting, and skinning both knees within the first mile. Maybe this explains why my first mile was exceptionally slow (over 10 min), although I thought I got up pretty quickly.

I’m not really sure what to say about the run, honestly. My legs were really heavy and I was making some creepy wheezy noises as I breathed. The end result was a 29:30 5K, 5 minutes slower than my PR. It must have been a tough run for most, though, because I saw the fastest female age group run time was 24:27, which is slower than I would normally expect for the fastest split.


Overall, I finished in 1:14:35, taking over three minutes off my time from last year. This was good enough for 2nd in my age group and sixth age group woman overall, which I’m pretty thrilled with. If you add in the elite women, I was the tenth overall female finisher for the sprint. Even better, Leslie and i won our watercooler division!

Capitol View is a fun race. The race day itself is very well organized and well run, with excellent volunteer support. I don’t know how much steam the couples format is getting, though. There seemed to be minimal participants, and even the volunteers and staff don’t seem to prioritize the couple races much. For example, the couple results aren’t posted with the rest of the results, either online or at the event.

Next up:

Well, tomorrow morning, I’m racing my first Olympic distance tri at Verona. I rode the bike course last week and… it was very challenging. It’s super hilly. Like, really, really hilly. At one point, a bunny rabbit was running up the hill faster than I was riding (this is not a joke – this really happened). I’m nervous and excited, and can’t wait to see how I do at the longer distance.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed running. The last time I can really remember is before I hurt my knee in September of 2013. Ever since then, it’s been a long and painful process to get back to being able to run a competent 5K or 10K, but it’s always at least sort of painful and involves some level of dread. I kept putting in the work because I wanted to finish triathlons, but I rarely actually enjoyed a run.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve found the joy again, and I think I have the Fleet Feet SpeedPLAY group to thank for it. I’ve attended three sessions so far. I was originally so afraid and intimidated to join, mostly because whenever I’ve tried to run intervals on my own, I ran the first one very quickly and then felt terrible the rest of the workout. And then never did it again. My impression or prediction of what the group would entail was a lot of feeling like I wanted to barf while skinny people ran laps around me and my hair fell out. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but most fears really don’t.

But I’ve learned from swimming that interval training absolutely works, and I would really like to drop a couple of minutes from my 5K time to be a bit more competitive at the sprint distance, so I signed up and I even managed to attend all three weeks. The first week, the pressure was low as the coach emphasized repeatedly that the point of the session was just for him to get a sense of how we ran. We were doing 800 m repeats with 1 minute of rest. It was hard, but it was totally achievable. And with a warm up run to start and a cool down run with pickups to finish, it was surprising how easily my body was tricked into running 5 miles without realizing it.

The second week we did hill repeats, and I went into hunker down mode without realizing it and was able to crank through 8 repeats while feeling generally okay.

Last week, I was introduced to fartleks, which other than being the most hilarious word in sports is apparently also something I didn’t know I love. Fartleks, I learned, actually mean “speed play” in Swedish. Based on what we did, I would define them as intervals without actually stopping in between. We did 1200 meters running hard followed by 600 meters running easy, x4. Our coach encouraged us to make the first one the slowest of the day, so I intentionally took it out easy. We were supposed to go between 10k pace and half marathon pace. Well, I’ve never run a half marathon, but my best 10k is 54:xx, so I aimed for that. I finished my first 1200 in 6:45, about 9 minute mile pace. I knew I could do better, so aimed to pick it up a bit. I ended up knocking ten seconds off each one, finishing the subsequent ones in 6:35, 6:25, and 6:15. And you know what? I felt strong, powerful, and pretty great, even though it was windy as hell and actually snowing (yay, spring!). Great enough that two days later, on my rest day, I was texting Josh and asking if it was crazy that I really, really wanted to go for a run.

My next running race is the Twilight 10K on May 23 and I can’t wait to see if I can take it down a notch.

Current triathlon struggle:

I’ve been working really hard on my biking this winter, in spin class at the gym and on the trainer in our living room, but for some reason I’m having a hard time getting motivated to get out in the REAL WORLD on my bike even when the weather is beautiful. Today it was in the 60s and sunny and I was slated for an 80 minute ride. I moaned and whined for a bit until I finally just got dressed and got out there. I’ve been having a hard time this spring getting on the aero bars. I was starting to get kind of concerned that I’m somehow now afraid of riding in aero, but was trying to rationalize that the real issue was that it’s been an incredibly windy spring and that I was actually just showing good judgement by not riding aero when I was at risk of being blown over. Well, today it was calm and sunny and I still had to talk myself into getting down in the bars. By the second half of the ride I seemed to be more comfortable in aero and was even taking some turns down on the bars. Did I suddenly develop a phobia of riding in aero? For the sake of my wrists, I hope not. My bike is fitted for me to ride in aero and riding on the hoods puts a lot of pressure on my wrists. (Although, *TMI alert* riding in aero puts a lot of pressure on the, ahem, “soft tissue.”)

Hot triathlon tip:

I swim with a woman who’s done iron-distance and 70.3 distance triathlons, and she mentioned last week that the way she keeps on top of her nutrition is to test herself while she’s biking or running to make sure she can do simple math. If she can’t add up the numbers on a mailbox within a reasonable amount of time, she knows it’s time to eat or drink more.

Weeks until first tri of the season:


I haven’t yet taken another shot at the Tarte Tatin, but that’s no reason to avoid writing a new blog post. Things that are reasons:

  • Not feeling like I have anything to say
  • Not having the time

I’ve had more than a few people (think: a few plus one or two) ask me what my racing plans are for this upcoming triathlon season, though, so that seems like a reasonable enough post to write. Despite my previous assertions to the contrary, I guess I have to confess that I’ve been bitten by the Ironman bug and I am slowly working my way up to attempting an Ironman within the next five years.

On my way towards that goal, I ran my first 10K this past fall, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the distance more than I had expected. It was refreshing to not feel like I had to run all out the entire time, and although I had been hoping to finish in under 9 minute mile pace, I was pleased to at least come in under an hour. This year’s plan calls for a few more races at that distance, including my first Olympic tri.

Here’s the schedule:


10k at the Shamrock Shuffle. Last year, I spectated as Josh ran this race, as I was still rehabbing my knee injury. It was exceptionally cold on race day morning, thanks to our polar vortex winter. This year, the extended forecast predicts a high of 52 degrees, which sounds infinitely more appealing.

In March, I’ll also be competing at the Wisconsin State SCY Champs, the state Master Swim meet. This has been a great meet for me in the past. This was where I participated in my first ever swim meet two years ago, and the Master Swim experience continues to help me grow my swimming confidence, watch my times improve (sometimes), and have something to work towards. I really think that most triathletes, especially those who are nervous or uncomfortable in the swim, could get a lot out of a Master Swim meet. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere, and after you realize that you can dive off starting blocks, swim as fast as you can, and make it to the end, the start of a tri suddenly seems a lot less intimidating.


For the third year in a row, I’ll be back at the Capitol View Triathlon (fka the Summit Credit Union Couples Triathlon, even more fka the Capitol View Triathlon – it all comes back around), once again starting the tri season with a sprint tri there. I like this race a lot. It’s well run, easy to get to, and offers a nice short start to the season. This year I’ll be competing as part of a “couple” with a friend of mine. Last year, we both finished in the top ten of our age group, so I’m feeling like we’ll have a decent chance of placing as a team.

At the end of June, I’ll be tackling my first Olympic distance at the Verona Triterium Triathlon. This is the race I watched a friend compete in several years ago that originally planted the seed for me to want to try a race of my own some day, so it feels appropriate that I’m coming back to try the exact same race and distance that she inspired me with. I did the sprint distance of this race last year, and am hoping to redeem my horrifying putting my shoes on while mounting the bike situation that I found myself in. Seriously, one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, made bearable only by the fact that I had swim head after coming out of the water and felt too much in a daze to realize what a fool I looked like. The Olympic distance is kind of unique here, as you actually have to do more than one lap in the water. To keep track of this, you come out of the water and run around a tree before getting back in. Also, the Olympic bike course includes two rides up Observatory Hill. Wisconsin Indoor Cycling sponsors the “King of the Mountain” competition and gives out gift cards to the men and women who ride up the hill the fastest. There’s also an award for the “middle of the pack” male and female. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but if it’s the person whose time going up the very steep hill puts them exactly in the median position, I think that’s awesome. I tentatively plan to strive for that honor.


If the timing works out, I’d love to do the Big Swell Swim again. Last year, I did the 1.2 miles open water swim, and I’d like to try the 2.4 mile this year to see how I fare.


I’d like to take another crack at USAT Age Group Nationals, especially because it’s back in Milwaukee. I had such a good experience there last year, although it was certainly eye opening as to my place in the field. I’d like to see if I can improve upon my finish time and rank (although as I learned last year, the time is really all you can control – who knows who’s going to show up any given year?), especially because my knee is so much better now than it was last year, and I have a few more resources at my disposal to deal with allergies/asthma. Last year, my all out effort and last minute sprint to the finish left me in the medical tent for a few minutes, unable to breathe. The medic asked me if I had asthma. When I said no, he said, “Yeah, right.” Well, he was smarter than me, and it’s astonishing how much easier it is to swim, bike, and run fast now that I can actually breathe while I’m doing it.


I finally signed up for the Devil’s Challenge tri. This is another sprint, and is a race I’ve been wanting to do for years. Devil’s Lake is so beautiful – both the lake itself and the surrounding area.


On my way towards my first 70.3 (tentatively scheduled for 2016), I signed up for a half marathon in October, at the Haunted Hustle. Right now, the idea of running 13.1 miles feels insane and unachievable to me, but if there’s one thing that learning how to swim and participating in triathlons has taught me, it’s that I am capable of a whole lot more than I give myself credit for. I’ve been continually surprised at what I can actually do if I put in the work and show up on race day.

I’m excited to see how increasing the distances goes. I’ve been working hard on my biking this off-season, both on a trainer at home and at spinning classes at the gym. As usual, Master Swim has my swimming improving leaps and bounds. I haven’t been running much at all lately, both because it’s hard to find time (even harder to find time when it’s not dark outside) and because I’ve been focusing on other things. One woman I talked to the last time I was buying running shoes told me that the best thing a triathlete can do to improve running performance is to bike a lot. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I like the idea of it. I am also planning to join a speed running group in the spring, even though the idea of it fills me with visions of vomiting and dread. I know that interval training has improved my swim speeds drastically, and I absolutely believe it will improve my running speeds. I also know that I’m just not going to do it on my own, and I need to force myself to show up with a group and use the powers of social pressure to make myself do it. I can’t pretend I’m looking forward to it, but I am excited about getting faster. I don’t think I’ll ever be in the 19 minute 5K territory, but I’d like to see if I can get down to about 21 or 22 minutes. I think I could be fairly competitive at triathlons if I can get there. Right now, my 5K PR is 24:38.

That about wraps it up. What are your 2015 racing and training plans? Have you ever done running speed work? Tell the truth: did you vomit?

This was my first year racing at USAT Age Group Nationals, but hopefully not my last. I have no pithy intro, so let’s get into it.


Josh and I rolled into Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon to pick up my packet and drop off my bike. I was nervous about everything. Nervous that I was showing up at the last minute. That I had missed the “optional but strongly recommended” rules briefing on Friday. That I was going to be picked out immediately as the yahoo who didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going.

So, a few words to those of you who haven’t done an age group nationals race before but are considering it. First, just do it. But second, turns out in a lot of ways it’s just like every other race. Just… a lot more of it. The line for late packet pickup reassured me that I was not even close to the last person there. Yes, there were a lot of amazing, beautiful, expensive bikes, but there was also a girl with a vintage Schwinn road bike that didn’t have clipless pedals. When I saw her bike, I pointed her out to Josh and whispered, “I hope she wins.” People were just as friendly and kind as every other race I’ve been to.

Other things to note about the pre-race:

  • Nationals = awesome swag. The highlights were a free pair of compression socks, a USA Triathlon windbreaker, and a USA triathlon baseball/running hat. Win!
  • I had to leave my bike overnight for the first time in my racing career. I followed the advice of others and let the air out of my tires, which also made me a friend. Stephanie had racked her bike next to mine* and asked me why everyone was letting the air out. I explained that leaving your tires out in the sun can cause the air to expand and leave you with a sad flat on race morning. She thanked me and told me that this was her 2nd triathlon ever – damn girl!
  • *It turns out that there were assigned rack spots for all race numbers… below 5500. Weird, right? 5500 and above, which included me, were the later waves (I was wave 15 out of 17), and either they didn’t think there would be that many people, which doesn’t make a lot of sense since many of us registered very early, or they thought transition wouldn’t be crowded enough by the time we rolled around to mandate it. So we had to elbow it out for spots amidst 4 designated racks. I was fairly happy with my location, and it didn’t seem to be a big deal, but it felt weird, as if we were left out or afterthoughts or something.
  • To note: the top 25 finishers in each age group for this race would earn a spot on team USA for the 2015 world championships, to be held in Chicago next year.

Race morning:

Although my wave didn’t leave until 9:21 AM, we got to the venue at 5:30 for two reasons: parking and transition. There were many parking ramps reserved for us throughout downtown Milwaukee, but we were able to get a very close location at the US Bank building.  Transition was open from 5:30 – 7:30 AM for us to set up the rest of our gear and re-inflate our tires. I also did a few walkthroughs to make sure I knew exactly where to go, since this was by far the largest transition area I’d ever been in, and I didn’t have a numbered rack spot.

The rows were marked with letters, however, and from the swim in my bike was between rows I and J, so I decided my mnemonic would be “I Jive.” Stupid, but it made me laugh and I knew I wouldn’t forget it.

The rest of race morning was a lot of waiting, sunscreen, drinking water, going to the bathroom, drinking water, going to the bathroom, and trying to stretch.

Before the first wave went off at 7:30 AM, a very talented singer whose name I forgot sang the national anthem. It was beautiful and moving, ringing out over the water and the crowds, and right at the apex, a flock of geese flew over the American flag in a perfect V formation, looking so much like a battalion of fighter jets that the entire crowd gasped.

And then, with a honk of the starter’s horn, the men 35-39 were off. There was a houseboat moored not far from the swim start, and the boat family’s pet dog barked at every swimmer that passed him.

The swim:

We weren’t allowed to do a warm up swim until 20 minutes before our wave left. So around 8:45 AM, I put on my wetsuit, immediately had to go to the bathroom again, went to the bathroom, put on my wetsuit again, and then assembled near the swim start. They let us down to the water around 9:00 AM, and we had really only 5-10 minutes to warm up.

Before the warm up started, we were corralled on a ramp behind a rope (yes, there are cattle similarities here, but let’s not think about that), and I was staring over the water trying to quickly visualize the race one last time in fast forward. A woman next to me put her hand on my arm and said, “It’s going to be okay.” I realized that I had been holding my hand up to my mouth and must have looked terrified.

The water temp was about 71 degrees, which is a comfortably cool temp for me, but as usual, I was very grateful to have a chance to acclimate before we took off. It always takes me a few minutes to overcome the shock of being in a lake. I had been really nervous about swimming in Lake Michigan, but we were actually well insulated from the waves and chop. The water was clear (I mean, for a lake), cool, and calm. Beautiful.

Almost as soon as I swam an out and back (probably 150 m total), we were being told to get our butts to the starting area. The start was in-water, and I positioned myself on the far outside to try to get some clear water from the get go. The women around me had the same idea, and one of them said, “If I kick you, I swear it’s not on purpose. I just want to be able to swim.” We laughed and high fived.

The last 30 seconds before we went off, they stopped the music and instead played a heartbeat sound, just in case we needed to freak out a little bit more. I got myself horizontal in the water and waited for the horn.

It honked, and I was going. Our first sighting “buoy” was actually a small bridge that we were all going to swim under. It was a long way (maybe 400 m?) to the bridge, so there was plenty of room to maneuver.  I had noticed a huge smokestack directly behind the bridge, so I was sighting to that. I didn’t have too much contact with other women, but I couldn’t find any good feet to draft on, so my side strategy has pros and cons, I guess. I could feel someone getting a ride behind me, but she wasn’t bothering me, so I just tried to swim my swim.

Going under the bridge was pretty cool. I could hear people on the bridge yelling and cheering at us, and the shouts echoed underneath. On the other side, we had a melee of orange square buoys and yellow triangle buoys, but I remembered from the webinar (yes, there was a webinar before the race) that the orange were for sighting and the only ones that mattered were the yellow. We had to make two right-hand turns at the yellows. On the second turn, the woman who had been drafting off of me got right up on top of me, the entire upper half of her body pushing down the entire lower half of my body. I don’t like to kick someone else on purpose, but she lingered long enough that I was sinking, so I whipped out a fairly aggressive dolphin kick to free myself. For the rest of the swim I saw her off to my left. No more draft, I guess. I hope I wasn’t too aggressive, but when you feel like you’re getting pulled under, what are you going to do?

The swim exit was a steep ramp up to shore, but it was lined with volunteers on each side who offered arms to grab onto or, in some cases, just grabbed our hands and yanked us up. It was awesome. This race seriously had the best volunteers.

The swim exit was 0.25 miles from transition, and as I ran along the pathway to transition, a man (not sure if this was a volunteer or a coach or just a concerned bystander) was telling us our current rank. I was shocked to hear I was 29 when I passed him. This likely sounds somewhat egotistical of me, but I’m used to being in the top five coming out of the water. Plus, I had stalked researched the results from last year. I had expected to finish my swim in just about 13 minutes, and that time in 2013 would have put me in sixth in my age group. Hearing “29” after what I thought was a pretty good swim immediately re-set my expectations for the day. These women were serious athletes, and serious competition.

Swim time: 13:17.7

Yeah! 29!

Yeah! 29!


I was booking it into transition. With a quarter mile run into the transition area, which itself was probably easily a quarter mile long, I didn’t have time for my usual amble. A volunteer was strategically placed at the swim in to warn us that the mud and grass were very slippery, and to be careful. I ran in, said out loud, “I jive!” and ran to my row. As I did, a woman was running towards my through the aisle, obviously having chosen the wrong row. She was cursing and obviously annoyed with herself.

I had decided about three weeks before the race that I just couldn’t deal with the stress of trying to put my bike shoes on while riding the bike, especially after my bike shoe fail at Verona, so I put on my shoes and tried to run out of transition. I was trying to leave my spot at exactly the same time as another woman in my age group and I graciously let her go ahead of me. At the end of the row, she stopped and messed with her timing chip, effectively blocking me in. Balls! But she noticed what she was doing and apologized (and moved) and I ran past her out of transition.

T1 time: 2:40.2 (it was a big transition area, and I put on my shoes in transition instead of on the bike). This put me 23 in my age group.

The Bike: 

I had been looking forward to this bike ride a lot. How many chances do you get to ride your bike on the Interstate? Hopefully not very many, if we’re taking your lifespan into consideration. I wasn’t surprised to be passed by a handful of women in my age group right out of transition. I know the bike is not my strongest suit, and it’s hard to compete with the fancier bikes sometimes. But I also got to pass a few women, and some men, some of whom even allowed themselves to stay passed. Men get so annoyed being passed by a woman that some of them make it their mission to try to immediately pass back, leading to a choice between an exhausting leapfrog situation or an annoying slow down in the speed I would prefer to go. I choose the leapfrog, obviously, but dude, just deal with it. Some women are faster than you. I’m not your competition out here – the guys in your age group are. And frankly, given my speed and placement in this race, if I’m passing you, probably a heck of a lot of other women have passed you already.

This was the first race I’d been in where drafting rules were strictly enforced, so I was very conscious of taking 15 seconds or less to pass, and falling back immediately if I was overtaken. At one point, a woman on a very nice Trek passed me while a race official on a motorcycle was right beside me staring at us. I tried to fall back right away, but was kind of nervous that I hadn’t done so quickly enough.

I rode in aero for the majority of the race. At one point, right before we went on the Interstate, they had a volunteer whose only job was to tell us (through a megaphone) to get out of aero because we were approaching rough road. I’m glad I followed his instructions, because the polar vortex had done a number on Milwaukee’s roads, and we definitely had some bumpy moments.

Riding on I-794 was amazing, if also fairly bumpy. They put plastic connector thingies between the big joists, but there were still plenty of gaps in the road that jostled my bones at  20 mph.

Right before the Interstate, the first of the men from the wave behind me (men 45-49) started to pass me. The first man to do so sounded like another race motorcycle coming up behind me, and blew past me as if I were standing still. I looked at my bike computer to see that I was going 22 mph at that point. Once again, I was totally amazed.

On the Interstate, more men were passing me, and I couldn’t seem to find any more women in my age group. I was passing  a few of the back of the 24 and under and 25-29 women, but no one in the 30-34 group. At this point, I wasn’t really sure where I was in the rankings. I thought I had come out of transition in the 20-30 range, and had been passed by what felt like half a dozen women, but I really wasn’t sure. Regardless, I kept trying to push the pace as much as I could, which I know isn’t a great deal given my limited bike skillz.

Before the race, Josh had asked me how long I though it would take me on the bike. I thought about it – 20k, which is about 12.5 miles – and said, “I don’t know – 40 minutes?”

I finished the bike in 40:04.4, so if nothing else, I might have won the national championships of predicting my times for this race! My bike time put me at 48th in my age group, and put a big old star on what I need to work on.


I was momentarily disoriented coming into T2, because the bike in was the same as the swim in. I’m used to bike out and bike in being the same place. But when I came in, disoriented and confused, I just kept running and then yelled, “I JIVE!” and ran to the right spot between rows I and J. I had successfully taken my shoes off and left them on the bike, so I was running barefoot through the grass. I racked my bike, threw on my race belt, socks (I swear I’m working on ditching these) and shoes, and ran out. Josh caught me at the T2 exit and yelled, “You’re right in there!” I took this to mean that I was in contention for the top 25, so I ran out with an extra spring in my step.

My T2 time: 1:23.6, or 38th in my age group. 1-37 probably don’t wear socks. They probably don’t jive, either.

The Run:

The run used to be my happy place, back when I didn’t know how to swim and rode a mountain bike. Since I injured my knee, though, the run has been a struggle. I had been working on pacing myself a an 8:24 pace leading into this race, which isn’t my fastest 5K ever, but something I knew I’d be reasonably happy with.

Mile 1 was uneventful, other than leapfrogging with an man from a wave before me who couldn’t seem to stand having been passed by me. I remember thinking to myself, “Dude, I don’t care which one of us finishes first, but I just want the space to run my speed without blocking the seriously fast guys behind us.” And it was true – during the run the final wave of the day, men 24 and under, started passing me, and they were pretty damn fast.

By this point, it was also starting to get really hot. At the second aid station, I took some Gatorade from the front half and some water from the back half, and managed to successfully manage which one I drank and which one I poured on my head.

The part between miles two and three was the longest mile I’ve ever run. I had been pushing myself hard the whole morning, and at this point I wanted nothing more than to stop. I started talking to myself, out loud, to the amusement of people watching or running near me.  The inside part of the dialogue, the part in my head, said, “I’m tired. I want to stop.” Out loud, I said, “Who fucking cares [if you’re tired]? Just keep going.”

I also started to shiver at this point. This has been happening to me on the run from miles two and onwards on the last few races I’ve done, and I can’t figure out why. When I Google it, the results suggest heat stroke or dehydration, but given the short distances I’m racing this seems really unlikely to me.

Right after the 3 mile sign, with 0.1 to go, I caught sight of a woman in my age group who I recognized had passed me on the bike. I didn’t have any idea where I was in the rankings. I hadn’t noticed any women from my age group passing me on the run, but I was still not 100% sure where that left me. What if she was #25 and I was #26? I knew I had to try to pass her, even though sprinting sounded like the worst idea in the world.

But I did it. I sprinted. And I passed her right before the finish line, as I caught sight of Josh, and our friends Ellen and Chris cheering me on.

My run: 26:08.0, exactly 8:24 pace, ranking me at 43 in my age group.


It turns out I was sprinting for 42nd place in my age group. I ended up with a time of 1:23:34.1, which I’m pretty happy with. I basically predicted this finish time; I just had expected a slightly higher ranking based on last year’s results.

The lady in purple

The lady in purple


Overall, I’m so happy to have competed in this race, and I would love to do it again. My eyes have been opened a lot to the skill level in the age group ranks of the US, and I think that for my 7th race ever, I held my own. Rumor has it that Age Group Nationals just might be coming back to Milwaukee next year, and if they are, I’m so there.

I owe you all a race report from Door County (short story: awesome race, I did okay, I have a lot to learn), but in the meantime all I can think about is my upcoming attempt at the sprint USAT Age Group Nationals. The vast majority of these thoughts are anxieties, of course. The race at Door County was, to date, the largest one I’ve participated in. There were about 1,000 athletes in the sprint race, and 62 in my wave. I’ve been used to being near the top of my age group in the more local races I’ve participated in, and being around so many more competitors opened my eyes to how much work I still have to do, how “vintage” my bike still is, and how much I still need to learn about efficiency, USAT rules, and how to evaluate my current skill level compared to others in the sport. It seems so obvious to say that I had a skewed idea of my own skill level from competing in smaller races, but apparently that is yet another lesson that triathlon has had in store to teach me.

When I signed myself up for this age group nationals race last winter, I was depressed about my injured knee, and I had the idea that I’d be in running form by the spring, and would be able to train my run (and bike and swim, of course) hard all summer so that by the time August rolled around, I’d be in great shape. That didn’t exactly happen, and the confidence and hubris I had self selecting myself to compete against the top age group athletes in the country has been tempered by a more than a little dose of reality.

My knee is a lot better, and my run times are coming down. They’re still not where they were last summer, pre-injury, though. My bike is a lot faster than it was last year (but still quite slow compared to others), and my swim is something I’m confident in. Although I don’t know that I can say yet that I enjoy open water swimming, I consistently finish at or near the top of my age group (and did in Door County, too), so I can’t pretend I suck at swimming.

All of this is a rambling way to say that I have some major feelings of inadequacy going into this race. I’m afraid that I’m going to be viewed like a child playing in the grown up race. I’m afraid that my equipment, my attire, my body, and my technique are going to reveal to people at a glance that I don’t belong there. I’m worried about inadvertently breaking a rule or getting in someone’s way.

This is how I am feeling most of the time.

And then the other times? I’m thinking that this race is open to all USAT members and doesn’t have qualifying times for a reason. I’m thinking that I have a right to be there. I’m thinking that if there ever was a time that it didn’t matter if I break a rule accidentally and get a penalty, this is it, as I have no chance in hell of placing. Add 2 minutes to my time? Who cares? I’ll learn my lesson and know for next time. I’m thinking that I’m not the fastest, but I’m not an idiot and I can certainly stay out of others’ ways. I’m thinking that it’s going to be really cool to ride my bike on the Interstate.

When I originally signed up, I had a pie in the sky idea that maybe I could try to place in the top 18 in my age group and get a spot at worlds. By the beginning of the season when my swim coach asked me to write down a goal for the year, I wrote, “Place in the top 50% of my age group at nationals.” Now I’m sort of hoping to finish higher than last place.

My game plan:
Swim my swim and stay calm in the water.
Have fun on the bike.
Run as hard as I can until I think I’m going to puke, and then keep running.

This was a different kind of race for me: an open water swim not followed by a bike or run, as well as a swimming competition where I swam a single race that involved a wetsuit and a lake.

This was the first year for the Big Swell Swim, held in beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park. It was brought up during the end of my Masters Swim season in May, and everyone in the group was enthusiastic about getting together for a swim race/reunion in summer.

There were four divisions you could enter:
-1.2 mile non-wetsuit
-1.2 mile wetsuit
-2.4 mile non-wetsuit
-2.4 mile wetsuit

I was competing in the 1.2 mile wetsuit category. The pre-race announcer said that the largest category by far was 2.4 mile wetsuit, and you have to imagine this was mostly folks training for IM WI. Well, I guess you don’t have to imagine anything, but that’s what I imagined.

I’ve never swum 1.2 miles without stopping. Although our Masters practices always included at least 2 miles (usually more) in the pool, that was done in intervals and sets, and the idea of just going for 1.2 miles with no hang out time at the wall was intimidating to me. Also, although I’m getting much better in the open water, I still have some open water panic from time to time. Things can sometimes feel really out of control or just so bottomless in the middle of a lake. Nothing to grab onto anywhere close, and other swimmers bumping into you or swimming over you.

All that being said, I went into this “race” with a goal to just swim a steady pace and finish it. I wasn’t interested in competing with other racers.

I’ve been really struggling with lake allergies this summer. I’ve been allergic to lake algae since I was a teenager, but since this is the first summer that I’ve taken an open water class, this is also the first summer that I’ve purposefully stuck my face in a pile of allergens at least once a week. I asked my doctor if I could double my dose of allergy medicine on days I swim, and she vetoed that idea real quick (apparently I’m already on the maximum dose). The swimming leads to days, sometimes almost a full week of terrible congestion, sneezing, stuffy nose, sinus headaches, and so on. I’ve taken to sleeping sitting upright the night after a swim so that I can breathe.

Obviously, this is stupid. So, I’ve been experimenting with wearing earplugs and a nose clip during practices, and the difference has been phenomenal. I think the nose clip helps more than the earplugs, but I’m sticking with both, because being able to swim in the morning and then not literally go through two boxes of Kleenex that day (yep – two a day) is worth 75 minutes of mild discomfort in the water.

That tangent completed, back to the day of the race. There was a warm up swim, which I participated in. Making sure that I always do the warm up swim has been one of my goals all season. In this particular warm up swim, I waded into the coldish water, tried to acclimate for a moment. I stood chest deep, put in my earplugs, pulled my swim cap over them, and opened my nose clip with a feeling of satisfaction that I wouldn’t be sleeping sitting up that night. And my nose clip broke.

I use the Speedo Liquid Comfort nose clip (because that name is hilarious) and as you can see in the link, it has two loops that go over the bridge of the nose. Only one of those loops was broken, so I thought I’d try to use it anyway, figuring some protection was better than none. As soon as I put my face in the water, though, I felt all the allergens going right into my sinuses. After swimming for about 50 meters, an earplug fell out and is now living somewhere in the lake. Sorry, nature.

Oh well, I still had a race to do, right? They started the 2.4 mile non-wetsuit swimmers first, followed by the 2.4 mile wetsuit swimmers about 10 minutes later. All of us 1.2 milers (wetsuit and non-) started together, about 15 minutes later. As I said above, I wasn’t intending to race this race, and I just didn’t feel like I wanted to start the longest continuous swim I’ve done bashing into other people, so when the horn went off, I hung back and let the others go off without me. After waiting about 20 seconds, I joined in.

There was still a lot of contact during the first 150 meters or so, and something about the people, the cold water, and the waves (which were created by the people around me kicking and swimming, not by the lake/wind) formed that old familiar feeling in my chest of tightness and water panic, and since my half-broken nose clip didn’t seem to be doing anything anyway, I pulled it off mid-stroke and clipped it onto my thumb. It wasn’t there by the end of the race, so another apology to nature is in order.

The feeling of taking a full breath and using my nose was helpful, and I was able to calm myself down while I was swimming and keep going. On my way to the first buoy, I passed quite a few people, but for the entire first two lengths of the rectangle, I kept feeling like I was way on the outside of the course. Part of this was due to weird currents, as I definitely felt myself getting pushed around a little bit. But honestly, I don’t even know if I was off-course or not. Usually when I see large groups of people taking what looks like a tighter line, I would assume I am, but every single time I sighted, I was right in line with the buoy. So… I don’t know. I don’t know where they were going, and I don’t know if I was giving myself a wide, swooping line.

I saw a few opportunities to draft early on, but I made a decision to just try to swim this one. Since there was no bike or run afterwards, it felt weird and more cheaty than usual to draft in the swim. Plus, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could swim 1.2 miles non-stop in a lake without outside assistance.

By the first buoy, I was definitely into a rhythm, sighting every 10 strokes, and watching the green water for anything interesting. A fish? Nada. A piece of seaweed? Occasionally. When I breathed to the right, I saw beautiful rocky cliffs, trees, and nature. I sang a song in my head, I sighted, I swam, and I kept passing people in green and pink caps (2.4 milers), but didn’t seem to be passing anyone in orange caps (1.2).

After the turn around the final buoy, I sort of ran into a guy wearing a green cap and no wetsuit, and no matter where I went or how I tried to get out of his way, every single stroke we were side by side, and he bashed me and I bashed him. A giant lake, and we have to be swimming in exactly the same place. It was a rather annoying way to finish the race.

The finish was a run out the very rocky bottom of the lake and across a timing mat. I felt a little out of it, but not too bad, and I have to say that the first thought I had was, “I could do that again.” As in, right then, I could have swum another lap. If you put aside the whole 112 mile bike and marathon run, that suddenly means that the Ironman doesn’t sound too out of reach.

My total time: 38:54, good for 12th place overall in the 1.2 mile wetsuit category, and 4th in my age group.