The first weekend in June brought with it an interesting sampling of difficult races in succession. I had been looking forward to it for months – until I started really digging into the bike elevation maps. My tri bestie warned me against looking at them – but it’s like saying “do not touch” – the first thing you do is touch. Talk about difficult biking. Looking at those courses ahead of time only made the anticipation that much worse.

It was a 7 hour drive from DC to Shawnee State Park in Ohio and about a 7 hour drive for my Wisconsin tri friends who were meeting me there. Anna’s parents had a cabin reserved for us and we were all planning to roll in around 2ish on Friday afternoon. I left the DC area around 7 PM on Thursday to avoid the bulk of rush hour and drove to a halfway point to stay in West Virginia for the night. After a few harrowing moments of the check engine light appearing, and some interesting mountain driving, it was relatively uneventful.

IMG_2784The first race was at 5 PM on Friday afternoon. A super sprint. Ok. An easy 250m in the lake (with about 50 m of that being goose poo) sans wetsuit, brief little 4k bike (mostly all uphill) and then a mile run (little more hill). It was fun but also eye-opening. I told myself do NOT go out hard – this is a long weekend. I tried to do all paces at long-distance paces. It was fun, hill. Lots of hill. A preview of the weekend.

We went back to the cabin and Anna’s parents – who are quite possibly the most wonderful triathlon-Sherpa parents to roam the earth – did our laundry and made some food. Bedtime came early every single night. The three of us were sharing a room and in bunk beds in the cabin. I think it was lights-out at 9 PM after all three of us spent the majority of the night trying to pry Gator Skins onto my bike. Beezey ended up with a beautiful thumb blister.

Saturday – 7:30 AM (Sprint) Rise and shine. Sprint number 1 for Beezey and I. Swim – bike – run. Wetsuit, goose poop, hills, HILLLLS, DOWNhill, speed bump, and hill, running, hill, rock, tripping over rock, and some more running. Basically – it was super fun. There was a huge 2-mile hill that everyone clumped together on. We got about a mile up and the guy next to me yelled – only a mile to go! Talk about a race where everyone is just rooting everyone else to perform their best. Shouts of joy from all cyclists upon getting to the top of that 2-mile hill-we’d have to do it again on Sunday morning….on tired legs. The downhills were so challenging and Beezey and I had a great time passing eachother back and forth on the bike. I’d spin up the hill – she’d catch me while flying down the other side. The bike course was very challenging. Steep up and downhills with plenty of switchbacks. It showed me who was boss and was defintely a great weeknd to hone in on cycling skills. The run was fine. Small bit of cramping on the uphills, but the second half was downhill. Okie dokie. Go rest and repeat later that afternoon.

Saturday – 3:00 PM (Sprint) Bike – Swim – Run. We biked first. More hills, but smaller ones. One road on this course was the type where they put down oil and then cover it with gravel. It was pretty unpleasant and I ended that ride white-knuckled and happy if I never saw gravel again. I kept the rubber down and finshed up the ride. Swimming after hilly riding…in a cold lake…let’s just say, I took the time to struggle into a wetsuit and am glad I did. Instant quad cramping when I hit the cold water. I swam the entire distance using only my arms. Any time I would kick, my legs would just seize. I know how to prepare for next time. Got out and was never happier to run, despite how my legs felt. I followed Beezey the whole run – just like old days she pulled me right along. I told myself to just keep her pink compression socks in view and all would be well. We ended up getting a ride up the hill back to our cabin from a nice gentleman in a white pick-up truck. At that moment – it was heaven on earth.

Back to the cabin, more laundry, Beezey did some grillin, and then early bedtime again.

Sunday – 7:00 AM (Oly. Distance) I knew that hill was coming again on the bike. I felt so much better than I had on Saturday afternoon. Legs felt fresh, I was rested. We hit the lake for one last shake through the goose poop. keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut And yay! Bike time. I felt good. Spinning along at a moderate pace. Knowing that hill was coming again. This time, I knew what I was in for. I seemed to get to the top a lot sooner, even though I think it was because I was focusing on other things. Then once I hit about mile 18 on the bike, I started to hoof it. I knew that my legs would be fine. I had made it this far and was ready to push it a bit. Finshed really strong and of course – smiling – at the end of the bike course! Slapped on my shoes and started out for the insanely uphill 6.5 mile run. I walked up every hill. I was tired at that point. But I mustered a decent pace for the downhills. haha. I probably could have tucked and rolled at the same speed, but whatever, the end was near. Finished. Got my food and a 3rd place AG. Savored my last few minutes with my bestie and then trucked the 8ish hours back to DC.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do this with and I LOVED being with my tri bestie/Sherpa extraordinare/all-time favorite running partner. It was too short but I wouldn’t have wanted to do that suffer-fest with anyone else!!

Fast forward to that week. All of my tests: Run TT, Bike TT, Swim CSS, were that following week. The point was to do these on tired legs after a long training weekend to see how I fared.

Since March
Swim CSS – 9 second per 100y improvement
Bike 15 mile TT – 2:00 improvement
Run 5K TT – 2:14 improvement

MOST OF ALL THOUGH – I don’t feel drained or in pain every single day. I don’t have nagging little niggles, I feel rested and strong all the time. Add to that – a renewed focus on Injury Prevention and having set days built into my training plan where I focus on injury prevention and rest. I have specific injury prevention sets and we focus hard on making sure that my body and core remain strong in place of just “getting in the miles.”  I have a set number of hours in my schedule and I finally have a great balance between swim-bike-run workouts and the rest, foundational strength, and foam rolling required to stay healthy all season. My individual needs and goals as a triathlete and as a busy person who also plays music in her downtime are all balanced in my plan. I’ve not been able to find that for some time and it’s awesome to see improvement not only in my fitness, but also in my personal life and my outlook on the sport and why I really started triathlon in the first place. My goal this season was to re-find what I loved in the sport – and I have certainly done that without even having a single A Race yet.

I will take this. I am gearing up for my early August short-distance A race and hope to have everything honed in by then. I’ve got a big apartment move in the middle of July, some family visiting, a trip to see the Brewers v. Phillies, and a tune-up race. It’s going to be a busy month and having the solidity of a training plan always helps keep things normalized for me.

Then after that August A Race, it’s all New Orleans training, all-day. I’ll have a good 2 months of longer distance building on a solid fitness base that I will have developed by August and then the month of October for a brief taper.

This is really shaping up to be a fun and fantastic season. It’s drama-free. I am having the time of my life with the people and the sport that I love. I am doing races that I want to do and having just a dandy old time. Just what the doctor of life ordered!