Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Boston Triathlon

I was once told that you're only a given a few matches in a race. Once you burn them they are all gone so use them wisely. I'm beginning to learn that it's the same thing when it comes to racing multiple times a year. Even though I want to kill it at every race I can only push myself to the breaking point a couple of times. And I did that two weeks ago at the Tidewater Triathlon (which I won).  
Boston Tri: Swam in Dorchester Bay, Biked on Day Blvd,
and here I am running the 10K in Moakley Park.

Here's something I can appreciate about racing... even if it doesn't go how I want it to, I ALWAYS learn something new about myself. It’s funny, I constantly tell people “you should have an A race, B race, and C race.” Unfortunately, I want EVERY race to be an “A” race. I want to feel tapered, be ultra-competitive, and knock it out of the park every time. Alas… that’s impossible. I’m really trying to embrace this whole “it’s all about the journey, not the end result” mantra. But it’s hard!!

A New Experience
This was my first time flying with a bike = scary! It’s like leaving your brand new Benz unlocked in a seedy area. When I took it to bag check I seriously looked at it as if I’d never see it again. The TSA Agent even asked me if I was ok.

My Bike and I made it to Boston safely!
The Scicon Aerocomfor Triathlon bag gets an A+.
Took me 10 minutes to pack/unpack my bike.
When my best friend / college roommate picked me up from the airport I immediately felt at ease. When we’re together it’s a nonstop laughing fest. It’s ironic that we’re both endurance athletes now. Even though we were on the track team in college, we thought the mile was a long distance event. I focused on the high jump while she focused on the 800. Now I focus on the Half Ironman distance and she competed in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. Go figure.

Unpacking my bike with the best pug ever (funky breath and all)

The day before the race….
I went for a spin around the neighborhood to make sure my bike was functioning properly and I didn’t need a mechanic. Then I went for a short run near my alma mater – Tufts University – got nostalgic and felt OLD as dirt. Where does the time go!? Oh and I noticed two things: 1) it was cool outside, low humidity – perfect, and 2) I felt fat, tired, and slow – not good. Sometimes it’s hard being a female athlete :-(

And now for the fun stuff. I’d usually stay off my feet the day before a race, but I got invited to a Pre-Race Brunch Event in the city. No way was I going to pass that up. Thank you Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Lululemon and the Boston Triathlon. I got to meet a few IRaceLikeAGirl teammates, mingle with professional athletes (that I may or may not stalk on social media), and eat good food.

With Ironman Champion Angela Naeth
I'm so thankful that I was chosen to be part of her team.
Angela: "Wow you're tall."
Sika: "Yep I am! 5'10". Haha"
Next up was packet pick up and a preview of the race course. I even got to test out NormaTec Recovery Boots. If I ever strike gold I’ll be purchasing these!

Race day…
I had to get up at the crack of dawn since the race started at 6:20 am. I'm not going to lie. When my alarm went off my first thought was "why the eff am I doing this?" It was way colder than what I've been used to (58 degrees), I was half asleep, and physically I just didn't feel 100%. I wanted to crawl onto the couch and cuddle with my friend's pug. But when your friend gets up at 4 am to give you a pep talk, drive you to the race, and run around the course to cheer you on get your act together!

The Swim
One thing I'm grateful for is the fact that I get super excited right before the gun goes off. The nerves go away and a wave of excitement and gratitude always washes over me a few minutes before the start of a race. I get this feeling like "I'm supposed to be here, right now, at this very moment". It's comforting.
Why do I look pregnant here?? Immaculate Conception LMAO.
The water was COLD. 64 degrees! Obviously wetsuit legal, but still, that’s the coldest water I’ve ever raced in. I had a great start but then I just faded ....into oblivion. Literally got passed left and right. As it was happening I was just trying to stay positive. I ended up swimming about 5 minutes slower than what I envisioned. One of my friends later told me "it's so hard to be at peak in each of the 3 disciplines". Michelle - you are so right. Moving on ...
Swim to bike transition
The Bike
I can't believe I'm saying this but ... I'm no longer dreading the bike leg! Instead of thinking "just get this part over with", I now think to myself "how fast will I go this time??"
The course was awesome. Completely closed off from traffic. Everything was going great until I hit a bump less than 3 miles into the bike leg and my water bottle (carrying all of my nutrition) went airborne. Of course I shouted a few expletives, thought about stopping .. after all, my Dad gave me that bottle for my birthday, but then I decided to keep trucking along. It wasn't a half ironman and the weather wasn't sweltering. I figured I'd be fine. The funny thing was that when I went around for lap two I saw several bottles in the same spot. 

I ended up averaging 20.6 mph. Still not competitive (the pro women average 22+), but I'm slowly but surely creeping up. Some progress is better than no progress!

The Run

10K: 39:40
I started off SLOW. The first 2 miles...they were bad. But then my friend came out on the course and started yelling at me: "Pass those guys, you got this!!" That was enough to make me snap out of it. In fact, I picked up the pace so much that my friend got confused and thought I was on my last lap kicking for home haha. I pretty much started my kick with 4 miles to go. I went through the first 5K ...checked my watch...19:56. I started getting into a rhythm and passing people. I must say...I had the most amazing cheer squad out there....

National Black Marathoners Association
You guys are the best!!!! Looking forward to seeing you October 2018!
I crossed the finish line in 2:15:53; 15th place (including pro women). Do I wish I had been more competitive? Yes! Of course! I was super disappointed. I feel like I have a ton of fitness and it just didn't shine through on that particular day. But I'm also seeing some pretty big improvements even on my "bad" day: I'm consistently averaging over 20 mph on the bike and I finally broke 40 minutes on the 10K run. Considering how slow I went through the first 2 miles of the run I actually think I can go a lot faster ;-)

Post Race with my College Roommate and Track Teammate (Katie Sheedy)

Tufts University other college roommate (to the left of me)

Overall it was a beautiful day, beautiful course, beautiful race. The Boston Triathlon is probably the most unique race I've ever done. It was fun racing in a city, having the course closed off to us athletes. It was well organized AND I'll never complain about free post race drinks ;-)

Next up....Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I decided that I'll just be doing this race for fun and for the experience. My "A" race will be Ironman 70.3 North Carolina in October where I'll try to chase a huge PR. 

Oh and I can't announce it yet, but my sponsor Point 2 Running Company, will be adding something special to the store within the next few weeks!!!! I can't wait to share the news.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My First Triathlon Victory

Action shot from last week's race in Western VA
No, I didn’t win an Ironman or Escape from Alcatraz or Wildflower. I won the Tidewater Sprint Triathlon. And you know what? It feels pretty freakin amazing.

This race holds a special place in my heart. When I decided to do my first triathlon back in 2013 I was at such a low point in my life. I was desperate for a distraction. This race couldn’t have been more perfect – location, distance, course – it’s ideal for a newbie triathlete. When I crossed the line in 54th place I was beyond excited. I didn’t care how bad I was. It got me out of bed that morning, and it was the first time I had a genuine smile on my face in months. I felt on top of the world. Did I ever think I’d come back and win this race one day? No way. Did I fantasize about it? Heck yeah! I enjoyed this race so much I came back in 2015 (14thplace) and 2016 (4th place).

Getting out of my comfort zone….
A week before the Tidewater Tri I was supposed to do Rev 3 Williamsburg. Instead, I scratched that idea and drove out to Western Virginia for a tri training camp followed by a Sprint Duathlon. When it comes to the sport of triathlon there are so many pieces to the puzzle. It’s not all about how fast you are. Swim technique, bike handling skills, transition from the swim to bike and bike to run, nutrition… can make or break a race. I still have a lot of learning to do! But that’s what I love about this sport – there’s potential for massive improvement and I'm willing to learn.

Tri Camp
Fun times with nice people. There was a good mix. Some were training for their first tri. I recommend signing up for a camp like this ( if you are interested in learning the basics: sharp corner turns on the bike, bottle exchange while riding, perfecting your swim stroke, proper running form, etc.

The Race: Duathlon (Run – Bike – Run)

I actually wasn’t nervous at all. My one and only goal was to practice what I learned.

I won J
With Sam (1st Male) and Thom - Coach and founder of California Triathlon

Thank you to the Richmond’s for hosting me. I learned a lot during my time out there in the middle of nowhere ;-) Absolutely beautiful area but very hilly!

Race Week
I was TIRED! I think it was a combination of the long drive to and from camp, the camp itself, the race and the fact that it had been in the upper 90s all week. I told my coach that I was wiped out and really concerned about the upcoming race. We cut back on my training and focused on my nutrition. I kept my fingers crossed that my body would cooperate on race day. I knew I was going to have to be in the mix on the swim, average +20 mph on the bike and run under 19 minutes in the 5K if I was going to have any shot at winning.

The day before the race my body started coming around, and race morning I felt great! It’s amazing what rest and proper nutrition can do :-)

The Swim (500 meters....650?): 11:37
OK so I don’t know what was up with the swim this year. The course was a triangle and I think we swam into a current which may have shifted the buoys – it ended up being about 650 meters and everyone’s times were a few minutes slower than previous years. I can’t sight (the buoys) to save my life so I ended up drafting and following the feet in front of me.
I exited the water in 8th with the two girls I'd end up sharing the podium with. We made a mad dash to T1, put on our helmets, grabbed our bikes and we were off. 

The Bike (10.75 miles): 31:46
I got dropped IMMEDIATELY. I used to get caught up in what others were doing and get upset with myself during the bike leg, but I'm gradually learning how to tune it all out and focus on myself. I ended up averaging 20.2 mph. I've still got quite a ways to go on the bike but you know what? I'm making a lot of progress. It's all about progress!
2013: 44:17
2015: 35:19
2016: 33:24
2017: 31:46

The Run (5K): 18:25
As I was heading out on the run I saw the first place woman and she was sooooo far ahead. My heart sunk. I came there to win the race. Then I saw the second place female. She looked light years ahead as well. I kept counting women. I was in 5th. I felt fit and strong and had confidence that I could run my way into third. Plus my Coach gave me the green light to go all out on the run so I went into sprint mode. I promised myself that no matter what I was going to fight for every second.

Within the first mile I ran my way into 3rd. The second place woman was still pretty far ahead but when I want something bad enough I'm willing to suffer for it. I stopped looking at my watch. I didn't want to know my pace. I told myself to just sprint until I couldn't sprint anymore.

By mile 2 I ran my way into second place. I was desperate to find the first place woman. I kept repeating “Anything is possible, don't give up” over and over AND over again. And sure enough I spotted her. I'm going to keep it real...I thought I was going to puke all over the place. She was still quite a ways ahead but I was closing the gap..and running out of course. But I think in most races you have to ask yourself “how bad do I want this?" I wanted it REALLY bad. I didn’t care if I collapsed, puked, whatever. With about a quarter mile to go I got up on my toes and began to sprint past her. She put up a fight and began sprinting too. All I could think was "oh gosh, please no, I just want to stop". I began to feel the gap grow but I was too afraid to slow down. I ended up running an 18:25 5K and broke the run course record. I think my last mile might have actually been a mile PR for me.
2013: 21:48
2015: 19:37
2016: 19:09
2017: 18:25

When I crossed the finish line my first thought was “oh thank God I can stop”. Second thought: “well that hurt”. Third thought: “wait, did I win?? I think I freakin won.” Unfortunately there were two waves. I had to wait a few minutes for the first place woman from the second wave to cross the finish line before they called the official winner. Those 5-10 minutes felt like an eternity. 
 Yes! I did it. I won :-)
I constantly rave about the Tidewater Sprint because I think it’s the ideal race for someone who wants to get started in the sport of triathlon. In fact, I wish there were more races out there like this one - short open water swim, optional novice division for those who want to start last, flat simple bike course, same for the run. It's PERFECT for someone new to the sport.
With Greg Hawkins, Virginia/Maryland Triathlon Series Race Director.
Thank you for the support. I love representing VTSMTS <3
Making new friends....with fellow members of the Black Triathletes Association.

Next up: The Boston Triathlon!! That's right. I'll be flying with my bike. Thank you SCICON

As always, a HUGE thank you to IRaceLikeAGirl for all their support.

Since my Mom was in town for the July 4th weekend and somehow I only have pics on here of my Dad and I....Introducing, my best friend, my Mom <3