Quakerman Olympic Plus-Making Progress

Another race in the books for 2015! This local triathlon (I love local races!) was a last minute addition to the schedule, as I wanted to get another race under my belt to test my fitness and make some improvements from the Lake George Triathlon before I make the final push to the last race of the season (it is going to be a surprise). In the past, I feel like I have made a big jump in performance between my first and second races of the season, and this race was no exception. The swim was short and very, very choppy so it is difficult to compare times, but I my bike and run showed improvements from the race just three weeks ago; just another sign of things to come.

The only advice from Brian before the rash was “Go crush them!”  That is my favorite kind of race plan!

The race took place at Lake Nockamixon, the water was a cool 70 degrees so I had the advantage of wearing my Huub Axena wetsuit. Yes, I love this wetsuit! The whole Olympic wave went off at once, and while I lined myself out front, when the horn blew I did not get a great start and struggled to take a full stroke for the first 50m. When I finally had some space, things did not get any easier. With gusty winds blowing over the lake, the water was choppy, reminiscent of the high-tide swim at Kona last year. I focused on taking wider strokes and not swallowing water, with the later proving to be quite a challenge, as some poorly timed breaths lead to me gulping down a significant amount of lake water. Fortunately this only happened on a few occasions, and before I knew it the swim was over. A quick glance at my watch confirmed that the distance was short, I certainly will not complain about that.

I scrambled up the steep slope to transition as the third athlete out of the water. My focus shifted to getting on the bike as quickly and calmly as possible, and I made it out as the first female out onto the bike course with two other women close behind me at the bike mount. The ride began with about a mile climb from the lake to the top of the park. As soon as I settled into a rhythm I was flying, feeling stronger than I did just three weeks ago and loving every minute of it. The course was hilly, there were no really steep climbs but it was constantly rolling as it circled around the lake and through some of the Bucks County farmland. The winds kept blowing, and it seemed as if there was always a headwind or a crosswind, there must have been a tailwind at some point on the loop, but it certainly wasn’t obvious.

 No crazy hills, but roughly 2000ft of climbing. Looks like there was hardly a flat section of the course. 

No crazy hills, but roughly 2000ft of climbing. Looks like there was hardly a flat section of the course. 

I felt fresh as I finished the second loop of the bike, and ready to run. The course followed along the lakeshore, before turning sharply upwards. I lost my momentum on the first climb, but kept my head up and eyes straight ahead. Even before the climb I started to have problems with my breathing, as I often do after swimming in lakes that are not typically open to swimming and are home to geese and likely also contaminated with pesticides.  I was not happy to see the face photographer camped out at the top of the hill when I was really struggling.

 Up and down. 

Up and down. 

The turnaround came up quickly and I felt reassured that the second half of the run would be mostly downhill. I ran past Ginny Cataldi just past the turnaround and we exchanged a high five that motivated me to dig deep for the final push.

Ginny and I pretending to be tough after the race. Photo Credit goes to Ginny Cataldi. 

I was very pleased with my performance, and was thrilled to see improvements from the last race. I could not be more excited for what is to come, given that I have had two of my best races coming off of an injury. In hindsight, maybe I should not have panicked as much as I did when I was unable to train for the first half of 2015. Deep down I knew my anxiety was unfounded, but at times it was hard to put the blinders on and focus on myself as I watched everyone else training hard and achieving great race results. I also believe that the other stressors in my life, both personal and academic, were exacerbated by the loss of my usual outlet for stress and I was trapped in a vicious cycle of worry, fear, and unhappiness. Now that all of that is behind me, I reflect upon the trying times with a new perspective; I feel grateful for the challenges I faced because they were opportunities to learn some valuable life lessons, as well as a chance for me to look inside myself and discover just how strong I can be.

The whole race experience was awesome! I always love racing local since it simplifies race day. I can sleep in my own bed, throw my bike in the van, and drive to the course. Plus, with a later start time I could sleep in until 5:30! It was awesome to see some of my fellow triathlete friends from both Philly and the Poconos, which made the race day so much more fun!

 My parent's college classmate, John Cassimatis, and I. John had a great finish to his season, taking second in his age group over the half distance.

My parent's college classmate, John Cassimatis, and I. John had a great finish to his season, taking second in his age group over the half distance.

I also had the chance to meet some new people, including the 3rd Place Female Katherine Bower, as well as fellow pros Jess Chong and James Chesson, who were respectively the First Overall Female and Male finishers in the half-distance race. 

Top Three Female Finishers at the Olympic Plus Distance. No idea what I am doing, and clearly Katherine and Ginny don't either. Photo credit goes to Katherine's sister Jacky. 

Up next will be the biggest block of full volume and full intensity training of the year before my last race. I am feeling excited and ready to get after it! 

IMG_0792.JPG

A huge thank you to all of my supporters and sponsors!