Sunday, May 31, 2015

Over The Mountain Triathlon

MAY 30, 2015

1500M SWIM

Swim - 26:04
T1 - 2:51
Bike - 1:29:01 (18.6mph)
T2 - 0:54
Run - 46:48 (7:34/mi)
Finish Time - 2:45:34
3rd Overall

I made the decision to do this race just one week ago.  I was bitter about the $100 price tag that Set Up Events was charging for an olympic distance event, but ultimately was convinced to sign up with one of my training buddies.  Two weeks out from the race I was vacationing on the beach in Florida so the only training I did was struggling through daily runs in heat and humidity.  This past week I was back in the groove of regular training and just took a lighter day on Friday and not any significant taper.  Fortunately I made the very wise decision earlier in the week to buy the Normatec MVP recovery boots and my legs were loving the TLC the two days prior to the race.  

King's Mountain is about 40 miles from my house, so I was up and out the door about 5:15am with the usual pre-race breakfast of toast with peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, and honey.  Over the Mountain is a point-to-point event, so that brings with it some additional logistics on race morning.  I arrived first at T1 to pick up my pack and drop off my bike.  The picture below is the view from T1 back towards the swim exit.  That would be a nearly quarter-mile uphill run we would have the pleasure of facing after the swim.  Then it was a 10 minute drive to T2 and the race finish area to drop off run gear.  Finally, we all boarded a shuttle bound for the swim start.  I had a half bag of Gu Chomps and water 15 minutes prior to the start.

This is an L-shaped point to point swim in Moss Lake with an in water start.  As far as lakes go, this one was fairly clear and had minimal debris.  Water temperature was 82 degrees so I wore my swim skin.  I registered open, so there were only about 10 people in our swim wave, which made finding clear water very easy.  I found a good rhythm and with the exception of being blinded by the sun at the turn, was successful in my sighting.  They had warned us to be careful exiting the water due to rocks, and sure enough there was a big rocky ledge at the swim exit that managed to cut the bottoms of two of my toes.  I had hoped to swim sub 23 minutes for 1500 meters, but since my Garmin shows 25:58 for 1700 meters, I wasn't too disappointed.  3rd fastest.

The aforementioned hill ensured that my heart rate was sky high in no time at all.  I spent a little too much time here between getting my swim skin off and putting socks on my bloodied foot.  I go back and forth about socks, but I'd rather trade a little extra time for blisters on the run.  8th fastest.

The bike is also point-to-point and is noted to be the "featured element" of the race.  It travels from Moss Lake to downtown King's Mountain and in doing so passes through Kings Mountain National Park with a total of 1800 feet of elevation change.  The entirety of the bike is either going up or going down without any flat stretches.  I got out to a what I felt was a strong start and felt more confident on the hills than I have in the past.  Generally my lake of quadzilla thighs equal being passed by other stronger women, but with the exception of a single pass, I held my own.  The scenery through the national park was a great distraction and provided shade under the canopies of trees.  I made the conscious decision to race based on feel and try to push hard on the bike, so I never once looked at my Garmin to note heart rate or power.  The final climb was the steepest of the day and required a short stretch out of the saddle, but otherwise the climbs weren't too steep and had helpful descents leading into them.  For nutrition, I drank Scratch and took a caffeinated Gu at mile 21.  After uploading data, my normalized power was 221W at a heart rate of 159, which is without a doubt far higher power than I've seen from my race efforts in the past.  Maybe this will finally be the season that I am actually a contender on the bike and not simply hanging on.  5th fastest.

This transition is about as short as they come.  Dropped the bike, changed shoes, grabbed race belt and hat and was out.

From the start, my legs felt surprisingly good for a hard effort on the bike.  I was anticipating a fairly flat run, but that was far from the truth.  It was an out and back stretch, which meant that those downhills I was enjoying on the first stretch were evil climbs on the way back.  The temperature was climbing fast and the stretches in the bright sun were taking their toll.  I wanted to take more to drink, but felt like my stomach was on the verge of cramping so only took a sip of water at mile 3 and a sip of powerade (disgusting!) at mile 5.  My pace kept creeping up each mile and despite visualizing the approximately 1 minute gap to the second place woman, the gap remained unchanged the entire 10k.  That finish line and cold water were finally in sight and I crossed and very quickly found myself lying horizontal and pouring cold water over my head.  Looking back, I probably should have taken the second gel and some more fluid at the start of the run.  3rd fastest.

The town of King's Mountain really supports this race with a ton of enthusiasm.  The Mayor was there to cheer on the finishers, local farmers were slicing fresh cold watermelon and cantaloupe, and a group of guys were grilling up chicken legs.  A friend had told me that the fresh fruit was the best part and she was completely right!  I hung around to visit with several friends who had raced, accepted my award for 2nd open female, and then packed everything up to head home.

Love hanging out with my fast tri friends - Kevin, Laura, and Theoden
As a special surprise, I was able to meet Mom for lunch after the whole family had made a quick trip to Charlotte to pick up a new car.  We dined at Zeitouni Grill in Ballantyne and the crispy falafel, fresh vegetables, and salty baba gnash was exactly what I was craving post-race.

I'm really pleased with my race as a whole.  I haven't raced since Chattanooga (8+ months) and definitely needed to get out there and compete after some solid recent training.  I've been putting in countless hours on the bike and am glad to see that my higher power during training is translating to racing.  I know I am capable of a much better 10k run and need to take more calories and fluid earlier in the hot weather.  

Next up is the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th and then Stumpy Creek International Triathlon on July 11th.  Until then . . . it's back to training.  4+ months until Ironman Louisville!

Monday, May 25, 2015

St. George's Island

Last Saturday the Perkins Family set forth toward St. George's Island for a summer vacation.  While Dad, Mom, Royce, and Erin loaded the car to maximum capacity and started the drive from Atlanta, I packed two carry-on bags and took a quick flight from Charlotte to Tallahassee.  My chariot picked me up from the airport and we all headed an hour's drive south for sun, sand, and seafood.

Our first taste of seafood came from Up the Creek Raw Bar on the Apalachicola Bay.  A grouper sandwich, side of mango slaw, and waterfront dining was the perfect start to the vacation.  A quick visit to the gourmet Piggly Wiggly and local produce stand for groceries filled the car to the rafters and we had no choice to head beachfront. 

A short time later we arrived at the Island Princess, our VRBO and home away from home for the week.  Nestled among palm trees and less than 50 feet from crashing ocean waves, it was the ideal location. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom home included a pool, hammock, and a wrap around deck with sunrise and sunset views.

Mom made a delicious enchilada casserole for our first night's dinner.  A hearty portion topped with guacamole and sour cream was a satisfying meal we all enjoyed prior to watching the sunset.  Other meals throughout the week included fresh grilled fish at the house, as well as meals out at Blue Parrot, Owl Cafe, Boss Oyster, and the Tap Room.

Since I was without a bike for the week and didn't have any interest in swimming in the ocean (I'm sure I would look like an ideal lunch for the sharks we witnessed), I stuck with running.  What I didn't anticipate was what a huge effect the high humidity and warm early  morning temperatures would have on my running abilities.  Needless to say, I made a few stops for pictures and catching my breath that first morning.  Regardless, any run that includes views such as these is priceless.

Although we didn't have a direct view of the sun setting into the water from the bayside, we were still able to enjoy the evening color and sunset from a corner of the deck.  Rocking in a chair on the deck and watching sunset is without a doubt the perfect way to relax after a day in the sun.

Relaxation was the name of the game this week.  We all rotated from place to place with our books and magazines, including the shaded deck, lounge chairs by the pool, float on noodles in the water, the hammock, and occasionally, the comfortable leather reclining chairs inside.

Naps were enjoyed by all, several novels were read cover to cover, and there were endless opportunities to kick back, relax, enjoy family time, and take in the sights and sounds of the ocean.

We all agreed that after last winter's trip to Whitefish, Montana where we froze in single digit temperatures, soaking up the sun felt fabulous!

We took two fishing trips during our stay - an offshore excursion on Tuesday and then an inshore and inlet trip on Thursday.  Evidently our fishing guide Paul has a reputation of catching, because this pelican landed on the boat as we were pulling away from the dock and hung around until we picked up speed.

The seas were nearly perfect on our first day and we headed 8 miles offshore in hunt of King Mackerel, which are known to put up an excellent fight.  That proved to be successful and we filled the cooler with six fish, all of which were quite sizable.

Check out the flounder that I caught when we were trolling in the inlet.  I suggest you don't come anywhere near his teeth!

Dad and Royce were loving every moment of the fishing trip and being on the boat.  Having grown up in Florida with a boat of our own and spending countless weekends fishing, boating, and skiing/knee boarding, boats and the water our one our family's most treasured memories.

While we were offshore a large pod of porpoises came by the boat chasing a school of fish.  They did quite a few jumps and put on a show for us to enjoy.

Back at the dock, we posed with our catch - five King Mackerel (the largest approximately 20 lbs) and one Spanish Mackerel.  Later that night we enjoyed some King Mackerel for dinner - prepared both blackened and fried by one of the local restaurants.

We ventured a few miles down the island to St. George Island National Park on Wednesday.  The secluded east end of the island is known for their pristine white sand beaches and excellent fishing.  We explored the area by foot on a 4.5 mile walk, collecting sand dollars and shells as we meandered.

There aren't many things in the summer that beat sunshine, ocean water, and toes in the sand.
The water along these undisturbed beaches was beautifully clear, and combined with nearly cloudless skies, made for a picture perfect morning stroll.

Apalachicola Bay is known throughout the country for their oysters, and we did our fare share of eating them at several meals.  Our favorites were the char grilled variety from Boss Oyster.  However, the large plump raw oysters with a squeeze of lemon, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and a saltine cracker is an awesome mouthful!

The weather was picture perfect for the entire week, with the exception of a single afternoon when a thunderstorm rolled through for about an hour.  Otherwise temperatures were in the low to mid 80s with variable winds and sunny skies all week long.

My favorite mornings included sleeping in, lounging in pajamas, making a pot of Fresh Market vanilla maple coffee, and sipping it on the back deck while watching the morning ocean waves.

Each afternoon we continued to soak up the sun by the pool (while coated in a heavy layer of sunscreen - Dad's melanoma scare had us all being extra careful) and cooled off with dips in the pool.

We rented bikes for the week and took them out for a spin around the island several afternoons as well as in the evenings to watch the sun set.

No trip would be complete without a family game of dominos!  It's a tradition that dates back to our annual summer vacations in the Florida Keys and one which I can't imagine we will ever forget.  There are always abundant laughs as we build successful (or unsuccessful) trains and keep up with the trash train.

Our last full day was the definition of beach paradise.  The ocean literally looked like a lake since the winds died down.  Dad and I spent several hours fishing that morning and caught several small fish that weren't keepers.  Once again, a morning cup of coffee at the water's edge was a necessity.

At the beginning of the week we all commented that we had seven whole days to rest, relax, and soak up the sun and the sand.  Then suddenly it was Friday night and the days had vanished in a blink of an eye.  That must be a sign of an awesome beach vacation!  Although Royce and I are getting older, we both treasure our annual family vacations and hope that we can continue to make these memories for endless years to come!  Thanks for a great week at St. George's Island Mom and Dad!