Race Review: Great Western Reserve Triathlon

Miscellaneous

This weekend was my second time racing the Great Western Reserve Triathlon sprint distance and my third sprint triathlon to date. I felt confident going into this race because it was my second time racing it. (It was my first ever triathlon last summer). I had debated doing the Olympic distance, but felt under prepared in the swim, so I played it safe with competing in the sprint again.

west-branch1

GWRT-1As soon as I was out there on the course though I wished I had done the Olympic distance. The weather was beautiful and the sun was out. It was a perfect swim venue with calm water and no seed weed in sight!! The bike course was familiar and fast, with a view rolling hills and scenic views. The run course was down and back with a decent, steady hill, but in the shade of the woods.

I loved everything about this race, and even sitting here at work on Monday morning I’m still smiling just thinking about it. On the bike course I realized my cheeks hurt from smiling so much! I was having such a blast and it was another reason I ached to do the Olympic distance – I didn’t want it to end!

west-branch2This being my third triathlon ever – I knocked 19 minutes off my race time from last season, finishing in 1:27. Last year the half mile swim took me 17 minutes and this year I was out of the water in 13 minutes! I had also given myself a pep talk the night before that no matter what I was going to go all out on the bike and I think I did (for me at least). I averaged 18 miles per hour (3:30 min/mile) and I finished the swim and bike in 58 minutes.

west-branch4By the time I got to the run though, I started to slow down and scowled myself for not practicing more brick workouts. My legs were heavy and I felt like I was barely managing to jog for the first mile of the race. By mile 2 I started to adjust and managed to keep an 8:50 min/mile, finishing the 5K in a disappointing 26 minutes.

Overall I am ecstatic with my time PR, but of course there are a few things I could do better:

  1. I was focusing on going so fast on the bike that I couldn’t find time to slow down and take my GU – maybe that could have helped me muster up some speed in the run.
  2. Speaking of the run – practice MORE brick workouts!!
  3. I was paying way too much attention to trying to see if I could beat others in my age group (yes winning is fun, but triathlon is always you vs. you and I need to focus more on my own race).
  4. I could stand to be just a bit more aggressive in the swim. I always start in the way back and then have to fight to get past people later on.
  5. T1 was 2:03 and T2 was 1:29. I can probably be just a tiny bit faster with my transitions. Practice should help.

Things I did well:

  1. Overall the swim was near perfect (for me at least – especially after my panic/freak out during the Portage Lakes Tri last season). I had no real freak out yesterday and felt pretty confident. (There was a little moment around the second buoy that I got hit by someone else’s hand and I felt a brief moment of panic creeping in, but instead I flipped over on my back and backstroked for about a minute to catch my breath. Then I turned back over for front crawl and felt great.) I think for me, the trick for the swim is to consistently monitor myself. Anytime I have a moment I need to slow down, calm myself down and then continue.
  2. I felt pretty confident on the bike and I think it’s just from riding a lot more and being more comfortable. This is my first season racing with my new bike (which I bought from someone else so it’s not really new haha) but I think I handled the gears and turns well and felt powerful on the hills.
  3. I know there are probably tricks and tips that I’m not doing in the transitions, but I felt smooth in T1 and T2 with no real hiccups or obstacles. I probably just need to practice them more if anything.

west-branch5I already can’t wait to compete in this race next season and I have been looking up other triathlon races all morning. I had one other sprint tri on the race schedule for this summer, but now I just want to do an Olympic distance! Last weekend was the Twinsburg Duathlon, which turned out to be a perfect tune-up race for the triathlon. Next weekend I am riding 25 miles on the Sunday in June tour with my mom. (Practice for 50 miles for bike VeloSano on June 18 – which reminds me – if you haven’t donated to our VeloSano cancer cause please donate here).

westbranch3Today I’m going to go through my 2015 race schedule and reevaluate what I have going on. Our wedding in August is coming up quickly, but I think I can squeeze in a few more races, especially with how pleased I was with yesterday’s race results! Also I got to race in my new Cleveland Triathlon Club kit, which was awesome! Super functional and sharp looking 😉

Training this week looks like:
Monday – run 5 miles PM
Tuesday – Cleveland Tri Club track practice (5-7 miles)
Wednesday – Mentor Flag Day 5K
Thursday – AM bike and swim
Friday – run 4 miles AM
Saturday – rest (lots of wedding prep activities)
Sunday – 25 mile bike (Sunday in June)

Cleveland Half Marathon Review & Preparing to “TRI”

Miscellaneous

SPOILER ALERT: They changed the course this year and although I only ran it once before in 2013, compared to last year, it didn’t meet my expectations.

2014 Cleveland Half Marathon Review:

  • Cleveland has been obsessed with the new Cleveland Convention Center lately, and to be honest, it’s really not that amazing. Yes it looks pretty, but this was the Cleveland freaking Marathon – it should have stayed right there in front of Lake Erie, in front of the Cleveland Browns Stadium and in front of the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Instead they pushed us into Public Square to start the race and then crammed us into the green by the new Convention Center to end the race.
  •  The corals leading up to the start of the race were irrelevant and it was packed to the brim. Starting in Public Square is overrated and was just a bad idea in general. We had way more room in front of the Browns Stadium last year, plus we were right on the water – it screamed Cleveland! This year we were smashed between buildings and unable to see anything around us.

    Smashed into corals pre-race

    Smashed into corals pre-race

  • The crowd support wasn’t as great as I expected. I read somewhere that the reason the course changed was to get MORE crowd support, ironically.
  • One of my favorite parts about last year was entering the Shoreway stretch into Lakewood and looking ahead and seeing a giant swarm of runners heading up the hill. It was amazing and inspiring to see. This year they threw that hill and highway stretch in for the last 1.5 miles of the course. Nothing was more suffocating than a hill at mile 11 and seeing nothing but a stretch of bland highway ahead of you. At this point runners were all spread out and struggling and it didn’t have the same inspiring effect as last year.
  • In 2013’s course, I loved crossing the bridge from Tremont and heading back into the city past Progressive Field. I loved turning the corner on St. Clair and heading down to the finish line. The 2013 course winded and twisted runners around the buildings of downtown Cleveland and you could hear the finish line as you grew closer and closer. This year, the finish line appeared out of nowhere after a grueling highway hill. There was nothing special. No magic. No inspiration.
  • The entire course was reversed compared to 2013. At mile three this year we were passing a church and neighborhood block party passing out beer that we had passed at mile 11 the year before. The whole thing mentally threw me off.
  • The finish line straight was super narrow and I had a hard time getting around other runners while I was trying to sprint it out.
  • Despite how awful I thought the course was, I still managed to set a new PR time for a half – and so did the fiance! My new PR is 2:11. (Next I’m going for 2:05.)
Still managed to set a new PR!

Still managed to set a new PR!

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but the race really did not meet my expectations this year. Maybe I set them too high though. Last year this was my first half marathon ever and the entire sport of competitive running was brand new to me. Regardless, I favored 2013’s course and I hope they switch some things around based off of people’s comments – because from what I heard – the hill during the last 1.5 miles was not a crowd favorite. I still love Cleveland though and I imagine I’ll be back next year.

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

So what’s next?

Well… I’m doing it… My first triathlon! I’m two weeks out from The Great Western Reserve Triathlon on June 8th in Ravenna. Of course I’ll be doing the Sprint Distance – 750 meter swim (.46 mile), 13.1 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. I’ve been training for about three months and although I’ve gotten better at swimming in that time, I’m still incredibly nervous and intimidated by the open water.

This past weekend I did my trial run-through in which I completed the entire distance in all three sports. I finished everything (including transitioning) in 1:53. I set my goal to finish in around 2 hours, although I won’t be mad if I don’t make that time. My main goal here is to not drown during the swim! As soon as my feet hit the solid ground after that swim on race day I will be one happy girl! My trial run-through gave me confidence that I can compete in the swim, but I have a tendency to focus more on time and just trying to get it over with. When I think like this my form gets sloppy and I quickly become exhausted. As long as I remain cool, calm and collected and I swim with good form then I’ll be good to go, but if I panic and flop around trying to stay afloat I’m done for. Worrying about the swim has seriously kept me up at night lately, but I have to remain in control of my fears.  I have to go into the race with the mentality that I will beast mode that swim and it will be a piece of cake. If I think and believe that I can do, then I’m already half way there.


In terms of the bike and run – I got this 🙂

More races coming up:

  • Mentor Flag Day 5K on June 11.
  • Lake Health Half Marathon in Kirtland on June 15 (I wanted to run this race last year, but it was all sold out when I went to register. It should be a nice, scenic run and I’ve heard good things about it.)
  • Woodland 5K in Kirtland on June 22 at the Holden Arboretum.

Lots of big races coming up! I’m so excited and nervous for all of them. Big things are happening and training is at an all-time high. (Is it weird that I get excited about waking up at 5AM to train!?)

This is what I love about summer – training and going out there and running your heart out at the race. I love summer and I love race season!

If you’re not scared, if you’re not worried — you’re not taking a chance.

Miscellaneous

I’m feeling very sad today. Not depressed sad, but more nostalgic thinking about this past summer and all the awesome races I got to run. I trained so hard and spent so much time out on the trails early in the summer mornings watching the sun come up. It was so rewarding and fulfilling because it was all so much bigger than I was. I think that’s what draws me to races. There’s something magical about putting on the bib and planning out GU times, pace times and start times. You’re part of this huge, giant race – you’re a piece of the bigger picture. Racing and actually competing is one of the most exciting parts about being a runner. On the other hand, I also like the nice relaxed runs. The runs where you enjoy every moment and you’re reminded why you love this sport. Being a runner is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. And now, as November rolls around in Northeast Ohio, I am filled with dread as all of these rewards and feelings will now be confined to a small, crowded gym for the next six months.

runnin-quoteIt’s enough to make me cry really. What I wouldn’t give to wake up early on a warm summer morning and hit the trails early before work. Now it’s cold and dark outside as I’m dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to get to the gym. Worse – sometimes I have to go to the gym after work when it’s filled with high school meat heads who take up the entire weight area and high school girls who are just there to socialize with one another.

I’m missing my long weekend runs too. Some weeks I dreaded them, while other times I looked forward to them, but I always felt amazing afterwards. I knew I could officially enjoy the weekend after a long early Saturday run. Now I’m stuck running five miles on a treadmill in a stuffy gym with people running directly next to me, stomping away on their own squeaky treadmills. Even worse, sometimes you get kicked off after an hour. I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to get in 13 miles if I have to get off the treadmill every hour and wait for another one to open up? It’s awful and I’m critically depressed and it’s only the beginning of November. not-scared

How does anyone do it?! How do runners stay motivated and on their A game during the long, cold winter months? How do you train hard all winter? I am tossing around the idea of running the full Cleveland Marathon near the end of May, but giant red flags are waving in my head. I HATE INDOOR RUNNING. Why would I put myself through that awful training during the coldest part of the year? Why Cassandra why?! …..…and then right as I am about to make up my mind that I won’t do it, I hear that I quietly answer myself…because I am missing marathon training more then I ever could imagine. Because I know that if I sign up for that race I will feel like I did this past summer. I will have that feeling that I am a part of something bigger than myself and all these past’s winters I didn’t know what that was like, and now I do… 

Train all winter, race all summer.

Miscellaneous

I think this might be the summer of races, and I’m not mad about it either.

I’ve ran a couple races the past three weeks and have so many more marked down on my calendar over the next couple months. The boyfriend and I seem to be in an official racing kind of lingo lately. There’s just something so exciting about running a race. The registering, the bib number, lining up, the mile markers, the crowds, the excitement. I love hearing pace times being yelled out, running along side complete strangers and the cheers as you sprint the last few feet into the finish line. Anyone who trains all winter on a treadmill is really missing out if they don’t run any of the races offered in the summer around Northeast Ohio. I mean we only get four nice months of weather anyways, so as a runner you better take advantage of it!

I ran a 10K in Northfield two weeks ago. You could run either a 5K or a 10K. All proceeds from the race went to stop human trafficking and it was put on by a local church. The race size was relatively small, but the route included mostly bike trail running and a few good hills. My mom walked the 5K and set a new PR for herself! I finished the 10K in just under an hour, which I was happy about. More info on the race can be found here.

Mom and I after the race.

Mom and I after the race.

Yesterday night the boyfriend and I got a group of friends together to run the Mentor Flag Day 5K. It was supposed to storm, but it actually only ended up sprinkling as everyone started to cross the finish line. The event included post race food, which was awesome. I set a new PR for my 5K time (26:45), which isn’t amazing, but the last 5K I didnt was in December and my time was 34 something, so I’ll take it. The race was on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., which I actually really liked after a long work day. This is a great family event too. More information on the race can be found here.   

America!

America!

I really wanted to run The Lake Health Half Marathon this Sunday, but the race is sold out. Why they stop accepting entries? I’m not sure, but I’m pretty bummed. Plus the race was only a cool $50 compared to other halfs AND only 15 mintues from my house, but oh well.

This week marks 16 weeks out from the Akron Marathon. I’ve tossed around the idea of trying to run the full, but it’s not set in stone yet. I’m following a bare minimum training schedule for a full, but who knows if I’ll just stick with the half instead. The mileage is way down to only 18 miles a week right now, so it’s currently no big deal. We’ll see what happens I guess!

I hope everyone is taking advantage of summer and running a few races!

Keeping Running!

My Cleveland Experience.

Miscellaneous

I did it! I did it! I ran my first half marathon this past Sunday! Words cannot describe how amazing it was. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is such an amazing experience. I have already considered myself there running this race for the next 85 years.

Lucky #7106

Lucky #7106

I have never been a part of something so awesome and positive! From the very start people were so friendly and the atmosphere was so exciting. From standing in a 30 minute line to use a porta potty before the race, to the total strangers I ran along side with, to the volunteers and announcers and especially the cheering fans. Basically — this race was AWESOME on every level.

The boyfriend and I left my house at 4:45 a.m. Sunday. We reached downtown Cleveland at about 5:20 a.m. The traffic was a little stressful and slow moving, but eventually we found our way to the $5 parking area, which had plenty of spots still available. (I will plan to get there just as early every year, especially because this lot is located so close to the starting line.) The boyfriend and I decided to use the porta potties before the race since it was only about 6:10 a.m. at this point. We stood in front of a group of hilarious women who had us laughing the entire time.

The starting line.

The starting line.

Around 6:40 a.m. we began to make our way over to the starting line. We had no idea where we were going, so we spotted a couple of other runners with the red half marathon bib and followed them at a good distance. Thankfully they didn’t lead us astray because we found the starting line. Well, it wasn’t the official starting line, but it was the line to the starting line. There were signs here and there with pace times so we picked a spot around an 11 minute mile. I read a couple of blogs before the race about being honest about your start times, so the boyfriend and I decided this was a good pace to try since it was our first official half. (It turned out that we could have been up around 9 or so because we ended up passing almost our entire section, but that’s OK.)

I was getting really anxious and nervous in the last remaining minutes before we started. I knew from my other 5K races that I always felt a panic as I started, especially if I saw other runners start to pass me. I reminded myself not to be intimidated and that I belonged there with everyone else.

"Strong" was my power word.

“Strong” was my power word.

Pretty soon we were off (well we started and stopped a few times) but we officially passed the starting line at 7:07 a.m. “Cleveland Rocks” blasted over the loud speakers as the announcers and fans cheered us on. I got goose bumps for the first two miles just because I had never experienced something like this before. I kept looking behind me and up ahead in the distance to see the giant sea of runners bobbing up and down.

The course was smooth with about three or four rolling hills, nothing too insane at all. I would even go so far to say that it’s a pretty easy course. We ran through a few of Lakewood’s beautiful neighborhoods and then into the streets of Ohio City and Tremont. People were sitting out in chairs on their front lawns drinking mimosas and cheering for us. Some people were grilling out on balconys waving and screaming at the runners below. A few little kids and a mother were handing out clementines to runners as they passed. I had a smile on my face the entire run. The boyfriend and I kept nodging each other and pointing to signs that people were holding up. The signs may have been one the best parts of the race, here are a few I remember:

“You trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted — keep running.”
“Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.”
“Beer in two miles!”
“I am so proud of you total stranger!”
“Wall? What wall? Keep going!”
“I’m so proud of you – Drake.”

And then of course there was this one:

Only in Cleveland.

Only in Cleveland.

We ran past local churches passing out water, a house that was passing out beer (we passed on this surprisingly) and houses that had hoses spraying water that we could run through. We also passed a guy playing electric guitar, a marching band and a singing sign language choir. There were also two live bands playing at two spots throughout the course.

We started out running with the same group of people. There was a group of three woman, a guy with a giant black afro wig and a few others. After mile 3 we started branching off to run faster and from there the only consistent people we ran with was a guy in a full karate outfit and two girls running with him. One of the girls and the karate guy kissed every mile. The boyfriend and I just opted for high fives.

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

I didn’t even start listening to my music until mile 11 and even then I had one headphone out to listen to the crowd and the people cheering. Houses were blasting their own music that we could easily hear from the road too. After mile 12 I really picked it up and sprinted the last part pretty good. I was surprised by how many people weren’t sprinting the last straight before the finish line. I was dodging people left and right to get past. I crossed the line at 2 hours 21 minutes and 5 seconds. I wanted to be under 2:30 so I was happy with my time.

After the race we got our medals and a few snacks (chocolate milk, bananas, popsicles). We got our picture taken and I met up with two of my girlfriends who also ran the race. We also got a ticket for a free beer at the 26.3 post race party, but I wasn’t too crazy about a Miller Lite at the time.

It’s crazy because I remember getting sick after running only six miles during my training. I felt like I was near death if I ran over five miles and it would take me the whole day to recover. But after the half marathon I felt great, I wasn’t even sore. My how 16 weeks can change a lot!

As we were leaving, I glanced over to the finish line and saw some of the full marathoners still running and trying to finish. I couldn’t help but feel something inside of me wishing to do that, wishing to run the full 26.2…

When we got home, the boyfriend and I couldn’t stop looking up other races for the summer. We talked all day about how awesome the race was and how much fun we had. We told everyone “Consider us there every year from now on.” And I think it just might happen…

Celebrating our 13.1!

Celebrating our 13.1!

First race down!

First race down!