Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3 & The USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship – 2018

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is held the 2nd weekend of June in Grand Rapids, MI.  This year, the race was on June 10, 2018.  The GR TRI has also been the host of the  Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race for the last several years. 

What’s an Athena?  An Athena or Clydesdale is a classification by USAT (USA Triathlon) that is defined by the weight of the athlete.  The athlete must be 165(+) lbs as a woman, or 225(+) for a man.  This type of classification is not found in all triathlon races.  Ironman races will NOT have an Athena/Clydesdale division.  Most other “non-branded” triathlons will follow USAT guidelines and offer it as an option.  If you are an athlete who meets the weight requirements you get to CHOOSE if you want to race in that division.  Its not a requirement.  You may race your normal age group, if you want.  If you choose to race Athena/Clydesdale, you are pulled out of your normal age group and added to the Athena division for which you qualify.  For Nationals, the divisions were:  39 & Under, 40-59 and 60+.

Is there an advantage to racing the Athena division?  Depends on the race.  This can be a very competitive group of athletes.  Just because an athlete is 165 lbs or more, does not mean they are not fast.  We all come in a different package.  We have different strengths & weaknesses.  We are individuals.  I think options are good.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen so many of the non-branded races disappear and get gobbled up by the big dogs.  I like to support non-branded races so that we have more options.  As a result, I felt like it was also important to support the Athena/Clydesdale division at Nationals because if we don’t race that division, it too will disappear.  So, I raced Athena at the USAT National Championships in Grand Rapids.  Race Review below.  Feel free to discuss your opinion on the Athena/Clydesdales division in the comments.  I know its controversial and I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Review

I needed an early season 70.3 this year to prep for IM Lake Placid in July.  The early season race that I did a couple years ago (Cutting Edge Half Triathlon 70.3 in Effingham, IL) was no longer in operation.  My options were Grand Rapids or the IM 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison.  Grand Rapids was closer.  Non-branded.  Cheaper.  And home of the 2018 Athena/Clydesdales National Championships. It was an easy decision for me to try Grand Rapids and I am so glad I did! 

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids from the Ft Wayne, IN area.  Straight to packet pick-up.  Plenty of free parking.  Decent sized expo.  Several vendors.  Organized packet pick up & race meeting.  Lots of SWAG.  Race number tattoos!!  Plus a separate area for the Athena/Clydesdale athletes to go for packet pick up and weigh in.  Yes, we all had to weigh in to participate in the championships.  Since my predominant distance is the 70.3, there aren’t a lot of non-branded races that offer that distance.  Therefore, I race Ironman more often than not.  In Ironman, as mentioned above, there is NOT an Athena division.  So I haven’t had much opportunity to race this division.  I was not surprised that I had to weigh in but I was surprised that they had the scales behind a privacy screen.  Everything was very nicely done & respectful in regards to recording our weight.  If we did not weigh in at least 5 lbs over the minimum (170(+) at the expo), then we would have to reweigh on race morning, in our race kit.  Shoes off for the weigh in!  They were very determined to make sure that everyone met the weight requirement.  Not an issue for me.  I did not have to reweigh on race morning. Smile   Photo below from GR TRI Facebook page – if you are one of these lovely ladies in this picture, let me know so I can tag you!

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Race morning.  There were various parking areas around the race site in Ada, MI.  We parked at the Amway Headquarters, then put our transition bags on our back and rode to the race site.  Maybe a mile or so.  The other option was walking or being dropped off, if you had spectators/shepras.  Spectators could take a shuttle but no bikes on the shuttles!  We did ride to the race site in the dark but it was drama free on closed roads which were partially lit.  The weather was cool & overcast.  And there was nothing but smooth water looking out at the inlet of the Thornapple River where we would be swimming. 

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Transition was LONG and narrow.  Very long.  The 70.3 athletes were positioned closest to the “bike out”.  Good news for us.  Transition spaces were not marked individually, just a series of numbers per rack.  First come, best spot!  I got an end spot!  Leslie B’s mom got a picture of a few of us setting up transition.  I’m in the rear right of the photo, my side/back is to the camera.  I’m in a navy & orange kit.

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Team Stella Fly got this photo below of transition, from the front.  I was down the line much further, past the yellow port-o-potty.  This might be 1/3 of transition.  Maybe.  I was WAY past the potties.  But great shot! 

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Swim started at 7am sharp.  1.2 miles.  The Athenas & Clydesdales were in the first wave and we had fresh, calm water ahead of us!!  Of course, it didn’t take long for the 2nd wave to catch up but it was still nice.  5 minutes between each wave.  Start is below (from the GR TRI Facebook page):

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Heading toward a yellow buoy hidden by the trees.  Maybe I’m in there somewhere?  Photo courtesy of GR TRI Facebook page.

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Out of the water in record time (for me!!), even though I swam a little extra.  Smile  Straight to the wetsuit strippers.  Such a nice perk!  I love races with wetsuit strippers.  Since I hurt my back a couple years ago, getting in and particularly OUT of my wetsuit is a real challenge.  The “strippers” really help me so much!!  Thank you!!!!

Long dash to transition, then THRU transition.  Trying not to crash into anyone from the shorter races who were leisurely walking thru the area before their races.  Heart rate was definitely up by the time I got to my spot!  Wetsuit & swim cap down.  Goggles …..ooops, lost my goggles somewhere.  Helmet on.  Glasses.  Shoes.  Go, go, GO!  Out of transition.  Bike mount line.  Plenty of room but its always important to focus on getting on the bike, clipping in correctly and not rushing too much and hurting yourself or anyone else.  I’ve seen so many accidents on or around the bike mount line over the years.  And the people who do the flying mounts, well …. good luck, I’m just going to move to the side and safely mount my bike.  I’m not “flying” anywhere.  Winking smile 

Bike course is an out and back.  56 miles. Lots of volunteers.  Most roads had police or volunteers to direct traffic.  Thank you!!!  A few hills.  2 aid stations (that we hit 2x).  Headwind going out.  Tailwind coming home.  6 miles of VERY rough road at the turnaround.  OUCH. 

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Slow first half.  Faster 2nd half.  My legs were toast the entire time. Quads were BURNING.  I had a poor bike split.  Whether my back is to blame.  Or my training volume for Lake Placid.  Or maybe something was just off, not really sure, but it was a tough day on the bike.  I wasn’t 1/3 of the way into it and both feet were numb & my left hip/glute/hamstring were screaming at me.  I had to be VERY careful when I dismounted my bike and ran back into transition on numb feet.  I was wondering how long the feet would stay numb.  It was a very odd sensation, one I haven’t had before, but alas it passed once I put on my run shoes & got going.  So thankful!  Awesome volunteers below as we were approaching T2.  Pic courtesy of the GR TRI Facebook page.  I just love FB, don’t you?!?!

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I hustled thru T2 as much as possible with numb feet, dodging people who weren’t in as big of a hurry as myself.  But it wasn’t horrible.  Bike back on rack.  Helmet, glasses off.  Shoes on, slowly cuz well, my feet where NUMB.  WTHeck?!?  Race belt.  Visor, no, I don’t need the visor today.  Go, go, GO! 

Out of T2 & onto the run.  Thank the good Lord, I’m off that damn bike.  I have a love hate relationship with the bike.  I love my bike.  Its good to me.  It’s a great bike.  I just want to be better.  A lot better.  And I don’t really understand why its so freaking hard for me?!?!  But I’m running now.  2 loops.  Out and back course.  Aid stations every 1.5 miles.  4 total aid stations on course, which we passed 2x.  Lots of support out there.  Lots of food. Ice.  Water.  Coca Cola.  2 hills, which we passed 2x.

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I like loop and out/back type courses specifically when I have friends racing.  I did get to see several people on the run, some I saw 2x.  I was motivated to not let one of my fast teammates pass me on the run.  So I did push a bit faster than I probably would have normally, just trying to get around that first loop before he passed me to finish.  I made it.  Whew!  Overall a great day.  It was overcast most of the day which helps me a lot.  I melt in the heat.  It wasn’t cool but it wasn’t hot.  And I had the overcast skies on my side. 

Overall, I thought Grand Rapids was a top notch race.  I’ll definitely go back.  I was impressed.  Great area.  Well organized.  Lots of support and volunteers.  Vendors.  Lower fees than branded races.  GREAT swag!  And I was fortunate to be part of the Clydesdale & Athena National Championships where I placed 2nd in my division!  WhooHooooo!

SWAG – Race Tank, Finishers Visor, Event poster, Athena/Clydesdale National Championship water bottle, Quench Gum, HexArmor Cold Rush cooling towel, plus a few other things from the expo.  See photo below.

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2nd place Athena – 40-59 Division.  Me, Leslie B & Nikki W on the podium.  My friend Andé from IL, also got 2nd (with a MUCH faster time) in the 39 & Under Division.  Great to see old friends & make some new ones!

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Up close.  Green medal is the finishers medal for the GR 70.3 with the Clydesdale/Athena National Championship lanyard.  USAT medal for placing top 3 in the National Championships.  2nd place plaque for my division from GR TRI. 

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is partnered with MI Titanium.  They offer a Double Down Challenge for anyone who does both races.  I guess I’m headed to MI Titanium now on August 19th.  Gotta get that Double Down medal and check out the MI Titanium race.  I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to another race with this group.  Hope to see you there!  Like Grand Rapids TRI, there are a lot of distances & options to choose from, even Aquabike & Duathlon if you don’t like to swim!  See you in August!

Next up:  Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2018.

Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Muncie May Triathlon – Muncie, IN

It can be a bit challenging to find an early season triathlon that gives you everything you want and more!  I registered for the Muncie May Triathlon this year after my beloved Pokagon Triathlon was discontinued.  This race is put on by American Multisport & is in Muncie, IN.  This group puts on several triathlons throughout the year, of varying distances, with races taking place at the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  This is the same location as the IM 70.3 Muncie event that is held each year in July.  Great way to check out the venue in a low key setting.

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The Muncie May event is in mid May, May 12th for 2018 and May 18th for 2019.  One of the first open water events in the Midwest.  However, the Prairie Creek Reservoir is on the shallow side so the water heats up quickly with a few nice days.  The race this year was wetsuit legal with water temp around 63 degrees.  That being said, many events at the reservoir are NOT wetsuit legal, so watch for current info on their website & Facebook page

So what’s the scoop on this race?!?! 

The Muncie May TRI is a great event for athletes of  varying abilities.  They offer an Olympic distance, Oly relay, Sprint, Sprint Relay, Super Sprint, Duathlon, Du Relay, Sprint Du, Sprint Du relay, & Aquabike.  That’s a lot of options and I hope I didn’t miss anything! 

Race starts at 9am with a race day packet pickup option.  Therefore, you can easily drive in the morning of the event if you are within 3 hours of Muncie.  Packet pick-up was easy & quick.  Body marking on site.  Practice swim area open and available to those who want it.  And the water is usually pretty calm.

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Small intimate venue at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Indoor bathrooms & showers.  On site parking.  If you’ve only been to the Reservoir for the IM event, then go back for an American Multisport event.  Totally different atmosphere.  Small parking area.  Small transition area.  Very low key race at the same great venue. 

Races start at 9am.  Super sprint first, then sprint, then Olympic.  I did the Olympic and the times estimates were a bit off as to when we got in the water.  They waited for everyone in the previous category to get out of the water before the next group got started.  Safety first!  Then we self seeded and got into the water in pairs.  Very easy.  No drama. No fighting.  Nobody swam over the top of me.

Once we hit the water, it was noticeably rough on this particular day.  The wind was really blowing and the current in the water was pushing us off course a bit.  Tougher swim that usual at this venue.  The swim was counter clockwise too, opposite direction of the IM event.  1.5K swim for the Olympic, which is 1600 yds.  I swam 1800 though just for fun, or maybe I had trouble staying on course with the wind & waves.  Smile

Once out of the water, there was a short run to transition.  Small transition but it wasn’t chaotic.  Smooth sailing in and out.  Then on to the bike course which had some new pavement!  Olympic distance was a 2 loop bike course.  The wind which gave us some hassle in the swim was in full force on the bike.  Yes!  Love a challenge, right?  A few tiny hills but only 577 ft of ascent on the two loops and a total of 25.3 miles. 

Back to transition for T2.  Just as easy as T1.  Not crowded.  Easy in and out.  On to the run which was an out and back course for the 10K.  Same route as the IM event in July.  Small rolling hills.  213 ft of elevation gain for the 10K.  Warm.  Its always warm. There is a bit of shade on the back side of the out/back but overall, its usually sunny in this area.  Make sure to not forget a hat or visor.  This venue is good about having ice due to its notoriously warm runs.  So ask for ice, even if you don’t see it out.  I did and they did have some in coolers.  Took me an extra minute at a couple of the aid stations but it was worth it because I heat up fast. 

Overall a GREAT race.  I’ll definitely be back.  Registration is open for 2019 and I’m considering registering early for that event.  I’m also looking at my calendar to see if I can fit in another American Multisport event before the year is out.  Lots to choose from between now & September.  And bottom line, if we like our “non-branded” events, we need to support them by showing up and racing so they stick around for years to come.  Too many great races have been discontinued because of lack of participation!  So let’s race American Multisport!!

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Other than a great race, they also provide great SWAG.  See below for the pullover & finishers medal.  I’m wearing the pullover right now.  Lightweight & perfect!

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My next race is the Grand Rapids TRI.  Another “non-branded” event.  Sprint, Oly, 70.3 & Aquabike in each distance. Still time to register!  Race is on June 10th.  Hope to see you there!!

** Give it a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2018 – New Goals

My primary goal is to run a marathon in every state.  However, I also love triathlon.  I’ve been meshing my love for running and triathlon for many years now.  I believe my first triathlon was in 2004 and then I really started doing more events in 2007.  However, Mr. Michael made his appearance in 2009, shortly after I caught the Ironman bug.  Little man is 8 now!  Time flies …..

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As a working mom with two kids and a hectic life, Ironman was put on hold.  I didn’t even ride my bike for several years after Michael was born.  I ran.  Because that is something I can do anywhere, for any amount of time and it helps me relieve stress. But the time on the bike was just too much for me as a working mom with a new baby.  So my bike sat on the trainer for 1309 days without seeing the light of day.  I rode occasionally for workouts but never outside. Once I dusted off my bike, I decided to focus on races that I could manage with the family, job and my other responsibilities.  I decided that I would “specialize” in the 70.3 distance.  Not register for an expensive race and haul all my gear unless it really counted.  It had to be worth it for me to be away from the kiddos.  Once Michael arrived, that’s kinda how life went.  Cut the crap.  Keep what’s really important.  I didn’t want to lose sight of myself but I also didn’t need to run every 5K in town unless there was another reason to go, like when Aby started running.  Aby’s first 5K below in spring 2011.  This race had free daycare for Mr. Michael.  So freaking awesome (Ringing In Spring 5K, Valparaiso, IN).

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This was also the time that I really started embracing the long run.  Michael was a crazy baby.  He was not happy unless I was holding him and to be honest, I just needed to get away sometimes to clear my head and leave the screaming behind.  I loved my little man but yes, I needed a break.  To this day, I see women who refuse to leave their babies to even go for a run, and I cringe.  Most mom’s need time away from their babies to think and reflect.  I could never do that while pushing a jog stroller, constantly handing the little one snacks, stopping to pick up juice cups, etc.  There were times that I ran with the stroller because the choices were treadmill or stroller run.  I’ve also ran plenty 20 milers on the treadmill for lack of other options.  I did what I had to do but honestly, I cherished my solo long runs more than anyone could possibly imagine.  Through this time, my love for the longer distances really developed.  Hey, the longer I ran, the longer I had quiet time, it didn’t matter if I had to run in the dark to get it.  Eventually, I cut most other distances to focus on the marathon.  Best bang for my buck and the marathon is ALWAYS a challenge.  I didn’t want to leave the kids unless it counted.  So I pared down my races to the distance I felt was worthy of time away from the kiddos. 

Enough chit chat.  Now, what’s the big goal for 2018?  I’m sure you’ve already figured it out.  Ironman.  I registered for Ironman Lake Placid, July 2018. 

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My first, and quite possibly only, full Ironman.  Yes, I’ve been waiting for this since 2008.  Yes, the time is finally here.  In case you’re not familiar with triathlon type races, this is a 140.6 mile event.  2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running.  There are non-branded triathlons which cover the same distance; however, Ironman has made a name for itself as offering some of the best triathlon races in the world. 

I picked Lake Placid almost by default.  I wanted a race that I could drive to so that I didn’t need to ship my bike.  I wanted a race that was not during XC/Football or Track/Baseball season.  That really narrowed things down.  Lastly, I wanted a new state.  The marathon at the end of the Ironman counts as a state for the 50 States Marathon Club.  This made the outrageous registration fee a little more palatable.  I get to tackle something new, a bucket list item per se, but I’m also still moving me forward in my 50 State goal.  Win, Win.

So if you’re in Lake Placid, NY over Ironman weekend, look for me.  I’ll try to post more as my training gets under way.  Until then, if you need me, I’ll probably be riding my bike.  You will find me at a couple warm up races this spring/summer.  But everything is in prep for the big day in Lake Placid on July 22nd:

At some point, I’ll figure out post IM season.  But for now, this is it. 

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Cheers to a Happy, Healthy 2018.  I hope that you get to try something new and move something from your bucket list into the DONE column. 

** Life is All About the Story ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead–2017 Edition

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This year was my 3rd consecutive showing at the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead event in Benton Harbor, MI.  The race was Sunday, August 13th.  It was my “A” race although I certainly did NOT show up recovered & rested enough to perform at “A” level.  It was my own fault.  Not enough time between IM 70.3 OH and Steelhead.  I “possibly” should have picked one race, or the other, rather than doing both.  Smile  Regardless, Aby & I and a few others headed to Steelhead to have some “fun” in the sun.

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We hit the expo on Saturday around noon to listen to the Athlete Briefing, pick up packets & do a quick warm up swim.  I personally wasn’t planning to swim.  I had pulled something in my shoulder earlier in the week (while sleeping, of all things).  I didn’t want any additional strain on it until I had to hit the water for real.  However, once we arrived at Jean Klock Park and finally caught a glimpse of Lake Michigan, we noticed that the water was rough.  Really rough, white capping with big rolling waves that were 5+ feet, plus there was a small craft advisory.  My crew opted out of the warm up swim for fear that it would create additional anxiety.  Normally the water calms down over night, that’s what we were hoping for because we came for a 70.3 triathlon, not an abbreviated event.  Crossing our fingers!

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Race day arrived bright & early.  Race site was buzzing with energy.  Air was cool. Water was calm with gentle rolling waves.

This year, Steelhead had changed the swim start.  They moved to a self seeded rolling start that would allow us to start with those of our own ability level vs the normal age group start.  I was happy with this decision.  I thought it should result in a smooth swim without us swimming up on slower swimmers who had started before us and it would prevent faster swimmers from doing the same to us.  Good deal, right?  Overall, I think it went well but the water was still rocking and rolling and some underestimated how long it might take them to do the swim.  So I was still swimming up on quite a few but it was less chaotic than normal.  I took 3 swim lessons before this event.  I’ve swam in triathlon for 10 years now, without lessons, without a coach & without any real guidance.  I’ve met my goals in that time span and am happy with what I’ve accomplished; however, I have not improved in the swim over that period of time, in fact, I’ve gotten slower.  So …… swim lessons!

After the 3 swim lessons, I felt lost.  I knew everything I was doing was wrong.  Its impossible to correct everything at once, and I’ve basically been swimming in SLOW MOTION in order to focus on a few things.  As a result, I didn’t know how the swim would go for me.  I am happy to report that I felt in control.  I really focused on keeping my head down & that allowed me to cut thru the waves vs ride the up & down roller coaster that Lake Michigan provided.  I was pushing thru my stroke.  I still don’t have the catch right but I did push thru my stroke & I think it was working (at least better than normal) because when I would get beside someone, I’d be past them quickly with one or two pushes thru my stroke.  So it went well.  I swam until I could dig sand, then stood up.  I looked at my watch even though I wasn’t out of the water.  44:00 flat.  Then it took me almost a minute to fight the waves and wade out of the last little bit of water.  But I was still faster, in Lake MI, with the waves, than my last two 70.3s this year, which were both slightly over 45 minutes.  Happy dance!!

It should have just kept getting better once I got out of the water but I hit transition and immediately recognized that it was busy.  Really busy.  I normally get out of the water with my age group.  We are all in the same area of transition.  You know how you did in the water based on how many bikes are on the rack vs gone.  This time, since we did the self seeded start, transition was total chaos.  People were everywhere, sitting, standing, in various states of dress or undress.  I was dodging people & wetsuits just getting to my transition spot.  Now, transition in Steelhead is along the beach.  Long and narrow.  So be prepared to run & definitely know your spot.  Bikes as far as the eyes can see.  Further actually.

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This year, I felt like we had more space on the racks between bikes.  But the rows seemed tighter.  Or maybe it was just because there were more people in transition when I got there?  It was tight.  Regardless, got out of my wetsuit, got my bike & was running out of transition dodging people.  One person even told me to slow down.  What?  Finally got out of transition and the bike mount line was on one half of a round-a-bout.  Not a big one.  It was about the width of half a road.  One lane of traffic.  And EVERYONE in front of me had stopped on that mount line to get on their bikes.  What?  I was trapped.  And the people directly in front of me could not get clipped into their bikes.  Total chaos.  After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I became impatient, picked  up my bike, ran thru the round-a-bout, dodged spectators & put my bike down on the edge of the road away from the mount line.  I titled my bike to get on & a spectator yelled to me, “hey, you dropped your chain!”  What?  Me?  Is he talking to me?  I didn’t drop my damn chain.  I haven’t even been on my bike yet.  This bike doesn’t drop its chain.  What?  I look down (opposite side of the bike) & my chain was hanging.  What?  A bazillion things went thru my mind.  I moved to the other side of my bike.  Moved myself & my bike further out of the way so as not to interfere with those who actually were able to clip in and start riding.  And I was just standing there, staring at the chain.  Probably with a stupid look on my face because a spectator came up to me & said, “let me help you with that”.  Huh?  And I stupidly stared at him while he put my chain back on the bike.  Like I didn’t know how to put a chain back on my bike?  Right.  I’ve done it a thousand times.  But apparently I had the “damsel in distress” or worse look on my face.  He got me fixed up & I was on my way.  Still wondering what had happened.  But I’m on my bike, riding gently to get the gears settled back into the right spot.  Immediately I hear/feel a catch somewhere on the bike.  Something was catching/rubbing.  Either every wheel turn or pedal stroke, I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I looked down to make sure my brakes weren’t rubbing.  Not that.  No idea what was going on but decided to ride the bike til it broke or I couldn’t ride it any further.  It was a long ass 56 miles.  The bike was not smooth.  I could feel the rub/catch continuously thru the ride.  Then the course was pretty rough.  I had been up & rode the course on Memorial Day and was surprised as to how much the roads could deteriorate over 10 weeks time.  We did have a reroute due to road construction but that road wasn’t any smoother.  The entire ride, short of the out & back on 63, was just rough.  Add that with the catch in my bike & it made for a slow, not so fun ride.  Plus my legs were definitely fatigued from OH.  I usually pass A LOT of people in the last 20 miles.  Not this time.

Finally back to transition.  Onto the run.  Let’s just finish this!  But by this time it had heated up and we just ran.  At whatever pace we could manage.  I ran between aid stations except for a couple decent hills that I walked.  But otherwise, I ran.  Slowly.  And just kept moving.  I’d walk thru the water stations to get the water/ice that I needed.  Then moved on.  I like the Steelhead run course.  Starts through a beach  community.  Past a golf course.  Up a hill, to the main loop that we run twice.  Past the fire station, down some nice community roads where there is always a family handing out beer shots.  Always makes me giggle.  Do people actually drink the beer shots?  Aid stations every mile or so.  Port-o-potties, first aid, pretzels, chips, cookies, candy, oranges, bananas, gels, coke, red bull, water, ice.  Whirlpool campus.  Some shade, paved & grassy/dirt trails.  Big hill.  Back to 63 for a short jaunt, then back to turn by the fire station to start loop 2.  After the repeat of the loop, then we head down the hill & back toward the finish.  That’s when the smile emerges & I know I’m about done.  That I have once again conquered the 70.3 distance.

I think I’ve done 13 or 14 at this distance now.  Its still not easy.  There is so much that goes into Triathlon between the 3 disciplines.  The longer the race, the more variables to add.  The bike, which is the longest distance, has additional issues.  Flats, mechanicals, other racers dropping things in front of you or veering into you.  Triathlon is not for the faint of heart but I do believe that anyone can do it.  If they have the desire.  If you have been thinking about it, I seriously encourage you to give it a TRI.  Smile  You can always email me with questions at amanda@tootallfritz.com.  I will respond.  I’m happy to help with questions regarding gear/races/training.  But I’m not a coach.

SWAG & finishers medal below.

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My beautiful bike, which was indeed “broken” during Steelhead.  A bolt in my stem had snapped. I’m lucky I didn’t crash.  Although it has since been fixed, the front wheel now has too much “play” from side to side.  Paint has also been chipped off the front fork/head tube area where someone must have slammed into my bike while trying to get thru transition.  That’s probably how my chain dropped too.  I just didn’t notice because I run my bike on the opposite side of the cassette & chain ring.

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Cheers to the 2017 TRI season.  Its in the DONE column.  I had considered trying to get in one more 70.3 to try to maximize my training and make another go at my “A goal” but there just isn’t time.  I’m riding the Dam to Dam Century Ride on September 10th.  I just got my bike back this week but I definitely need a couple longer rides ASAP. And its marathon season once again.  Marathon season where its you, your body & the elements.  Less drama.  Less chance of unknown mishaps.  Never predictable but so much easier in so many ways. So I’ll be seeing you on the road.  Soon.

If you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead, see my report from 2015 & 2016.  I hope you are having a great season.  Let me know which fall marathons you’ll be running & maybe I’ll see you.

** Happy Running & TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Race Review

Ironman 70.3 Ohio is in its infancy and I think we all want to know what kind of race Ironman is delivering in Ohio.  I was interested to see how it compared to other 70.3 events in the Midwest.  I was also interested to see what Delaware, OH had to offer.

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Delaware was about 2.5 hours away from my home in the Ft Wayne, Indiana area.  I was flying solo for this trip so packed & pulled out as soon as I could get Mr. Michael over to hang out with my parents.  Minivan/Bike selfie for the win!  Love being a minivan mom!  When I’m old & wrinkly I’ll probably still be driving one around cuz my bike REALLY  likes riding inside.  Smile

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3 hours later, I pulled into Delaware, OH.  Home of Ohio Wesleyan University.  Easy enough drive.  Cute town.  Beautiful church in the downtown area .  Typical small college town with a main street area lined with shops & restaurants.

The expo was on the Selby Stadium campus.  Big merchandise tent with A LOT of IM 70.3 Ohio stuff.  The merchandise tent was much bigger than Muncie & was larger than what I usually see at Steelhead too.  Not sure why, but it was impressive & I’ve done quite a few IM 70.3s.    Smallish expo otherwise but the highlight was free sunscreen from Ohio Health, then both NormaTec & Rapid Reboot had recovery boots for people to try.  I’m part of the Best TRI Club Ever (BTCE) & we get a discount with Rapid Reboot so I was happy to try out a pair of those to see how they compared.  LOVED them!!! I think they would be great for Aby & I to help with recovery.  Maybe Santa could bring a pair for us to share?!?!?!

Saw one of my BTCE teammates at the expo & we got to hang out, drop our run bags together, then we eventually did dinner.  Thanks, Laura!

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What makes IM 70.3 Ohio slightly different than most 70.3s in the Midwest would be multiple transition zones.  Transition 1 was by Delaware Lake at Delaware State Park.  Transition 2 was inside Selby Stadium.  Below.

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Hard to see all the bike racks because they are sitting on the white lines.  We had to pack our run bags the day before & drop in our T2 spot so that we would have what we needed when we brought our bikes in for the run.  Those bags are the red spots you see on the white lines.

Then after we dropped our run bags, we headed 6 miles away to Delaware State Park to drop our bikes in T1.  I didn’t love this but it was mandatory due to very little parking at the park & a need to shuttle athletes in on race morning.  Last year, there was a tornado that touched down in the park overnight while the bikes were in transition.  Yes, that was definitely in the back of my head.

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Race day started bright and early as we all needed to board a school bus to be shuttled to the swim venue.  We were able to park in 2 different locations.  I picked the one closest to T2 since I would  need to get my bike & all my gear (sans transition bag) back to my car solo.  My parking area was about 0.6 mi from Selby Stadium.

Good news was delivered via Facebook right before we boarded the shuttle. Wetsuit legal!  We boarded buses.  As soon as a bus was full, it would leave.  Lots of buses.  I didn’t have to wait at all.  Easy ride to the venue.  We were dropped near transition.   Went thru body marking.  Then finally had access to our bikes again.  Everything looked fine, just damp with dew.  Biggest challenge was pumping tires when we couldn’t carry in a pump unless someone we knew could carry it back out for us.  We were not returning to T1 after we left on our bikes & there wasn’t room in our bike bags for an air pump.  Luckily, someone loved the lady beside me & she had her tire pump in transition.  She was kind enough to share with me!  Much appreciated!

I set up my spot and prepared my bike bag for when I returned for the swim.  Everything from our swim needed to go INSIDE our bike bag & then volunteers collected the bags & transported our swim & morning stuff to the T2 area for us to retrieve after the race.  Quick picture with Laura before we left our phones in the bike bag.  Then out of transition by 6:45a when it closed.

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Our swim waves were at 8:04 & 8:08a.  Long wait.  I was definitely stiff, tired & ready by the time my wave went off.  The lake water the day before was a bit choppy but smooth by race morning.  We waded into the water & treaded water as we waited for the start.  4 minutes between waves.  Seemed like we swam somewhat parallel to shore to start but according to the map, we swam in a triangle.  First segment to the red turn buoy was 500m, then a long 800m stretch into the sun.  I don’t think any of us would have hit those last 2 buoys on the long side without help from the guards.  The sun was in our eyes & we could see buoys over on the other side but not the ones “in front” of us.  I kept hearing the guards yell, “swim right, swim right”.  Finally we made it to the final turn buoy for a 600m kick to shore.  It was kinda carnage. We could see again but the course narrowed, basically there were more swimmers & the guards were in closer to the buoys so it seemed like we didn’t have much room to swim.  The people in front of us who were struggling were just lounging, kinda stopped in the water.  Or going very slow.  The people behind us were trying to swim over us to get out of the water.  I got smacked in the head & my goggles were dislodged but I didn’t lose them.  The gentleman was very nice about it but I couldn’t get my goggles to reseal after that.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?

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Finally out of the water.  Almost an identical swim split as Muncie even though I felt like I did better.  It seems like the harder I try and the MORE I want to do better, the slower I go.  Is that even possible?   The mysteries of the swim elude me!

On the bike.  Splitting headache & nausea the first 22 miles.  Maybe that guy hit me harder than I thought?   After some ibuprofen & pepto, I was good to go, just in time to turn out of the wind.  Smile   First half of the course was super easy, very few turns.  Good roads & we were frequently separated from the cars by traffic cones.  Last 20+ miles had a lot more turns & the “where are we going now” feeling.  I wouldn’t call this a particularly fast course because of the number of turns toward the end.  And the roads were open.  So we had cars to deal with the majority of the time.  There were several times that the riders were having to wait on cars, or a car would pass us, then have to slow because they couldn’t get around the next group of riders and we’d have to brake to keep from running into the cars in front of us.  Traffic got increasing more congested as we were nearing town for T2.  So as we were navigating the course & all the turns at the end, we were also fighting real traffic.  Very unsafe at times.

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Hit the ground running at the dismount line, onto the track around the football field, onto the astro turf for transition. HOT.  The astro turf was burning hot on my bare feet.  I fortunately wasn’t too far into the rack for T2.  So I grabbed my run bag (that had been sitting since the previous day) & realized that my shoes were burning hot too.  Fun.  It was upper 80s probably by the time we got off the bike.  Quick T2 cuz well, I wanted to get away from the astro turf.

Onto the run.  Two loops.  Still hot.  Some breeze.  Some shade.  A few nice people who brought out water to spray on us or splash us.  One spot where kids with giant water guns were having fun spraying us.  However, the aid stations weren’t as prepared for the heat as most IM events which I have done in the past.  There was ice in maybe 3 or 4 spots over the 13.1 miles.  What little ice they did have would go fast & I didn’t get any on the second loop until I was headed back to the stadium with about a mile to go.  It made me feel really bad for those behind me.

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Great volunteers on the run course.  No vehicular traffic that I remember.  Varied elevation but mostly flat with a few small hills.

Finish.  The sweet finish.  We ran back into Selby Stadium.  Did a partial lap around the track & we were done.  Yes!!!  Nice finish.  I went to pick up my morning/bike bag.  Hands were full!  Then I went to the food tent.  They were grilling hamburgers & chicken but it was gone when I got there & they were waiting for more.  I didn’t feel like waiting.  Went to T2 to get my bike & the rest of my gear.  Quite the balancing act getting the bike & all the gear back to the car without my transition bag.  If I had thought about it, I should have left my transition bag inside my run bag so it was there when I was ready to pack everything up at the end of the race!  Or maybe another backpack.  That would have been helpful.

Overall a good race.  Nice venue at OH Wesleyan. The two transition locations was not ideal for me but I still enjoyed the race.  Volunteers, police & spectators were great as usual.  Plenty of SWAG, pictured below.

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Thanks to Delaware OH for letting us invade your town.  Great hospitality.

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 2017 Edition

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Saturday brought the 2017 edition of the Ironman 70.3 Muncie event in Muncie, IN.   My third time participating.  I must say I’m not even sure why I signed up because my first and second experiences at Muncie were less than stellar (torn tendon in my foot in 2012 & ruptured discs in my back + a broken bike in 2016).  But several of my friends were going.  Peer pressure?  No.  Its just more fun to race with friends.  So I signed up with mixed emotions.  Spoiler Alert:  Muncie delivered a good race for all of us!

Muncie is a Saturday event.  So we went down Friday afternoon to get our packets.  It rained the entire drive.  Some thunder.  Some lightening.  Lots of rain.  We got to the venue.  It was REALLY muddy but not raining.  We parked pretty far away and hiked in so that I had a chance of not getting stuck.  Quick check of the water to see that the buoys were out and the water was calm.  Pretty normal for Muncie.  The swim is in the Prairie Creek Reservoir, so warm water without much chop is the norm.

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Packet pickup was smooth & easy, as are all Ironman events that I’ve ever done.  Packet, check.  Event bag, check. Race shirt, check. Activate chip, check.  Then we hit the mandatory pre-race meeting and had a hard time paying attention because the skies were turning black and a new storm was rolling into the venue.  We ended up cutting the meeting short & hiking back to the car, just in time to pull out as the thundering rains came down.  Rain.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Hail.  Downed trees.  Tornado sirens.  This went on for hours & Ironman ended up shutting down packet pick with a  plan to resume early before the race start on Saturday morning.

Opening packet pick up early, really affected all of us, not just those who didn’t have their packets.  Although transition didn’t open until 5a, they were opening the venue at 4a for packet pick-up.  Since the venue was really muddy before the big storm on Friday night, there was an extra level of anxiety for some of us, okay ME, that we would struggle with parking and/or get stuck getting parked or getting out to go home!  Although many people did get stuck on Saturday morning, the boy scouts were helping push people out.  And we parked further back, where there was less traffic and we got in pretty easily on race morning.

Transition closed at 6:45 since the first swim wave started at 7a.  We left our shoes, grabbed our swim gear and wetsuits.  The bonus of a stormy Friday was wetsuit legal temps on race day!  First workout of the day, wiggling into our wetsuits!  Then my wave took off at 7:45a.  Get ready to swim, bike & run!!!

Swim started with five minutes between each wave.  But it was a madhouse as usual.  128 ladies in my division/swim wave.   I was pretty much right in the thick of it when I would have preferred to be swimming alone.  I breathe bilaterally, which works in my favor cuz I can see who is trying to beat the crap out of me on both sides.  I’m not a fast swimmer but I can swim a long time.  I don’t need to start at the front but if I start too far back, I get trapped.  Placing myself in the swim is never fun and I never seem to put myself in the right spot.  I held my own with the fist swimming ladies in my age group.  Let the fasties go, and we started swimming up on the wave in front of us pretty quickly.  That’s when things get dicey.  We got to them about the same time the fasties in the age group behind us got to us.  Lots of extra traffic.  But I was just swimming from buoy to buoy & looking at all the kayaker lifeguards to see if any of them were my friend Sheryl.  Didn’t see her.  Sad smile

Swim course was set up like an inverted triangle with 2 long sides and a short “leg” in between.

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As we swam around the second turn buoy, heading back to shore in the final leg of the swim, the sun was in our eyes.  So blinding.  I’ve done this race 2 other times but the sun seemed so much brighter this time.  I couldn’t see the buoys at all.  Had to stop several time to see if I was on track.  This last leg should have been where I picked it up but I didn’t since I couldn’t see.  In fact, I was so blinded that about half way thru that final leg, I swam up on a gentlemen from one of the waves in front of me.  Scared the poo out of me.  I froze, popped my head up & apologized.  Well, I must have really tightened up when I hit him because my left calf cramped  & I was dead in the water.  Quite literally.  Clutching my cramped calf in one hand, trying to swim with one hand out of the way of all the bazillion swimmers who were fighting to get around me once I stopped.  Not fun.  I couldn’t get the cramp to pass & was trying to massage it in the water.  Hundreds of people passed me as I was sidelined & then I was eventually able to start swimming again & get out of the water.  Yes!  Victory.  Back on land.  Better yet, there were wetsuit strippers!!  Life savers because with my back in its current state of disrepair, I really struggle getting out of my wetsuit.   Super thankful for the lady that helped me & helped pull me back up off the ground since I was struggling there too!

Muddy run/walk up to transition.  Found my bike.  My friend Sara got out of water at the same time as me and was particularly speedy.  I felt dull in transition, like I didn’t know what to do.  How many times have I done this?!?!?.  Put down my swim stuff. Thanked the Big Man (once again) for my end spot in transition. Put on my bike glasses.  Sprayed myself with sunscreen, put on bike shoes.  Grabbed my helmet.  Started to open a bottle of water but realized I would have plenty of time to drink on the bike.  Go, Go, Go!!  And Sara zipped by me at this point as I was getting my bike off the rack.  Side note:  I always struggle getting my bike off the rack because my bike is so much bigger than most.  I have to tilt it sideways to get it in and out and be careful to not mess up anyone else’s transition area.  I also have to be careful  to not lose my nutrition in the process.  Not graceful.  Not fast. But at last I’m rolling.

Jogging out of T1 with my bike, hop over the giant river of mud to the road, roll to the Mount Line.  Hoping there isn’t a lot of mud stuck in my bike cleats to prevent them from clipping.  Finally I’m clipped in and rolling.  Slowly.  Everyone is flying past me.  My legs feel heavy.  I wonder what the day will bring and if my legs will shake out.  I’ve felt nothing but heavy & fatigued on the bike for about a year now.    Ever since I ruptured 2 discs in my back last summer.  But recently, I had been feeling better.  Then I had 2 really bad rides the week of the race after vacation.  Maybe I’m not getting better?  Maybe it was wishful thinking?  Hmmmm, only time will tell.

Rolling.  I knew I had about 6 miles of rougher type roads before we hit the main drag where we would loop 2x.  I just settled in, took in some Tailwind for calories & tried to relax.  The work would start on the main drag & I felt like it wasn’t worth wasting too much energy hitting it too hard before the road smoothed out.

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Once I hit US 35, the main drag, there was new pavement, spectators & other riders hitting it hard.  Relatively flat course with a few rollers.  Total of 1021 ft of elevation gain for entire bike course.  First section on 35 before the turnaround was from mile 6-17.  I wasn’t really sure how far it was to the turn around (rookie mistake!!) and I thought the wind was at my back but I wasn’t sure about that either.  I should have been pushing way harder in this section but I was still riding pretty easy.  Once I hit the turnaround, somewhere after mile 17, I started looking for my friends, fighting the wind & figuring out my strategy.  Yeah, a little late, right?  Miles 17-28ish.  Into the wind.  Hit the turnaround for the final loop around mile 28 & then I put the hammer down.  My legs had come back.  Like many endurance athletes, the beginning of a run or ride may be yucky but the body knows what’s up and will eventually get on board, once it warms up.  Just takes me awhile!  So I pushed a lot harder on the second loop and passed some people.  I grabbed water at every aid station.  As always, the volunteers at the bike aid stations impress the heck out of me.  They are smart, pay attention to the riders & deliver into my hand whatever I call for as I’m approaching.  Great job, volunteers!!!  Thank you!!!

I was hoping to get my bike split back under 3 hours but I started too slow to make it happen.  Decent bike though & the best bike split I’ve had in over a year so I was happy  and know what to do for next time.  No back pain during the bike!  HUGE win!!!

Transition 2, back to my lovely end spot.  So lucky!!  Tilted my bike to get it under the rack.  No need to worry about losing my nutrition and my rackmate wasn’t back yet so I didn’t need to worry about disrupting her bike/gear.  Shoes. Sunscreen.  Visor.  Race belt.  Go, go, go!   I left T2 in a jog.  A jog is about all I’ve got these days regardless if I want to go fast or slow.  So away I went in my one and only gear.  Slow.

I was looking forward to the first aid station on this run.  Last year they had a water hose & were spraying people down.  I saved my “thank a volunteer” bracelet for whoever was on the other end of that water hose.  It was heating up.  Probably close to 80 by the time I got to the run.  The temps were cooler than normal for Muncie but still hot for me.  I knew the run course had some rolling hills.  Nothing too bad, only 161 ft of elevation gain, but one of the issues with my back is that nerve damage prevents me from raising my feet off the ground too far when I’m running, so hills are a challenge. Even little ones.  My plan was to just keep moving, regardless of the pace.  Just keep moving.

Course was an out & back.  Aid stations & potties about every mile.  Closed course.  Lots of spectators.  Decent roads.  Some shade.  Slight breeze at times.

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I love a good out & back course because I get to see my friends.  Racing is about challenging myself, staying motivated to push my limits, & the friends I meet along the way.  An out & back lets me see those friends who are racing with me!  Yay!

The finish eventually presented itself. Finish Line = Pure Joy!   It was a good day of racing for me & the people I knew who went to Muncie.  Bonus, the wind that slowed us a bit on the bike, and cooled us a bit on the run, also dried up a lot of the mud so we could get out of our parking spots.  Yes!

Shout out to my bestie, Julie M.  She completed her first half ironman only 5 weeks after her first EVER triathlon.  Racing with this chick makes things fun.  So happy she drank the Triathlon Koolaid!

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Shout out to FNA Bicycles.  They hooked me up with a badass Felt bike this year.  I had to save my pennies for a long time for this bike but it was worth it.  The geometry on this bike is so much better for my body.  And the electronic shifting ….. worth the $$.  It still amazes me that when I shift, even under a load, everything just moves.  So nice to have equipment that works!

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Lastly, thumbs up for Muncie.  They continue to deliver a great race, year after year.  Amazing volunteers.  Great venue.  Best post race food in the Midwest on the IM 70.3 circuit.  If you are looking for a race that is good for beginners & experienced racers alike, Muncie might be for you.  It is in the middle of nowhere but its worth the trip.  Expect a non-wetsuit legal swim, flat bike with a few rollers, and a hot/humid run with some hills.  And the SWAG is below.  Cute bag, cute gender specific shirt & I’m loving the medal this year!

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Next up, Ironman 70.3 Ohio – 7/30/17.

** Give It a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Pokagon Olympic Distance Triathlon–Angola IN

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Last Saturday brought us a cool 50 degree day that is perfect for running but a bit chilly for triathlon!  However, it was the 11th annual Pokagon State Park Triathlon & I was signed up for the Olympic distance event.  1500m swim (.94 miles), 40K bike (24.8 miles) & a 10K trail run (6.2 miles).  First triathlon for 2017 and I was excited.  I’ve been working on my swimming ALL freaking winter and was hoping to be comfortable in the water and well, let’s be honest, faster.  So I was ready!

The race didn’t start until 9am so we weren’t rushed.  We got to the park early.  Made it thru packet pick up in about 60 seconds, which included body marking.  Checked on the water.  The weekend previous the water temp for Lake James was 39 degrees.  So water temperature was on everyone’s mind.  Fortunately after a week of 80-90 degrees, the water temp increased to 63 degrees by race day.  I know that’s cold for some people but honestly, it wasn’t that bad with a wetsuit.  My fingers & toes didn’t go numb …. so it was good.  Smile 

Swim  –  We walked down a longish stone staircase to get to the beach for our swim in Lake James.  Keep in mind that when we come out of the water, we have to climb back up to get to transition.  So a decent walk to the swim start.  But once we were on the beach everything was good.  Even though it was an early spring race, the beach was in decent condition & the water was pretty clean.  What I love about this swim, that I haven’t seen at many other races, was the line between the buoys.  So nice.  So minimal sighting was necessary & I was just able to follow the line.  I’m not a straight swimmer so did hit the rope a couple times with my stroke & I may have hit someone on the other side once, thankfully it was Julie so she didn’t get too mad at me!  The Olympic swim was straight out from shore 375m , around a buoy, back to shore, walk onto the beach to the other side of the line & repeat.  2 loops.  Easy.  My swim wasn’t perfect but it was decent for me & “fast” compared to my previous swim spits.  I don’t usually drop a lot of numbers because I know we are all at different levels but I was happy to get out of the water & see a 31.  I lapped my watch to start my transition 1 time & stop my swim time.  After the race, I saw I swam a 31:52, which is about 2:03/100yd.  Fast for me.  I was happy!!

It took me a little over 2 minutes to get up the stairs & into transition.  I wasn’t running hard but I was jogging & trying to move as quickly as I could without wearing myself out on the steps.  Little did I know, the real challenge was getting my wetsuit off over the huge square box of a timing chip that was attached to my ankle!  It took way more effort than I expected.  I had to sit down.  I almost panicked because I just couldn’t get my suit off over the chip.  Somehow I was eventually on my way & running out of transition with my bike. 

The bike.  40K – 24.8 miles  One loop.  On my beautiful new bike!  Yes, the bike is faster than me! 

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I did this race in 2007, before I owned a wetsuit, and ended up doing the duathlon because the water temp was cold that year too!  But I rode  the Olympic bike course that day.  Not sure it is exactly the same now but I remember it being hilly and windy.  It was exactly as I remember on Saturday.  But maybe windier & maybe hillier.  Smile     

I think I talked a little bit last year about a few discs in my back that ruptured (June 2016).  Well, I’ve not really recovered.  The back issue has caused some neuro issues & my legs are constantly fatigued & lack the power that I had previously. Last year was a long year, fighting the issue with my back & legs,  which comes to the forefront when I ride.  As soon as TRI season was over, I took some serious time off & did some serious treatments (Anti-Inflammatory, PT, Chiro, Cortisone/Steroid cocktail injections).  Took the edge off but I’m far from “better”.  I had hoped this would be a great TRI season with the new bike.  Well, the bike is only as good as the machine riding it.  And my machine has a couple blown valves!  So my bike split was about  5 minutes slower than my conservative estimation but I eventually made it back to transition & attempted a real dismount.  I learned a couple years ago how to slip out of my shoes as I was riding into transition, but I had yet to get brave enough to do a proper dismount.  I tried it once last week in the yard, while it was raining & figured I’d just go for it.   So as I was nearing transition, I slipped out of my shoes, then attempted to gracefully dismount.  Keeping my left foot on the pedal (atop my shoe) and swinging my right leg over the bike to drop it down behind my left foot.  Right foot hitting the ground first.  I came in a little fast.  And hit the ground “running” a little hard.  But I didn’t crash & it didn’t jar my back anymore than random daily activities.  See a smoother version of the dismount from Derek Taylor who competed in a different event last weekend.  His dismount is opposite mine but its still the same concept.  Photo credit:  Amanda Taylor – Get to Goal.

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Slow bike but my 2nd transition rocked.  I loved the new dismount & it really helped me speed into transition and get out on the run quickly.

Run – 10K Trail Run – 6.2 miles!  Once again, I’ve ran the 10K portion of this event previously.  But I was a lot younger & a lot faster!  But still, I remember it being hilly.  Trail runs usually are hilly but they are beautiful.  I’ve never had a more scenic run portion in a TRI  than this one.  Temps were still coolish, in the 50s.  The trail run was mostly shaded.  3 aid stations.  Nice day.  I couldn’t go real fast.  I had to walk up some hills.  And my back was really crabby about the pounding down the hills.  But I eventually made it back to the start/finish area.  5 minutes slower than I had anticipated but I made it back!

Best part was that I had time to grab my camera to capture Julie’s first ever triathlon finish!  We went 1-2 in our age group, you know.  But don’t ask how many people were in the age group!  Winking smile

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Great SWAG at this event.  Unisex Brooks technical tee, pint glass & a few other goodies. Then I got a certificate & coffee mug for the AG award.  Very cool! 

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Huge shout out to FNA Bicycles in New Lenox IL for helping me find the perfect bike.  Huge shout out to all the police & volunteers at Pokagon for keeping us safe.  And the biggest shout out of all goes to Pokagon State Park which is one of my all time favorite State Parks.  Great running trails, beaches & camping areas!  Hope to see you out there sometime!

** Give Triathlon A TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

New Year & New Beginnings ……

I haven’t been publishing much as of late.  I’m in a zone where I’m helping Aby & her friend train for the Little Rock Marathon and that means lots of long runs, not so much racing.  Too many blogs do week by week training recaps.  I’ll let you read one of those if you are interested; you won’t find it here cuz really, who cares besides me?.  But I’m running.  In the cold, in the snow & we’ve had some surprisingly nice days too!  Running.  That’s what’s  happening.

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I’ve also been lifting dumbbell weights & trying to increase my strength without aggravating my back.  I ruptured 2 discs in my back last June and they don’t seem to want to repair, despite many sessions of Physical Therapy, Chiropractor, anti-inflammatory meds & several special cocktails of cortisone type shots in my low back & SI Joints.  I was asked to stop riding & swimming from September 12th thru December 26, 2016.  I did as I was told and I didn’t complain.  I didn’t get any better.  I eliminated all exercise other than 2 slow, easy runs per week.  I gained weight.  I lost strength.  I became frustrated.  I ate too much sugar.  No need to write about that. 

The first of the year (2017) brought a new beginning.  I started adding in more running & strength work.  I’m seeing slow improvements.  I can lift a gallon of milk.  I carried the laundry basket up the stairs today.  I can function, as long as I don’t have to sneeze.  Then you might actually see tears. Why does sneezing HURT so badly?

We’ve ran up some hills.

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We’ve discovered new trails.

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I finally got a new bike & started riding again.  Michael thinks its “the best bike ever” and was yelling the same when I took this pic.  Love that kid.  Pure joy.

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I started getting up earlier on Monday’s to go to Chicago “early” so I can take advantage of a Master’s Swim class before I go into the office.  That lead to my buying some training devices.  And believe it or not, I even know what to do with these things!  My swim WILL improve this year!

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2017 is off to a solid start.  I’ve really got my head down and am working on building strength & skills at this point.  I’ve registered for a few spring marathons & a few 70.3 triathlons over the summer.  My fall season is wide open so far because I had planned for over 2 years to do Ironman North Carolina in October 2017 but they canceled it after last year’s race.  For some reason, my fall is staring at me with wide eyes asking me “what’s up”?  And I just don’t know.  I have no idea how much I can build.  I have no idea how much will be taken out of me with what I’ve already committed to racing.  I have no idea how my back will feel as my training progresses.  I have no idea what I want to do in place of IM NC.  My “real life” schedule & the races in which I have interest, just don’t seem to be meshing this year.   I refuse to force races into my schedule.  Running & Triathlon is fun for me.  Its about fitness and challenging myself.  Its social.  It stops being fun if it causes stress or makes me miss something that I want to do in real life.  The family, in particularly the kids come first.  I fully agree with the Trace Adkins song, “You’re Going to Miss This”.  Time flies and kids grow up fast.  I don’t want to miss anything.  So maybe I’ll be racing this fall, maybe I’ll just be following Aby around from one Cross Country venue to the next.  Who knows.  Only time will tell.  I refuse to force the schedule.

Never Have to Force Anything

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and fun filled 2017!!  Chase those dreams but don’t forget what’s important along the way!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

2016 in Review …..

2016 was infinitely better than 2015 in so many ways.  First, our IL house sold!  Yes!  We didn’t make any $$ but it was a huge burden to be lifted from our shoulders & it allowed us to do some much needed work on our current house.  Second, the kids were insane but definitely adjusted better this year to our new hometown.  Third, I was able to run all year.  Although, I had some issues with my back, I was “mostly” healthy and while I was limited on my biking and some other things, I ran every step of 2016 with a smile on my face.  And that my friends, it a big fat win in my book!  Yay for running!!

Just Run

As for the stats.  I’ve currently ran 38 marathons/50Ks in 22 different states.  For 2016,  I ran 1132 miles & cycled 1450 miles.  I ran 12 marathons, 1 which was a 50K:  Mississippi Blues Marathon, First Light Marathon, Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon, Garmin Marathon, Kentucky Derby Marathon, Flying Pig Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon, Rock N Roll San Antonio Marathon & the Huff 50K

Best Race of the Year goes to the Flying Pig Marathon.  I really can’t say enough about this race in Cincinnati, OH.  I heard it was good but, really, it was great.  Everything from the Expo to the race itself.  The community support was beyond amazing.  Entertainment.  They had every snack you can imagine on course (bacon!!!), stations where you could toss a basketball up to a hoop, cooling stations, great views.  Fun, Fun, Fun is how I would describe Flying Pig.  It really is a must do but yes, there are hills, and then more hills, and then a few more. 

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Best Course of the Year goes to Rock N Roll New Orleans.  It was really tough to award Flying Pig the best race of the year because RnR New Orleans was a close second.  I do think the crowd support and expo was better at Flying Pig and that’s why they get the win.  But I can’t leave New Orleans out of the mix.  Amazing race.  Amazing course.  Amazing city.  If you are looking for a city tour while you run, then RnR New Orleans is your race.  You see everything on this course from the French Quarter, Garden District, Decatur Street, Jackson Square, French Market to City Park.  The half marathon runs with the full the entire way til they turn off at mile 13 for the finish.  The full then goes around Lake Pontchartrain, over the levies & back toward the finishers party.  Amazing race.  I’d love to make a return trip and run it again.

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I also managed to squeeze in a half marathon at RnR Chicago, the Rat Race 10K in Ft Wayne, IN,  the 4 mile Galloping Gobbler, an Olympic distance triathlon at Tri Lakes, IN, the Fort4Fitness 100K Cycle  …. and 4 half ironman triathlons:  Cutting Edge 70.3, IM 70.3 Muncie, IM 70.3 Steelhead & Rev3 70.3 Cedar Point.  

It was a full year.  And I’m grateful for all of those finishes!  Some of those were much harder than others! 

Best SWAG of the year goes to the Huff 50K!  Although a close second goes to Flying Pig. And I really LOVED the RnR Finisher Jackets this year!

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Best pics of 2016:  The crew from IN & IL for the Garmin Marathon,  Aby & I at the Rat Race 10K (cuz she doesn’t like to take pics with me anymore!), and me & Nicki at the Rock N Roll San Antonio 10K.  Fun, fun, fun!

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Best selfie of the year:  Bike Selfie at the Cutting Edge 70.3

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That’s a wrap for 2016!  I hope that all of you had an amazing year!  More importantly, my wish for you is a happy, healthy, prosperous 2017.  Remember to keep dreaming, keep believing and if your goals don’t scare you …… they aren’t big enough!

** Cheers to 2016 ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Race Review

I’ve never heard anything but good about the REV3 Triathlon events.  So last year when I was planning my 2016 triathlon schedule, I added the REV3 Cedar Point 70.3 to my roster.  I figured it would be a great event for me & a fun trip for the kiddos.  Each race entry comes with a free park pass for the weekend for the athlete & then a voucher for a $45 weekend pass for each family member/friend who accompanies you on the trip.  Win, win!

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Rev3 is notorious for putting on a series of events to include the entire family.  This weekend at Cedar Point they did a Sprint & kids triathlon on Saturday, then a full & half iron distance triathlon & a GLO run on Sunday. All events, plus the expo started in the Cedar Point parking lot in front of the park.  The expo was small.  Packet pick up was smooth.  The race meeting was informative.  Then off to the park with my munchkins.

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Saturday was extremely windy.  Thankfully they waived the mandatory bike check for the full & half athletes.  I was seriously concerned that my bike would blow away overnight.  It was difficult to roll my bike thru the parking lot on SAT, I wasn’t sure how to anchor it in transition.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it.  But then I had my bike in a hotel room full kids.  Made things a bit tight but they rolled with it.  However, getting it back to transition on SUN morning wasn’t fun.  We were told that the best way to get to transition was down the beach from the hotel.  I didn’t realize that the boardwalk ended shortly after the hotel and that I’d really be hiking the beach …. with my bike …. and all my  gear.

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Due to that famous wind, the swim start had been moved from Lake Erie (in front of the Breakers Hotel) to the Cedar Point Marina.  I wasn’t really sure why.  The water looked calm to me.  I mean, honestly, I’ve been swimming in Lake Michigan all summer.  I’ve raced every event except Cedar Point sans wetsuit.  Lake Erie was calm.  Rev3 said they couldn’t’ secure the buoys in Lake Erie without them floating off to Canada.  Pic from the Breakers Hotel of Lake Erie on race morning (courtesy of David Standley).

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So the Marina swim it was and the water there was very calm and very warm.  I would hazard a guess that the water was too warm for wetsuits BUT I race mostly Ironman events which has a lower water temp limit (76.1 degrees) verses non IM branded events who use the USAT limit of 78 degrees.  Regardless, I was warm.  Pic of the marina water by Jill Kromer. 

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The swim venue change also changed the start.  Instead of a wave start, it was a self seeded rolling start.  I was pretty sure I would swim around 50 minutes.  So I seeded myself around people who were thinking the same.  I was a bit nervous about the new swim.  Not because of the swim itself but because I couldn’t see all the buoys.  It was a blind swim to the right toward a narrow channel in the marina.  One side of the channel was docks & big fancy boats.  The other side a rock wall.  I had no idea how far we had to swim in that channel.  No idea how many buoys were on course.  No idea when I hit half way.  And honestly, I didn’t even know where our swim stopped.  I just followed the crowd, buoy to buoy.  They did have orange turn buoys so that was good.  And then once I got toward the end, I saw a red buoy that was our stopping point.  First half of the swim was great.  I was swimming well.  My back wasn’t bothering me.  I felt strong.  I was passing people.  But I was really warm and started overheating.  At some point on the back side of the course, possibly around half way, I felt a wave of water enter my wetsuit.  Strange sensation but it had a cooling effect.  I couldn’t really figure out what was happening but water kept coming in and was actually ballooning in my wetsuit, I could even see it ballooning in the sleeves as my arms would come out of the water for each stroke.  I was also slowing down although I wasn’t sure why I was slowing.  I felt good.  I was calm.  I was sighting well enough.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?  Once I stood up to exit the water & reached for the cord on my wetsuit, I realized why I was so slow on the back half and why I had so much water in my suit.  It was unzipped.  All the way  down to my hips.  We had zipped it up when I started but it must have come loose.  Swim split:  50:47

Rev3 had wetsuit strippers who helped us out of our suits (and me off the ground when I couldn’t get up).  Nice touch. Then we had a half mile run back to transition with our wetsuit, goggles & swim cap.  Fortunately, some Rev3 Cedar Point alums warned us about this possibility and I had a pair of extra shoes to put near the swim start.  Yes, there was a whole staging for shoes, by race numbers, at the swim venue.

Onto the bike.  This was the part for which I was most nervous.  If you read the last post, you know that I haven’t trained much in the last month.  My bike has been broken on & off all summer but Felt finally sent new shifters and the bike was ready to roll.  But my body wasn’t ready.  Long story short, I’ve been going to physical therapy for my back.  They believe that I have at least one disc that is bulging from the front and the back of my spine.  So instead of a circular disc, they think it is now oblong, like an oval.  Then to make things extra fun, its pressing on some nerves & causing issues with my legs, lack of power on the bike, etc. I’m sentenced to 6 weeks of therapy before insurance will pay for the MRI, then after that, I can see a pain specialist for injections to reduce whatever is left of the swelling/pain.  For now, I live with it.  Rev3 was my last ride of the season & I’m not allowed to ride or swim til we get this all figured out.

First 5 miles on the bike away from Cedar Point was rough.  Bad road.  Nobody will admit to owning it so Rev3 can’t find anyone to repave it.  Same route for the last 5 miles.  Most of the first half of the ride was with the wind.  I was moving pretty well.  Got loose a couple times in the wind & actually thought it would sweep me away at the bottom of one hill where there was an opening in the trees on both sides of the road.  Good news, I didn’t crash.  Lots of turns in the course.   As soon I got moving pretty well, then I had to brake & turn but that worked out when the wind was really bad on the back half.  Some hills but not horrible.  Not much spectator support but lots of awesome volunteers & the police did an excellent job of keeping the road clear for us.  Last half of the course was significantly slower, back into the wind, plus I had some serious knee pain which is related to my back issues but still irritating.  3:21:15 bike split.  I believe there were 4 aid stations on the bike.   That’s one more than most IM 70.3 courses, if you’re counting.

Time to run.  I had Biofreeze in transition.  Slathered some on the aching knee.  Slathered more on my aching back.  Off to run.  I realized quickly that it was going to be a “long” run.  I saw people running back to the finish and I was just getting started.  That felt a bit defeating.  I normally just focus on my race but there wasn’t a lot going on and it kinda felt like a training run.  Not a lot of spectators out on course.  The highlight was definitely the aid stations positioned at every mile.  Such awesome volunteers.  Aid stations were stocked with gels, power bars, powerade, bananas, coke, water & ice.  One even had broth.  I utilized the ice a lot and dumped some down the back of my tri kit at every aid station.  Between the biofreeze & the ice, I was numbed out and just focused on one foot in front of the other.  I thought overall the run course was cool.  They ran us over the Cedar Point causeway, into town & back toward the water where we got to go thru a couple other marinas that had walking paths, bridges & one even had a swimming pool.  We could even see Cedar Point across the water.  The course did get a bit confusing for those of us on our first loop.  The course wasn’t a full double loop but there was one section that had a double loop.  I could see varying distances signs for the full and half that didn’t make sense. As soon as I finished the first loop, I was okay.  The course was extremely well marked and there were volunteers helping direct runners.  No confusion on where to go, just a bit of doubt initially that I had messed something up due to the signage.  I won’t lie, turning away from the marinas & heading back toward town and the finish line made me one happy lady.  I was ready to be done.  I was ready to be reunited with my family.  I just wanted to finish.  Run split:  2:21.  Finish 6:43.

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Swag bag is below & included a personalized note in each bag.  A full sized towel from Gatorade.  Rev3 Cedar Point visor.  Gender specific tee.

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So, I know a lot of you are thinking about your first 70.3.  I get asked over and over again, Ironman or “off brand” triathlon for the first 70.3?  The bottom line is that if we don’t do these off brand races, they just won’t be available in the future.  In case you haven’t noticed, Ironman (World Triathlon Corp) is trying to buy up as many triathlon companies as possible.  The non IM branded races are cheaper.  Smaller.  Less competitive.  They are family focused & will most likely let you run down the finishers shoot with your kids, baby, dog or hubby.  They will bend over backwards to make sure your race is as good as they can make it.  And your fellow competitors will be there for their own reason, which probably won’t include attempting to qualify for the 70.3 Championships or up their position to All World Athlete status.  If they bump you on the swim, they will probably apologize verses pushing you harder under the water so they can swim over the top of you.  It just a different feel at these events vs an IM event.  Way more relaxed.  They try to personalize the experience for you.  When I crossed the finish line on Sunday, the Rev3 announcer said my name, told everyone that I blog at TooTallFritz.com, that I’m a Marathon Maniac & that I’m currently attempting to run a marathon in every state.  I would get lucky if my name were even announced at an IM 70.3 event.  That being said, there would be people to cheer my down the shoot & along the course in an IM event and at Rev3, it was pretty lonely.  I’m pretty sure Rev3 had more volunteers than actual participants and spectator support was virtually non-existent.

What do you get for your extra $$ at an IM event?  Consistency.  Accurate distances on the swim, bike & run.  Accurate info in the Athlete Packet for race meetings, transition opening/closing.  Larger group of competitors.  Spectators.  A community that is “all in” to support the race.  Finisher swag.  Free athlete tracking. World class venue.  Large expo.  Insurance for the race registration in the event you are injured prior to the race, plus insurance on race day to cover any issues on course that may require emergency care.   Numbered swim buoys:  the first half yellow, the second half orange.  Ironman is like the fortune 500 company that is well polished & sparkling.  Off brand races are like the mom & pop business.  What’s right for you is really about what YOU want out of a race experience.  I go both ways depending on the day.  I was on edge all weekend with Rev3.  Partially because I was rushed getting there with it being Cross Country & Soccer season for the kids.  Both had meets/games on SAT before we could leave.  I felt like crap with my back.  It hurts to do the very basic things like sit, drive, bend over …… so I’m CRABBY and trying to pretend like I’m “fine”.  Then I felt pulled between being with the kids at the park & doing what I needed to do for me & my body.  The last minute changes that Rev3 had to make then put me further into crabbiness. BUT, nobody swam over me, ran over me or even bumped me at all during the race.  And let’s just say my body couldn’t take anymore jostling.  I was in the right spot with Rev3 this weekend and applaud their willingness to make last minute changes to keep the racers as safe as possible.  I just wish I felt better and could have enjoyed it a bit more. 

Rev3 offered a great race at a great venue.  Great fun for the entire family.  I hope that you give them a “TRI’. 

** Cheers – Amanda – TooTallFritz **