Dam to Dam Century Ride – Wabash, IN

Sunday, I rode my first Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash, IN.  It wasn’t only my first D2D but also my first EVER century ride.  I had zero expectations.  My plan was to show up, ride & finish.  Mission accomplished.

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Easy drive to Wabash, IN which is about 80 minutes from my house.  The start/finish & packet pickup were at the local YMCA, plenty of parking and space for the riders.  Packet pick up and breakfast was in the gym.  Well organized.  Fast.  We all received a wristband with a number to call in case we had issues with the ride, our bikes or needed help.  It was a nice touch and one that I certainly appreciated.  I’ve done several organized rides but never one where I felt confident that if I had a problem, someone would actually be able to help. 

I started with the 7:30am crew.  We hit the course early, while the main group started at 8am.  I was happy to get moving. It was cold, low 40s.  Plus, I knew that riding 100 miles would take me just short of forever.  Might as well get started!  We left the Y and started weaving thru Wabash.  I immediately noticed 3 things. 1)  Holy Hills.  We were climbing before our saddles even got warm. 2)  The course was well marked with directional arrows BEFORE the intersection where we would need to turn.  3)  I would be riding 104 miles NOT 100 miles.  Small detail but something I noticed immediately.

It was a beautiful morning.  Cool.  Foggy.  Breathtaking views.  I was happy to be out.  Happy to be riding.  Happy to be tackling something that had been on my bucket list for several years.  Even stopped for a few pictures. 

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And a selfie!  Thanks to Ron at FNA Outdoors for helping me out again this year.  Great guy.  Great bike shop.  Cool gear.  Awesome bike. 

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I rode the 104 mile route.  Aid stations were located about every 20 miles.  Closer in some spots but never further.  The aid stations reminded me of ultra running.  Food, food & more food.  Pic below of the first aid station.  Trail mix, PB&J, cookies, water, Gatorade, tomato juice, pickles, bacon, chips, etc.  Every aid station had different food items, but the food was always plentiful.  If you like ultra/trail runs because of the food, you’ll love century rides! 

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Best part of the day, in my opinion, a field of sunflowers.  So many.  Sunflowers as far as the eyes could see.  I took this while riding and am thankful it wasn’t blurry!

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We rode thru the countryside, across several bridges & dams.  Thru the Salamonie Reservoir & State Park. Red Bridge State Recreation area.  Mississinewa Reservoir.  Past the Stockdale Mill. 

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Once I hit Stockdale, mile 64, I was pretty flat.  I had 3 weeks of building for marathon training & also 3 weeks of building on the bike to be ready for the century.  I was starting to feel it.  I wasn’t exhausted but definitely tired & I had been riding solo for about 10 miles without seeing many other riders. 

After Stockdale, things went downhill fast, mentally.  I was alone.  Fighting some heavy winds.   Mentally breaking down.  I knew it was a mental thing but that didn’t help me get thru it any faster.  From Stockdale to North Manchester, it was a real slog.  As soon as I hit the city limits of North Manchester, a big pack of cyclists passed me.  Then we all hit the aid station at mile 82 together. Riders kept pouring into that aid station while I was there.  Obviously, I hadn’t been out there alone.  I sat for a few minutes, ate 2 brownies, hit the potty, texted a friend that I was on the brink of the “ugly cry”.  Then rolled out, about the same time as 10 other riders.  8 disappeared immediately.  2 were in my sights.  I was not alone.  So I tried to keep those 2 gentlemen in sight.  Helped me focus.  Rolled down the miles a lot faster just knowing someone was close.  Passed thru Largo, then back to Wabash.  We were directed onto a bike path for a short stint.  I was alone again but it was very pretty. 

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Then I made my only directional mistake of the day once I got off the path.  I misinterpreted an arrow.  I crossed the road and started a huge climb up a very ugly hill.  Then I was in a busy part of town.  Then I noticed there weren’t any more arrows.  I messed up.  Thanks to Google Maps, I found my way back to the YMCA.  107 miles total.  Just shy of 7 hours on the bike.  Wow.  Longest. Ride. Ever.

Overall, I was very impressed with D2D.  I’d definitely go back and ride it again.  I’d like to be able to do it as an annual event.  It wasn’t super close to home but manageable.  And it was just a good event from start to finish.  Great directional info, signs, and volunteers.  The aid stations were on point with lots of goodies.  I loved that they were pretty close together, especially when I started to struggle, it helped to know I only had to make it to the next aid station.  The majority of the roads were decent too, which I appreciate.  Great experience, I hope to return next year. 

** Happy Running, Riding OR Whatever YOU Enjoy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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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 **

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