Category Archives: Olympic Triathlons

4/30/12 The Wall of Testosterone

Monday.  Completed my 6th race at St. Anthony’s yesterday.  30 minutes slower (3:53) than my best result (3:25) but I’m okay with how I did because I felt good, I worked hard, I started to remember how to do these triathlons, I had fun, I met one of my idols, I got to hang with my friend Melissa, had a nice visit with my friend Marlie after the race and today I feel okay.  Of course I wish I could have ended with a better posted result but as we know not all victories are measured on the clock.

Flew down on Friday, got settled into my B&B, did a few errands, had dinner and before I knew it, time for bed.  I think arriving on Friday was a good choice.

Saturday I went for a short run when I got up.  Got sidetracked in cheering for the little 7 year olds doing the meek and mighty.  They are so cute I couldn’t help myself.

I tried out my new long-sleeved wetsuit (Promotion brand).  I like it but I really don’t like wetsuits.  But as wetsuits go this one was okay.  Lots of movement in the shoulders and no pulling on my arms.  It’s acceptable but I think I need more practice in it before I race in it. Training camp in May will provide that. The wetsuit test was really for Alcatraz in June.  I had no intention of wearing a wetsuit at St. A’s the water temp ended up being 73 degrees and that was perfect temp for me and no westsuit needed.  But Alcatraz is going to be cold and I’m a little nervous about my asthma and the cold so long-sleeved wetsuit needed. Swam for about 15 minutes with wet suit and another 15 without.  Water was amazing!

I picked up my bike, went for a 20 minute ride just to make sure everything was working and racked my bike in transition.  Melissa and I went to Prima for dinner downtown, we both LOVED it and will go back again.

Race morning Melissa and I got up 5 a.m.  For breakfast I had a protein shake, and one piece of bread with earth balance spread.  I also drank a bottle of Infinit (my custom sports drink).  All together about 550 calories.  That was more than enough — I didn’t need the bread.  I couldn’t eat my banana.  For next time I’ll know protein shake and bottle of infinite would be enough — maybe do the banana instead of the bread.  But morning calories I think were just right and I made sure to hydrate a lot the two days prior to the race.  I think I did that all right.

I made one executive decision that was probably not the smartest.  I felt my tires in transition and I decided to not pump them.  They felt just right to me and I had tested my bike out the day before and they felt okay.  I just didn’t want to muck around too much with my bike.  A little voice just told me to leave her alone so I did. I was afraid of the rising heat temps and that maybe they would explode (happened to me in Disney 1/2 IM).  In retrospect I probably should have pumped the tires more — might have given me a smidge more speed.  But sometimes you just go with your gut.  They felt fine during the race.  I did not feel like I was riding on low tires.

Got my transition set up in a jiff and Melissa and I headed down to the swim start.

The big news at St. A’s is that they have changed the swim course.  Instead of swimming from the pier out and counter clock wise to Vinoy Park, you swim from a northern beach and swim clockwise down to Vinoy Park.  It looked to me that we would be swimming against the current most of the time but the water seemed calm enough that it wouldn’t matter.

Also new for the swim is it is an in-water start.  Because the water is so shallow to about 75 meters out into the bay, each wave (group of athletes) entered the corral and then walked out to the start in the water.  When the gun goes off athletes would start swimming from the water instead of running in from the beach as in previous years.  I liked the new start much better.  Seemed less chaotic.

My wave was one of the earliest.  I went off at 7:05 with the women over 60 and the Athena women (over 150 pounds).  I was so excited to see Sister Madonna Buder was there to swim in my wave.  Nobody was announcing her name or making the big hulabaloo they made in Canada that she was in the race.  I actually got a chance to walk up and meet her in person (I’ve been to hear her speak.)  82 years old, full-time nun, part-time triathlete, multi-time Ironman.  I really admire her spirit and love for the sport.  It made my day to be able to speak to her.

I was happy to get an early start.  In past years I’ve had to wait as much as 2 1/2 hours for my wave start and that is grueling.  But with every give there is a take and my one draw back is that after my small wave of maybe 20 women in pink caps, came the Men.  Rough guestimate from the results but approximately 400 men swam past me in the race. I’m not making that up, about 400 man swam past me in the 44 minutes I was out there.  The next group of women would not be in the water until an hour after me so I knew there would be no women coming up behind me. That meant anyone who swam 5, 10 or 15 minutes faster than me would be swimming over me and past me.  Rough peruse of the results showed 400 men did that.  Males swimmers are not quite as polite as female. I knew I had two choices, swim wide and let them pass me or swim my regular line and be prepared to be kicked and pushed.  I decided to hold my line and if they were going to swim past me I was going to try to catch a draft.  Yes I got knocked around a couple of times (one big wallop to the head), but for the most part as long as I swam straight, they didn’t bother me.  Maybe that was a mistake to stay in the fray, but I think it was good experience.

Of everything, I was disappointed in my swim result.  I felt that I was swimming with a decent effort the entire time.  I didn’t stop, pause, go too far off course and yet I was six minutes slower than my predicted time.  It took me 44 minutes instead of my predicted 38.  I’m still not exactly sure why.  I did feel there was some resistance and chop as we took the left turn out to sea but I thought for sure the draft I would get would make up for it.  This was no lake swim for sure but I really didn’t feel I was swimming that slowly.  Not sure if I will ever figure that one out but that was about six minutes of my overall 30 minute overage.  My recent pool swim times have been just about the same, no big difference there.  Just a mystery.

I had a decent transition onto my bike.  I didn’t bother with things like socks or gloves.  3 minutes and change is pretty good for me in transition.

One note.  My doctor gave me a new inhaler on Thursday.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!   Normally I get out of the water and spend the entire time on the biking coughing and most of the run wheezing.  NONE of that.  It was amazing.  My lungs were clear, clear, clear.  Even better than my old inhaler (which was expired).  The new one really seems to work great. AND, I didn’t spend the next 24 hours coughing either (which is usually what happens after a big workout of breathing deeply.) Very pleased with that.

The bike.  Yep, for me it all boils down to the bike.  One thing I do wish I had done was have a bike tune up.  Tina (my bike) has not had a tune up since 2010 and I know both she and I would benefit from one.  I just didn’t have time before I went down.  I also didn’t have time to even clean her up.  I took her right from my 80 mile ride on Saturday to the bike shop for shipping.  At the bike shop they said I needed to get my hub fixed and it was time for a new chain.  None of that would have a huge impact on my performance but maybe a little.

Although I had a tremendous fun on the bike — St. Anthony’s is all about how I like to ride, get into Aero, big chain ring and pump, I was over ten minutes slower than my best. I only averaged 17.1 mph. I’ve averaged 19 mph in the past. That actually made up a big chunk of my total-time overage.

I made sure to set a minimum cadence of 82 (82 seems to be my natural cadence and if I shoot for 90 I often end up 82 or higher).  I seemed to be at 85-87 every time I looked down at my cadence.  I was pleased with that.

Weather was perfect.

I did my bike nutrition right.  One bottle of Infinite and one bottle of plain water (remembering my lesson from my workouts in NJ several weeks ago when I drank too much Infinite without plain water and got stomach issues.)

The biggest difference this year for me was I usually spend the bike portion of the race passing people. I am usually one of the last waves and I just pick people off one by one.  This was different. It was a wall of men passing me.  I really couldn’t believe it.  It was bizarre. These were all the men left who had not passed me in the swim. It was their turn to pass me on the bike. Anytime I wanted to pass someone there were five guys on my left passing me.  I didn’t find anyone to pass until mile 10 (which was a weird feeling).  Just swarms of guys and the race officials were out in full force looking to give penalties.  I didn’t even bother doing my sit up and look innocent “not me drafting sir.”  Even when I was going 19 mph they were just swooshing by me.  I saw maybe two women ahead (out and back) and I think about 3 women did pass me (you mean I was faster than someone on the swim? or they just took a long time in transition).  Other than that it was just me and this wall of testosterone.  I was not so sure I liked this early wave start.  I do better when I have someone to hunt down.  I lost a lot of time on the turns because these guys were just crazy — they would just cut everyone off (not just me). But I kept focusing on a good cadence and every once in awhile I tried to get out of my comfort zone.   But I started to think that the weather was pretty nice, if I didn’t kill my legs I might actually have a run come out of me.

The run. The first couple of miles I just took my time warming up and getting used to the heat.  It was hot but it wasn’t humid so I was okay. And that inhaler was really working! I was actually able to get myself up to running 4 minutes, walking 1 and dumping a lot of water on my head at the water stops.  Several people commented on how I was one of the few women out there.  “I said I know it’s weird.”  It wasn’t until about mile 3 when I started to see more women flying past me.  Around mile 4 Sister Madonna Bruder passed me and I yelled out her name.  She lifted her arms as if flying — the flying nun.  She was pretty skippy if you ask me.  It was mile 5 and 6 that I found really hard.  No shade and the sun was just beating down.  I had to drop to a 2 minute run 1 minute walk.  It was just too hot and I could feel my heart rate going through the roof.  Despite that I still felt good.  I wasn’t in pain, I just didn’t want to have a heart attack or anything.  My mantra became, “I am strong and I am grateful.”  I saw ambulances ahead toward the finish line.  Turns out some guy had a heart attack just as he turned into the final finish shoot.  Apparently he grabbed his heart yelled out “oh crap” and went down.  I heard they were able to revive him and got him to an ambulance.  I’ve heard no other updates.

I was so grateful to be done.  I had no knee pain, no lung problems, no shooting pains in my butt, no hamstring problems — one calf cramp on the swim but it was short and at the end. Pain-wise, might have been one of my top pain-free races. I was happy. If had started even an hour later I’m not sure I would have had a “happy race.”  But I felt I had an even pressure on myself throughout the entire race.  Could have pushed harder?  Sure.  But this was not my A race.  This was a warm-up for me.  A chance to dust off the old triathlon skills.  Work out the kinks and be ready for the bigger races coming up.  Most of all it was a chance for me to have a race feeling good.  No dizziness, no hallucinations, no country music in my head, no pulling over into a coma, just a good even race from which I would recover and keep on going.  And that I had.  And for that I am grateful.


I’m a huge fan of Sister Madonna Buder Turns out she published a book in 2010. How did I not know that? I just ordered it, will read and review. It’s called “The Grace to Race.” And here’s a cute article about her with a few of her pearls

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Filed under Blogroll, Olympic Triathlons, Race Results, st. anthony's

4/26/10 St. Anthony’s #5

Monday.  Well my first triathlon of the year is over.  Can’t say it was particularly pretty but all in all I made the most of it and my biggest goals were met.

Before I start on my race story have to brag about my friend/coach Jac who came in 7th in her age group.  They called her name and gave her a plaque.  Very cool.  As I was going out on my run she was already done and cheering.

My friend Melissa made her big come back to racing as well.  Two babies one almost 4 and one only 15 months and Mommy Meliss kicked some butt on her first Olympic in six years?  I would hate to see what she would do with a bike that didn’t weigh a ton and without mountain bike tires….

The rest of my friends all had good races as well.  Everyone had something they were happy with. Everyone thought the swim was hard but they all fought through it.  Was a lovely bunch to hang with.

My number one goal for the race was to finish without feeling sick.  My number two goal was to finish the race with being able to function the next day.  What point would there be to finishing the triathlon and then being too tired to do anything for another two weeks?  Right now I am spending considerable time trying to find my boundaries.  How hard can I push without killing myself?  Where is the wall?  How do I get around it?

I had to keep reminding myself that I was not going to have the same results as 2007.  That would be ridiculous.  I had to keep reminding myself of that every 15 minutes because no sooner would I think “new year, new race” I would be doing all my but-what-ifs…  ..  This race was about relearning how to pace and to let the results reveal themselves.  “Start where you are” and all that. For all intents and purposes I’m a different person now and I’m starting all over.  That’s the mature me.  The immature me was thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna crush it, I’m going to be better than I ever was.”   What ridiculous games I play in my head.  I’m still carrying a lot of extra weight right now. I haven’t been training as long and hard, I am battling medical issues I didn’t battle then. Why oh why would I expect the same if not better results?  Because I’m a nut job that’s why.


They start the triathlon with athletes going off in groups also known as waves based on age or some other characteristic.  I race in a category called Athena (women over 150 pounds).  The race was starting at 7 a.m. and my wave was scheduled to go off at 8:51.  They close transition at 6:45 a.m. (transition is where you put your bike and gear and transition from swim to bike and bike to run.)  Once transition is closed you cannot get back in until you are in the race and finish the swim.  So obviously you want to make sure it is set up correctly.

We were all staying at the Pier Hotel which turned out to be a great location and really nice management.  The hotel itself is a very old and shabby but  I actually liked it.  My room was nice and roomy with an old fashioned claw tub (original), fridge, microwave and internet.  And the location was great.  Melissa and I were up at 4 a.m. because we couldn’t sleep so we went down to transition, set up and came back to the hotel to eat and I took a nap.  Yes I took a real nap — over 30 minutes I went out like a light and I needed it.  (I had been very, very tired the day before and had not been not looking too well.  Melissa was worried about me saying she never saw me like that — I kept saying, yeah this is how it is now.  It will blow over.)  After my race morning nap, I felt much better. Definitely felt well enough to do the triathlon.

We went down to the beach about 7:45 to see Melissa off.  Then I saw Jac off.  Then I waited  for my wave to go off.  And I waited.  They announced that they were holding up the race and redoing the swim course due to wind.  I guess it was too choppy far out and people were getting pulled out of the water.  So they stopped for about 30 minutes and moved the buoys to shorten the course from .9 of a mile to .6.   Instead of going off at 8:51 I went off at 9:21. The pros were finished as we sat on the beach waiting to start.  I sat in the shade on the beach waiting for my start and had a nice long chat with a gal from Florida and have a long list of open water swims for my friend Deanne to do.

My swim took me 23.55 minutes which is about on par with what I usually swim.  Figuring it that had been .9 instead of .6 it would come out to about 36 minutes and that’s in my ball park.  It’s apples and oranges though, different course, different length, different conditions.  You can’t really compare.

I felt fine in the water.  No wetsuit for me (because the like the rest of my clothes it doesn’t fit!) and the water was really warm and beautiful so I probably wouldn’t have worn one anyway for that distance.  I think they said it was 74 degrees.  I tried to swim a little harder because I knew it was a shorter distance.  On the way back I was fighting some current but I ended up with a couple of fellow blue caps at the end and we swam into the finish together.  That made me feel not so terrible.  I was not the last in my wave.  I felt like I always do coming out of the water — wanting to swim more.  I really love open water swimming and I felt like everyone else got the full Sundae and I got a small scoop of vanilla with a few sprinkles.  I had to remind myself that I got a nice swim in the day before for a half hour and also the day before that (the day when Rob and Anne were being chased by a dolphin!)

Transition 1 (swim to bike). 4:26 I have no idea why this took so long.  I didn’t even put socks on this time.  I think it is because I took the time to sunscreen myself and then I had a long run out of transition.


The bike, the bike, the bike.  For me it’s all about the stupid bike.  I measure everything about my fitness on the bike.  I kept reminding myself to not expect the same result as last time.  Frankly not sure how I ever did 19 miles per hour last time.  But once I was out on the course I remembered how.  It is flat as a pancake.  About 10 miles in I started to explore pushing it a little harder.  I wasn’t sure exactly how hard to push to have something left to run with so I just focussed on a nice cadence and noticed that my speedometer spent a lot of time saying 17.  There were some downhill grades where I saw 21 a lot, but for the most part I saw 17.  My final time was 1:25 which comes out to about 17.4 and six minutes slower than last time.  I’d like to say it was the headwinds but I  remember there being a lot of headwind last time too.  I’m just slower now.  I’ll get there.

The part that meant the most to me was about mile 10.  I was hunkered down (in aero the entire race), starting to feel like maybe I could push a little harder and I was overcome with that old familiar feeling.  I LOVE THIS.  I love, love, love to bike.  I love to bike like this.  I love to race triathlon style.  I love the goal, I love the people ahead of me, I love passing people, I admire people who pass me.  I love playing tag with a couple of people.  I love how my legs feel when they are in that perfect cadence and I just love how I feel when I’m doing this.  In almost all of my triathlons I have this moment on the bike.  A feeling of  being totally present — one with my endorphins and happy as a clam.

No incidents on the bike.  I was cautious on the corners (saw a couple of bleeders out there).  I practiced my shifting.  Coach George in my head to increase my cadence before I shifted to a harder gear — something I don’t really do.  For the 1:25 minutes I was out there I really tried to focus on that and accelerating out of the turns.  A lot of turns on this course.  No hills but a lot of headwinds and a lot of turns.

T2 (transition from bike to run): 4:55.  Another slow transition but I think this just may be my lot.  This time I paused to put socks on before the run.  Balega socks.  Coach Earl told me about these socks and I can’t say enough about them.  Balega, Balega, Balega.


My run was pretty miserable.  It was basically a walk.  I walked 85% and ran 15%.  Here is how it went.  Hot, couldn’t breathe.  I was sucking deep, deep wind.  Made it to an aid station, covered myself with 4 cups of water.  One on my head.  One down my front. One down my back, One in my face.   A nice breeze would come and with the water I would cool down enough and my breathing would calm down and I would start a nice little jog and think I can do this, I can do this.  Within 3 minutes the water was dried up, the heat was killing me and I was sucking wind again.  Walked to the aid station.  Repeat.

My heart rate was fine — 138 most of the time which means I should have been running but I didn’t trust how hard I was breathing.  The heavy breathing made me nervous that I might be doing something bad to myself and I didn’t want to end up sick at the end.  My legs felt fine.  It was my chest and I decided I needed to respect my limits and my inner fear.  Whenever I could, I jogged.  I walked mostly.  It was not a good run but for a walk it wasn’t bad, lol. 1 hour and 32 minutes.  This was a  far cry from my last showing at St. A’s in ’07 where I did an 11:35 (still not where I would like to be).  This was a 14 something.  Total time 1:32.  Walking pace.  Oh well.

After the race I felt okay and that was the big goal accomplished.  I did not feel sick, I did not feel nauseous, I was not in pain, I was not going to pass out.  None of the symptoms from the previous week at Hook mountain were there.

Things I did right.  I’m on week 2 of the mega vitamin doses.

I took my mega doses before I went to bed.  I think that maybe all the iron is making it hard for me to digest some of my food in the morning.  This way I figured it would be out of the way.

I stuck to almost all liquids.  Heed seems to be easier on my stomach.  It tastes blah but I don’t get any queasy when I take it.

  • 6:00 For breakfast I had a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter (compliments of the hotel).
  • 6:30  banana.
  • I drank another bottle of water.
  • 8:30 I took a gel and drank a small bottle of orange gatorade thinking I was going off at 8:51.  Nothing else until I got out of the water.
  • 1 gel in transition before getting on the bike.
  • I did two bottles on the bike (more concerned about getting enough fluids than calories).  I drank 2 bottles in 1:25 which is good (Normally I drink about 1 bottle an hour).  Each bottle had 100 calories so I got in 200 cals for the bike and more importantly, plenty of water.
  • On run I carrried another bottle of Heed with another 100 calories and drank that during my run.

Felt fine.  No bonking.  That was enough calories for the day.

Sleep.  I got six hours the night before plus a nap.  I think the nap did more than the six hours.

Total time 3:30.  Add another 12 minutes if I had done the complete swim.  Eh, not great but not unexpected….

Biggest goal was met.  I completed the race.  Today I feel 100% okay.  Will need a nap but that’s okay.  Muscles are fine.  Ego is okay.  Love for the sport of triathlon renewed.

Abundantly grateful for the opportunities to do what I do and for the fantastic friends I have to do them with.  I was so happy to share this experience with friends from all stages of my triathlon “career.”

I’m starving, time for brekkie.


Name: Constance Carpenter
Race number 3578

Wave: Athena
Total Time: 3:30.49
swim 23.55.49
t1: 4.26.60
bike: 1:25.17
t2: 4.55.42
run: 1:32.12

mile 1 13.40.05
mile 2 14.34.25
mile 3 15.34.58
mile 4 15.03.27
mile 5 15.53.28
mile 6.2 17.28.60

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Filed under Blogroll, Olympic Triathlons, st. anthony's

4/29/07 Thanks, I Needed That! (St. Anthony’s 2007)

Monday.  Well finally some good news to report.  I did well (for me) at St. Anthony’s.  I PR’d by 13 minutes 16 seconds.  Yeah, I needed that.  I really, really needed that.  Interestingly, I didn’t do it how I had planned.  I had expected to maintain my swim and bike and push the run.  Well you could knock me over with a feather when I saw that I did it on the bike and swim!  Almost 5 minutes on the swim and almost eight minutes off the bike.  I even PR’d the lame run by a minute and 30 seconds!!    I averaged 19 and change miles per hour on the bike and in fact,  I saw a couple of opportunities to even do that a little better.  I’m still having a hard time digesting this fact.

My swim was not bad at all for me.  38minutes which was also a PR (personal record).   I opted to NOT wear a wetsuit because the water was quite warm and on Saturday, Rob (one of my teammates) and I swam the entire course and we both thought the water was great.   We also both felt that we would have no problem whatsoever going out and doing it again.  That was a real confidence booster.

When I got into the water race morning I had a goal of pulling and finishing every stroke from the start (just like I finished the practice swim on Saturday).  I wanted to do what we have been doing in our workouts.  First start with establishing the right form.  I wanted to rotate on each side, reach long, fingers in first, pull and stay “in the tube” and most of all stay strong.  I feel I did this.  Then I wanted to slowly keeping putting on the gas until max effort at the end.  Mission accomplished.

I do, however, see room for improvement in not going off track so much.  I was sighting every 8-10 strokes, but every 8-10 strokes I was already off course a little so I had to make a lot of adjustments.  I was swimming too far out away from the buoys.  (I had wanted to avoid the crowds but the way they did the wave starts I had nothing but women around me  – -they are much more polite than the guys and nobody was bothering me at all.)  So next year — stick closer to the buoys – -no need to swim out so far and I bet I could knock a couple of minutes (maybe 2-3) off that time.  If I added a wetsuit it might be a smidge faster but I really enjoyed the swim without it.  I truly enjoyed every single second of that swim.

I think my  T1 was about normal.  Nothing too exciting there.  When I was in the water I kept rehearsing.  Gloves, helmet, glasses, socks shoes —  go.  It was a short course so I’ll be honest, I didn’t even care about taking any food with me.  I threw an emergency gel in my back pocket but was planning on relying on my Infinit formula in my hydration system and I felt that was going to be more than enough.  I would drink plenty of the formula to get my hydration and calories.

The bike.  I don’t even know what to say.  Right out of the gate I was passing people.  I didn’t think I was going so fast, I just thought everyone else was having a problem getting warmed up.  In the first mile or so I looked at my speed and it was only 17 mph and I thought — that’s about right and I figured my time was going to be about the same as 2005.  (My 2006 results included a broken toe so we have to kind of throw those out).  I really just concentrated on being in the right gear and pedalling at 90 rpm — whatever gear I needed to be in to do that I would stay in that.  I did notice that I had to keep clicking into a harder gear to feel resistance.  It wasn’t until about mile 3 when I looked down and saw 21 mph and thought — hmmm I must be on a downhill or something.  I was aware that I was passing a large number of people.  Frankly I didn’t think much of it because people were passing me.  At 21 mph, they must have been going 24 or better.  I will say a couple of times I thought I could throw it into a harder gear and catch someone but thought better of it and just tried to maintain the 90 rpm.  I kind of pysched myself out — I don’t ride that fast — I better stay right where I am.  (At one point my teammate Celeste passed me and shouted C’mon! And I cranked it up a bit.  She kind of snapped me out of my I’m-just-happy-to-be-nominated mode and back into hey-I-might-win-this-mode!)

I was terrible on the turns — people I had just passed on the straight away were passing me.  I felt something wobbly in my wheel but only on the turns.  I’ll get it checked out when I get the bike back.  A couple of times I thought I might stop and check my wheel but then I would start riding on the straight away and felt okay.  But taking the sharp turns I stunk.  As long as I stayed in aero (no problem) and just pedalled I was fine.   I lost some time on the turns — there were quite a few and I really had to slow down and then start back up on each one.  The good riders were sailing right through them.

When I passed the 10 mile marker and my watch read 30 minutes flat, I knew that I was going to PR the bike.  It seemed impossible that I did 10 miles in 30 minutes flat (it actually read 30:00 on my watch).  At the 20 mile marker my watch read 1:01, I knew I was going to be sub 1:20.  The last 4.8 miles had a little wind and a slight upgrade then those cobble stones in the street so that defnitely slowed me down.  I was sure my wheel would fall off or something right there, but Tina hung onto the end.  (I think my front hub might need to be tightened) but I figured I would just go until something happened and made me stop if I had to run in the last 50 yards, I’d do it.  In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t stop because that could have cost me some time that I didn’t need to lose.

When I saw 1:17 on my watch I knew I had already PR’d the course.  In a way that was a bad thing.  I knew going into the run that I simply had to maintain my previous years’ abyssmal runs and I would still have a PR.  The Hook mountain humiliation was still stinging in my memory and I was very nervous starting the run.  I was deliberately slow on the first mile (even stopped for a very quick, quick bathroom break on the course — really about 1 minute).  When I hit mile 2 I saw a second 13 minute mile and I thought — fine — that’s just fine, so far so good.  I wasn’t going fast but I wasn’t in pain and my goal for the run quickly changed.  I wanted to maintain good posture and have a pain-free run.  I’ll admit I kind of tanked on the run.  I had more in me to run harder but it was so important for me to know that I could get through 6.2 miles without my knees giving out that I just kept concentrating on form, form, form.  It was hot.  I needed a little confidence building.

I carried a bottle with some Infit solution in it for the first 3 miles.  My plan was not to stop, but by mile 3 I was really hot and I had to pause to throw water on my face and neck.  The heat wasn’t as bad as previous years — it was definitely hot with little or no shade — 85+ degrees and direct sun.  But it didn’t have the humidity that I remembered from previous years.   This time was just about the direct, unrelenting Florida heat.  It wasn’t as bad as Disney 1/2 Ironman (nothing will ever be as bad as that).  But I would say the heat was a factor.  Was it the only factor?  No.

I’m not going to get down on myself for not running the best race I could run.  I accept the fact that I made a compromise to have an enjoyable race (which I did) vs. another painful one two weeks in a row.    The bottom line is I needed to feel good again.  I needed to feel like this isn’t pain and torture and although it is not easy, this was not going to kill me either.  I just wanted to feel confident again.  And that’s what I got.  I now know that a 3:15 is in my power.  (Breaking 3:13 would be majorly cool because that would be 1 hour off my 2004 time.)  I know I can knock 3 minutes off that swim by swimming a little straighter and smarter.  I know I can knock maybe 4 minutes off that bike?  I really slowed down on all those turns and I also psyched myself out with my biking identity.  But the reality is I got off that bike and I felt like I hadn’t even tapped into my legs.  My quads weren’t even awake yet.  So I think I have some more that I can give on the bike and I’ll be honest that shocks me a little.  When did that happen?  Granted this was  flat course but I don’t remember ever seen 24 mph on the flats before — or maybe I have and I just forgot?  I saw 24 several times (when I thought to look) and had I tried harder to maintain that speed for longer periods I think I could have.   It is not often I get a flat course.

It just goes to show you how much all of this is self-perception.  I don’t think of myself as an above average cyclist but now I am going to start thinking that maybe I really can develop this.  This is the second time I’ve come in 3rd in my class on the bike (Athena women over 40).  I came in 3rd in Firmman and 3rd at St. A’s.  And I came in 19th out of 27 in my group.  That’s a big difference from last weekend when I came in last, last, last and not to mention last.  I walked away from this race feeling like, yeah, I could go longer with the right pacing (I could definitely double that  swim and quadruple that bike tomorrow — then follow begrudgingly with a run).  It was just what I needed, a little confidence regained.  After Hook I had started to feel like maybe I was just kidding myself.  I was beginning to feel like I was never going to get any better.  I’ve been concentrating so much on my running performance that I never noticed that my swimming and biking had been creeping along without much commentary.

My running gets the opportunity to get judged a lot.  Either with NYRR races or team workouts — I am constantly reminded about my running.  I’m slow, I have bad knees, I’m old.  But I don’t have the same measurements for swimming and biking.  Yes we have our time trials in the pool but those really don’t reflect an open water race.  And although I’ve seen small improvements in the pool, it’s not until you see almost 5 whole minutes knocked off your best swim that you think, “okay that’s a little better.”  But the bike really surprised me the most.  I haven’t had any measurement of bike improvement.  Keep up with the group.  Don’t die on the hill.  Stand up once in awhile.   There’s no race measurement there.  And, frankly, I thought my previous 1:25 was pretty darn good.  It didn’t occur to me that might improve.

So overall I am very happy.  Happy that finally a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe after all of this hard work that there is hope after all.

Best of all I got to enjoy a great weekend with some great friends and we all had a wonderful time.  What could be better than that?



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5/1/06 BroomHILLda Rides Again!

Monday. The first race of the season is over and all of my hopes and ambitions for a great PR dissolved into a poof of smoke. Not only did I NOT beat last year’s time, I took longer. Probably about 5 minutes – I’m too disgusted to actually look. But the good news is that I learned a lot from this race. Funny how I get the opportunity to learn that lesson over and over – you learn more from the bad races than the “good” ones.

The swim was the choppiest water I’ve seen at St. A’s in the last three years. Real swells but they didn’t bother me that much. I thought I was swimming fine but my .9 swim ended up at something like 45 minutes and I just felt at times I was going nowhere. I still enjoyed that water though and thought it was warm and a great swim. A lot of people were having trouble with it so I’m just chalking that one up to a same old same old. (Note: my abuterol seemed to help.)

I was doing fine on my bike… to start. I was looking at 18-20 mph easily on the bike (and honestly could have gone even faster if I hadn’t been a chicken). Although I was very comfortable in my aerobars and would have been able to stay in them for a much longer time, my seat was extremely uncomfortable and distracting. I had put a new seat on a couple of weeks ago and had purposely pointed the nose more downward to make it more comfortable. I had also done a test ride and though it seemed better. On mile twenty, out of nowhere, my seat suddenly snapped back in a jolt and the nose pointed upward at about a 70 degree angle. Can we all say ouch!! I didn’t know what to do. Stop and fix it or just gut it out for 5 more miles? I really didn’t want to stop because I knew it would take 10 minutes to fix it so I just kept going – sitting upright and trying to rise up out of my seat as much as I could. I finished my bike 2 minutes slower than last year!!! On my new fancy Titanium bike!!! Can you believe it?!?!

I didn’t tape my toe on the bike because my feet were too wet to bandage them and I figured I would just see how it went (so what I was doing in transition for 4 minutes is beyond me!) Believe it or not the toe barely hurt at all on the bike. As a matter of fact, my seat hurt so much that I didn’t even think about my broken toe. So, when I got off the bike I decided to just try to run without bandaging my toe and see how it went. There seems to be a fury once the race starts and stopping to do things like adjust bike seats and wrap toes just don’t seem to be efficient uses of time.

My run was a distaster. I hadn’t run for 2.5 weeks and my legs were in a total revolt. My quads were killing me (probably the last five miles on the bike.) I just didn’t want to do it. I was in mental anguish. I just kept repeating “I can’t do a half ironman, look, I can barely get through this.” I “had” to stop and walk. Why? I can’t really tell you. It was a purely mental breakdown. It was if I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t ready for Disney. That is all I could think about. If this race is this hard, how am I ever going to do Disney?!?!? Soon I had so psyched myself out about the race that I was giving up on Disney before I even finished St. Anthony’s. Of course that made me mad at myself and the self-flagellation began.

I would like to say that my broken toe was the cause for my bad run. But really, it barely hurt at all – maybe a little annoying discomfort but on a pain scale of 1-10 where 1 is a body massage and a 10 is a root canal – I would say it was about a 4 – annoying but tolerable pain. IT band with knee pain hurts much, much more. There really was no reason for not running – other than trying to PROVE to myself that I really couldn’t do a half ironman. See how hard it is for me to do this? I can’t possibly do twice this much. All of that negative self-talk got me what I was looking for – a way out.

After a truly unspectacular finish (I couldn’t even muster a little extra kick for the finish line) I got some water and meandered into the Team in Training tent to check in. There I saw Dave Scott (6 time Ironman Champion) sitting at a table with no one around him.) He was about to get up to leave and I said “whoa, wait a minute – can I just say hello?” Then I said “hey I just had a terrible race, but I had a broken toe, do I get points for that?” He laughed and said “yeah, sure.” But the little voice inside my head was chanting “liar, liar, your broken toe didn’t even bother you (thanks to 4 tylenol 8 hour pills). You barely noticed it at all until you kept concentrating on it. Why don’t you tell Dave Scott was was really wrong – you’re a chicken. You just didn’t want to try because you wanted to prove you were not ready for Disney. Man, pyschosis runs deep.

I promised some of the participants that I would find them on the course. I should have run back out there but my bad attitude had taken over. I would walk out there but I wouldn’t run. So there! On my way out I saw Coach Scott. I told him I had a bad race. I let my head get in the way and now I had a lot of doubt about Disney. He said “now you know why this race was here – to show you what you had to work on. Now you know it is your head.” Dang, I thought he was going to say “well maybe you should do Disney next year.” I turned to Michelle (who had a spectacular race – placed 9th in her category and PR’d on her overall race) and said “I don’t think I can do Disney.” To which she and Lisa (on the Disney team) both chimed in unison “Of course you can do Disney!!” I walked away muttering and mumbling to myself it’s going to be hot and twice as long as this race and I’m going to hate it and I don’t want to do it and I, and I, and I…. give up.

I proceeded to concentrate on cheering in the other participants. That was just great. Watching them all struggle and try to get through to the end really inspired me. So many of them had overcome fears and obstacles to get to the end I was really humbled (and disgusted with my own lack of fortitude). I watched one of the participants starting the run a good fifteen minutes after I was finished. She came out of the bike transition crying and upset. “I can’t do this” she cried. YOU CAN, YOU CAN I yelled to her. She kept going and God love her some 14 minute mile later she finished the race. But she wasn’t even the last one. The woman who came in last hung onto the kyacks in the water while THROWING UP. They wanted to pull her in but she refused. She hung out in the water for 85 minutes determined to finish the race. And she did. She never gave up. I was disgusted with myself. I had sunken to the lowest run of Dante’s Circle of Triathlon Hell – Complacency!

While waiting for some of the participants to come in, I broke my decision to Kristine the coordinator. “I can’t do Disney” I told her. “WHAT? “ She was shocked. “No, based on today, I see now that I am just not ready and I really shouldn’t be doing a half ironman. I’ve made my decision, I’m backing out.” She refused to hear anything of it. “Are you telling me that you are not doing Disney because you had a bad result today?” What would you tell another participant? “ Okay, now here is the really sad part. I thought (but didn’t say out loud) well I would tell a participant that of course they could do it – they could do anything they set their mind to because THEY actually have unlimited potential. I, on the other hand, do not. I’ve reached my limit. I’ve peaked. I’m never going to get any better so I might as well quit now. I’ll be last in Disney, they’ll be pulling down the tents and everyone will be in the Jacuzzi while I’m struggling over the finish line. Or worse, they’ll all be lined up in horror watching my terrible finish with looks of disbelief on their faces “what was she ever thinking? She shouldn’t be out there. Why did they let her into this race?”

It’s funny how the universe always has a response. What was looking like the worse race of my short, insignificant and imminently ending triathlon career ended up being a really great lesson taught to me by three angels – Michelle, Martha and Amy. Wow, did they ever hold a mirror to my egg-besmeared face and show me what a fraud I had become.

This morning the four of us went out for another swim in Tampa bay. We swam out the end of the pier and back and I loved it. It was just great to be in the Ocean and swimming along seeing other heads bobbing along side. (At least for awhile – they were all faster than me but at least I could keep them somewhat in sight.) Then we sat on the beach and shared stories of training and hopes and dreams and aspirations. Amy who did a 2:45 race (unfathomable to me) revealed that two years ago St. A’s was her first race and she did 3:44 (similar to my finish time today). But after years of training (now for the Ironman) she had a quadruple PR. PR in her swim, PR in her bike, PR in her run and an overall PR. We talked about the journey of the ironman and how there are voices (or demons I call them) deep down inside and that it is a personal journey of discovery. I had lost sight of that for a moment. Martha calls it a Broomhilda moment. Broomhilda ran my race today and locked me out. (Mo later upgraded the name to BroomHILLda which I thought was so very clever!)

Michelle has come back from overcoming serious illness. Last year at St. Anthony’s she couldn’t compete. She couldn’t even stand through the whole race due to the extreme pain she was in. One year later not only did she have a great race, she had a PR over her pre-illness races. How’s that for a come back? She has something to race for. For reclaiming her life. For celebrating her life. She ran to prove she could do something. Turns out I was running to prove I couldn’t. Wow, scary.

After we checked out of the bed and breakfast (which we all loved and booked for next year), we stopped for lunch and Martha relayed the story of her first event. I won’t tell all the details as let’s just say it is her race and I don’t want to tell her story, but I found it inspiring. She originally signed up to do an Olympic distance tri. It was changed into a half-ironman. She stayed with it. She had not been an athlete prior to this event, but she had raised a lot of money and she wasn’t going to let her patrons down. Despite multiple people trying to talk her out of it she refused to give up (or give in.) Much like the woman clinging for 85 minutes in the water. Refusing to give up. The humiliation of my own terrible performance hardened in my gut as she told us an amazing story of perseverance. I felt sick at my own loss of perspective.

I told them that one of the coaches from last year had said to me that the hardest part about doing the ironman was believing you could do the ironman. Suddenly it became so very clear to me. OMG, what would have happened today if I had kept saying over and over “you are totally capable of doing this. You are able to do this well. You can do this.” What kind of race might I have had if I had said that instead of “I can’t do Disney, I can’t do Disney.” Okay maybe I am not so prepared that Disney will be easy. I’m not so prepared that St. A’s would be easy either. What race is easy? If it was easy everyone would do it. Triathlons are hard. They are personal challenges to everyone. Even the professionals hurt. If they thought it was easy then they would work harder so it hurt.

I had a little epiphany. I often say (as do others) that endurance sports are about conquering your demons. I knew there were demons rooting around down in my soul but I wasn’t sure what they were exactly. This weekend it felt like I reached down my throat felt around until I touched one of those demons and hauled it up kicking and screaming and plopped it on the table in front of us for everyone to see. It was the demon of self-doubt. The demon of self-criticism. The demon of “I’m afraid I can’t so I won’t try” who has haunted me many times in my life. My friends helped me poke at that demon and expose it for what it really is — a shadow. It’s not real. It’s only real when you feed it. When you say it exists it does. When you refuse to let it exist it doesn’t. It’s a shadow. I realized that I have total control over this demon. I can rule it before it rules me. I just have to believe it. But at least now, thanks to Martha, I know it has a name — BroomHILLda! Back into the box BroomHILLda, this girl has returned to Rumble one more time….


“Sever the ignorant doubt in your heart with the sword of self-knowledge. Observe your discipline. Arise.”
Bhagavad Gita

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4/25/2005 Week 16 Check In — Results Are In (197)

Monday. Week 16 Check in. Sorry there was no blog yesterday – no time due to race day. No weigh in either because I’m in Florida.

Well I’m not sure my results could have been much better. 3:39 was my race finish which is nothing short of miraculous. I’m still not sure how I did it and if it wasn’t on my watch and it wasn’t posted on the St. Anthony’s website I would never believe it. I’ve been getting a lot of pats on the back since yesterday. Prior to this my best time had been a 4:07. My time at St. Anthony’s last year was a 4:13. That’s a 32 minute performance increase in this race since last year. People don’t do 32 minute performance increases in triathlons – at least I didn’t think they did! Most people hope to shave 2 minutes off their time here or there and maybe try for a 10 minute overall increase or if they are pushing say a 15 minutes increase after a lot of training. But I have not heard of a 32 minute increase. Who does that? So let’s just say it was a 28 minute increase over Westchester and not sound so bizarre.

(Cheesy pose before race start.)

So how? Well I guess going to the numbers is the only way to tell. Last year St. Anthony’s my swim was 48 and this year was 43. That’s a decrease of 5 minutes. Part of that came from my entry into the water. They time you from the beginning of the wave start all the way until you are out of the water and entering the transition area. In past triathlons I was very cautious about entering the water. I still stand at the back of the pack, but I don’t walk in anymore, now I run in. When I first started the triathlons my heart rate would be so high that I had to walk in – otherwise I would have had a heart attack. Now I’m fairly calm so that’s not such an issue. And I push through.

My swim was great although I need to improve speed. I’m far too relaxed out there – still having an afternoon swim instead of racing. The most apparent improvement was my shoulder strength. I felt incredibly strong in my shoulders and that is what made me realize that I really could push harder. It also gave me incredible confidence. Although I’ve always been comfortable in the water, I usually look up and say – that’s far. Yesterday I KNEW I would have no problem swimming that distance and could have done it twice without blinking. I didn’t think that the triathlon was the place to practice my speed work. So that is my next goal – get in the pool and start some serious speed work. Endurance and strength is definitely there. I would like to see that swim number get down much more.

Next came my T1 (that is the first transition from swim to bike). I had decided to not wear a wetsuit which helped take some time off. I used to have a lot of difficulty in transition because I would keep thinking there was something I was missing. But one of the things that the coaches tell us to do is rehearse your transition in your mind during the last moments of your swim. So I was already rehearsing “lube, lube, lube.” My underarms were chaffing from the swim and I knew if I didn’t lube they would be raw by the run. Apparently this is a common malady early in the season – as we run more in sleeveless tops our arm skin becomes tougher. Remember they have been under a lot of garments all winter. So my T1 last year was 8:19 (that’s ridiculously long – nobody takes that long!) This year my T1 was a very respectable 3:32. So there’s another 5 minutes.

Well the big shocker came on my bike. This is the part I just can’t understand. I took 15 minutes off my bike! That’s huge. A couple of reasons that is huge. First, I can’t really give credit to the cooler temps because I don’t really feel the heat when riding my bike like I do when running. I couldn’t believe it. So I rode 25 miles in 85 minutes which comes out to around a 17.54 minute mile average. Riding 17 mph is not such a great feat – I do that and faster a lot. But riding it for 25 miles is pretty good for me and I felt good about that time. The big advantage of this course is that it is pretty flat. There was a lot of head wind, however, so that slowed people down a lot. I wonder how I would have done without the head wind? I kept pretending I was in spin class and hunkered down to cut through the wind. My legs felt really, really strong. I think I had a good cadence going, unfortunately I FORGOT to put my computer on my bike so who knows if I could have done better with that reminder.

The huge improvement on my bike was my core. HUGE improvement. I was able get down into the proper bike position with flat back and support myself for the whole ride instead of rounding my shoulders and putting pressure on my lower back. That was really significant, particularly for a flat ride. So again my strength felt greatly improved. I think I can get even faster on my bike. If I can get that up to an 18 minute mph avg. That would take another 13 minutes off my total time – that would be huge and something to work toward for next year. I’m thinking a 1:15 on a flat bike course would be a great goal. I was passing a lot of people on the bike, but all the gals with the serious tri outfits and serious tri bikes were passing me.

I took 1 minute off of my T2 (transition from bike to run) which actually should have been even less. A 3:14 is kind of long. A 2 minute transition is ideal there. I believe that’s what I did in Westchester. Transition time counts from the moment you enter the transition area til the time you exit.

On the run I dropped 8 minutes. I’m attributed that to the incredible weather. I didn’t feel much faster on the run. I took my splits and I started with a 12 minute mile and kept getting slower and slower until the end. Total time was 83:37 (91:51). I really want to get to a solid 66 minutes or better on the run. That may take another year to do. I felt slow but I had no lower back pain and not so much as a snap, crackle or pop from either of my knees. That in itself is the huge news about the race. That in itself is a miracle. It makes up for all of the disappointment about not being able to do the MORE and it makes up for the airport and the bike being missing. The fact that my legs not only held up pain free, but they knocked all of that time off of my race, makes me so happy.

My friend Melissa was a champ. She was there every minute cheering for me along the route. When I got to the run she kept running ahead (she runs VERY fast) and waited for me. She would cheer for me and then disappear. A mile or two later there she was again (still don’t know how she did that) but it helped a lot. It was great having someone there for support. I don’t know how much I would want to do this alone.

A lot of people were here from last year that were great and they were all congratulating me too. Scott Willet, head coach of TNT, saw me coming and shouted “way to go Connie” and took my hand for a few feet to run with me. I said “Scott, I can’t believe it, I’m going to break 4 hours.” He said “well, of course you are!! Now fast feet are happy feet, start pumping your arms and go, go, go.” I started pumping my arms and thought “dang, why didn’t I remember that before?!?!?!”

(This is me coming round the bend into the finish. Don’t know who the girl is in front of me, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t over take her.)

Melissa was there when I crossed the finish line. She looked all teary. She knows how much I wanted to break 4 hours. At the 4 mile marker I saw her and said, “Melissa, I’m at 3:07! 3:07!” I didn’t want to believe my watch though. I was thinking I have 53 minutes to do 2 miles to break 4 hours? I just can’t believe it. How did this happen? When did it happen? Who am I? What’s going on.

A handful of my friends who are really fast caught up to me on the run which is not unusual. The good part was I kept the average athletes at bay. There were a few key people that I wanted to make sure did not pass me and I was successful.

I feel good, I feel proud that I’ve worked hard and have seen some results. But, like the diet I feel like I have a long way to go. People were noticing how much weight I have lost, but when I look at the pictures I see how far I have to go. (I didn’t have to courage to post some of the hideous pictures.) Let’s just say I see LOTS of room for improvement. But losing 28 pounds and dropping 28 minutes over my results from Westchester leads to me wonder how far can I take this? If I lose another 30 pounds can I take another 30 minutes off? Is it possible that someday I might be able to break the 3 hour mark? Not this year and probably not next year either, but 2007, why not? Who knows, maybe I’ll be 50 years old and going to Kona, wouldn’t that be cool?!?!?!

For right now I have a couple of immediate goals. I am going to Memphis on May 22nd. This is the race I have been training for. I am not anticipating getting this same great result because 1) the course is not flat and 2) it is going to be HOT!!! Connie + Heat = slow….. But I am going to shoot for a 3:50 or better. I am not going to kid myself that I will get these ideal conditions again. Then I’ll have two months to prepare for New York City and I want to see a 3:45 or better there.

I am happy to bid good riddance to my 28 pounds and 28 minutes forever, but I realize they are both looking for a way back in. My job is to make sure they stay far, far away. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. It’s great to have everyone acknowledge my weight loss, but really I have a lot more to lose. Only now that I am getting stronger and seeing my results to I realize the potential I have to get stronger, fitter and faster.

I would like to send a big shout of of thanks to my WW group, My trainer Rhonda, my p.t. Cynthia, and all my friends who give me ongoing support and encouragement. This result was not just a personal result — it was a result of a larger group effort. I seriously could not have done it alone and I am very appreciative.

Food has been a disaster this weekend. Lots of celebratory drinks and lots of extra points here and there. I have made a strong attempt order healthy foods as much as possible and I’m sure it is not as bad as I think, but we’ll see on Friday when I return to Weight Watchers and the “Real World.” But for right now I feel optimistic, empowered, grateful and inspired to kick butt this summer.

Can you believe it? I can’t believe it. I think I did good.


T-Shirt worn by a lot of triathletes at St. Anthony’s: “If you don’t want to run with the big dogs, sit on the porch and don’t bark”


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