Thursday, July 3, 2014

The NUUNjas do Ragnar Wasatch Back

I ran Ragnar Wasatch Back this past weekend in the mountains of Utah. In it's 11th year running, this is Ragnar's original relay. Where it all started and where the name Ragnar came from.

Team Nuunjas was a bit of a random group, but we all meshed really well. No van drama, just all really awesome people that I'd do another relay with anytime. I have no motivation to recap the whole weekend in detail, so here's are some photos to tell the story.

I was runner 3 on the team and my first run was a 6.7 mile flattish run through beautiful Utah farm country. Strava file here.

We cycled through our first runs and handed off to Van 2 around 6pm. We took the baton back at around 10pm at Snowbasin Ski area.
Night time selfie!
My 2nd leg was my night leg. 5 miles slightly up hill. Very peaceful and oh so many stars in the sky. Strava file here. And Cameron took a video of my exchange with George!

Trying to sleep, but was not successful. At least I got to see the sun rise.
Team waiting for Tiffany to come into Exchange 24.
Utah is really pretty
My final leg was the more difficult of the three. 7.7 miles of a lot of up and a lot of down. Now, I hadn't been running like at all prior to this relay, so after my first two legs, I was sore, tired, and frankly didn't want to run 7.7 miles. But of course I wasn't going to quit before I finished, so I shuffled along, each step hurting more than the last. This run was an ugly one. I walked a lot, it was hot, I was cranky, just wanted to be done. Knowing that I didn't have to run 1 more step once I reached the next exchanged powered me to keep pushing. Strava file here.

My feelings about my final leg. I was being a little dramatic...
But then I was done and I was happy again!
The team rallied through everyone's final legs in the heat and after 31 hours of running, cheering, not sleeping, eating lot of Cheez-its and drinking a ton of Nuun, WE FINISHED!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ballard Crit

This was my first time racing the Ballard Crit, and my 2nd crit ever. There seemed to be a lot of hype around the race as it's the local crit, lots of spectators, big fields, and many racer's 'A' race of the year. Add a "our team is racing to win" email from our team president and I had a whole bunch of nerves in the days leading up to the race.

Although we were to "race to win," my personal goals for the race were to keep the rubber side down and to keep up with the main pack. I decided before the race started to not attack in this crit like I did at the Tour de Bloom in hopes that I could keep my energy to simply keep up and not get dropped.

Cat 4 women was the first race of many on Saturday afternoon starting at 3:30pm. I rode over from my house early, warmed up with teammates, previewed the course and tried to shake out all the nerves I could. My two teammates and I decided that none of us felt like we had a 'win' in us and that we would all ride the best we could and would only cover attacks if they were from certain teams.

The race started quick, but not "oh my gosh this this fast." I knew the money spot is 2nd, 3rd or 4th wheel, so I tried my best to stay right there. I took a few pulls and put in some work at the front so I wouldn't be considered a wheel sucker, but played it smart to not get too tired in the wind.

The best part of this race was having cheers around the entire course. I had tons of friends, teammates and family out and heard "GO MEGAN!" every single lap. I particularly liked it when my teammate Sean confirmed that I was in a good spot and he yelled "Stay right there!"

With 3ish laps to go, the pace was getting hotter and I knew this was the time to be near the front. I attempted to stay in a good place and as we rounded the 4th corner I went all out and sprinted to the finish taking 5th place. I am SO PUMPED with this race! I not only kept up with the main group, but I was aggressive and stayed near the front, but not work too much. This has been something I haven't been very good at, so executing it felt awesome. My sprint can use a lot of work, so I'll be working on that before my next crit on July 4th.

After the race, I stayed through all of the races to cheer on friends and drink beer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lately: Sea Otter, Ragnar Zion, Tour de Bloom

Since I last posted, I've been quite busy and I was close to not posting about all the adventures I've been on, but decided I better document them for future reference. I went to Sea Otter in California to work and race my bike, went to Utah for work and play and most recently, raced my first crit. It's been a busy month, so I'll give a quick run down of each. It's a little lengthy...

Sea Otter Road Race
Working Sea Otter Not much to be said there. I did get to get away one morning and race in the women's road race. Not knowing what to expect with being such a newby in the road racing scene and how I'd stack up with the California girls, I went into it with a "I'm doing this for fun" attitude.

The course was a roller coaster - up and down, up and down the entire time. It was a lolly-pop loop where we descended into a loop we'd do 4 times, then climb back up to the finish. With over 3k feet of climbing, this was easily the hardest race and maybe bike ride I've ever done. Short story: I got dropped on the first hill of the first loop, so went on a not really scenic bike ride with a few others who also got dropped, passed all of them and climbed my way into 6th place in the Cat 4s. We were racing with the 3s too, which made it hard to know who I was actually racing against. Surprisingly, I earned 1 point in this race toward a Cat 3 upgrade.

Ragnar Trail Zion
This trip was quite the adventure. Last year's race left expectations of hot sun and high altitude headaches, so when the chance-for-rain forecast came out for this year's race I was like, wtf. The first day of the relay went off like any other trail relay does and things were going just dandy. I had my first run at 5pm, which was the Red Loop (8.3 miles). With my lack of running lately, it was hard, but enjoyable and the scenery wasn't to be beat!

As the sun set, I had the usual night time running anxiety, but made it through the Yellow loop (4.5 miles) at 1:30am. As I came in off my run, it had started to sprinkle, just a tad. I climbed into the tent to catch some sleep and was woken to the sound of pouring rain. I got texts from my teammates saying it was too dangerous to run on the muddy, river-like trails, so we decided to wait until dawn to decide what we were going to do to finish the relay. Well, I woke up to Catey opening the tent for me to see that it was a winter wonderland outside and it was snowing fairly hard. Our team decided  quickly to quit, but shortly after, Ragnar called the race, so we don't consider ourselves quitters. :)

I assigned myself to work Ragnar Trail Zion so I could tack on a few vacation days after the relay to explore Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Here are a few of my favorite photos and here is a video I made of our hike in Zion.

Tour de Bloom - Crit
Tour de Bloom is an omnium meaning it has 3 stages (hill climb, crit and road race), but you can pick and choose which events you want to do or you can do all three and go for the GC (general classification). Relatively last minute, I decided to drive East to Wenatchee with my bike friends for a weekend of bike racing fun. I decided to skip out on the hill climb and just do the crit and road race. After getting back from Utah 4 days prior, I wasn't feeling like my legs could get after 3 hard efforts in 2 days.

This was my first criterium, so the nerves were all over the place. Luckily, I had 5 other teammates in the race who helped me chill out a bit. Unlike road races, once the whistle blows, its go time. No neutral roll out, no ease into the race, just go, and go hard. I quickly felt the intensity in my legs and lungs and wondered how the hell I was going to sustain this effort for 30 minutes.

After a few laps, my teammate crashed out. It was bad. Probably the scariest thing I've ever seen on a bike. I felt like I should have stopped to help her (I'm sure everyone else did), but we had to continue the race. Crashes happen. As we came around for the next lap, we were stopped by the officials because she was receiving medical attention and we had to go back to the start line where we'd resume the race once the course was clear. You could feel the nerves in our group after watching the crash...

Anyway, the race went on. After we restarted, I hung on for about 2 laps then decided to try out a break away. Had I ever done this before? No. Did I know what I was doing? No. But I did learn from the men's 4/5 race that we needed to work to tire out the rest of the pack, but keep our girls who were going for the GC fresh for the sprint finish. I did my work, but spent all my pennies. The peleton caught me and I quickly found myself at the back, then struggling to stay attached, then officially...dropped. I spent the next 13ish laps working with 2 other girls. I'd pull for a lap, they'd pull for a lap. We were THIS CLOSE to getting lapped, but held on and we finished a minute or so after the main pack. I did out sprint the 2 other girls I was with - win for me!

I found my teammates, congratulated Steph who took 2nd, checked in on Elizabeth who crashed (she is okay!), then had to sit on the sidewalk because I was so exhausted. 10.8 miles, 30 minutes of hard riding and I was SPENT. Lot's to learn about crit racing, but I liked the environment and constant cheers. This won't be my last crit.

Tour de Bloom - Road Race
I was up all night with a stomach ache that lingered into the start of the race, so I was starting off on a great foot that morning. Ana, Mal and I warmed up on the last 4 miles of the course and discovered we'd be finishing into a gnarly headwind. Note taken. We knew the race would be windy because we were literally in the middle of Washington state where fields and rolling hills make up the landscape. In other words, nothing to block the wind. Since we had raced the crit the day before and a couple of the girls had done the hill climb, none of us were really excited to jump into this race.

Can you tell how excited we are?
The course was a 34 mile loop with lots of rollers and maybe two substantial climbs. According to Strava, we climbed 1,400ft, but it felt as if we climbed more...probably because of the headwind, everything felt uphill. I distinctly remember miles 21-26ish feeling like absolute crap. I was so close to dropping off the back a number of times, but each time I fought back to stay on knowing getting dropped would suck more than working hard to stay on. And with the relentless wind, if you did get dropped there was very little chance you could catch back on, so that was motivation to keep digging.

Fortunately, my team was out in numbers - we had 5 girls in the race, so we were able to work together a lot better than with just 3 or 4 of us. We all felt this was the first race we actually executed great team work and the plan that we had kinda set before the race. We were all worn out and tired, but working and suffering together made it a little more tolerable. Each of us took a turn pulling on the front of the pack, both Ana and Mal tried for a break away, we relieved each other when someone needed rest and in the end Ana led Mal out for the final sprint and Mal WON! Although I crossed the finish line 7th, watching my teammates take 1 and 2 was such a proud moment. We all worked for that end goal and I felt we all shared the victory as a team. But I am REALLY happy with my 7th place (there were 19 in the field).

Crossing the finish.

The best teammates anyone could ask for

What's next? No races confirmed on the calendar the rest of May, so lots of time to work on intensity and climbing. Until next time!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Off to Sea Otter

I'm currently enroute to Monterrey, California to attend the Sea Otter Classic on behalf of my work, Nuun Hydration. I feel pretty lucky that events like these are work. Hang out in the sun in California and talk to people about Nuun? Ok! Oh and I get to race my bike too? Double ok! Although these events are a lot of fun: bike riding, hanging out in the sun, industry parties, beer, beer and more beer, they are also freaking exhausting and overwhelming.

Sea Otter offers something for any kind of bike rider. For example, we have three employees racing at various events: road, cyclocross and downhill. I'm representing Nuun at the women's cat 4 road race which will go off at 7am (early!) on Sunday. But after 2 long days standing on my feet sharing the good word of Nuun to all the cyclists, racing a 40 mile road race with 4,200 feet of climbing is going to hurt so, so bad. I wonder if any of the other ladies racing with me will also be working? Or do they have the pleasure to live close by and roll out that morning? Whatever the case is, I know it's going to hurt and I'll be surprised if I can keep up. I'm going out there with a "race hard, but have fun" attitude. If I get dropped, then it'll be a tough 40 mile training ride.

I'll have a full report of what I think of Sea Otter when I return, but follow along at Instagram and Twitter for some of my perspective of the event.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Independence Valley Road Race

The entire drive down to Rochester (90 miles south of Seattle), rain pelted the windshield. This was serious rain. This rain wasn't messing around. We all were thinking "This is the worst idea we've ever had" but as we pulled into the parking lot and slowly got our kits on and bikes ready to go, the rain let up a bit and our spirits started to rise a bit. Yes, there was some convincing  like "At least it isn't cold" or "Its not as bad as team camp was" and some negotiating about the goals we had for the race, but at the end, Team Cat Club, presented by Hagens Berman-Society Consulting all lined up to race on Saturday at IVRR.

My goal for this race was to keep up with the front pack. There were 2 hills on the loop which we did twice, so 4 hills I needed to keep up on. After a not so neutral roll out up the first hill, I was already working too hard and knew this race was going to be a strugglefest. But since we dropped a few women each hill, I was able to keep a better position in the pack than I did at Sequim - so there's a win.

Whole pack still together. HBSC ladies are in blue. All Photos from here
The miles of the 2nd lap were a blur. I had said going into it that I'd be incredibly happy if I could continue to hang on. I couldn't tell you what the course looked like besides the pavement... I was working too hard to think or look at anything else besides the wheel in front of me. Having teammates that were going through the same paincave as I was made it a little better as we worked together to hold on. On the final hill two of my teammates and I fell behind the front group, but were determined to catch back up, so we bombed down the descent, each took a really freakin' hard turn pulling each other and were able to catch the group again. Nothing feels better than catching that group. Nothing!

That's me!

With a few miles to go, one of my teammates Mal flatted and I felt SO terrible for her. She was the strongest one of us that day and was seriously crushing the hills. If it wasn't for that flat, I know she would have podiumed for sure. At that point, the three of us that were left, decided to pull for Ana to do the sprint. Well, plans were thwarted when I mis-judged the distance to the finish and the sprint went early. There were 10 of us in the group and since I was in the front of the pack, ready to pull Ana, I didn't have a wheel to pull me once the sprint went, so I worked so freaking hard the last 1k and was able to finish 8th. Ana was able to get a wheel and finished 5th and Stephanie finished 7th. Mal, who flatted, still finished 11th!

That's me in the VERY BACK of the sprint...
Crossing the finish line.

It was a super tough race, but I'm so proud of my teammates and myself for our performance. All 4 of us were able to keep up with the front group and proved that we're a strong group that has the potential to do very well in the Cat 4s. GO TEAM CAT CLUB!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tour de Dung

Tour de Dung aka Sequim RR aka my first road race.

You'd think after running lot of races, doing a handful of triathlons, I'd have prepping for a race down to a T. I thought so too until the night before this race. With a goal of getting to bed at 9pm, I had to get a lot done after leaving work at 5pm: clean bike, take fenders off bike, shake out ride, eat dinner, pack food for breakfast on ferry + after race, and pack a long list of bike stuff. Thank goodness for a checklist a teammate made of stuff to bring - a cycling race seems to require more than a triathlon, or at least it felt like it.

My prep was going swimmingly until I was attempting to cut the zip ties off my fenders when the knife slipped and sliced my finger nice and deep. I freaked out/cried in my apartment, not knowing what I should do (I was alone). I accidentally saw how deep the cut was, got really queasy (hate blood), and decided I needed to go to the ER. After the quickest trip to the ER ever and 3 stitches, I was on my way home, but missing my 9pm bedtime by 1.5 hours.

Getting up early and traveling to the race was one of my favorite parts of the day. The 4:30am wake up time was not my most favorite, but getting in a car full of, friends, lots of bike gear, 4 bikes on the car's exterior and getting on the first ferry out of Seattle made it seem like an adventure. In the other races I've done, they've mostly been solo, so having friends and teammates to travel to the race with, warm up and race with was new, but it made it so much more fun!

Bikes on cars, cars on ferries
Ok, so onto the race! Mixed emotions were going on in my head as we waited in the staging area. I was more nervous than excited. All the advice I was given was flying through my head: don't stay on the front and if you do, don't stay there long; always be on a wheel and make others work for you; don't stay in the back of the pack, you'll yo-yo and work too much; try not to use your brakes; be vocal if you do; crashes are more likely to happen on the right-side of the road, so don't stay there; you can't cross the yellow like or you'll get DQ'd; but you get the whole road at 1k to the finish.... Before the race even started, my brain hurt.

The race started and I had another one of my "Oh my gosh! It's actually happening! I'm IN a bike race!" but had to quickly wash the excitement away and focus. For all 36 miles of that race I was so focused on everything: the wheel in front of me, the wheel not in front of me, where I was in the pack, where I should be in the pack, what others were doing around me. I've never been that focused in a race ever. The consequences for not paying attention in a road race are too big to not pay attention. No one wants to crash.

That's me in the blue on the front. Doing all the work like I'm not supposed to.
All 3 laps of the race (3 x 12 miles) were the same thing: keep a wheel, get out of the wind, get to the front of the pack. Toward the finish, things started happening, and I was in a bad position to be able to grab a strong wheel before I started my sprint to the finish. At one point I had no wheel (que freak out!), but was able to jump on a good one to get me closer and have enough gas left to give it all I had to the finish line. I finished 11th out of 21 ladies and was perfectly happy with that. My teammate Ana took 3rd!

Laying it all out. 110% right there.

I have A LOT to learn about road racing, but I think if I continue to work at it and race more, I have the potential to do well. My next race will likely be Independence Valley Road Race this Saturday. Bring on the hills!

Team Cat Club

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 Lake Samammish Half Marathon recap

After the race a couple weekends ago, I was driving down to Portland with my man-friend saying how happy I was with the result of the half marathon I ran that morning. He said something along the lines of "yeah, didn't you practically die at the end of your first half marathon in 2009? Now you can just bust 'em out." That is why I was so happy. I have come a long way since my first half marathon in 2009. (Sidenote: what kind of recap was that?!)

Over 5 years, I've ran numerous races, started doing triathlon, raced cyclocross and will soon race my first road bike race. Looking back though, it doesn't surprise me that I've done all these things because being a real "athlete" has been something I've always wanted to be. When I was younger I always wanted to be that girl that people associated with "being athletic" and after these five years, I feel like I've reached that. Well, I've felt that way for awhile, but this weekend solidified it.

Nuun trucker hat for the entire race!
Like I said in my previous post, my goal for the Lake Samammish Half marathon was to run the entire thing and I not only did I run the entire thing, I averaged a 8:35 pace! The race was .2 miles short, which was annoying - how do you go THAT short? Anyway, a 1:50 12.9 miler without training blew me out of the water! A couple years ago, I trained hard and attempted to go sub 2 hours on this same race and came in at 2:02. Fast forward to this year and I pull a 1:50 out of nowhere without doing more than 1 9-miler the week before. I know I have been an athlete for a long time, but being able to perform like this with little training really shows how far I've come.

Me and Casey post race

But there is always more to improve on, more to experience, more training. So here's to more growth in my athletic career!