More than just a Race Report

Every year, the Team Podium Race team decides on a volunteer project to participate in. This year it was 24 Hours of Booty. With a name like 24 Hours of Booty, it lends itself to the question “What is it about?” and my often asked “Did it make it through the spam filter?”

24 Hours of Booty is a 24 hour ride on a single loop. It can be done by a single person, or a team. And a person can ride as little or as much as they wish. However, to ride, each rider must raise $200. The beneficiaries of the fundraising vary by event location, and in Atlanta it was the Aflac Cancer Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as well as the Livestrong Foundation. However, as with each event, the local beneficiary receives most of the money raised. In brief, 24 Hours of Booty is working to knock out cancer.

Team Podium was led by our own Dan Meyer. He had done the event in previous years, and had been encouraging people to join in as he always had a very good time.  

The 2.4 mile loop was in Sandy Springs, and Bootyville, the center of everything was at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. The loop took riders through the Mount Vernon Woods neighborhood where residents came out and had fun celebrating the event, and the riders. 

We kept at least one team member out on the loop for the entire 24 hours. Team members could sign up for specific times, but many were eager to help and showed up and rode multiple hours. The hardest (and coldest) hours were those after sunset and before sunrise. It got cold!

Team members who rode all had a terrific time. The following are some of the team member’s comments.

Several team members volunteered instead of riding, helping assist in all riders’ experience at the event.

Andrea Hillman: My jobs included setting up the different tents, decorating booths, prepping the food (making coffee!) and setting up the store. It was neat seeing so many volunteers and to experience the “other side” of an event like that…and to experience the “other side” of an event.

Stef Walthour: It was cold in Saturday. It wasn’t so bad Sunday. On a serious note I enjoyed the experience of watching Team Podium and other teams ride. I can see how some friendship were made on the ride. I am so proud of team podium having someone out in the course the entire 24 hours. Can’t wait til next year.

Matt Cole: I couldn’t ride so I walked Lucas (my 4 month old son) around the 2.6 mile loop and smiled into the camera for Henry Walthour 

Angela Nelms: As the first cold ride of the season I was reminded that I hate cold weather. Around 12:30 am, I wanted to stop but our shift didn’t end until 1 am. I decided that if people with cancer can fight the fight then this was the least I could do. Quitting is not an option!  107 miles took me 9:34:07 of ride time. Some of those miles were easy and fun. Some were freezing, windy and seemed insane. Some of those miles “may” have been assisted by the neighborhood residents sharing donuts, muffins, bananas, and mimosas. All of those miles were worth it!

Nathan Nowak: I liked the Candy Corn Pumpkins.

Tony Orru: I loved the experience and would like to repeat it, it is for a great cause.

Abby Mowinski: I showed up in a grumpy mood after what I perceived to be a “hard day” at work…and then biked behind a woman with “cancer survivor” on her back bib and a list of other people’s names she was riding in honor for. Talk about perspective and inspiration. So proud to be involved!

Katie O’Dunne: I came in the midst of a busy work day. While I could only stay an hour, it completely changed the mood of my day. I was so touched by the large group out biking to fight childhood cancer. With my mom’s battles with cancer the past two years this hit especially close to home. I felt proud to ride alongside Podium in such a wonderful event.

Keith Woodward: I had planned to come out and ride one hour. But being touched by the cause I started early and stayed later than I planned. It was worth every second I rode.

Michael D’Antignac: It was dark and cool. Like my ride…a hunter green Pashley Princess with a large basket to hold my valuables. It also had a cheerful bell, which I sounded as a wakeup call for those still sleeping at 6 am.

Dan Meyer: All I know is after riding from 1-6 am and nearly falling over from a leg cramp I was really happy to see Michael. I thought I was hallucinating from lack of sleep but apparently he really was riding his wife’s cruiser bike.

And a last word from Dan:  Nathan and I were the constants, as we ride the first and last laps and a lot in between. Angela also rode a ton [107 miles to be exact!]. Henry and Keith rode at some important times to fill possible gaps and everyone who participated played a big part in helping us reach our 24 hours of Podium goal. Thanks to everyone who rode, volunteered, and supported! You helped make this a terrific event for Team Podium. We will be back next year. 

Age Group Nationals Race Report

By Katie O’Dunne

Everything during the second half of my season had been building towards Age Group Sprint Nationals. I had the opposite of most seasons, as I kicked it off with 70.3 in January, followed by another 70.3 in April, only to move to short course for the remainder of the season. Even after qualifying for the Olympic Distance race, I opted to only compete in the Sprint to focus on qualifying for Worlds. I was excited to move into short, fast racing!

The temperature was perfect (around 68 degrees) with little wind and no humidity. I reflected on what I wanted to do…top 25 spots would go to World Championships in Chicago. I had e-stalked everyone I was competing against. While I was competing as a F20-24 today, I was needed to come in top 25 for next year’s F25-29 to make Team USA due to the age-up rule. I knew I needed to race as hard as I could. A few seconds could make all the difference!

Swim (14:40)

I got out hard, but not quite hard enough. It was one of the most aggressive swim starts I have every experienced. I got kicked, elbowed, punched, and swam over at least 3 times. This definitely effected my swim time, as most of my energy was spent just “surviving” the pack and hanging on.

T1 (3:10)

I was pulled out of the water, up the ramp, and ran as fast as I could on the long hike around and into the giant transition area. My biggest weakness is transitions, and I knew that today was not the day to mess around. I yelled at myself to grab my bike and just keep moving. Success! For the size of the transition area, it was not a bad T1 for me.

Bike (39:09)

The bike course was fantastic. Out to the right for about 3 miles up a gradually hill, then back down…out to the left about 3 miles on the highway with some rollers, then back. It was a great feeling to pass tons of men and women from earlier heats the entire bike. It was a lot windier than I thought when I hit the highway. I decided to stop paying any attention to my splits and just to keep pushing as much as I could. Everyone was facing the wind, and I just needed to keep passing as many people as I could to stay motivated.

T2 (1:54)

Back to the transition area! I dropped my bike off, threw on my brand new racing shoes, and headed out of the transition area. Nope! Forgot my race number! Did they say that’s mandatory in this race? Ugh, better just grab it! This added on a little time and could have been the death of my chances if I hadn’t really powered through the run.

Run (23:09)

This was the most effortless run I have had all season. Ted and I had worked on this, and I kept telling myself, “high cadence, just let it come.” I kept my cadence up and wouldn’t let myself look at my watch until the 1-mile mark. 7:28 pace? Really? That’s a lot faster than I had been running for my bricks all season. I just kept it up, passing one person at a time. I was pushing, but it also felt effortless. The last mile, I could taste it. I knew that if I kept it up I had a shot at qualifying. I kept thinking of Tony Orru’s account of how magical racing a world championship can be. That gave me the last little bit of motivation to push it in, through the final cheering crowd at the finish.

 

Katie bringing it home

Post-Race (Total – 1:22:04)

After the race, I wasn’t entirely sure if I had qualified. I had to wait for World Championship registration to see the official age-up results. They held everyone together in a giant crowd, letting a few people go at a time to check. When it was finally my turn, I ran up to the table with the results taped to them. I found F25-29, looked down the list, and there was “Katelyn O’Dunne,” #23 of 25. I literally just made it! Another 20 seconds and I wouldn’t have qualified!

Post-race smile 

I was and am ecstatic! Seeing the name Katelyn O’Dunne next to “World 25-29” and “United States” was the most incredible feeling I can imagine. I am so grateful for Ted’s amazing coaching this year, my parents’ constant support and assistance with financing the sport, the support of Podium Multisport / Team Podium, and Dean’s ability to carry my stuff during every race. Team USA, Sprint Worlds, and Chicago Grand Final 2015 here I come!!!

Sharing the Love

by Dan Meyer

I truly love the sport of triathlon, so when I was given the opportunity through the Kyle Pease Foundation (kylepeasefoundation.org) to race John Tanner Sprint Triathlon on 9/6/14 with an assisted athlete with cerebral palsy, I jumped at the chance. This was an experience as rewarding as any race I have done. My teammate, Justin Knight, is a truly remarkable person, and seeing the race through his eyes was really amazing.

 

Dan and Justin getting ready to swim

After strapping an inflatable kayak containing Justin to my waist, we were ready to swim.  Once we got going, it felt easier than expected, and I checked several times to make sure Justin was still in the kayak. We finished the 600 meters in 14:05 (14:55 w/run to T1), only a few minutes off usual.

 

Dan and Justin on the bike

Transition to the bike takes lots of helpers and was 7:34.The start of the bike was tough as there are some little hills out of transition that seemed much bigger with a combined weight of 375 pounds, but Justin willed me over. The terrain soon turned more favorable, and we started cruising. The back half of the course was much hillier and challenging and there was one hill that I had to get out of the saddle in granny gear just to make it over. Justin helped me up the hills saying “you’re doing fine” and “almost there” then cheered when we reached the top. Hearing him whoop when we descended fast downhill made me smile wide. I was glad when we finally reached transition after a 1:03:46 ride, averaging 12.9 MPH.

 

Dan and Justin on the Run

T2 from bike to wheelchair was slightly less involved, and in 3:40 we were off running. The first mile was around the lake on a flat, paved path, so we were cruising. The second mile begins an out and back section that starts uphill on gravel and was very tough. I encouraged runners coming back and nearing the finish with “bring it on home”. Justin picked up on this and started yelling it to all the athletes. This really made them and me smile. Later we would say “looking good” or “keep it up”. Justin made sure to share his energy with all those on the course, and I loved seeing the other athletes light up when he encouraged them. After the gravel section, we were back on paved roads and onto some steep hills. I had to power walk up them and was glad Justin kept encouraging me.  The downhills were almost too fast, and I used the brake a lot to slow down the momentum. As we neared the finish line, we could hear the crowd cheering. I wheeled Justin to the large contingent of fans from the Foundation so he could give them all high fives and then we crossed the finish line in just under 2 hours (1:59:07) with a 29:11 5k, our amazing journey complete!

 

Post race celebration

Justin’s next race will be Marine Corp Marathon in October, but he still needs to raise funds to get there. Please help by donating at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teresaknight/marinecorpmarathon

10 Pool Tools to a Swim PR

By Kevin Hurysz

While the swim portion of a triathlon may only be one-tenth of the race, strength in swimming will reduce pre-race anxiety and set you up for a better T1, a better bike and even a better run. If you’ve decided to work on improving your triathlon swim, you’re going to need the right gear.  Podium Multisport has what you need whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran.  Having these ten things with you at swim practice will set you up for a PR performance. 

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Swim wall at Podium Multisport

1.  Mesh gear bag.  Backpacks, duffel bags, and sling bags are nice, but a mesh bag is open to let your gear breathe and dry out between workouts.  Your gear bag will be big enough to hold everything you need for swim practice.

2. Swimsuit. “Jammers,” a knee length suit, are popular right now for men and a one-piece is the usual choice for women.  Any swimsuit will do.  Rinse your suit after every use for longer life.  Eventually, you will need to decide if you’ll be wearing your bike gear under a wetsuit or speedsuit, or if you intend to change from swim gear into bike gear after you swim.  Wetsuits and speedsuits are outside the scope of this post but might be something you need to think about depending on when and where you will be racing.

3. Goggles.  In my competitive swimming days, I swore by Swedish goggles.  In triathlon, soft gaskets (to protect the head and eyes) and large lenses (to maximize vision) are a best bet for racing.  Not every goggle will fit every face.  You will need to find a goggle that works for you.  Aquasphere and Zoggs are a good place to start.  Tint is an important factor depending on expected training and racing conditions.  You will probably need more than one pair of goggles, and may even want a spare in case they break.  To protect your goggles, rinse them after use and store them in a protective case.

4. Towel.  If you swim a lot, you’ll end up doing a lot of laundry.  Consider a smaller and lighter chamois sport towel (sometimes called a “Sammy”) instead of a normal bath towel.  You can use it to dry off, rinse and squeeze it out, let it air dry, and it will be ready to use again after your next swim.

5.  Water bottle.  Be sure to stay hydrated while you swim.  

6.  Swim cap.  I prefer not training in a swim cap, but you are going to wear one when you race so a race shouldn’t be the first time you put one on.  If you have a lot of hair, putting on a cap might even be a two person job!  I like to wear my goggle headstrap under the cap to keep them on my face if they’re kicked or swatted off.

7.  Pull buoy.  A pull buoy is a workout tool that supports your lower body while you isolate and focus on your stroke.

8.  Kickboard.  A kickboard is a workout tool that supports your upper body while you isolate and focus on your legs.

9.  Fins.  Fins let you ride higher in the water, focus on your kick, and feel what it’s like to go fast. Get a pair of full sized power fins first.  Fins are sometimes used with a kickboard.

10.  Paddles.  Hand paddles are often used with a pull buoy to improve strength and technique.  Be sure you have a good stroke before using paddles to improve your strength and technique.  Ease into using them as they can stress your shoulder and elbow.

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Put your name on your gear as it can get a little cluttered on deck!

 

4 Tips to Keep (or Salvage) Relationships While Training for Triathlons

by Jesica D’Avanza

When it comes to training for long distance triathlons (half iron or full iron distance), there’s something many triathletes don’t talk about. It’s a challenge nearly all of us face, but most people don’t want to admit or discuss openly.

 It’s how hard training can be on your personal relationships – specifically, on your marriage/partnership and family.

 I realized how widespread this problem is and how deep it’s felt by so many athletes while training for the Beach2Battleship Half Iron Triathlon last fall. My fellow training partners began opening up. One by one, we realized we had more in common than we realized. One question led to a comment, and then another, until the flood gates opened and many of us were talking about the strain competitive swimming, biking and running can have on our relationship with our significant others who don’t share our same passion for endurance sports.

 From my own personal experience, training for a long distance triathlon has its sacrifices and consequences. I know my husband has, at times, felt like he was taking a backseat to my training. He struggled with me being gone so much on the weekends for long rides, bricks and runs, only to come home too exhausted to want to do anything enjoyable with him.

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Jesica and her husband

 No one wants anyone else to know that their relationship isn’t always perfect. No one wants others to know they’ve unintentionally hurt their significant others’ feelings or put their quest for IRONMAN before the emotional needs of the people they love.

 So it goes mostly unspoken. But everyone is facing it. You are not alone.

 Here are my 4 tips to keep or salvage relationships with the people you love most if you’re training for a long distance triathlon.

 Make it a family decision. Consult with your significant other before signing up for a long distance triathlon to make sure it’s a decision everyone in the family can support. You’re going to need him/her emotionally and physically to help you reach your goals and to get through the intense training cycles together. Whether that’s making sure your spouse is ready to help out more with the kids on the weekend, to simply be understanding when you’re tired and irritable or to be willing to forgive you when triathlon seems to be your #1 priority, having the same expectations is key. Likewise, you need to hear from your spouse/partner and/or kids about what they need and expect from YOU to make this a positive experience.

 Remember the reason it’s hard for your partner. There are going to be days during intense triathlon training when you feel your loved ones absolutely hate your passion. It’s going to hurt your feelings to think they resent what you’re doing, especially when you’re working so hard. Try to remember that it isn’t triathlon they hate. Try to remember they’re proud of you and think you’re awesome. Know that the reason they sometimes show disdain for what you’re doing is because it’s taking you away from the time you would or could be otherwise spending with them. They would rather spend Saturday afternoon doing something fun with you than having you gone all day for a long brick, only to come home completely wiped out and ready for a nap. Remember that intentions and feelings are typically good. Give the benefit of the doubt and be willing to talk those feeling through. Find ways you can make more time for your partner – like planning a special date night once a month, having one of your rest days fall on the weekend, etc.

 Make it worth it. If you’re going to spend time away from your partner and people you love most, do the work to make sure it pays off as much as possible. Although we never really know what will happen on race day, be disciplined with your training. Make your workouts count. Do the work, so that when you cross the finish line, both you and your spouse/partner can say that all the sacrifice was worth it. Train and race in such a way that everyone can be proud of your effort, no matter what the time on the clock says at the end. Give your very best.

 Understand it’s not always worth it, and act accordingly. I am constantly amazed when people tell me they’re worried that their training and racing could send their relationship to be destined for divorce. Know when it is time to cut bait. If training for long distance triathlons is going to destroy relationships with the people you love and care about most in the world, it’s probably time to reassess your goals. Could you do shorter distance triathlons or train for a half marathon/marathon instead, which doesn’t take up as much time or require 2 workouts per day? Find other ways to channel your fitness passions without sacrificing the most important part of your life: the person you love. Because at the end of the day, participating in an IRONMAN isn’t going to be worthwhile if no one is waiting for you at the finish line.

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Jesica D’Avanza is a communications professional, writer, Team Podium member and the blogger behind runladylike.com. As a runner and triathlete, she’s on a mission to find her extraordinary and inspire others to do the same. On her blog – appropriately named by combining the words “run” and “unladylike” – she shares her uncensored and sometimes unladylike adventures of running and triathlon training. When it comes to fitness, she believes we are all stronger than we think we are and capable of doing more than we believe we can do. Jesica lives in Atlanta and has completed 6 marathons, 7 half marathons and numerous triathlons, including 2 half iron distance races. She will complete her marathon coaching certification this month. In her day job, she serves as vice president of marketing communications for a national charity dedicated to saving and improving the lives of people with muscle disease.

Tips for New Triathletes

By Dan Meyer

 1) Patience is a virtue

 Once you decide to make triathlon your goal, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and sign up for a race that’s only a few weeks away.  Give your body time to adjust to the rigors of participating in three sports at once. Plan at least three to six months of training Before your first race.

 2) Start small

Many people are motivated to start triathlon by the idea of becoming an Ironman! While it’s truly a memorable and life-changing goal to achieve, most people need at least two years of consistent training to be ready for Ironman.  It’s better to start with a shorter race such a sprint (usually a 500-750 yard swim, 12-15 mile bike ride  5k run) or even a super sprint (200 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run).  Once you’ve spent three to six months training, you can do several shorter races within a few months before working up to longer races.

Starting small also means easing in to training.  If you’ve been sedentary for a while, you need to focus on getting your body moving before taking on sport-specific training.  Even if you’ve been active in one or two of the three disciplines, it’s best to approach the other sports as a beginner.

 3) Choose wisely

From gear to training to races, the choices can seem overwhelming and expensive! When you’re starting out, you don’t have to sport all the latest and greatest gear to have fun and race well. 

a)     Gear

When it comes to gear, good fit is the key.  You will need:

Swim: a good fitting swimsuit and pair of goggles.  Podium Multisport carries swimwear and a wide variety of goggles.  Their knowledgeable associates will help you try on goggles and find the right pair to fit the unique contours of your face. 

Bike: a good fitting helmet and bicycle.  You don’t need an expensive bike or even a new one, but making sure you have the correct fit is essential to enjoyable riding.  You won’t find better bike fitters than the ones at Podium Multisport.  You don’t have to buy a bike from them to get your fit, and they can optimize the fit of your current bike or suggest the models best for you based on your measurements.  You also need a good pair of bike shorts to make sure you stay comfortable while riding and water bottles to stay hydrated.

Run: a good fitting pair of shoes, shorts, shirt and socks are all you need.

 b) Training

You can find free training plans on the web, but you’ll need to pay for a place to swim.  Unless you grew up swimming competitively, join a pool with coached workouts, such as Dynamo Swim Club  or a club with coached swims such as the Atlanta Triathlon Club.  Some gyms and YMCAs also have masters (meaning over 18, not advanced) swim programs.

When it comes to training, consistency is the key.  You don’t need to train frequently, hard or long when you are starting out, but you need to stick to your plan and complete the prescribed workouts.

 c) Races

There are many local, inexpensive sprint races to choose from.  Tri The Parks puts on a race series that is ideal for beginners and even includes a novice category that lets you start in a less intimidating swim wave with other new triathletes.  Georgia Multisport Productions also has many sprint distance options.

4) Enjoy the journey!

Learning new sports will take time, but is really fun when you follow tip one and are patient.  Some days you may be tired and sore, but focusing on your goal of completing a race should help keep you going.  Those of us on Team Podium like training almost as much as racing.  Smile and enjoy it!  We will see you at the races.  Just remember to yell, “Go Team Podium!” when you see us out there.

Product Review: Thule T2 Bike Rack

by Kevin Hurysz

A few years ago, I had a trunk mounted bike rack that I never thought was sturdy.  It always worried me when I would drive with my bike.  With the purchase of the new Kevironmobile (a 2013 Honda CR-V), I was in the market for the best bike rack out there.  With Matt’s help, I quickly settled on his recommendation:  the Thule T2.

The Thule T2 Bike rack in the box

The Thule T2 is a hitch mount platform carrier and is available in models that will accommodate both 2” (Model 916 XTR) and 1.25” (Model  917 XTR) receivers.  Be sure to get the correct one for your hitch receiver.  The rack as purchased will carry two bikes, but an extender is available to the 916 XTR (Model  918 XTR) that can increase capacity on that rack to four bikes.

Be sure to get the right model for your hitch receiver (or vice versa if this is your first hitch mounted rack!)

Installing the rack on your vehicle is not difficult and is easily achieved with two people.  To load a bike on the rack, the wheels are placed in the wheel wells, a hook swings over the front wheel and clicks downward, locking in place.  An adjustable strap is looped over the bottom of the rear wheel.  No part of the rack is in direct contact with the frame.  I am paranoid about my bike, so an additional welcome feature is the integrated cable lock.  Once your bike is in place and locked down, it is secure.  A lever on the rack is pulled to fold and store the platform vertically when not in use, or tilt the rack downward, so the vehicle trunk can be accessed. 

The Thule T2 rack folds up when not in use

I have had the Thule T2 917 XTR rack for over four months now.  It has been used for short trips to rides around Atlanta and long trips to races in the Southeast, performing flawlessly.  I am thoroughly impressed with the Thule T2 rack and I’m a lot more confident driving with my bike.  Thank you Matt and Podium Multisport!

The Thule T2 in action - carrying precious cargo

Ironman Wisconsin

By Dan Meyer

This was my first Ironman, and I loved almost every minute of it!  I can’t believe how much fun it was. 

The swim was a mass start and very crowded, especially through the first turn where the tradition is to moo like a cow.  The back half was tough into a strong headwind.  I swallowed a lot of water and had to breathe on my weaker left side. 

After exiting the water, I ran up the “Helix” (spiral parking ramp) lined with cheering spectators to transition.  T1 and T2 took place inside the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace Convention Center.  I changed into my Team Podium bike kit, got my bike, and rode down the other side of the Helix to the “lollipop” course: a stick, two loops and the stick back. 

Wisconsin is one of the hardest bike courses with lots of rolling hills and turns that can burn up your legs. The plan was to ride easy the first half, pick it up a little on the 2nd loop, and push the stick back. 

My coach told me that the hills in WI were no big deal as long as you ride them correctly, and he was right.  Training in the Gaps and Cartersville prepared me well.  The hardest parts of the course were actually 2 sections of long false flats into headwind — Mt. Horeb near the start of the loop and Cross Plains near the end of the loop – but the crowds in these towns were fantastic!

The highlight was the 3 biggest hills, “The 3 sisters”: Old Sauk, Timber Lane and Midtown.  I smiled and laughed the whole 

way up as people, many in costume, held up signs, yelled, and rung cow bells.  When I finished this section, I thought “that was so much fun I can’t wait to do it again!”

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Dan on the bike

At the halfway point in Verona, there was a huge crowd and the wind was behind us, so I was feeling great, but I missed seeing my family among all those people. 

The 2nd loop was similar to the first, but slightly faster.  When I got back to the stick, I hammered and passed a lot of people.  My legs were feeling good, but my back and neck were tight and sore.  My initial thoughts about the run were negative, but I remembered in training when I felt bad at the end of a ride and ended up running well.

I spun up the Helix, got out of my shoes at and handed off my bike.  I changed into my Team Podium tri kit and took off.  Just after exiting T2, I saw my family and stopped for hugs and to chat

The run is a 2 loop course with great crowds around the Capitol and on State Street, which you pass going out and back on both loops.  The plan was to run the first 20 miles very slowly.  I was stiff at first, but, loosened up and settled into rhythm. 

Early on, we did a lap on the Wisconsin football field and I copied my Podium teammate, John “Tonito” Rotella’s pose from last year. 

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Dan in Camp Randall Stadium

The first loop went by pretty quickly.  Around the half way point, I made the signal for making more noise and the crowd roared!  Right after that I saw my family again.

Around mile 14, I decided to walk every aid station (rather than every other as I had been) so I could get enough fluid and nutrition.  Many people say the run gets really hard at mile18, but it came and went and I was still running steady and feeling good.

At Observatory Hill, around mile 20, everyone around me was walking, but I ran up it feeling strong.  The next few miles were harder and spent focusing on getting to the next aid station.  My coach told me not to walk past the last trash can at any aid station, and I didn’t.  At mile 22, I knew I was going to make it.  “I am going to be an Ironman” I thought and started to tear up. 

When I hit State Street for the final time I was elated! I ran a victory lap around the Capitol and into the chute high fiving as many people as I could, then stopped and walked the last 20 yards with my arms held high.  I crossed the finish line in 12:31:49.  I am an Ironman!

Itsy Bitsy Spider: Climbed Up the Spout Again

By Sheila Howard

Editors Note: This is part 4 of a series by Sheila, and the final installment.

You can read part 1 here

Part 2 here

Part 3 here

CLIMBING BACK UP

 My second race this season was Tri the Mountains in North Georgia in late July. Tri the Mountains is in a beautiful setting, and the course lives up to its name – with a hilly bike and run!

 I stayed in a friend’s cabin in Blue Ridge with a few other Team Podium teammates.  Race morning was a fun atmosphere with great music over the loud speakers while we set up our spots in transition. I had lots of friends and my coach doing the race, so I had to work hard to focus and not just socialize before the race.

Sheila and Laura before Tri the Mountains

 The swim was uneventful, but as is usually the case, the most challenging part of the race for me. I got through the swim into transition, and yikes, I can’t get out of my swim skin!! The swim skin, which saves precious seconds, is now costing me nearly a minute because the zipper is totally stuck.  I struggle and struggle, and finally, a volunteer saves the day and overpowers the stubborn zipper!

 Finally, I’m out of the swim skin, out of T1 and on my bike! The bike is an out and back hill fest and a chance to start picking people off. I know one friend in my age group who’s a strong swimmer, and I figure I’ll push on the bike and try to catch her. If I could pass her, I thought at least I have a general idea of where I may be in my age group. Knowing my run was still not strong, I needed a head start out of T2. Then, I may be able to hold on to an age group spot if I could hold off a faster runner or two.  At mile 16, I passed my friend and tried to turn it up a notch into T2.  Once on the run, I remembered the first mile was downhill, and the last two were uphill. Ouch!

 I couldn’t tell where I was in the mix, but just ran those hills, worked my way to the finish line and hoped for the best. The finish line is downtown Blue Ridge, and a perfect setting to finish the race. Tri the Mountains is known for its festive after party! My swim skin zipper cost me one spot in my age group but I squeaked out third place.

 Third race up was an Olympic distance one in Columbus, Georgia. Two weeks after Tri the Mountains,  my coach, Laura Sophiea, and I hit the road and met up with some friends at the race.  This was a great course and I ended up with a second place in my Age Group. Laura won third overall female. Mission accomplished!

After the Olympic distance Chattahoochee Challenge in Columbus, GA

 My last race was Tri to Beat Cancer, a sprint in Athens, Georgia.  I was excited about this race because it was a girls’ getaway weekend with three friends. We caravanned over Saturday to pick up our race packets and check out the course. It was raining and looking like a rainy race day for us.

 We went to check out the transition area and to drive the bike and run courses. I noted the road conditions and any sharp curve or turn that could require braking. I always look for downhill sections to see what follows. Is there a curve or turn? Is something around the curve that would cause me to slow down? To know this on an unfamiliar course saves seconds, especially in wet conditions.

The next morning, we woke up to rain.  We set up our transition and covered our gear with garbage bags the best we could. We headed down to the water, and here’s where I learned a valuable lesson firsthand: the week before, temperatures had been unseasonably cool, bringing the water temperature down to wetsuit legal.  This never occurred to me, and I didn’t bring my wetsuit.

I made my way through the swim, into transition and out on the bike.  There was a light rain, and the roads were soaked. I was so glad we’d driven the course the day before and knew there were no sharp curves or reasons to slow down on the downhills. The run had rolling hills and a couple of out and backs. I had no idea where I was in the race and just totally enjoyed the experience, rain and all!  It was a bonus to end my short season with an Age Group win in this race. 

Sheila winning her age group at Tri to Beat Cancer

LOOKING BEYOND!

 I’m grateful to have a second chance: for every ride and every run. I know my story is one that’s shared by so many other triathletes. Life happens, and in the course of it, we may be fortunate enough to get another chance to regroup, redouble our efforts, face our fears and subject ourselves again to the rigor and pain of training to reach our goals! 

 I’m thankful to have had this season to come back to racing and remember why I love the sport.  Now, I have the offseason to start preparing for bigger races and challenges coming next season!  I’m signed up once again for my first full Ironman!

 So, the new journey has begun, back up the waterspout and beyond! Hats off to that Itsy Bitsy Spider who blazed the trail….I’m right on its wheel and gaining fast!

Itsy Bitsy Spider: Out came the sun…..

By Sheila Howard

Editors Note: This is part 3 of a series by Sheila.

You can read part 1 here

Part 2 here

Look for Part 4 on Monday 11/18!

OUT CAME THE SUN….

My first race this season was PTS Solutions Allatoona in late June. Race morning, as I walked into transition, it began to get scary, and after almost two years, I hoped and prayed I would remember what to do. I may have been even more nervous than at my first tri! I saw some friends, chatted, got body marked and, all the while, reminded myself how blessed I am to train and race again! My goal was to enjoy the challenge of this race from start to finish, no matter what the outcome. 

 Soon after the National Anthem, we were off.  I struggled in the swim and just tried to get through it so I could get to the bike.  T1 greeted me with a somewhat familiar scene –not so many bikes there. Note to self, as I ran to get my bike – swim more!

The bike is generally my happy place of the three. I enjoyed the rolling course, though I was gasping for breath much of the time. Notes to self – calm down now, and do more bike intervals later!

I was in T2 before I knew it, and it was time to rally to reach my goal to “enjoy” the race from start to finish. Given the current state of my run, I knew the three short miles of rolling pavement to the finish line would feel much longer and involve pain. Once out on the course, I felt the hurt in my legs at the first small hill.

But I quickly remembered what I do love about the run during races. I’d forgotten that there’s a special energy with the run because it’s the last leg of the race! You get to connect with people – the volunteers at the aid stations, friends and the crowds cheering you on with cowbells ringing and seeing fellow competitors giving their all out on the course, as we are all headed to the finish line.

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Sheila with her 3rd place AG at her first race back after her accident

The race ended downtown with happy crowds cheering loud, and it felt great to cross that finish line.  It was icing on the cake to get third in my age group. This first race back was a huge stake in the ground to move forward from, and onward to many more miles of training, racing and finish lines ahead!