HITS is a fairly new triathlon series, with a unique concept. Their tag line is “A distance for everyone”, which really says it all. A HITS weekend consists of 70.3 (half-iron distance) and a 140.6(full-iron distance) on Saturday, and on Sunday, Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. It is a pretty cool concept, and they are really well-organized.
After having breakfast with the Team Foley after the Fight for Air Climb I headed out to Ocala with the hope of seeing at least Margie, Kari and Megan cross the finish line. I have to admit, while I have been training, it hasn’t been as focused as it should have. My “off-season” mentality didn’t quite transition into the race attitude just yet, but I thought I was at least in shape to do the Oly. In triathlon season, usually the first couple of months, is usually “Base” phase which just gets the wheels and legs rolling again, develop some strength and start gaining the endurance needed for race season. With that in mind, I figured an Olympic distance would be perfect to baseline where I am in my training. Imagine my surprise when I saw a lot of my friends out on Saturday competing in the 70.3. As I was watching competitors and friends cross the line there was a familiar itch developing in my heart. I didn’t quite notice what it was at the time.
The course for the 70.3 was pretty intense with loops that included a 1.2 mile swim in a 65 degree Lake Weir, 56 miles of rolling hills and wind of the bike, and an intense mixture of soft trails, and asphalt out-and-backs for the 13.1 mile run. I was too busy losing my lungs to catch any of the swim or bike, but I was happy to be around to see the finale of the run.
I had my first blog recognition, which was really nice. I was at the expo, grabbing a couple of Honey Stinger gels for my race the next day and I was chatting with the owner of Kickstart Endurance and she told me she followed IronGoof. I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but secretly I was really excited.
I missed Margie, but I was really happy to see Megan and Kari cross the finish. They both were finishing their first 70.3 along with some other members of the Tri Psych Club, so for them this was a huge accomplishment and deserved a celebration. That itch started to intensify at Chili’s that night as everyone’s conversation about their race surrounded me.
I really attempted to be nonchalant about this race. I kept telling myself, “Self, this is no big deal. You know you are not ready to race, this is a small race and this is going to tell you what you need to work on.” Unfortunately, waking up the next morning at 4:30a, and preparing my gear not only woke up my consciousness but the competition juices and anxiety levels as well. I showered, dressed, applied my TriTats, loaded the car and off I went.
As I mentioned before, the organization of this race was first-rate, from, staff organizing parking to the transition areas. Have I mentioned the transition area? In previous races I have barely glanced over the amenities of the transition areas, well except for the Rev3 Venice Beach. Let me put it this way, if the transition areas were cars, then every other race I have been in were Toyotas, the Rev3 was a Lexus, and the HITS series was a Bentley. Not only were there boxes that held gear and clamped a tire for easy removal of the bike, plenty of room for transition setup in-between the bikes, but each participant had their own personal stool with their number and last name on them. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is the little things that make an impression.
I headed down to the beach with my wet suit on halfway, goggles and swim cap in hand. The temperature outside was perfect with just a slight breeze and the sun was starting to slowly creep up over the horizon. I was incredibly grateful to see my friends down on the beach. Pete, Kari, Megan, Michael, Stan and a couple f others as it made me feel slightly less stressed. After the mandatory meeting, all of the males waded out a bit into the water for the start. My anxiety reared a little due to the fact, I was using my backup goggles because my regular goggles broke in transition and this was the coldest water I had ever swam in.
The whole beach counted off, “Three, Two, One…” and the horn blew. We all ran or dolphin dived toward the first buoy. The water was kind of shallow so I did have some time to start to get used to the water. I remembered my strategy and my stroke count and I started swimming. I started losing ground within the first 200m, which was normal for me. My new stroke technique is still relatively new, so I figured I wasn’t going to be fast immediately. When I reached the first buoy, I started feeling short of breath, even though I thought I was relatively relaxed. My chest started to feel compressed like I was being stepped on, and my arms were not moving as freely as I wanted them to. I moved to breast stoke to see if I could relax a bit, but it was to know avail, the compression would just not loosen. I have never had an issue with my wet suit. Except for getting out of it, I kinda like it. I feel more buoyant, warmer and protected from other things that may cause issues in open water. Now I just felt like it was python, strangling me. I kept going, but it was a combination of freestyle, side stroke, and breast stoke. When I reached the second buoy, my mind went into overdrive trying to get me to quit. The ideas popping in my head were asinine. I kept hearing, “You aren’t trained for this”, “You don’t belong here.”, “Just get out of the water. It is only a baseline remember?”. The thing was, I had another loop to do. I swam toward third buoy, and the water became very shallow, so we really didn’t have any choice but to run through it and start dolphin diving again. I forced myself to have the one thought that has gotten me through tough training, cold, wet and rainy workouts, and exhausting races; “The mind will quit one-hundred times before the body does.” I told myself, “Self, that is first and only time that is going to happen today.” I ran around the third buoy and headed out for my second loop.
The second loop felt a little better, but I was so happy to get out of that wet suit. I am still not quite certain why I felt that way. It wasn’t the size of the wet suit because when I bought it I was 25 pounds heavier. Either way I ran out of the water unzipping and getting out of it on my way to transition. One of the strippers told me to lay down and she yanked it off of me. I grabbed my helmet while I put on my shoes and crossed the mat in less than 3 minutes.
The bike course was actually pretty nice. Rolling hills, with well conditioned roads and plenty help by the Sheriff’s department. I wanted to make up sometime, so in my head I thought to just keep passing people. I only got passed twice during the first ten miles of the twenty-five mile course and I was happy with that. I played cat & mouse with a couple of them, and ended up passing them in during the last half of the course. Unfortunately, there was a storm on the horizon and the wind picked up quite a bit on on the second half, not to mention the hills were more abundant and steeper(at least for Florida). My speed, that I was holding quite consistent at 21 mph started to drop to 18, then 17 and at that point, I refused to go under 18 mph. I came into transition, averaging 19.1 and I was proud of that.
I racked my bike and sat on my stool to put on my socks and shoes. I got hung up a little bit, but was still out of there in less than 3 minutes, and it was off to the run. Pete yelled at me as I headed into the trees, “This is the fun part”. At first I agreed with him.
I decided to wear my Hoka One One Biondi Speed 2 running shoes with the large sole, because I wanted to test how they felt on a triathlon after being on the bike. Big mistake. At first the ground wasn’t very soft, and I was ok running about an 8:15 mile, but as I got further into the woods, the trail got softer and softer. With that big sole, not only was my foot pushing down on the sole, but then into the soft ground causing three times as much resistance as the a regular running shoe. I didn’t figure this out at first, but after one-and-a-half miles, I felt like I needed to stop, and that was not usual, not matter what kind of shape I was in. I walked at the aid station for about 200 yards and then I continued running but at a much slower pace. I had to do two loops of the run course as well, and I could feel the resistance ease off when I hit the asphalt again. All of the sudden I was lighter and faster, but I had to do a second loop into the woods again. I decided my strategy would be to walk a hundred yards at the aid station and 100 yards at the turn-around, but other than that I would let my legs do what could. It worked out well as my splits were faster on the second loop.
I ran out of the woods with Pete snapping shots and hearing cheers from Megan, Kari and a couple of others. As, I crossed the finish line it became clear to me, that I am not in the shape I was in for my last 70.3, but I would enjoy this moment as a victory. It was not a PR, but it this race let me know what I need to do over the next months in order to take on the rest of my race schedule.
After calming down a bit and chatting with Pete and a few other friends, Summer Bailey found me. She had competed in the 70.3 the day before. Summer lives in Georgia, so we really only see each other at races and occasionally chat on Facebook so it was really incredible to actually chat and catch up with her in person. She is an amazing woman and with a huge heart and ferocious determination. We both agreed that neither one of us had trained enough for our races, but it was good to have a race under our belt for the year. Chatting with her was encouraging, and I know we will be seeing each other again during the season. To be able to see and chat with her and some others that I do not get to train with allowed me to remember one of the greatest thing about triathlon and racing in general. It’s the friends and connections we make. Other than having a good race and crossing the finish line, it is the best part about it.
Besides crossing the finish line what are the best experiences you have competing?
What a weekend! I raced with Team Foley Saturday during the Fight For Air Stair Climb in Tampa at the Bank of America building, then I did my first triathlon of the season at the HITS Ocala Olympic Triathlon. Needless to say come Monday morning I was a little stiff, but full of rigor because of what I accomplished.
Saturday morning the alarm went off at 5:30am which actually was about 45 minutes later than during the week. (WOO HOO! I got to sleep in.) I had no trouble jumping up, taking a quick shower to wake up, and heading into downtown Tampa for the Fight for Air Stair Climb. These stair climbs are sponsored by the American Lung Association and are held all over the country. The Tampa event consists of a team event, an individual event and a firefighter event. The Team Event, incorporates an undetermined amount of members on the team, and is scored with the top 3, lowest times. The members of teams, and athletes not members of teams, are entered into the individual event which incorporates the common age groups and is scored based on the individual’s performance. The firefighter event, is strictly for active firefighters sporting their full protective gear. Boots, pants, coat, helmet, tank and mask, while then racing up the 42 flights. It is an incredible site.
I have been a member of Team Foley under the leadership of Captain Lisa Jamison for the last couple of years.
John Foley was a good friend of hers whom passed due to lung cancer, so our team has always dedicated our performance to him. The last two years we finished first and won the team competition, but unfortunately a team named “7 Minutes of Pain” ended up winning, but we finished a close second.
The event starts with the normal registration and announcements outside the building and then the teams are brought in by their predetermined time, to the stairwell. The bibs we are given have timing chips built in and a couple of steps before the first set of stairs is a start mat with the finish mat at the top to capture the times. We arranged ourselves from fast to slow, so their would be very little passing that would cause a delay in any team member’s time or interrupted strategy. I was positioned right behind Eric Scola, a CrossFit instructor and friend who was in obvious excellent shape. He took off as I waited required 10 second gap in-between athletes before I started my journey to the top.
For such a short race, it feels like forever. There are different strategies to running the stairs. Last year I blasted up 15 flights, before my lungs decided they had enough and I had to slow down. This year I decided to take the same pace all the way up. I found a rhythm of pulling on the rails and double stepping almost the entire way. I did take a few single steps about 4 times during the duration of the race, but I mainly stuck with the double. It ended up working for me with a time of 7:22 which was just about the same as I did last year, but I felt better and recovered faster. In 2012, my lungs started really burning around floor 30 and it was very difficult to continue and it lasted almost 30 minutes after I completed the climb, but this year I ended up at the top feeling pretty good. That is, until I sat down. The burning sensation caught up with me as I was recovering in a small room at the top with a bottle of water. It was very uncomfortable. Thankfully they did not allow us to stay as long as we did in the past and shooed us back downstairs. With the fresh air, I ended up recovering in about 5 minutes from the moment I exited the building.
There is no ventilation in the stairwells or humidity for that matter and I believe after using maximum effort without regards to heart rate or respiration rate, it leads to that burning sensation for me.
After recovering an drinking some more water I found myself feeling really good. It is the longest 7 minutes of my year, and I am so happy I have the ability to fund raise and compete in this race for Lisa and Team Foley.
Do you want to join us next year?
I am a little behind on posts, and now need to add three more due to being sent and then utilizing three new products during the race; the Hoka One One Biondi S2 running shoes, the Jaybird Sport Strap bluetooth headset, and Wrightsock Stride running socks. I will do my best to get those reviews completed as soon as possible, but for now let me tell you about my experience with the US Road Races Sarasota Half Marathon.
I learned a lesson first thing because I ended up running a tad bit late in the morning. The drive time to Sarasota usually is 45 minutes and I thought I was going to be fine until two miles from the race start. The traffic came to a dead stop. I drive a Mini Cooper Clubman, so while maneuverability is not an issue going over things like medians become either not possible, or the consequences may turn out to be expensive. I was stuck behind a tractor-trailer semi trick with my right lane blocked and a huge median to my left. No way out. After a while, of being a little stressed of missing the start, I noticed the median curb height had changed to regular curb height so I took the chance and allowed my little car to climb over it. Luckily I found an alternate route, and parking pretty fast, but a ways from the start, so involuntarily I sprinted a quick warm-up mile prior to the gun.
I could hear the National Anthem being sung as I was running to the start, which told me it was going to be tight making it, and of course there were close to 5000 runners, so I ended up starting in the 13 minute/mile corral. At first I was a little disappointed, but it gave me a little time to stretch and calm myself down. I usually start up near the front of the pack, and end up getting passed throughout the race, however this time it was me who was doing the passing.
Miles one and two ran along Tamiami Trail and over a bridge which wasn’t very steep, although it felt long, but it did allow for some recovery on the other side. Some coaches worry about their runners as they run downhill, but the form I teach really allows the ease of just letting the legs do what they will allowing for a nice recovery. Of course I also coach a way on the uphill that makes the effort feel a lot less as well, but that is for another time.
The 5k split ended up in a circle downtown and according to my split time, it wasn’t bad. 23:24, less than an 8 minute mile for the first three miles, I’ll take that. Miles four and five were back over the bridge and past the start/finish line. Unfortunately, my sock started slipping in the circle, so after mile 5 I actually had to stop, and take off my shoes so I could re-position my sock. I couldn’t believe it. Because I was product testing my shoes I did not put lock laces on, so I even had to untie and re-tie the laces. I think it was 3 minutes wasted. It wasn’t a huge amount of time, but it still irked me. I will talk more in my review of the socks.
After that it was just a lot of fun. I caught up with some friends along the way, Holly Tripp, Teresa Gadient, a couple of others and chatted and then continued on my way. It was a beautiful course that ran inside a nice residential area and then back to the finish. The view was not anything spectacular, but a decently scenic throughout the course. The weather held to mid 60’s throughout the morning, which is perfect for me.
Nick Z, Ben Mena and the Goof
The last couple of miles were back down Tamiami Trail and then turned back into the community center and into the finish shoot. I picked up the pace on the last couple of miles and actually had enough for a little sprint kick at the end, which I haven’t had in a while. I wish I could figure out what I did, that made that difference. It could have been the steel-cut oats I had that morning, or even a new natural supplement I started a month ago, but I definitely had a little more than I thought. This would have been a nice PR race, but my strategy was negative splits, and very conservative. Next half I’ll do it.
There is one thing to be said about starting in the back and passing people up versus getting passed. Positive/Negative reinforcement. It shouldn’t feel that way, but I believe I also had some energy build from passing everyone except for three whom passed me. Positive conditioning. Starting in the front and getting passed no matter what I tell myself, still has a negative effect on my semi-fragile ego. Do not get me wrong, I know my place. I have always preached strength before speed. I have stated over and over again I am not fast…yet, but I am a strong runner and at a comfortable pace I can run forever. Unfortunately, that pace is pretty slow right now.
I met up with Ben Mena, Nick Zivolich and some other athletes and, Beth(B.o.B) joined us a bit later after finishing herself. I will say the medal is huge and beautiful and athletes running in the other US Road Race Half Marathon series, receive an extra medal with the number of races they ran in the series. If the athlete competed in 2 of the series they received a 2 inch number 2, for 3 races a 3 inch and so on. I like the concept and those medals were gorgeous too. It may be something to ponder trying to complete next year.
That was the glorious morning of my St. Patrick’s Day. I cannot think of a better way I would’ve spent it.
How was your St. Patrick’s Day?
It was apparent this was coming, right? This woman was all over my Rock ‘n’ Roll recap, so the inspiration was already foreshadowed and if you didn’t read the last post, then prepare to be inspired.
Jessica and I met on a set of commercial we were doing for some insurance company. I never actual saw the final cut, but then again, that happens quite frequently. We were actually placed in the roles of runners, which is why it made so much sense. I was in a conversation about running and all of the sudden, I heard this upbeat, sultry voice from behind me enter into the conversation. I turned around to see this tall, athletically thin, beautiful blond woman behind me. Her hair in a ponytail, wearing a Newton visor and radiating the intense positive aura all around her. There was more to this attraction then the minimalistic pure blood American male to the tall, stunningly gorgeous, platinum blond female(See? I am not denying the obvious). The energy radiating from this woman was intense.
We conversed in detail all the while waiting for the lighting to be rigged, and shots set up. I came to find her life as intoxicating as Jessica herself. This woman is an Elite Runner holding course records in the Gasparilla Half-Marathon, St. Pete Women’s Half-Marathon and the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon. As of last year she began competing in triathlon only to make it to Las Vegas for the 70.3 World Championships her first year. If that wasn’t enough, she also coaches other elite athletes, has her own marketing company, and recently created her own Not-for-profit. She is committed to giving back.
As I have continued to attempt climb inside her head and soul to try and understand what drives her, I have yet to hear her utter a negative word about anything or anyone. She truly believes in winning not only the race, but in life itself. If there is ever the opportunity to meet this unbelievable athlete and woman, do so. Before you know it, you will be winning to. Let me introduce you to my good friend, Jessica Crate.
Place of Birth:
Victoria, British Columbia CANADA
Place growing up: Lived all over the US…. Oregon, California, Wisconsin, NY during Elementary School years.
High School: Sarnia, Ontario CANADA
High School sports: EVERYTHING! Lol…. I think I tried out for and was on every team! Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Softball, Gymnastics, Swimming, Dance, Cheerleading, Track & Field, Cross-country, I even dabbled in Girls Rugby (big mistake-haha).
College: Arizona State for 2 years studying Exercise Science and Kinesiology and was Academic and Varsity Scholar athlete for Track and XC(Cross Country) both years.
College Sports: Track and XC, but also dabbled in Soccer, Yoga, Strength training and swimming.Transferred to Florida State University for my last 2 years to pursue Pre- Medical Studies and continued my Minors in Psychology and French. Also ran on the Varsity Track and XC Teams and made it to National Championships all 4 collegiate years. 🙂
Other Sports: I currently work out 2-3 times daily and mix up my training with cycling, running, swimming, yoga, P90X, SUP (stand up paddleboarding), surfing, adventure/mud racing, volleyball, waterskiing, snowboarding…. You name it!
When was it you started competing and why?
I was born a competitor and my Mom tells me I literally came into this world “running” as I was born 1 month pre-mature. Clearly I was eager to get moving at an early age 😉
I grew up in a very athletic family, so “friendly competition” has been a part of my life since my early years. I love to win and have a burning desire for change for the better. Thus, I’m always looking to improve and hone my skills.
What is it that keeps you running after all of this time?
I absolutely LOVE a challenge, I love growing, running is a part of me, and a HUGE part of my life, friendships, relationships and what I do. Others inspire me to KEEP running and in return I hope to inspire others in the process.
In our private conversations you have basically told me that this year you have decided to give back. How did that come about?
I have been overseas on several missions trips and have had the privilege of traveling the
world for racing, training and competing. Being awarded a full-ride scholarship to two D1 Schools for both athletics and academics was not only a blessing, but I felt it a responsibility to essentially “Give Back” all that had been given to me. Upon graduating from college, I partnered with Olympic athlete, Jon Rankin, to launch our own Non-profit organization entitled “Giving Athletics, Inc”, who’s mission is to “Inspire Social change through athletic participation.” It has been so rewarding to help others by fitting them with clothes and shoes that allow them to participate in sports and gain an education. 🙂
If you could give me one adjective to describe the feeling you get when you are working what would it be?
Exhilaration, FREEDOM, accomplishment, energy!
When and why did you start competing in triathlon?
Back in April 2011, I had been training hard to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon. I
had raced several marathons already, but my coach believed I was ready based on my workouts and marathon times. However, at mile 14, I side- stepped around some runners at a water station and snapped my foot. The adrenaline, high pain tolerance and my will to finish wouldn’t let me quit, so I ran the last 12.2 miles on a broken foot. I requalified for Boston, but obviously did more damage to my foot by continuing the race. My Olympic Trials dreams were shattered and I was now in a boot, unable to run. I began physical therapy and realized that I was going to go crazy if I couldn’t run, so I picked up swimming and cycling. Long story short, I started sprint triathlons, qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals in the ITU distance and soon I was embarking on tri training. I ended up qualifying for the USAT ITU World Championships and setting new goals, like Ironman 70.3. Now, here I am! Runner turned Triathlete 😉
What projects are involved with besides running races?
I currently own a marketing company “CRATE, Inc.”, coach and train athletes in addition to my training, while working with a neutraceutical company, LifeVantage. I have found my purpose and passion in life and live to lead a legacy by coaching, training and inspiring others to achieve their goals and dreams.
What would you say is your greatest obstacle you ever overcame
Breaking my foot in the Boston marathon, overcoming that injury and breaking onto the triathlon scene to qualify for 2 World Championships last year as well as set 3 course records in half marathons throughout the state of Florida.
What is your greatest victory?
My greatest victory is overcoming so many failures to continue succeeding. I firmly believe, and as the most successful people will tell you, you have to fail FORWARD. The faster you fail, the quicker you’ll succeed.
What are you favorite quotes?
My business partners and teammates know my favorite slogans, amongst many “Jessica-isms” are: “K.I.S.S.” (Keep it simple silly), “Relax, Smile and Breathe”, “Live life to the fullest”, “Go BIG or go home!”
If you’d like more information on where she will be next or to sign up for a training session, contact her at [email protected]