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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chicago Triathlon Race Report



1st Place Female TRI 3 Mid East Regional Paratriathlon Championship Chicago
"It is not about speed and gold medals, It's about refusing to be stopped." Amby Burfoot

I had the privledge today of racing with Dare 2 Tri at the Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championship at the Chicago Triathlon.

Dare 2 Tri was founded in 2010 to give challenged athletes the opportunity to compete in triathlons.  They had asked me in March to be on their elite team, but I declined because of racing for my own Team CMT.

I see the Dare 2 tri athletes at local triathons and have attended their clinics. They have always considered me a part of their groups and always ask me to join in their group photo's even when I am in my Team CMT uniform. They are based in Chicago so today seemed like the perfect chance to represent for Dare 3 Tri.

Many of their twenty athletes are veterans so it was an honor to line up with them.  So here is a summary of the weekend activities.

Dare 2 Tri Race Team Chicago Paratriathlon Regional Championship



Pre Race
I was literally five feet from Hunter Kemper, Sarah Haskins and Andy Potts. There were doing a fan question session for their sponsor Toyota.  One of the Dare 2 Tri athletes got Hunter's autograph.
The expo was also fun. It was huge with some really interesting vendors.  I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out by Cunningham fountain and checking out the race course.



Briefing.
I usually don't go to the pre race briefing, but I had time to kill so I went.  Got some great information about the bike course. In this race you had to stay to the left of the course and pass right. Also got the low down on the bad sections of the course, so I knew to adjust my race strategy to stay safe.  No surprises on race day because I heard all about the swim, bike and run at the meeting.  This race is split between two days, a kids race and super sprint on Saturday and the Sprint/International distances on Sunday. There are 9000 athletes racing, making this race the biggest triathlon in the country.

Race Morning
3:30 I am up and getting ready, out the door at 4 am. I hate the early morning starts. My wave # 2 was at 6:04 a.m.   What amazed me was how many volunteers were already at work when I arrived in transition at 4 am.  How early did they all have to get up to be in position at luggage check, on the swim course and in transition by 4 am? Everyone I met was helpful and friendly.  I tried to thank the volunteers throughout the day.  It was already warm at 4 am and the temperature would climb to 94 F by the time awards were given out at 10:30 a.m.

Swim Course
Since I never go to the pre-race briefing, I never know what the course is and am always asking about the course at the swim start. This time I knew this was a  1/2 mile point to point course in Munroe Harbor.  The bad news is we had to walk that 1/2 mile from transition to the start in bare feet.  The water was 71 F and it felt warm.  We had a sea wall on our left. I was warned about not hanging on the walls during the race briefing because the zebra mussels are sharp and can cut.  My wave only had 22 people which was great after the 99 athletes were in my wave in my last race.  I had an male athlete on my left and he followed me like a magnet. He kept bumping me and every time I moved he tracked me. He must have been citing off of me. I stopped so he could pass and then went toward the wall. It was so rough I went farther back on the course where I caught up with my magnetic swimmer and he tracked me all the way to the swim out.

It was a 1/4 mile run to transition.

Bike Course
Beautiful course with lake views and the sky line of Chicago. The road were not nearly as bad as reported in the pre race briefing. It was windy and I was tired. The course was also at least 13 miles.  The nice thing is the course was supported by bike marshal's that changed flats. I saw them helping several stranded athletes. My biggest fear in the bike is getting a flat, so this is a great service.

Run
The run was flat and mostly along the lake.  The run is my slowest leg, but the one I am most sure of. Once I get to the run I know I am going to finish.. It wasn't a mistake free race, I turned on my watch too soon and then forgot to stop it at the end. I also ran past my bike in transition.  We were racked right on the edge on a fence and we had lots of space. It was easy to find, but in the excitement of the race I ran past it.  Still my effort was good enough for first place in the TRI 3 category. I even stayed around for the awards ceremony and hung out with my Dare 2 Tri buddies.  It was not a perfect race, but it was a perfect day racing with the athletes of Dare 2 Tri.   Many of these athletes are National Paratriathlon Champions and will be heading to London in a few weeks for the ITU Paratriathlon World Champships. Good luck to all of them!





Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Perfect Race Made in Wisconsin


Today I had the perfect race. It reminded me of why I race and I thought about the Olympic Creed written by Pierre de Coubertin; " The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win, but take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Perfect races really are made in Wisconsin. I had my first mistake free race today. I swam, biked, and ran as fast as I could. I felt a National level race deserved my best effort.  I did not win anything, in fact I finished 32 out of 44 women in the 55 -59 age group. Most people would consider that  a poor showing considering the top 18 became USA team members.  I finished in 1 hr 41 minutes.  To me just being out there and competing in an event like this was so much fun. For me every race is a gift and I realize how lucky I am to compete as an athlete. With CMT every race is a victory.  If fighting well and racing well is important then I was successful today. Here is just a quick re-cap of my race.

Swim
I took advantage of doing the practice swim on Friday and I am glad I did. I took a wrong turn trying to find the exit dock. The pontoon boat with the life guards announced to me the dock was on the other side of the bridge and then they asked me if I was OK. I must look like I am drowning when I am swimming because that is not the first time I have been asked that. Better to make a dumb mistake in practice than on race day.. I got a chance to get used to the water temperature and the narrow bridge that was part of the course.

I lined up with the 96 women in my wave. They started all the 55 + women in the same wave.  We were off and I decided not to hang back like I usually do, but take my chances in the scrum. It was like a brawl out there. You can see when you swim, we have on goggles. So many women ran into me and there is no excuse for it.. I got squeezed between multiple swimmers. Putting my elbows out gave me some space.  We ran into the stragglers of the men's wave right before us and the men's wave right behind us caught up. Some guy twice my size swam on top of me and parked there. I had to push him off of me. It really was like swimming with the sharks and I held my own. I was really proud I did not panic.

The swim course is shallow so it got choppy. I had water go into my mouth on several occasions.  None of it phased me. I just used my swim mantra to concentrate.  In no time I got to the very steep exit ramp. Volunteers in orange shirts were there to help us out.  It just happens that the two volunteers to help me out were fellow Team CMT member Kevin Klein and Ski Patrol buddy Bill Weiss. How cool to see them out there. Kevin and Bill are triathletes and want to race next year.  My swim was a minute faster than my average swim. I guess getting in there and fighting the crowd was worth it. It was a really long run to transition so my T1 time is longer than usual.

Bike
I decided I was going to open it up on the bike course and see what I could do. I had ridden the accessible parts of the course several times in the past week so I knew how to pace myself.  The road conditions on the Hoan Bridge were dicey.  The steep part of the bridge was not too bad. I got a surprise when several of my Tri Newbie friends were working as volunteers on the course. I loved seeing them out there. Thanks guys for cheering me on!  Before I knew it the bike course was done. It was so much fun and I did it in 43 minutes!
Friends Anne Peters, Mary Nekich, John Schneider, Del Lynn Cheron

Run
Once I get to the run, I know I am home free. After training for marathons, 3 miles is cinchy.  I tried to push it a bit.  I love triathlons runs because no one is allowed to wear headphones and I can talk to runners. The athletes also have their age written on their calves.  I always check if someone is in my age group. The woman I was passing was 62 and looked years younger. I told her not only did she look strong but she looked way younger than 62. She shared with me she was a cancer survivor and that her radiation treatment had made her slower. I told her cancer was a race worth winning. We triathletes always seem to apologize for being slow.  See that Olympic creed.  The victory is in the struggle. I think she has nothing to apologize for. Many athletes today told me how slow they were. One woman told me her swim was 17 minutes. I shared mine was 21 minutes. No one knows that I am an athlete with challenges. I look like I perfectly fine and I also always seem to apologize for being slow.
Finisher Medal USAT Age Group National Championship
 I had a good run for me at right around 30 minutes. Because I had run the course several times I knew when I was close to the finish line. It always feels good to get the finisher medal especially when I feel like I've run a good race.  It was a great finisher medal.



I am still on an event high. Not only did I compete today, but I volunteered for the last two days at chip pick up and as a timer at bike in. It is so fun to be on the other side and watch as great athletes compete.
It was so much fun to be asked questions from athletes and be able to help them with answers.It was great to hear from athlete after athlete how impressed they were with the event and our beautiful city. I am so proud of the way the community turned out to volunteer for this event!

  It really was a perfect weekend from beginning to end. A mistake free race was a perfect way to end race weekend. Cannot wait until next year.  More about the whole volunteer experience in my next blog.

*********************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 127 members in 27 states. We also have members in Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Race Goodies-USAT Age Group Nationals


One of the fund things about doing a race is getting your race packet and seeing what fun things were included as part of the race experience.  So I got home Thursday night and spread it all out. Since this was a National Championship I had high hopes.


First the swim cap is bright green. Every wave has it's own color. There are 44 women in my age group and all women 55 and over will be in the same swim wave. So there will be 96 of us taking off at 8:12 am on Sunday.
Race numbers were next.. There is a whole page of them for a triathlon. You have to put one number on your seat post and front post to even get into transition, there is also number for the swim cap, helmet and for the race belt. You have to wear a number on the run.  The page also included some tri tatts. When you see pictures of elite athlete and pros they are always wearing these.    They work sort of by transfer.  I did not have good luck with them the first too times. Sometimes I have trouble getting them to stick.  Last time I  used them was in Austin and I had trouble getting them off.
string bag
Most of these goodies came in a logo string bag. I have bunches of these from other races. They are great for carrying things around at races and on vacation. Nice if you want to show off competing in a National Championship.
socks
cap


Most races only give you a tee shirt and not much more. We got socks and a great baseball cap.
Tee shirt
The women's tee-shirt was red and pretty nice. It is cotton which is nice to wear with jeans. I did like the navy blue one the men got much better.

Race Program
We also got an event program. I got one of these the first year I did the Paratriathlon Nationals and the Boston Marathon. It will be nice to leave out on the coffee table when I have company I want to impress.

Lots of good perks for being an athlete in this race.  I've seen the finisher medal and it is just as good as all our other perks.

***************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 127 members in 27 states. We also have members in Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Snakes in a Race- USAT Age Group Championships

Banner on race course here in Milwaukee


" Win or lose, you will never regret working hard, making sacrifices, being disciplined or focusing too much. Success is measured by what we have done to prepare for competition."- Jon Smith

It isn't unusual for me to be a little nervous before a race. I  always a worry a bit even before a tiny local triathlon.  I knew I was in trouble when I had not one but two dreams on Tuesday night.

I don't dream often, but when I do they are in color and a little weird. During the first one I was in transition on race day and discovered I had forgotten to pick up my race packet.  I don't know how I got into transition without it, but there I was. I could not believe I could not get my packet and was begging race officials to give it to me.  They were immovable , no race packet, no race. I was done.

My coach laughed when I told her about that one. She said she could totally  see me doing this. She has coached me long enough to know I forget things and almost every race make some kind of dumb mistake.
I had to do an entire bike course without water in really hot weather because I forgot my water bottle. I never seem to remember to start my watch.  Lots of dumb stuff.

She also reminded me I was trained, well prepared and ready! If discipline and focus make me ready then she is right!

The second dream was the weird one. I was biking on a paved bike trail when I ran into a bush, which I have actually done. Then this giant snake came out of the bush and parked himself on top of me.. I can still see it. It was metallic silver with black markings. It was huge, like one of those giant pythons they keep finding in Florida.   I hate snakes and am terrified of them. In the dream I grabbed it and threw it off of me. I think that snake represents all the things that can go wrong on race day and come back to bite me.  Two weeks ago I had a flat tire coming out of transition in a triathlon, major snake bite. It always seems to be something, usually of my own making.

So I knew my mind was nervous about this race.  I ve found preparation is the key to fighting my nerves. I go over as many details as I can. So I decided to bike, and run the race course on Wednesday night. I also wanted to get a look at the swim course.

            Swim entry and mid point on swim course- Milwaukee 

This is the entry to the swim course and the narrow bridge I am worried about.  The exit is a very steep ramp. So on Friday morning I am going to swim the course during practice and get used to all of it.

I also biked the parts of the  course I had access too. Part of course is on an interstate, only open on race day. I drive it several times a week. No problem there and I've run the bike course many times training for Boston.

Finally after my look at the swim course and biking the course, I did a three mile run on the course including looking at transition.

                                     Run course for sprint race 

The race course is flat and scenic.  The first picture is looking back from the start. The second picture is coming out of transition. One thing I did find out that the Newtons I bought in Boston were making my feet hurt and I went to a running store and got a new pair. Just one more thing to take care of.  I was really glad I took the time to check out the course and work out little issues like my shoes before the race.

I also picked up my race packet on Thursday afternoon, so cross that off the list of things to go wrong. I am almost done organizing everything I need for the race. All part of calming the nerves.  Will there be a snake that pops up to bite me on race day?  Knowing my history, probably. But I will handle them like I do in any race. Being late, no water bottle, wrong turn on swim course, missing turn off on the bike course, not starting my watch, losing my race number. Yep I have been snake bit in every race, but I always manage to finish. Anything can happen on race day, and I will deal with any and all of it. See you at the finish!

********************

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 127 members in 27 states. We also have members in Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.


Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Swimming with the Sharks- USAT Age Group Nationals


Paratriathon National Sprint Championship in Austin Texas 2013

 "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."- Will Rogers

It seemed like a good idea a few months ago when I signed up for the USAT Age Group Nationals here in Milwaukee.  There are two races, an Olympic and Sprint distance. To qualify for the Olympic race, athletes had to finish in the top ten percent of their age group in a qualifying race. The last qualifying race in the country was at Omaha, the same race where I won the regional paratriathlon championship.

Anyone could sign up for the sprint race at Nationals here in Milwaukee which will be on Sunday, with the Olympic distance race on Saturday. Over 3000 athletes will compete in the Olympic event and 1200 in the sprint race. The sprint distance is a 750 meter swim, 20 K bike and 5 K run.. A nice easy day. Sprints are long enough to be challenging and short enough to still be fun. Plus with this being a hometown race, I would not have to spend the kind of time and money I spent going to Austin, Boston, Chicago, and Omaha this year.  It was more than I could resist.

I signed up because I could and I thought it would be a good experience.  How many athletes can say they competed in a National Championship of any kind? It will be an awesome finisher medal to add to my collection.

I have a regional championship race in Chicago in two weeks and the swim will be in Lake Michigan. This race will give me some needed Lake Michigan swim experience. I also want to get the experience of a larger wave. If I ever get to the Paratriathlon World Championship, I expect the waves to be huge The World Championship last year in Auckland was an ocean swim. The closest I can get to an ocean swim is Lake Michigan here in Milwaukee and Chicago.

That all seemed like a really good idea until I saw the start list for the woman 55-59. There are 44 women, six from here in Wisconsin.  Last year there were 24 in the wave. Since the top 18 advance to the World Championship I had a good chance to make the US team. Last year my average race time would have placed me 12th.  With such a big wave I don't have much chance.

I also had 2nd thoughts when I took a look at the swim course.
National Age Group Championship Sprint Swim Course
All of the women 55 and older will start in the same wave.   I think I counted 96 women in that group. It is an in water start. Hoping they break down that wave into a smaller group. The problem with the swim course is the small bridge over the course as you enter the lagoon. It is the small black structure on the map. It is about 20 meters wide and swimmers will be going in both directions. Can you say congestion?  Big wave, lots of type A athletes competing for spots on the U.S. team.  I better keep moving or I will get run over. I went diving with sharks in Honduras and Belize. That was easier than this is going to be. I literally feel like I' m swimming with the sharks. It is a bit intimidating to think about the caliber of athletes that will travel across the country to be in a race like this. I am probably in over my head.

I had a swimmer swim right over me in my last race and was surrounded by a men's swim wave in a race before that. A few elbows here and there help deal with it. I know I can mix it up with the best of them.
 My strategy will be to start in the back and go wide of the buoys. Let everyone else fight it out and I will make it up on the bike and the run.

The next moment of hesitation was when I saw the bike course.  I don't have the map, but it goes up an over the Hoan bridge over the harbor.  I used to drive over that bridge twice a day to and from work. I have run races over the bridge twice in recent years. The road surface is not in good shape. There are also expansion joints that would pose a hazard for bikes.  Not to worry, USAT says they have special mats to cover the joints and any other area of concerns.

The run course is all good news.  If I survive the swim and the bike I will be home free.
National Age Group Championship Sprint Run Course
The run is flat and scenic, it runs along the lake coming out of transition and then a loop around a park lagoon. Even better my tri newbie friends and coach will be at one of the water stops working as volunteers. They have promised to cheer me on as I pass through. Thanks Scott, Del Lynn, Tiffany and Anne.  I can't wait to see you on Sunday!

Some of my 2nd thoughts are just pre-race nerves.  I know the competition will be tough and I will likely finish well down the list of woman in my age group. That never feels good.  Competing at a big venue is no problem since I have competed at the Paratriathlon National Sprint Championship the last two years in the Open Division. I finished on the podium both years.

Also because I have no shot at the U.S. Team I can now relax and enjoy the experience. This will be a training race for the Mideast Regional Championship in Chicago on August 25th.  I plan on having fun, staying safe and looking for friends among the spectators.  Many of the local triathletes are turning out to volunteer so this race should be a lot of fun despite my 2nd thoughts about some of the courses!

I am also volunteering for the Olympic race as a timer assistant and at packet pick up on Friday night. It is really fun to be on the other side of a race once in awhile. It also gives me a good chance to check out the course before I run my own race.

It is going to be a busy weekend as we welcome thousands of athletes to Milwaukee. I am so thrilled this event will be here and very excited to participate as an athlete and volunteer.

I know it is going to feel so good when I cross that finish line and they put that medal on my neck. I am taking a little bit of a risk by being is such a group of probably very talented and intense athletes.  I feel most alive when I take a risk and I think this is going to feel great.

********************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 127 members in 27 states. We also have members in Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.


Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.