Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lake Stevens 70.3

I had a conversation this morning about how I should really pick my races a bit more strategically?  Or, I don't know, perhaps pick a more flat one?  Nah, what fun would that be :)

I actually have a bit of history with Lake Stevens.  In 2006, fresh off my first half Ironman, just over a year past a 4 year injury and surgery to fix my IT band, Shane registered for his first Ironman.  I was still in the phase of HELL NO, NEVER (I didn't live by my motto of never say never back then).  However, it did happen to be the summer of my 10 year high school reunion in Spokane, and the following weekend just happened to be this new half ironman race called Lake Stevens.

Funny, I had spent the summer actually living in Lake Stevens between my junior and senior year of college when I got a summer internship working at Starbucks headquarters and never once swam in that lake!

Side note:  Do you know what it's like to commute 40miles each way in traffic with a POS car that well, sometimes just doesn't start?  Let's just say that summer cured me of ever wanting to live in Seattle.  I5, you are not my friend!  It wasn't all bad that summer.  It was the summer I would say I started to become an athlete again.  After quitting high school sports my senior year because of some pretty severe back problems I partied.  A LOT.  I got FAT and I didn't exercise.  Add that on top of a few years in college and well, it's not pretty.

Something changed for me that year living in Lake Stevens.  First, I changed my work hours to avoid traffic and worked from 6-3.  Second, the family that graciously let me stay with them were very healthy.  They had a treadmill in the house, my friend was a crazy fitness guru, her mom did aerobics daily and the house was always filled with healthy food.  So, what does a 21 year old with not much money do after a work day that ends at 3?  I started to run.  I built my way up from 3-7 miles, running every day.  I started eating healthy and 2 months later I was the most fit I'd been in a LONG time.

So, when the opportunity to go back and do a race in the town that I feel has a lot to do with the beginning of my new found love for endurance sports, I couldn't help but be excited.  It was perfect timing for Shane to do a half before Ironman Wisconsin, and a great time to get out of Phoenix.

The race was a first year 70.3 event in 2006, but it was still very small and with very little hype.  My only experience with that distance was the previous year at Soma where it's all flat and happy on the course and I finished in 6:05.  Well, I completed Lake Stevens that year (record heat) in 6:14 and happy as could be.

So, how cool to go back and see how I've progressed in the last 7 years.  I went into this race knowing how difficult the bike course was (it had actually changed since I last did it, and it was definitely MORE difficult), knowing I'm nowhere near my peak fitness for the season with my Ironman still 16 weeks out, but also exciting knowing that even not on my best day it would be a big PR.

In so many ways this race and the trip did not disappoint.  The weather could not be more perfect.  It was cool (60ish) in the morning with a nice marine layer covering the sun.  The lake was like glass and the scenery stunning and green.

Without going into a typical race report I'll just do a quick summary because as I mentioned above this wasn't my key race, but just a great opportunity to see where my fitness was!  I spent the past 6 weeks building my bike fitness from crappy post marathon to feeling good, working a lot on my swim endurance for an upcoming 10k ocean swim in Hawaii and spent the least time working on my run....

The swim start was just like the pre-race swim the day before

There was a super cool fog over the water, which was so pretty and serene it actually made me forget about how nasty the water was!  The temp was warm (68ish) but I chose to wear my long sleeve to keep me warm in the morning and to start the bike out a bit on the warm side.   I swam with a much larger than normal front pack in my wave (typically I get dropped by the front group and swim by myself) and had a very solid swim for me of 32:30ish.  4 mins faster than 06 and about a 1minute distance PR.
The bike.  I felt good, not awesome, but good.  I was kinda surprised how much I got passed, but I was working as hard as I felt I could and just did my own thing.  The climbs were relentless and not rolling enough to gain momentum on the descends.  So hilly, plus technical.  Think the old Hayden section of the IMCDA course.  Again though the scenery was absolutely stunning.  Huge green trees and farmland and lakes.  My bike time was a bit slower than I expected.  Looking at past times I was hoping for 2:50-2:54.  My time was 2:57.  17mins faster than 06, but definitely a distance slow time for me

The run.  I swear I remembered it being flat?  However the day before we rode some of the run course and I knew the out and back 5k section was not at all flat.  It's basically a figure 8 run course that is done twice.  The first 5k section is a false flat to start, then slight down to finish.  Then you have a 5k out and back along the lake.  It's basically up, down turnaround and go back up and down.  I actually REALLY liked the course.  Not only was the temperature perfect (couldn't help but chuckle as people took sponges) and I loved how it was broken up into segments.

I didn't look at my pace.  I looked at my avg pace each mile as they clicked off.  As I mentioned before I was the least confident in my run.  I just hadn't focused on running since my marathon in March.  That training mentally and sorta physically broke me for a while and running long just didn't interest me (or clearly my coach!) at ALL.  I felt so much better than I expected on the run (this is what happens when you have your bike nutrition down!!) and finished without any big bonks or downs.  I did however have some serious twinges in my quads at the end, and knew if I had even one more mile to go past the finish I'd be hurting.  My run split was just over 1:46 - 34 mins faster than 06 and a ~1min distance PR.

Overall I'm super happy with how the race went.  Although my stats in my AG were not the best, in fact probably some of my lowest, I raced my race.  The competition was fierce!  I'm happy with where my fitness is and still have 3.5 months left to train for IMAZ with lots of fun training trips mixed in.  While I know it's not a great comparison 7 years later, but it was a ~55 min course PR :)

We spent the next few days just enjoying the city.  We had a huge seafood fest in downtown Seattle with my college buddy and other friends, ending the evening with dessert and bubbles at the Four Seasons.  Such a great day!

Saturday we headed out for some wine tasting.  We visited some wineries a couple of years ago when we were there for New Years, but I'm was super excited how much the region had grown.  We visited a couple that were our favorites the last time including Delille Cellars, and while they didn't have our favorite wines from the last visit (D2 & AIX), we were treated (or tricked maybe) to a special "wine club only" tasting which we of course broke the bank, purchased and will save for our anniversary... or maybe a special celebration in November ;)
The one that really broke the bank and intrigued us was a winery called Lachini Vineyards.  We were there for a good 2 hours tasting, and chatting with sommelier as well as the owners and wine makers.  It was really interesting.  WA is not known for Pinot Noir, more Syrah and Merlot.  But, this family owns vineyards in Willamette Valley, my favorite Pinot region!   We had so much fun tasting all these interesting wines and even found an amazing Chardonnay and Rosé that we fell in love with.  So, probably 2 glasses of wine later and a nice $350 deduction from my bank account and we are now members of the Lachini wine club ;)  See how happy (or drunk) we were?? 

We headed back to my uncles house and shared some of our fun wine purchases and had a great evening with Salmon dinner and stayed up talking past midnight (WHAT!?).  Sunday we spent our last day starting with a swim at the Seattle Athletic club, lunch and walking around Pikes Place Market before heading to the airport.
Seattle you did not disappoint.  We happen to be there for 4 out of the 30 stunning days of weather you get a year.  But, don't worry, I know better than to think it's always gorgeous in Seattle ;)  Until next time.... Great memories, solid race, and amazing wine!

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