Quassy: The Beast of the Northeast

First of all, I would like to thank Kevin for being at the race: beginning/middle/end, race chauffeur, photographer, personal cheerleader. ūüôā Race support do not get enough credit for what they do. So, thank you!

Challenge Quassy. Where do I begin? I learned a few lessons the day before and day of the race–little hiccups–but this race was all about going with the flow; rolling with punches (is that a saying?). Middlebury, CT is less than an hour and a half drive from me, which was awesome, because we did not have to travel far. Quassy is a little amusement park that is right on Lake Quassapaug, and it wasn’t a horrible location at all to house an event.

Mmm Carbs!

Pre-trip breakfast. Mmmmm carbs!

Saturday we drove up and I was able to take part in the practice swim, get my packet, check-in my bike, attend athlete meeting, etc. When we were getting my stuff together, I realized I forgot my toiletry bag. Okay, no big deal, except it had my glasses and all my epilepsy meds. Sh*t. Usually, I’m not the most organized person and just keep meds in two places: cabinet, and thrown in a bag I use. However, recently, I have been attempting to be more organized, so I put everything¬†(meds included) into a toiletry¬†bag. No bueno. I should go back to being unorganized, because I always had something with me.

Anyway, my thoughts at the point I forgot everything: This is already going to be horrible.¬†Slight melt down, and we hadn’t even been at the race location an hour. If you have read some of my prior posts, having seizures (esp in the water when swimming) really freaks me out. Not having those meds (“safety net”) threw me for a loop. The rest of the things in the bag could be replaced, and we did indeed get what I forgot (minus my glasses). But, not a great way to start a race weekend.

My name! Bike is checked.

My name! Bike is checked.

Lesson #1: If you take medications for a medical condition, always bring extra in your purse or what have you.

Later, we checked into the hotel and found a restaurant with food that was decently priced where I could get my pre-race veggie burger with fries. That is the traditional meal I have before races (I know, I know, not the healthiest, but it is tradition and we know what happened when I broke my “Tradition” of throwing meds into a bag, right?).

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought “just a little”

We were back at the hotel by 7:30pm, where I went through all of my belongings i would need for the race, and pack them. I am sure I am not the only triathlete who lays out all their stuff atleast two or three times, making sure they have everything they need.

“We are going to be late, we are going to be late!” I kept telling people, trying to get everything ready to bring to the race start. “It is almost 6:30 and transition closes!” I parked the car and ran with my bike and race bag to the changing area and tried desperately¬†¬†to put my wetsuit on. For some reason, it was taking forever, but I made it to the swim start. However I was still trying to zip up my wetsuit, and no one would help me. “Three, Two, One….Beeeeep.” The race director said as swimmers ran into the water. I was still on the beach when he looked at me, lifting up a red card. I was disqualified at Lake Placid before I even began the race. How could this happen? How could I let this happen?

I woke up at 3:15 to a nightmare of not even being able to begin the swim at Lake Placid. I was oddly not feeling anxious about the race the day before, but I guess the nightmare which woke me up would suggest otherwise! Being unable to fall back asleep, I hung out in bed until my alarm went off. Time to get ready! Quassy is neat in that instead of body markers at the beginning, everyone gets removable tattoo numbers that they apply. I’m not going to lie, I think it was badass ūüėõ When we checked in, the receptionist said to another person that they were having an early cold breakfast starting at 4am, and i was starving when I woke up, so I ventured down stairs and not knowing where breakfast was, asked the receptionist. She then pointed to a table and said, ” We have granola bars and fruit for sale, and complimentary coffee.”

I looked over at the table, with the $2 granola bars and $2 pieces of fruit. Are you kidding me?What am I going to eat for breakfast? I NEED BREAKFAST!!!!!¬†I returned to the room and stated, “Kevin, we need to find a Dunkin Donuts. There is no breakfast here!”

Lesson #2: Never assume a “cold breakfast” means actual food. In fact, just pack supplies for breakfast (which is actually what I usually do. Do not know why I did not do it today.

We were able to find a DD’s (Hallelujah!) And I shoved a raisin bagel with cream cheese down my throat on our way to the race.

The Swim

As with may triathlon starts, there is a lot of waiting. I made sure my transition area was all set, got into the wetsuit, and then it was time to head to the start. There was a small warm up area for people to go and I acclimated myself to the water (which was 66 degrees and it felt much warmer being in the water than in the 48 degree air temperature). I did learn something about warm up areas for races though. Well, I did not learn it per say, but it is a theory of mine. If you are waiting for the swim start and see a bunch of people waist deep in the water, just looking out, I am 99% sure that they are peeing. No joke. I guarantee you that is what people are doing. If you are a triathlete who has never peed in their wetsuit in the water, I want to know your name. Because (almost) everyone does it. I realized this when I was walking into the water and thought, Man, I am going to dunk my head in an area filled with the urine of hundreds of athletes. Maybe that is why the water was so warm?

My swim wave.

My swim wave.

ūüėõ

Anyway, I was oddly at ease waiting for the swim to start. Today was not a race for me. It was just a long training day, to see how my training for LP is going. After about 45 minutes of waiting and shivering, our swim wave started and the 1.2 mile swim began. It was a mass start, but I was able to find the outside and just get my groove on. It was slightly hard to sight the bouys because they were directly in the sun, but I didn’t mind, since we swam with them to our right and in OWS I tend to only breathe on my right. I swam then did short breast stroke breaks. Before I knew it, I was clumsily running out of the water. I looked down at my watch and saw 43:00. Holy crap. I could not believe that I swam that distance in that amount of time (the last half IM I did was in 55 minutes). I was ecstatic. I know if I didn’t take those breast stroke breaks the time would be even faster!

This is my

This is my “ehh how am I going to get the wetsuit off?” look

I ran to transition to get my bike and take my wetsuit off. Of course, the last time I wore a wetsuit someone helped strip it off. So, I wasted about 5 minutes trying to get it off. But then I was off on the bike!

Lesson #3: Practice taking wetsuit off

The Bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Ohh, the bike. I knew going into this race that the bike course was hard. My goal was to keep plugging along, stick with my nutrition plan, and getter done. The bike course is really quite beautiful, and a lot is shaded which is nice. The thing with the Quassy bike course is that there is almost no flat. You are either climbing, or descending. I guess in a sense that is nice, because on the descents you can get “free speed” and recover. But the hills are relentless and there is 3,996 ft of elevation gain in the 56 miles. Now, this is¬†nothing I have not seen before; Dutchess county has terrain just like that of where the course is. Heck, the sprint duathlons I have done all include some sort of hills. The Patriot Half last year was flat as a pancake. Quite a different course. I found my training in the Catskills definitely helped with my climbing, and I found I was able to pass people on the climbs (and then they would zip past me on the descents).

Elevation of the bike

Elevation of the bike

People often wonder what you think about on the bike. I am pretty sure the same thoughts circled in my head. Keep going, this is really a lot like D.Co….Are the hills done….?Ouu, nice house.¬†

By mile 40 I was ready to be off the bike, mostly because triathlon shorts have no padding whatsoever and my butt hurt like the dickens. I will most definitely be wearing cycling shorts for IMLP. My legs were ready to be running. There were plenty of aid stations along the bike course which was nice. I did stop once for a pit stop (I have mastered peeing in the water, but not on the bike.) Towards the end of the course I was getting a bit fatigued, and the last portion parallels some of the run course. At this point I was slow enough to have a bit of a conversation with a runner.

“Hey, nice bike I have the exact same one.”

“Yeah? It’s great, isn’t it?”

“Yea, you are looking great. You look super fast on it!”

“Thanks!”

“You just need white shoes now!”

“Haha, keep up the strong run!”

It is funny how little comments like that can really give you that extra energy to keep you going.

Run

I made the dismount with my legs wanting to run. Kevin was there and shouted out some words of encouragement (how I love that man!). I probably could have saved some time on the transition, because I decided to run back to my bike to put more sun tan lotion on, but oh well. The run is similar to the bike: it is hilly. In retrospect, I do not think I have ever run such a hilly half marathon course. It was great though, a nice combination of dirt roads and paved. And, most importantly, there was a ton of shade! I took it easy and did not push myself. I thought about running and training. I questioned whether or not I will be able to finish IMLP, because this course is only half of that.

Heading out for the run

Heading out for the run

¬†People say the run tests you physically, mentally, and emotionally. And they were not kidding. There is over 900 feet of elevation gain on the course. Towards the beginning of the run, I decided to break it up into chunks of 6 hours. By mile six I thought, “Okay, only three more to go.” And then I realized, wait, this is not a marathon, it is a HALF marathon! Only one more to go! Mile 9 to the finish are tough. Like, “Are you f-cking kidding me? Another steep hill?” tough. Yes, there were downhills, but at mile 9 there is a 7-9% incline you have to run up, and they have the same type of incline at mile 12.¬†You know that you are going to be running up that hill at mile 12, because you run down it. (Actually, there is a similar out and back on the bike where you go down and then have to turn around and go back up). just keep moving along. Almost at the top of the hill, I spotted Kevin on his bike. It was a sight that made me so happy.
Run

Run

“Kevin, this course is no joke.”

“I know, that’s what they say.”

He rode next to me for a couple hundred feet until I turned into the park and headed down the finish chute. Well, I first ran past the finisher chute when people yelled, “wrong way! It’s down that!” Ooops. So, after I turned to head towards where I was supposed to be running,¬†I finished!

As I crossed the finish¬†it dawned on me that exactly three months and one day ago I had my surgery, and missed the whole month of March. Which means, I was back training for this beginning in April (so, two months). I remember first getting back into training wondering if I would be able to finish this race, this “Beast of the Northeast.”

And I did.

Not only did I finish, I had a PR 1.2 mile swim, and only finish the whole race 9 minutes slower than my first half IM last year, which was the total opposite of this race in terms of difficulty.

Right at the finish I met Kevin and gave him a huge, sweaty, salty, sun-tan lotion drenched hug.

“I did it! I finished!”

“You did awesome, Molly.”

Selfie!

Smile, Kevin!

Last week being sick, and reading about how hard the race was, I had some self doubt about being able to finish this. But, it goes to show what you can do with will power.No, it wasn’t a course record, nor am I as fast as other people, but I’m pretty happy with my time on such a difficult course. Excluding the nightmare, treating the race as “just a long training day” helped tremendously in that I felt almost no pre-race anxiety. I went in knowing what I had to do, like other training days, and just went in and did it. There is still work I need to do before IMLP, but I’m pumped and ready to train!

IMG_7388

Race day memento

Race day memento

The end.

ūüôā

Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, and what you can accomplish.

-Cecil Springer

T-4 Days (Or is it 3?) to Quassy

I figured I would try to write a quick post before heading to work, as I consume “sore throat lozenges” like the are candy, pop vitamin C drops one after another, and guzzle water like it is the last water left on earth.*

My newfound love: homemade machta iced tea lattes. The BEST!

My newfound love: homemade machta iced tea lattes. The BEST!

Yeah, I know, the last thing any athlete wants is to be sick when counting down the days to a race. Especially a half Ironman.

I guess it is a good thing that since the race is Sunday, that means this week I’ve been taking it easy (and by “take it easy” I mean “do no physical exercise whatsoever”). I need this cold to be gone, baby, gone in a couple days and will do what it takes to get there.

Mmmm post workout pick-me-up

Mmmm post workout pick-me-up

It seems with taking a summer course, starting a new job, and training for an ironman has made life a little bit more busy than before– I’m not complaining! It’s all about time management, right? So today looks like the best day to do a quick update on training.

Last week ended on a better note emotionally than the week before. I was able to put in another 2.4 mile swim at the pool, and did my first couple OWSs of the season (I always find my first OWS similar to the first outdoor ride of the season: a bit disheartening, but that is because I am not used to it). I ordered one of those swim safety buoys to help with my fears of swimming alone, so that (once this cold goes away) I can dedicate some more time getting used to swimming outside again. I mean, swimming is completely different outside than inside, no doubt about it– especially on a windy day! My challenge is getting to the same speed I am in the pool, somewhat soon. Over the weekend I was blessed to have a day at the lake, where I swam and my man and younger sister kayaked. (My man is pretty darn amazing at documenting things, too, might I add).

First OWS-- gotta love smacking yourself in the jaw when trying to put on a wetsuit...

First OWS– gotta love smacking yourself in the jaw when trying to put on a wetsuit…

Action shot

Action shot

Weekend fun!

Weekend fun! (I was looking at fish)

This should help with OWSs, right?!?

This should help with OWSs, right?!?

On Thursday I set forth to do ride 100 miles. It was my goal to ride 90-100 the weekend before, but that fell through. I do not think I wanted to do it to get the miles in, I wanted to do it for psychological reasons (remember how I’ve said a lot of IMLP is psychological as well as physical?). I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a century. Most other people I know who have done centuries have done organized long rides, and I realized that, yes, it might be nice to be in a group of people doing a long ride with support, as it is a long time to be riding by yourself. But, I completed it! The route I did may not have the elevation gain of the IMLP course, but I was able to complete it and still have energy at the end. You realize on long rides that your rear is not the only thing that begins to hurt after 6 hours of riding. I started noticing a lot of other body parts that began to make their presence known. I also realized a lot of self organization goes into long bike rides, especially if you do not know what services are like along the route. (Thank goodness on race day there will be aid stations!). Another realization I had, or rather, lesson learned, was to check the condition of your face before you walk into a gas station/restaurant/whatever it is that may have other people. I know I have said this before, but I still don’t take my advice and look at myself in a mirror before I enter public places. And I should, I really should. At¬†Margretteville (my “turn around” on my ride at mile 50) I decided to do a quick pit stop and bought gatorade. The lady at the register was very nice to me when I asked where the rest rooms were. Only once I was looking in a mirror that I noticed I had chocolate all around my mouth– as if I was licking chocolate batter off a spoon. (I had eaten a chocolate Clif Bar en route!!) That, plus some streams of sun block down my cheeks and a bunch of small dead flies pasted to my forehead was not a pretty site. No wonder no one else at teh station said hello to me when I greeted them. Smacking my forehead.¬†

IMG_7284

Starting a century at 5:45am means you pass the Ashokan Reservoir when everything is still.

Starting a century at 5:45am means you pass the Ashokan Reservoir when everything is still and calm.

Post- century meal. You know me and my sandwiches/wraps/etc

Post- century meal. You know me and the soft spot in my heart for sandwiches.

Anyway, that was a big accomplishment. Mentally, I know now that I should be able to complete the IMLP bike portion. And that self confidence goes a long way.

I know I have paid little attention to the Quassy Half. Well, that is because I have. Training has been geared towards Lake Placid. I could not help but notice that discussion forums regarding the Quassy Half have boomed over the last couple of days, and I knew going into the race that it would be difficult. But I do not think I am really as prepared as I think I am for said difficulty of the course.¬†One person asked the question if Quassy was really as difficult as people say it is. My favorite (and perhaps the most terrifying) response was: “You are f-cked. Gun ammo and rocket fuel for breakfast!”

Ohh gotta love knowing “you are f-cked” before you even start a race. However, on a good note, most people who have completed both Quassy and IMLP say they would much rather do the full IMLP bike course than the Quassy bike course. Should I be worried? Well, at this point, I am slightly concerned. But, i will be treating it as a long training day. And as of right now, I am trying to contain this cold, so there will be no last minute, long training rides before the race.

I guess we all will see how Quassy goes next week, when it is over!!

Last Week in Numbers

Running 3:30 (20mi)

Biking 7:36 (115.6mi)

Swimming 2:45 (3.8)

Total: 14hrs (139.4miles)

*I did not finish this post before work, nor did I really pop the lozenges like candy. But you get the drift.

5 Weeks to Quassy Half

I remember the morning that Kevin and I drove to MA for the Patriot Half Ironman last year pre-race jitters and nerves had consumed¬†my body and I stated, “I just need to finish this, and I never have to do another one of these again.”

Fast forward eleven months and here I am counting down the weeks to my next 70.3 triathlon. The pre-race nerves have not hit yet, but I have no doubts that they will return a couple days before the race. They always do. If there is any athlete out there who has no pre-race anxiety whatsoever, lead him/her to me so I can learn their secret.

I’ve read, and heard, many¬†things regarding the Quassy triathlon, with one common opinion: it. is. hard.

I must admit, I chose the Patriot Half because I knew it was flat. For me, flat equalled easy, and flat equalled something I could finish. In reality, even flat courses are difficult; having your body endure a race that lasts longer than 70 miles is not a walk in the park.

This race coming up in a little over a month however, is the opposite of the Patriot Half. I have heard that it is hilly. I have heard it is difficult. I’ve heard it is one of the more difficult half ironman distance races in the US.

Does that scare me?

I’ve decided to turn feeling “scared” into feeling “challenged.” It will be a challenging race for sure, but one that I am looking forward to in seeing how my training for IMLP is going.

Last week, I completed the longest brick thus far: a 40 mile bike ride and then a 8 mile run after. Long story short, it was a horrible training day. Even though I fueled well, I felt weak. I felt tired. Riding my road bike brings such discomfort that it is hard to muster any energy to pedal because of the pain I have in my shoulders. I was supposed to ride 60 miles, but gave up after 40. I couldn’t even keep up a 13.5mph speed. Throughout the run after I kept thinking, “How am I possibly going to finish a race in a few weeks when I am in such discomfort after only riding 40 miles? Maybe I should just quit all together. There is no way I will be able to ride 112 miles. Too much training lost from my stupid appendix. It’s just a waste of time trying.” Negative thoughts began, and we all know those are evil and to where they lead.

A week later I had a 70mile ride scheduled and then a long run after. I decided to take my triathlon bike out and test it on hills and real roads (not just a rail trail). There was a decent amount of climbs and descents, which is what I wanted, so that i could become more comfortable with my tri-bike handling skills. Let me just say, I finished the ride and felt good for the first time off the bike in who knows how long. Yes, there is a certain discomfort you have when riding a tri bike, but I had no vision-changing, piercing pain that slowed me down on my rides on my road bike.

Not a bad place to learn how to ride your Cervelo.

Not a bad place to learn how to ride your Cervelo.

I made sure to fuel well and hydrate.

Nothing like the pre-ride PB&J

Nothing like the pre-ride PB&J

Wrappers I emptied from the pockets of my jersey...

Wrappers I emptied from the pockets of my jersey…

I learned that taking pictures while riding a tri bike is extremely difficult to do.

I had no idea I was taking a picture here....

I had no idea I was taking a picture here….And I think it is quite funny. Hello nostrils! ūüėõ

For the first time in who knows how long, I enjoyed it. Yes, there were a couple instances where I feared for my life, and I did have to stop for about 10 minutes in order to talk myself into continuing down a extremely scary road (and I am sure, not the safest hill to ride down, especially if it is your first time riding your triathlon bike near cars.) But, I survived. And I managed to average a faster pace than on my road bike. (I am still far from those 20+mph cyclists out there.)

https://www.strava.com/activities/294951653/embed/cf5d6e93f128483049d613530e1f4da444520dcb

Not only did I survive a road, I figured how to take a picture without falling off!

Not only did I survive a road, I figured how to take a picture without falling off! (Don’t judge the backpack–it is a second skin now)

At the end of the ride and run I¬†thought to myself,¬†“Man, that was a challenge which I survived; I think I’ll be able to finish Quassy!”

It is amazing how positive thinking can evoke such excitement for the rest of my training. Yes, rides will be longer, runs will be tougher, and swims will be exhausting. But anything is possible when you believe in yourself, right?

When was the last crazy post written?

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