Last October 31st, we signed up for the Pumpkinman Half Iron Distance Triathlon in South Berwick, Maine after hearing rave reviews from many different local triathletes. We were even invited to share a beach house with some accomplished triathletes we have met through the local running and swimming community. This turned out to be a super fun experience for our first half ironman triathlon. The Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival is a super well organized weekend event that has a sprint triathlon on Saturday and a half ironman on Sunday. The race directors and volunteers all do a stellar job putting on this top notch triathlon. I can’t say enough good things about this event! Thank you to everyone who made the weekend possible! It will be an experience that will never be forgotten!
Overall we both had a great day out there on Sunday and exceeded our expectations. We trained very hard all summer and had excellent guidance and help from our talented running and triathlon coach Kelly! Thanks so much Kelly! Having a training plan week after week based on our progress and fitness levels really did make a huge difference! This was our first big triathlon after two sprint triathlons. While we are both now certified RRCA running coaches with marathon and USCF bike racing experience, balancing three sports is completely new for us! Kelly put it all together for us based on her expertise as an accomplished professional Ironman triathlete! It was smart training that got us to the starting line in good health and in peak shape.
I will get right down to the results since I’m a “numbers person” who loves analyzing race data. I was awarded the 3rd place woman for amateurs (7th overall including elite women). I was first in my age group and I also won a gift certificate for being the fastest female runner (including the elite women). I was shocked by all of this! Even the race announcer giving out the awards told me not to look so surprised. Scott also stood on the podium that day as well for being the 3rd male in his age group (45-49). I’m so proud of him! He was thrilled and so happy! It was a great day for our Vermont crew with many podium finishes and very fast times! We are so lucky to be able to train and race with such talented athletes. Here are our results that I copied and pasted from the website:
On Friday before Sunday’s race, we drove down to South Berwick, Maine to pick up our race packet and check out the venue. It is a very pretty area with lovely views of Knight’s Pond where the swim took place. We walked around checking out the water and transition areas. It was unseasonably hot that weekend almost reaching 90F! But luckily it was cooler on Sunday for race day. New England weather is so unpredictable that you can never really know what to expect until the time is close. We then drove about 30 minutes east to York Beach, Maine which is where the beach house was located. It was lovely finding cooler temperatures and a soothing ocean breeze. We were about a couple minutes walk from the beach! One highlight was doing a nice easy run with Scott, Kristen and Marty to the Nubble Light House as the sun was setting. So beautiful! The night was fun and relaxed as we hung out with everyone catching up on races, life and playing a very entertaining game called Scattergories. (We love this game and want to order it) I’m lucky my stomach wasn’t sore from laughing so hard!
Saturday was another nice relaxing day that allowed us to unwind before the big event. I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night as I’m not a good sleeper in new places. So I missed the first sunrise with the gang. But sleeping in a little was very helpful. I did get to ride my bike in the morning with Scott and everyone around York Beach to make sure our equipment was all good. It was a lovely and enjoyable 45 minute ride to keep the legs fresh. We then hit a fantastic breakfast spot which I’ll discuss in the “food and beverage” report below. Carb loading was the big job of the day for Saturday. And relaxing under a tree by the ocean was another highlight. I think I almost fell asleep a few times. Having days like that are few and far between, so we relished the opportunity to close our eyes and listen to the waves and distant thunder (which never seemed to get too close). What a blissful day! And I even got some sleep that night! Usually sleep alludes me before a big race, but being a little tired from Friday’s lack of sleep definitely helped me fall asleep without the usual tossing and turning. And we were up right on time for Sunday morning’s oatmeal breakfast with the gang. Everything was going so well right up to the race!
It was still dark at 5am when 3 cars loaded with gear and bikes made the 30 minute journey to South Berwick. While I’m always very nervous the morning before a race, I was especially apprehensive about this venture. It was a long time since I had raced over 5 hours and the first time I would manage all three sports over 70 miles in one day. It was a large order in front of us! But we were prepared and all the hard training was in the bank. We were ready to rock! Plus we had a lot of support from our fellow Vermont triathletes who would share the same long journey that day.
The pre-race morning went smoothly for us. After getting our ankle timing chips and body markings, we set up our bikes and gear in the transition area. I was happy and surprised when a co-worker said hi while I was setting up my transition spot. Greg’s wife was racing as well that day. We later hung out at the swim area with Eric, Kyle and Kristen before we went off in our separate waves. It was a beautiful morning and very exciting being surrounded by a large crowd all decked out in dark gray wetsuits and brightly colored swim caps.
This summer was the first season that we swam 3 times a week in the open water with specific workouts. I know I’m a bit faster than last summer where I was only swimming once a week as marathon cross training. But I still have a long ways to go regarding my swim as a triathlete. As a new swimmer I’m doing well and have come a long way. But compared to the elite women I need to knock off about 10+ minutes in the 1.2 mile swim portion of a half ironman to be competitive. Luckily swimming is almost 100% technique and I have the entire winter to focus on this for next season! If I can knock off a few minutes each year, I’ll be happy!
For Sunday’s swim, there were 8 different waves that went off and they were divided up by age groups. I was in the 6th wave and Scott was in the 8th wave. It was a beautiful morning with air temperatures in the low 60s F. As my wave in purple swim caps walked into the water, I felt a wave of excitement (no pun intended)! This was finally it! No turning back now! As we jumped into the water and started the swim, it was a bit hectic with moving body parts splashing all around me. There was no surprise with this type of commotion. I knew what a triathlon swim was like and I was ready to take it on. I didn’t have any panic attacks and I started at a good steady pace. The course was a two lap triangle marked by large orange buoys. The first portion of the first lap felt hard as I negotiated my way through bodies all around me and choppy water from the mass of humanity swimming as fast as we could. It was after our first left turn around a big buoy that I started to feel more comfortable and get into a bit of a rhythm. It was thinning out a bit and this was helpful. I even started to enjoy the swim. I know that many of my peers in purple caps were faster than me, but I was holding my own out there. I even passed a few people in pink and green swim caps. And of course there were some fast swimmers from previous waves that caught and passed me.
After the first lap I took a peak at my garmin and saw that it took me 19 minutes for the first lap. Not great but not horrible. I tried to swim a bit faster on the second lap and I was sure I did. But when I got out of the water at the end my garmin showed a time of 39:20 (yikes!). My official time was 39:50 minutes. To put things into perspective, the faster female swimmers were doing this in about 30 minutes! While my swim was not fast that morning, it was good for my first 1.2 mile triathlon swim. I swam hard, I enjoyed myself, I did the best I could that day. And that is all we can ask of ourselves. Scott rocked the swim and was about 5 minutes faster than me even with swimming off course a bit in the beginning. The more experience we have with swimming in large groups, the better we’ll become at navigating through the swim traffic and chaos that is inherent in triathlon swims. Overall the swim was a success for both of us! I can’t wait to get better that this!
The photo below shows me running up a small but steep grassy hill after the swim. This little section is timed separately and there is an award given out to the fastest runners up this hill. In the winter I’ve heard it’s used as a ski jump. I jogged up it conservatively and then made my way to the transition area to get ready for the bike. My T1 transition was still a little slow at almost two minutes, but it was my T2 transition from bike to run that was VERY slow. It took most people one minute or a little more. For me it took me THREE minutes! I changed into running socks after wearing bike socks. I had trouble with one lace, and had to hit more buttons on my new triathlon garmin (910XT). I’m still slow in transitions even though this is only triathlon #3 for me. But hopefully I can get more efficient in the transitions! It’s “low picking fruit” and a great opportunity to save a few minutes overall!
Running up the long hill after the swim. Thanks Greg!
While the bike course was supposed to be 56 miles, my garmin showed only 54.6 miles (Scott’s showed a bit more). I am going to admit that my bike portion of the race was slightly disappointing. Yet I’m not going to beat myself up over it. A time of 2 hours and 46 minutes is still a solid time, but I know I am capable of being faster on a bike. This was the first time I have trained hard and raced a bike over 50 miles in 14 years (12 of which I was completely off the bike). And I only had logged close to 1,200 miles outside on my new BMC time trial bike this training cycle. This may sound like a lot, but back in the 1990s during our bike racing days, we would ride easily over 1,200 miles a month. With plans of purchasing Computrainers this winter and another summer of racing, we should have our old bike racing legs back…I hope! So in light of this information and background, we both did well even if it wasn’t as fast as I had hoped!
While I didn’t crush the bike portion, I still feel I rode strong and smart. I kept it easier in the beginning and worked hard where it counted. The course didn’t have any significant mountain climbs which worked to my disadvantage but to Scott’s advantage. Back in my racing days, my forte was climbing big mountains. I lived for the App Gap! The longer and hillier the course, the more I thrived. Short, flatter and fast courses were never my friend while Scott excelled with his powerful fast-twitch muscles and technical skills. In spite of a lack of big climbs, I still thought the course was super fun and truly fantastic! There were sections of bad road mostly from the harsh winters, but there was a lot of fast new pavement with little traffic. That was indeed awesome! During the first lap my legs felt a bit tired in the beginning and rather flat. This was alarming during the first 20 or so miles. I am a slow starter even on the bike, so I tried to relax and tell myself that I would feel better as the morning went on. Because I was in the 6th wave there weren’t a ton of people to pass but enough to keep me focused and motivated. One woman in my age group caught up to me and we stayed close to each other for a bit (never drafting) but then I left her behind sometime before the second lap. There were a good handful of men and one woman who blasted by me like I was standing still. I smiled and felt inspired. There are a lot of fast people who do these events!
I was feeling better on the second lap but had some problems a couple times adding my sports drink from one bottle into my front bottle between the handlebars (due to the cap not staying open). This was my only technical difficulty which was a minor one. But it did slow me down a couple times. Not a big deal as nutrition is more important than losing a minute or two. The cliff shot blocks were going down well and our Tailwind sports drink was working great. At about 10 miles to go, I saw this woman burst out of a porto-potty and jump onto her bike. She was in my age group and we played leap frog until the end of the bike portion. I wanted to hammer hard and get rid of her, but at the same time I knew I would be running soon. I needed to be smart about not wasting my legs for my strongest portion of the triathlon. As we turned up the final road to the transition area, Scott caught me on the bike! I was shocked but super proud of him! He had a fantastic bike ride that day at 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was his type of course with fast rollers and no steep climbs. He is a super bike handler and knows how to work the down hills to their fullest potential. And he is powerful enough to blast the rollers. While I have been riding a little stronger all summer on our training rides, he was stronger on Sunday! He rode like a champ! And to think he’ll be even stronger next season with more training miles! Go Scott! Great job on your first big bike race in over 14 years!
The 13.24 mile half marathon (according to my garmin) was the best part of the day! Having focused on marathons for the last 4 years, I have fallen in love with running. This has become my strongest sport at the moment! I am crazy about running! I also love to swim in the open water and ride all kinds of different bikes. But running is my true passion. And I felt that Sunday’s half marathon after the bike was one of the best races I’ve had in a long time. Kelly had us doing a couple brick workouts each week and I grew to love running right off the bike. In fact I started running better off the bike compared to running “off the couch”. After a 3 or 4 hour bike ride on Saturdays, I would happily run a 7-7:15 minute/mile pace for up to 8 miles. I was actually surprised at how well my running was going. While I didn’t think I’d do well at the moment trying to tackle a marathon, I was feeling confident about running well in a triathlon.
The run course was not terribly difficult but it was challenging with several gradual hills. By the time I started the run, it was in the low to mid 70s F and sunny. It never felt unbearably hot, but it was warm enough where volunteers had two spots where they handed out sponges soaked in cold water. That was very nice! The first mile seemed to have a good bit of gradual downhill and I tried to keep my pace conservative but it ended up being a 7:10 minute/mile pace. I didn’t have any goals set in stone as I really didn’t know how I would do in a half marathon after swimming and riding almost 56 miles. So Kelly and I agreed to be conservative in the beginning. And that’s what I did. The next 3 miles were mostly a rolling gradual uphill and I kept the pace between 7:22 – 7:34. This was a good move on my part as there were some spots in the sun that felt very hot along that stretch. It was around mile 2 that I caught and passed Scott who was running well. I laughed to myself when I heard Sarah yelling at Scott to “go catch your wife”. It was so great to have her cheering us on especially at the end! (Thanks Sarah!) I caught up to Kyle around mile 3 and asked how he was doing. I also saw Eric, Marty, John S, and Jason running the opposite direction. They were having a great run as well. The course is an out and back twice so there is a lot of opportunity to see everyone. I really enjoyed that aspect!
Once we turned left the course went back down hill, then a little back up hill, and then repeated that sequence a few more times. It was on these rollers where I felt my pace get stronger and a few shady spots helped. We then turned into a neighborhood development at about 4.5 miles. I loved the signs out in the yards! They made me smile several times! “This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago.” “The Kenyans finished an hour ago.” “You are almost there, NOT!” “Your ass looks great.” “Chuck Norris never did a triathlon.” “To think you paid for this.” As I headed back, I saw Kristen who was also running strong. And on the gradual downhill, I got to see Marty and a few others heading back up for the final time. I loved the downhill part of this. My garmin was showing sub 7s for both down hills, but I felt I was still running smartly. My paces for miles 5-8 were: 7:07, 7:09, 6:55, 7:10. I was running “comfortably hard”, but trying to make sure I had enough energy for the last 4-5 miles where it counts. I ate 3 caffeinated Powergels during the run and that worked well for me. I always felt well fueled.
Running up the long hill the second time felt surprisingly easier than the first time. Being conservative in the beginning paid off big dividends for me. I still felt hot and took another cold sponge, but my pace was still decent with a 7:16 for mile 9 which was the longer gradual hill. I was then happy to take that left turn and enjoy a bit of shade and gradual down hill before seeing the funny neighborhood signs for the second time. Just before I turned left again, I caught up to Lauren who was running strong and looked so fresh. I was happy to see her but had to keep going and do my own thing. On the way back I waved to her and also to Kristen once again. She also looked very strong and fast out there. Miles 10-12 went very well and I was very happy to head back down the hill for the last time. My paces for those miles were a 7:03, 6:57, 6:41. It was warm but I was still feeling strong and running well. I wasn’t suffering or living in the pain cave, but I know my heart rate was close to max. I did manage to catch and pass a couple women in my age group during those last few miles.
Mile 13 gave us the hardest hill of the day. While it was really not that bad, it felt tough after traveling almost 70 miles! And it was sunny and hot by this time! Both Scott and I had even considered walking for just a bit. It felt slow and so hard but when I looked down at my garmin I was shocked to see that I was still averaging a pace of 7:05! Wow, Kelly did a good job with me this summer! I was still running strong after all that. Luckily the last portion of the run went back down hill! And the last 1/10 of a mile was down this crazy grassy descent to the finish. I was surprised I didn’t see people tripping down this including myself. Having seen it on Friday, I was very mindful when I ran down this stretch to the finish. I really didn’t want to fall on my face! As I crossed the finish line, and looked down at my garmin, I was thrilled. Wow, this was a great day and a special run! My garmin clocked a time of 1:34:19 for 13.24 miles. My official run time was 1:34:17. Scott also had a great run especially for his first half ironman! His time was a 1:48:53 which is very solid. He felt good and didn’t have any stomach issues on that warm day. I will admit I was really worried about his sensitive stomach, but the Tailwind treated him very well. He was a champ that day! While his strengths lie in the swim and bike, he is becoming a very strong runner. I can’t wait to see what he can do next season!
The post race atmosphere was really super. There was a Thanksgiving themed dinner with a nice vegan quiona stuffed pepper option for us. And it was so fun to hang out with everyone and eat some really good food. One highlight for me was talking to Mary, one of the amazing elite athletes. She was sitting next to me eating the vegan dinner option. I asked her if she was a vegan and she said she was about 95-99% vegan. It turns out we are both vegan for the animals and that is exciting to me. I don’t meet many other vegan athletes who also care deeply about how farm animals suffer, so it felt good to have a nice conversation. I hope to do more triathlons with Mary and get to know her better. While Scott and I always respect other peoples’ choices, it’s always nice to meet someone with the same values.
After training so hard all summer and finally accomplishing our first half ironman, I was ready to party that evening. And for those who know me, I do love to party! While this didn’t quite happen, it was to our benefit. Driving back up to Vermont on Monday evening without a hangover was a new and pleasant experience for us! I know this sounds rather bad, but I like to celebrate BIG…similar to how I love to train and race. But it was all good! While the gang decided to go out for lobster, Scott and I found a nice little Mexican restaurant with vegan options and yummy margaritas. Our waitress was fun, engaged and happy to help us celebrate our accomplishment that day. We could have sat there all night drinking margaritas, but after two each we took a walk on the beach and snapped photos. The moon was amazing and the ocean was magical. I wish we had time to do more beach holidays! It was truly a wonderful evening. When we got back to the beach house, Scott passed out while I enjoyed a couple hard ciders and relaxed on the sofa. Soon everyone was back and I was hoping to drink more and hang out a bit longer. But everyone was tired and going to bed was the smart thing to do. I slept well that night and felt so grateful for such an incredible weekend!
On Monday morning, we were all up early for the final sunrise of the weekend. We grabbed our coffee cups filled with delicious coffee and carried our beach chairs down to the ocean. The sunrise was gorgeous and the morning was cool and crisp. I enjoyed everyone’s company so much. I felt so lucky to be hanging out with such cool people who are super fun as well as awesome athletes. We all love the ocean so we lingered for quite a while, exploring the beach, rocks and tidal pools. We also made friends with some crabs and sea birds. I smiled a lot that morning! And later on after breakfast we took a nice long walk along Marginal Way in Ogonquit, Maine. This is a paved walking path that follows the beautiful rocky Maine coast for a couple miles. While many of us were a little sore including myself, it was great to stretch and move the legs. The day turned out to be one of those clear crisp sunny days where everywhere you look is a beautiful picture. I enjoyed so much taking photos and soaking in the ocean air.
Food and Beverage Report:
First off I have a million thanks to give Carin and Tom of Sweet Pea Natural Market and Cafe for another awesome vegan veggie lasagna! Carin actually made two pans of lasagna so we could share it with everyone at the beach house. And it was amazing! Others agreed as well! It was the perfect nourishment for a big triathlon! It fed us for two dinners, a lunch and some leftovers. I never got sick of eating it. That lasagna was super tasty!
For breakfast on Saturday we wanted to join everyone at a very nice restaurant called The Roost Cafe and Bistro in Ogonquit, Maine. I saw that their dinner menu had a nice Pad Thai dinner which was vegan, but didn’t see anything vegan on the breakfast menu. I asked the waitress to see what the chef could do for us and he made these very yummy vegan pancakes! We were thrilled this place was so vegan friendly. I didn’t get any photos but they were excellent for carb loading and very filling. We also ordered hash browned potatoes but had to take most home as our bellies were full. They were tasty but we could not eat everything at one sitting. It was an enjoyable breakfast. They even had soy milk for the coffee!
As mentioned above we found a fun little Mexican Restaurant called Guac-n-Roll a short walk from our beach house in York. This was a casual place and the service was very friendly. We started off with nachos and a black bean hummus dip that was very tasty along with margaritas. We also enjoyed some spicy burritos with veggies, black beans and a vegan soy sausage mixture that was also pretty good and filling! And a second margarita to wash it down was perfect! Our waitress was super cool and made sure everything was vegan. She even humored us while we told our triathlon story
On Monday morning after our sunrise adventure, everyone went to a restaurant that was not vegan friendly. When I called to inquire about vegan options, the woman didn’t even know what a vegan was. While the southern Maine coast would not be known for vegan food, it’s getting better. But I was still surprised a person in the food business had no clue! Oh well, Scott and I found a nice bakery called Bread and Roses in Ogonquit that had a few yummy vegan pastry options and smoothies with soy milk. We love our vegan treats, so after a big triathlon, we splurged a little for some vegan apple turnovers and twists! So good!!
Luckily after everyone had breakfast we all met back up. Later on after a nice long walk on Marginal Way with the gang, we went back to the beach house to pack up and get ready for a stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We love the Portsmouth Brewery and discovered that they now have a couple marked vegan options on their food menu! So awesome!!! I had my eye on the tempeh reuben with vegan Russian dressing and vegan cheese! Yes you read that correctly! And it was super delicious! No one would ever miss the dairy and meat! It was so good! I wanted to walk into the kitchen and give the chef a hug! And for a those with a big appetite like ourselves, they also had a vegan sausage dinner entre! No I’m not joking! New England is evolving! More and more people are choosing veggie options! It’s exciting!
Overall it was a fantastic weekend! I highly recommend putting the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival on your calendar for next year! It is probably one of the best races we’ve ever done including marathons and cycling races! Thank you to everyone who made the weekend possible. It is truly a first class event. It’s a perfect venue for your first half ironman or it’s a great race if you are a pro triathlete! And many thanks for having that yummy vegan quinoa stuffed pepper dish with vegan potatoes and squash! That was so much appreciated. I wish I had my camera at the time as it was a beautiful meal as well as delicious! Thank you so much! Spring Hill is the restaurant/catering service that made this delicious vegan option possible. We did hear that the chef is a fellow vegan! So cool!
In Other News….
A few weeks ago we signed up for our first full Ironman in Mont Tremblant next August 2015! And we also signed up for the Ironman 70.3 in June of 2015 which is also in Mont Tremblant! We are so excited! One hard decision for me was not signing up for the Boston Marathon again this coming April. While I plan to run Boston again someday, it will have to be during a year where I’m not training for a full Ironman (140.6 miles!).
Our next race will be half marathon in North Conway at the end of October and then the California International Marathon in early December (details/links under Tentative Race Schedule). I am very excited about doing some running races! And then after a big rest during the December holidays, we’ll both start up our full Ironman training! Who says you can’t do your first full Ironman at age 45 and 47! As vegans we feel anything is possible!