blog banner900

blog banner900

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Boise 70.3. The end of an era for me. I didn't know it was the end until I arrived at the venue the day before the race. Boise 70.3 was my first official Iroman-Brand race. And this year would be the last year they would hold this event.

I had to make it memorable for me. So far, Boise had not treated me well. The first year I did it, I had my best race. However, it rained so much the river was flooded and we ran through pools of water. It rained on the entire run. This is my Boise 703 track record. I did it the rainiest year on record, the coldest year on record (This was the year Matty Reed won by wearing his wet suit on the bike. I had the same idea but thought I'd look like a dork and didn't want to chance being laughed at.) the windiest year on record, and the hottest year on record. I didn't attend the only two times I heard they actually had fantastic conditions.

Bring it, Boise 70.3, I thought. What else could there be? And I wanted to qualify for World's 70.3 for the past few years. I had come in 7th twice and prayed for a roll-down spot. Which never made it that deep. This year World's is in Austria and I don't travel, so pressure was off! I just wanted to race it one last time under decent conditions.

The race started at 10:00 a.m. The first time I did it, it started at 2:00 and finished at night. I loved that. Then it was at noon. Now, to beat the heat and wind, we were starting at 10:00. I like the later starts, like XTerra does. It seems more chill to me and I have time to calm down and assess what I'm doing.

Everything went well that morning except the buses were late. Very late. I was not a nice person to the volunteer and I apologize. Soon, I was ready to race, all my ducks were in a row and we were heading to the water. Another weird thing. There were no pros and my Age Group was first.

My Iolite was not working so I whipped it off my goggles and handed it to my husband. Praying I could swim straight for once, I entered the water. I thought I swam pretty well and only went too far left for some of the swim. However, when I exited the water, my time was about 2 minutes slower than usual. Confused, I focused on getting out of my wet suit like I had been imaging it in my head. It wasn't great, but much, much better.

The entire bike out, was crazy weird. I've done this event more than any other event. This year they CHANGED THE BIKE COURSE!! There were a few more hills and a few more U-turns. Triathletes like to be pointed in one direction, and then turn around and go back. Sometimes we like do one big loop so we just keep going straight ahead with a few right or left turns. U-turns are WEIRD!!!!

And the wind was going in the wrong direction. There is always a head wind out and a head wind back. Because it switches directions in the middle of the day or something. I'm not sure what is really happening, but this is how it has always seemed.

As I rode out with a tail wind, I kept thinking that I needed to hurry so I could get back before the head wind came. I had ridden my bike more than about 30 miles since St. George 70.3 and I hadn't run more than 6 miles at once. I kept telling myself to take it easy and just see what would happen, although I was feeling pretty good.

I think

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Back on Track

Feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for those who took a few minutes to stop and help me, I got back on my bike and began again. I was happy people would alert the aid station so that plans to help me get back on the bike as soon as possible were in place. Two of these were my "competition". It's nice to know that people are basically good and kind. I will try to pay this forward in my races. What's more important? Helping someone, or trying to PR?
One of my friends, rocking the bike!

SOAS team mate passing.
Everyone's havin' fun!
Now in the back of the race, I realized I was catching up to people again. Before long, I had the chance to "pay it forward", but couldn't. One of the men who had stopped for me had a broken chain. That is not the way Karma is supposed to operate and I couldn't help him. Throughout the rest of the course, I passed a few people that were struggling, but it came down to one guy in red, an older lady than me (!) and me. I was the strongest on the climbs so I was catching the lady but she had passed me at the beginning of my troubles and so for me to be closing the gap, was a great feeling. The guy was definitely more confident on the down hills. The older lady was consistent.

So this is how it was playing out. The lady was in front and just stayed there, but it was a yo-yo effect behind her. Wen the guy in red would struggle on the hill, she'd open a gap. As he struggled, I would catch up and pass him. When there was a down hill, the lady in front of me would open a small gap, and the guy would pass me. This went on for a few miles until there was only about 2.5 left.

I was still feeling strong and there is a pretty good, longer-ish climb coming up from the meadow. We had just come down a long decent so the guy in red and the other lady had opened up the by now, well-known-gap. But as they hit the last big climb, I saw that I was definitely gaining. And pretty quickly. The other crazy thing I saw was the lady in blue and white that had first helped me when my pedal hit the dirt! The second half was definitely faster for me than for her if I had caught her with still 2 miles to go.

I knew as I headed through the last miles my husband would be somewhere on the course and he was probably worried about me because it had taken so long. I was feeling great and needed to at least let him know I was happy, having fun, and feeling great. No crashes, physically, mentally, or energy-wise.

I passed the guy in red. I passed the older lady, I caught up to the helpful lady in blue and white. As I approached, I thanked her. She expressed relief to know that I had indeed, not DNF'd. As we hit a wide dirt road downhill, I saw my husband and smiled. Said I was okay, but it hadn't gone well,  mechanically! He knew just the right thing to say to lift my spirits.

"The kids took 2nd and 3rd out of everyone in their race!" He yelled as I flew by. He always knows the right thing to say. My kids were racing in a practice race back home. And as the minutes ticked by, he began to think of all the things that might have happened in the 14 miles I'd been gone. He said at that point, he thought that he should call the kids and ask them how it went. He knew that would give me the boost I needed. It worked.

The older lady, the helpful lady, the guy in red and I entered transition within seconds, I think.

Anxious to get going, I hurried through transition. I could tell from my watch that even with the 17 minute delay, I was close to last year's time. Depending on my legs. I had fueled properly, so it might be close. Off went the gloves, and the shoes. On went my sunglasses, running shoes, and race belt. I sprinted out of transition. I had only taken a couple of steps through transition and as I approached the water table at the end, I realized I still had my hydration pack on my back. It was bouncing around and really annoying me. It was only a 5 mile run and there were a couple of aid stations. I wasn't going to be annoyed by the bouncing on my back for 5 miles!

I ran up to a volunteer. "I don't think I'll need this! My number is...... Can you return it to my spot?" I asked as I unclipped the pack from my back.

With a great big smile, like volunteers sometimes have, she handed me a water and said, "Sure! But do you think you'll be needing your helmet? Or do you want me to take that, too?"

OH MY GOSH! I have been embarrassed before, but this was somewhere in the top 20. Everyone started laughing. Even me...

MISTAKE #8. Don't be in too big of a hurry!

On the run course, I did walk a few hills, but I tried to power walk them. I stopped to get a real drink of water at the aid stations and not just run through, spilling most of it. I passed a few people at the beginning. After the first mile, you begin climbing a steep-ish hill that lets you see behind you for a while. No one I went into transition with was in sight. I wondered where they were. As I looked ahead, there was a guy limping and as I passed he said a bike crash had caused the limp, but he was going to finish. I hoped he was okay.

I caught up and passed another girl. She was very steady and I decided that should be my tactic. Don't get too anxious to prove something. Sprinting past anyone at this point was silly. There was still 4 miles to go, and we were sort of all in this together. We were at the back of the race, encouraging each other to soldier on.

I caught up to another guy with about 1.5 miles to go. At this point, I didn't think I'd really see anyone else. They were either too far ahead or too far behind. We power-walked the hill and then I said goodbye and began the run down the double track. It felt good to know the course because I knew there was one more climb to the end. I'm not sure if it is steep, but it feels that way. Perception and reality differ at the end of an XTerra at 8,000+ ft. elevation!

Loving this section!
I ran on the single track up the hill. It is a beautiful little section winding through the trees.
Cresting the final single track hill
You come out onto double track, with everyone who has already finished cheering you on as you go around the circle and finish! I actually got to the double track and took a few steps walking just to catch my breath. Some guy said something about only 100 m to go, keep going. I felt kind of stupid walking right then, so I immediately began running (in my fashion, of course) to  the finish.
The Finish
I finished feeling GREAT. We sat and chatted and discussed the race. My good friend said the same thing happened to her in the swim, hence we exited at the same time. Aw! that makes sense.

I took 2nd in my AG, after another friend who rocks! I knew she'd do great. I won two pairs of Darn Tough Socks, which at this point in my life is the PERFECT prize. On my priority list for prizes: socks, gloves (for my son) and then tires. I really need to win some new tires....

I was only 3 minutes slower than last year. The swim was faster, the run was faster and the actual moving time on the bike was faster. Now I can get ready for Iroman 70.3 Worlds. Still haven't run more than 6 miles all at once!

And the Mistakes Continue. Snow Mountain Ranch XTerra Part 2

Relieved to have my wet suit, I stood on the beach and promptly didn't think about anything but starting the race. Let's get the Party Started! If you race, you'll understand Mistake #4. If you don't, this is a helpful tip. Make sure your wet suit is fitting properly and you have given yourself extra room in the suit in the chest and shoulder area. If you put it on too quickly and zip it up, you might not have room to move. Or breathe. It might feel restrictive.

Swim Begins. And so do my troubles.
The race started and feeling confident, I began at the front.Three strokes later, I felt the desire to breathe. And I couldn't. My throat was swollen and sore, my wet suit was too tight in the chest, the silt from the bottom of the lake was irritating my lungs. The cold water and extreme altitude was making me take shallow breaths. I began to breast stroke knowing it would end soon.

The system of taking one or two strokes, then breast stroking continued to the first buoy. It continued half way around the course. I looked behind me (which I have NEVER done in a swim because I'm too busy swimming) I was fifth to last! There were only 4 people behind me! And they were surviving like me. Back stroking and Breast stroking. Weird thoughts went off in my head. Is this really what it's like for some people in XTerra? It's a desperate feeling. You wonder if you'll EVER get out of the water.

Turning the second buoy, I realized the need to put a consistent set of strokes together and began to do so. For the first time all morning, I had wondered if I should just stop and DNF. Was it a sign from heaven that I shouldn't race? Everything was going wrong.

I ran out of the water, circled the flags on the beach, and dove back in for lap 2.
Things went great the second time around, however.

Finishing the swim side-by-side.
As I neared the swim exit, I wondered how far back I was from my friends. When did they exit? Surprisingly, I ran out of the water side-by-side with one of my friends! It was a relief to know I wasn't already in a deficit when it was a sure thing the bike and run would put me way behind. The swim must have been short because I was a couple of minutes faster than last year. Awesome!

In transition, I took off my wet suit and began doing the things I should have done before the race.
Mistake #6 - Don't be late. Mistake #6 1/2 - Don't be late because you can't set out your items for the bike and run. Digging through my grocery sack for the right Gels with the correct caffeine amounts. Digging through my transition bag for gloves, helmet, socks and shoes. Nothing was laid out. The best preparation I had was to unzip my bag and that was only to grab my wet suit when the race began.

But the bike! Aw, the bike! I lose a lot of time on the bike, but I love it. I look forward to it. I enjoy every challenge, every flow-y moment, and the serenity of being on the trails, hearing my labored breathing as I climb. My legs felt good. Very good. I wasn't "pushing" it at all. I was completely comfortable and knew there were many hard climbs to come. Within the first few miles I caught and passed a couple of girls. I think this was the first time in any XTerra race when I caught up and passed on my mountain bike. The first 3 or 4 miles flew by and snap shots of the course were coming back clearly in my mind. Is it because mountain biking takes so much concentration, it can sear a picture in your mind so strong, it feels like yesterday?

First few miles of fun.
Looking ahead, I realized a group of 3 riders, 1 girl and 2 men weren't getting closer. But they weren't getting away. I was enjoying this new experience of being in a race. With people around, not just passing. I noticed one girl was growing increasingly closer. Slowly I caught her by around mile 5.5. Mistakes behind me, I was loving this race. Two other women and I were pulling one another through the course. I could tell I was feeling better than they were. Their breathing was growing labored and they would fall back, then surge to hang on. I knew I was feeling stronger and I was pretty sure they'd get more tired as the miles added up.

And then.... around mile 6, my pedal began to feel weird. Something was happening with my pedal. A couple of strokes later, the pedal fell off! Frantically, I got off the bike and tried to put the pedal back on. If I could get it on enough and begin to pedal, it is supposed to tighten. They are made that way. How did it come off? I'm still not sure. One girl went on. The other came up from behind and stopped to help. Some guy came by and tried to help and the lady left. Another guy came and the first guy left. This happened until the riders were coming further apart. Me and my problems were being passed on from rider to rider. After about 10 minutes, I knew I would have to DNF.

Mistake #7 - Know the course. In Ironman, I always study the course map and know where the aid stations are. For some reason, in XTerra it seems pointless. I don't know why. It's almost more important. Getting lost on the trails is not fun and wastes a lot of energy. As I stood there wondering how to DNF, I realized I didn't know the area at all and had no idea how to get to the nearest OUT where there might be people. It could be a very long walk and in which direction? I didn't want to go all the way back 5 miles. Was there a trail that crossed and would take me back quicker? And take me quicker to where? The dirt road? Would that even help?

One of the last men on the course came by at this time and told me the aid station was about a mile ahead. At least there, I could DNF without too much trouble. Mistake #8 - Always know where the aid stations are. They might not be completely accurate because that's the nature of trails, but they are usually close. Walking and pushing my bike, I climbed up the hill. The aid station was right around the corner at the top! If I had known, I wouldn't have wasted any time standing there trying to fix my pedal by myself. Happy to see people, they called to me and said a truck was coming. People who had gone on ahead told them I was coming and needed tools. I was overwhelmed. Knowing help had been called 10 minutes earlier meant my pedal would be attached that much sooner.

Water, a gel and two minutes later, the volunteer realized he had the tool and could help. With exactly a 17 minute delay, I was back on my bike. I wasn't last, but I didn't know that. At this point I had not seen another rider quite a while.

And I think that is a great place to end for now.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Snow Mountain Ranch XTerra: Learn what NOT to do for a race! Part 1

After Aspen Valley XTerra, I had a week on vacation and then a week at home, I packed up my mt bike and the car and headed to CO. Snow Mountain Ranch, here I come! I did this race last year and remembered it well. My goal? to beat last year's time. And I was pretty sure it was a goal I could CRUSH!

This was the 2nd year for this venue. It is located on a YMCA property that seems to have everything: lakes, horse back riding, mountain biking, hiking and much, much more. It is located just outside of Winter Park, at about 8,000 ft. elevation.

I was looking forward to seeing a couple of friends that were also racing. The best part of XTerra is meeting people. I get very excited just to know I'll be out on the course with amazing friends and finishing with stories to share. XTerra is always a story. Because it is always unpredictable and incredible!

I had had a sore throat for the last couple of days and the aches in my neck, head, and back were becoming more obvious. I couldn't ignore them any longer. So, I was taking vitamin C, over the counter remedies for relief and a lot of cough drops. I was sure in the morning I would feel better. My throat hurt so much, I didn't eat much for dinner. Mistake #1.

We had talked about when to wake up and get things ready, but I finally fell slept. My husband is very optimistic about time, so he decided it would be best to let me sleep a little longer. By the time I woke up, I would have been fine, except that my sore throat was now laryngitis.  I was struggling to move and get myself to the start line, but even looking back, it never entered my mind not to race.

Mistake #2 was arriving at the race late. My husband parked the car and I ran to get checked in. We agreed to meet back at the car where I could get my gear and bike and ride the 1/2 mile down to the lake and transition area. After getting body marked, I walked back to the car feeling panic-y about time. The car was locked, the gear and bike were gone. My husband was no where around!! WHAT?! He must have decided I would just walk to the lake and meet me there.

Fuming, I walked to the lake wondering what he was thinking? I was so sore, so late, and so tired. It would have been faster and easier for me to ride. Why had he walked my bike down, making me walk? I got to the transition area with all the good spots taken and looked around. No bike. No gear. No husband. I almost cried from stress. My friends were there reassuring me he would arrive. I waited and stood in the bathroom line with nothing else to do. I waited a long time. Not a long time cause I was stressed, but it was a genuinely long time. The race was starting in 10 minutes. People were finishing their preswim and gathering for the prerace meeting. It was going to take me 10 minutes to get into a wet suit I didn't HAVE.

My good friend looked over and saw my husband walking into transition with my bike! "Where were you?!" I demanded, with relief.

 "I took everything to packet pick up and you weren't there." he explained.
"Why?! WHY would you do that?" I asked as I tried to get my bike in the stand. "You said to meet at the car!"

My Hubby had decided to walk on one road to pack pick-up while I was walking back on another to the car. Two parallel trails. Then he waited around trying to see if I would come back to the car. Or something. I'm not really sure why it took him so long to decide to come down with my bike.

After throwing my bike in the rack, and pulling on my wet suit, I threw some things on the ground and threw my bag next to them. There was no setting anything up. I got to the lake just in time to feel the water and stick my face in. It wasn't very cold, so I would be okay. But they called us to the beach and I didn't even take a stroke. But that's okay. I love the swim and I knew I'd be okay. Assuming I didn't need to swim was Mistake #3.

And this is probably a good place to end until the next installment.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Aspen Valley XTerra is AWESOME!

What a FANTASTIC summer. Full of racing, riding, and playing!

After Boise 70.3, I got ready to race in Aspen Valley, CO. This race was the 25th of July and I'd been looking forward to it for over a year. Last year I was unable to put it on my schedule so, I made sure to fit it in the 2015 season. I was not disappointed!

This venue is open once a year- for XTerra only. It is located on private property with miles of awesome, very technical trails, a private lake for water skiing, where the swim takes place, and the run starts on a wooden path over a pond! Very unique and beautiful.

I was more nervous for this XTerra, however, because my husband and two boys were coming to join the festivities. I get nervous knowing they will be out on the course and I pray nothing happens! I am a racer, but a mother first, and my protective instincts take over.

We all did a pre-ride after the long car drive. There wasn't much elevation gain on the course in one lap, but it was very, very technical and the climbs were all short, steep and came after sharp turns. It is a power course. No way to use momentum to get through the climbs. The downhill sections were not fast and flow-y. My mom "radar" was peaking in the red zone.
Kids enjoying the pre-ride.

My kids can get going very fast. They ride technical stuff a lot. They sometimes crash. They asked me why I was nervous. When I said races make me nervous, they responded, "That's CRAZY! All we think is, I GET TO RIDE MY BIKE TOMORROW!" What a great attitude. It's just another opportunity to RIDE! Their attitude was contagious and I began to calm down.

The day of the race, the weather was perfect. The swim went off in 4 waves. The twins were in wave one, my husband was in wave two and I was in wave three. I realized with this system, the twins would be done long before me. They might even have enough of a lead they could pass me on their second bike lap before I finished my first. It didn't happen, but it was close!
Beautiful Day for a swim!

I came out of the water and met my husband in the transition area. I made everyone rack their bikes together so I would know they made it out of the swim okay. My transition was very messy because my kids were very messy! Their stuff was thrown EVERYWHERE. I made a mental note to tell them that is NOT cool and they need to be more considerate to those around them. (Me, in this case!)

I stayed on my bike as much as possible and rode as hard as possible.On my first lap, Aussie pro Ben Allen came flying by. That was pretty cool. When we looked at the results, I was proud that my kids were only 9 minutes behind him on the bike portion. That's a WIN! My husband passed me after the first couple of miles. I wondered on the second lap how far ahead of me he would finish the bike. When and IF I would catch him on the run.

The funny thing about mountain biking, is that these thoughts are momentary. There isn't time to think about anything but biking. Just what you are facing at that particular moment. And then you move on to the next obstacle. That's why I love mountain biking. It takes full concentration and I can completely lose myself the entire time I'm out there. No thinking about laundry, work, dishes, or daily problems, or even how you are doing compared to others that pass!

Transition before the tornado.
I came into transition for my running gear and couldn't believe it! It was worse that before! It was like a tornado had hit our rack. In fact, one lady had shown up late and squished her bike in the middle of our family. I didn't mind, because I have no problem sharing, but I suggested she move to the end and we'd all move over. She said she was fine where she was. I'm sure she had changed her mind after arriving in transition!

This is the family before the race. With an organized transition area.

The run started across a pond which is fantastic. Usually it begins straight up a steep ski hill or something. A nice flat across- a -pond got my legs under  me. I passed my husband in the first mile, which was quite surprising. The twins had already finished and were cheering for me as I finished the bike and started the run. They did great. They loved the course and FLEW!

When I passed my husband, we didn't say much. I wondered how far ahead of me he finished the bike. How much time had he taken in transition? I probably gained minutes on him. I set my sights on a few people and ran just barely faster than them. With about 1.5 miles to go, I passed probably the last person I was going to pass and looked ahead. We were to run in a large grass field with a large wooden bridge in the middle. I realized I was gaining on three more people and if I pushed, I might catch them before the finish. Suddenly, I realized I was on the WRONG path! How did that HAPPEN? The girl I passed earlier was running up over the wooden bridge ABOVE me and I was running UNDER! I had gone the long way around. I hurried and ran up the bridge, but she was now ahead of me and pushing it. I had lost any chance of catching the other three. I came close to re-passing the girl in blue, but it was not to be. She finished just seconds ahead of me.

When we all talked about this mistake, no one could figure out how I could have missed the HUGE RED SIGN with an arrow at the beginning of the field that would have shown me the correct way. I've done this so many times in so many races. My husband says I'm too focused and my tunnel vision kicks in. It's weird. Unless I'mm herded with a group, I tend to take the wrong turn on the run. I have absolutely no sense of direction!

First, Second, Third

We finished feeling that great sense of accomplishment. Sharing the day with my family made it the best and I was so proud of them. They enjoyed it, which makes it that much more fun for me. The boys took first and third and I took second.

The twins getting their medals

My husband has no knee (basically) and uses a brace for the run. He does awesome, but the run puts him at a disadvantage and yet, he pushes on. I think it's because everyone makes a huge deal about his hardware when he crosses the finish line, and he deserves it. I am more proud of him than ever when he grits through the pain to finish a race. He is an inspiration and it reminds me to be grateful when I see him overcoming his difficulties.

Waiting for awards with Jacqui Slack

Pros Jacqui Slack and Ben Allen joined the race because they were in Colorado for a big training block. They both took first (obviously). Jacqui helped me get in the surf in Maui and I thanked her for that. We sat and chatted in the grass and I realized how down to earth and easygoing XTerra people are.

Another great race. Another great day. XTerra is nothing but AWESOME!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Boise 70.3 is Over. Now to Juggle My Training....

Iroman Boise 70.3 was the end of an era for me. I've done this event more times than any other race. Because it was convenient. I missed the first year when they had good weather. I missed an in-between year when there was also good weather. And this was the last year for this venue. I should make it memorable, I thought.

This event and I have never been on friendly terms. I raced it the rainiest year (when the river flooded it's banks), the coldest year (Matt Reed wore his wet suit on the bike and won that year), the hottest year, and the windiest year.

This year I was ready. What more could Ironman Boise 70.3 bring that I hadn't already experienced? So, they changed the start time, changed the bike course, added more hills and some extra U-turns, and changed the run course. Thanks Boise!

As you might have read, I've been riding my mountain bike more than my tri bike. I've been running 6 mile trail runs and nothing further. However, the swim was the same. I swim a lot, so it should be okay, right? After check-in and my pre-swim/bike/run the day before the race, I took an actual assessment of where I stood and I wasn't really sure. 

Hmmmmm. How was this going to turn out?

We lined up on the water's edge. With no pros in the field, my wave was the first to go. The Iolite wasn't turning on, so I pulled it off my goggles and handed it to my husband. I swam what I thought was a pretty good swim, but nope. 2 minutes slower for some reason. I focused on getting out of my wet suit quickly so it wasn't a complete disappointment!

I rode my bike "carefully". Anxious not to get caught up in keeping up, I focused on my pace. I focused on nutrition. Even with the added hills and U-turns, my bike was a couple of minutes faster than it has been in recent years. So far, so good.

The run. I've done a lot of bricks in training over the last few years. Bricks are when you begin a run right after a bike ride to get your mind and body used to that change. Lately, my bricks have been somewhat shorter than in the past. So, when I came off the bike, I felt pretty good. The first mile was definitely a positive re-enforcement. I began to really enjoy the course change. The cooler weather (mid-80's compared to 90's in St. George and in previous years) made this run actually pleasant. 

Around mile 8, I began to struggle and slow down. By mile 10 something new happened. I began getting cramps in my feet and calves. This has NEVER happened to me before on a run. A few times I began to slow or even tried to stop, thinking that would help and I'd get back to running. However, slowing or stopping made my legs seize up, so I just began to hobble. It was slow, but I could move!

In the last mile, one lady in my Age Group came blasting past me. She obviously was a strong runner and I couldn't stay with her. Then two more in my AG came by. Two that I had passed in the earlier miles. Each time I tried to stay with them. One even encouraged me and tried to talk me into running with her, but after 1/2 a mile, I had to let her go.

It was a great race. I wish I could say I PR'd it since it was the last time I'll be able to race Boise 70.3. I will have to spend more time on my tri bike and running longer distances. But for now, I'll go find a trail...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

St. George 70.3 Race Report

St. George 70.3 always finds a way onto my race schedule. Sometimes I just can't say no!

This year, the race was only 7 days after the West Championship XTerra race in Las Vegas. I arrived home on Sunday night, had a few days to "recover", and then headed to St. George with my Tri bike. I knew going into it that I would be tired and I had very little long distance training.

However, I enjoy being with friends and doing this early season race. I overestimated my ability to bounce back after a hard race and traveling in a car many, many miles in one week!

I got up early Friday morning and tried to focus on setting up two different transitions and checking in. Each year I am so scatter brained at this race. I was determined to make the process go quickly, smoothly, and efficiently so I could rest and put my feet up the better part of the day. Unfortunately, I haven't changed.

I checked in and realized I forgot so many things. Half my nutrition, my salt tablets, my Garmin charger (and my Garmin was dead). I hadn't planned food and needed to shop, which is stressful for me. I forgot to plan my electrolyte drink. Things were not looking smooth.

I check in and then headed straight for the Iolite tent at the Expo. This little gadget can actually help a serpentine swimmer such as myself, swim straight. Operator error, it does not correct, however! (More on this later).

I set up my transitions, did my short pre-race brick, called every friend I knew in town and finally found a charger for my Garmin. I was tired, stressed, sun-burnt and hungry by the time it was all completed. Needless to say, I didn't have a hard time getting to sleep that night. Staying asleep is another story.

Ironman Triathlons are the complete opposite of XTerra. The tension is palpable. I check and re-check how I've laid everything out. I second guess and third guess how I  should lay out my gloves and socks. We wake up so early to catch a bus to sit around in transition and stress about tire pressure. 

Finally, we are herded into huge corrals and I find people with the same color cap I have. I feel like we are sheep. Safety in numbers as we huddle together, slowly moving toward the water...

All of the sudden I feel this overwhelming calm. It happens every time. When I see the wave before me enter the water, the calm comes and I no longer think about the far future on the bike and "what will happen on the run?" I have this calm excited feeling that soon I will be in the water and get to swim. The swim is a great way to start a triathlon because I feel confident and can focus on what I enjoy doing and stop stressing about the long day and all the unknowns I might face.

I swam about the same as every other race. The Iolites worked great keeping me fairly straight at each turn buoy until the final turn to shore. They draw a straight line and show a green light if I stay on that straight path. Unfortunately, my goggle were foggy so I could only find the first yellow buoy that should be in a straight line to the "swim out". The problem? The yellow buoys were actually curved in a C shape to my left. I swam straight for the buoy, but the path to the swim out was slightly to my right. I kept trying to swim correctly while the Iolite goggles kept telling me I was too far to the right. My friend had no problem because she could sight correctly and swam straight the first 10m which is all that is required for this awesome gadget. Better luck next time!

My next problem was, and always is, getting out of my wet suit. I pull the rubber down to my elbows where it gets stuck. In frustration, I ALWAYS try to pull the other arm out, where it also gets stuck. So I  become stuck in a black, rubber straight jacket. The awesome volunteers in their enthusiasm to help, began rolling my wet suit down off my elbows, making it completely stuck because it is rolled over and over onto itself. Finally, I find a way to instruct them to hook a finger into the elbow-stuck part and pull down. This releases my right arm and I can unroll my left arm and slide it off. I sit on the ground and POOF! freedom in seconds as they whip that sucker off my legs! I grabbed my wet suit and run across the timing mat, which now has a much slower swim time by about 1 minute than I wish it did. Oh well.

The rest of the race is pretty boring, so you can stop reading here, or blame me for the loss of time you might experience! I rode my bike up some hills, then down some hills, then ate a PowerBar Gel, then rode some flat, and on and on... I also had three very long bathroom breaks, which is stressful, too. I sit in the outhouse and hear all the people I just passed, riding past me sitting there. I realize I just lost a lot of time. Again. 

Then came the new section of the race where you ride up Snow Canyon, back down, do a U-turn and ride back up. I think about 75% or more of the riders might be asking for that section to be re-thought! But I noticed one thing about the U-turn. I cornered it great and had already geared down for the immediate climb right after the U-turn. I noticed many people hadn't planned for that and going from a near stop, turn and back to climbing was awkward. Thank you, mountain biking for preparing me for that!

Other than that, it's just riding. And pedaling and riding some more. Heading back into town, I reached top speeds. That was fun.

I got to transition, grabbed my run stuff and felt great. For about 1 mile. I'd say it was "All downhill from there", but it wasn't. The run starts uphill, then continues up. One pro said it like this: You climb a mountain for the first three miles and then run up some hills at the top. Yeah. Like that. I obviously hadn't recovered from my traveling and racing the week before. 

I felt so tired. I actually had a second energy drink and still felt like falling asleep. There was an over-whelming desire to curl up on the curb and take a nap. I walked. I ate gels, I did the caffeine thing. Nothing. Finally, the last two miles I was closing in on two women in my AG and I focused on them. When they would walk, I would run my lightening 12 min. mile shuffle and hope I could pass before the finish line. 

With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I crept up on them and "blasted" pass so they wouldn't try to take back the lead. I was probably moving at a blazing 11-minute mile pace. And with about 1/4 mile to go, I noticed another person in my AG. Was it possible? Could I actually catch someone else? Wow, with rocket boosters pushing me to what was probably 10.5 minute miles, I passed her, too, and maybe had a 4 second lead at the finish. Small triumph.

My legs immediately seized and I spent the next 48 hours sleeping and eating. Usually I can't eat for hours after Ironman Events. This time, I downed pounds of food, went to bed just to wake up in the middle of the night to eat some more. It went on like this for 48-60 hours. 

The next week was a recovery week. Which couldn't have been anything but recovery. I spent most of my days eating, sleeping, and trying not to think about how much I wanted to start riding and running again. The second week I began doing more workout-type things and by the end of the second week I was feeling almost "normal" again.

I was shocked at how tired I felt. Not sore, but tired. I was shocked how long it took to feel better.

I still love doing Ironmans. It is not "Disneyland Fun", but it is social fun and challenging fun. I like being with others, and how Ironman treats you like you are special. No matter HOW you do, WHAT you do makes you a rock star on that day. The volunteers, the brand itself, makes you feel like there is nothing more important that day than getting you across the finish line. It's fun in an "I just did something miraculous" kind of way.