Monday, June 1, 2015

Sand Hollow Triathlon weekend

The purpose of my weekend in St. George was for a girl's weekend golf trip. My friend and I try to do this at least once a year to reconnect and play some different courses. It just so happened that the Sand Hollow Triathlon was taking place on Saturday and since we were not teeing up until the afternoon, I thought "what the heck"! I really had not wanted to do a race around Sand Hollow because I know how hard the bike course is from training on it. Oh well, so much for saying "never".

It was a beautiful start to the morning, air temperature was about 70 degrees and steadily climbing as the sun came up. Transition was an easy setup and since I am always way early, I spent a long time waiting for my swim wave to start. 

About 20 minutes before my swim wave, I got in the water to warm up a bit. The weirdest thing happened to me (Ashlan, you're going to love this!). I was swimming on the opposite side of the dock where the race started, minding my own business when I felt something grab my foot. It freaked the hell out of me! I've spent the rest of the weekend convincing myself that it must have been a tree branch or something but I got out of there so fast that I will never know. Anyway my heart rate was up and I was ready to race! It was an in water start, we jumped off the dock and had about 30 seconds before the gun went off. It took me awhile to get into a rhythm and almost felt a little panicky at one point. I'm not sure what was going on - maybe it was the earlier foot thing :) but I did get into my rhythm and was out of the water in a little over 18 minutes although official time was 20 minutes because of where the timing mat was situated. Both of my transitions were about 2 minutes which for me is an improvement.
photo credit to Cindy Hathaway
Now off to visit my arch rival - Nemesis! Immediately, I started passing people on the bike so that built my confidence. As I approached the cattle guard where the mile long climb starts, I was geared down and was ready to ascend. And big surprise, I passed so many people! I was feeling really strong on the climb and again on the backside climb after the turnaround. The best part, of course, is the descent! I managed to hit almost 42 mph which I believe is my fastest. Even with that, I averaged just under 16 mph for the bike segment but considering climbing on the bike is my weakness, I'm happy with the result.

The run was hot, it goes out of the park onto the main road and there is no shade. I was able to run right off the bike and maintained my run/walk method for the most part. I was grateful to see the Southern Utah Tri Club tent and their people handing out water and gatorade and cheers! Normally on a 5k, I can get through without any hydration but with the heat, I welcomed it!

I finished at 1:49 and 5th in my age group. On one hand, I was a little disappointed to not have done better but on the other, I was happy with the time. Looking back at my open water swims in the past year of races, my pace on this swim was by far the fastest. I guess the work is paying off!

It was great to have fellow BAM team members at the race to cheer for and I'm super proud of Tucker for taking 3rd place overall. He's in high school and is going places!!!! Thanks to Cindy for taking pictures and for the cheers!

The rest of the weekend went as planned with golfing! Nothing like playing two days, 36 holes in hundred degree weather. The scenery was great and the company wonderful. We even finished off the weekend with some stand up paddle boarding. My first time doing that and I'm totally in love with it and can't wait for my next time!

Next up for me - swimming with the sharks! Can't wait to tell y'all about how Escape from Alcatraz goes.


Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 St. George Ironman 70.3

First I just want to say, competing in an Ironman 70.3 on a relay team ROCKS!!!! We had so much fun. I've always said I would not compete at St. George because it's just too dang hard. This was a perfect way to be a part of the excitement. Even though I know there have been issues with the swim (wind, temperature, etc.), I said yes when my friend, Kim, asked me to be on her team. Another friend, Candice, is doing Boise 70.3 next month so we asked her to be our cyclist to get some race and distance experience.

Kim and I headed down to St. George Thursday afternoon with plans to meet Candice on Friday to pick up our packets. As always during this race, my house of full of athletes and spectators ready to go for the weekend. The more the merrier! As a side note, another purpose of the weekend was to get Candice and another friend, Janae, who is also doing Boise, some open water/wetsuit experience but more on that in a bit. After a little practice swim, we met the others at the Ironman Village and picked up our packet and went to the lake to drop of the bike.
creative sand sculpture

We ate dinner in Hurricane at Sonny's BBQ - I highly recommend this place if you like BBQ. Then it was back to the house to do our final race planning and finish up the preparations.

4:45 am comes really fast on race morning! Breakfast and packing up only took about half hour and we were off to catch the shuttle to swim start. With 2500 athletes and all the volunteers and spectators, the place was buzzing even at that early hour.

We finished getting T1 set up and settled in for the long wait. The relay teams swim in the very last swim wave so we had an hour to talk to friends, potty and get psyched up.

I was having second thoughts on my ability to do well in the swim. I could feel my shoulder being a little angry from my first wetsuit swim the day before since my surgery and just hoped I could hang in there and make the cutoff time. Just when I was doubting myself, I ran into my BAM momma/coach, Jen! She was just the boost that I needed.
The weather was great and the water was picture perfect and it was time to get in the water. Said farewell to my mates and I would see them in an hour. It was nice to not have to swim way out to swim start like last year - basically we got in the water and were ready to go. I started to get up in the front but then backed myself out a little so I wouldn't have to struggle with anyone. The gun went off and we were on our way. Although I had a couple of guys that were zigzagging in front of me the entire way, I was able to get into a rhythm and using the buoys for siting, stayed fairly consistent. As always, I never look at my watch for the time so I had no idea where I was. After making the last turn and heading to the ramp, I was still feeling pretty good. According to my Garmin, I swam 1.3 miles in 51 minutes. This was my best "ironman" swim ever.
I ran past the wetsuit strippers to save some time and got Candice out on her bike in just a couple of minutes (then I worried about my wetsuit!).
transferring the timing strap

We went back to house so I could clean up and then were off to town to watch and cheer. It was starting to get hot so we took advantage of the shade when we could. IronTrac wasn't updating but that is sort of normal so we were guessing when she would be back to T2. Kim was ready when she got there and in just about a minute was off on the run course. While Candice rested a bit, Janae and I walked up to the mile 1 party station.
There were 3 tents set up together - Southern Utah Tri Club, Salt Lake Tri Club and BAM Endurance Club. Between the three teams, there was a huge contingency of racers. It was great fun to be in the energy of cheering the runners as they ran out and back in to the finish. It really was a party and I'm so blessed to be friends with all of these fellow triathletes!

We got to the finish line and watched Kim come through! So exciting to be done!

When you do a race solo, you only have to worry about yourself - when on a relay team, it's always in the back of your mind that you don't want to let the other team members down, so maybe that small voice that says "quit" gets shoved aside. I would do a relay again and we are planning our next one!

We didn't even clean up before going to dinner and I'm sure the restaurant really didn't want these stinky athletes in their place but we were going to eat, no matter what! Back at the house everyone took turn donning the recovery boots and we chilled the rest of the night.

I am running a half marathon in two weeks so no rest for me - I was up at 6:30 and out the door for a two hour run. Janae joined me for the first hour then I finished up before it got too terribly hot.

The final agenda item for the weekend was getting Candice and Janae some open water swim practice in wetsuits. There were a few people at the lake with the same idea. All the others got into their wetsuits but I jumped in the water in just a tri kit - it was cold at first but then actually felt good on my sore, running legs. The swim was good practice for their Boise race and showed where some work needed to be done and gave confidence that it can be done.

Next triathlon up for me is Escape from Alcatraz. It scares the crap out of me but my swim on Saturday might have just given me the confidence I need to jump off that boat!

Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 Salt Lake Half Marathon

I was not planning on running the Salt Lake Half Marathon this year until I got caught up in the excitement of their booth at the Endurance Sports Show in February. The girls there were persuasive (as if I really need to have my arm twisted!). I didn't run it last year and the year before was rainy and snowy. The course has changed since my last run and I heard it was a good one. As the days got closer, it looked like we were going to have a good weather day so I was ready for it. And then on Tuesday I started coming down with a cold, boo! So this happened!

I figured I could get through a couple hours of running if I doctored myself up and got a few good night's of sleep. It worked, I was ready to go early Saturday morning. The start and finish are in different locations so my friends and I planned a car drop and pick up. It's definitely the way to go - no waiting for the train. Ready to start!

I don't usually run with someone during a race because I feel I am way too slow for all my friends but Carmen decided to stick with me and it ended up being a really great run. We are compatible even though she can run much faster than me but neither of us were running for a PR. We wanted a good run outside. The weather was perfect - high 40's to start and mid 60's at the finish. The course is fantastic! It heads north from the University up to 11th Avenue, around and down City Creek Canyon. I didn't have my phone to take pictures but definitely enjoyed the views. As we started the uphill on South Temple, about 5 miles, during one of our walk breaks, a girl asked if she could join us for the rest of the race. She liked the thought of our 4:1 run/walk ratio. Her name is Jenna from Tennessee and this was her first Utah race. It was super fun to have our little trio run together.

On course support was great and the cheering crowds were the boost that suffering runners can always use! And it was fun seeing people on the course that we knew. Although, I was surprised to not have seen more since afterwards I saw dozens of pics and posts of friends that were there.

About 11 miles in, I started coughing pretty bad and had I been alone I might have started walking a little more. I was able to keep on with the feeling of being accountable. When we started I had a finish time in my mind. As the race went on I wasn't sure it could happen. As we turned into the last mile, I was happy to see I was going to make it.
Jenna & me
me and Carmen
It definitely was not my fastest half but considering how I had been feeling, it was good. Of the three Salt Lake Marathon's I've run, this was the fastest. It says a lot about my fitness level - thanks to my sweet coach, Jen - that I could get out and run 13.1 miles on Saturday.

A few weeks ago, I bought these Hoka beauties because of all the hype I've heard about them. I put about 25 treadmill miles on them and decided to wear them Saturday. They were great and I may just be a convert!

I remember my first few half marathons when the full and half started together. The winner of the marathon would pass me at 9 or 10 miles. The last time it was about 12 miles when they caught me. Saturday, as I was coming down the chute, they announced the winner was coming. With a burst of energy, I was able to cross the finish line a couple of minutes before he did. Yes, I am a slow runner but obviously getting faster every year! Yay for old people!

I loved the course so much that I already registered for next year during the blitz!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3

Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 was this weekend. I had registered for this well before I had shoulder surgery so the timing was a little iffy on whether I would be able to race at all. Three days post race, I can look back and say it was a great venue. I've never been to Puerto Rico but definitely want to go back and am already planning on a trip with hubby and me (a non-race trip!).

Pre-race -
In order to be economical, my friends and I found a condo about a mile or so from the host hotel to rent. We were warned that it was in a sketchy neighborhood but we never had any issues.
view from the condo
We made friends with a couple of the taxi drivers and were able to call them directly for all our transportation - even at 4:45 am on race day. Being within a block of the local Walmart was great for us to stock up on groceries. Our first couple days were spent getting oriented and playing in the water.
I shipped my bike so had to wait until after the practice swim and athlete briefing to pick it up and get checked in. Even though I'm having to be without Ella for a month, the process of using TriBike Transport has been a smooth one. After taking our bikes out for a pre-race ride to make sure all was working correctly, we dropped our bikes off and headed back to condo to eat in and finish our race prep. As always, the volunteers were fabulous!

Race Morning -
We took a taxi to body marking and our bikes. We must have timed it just right because we sailed through and walked over to the swim start with very few people.

Swim -

Looks like we were having a dance party! Before getting to PR, I was super nervous about the swim. It was new to me to swim without a wetsuit and in saltwater. The practice swim helped alleviate my fears. I actually loved the feeling of being out in the water in just a swim skin. I was starting in the first wave after the pros at 7 am. My first blunder of the day was forgetting my banana in the taxi  but luckily I had a bar that I was able to eat half of which helped since it had been a couple of hours since I downed my oatmeal. It was time to swim -

I had no illusions of breaking any personal records in the swim or race in general but I was feeling strong so was hopeful. As with every race swim I've done, I never look at my Garmin until I exit the water so am blissfully clueless as to where I am. I started at the front in the middle of the pack and felt good. My shoulder was feeling ok until the later waves started catching up and it got a little crowded. Swimming was ok but when I would catch another swimmer on the down stroke, I was getting jarred a bit. About halfway thru, I started feeling the underarm chafing start. Duh! I know what to do in a wetsuit but since I didn't feel it in the practice, I totally spaced lubing up. I was pretty raw at swim exit. Lesson learned. Had hoped for sub 50 minute swim - actual 57:36.

Transition is really long - almost half mile from water to bike out. Some people stowed shoes but I ran the distance without them. It wasn't super hot yet so it was okay.

Bike -
I was starving when I got to my bike so I took an extra half minute to chow down on one of my rice cakes. A gal near me also had some miracle cream that she shared so I could doctor my chafing. Other than that, transition was pretty smooth.

The bike course is billed as relatively flat. I always chuckle at this because one person's definition is different from another's. Having trained in St. George, I had to agree but it was a little hillier than I expected. There is a change this year in the drafting zone rule. It is 5 bike lengths and I spent the first little while trying to calculate this distance. According to my Garmin, I spent the first two hours hovering around 18-19 mph, topping out at 32 mph. I felt good. The wind started picking up a lot sooner than I expected. MaryEllen had told me the last 8 or so miles were the worst. The course is beautiful and I really tried to focus on that. I stayed up on my nutrition and was even able to do a bottle transfer without stopping! Next blunder that I realized was I had forgotten to lube up again in transition so I started to notice that after 25 miles. I made a decision to hang on until aid station at mile 40 before stopping. At that point I got off, took care of business and got my last bottle of water. The last 16 miles were super windy and my average speed dropped to about 14 mph. My positive experience on the bike was that I was able to pass dozens of the women that had beat me in the swim. I even passed a few dudes! The last couple of miles were the roughest for me, dropping to 9 mph a couple of times. Had hoped for a 3 hour bike - actual 3:32.

Soon I was entering the transition chute and mentally preparing for the hot, hot run!

Run -
I downed part of another rice cake, drank some water and donned my nutrition belt and "walked" out of transition. I started running as I got out of the stadium and soon was made aware of my run blunder. I don't usually wear a nutrition belt in a triathlon. It has a zip pocket for my gus that I had left unzipped and as I started heading up the run bridge a volunteer came running after me telling me that I was dropping them. She had one she picked up but I was missing a few!
This is a two loop course but thankfully running over this overpass only happens on the way out and coming back to the finish. There was supposed to be cloud cover and possible rain on race day but as shown, it was clear blue skies. The volunteers put sunscreen on in transition but it soon washed away with the dumping of water at each aid station. I knew right away that I wasn't going to be able to maintain my 4:1 run/walk ratio. The wind on the bike took more out of me than I realized so I ran a couple minutes and walked a couple. At about 2 miles, the run enters the "microwave" through the red gate.
It's a non-supported section of about a mile out and back along a rock wall. You literally are baking!

As I was returning on the first loop, I was ready to pull myself. There is another new rule this year that the cutoff is from when your swim wave starts. Before it was 8 hours from the last wave start. As I came in for the second loop, I knew that if I did the same time I would not make the cutoff so I was having a major debate in my head of what to do. I felt horrible and was ready to quit. A nice thing about this two loop run is seeing people you know several times. It was nice to have encouragement at various spots on the course. I was tempted to jump in this fountain on my way back from the second loop!
MaryEllen was so encouraging!

I remember saying "Eff this" at the turnaround but sucked it up and headed back out. The aid stations were out of ice and Pepsi! Somehow I managed to do the second loop faster than the first and came in under the cutoff by a couple minutes. Hoped for 2:30-2:45 - actual 3:13.
My head was pounding and I was super overheated. I've been there before with bad results so just after this picture, I went to the med tent. The sweet lady there tried all she could do to cool me off, finally resorting to an IV.

We started crying at this point!
MaryEllen needed ice on her knees! We were quite the pair.
Overall, my expectations were obviously too high considering my shoulder surgery, the heat and the wind. I am glad that I stuck to it and finished. It was longer than my first 70.3 but looking back at Boise, I realized that I was faster by about 37 minutes so that made me feel better about the whole day. I will live to race again! Both MaryEllen and I are doing IM Los Cabos in October and have talked endlessly about the similarities of this race. We debated pulling out but are determined to train for the conditions and finish to become "Ironmen".

I'm grateful for our sherpas - Bill and Ashlan were so great to be stuck out in the heat while we raced for hours and hours. I also am grateful to have met new friends and was able to cheer on a first-time triathlete! It's inspiring to see people conquer their fears.

I will probably choose to race in Puerto Rico again. There are so many other places I want to race before doing this again but it's definitely on the list!

Thank you for all the encouraging texts, messages and notes - it was all of these that kept me on the course!