Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alcatraz Crossing Swim

 Ever since I first heard of the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, I have wanted to do just the swim portion.  You swim from the famous Alcatraz Island/former prison, to the shore.  The bike and run held no appeal for me, I just wanted to do the swim.  I heard that they have a swim race of just the swim portion called Sharkfest, but I didn't know much beyond that.  In Ken and I's long standing tradition of working our way down the family line with who picks the vacation every year, Ken picked San Francisco for this year.  I immediately started wondering about doing the swim.  I had heard that there was a local swim club that does monthly organized swims, so I Googled it.  Sure enough, Water World Swim Sports does just that.  I looked at their calendar and they were doing one the week AFTER we were scheduled do be there.  So, I did what any normal person would do and changed the dates of our vacation so that I could be there for their June swim.  Luckily Ken didn't mind me high jacking his vacation :)  I immediately signed up 6 months in advance.

Fast forward to last week.  I had told several people I was doing this swim.  It is on my bucket list of items I want to do in the crazy world of endurance sports. The response I got from most of them was "you know there are sharks in that water, right?" Or, "why would you do that?"  Or "Now we know you've lost it."  I found this funny because I think Ironman and some of the other stuff I've done is way crazier than this.  Yes, I know there are sharks in the water.  I want to do it because I am terrified of oceans swims and I want to overcome that fear.  And yes, I probably have lost it, but this is nothing new :)

As we arrived in San Francisco, I was starting to actually think I was crazy for doing the swim.  I saw Alcatraz from the Bay Bridge and noticed how far it really was from shore.  Then I noticed the chop in the Bay every day we were there.  Then Wednesday we went whale watching on a boat in the same area as the swim.  We saw about a dozen different humpback whales in the same area or not far from where I would be doing the swim.  Cool, but.....

Friday we went to the beach.  The water was FREEZING.  Even though I have done plenty of cold swims, this was way cold.  Oh great, lets just add that to the list of fears and obstacles on Saturday!  I will admit, I was starting to freak out a bit.  But, as this is my 8th season in endurance sports, I have noticed a cycle with me when I freak out or get nervous.  Once I am there, and get going, I do fine.  I kept telling myself that once I attended the briefing and spoke with others doing the swim, heard from the coaches directing and running the swim, I would be fine.

Saturday morning Ken and I got up at 4:45.  We ate a quick breakfast and I gathered my things I would need for the swim.  We left the kids at the hotel because they were more interested in sleeping in.  We grabbed an Uber to take us to Fisherman's Wharf and we were the first ones there.  I met Mike, one of the coaches, and he gave me my waiver.  I love signing stuff that says, "You realize by participating in this swim, injuries could occur including death/drowning."

We had 24 swimmers signed up to swim and about 3/4 of us were doing it for the first time.  They gave us the run down of what to site (the battleship, Fort Mason, the Gold Dome of the Palace of the Performing Arts, then the red brick roof of the Yacht Club), and stressed that this was NOT a race, it was an organized swim.  They would have kayak support and SUPs out on the water with us, as well as 4 swim coaches in the water with hot pink buoys if we needed them.  They stressed not to follow other swimmers, because if they got off course, they didn't want us to follow.  We got on the boat, rode it out to the middle of the bay just a stone's throw from Alcatraz (fun fact, we actually couldn't swim off the beach at Alcatraz because it is a protected wild life refuge, so we jumped from the boat) they then started playing the Rocky Theme song, lowered the back gate of the boat, and said, "See you on the beach!"  It was at this moment I let just about everyone else go in front of me.  I was in my wetsuit, had double capped for the cold, but wasn't quite ready to jump.  Ha!  No time to wallow in it!  The captain pointed at me and said, "You next!"  I didn't even have a chance to think about it and I jumped.  Everyone was staying right there in the water and I took a moment to look around me. It was surreal.  First off, the water wasn't near as cold as I was prepared for.  I have definitely been in worse.  But the view is what truly took my breath away.  I could see both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the whole city skyline with the fog just over it.  I looked down the shore and spotted what I would need to be sighting.  One coach was near me and said, "Not a bad way to spend your morning, huh?"  She was right!  By then the last person had jumped in the water and everyone started the swim towards the battleship.  Immediately the salt hit me.  No big deal, but not what I am used to.  Then the chop started to get to me.  It was crazy!  I swim in land locked reservoirs and lakes, nothing like this.  I have swam in boat chop and canyon wind kind of chop, but nothing quite like this.  Every time I went to sight, or breath, or just get my bearings, I got smacked in the head with another swell.  I felt like I wasn't moving though I was swimming as hard as I could. A few times I stopped and just went with it trying to see where I was.  With the chop I couldn't really see the other swimmers.  I could see the people standing on the SUPs, but that was it.  I asked them where everyone was, and they just pointed.  I couldn't make out most of what they said, so I gave up trying to.  This kept going and I was getting pretty frustrated, but then I would look over and see I was past what I was sighting, so I knew I was at least moving even though it didn't feel like it.  A giant tanker came through and really stirred it up more.  I remember saying to myself, "You have officially reached the end of your skill set."  Then I remembered to focus on what I could control.  I could control my stroke.  Then I remembered Ben telling me prior to StG that if the water got choppy, shorten my stroke to be more efficient in the water.  Well, that definitely applied here!  That was very helpful information to recall at that time because it gave me something to focus on.  I continued on but it was frustrating that I never at any point felt like I could find a good rhythm like I normally do. On the other hand, the challenge was kind of fun.  I had several flashbacks to playing in the swells along the beach as a kid in Galveston.  The difference was I was close to the shore and could always touch the bottom back then.  I never got scared, but I was frustrated many times because it was unlike anything I've ever done.  I had to just Dory it and "just keep swimming."  Finally I saw the final object they told us to sight, the red roof of the Yacht Club.  I remember them saying we would end at the small beach on the side of that building.  I got around the building and headed into the beach.  The first person I could recognize was Ken, standing there waiting for me. I swam harder because I was just ready to be done!!  I got out and put my head down to catch my breath.  Ken's first response? "Man, you look beat up!"  No kidding!  I felt it!

Then I turned around and saw all the swimmers coming into the beach.  I saw Alcatraz off in the distance and thought, "Yep, I just did that.  Check that box off the list!"  I was probably the 6th or 7th person out of the water out of the 24 who did it.  I finished the approx 2 mile swim in 39 minutes.  I am not completely sure my watch was accurate on the distance, and there is a current in our favor, but I am almost certain I didn't swim the 1:07 pace my watch said I did.  We then swam back to the boat just off the shore and they took us back to the starting point.  Many people who are veterans of this swim said this was the roughest day they had out there in a long time.  One girl mentioned that she was glad they didn't see sharks this time.  Wait, what?  She mentioned that they were getting ready to do a swim once and a great white had attacked a seal about in the spot they normally have people jump in the water, so they cancelled that day.  I am glad I found this out AFTER the fact.  However, it is pretty rare to see sharks in there with it being a major shipping channel.

I can now check that off my list. It was the single most challenging swim I have ever done, but also pretty amazing.  I would do it again, they were talking about how they do another event called the "Bridge to Bridge" swim and it goes from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate.  Its about a 10k, so I would have to work up to that, but no hurry for sure!

 I texted Ben about it at the end and his response cracked me up. "You're half nuts, but awesome too :)"

I can't say enough good things about Water World Swim.  They did an excellent job with this, from organization to making it a safe event for us.  They were incredibly encouraging and helpful.  Loved them!  If I was in the Bay Area, I would probably try to get more involved in their activities.

So what's next for me?  I have the Deseret News 10k in just over a month, then the Brineman 70.3 in September.  Training since StG has been pretty chill and nice at the same time as I have had a ton of family stuff going on, and more in the next few weeks.  Onward and upward!



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Salt Lake Gran Fondo 100 Miler!

 My triathlon partners in crime, Jason and Cristin, and I, were going to go on a long training ride on Saturday.  Cristin is prepping for Ironman Boulder and Jason is getting ready for Alaskaman.  I was on my tri club page and saw that many of my tri club teammates were doing a Century ride with the Salt Lake Gran Fondo and it wasn't too late to sign up even though it was just 48 hours away.  My training plan in training peaks only called for 1-2 hours of easy riding, but I am not really doing any race specific training for another month or so, so I figured why not?  Plus, if you're going to ride long, you might as well have someone else lay out the aid stations, control traffic, and give you a medal and t-shirt, right?  So, I texted Cristin and Jason about it and we were all signed up!

The course starts and finishes at Saltaire and you literally do a big giant circle around the Oquirrh Mountains down through Tooele County, into Utah County, and then along the west bench of the Salt Lake Valley back to Saltaire.  We had to be there at 6:00 to pick up our packets.  The ride started out and you literally merge onto I-80 for a few miles until you hit the Tooele exit.  This was kind of scary as it is an Interstate, but we had the shoulder and the lane next to us was closed with Highway Patrolmen escorting us.  Still scary!  Within the first 5 miles I saw a semi about take out 4-5 of the cyclists as he was merging onto the freeway.  This was the first of many close calls I saw today on this non-cyclist friendly route.

Not long after we got off the freeway I decided to try to draft.  In the past this has terrified me, but I  figured it would make 100 miles go by easier. I was on my road bike for this event.  I found a pack and quickly  just joined them.  Sweet!  This paid off well for the first 30 miles or so.  We worked together and took turns pulling and I found it wasn't bad at all!  Cristin was in my group and Jason had gone way ahead of us.  Weather was nice and cool, and clear! (We had snow just 48 hours before this event).  Cristin and I stopped at every aid station, and we found the volunteers were so friendly and they had gels, Honeystinger waffles, water, EFS nutrition, and even Hi-Chews!  The first half was literally middle of nowhere.  It was also a long slow grind with what seemed like a false flat but was a gradual climb.  We kept wondering why it felt like we were going so slow but working so hard! And we can't forget about the fact we had a head wind the WHOLE FREAKING TIME!  Don't ask me how that works, but that was the case!

We hit the half way point and we were feeling pretty good.  We refueled, used the restrooms, and were on our way again.  Just shortly after this point Cristin got the first of two flat tires.  We had everything we needed between us to change it, but we aren't very fast at this process :/.  We had someone stop and help us change it then he headed on his way.  We got going again and within a mile she was flat again.  This time we checked and double checked the tire, but couldn't figure out what the issue was.  We had the sag wagon guy get out and help us and found that her tire was literally split about a centimeter wide.  We used a Gu wrapper to patch it (I remember reading this tip somewhere and it worked!) and we were able to get on our way again.  Thank heaven it held for the remaining 44 miles!

Fitness wise for this ride I was fine, though it was by far my longest ride in two years.  I felt great the entire time energy and fitness wise.  My only issues were my shoulder (this is always an issue on long rides) and my saddle was HELLACIOUS!  I finally am comfortable saddle wise on my tri bike for aero, but now need to figure out something else for my roadie.  My legs felt great as well! When the ride was done they were a little heavy, and later that night they were stiff, but next day I was great.  Nutrition wise this ride was no big deal, I had my Infinit in two different bottles, but also added a gel or waffle at the rest stops.  I probably should have taken in more fluids, but it was okay.

Once we hit north Utah County the route put us on Redwood Road.  This is major road that runs through 3 counties.  It was busy AND under construction.  It was scary to navigate turns and even just ride on this road.  We were grateful when this section ended and we turned onto Mountain View Corridor.  This is a busy road, but it has a huge shoulder and bike lane, so it was much better from a safety stand point.  We knew we were on the tail end of riders for the Gran Fondo, but there were several other rides going along the same routes, so we always had other riders within a reasonable distance.  The aid stations got further in between than they had been the first half, but we were still greeted with happy, cheering, and helpful volunteers.  The weather had warmed up and we were able to ditch arm warmers and jackets that they brought to the finish for us.  They were great!

About 15 miles from the Finish Cristin and I stopped at the final aid station and they had peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables.  They were heavenly at that point!  The portion of the course on Mountain View Corridor also ended and we rode up to the Backus Highway.  The remainder of the ride was spent mainly downhill, but there was a lot of swearing, praying and hanging on for dear life as the roads and traffic were just dangerous.  We were on roads with no shoulder or bike lane and heavy traffic.  There was tons of debris that could mean a flat tire at the least, or accident/injury as well.  We actually had to merge onto the 201 (another freeway) where there was nothing but traffic barrels separating us from traffic going by at 75-80mph.  Not safe at all.  We were also the tail end of the riders, so there wasn't exactly a group to ride with.  There should have been a police man directing traffic or something.  I still can't believe how bad and dangerous this was!  We were very grateful to be done and back to Saltaire.

By the time we finished they were out of food.  However,the race director did give us free event jerseys since "you guys suffered longer than anyone else.".  We got our stuff together and hit Taco Bell for our post ride grub!

My thoughts on this race/ride are mixed. For the positives: It is always fun to ride with a friend.  It was great to complete my 5th 100+ ride.  The volunteers were all very good, happy and cheerful, and very helpful.  It was also fun to ride where I hadn't before and see new areas I am not familiar with.  The weather was perfect.  The Cons:  My saddle sucks.  My shoulder is still an issue.  The organization was poor.  The routes they had us on were not safe or rider friendly.  There should have been more controlling of intersections or alternative routes on less busy streets should have been utilized.  I was reminded again why so much of my riding (around 80%) is indoors.  There just isn't enough safe riding around here! And no organized ride should utilize freeways!!!!  Needless to say, this will be the last time I participate in this ride.  Jason, Cristin, and many of my teammates had the same thoughts.

So what's next?  Just easier/transitional training until mid-July where I start the ramp up for my fall 70.3, Brineman.  I do have East Canyon Olympic in three weeks and my Alcatraz swim in a month! in the meantime, happy training and racing!!

80 miles down, 20 to go!!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ironman 70.3 St George 2017 Race Report

 72 hours post race and I am still on a post race high!  Where do I begin to sum it all up??

PRE-RACE:

I headed down to St. George on Thursday morning and caravaned down with Jason and Cristin, who I talked into signing up for this race with me about 8 months ago.  We got into town, went to the expo, and it was super hot!  I kept hoping that we would not have this heat on race day!  I picked up my packet, went to the merchandise tent and bought the infamous race "name shirt" with all participants names on it.  It was the only thing I bought!  Ken was shocked.  This is my third Ironman branded event, so I just don't feel the need to go crazy on Ironman gear anymore.  It is still cool, but my tradition now is to just buy the name shirt, unless there is something else I just can't live without!

Friday I laid low.  I took the time to pack my gear bags to get them ready for gear and bike check in.  I had a late breakfast and it did not set well with me.  I was almost immediately sick to my stomach and this lasted the rest of the day.  I was not happy about this!  Please don't let me be sick before the race!!I went ahead and headed out to Sand Hollow to check in my bike.  I visited with some friends while there, did a very brief spin on Ivy to make sure the gears were all good and she was ready to roll, then I checked her in.  I was getting ready to leave when was pretty sure I saw Ben, my coach, speed by on his bike.  I have worked remotely with Ben for the past 18 months, but never actually "met" in person as he is in Madison, Wisconsin, and I am in Utah.  I couldn't pass up the chance to meet him.  So, I went over and said hello.  Thank heaven it was him, or that would have been weird!  Ben is just as cool in person!  I've always known he was a great coach, but he is also a cool person!

I wanted to get out of the heat, so I headed back into town, quickly checked my run gear bag and headed back to the condo.  Ken and the kids were in town by this point, and it was good to see them!

Saturday morning I woke up super early and was over the moon excited!  No race nerves, just plain excited!  I was riding to catch the shuttles with Jason and Cristin, so I met them at their hotel for breakfast.  I had listened to my "race inspiration" playlist on the way over and was just ready to get this thing going!  We ate, got on the shuttles, then it was a matter of airing my tires, loading my bike nutrition, and then waiting for the swim start!

SWIM:

I had high hopes of a swim PR for this course. The water was smooth (which is actually unusual for Sand Hollow, this area is known for the wind).  I was in one of the very last swim waves, so it was a hurry up and wait kind of game. I was in Wave #18, with a start time of 7:31.  I got up  and was going to try to hug the inside buoy line, and start near the front of my group.  We swam out to the start buoy, the gun went off, and it was time to get to work!  I stuck to my usual sighting every 8 strokes or 4 breaths, and kept telling myself  "reach long, pull strong".  I found a good rhythm right off the bat and was sighting well.  The first third of this went way fast.  When we went along the west side of the Island, that part lasted longer!  It was all good, but I was starting to catch the slower swimmers from the waves ahead of me and it started to get more congested and harder to stay right with the buoy line as I was trying to avoid the slower swimmers and go around them.  When we made the final turn where we swim into the boat dock, it was CRAZY!  Now you have every breast stroker, back stroker, and hanging-on-for-dear-life-stroker, and it made for just utter chaos. The water got choppy from all the congestion and I started to get nauseous.  Uh!  Can we just be done?  I was relieved to get out of the water and let out a HUGE burp.  My sister Lisa and father would have been impressed!  I immediately felt better though!  I unzipped my wetsuit, took off my cap and goggles, and ran for the strippers!  They had that sucker off faster than a prom dress!  Final swim time was 36:43 (24 out of 116 in my division), only 45 seconds away from a PR!  I blame the chaos at the end for that!  Either way, I was thrilled with this swim.

T1:

As soon as the wetsuit was off, I ran over to Ivy, threw all my swim stuff into the bag, threw on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and headed out of there.  I was super thrilled with my T1 time of 3:12. This is over 3 minutes faster than last time I did StG, but I was way happy with it.  Ken caught the pic below as I had exited the water.

 BIKE:

I was both super excited and nervous for this bike.  It was on the bike that my race went so horribly wrong 3 years ago, but I also had a couple of good training rides on this course just a few weeks before, so I was excited to see it all play out on race day.  Ben had told me to make sure I kept constant tension on the chain.  Pressure on the pedals. I get into a habit of just spinning or coasting at times on the "easier" parts of the course.  My training ride here two weeks ago I spent well over an hour of a 2:45 ride in Zone 1!  What the?  Not okay for race day!  I quickly found that by doing this, I was passing lots of people on the flats and descents.  I am not a strong climber, but I found that many people that passed me on the hills, I caught up with or passed right after the hills.  This was just so much fun!  I would just shift into the "hardest" gear on the flats or down hills and just keep tension on the chain as Ben said.  I threw a lot of caution to the wind as well and stayed in aero on these down hills instead of on the breaks.  With the roads closed to traffic, I felt confident doing this. It was just so much fun!  I loved it! I hit some new high speeds of 45 mph on my bike on more than one of these down hills.

My nutrition plan was working well.  I had two concentrated bottles of my Infinit + Base salt.  I found that making more than a two hour bottle the flavor is way too strong, so I went with two 2 hour bottles.  Every 15 minutes I took in a mouth full of it and sipped on water every 5-10 minutes in between. It was warm, but over cast, and I felt like this was the perfect amount for the conditions. I grabbed a water bottle at every aid station as well. I took in about 750-800 calories during this ride and around 100 ounces of fluid.

When we got to the bottom of Snow Canyon, I was starting to feel the anxiety set in.  It was at the bottom of Snow Canyon that I literally sat on the road and cried in the red dirt thinking my race was over 3 years prior.  As I passed that spot, I felt strong and was so grateful to not be there today.  I said a quick prayer of thanks for my good race so far and prayed for continued luck!  I found that it was a pretty ride! I  loved it.  Though technically Snow Canyon is a slow gradual 4 mile climb, it is only the final mile of that is bad.  I enjoyed being there, talking to the other athletes and just settling in and getting ready for the big push at the end.  When we got there, it was the first time during this ride that fatigue set in.  Many were starting to walk their bikes.  I just kept telling myself to keep my legs moving, I was NOT going to walk.  It somehow seemed easier than it had been two weeks ago!  Before I knew it, I was at the top!  This was also the first part I noticed the head winds.  Holy crap, were they bad!  Luckily that last stretch into town is downhill, but still no fun in those head and cross winds. I just got low in aero and kept pressure on the pedals. I didn't break for a single down hill into town.  Just tuck low and let her roll! I had a ton of fun on this part of the course, though it was scary a few times :)

As I was in the final half mile, I heard Ken yell at me.  I was so happy!  I just not only conquered the bike course, but the demons and associations from this same ride 3 years before!  I literally was crying as I ran my bike into T2.  Final Bike Time was 3:28:26 (#38 out of 116 in my division).

T2:

I easily found my stuff and bagged my bike stuff, took time to throw on socks (I usually race sockless sprint and olympics), shoes, visor and my race belt.  I grabbed two cups of ice water leaving T2.  Final time for T2 was 2:36.

RUN:

When I did this run 3 years ago, it was pretty much a walk.  I just wanted to run as much of it as possible. I knew that with the high mid day temps, wind, and hills, it wouldn't be realistic to run the whole thing, but I wanted to try!  As I left T2, I was still crying because I was so thrilled with my bike.  I saw Ken again right out of T2 and just said, "I did it!  I did it!"  He gave me a sweaty hug and said, "Yeah, but you're not done yet!"  I found that as I tried to run, I couldn't because my lungs were all tight from crying!  HA!  There's no crying in triathlon!  I took a minute to walk and calm down and found I could run after that. Ben had told me to stay within certain HR parameters, so I looked down at my watch and saw I had no HR data.  The watch wasn't picking up the HR at all.  Funny, because it had worked fine the entire bike.  Oh well, Plan B is run by feel!  The first 4 miles of this run are uphill.  They are a gradual false flat at first then by mile 2 you are going UP!  I settled into a decent, though slow pace for the first two and when I got to the Turtle Hill climb I had to walk.  I gave myself permission to walk on the uphills for a max of 30 steps at a time, and it worked!  It gave me just enough of a break to want to get going again.  I found that I was in good company on this rough run and saw many teammates along the way.  I was enjoying this run despite the toughness of it.  I made myself run the down hills and the flats, only breaking at the aid stations.  The aid stations were roughly every mile.  At each aid station I took in ice water, a couple of licks of Base Salt, and every 3 miles I had a gel.  There were also a couple of stations I would take in a Gatorade, Coke, or Red Bull based on what sounded good at the moment.  It all seemed to be working because I felt pretty good the whole time.

The second half of the run I was just ready to be done. I was still in good spirits, but I wanted to be done.  I ran most of the last part except for the couple of final uphills.  I ran into several more teammates and one of the newbies to our club Shawn.  We played leap frog from miles 8-11.  It was nice to have a familiar face at this hard part of the course!

The final 3 miles are basically down hill, so I went for it.  I looked at my watch several times during this downhill portion and was sub 10 pace every time. I still stopped at aid stations, but skipped the last one a mile from the finish line.  I just wanted to cross that finish line!  I bolted down the portion after the turn around at Diagonal and Main Street to the finish.  It felt so good!  I heard Ken yelling for me again and crossed the finish line.  Immediately I saw my friends Marianne and Meagan working the finishers chute!  It was perfect!  I completely lost it and Meagan was there to hug me despite me being a hot mess for a moment!  The only thing better than this moment was sharing it with such good friends!!

Final run time was 2:37:03 (#42 out of 116 in my division).  This is only 9 minutes from a run PR for the distance in a 70.3!  And on THIS course?  Heck yeah, I'll take it! Final race time was 6:48:00 (#42 out of 116 in my division). This is not a 70.3 PR, but then this is not the course for a PR!

POST-RACE:

I met up with Ken immediately after the race.  I went and got some athlete food and Ken went for the car.  I went with the kids to get my bike and ran into Ben there. Seriously, I can't thank him enough!  He is a great coach, and has pushed me further than I thought I could go.  I was glad to be able to give him a post race hug!  Then we loaded up in the car, got the kids food and played by the pool the rest of the day.  It was perfect!

I would be lying if I said I didn't have some goals time wise for this race.  I was right on them for both the swim and the bike, but not for the run.  However, when I see that everyone struggled on the run today, and I know that I honestly put forth my best effort, I am genuinely thrilled with the day I had.  This just gets me fired up and wanting more!  I have pretty mellow summer race wise...I have an Oly in a month, my Alcatraz swim, and then my 70.3 in September.  I am so excited to see what I can do on that FLAT course after this race.  It will be fun!

I've also decided 70.3 is my distance.  I love it!  The training is just enough to challenge me, but not overwhelm me or my life, and the distance is the same way.  I loved doing sprints and Olys last year, but this is a good distance for me.  I will probably stick with this distance for awhile.  I really want a sub 6 hour 70.3!

Onward and upward!  Happy training and racing!




Monday, April 24, 2017

Two weeks out plus some updates!


I fully intended to do a race report on Icebreaker this year, but I didn't.  It was something else...the weather was around 40-45 and pouring down rain.  I can honestly say I have never ridden in the rain prior to this, and there was standing water on the course and some slick turns, but it was actually kind of fun.  I walked away with a course PR, and took second in my age group.  Still need to learn to suffer more in general, but I was happy.  I also didn't taper for this, and I had a long trainer ride waiting for me when I got home.  This race is still a must do every year, it's a great way to blow the cobwebs off and get in a race when you're just getting antsy to race after the cold winter off season!

I just got back from Salt Lake Tri Club Camp.  It is really designed for people racing IM StG 70.3 as it is two weeks prior to the race and on the course.  However, many of my house mates and other teammates came down just for the heck of it even though they aren't racing it.  It was just plain fun!

I drove into town and felt immediate anxiety driving the part of the bike course just to get to the house we were staying in.  I was at the house a few hours before my roomies for the weekend got there and it started to mess with me a bit.  For those of you that don't know, my worst experience ever was the last time I did StG.  It was an utter disaster, so going back to this race has brought on race anxiety like I haven't had before.  I knew one of the biggest advantages to me of coming down this weekend would be to ride the course again and gain some confidence as well as build positive associations with the course to over ride the negative ones.  I was able to do both!

Friday morning we were supposed to go swim at Sand Hollow.  Since this was one of two OWS there, I opted to do a pool work out I wasn't able to fit in earlier in the week.  I loved the Washington Community Center!  It's a nice facility and they seem to have been able to manage to let lap swimmers and the pool noodle water aerobics  coexist in peace.  This doesn't happen anywhere up here, but don't get me started!  I swam 3000 yards and felt great.  Then we had a break prior to riding Snow Canyon, we rode just a 21 mile loop that included the Canyon then we had a group run of the course.  Ben didn't want me running the whole thing, just an up and back of 8 miles, but it was enough of the course for me.  He then texted me that I had nailed the run!  Sweet!  I had to say, it felt really good overall and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Day 2 of camp was an OWS at Sand Hollow and a transition clinic.  I LOVED being back at Sand Hollow and back in open water.  The water was around 61 degrees, and though it was pretty cold the first 50 yards or so, it didn't last.  I loved it!  This is one of my favorite places to swim period, so I was in complete heaven for this part of the camp.  We then set off on a ride of most of the course.  Due to some road closures, we weren't able to ride the part through Hurricane, but still got 41 of the 56 in.  Man, I forgot how hilly this course is.  I ended up riding most of it with a new friend Brian who is new to our club and the sport.  It was great to have a friend and someone to chat with during this ride.  My legs were already fatigued from the day before, so I knew this ride would be hard.  Riding with someone makes it better!  He was talking all crazy like doing the "double loop" and doing Snow Canyon twice, as some were to make up for the lost mileage we missed by not doing Hurricane.  I knew immediately I wouldn't be up for it.  Climbing Snow was much harder the second day, but I did it without needing to stop or walk.  I dialed in nutrition and it worked well.  I have switched to custom Infinit and love it!  However, I found that the flavor is MUCH stronger in a concentrated bottle!  I can't say how much I love having just one bottle to use. The Infinit doesn't have as much sodium as I would like so I add a couple tiny scoops of Base Salt to the bottle, and it is still all one place. That and water and I am good to go.  No more million moving pieces to long course nutrition!I took in a mouthful of the mix every 15 minutes then washed it down with water in my torpedo bottle up front.  So easy!

That night I think our house we were staying at became the designated party house.  We had 15-20 people there and I was up way later than I have been in years.  It was just fun.  I love my tri club team mates!  I have to miss a lot of team stuff due to living an hour away from where most of the group functions and group work outs take place, so it was nice to have time with them this weekend!  I was exhausted coming home and still am today, but it was so worth it!

I am feeling good two weeks out from StG.  There is still some work to do, but after being on the course this weekend, I am feeling much better about it.  I have spent some time thinking, which is never a good thing, and am actively working on being more positive about life, racing, and myself in general.  After being called out on this lately by more than one person (Ken, Ben, Justin, and Nate, thanks for the reality check!).  It's not like me to be negative in general, but I think the anxiety and stress about this race has brought it out of me more than normal.  I am reminded that I don't HAVE to do any of this, I GET to.  It is a great opportunity and the negative self talk doesn't reflect who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to get out of it all.  I am grateful for people willing to call me out on it when I need it!

So, onward and upward!  This is going to be a fun couple of weeks!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I used to be way better at this...

Wow!  It's been almost 6 months since I updated my blog.  I used to be so much better at maintaining it because it really is something I enjoy.  I still read tons of blogs, but have failed to keep my own up to date.

So what's new?  High school swim season came and went.  It was so much better the second year than it was the first.  SO much smoother and a little less "deer in the headlights."  I still have so much to learn, and there are things that I want to change next year, but the kids are amazing, and its a pretty cool way to be involved with them in a sport I love.   I am sure, though I complain about the time commitment, I will be with them for at least a few more years.

I have been training as well!  I have Ironman 70.3 St. George coming up May 6.  When I did it 3 years ago, it was quite possibly the worst race experience to date.  It's a toss up between that and my first marathon, though overall, StG would probably win.  It was just a disaster.  I wanted to immediately go back and do it better, but then IMTX happened and made it impossible for 2015, then 2016 I volunteered, and then got sucked into signing up for this year.  I vacillate between being completely excited and terrified.

I also have a new running partner!  Maggie passed away in November, not that she had been able to run with me in years anyway, and in January we added Murphy to the family.  He's an almost 2 year old husky mix.  He LOVES to run.  Running and going for rides in the car are his very favorite things.  The furthest I have gone with him in one setting was 8.5 miles and he could easily go more.  We did 11 yesterday broken in to two runs, and he was finally sort of worn out last night.  He is great!  I am worried about him as it warms up though because he is a husky with a built in fur coat.  I foresee a lot of very early morning runs when it is cool enough to take him over the summer.


The training is going well, but is so different training with my coach Ben, vs how I would do it on my own.  Ben simply pushes me more, which I can't/don't know how to do on my own without being injured.  More hours, more volume, more intensity, and more consistency. I have come to the conclusion that cookie cutter plans don't do that for me.  Most are pretty generic, at least the ones I found and used previously.  Plus, there was no one to be accountable to.  Having Ben there to tailor it to me, giving me specific workouts, intervals to hit, etc, really challenges me.  I am such a nerd because I love opening Training Peaks on Sunday to see what he's got on tap for me that week.  

I also have the chance to go to Alaska this summer to help play race Sherpa for my friend Jason doing Alaskaman.  It will be so much fun!  I can't wait!  We will also go to San Francisco for a week, and I am checking an item off my bucket list be doing the Alcatraz swim.  I have had people ask if I would do the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.  It really holds no interest to me, just the epic swim!  It's stupid expensive, and who wants to bike those hills and run them for a ridiculous price?  Not me.  I then heard that a local swim club does monthly swims and when I looked it up, found they were doing it the Saturday we are there.  It's FATE!  I signed up and that awaits me June 24.

I have Icebreaker in two weeks (year 6 going back), East Canyon Oly in June, then Brineman 70.3 at the end of September.  I don't really plan on racing more than that.  I am totally okay with that as well.  It just so happens that other races I've looked at we either will be out of town or have other family stuff going those weekends, so that was the main limiter.  But then again, I raced so much last year trying to get to Nationals, that it was almost too much, so I am happy with what's on the docket for now and don't see it changing.

I go back and forth on my desire to do another Ironman.  I will do another one, that isn't in question.  What is in question is which race and when.  I really thought 2018 would be my year to do it again, but now I am not so sure.  The time, effort, energy, etc that goes into it doesn't really appeal to me right now.  Plus, training for one with Ben just might kill me.  His training is totally different than what I've done on my own (all good) and training for StG is no joke.  Its hard and challenging, but at the right level.  Doing more than this right now would probably max me out more than I can do in the foreseeable future.  I am starting to think 70.3s might just be my favorite distance.  I hate olys.  Love sprints, but like endurance, hence 70.3s being pretty sweet that way.  Enough to challenge you, but not enough to (quite) kill you :)

That's it for now.  I will probably do an update after Icebreaker.  No aspirations there other than to go and have fun.  I am not even tapering for it as it is just a sprint on the road to StG.  In fact, I have a long trainer ride waiting for me post race :)


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Haunted Half Marathon Race Report

This was my last race of the 2016 season and one I have been very excited about.  It was also my first half marathon in almost 3 years, so that was cool as well.  Other than a handful of 5ks this year, I haven't done a run specific event in that long!  It was pretty weird to pack for this race as it was just run stuff!  Ha!  You know you've been buried in triathlons for awhile if this is the case!

Training for this half was no joke.  Again, I learned that training for an event with Ben is way different than how I've done it before.  I enjoyed the run emphasis and saw many gains along the way, even if they were just small ones.  I was reminded of why I love running.  I thoroughly enjoyed the training.  I was also reminded of the importance of self care such as stretching, rolling, and proper recovery, or else my body starts to hate me with the additional stress on it.  I was also reminded why I entered triathlon to begin with...I missed my bike and swim and the variety in the training! Average training for this run block was 5-6 runs a week, sometimes two a day, with an occasional bike or swim mixed in.  Most of the runs were easy, some with drills, some with strides, one speed work session a week, and a longish run on Saturdays followed by a shorter one that evening.  It was different than I what I would do left to my own devices, but again, I enjoyed it.

This was a Halloween themed race, but I had no intention of dressing up. I am not a big Halloween fan anyhow, much less dress up for 13.1 miles for it.  I told people I was going as a runner, since I still don't consider myself much of one :)

I did packet pick up the day before and rode down race morning with my friends Alicia and Cristin.  We all had our own goals for this race, so it was agreed upon that it was every man for himself once the gun went off and we would meet at the finish.

I remembered that in the past the pacers have served me well in run races.  I knew that my goal was 1:45-1:55ish, so I found the 1:50 pacer guy before the gun went off.  He was dressed as Peter Pan in green tights! He was super nice and told me his strategy was to bank some time in the beginning on the downhills, then conserve a little for the uphills at the end.  I told him I would hang with him for as long as I could.  The gun went off and away we went.  I immediately noticed in the first couple of miles I was going WAY faster than Ben told me to, but my HR was where it was supposed to be, so I went with that instead.  It only took a mile or two into this run for my hamstrings to start feeling the steep downhill, and I knew this run was going to kick my trash and I would be sore later.  Part of the deal though!  I felt great and took in a Gu every half hour, and slowed some at aid stations, but not much, long enough to take either a water or Gatorade.  The first 7-8 miles are down the canyon, and they are very fast.  They are also so, so pretty!  I never take for granted what a beautiful place I live in!

When we came into the city by the zoo, I could not longer hold the pace of Peter Pan.  My legs were starting to feel the fatigue of the rapid down hill and I knew I couldn't keep up, so I let him go, even though I wasn't happy about it.  The course then turned into a neighborhood which I didn't love this part.  I sort of turned off mentally for a mile or so, disappointed that I couldn't keep up with Pacer dude, but also because there was a lot of winding for a few miles in the neighborhood and I felt they kept taking us up the same hill a few times over.  Not fun!  I was glad when I finally knew where we were and knew we were near Sugar House Park where the finish was.  I really tried to push once we entered the park.  These last two miles sucked.  I hurt, I was tired, and the only thing that kept me going was the fact I desperately wanted to be done and running was the fastest way to get there.  They actually have a decent hill a half mile from the finish.  Rude!  I ran that hill and immediately had to walk because I was so winded.  However, this only lasted a few seconds, then I ran again and pushed to the finish.  I was so thrilled to see my finish was 1:51:25!  This was an 8.5 minute PR and I was pretty thrilled to be just :25 off my goal time, and I found the Peter Pan Pacer Dude and he had just barely finished as well, so I wasn't that far off!

I had to sit down and I enjoyed seeing several friends at the finish.  My legs hated me already, and the next several days would continue to do so :/

Overall, I am thrilled with how this went.  There is always the part of me that is my own worse critic and can't help but see how I may have done things just a little differently, but I am super happy.

What's next?  I literally have nothing scheduled until IMStG 70.3 on May 6.  I am sure I will end up doing smaller races between now and then, but that's it!  I am looking forward to the next 1-2 weeks off for a break, and then slowly building into 2017 training with Ben.  He says he is going to "load me up" more than last year, so I am a little scared what that means!  But, by the time swim season ends in January, I know I will be ready for it :)

Happy Training and Racing all!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

USAT Age Group Nationals 2016

One of the advantages of traveling solo to a race is that post race I can do whatever I want when I want.  If that means sit and stew over the race and think about what went well and what went not so well and all, I can! I have so many thoughts about this race, I want to write it all down while its fresh.

First off, this was my end goal for the season.  Every race I did was trying to get here.  When I finally had an awesome race at Dinotri and qualified and got the much awaited email with the the registration link, I was thrilled!

I ended up making this trip to Omaha solo.  Ken had some meetings at work he couldn't get out of and the kids honestly have no interest in my racing, plus, who would watch them while I raced?  I tried to get a girl friend or someone to come along for the company, but anyone that could come, couldn't.  I was bummed at first, and then I started to think about the advantages to going solo, and realized it would be fine.  Plus, come hell or high water, I wasn't missing this race.  

I left SLC with the kids and dropped them with my parents in Denver.  They get time with Grammy and Pa, and Mama gets to focus on her race and do what she wants when she wants it over the weekend.  Ken gets peace and quiet for 5 days. This was win/win for all involved!  

I arrived in Omaha on Thursday. I got in a quick bike ride and run as was in Training Peaks for me to do.  Luckily the hotel is close to everything, including a quiet road around the airport to ride on.  I immediately noticed how humid it was here.  It hit me like a 2x4 when I got out of my car.  I haven't been in this kind of humidity since Texas!

Friday was very chill.  I got up early for another ride and run to just turn the legs over, had breakfast, then went and got my packet and check in Ivy.  I went back to the hotel and slept for 2.5 hours! Blissful! I went to dinner with some women in the Women for Tri Facebook group I'm in.  It was awesome!  Got to bed early so I could get up early to get to transition early.

A side note here.  I had a start time of 10:02. Total crap time to start.  I was going to be doing the race in the heat of the day, along with the humidity.  I wasn't thrilled with this, but what do you do?  In my pre-race talk with Ben he suggested that I try to get to transition early to set up and then go back to the hotel to be out of the heat and humidity.  He also told me to plan on tampering the efforts for the day due to the weather forecast.  I was also given the instruction to take in 150-200 calories on the bike and then another 150-200 early on the run.  I was also to keep my heart rate under 160 until I got to mile 4 on the run and be patient.  Um, I don't do patient well.  I'm sure he knows this by now, but I was determined to follow his instructions as close as I could. 

I got up and got to transition and had a sweet parking spot.  Too bad I could give it up to go back to the hotel.  I got back, went back to bed for an hour, ate breakfast, and then headed back to the race.  So glad I did this earlier than I planned because the roads were all closed and I had to walk in about a mile to transition.  I still had plenty of time though, so no biggie.

Swim: 

Water temp was 86.9. It felt like it too.  It was like bath water.  This was even warmer than IMTX!  The gun went off for our age group and I was off.  Immediately I felt sluggish.  Ben wanted me to ease into this, and it looked like it wouldn't be too hard to do.  The start was crazy, I was hit, kicked, swam over, grabbed, you name it.  I don't mind, I've come to expect it and at Nationals in Milwaukee two years it never got better.  Here it did, and I had clear water most of the swim.  The swim felt long.  It started to feel like some kayaker had a rope tied to the yellow turn buoy and they were just pulling it further and further from me.  It was the epitome of the "Are we there YET?" feeling.  I felt like I was sighting well and with keeping buoys on the right, and me breathing to the left, I made sure to sight diligently so I wouldn't get off course.  When I finally got to the buoy, the next one was pretty quick.  Thank heaven after that turn we headed into the swim exit and it went way faster than the first half.  I was actually thrilled to be out of the water.  Final swim time was 29:50. Not thrilled with this, but it was a no wetsuit swim in very warm water.  Not as bad as it could have been!

T1:

I was stoked to be getting onto the bike.  This was my first time riding Ivy in a race, so I went as quick as I could.  Total time in T1 was 2:38. This is a huge transition area and it had a long run to get into it.  Pretty average for my group.

Bike:

Like I said before, I could not wait to get on the bike. I noticed right away she was in the small ring, and I don't remember putting her in that gear, but whatevs.  I seriously love riding this bike.  So smooth and easy! The bike course was fairly flat but there were a few rollers and one pretty good hill.  The first half of the bike we had a tail wind and I felt like I was flying. The first half, other than on the hills I was at 20+ mph with what seemed like little effort.  It was awesome! I loved the smooth and freshly paved roads that were the entire course.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself for the sheer joy of riding.  I was in a goofy mood, I decided to try goofy poses and faces for the course photographers, made sure to whoop and holler on the down hills, that kind of thing.  It was just plain fun!  I also enjoyed the course scenery! You may not picture Omaha as scenic, but it really was! I can't get over how green it is here and the rolling farm land and picturesque red barns and corn fields are straight out of a Norman Rockwell photo! Gorgeous!

The bike turn around seemed to come quickly, but that meant a head wind and back up the hills.  They weren't as bad the second time around but I definitely didn't have the speed I had the first half.  I didn't care, I was still enjoying myself.  My heart rate was around 160-163 most of the ride.  I couldn't remember what Ben wanted me to do HR wise for the bike, so I tried to stay there but more go off feel.  I tried to ride comfortably hard, yet still be patient because I knew I had a run ahead.  

Final bike time was 1:26:48.  I'm sorta pissed about this.  I felt like it should have been faster, but there it is.  I have no idea why it is like to, other than perhaps that the humidity was affecting me more than I realized? It was hot and humid for sure, but I didn't feel it too much, and definitely not like I would on the run. 

T2:

Nothing to report here.  I had a ton of grass on my feet so I took my time to try to get it off so it wouldn't rub or give me blisters.  In and out in 2:11.

Run:

I hit the lap button to start the run on my Garmin and my heart rate was almost 180. Well crap.  Looks like we will be starting this run off with a walk to bring that down.  It took longer than it should have to come down and when it finally got into the high 150s, I would "run" and it would shoot right back up.  This would go on for the first 3 miles.  It was so frustrating.  I just couldn't get or keep it down.  I was about to ditch what Ben told me to do with this heart rate business, but then I saw people ending up in the med tents and decided following his advice would keep me out of there.  There was also tons of people walking, so I was in good company.  The heat seemed to be radiating off the pavement and there is absolutely zero shade on this course.  And it was ugly! It was all in an industrial area of the city, so I didn't even have that going for me.  I just decided to focus on my heart rate and make sure I took in Gatorade at each station and dump a few cups of water over my head to attempt to stay cool.  I remembered that at IMTX I had dumped ice down by bra at each station and it worked well to keep me cool and my HR down.  That would have worked swell if they hadn't run out of ice at all of the aid stations except one,  which were every mile. 

The run turnaround was the coolest part of the run.  We actually got to run into the TD Ameritrade stadium and run around the perimeter of the baseball field and see ourselves on the Jumbotron. It was pretty cool.  I needed the mental distraction at that point as well.  I was officially half way done with the death march!

I finally noticed that my heart calmed down a bit.  I was able to manage a jog of sorts.  I decided to focus on what I could control.  I could control my run form.  So I kept telling myself "run tall.  Slight forward lean. Relax your shoulders.  Arms at 90 degrees."  Well, wouldn't you know it, by running efficiently, I could actually sort of run and keep my heart under control.  Coach is right again! Then I thought he must continually bang his head against a wall at what a slow learner I am.  Well maybe not slow, just stubborn :)

I finally felt decent.  Not great, but decent.  I happily hit the mile 4 part and decided I could really push if I wanted to, and I sort of did, but it was also so hot, I didn't think I could push much more.  I did push the last quarter mile but it was painful! Final run time 1:12:57. Ugh. That's awful.  I believe that is my slowest 10k ever.  

Final race time was 3:14:26. My heart sank when I saw this.  I so thought I would and could be under 3:00, and since I hadn't looked at the time at all during the race, it felt like a slap in the face.  

Post-Race:

I knew that Ken and my family and Ben would want to know how it went.  I was so bummed I couldn't bring myself to call or text any of them.  I went to the food tent, but couldn't eat.  I got a plate anyway, but it tasted like crap.  Not that it was bad, I just had zero appetite.  I made myself drink a bottle of water, but that was all I could keep down.  I went to get my bag, and my bike.  I remembered I wanted to buy a tshirt and water bottle from the TriSports tent, so I went and did.  While I was there, a woman whose hadn't raced and whom I don't know asked how my race went.  I told her I've had better.  She asked what went wrong.  I told her I guess it was the conditions, I just didn't know.  She then said, " If you can make it here surely you can figure it out."  The she rolled her eyes and walked off.  What the hell was that? Who does that? Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound! I was so over this whole thing, I quickly got my shirt and bottle and left.  

I had to ride my bike back to my car.  No biggie.  When I getting to my car another athlete asked where I was staying.  She had ridden to transition and now had a flat and was having to walk back.  Turns out she was staying in my same hotel.  I told her she could have a ride, and we finagled both bikes and all our crap into my car and drive back.  It was a nice diversion because I was about to completely crumble into a sobbing mess when I saw her.  

I have now had a few hours to think about it all.  I did have a good experience.  I loved the race.  It was well  done, as I expected.  The swim wasn't great, but wasn't bad either.  I loved the bike regardless of the split, it was just pure fun and the best part of my day.  It is fun and humbling to race the best in the nation from all over the nation! I met people from all over and it was humbling to see some super fast talent out there.  It's awesome to be considered one of them and have the opportunity. It gives me hope that I can continue to grow and improve in the sport I've come to love, especially when I see an 80 year old woman out there kicking trash. 

Regardless of the tough race and the butt kicking, there was so much good heading into it and about it.   I have an awesome support system.  I have a good husband.  Good kids.  A good coach.  I've had some good training and consistent training leading into this. This is a great opportunity. Every finish line is a gift, no matter how painful it may be to reach them.  

So, what's next? This is the end of my Tri season.  I'm going to start a run focus training block with the goal of doing a half marathon later in the fall.  I'm excited about this for many reasons.  One, I need a change of focus.  Two, my run needs the work.  Three, even though running is my obvious weakest link, it is also the one that I enjoy the most lately in training, regardless of the not so great performances.  

In the meantime, I'm going to head back to real life tomorrow and school starting soon.  Happy racing and training!