Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Race Number 3 of the Season: Santa Cruz 70.3

It’s been awhile…there’s a reason for that.  I’ll convey that in another post here soon.  But for now, I want to just dive into 70.3 Santa Cruz.

Pre-Race
We began our trip by doing an extended road trip.  We went from our home in Colorado through Wyoming before taking a bit of a detour in Salt Lake City.  We hit up a 24 Hour Fitness to get 1000 meters of swimming in, then went to Layton, where I spent a few years of my childhood.  T and I drove around the neighborhood, seeing a few houses I recognized and a school that I went to.  The neighborhood was definitely smaller than I remember, and so was the house I grew up in.  Anyway, moving on.  We continued on West Highway 80 through western Utah, driving over the Bonneville Salt Flats which was a very cool thing to see.  We stopped and took some pictures standing on the salt.  Then we stopped in Wendover for the night.  The hotel we picked was old and felt unsafe, so we unpacked the car way more than we wanted to.  Finding dinner at a casino right across the border in Nevada, we then went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Thursday continued the road trip.  We drove through northern Nevada, eventually stopping in Reno for lunch.  T and I both had memories of Circus Circus from our childhood, but both of us were unsure if it was the Vegas Circus Circus or the Reno location.  A quick visit to the casino confirmed which one it was.  After Reno, we pressed on to Sacramento, CA.  T spent a few years of her childhood in Fair Oaks, so after finding another 24 Hour Fitness, we found her childhood home as well.  After that, we got in a short run at a park and found some dinner at a place she remembered from childhood.  Then we stayed at a (much nicer) hotel for the night and got some decent rest.

Friday was our final of the road trip until post-race.  We took the 4 hours to drive to Santa Cruz.  Checking in at the hotel, we figured out that it was right across from transition and the race expo.  Total bonus!  We hauled our stuff into the hotel room and then just headed across the street to get registered/checked in.  T and I scouted out the trans area and were only a few minutes away from a race briefing, so we hung around to listen to that.  After that, we went back to the hotel room to relax a bit before finding a place in Santa Cruz for sushi. Not a bad place.  Then we walked along the ocean a bit and the Santa Cruz boardwalk before deciding to call it a night.

Saturday morning, we made a roadtrip up to San Jose to grab Chick Fil A for our bike ride.  We also hit a Target for a few things.  When we got back down to Santa Cruz, we went for a very quick bike/very quick run.  We also went to another athlete briefing where some pros were speaking.  I knew Linsey Corbin was racing and hoped to corner her and get a picture.  Sure enough, I pulled it off.  After that, we got in our car and drove a bit of the course.  We realized that there were going to be some punchy hills, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  Stopping for lunch at a place about 11 miles from the start, both T and I discussed our fears.  I admitted that I was terrified back at Silverman in 2015 but never said a word.  She asked if I wanted to drive more of the course, but I said no.  I wanted to not know what I was facing.  We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, eventually wandering out for our breakfast for dinner.  First we found a place to get manicures/pedicures.  Then it was back to the room, last minute prep, and bed.

Sunday morning was race day.  I woke up with some jitters, but tried to push them down.  Leaving our hotel room for transition, I did my best to stay calm.  When I got into trans and split away from T, it was like returning to an arena I hadn’t been in awhile but was very familiar with.  Setting up my trans area was routine and easy.  I had been there before and knew I could do what I needed to do.  T and I killed some time and eventually got into our wetsuits to walk down to the ocean.

We were faced with what looked like a very dense fog as the sun came up.  We knew we both wanted to get in a pre-race swim, so we eventually waded our way into the ocean and started summoning the courage to dive into very unfamiliar territory and get in what we needed to get in. 

Unfortunately, T had a mini freak-out before the swim and I was in the position of having to comfort her and reassure her, something I’m not used to doing.  I told her it would be okay and she would do great things.  She seemed to calm a bit and we started working our way to the swim start.

We heard rumblings that the swim was being pushed back, and sure enough, there was an announcement saying it would be pushed back about 20 minutes until the fog cleared a bit.  Once that happened, they would let us know the gameplan.  We found a couple of T’s teammates and commiserated with them about what was happening.  The rumors were flying.  Would the swim be cancelled?  Shortened?  Keep being pushed back?  No one knew.  Then an announcement came, saying that we would be shifting over to another part of the beach, and that our swim was going to be shortened.  No one seemed to know the distance – we heard everything from a simple “get wet to start your chip” to 800 meters to 1000 meters to it would be a full ½ Ironman swim. 

In some sort of organized line sort of, we waited our turn to get in the water.  It was still a rolling start, but not organized in any sort of way.  The swim appeared to be an 800 meter swim, maybe a bit shorter.  T and I both were a bit relieved it was shortened.  I said goodbye to her, hit the start mat, ran to the water, and began.

The Swim
It took just a couple strokes to get my breath under me.  Knowing the distance had been shortened considerably, I knew I could “bomb” the swim and still have a reasonable day.  So while I still stayed a tad conservative, I just went for it and pushed myself as well.  I was happy with how I swam, but not everything was perfect.  My new wetsuit was scratchy against my neck a bit, so I opened it up.  I also had to sprint to blow past a dude who kept pace with me.  My line was nowhere near straight.  Clearly need some open water practice!

When my hand hit the sand, I knelt down, but tried not to waste any time.  I hauled my carcass out of the water, and with no transition mat in sight, I looked at my watch.  Seeing a sub 2:00 per 100, I patted myself on the back (mentally) and started the ¼ mile slog towards trans.

Swim Time – 16:38

T1
With a very long run back to transition, I didn’t worry about my time.  Knowing I haven’t really raced a tri in awhile, I took my time, making sure I had everything in order.  My nutrition was on my person, my water bottles loaded, and I peeled out of trans ready to face the road and see what happened.

T1 Time – 7:42

The Bike
T had said something very important to me the day before or two days before the race – what happened in the past, both good and bad, didn’t matter today.  Draw on the good experiences, leave the bad experiences behind. 

Man, did that advice work!

I bombed out of transition like a man possessed.  I had a very specific gameplan in mind.  I would hydrate often but not to the point I was drinking for the sake of drinking.  With a cool temperature and an overcast sky (still some fog too), hydration was important but not crucial.  I also had set my Garmin to beep every 15 minutes to remind me to eat.

The first few miles of the race were through a residential neighborhood up on a cliff.  Nice view, if it’s not foggy.  But speedy too.  Then you do a brief climb up to the PCH, where you ride north.  The PCH was a bit bumpy, and there were rumble strips early in the ride, so I was on my toes.

My watch beeps at specific intervals (10 miles) and notifies me of the time.  When I saw 32:10 for my first split, I about screamed for joy.  That’s an insane time.  If I’m doing 35:00 or 37:00, I’m ecstatic.  So you can imagine how elated I was. That being said, I knew I had a long way to go, a few more hills to climb, and my pace might not be sustainable. 

The whole time I was riding, I kept reminding myself that the past was the past.  Silverman and Chatt?  They were failures, to be sure.  But is it fair to call them failures?  Silverman was a brutal course that I showed up vastly undertrained for, and Chatt bit me in the heat department.  I also reminded myself how amazing it was to be racing in California, my new work home.  I was so grateful to be enjoying myself. 

On the first huge hill, I just tossed it into the easiest gear I had.  Recently, T and I converted our gearing from 12/25 in the back to 11/28, which allows us to have an easier time climbing.  I definitely was grateful for the extra gearing that day.  I didn’t get discouraged by the slower time; I instead used it to my advantage to talk to myself and remind myself of what I was achieving. 

An important note here – some of you may/may not remember that at Ironman Boulder last year I was witness to a very unfortunate event.  A triathlete was hit by a car about 5 bikes in front of me and unfortunately died.  I was able to finish my race but her death hung on me.  Anytime I head a siren at Boulder or Chattanooga, I couldn’t help but worry about T.  At Santa Cruz, while I heard/saw a couple ambulances, I was able to not stress myself and wonder if it was her.  I think that played a major part into my day going well.

At the turn around, I saw my time and was just stunned.  I was sub-1:30:00, so I was on pace for a sub 3:00:00 bike.  I would have been happy with a 3:30:00, so to be doing what I was doing was great.  However, I knew I had 28 miles to go and didn’t have the greatest fitness, so I was going to be pedaling against myself for the back half of the ride.  I hit the aid station, grabbing water.  I was sticking to a great hydration plan. 

So the back half of the bike was definitely a bit more uphill.  Not more hilly per se, just a bit more climbing.  It didn’t matter though.  I was in a zone I have not felt in a very very long time.  I pounded the pedals, churned out the miles, and before I knew it, I was turning back into town towards transition. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knowing I was going to do just over three hours.  I realized awhile back that sub-3 wasn’t happening, and while I would have loved 3:04:05 (my Boulder 2013 time), I was perfectly content to settle for 3:10:00.  Bounding down the final hill towards transition, I hopped off my bike, hit my Garmin, and got mentally ready for the run.

Bike Time – 3:09:35

T2
I wasn’t 100% sure how long I had for the run, but regardless, I breezed through trans.  Forgot sunscreen, but no problems otherwise.

T2 Time – 4:10

The Run
Okay.  I’m going to put something out there.  My running has not been good since 2013.  I’ve done some good stuff in running like the BAA 5K time, but most of my running has been a loooong, slow slog to ensure endurance.  The problem with this running style is I have no speed for more than a mile or two.  Furthermore, I just have not enjoyed running in a long time.  With that in mind, here we go.

As I started the run, it was getting warm as the fog burned off and the clouds were cleared.  I knew it was going to be in the high 70’s/low 80’s, but it felt hotter.  Knowing I am susceptible to heat, I was very conscious of what I was doing.  I talked with a few people early but failed to make a true run buddy.  I also saw T riding back into transition as I hit the first mile, so knowing she was in a good place was wonderful.  I knew she would finish; she would actually have a chance to catch me depending on how she ran.

The run took us back through the cliff town and then out on a trail into some farmland that eventually looped us near the ocean.  The first 3 miles of the run were fine, but the run to the turnaround point was boring, hilly, and very hot/dusty.  Definitely did not enjoy myself that much, but started mentally thinking about how I was going to silence every demon that had been haunting me.  Every mile sign I hit, I said to myself “one mile closer”. 

The view of the ocean definitely was beautiful.  I’ve spent a bit of time in various spots in SoCal with Delta viewing the ocean, and this view certainly didn’t disappoint.  I loved it and I definitely think it pulled me into a good spot.   As I started back towards trans, there was about 5 miles to go.  I figured I might see T, but I might not depending on how well she was doing.  I didn’t see her, so I knew she was lurking not too far behind.  Awesome.

With about 3 miles to go, I saw a runner heading out.  I shouted some encouragement to them, because I realized I had been there with Silverman.  Hell, I’ve been there in a lot of races.  I knew how it felt.  I never want to see anyone fail and I hope whoever they are made it.

When I reached about 12 miles, I made a true run buddy.  She was a Betty team member and we talked about this and that for awhile.  I told her about my demons and she was happy I squashed them.  She explained a bit about Betty and we promised we’d push each other to the finish.  She went ahead of me, and I didn’t mind.

At the final push, you ran down a hill, hit the beach for about 20 yards, then the finish line.  I was a bit overcome with emotion, but more determination.  I heard that you run on sand to the finish; I didn’t notice.  I just pushed myself, hit the finish line, and said a sincere thank you to whoever was watching over me.

Run Time – 2:59:48

Post-Race

Total Time – 6:37:53
I got my medal, hat, a bottle of water, took a couple of finisher pictures, then went back to find T.  She came in about 15 minutes total behind me, and I ran to the finish line to find her.  We hugged and both expressed our pride for each other.  We walked back to transition, grabbed a bit of food, then got our stuff packed up and walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up and go celebrate.

This race was redemption for many, many things.


I will be writing a blog in a few more days about why I have been incognito, talking about some thoughts that have been going through my head this last year.  I will also talk about the future.

Race #8 of the Season: Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3

I had no idea what to expect going into this race.

I survived camp no problem, but training post-camp was, like much of the rest of the year, sporadic at best. That being said, I knew I could make it through, as long as I kept my mental game strong.

We drove out to Santa Cruz from Denver, leaving September 6 and arriving the 8th. Right after we checked in to the hotel, we checked in for the race.

9-8check-in
Back to crappy bags.

We were going to go for a practice swim, but there was an advisory due to an algae bloom, so we figured that it wasn't worth risking it, particularly since we both felt a tad under the weather.


9-8hotel2
Transition. This was literally taken out our hotel room window. Ideal location? I think yes.

On the 9th, we did a short spin of the first few miles of the bike course to check it out. Early impression? False flats. Hooray. We drove a bit more later that day, learning there would be some rolling hills, but it didn't look terrible.

After the ride, we checked in the bikes ...


9-9check-in

9-9check-in2

... and went for one of the shortest shake-out runs ever.

We found Hidden Figures on TV that night before bed, which made for much better pre-race viewing.

Race Day

Being so close to transition made the morning really nice. We woke up, I tried eating some of my breakfast (a chicken egg and cheese biscuit purchased the day before from Chick-fil-a), got dressed, and headed over to transition. We got body-marked, the tires pumped up, and a lot of our stuff organized (nutrition and hydration and the like) before heading back to the hotel. It's nice doing one's pre-race poop from the comfort of one's hotel room. We were also able to let the ink settle a bit before tossing on sunscreen. Tried to eat a bit more food and then headed back over to transition. After a picture, of course.

9-10pre-race
Ugh, so tired ...

Transition time was spent finalizing the order of everything and getting prepped and ready to swim. We knew it was a bit of a hike, so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to walk down to where we needed to be on the beach.

Race morning was foggy. We could tell that in transition. The problem was ... the fog just wasn't burning off.

I tried going for a pre-race swim (baby's first official ocean swim) ... and freaked out. Seriously. I have NEVER freaked out that badly before a race before. Salt water was weird, it was a bit cold, the waves ... probably more the fact that I couldn't see much more than a few yards away ... it was bad. Brandon had to calm me down, which never happens.

We heard some muffled announcements, so we decided to get out of the water closer to the speakers. In waiting for more information, I was able to meet two of my Team SFQ teammates - Darlene and Kelly, the latter being one of our pros. The announcements were basically a delay in the swim due to visibility (it was hard to see the first yellow buoy from the shore - it kept going in and out of the fog). Kelly thought there was a good chance the swim might be cancelled completely (she'd seen it happen in the Big Kahuna days of the race).

Eventually, we heard "shortened swim" and all got herded up the beach through a swarm of sand flies.

The swim would go off ... as a half-mile and out the same arch as we'd eventually be finishing through. So people would be finishing running past the line of people waiting to start.

The Swim

Race swim was supposed to start at 7am, with the cut being 8:30am. Yeah, I got *in* the water at 8:40. Cuts kind of got thrown out the window with this race. I stayed with Brandon through the massive crowd of humanity until just about the time we were going through the start arch.

As I figured, my anxiety pretty much died as soon as I started to race. Salt water was gross, yes, but whatever. The bigger problem was that I got the crap kicked out of me on this swim. A Skirt sister/MaccaX teammate, Aleks, said that her swim was nice and free. Me? Not so much. I adjusted the way I was breathing to be able to handle not only the waves, but the physical beating I was getting.

I didn't sight too much, trying to use the people around me as guides (camp tip!), but I did pretty well, given that I legit almost tangled myself up in the turn buoys. Oops.

The fabulously short swim got done quickly and I enjoyed the 18:something I saw on my watch.

Time: 20:28 (69th division, 470th gender, 1745th overall)

T1:

I knew T1 would be long because of the run on sand and then the total quarter mile back to where the bikes were. Happily, I ran probably about 75-80% of that. 

Took a tip from a teammate and used a spare water bottle to wash most of the sand off me, and used both my and the woman's next to me (sorry) trans towel to wash the sand and the little black specks from the stupid field turf off my feet.

All in all, a bit longer of a T1 than I'm used to (or would like), but given everything, whatever.

Time: 6:11

The Bike:

I felt pretty good on the bike. The fog had burned off on the water enough that we age groupers in the back of the line (unlike the pros) had full visibility for our tiny course, but we still had to ride a lot of the bike with it. I couldn't see the ocean through large swaths of the ride.

The first part was a little slow going as I got my legs under me and as I tried to shove food in my mouth. By about 15 miles in, though, I was feeling pretty good. I was passing some, got passed by others, tried not to die by cars pulling out/turning in front of myself/other riders, the usual. 

The roads turned crap by the turnaround so I was more watching the pavement than anything else to make sure I was staying over but also taking the safest line. That killed some mental energy.

Made it to the turnaround in I think 1:40ish, which made me pretty dang happy.

Saw the aftermath of a bad wreck just a few miles after the turn. I'd seen a few bikes down - a bit more carnage than I like to see during a race.

Went through a rough spot on the back half of the course, but tried to manage it as best I could. Was still attempting to shove food in my face, but I was stretching on the bike more than I would have liked to have been at that point. I got a second wind at probably around mile 40ish (I think), though, which helped me finish strong. I was two minutes from transition when I saw Brandon about a mile or so into the run, so I knew I wasn't too terribly far behind.

Time: 3:21:08 (52nd, 370th, 1856th)

T2:

Dismount, in, change to running stuff, happy my Body Glide wasn't a complete melted mess (yay!), off and go.

Time: 3:32

The Run:

My first main thought on the run was "find a porta potty." After 28 triathlons, I finally had one fall on my period and I knew I needed to change my tampon badly. I was considering doing it on the bike (and probably would have pre-ride had the swim been normal length), but I didn't want to stop the momentum from my ride. So, instead, I changed things out at the first aid station, just under a mile into the run.

Much better.

The first half of the run was a run/walk slog, much like I knew it would be. I was eating some and drinking as much as I could, doing the same Skratch doctoring of my handheld like I did at IM Boulder last year (drink good chunk of handheld; add ice, water, and more Skratch in at each aid station). My miles were primarily in the 13 range, which I was pretty content with, all things considered.

Then came Wilder Ranch State Park.

And the heat. And the dusty roads.

sc_run
The one official race photo I bought off of FinisherPix.

Gorgeous place for the turnaround section, right?

Except running on those hot, dirt roads sucked. It reminded me of the bad part of racing in Boulder at the Res. And of Pikes Peak. And ... blah.

Miles 7 and 8 were not pretty.

I was able to pick it back up as we got back into town. I was trying as hard as I could, thinking that if I could just get back into the 13s, I could keep my run sub-3 hours (my new goal). I was successful in this until the final mile, where I thought I lost it.

My Garmin was registering a bit long* so I hit the 13 mile point before where it probably should have been, and that mile was in the 14s. I thought my sub-3 was gone. I saw Brandon at the bottom of the hill before the final turn on the sand to the finish and was giving it everything I had.

Thankfully, it was enough.

Time: 2:59:57 (68th, 455th, 1754th)

Overall Stats:
Time: 6:51:16
61/89 division (F30-34)
430/660 (?) gender
1696/2324 overall

That is obviously a PR, but with a shortened swim ... it kind of doesn't count. We do believe that even had the swim been regular length, it still probably would be (previous was a 7:40; would I have taken up an extra 50 minutes on the swim? most likely not).

I PRed the bike by about 8 minutes, which I'm very pleasantly surprised with. Even happier is that my run, as terrible as it's been over the past year or so, was only about 1:15 off my 70.3 run PR, so that's actually pretty nice.

Best news of all? I didn't hate my life during that 70.3, which I usually do, which means I can actually race another one! I'd never really enjoyed the distance before, but I did this race, so I'm thankful for that.

post-sc
Post-race, with our medals, back at the hotel.

Now, it is the glorious offseason, which is good, because I've come down with a stupid cold of doom. I may enter in some 5Ks before the year is out, but other than that, I am pretty much done with racing for the year.




*Long in that my total distance for the race was 70.5 miles. So even with a shortened swim, I did the official distance. Yeah, yeah, I know transition runs don't count. :-p

Friday, September 1, 2017

August Round-Up

August ... was okay. It had moments of brilliance, but also moments of things that prevented activity. Read on ...

Swimming: 13418.3m (8.3 mi)
Cycling: 166.1 mi
Running: 47.08 mi
Lifting: 13 sessions (3:01)
Other: five yoga sessions (1:22), one erg/rowing session (:10), three walks (4:55), one barre session (:38), one hike (1:20), one stretch session (:10), one bout "home improvement" (1:00)

(The "home improvement" being sweeping for probably actually two hours at the curling club - sweeping the entirety of the curling floor so it could be clean for ice to go in.)

A lot of my numbers are inflated by camp this month. I did around ... 7000ish meters in the pool, 117 miles on the bike, and 17 miles running in three days (for each discipline; five total days). 

Then, because I got so sunburned, I was out of the pool for almost two weeks post-camp. With a normal bit of burn I'd have gotten back in, but I was peeling so badly that my skin was basically raw and therefore I felt it prudent to *not* go into a pool, particularly a public one. 

The bike is where I'm a bit disappointed about my mileage - I should have been well over 200 miles - but I've been fighting off something most of the month and my bike's been making weird creaking noises and who knows what else. It's me, you know?

I am pretty dang happy with my run totals, even though part of those run totals should be in theory hiking totals (silly Pikes Peak Ascent). That's the most I've run in a month since sometime last year ... and it should have been higher had I not been stupidly ridiculously sore post-PPA.

One perk is that I got a lot of other extraneous crap in, and I will be continuing on that trend post-Santa Cruz. I am realizing that I am so done with tri training right now and while I will definitely be continuing to swim/bike/run in SOME capacity after September 10th, if it's not crazily, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. My racing season might be done after Santa Cruz; it might not be. My brain is ready for a huge honking break, and I am going to give it one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Race #7 of the Season: Pikes Peak Ascent

If this race was anything, it was a learning experience.

First and foremost, it was a bucket list item. I'd heard about this race for years, seen the finisher's jackets. Thought it was cool. Knew it would be rough, and probably not smart to do in an Ironman year ... which is why it became a thing this year.

I think I knew what the training would need to consist of, but I didn't actually get there.

I mean, we hiked in preparation.

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On the Barr Trail/race course, early July.

2017-07-25h
Timberline Falls, in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had also done a bit of trail running in preparation, here and there. 

We did nowhere NEAR the level of preparation needed for this race.

Both of us were pretty terrified going in. In discussion after (well, technically during) the race, we recognized that neither of us had the proper mental game going in. We were already thinking of the outs, knowing that, oh, it's totally possible we won't be able to finish for x, y, and z reasons. Not the proper mindset, and dammit, I know that.

Race morning, we woke up early. Our wave didn't go off until 7:18, but we wanted to get as close of parking as we could to the start, so we were down in Manitou Springs by 5:30. Mission successful, as we were in the lot closest to the start. With so much time to go, I crawled in the back of the car to try and nap some. I'm not sure if I actually slept, but I did get some shut-eye time, and sometimes, that can be all I need.

I bought a package of Pop Tarts before we parked to have something to munch on. Eating at 3:45am and starting a race three and a half hours later with no other food isn't wise. I don't really eat Pop Tarts anymore, but they worked somewhat to settle my stomach during camp, so I figured they'd be fine. I only ate one, but it worked.

I went to the porta potties (side note: they had the most awesome, efficient bathroom volunteer EVER. She was the best.), and then back to the car. Around 6:45, we left the car for good. Brandon hopped in the porta potty line and I went to drop off our sweat bags (extra layers for the top). I rejoined him in line ... and ended up going a second time. 

From there, it was just sit and wait until our wave.


ppa
Thankfully you can't see the abject terror in our eyes. Or maybe you can. I can't.

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Starting arch.

7:18am rolls around, and off we go.

The first mile, mile and a half is on the streets of Manitou, as you wind your way to the base of the mountain. We went out easy - possibly not easy enough - knowing that we didn't want to destroy ourselves early on.

We hit the trail, and the next mile or so was completely different from what we had trained on. It's an access road/trail that I'm pretty sure is usually closed to the general public and a lot steeper (but with fewer switchbacks) than the early part of the Barr Trail. We were with a lot of people, so it was a fairly brisk pace. There were a few slowdowns and clogs as we hit rocky points, but other than that ... 

... it felt like a death march. I believe that early pace, while probably necessary, was too fast for what I could handle. I cherished the slowdowns. I hated being crowded in so much, feeling like I couldn't slow down to a more manageable pace without slowing down the entire line.

We hit the first aid station on the trail; quick water and go. We hit a curve with a wide shoulder (for lack of a better term) about four miles in and I stepped off. 

Four miles in, and I was miserable. This was probably the least fun thing I'd done in years ... or at least since Silverman in 2015. I had no good reason to quit, but oh dear sweet jeebus did I want to. After a minute or so, we hopped back in the line of people.

A mile or so later (possibly more), it finally started spreading out a bit. When we were surrounded by fewer people, it was a better experience.

We hit Barr Camp with a decent buffer against the cutoff and paused for a minute, talking with one of the Airlife guys, as they recognized the University of North Dakota stuff Brandon was wearing. We left, with just under two hours to get to A Frame, the next cutoff point.

At some point post-Barr Camp, things went downhill and they went downhill fast. I was feeling crappy ever since the start, but I started feeling more light-headed. It got to the point where we were stopping almost every tenth of a mile ... and the stops started getting longer.

We pressed on, but started keeping a closer eye on the clock. 

Garmin/GPS data gets a little funky in the mountains, but at what our watches said was 9.3 miles, we knew we had around a mile (possibly as little as half a mile) left to A Frame and we had 12 minutes to get there. We knew there was no earthly way we'd make that cutoff ... 

... so we turned it. 

The downside to this race is that if you don't make the top, you have to hike yourself back to the start. So what for many people was a 13.32 mile race ... turned into 18.6 miles for us. Hooray for bonus miles?

They marked our bibs at Barr Camp and we got wooden nickels from El Paso County Search and Rescue at the aid station after them that have a silly ":-p" face on them that say "They wouldn't let me finish." We're planning on drilling a hole in them, stringing ribbon through, and hanging them on our medal rack.

Although we were in a lot of pain, the hike of shame down was actually our favorite part of the whole experience. Just the two of us, tromping through the (eerily quiet and empty) woods.

We ate some post-race food, dealt with a very unhelpful volunteer in regards to getting our drop bags, found a much nicer, much more helpful volunteer with better answers, got gas, returned to get our bags, and went home.

********

This race was really well run. They were tight on the cutoffs (safety first), and each and every aid station we passed on the way back down was keeping track of our bibs. The volunteers on the trails were amazing.

It was kind of painful starting to hear the finish line right before Barr Camp and then off and on from there on out. Knowing you still have four miles to go, but you can hear people finishing ahead of you. Gross.

*********

Will we do this race again? I know Brandon is an unequivocal NO. He did this solely because of me and realized that it just wasn't for him.

Me?

I'm not sure. I can't be upset about signing up for this and, honestly, not for finishing, either. We didn't get near enough high altitude training, near enough time on our feet, near enough anything. We used a half-marathon time from two years ago as a qualifying standard that there's no way we could run this year. But, it got us back in the mountains again hiking, something we haven't done in years and something we've talked about doing for a long time. We rediscovered our joy and love of the mountains, and that alone was worth the price of signing up.

I do believe part of me wants to give this another, proper shot. Do more time above 10,000 feet. Conquer a couple of fourteeners. Get my legs a lot stronger as well as my lungs. Get faster at a stand-alone half-marathon so I can run a faster time to get put in an earlier corral to give me more of a cushion on the mountain.

Then again, I think a woman on the trail put it best:

We might have bucket list items, but sometimes, maybe it's best if the bucket has holes in it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

SMASH Women's Camp 2017 ...

... or how I got my ass handed to me for five straight days. Hooray!

I knew I would be undercooked going into camp. Woefully undercooked.

And I was not wrong! I spent a lot of time crying, despite telling myself that someone always has to be the one to come in last and hey, there can be respect in being the lanterne rouge (or ... whatever), and I figured as long as I didn't quit, a win's a win, right?

Day One: Thursday, August 3

I rolled into town the night before, not wanting to wake up stupid early and go straight from the car to the pool. Uh, gross. Stayed at some random hotel by the airport because it was cheap before heading to my casita (a.k.a. the AirBnB on the Starr Pass grounds) that was going to be home base for the next few days. Got all settled in with my stuff and my groceries (eggs and orange juice for breakfast), met roomie Colleen, and we headed down to the swim at the University of Arizona Rec Center.

Except we get there ... and it's pouring. Thunder and lightning and the pools are all closed. Plan B ended up being a hotel pool back up at Starr Pass that was actually 25 yards and had lane lines on the bottom of the pool (but not the actual plastic ones that go on top). All told, with weather and travel and whatnot, we started our swim probably about an hour late.

Thoughts I had during the swim:
- huh. so this is what circle swim is like. and I am ... not good with this.
- bands seem like they might make OWS a lot better. must use more.
- holy crap I'm in the slow lane and getting lapped. so much.
- aw, I see a rainbow! at least that's happy ...
- I am REALLY fucking BOP here.

This swim was probably meant to be about 4k ... yeeeeah, I managed 2900. Oops. I also got quite a bit of stroke instruction from Alyssa which let's face it, I need.

After the swim, it was off to TriSports for dinner and a nice talk from Seton. Thanks, Seton!

Day Two: Friday, August 4

Did not sleep well. Uncomfortable bed, nerves? Who knows. This will end up being a thing for most of camp (but mostly due to sunburn. I'm getting there.).

Friday morning was riding Gates Pass and doing the McCain Loop Time Trial. We did a practice hill before doing actual Gates and then went up and over. Oh hey, that wasn't too bad! Confidence boost!

The TT loop. So, when I think of a "time trial" loop, I think fast. Something not with ridiculous hills. This loop? A couple substantial fucking hills. I guess that's just Tucson? The roads were also full of debris thanks to that pesky rainstorm we had the night before and a camper went down with some road rash. She was a beast though and did all of the riding and running the next couple of days (wasn't allowed to swim).

Also, apparently the west side of Gates? Is the shitty side. I had to stop to breathe a few times going up (and not falling over when getting back on. Hooray! Hillary was kind of impressed at this.) and, at one of these stops, I had my first technical pee-on-the-bike moment. I had kind of needed to go back during the McCain loops, but knew I could hold it. Apparently, standing off my bike catching my breath, my bladder decided "nope. I'm done," and let it go, so I peed standing there on the side of the road. Gross.

I got back to the casita in a huge hole (hallway scale said I was down six pounds from the night before). I showered to feel human again, grabbed my swim stuff, and did the best thing I could do to be able to shove a crapload of calories down my throat - I went to In-N-Out. I knew there was a chance I might regret it later during the swim, but since I needed calories so damn badly, I just didn't care. Thankfully, no burger came up during the swim.

The swim was in theory the 100x100 set ... but since I'm slow, I got to do 50x100. Being in the water for four hours (with no chance to reapply sunscreen) turned me into a super painful lobster. Seriously. OW. My ass is sunburned. Literally. So is my back. A week later, I'm starting to peel, but still have some major red spots. Besides that, though, the swim wasn't actually too terrible. Since I was doing 50s while everyone else was doing 100s, I got adequate rest and I didn't have to do a lot of super speed work (unlike yesterday ...), so it felt manageable, surprisingly. I mean, fatigue definitely set in, but other than that ... it wasn't a workout to really make me cry. Hooray!

(The best part, seriously, was walking back into the Rec Center and hearing Shinedown's "Enemies" come on five seconds later. Felt good to hear my favorite band after doing that swim.)

After the swim, I went over to Sushi Garden for all-you-can-eat sushi. Once again, calories. However, it was tough eating - so much chewing ...

Then on to SMASH HQ for some shopping and social time (new kit! new capris! new sports bras!) and a stop by CVS on the way back to the casita. A few of the other ladies went up to the hotel for s'mores and dessert and I really considered joining, but I made the terrible mistake of flopping on the bed and I just was not getting back up again.

Day Three: Saturday, August 5

Today was a lazy start (comparatively). We got to meet up at 8 as opposed to 6 or 6:30 ... because we were heading higher in elevation and therefore didn't need to try to beat most of the oppressive Tucson heat. We headed southeast of the city to Parker Canyon Lake, south of Sonoita. When we parked for the run, my phone legitimately thought we were in Mexico (we weren't).

The "trail" (dirt road) run was two hours - hour out, hour back. Since my run is trash and I have Pikes Peak coming up, I basically hiked all the uphills and ran as many downhills as I could. The recent rains meant there were water crossings (SO WEIRD). All in all, I got in just over 8 miles. Probably not ideal, but it's what I could manage. 

I am very thankful I had the foresight to pack an Orange Crush in my cooler for post-run, because it was AMAZEBALLS.

We had a picnic lunch at the lake post-run ... which I kind of couldn't eat. I really need to learn how to eat in heat, because it is NOT a thing I can really do. When my body gets hot, it does not want to consume food.

While we were digesting, Hillary and Alyssa shared some OWS tips and tricks ... which I will mostly pass off to Brandon because I am too slow to really utilize many of them. Then, it was into the water to swim for about 30 minutes. I got left in the dust - go figure - and at one point, even asked Alyssa why the hell I am so much slower in open water. I mean, I'm mostly comfortable in it. She couldn't give me a definitive answer, but did say my body positioning did actually look better, so there's that. Maybe I just need a new wetsuit and that will help since I loathe mine. Who knows.

After the swim, Hillary approached me and asked my thoughts on Lemmon. I told her that it would probably be difficult, but I really wanted to try and make it all the way up. She said that if I ended up skipping the planned run at the top in order to get the satisfaction of completing the climb, she'd be okay with it. Even hearing this, I decided I would pack my run shoes for the next day regardless (spoiler alert: this was smart).

We then drove back to Tucson, stopping back in Sonoita for some ice cream and snacks. My brain didn't want to figure out dinner, but I figured more calories would be good, so I just popped over for more In-N-Out. Mostly because I could not decide on what to do and I headed over in that direction so I could pick up my Chick-fil-a for the bike and boom. Decision made.

Day Four: Sunday, August 6

We campers got split up into three groups for climbing Mt. Lemmon - four of us at 6am, two at 6:30, and the rest at 7. Obviously I was in the early group.

The four of us rolled out with Hillary (Alyssa would go with the later groups) and as we hit the climb (four miles down the road), I got dropped pretty quickly. I just kept plugging along, knowing there wasn't much else I could do, stopping occasionally to catch my breath (and to eat my pickle juice-soaked chicken). I pulled off about 9ish (?) miles in at Molino Basin to pee. I almost passed it by, but not knowing when my next bathroom opportunity was ... I took it.

I also somehow kept missing the SAG truck. We think there was some miscommunication with him and his stopping spots with us all being so spread out.

It was definitely slow-going, and the asshole groups of eight or nine motorcycles that would fly by going 60 mph were terrifying (and anxiety-producing), but I kept plodding. I think the first person from one of the later groups passed me around mile 12 or 13, which made me pretty happy. Mostly because I was just waiting for it to happen at any moment.

I started panicking at one point because I knew I was getting super low on hydration and I had no idea if I was going to even find SAG. I ran out somewhere around 14 miles and was freaking out because I didn't know if I should even try to make it 11 more miles without any liquid or what. Alyssa and a couple other ladies caught up to me around mile 15, with me on the side of the road crying. She gave me some of her liquid (which tasted strange but hey I needed something), told me that SAG was up around mile 17, and that we'd go together. I didn't really lose her the rest of the ride ... which also means, that except for the pit stop to refuel, I also didn't stop again until the finish. She talked me through a lot of different climbing techniques to try to keep my heart rate down and it mostly worked.

In any case, four hours of ride time (not including stops) later, I rolled into Summerhaven and to the famous cookie cabin. Since I rolled in with Alyssa ... it also meant that I was running. At 8000 feet. It was pretty damn slow and painful - and probably a lot slower and shorter than she would have liked it to be - but I still managed a run.

I got a Dr. Pepper first ... but decided that if I was at the damn Cookie Cabin, I should probably get a cookie. So I did - chocolate chip with a scoop of vanilla on top. The ice cream? Was amazing. The cookie? I maybe ate half of it. I just could not stomach it. Oh well.

lemmon


The best part of the day was the descent. Well, Lemmon is basically 20ish miles up, a small downhill, another up, and then a cruise into Summerhaven. So leaving was a climb, a small descent, another stupid climb, and then 20ish miles down before a very toasty couple of miles back to our cars.

Lauren said it was like descending into hell. The heat by the end made me think that statement pretty accurate.

In any case, I actually was able to pass a few people on the descent and made it down the mountain in just over an hour without stopping. I wasn't last in something - hooray! And I wasn't last by quite a bit, even. I had time to pop into Safeway for a snack before everyone got back.

Dinner that night was at Hillary and Maik's and we got to Skype with Cherie Gruenfeld, which was super cool.

Day Five: Monday, August 7

Also known as the day I was least looking forward to - track day. 

I've mentioned it a few times in this post and if you've been following me for any length of time now ... you know my running is complete garbage right now. I don't enjoy running from our house (neither of us do) and I have no speed anymore and no endurance and no anything and it's so not fun and blah. So, the thought of a track session? Especially one that we learned the night before was going to be two hours? Well, that was enough to give me anxiety all morning.

The perk is I think I was finally tired enough to sleep without waking up the night previous.

We rode our bikes down to the track, as we were doing a recovery spin (which, in camp land, was still going to be over an hour) after. From the second we got to the track pretty much through the time I finished running, I was super ridiculously anxious. On the verge of tears (if not outright crying), barely able to control my breathing, slightly hyperventilating, whole thing. 

So the track workout was about a mile and half warmup (I did a mile and a quarter. The slow thing ...), and then it varied depending on who had what going on. Linda and Bri, who have IMCDA in a few weeks, got to do 21 800s, which, with rest intervals, ended up being about a half-marathon on the track. The rest of us? Oh, we just had 4 all out 200s with 200 recovery and then a mile at our goal half-marathon pace. And then repeat it twice more.

I remember a couple years ago, this must have been back at the apartment, when Brandon and I would walk up to the track and do 200s. I remember them not being too terribly torturous. These? Were torture.

The mile was almost worse. Even though my dream goal half-marathon pace is sub-2, I know that's in no way practical for me any time soon, so I said sub-2:10. Which I still technically haven't done yet (my Garmin said yes but not the results). Which meant that my 200 splits should be around 1:14. 

Yeeeah, mine were more like 1:20. But they were consistent, at least for the first two of the miles.

Because I finished so far behind everyone and I was dying post every mile, I got to skip the first of the second two sets of 200s (so instead of doing four reps, I got to do three) for the extra recovery. I definitely pulled every last ounce of anything I had out of my poor legs, though. I fell into the grass after the second mile and again after the last 200. Alyssa said she wanted dying animal noises, and this sports asthmatic can 100% do dying animal noises! I was having trouble running in a straight line at this point which is probably why I fell over after that 200. Oops. My final mile was a complete shitshow. At that point, I just did my best to keep running even though I couldn't hold any pace at that point. The mile cool down also ended up turning into a walk/run because my hips were having none of it anymore. Two of the other ladies ended up running a bit with me - Brooke with my final 400 for my last hard mile and Jan for 400 of the cool down - reassuring me that I was doing okay and that yes, this is really hard, but remember, most of them are coached by these ladies (or general Team HPB), so they were a bit more prepared by default.

Post-track was the first time I broke down officially in front of everyone. I cannot express how many times I wanted to quit during that track session. How much pain I was in, not only thanks to my stupid sunburn which I felt, but due to my legs not moving that fast in ages. How my lungs felt like they were burning for an hour straight. How I cried through 75% of that track workout.

But. 

I didn't. I stuck through and I did it. It was ugly as sin, but I did it.

track


From there, it was a recovery ride along the Tucson Loop trail, where I kind of broke off from everyone for a while on the way back because to really spin my legs out, I needed to be in aero going a bit faster than the group. We spent a lot of time out of aero and sitting up at camp and my wrists (particularly the right. Thanks, barista arm.) were stupid cranky by this point. We stopped back at Hillary's car to say our goodbyes and to get our track stuff ... and I about started crying again thinking about climbing the hill back up to the casita. Any mental toughness reserves I had were completely gone at that point. Thankfully, Jan missed the "spin to track" memo and drove, so she offered to take me and my bike back, which was the most amazing thing, and I am so grateful to her for that small little gesture.

*****

Camp was ridiculously tough. CRAZY tough. I was so unprepared it wasn't even funny. And yet ... somehow, I made it through. Quitting didn't ever seem to be an option (even though thoughts of it ran through my brain quite a few times), so I could only acknowledge the voices in my head and just ... put my head down and do the work.

I'm still not entirely sure how I survived, but I did, and I'm so thankful to my body that it was somehow able to hold together for this insane feat.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July Round-Up

I always plan a big month and then I don't follow through or ... something.

Swimming: 15600m (9.7 mi)
Cycling: 164.55 mi
Running: 24.8 mi
Lifting: 17 sessions (3:32)
Other: five hikes (11:45:05), one stretch session (:05), three walks (2:30), two yoga sessions (:40)

There were a couple good things about this month. I swam a fairly significant amount more and I did ride more. I also hiked a hell of a lot more. Running was about stagnant ... because running and I are not getting along. If I'm honest with myself, we haven't been getting along for about two years now.

I didn't get as long or as tough of rides in as I wanted and I didn't get quite as far in the pool, but I did get in some decent distance. Strength is continuing on and I am thankful for it.

We didn't get as high up on the Barr Trail as I would have liked (Pikes Peak Ascent route), but that is on the docket for August. 

I'm probably not as prepared as I would like to be as I head into camp this weekend, but I did what I did and that is going to have to be enough.

In theory, August will bring good things - camp is going to help tremendously with that with mileage alone - plus we'll be building up for Santa Cruz. It's the rest of the year that's going to be interesting ...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Race #6 of the Season - Boulder Peak Triathlon

... also known as my 100th start line ...

... and one of my most terrible races ever, time-wise.

Oh, Boulder Peak, how I dislike you, with your hill of death (Olde Stage), and your crappy Olympic distance which I just don't like, and your dusty run course with no shade. I never want to do you again.

I really didn't want to do this stupid race this year, but my entry got deferred from last year.

(If you remember, we wanted to do a race pre-IM Boulder. IM Boulder 70.3 sold out, so we signed up for Peak. Then Peak got cancelled due to fire, so registration got moved to this year.)

I'm kind of but really not trained for the distance - particularly on the bike. Oh and the run. And I took like two weeks off of swimming which means I wasn't in swim shape either. Brandon, (un)fortunately, couldn't race, as the timing of Peak means get that off or get my birthday off, and we all know which one I'd rather have him around for (birfday, obvs, especially because we went and saw Shinedown this year!).

So, I was on my own for this race for the first time in quite a while. I was able to wake up (tricky these days) and get to the Res with plenty of time for a good spot and to chat with people I knew ... namely George and Szabo.

peak
Transition photo. Look, I still remember how to do this!

peak2
Sunrise.

It was eventually time to get ready to swim, so I squashed myself into my old, dying wetsuit and went for a quick warm up. I was wearing my brand new Team SFQ aero top - which meant sleeves! And not needing to sunscreen my back! - that I'd never tested out before. Nothing new on race day? Pfffft ... In any case, I had tons of shoulder mobility, so life was good.

I found my Skirt friend Emily post-practice swim and hung out with her until it was time for our wave to go off.

The Swim:

Wait, do I remember how to do this open water swim thing? Fo' realz?

Yes. Yes I do.

I mean, sighting was utter shit for the first half because, duh, right into the sun. I also didn't really feel like I got into a rhythm until late in the back half of the swim ... probably because these days it takes me that long to get warmed up ... but all in all, I feel like I've had worse triathlon swims. Not much worse given my time, but y'know.

Got out, saw 45ish, thought "ah crap that sucked," and headed into transition.

Time: 46:16 (26th division, 229th gender, 593rd overall)

T1:

I love T1. So easy. Get out of the wetsuit while putting on my helmet, put my bike shoes on without sitting down ... it's amazing. 

Time: 1:40 (4th, 41st, 127th)

The Bike:

Aaaaand then I get on the bike and start pedaling and hooooo boy, my lack of training/intensity kicks in. Nothing I can do except pedal, grin, and bear it.

I should mention that I recently got new gearing on my bike. A slightly more compact crank (50 as opposed to a 52) and an 11/28 in the back as opposed to the 12/25 I had that came stock. In theory, easier climbing gears.

Yeah, well, I still needed more than one good practice climb pre-race. Ha. Oops.

I had to pause a couple times on Stage to catch my breath and yes, I did walk once (dangit), but for the most part, I was able to manage up the hill. I completely spaced on all the wonderful climbing technique Katie taught me a few weeks ago, though. Oops.

Then the downhill ... I probably went slower than I could have during the speed zone on the back side of Stage because it's pretty dangerous to take your hands off your unstable tri bike going 20+ mph down a hill, kids, but as soon as I made the turn onto Lefthand? In the paraphrased words of Buddy the Elf, downhills are my favorite.

I bombed the Lefthand descent as well as the Nelson stretch, averaging over 27 and 26 mph, respectively, on those sections. Then came the 63rd rollers ... and I remember how much I hate the stretch between Nelson and Niwot. Susan passed me at some point on 63rd, too, and I just couldn't catch her.

On the nutrition side, I did manage to eat a few bites of my Bobo's bar (whaaa? Me fuel during an Oly?) as well as destroy my bottle of Skratch right about the time I hit 51st again. Probably should have had more Skratch on me in hindsight ...

Time: 1:48:28 (21st, 204th, 580th)

T2:

I struggled a bit in transition, dealing with my basically dead tube of Body Glide for my feet and trying to squash the rest of my Bobo's bar into my back.

Time: 2:25 (12th, 136th, 409th)

The Run:

I could tell the run was going to be a struggle and a half as soon as I hit the run course. I was hoping there'd be aid right out of transition like there sometimes is - nope. Sometime late in the first mile, I saw Skirt's Nicole DeBoom flying the other way and high-fived her. 

The wonderful people from IPA Endurance at the second water station had ice (SWEET BEAUTIFUL ICE) that I took and put down my shorts, down my shirt, in my hat, and in my water, so I could have wonderful cold ice water to drink and to suck on the ice cubes. I think the heat was getting to me as I felt a bit nauseous at times. I tried to take down some of the bar - not sure it helped.

Honestly, I think that my body wasn't used to training in the heat with that much sugar/electrolyte - usually, I do more than one longish ride pre-race with said things - and it wanted to revolt on me.

Soon after mile two, I caught up to Susan and decided to just hang with her. Yeah, she was going slower than what my pace was attempting to be, but a race buddy sounded nice. So, I hung with her for pretty much the rest of the run. I saw Emily going the other way just before the turnaround - she was probably less than a half mile ahead? - and I almost thought of leaving Susan to catch up to her, but quickly decided against that.

The heat was BRUTAL. I am not used to racing in that crap.

We ran into one of Susan's friends with about a mile to go and said friend hung out with us for a little bit. I ended up letting gravity take me down the final hill and I ran the entire final stretch to the finish. Skirt sister Becky was out cheering and snapped this awesome picture, where I don't look as dead as I clearly felt:

peak_run_becky
Plus: the debut of my gorgeous Team SFQ kit!

I was sorta hoping to hit the slip 'n' slide at the finish, but I did not have the energy.

Time: 1:28:10 (26th, 221st, 580th)

Overall Stats:
Time: 4:06:58
25/26 division (F30-34)
224/245 gender
608/639 overall

Slowest at this distance BY FAR. I figure if I had managed to keep my running pace pre-Susan, I would have at least squeaked in under 4 hours (which, not gonna lie, would have been nice), but with how nauseous I was starting to feel? I might have also crashed and burned, too. Who knows.

I did meet up with Emily and Nicole post-race for some photos, though.

peak_deboom

peak_deboom2

Now, time to focus on training for camp and for Pikes Peak ...