Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Race #9 of the Season: Avalanche 5K

For starters, I really do hesitate to call this a race, for the following reasons:

- It was a good .3 miles short.
- It wasn't officially timed.
- It was crap.

Okay, so that third point is really just me.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm choosing to race my way to fitness. I chose the Avs 5K for the medal (which was plastic crap) and for the hockey ticket ... of which I will be able to use for maybe a period of the game, as I have to pick up B from the airport that night. In short ... the race was a waste of money.

Especially because it was 2.8 miles. They said it was short - more like 3 miles as opposed to 3.1 - but they must not have measured the course by the tangents since I ran those like a boss and came up with 2.79 miles on the ol' Garmin.

And since it wasn't officially timed ... I go with 2.79 mi in 28:20 for a 10:09 pace. I went out faster than I wanted - flat course, ideal weather - but, as it goes, the lungs could hold nothing. I paced the run like poop ... which was not one of my goals, but whatever.

I did take pictures, and play around on Instagram stories, so I get to add those in to the post. Yay?

Camera pic. Bibs were given to you at check-in. Probably could have asked for a different number and gotten it. Again, no timing, so that's why.

Wore an Avs jersey for the race, because why the hell not. Clearly I took this seriously. #soaero.

Team requirements - race in SMASH. But I love this hat, so it wasn't an issue. I also had on SMASH socks *and* top, but that got hidden by the jersey and my other layer.

Crap medal and Garmin data. Also shows SMASH socks.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Racing to Fitness

If you follow along to the changes around here, you might have noticed that I added a lot more races onto that sidebar. A stupid amount.

Nothing terribly long - nothing more than a 5K (probably - see to be determined turkey day race) - and mostly nothing less. 

There's a reason for this. When I wrote that blog post Wednesday I was full of optimism ... but as things are (already) going, the execution is a bit tricky. So ... I'm going with the possibly ill-advised (but previously somewhat successful - see late-spring/early-summer 2014) strategy of essentially racing my way back into some sort of fitness. If I have to run a lot - and run in theory fast - my run fitness should start coming back into something resembling respectable. At least that's the goal.

I start it off tomorrow with the Avs 5K ... which I'm pretty much only doing for the medal. The course looks shit (basically looping the parking lot at Pepsi Center) and the weather probably will be as well. Okay, so I also get a hockey ticket with it, but who knows if B and I will use it. I regret not having my inline skates by this point because I would have much rather just skated the three miles. Maybe next year.

I'm also running this one by myself. I wrote down goals for this race (ha, "goals"), but mostly, this is probably the benchmark for the next few months. May Colder Boulder be quicker than whatever tomorrow will be.

Loose Goals for the Avs 5K:
- Steady first mile. I tend to go out too fast a lot. Don't think it'll be a problem here.
- Steadily increase speed. We'll see if I can manage this. 
- Pace it ... or balls out and hold on! This depends entirely on my lungs on if they want to let my legs try to extract speed out of themselves. I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September Round-Up

Also known as the beginning of the glorious offseason ...

Swimming: 5000m (3.1 mi)
Cycling: 102.77 mi
Running: 18.25 mi
Lifting: 15 sessions (3:32)
Other: one curling session (:30), one elliptical session (:20), one hike (:45), one stretch session (:09), five walks (7:15), two yoga sessions (:32)

Clearly a lighter month, but I had a baby taper going into Santa Cruz and then decided to enjoy an offseason ... greatly aided by a nasty cold that took me out for several days. Then, when I got better, it was very little swim/bike/run related activity - I got on the elliptical for the first time in who knows how long! And I actually enjoyed it! - to try and actually take some time off.

Now that it's October, I'm trying to slowly get back into a routine, and one that includes s/b/r because I do NOT want to lose everything like ALWAYS. Not a lot of distance, mind you, but decent frequency. 

Running is a slightly different story, though, and one that I'll go into a bit more detail with a bit later this week.

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.

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

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

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


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.

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.

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 ...



... 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.

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)


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)


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.

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-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.

On the Barr Trail/race course, early July.

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.

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

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.


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.