Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mud, blood, and beauty! Timp Trail 2011

Timp Trail Half Marathon - FUN!
I'd be on the fence with this race for several months.  Well that's not really true.  I'd been planning on it and looking forward to it for several months, and then it proceeded to just DUMP rain the entire week of the race.  Not usually a problem for a race, but if it's on trail it could be.  I love to trail run, I love dirt, and I'm even halfway fond of mud, but not suck your shoe off-squishy squashy mud, so I kind of talked myself out of doing it.  Then it stopped raining for a whole day on Friday (amazing I know), and some other plans I had to help my husband out with our Altra booth at Ogden fell through, so there I was at 9pm at night texting race director and friend Shaun, asking if I could still get in.  He said yes, so I threw some stuff in a bag, grabbed the kids, and headed to my awesome mother-in-law's to sleep the night with the kids.

Timp Trail Half Marathon started at 8am at a park a mile up Provo canyon.  Race morning was a bit chilly.  I had to use both jackets I had to go get my packet, then hung out in the car for a few more minutes till it was time to get out and race.  Of course upon walking to the start I noticed I wasn't cold at all, should have listened to my instincts and taken layers off, but I didn't, waited till the first mile in.  Not a huge deal and I actually really like my Nathan 4 bottle belt because I can carry 20oz of water and still leave 2 slots open and they are great for holding stuff like a vest or arm warmers.
I just loved running fast through the scenery.  Beats the pants off hot dry highways and neighborhoods  :)
I started in my Intuitions, wool socks, gaiters (shoe and ankle covers to prevent dirt/rocks from getting in the shoes), shorts, a tank, a wind vest and tube sock arm warmers. Like I said, had the arm warmers and vest shed and stuffed in my 2 empty Nathan bottle cages by a mile in.  I was concerned about getting lost since you have to follow flagging and there are other trails you could run and be off course and there aren't herds of people all around you all the time, but it was marked just great!  We followed the pink tape tied onto trees or bushes, then a pink and yellow together signaled a turn.  Was just fine.  Anyway, there was probably about 25 min of walking terrain that I walked up as fast as I could, and the rest was runnable. The last 3-4 miles was all downhill, some gentle where I could really open up and fly, and some steep where I hoped my legs and footing would hold up. I floated between 2nd and almost 4th woman most of the race until I mile 8.5 or so when I spotted the leader ahead of me, talk about excited! I know her and she's an Xterra athlete meaning she races all off road triathlons. I had no intentions of winning the race, or even podiuming for that matter, didn't feel like I was in great shape, just wanted to go out and enjoy the race.  Once I saw her though, I kicked in  :)  I spent the next 1.5 catching up to her and eventually passing her when I gave her one of my water bottles as she had nothing and aid stations were anywhere from 30-60 min apart. From there I took off and tried to build as much lead as I could, fearing her. About mile 10.5 I tripped on something and went down hard scraping up my knee and taking a nice chunk out of my hand. Took no time getting up worrying I'd just blown my lead.  That was seriously the first thing I thought of.  Took me a minute to get past the pain (thank you endorphins, where were you that afternoon when I cleaned the wounds out??), but then really ran hard those last 3 miles and never looked back out of fear she'd be right behind me. I felt so amazing the whole time, it was just the last mile that I felt it get hard because of steep downhill terrain, it can be hard to keep your footing and legs underneath you. I was SO excited to be finishing 1st! The finish line was not as exciting as I'd hoped for, no cheering or announcing, but I guess that's just how trail races are. It's ok.  Everyone was very friendly.  I finished in 2:06, which is a good 37 min off my road PR, but I bet I raced close to as fast. 2nd place was about 2 min back. I haven't been training very well or very consistently, so to feel that good running fast and catch a girl I was sure I wouldn't was so great, a great moral booster for me that I have really needed. I say this humbly and honestly, remember we're all on different levels, but the races I'd win last year became mundane, not that exciting anymore, and I hated that. More than winning or beating anyone, I was just so glad to feel excitement again. It was so amazing racing in such beauty too, man, I could leave road racing behind all together if it came down to it. A great race all around! I highly suggest you all take the opportunity to do a trail race, its an amazing experience. If you're in Utah there's a Cascadia series that has shorter trail races 3-7 miles. 
Did I say how fun and great the race was?  :D
This race was just so much fun.  Thank You body for surprising me with such a great and enjoyable performance when I least expected it.  The longest trail race I've done and I'm absolutely hooked! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

IMSG 2011

No racing IMSG this year, hadn't planned on it at all, planned on having a baby, well that didn't work out, and just not enough time to train like I would want to.  That's ok, it wasn't on the plan.  But we, ok I, wanted to go down and watch for sure, so we made a little trip out of it.

Played at Sand Hollow Friday.  

The water level is so high we were able to venture out on the the big rocks the swim goes around.
The water felt great and the air was HOT!  Friday was the first in a string of painful sunburns.  As much as I would love to have raced Ironman again had I been in shape, it was so nice to relax and play with my kids and not freak out because this or that still had to get done or I was out in the sun.
We rode our bikes towing the trail a bike and Chariot from the far campground into the main one to play on the rocks (I LOVE getting around like that, think it's so fun), and found this handy little spot on the way back to play at, complete with shallow kid friendly water, shade, a hammock and good friend Michelle Anderson!
Friday morning I also got a Facebook wall post from a sweet friend and very talented coach and athlete Lynda, asking if I was busy Saturday from 11:30-4pm, because she needed an extra lead bike escort!!!
Um, yeah, sure am available!  Thank you honey for letting me do that
You can bet I got a hold of here asap an set things up.  Ironically we had the mtn bike down there which is not fancy, even has a kickstand ;) but it tows the trail a bike and we didn't want to fight getting the attachment off.  You have to have a mtn bike to escort as to not lead road biking racers off course, all I had left was to buy a sweet $5 Bell brand bike bell, you know the ones that go "ringgg ringgg".  It was sweet!

So anyway, Friday and Saturday night we camped at an RV Camp there in SG only a mile from the finish.  It was great actually, yeah more $$ than regular campgrounds, but it meant no driving, a clean bed, real restrooms and showers, and a swimming pool!  Score!  Worked great.  Talked with a few athletes while we were there including Bart Preston.  We did the kids race Friday night, but my 3year old was the only one happy to end up doing it, it was really hot out.

So Saturday morning came and I wanted to share outdoor time with my husband, so he went for a run and I got the kids up and fed, threw em in the trailer (yep, all 3) including the still asleep 7 year old, and hauled tail  the 2 miles uphill to mile 22 on the bike course.  Whew!  I was late so riding as hard as I can, and pulling 100+ pounds behind me and on a mountain bike without clipless pedals, that was a workout.
Yep, still warm.  Slurpee time by 10am.
Then it was time to meet up with Jer (my husband, I'm just going to use his name from now on) and hand the kids off so I could get ready for my job.
Finally got everything together and sunscreened up as best I could, found my group after worrying I'd be too late and waited for about 25 minutes before our pro's came in
The sweet set up.  Cool Ironman plate, pink Fuel Box, purple cowbell fastened onto my shifter thanks to my 5 year old little guy.  The bike bell was on, but fell off at mile 13 and spent the rest of the ride in my shorts
This was the lead bike escort team.  Great people!  Lynda two people to my left, and my good friend Jana to my right
Waiting to go while my pro is in T2.  

I won't lie, I was nervous.  Yes I know that course like the back of my hand, but I was still nervous I might somehow lead him off track.  Mostly though I was concerned about knowing who to stay with if a pass happened since I was in charge of leading the 5th place male position, not the 5th place man out of T2 necessarily.  But it actually went fine.  I started with TJ Tollakson, who was then passed by Mike Aigroz, who was passed at one point by Paul Ambrose I believe, and then it kind of went in reverse with TJ moving up again (and he was hauling by that point, I was doing my best to keep my distance up the hills), and then I finished the last 10 or so miles with Mike Aigroz again.
So the rules are you stay about 20 yards in front of them and use your bell to alert media or aid stations or other racers they are coming.  You don't talk to them, don't inform them how close their competition is, and you don't lead them off course  :)
Oh yeah, forgot, so we're headed up Pioneer Park's steep hill for the first time, I shift like an idiot, and the chain locks up!!  AHHHH!!  I can't end now!  Jumped off the path, fiddled with it, watched my pro go by and like an idiot told him to just keep going (what's he going to do, hang out and help me fix it?  No ).  Got it back on, jumped on, it locked again, I freaked out.  Got it on and it held, took 2-3 minutes to race up to my pro and resume my job.  Whew!  Never did shift down to the small chain ring again though  :)
Mike was doing great those last 10, but everyone gets tired and I could see it a little bit, so I'd ring my cowbell and look back at him as we were going up big hills to encourage him.  Our last mile or so were exciting, he started putting his jersey back down and zipped up, visor on, getting ready to finish, and he was smiling -he was never bad to look at though ;)  I parked my bike in the round about before the chute and gave him five on his way in.  The footage I've seen shows him super smiley and excited, it was great!
And then all the fanfare went away, I exited the course, and my great amazing day was done.
I was able to meet up with Mike after the race and tell him good job.  He thanked me for my cheering and cowbell skills for him.  It was neat.
It really was so cool!  I had a ton of people ask me if I was doing IMSG again this year, if I was disappointed not to be, etc, and sure I'd love to do it, but I really did ok.  It was crazy hot out there (no longer really have any idea how to train for the weather on that course, it's nuts), I am in no way trained to do close to what I did and would want to do better next time I hand over $600 to an organization that won't answer my emails anyway (grrrr, hear that Ironman?  A little customer service by the 5th email would be nice!), and I got to watch a ton of friends, and participate in what I think may be one of the coolest ways!  I tell ya, that's how you see the course, forget actually doing it ;)  And I fully intend on doing that any year I can that I'm not racing if I'm asked again.

So that's that.  Witnessed a ton of friends do so well in such adverse conditions whether they hit their goal times or not.  It was really brutal out there.  I'm sure I'll be back at some point, just don't know whether it will be next year, or a year or two down the road.  Jer and the kids and I rode around Diagonal St (the last couple miles for most folks) for a while cheering, then I came back at 11pm to watch what I could.  Man, the feeling down there is electric!  So.  Much.  Energy!!  I wish there was a way I could still race fast and satisfy that part of me, while still getting to finish at night like that, just a whole different pumped up atmosphere.  I definitely shed a few tears.  Congrats all you new Ironman finishers!  What a great trip!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ironman 1 year later - reflections and advice

It's really hard to believe it's been one year now since I trained for and conqured Ironman.  It was such an incredible journey and race and one I look forward to doing again.  Altough I won't lie, the training scares me.  I didn't know any different the first time around, I figured it'd be hard, but I knew I had to get it done.  Yeah I know those same things now, but for some reason it just seems scarier to me.  Will I really be able to put all that time and those miles in again?  They were hard!
The hundreds of miles indoors on the trainer
With and without children  :)

A TON of swimming.  Was more dedicated to the pool in those 6 months since I have been since high school.  I remember being diligent and committed to the 12x100's on 1:20 set we built up to for 12 weeks.

All the fun that comes along with training for a spring race.  Lots of adverse conditions,

But lots of great friends as support too!
Friends that without I don't know if I would've made it through those 90+ mile rides

The trips to St George (5 of them in total between October and Race day I believe) 
Including the so valuable and now tradition week in SG with Sarah at our great friend Sylvia's house
Being completely wiped out most of the time and enjoying naps with my sweet little one when I could.  I look back at it now and miss doing enough to deserve to be that tired
Peaceful snowy solo training sessions when the sun would grace me with her presence, and sometimes sans sun
And finally conquering those long training weekends with the final one, 110miles on the bike

And then came RACE WEEK!!!
I battled through a run stopping calf injury for the 3 weeks before the race, but finally seemed good to go with days to spare before the race (thank you Muscleworks!).  I was in the best shape of my life.  My sister flew into town and it was time to head south!
That drive was horrible.  Just horrible.  Thank the Lord we made it safe, but it took us almost 7 hours to make a 3.5-4 hour drive.  The kids were great, but it was snowing the entire time between Nephi and Ceder City.  And bad!  Like if we weren't in a city with overhead lights or following closely behind a semi, we couldn't see the lines on the road.  The passenger had to look out their window to guide the driver by the solid white line on the shoulder.  It was scary stuff and hard to believe I was driving down to do and 2.4 mile swim in open water.
But we finally made it down and stayed in such a great house.  Thank you Mom for putting us all up there!!

I enjoyed every second of the atmosphere, the check in, the 5 plastic bags (transitions and SN) they gave me made me giddy!  I studied and studied the athlete guide and course even though I already had for hours and hours before.

Now I'm going to give my advice, I'll bold it.  My big suggestion for all of you getting ready is to have your bags ready to go Thursday night or Friday morning (save perishable stuff).  Even though I knew what was going in the bags, I was up till 11:30pm assembling them, being sure I had every little thing right.  Try to keep your bags simple so you're not digging through a mountain of stuff trying to decide what you need when you're in the middle of the race, but put in what you think you may need.  For the bike SN, it was an extra CO2 and tube, some pringles and a small candy bar in case I felt like I needed a snack, and my new water bottle and flask of First Endurance calories.  For the run SN it was an extra pair of socks (really only necessary if it's going to rain or you pour a TON of water on your legs or you're just prone to blisters), and an additional Liquid Shot flask.  There's plenty of food on course if you want it.

Now come RACE DAY?

I'm going to keep it simple.  Just ENJOY your day!!  That doesn't have to mean loaf it, you can still go hard, but smile.  Smile at other racers, say hi or something when you pass someone, and you'll see their name on their bib, so try to use it sometimes.  Smile at the volunteers and thank them.  Smile at your friends and family when you see them, it's so magical and like a dork I'm starting to choke up just thinking what a great experience this was.  Don't get mad if they aren't at a certain point to cheer you on.  I felt bad that I didn't even acknowledge my sister and husband at the bike into T2 even though I heard them because I was mad they never saw me on the bike.  They got up at 5:30am and got on a shuttle, sat around in a parking lot at a reservoir to see me for 5 minutes maybe, then wait another 2 hours to get out of there and back to their car.  Sure I was sad not to see them on the bike, but they had a busy day too.  Appreciate all your supporters!

Now come the swim, don't be afraid, I was walking into the water, and dear Keena said "don't worry about it!  This is fun!".  Don't worry about the water temp.  There's nothing you can do come race time, just wear that wetsuit and neoprene cap or at least just two laytex caps, let some water in the neck, let it drain back out on land, and start where you're comfortable.  Oh and pre-swim, get there EARLY!  I wanted to take one of the earliest buses but of course it always takes longer to get out the door than you think (and traffic just to get dropped off downtown was bad), so I got there close enough to the race that I was kind of scrambling.  When I do it again, I will be on one of the earliest buses and bring a cheap blanket to huddle down in and just chill out after everything is ready to go.  Another tip - there's a couple volunteer port-o-potties over by the med tent, if it's right before the race and you really have to go, sneak over there  ;)
USE the help in transitions!  I would have never gotten anything on my body after the swim if it wasn't for the help of a wonderful lady in the change tent, they're there, use them!

Bike time - another dear friend and woman I look forward to Debbie Perry emailed me a few days before the race and said "be conservative on the bike, just be conservative".  SO KEY!  Just go out and ride it like a long ride.  Don't push and be huffing and puffing and feeling the burn unless you're going up one of the few big/steep hills.  You don't have to go slow, but there is so much more race left after the bike, that even if you went too slow, I think you'll still have the advantage come run time.    My other key to success was setting an alarm on my Garmin to go off every 15 minutes to tell me to take nutrition.  Now of course this has to be something you've practiced, but hopefully you've practiced taking in calories and/or hydration every 15-20 minutes.  Without the alarm I would have spaced off and not take nearly enough.  And along with taking enough, I put tick marks on my water bottle of EFS calories (only put water in my aero bottle, much easier to refill and sip on) so that I knew I needed to drink x amount of ounces to get x amount of calories every 30 minutes (took Liquid Shot and water on the other 15 min alarms).  Because when I just grab a water bottle I take way less than I should, it usually was 3 swallows for me, 2 more than I'd do if I wasn't thinking about it.
If you screw your nutrition up, it's going to be a hard day, so do something easy and set an alarm or do something like this so you KNOW you get all the calories, hydration, and electrolytes you plan on taking.

That Run, oooh baby, it's a hilly one!  And some people don't like the  double out and back, but I did.  Look at it this way. A) you'll know every inch of where  you're at on that course, you'll know what's coming next, B) you'll see a lot more spectators and racers around you, C) once you're to the first turnaround, you're 1/4 of the way done with the whole run!  That was so helpful to me to know there were really just 4 x 6 mile repeats.  And I knew that in general, once I made it to the turnaround on the bluff, it was mostly downhill.  Then I went up the hills for a second and last time, then it was basically all downhill to the finish!  You may have to really dig in and focus come that last 6-10 miles, don't be afraid to.  All my giddy smiling and thumb uping ended at mile 18.  It was time to focus and that's all I could do.  I just watched the road in front of me and focused on lifting one knee/leg up at a time.  Just get to one aid station at a time, don't think any farther ahead than that if it helps.

And then it comes

The Finish.  Now do me a favor here and listen.  I knew what I was supposed to do for the finish, but it didn't work out great.  Take that last mile at least, at least, and realize you're almost done.  Soak it in, cry if you feel like it, your experience is almost done.  When you get back to main street, look around you and find some open space so you can have you time on that last stretch so Mike Reilly can announce your name and "you're an Ironman!!".  I never got to hear that and it made me a little sad.  Either sprint ahead of someone or slow down and let them go, but get your time in those last 50 yards.  I was and still am SO proud of the accomplishment of finishing that race.  Of course I figured I could finish, but I really did it.  I trained for it, I raced it hard, everything came together, my family was there.
 I did it!

And then, thank your family, get a post race massage, drink water, take in what calories you can, and DON"T go get a concrete from Nelson's and eat the whole thing.  Unless of course you want to spend the rest of your evening in bed feeling worse than during the race  :)  I really look forward to watching the finish line late at night this year, something I wanted to do, but just couldn't physically last year.  I felt bad my night ended an hour or two after I finished.  It was such a magical day, extend it as long as you can!  But like they say, you'll have the glory of Ironman forever, so it all works out.

If something doesn't go right on race day or it was just plain hard, try not to dwell on it.  I dwelt on the fact that I didn't qualify when people who finished behind me did, and you know what, it almost ruined my experience.  But I have nothing but good positive feelings toward Ironman St George 2010 now.  What an amazing day it was, and it will be hard for me to know I can't do it this year.  But I do look forward to watching so many great athletes and so many friends who have put the time and energy into training.
Have a magical day guys!!!