Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Utah Half Race Report - My first 70.3!

Wow!  What a day!  This report is going to be long, so for the abbreviated version here it is:  I came, I raced, had a blast and finished 40 minutes under my goal time and will definitely do this race again.  There, you can go now :)

Okay, for the long version, here you have it!

Ken, the kids and I drove down to Provo the night before the race and stayed with some good friends of ours that are in the area.  We were way excited to do this as we haven't seen them in awhile and it was fun to catch up.  Also, they were saving us an hour and a half drive on race morning!  Ken already thinks I like to get their way too early, so he was really glad about this.  We got up at 4:45, and just Ken and I drove to the race site at Utah Lake State Park.  I should back up and say we were half way down there and I realized I left my watch in my purse, so we had to turn around and go back to get it.  I only race with a cheap Timex stop watch on, but it does have alerts that go off every 15 minutes to remind me to hydrate/fuel, and I also like to see my overall time on it as well.  I can't stand racing with my Global Trainer.  One, it is an unreliable piece of crap, and I also don't like to be obsessed with my pace or speed.  I like to go by feel and perceived effort in a race.  So anyhow, we went back and got my watch and I was happy :)
When we arrived it was still dark outside.  I was seriously nervous and in tears.  Ken is amazing though, he knows I kind of need a tough love approach and he just simply said, "If you can do the Top of Utah Marathon, you can do this.  Just get out and do it!"  He was referring to my first marathon that I ran injured and it was my worst race ever and most miserable race experience to date.  Anyhow, he was right.  He also told me to just stay in whatever moment I was in at the time.  If I was swimming, don't worry about the bike and the run, etc.  This was good advice that I followed today!
I was able to find the transition area and my friend Melinda was already racked and had some space near her for me to set up.  There were a ton of nice people there in that area and I loved meeting them and talking to them about their races, and I honed some good advice off of a 4x Ironman.  He simply said, "Don't let your legs burn at any point.  If they do, you are going to hard, and you will pay for it later."  For someone that likes to race on effort level, this was also good advice I followed today.

This race was NOT wetsuit legal, so I was actually pretty happy not to mess with it before the race or in T1.  It was nice to just have my tri suit on and be ready for the swim!

My swim wave time was 7:25.  It was going to be a deep water start, which are my favorite.  I hate beach starts where everyone is running for the water at the same time.  The water however, was COLD!  I had a hard time believing this water was really 81 degrees, but I knew it would warm up as I got swimming.  Before we knew it, they blew the horn and we were off.  I immediately noticed this water was not just cloudy, it was BLACK when I put my head under.  Gross.  Granted, I didn't want to see all the carp and catfish that supposedly live in abundance in Utah Lake, but it was really murky.  It still beats when you have lake weed or crap sticking you as you swim, but it wasn't my favorite swim for that reason.  I found that I was able to spot the first buoy and was happy that I settled into a good rhythm of counting my strokes and sighting the buoy on every third stroke.  I don't think that I have ever done so well staying right in line with the buoy in any race!  I sometimes tend to swim wide or get slightly off course, but this seemed to be spot on the entire 1.2 mile swim!  I was very pleased with that!  I found that I quickly lost the women in my group and caught up to the slower men in the wave before me.  It was never too crowded though and I only got brushed by other swimmers a couple of times and that was usually when we were rounding one of the buoys.  There was plenty of clear water (meaning water without hitting other swimmers, the water itself was FAR from clear).  I really enjoyed this course as far as it was a two loop course but it seemed really doable.  Granted, it felt long and I was glad to be done, but it was definitely a good swim.  The water level is low and there hit several points as I had completed my second loop and I was heading into the beach that other people simply stood up and started walking or running in.  Even though I could tough the ground with my hand at a few stroked I decided to swim until it was no longer possible and really kick to get their faster.  I was glad that I did because trudging through the mud once it was too shallow sucked.  As we left the water, Racetri had set up several buckets of water to rinse feet off and plenty of volunteers.  I looked down at my watch and realized I was right at my swim time goal!  My final swim time was 45:23!  I was pleased with this as it was my first stab at this distance and longest swim in a race yet, and it was right where I wanted to be!  I left the water with a HUGE smile on my face and was excited to hop on my Belle (my bike)!


I got to T1, quickly found my spot, and it was nice not having to mess with a wetsuit!  I smiled for a pic, and grabbed my bike stuff and was off.  Final T1 time was 1:50.  I need to work on that, not stellar.


Now to settle in for 56 miles on the bike.  I have never done this distance in a race, obviously, since this was my first 70.3, but based on training times, I wanted to finish between 3:00-3:15.  That would mean maintaining a pace around 18-19 mph.  I had done that at Spudman, but that was only 25 miles and it was ALOT cooler that day.  I would simply try to stay in a good yet maintainable pace for the duration of the ride.  

I knew that they had changed the bike course slightly this week.  We immediately left the Park and headed into a residential section and then into some industrial parts of Provo.  We even rode right on University Avenue for a bit, but it was nice because of all of the officer controlled intersections, we didn't have to stop once!  We then headed west again over onto some farm roads and then headed out to the most southern part of Utah County and out past and behind Sand Mountain out there.  This course was an out and back course that I really liked.  It was fun to see the pros as they headed back in.  Those guys KILL it with speeds averaging 25-26 mph and I love watching them do their thing.  It is so cool!  The further out there we got, the rougher the roads got.  They were all paved, but some were in bad condition.  Racetri put plywood over the worst parts, and they had plenty of volunteers around the worst parts warning us of gravel, steep turns, etc.  I came to the first bike aide station and loved that when I had to get off my bike for a potty break, they even had volunteers to hold your bike for you so you didn't have to lay it down!  First class man! I also found that I loved not having to stop at these stations and I LOVED my aeromounted bottle.  It was so easy to grab the bottle of water from the volunteer and squeeze it into my aerobottle without stopping.  Cool beans!  And all with out stopping!  I am so easily entertained, but this was seriously slicker than snot!

My bike nutrition was NAILED on this ride.  Okay, mostly.  I did drop a Honey Stinger waffle, but I didn't go back for it.  I knew I had an extra Gu, so I took that instead.  But the timing of everything was right on.  Every 15 minutes, I had some Perpetuem, every 30 I took a salt tab, and every hour I had half of a Bonk Breaker.  I sipped water from my aerobottle the whole time in between all of that and it worked well.  I felt great, it wasn't too much and it wasn't too little either. I took in 3 20 ounce bottles of water on the bike plus a 24 ounce bottle of Perpetuem, so I was spot on with hydration!

The second half of the bike went super fast.  I noticed that the pain in my knee returned from when I fell on my ride with my Dad a few weeks ago when we did Big Mountain.  I also noticed that we had head wind coming back in and at times my legs burned.  I would quickly heed the advice of my new friend and gear down so it wasn't as hard.  I started to worry about the knee as I still had a half marathon ahead of me, but then I remembered the words of my sweet TriSherpa and just stayed in the moment and focused on getting through the final miles on the bike. It was nice to round the final corner to hear Ken, the kids and my sister Lisa cheering for me!  They rock!  I quickly finished and was so excited to see bike catchers at the bike dismount area!  Really?!?  This is something I have only heard of being done at Ironman Races!  It was so nice!  I simply handed my bike to them and headed over to my gear!  Awesome!

My final bike time was right in the range I was hoping for at 3:04:18, which is 18.23 mph.  And I felt really good about nailing the nutrition and feeling really good and better than I thought I might at this point of the race. 


This was a pretty quick transition thanks to the help of the bike catchers!  I simply switched to my running gear and I was off!  I snapped on my race hydration belt and ran for a quick porta potty stop, which didn't annoy me because it was another sign I was well hydrated!  Ken got this shot of me leaving T2, knowing I was right on track to his my goals today.  Final T2 time was 1:11.  Not too bad!


Now to top this day off with a half marathon, 13.1 mile run!  This was a two loop course along the Provo River Trail.  I must say, given how hot it was coming off the bike, this course design was a pure life saver!  It was probably 60% or more in the shade of huge trees, and I was so grateful for that!  I had been really worried about the heat and this course was awesome in that regard.  I tried to keep the mindset to run at a good yet maintainable pace and only walk the aid stations.  I was able to keep to this goal.  I found that my knee didn't hurt one bit the whole run like I had worried about!  I was starting to feel fatigue in my quads, but nothing to terrible.  Energy wise I felt really good as I made my way through this run.  I found that every time I got passed or passed someone else, they were always so friendly!  Everyone was very supportive of each other and yelled encouraging things at each other on the way.  I have never seen that to this effect at a race before and it was awesome!  They had aid stations about every 1.5 miles on the run and I rotated between taking in Gatorade or the Coke they had on the course.  I also took a glass of ice water at each station, but I used it to dump on myself.  Can I just say, ice cold Coke on a run course is simply nectar of the Gods?  It was pure Heaven!  I also took in my Powerbar Gels every four miles as well.  
As I finished the first loop, I was prepared for the second loop to royally suck, and though it was hard, I found that the adrenaline of knowing I was almost done kept my spirits and attitude and effort up.  I could hear the music at the finish line and even got teary eyed a few times knowing I was almost there!  I won't lie though, the last two miles of this were awful.  My body was simply saying, "ENOUGH ALREADY" and it felt just like when you hit mile 24-25 of a marathon.  You are just exhausted, your legs are starting to feel like lead and sides hurt.  This was when I became very grateful to have 4 marathons under my belt and a couple of 20 mile training runs just this summer under my belt.  I really feel they prepared me well for the final portion of this run that was VERY hard.   I continued to stop at the stations and grab the iced sponges (again, sheer HEAVEN on this hot run) and stuff them in my top or hat, but then I got to the finisher's shoot and I just gunned it.  I did a finish line sprint and was finally DONE!  I would later find out my final run time was 2:28:01, which averages out to 11:17 per mile pace.  This was MUCH better than I was expecting!


I was so happy!  I lost it and before I knew it Ken was running towards me with the most wonderful look on his face and he picked me up in a huge hug and just said how proud of me he was!  It was a perfect finish line moment!  I had a new medal around my neck, my family was there, and it was awesome.  I saw on my watch that my final finish time for my first Half Ironman was 6:20:40, which was well under what I was hoping for!  I was thrilled with this time! I enjoyed the chocolate milk at the finish, and the two slices of pizza they had for the racers! Sweet!


I was so impressed with this event.  Racetri did an amazing job. I simply can't think of anything they could have done better!  The course was great, the aid stations were perfect, and the volunteers went above and beyond.  I can't think of anything else I would have wanted!  I would most definitely do this race again and look forward to more Racetri events next year.


I loved this race.  My race plan was executed almost to perfection, and I am glad to see that what I had trained with worked so well.  I knew it worked in training, but without doing this distance before, I was second guessing everything all week long, and I was glad that I just stuck with my plan with a few adjustments here and there, but it worked well.  I feel like this distance is a beast, though I feel that my training prepared me well for it.  However, I can't IMAGINE doing the full distance at this point.  I mean, this was a LONG day.  I can't imagine doubling all those distances!  Yikes!  I know that I want to someday as a bucket list item, but I am very content with this for now.

I have the best race crew ever.  This is not an easy day for them as they have to wait in the heat for long stretches to see me for a few seconds and snap a few pics in between each leg.  I couldn't do it with out them.  I love Ken dearly for many things, but especially for his supporting me in these crazy adventures I drag us on.

What's next?  I have the LOTOJA relay in two weeks and the St. George Marathon in 6.  Happy Racing and training!

Monday, August 19, 2013

70.3 Race Week - AAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Well, it is finally here.  Not sure exactly how I am feeling about it.  So many mixed emotions.

On one hand, I am terrified.  Really?  What was I thinking to sign up for this?  What's wrong with short course races and running half marathons?  I know that I can make it through the swim and the bike, I am just worried about having to run a half marathon after the first two legs!

On another hand, I know that I can do it, but I am afraid of how much it will hurt!  The race day temps right now are forecasted to be around 98-100.  The swim is no longer wetsuit legal due to the temperature of the lake being 81 and rising by the day.  I have never raced for 6-7 hours, so I am not sure how my body will react to that!

Yet another side of me has me second guessing EVERYTHING I have done in training, my nutrition, my race day strategy, what I plan on wearing, etc.  I know you are supposed to stick to what you have trained with, but then again I get all of these What If? thoughts.  I have never done this distance before, much less under these conditions, so I have no idea what to expect and I want to be prepared for everything.  Sigh

Then, there is the part of me that is just plain excited!  I love racing!  I don't think that I would be able to stick to a regular work out or training schedule if I didn't always have something to work towards and something on the agenda.  I love the atmosphere, the other athletes, the pushing myself, and the feeling you get when you are done.  But, I feel like I did before my first marathon.  It is just the unknowns of a new challenge that can be terrifying!

My goals for this race are pretty simple.  I have some realistic goals and some "I'm really hoping for this" goals that may not be so realistic seeing as how I have never done this distance and don't know what to expect.

My first goal is to simply finish.  I know that I will be thrilled with finishing and checking this off the list. I say I don't have a time goal, but I would be lying if I said that.  I really want to finish with anything with a "6" in the front of it.  I have done some number crunching based on worse and best case scenarios and I think that this is possible.  But then again, given the conditions, we'll wait and see.

I would also be thrilled with a 3 hour bike time.  This might be really advantageous seeing as how that means averaging around 18 mph for the 56 miles, but I think that it should be doable given some of brutal bike rides and training I have done this summer.  I am hoping for 3:15 worse case scenario, but then again, we will see.

My final goal is probably the most important one to me and that is to SMILE the entire time.  I really want to enjoy this and race AND finish with a smile.  If I can do that, I will consider this race a success.

So, wish me luck.  Send me thoughts, prayers, good juju, whatever.  Heaven knows I am going to need it!

In the mean time,  Happy Training and Racing all!

Friday, August 9, 2013

14 days, 17 hours, and some change

That is how long I have until my first 70.3.

I have been really excited, but the closer it gets, the more nervous I get!  I was telling a friend of mine the other night at our Pineview swim, that I feel like I did right before my first marathon....the "what the hell was I thinking?" feeling.  I know that deep down I can do it.  I just worry about it as I have had several friends do their first half Ironman races recently, and after I hear how theirs went (mostly good, but some bad) I am starting to get nervous!

I have had some great training this summer.  In some aspects I may have over trained for parts of this race.  I have been doing 20 mile runs (in prep for StG) that will put me in a good spot for this race.  I have done some really hard bike rides with climbing (Big Mountain a few times, Snowbasin, etc) in prep for LOTOJA, so they should set me up well for a flat course at The Utah Half.  My swim is strong even though it is the sport I am spending the least amount of time on.

I have got my nutrition down as well, though I need to find easier ways to consume it on the bike.  I am still using my watch to beep at me every 15 minutes to remind me to take in fuel, and that helps a lot.  I have added a Profile Design Aerobottle to my aerobars and it makes taking in water a ton easier.  I like Perpetuem in one bottle, and it works well.  I REALLY like Bonk Breaker bars as well, but find them hard to unwrap and eat while riding.  I need to practice this as well.  I have also started experimenting with salt tabs, and find they work well as far as keeping me feeling good and I tolerate them well.  I am not sure how much I have needed them on the training rides as they have not been done when it is too hot out, but I wanted to practice with them prior to race day which is expected to be HOT.

After tomorrow's long run of 18 miles, I am starting a taper phase.  This could not be better planned as I also go back to work next week!  Ah, the summer off was wonderful for me mentally, physically and definitely for my training, but back to reality it is! I am cutting my training down to an hour or so a day, and then once the 70.3 is out of the way, I will take swims out of the work out rotation and just bike and run until LOTOJA is over, then I will focus solely on the run until the marathon is over.  This isn't just any year of going back to school, this is starting at a new school, and there is a whole new learning curve that goes with it.  Until I get my wits about me in a new environment, I need to be realistic about my training and try to keep a good balance.

So there you have it, my life in a nutshell post Spudman.  The next few weeks will be crazy as I have this big race and starting a new job, but I am excited to dive right in!

In the meantime, happy training and racing!