Saturday, May 21, 2016

Salem Spring Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Any day on the block is a good day :)

My second tri of the year was Saturday.  This is my second time back at Salem Spring, I did it last year just two weeks after IMTX.  I knew that I had done it last year on a body that was still recovering from Ironman, so I went into it tired, mentally exhausted and expecting nothing from it at the time.  I somehow managed to land on the podium in that state.  Fast forward to this year!

I had talked with Ben just two nights before the race, and he really encouraged me to push this as hard as I could.  I know I am in so much better shape and have made progress across all three disciplines and this was attempt #2 to qualify for Nationals.

I wrote down last year's times and stared at them all week on my fridge knowing I could probably beat everyone of them, except maybe those transition times, those were pretty dang good!


Just like last year, we had a million things going on this day, and Ken wasn't able to come with me.  He took Janae and Joshua came down with me.  I thoroughly enjoy having Joshua along.  He is a kick in the pants, a total blast to hang with.  Plus, he has become quite the efficient race sherpa!  He carries stuff, remembers things I might otherwise forget, and takes pictures!  Bonus!  We got up super early and made the hour and half drive down since I wanted to be there right when transition opened, and I still hadn't picked up my packet either.  Thank heaven for preferred racking for SLTC members, I was able to get a good spot to rack Belle and set everything up.  


This is a small race so there were only four swim waves.  Pro/Elite, Men 0-40, Men 41-100, and Women.  Women were the last wave to go.  It was pretty chilly and overcast out so I was in my wetsuit early for warmth, and I couldn't wait to get in the water since I knew it was probably warmer than air temp.  When the gun went off for our wave to go, I immediately started off way too fast and felt it.  My heart rate was crazy high, I was having hard time breathing, and people were  hitting, kicking, and all over each other. I just tried to reign it in some, but I almost panicked it was so crazy.  For a split second I actually considered rolling onto my back for a minute to chill.  What the hell?  That is SO not like me!  I was relieved to hit the first buoy and it seemed to immediately thin out and I was up with all the men from the previous waves.  It seemed like it calmed down and suddenly I was just fine.  I felt like I was going fast, but not panicked and I was where I wanted to be.  I got into my rhythm of counting strokes and sighting and stayed right in the buoy line.  This was good since I got off course last year.  This swim went extremely fast, and it seemed like I was at the swim exit very quickly.  I immediately started peeling off my wetsuit and a volunteer offered to strip it.  I was excited for this, but it was like she was scared of the wetsuit itself as she barely tugged it.  I told her JUST YANK IT and she did and it was off.  However, I lost time here for sure trying to get the dumb thing off.  FINAL SWIM TIME :15:00.  Beat last year's time by one second.  However, this wasn't just the swim, this was the wetsuit struggle, the run across the grass and the parking lot to the timing mat that starts the T1 time. I would be really curious as to the actual swim time, but guess who forgot to start her Garmin?


I really wanted fast transition times, so tossed my swim crap down, and went to get in my bike shoes, helmet, and sun glasses.  In and out.  One of these days I will be cool enough to try the whole flying mount thing, but not yet.  FINAL T1 time was 1:11, a twelve second improvement from last year!


Man, did I want a good bike time.  Ben had told me to push it as hard as I thought I could, and this would be an experiment to see how hard I could push it without it affecting my run.  Challenge accepted!  This course starts out fast as you round the bottom of the pond, take one quick turn, then it goes up THE HILL.  Anyone that has done this course knows which hill I am talking about.  It is not very long but it is very steep.  If you don't know it's coming and don't gear accordingly, it catches you off guard and many people end up walking it.  Today was no exception.  Both loops of the course I saw people walking it.  Not me though!  Belle seemed to struggle with the gearing, and she kept slipping and clicking.  I just prayed we would make it to the top.  We did, but that hill takes a lot out of you!  It took me a bit to get my breath back and get my HR manageable again.  Luckily it is followed by a slight downhill and I could setting into aero and regroup for a bit.  I started to think I was taking it too easy and immediately got my head back in the game and started to push harder. The weather started to get worse during the bike, it became cloudier and it started to lightly drizzle.  There was a few times I wished my sunglasses had windshield wipers. Then there is a few gradual hills and false flats until the turn around back to the pond where it is a downhill and you can fly.  It was awesome!  I so wish I could have seen my speed at these different times, but noooooooo! Stupid, stupid, stupid for not starting the Garmin.  I passed many people on the bike, mainly men, but a few women as well.  It was cool!  I felt very strong 98% of the bike, with the exception of right after the hill. Final bike time was 41:59, a 36 second improvement from last year.  I'll take it, though I had hoped for more of one.


I ran in, racked my bike, and tossed my shoes, slipped into my running shoes (I don't use socks for short course) and grabbed my race belt and visor to put on on my way out of transition.  In and out once again and I tied for last year's time with a :57 T2 time.  Sweet! I love it when I am under a minute!


The first part of this run sucked,  I honestly felt like I had giraffe legs and wondered when my legs would show up.  I just kept pushing knowing I didn't want to lose any time and they would show up eventually.  The first mile was really a struggle. I just couldn't find a rhythm and it was frustrating. I felt like I was going so slow, but I have learned that when I feel this way, I am usually going faster than I think, so JUST KEEP PUSHING.  There are two hills on this run and they suck, plain and simple.  However, going up the first hill, I realized I hadn't been passed by anyone in my division.  That thought really encouraged me as I realized I could very well be in the lead for my division for the time being.  But wouldn't you know it...I got to the bottom of the second hill and some gal comes and blows me and the hill out of the water.  And, she was in my division. (How many races has this been the case?  That I get passed in the last portion of the run? So many I've lost count) Well, there goes first place.  I really tried to catch her, but I just didn't have it in me.  I was still pushing hard enough I had to suppress my gag reflex, but she was crazy fast.  I was glad to hit the down hill, and just push hard to the finish.  Final run time was 28:50, an average pace of 9:19, and with the hilly course, I am pretty happy with that.  It is also an improvement of almost 2 minutes from the previous year :)


I quickly realized I was in second place.  I was thrilled with this!  Unfortunately, with only 10 people in my division, this wasn't good enough for a qualification.  I would have had to be in first for that, and I missed first place by 42 seconds.  Ugggghhhhhh!  Final time for this race was 1:27:58.  I'll take it, though it was frustrating to be so close! However, I am thrilled to have beat or tied every single time from last year, so that shows definite improvement.

I stayed for the awards and then Joshua and I quickly left since we were freezing.  I seriously think Utah races are cursed this year.  Every race I've done or been part of the weather has sucked.  Hopefully this trend changes quick! I have also come to the conclusion that I do better in heat.  Or at least I prefer it to the cold.  

I only have two weeks until Daybreak. I am excited to return to that race, it was my first open water triathlon 4 years ago and I loved it at the time. It is also a flat run course, which will be a good thing, and though there is an uphill on the bike, you immediately go right back down it.  If the weather holds out, it could be a very good race for me :)

In the meantime, Happy Training and Racing!

Monday, May 16, 2016

One year post IMTX...and I'm just getting started!

A year ago this very moment I was probably a few miles into the marathon at IMTX.  I was hot, tired, sweaty, and oh so glad to be off the blasted bike!  Though the marathon was hard, in many ways it was my favorite part of the day.  I loved the run course for its crowd support and the people I met during that Death March, and I loved digging deeper than I ever had before to meet a goal I had been working so hard on for a very long time.

Fast forward 365 day until today.  I cannot believe I did that!  I also can't believe its been a year!CRAZY!  I would be lying if I said I didn't have some major race envy this past weekend as IMTX 2016 unfolded in what will no doubt go down as one of the most epic (and maybe cursed) races ever.  I often wondered before IMTX what I would do next.  I always have gone for the next big thing, and after IM, what is after that?

The first few months after IMTX I was admittedly burned out, but not for the obvious reasons.  I was pretty frustrated with my performance in all three disciplines and very much felt stuck.  I felt a "what's next?" feeling in that not only had I now accomplished this major goal, but I also didn't know how to improve on what were my very slow paces.  If you look at my TP and my training June-November, it is pretty pathetic, almost non-existent.  I guess I figured why bother at something I didn't know how to fix? I didn't want to give up triathlon or running, but I really wasn't sure what would happen next or what my next step was.  A few really good things came along to help me out of this slump.

One, it was my first year as head swim coach at LHS.  That gave me a really good diversion from triathlon and a way to be involved in the sport but in a completely different way. I fell in love with the kids I was working with, had a steep learning curve to get over, and something that took a great deal of time.  It really was a god-send.

The second thing is I found a coach, Ben Cagle. I had always been self coached, and it did work okay for the first few years in the sport.  However, this couldn't have been more perfect timing.  I decided that going back to square one and focusing on short distances would be a good place to start, sort of building from the ground up.  Ben has been awesome at this.  He completely changed how I looked at training (no more by miles, but by time, now with intervals, goals for each session, etc).  He also took away what I now realize was what many call "paralysis by analysis".  So much of my getting stuck on  a training plan would come from always second guessing what I was doing, adjusting things, or missing things, or not knowing how to make it up, or how to adjust it to my schedule, etc.  Now I don't do any of that, that's what Ben is for!  I can't reiterate or stress enough how nice it is not to the planning and analyzing.  I just do whatever he tells me to do in TP.  Plain and simple.  It has also given me great accountability, and knowing someone else is looking at my training and also that it has been planned around a schedule I've dictated, sort of kills any excuses you might have :)  I have made gains across all 3 sports, and feel I have a refocused goal and hope that maybe I don't suck as bad as I was thinking! So if you are in a rut, get a coach! I  can't recommend that enough!  (Just make sure its the right one, there are plenty of yahoos out there.  Thank heavens Ben isn't one of them.  He's pretty badass)

I know so many people give up triathlon after an Ironman, because they are burned out and loose focus.  I really feel that was just the beginning for me.  I realized exactly how much I don't know about this sport after doing IMTX and there is so much more I want to do!  I need Ken (the husband) and Ben (my coach) to reign me in at times and be a voice of reason when I get ahead of myself, which is fairly regularly.  I also have great role models in the sport that are years ahead of me that show me that the best is yet to come!

Yes, there are definitely more Ironmans in my future, but I am very happy with where I am at this point.  Short course has been such a good focus for me this year.  I love the training, I love being able to push myself in a new way, and it is nice to have races that rarely take over 2 hours :)  I have several races just in the next 6-8 weeks and with sprints you can race that often!  It's awesome and so much fun! Plus, I need to be racing this often for I need as many chances as I can get myself to get to Nationals in August!

I hope to be in this sport a long time.  There is still so much I want to do.  I want to keep getting stronger and better.  Almost all of my PR's are over 2 years old. I want to make new ones.  I also have a Bucket List of races that will take me years to get through, so I've got a lot of work to do! I wanna be the 80 year old grandma still doing races, riding her bike, and adding to her race bling collection.  So, IMTX was just a spring board for me to all that I still want to accomplish.  Here's to another great year!  Onward and upward!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lessons Learned from Kayak Support Volunteer - IMStG 70.3

With my focus being on short course this year, there is no Half Irons happening for me this year.  However, there was 150 fellow tri club members racing this weekend, and I knew it was going to be one giant party, and I didn't want to miss out.  I wanted to be involved somehow, so I figured it would be fun to volunteer and have always wanted to do kayak support for a race, so here was my chance! I went to the Ironman website, and signed up.  I was stoked!

I drove down on Friday, hit Ironman Village (this is where a miracle occurred.  I left the Merchandise Tent spending less than $100!), then headed out to Sand Hollow where most athletes were doing bike check in.  The wind was really blowing and there were white caps on the water.  Sand Hollow Reservoir has a history of bad weather conditions, in particular wind, and this was no exception.  It was cold as well, so I knew that if things didn't calm down, it would make for a very rough swim in the morning.  However, I don't love "rough conditions" for the bike or run, but in the water, I kind of relish the challenge and was somewhat jealous I wouldn't be racing in it :)

I headed over to the briefing from Ironman Officials and Washington County SAR officials for all swim support volunteers.  They went into detail about conditions to watch for with swimmers, what protocol was if we needed to have a swimmer assessed or pulled from the water, and what our assignments were going to be for the morning.  The Ironman official said that if conditions didn't improve by morning they would cancel the swim, only letting the pros swim since it was a championship event for them.  My friend Eric from SLTC was also volunteering and we stuck around for the barbecue dinner that was provided.  During dinner the wind and weather calmed down and the water was like glass.  Eric, who competed in the infamous 2012 Ironman there, said the conditions were almost identical to that year, where it was like the calm before the storm.  Then he was nice enough to offer to let me crash on his couch for the night since I had planned on camping out or sleeping in my Jeep. This proved much better than those options would have been.  Thank you Oscarsons!

The next morning I was awoken to the music LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE at 3:30am. All I could do was smile because Eric's wife, Mandy, was racing and it was race morning for her and this was her pump it up music.  We got up, ate, changed, and headed over to Sand Hollow where our boats were waiting for us.  I had set up my boat the night before with the essentials on it and added my own bag of snacks, water bottles, etc.  I had a head lamp and was glad that I did as we were on the water before the sun was up.  We actually had to paddle in almost a mile to get to where we would be staged for the race.  I got out on the beach to get one more bathroom break and ran up to use the porta potties and ran into none other than Meredith Kessler!  I was so excited to see her, I had missed the pro panel on Thursday and didn't think I would get a chance to see her at all.  Of course, being gracious as always, she let this major fan girl get a picture :)

Getting back out on the water was fun. It was gorgeous, though cool out.  It was nice to see the sunrise on the water.  I swear, when I retire, mark my words, it will be by the water and look something like this:

Then a guy on a boat came up and pointed at me and my friend Eric and appointed us to be the lead kayak (the one the pros sight off of) for the male and female pros respectively.  I was STOKED!  How much cooler was this morning going to get?  Eric has done this several times before and said that the goal was to stay one to one a half buoys ahead of the pros and you had to haul a$$ as they are fast and you have to stay out ahead of them. I could do that!

The gun went off and I did just as I was told. I couldn't believe how cool it was to watch the pros this close.  The swim is always my favorite part of any race, but also the hardest to spectate and hear it was I had a front row seat.  I had the slower male pros right in front of me and the lead pack of pro women right behind me.  It was very, very cool.  They operate on an entirely different level.  Now, with that being said, I was surprised to see how many of the slower male pros (I couldn't tell who they were due to the wetsuits and the swim caps) that really seemed to be struggling with the swim.  Hey, we all have off days, right?  Meredith Kessler was the lead swimmer and KILLING it!

By the time the pros finished, I worked my way back to the start where they had already started the age group waves.  My friend Mike had told me he was in the light blue cap wave and I was there right as it started.  I stayed close to his wave and him most of the time due to the fact Mike struggles in open water with rough conditions.  Apparently, he is not the only one!

I was then amazed by how many people do not prepare for the swim portion of triathlon.  By this time, it had clouded up again, cooled down, and the wind and rain started.  The water was choppy and far from ideal conditions.  I had dozens of people grab my kayak over the next few hours grab and hold on to my kayak.  This is completely fine and allowed as long as the kayak makes no forward motion.  I heard time and time again from numerous swimmers the following statements that left me completely dumbfounded:

  • This is my first time in a wetsuit (or this wetsuit)
  • This is my first open water swim
  • I am so much faster in a pool, I don't know what my problem is today
  • I haven't swam in open water in years.
Are you friggin kidding me?  Why on earth would you do this to yourself?  As the conditions only worsened through out the morning, this lead to some scary incidents on the water watching people that were struggling and adding to it rough conditions.  They then said, "I just try to survive the swim to get to the bike and/or run".  Um, survive is the key word here!

So here's my rant.  First off, I firmly believe that this sport has a spot for everyone.  However, with that being said, if one is not prepared to swim in open water, one should not do so.  That is why there are sprint triathlons and many with pool swims.  A Half Iron distance tri held in a lake with a history of bad swim conditions is NOT the place to start.  I had many people tell me "Well, everyone has to start somewhere."  Yes, they do, but this is not the place.  Or I also heard, "They are chasing a dream."  True, but again, most dreams have to built upon.  This should not be the first step to your dream.  Dreams take time and work.  THIS was not the place to start.

To further clarify, I am not talking about slow swimmers.  I have no problem with them. I have an issue with those that can barely swim.  There were many slow swimmers who were still getting the job done needing no assistance from us volunteers.  I am talking about the ones that in a pool would put the lifeguards on edge (you know, like myself when I attempt butterfly) and put us volunteers on edge for 1.2 miles.

So, moral of the story (aka, my rant) is be prepared.  Start somewhere, hire a coach, go to Masters swimming, take lessons, practice in open water prior to race day with a wetsuit, and be safe out there! This all seems like no brainer information, but if you saw what I saw on Saturday, you would see that apparently it is not.

I had a great day volunteering/spectating.  After helping the final swimmer out of the water, I went to get out of my boat and could barely stand I was shivering so badly.  I was immediately escorted into the med tent to be treated since (according to them anyway) I was hypothermic.  They wrapped me in tin foil blankets and forced chicken broth down me.  I won't lie, that stuff was amazing at that point. It took awhile to stop shivering, but I eventually warmed up enough they let me leave.  I was anxious to go and change into dry clothes and head over to the run course to cheer on my tri club mates.

I later found out after the race that there was a 27% DNF rate for the day.  No doubt, it was tough out there.  I give mad props to all those that raced under such tough conditions.  I personally had 5 friends not finish on Saturday.  The conditions on the bike were terrible, making it to where people were so cold they couldn't shift or brake.  With so many hills on this course, that would be unreal!

I firmly believe every triathlete should volunteer for a race.  If you choose to do kayak support, even better!  It is a great opportunity.  Here are some suggestions I wish I woud have known prior:

  1. Dress in layers.  It might be cooler in the morning than later in the day, so be prepared to add or take away layers as the conditions arise.
  2. Wear clothing that can get wet, because you will get wet.
  3. Wear gloves of some kind, exercise gloves like those for weight lifting or cycling would be great.  I got a blister on the inside of my thumb from paddling.
  4. Take snacks and enough fluids for a long morning on the water. I  was out there for 4.5 hours.  
  5. Having a head lamp was invaluable for the morning.  We started paddling at 5:15am, before the sun was up.  It was great to have the lamp.  Have a whistle ready as well, though Ironman provided them for us.

So what's next?  Ironically, I am volunteering at another triathlon this weekend (a sprint) that is held right in my neck of the woods.  Then I have Salem Spring Sprint tri (attempt #2 to qualify for Nationals) in two weeks.  Happy training, racing, and volunteering all!