Saturday, May 20, 2017

Salt Lake Gran Fondo 100 Miler!

 My triathlon partners in crime, Jason and Cristin, and I, were going to go on a long training ride on Saturday.  Cristin is prepping for Ironman Boulder and Jason is getting ready for Alaskaman.  I was on my tri club page and saw that many of my tri club teammates were doing a Century ride with the Salt Lake Gran Fondo and it wasn't too late to sign up even though it was just 48 hours away.  My training plan in training peaks only called for 1-2 hours of easy riding, but I am not really doing any race specific training for another month or so, so I figured why not?  Plus, if you're going to ride long, you might as well have someone else lay out the aid stations, control traffic, and give you a medal and t-shirt, right?  So, I texted Cristin and Jason about it and we were all signed up!

The course starts and finishes at Saltaire and you literally do a big giant circle around the Oquirrh Mountains down through Tooele County, into Utah County, and then along the west bench of the Salt Lake Valley back to Saltaire.  We had to be there at 6:00 to pick up our packets.  The ride started out and you literally merge onto I-80 for a few miles until you hit the Tooele exit.  This was kind of scary as it is an Interstate, but we had the shoulder and the lane next to us was closed with Highway Patrolmen escorting us.  Still scary!  Within the first 5 miles I saw a semi about take out 4-5 of the cyclists as he was merging onto the freeway.  This was the first of many close calls I saw today on this non-cyclist friendly route.

Not long after we got off the freeway I decided to try to draft.  In the past this has terrified me, but I  figured it would make 100 miles go by easier. I was on my road bike for this event.  I found a pack and quickly  just joined them.  Sweet!  This paid off well for the first 30 miles or so.  We worked together and took turns pulling and I found it wasn't bad at all!  Cristin was in my group and Jason had gone way ahead of us.  Weather was nice and cool, and clear! (We had snow just 48 hours before this event).  Cristin and I stopped at every aid station, and we found the volunteers were so friendly and they had gels, Honeystinger waffles, water, EFS nutrition, and even Hi-Chews!  The first half was literally middle of nowhere.  It was also a long slow grind with what seemed like a false flat but was a gradual climb.  We kept wondering why it felt like we were going so slow but working so hard! And we can't forget about the fact we had a head wind the WHOLE FREAKING TIME!  Don't ask me how that works, but that was the case!

We hit the half way point and we were feeling pretty good.  We refueled, used the restrooms, and were on our way again.  Just shortly after this point Cristin got the first of two flat tires.  We had everything we needed between us to change it, but we aren't very fast at this process :/.  We had someone stop and help us change it then he headed on his way.  We got going again and within a mile she was flat again.  This time we checked and double checked the tire, but couldn't figure out what the issue was.  We had the sag wagon guy get out and help us and found that her tire was literally split about a centimeter wide.  We used a Gu wrapper to patch it (I remember reading this tip somewhere and it worked!) and we were able to get on our way again.  Thank heaven it held for the remaining 44 miles!

Fitness wise for this ride I was fine, though it was by far my longest ride in two years.  I felt great the entire time energy and fitness wise.  My only issues were my shoulder (this is always an issue on long rides) and my saddle was HELLACIOUS!  I finally am comfortable saddle wise on my tri bike for aero, but now need to figure out something else for my roadie.  My legs felt great as well! When the ride was done they were a little heavy, and later that night they were stiff, but next day I was great.  Nutrition wise this ride was no big deal, I had my Infinit in two different bottles, but also added a gel or waffle at the rest stops.  I probably should have taken in more fluids, but it was okay.

Once we hit north Utah County the route put us on Redwood Road.  This is major road that runs through 3 counties.  It was busy AND under construction.  It was scary to navigate turns and even just ride on this road.  We were grateful when this section ended and we turned onto Mountain View Corridor.  This is a busy road, but it has a huge shoulder and bike lane, so it was much better from a safety stand point.  We knew we were on the tail end of riders for the Gran Fondo, but there were several other rides going along the same routes, so we always had other riders within a reasonable distance.  The aid stations got further in between than they had been the first half, but we were still greeted with happy, cheering, and helpful volunteers.  The weather had warmed up and we were able to ditch arm warmers and jackets that they brought to the finish for us.  They were great!

About 15 miles from the Finish Cristin and I stopped at the final aid station and they had peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables.  They were heavenly at that point!  The portion of the course on Mountain View Corridor also ended and we rode up to the Backus Highway.  The remainder of the ride was spent mainly downhill, but there was a lot of swearing, praying and hanging on for dear life as the roads and traffic were just dangerous.  We were on roads with no shoulder or bike lane and heavy traffic.  There was tons of debris that could mean a flat tire at the least, or accident/injury as well.  We actually had to merge onto the 201 (another freeway) where there was nothing but traffic barrels separating us from traffic going by at 75-80mph.  Not safe at all.  We were also the tail end of the riders, so there wasn't exactly a group to ride with.  There should have been a police man directing traffic or something.  I still can't believe how bad and dangerous this was!  We were very grateful to be done and back to Saltaire.

By the time we finished they were out of food.  However,the race director did give us free event jerseys since "you guys suffered longer than anyone else.".  We got our stuff together and hit Taco Bell for our post ride grub!

My thoughts on this race/ride are mixed. For the positives: It is always fun to ride with a friend.  It was great to complete my 5th 100+ ride.  The volunteers were all very good, happy and cheerful, and very helpful.  It was also fun to ride where I hadn't before and see new areas I am not familiar with.  The weather was perfect.  The Cons:  My saddle sucks.  My shoulder is still an issue.  The organization was poor.  The routes they had us on were not safe or rider friendly.  There should have been more controlling of intersections or alternative routes on less busy streets should have been utilized.  I was reminded again why so much of my riding (around 80%) is indoors.  There just isn't enough safe riding around here! And no organized ride should utilize freeways!!!!  Needless to say, this will be the last time I participate in this ride.  Jason, Cristin, and many of my teammates had the same thoughts.

So what's next?  Just easier/transitional training until mid-July where I start the ramp up for my fall 70.3, Brineman.  I do have East Canyon Olympic in three weeks and my Alcatraz swim in a month! in the meantime, happy training and racing!!

80 miles down, 20 to go!!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ironman 70.3 St George 2017 Race Report

 72 hours post race and I am still on a post race high!  Where do I begin to sum it all up??


I headed down to St. George on Thursday morning and caravaned down with Jason and Cristin, who I talked into signing up for this race with me about 8 months ago.  We got into town, went to the expo, and it was super hot!  I kept hoping that we would not have this heat on race day!  I picked up my packet, went to the merchandise tent and bought the infamous race "name shirt" with all participants names on it.  It was the only thing I bought!  Ken was shocked.  This is my third Ironman branded event, so I just don't feel the need to go crazy on Ironman gear anymore.  It is still cool, but my tradition now is to just buy the name shirt, unless there is something else I just can't live without!

Friday I laid low.  I took the time to pack my gear bags to get them ready for gear and bike check in.  I had a late breakfast and it did not set well with me.  I was almost immediately sick to my stomach and this lasted the rest of the day.  I was not happy about this!  Please don't let me be sick before the race!!I went ahead and headed out to Sand Hollow to check in my bike.  I visited with some friends while there, did a very brief spin on Ivy to make sure the gears were all good and she was ready to roll, then I checked her in.  I was getting ready to leave when was pretty sure I saw Ben, my coach, speed by on his bike.  I have worked remotely with Ben for the past 18 months, but never actually "met" in person as he is in Madison, Wisconsin, and I am in Utah.  I couldn't pass up the chance to meet him.  So, I went over and said hello.  Thank heaven it was him, or that would have been weird!  Ben is just as cool in person!  I've always known he was a great coach, but he is also a cool person!

I wanted to get out of the heat, so I headed back into town, quickly checked my run gear bag and headed back to the condo.  Ken and the kids were in town by this point, and it was good to see them!

Saturday morning I woke up super early and was over the moon excited!  No race nerves, just plain excited!  I was riding to catch the shuttles with Jason and Cristin, so I met them at their hotel for breakfast.  I had listened to my "race inspiration" playlist on the way over and was just ready to get this thing going!  We ate, got on the shuttles, then it was a matter of airing my tires, loading my bike nutrition, and then waiting for the swim start!


I had high hopes of a swim PR for this course. The water was smooth (which is actually unusual for Sand Hollow, this area is known for the wind).  I was in one of the very last swim waves, so it was a hurry up and wait kind of game. I was in Wave #18, with a start time of 7:31.  I got up  and was going to try to hug the inside buoy line, and start near the front of my group.  We swam out to the start buoy, the gun went off, and it was time to get to work!  I stuck to my usual sighting every 8 strokes or 4 breaths, and kept telling myself  "reach long, pull strong".  I found a good rhythm right off the bat and was sighting well.  The first third of this went way fast.  When we went along the west side of the Island, that part lasted longer!  It was all good, but I was starting to catch the slower swimmers from the waves ahead of me and it started to get more congested and harder to stay right with the buoy line as I was trying to avoid the slower swimmers and go around them.  When we made the final turn where we swim into the boat dock, it was CRAZY!  Now you have every breast stroker, back stroker, and hanging-on-for-dear-life-stroker, and it made for just utter chaos. The water got choppy from all the congestion and I started to get nauseous.  Uh!  Can we just be done?  I was relieved to get out of the water and let out a HUGE burp.  My sister Lisa and father would have been impressed!  I immediately felt better though!  I unzipped my wetsuit, took off my cap and goggles, and ran for the strippers!  They had that sucker off faster than a prom dress!  Final swim time was 36:43 (24 out of 116 in my division), only 45 seconds away from a PR!  I blame the chaos at the end for that!  Either way, I was thrilled with this swim.


As soon as the wetsuit was off, I ran over to Ivy, threw all my swim stuff into the bag, threw on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and headed out of there.  I was super thrilled with my T1 time of 3:12. This is over 3 minutes faster than last time I did StG, but I was way happy with it.  Ken caught the pic below as I had exited the water.


I was both super excited and nervous for this bike.  It was on the bike that my race went so horribly wrong 3 years ago, but I also had a couple of good training rides on this course just a few weeks before, so I was excited to see it all play out on race day.  Ben had told me to make sure I kept constant tension on the chain.  Pressure on the pedals. I get into a habit of just spinning or coasting at times on the "easier" parts of the course.  My training ride here two weeks ago I spent well over an hour of a 2:45 ride in Zone 1!  What the?  Not okay for race day!  I quickly found that by doing this, I was passing lots of people on the flats and descents.  I am not a strong climber, but I found that many people that passed me on the hills, I caught up with or passed right after the hills.  This was just so much fun!  I would just shift into the "hardest" gear on the flats or down hills and just keep tension on the chain as Ben said.  I threw a lot of caution to the wind as well and stayed in aero on these down hills instead of on the breaks.  With the roads closed to traffic, I felt confident doing this. It was just so much fun!  I loved it! I hit some new high speeds of 45 mph on my bike on more than one of these down hills.

My nutrition plan was working well.  I had two concentrated bottles of my Infinit + Base salt.  I found that making more than a two hour bottle the flavor is way too strong, so I went with two 2 hour bottles.  Every 15 minutes I took in a mouth full of it and sipped on water every 5-10 minutes in between. It was warm, but over cast, and I felt like this was the perfect amount for the conditions. I grabbed a water bottle at every aid station as well. I took in about 750-800 calories during this ride and around 100 ounces of fluid.

When we got to the bottom of Snow Canyon, I was starting to feel the anxiety set in.  It was at the bottom of Snow Canyon that I literally sat on the road and cried in the red dirt thinking my race was over 3 years prior.  As I passed that spot, I felt strong and was so grateful to not be there today.  I said a quick prayer of thanks for my good race so far and prayed for continued luck!  I found that it was a pretty ride! I  loved it.  Though technically Snow Canyon is a slow gradual 4 mile climb, it is only the final mile of that is bad.  I enjoyed being there, talking to the other athletes and just settling in and getting ready for the big push at the end.  When we got there, it was the first time during this ride that fatigue set in.  Many were starting to walk their bikes.  I just kept telling myself to keep my legs moving, I was NOT going to walk.  It somehow seemed easier than it had been two weeks ago!  Before I knew it, I was at the top!  This was also the first part I noticed the head winds.  Holy crap, were they bad!  Luckily that last stretch into town is downhill, but still no fun in those head and cross winds. I just got low in aero and kept pressure on the pedals. I didn't break for a single down hill into town.  Just tuck low and let her roll! I had a ton of fun on this part of the course, though it was scary a few times :)

As I was in the final half mile, I heard Ken yell at me.  I was so happy!  I just not only conquered the bike course, but the demons and associations from this same ride 3 years before!  I literally was crying as I ran my bike into T2.  Final Bike Time was 3:28:26 (#38 out of 116 in my division).


I easily found my stuff and bagged my bike stuff, took time to throw on socks (I usually race sockless sprint and olympics), shoes, visor and my race belt.  I grabbed two cups of ice water leaving T2.  Final time for T2 was 2:36.


When I did this run 3 years ago, it was pretty much a walk.  I just wanted to run as much of it as possible. I knew that with the high mid day temps, wind, and hills, it wouldn't be realistic to run the whole thing, but I wanted to try!  As I left T2, I was still crying because I was so thrilled with my bike.  I saw Ken again right out of T2 and just said, "I did it!  I did it!"  He gave me a sweaty hug and said, "Yeah, but you're not done yet!"  I found that as I tried to run, I couldn't because my lungs were all tight from crying!  HA!  There's no crying in triathlon!  I took a minute to walk and calm down and found I could run after that. Ben had told me to stay within certain HR parameters, so I looked down at my watch and saw I had no HR data.  The watch wasn't picking up the HR at all.  Funny, because it had worked fine the entire bike.  Oh well, Plan B is run by feel!  The first 4 miles of this run are uphill.  They are a gradual false flat at first then by mile 2 you are going UP!  I settled into a decent, though slow pace for the first two and when I got to the Turtle Hill climb I had to walk.  I gave myself permission to walk on the uphills for a max of 30 steps at a time, and it worked!  It gave me just enough of a break to want to get going again.  I found that I was in good company on this rough run and saw many teammates along the way.  I was enjoying this run despite the toughness of it.  I made myself run the down hills and the flats, only breaking at the aid stations.  The aid stations were roughly every mile.  At each aid station I took in ice water, a couple of licks of Base Salt, and every 3 miles I had a gel.  There were also a couple of stations I would take in a Gatorade, Coke, or Red Bull based on what sounded good at the moment.  It all seemed to be working because I felt pretty good the whole time.

The second half of the run I was just ready to be done. I was still in good spirits, but I wanted to be done.  I ran most of the last part except for the couple of final uphills.  I ran into several more teammates and one of the newbies to our club Shawn.  We played leap frog from miles 8-11.  It was nice to have a familiar face at this hard part of the course!

The final 3 miles are basically down hill, so I went for it.  I looked at my watch several times during this downhill portion and was sub 10 pace every time. I still stopped at aid stations, but skipped the last one a mile from the finish line.  I just wanted to cross that finish line!  I bolted down the portion after the turn around at Diagonal and Main Street to the finish.  It felt so good!  I heard Ken yelling for me again and crossed the finish line.  Immediately I saw my friends Marianne and Meagan working the finishers chute!  It was perfect!  I completely lost it and Meagan was there to hug me despite me being a hot mess for a moment!  The only thing better than this moment was sharing it with such good friends!!

Final run time was 2:37:03 (#42 out of 116 in my division).  This is only 9 minutes from a run PR for the distance in a 70.3!  And on THIS course?  Heck yeah, I'll take it! Final race time was 6:48:00 (#42 out of 116 in my division). This is not a 70.3 PR, but then this is not the course for a PR!


I met up with Ken immediately after the race.  I went and got some athlete food and Ken went for the car.  I went with the kids to get my bike and ran into Ben there. Seriously, I can't thank him enough!  He is a great coach, and has pushed me further than I thought I could go.  I was glad to be able to give him a post race hug!  Then we loaded up in the car, got the kids food and played by the pool the rest of the day.  It was perfect!

I would be lying if I said I didn't have some goals time wise for this race.  I was right on them for both the swim and the bike, but not for the run.  However, when I see that everyone struggled on the run today, and I know that I honestly put forth my best effort, I am genuinely thrilled with the day I had.  This just gets me fired up and wanting more!  I have pretty mellow summer race wise...I have an Oly in a month, my Alcatraz swim, and then my 70.3 in September.  I am so excited to see what I can do on that FLAT course after this race.  It will be fun!

I've also decided 70.3 is my distance.  I love it!  The training is just enough to challenge me, but not overwhelm me or my life, and the distance is the same way.  I loved doing sprints and Olys last year, but this is a good distance for me.  I will probably stick with this distance for awhile.  I really want a sub 6 hour 70.3!

Onward and upward!  Happy training and racing!