Race report: Vineman

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Before I write one of my trademark ridiculously long race reports, I must give a heart-felt thank you to my friends and family. Both online and in person, your support during this race was both awesome and overwhelming. And in this case, I don’t think I’d have crossed the finish line without you. This phrase is over-used, but no less true: I’m blessed to have all of you in my life. </mushystuff>

PRE-RACE:
I did my usual tossing and turning  before giving up and getting out of bed fifteen minutes before my 4:30 alarm clock. I felt bad for Heidi because while I wasn’t sleeping I could hear the girls asking her questions, so I know she wasn’t getting much sleep either. I made my new pre-race breakfast of frozen waffles and nutella with a banana. I was originally planning to just bike to the race start, but T was actually awake, so I talked him into walking with me. It was nice to have company as we walked down the dark highway. There were already a bunch of triathletes on the road, so it was only quiet for a short while. Soon it was time to part ways as I headed into the athlete’s only area to set up my transition area.

pre-raceThey had body markers roaming around the transition area, which was so much nicer than having to line up to do it. The girl who did mine told me “I hope you win!” which made me laugh out loud. (Something really bad would have to happen to the rest of the field for that to happen!)

T went to get coffee while I did all of my pre-race stuff. My favorite sight was some guy wandering around in what looked like a hotel bathrobe. He cracked the entire porta potty line up. It was like racing at the Playboy Mansion. I met up with T again and did my usual pre-race cry. (The enormity of these races catches me off guard sometimes.) Then it was time to get into the wetsuit and do a quick warm-up. T got this awesome shot of me as I came out of the water:

SwimWarmup

THE SWIM
I had to hustle to join my wave, which was a little stressful, but it didn’t give me much time to get nervous. Then the usual mess of starting to swim, having people do all manner of craziness in front of me (breast stroke from the very beginning? Really?!) My goggles filled with water, but luckily I got them fixed quickly with only one adjustment. (Knowing that the river would eventually be shallow enough to do this again if I needed to was nice. There was some kind of river plants that had very fine tendrils that got chopped up by all of the swimmers before us and was exactly like swimming through a bunch of dog hair. (GROSS!) But luckily, it was only a little section (that we’d get to swim through three more times, lucky us!)

The weirdest thing about the swim was looking up to see people walking at various intervals. I downloaded a couple of images off the internet to show what the swim looks like:

VinemanSwim2This is looking towards the turn-around, where a lot of the walking happens. It was super odd, but made the potential of being swum over much less scary, since you could just stand up.

VinemanSwimI swam as much as I could, because it was a lot easier than stumbling around a rocky river bed, but there were a few sections where it was so shallow that I thought I was going to fall on my face. It was also a fairly crowded swim, which was stressful for me, but I just did the best I could. I can’t say I ever really found a rhythm and I was very surprised when I came out of the water at 1:31. I think this picture sums it up nicely:

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T1:
I was actually pretty proud of this transition. I felt calm and in control. I went down the wrong aisle briefly, but was able to correct it without too much problem. I was able to give my stuff to T, which was way more awesome than letting it marinate in the sun all day. (There were a few volunteers that were so sweet, offering to take the bag and then handing it off to T for me when I explained. They were the first of many awesome volunteers that I met over the course of the day.)

BIKE:
Leading into the race, I heard over and over how much easier this course was than Canada. I think they’re just differently hard. Canada has two major climbs with a bunch of rollers in the middle, where this course was more like a roller coaster, twists and turns, ups and downs. It had a climb that you did twice, once at mile 30-something and again at mile 100. I loved it. It was never boring and there was tons of pretty stuff to look at. In looking at my race photos, there are a ton where I have a huge smile on my face, which matches my memory of how I felt about the course:

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Bike2I planned to only stop at the special needs aid station at the half-way mark and I kept to that plan. The only bummer was that they had two porta-potties at that aid station, so there was a line. Then the special needs bags were at the other end, so you either had to walk your bike or ride while dodging other triathletes who were trying to get things from the aid station in the middle of these two points. So, my stop there was much longer than I wanted it to be. Oh well…

I hadn’t really expected to see my cheering section out on the bike course, since we’d been told not to have folks driving on the course with us. But suddenly, I turned the corner and there they were! I was so surprised and happy that I actually teared up after seeing them. You’re out there for such a long time by yourself that you get easily emotional at the sight of some familiar faces. The miles ticked by and I tried not to be nervous about climbing Chalk Hill for the second time. It turned out fine, but definitely tougher the second time. I was again surprised by M, J & Baby Rowan around mile 105. J has this bright orange baseball cap that I could see for quite a distance, so I spotted him before I even knew what I was looking at.

The last few miles are always a bit of a struggle. I was looking forward to getting off that damn bike, that’s for sure.

T2:
I was moving a little slower on this transition. I took my time taping up a couple of my toes that are prone to blisters and struggled into my Injinji compression socks. (Those things are awesome, but man are they a PITA to get into!) I had a bandana to wrap ice in and put around my neck which felt like heaven, both because it was cooling and because my neck was stiff from being on the bike for so long. I also grabbed some sunscreen and chaffing creme and stuffed them in my pocket.

RUN:
Run special needs was right outside T2 and T was standing across from it. He checked in with me and I was pleased to report that I was feeling great. Unlike IMC, I was able to run (sort of) right from the start. The rest of the crew was right around the corner and Nerissa took this rad picture of me heading out:

OffToRunThe course is basically three out-and-back sections of a little over 8.5 miles. This is exactly as tough as you might imagine, but I tried to just focus on each piece at a time. The first section was about finding a run/walk interval that worked for me. I had my watch set for 2 min run/1 min walk, but I also was walking aid stations and uphills, so it was a little bit of a mess. Finally, I just started running all of the downhills and as many of the two minute intervals as I could, longer when I felt like it.

There were a ton of other folks on the course and it was nice to see that even the faster folks were struggling. (Misery loves company and all that… ) I was able to run a bit more as I came in to start the second loop. It definitely helped knowing I’d get to see everyone. I high-fived them and headed back out onto the course. Initially, loop two went awesome. I was able to run and felt pretty smooth. Then I started feeling some… um… intestinal issues. I stopped at an aid station and dropped some weight, but when I tried running I still felt like I might poop myself. So, there was a lot more walking than I wanted. Then the pity party started. Then I started worrying about making the cutoff to start lap 3 or worse yet, making that cutoff but not making the finish cut off. This picture perfectly sums up my feelings on lap 2:

RunStaggerBy the time I got back to the cheering section, I was a weepy mess. I really wasn’t sure I was going to make the finish line cutoff and I was scared to go through that drama again. But here’s where I have the best friends ever – they kindly but firmly gave my hoody, reminded me to grab my headlamp from special needs and took the bag from me. T made me grab a gel and M told me “You don’t have anything else you have to do tonight. Put one foot in front of the other and get it done.” It was so effective that I actually started to run again. They ran alongside me for a little bit and I headed back out into the night.

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The volunteers were truly fantastic. They encouraged us, fetched things at the aid station and generally kept spirits up. I was determined to run as much as possible and bank as much time against the deadline as I could. By this point, my feet hurt just as much running as they did walking, so I just kept a steady shuffle going lest I wake up the GI monster again. I was very glad I’d brought my headlamp because it was pitch black out there. I was pleasantly surprised by how many folks were still out on the course and everyone was super encouraging and supportive. It helped as much to cheer others on as it was to be cheered by them.

There was an asian dude dressed as Mr. Incredible (complete with foam muscles) and I thanked him for being out there. He was cheering on his friend, who I ran with for a little bit and chatted with. He was doing his second iron distance as well and we bonded over the differences in preparation from race #1 and race #2. As I was about halfway through the last section, a volunteer asked if I’d like some company. I said sure and she ran/walked with me. Her name was Anna and once she told me about how her family had made signs that said “Bananas!” when she did Vineman, I started thinking of her as Anna Bananas. She was great, she told me funny stories about things she’d seen over the course of the day and kept my spirits up. (Now that I was pretty certain I was going to finish, I was in a much better headspace.)

We started the last section and I heard voices. Then Erik’s voice said “Is that Michelle?” When I answered, there was a flurry of excitement and suddenly I was surrounded by Erik, Nerissa and Martha all telling me at once that the timing mat at the final turnaround hadn’t shown up on the tracking and they’d been worried about me. Erik went to call T and I introduced everyone to Anna Banana. She left me in their capable hands and went to help another race. (THANKS ANNA!!!) T met up with us and Nerissa fired up “Eye of the Tiger” on her phone. I was run/walking at this point because my stomach was getting a little queasy when I ran. Since I didn’t have to push it, I decided doing an Ironman without barfing would be nice.

Finally, we were in the homestretch and I ran for the finishing chute. I could hear the announcer and see the lights and I was soooooo happy. Once again, this race picture sums it up quite well, even if it’s not the most flattering:

AllDoneThe volunteers had formed a little “tunnel” that the finishers would go through, while they chanted “Gauntlet… Gauntlet!” It was fantastic and so funny. Then I got my medal and finisher shirt. The volunteers handing out the shirts were so nice. She apologized for them only having women’s mediums that were a little small, so the other volunteer gave me a mens small, just in case. Nerissa took a triumphant finisher shot:

FinishLineDon’t worry, I eventually figured out that I had the headlamp still on. 😉

There was still plenty of food left and I was actually in a state to eat something. They had some chicken noodle soup that tasted like the best thing ever. I had that and some watermelon and was pretty happy. M & T kept me company while Erik & Nerissa went to get the car. I was astonished by how much better I felt than last time. I was actually able to walk (albeit so very slowly) to the car, including negotiating getting around some race fencing down a grassy embankment.

I didn’t find out my real finishing time until the next day, but I finished in 16:16 – a 31 minute PR over Canada. (I’d hoped to knock another hour off of that time, but considering I’d been worried about finishing at all, I am still pretty happy about it.) I learned a lot and have a feeling that there might be a third Ironman in my future.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons will be repeated…

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So, despite this blog post, I made the decision to do Pacific Crest as a practice race for Vineman. I still hate this race, but it was ideal as a practice race for a couple of reasons:

1.) Heat: One of the things that is really scaring me about Vineman is the fact that the temp is likely to be between 80 and 90 degrees. Pacific Crest is typically pretty toasty and this year did not disappoint.

2.) Uninspiring run course: From everything I’ve heard, Vineman’s run course is hot, isolated and uninspiring. I can’t think of a better practice for that than Pacific Crest’s terrible tour of Sunriver resort.

3.) Practice with new stuff: I wanted a chance to see how the kit and wheels did in race conditions and test out my nutrition strategy.

4.) No other options: There were literally no other half-iron distance races in this time frame. Everything else was either too early or way too late.

With all of those things in mind, I signed up. I lucked into a free place to stay from a girl on Slowtwitch who I’d met when I’d volunteered at Ironman Canada. She’d posted some questions about the race on the forum and I’d mentioned that I might be up there as well, so she messaged me and offered me a place to stay at her dad’s place. So nice! (And after all of the Smokey Joe expenses, pretty much the only way I could make this race happen financially.)

Per usual, the day before the race was filled with all sorts of errands. Thankfully, there was an option to pay 10 bucks and drop your bike off at Packet Pickup for them to transport up to the lake. Since this saved me two hours of driving, I considered it money well spent. I passed this sign as I was checking in and thought it was amusing:

PC_DeschutesThere’s something about a brewery congratulating you on your courage that makes me laugh. I also snapped a photo of tomorrow’s goal:

PC_finishLineI was able to wrap up all my errands and spend a nice relaxing afternoon/evening hanging out with Lisa’s lovely Dad and Aunt. They made a delicious dinner and then it was early to bed.

Because I was doing this race solo, I was a little worried about where I was going to park on race morning. I needed the car to be close enough to hobble to post-race, so I left extra early and scored a nice convenient spot somewhat close to the finish line (and a grocery store, score!) I walked over to transition, set up my T2 and caught the bus out to the lake/T1. As usual, the bus ride was a mix of quiet and nervous chit-chat. It was already a gorgeous day out:

PC_BusRideWhen I got up to the transition area and found my bike, I realized I’d remembered my race number wrong (and set up my T2 in the wrong spot!) I had to have a volunteer fix the number on my calf and felt like a total spaz. (Why yes, I have been doing triathlons for ten years, thanks for asking!) I set up my transition area and tried to keep the butterflies in check by reminding myself that this was basically a training day with company. I also learned that for some unknown reason, they’d changed the swim course to be two loops. Which meant that those of us in the second to the last wave would be passed by all of the people in the the four waves in .6 miles of space. Blergh.

I went in for a practice swim and reminded myself of how freakin’ cold that damn lake is. They claimed it was 67 degrees, but it sure felt colder than that to me! When it came time for our wave to line up, I found a really good spot, to the right of the start, in line with the buoy. There were only two fast looking guys near me, so I didn’t have to worry about a lot of people next to me, although there were a million people to my left that would be merging into my line. I decided not to worry about it.

The horn blew and I focused on just taking it out nice and smooth and use the time before the first buoy as a warm-up. I was surprised to not really have too much congestion from folks merging in. There were a few TnT-ers with some crazy swimming (special shout out to the person somehow swimming freestyle arms and a scissor kick. I’m not sure how you could even do that!) but for the most part I avoided them. After the first buoy, it was a total cluster. There were slower people breaststroking and faster people from the previous waves trying to get through. I got caught up in a big pack just after the second buoy and had a total panic attack. Like, had to stop and catch my breath/calm down freak-out. It totally sucked and threw me off my mental game. I had one other section where I had to stop to figure out where to start the second lap, but by the second lap I found a bit more open water and was able to get a steady pace going again. It was a super slow swim time, but according to my Garmin, I swam 1.27 miles. Sigh.

I finished the swim and wobbled my way to the bike. I struggled into the Coolwing sleeves (I’ll have to wear these under my wetsuit if I use them for Vineman, they took FOREVER to put on.) I finished my changing and stuffed all of my crap into the plastic bag and headed out. I felt surprisingly good on the bike, but tried to keep things easy for the first part. (Which was hard, I really wanted to to fast and pass more people.) I kept up on my water, but my stomach felt really weird and queasy. I assumed it was from the swim, so I eased off the food until my stomach felt better.

By the time the climbing started, I felt like I was riding well. I was steadily passing folks and not getting passed back too often. I was drinking my Infinit and taking in some gel, but not really wanting to eat the solid food I’d brought along. The heat wasn’t too bad, except when we got to some of the longer climbs. Then it was brutal. The climbs weren’t as easy/breezy as I remembered from Leadman, but they weren’t as bad as the last time I’d done Pacific Crest either. I kept my effort as low as possible on them, but was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t going faster. I was so happy to get to the big descent back to town, looking forward to making up some time. But as I started barreling down the hill, a cross-wind hit and moved me over a foot or two. I screamed and grabbed the brakes and nearly stopped the bike, I was so scared. This, of course, made me take the rest of the descents far more gingerly than I ordinarily would. It got better and I started to get a better sense of how to handle the bike in the wind, but it really rattled me.

Plus, my stomach was feeling really weird and I was feeling just strange. I wasn’t sure if it was heat stroke or what was happening, but I was just feeling AWFUL. It was a struggle to ride the last five miles and I wasn’t sure what was happening. I was in tears when I finally pulled into the transition area, but the minute I stood up and started walking the bike, my stomach started growling like crazy. I was super hungry and bonking like crazy. I put my bike in it’s proper place at the rack and walked over to where I’d incorrectly set up my run stuff. I sat down, burst into tears and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle while I changed into my running stuff. I was a mess, but I stumbled my way out of transition and on to the run course.

I’d put my phone in my pocket, so I got it into my head that I should call the boy and get his advice. I sat down on a stump, next to some poor bastards condo, hysterically crying while other racers jogged by me. The boy talked me off the ledge and helped me realize that doing the run was going to put me in a pretty deep hole that would likely effect my ability to train for the rest of the week and that was just stupid. So, I decided to cut my losses and call it quits. It’s official, Pacific Crest, I’m done with you. You aren’t the race for me.

The next morning, I was feeling deeply regretful that I didn’t know if I could have rallied from the bike nutrition fail. It was making me feel insecure about my readiness for Vineman, so with a fairly empty stomach and a decent level of hydration, I went out to do a hot weather run in 90 degree Salem. There’s a great area with running trails at Minto Brown park:

MintoBrown

I’d planned to do a 90 minute run, but ended up getting lost and doing two hours. I stashed a couple of bottles of water at various places, but only ended up passing one of them. (D’oh!) I was able to eat myself out of that empty/pre-bonk feeling and found a run/walk strategy that helped when the heat got to me. While I ran, I thought about the previous days’ race and what I’d learned from it. I actually found myself feeling better about the whole experience and extracting things to apply to my upcoming race.

So, even though it was a really crappy race experience, it was a great training weekend. I’m still feeling nervous about Vineman, but I’ve got some sound strategies to make the race go better.

 

 

Race report: Hot Chocolate 15k

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I’ll admit it, I signed up for this race for the chocolate. And the hooded sweatshirt they advertised on their website.

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Cute, right? Plus, I like the 15k distance and they are not super common.

Since I haven’t run anything longer than six miles, I didn’t have any notions of racing/setting any PRs. (though you always hope for some race day magic.) I planned to do my heart rate thing and see how it went. I’d told my co-worker Reed about the race and he’d signed up as part of his marathon training. Since both of us were in a “not really racing” mode, we decided to run it together.

For some reason, they started the 5k first, so I had to plow through a million chocolate clutching racers to get to our start corral and made it with about five minutes to race start. Luckily, there were wave starts, so we actually had closer to fifteen minutes. I found Reed with no problem and we found a good spot at the front of our corral.

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After much “ubiquitous race announcer inane patter”, we were off! I set a conservative pace and felt good. It helped that we were going down a nice gentle downhill. Turns out that it was going to be nothing but hills, either up or down for the rest of the race. I kept my pace steady and ran under my heart rate as best I could, and felt pretty good for the most part.

We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny day and the view as we were chugging up the Aurora Bridge was beautiful. We had fun making snarky remarks and it was fun to have company. My stomach wasn’t super happy, but my legs and lungs felt great. My HR monitor only beeped at me twice, which given all of the hills is something of a miracle.

Finally, we ran up the final .3 mile hill to the finish line. I didn’t think I was going to want the finish line chocolate, but it actually sounded pretty good. (I only could eat about half of it, for fear of stomach ache.) T met me at the finish line, so I made him take a post-race victory photo of Reed and I:

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For being the first year they’ve done this race, I thought it was very well-run. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes hooded sweatshirts, hills and chocolate.

Time to Rock n’ Roll!

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Race day was finally here and I’m very grateful that we didn’t have the usual super early wake-up call after last night’s adventures. We set out to get breakfast at the Paris brunch buffet (a highlight of our trip last time) but the line was so crazy talk long that we all decided to go someplace else. It was surprisingly challenging to find a restaurant serving breakfast after 11:00, but thanks to the power of smart phones we found a place in the Planet Hollywood casino.

I was expecting it to be on par with Denny’s, but it was surprisingly good. And with the race coming up in the afternoon, I justified an insanely decadent breakfast of cinnamon-roll french toast with a side of bacon:

IMG_3663So delicious, but I could only finish about half of it. Afterwards, I headed back to the room to relax and stay off my feet while the rest of the gang headed out for more poker (the boys) and wandering around (Nerissa). I put on the new compression socks and put my feet up while watching some terrible TV:

IMG_3636Having an afternoon start time is really weird. It was hard to have so many hours of the pre-race energy/nerves. On one hand, I usually don’t have time to stretch and relax before a race, let alone take a nice hot bath. On the other, I had time to fret about every one of my clothing choices and freak out about inadequate training. Good times!

But soon enough, everyone returned to the hotel for the trip to the start line. (The strip was completely closed for the race, so our hotel was offering a complimentary shuttle to the start line.) T confirmed my last-minute decision to wear a short sleeved shirt (such a good call!) and took a cute picture of me before we got on the bus:

IMG_3672Don’t you love the socks? Cut up knee-highs from Target over compression socks. Geek-chic at it’s finest!

We got on the bus pretty early because I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like and didn’t want to be stressed about it. It wasn’t too bad, so we got there pretty early. I had plenty of time to find a port-a-potty and my corral. The wind had been picking up pretty steadily all afternoon and it was definitely blustery. A race photographer wanted to grab a pre-race photo of T and I, which Erik was paying no attention to, so the first shot he crashed right into me (worst picture ever!) but the one that followed was pretty hilarious:

AwesomeI think Erik should pose like that for all family photos. Amazing.

Soon enough, it was time to bid my support crew farewell and line up in my corral. There weren’t a ton of people there initially, but it filled in pretty steadily:

IMG_3671Apparently, PF Chang had a group that ran with a Chinese dragon:

IMG_3675(Because half-marathons just aren’t challenging enough… )

Here’s the classy establishment that we stood next to for a while. Surprisingly, it’s out of business…

148403_10200181170477141_1302156200_nOne of the things that they did for the race that I really liked was staggering the starts of each corral by 1-2 minutes. So, we’d hear the various waves in front of us getting sent off and then we’d walk forward. It was so much nicer than the usual “we’ll blow the starting horn and then you won’t be able to run for another 20 minutes and get super frustrated about it.” This way, you had space to run right away, it was awesome.

The race course goes out away from the Strip for a mile and then comes back, so you get to pass the start line. I was shocked to see that there were still tons of people still waiting to start when I ran by at mile 2. (I was in corral 11!) The wind was crazy. At one point it pushed me sideways and then another big shove from behind. (That was cool!) At times, the tailwind felt like we were running downhill, but for a lot of it the buildings on the Strip blocked it pretty effectively.

It was an amazing experience running down the Vegas strip at night. All of the lights were insane and a HUGE crowd of spectators were out cheering. I felt like a rock star and realized that I’d been running with this huge stupid grin on my face. There were bands approx every mile and a half, most of which played rad 80’s hair metal. I don’t know if it was because the race was so large or RnR races attract a different crowd than normal ones, but I never found a consistent group running my pace. There were always people walking in front of me and faster people passing me. I didn’t really know how fast I was going, so I just sort of picked a cruising pace and went with it.

I could see mile markers initially, but then I stopped paying attention. I had my Garmin beeping at me and it had been pretty close to their signs, so I stopped worrying about it. Everything was going pretty well until around mile eight. I’d expected the aid stations to have gels earlier on the course, so I was getting hungry (not a good sign). Finally, I saw them and had to slow to a walk to pound down two of them. I stuffed one into my jog bra just in case (Running is sooooo classy!) and got back to running.

The race goes through the downtown section of town (where we’d been last night) and there were a lot of turns and less spectators. It was hard to stay focused. Plus I was getting a lot of crazy cramps from a special visitor that morning (the joys of being a woman!) and was having a hard time mentally. At one point, I looked at my Garmin and it had my pace a full minute per mile slower than I expected. That really deflated me and I took a little walk break because I felt like I was already going so slow, what did it matter.

Then I rallied and made myself start running again, if for no reason than to get this stupid thing over with already. On the final mile, the cramps hit hardcore and I slowed to a walk again. It sucked so bad. Even walking hurt and running was agony. The finish line was in front of the Mirage, which was aptly named because it shimmered on the horizon for an impossibly long time. Finally, I just sucked it up and ran as best I could, grimacing and moaning my way over the line. Not fast, but not as bad as my Garmin had me believing.

Miraculously, I heard Erik, T & Nerissa in the roar of the crowd, so I knew where they were. And thankfully, I’d brought my phone along, so I could text them from the endlessly long finishing chute. I kept accepting things offered to me so I ended up with an improbable number of beverages, a space blanket, a rad finisher metal and so forth. I’d given T a bag with my finish line stuff, so I was able to change my shoes and put warm clothes on without dealing with bag check lines.

We walked back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. I really wanted to wear this:

IMG_3683And while M and Reed approved via text and Facebook friends gave them the thumbs up, my compression socks were vetoed by the group who had to actually be seen in public with me. 🙂

We went to the tapas place in the hotel to use up a $100 dining credit that my brother had gotten when he booked the room. Should you find yourself in Vegas, check out Julian Serrano. You’ll be glad you did. The decor is super cool:

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IMG_3692The food is AMAZING:

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IMG_3695And I was blessed with lovely company:

IMG_3688We tried a lot of different dishes and I swear that every one of them was amazing. (I might have been an easy audience.) Afterward, we met up with Reed at Chandelier Bar. Reed had not had a good race either, but at least we had a cool space to compare war stories:

IMG_3699Even though the race didn’t go the way I wanted it to speed-wise, I still had an amazing time doing it. It’s a truly epic race experience and I would definitely come do it again. It would be a great destination for another group half-marathon (hint, hint ladies!) Though in the future, I would recommend coming in on Saturday and then spend more time enjoying Vegas post-race. All of the pre-race hijinks definitely didn’t help my performance. 🙂

Sneaky Thanksgiving

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I’m not sure how it happened, but Thanksgiving completely blind-sided me this year. I swear it was Halloween last week. Given this, I’m particularly thankful that our friends Jenn & Bryan are hosting! If it were up to me to host, we’d be eating turkey pot pies or something. 😉

But it wouldn’t be Seattle Thanksgiving without the Turkey Trot, so we were up early for my fifth consecutive race. M’s goal was to walk the whole thing, because she’s a bad-ass. (We’ve done these races together every year, so why let pregnancy get in the way?)

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IMG_3476I think each year the race gets a little bigger and the start more crazy. T and I ran it together and it took a lot of weaving and maneuvering to find space to run. I considered it excellent practice for Vegas. I didn’t have any big plans to race it hard or anything, but somehow couldn’t stop myself from pushing the pace. It wasn’t the balls-out pacing of last year, but I still managed my second fastest time, so I was pleased. When we got to the finish line, I was entertained to see texts from Martha that they were last, then this amusing shot of her with the sweeper motorcycle (who isn’t doing a great job because you can see Turkey Trotters behind her… )

IMG_7217By the time T and I jogged back to meet them, they’d taken out a lot of other walkers and were no longer even close to last. (We also learned that the reason they were last was that they’d stopped by the house so she could pee. Awesome!) We walked in with them and got to enjoy a whole other level of the Turkey Trot. Before long we were round the corner toward the finish line:

IMG_3480Then, finally, the finish line and victory!

IMG_3483I think this might be the most impressive of M’s five finishes. I can’t wait to see what next year holds…

Afterward, we had bagels at M & J’s place with their friends Kathy and Spoons, who were in town from the Bay Area to visit family. It was a lively gathering and fun to catch up. Then it was home to chill out for a few hours before heading over to Jenn & Bryan’s house. It was a good-sized group of friends. Erin and David were in town and then M, J and Timmion would be joining us. (It was like a Seabrooke reunion!) Erin struck a pose in front of the lovely table:

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Then there was some sort of pre-dinner belly bump:
IMG_3487T is excited for dinner, but not so much his picture being taken:

IMG_3490Then all picture-taking stopped in the flurry of delicious food, wine and good friends. It was a wonderful evening that highlighted just how blessed I am to have such a great group of friends. I’m especially grateful to Jenn & Bryan for their magnificent hosting.

 

 

 

 

 

Truth in advertising: Leadman Epic 125 race report

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I’m going to try (TRY) to constrain myself and not write a Russian novel. We’ll see what happens…

PRE-RACE:
M dropped me off at 0-dark-thirty to catch my bus up to the race start. (She wisely opted not to spend two hours of bus riding for the privilege of freezing her butt off and watching me swim for a few minutes/then bike away.) The bus got lost (we’d later learn that most of the buses would have this problem) and had to make a u-turn on the highway. As punishment for his lack of preparedness, the driver had to endure a bunch of Type-A triathletes giving him directions and consulting their various smart phones. So, getting on the bus at 5:30 was well worth it, as I still had plenty of time to set up and get ready, unlike the two people doing the longer race which was supposed to start in ten minutes. Whoopsie.

Artistic representation of how the race start feels…

It was very chilly and there was lots of nervous chatter as we set up our racks about what people were planning to do for the start of the bike. I was apparently the only person who wasn’t freaked out about being cold. I put the toe covers on my bike shoes and prepared some arm warmers. My reasoning was that it was only likely to be cold for the first 20 minutes, but could be very warm for the other 3+ hours…

I ran into AndyPants in the change tent, so I hung out with her while she got into her wetsuit. It was hard to leave the warm tent, but we forced ourselves. I was grateful to have she and Phil to hang out with pre-race. Joking around took away a lot of my pre-race jitters.

SWIM: (2.5K, 47:49)
It was an in-water start at a buoy maybe 300 yards away. My wave was the last of four, but there was apparently some confusion with the other waves because it was a bit of a free-for-all. There were people on the shore whose waves had already gone off, (who clearly didn’t realize how far away the buoy was), so there were people sprinting to get out to the buoy for the start. Not helping matters was the fact that the 250k racers (who had to do two laps of our course) were having to come up out of the water, around the dock and back into the water. It was chaos. Plus the water was very shallow, so as we were swimming, we’d hit our hands on the rocks at the bottom. The good news was that when we got out to the buoy we could still stand on the bottom, which made for a very relaxing way to wait for our wave to go off. Sadly, there were only about half the women that should have been there, so a number of peoples race were off to a bad start…

My start was a bit rough. My lack of swim fitness + the altitude + the adrenaline of the race start = I couldn’t catch my breath. But luckily, I could stop, stand up and gather my wits. After a few deep breaths, I was off again. The water was crystal clear and I could see the bottom for much of the swim. At one point, I saw a teeny tiny lobster (crayfish) on the bottom. There were folks around me, but nobody got in my way or jostled me. I focused on a nice steady stroke and tried not to get too distracted by all of the various things we could see on the crystal clear lake. (ooh, lava rocks! Oooh, another lobster/crayfish… )

The end of my swim matched the start. I was following the buoy line, blissfully unaware that I should have been angling to my left toward the swim exit. A nice woman in a kayak pointed me in the right direction, which was unfortunately right into the sun. Since I couldn’t see anything except for the sun, it was a bit of a mess. I also didn’t want to hit the rocks again, so I kept stopping and starting. Not my best swim ever. Good news was that the course was almost certainly short, so my time was better than I expected.

T1: (6:10)
Thanks to my decision not to change clothes, I had a pretty quick transition. A nice lady helped me out of my wetsuit and I was able to change into my gear relatively quickly, considering my frozen hands. There was an Asian family waiting for a racer the next rack over watching me, which was disconcerting (especially since transition is supposed to be for racers only) but they weren’t in my way, so I just ignored them and went on with my day.

Bike: (106K, 4:28)
I felt surprisingly good at the start of the bike. Usually I feel a bit dizzy and disoriented, but I felt great right away. I got into my aero bars and just focused on taking advantage of my legs feeling strong. I also kept on top of my eating and drinking and not surprisingly, that helped me continue feeling good. I was largely by myself, except for the faster 250k racers who would pass me every so often. It was actually nice to be around the fast people, it made me feel like a really good swimmer. 😉

There was a long section of slight uphill as we approached the mid-way point of the course. There was an aid station around mile 30 and I stopped to use the port-a-potty. A number of racers were there as I got in and I was surprised to hear how much complaining about the “climbing” there was. Since we weren’t at the actual climb yet, I felt bad for them. As for myself, I felt really good. I was a bit worried about the long climb ahead. I remembered it as being rather brutal. But as I climbed I kept waiting for that “really bad climb” that I remembered from Pacific Crest, but it never came. That was nice.

Finally I hit the long descent back into town. There was brand new pavement, which was really fun to ride on. There were some cross-winds that made it a little scary at times. I willed myself to relax and tried not to think about crashing. There was a distinct smell of smoke and a brownish tint to the air ahead, which meant the winds from the area wildfires were not in our favor. Hmmm… I came around the turn into transition to see M waiting for me, cameraphone in hand:

(I apologize to my former coach for the locked elbows… )

T2: (3:34)
I gave M the highlights as I changed into my run gear. She had me pose for a quick picture:

And then yelled at me to get moving. (Love that girl!)

“Run”: (16.5K, 2:29)
I headed out, feeling good about my race thus far. My feet and legs felt like they usually do after a long bike. I plodded along for a bit, waiting for everything to loosen up. What was different this time was my lungs. I kept having to take walk breaks to cough up a lung. It was getting a bit ridiculous and kept getting worse the more I tried to run. I stopped at the first aid station to get some water and cough for a bit. It eventually became clear that the only way to make forward progress without hacking up a lung was to walk. If I’d had more run fitness, a jog might have been possible, but c’est la vie.

The run course itself was gorgeous, but definitely tough. There were lots of rolling hills and spots where it wasn’t entire clear where I was supposed to go. But there were aid stations every mile and they had these wonderful icy cold wet towels. And potato chips. And coke. Ahhhh… So, while I was sad at how slowly I was going, I was pretty pleased at how good my stomach felt. I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on this whole nutrition situation…

I forced myself to run the last mile, smokers cough be damned, and FINALLY found myself crossing the bridge to the finish line. M was there to snap a photo:

Given my lack of swim and run training for this race, I was actually really happy with the whole experience. I felt great right away (as opposed to the post-race nausea I usually suffer from.) AndyPants was at the finish line, so M & I hung out with her for a little while. I felt so good that I was able to claim my free post-race Deschutes beer:

There was a band that was good, but a little loud for the usual post-race chit-chat. So, we only stayed for a little while before packing up and heading back to the hotel.

Final time: 7:54:56.
Despite this being one of my slower races, I was really proud of my race. The course and conditions were definitely epic and I didn’t come to this race nearly as well-prepared as I’ve been in races past. But I had fun and for the most part felt great. I definitely want to come back again for a rematch. I think I have the potential to have a really great race here. Plus, I ended up getting third in my age group (due to the fact that four of the seven people in my age group didn’t start), but it’s closer to the podium than I’ve ever been before, so I’ll take it. 🙂

Post-race:
We stopped at a Jamba Juice for a little post-race treat. M got the tiniest smoothie I’ve ever seen:

And we returned to the room for a date with the giant bathtub, followed by putting our feet up and watching The Proposal on TV.

It was a heavenly way to end a long day.

 

 

 

 

Not exactly flying…

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In an effort to get us on track with our training, I’d signed us up for the Flying Wheels ride. There were options to ride 25, 45, 65 and 100 miles. We were vacillating between the 45 and the 65, but ultimately decided to go for the 65 and see what happened. It was cold, gray and windy at the start line, which was not putting me in a good mood. After a lengthy porta-potty line, we got the bikes off of the car and headed for check-in. As I wheeled Slim over, something was wrong. The front brake was rubbing the front wheel really badly. I’d been having random issues with that brake before, but nothing this bad. There was no way I was going to make it over all of those hills with this situation.

Luckily, there was a bike mechanics tent to help deal with it. (I’m not sure why this is, but for some reason I won’t believe T’s diagnosis unless someone else backs him up. So, despite him telling me the wheel was out of true, I didn’t really take it seriously until the REI guy confirmed it.) The wheel was part of the problem, but ultimately I’d have to take it to a shop with more tri bike experience to get it fixed. He was able to adjust the brakes so they weren’t rubbing and cautioned me to be careful on the downhills. (Great, that’s what me and my scaredy cat descending need to hear… )

With a heart filled with whining and dread, we headed out. The lovely thing about riding is that it’s hard to stay grumpy for long. Before long, I was passing people and feeling much more cheerful. As out of shape and slow at climbing as I am, there’s nothing like a big organized ride to make you feel better about yourself. I was passing people on all of the climbs, it was awesome! Before long, we made it to the 20 mile mark and a decision, do we go for the 65 or play it safe with the 45? Right or left? We chose the hard road and went for the 65:

With the food stop still 11 miles up, we took a moment to eat a little snack and snap a few more pictures. (I really wish I could take photos while riding, but I’m too afraid of dropping my phone… )

T also managed to get a flat. That boy has skills, I tell you.

The 11 miles to the aid station flew by and it was nice to refill our bottles and get some snacks. We were feeling pretty good, despite the fact that my nose would not stop running. I’m not sure if there was some sort of pollen in the air or what, but it was seriously disgusting. As the ride continued, I started feeling my lack of bike fitness in the form of cramping in my quads and just general fatigue. By the time we got to the next aid station, I was pretty pooped and we still had approximately 25 more miles to ride.

We took a nice long rest and I loaded up on some salty pretzels in the hopes that my leg cramps were electrolyte related. (No such luck.) I knew the last section had a big whopper of a hill and I was not looking forward to it. In addition to my runny nose, I was getting chills and feeling like crap. As we got closer to the big climb, I was feeling worse and worst. Finally, I decided to send the boy ahead of me and head back to Carnation, the town near the last aid station. They had a Starbucks where I could wait for T in relative comfort.

All in all, I managed about 53 miles. Which is twice as long as any rides I’ve done this year, so I should be pleased with that. I’m choosing to blame my weird head cold thing for my lack of perseverance, but I’m also struggling with my mojo right now. Somehow, I need to get back on track…