Monday, September 24, 2012


The best way to describe Vegas is WOW.  What else can one expect though, Vegas is known for all it's lights, parties, late nights, and gambling.  The WOW factor is huge in Vegas, this time I experienced it in a totally different way.

My WOW began as soon as I took my first step outside.  We arrived late thursday night; expecting the temps to feel warm but definitely not HOT.  Even at 11:00pm it was HOT!  Immediately I thought about the race and all the things I needed to do the few days before, in order to prepare properly for this kind of dry heat.  I started off with putting The Right Stuff (sodium) in my water bottles before bed every night and making sure I consumed enough water and electrolytes throughout the day.  It is too easy to get behind on water, especially in dry heat; you really don't realize how much you are sweating because it evaporates so quickly.

Speaking of the heat, I experienced it full fledge on Friday.  I had a later start to the day than I had hoped.  Getting in late Thursday night, left me with building my bike Friday morning.  Needless to say, a later start meant a longer day in the heat.  I did my easy pre-race run late morning, the heat wasn't too bad then, but I was expecting it to get up to 110+ degrees later in the afternoon; just in time for my easy ride.   Well, the easy ride certainly didn't feel as easy as I had hoped.  The only thing I could contribute to my lack of energy and push on the bike was the heat and hydration.  My legs felt fresh during my morning run, so it couldn't have been recovery.  I just chalked it up to post travel day and made a mental note of WATER, WATER, WATER!

Sure enough, Sat morning I was able to get out a bit earlier for my ride; I felt like a new woman.  Granted, the night before I made sure I topped off my water and electrolyte stores.  I would rather feel like I was going to float away vs. being dehydrated.  Keeping in mind, too much of anything can be bad.  So the remainder of the day went well.  I popped in at the expo for a bit, went to our pro meeting, and set T2 gear out; well everything but my First Endurance flask and bottles.  The plan was to freeze my fuel belt bottles and an extra water bottle to pour over my head as I was running through transition.  Anything to keep my core temperature down.

Being that this race was a point to point on the bike, it made race morning routine a bit more hectic.  First thing in the morning we went to T2 to drop off nutrition, then T1.  All went very smoothly.  Both Transitions were set up well, very easy to maneuver through and set up without any glitches.  I could definitely tell a lot of time was put into all the logistics of this race.  Yet again, another WOW factor.

Just before the race began, I went through my checklist of must have's one more time, nutrition check, Garmin Edge check, Garmin watch check, cap and goggles check, cycling shoes check, chip and swimskin check; ready to go!  We got in the water about 10min before swim start for warm up.  As soon as I got in, I quickly realized I wasn't going to need that much of a warm up; the water felt like bath water.  A good solid 5 min, just to get the blood flowing did the trick.  I didn't want to begin sweating any earlier than I needed to.  At the 30sec countdown, I was treading water with my hand on the start button of my Garmin; the most nerve racking part of the entire race.

As soon as the fog horn started, I was immediately taken back for a second or two.  My goggles were knocked off up to my forehead.  I quickly pulled them back down and off I went.  I still found myself amongst the cluster of women, fighting for our spot.  The field probably didn't spread out until the first turn bouy.  Even then, we all mostly swam either in a line on each others feet or side by side trying to take advantage of one another's draft.  As we got to the swim exit, we all piled out one right after the other, sometimes 2-3 at a time.  This meant I needed a quick transition.

T1 was smooth, however, running up and out of transition was a doozy; hills everywhere!  Once I was on the bike, I knew I needed to pay close attention to my Garmin Edge 500.  I didn't want to over do it and burn my legs out on the first long climb.  I had a certain average power I didn't want to go over.  It was tough though, within the first few minutes I was passed on the bike.   I stuck to my plan, and let them go.  I could only hope I was going to see them again later on in the race; sure enough, I did.  It was fun passing them back along with some other ladies who had gone out too hard initially.  The hills and heat definitely took a toll on the legs the second half of the bike. To my surprise, I was feeling ok; the plan had worked so far.  Coming into T2 I was sitting mid pack, I believe.  Again, I needed a fast transition.  Another lady had come in just before me.

T2 was seamless, grabbed my gear bag, ran into the tent, dumped my stuff out and quickly grabbed.  The volunteers were great!  they were there to help if I needed and stepped a way if I didn't. I was thrilled that my fuel belt bottles were still cold and that extra bottle came in handy.  I doused myself with cold water as I was running out of T2; just in front of Missy.  I was doing everything I could to keep my core temp down.

I lapped my Garmin and onto the run.  This run course was tough; all uphill or downhill, never really a place to chill.  Either your legs were being hammered from the uphill or the pounding on the quads from the downhill.  I tell you what though, I will take a downhill over an uphill any day.  Especially when there are 3 loops of them.  I felt good during the first 2+ loops.  Then when the last long (2.5ish mile) hill came around, all I could think about was get to the top and it will be free sailing home.  Quick feet, lean forward, and catch that girl!  I was grabbing everything I could at each aid station, the fun part was, the young volunteers got a kick out of the idea of throwing water on me as I ran by.  After the first loop of me asking them to throw it at me, it seemed as if they couldn't wait for me to come back around.  I at least got to giggle when I saw how excited they were when they realized it was me running by again; throw it, throw it, they would tell one another.  Sure made it easier when I was grabbing, pouring, drinking, and shoving ice or sponges down my jersey.  By the time I got to the top of that last climb, I felt like I was crawling.  I quickly reminded myself that everyone looked about the same.  The combination of the hot dry air, heat coming from the pavement, and hills, everyone for the most part was down to a bouncy shuffle. As I crested the hill, I smiled; home stretch!  I was happy to see the finish line.  I was also happy with my overall race.  The plan was to have a good nutrition plan in the heat and finish top 20.  This field was STACKED!  I finished 15th; knowing my strengths and the areas I need to work on.  Next year, top 10!!!

I'm not sure what went through more wear and tear during that race; my body or race gear.  The beating that everything took and held up to a tee is amazing; that's including myself!  My nutrition plan (First Endurance and The Right Stuff- additional sodium) got me through the heat and hills.  All the Zoot race gear left me unchaffed and ready for more.  My Garmin's (bike computer and running watch) kept me going when I was hurting.  Thanks First Endurance, Zoot Sports, Garmin, The Right Stuff (sodium), Colorado Multisport, Pro Energy Towel for all your support and outstanding gear/products!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mile high to Sea Level

Well overdue race reports (Boulder 70.3 to Steelhead 70.3)...

After a month and a half of a training block, I was ready to race the Boulder 70.3.  Initially this race wasn't on my race schedule.  I have never liked racing at altitude so I was planning to avoid it all costs.  As time got closer, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to race in my own backyard.  I had high expectations for Boulder.  Coming off my training block, I felt like I was fit.  Time after time I was surprising myself with pacing and power.  Now it was time to test my fitness in a race.

Race morning went smoothly; can't beat sleeping in a little more and riding to the race sight.  Mentally and physically, I felt great!  After setting up transition and going for a 10min jog, I hoped in the water to finish my warm up.  So far everything has gone according to plan.

The fog horn sounds, the battle begins.  Immediately my heart rate sky rockets and I was doing everything I could to get out of the cluster of women.  Just as I'm getting to the first turn bouy, the field spreads out a bit and I was able to get into a rhythm.  I could no longer see the first pack, so I focused on my sighting and searched for one bouy after the other.  Several thoughts ran through my head, some  of which were, "my stroke doesn't feel good"; "I feel like I'm spinning my wheels."  My positive thoughts of feeling ready quickly turned into, just get me out of the water and onto the bike.  Those negative thoughts were quickly reversed when my coach shouted at me, you're sitting 3rd, as I was coming out of the water.  That was a nice reminder, that I don't always have to feel good to perform well.  In this case, my stroke felt bad but I was but I was swimming well.

T1 went very smoothly, I even managed to do a modified flying mount.  In the past, I have been worried about getting my leg caught up on the back water bottle.  With a little practice, I'm now able to do it in a race...practice makes perfect, right?!  I absolutely loved the bike course; knowing all the in's and outs, really helped.  I knew when to push and when to hold back because I knew what was coming up. I also really enjoyed the bike because it suited me; a combination of rolling hills and flats; not to mention training partners on my tail pushing me.

Nutrition has been an issue the past couple of races, I made my bottles too concentrated so my stomach couldn't tolerate it.  After making a few adjustments during training, I was thrilled to find out that the adjustments were spot on.  Not one stomach issue on the bike and all kinds of energy!  You can't go wrong with First endurance products as long as you stick to their protocol of nothing more than a 8% mixture.  As soon as I diluted my calorie bottles, I was a happy camper.   Boulder was a prime example of this; great energy on the bike and into the run.

T2 didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked.  I struggled to find my bike.  I also started racing with a fuel belt.  My biggest fear was the bottle was going to come out of the holster; it did.  I stopped and grabbed it as I was running out of T2.  Once I was running, I got right into a rhythm, mentally getting myself ready for the climbs to come.  First loop went smooth and right on pace.  As I started the second loop and began the run up the first hill, I could begin to feel the fatigue setting into my legs.  Just two more hills to climb and then on the home stretch; so I thought.  I got to the top of the last climb, asked my legs to go, but there was no go left.  I struggled with getting my turn-over back.  Needless to say, the last 4 miles were rough.  Hindsight tells me I took the first 3 miles out a little too hard, which then showed its ugly head the last 4 miles of the run.

Overall, Boulder 70.3 was ok.  I finally figured out my nutrition, had a good swim and bike.  I also reminded myself that its super important  to hold back the first 3 miles.  Early in the season there was no holding back because I wasn't coming off the bike feeling good.

Recovery week...
Hard week...
Taper week for Steelhead 70.3...

Not enough time to gain more fitness, most things just clicked.  Steelhead 70.3 was a fun race.  It's suited for the athlete that likes a mostly flat bike course with a few rollers and false flats, as well as a fairly flat run course with 1 moderate climb and 2 short steep climbs.  It's a good run course to try and PR on.

My race started out really well with my host family, the Osborn's.  I couldn't have asked for  a better family to stay with!  They were super accommodating, they took me in like one of their own.  The good energy continued into race morning.  Once again, I was close enough to ride to transition.  Temps were cool but supposed to warm up throughout the day, water temps were supposedly chilly; 65 degrees.  I struggled with deciding if I wear my Zoot sleeveless or sleeved wetsuit; I went with the sleeved one.  I wish I would have gone with the sleeveless.  I remember thinking, my legs feel like they are radiating heat as I was swimming.  I have got to mention how well the swim course was set up.  It was a point to point, often times its hard to know where you are at during the swim if it's point to point; not this time. The first half the bouys were yellow, the second half the bouys were orange.  What a great set up.  I was out in front just behind one other female, who was far enough in front to where I could barely see hers.  I was thankful the course was a no brainer.

T1 was flawless.  Second out of the water and first onto the bike.  The bike was fairly boring until a pit bull decided to charge.  He crossed the street in front of me, and shortly there after decided to charge another female, knocking her off her bike and ending her race.  I was afraid that was going to happen to; glad it didn't and glad Ashley was ok.  The majority of the course consists of false flats and some rolling hills towards the back end of the course.  I never really felt great on the bike, but I was riding well.  Again, it proves that you don't have to feel great to perform fairly well.  I was passed on the bike with about 5miles to go; I kept her in my sights.  T2 went as smoothly as T1; in and out.  This time I didn't have any fuel belt mishaps.

I was thrilled with how I felt coming off the bike; good energy and ready to run.  I took advantage of the slight downhill during the first half mile.  Then we hit our first good climb.  I really payed attention to my pacing the first 3 miles; I didn't want another repeat of Boulder, running out the gates too hard.  Before I knew it I was at mile 6, getting ready to go up the second climb (short and steep); still feeling good and sitting in second.  By the time I got to mile 9 and still was holding pace, I knew I was going to be able to finish hard; Just didn't know I was going to have to finish as hard as I did.  At mile 12+, I realized there was someone gaining ground on me.  I picked up my pace, it ended up being a little too early.  With about a 1/2 mile to go, Lindsey Smith came up on me, I tried to go with her but I didn't have the legs to match her pace.  In hindsight, I would have waited to push my pace when she came up on me so I could sit right with her and try to out sprint her at the finish; lesson learned.  Funny thing is, Lindsey is a Zoot Ultra Team teammate; I teased her as she was passing me when I knew I couldn't respond, with "you are killing me!"  I tried to distract her and take advantage; it didn't work :).  In the end, I finished 3rd with a run PR.

Best part is, I had a ton of fun out there.  My sponsors make it so much easier to race and travel all over the country. Thanks to First Endurance, Zoot Sports, Pro Energy Towel, The Right Stuff (Electrolytes); Zico Coconut Water, Colorado Multisport (bike shop)!!!  You all are a huge help and make amazing products