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!!!