Saturday, June 8, 2019

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work - Swim Around Key West Race Report

I’ve wanted to chase this race for four years now.  It was a seed that had been planted, and I promised myself that when logistics were right, I would not hesitate to sign up for it.  While I absolutely agree with the “do not put off tomorrow what you can do today” motto, sometimes there are obstacles in the way between you and your goals/dreams, and sometimes all you can do is put one foot in front of the other for one season in life in order to get to the next.  Four years ago at this time, I was flying to Cali to meet doctors about fixing my hip, and it would still be six months more before I had the THR.  Four years ago at this time, hubs and I were still living in separate households, and it would be another three years before God would move that mountain and bring us together under one household again.  When that transition finally happened last summer, I knew it was time for the next challenge.  My love for swimming runs deep, I’ve been a swimmer all of my life, from age group swimming to high school swimming to collegiate swimming, and finally full circle to becoming a coach myself of a high school swim team.  This sport is embedded deep in my soul, and I am forever grateful for the lessons it has taught me, and for all of the people who came into my life because of it – people who inspired me to keep raising the bar in all that I did, and challenged me to bring my best self to the table each and every time.  One of those very important people who continue to inspire and challenge me is my husband.  Through the major ups and downs we’ve had this past half decade he has been my rock, and one of my biggest cheerleaders.  I wanted to do a race that we could train for and race together, and Swim Around Key West fit very much into that category.  It was time to finally put this race on the docket.  And there was no one I wanted more to be my kayaker sherpa than my hubs.  Thirteen years ago we went to The Florida Keys as babies on our honeymoon; we would now be returning to race this event together – so much nostalgia and memories wrapped up in one of our favorite places, it would be a weekend to remember.

All checked in and ready to race!

All #smashfestqueen #matchymatchy for check-in!

When I do this race again I will most definitely travel on Thursday.  Our Friday travel day started early at 330 am getting ready to catch a 530 am flight.  After landing in Miami, it was another several hours drive to Key West.  We did stop for lunch on the way at Island Fish Co. in Marathon, a place we had eaten at thirteen years ago on our honeymoon as well.  So much fun traveling down memory lane!  When we arrived at our hotel (we stayed at Ocean’s Edge Resort, which I would highly recommend), we dropped off our bags, then headed for check-in.  Picked up my packet, and chatted with the race organizer, Bill Welzien, for a bit.  He is such a cool guy!  And such a badass!  This race was going to be his 107th time around Key West!!!!!!!  I was getting really excited, and also nervous, this was really happening!!!!!  I was really going to get the chance to chase this swim!!!!!!!!  After the pre-race meeting we went back to our hotel, ordered room service, got the nutrition bottles ready, and then hit the hay.  The alarm clock came early (but not as early as Friday! Lol!) at 445 am, and we got up and got going.  I had my norm of cereal and a banana.  And I applied the first coat of sunscreen of the SolRx, a sunscreen I had purchased at check in the day before, that had been highly recommended by the race organizer and other fellow swimmers since it was zinc oxide based.  It was either that or slathering myself with Desitin, which I had brought a big tube of that just in case.  I knew the sun would be relentless, and even though my goal time was 5 hours, I had no idea how long I would actually be out there, I didn’t know what the ocean would have in store for us.  We headed to the race site which was about a 10 minute drive from our hotel.  The race started and ended at Smathers Beach.  We checked out our kayak and then checked in to get the flag and race number that would need to be attached to it.  I applied a second coat of sunscreen and situated my water and nutrition bottles in the kayak.  Hubs applied his sunscreen and got his camelbak ready.  At this time the first group was heading out to the post for their start.  It would be an in water start and a beach finish.  There were 10 posts that would be our home stretch –we would start the race at the 10th post and then at the end of the race we would round the 10th post and swim the 150 yards towards the beach finish.  The first group would be taking off at 615, the larger group would be the second group (the one I was in) heading out at 630.  After the first group took off, the second group needed to start heading for the post because it would take us a few minutes to wade through the seaweed.  Immediately as we headed off of the beach, there were these thick mats of Sargassum seaweed, which often you can find them floating in the open ocean, serving as a food source, as well as a habitat for many ocean creatures, but in this case large quantities washed ashore, and omg that stuff was hard to get through.  My back actually seized after I fought through it just to get to the start, so I did some breaststroke and some sculling as I headed towards the start to try to work it out.  We had a few minutes of treading water, one of the competitors was sharing advice from her swim last year, to enjoy the first 10k, but just know by the second 10k you will be ready to be done.  All of us laughed at that, knowing we would be experiencing that soon enough.  I spotted my hubs off in the distance in the kayak and we both waved at each other, he would have to find me again after the start.  Waves from the tide coming in kept pushing us into one another, there was an excitement in the air, and there were cheers all around.  The sun was rising off in the distance as our group took off, and my swim had officially begun!

So I will say that the start of this swim felt more chaotic than the mass start of an ironman swim.  There were a total of 176 swimmers – 109 solo swimmers and 67 relay swimmers.  Each solo swimmer had a kayaker so that means 100+ kayaks as well at the start, with kayakers trying to find their swimmers, and vice versa.  I sprinted at the start like I always have done in previous races in order to get out of the masses, but this time that strategy did not work as well since I couldn’t find my kayaker, and couldn’t sight worth a crap with the other kayakers and swimmers scattered everywhere.  I kept putting my head down and swimming, figuring that the hubs would find me eventually, or at least I hoped so, or it would be a short day for me out there without my nutrition.  The incoming tide coupled with a strong breeze gave us some decent waves to contend with early on.  I was getting pummeled wave after wave –it made it difficult to sight, I kept swallowing water, and I still could not find my kayaker and was getting frustrated.  I kept just putting one arm in front of the other, and could see the pier in the distance, and kept swimming towards it.  The waves were relentless and I felt like I was going nowhere, and was already giving myself a pep talk that it might be a longer day than I had anticipated out there, so I was sure glad I had brought extra nutrition just in case.  At that moment I spotted the hubs, and was trying to signal him that he needed to be on my left since that’s the side I breathe the most on, so I could just sight the kayak from here on out since he had the course map in his GPS.  He did not immediately move to my left, I was already exasperated, so I popped up and yelled “I need you on my left!  Why aren’t you on my left?!”  Later he would tell me he could not move right up next to me on my left because the tide would have probably pushed the kayak right into me.  So he had to move more in front of me instead.  I am usually fairly strong at sighting but the chaotic start coupled with trying to find my kayaker, I had miscalculated my distance to the pier.  I suddenly realized that I was not far enough on the outside of the longest pier.  I was on the inside and heading for it fast so I had to quickly veer left to make my way around it but at this point I was super close to the edge of it and I was like omg I am about to get worked right into this pier! Swim! Swim! Swim!  I sprinted past that part then I was ready for a swig of my nutrition, so hubs and I figured that out amongst the crazy waves, and I was ready to settle into a good rhythm.  I have to admit that I was a little demoralized in this section.  I mean, I knew going in that there are no guarantees with an ocean swim, that the ocean is going to do what the ocean is going to do, just like the weather, and we would just have to roll with it.  But as the waves kept pummeling swimmers and kayakers alike, not only did my 5 hour finish goal time seem like a pipe dream, but I was like holy geez I hope I can finish!  Forward momentum was the name of the game, so I just kept moving, and I continued to get tossed around until about the 2.5 mile mark.  Suddenly, it was like the waves had calmed, and we even caught a gentle push ever so often.  It was almost as if the ocean was congratulating us on getting through that first section – Way to go guys! Congrats on making it through!  Enjoy the day!  The first 2.5 miles were definitely the “How Bad Do You Want It” miles because it definitely shook my confidence coming right out of the gate.  I felt like miles 3 through 4.5ish were my “In the Zone” miles because in these miles I had found a solid rhythm, and was staying on top of my nutrition.  I kept my eyes peeled for the big yellow buoy at mile 4, which would signal a relay exchange point, and I would have a good idea if I was on pace to hit my goal for the day.  I felt like I kept swimming forever, and was disappointed that I had not seen the buoy yet.  Looking at my watch I was bummed to see that I was probably headed for a 6 hour finish time.  The sun was blinding me at this point, so I came up for another nutrition stop, and a goggle switch.  I mentioned to the hubs that I was annoyed that I had not seen the relay exchange point at mile 4, and although I felt fine in the water, I must have slipped off pace somewhere along the way.  He pointed out that the exchange point was behind us, and the mile 5 bridge at Fleming Cut was just ahead!  I was so overjoyed!  I was on pace! Yasssssssssssss! 

I headed for the bridge with a big smile on my face, and miles 4.5ish through 7.5ish were my “Super Stoked-Overjoyed-Grateful” miles because I was in such a happy place, just super stoked to be on pace, and super stoked to have had the opportunity to take part in such a fun race!  Crazy side note story about the bridge – the race organizer told us at the pre-race meeting that like 4 weeks ago a barge had hit that bridge, and the damage caused by the crash forced the bridge to be closed for repair.  Well the city told him no problem, it will just take a week or so, it’ll be done in plenty of time before the race!  Then two weeks, and so on and so forth!  They had finally just finished it like a week before the race!  I was just so happy to be swimming underneath this bridge!  5 miles done and dusted!  Wooohooooo!!!! Almost halfway!!!!  So as we went under the bridge we had to veer left because we would be swimming around a small key just above Key West called Dredgers Key.  There is a road connecting Key West to Dredgers Key, so unless we wanted to do a little swimrun section, we would have to swim around Dredgers Key in order to circumvent Key West.  Again, miles 6 and 7 were fairly uneventful.  I stopped and took nutrition when I needed to, felt like I was holding a solid pace, and was enjoying looking at all of the fish swimming along the bottom.  A couple of times near the 7.5 mark, I popped up and asked hubs if we were almost around the key because I felt like I was not getting any closer to the end of it.  I definitely rely quite a bit on sighting myself so just sighting the kayak in places did get frustrating for me.  Miles 7.5-9 I like to refer to as the “Getting Super Impatient” miles because as I rounded Dredgers Key as I was heading across the harbor, I was looking for the mile 9 marker, the Cow Key Bridge, but I could not see it.  We actually couldn’t see it until we were right up on it because it was covered by so many large trees, so once we rounded all of the trees it came into view.  I think every few strokes of this section I kept asking hubs where the bridge was, and he always responded the same, that he could not see it either but we were following the line on his GPS so we were good to go.  I just needed to see mile 9!!!!!  I was also grateful during this section because crossing the deep harbor the water temp must have dropped 5 degrees at least, if not more.  Most of the race we swam in 85 degree waters, which is nice and toasty, so this cooler section was a much welcomed reprieve.  The bridge could not come into view fast enough.  My shoulders were sore and my energy had waned.  And I felt like everyone was passing me!  Where are all of these people coming from?!  Am I really bonking this bad?!  I said as much to the hubs and he reminded me that there was a relay exchange point at mile 8, so there were more bodies around us than there had been the previous couple of miles.  Finally, the bridge came into sight!!!!  Yassssssssssssssss!!!!!  9 miles down, 3.5 to go!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I refer to that mile through the channel as the “Wheeeeee!!!” mile because now the tide was going back out, so we had some help going through it, which was sooo nice this late in the race!  I pushed hard down this channel to take advantage of the current, just like I would a tailwind on the bike.  As we finished the channel and hit the mile 10 mark at the seawall, the real work at the back half of this race began.  I refer to that mile between 10 and 11 as the “Meltdown” mile, which I think the actual meltdown happened closer to mile 11.  The push through the channel was nice, but now I felt like I was at a dead stop, and any forward movement was futile.  I just wasn’t going anywhere.  I was not any closer to rounding the seawall than I was ten minutes ago.  My stroke felt terrible, my shoulders were on fire, and I was exhausted.  I was getting extremely exasperated with myself, popped up to get my nutrition from hubs, and then the tears came.  “I can’t do this!” I wailed as I grabbed my nutrition from him.  “I can see the finish tent on the beach!  It’s right over there!  You can backstroke or breaststroke it in at this point!” he pointed out to me.  Yes, a mile and a half is not far at all after already swimming 11 miles, yet it can still seem like an eternity.  The last 1.5 miles of this race I like to refer to as the “Finding Another Gear” miles.  I started descending my swim at mile 11, and when I finally spotted the posts down the home stretch, I sprinted that last three quarters of a mile.  My plan was to reel in all the swimmers that I could.  My shoulders were still on fire but I didn’t care, I wanted to make my 5 hour goal time and the clock was ticking.  I dug deep and found that extra gear in order to chase down my rabbits.  I came up on the first swimmer and their kayaker at about the first post, and by the second post I had passed them.  That’s one!  I kept pushing myself as hard as I could go, remembering all of the big sets I had conquered in my training, that had set me up for this very moment.  By about halfway down the home stretch I came up on the second swimmer, and passed them.  That’s two!  I could see two more swimmers, one just ahead, and one much further ahead of me.  Keep sprinting!  I was reeling in the third swimmer, and by about the 8th post, I had passed them.  That’s three!  I could see the 10th post!!!!!!!  Oh man I wasn’t going to make it to the 4th swimmer!  I kept pushing hard and rounded the post just behind her.  I had about 150 yards to catch her before we reached the finish.  My mind just kept repeating over and over – There’s not enough pool left!  There’s not enough pool left!  I was moving my jelly arms and kicking my legs as fast as I could.  It was a “balls to the wall” all out 150 yard sprint.  And I caught her!!!!!!!  Yassssssss!!!! I gained about a body length on her (what hubs told me after, I couldn’t tell, I was just focused on beating her to the beach).  And remember at the beginning of this story where I mentioned there were some seaweed mats that would become quite big obstacles at the end of this thing?  Yeah, they stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was already a little disoriented as I put my feet down, and I tried to crawl as fast as I could through that stuff to the best of my abilities.  But it wasn’t fast enough.  The girl I had just passed in the water passed me back in the seaweed.  Nooooooo!  But finally (it seemed like forever but it really was only seconds) I made it through the finish on the beach, where my competitor and I congratulated each other and had a good laugh about the crazy seaweed obstacle at the end.  Hubs was pulling the kayak through the seaweed right behind me, and we reunited on the beach and celebrated!  And I was given my medallion and an actual coconut with yummy coconut water!  My watch said 5:01:04, but the official time would be 5:00:06 so I nailed my 5 hour goal time!!!!! Yasssssssssssss!!!!!!!

Success!!! Nailed my goal time!!!

I absolutely loved this race!!!!!  It was so unique and a type of race that I had never done before!!!!  I really relished this new challenge!!!!  And the best part was that my hubs could be a part of the race!!!  We had so much fun dissecting and reliving the race all weekend!  It meant so much to have him be a part of helping me to reach my goal!  And he’s not the only one!  The title of this blog came to me because I kept thinking about all of the people in my life that have inspired me, and continue to do so.  Teammates makes us want to be the very best selves that we can be.  They inspire us.  They challenge us.  They believe in you even when you may not believe in yourself.  They continue to encourage you to raise the bar in all that you do.  Whether it’s in an actual race as your sherpa, or in your training sessions pushing you to step it up to the next challenging interval, your teammates are an essential part of your dream chasing journeys.  Because without them, hitting the mark just isn’t as sweet. 

Thank you all for continuing to follow mine, and for all of your cheers, prayers, and positive vibes along the way, I could feel all of your energy out there!  And to my munchkin, you always inspire me to be the best me that I can be, one day we will be doing this race together!  And to my hubs, thank you for always being my person.  Such a fun trip down memory lane, and an incredible experience to boot!  Thank you for always encouraging me to chase my dreams!

Monday, May 7, 2018


First and foremost, always surround yourself with positive, inspiring souls who aggressively believe in you even when you forget to believe in yourself.  Then take a deep breath, make the leap, and fly.

I have not done a stand-alone marathon since 2004 (I attempted SARnR 2013 but DNFed), and my last IM marathon was IMTX 2013.  All pre-hip.  Post-hip I have done several stand-alone half marathons, as well as those in my several half IMs I have done, but it’s been awhile since I’ve tackled the marathon distance.  I was ready for the next big challenge post-hip, so instead of testing the waters with a marathon, I decided an ultra would be the way to go!  Hahahaha! Go big or go home, amiright?

The Cactus to Cloud 50k in Alamogordo, NM, had initially caught my eye.  One of the besties who had already tackled the ultra distance had sent the link to our crew as we were looking at races to do, and I felt inspired to tackle it.  It was a point to point, starting in Alamogordo, and climbing to Cloudcroft, and running the majority of the race at altitude.  My grandparents were from Alamogordo, my Mom grew up there, so I was familiar with the area and it held so many memories for me.  However, it did seem quite ambitious for my first, seeing as I haven’t trained, nor competed in any distance over 13 miles since 2013.  And logistics were going to be tricky as well, with hubs on the verge of a new job, and us getting ready for a significant transition.  So I chewed on it awhile, but in the end decided against it (turns out it got canceled anyways, so it was the right call). But I still was itching for the challenge, and started to search locally, and found one in Bastrop State Park around the same time that Cactus to Cloud was supposed to be held.  At this point one of the other besties was looking to tackle an ultra as well, so we signed up together!  It was all set!  Time to chase the ultra!!!!!!!

During this time I also decided I wanted to do Galveston 70.3 (which was four weeks before Wildflower 50k), so it was going to be a busy start to the 2018 season!  Fitness wise, Galveston worked out great, although in order to get in my long rides, I had to sacrifice not being able to get in double long runs on the weekends leading up to that race.  After Galveston 70.3, I ramped the run mileage up pretty quickly, had some great long trail, as well as road runs!  And was super stoked to finally be able to train some with Orissa!  Our training schedules just didn’t work out when I was getting in the long rides, so I was excited after my race when I could just focus on the double long runs on the weekends, and we could plan our training sessions out together!  Before we knew it, it was go time!!!!!!!!

We stayed up in Bastrop the night before the race, since the 50k started at 6am, and we would need to take a shuttle to get into the park, and it was recommended to be there an hour early for that.  So we planned on a 4 am wakeup, and getting to the shuttle area a little before 5am.  We were right on schedule, and arrived at the start line a little before 530am.  I was super stoked to see my friend Megan, who was volunteering at the race, and has been another inspiration on my ultra journey.  Just fresh off her 100k and training for a 100 miler, she not only had great advice and words of wisdom leading up to the race, but on race day as well, and it helped immensely to see her several times at the aid stations.  Soon the race director was giving final instructions, and it was almost time to chase this thing.  I have to say the overall vibe at the start of this race was peaceful.  The dynamic was so much different than other races I have competed in, and it was quite calming, especially when I was a bundle of nerves before the start of the race.  Orissa and I wished each other good luck and to have a great race, and soon the countdown began.  5…4…3…2…1…GO!!!!!!  And we were off!!!!!

One of my favorite views, right at the top of the first climb!

Packet pickup the night before! Ready for the adventure that awaits!

So Wildflower 50k is 5 loops of 6.2 miles on single track trails in Bastrop State Park.  As we started our first loop it was still dark, so we all had headlamps, and it was the coolest thing as we climbed the trails, and you could see the line of headlamps in front of you, sometimes very far into the distance, like small stars lighting the way through the night.  The sun was rising at about 645, so we could see the beginning of some daylight about 630ish.  The temps were in the mid 60s, a bit humid but still a light breeze, so the first loop felt pretty refreshing.  After only a couple of miles in, I took a couple of quick pics of the misty fog through the trees as dawn was breaking, it was eerily beautiful.  Kept watching for the blue flags to make sure I was on the right track, and kept looking at the beautiful scenery all around me.  Took a couple more pics, settled into a good rhythm, and stepped quickly out of the way for the runners who were flying!  So there were two aid stations, one of course at the start/finish area (the 6.2 mile mark), and another one a couple miles before that (at the 4 mile mark).  I’d say about a half a mile before the first aid station, I was cruising along, and just stepped wrong, and went down.  The terrain at that point wasn’t even challenging, my foot just betrayed me, and I rolled my ankle, and fell.  This was a little after mile 3.  Yep, fairly early in the game for an injury.  And yes, it was in fact the SAME ankle I had rolled right before Galveston 70.3.  The same ankle that I didn’t rest after Galveston because I had some serious double long runs on the docket in order to be ready for the ultra.  Ugggggg I was so frustrated!!!  I hobbled along for the next mile to the aid station, and at this point Orissa had caught up to me (we had gotten separated earlier but were not really that far apart), and she walked with me to the aid station.  The volunteers were so amazing at this race.  As soon as I hobbled in, they were on it, trying to see what they could do to help me, do I need anything, etc.  Unfortunately they did not have tape, so I would have to go to medical at the start/finish aid station and get it done there.  Orissa asked if there was anything she could do but I told her she had a race to tackle so not to wait for me.  She said to text her if I needed to, and she hoped my ankle felt better and then she headed off.  I grabbed some oranges and watermelon at the aid station and started walking towards the next one.  The ankle was not so good, and I was having a little pity party.  So much so that I almost missed the right turn back onto the trails, until a fellow competitor was like “Hey! Hey you! The turn is right here!”  I am so grateful she yelled at me because I don’t know how far I would have walked up that gravel trail before I realized I was no longer on the course.  So I had a little pep talk with myself on the way back to the finish area, and I did a little shuffling on the trail, but it was fairly painful.  Once I finally hit the finish area, I went through the shoot and headed for the aid station.  Megan was there and asked about my ankle, and I was almost in tears, I was just so frustrated with myself.  I grabbed some more oranges and watermelon, hit the port-o-potty, and headed to the medic tent.  Eric sat me down, and I told him about my ankle, that it was pretty painful, and I had rolled it pretty good a month ago but kept training on it, and it never really healed.  And I was certain that if I rolled it a second time on the course that I would be down for the count for good.  He said he could tape it and stabilize it if I wanted to keep running on it.  My body and my mind were like, “Um, is that a great idea?”  But my heart and soul were like “Yassssss!!! Tape that shit up so we can get back out there and tackle this beast!!!”  So he taped it up, and I headed out for loop 2.

Eerily beautiful misty fog at daybreak on our first loop.

Loop 2 was fairly uneventful.  The weather was still pleasant, a cool breeze blowing, temps not too hot yet, just a nice run.  I was very careful with the ankle as I started the loop, stopping to take a couple of pics, and enjoying the surrounding scenery.  I wondered how far ahead Orissa was, and if I would see her again during the race.  Runners were still flying by, some 50kers, but also 25kers, and 10kers, which were sharing the same loop but had gone off at different times.  I was staying on top off my nutrition, a gel every 40 minutes or so, plenty of water, as well as my Infinit.  I had also brought some extra treats in my hydration pack, a banana, orange slices, cucumber slices, and cherry tomatoes.  There were plenty of bananas and oranges at the stations so I guess I really didn’t need my own but it was nice to have them just in case.  But the cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes were life savers!  There was this section a couple of miles in with a sandy track and zero shade.  The trees were trying to grow back, but after the Bastrop fires in 2011, some of the vegetation still had a ways to go.  But all of the new growth was beautiful!  Anyways, after you run through this section, you climb a rocky hill before you cross the road and head into the next section of trails.  On this hill I would break out the cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes and both were amazing and so satisfying!!!  So I continued on, stabilized ankle was doing well, nutrition was on point thus far, and I was in great spirits.  As I headed into the aid station at mile 4 there were lots of cheers from the volunteers because they weren’t sure they would see me again or not, and were excited they had!  I was super stoked too to be back out there and not be hobbling along like the first time around.  I took a couple more oranges and watermelons and was on my way.  The back half of the loop went fast this time around, and as I was heading across the road and up the hill to the finish area, I moved over for a runner to pass, and he was wearing flip flops! And flying! And I overheard one of the volunteers tell the other, yeah there are quite a few out there racing in flip flops and sandals.  I was amazed!!!  I headed into the finish after loop 2, and said a quick hello to Megan and gave her a status report, and grabbed a couple of orange slices and more watermelon before I headed out for loop 3!  Getting closer to the halfway point!!!!!!

Loop 2 was still pretty pleasant, big red was not out in full force yet.

So loop 3 is definitely where things start to get a little tougher.  The sun is now out in full force, not many clouds in the sky, and a majority of the course is not shaded.  There was still an occasional runner that passed, but mostly it was just me out there, pushing on through.  I thought about the good training I had put in, the great trail runs leading up to the race, and a solid fitness base I had built up months prior as I was training for Galveston.  I was ready and I knew I could complete this race, and I knew now was going to be the time for positive pep talks because the big red was beating down and there wasn’t a soul in sight.  A few miles in, I felt my tape move around in my sock, signaling it was time for a redo when I got back to that aid station.  I also had a serious blister happening in the right foot that was painful, so it was time to put something on that foot too.  I kept taking my gels, and the cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes were definitely a boost to get me to that next aid station –it’s the little things!!!  When I hit the aid station, they were so welcoming just like last time, and I loved that they knew who I was, and were just so positive, which was much needed when your mind goes to that not so positive place.  They were out of watermelon (nooooo!) but I had some orange slices, and refilled my Infinit bottle with Gatorade, and was off.  The last 2+ miles to the next aid station dragged on this time around, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Forward progress was the name of the game!

After reaching the start/finish aid station as I wrapped up loop 3, I hit the aid station, grabbed some orange slices, and Megan was making watermelon slushies, which I grabbed one of those as well, and it was so amazing!  I knew I’d be in the “transition” area for a while again this time since I needed my ankle taped again.  I found Eric and he went to work taping the ankle again, and then tended to the huge blister on my right foot.  Man it felt good to sit down. I almost didn’t want to get up from that chair, lol! At this time another runner had come into the medic area to get her feet worked on, and she was actually done.  She had finished her 50k in five hours and was getting ready to drive back to Houston!  So incredible!!!  I congratulated her, and she wished me luck on my next two loops, and I was off!  But first a quick stop at the aid station for another watermelon slushy!  Megan wished me luck, and I was headed into loop 4! Just TWO more to go!!!!!!!!!!

I was definitely deep in the pain cave on loop 4.  I walked.  I ran.  I shuffled.  I’d pick a tree, or hill, and run to it.  Most of the hills I walked up, or slowly shuffled.  Mainly I was pushing myself to just keep moving forward.  By this point I was baking in the sun, and was glad I reapplied sunscreen before heading out on this loop.  I drank lots of water, I drank my Gatorade, ate my gels, and looked forward to my cucumber slice/cherry tomato refuel stop on the hill.  I watched the lizards scurry across the sand, they were out in droves now, since there was no longer much movement out on the trails.  I watched the beautiful butterflies flitter about, and took in all of the gorgeous wildflowers out on the trails.  I tried to stay in the happy place as much as possible, so when the tough patches inevitably arose, I was able to keep persevering through them.  When I hit the aid station it was a much needed reprieve, they were the absolute best cheerleaders, and kept my spirits high.  I grabbed some orange slices again and headed out to complete the rest of loop 4.  Just as I turned off of the gravel road back onto the trail, I felt something burning on my left calf, and looked down and there was a bee!  I shooed him away but man, that sting burned!  I started talking to myself to make sure nothing was swelling.  I had never been stung by a bee or wasp EVER, so I didn’t know if I was allergic or not.  At this point another runner passed me, and saw I was in a bit of distress, and I told her what happened, but I felt fine so far, and since I had no other allergies I didn’t think I was allergic.  At least I hoped I wasn’t.  She mentioned there was another runner coming up behind her so if I needed assistance there was someone right behind me.  As I kept running another runner came up from the other direction, just as this other guy was passing me, and both asked how I was doing, feeling etc.  I felt fine, and had about another mile to go until the aid station, so I kept moving forward.  When I hit the aid station, the guy who passed me, Scott, had me sit down and had me checked and they got ice for it, but all agreed that if I was going to have a reaction, it would have been back a couple of miles ago, and since I kept running, all seemed good.  I grabbed some more orange slices and watermelon, and I had sunscreen reapplied, and then it was time for loop 5.  Just ONE more to go!!!!!!!!!

Oh man loop 5…just a love/hate relationship.  I loved that it was the last loop, that I had almost tackled this beast, but also hated it, because there still stood 6.2 miles between me and my goal.  And my body was toast.  The ankle had gotten more painful, and my feet were on fire.  I kept urging myself forward, just run to this tree, just run around the corner, just shuffle up this hill.  I had the best time at the cucumber slice/cherry tomato refuel hill stop, they were the BEST cucumbers and cherry tomatoes that I have ever had!  I watched all the lizards, trying to catch their patterns before they disappeared into their holes.  I saw a turkey!  Just sauntering across the trail…it was so cool!  As I was getting closer to being halfway through the loop, I rounded a corner and I saw Orissa!!!!!!! Yasssssssssss!!!!!!!!  I yelled out “Hey girl!” although it came out more choked up since I teared up when I saw her.  We both were so happy to see the other!  We recounted our adventures of the day, and found out we both had been stung by bees!  Crazy!  We knew the next stop would be the aid station so we tried to stay positive as we kept moving forward, venting about how long this one section seemed to go on, coupled with shouts of joy when we passed scenery we recognized and knew that we were getting close.  When the aid station came into sight, we shouted with joy, and shuffled up to it, as the aid station was in full on cheerleading mode!  They offered us chairs under the shade, asked what they could get us, congratulated us on getting this far, and encouraged us that we were almost there!  While I probably shouldn’t have, I couldn’t resist the chair.  I sat down and it felt soooooo good!  And the oranges and coke I had while sitting there were the BEST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!  Finally I made myself get up, and Orissa and I continued towards the finish.  As we headed up the gravel road, a truck with horses in the trailer came down the road, and we joked that our rides were here!  We shuffled up the road to the turn and headed down the last sections for the last time.  This last section did drag on forever, and we knew once we got to the fork and headed up the other loop we were just a little over a mile away.  This last section was brutal because it just would not end but we trekked on.  I gave a shout when I saw the fork, we were finally getting ready to finish this sucker.  A few hills to climb, then some downhill sections, then across the road, then one last uphill section to the finish line.  There are not many people I would want with me while I am deep in the pain cave, but I was so grateful it was my ever positive, inspiring friend with me.  As we crested the hill we shuffled across the finish line, tired smiles on our faces, high-fiving the race director.  I was overjoyed to be able to tackle this goal, and finishing with one of my besties was the best way to top off this incredible day.

Finishing it!!!!!

We did it!!!!!

My final time was 9:28:33, and ambitiously I would have liked to have been 7/730ish, but realistically figured it would be closer to between 8 and 9.  I wasn’t disappointed with my final time because I had given all I had on that day, and this beast was by far one of the toughest things I have ever done.  It was an incredible experience out there, and I certainly look forward to putting another 50k on the docket in the future (let’s go Cactus to Cloud!!!), but not sure if I will venture farther, but I guess you should never say never.  So many goals and dreams still to chase, I look forward to getting out there and relentlessly pursuing all of them!

As always, thank you for reading, and for your cheers and support.  And to my tribe, thank you for never ceasing to inspire, and for always encouraging me to fly.

What an incredible day!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

WHY? That is the Question - Galveston 70.3 Race Report

I was super stoked to race Galveston as I finally decided to officially sign up in early January.  I was ready to chase that sub 6, and break it.  Also, as an added bonus, it was the only Texas half I had not done yet (although now I’ll need to put Waco on the list), and it was next to the ocean, so I was sold!  I was so excited to get going with training, and anxiously looking forward to race day.  About a couple months in, a great thing happened – my husband finally got a new job, and we would be moving in the summer.  Since we’ve been doing the living apart, commuting thing for his previous job for the past 7.5 years, we were overjoyed at this opportunity, and he was off to do some training.  In the meantime, I ran point on the house hunting, as well as job hunting for myself.  Of course saying we are grateful for this transition is a vast understatement, we are beyond ecstatic; however, the process of preparing for this rapidly approaching transition has been overwhelming at times, in terms of everything that needs to be done.

So my mentality as I approached race weekend was lukewarm at best, and to be honest, I almost didn’t even go.  So many things on the list that needed to be done, and the mom guilt was hitting me pretty hard.  At the encouragement of my hubs and fam, I made the trip.  I was still pretty “meh” at check in, a stark contrast in how I was last summer at Buffalo Springs.  Whether it was check-in, the hotel, or race morning, I couldn’t be more stoked, more ready to get after that course.  Because I am a control freak perfectionist that overanalyzes everything, my apathetic attitude really bothered me.  As a matter of fact, there had not been a half (or full) ironman yet where I hadn’t felt something, whether it was confidence, nervousness, excitement, etc.  Apathetic just isn’t my jam – I’m the #allthefeels girl for crying out loud.  As I talked it out with hubs that night, he told me to just enjoy the day, that I was there already, so I should just go out and see what I can do.  I appreciated the pep talk, and I got another one that night from my coach as well.  Coach Dawn told me to disregard my six hour goal that we had originally discussed back in January.  My new goal instead for this race would be to ask myself “why?” throughout the day.  More specifically, “why am I out here?” and “why do I want to be here?”  Well that’s simple, I’ve been an athlete for almost three decades now, love to compete, yada, yada, yada.  But she didn’t want the response right then, she wanted it after the race, and she wanted me to really think about it, to own it, the whole day.  Okay.  Game on.

The alarm clock sounds at 4 AM, and the day has begun.  After I eat and gather my gear, I check out of the hotel, and drive to transition.  My goal was to be there about 5 AM so I could get a good parking spot in the lot right next to transition.  I arrived a little after 5, was done setting up my transition area a little before 530, and was back in my car.  So I should also mention that a little front blew through the day before, so it was 50 degrees that morning, and was not supposed to get much warmer til much later in the afternoon.  So I stayed in my heated car for about 45 minutes, which seemed to be the thing to do that morning – just glancing around I could see quite a few athletes in their cars as well trying to stay warm.  I was still feeling quite “meh” about the day, and just wanted it over with already.  And was really not looking forward to the chilly bike.  After transition closed at 645, I still stayed in the area, stretching, and getting ready to drop off my morning clothes bag.  My wave was not until 744, and while it was a little bit of a walk over to the swim start, I had plenty of time.  Finally, at 730, I shed the warm sweatshirt, beanie, and tennis shoes, and put them all in my morning clothes bag.  I dropped it off, and headed to the swim start.  Momentarily I wished I had a sleeved wetsuit for that walk, but once I started the swim later, I was happy with my sleeveless (well as happy as I could be, I really don’t like swimming in any wetsuit, lol).  As I headed into a sea of pink caps (my wave), another pink cap was right behind me, and we both commented to each other how chilly it was.  I then found out that it was her very first half ironman, and told her how excited I was for her, and to enjoy the day!  The other girls around us had chimed in, and soon everyone was sharing their stories of a first time, or a tenth time.  It was magical.  And as we headed down the pier there were cheers, whoops, and hollers.  We jumped off the pier, and lined up by the buoy until it was our turn to go.  As we treaded water the cheers continued, with “let’s go ladies!”, “we got this ladies!”, and “have a great day out there ladies!”  Why do I want to be here?  So much this.  So many powerful stories right there all treading water, all sharing this magical moment before the day.  Stories within a story.  I love that sport really is a microcosm of life.

And we are off.  I had lined up right up front, right next to the buoy.  Super smooth start, not really much thrashing, kicking, people crawling over people, etc.  I settled into a rhythm and got to work.  Was just looking to hold onto a solid pace that would set me up for the rest of the day.  I caught the blue cap ladies in front of our wave, then was closing the gap on the men’s heats that were before that.  I stayed on the buoy line, and most of the time as I rounded the buoys, I actually would graze it with my left hand, I was that close.  At one point one of the guys swam right over me, and he actually stopped and apologized but I said no worries, and we kept rolling.  It’s all part of the swim, and at some point we are either getting climbed over, or we are climbing over someone.  Other than that one incident, this swim was probably the least amount of contact in any of my ironman events.  There just always seemed to be openings as I was passing, and I really stayed right on the buoy line, where there seemed to be the least amount of traffic.  Why am I out here?  Because I LOVE to swim!  And even better, I LOVE to swim in the ocean!!!!! Well, we were technically in the protected bayou, but it was still the Gulf.  And I LOVE that this sport was really the gateway into triathlon.  Maybe it would have happened regardless, but when the collegiate teammate who swam circles around you and an all-around bad ass asks you to join her for a triathlon, you say YES!  And then try to figure out how you are going to learn to ride a bike afterwards. Eh, minor details. LOL!  The video of my 21 year old self trying to learn how to ride a bike for the first time and falling all over the place while doing it is absolutely hilarious! I had just a few weeks to figure it out, and I did, but man that first ride in my first triathlon was one I’ll always remember.  And now, I love the bike just as much as I love the swim!  Who would have ever thought?! Not me, that’s for sure!  My strokes stayed long and smooth as I kept heading towards shore, was shooting for about 30ish, and felt like I was fairly on pace.  Soon I was standing up in the sand, and heading towards transition.  First I made a quick stopped to have help with my wetsuit, and then I was off and running into T1.  My fingers were already a little cold after we exited the warm water, and it took me a bit to put all my gear on for the bike, but soon I was running for the bike out – on to the next leg!

Swim:  30:41
T1:  6:10

So I knew the bike was going to be cold.  Probably would have been smart to pack a jacket, but alas, that did not happen (a good lesson in being extra prepared, which I usually am good at, but definitely dropped the ball this time).  Time to suck it up and get it done.  I was super stoked to be wearing my SFQ aero kit for this race – I have only worn two piece tri kits and this was my first one piece, and it was the most comfortable thing that I have ever raced in!  As we headed out on the bikes it was pretty crowded, and there were quite a few turns as we headed out to the main road.  Once we got there, I got in aero and hit it.  I made some passes, people passed me, and we all were flying on the way out!  Which was awesome to have the tailwind, but knew it would be short-lived once we made the turn around.  I kept thinking about the warmest places possible, like IMTX2013, running in the heat of the TX summer, and the like.  And I did feel occasional warm pockets, not sure if it was real or in my mind, but it was wonderful!  I stayed on top of my nutrition, taking my Infinit, GU chews, and gels.  I watched my heart rate, and with the tailwind it would take some dips, so when that happened I would click it into a harder gear and push to get the heart rate back up to zone 2/low zone 3.  Mainly I just tried to stay relaxed, kept my heart rate on target, and my cadence high.  Why do I want to be here?  To challenge myself, to always be able to dig deep when things get hard.  And through sport this translates to life.  I love this lesson the most, that we have more in the tank than we think we do, not just at the end of a long grueling race, but in that hard, grueling season of life.  We are as relentlessly determined to cross that finish line as we are to rise each time we stumble on the way up to the summits of our lives.  I may not have been in my usual mindset for race day this time around, but I never underestimate or take for granted the lessons that this sport (and swimming) have taught me over the decades.  And as we crossed the bridge heading for the island and the turn around, I sat up, and smiled and laughed because we were heading right over the ocean!  Again, I LOVE the ocean!!!!  As we headed onto the island, we also received some spitting rain to add to the chilly temps and wind.  Soon I hit the turnaround, and here came the wind.  I tucked in, head down, clicked to an easier gear, and kept the cadence up.  By the back half of the ride my fingers were so cold that I could no longer grab my nutrition in my pockets, and struggled with the Infinit bottle in my front cage.  Luckily, I had a couple of gels in my bento box left from my training rides, so I was able to stay relatively on track nutrition wise, which I was very happy about.  Even in the winds, I was making great time, and was so excited that I was heading for a bike PR!  The turns back in to transition slowed me down some (need to work on getting better at those), but I had put enough time in the bank, so it was just a matter of whether I would get under 3 or not…

Bike:  2:59:52
Heck yessss by 8 seconds!!!!!!
T2: 6:08

Another fairly slow transition, although it had the potential to be three times that (at least) or more.  God Bless this amazing volunteer who was standing right there as I racked my bike, and as I struggled getting my helmet unclipped, she asked if she could be of some assistance.  I gratefully told her yes, and also joked that I would probably need help with my shoes too (although totally serious too, seeing that I had no feeling in my fingers and it would take a bit for the blood to return and for me to be able to do anything with them).  She graciously took off my bike shoes and socks, then put on my run socks, run shoes, and laced them up.  I thanked her repeatedly, I was so grateful she had been right there as I had come in.  Now it was time for the run!  I really had to pee though! Must find porta potty stat!  And I took this as a good sign that I nailed my nutrition, and was properly hydrated.  Made the quick porta potty stop and headed out on my first loop of the three loop course.  On this first loop, I also quickly noticed that my lower back was super tight and seizing up on me some, so I stopped a couple of times to sit and stretch it out, and it seemed to work itself out.  Since I lost some time on this first loop, I knew I would need to make up time on the next two loops if I wanted to finish strong.  My goal for the run for this race was 2:10, so it was going to be close!  I alternated water and Gatorade, stayed on top of my gels, and took a banana at almost every station.  Why do I want to be here?  Because I can.  Because I have been blessed with this amazing opportunity.  Because there was a time not too long ago where all I wanted to do was run when I could not.  And maybe I run the shit out of this thing, or maybe it lasts longer than I could ever imagine, but either way, I can’t let the fear of “what if” stop me from being right here, right now, in this moment.  So I run hard, and I am grateful when the wheels start to come off, right around 11.5, where I thought they probably would.  A bout of tendonitis in my right foot in Feb coupled with the rolling of my left ankle a week and a half out of this race (I am such a klutz, yes, I tripped over my own feet), my run training had been sub-par and definitely not where I wanted it to be.  So it was a mile and a half of putting one foot in front of the other, and gutting it out.  I knew I could break 6, but I had to keep moving forward.  And I kept saying to myself, “just keep moving, just keep moving”, over and over again.  And all of the cheers helped so much!  This was the most energized HIM run course I had ever run in!  The energy was so contagious!  I felt like even though I was deep in the pain cave, the last couple of miles flew by!  Soon I was rounding that last corner and heading for the finish chute!  I would break 6 after all, and I was elated and (as per usual) overcome with emotion.

Run:  2:13:05
Overall:  5:55:54

There was quite a bit of reflection out there for me at Galveston 70.3, and it was an amazing day, crazy weather and all!  Why do I want to be here?  To compete.  To embrace the obstacles of each and every race like I would the obstacles in my own life.  To lean into the adversity of a grueling day to grow as an athlete like I would lean into the adversity of a grueling season of life.  To celebrate all the people that have played a role in my journey, who continue to inspire me along the way.  I compete for them, and hope I make them proud.  I have learned so much from three decades of sport, and I look forward to all I still have yet to learn.  Some “whys” might change from season to season, as far as PRs I’m chasing, but the big “whys” at the core will remain the same.  I’ve known them for quite some time, we are old friends, but it’s always great to spend some time with them again.

What are your “whys”?

Friday, June 30, 2017

No Limits - Buffalo Springs 70.3

“Believe in yourself and all that you are.  Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” ~Christian D. Larson

“Your playing small does not serve the world…We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” ~Marianne Williamson

Many say it starts between the ears, but I believe it goes deeper than that, from the very depths of our souls, when we shove aside the doubts, fears, criticisms, and our own limitations we set on ourselves.  When we believe and our conviction cannot be shaken, we set ourselves free.  Liberating us from the parameters that others, or even ourselves, set upon us.  When this happens, the possibilities are truly endless.
I was afraid and in awe of Buffalo Springs 70.3 for as long as I can remember.  It was a race described by others as challenging, epic, and hard as hell, but also you could hear the reverence in the voices of those who had conquered it before as they gave you the play by play of their adventures there.  A race with a local feel, a race loved by many, and a race that should never be underestimated.  My original plan after getting my feet wet at Longhorn 70.3 in the fall was to do IM Texas 70.3 in Galveston in early April.  Waited too late to register, and it ended up selling out.  I was sad at the time, but you know what they say about God’s timing.  Not long after it sold out, I caught the flu, so training came at a pretty solid halt, which would have been at the point I would have to have been ramping up the mileage, so it all worked out.  Instead, I took a deep breath, and signed up for a race I had been wanting to do forever, but approached with a bit of trepidation.  The moment I hit that enter key and received my confirmation email, I knew I was all in, and there was no turning back.  Fast forward four months later, and I was on the road to Lubbock to a race that I absolutely could not wait to do.  I was eerily calm, which was strange for me, but I took it as a good sign. I was ready.  I would hold nothing back and go for it.  I was told beforehand that the Buffalo Springs course was unique and I should throw time goals out the window, and I was well aware this would be a much different 70.3 than I had ever raced.  There was no doubt, I not only was ready to do this, but I would go into it with an open mind, and ”no limits” would be my mantra for this race.

Race Day - SWIM
I loved being able to set everything out in transition area like the days of old triathlon, instead of everything in baggies.  This still didn’t seem to help me much, seeing that I am slow as molasses in transition, but I am planning to work on that!  I was still extremely calm race morning, and had to use the port-o-potty line twice because I could not go the first time, which was again, strange for me.  I had my transition set up with plenty of time to spare, so I spent the extra time visualizing the day.  Soon it was time to head down to the beach where we would start the swim.  On the way, I ran into my amazing friendy Kris, and her Big Sexy teammates, which was a great way to start the day!  We took a quick pic, then her group was up first.  Told her I was coming for her and to have a great race!  My group was only three minutes behind, so soon it was our turn to run off of the beach and dive in the lake to begin our 1.2 mile swim.  I have to be honest, usually the swim is my favorite part, but for this race, I felt like the swim was the portion I just had to get through, and I could not wait to get to the bike and run.  I had been hitting some solid splits on my 100, 200, 300, and 400m pace sets leading up to Buffalo Springs so I felt confident that I could post a fast swim split, and actually wanted the fastest split in the field.  I could never seem to find a good rhythm though, especially at the beginning.  I was swimming over people, people were swimming over me…this didn’t bother me really, playing water polo in high school helped me become immune to being dunked, pulled, swum over, etc.  Mainly I just felt like as soon I got going I was running into more bodies, and at a couple of the turn buoys I got all caught up in traffic as well.  By the last 800 m or so, I finally felt like I was finding my stroke, and I could see the swim exit just ahead.  As the volunteers grabbed my hands and helped me out, I could see another pink cap out of the corner of my eye…and kudos to my competitor for hustling across that timing mat.  Note to self…next time move faster!  As I ran into transition, I felt like I hustled, but apparently I did not.  According to my super slow transition times you’d think I was having donuts and coffee back there! Holy geez I need to work on those!
SWIM: 28:27              T1: 4:22 (yuck!)


The hill out of T1 was no joke, and everyone had told me beforehand to make sure I was in my small ring, and they were not kidding.  This course hits you with it right from the start coming out of the gate.  No mercy.  As I started the climb it was not fear that I felt, but rather, exhilaration to be out there on this amazing course.  I spun up the hill, then we went down, over the bridge, and were climbing again.  Things flattened out as we headed out of the park.  We had a bit of tailwind for a bit then headwind as we were on a stretch headed towards the canyon.  As we approached it looked amazeeeeee!!!!  Down we went, then a short flat section, then it was time to climb out.  I knew climbing was my strength, so I worked those sections, passing as many people as I could, then back to a harder gear to take off on the flats.  As we finished the first climb I saw my Smash/Tri-Belief teammate Julia and we both exchanged “great job!” and would leap frog each other again on the run.  We went down the road a bit, then turned around and came at the canyon from the other direction.  I was super stoked to see Kris as I was heading for the turn-around section and she was coming from it! We yelled at each other and it gave me a boost!  I was not crazy about the turn-around sections on this course, always felt like I was going to wipe out, but it is what it is.  Another skill I would need to work on!  As we headed back for our return trip down the canyon I felt strong on my descent, I had been trying to work on them more since I knew descending was one of my biggest weaknesses on a hilly course.  They were still not as fast as I would like them to be, and I knew I would have to make up time on the hills and flats.  As I hit the flat section of the canyon for our return trip, I felt a little sluggish, and my cadence had slowed as well.  I knew if I kept pedaling it would pass, because how you feel one moment seems to change like the winds in these events.  As we climbed out and were back on the flats headed towards the switchbacks, I was in awe of the sky and the dark storm clouds in the distance…I thanked God for this beautiful day and couldn’t wait to see what else He had in store for us.  We rode out on the farm roads, and turned onto a chip seal like section for a few, which was my least favorite section.  I kept checking my bottles to make sure they were not being launched out of their cages.  Somewhere in here my friend Lexa had caught me, and I while still holding steady, I tried to not let her get too far ahead.  Finally we made it to this forest section that encompassed the road, a section I had been told to watch for by several people, and when it came into view it literally took my breath away and gave me wings! I bounded through wishing I could stop and take pictures of all of this! I mentally took snap shots throughout this ride!  After the forest we headed up the first switchback, and it was so much fun!!!  As I bounded up and passed some riders, I made sure to hug my side, because others were screaming down the other side and it’s a pretty narrow road.  After cresting I rode down a little ways towards the turn around, and I saw Kris again! Two for two!  I looped around and headed back to descend the switchback, then rode over to switchback #2!  Again, so much fun, reminded me of a very miniature Mt. Lemmon, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite rides, so I was in the happiest of places climbing these switchbacks!!!  Rode out to turn around again and three for three for seeing Kris! As we descended the switchback we headed back to the forest section and climbed out of that as well to get to the flat roads that would take us back to the park.  At this point, I settled into aero, played Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” on loop in my head, and hit it.  The last 15 miles flew by!  Before I knew it, we were turning into the park and heading for transition.  Then it was down the hill, across the bridge, and up one last big hill before descending into T2.  That very last hill climb seemed the toughest out of all of them since it was right at the end when our legs were already trashed.  There was some cramping that took place as I climbed that hill, and at one point I just hoped I wouldn’t fall over because of it.  The struggle was definitely real on that hill.  After cresting, it was smooth sailing downhill into transition.  I hopped off and checked the watch, and OMG I just PRed the bike!!!!   Was all smiles as I racked my bike and put on the run gear.  Again, not sure if I stopped for lunch or what in transition because holy smokes how long can it take a person to put on some shoes?!!!!  Seriously, some transition work is absolutely in order!

BIKE: 3:08:55!                      T2: 5:11 :(


I was absolutely beside myself to get to the run portion of the race.  I wanted to see what my body could do on trashed legs.  Although I had some strong long run sessions leading up to this race, I knew that I couldn’t really simulate how the legs would feel on race day, and it would be interesting to see how it would all play out.  The run was two loops, with a big nasty “dream crusher” hill in the middle of each loop.  I was told to run up that hill no matter what, DO NOT under any circumstances, walk it.  So off I went on my first loop in my happy place, clicking off the miles, and holding a steady pace.  I figured if I could average between 9:30-10 min miles, then that would put me somewhere close to 2:10 or a little under, which would put my total time at 5:56ish, and I would break 6 hours!  So I had it all planned out, and my body did fairly well the first loop, I even ran up the “dream crusher” hill, and saw my friends on the out and backs which was awesome and really gave me a boost!  After coming down the hill, the last part of the loop winds you around for what seems like forever (especially feels like the LONGEST LOOP EVER the second time through), and by the time you hit the turn-around point, you can see the bridge in the distance and that’s what you are running for.  By the time you get to the bridge, you either stay left to finish, or stay right to go for your second loop.  As I headed into my second loop, my times started to slow down a bit, and it was a struggle to WANT to look at the watch (to hopefully see I was on pace)/to NOT want to look at the watch (to see that I was in fact, ACTUALLY falling off pace).  This continued the first half of the loop until I came upon “dream crusher” hill, and it was more of a slow shuffle up this beast the second time around.  A few of us joked as we worked our way up the hill that it seemed so much longer the second time! And steeper too!  We all laughed and continued our sufferfests.  I saw friends Holly, Lexa, and Kris coming down the hill at separate intervals, and those high fives really did give me wings!  I saw Julia at the top, as well as another Smash teammie that I had seen for most of the run, and we gave each other head nods, waves, and yelled "Go Smash!!!"  At about this time after I had crested “dream crusher” hill for the second time, I looked at my watch and knew it was going to be close, and I’d have to go like 9 min miles for the last 3.5.  Challenge accepted.  I pushed the pace on the flats at the top then headed down the hill for the last section of the loop.  While I would not consider this run course super hilly (except for “dream crusher” of course), I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flat either.  It has some good short rollers that seem like doozies at the very end.  As I came down that hill and headed into the last section, the wheels finally came off, and…IT. WAS. GLORIOUS.  To be here in this moment, fighting for the sub 6, fighting for a PR on this course of all courses.  Up until this last September, I had not run for 2.5 years.  During my pregnancy I couldn’t run (due to my hip dysplasia although I did not know that at the time, I just knew it hurt), so I stopped running at 9 weeks…fast forward when baby girl was born I squeaked in a couple of 2-3 milers before the hip went…then it was hip replacement surgery in March 2016, and 6 months later I could put feet to pavement.  But even then, I did most of my runs on the Alter G, pretty much most of my run training for Longhorn was done on that machine.  As I headed into a couple of half marathons in early 2017, I hit the road more, and was amazed how well the hip was doing.  So here I was, with about 8 good months of run training under my belt after a 2.5 year hiatus, and I was in the ballpark to go sub 6 and set a new PR?!  I was ecstatic.  I was grateful.  I was euphoric.  I thanked God and hoped that this would continue to be part of my journey, part of my story.  That He would use me through sport for His glory.  And I ran as hard as I could.  My legs were done, trashed, toast, whatever you want to call it they were through.  They were ready for a nap.  But I pushed on.  I saw my friends coming back the other way after the last turn-around and I shouted “let’s finish this!” as we passed by each other one last time. My legs were lead at this point but I was determined to finish this race strong.  As I rounded that last turn-around, I ran for that bridge.  Just one foot in front of the other.  The bridge got closer.  One foot in front of the other.  Still closer.  Not going to make the 6 hours.  That’s ok, the PR is still up for grabs!  The bridge was right there!  I was crossing the bridge!  The volunteer was giving instructions as he had before, left to the finish, right to head to the second loop.  He asked if I was going left and I said “Heck yes!!!!!”  And as I turned left and headed for the chute, there was nothing but a big smile on my face.  I snagged that 10 min PR and I could not have been happier.  No tears for this one.  The tears for Longhorn was the closing of a chapter.  This finish at Buffalo Springs was a beginning.  And it was pure joy.

RUN:  2:16:43                 TOTAL:  6:03:36

Thank you as always for reading, and for all of your support and cheers along the way!  What a journey it has been!  Looking forward to all new adventures ahead!

The new RFA Smash Kit gave me wings!!!!!!

Such a treat to race with my friend Kris!!!
She never ceases to inspire!!!

Hahahaha! Forgot about that cap for a moment!

I LOVED this bike course!!!!!!!!!!!!

Digging deep on that second loop!

Pure joy!!!!!!!!!!!!