Utah Half

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INTRODUCTION

This race has been on my radar for a while now. I registered for it back in 2012 and wasn’t able to race because of an injury. I will be competing in Ironman Arizona in November and this fit perfectly into my training schedule. This race is dubbed “The Flattest Half in the West” and since IM Arizona also has a relatively flat course I thought it would be a great race to help prepare me. I had never done a half ironman distance triathlon before and was looking forward to see how I’d do and what I would learn.

RACE CLINIC AND SWIM COURSE PREVIEW

The Wednesday before the race, the event company RaceTri, put on a race clinic and swim course preview. James Lawerence (aka, the Iron Cowboy) was the speaker at the clinic. For those who aren’t familiar with James he is a 2 x world record holder. In 2012 James completed 30 full ironman distance triathlons in one year. Mind blowing, right?!  He talked to the participants about the course and answered lot of questions pertaining to race nutrition, open water swimming and other triathlon related questions. It was great to hear some advice from someone with so much experience. There were about 15-20 people at the clinic, nearly all of them (including myself) were attempting their very first half ironman Saturday. After the Q&A session, we all got in our wetsuits and went for an open water swim in Utah Lake.

RaceTri had to revise the swim course to due to low water levels the week before the race. I realized why as soon as I stepped off the boat ramp because I could still touch the bottom. The water was very low. Halfway through the swim I started scrapping the bottom with my hands when I tried to stoke. At that point I just stood up and walked to where the water was deeper. The bottom was very muddy and gushy. The water level was at my knees when a boat drove past me. The boat occupants gave me a weird look and then realized I was standing and quickly moved to deeper waters. Ha! The clouds overhead started to darken and there was rain and lightning off in the distance. So I decided to get the heck out of there before it made its’ way to my location. My friend Don and I had driven down for the preview and we drove the first 5 miles of the bike course also. I’m happy that I went to the clinic. I got some helpful advice that helped me out on race day. It was also beneficial to actual see the swim course because I was able to go over it in my head and knew what to expect.

The water was very warm during the preview. Just an hour or so before the clinic the race officials called it a wetsuit legal race for the age groupers but not for the pros/elites or for anyone who was looking to place in the top 3 overall. I was so relieved. I had purchased a new Roka wetsuit the week before and really wanted to use it for the race.

I also noticed during the clinic that James paints his toenails! One color on one foot and a different color for the other foot. I’ve noticed a few male triathletes that do this. I love that guys paint there toenails for training or races!  Comment below if you know someone who does this or if you paint your own toenails for races. If so, please include which color is your lucky go to color.

RACE MORNING

Mother Nature decided to play a fun joke on all of the racers that morning because it was pouring buckets of water while my friend Tommy and I made our way to the race venue. It was 5 AM when we left my house and the night sky was being lit up consistently by lightning. We arrived at the venue at around 6:15 AM and the rain was still coming down so hard. We walked over to the transition area, which hadn’t been setup yet to see what was going on. A couple of people told us the race was being delayed in 30 minute increments. There were huge pools of standing water everywhere and it was COLD. Mid-50s is a bit too chilly for mid-August! I had only brought a light wind breaker type jacket and no cold weather gear. In my mind I started preparing myself for the worst possible weather conditions.

An hour later the rain stopped and the clouds parted. Off to the east I spotted snowcapped mountains. SNOW in August! We walked our bikes over to the transition area and there was plenty of room still open on the rack closest to the bike out. Heck, I’ll take it! I know those racks are usually reserved for the pros/elites but there was no sign indicating that. There was still room for a few more bikes on the rack that no one ended up taking.

SNOW!

SNOW CAPPED MOUNTAINS!

Transition is Ready! (Kind of)

Transition is Ready! (Kind of)

I got my transition area all set up and got my wetsuit on in order to keep myself warm. Aaron, one of the race directors announced that orientation would be starting soon then the race would start shortly after that. At this point my nerves started to calm down and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was go time baby!

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Everyone gathered around Aaron as he gave one of his famous pre-race speeches. Anyone who has done a RaceTri event knows what I’m talking about. Think WWE announcer + triathlon event = Aaron’s speeches. He mentioned some of the elites/pros who were gunning for the win and prize money. He also mentioned how many first 70.3 athletes were racing (around 35 I think) and where some people traveled from to get there. His speech reached its’ peak when he threw down his clipboard in excitement causing it to snap in half. Too funny!

SWIM

The swim start was in waves. It started with the pros/elites and relay teams, then men age 25-39, then all remaining men and lastly all the women. Each wave started 2 minutes after the previous wave. I did a 100-200 yard warm up to get ready. The water was noticeably cooler than when I had swam in it a couple of days prior. By the time the women started it was 8:25 AM. I started near the front of the pack and set a steady pace. I wasn’t killing myself and just enjoyed it. I knew I had an entire day ahead of me so I tried to keep things loose and more on the relaxed side. When I made it past the first buoy I started to catch up to the other wave groups. I made it to the turnaround point without any issues.

On the way back I hit a shallow part so I popped my head up out of the water. A lot of people were standing up trying to get to the deeper parts of the water. When my head was up I recognized the guy next to me from Instagram. I yelled out to him and asked him his name. He said his name and I yelled mine back. We both laughed and continued on our way. Yep, I met someone DURING the swim portion of a triathlon. First time for everything I guess. As I made my way to the boat ramp I was still feeling great. I ran up to T1 and looked at my watch as I crossed the timing mat. 42 minutes flat. My watch said the swim course measured 1.28 mile swim. I’ve heard from others that it measured 1.4 miles. GPS watches can be sketchy sometimes because they can drop the satellite connection and show a route that isn’t completely accurate.

My swim map from my Garmin 910xt. Notice I lost some satellite connection at the beginning.

My swim map from my Garmin 910xt. Not the most accurate map.

Trying not to slip while coming out of the water.

Trying not to slip while coming out of the water. Photo cred – RaceTri

BIKE

My transition time for T1 ended up being 2:03 (2nd fastest in my AG). My transition area was a little messy because I had originally planned on wearing a light jacket and socks due to the cold weather. I decided it was warm enough that I didn’t need it. I’m glad I didn’t wear a jacket because the temperature ended up being perfect. It was cold without being too cold. My body was cool because of my wet tri kit but my limbs were warm and I had full dexterity of my fingers and toes. The first half of the bike course flew by. I LOVED it. I was still feeling great and averaged 19.5 mph at the halfway point.

The bike course had 3 aid stations that had water bottles and Gatorade available. I had 3 pre-mixed 30 oz bottles of Carbo Rocket in them so I didn’t take any hydration from the aid stations. The course was an out and back course that goes around Utah Lake. The roads were mainly country roads that had very little traffic. It was so beautiful. Seeing the open fields, farm animals, the lake, and mountain scenery took my breath away (as if I needed help doing that). I really enjoyed the out and back course. I was able to see the lead racers and I generally knew where I was at in the pack. I counted 20 female racers ahead of me on the bike course. There were 300 male and 100 female racers so I thought that was a decent position to be in.

Bike Course

Bike Course

 

On the way back on the bike I started getting very uncomfortable on the bike. My seat started getting sore, my feet started going numb, and my knees started to hurt. I knew something was wrong because I’ve never had any of those issues before. I looked down at my seat and noticed the tip of the seat looked too high. I couldn’t tell the exact angle the seat was while I was riding it and even if it had shifted, I didn’t have the tools on me to correct it. I was pushing myself hard to get the bike done. I can usually guess my speed when I’m cycling based on how hard an effort I’m giving. During the ride back I expected to see 20 mph on my watch and I was actually going around 17.5 mph. The last five miles seemed to take forever. I kept checking my watch every half mile or so. I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager to get off my bike before. Cycling is my favorite tri discipline and I usually love every moment of a bike course. I ended up averaging 18.4 mph for the entire 56 miles. Ugh. I’ve done 70+ mile training rides with a faster pace than that! Oh well, I made it to the 3rd leg of the race and at that moment that was all that mattered.

Pulling into T2.

Pulling into T2. Photo cred – RaceTri

 

As I pulled up to the bike dismount like I knew I was in a little trouble. My knees were pretty sore and my right knee was starting to throb. I took some extra time in T2 to test out my knees and put a game plan together in my head for the run. My transition area was also kind of a mess because I covered all of my run gear with a plastic garbage bag in case it rained while I was biking. I completed T2 in 3:12 (2nd slowest time in my AG). (When I got home from the race I noticed the angle of my bike seat. The front tip of my seat had gone up at least 2 inches! Yikes! No wonder why I was so uncomfortable and had so many issues on the bike! I think my seat moved when I hit a big bump in the road. I have ridden that bike SO much and of course it did that on race day. Ha!)

RUN

As I left the transition area I tried to keep things nice and slow to ease into running. I had 13.1 miles ahead of me. It was going to be a LONG time of slow running. In my head I kept thinking there is NO WAY I’m taking a DNF for my first 70.3. I’m registered for Ironman Arizona and I didn’t want to compromise my future training for that race by getting a serious injury being dumb during a prep race. I batted both thoughts back and forth in my head and decided I’d just walk the entire half marathon if need be.

Before we delve into the run section let me give you a little back ground information about myself. Four weeks before this race I managed to break my pinky toe like an idiot. I was trying to beat my three year old to the front door and caught my toe on the door when I opened it. I split the toe open and broke one of the bones. It was purple and swollen for a week. I had to take a couple of weeks off of running. I then I caught a nasty stomach bug that lasted two full weeks so I wasn’t super confident with my running going into this race.

Within the first half mile I had to stop and walk. Oh geez, this is going to take a long time. I lost count how many times I regrouped and started running and then had to stop because of my knees. Regroup, run, pain, walk, repeat. It was mentally draining but I tried to be as positive as possible. I was doing my first half ironman after all! Not matter what my time ended up being I was going to cross that finish line and complete something I’d been dreaming about for years. Every time that thought entered my mind a smile would come to my face. Regroup, run, pain, walk, repeat.

I used a pre-mixed hand held insulated 18 oz bottle filled with Carbo Rocket for the run. At almost every aid station I would dump a cup of water on my head to keep cool. My hair would be dry by the time I reached the next aid station. The cold weather from the morning had left the valley and it was starting to heat up.

The run course was great. It was a 2 loop course that ran a long side a small river on a paved running path. There were large trees along the path and it was nicely shaded, which was wonderful. I remember my coach, Jen (balanced art multisport) saying Coke is good to drink in the last miles of the race. Since this was not going to be a PR half marathon at all and I run/walking this sucker I decided to try it out. Oh the glorious feelings I felt as it went down my throat. Nectar of the gods!

Great run course!

Great run course!

 

When I was on the run course I was able to chat with some people. They were all super nice and I certainly enjoyed the company. One lady that was in my same age group was from Texas and this was also her first half ironman. I also chatted with a nice older gentleman towards to end. Andrew, one of the coaches for BAM talked with me as he was passing me. He was one his last lap while I was on my first. He gave me some words of encouragement and then took off. He had a look of determination about him and I knew he was going to finish with a great time. When I was alone I would sing songs in my head and try not to think about what was going on. The night before this race, my daughter had listened to the song “The Witch Doctor”. You know, the one that goes “OOH EEH OOH AH AH TING TANG WALLA WALLA BING BANG!” Yeah, I couldn’t get that song out of my head. 5+ hours of that will make you crazy.

FINISH LINE

As soon as I was .40 miles away from the finish I decided I’d run straight through and finish strong. As I made the final turn and went through the finishers chute a feeling of happiness flooded over me. I crossed the finish line. I did it. This had really happened. It wasn’t a dream. It was real. REAL LIFE. A volunteer then placed my finishers medal around my neck. Wow, all that training and hard work actually ended up going towards something. I had a finish time of 6:26:26. I’m happy with that considering what happened. It really makes me want to sign up for another one to see how I could improve.

Race Bling!

Race Bling!

Stephany and I at the finish. First 70.3 for both of us!

Stephany and I at the finish. First 70.3 for both of us! It’s always fun to meet a fellow team member on the course!

 

Right next to the finish line was a table full of food. I ate some tasty slices of watermelon, drank a bottle of water and chocolate milk and also partook of a nice slice of pizza. I then went and retrieved my stuff from transition.

I ran into Wes (another BAM coach) at the finish line. He did the race as a relay team and they won. They did it in sub 4 hours and finished in 3:59:48!! Local elite/pro B.J. Christenson won it for the men and Bailey Hinz won for the women. Andrew ended up killing it with a time of 5:04:33! Tommy had just moved his house, was sick, traveled for work and still managed a 5:40:23! My friend Don pulled out a 5:47:24! HUGE congrats to all that raced that day! The Salt Lake Tri Club won the team challenge and won back the rock. SLTC had a lot of racers and volunteers that participated. It was awesome getting so many shouts of encouragements from them.  Tommy and I headed back home shortly after. We stopped for bags of ice (ice bath anyone?) and a much deserved slurpee.

I got a post race sports massage from Josh at Lotris Massage the following Monday. It really helped with my soreness and recovery. I also got a pre-race massage and that helped loosen me up before the race. Thanks Josh!

CONCLUSION

Overall, this race was an amazing and humbling experience. The more I race the more respect I gain for all those that put so much time and effort into improving themselves.

I’d like to thank my husband Cameron for all that he has done to support me in my training and racing. Training for an ironman takes up a huge amount of time I’d never be able to do any of it without him.  We have two daughters (age 3 and 9 months). He works hard at his day job and then comes home to spend as much time with our family as possible. I truly appreciate all that he does.

Huge props to RaceTri for putting on such a great event! I loved the race shirts and medals. They did the smart thing by postponing the race until the weather cleared to ensure the safety of the participants. There was a volunteer at EVERY single corner of the bike course! Not just a sign but an actual warm body directing where to go. At every major intersection there was a police officer stopping traffic to let the racers though. I made sure to thank every single volunteer and police officer that I passed. Volunteers are so crucial for a good race experience and the ones that volunteered their time for this race did a phenomenal job. What an awesome event!

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STATS

SWIM – 42 MINUTES

T1 – 2:03

BIKE – 3:03:36

T2 – 3:12

RUN – 2:35:32

FINAL TIME – 6:26:26

 

 

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