Sunday, April 26, 2015

Xterra 10K Trail Run ~ Lake Las Vegas ~ 4-26-15

I did something new today. I raced in the Xterra 10K Trail Race at Lake Las Vegas. Don't get me wrong, I've run on trail many times but have only raced one other time and it was a 5K. There was a Groupon that made the race only $20 so I figured "Why not!" 

They offered morning of packet pick-up which was great since it allowed us to just go early in the morning versus twice. We arrived at about 7:30 a.m. and made our way to the vendor expo to get my swag bag and race bib. They had the lines divided up for 5K, 10K, and 21K so the line moved fairly quickly. After checking in and getting my stuff, we walked over to the port-a-potties. They had about ten of them lining the street so there was no wait. 

We saw a few friends who had set up in the parking lot so we went over and hung out there until closer to race time. They had a great set up for tailgating with corn hole, chairs, donuts, drinks and hot dogs. At about 8:05 a.m., I made my way over for one more potty stop and then went to the start line. There were three starting times, one for each race, and our group had several racers in each wave. My wave was set to start at 8:35 a.m.

After the 21K wave went, I gave my husband a kiss and headed to the starting line. There were no timing chips so the race would start at gun time. Knowing that, I made sure I was near the front of the group. They started each wave with a cannon shot. They gave a short 5 second countdown and then "BOOM!"

We started the run on a golf course but quickly made a right hand turn up a hill to get back to the paved road. 

The first half mile was up a hill on a paved road. After that, we made our way to a dirt road. It had a gradual incline that led to a few rollers. Then the trail turned into some massive climbs. I had heard about these hills and they were not exaggerating when they described them. I pushed up the hills as fast as I could (which wasn't very fast). I then tried to let it loose on the back side to make up some time. The downhills seemed to be rockier. They were steep too. I could feel my teeth jarring with each forceful stride down. By the third or fourth big hill, I realized that I could power walk up these hills as fast as I was running up them and would expend a lot less energy. I switched to that tactic and it seemed to help. I made sure I ran on all flats and downhills. 

The course had four aid stations. I was running with a hydration belt so I didn't need to stop but they appeared to be well stocked with water, Gatorade, and gels. The course offered no shade so the sun was really intense. They had recommended running with water and I understood why. Even with the four aid stations, hydration was needed more than that. 

At about 3.5 miles, we began to flatten out and run in a canyon on a wash. The footing became more difficult since it was deep gravel. I tried to scout out the more packed paths and stick to them. The scenery was beautiful in this area though. Just after the four mile mark, we had another big climb (my last walk) and then turned onto a single track trail that followed the lake shore. It was like we had jumped to another state! It was lush and green with cattails and trees. Up until then, we had been in typical desert landscape which kind of resembled running on the moon. This single track was flat and hard packed so I was finally able to run with some speed. I passed a few people and focused on my cadence. My feet started to hurt at about this point as well. During this time, I made the decision to retire the shoes I had one. This would be their last race. 

Finally, just after the 6 mile mark, we made our way back to the paved road. I opened it up as much as I could. We hit a small hill but were rewarded with a nice downhill leading to the finishing area. I pushed as hard as I could. At the bottom of the hill, we made a sharp right hand turn. We had one more hill to push up and then turned back onto the golf course. Once on there, we had a short sprint to the finish line. 

My official finishing time was 1:20:49 and my Garmin showed 6.9 miles. They had warned us that the courses were longer than advertised so I was prepared to see those numbers. I placed 6/10 in my age group, 32/93 for females, and 93/183 overall. They did not give out medals and I was bummed to find that out.

I was greeted by my husband just after the finish line. We walked around for a few minutes, grabbed some post-race snacks and picked up my official time slip. We then walked over to our friends who were happily tailgating. 

This was a difficult race but I am happy with my results. My pace broke down to 11:42 per mile which is really good for me on a trail run. I probably will not do this race again but for $20, it was a good race. 

Next up....The Badass Dash 7K obstacle race.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rage Triathlon - Sprint distance - 4-18-15

I raced the Rage Triathlon, sprint distance, on 4-18-15. It was put on by BBSC Endurance Sports at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. They offered a sprint, olympic, and half distance at this race. I have raced in several races by BBSC and really enjoy them. They always have great medals and shirts. Their races are well supported and run without any glitches. For more information on some of their races, check them out at:

Packet pick-up was available on Thursday and Friday night at a local bike shop in Henderson, NV. I drove down to pick mine up on Friday night after dinner. The process was simple and smooth. There were several of my friends working as volunteers at packet pick-up so it was nice to chat with some friendly faces while I was there. I then headed home to pack my transition bag and get all my gear together for our early morning the next day.

My husband, Wes, was volunteering as kayak support for the swim and needed to be there by 6:00 a.m. It takes us about an hour to get to the lake so we left our house at 5:00 a.m. We arrived just before 6:00 a.m. and said our goodbyes as he headed towards the water. I loaded up my gear bag, bike and bike pump and headed towards transition. I quickly found an area for my bike. They do not assign exact spots but instead have even bikes on one side and odd on the other. Then they assign a few racks for groups of about 20 bikes at a time. So as long as you are within those numbers, you find whichever spot you'd like. I unloaded my transition bag and placed my gear in the order I'd be using them. I then began walking around the transition area chatting with my several friends that were also racing. 

My wave was scheduled to start at 7:40 a.m. At about 7:10 a.m., I went back up to my gear to put my wetsuit on and to grab my swim cap and goggles. I finally made my way to the water at about 7:30 a.m. I had just enough time to get in the water and meet up with a few friends before they said it was time to enter the swim chute. I made my way towards the front of the pack as we entered the water. I ended up being near the middle in the front which is where I usually like to start. The Race Director gave a quick explanation of the swim route and after a short countdown, we were off.

The swim was 750 meters and a rectangle type shape. We swam straight out from the beach and turned at the first large orange buoy. We were swimming towards the sun so it was difficult to see but there was a sailboat positioned directly in line with the buoy so it made sighting very easy. The start of the swim was congested as always but by about 100 yards, the pack had thinned out. I fell into a comfortable pace and did my thing. Swimming comes fairly easy for me and I do not suffer from any open water anxiety. As I turned to make the back straight-away before the turn back to the beach, I began to pass people from the previous waves. This happens at most of my races and I always take it as a good sign that I'm swimming well. After the final turn, I set my eyes on the arch and headed in. Once my hands started to hit the ground, I stood up and started jogging through the water towards shore. I always take my swim cap and goggles off first then get my wetsuit unzipped and pulled down to my waist before I exit the water. That allows me to hit the ground running. There is bit of a jog from the waters edge to the timing mat and the entrance into transition. To help the feet during that time, they laid down a carpet over the gravel until we met the concrete. Swim time was 14:26.

My bike was about halfway up the hill in transition. It seemed like it took forever to get to it. Once there, I worked my wetsuit off and hung it on the bike rack. I then sat down so I could dry my feet and put my socks and shoes on. I then stood up, grabbed my race belt and clipped it on, put my sunglasses on and finally put my helmet on. I then got my bike and started running up the final part of transition. Once outside the timing mat, I waved to some friends, mounted my bike and headed up the hill. T1 was 3:53.

The bike was a 12.4 miles out and back ride along Lakeshore Drive. It is a nice combination of hills, some small and some big. The turnaround was at an overlook parking lot that offered a bathroom if needed. Shortly after the turnaround, we encountered the biggest hill of the ride. It is long and about a 6% grade. Near the top of the hill, there was an aid station. Once the beach was in sight again, I knew I was almost there. After a final left hand turn off of the main road, I began the fast, fun downhill back to transition. Bike was 44:48.

I pulled into transition, passed some cheering friends, unclipped and ran for what seemed like ever to my rack. I took my helmet and bike shoes off after I racked my bike. I then had to get my shoes on. I hadn't switched my laces over to quick laces so I had to tie them. That took a few more seconds then I liked but it had to be done. I then grabbed my hat and handheld water bottle and headed to the run out of transition. I dropped my bottle as I was putting my hat on so I had to turn around for that but it was worth it. I made my to the run start and passed some friends that were cheering for me. T2 was 2:33.

The run course is a hard 5K. The first mile is trail and uphill. It's not just trail, it's loose gravel that is deep in some spots. It is not fun. After the first mile, I turned onto a paved road that was pretty flat. I tried to pick my pace up at this point to make up for the crummy performance I had on the first mile. There was a run aid station just after that turn as well. Since I was carrying my own water, I didn't need to stop at it. As I neared the turnaround, I saw my run coach on the side of the road. He cheered me on and let me know that I was almost at the turn. I made the turn and knew I was within 1.5 miles to the finish. I was hurting but it would be over in about 15 minutes. I once again passed my coach who threw out some words of encouragement. I turned onto the trail again and was able to continue my pace since it was downhill. At the final turn, I was about 3/4 of a mile to the finish. The trail was flat but filled with big rocks and gravel. My eyes had to stay glued to the ground so I wouldn't trip and twist an ankle. I wanted to speed up my pace but it wasn't possible. In fact, it slowed down some. When I was about 1/4 of a mile out, I sucked it up and pushed with all that I had left. I passed some of my cheering friends, focused on the finish line, and pushed until the end. Run was 32:43. 

Overall, I am pleased with my performance. I had raced it last year but did the olympic course so I didn't have splits to compare this year's too. My overall time was 1:38:25. I ended up placing 1st out of 6 in the Athena 40 and over category. 

After the race, we went over to a friend's house for brunch. It was great to relax and laugh as we talked about our races. There are so many aspects about this sport that I love. One of them is the amount of amazing friends that I have made along the way. They all get it and I am so blessed to have them in my life. 

Next up, Xterra 10K Trail Race at Lake Las Vegas on April 26th.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes it's hard to believe but the proof doesn't lie

This was me in 2012. I was over 250 pounds. I'm not sure exactly how much I weighed because I had stopped weighing myself. I couldn't stand to see the number always going up. I worked in a sedentary job and didn't do anything to help stop the weight gain. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and I was hardly in any pictures. I was unhappy and my marriage was not in a good place. In February of that year, I decided that I had to make a change. I started to workout and registered for a few races for the fall to make sure I had some motivation. I didn't know if the change I needed was possible but I knew that I had to do it for me and for my family. The weight started to come off but very, very slowly.

January 2012
January 2012

November 2011

 This February marked my three year anniversary of living healthy. I am now a healthy, happy wife and mother. I have lost between 60 and 70 pounds and the scale continues to move (still very, very slow). Sometimes it's hard to believe that I have made these changes but the proof doesn't lie. Today I bought size 12 shorts and large tops. I stood in the dressing room in disbelief. It's hard for me to see it because I still see a fat girl in the mirror. As I was driving home, the radio was talking about weight loss and that sometimes we need to visualize things in order to understand the magnitude of our accomplishments. They said to think of a one pound block of cheese and think of one of those coming off each time you loss a pound. I thought of how much 60 pounds of cheese would look like and was amazed. I then thought of my 10 year old son who weighs 60 pounds. I have lost an entire 10 year old! That visualization really hit the mark. Putting it that way made me really see how much I have lost. 

March 2015

April 2015
I still have a long way to go. This journey is not over and probably never will be. I'm not writing this to brag because that is never my intention. I write this to encourage because if I can do it, anyone can.  Now when I see the scale go down one pound, I'll think of a block of cheese and realize that it is something to be proud of. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon and USAT National Athena Championship Sprint Distance ~ 8-17-14

DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon and USAT National Triathlon Championship (Sprint Distance)

August 17, 2014         Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Travel to the race:
I opted to drive to this race since I was already driving to SW Missouri for a family vacation. If I were to fly, I would have flown into Little Rock, Arkansas. The airport is about one hour from Arkadelphia. I arrived on Friday, the 15th.

I stayed at Quality Inn, 150 Valley St, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 71923, 870-230-1506. It was located off the I-30 at the HWY 7 exit. It was an older hotel but it offered friendly service, affordable rates, clean rooms, free parking, free internet, an outdoor swimming pool, and free breakfast. They opened the breakfast up extra early for the racers which was very nice. They also had popcorn in the lobby after 4:00 PM (which my boys loved). They had an ice machine and a washer and dryer.

Packet Pick-up:
Packet pick-up was located at DeGray Lake State Park from 5-7:30 PM. The park was about four miles from the hotel I was staying at. The park was beautiful with tall pine trees and rolling hills surrounding a clear, clean lake. There were no lines so I walked right up to the registration table. Since this was also the USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race, they did weigh me to verify that I was racing in the correct division. After the packet was in hand, I decided to drive the bike course so I would be familiar with it on race day. It has hillier than I expected so I was glad to see it beforehand.

 Race Morning:
Transition was open from 6-7:45 AM. I arrived at about 6:30 and quickly set up my transition. It was set up as a square with four rows of racks. They were not assigned so I picked one that was the second in towards the bike out exit. The humidity was 100% and it was thick. It was sunny and there was no wind. At 7:30 AM there was a pre-race meeting near the finish line. This is where the race director explained the course and gave us any last minute details needed for the day. The first wave started at 8:00 AM. My wave was at 8:10 AM. After the pre-race meeting and a final bathroom break, I headed down to the boat ramp.

The swim was a floating start so once the wave before us left, we walked over the timing mat and entered the water. The water temperature was perfect and wetsuits were not needed or allowed. I positioned myself in the first row of swimmers so that I could get a good start. With a short countdown and a buzzer, I was off. I had raced the Olympic distance race the day before so I was not sure how my body was going to react to being asked to race again. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it knew exactly what to do and did it. The swim was set up as a small triangle. The buoys were very visible and the water was calm so it made for great open water swimming conditions. The race had super water support with several kayaks, boats, and swift water rescue teams. The swim felt good and I was out front quickly. The timing mat was about twenty feet from the water line which made for great swim times. I completed my 500 yard swim in 9:53.

The run to T1 was along the boat ramp and parking lot. It was paved and about 100 yards long. Once inside the transition area, I easily found my bike. I wanted to improve my transition times from the day before so I made a few small changes. I decided to bike without my gloves and I didn’t sit down to put my socks and shoes on. These changes shaved 46 seconds off my time. Total T1 time was 1:59.

The bike course started with about one hundred yards of parking lot then a sharp right turn onto the main road. The road immediately greeted us with a nice climb, the first of many. Once at the top of that hill there were a few rollers that led to the dam. The ride across that was beautiful! After that nice, flat, scenic section the road began its gradual, constant climb. From approximately mile 0-6, the road was in really good condition. From mile 6-8, there were several sections of road that had been patched and those areas were rough. It made it very difficult to maintain your speed when riding across those patches. The turnaround was at mile 8. The course was an out and back. It had two good climbs on the way back but other than that, it was a gradual downhill where a lot of speed could be gathered. Once again, going across the dam was breathtaking. There was a bit of a breeze now so I did feel myself getting pushed around by the wind at that point. As I approached the sharp left turn that took me back into the transition area, I had to really apply my brakes to control my speed into the turn. I then made my way to the dismount line. I completed the 16.2 mile bike course in 55:53.

I headed into T2 still feeling strong. I once again tried to decrease my transition time from the day before. By not having to mess with taking off my gloves and by eating my nutrition as I was running out of the transition area, I shaved 14 seconds off my previous time. My T2 time was 0:43.

The run started with about a tenth of a mile run through the parking lot. It then turned left onto the main road. It immediately began a decent climb into the woods. That was a bit challenging on tired legs. It rolled through the beautiful trees for about a half mile. Then the course turned left onto a side road. There was an aid station located just after that turn. There was a gradual climb for another half mile. The road then leveled out for another half mile. Then the course turned slightly left onto a grass section next to the highway for a quarter mile. It then turned left again to reenter the woods for the aid station and turnaround. It was an out and back as well. Once I made it to the downhill sections, I let my legs go and tried to finish the race strong. As I exited the main road and made my way back to the parking lot knowing that I was on the final leg of the race, I began my sprint. I always try to push it at the end and leave it all out there. I completed the 3.5 mile run in 35:43.

 My final time was 1:44:14 and I finished in 2nd place. There were no finisher’s medals which was very disappointing. I feel that all races should give those out. They offered a sack lunch, water and Gatorade to all race participants. They also had a sprinkler near the finish line that felt amazing to be in. All races should have that too! This was a small race but I felt like it was very well run and supported.  I would attend this race again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hiking is cross training, right? Havasupai Hike ~ 4-1-15 to 4-3-15

I went on an amazing three day adventure from April 1-3, 2015. We did the Havasupai Hike. We drove four hours from Las Vegas to our trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop in Arizona. We started the hike at 10:00 a.m. because we had to be checked into our hotel by 5:00 p.m. The hike down was listed as 8 miles and we didn't want to risk missing our check-in time. 

The first mile of the trail is a steep descent, losing 2000 feet, by switchbacks. Once on the dry wash, at the bottom of the Hualapai Canyon, we made a much easier descent all the way to the village of Supai. We were in the direct sun for most of the hike. For the final mile and a half we were walking along the river that emerged from the Havasu Springs in the shade of willow, tamarisk, and cottonwood trees. We arrived at the village of Supai and our lodge at 2:00 p.m.

At check in, we received our hiking permits that had to be attached to our backpacks for the entire stay. Everyone needs a permit to do the hike. Our permit fees were added into the hotel costs. The hotel was very expensive and the room was old and falling apart but it was clean and the beds were comfortable. After we stopped by our room we walked to the cafe for an early dinner. The prices were high, the service left a few things to be desired and my cheeseburger wasn't very good but the curly fries were great. My friend ordered an Indian Taco that looked amazing so I made a mental note to order that if we ate there again. After dinner, we walked down to the river to stick our feet in the water. We then made our way back to the hotel for showers and an early night to bed. 

We woke at 6:00 a.m., packed our backpacks and headed out for a long, glorious day. We wanted to hike the 12 listed miles round trip from the lodge to Beaver Falls. We came across our first waterfalls within a mile of the village. They were the Upper and Lower Navajo Falls. There were trails that led down to them but we had planned on making a fast trip down the hike and spending more leisure time on the way back up so we only stopped for a quick picture at the rim of the trail.

The next waterfall we saw was Havasu Falls. It was two miles from the village and at the beginning of the campground. It is 100 feet tall and the most photographed waterfall in the Grand Canyon. It literally took my breath away when I saw it. The water was an amazing blue-green color.

As we made our way through the campground, we stopped at Fern Spring, which is a fresh water faucet along the west wall of the canyon. The water is safe to drink so we all refilled our waters. There were also several bathrooms along the path through the campground so we stopped to use those before we left. The campground is sprinkled with picnic tables and tent sites, ranging from along the canyon walls to next to the river. It would be a beautiful place to spend a few nights. 

Just below the campground, we encountered the third and tallest waterfall, Mooney Falls. It is a 200 foot waterfall. At that point, the trail cuts through the cliff with two tunnels, chains anchored to the wall and old ladders leading to the blue-green pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I was the first of my group to go through this. I am not afraid of heights but if you are, this will be a very difficult section for you to get through. At the bottom, we regrouped for a quick picture and continued down the trial. 

We followed the river for the entire trail. Sometimes it even had us cross the river. We ended up crossing it twice on make-shift bridges and twice in the river. We all had water shoes so switched into those for the water crossings. I actually kept my Teva sandals on for the remainder of the hike after the first water crossing. They were comfortable and I didn't have to keep switching them. 

We arrived at Beaver Falls at about 11:30 a.m. Beaver Falls is a series of cascades where Beaver and Havasu Canyons meet. We decided to take our first real stop since this was our scheduled turnaround spot. I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes so I took this time to take a little swim. The water was chilly but so beautiful. I played in the top pool just below the first waterfall. The rocks were not slippery which was a welcome find since you never needed to second guess your footing. After a short swim, we stopped for lunch along the waters edge. I got one more swim in after I ate. 

We hit the trail again at about 12:30 p.m. Our GPS watches showed that the hike from our lodge to Beaver Falls was 7.75 miles. The hike back towards Supai Village was all uphill but the grade was so slight that it was barely noticeable. We made great time on the hike back up and even stopped for a few group shots along the way. 

The next long stop we made on the way back was at Mooney Falls. It was so beautiful and powerful. We sat at a picnic table and had a little snack. Then we enjoyed the water and viewing the waterfall. The sun was hitting just right. We could have stayed there forever but knew we needed to get up the cliff before it got too late. 

We made our way back up the crazy maze of ladders, chains and tunnels. I was the first to go again and waited for my friends at the top. We then made our way back through the campground, stopping to refill some water. Our final stop was at the Havasu Falls. This was the busiest falls since it is by the campground and the easiest to access. We stayed in the water until the sun made it's way passed the canyon walls. 

We then made our way back to the village of Supai. We arrived at about 5:00 p.m. Our GPS watches said we had hiked 15.5 miles. We stopped at the cafe for dinner. This time I ordered the Indian Taco and was not disappointed. The service was about the same but that's ok since they have a monopoly on the business there. After dinner, we went back to our hotel room, showered, talked and laughed, and then went to bed. 

We woke up at 6:00 a.m. We had decided to take the helicopter out of the village back to the Hilltop. It cost $85 and took only minutes. When we arrived at the helicopter pad, we talked with a few other waiting hikers. We were told that we could wait hours for the helicopter and sometimes people didn't make it out on the day they wanted. With that news, we decided to hike out instead and left the village at about 7:30 a.m.

The first seven miles were a gradual ascent along the dry wash again. We made our way in and out of the sun along the way. It was neat to see the trail in the opposite direction. Things that were beautiful on the way down weren't as cool on the way up and things on the way up were way neater than they were on the way down. 

Once we hit the seven mile mark, we started the final mile of the steep climb. We were directly in the sun so it was hot. I just put my head down and climbed. I was on a mission but still stopped for quick picture along the switchbacks. 

We all made it to the top by about 12:00 p.m. I was the first because everything is a race, right? As I waited for all the members of our group to make the Hilltop, I looked out over the canyon in amazement of the feat I had just accomplished. I hiked roughly 34 miles in just over 48 hours. I saw desert canyon and lush tropical waterfalls. I bonded with friends and learned things about myself. I got bad blisters on my heels by mile two on the first day, my shoulders were sore from carrying the backpack and my leg muscles were sore and tight but I didn't let that stop me. I chose to push through and enjoy the journey. This was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Our world is a beautiful, mysterious place.....go explore it.