On August 22, 2015, I raced in my third half iron distance triathlon. It was the Toughman Utah Half, near Provo, Utah. My husband had done some research on the Toughman brand and had heard good things. It was a 70.3 race only with 291 participants and they offered an Athena division.
Provo is six hours away which is our max radius of races to drive to. We left Las Vegas on Friday morning so we could get to packet pick-up and hopefully drive the bike course before race day. The GPS took us to the wrong location but we were luckily able to find the right location without too much difficulty. Packet pick-up was at a local running store, Utah Run. There was a small table set up in the back where I was able to get my timing chip, shirt and swag bag. They did not have any race details like course maps or athlete lists. After that was finished, we went to our hotel and checked in. We stayed at a location about 10 minutes from the race location.
Once the luggage, gear and kids were safely unloaded in the hotel room, my husband and I went out to drive the bike course. I was able to print up the MapMyRun directions at our hotel's work station. The first several miles of the course were in the city of Provo so there were a lot of turns. We were able to follow the directions for about the first 8 miles but then got lost. We couldn't figure out where we were on the course so we gave up. We went back to the hotel and picked the kids up and went to dinner.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel. I needed to get a quick workout in and contemplated swimming, biking and running at the hotel fitness center but decided on an outdoor run instead. My husband and I went out for a 10 minute run around the block. Once we returned, I made sure all of my gear was ready for the morning, took a shower and went to bed.
Transition opened at 5:00 am and the race was scheduled to start at 7:15 am. We got up at 4:30 so I had time to get ready. I put on my sunscreen, got dressed, ate my breakfast, and finally woke up the kids. We were on the road by 5:15 am and arrived at the race location by 5:30 am. The swim and transition area was just inside the Utah Lake State Park. We unloaded the car and walked about 1/4 a mile to transition.
The transition was nicely lite so I was able to find a good spot near some friends and quickly get set up. Once that was done, I was able to socialize. At 7:00 am, the race director held a briefing near the swim start explaining the course and some last minute details. As he was nearing the end of his speech, I ran to the bathroom and then went back into transition to get my wetsuit on. I was borrowing a friend's sleeveless suit since the water was just barely wetsuit legal at 78 degrees. My full sleeve suit would have been too warm.
My wave was set to start at 7:23 am. The race director's talk went a little long so we all started about five minutes after our scheduled start time. I was in the last wave which seems to be the normal. I stood on the boat ramp talking with my husband until the wave before me went and then I entered the water. I made my way to the middle and front of the pack and waited for the countdown to start.
As the air horn blew, I dove in and was off. I immediately popped my head back up because the water was completely black and I was taken back by that. It was so dark, I might as well had my eyes closed under the water. I realized that I would have to sight with every stroke in order to see where I was going and to not run into other swimmers. The course was a one loop, out and back within the harbor. It was very shallow and my hands hit the bottom for almost the entire swim. It was so shallow that several racers actually walked/jogged the swim. It was really strange to be swimming along and look over to see the person next to you walking through the water, many times even faster then I was swimming. I thought about walking but decided against it since this was the swim portion of the race and I wanted to do it right.
I exited the swim and made my way towards transition. I looked at my Garmin as I crossed over the timing mat and was amazed to see 32:55. That was a new 1.2 mile PR.
Once in transition, I chatted with my rack neighbors about the water condition as I took my wetsuit off. Everyone was grossed out with how dark and murky it was. I quickly dried my feet, got my socks on, put my biking shoes on, put my race bib on, put my helmet on, grabbed my bike and was off. T1 time was 2:14.
Once on the bike, I was cold but I knew that it wouldn't last long. I passed a few people while still in the park, waved to my husband, exited the park, and entered Provo. The first few miles were through nice neighborhoods. I had been worried about getting lost but I had other racers around me so I was able to follow the leaders through the city. We had to cross a few stop lights but there were police officers controlling the intersections so we were able to ride right through them. That is always a nice feature to have at a race.
Once we were out of the city, we were on farm roads. There were still officers controlling intersections so we didn't have to stop at stop signs either. The scenery was nice but we did have a long section that smelled like manure so that kind of stunk....literally. As we neared the 20 mile mark, we started to have worse road conditions. It became really rough which made it a lot harder to hold speed. There was also a slight climb for the final several miles before the turn around. Even though it was probably the hardest part of the ride, it was definitely the prettiest. It skirted along the southern edge of Utah Lake. The turn around was at a dead end. I made the turn and was looking forward to the decent but it wasn't what I expected. Due to the road conditions, I wasn't able to reap the reward that a downhill usually grants. I continued to push to try to keep my pace up. My legs were starting to burn and my lower back was starting to throb. The racers were starting to get thinner so there were sections that I seemed to be on the road by myself. Luckily, I was able to make my way back without any problems. I was glad when I returned to the smoother section of the road and was able to pick my speed back up. I weaved my way back through the city of Provo, making sure to thank all the officers for their time and help. As I approached the park entrance, I saw my husband and he cheered me on as I passed. I finally finished the 56 miles and saw that I did it in 2:54:48, an average of 19.3 mph.
I ran into transition and was so happy to be upright again. I had spent almost the entire bike ride in the aero position and my back was tired. I racked my bike, took off my helmet and bike shoes and grabbed my running shoes and hat and took off. My T2 time was 1:48.
I was on par to reach my time goal and obtain a PR until I started my run. Within a few minutes of running, I realized that it was going to be hard. I was running in new shoes (I know, I was breaking rule #1 of never doing something new on race day) and the balls of my feet felt like knifes were stabbing me with each step. I had this happen before but the pain had gone away after a few miles. On this day, it stayed the entire time. Add that pain to my lower back pain and my run was not going to be as I had hoped. I started to do a run/walk regiment to break up the discomfort. The run was a two loop path that took us through the park. Some of the path was in the sun and other parts were along a river in the shade. I found that I needed to walk through the aid stations and through the sunny areas. I was able to run in the shaded parts. As the time went on, my goals began to change. At first, I had wanted to complete my run in 2:15. It slowly moved to 2:30 then 2:45. I even had times when I wanted to quit or cheat. Neither of those were real options because that's not who I am but the thoughts did cross my mind.
On the second loop, I caught up to one of my friends. He was having a lot of knee pain so I decided to walk with him for about 1.5 miles. This ended up being the highlight of my race. As we were walking and talking a women asked us if we were on our first or second loop. We told her that we were on our second. She was bummed to hear that because she was on her first. She said that she hated to think that she was going to be the last person on the course. As we were chatting, we saw my husband standing ahead with the camera. I said that we needed to start running so we looked good in the pictures. She said that we should give him a true action shot. With those words, she dropped to the ground and started to crawl. I was surprised that she did that and it made me really laugh. Me and my friend continued to run and we left her on the ground. We smiled and waved at my husband as we ran by. Later that night, I looked at our pictures and discovered that my husband captured the funniest set of pictures during that event. I still laugh when I look at them!
After I left my friend, I walked a little more through the sunny area and then started to run. I was able to run for the rest of the race. It was slow but at least it was forward motion. As I made my way through the shaded path I was proud of myself for continuing through the pain even when I knew that my PR was out the window. I tend to struggle with issue of feeling like I have pressure on me to do good at my races. I have had some success and I think others expect me to do that good all the time. It was kind of freeing to lose that pressure as I came to the realization that this was just going to be a race to finish.
As I approached the finish chute, I tried to pick up my pace. My husband had told me to finish strong so I did. I ended up finishing the 13.1 mile run in 2:50:56, my slowest half marathon to date.
I was met at the finish line by my awesome, supportive family. They untied my shoes for me as we sat and talked for a few minutes. My husband walked back to the transition area and picked up all my gear and met us back at the finisher area. I signed up for a free stretching session while we waited to see the race results. After a few minutes, my son was able to look them up online and saw that I had placed 1st in the Athena division. The race director wanted to wait until another Athena finished before he did the award ceremony. I was fine with that so we sat around and talked with friends, I drank some water and ate an ice cream cone, and I got my stretching session done.
Finally, they held the award ceremony for the Athena division. I won with a total time of 6:22:40.
This was not my best race but I learned a lot about myself on this race. I tried new things that didn't work out to well. I learned that deep down, I do this for me and me only. Instead of quitting and taking a DNF or cheating I choose to push through the pain and finish. When I started this sport in 2012, I only raced for myself and the satisfaction it brought. As the years have progressed, my mindset shifted a little. I needed this race to remind me the real reason of why I race. I enjoy pushing myself beyond what I think I am able to do. I enjoy the comradery I have with fellow racers, friends and strangers. I enjoy the support of my family who love me no matter how I do on a race. Winning is always nice but the rewards I get from the sheer enjoyment of racing are much greater.