Monday, September 28, 2015

Kokopelli Olympic Triathlon at Sand Hollow State Park ~ 9/12/15

On September 12th, I raced in the olympic distance at the Kokopelli Triathlon. It was held in Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah. We drove up on Friday night in order to pick up our race packets. It was held at the Hurricane Community Center from 3:00-8:00 PM. We were able to get there at about 7:00 PM and packet pick-up was quick and easy. We then stopped at a local cafe, Triple TJ's Cafe, for a good dinner. After dinner we went to our regular hotel for races at Sand Hollow, Holiday Inn Express in Washington, Utah. There wasn't much time for relaxation because it was almost 9:00 PM by this time. I took a quick shower and got my gear ready for the morning. 

We woke up at 5:15 AM to get ready. We stopped by the hotel breakfast room at 5:45 AM and were glad to see that they had set breakfast out a little early for us. Transition opened at 6:00 AM and we arrived at 6:30 AM. My wave was scheduled to start at 7:15 AM. My husband was racing the duathlon and his wave started at 8:00 AM. 

I quickly set up my transition space and was then able to socialize with some of my friends who were also racing. I made my way to the swim start at 7:00 AM. They were running a little behind schedule because they had to start the kid's race later than planned due to the sun not being up yet. Finally, at about 7:25 AM, my wave was directed to enter the water. 

Me with my husband and youngest son before the race. 

Me with some of my good friends from the Las Vegas Triathlon Club.

The swim start is a floating start so we walked down a pier and jumped in the water. The sun was still tucked behind the hills which was a good thing since we were swimming straight towards it. After a few last minute instructions, we were off. I started towards the front and was quickly out of the main pack. With the sun not in my eyes, I was able to sight easily and stay on course. The swim course is a long rectangle. By the time I was about to make my first left hand turn, the sun made it's way over the hills. I felt like I was swimming well and began to pass people from the previous two waves. That is always a good feeling. At the final stretch of the swim, I started to merge with the sprint waves so it became a bit more congested. I finally reached the boat ramp and was able to run out of the water. There is a bit of a climb from the water's edge to transitions but it is on concrete and some of it is carpeted so I was able to go without my flip flops. My 1500 meter swim was done in 31:22.

I ran into transition and made my way to my bike. I was towards the back near the bike exit which is where I prefer, less distance to run in your bike shoes. I was in and out in 2:06.

The bike course starts out with a nice downhill which gives me time to clip in and get adjusted before I need to start powering. It also let's me find my legs. Once at the bottom of the hill, we make a sharp left hand turn and begin a slight climb. At about the 1 mile mark, there is a small, steep hill. It is tough but short so that is good. At the top of the hill, there is another left hand turn. Then you remain straight for several miles. At about mile 4, "The Beast" begins. It is a 1 mile climb of about 500 feet. It is a killer. I have to just put my head down and grind it out. At the top of the hill, after you thank the good Lord you made it, you begin a downhill section. At the bottom of the hill is a right hand turn. This next section is about 2 miles and flat. The road condition isn't the best but I was able to pick up some nice speed. Then there is another right hand turn and then you begin a slight climb until the turn around. This is an out and back course so you retrace your route back to the transition area. There is one aid station that you pass on the return ride at about mile 14.5. I always grab a water bottle and put it in my seat bottle holder to drink later on the run. The back side of "The Beast" is not as steep so the climb is no problem. Then you get to fly down the front of the hill. I get going FAST! There is a cattle guard near the bottom of the hill so I slow down to go over that. There is a hill to end the bike course on which is no fun. I powered up it and was able to finish the 20.4 mile bike in 1:13:02.

I ran into transition, racked my bike, changed my shoes, took my helmet off and put on my visor, grabbed my sunglasses and water bottle and headed out on the run. T2 was 1:48. 

The run is my hardest thing but I focus on keeping a decent pace. I sipped on my water for most of the run. This lets me skip the aid stations and continue to stay hydrated for the whole run. The run is mostly on a separate course. Only the very beginning and end run on the same road as the bike but they are separated by cones and a rope so there should be no accidental collisions. The run goes along the water's edge. There is a downhill out of transition and then a short uphill to get onto the run course. Once there, the run stays mainly flat with minor up and downs. There are three aid stations, one every mile. It was also an out and back so once you pass the last aid station, you turn around and start heading back. At about mile 4, I finished my water and finally threw my bottle away. At the final aid station, I grabbed a small cup of water and poured it over my head. One of the volunteers also threw a cup of water on me. I then made the final push up the hill to the finish. I pushed with all I had left and tried to sprint out the final stretch. I finished the 6.2 mile run in 1:01:33.

I finished the entire race in 2:49:53. This was good enough for 1st place Athena overall. It was a great day for a race and I had a lot of fun. There were many friends from the Las Vegas Triathlon Club racing and it is always fun to have cheering throughout the race from fellow racers. 
Sharing the podium with my friend!

Many of my friends were also podium finishers!

Me with my husband and youngest son after the race. 

My husband placed 1st in his age division for the duathlon!

Me with my finisher's medal and gold podium medal.

After the race, a few of us had a post-race snack of Pumpkin Spice Oreos!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hike to Kolob Arch in Zion National Park ~ 9-7-15

My friend and I decided that Labor Day would be the perfect day to tackle the 14.8 mile round trip hike to see the Kolob Arch in Zion National Park. We had recently found out that tucked in the back country wilderness of Zion was the world's 2nd longest natural arch, measuring 287.4 feet. 

We met at a gas station on the NE outskirts of Las Vegas at 4:50 am to carpool to the trail head. We took I-15 North to Utah and turned off at exit 40. The Kolob Visitor Center is just off the highway. We arrived at 7:50 am and it opened at 8:00 am so we had a few minutes to wait before we could go inside. Once inside, we showed our park pass, grabbed a park map and asked a few questions about the trail. Then we were off. 

The trail head parking lot was a few miles from the Visitor Center. We parked, grabbed our gear, asked a ranger to take our picture and then walked the 100 yards to the actual trail head. The sun wasn't over the mountains yet so it was a little chilly but not too bad. We had seen rain and lightening on the drive to Utah so we were worried about rain but it stayed clear for the entire day. 

The first few miles of the trail were downhill. The trail was nicely maintained with wooden steps in several areas. I brought my hiking poles with me but didn't feel like I needed them at any point along the way. 

As we neared the valley floor, the sun began to peak over the mountains. It was beautiful!


Once on the valley floor, we began to walk through deep sand. It made it a little difficult to walk. We began to hear water and shortly we were hiking along the La Verkin Creek. It was small but clear. The sound of rushing water was such a beautiful sound. This portion of the hike was pretty exposed so it began to get warm.

On our way to the turnoff, we passed campsites 1-10. The first three were higher up but 4-10 were along the creek and would be my choice in campsites. I don't remember seeing campsite 10 but the map showed that it was right by the turnoff. 


Just when we were wondering if we had somehow missed our turn, we saw the sign directing us to the Kolob Arch. It said that we were 0.5 miles from the arch. Once we turned, we began to walk along a small creek bed. This required a small amount of scrambling but not too much. If the water was higher, it would have been more difficult. 


Finally, we could see the arch. There was a sign saying that we were at the end of the trail and to not go beyond that point. The arch was high above us along the cliff wall.


We decided that this was a great time to stop for lunch. We sat on a fallen tree and enjoyed our lunch in the shadows of the arch.

After lunch, we made our way back along the creek bed to the main trail. The sun was high and it was warm. We had come prepared and had plenty of water. There was no clean water along the trail so if you needed drinking water, you would have to filter the creek water before drinking it.


We made our way back through the sand and along the La Verkin Creek again. The several miles of sand hiking made our legs sorer than normal. We were almost happy to see the trail begin the ascent because that meant we would be on solid trail again. 


The final climb was steep but not too bad. The hike details had said to expect to take 10-12 hours to completed the hike. We were able to finish in about 7 hours. We were both very happy to see the end of the trail and our car. 

We loaded up the car and decided to drive to the end of the scenic road to see the overlook. It provided an amazing panoramic view of the area that we had just hiked through.

It was a fantastic day and a hike I'd recommend. It wasn't the most spectacular thing I've ever seen but the fact that it was something that so few people actually see, made this a very special hike.