Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ragnar Wasatch Back ~ June 16-19, 2016

I did my first Ragnar relay, Wasatch Back in Utah! I joined a team put together by my coach. The team was built with all prior and current patients/clients. All of us had gone to him, at  Maximum Velocity Physical Therapy, for some reason or the other. Over time, he had returned us all to running. He named the team, All Stars!

He selected Wasatch Back as the perfect Ragnar for us. Ragnar describes this relay as "the race that started it all! This iconic 200(ish) mile overnight running relay course begins in Northern Utah in the city of Logan and traverses across the back of Utah’s rough and tough Wasatch Mountains. Teams will find their inner wild as they cross three mountain passes, pass fields of summer wildflowers, run beneath millions of stars, and cross the finish line together at Soldier Hollow in Midway, UT." He had done this relay before and was excited to take us there for many of our first Ragnar relay.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ragnar, they are a relay race with 6 or 12 people that run 200ish miles within 36 hours. Each runner completes three legs. A slap bracelet is exchanged between the runners at exchange points. Runners 1-6 travel in one van while runners 7-12 are in another van. Both vans are only together at exchange points 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and the finish.

I had only started running again on April 1, 2016, so I was given the leg with the shortest mileage and easiest sections. I was runner 7.

We drove up on Thursday from Las Vegas and stayed at a teammate's family member's house. There were 12 of us crammed into a basement. There were bodies everywhere. Some of us were lucky and scored a bed, air mattress or couch. Others had to sleep on the floor. I somehow got the air mattress and got a pretty good nights sleep. Van 1 had to be at the start line really early so they were up and out of the house by about 4:00 AM. Van 2 was able to sleep in a bit, eat breakfast, and grab some groceries before heading to the first major exchange point.

Once we arrived at the exchange point, we checked in, watched a brief video about safety and signed our waivers. I was the first runner for our van so I got ready and waited to start my run. It was a festive environment with music and a lot of people. We had to wait a few hours for runner 6 to arrive so we found some shade and relaxed.

At about 2:30 PM, Van 1 arrived and told us their runner was on her way in. We all went over to the chute and waited for her to arrive. They had spotters about a quarter mile from the chute who radioed in each runner's number. Once I heard our teams number, I hurried over to the chute and before you know it, she was there. I received the slap bracelet and was on my way!

My first leg was 2.55 miles. It had a slight decline for the entire run. It was really hot but I knew that I could push it for such a short distance. At about the 1 mile mark, my van passed me on the way to the next exchange point. It was fun to have that brief cheering section. I made the final turn and saw a small group of people at a church and knew I was almost there. I sprinted with all I had left and slapped the bracelet on runner 8. I finished in 27:20. I was exhausted but didn't have time to cool down as he was one of our fastest runners and had a short leg so we had to leave immediately to get to the next exchange point.

We continued this routine for all of our runners. We would cheer as we passed them on the road making our way to the next exchange point. Runners would come in and runners would go out. We finally made it to exchange point 12. This was our second large exchange point where both vans were able to meet up. They also had a vendor fair at this exchange. I bought a visor and we all got together and ate dinner, except for runner 12 who was out running. Once runner 12 was in and runner 1 was out, we made our way to the next major exchange point, 18, to try and get some sleep. It was at a high school. We were able to use the bathrooms but had to sleep outside. We had all brought sleeping bags, blankets and pillows so we found a quiet spot on the campus grounds and laid down for a couple hours.


I wasn't able to sleep but it was nice to relax. It was really cold so I got up after about an hour. I ate some food and then got ready to start my second leg. This would be in the dark so I needed to have a reflective vest, headlamp, and red tail lamp. At about 12:30 AM, runner 6 made her way in and I was off. I was nervous to run at night. My headlamp was not the brightest and I was worried about uneven surfaces. It started out in the city but made it's way to the country. It was dark and quiet. It was peaceful. This run had a slight incline for the entire distance. I finally saw the lights of the exchange point. It was weird coming in and not being able to see because I was blinded by the lights. Runner 8 could see me so he started yelling my name and I just made my way over to him. He needed my red tail lamp so I gave him mine and then he was on his way. This leg was 4.27 miles and I completed it in 47:30.

I have never been much of a car sleeper so I sat in the passenger seat and helped the driver for a while. I had to help runner 8 a few times with hydration so I got in and out of the van each time. It was cold now that I was in wet clothes. I also had to carry two orange flags each time I was out of the car to make sure me and our runner were visible and safe.

As each runner in our van took their turn at night running, I tried to get some sleep but it didn't work. We went from tired passengers to slap happy passengers. Some people slept, some sang along to the music, some sat with blank stares. We saw the sunrise over the beautiful mountains.

While our last runner was on her leg, we made our way to the next major exchange point. This was at another high school. This is where van 1 had slept overnight. We decided to not stop there but to head to exchange point 30 instead. We grabbed some breakfast on the way. This was at a large ski resort. There were a lot of people there and no designated sleep area. We found a nice shaded hill next to some condos and tried to get some rest. Once again, I wasn't able to sleep. That was getting old. I was tired. A few hours before my final leg was to start, we received a call from van 1 stating that they were not going to get to us for a few more hours. This was starting to look like a problem since there was a cut-off finish time and we probably were not going to make it. The Race Director gave us permission to start our van before van 1 got there. So I quickly got changed and ready to run. Since I didn't have a slap bracelet, I went to the starting chute, high-fived a volunteer and started my final leg.

This was my hardest leg yet. It was 3.98 miles and all up hill. It was really warm again since it was about 3:00 PM. The views were amazing though. I struggled and even had to walk parts of it. I finally made my way around the corner to see my team, as well as a lot of other people, waiting for me. I finished it in 58:19. Runner 8 had started before I arrived in order to make up additional time. So I wasn't able to see him off. He was running the hardest leg of the entire relay. It was straight up a ski run. We had to wait until he had passed a check point in order to make our way to the next exchange point. This allowed me to cool off and drink some fluids before having to get back in the car. Once we received word of his checking in, you headed up the mountain. 

All of our runners made their exchanges after that leg. We finally made our way to the finish line once our final runner was out. We met up with van 1 and waited. We were all tired, hungry and dirty but sat around telling each other about the last 36 hours. At about 7:30 PM, we saw our final runner coming down the hill towards us. We lined up and all ran across the finish line together. It was pretty cool!

They then shuffled us to a tent where we were able to pick up our medals. We discovered that when they were turned over and laid together that they made a saying. It read: "We believe that being a Ragnarian is about more than being a runner; that misery loves company and happiness is "only real when it's shared"; that there is a badass inside all of us; that everyone deserves to be cheered at the finish line; that tutus make you run faster; that adventure can only be found if you are looking for it; and that a little sleep deprivation is a small price to pay to watch the sunrise with our friends. Together we ran 200-ish miles. Together we can accomplish anything. WE ARE RAGNARIANS."

We then made our way to the Ragnar wall and all left our names. Some of us wrote little messages as well. This was the first time the entire team of 12 was together. Our new little family posed for a group picture. 

Then we got a picture of just van 2. It's amazing how much a group of people can bond together in just a few hours. We then drove down into town for dinner. We sat around a big table in a room all to ourselves and shared stories, laughed, and ate until we couldn't eat one more thing.

I am really proud that I was able to complete this adventure. I was very hesitant when my coach asked me to join his team. When I started running again in April, I was only able to do run for one minute at a time. How was I going to be able to run 10.8 miles in about 24 hours? With the help from my coach and encouragement from my friends, I was able to take part in this epic journey. If you are ever given the opportunity to do a Ragnar race, DO IT! The lack of sleep, sore muscles, and hunger were so worth it.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Las Vegas Triathlon 70.3 ~ October 1, 2016

I picked the Las Vegas Triathlon Half as my lead up race to Ironman Arizona. I had raced the sprint distance with them last year. It was put on by a great company that I have raced with many times before. They had not offered a 70.3 for a few years but decided to offer one this year since Ironman Silverman 70.3 announced that they would no longer put their race on after 2015.

I am in the midst of training for my full Ironman and this race lined up perfectly for my training. I hoped to race it well but honestly, it was really just a supported long training day. I hadn't trained out at the lake since this race last year so a few weeks ago, I went out for a swim/bike brick with some friends. I was quickly reminded that it is a hard ride out there. I had been scheduled to ride 40 miles but due to the heat, wind and road condition, we all cut it short to only 20 miles. That's when I realized that this race was going to be a really hard one. Then, last week, they published the Athlete's Guide with the route maps. I had been on these routes before in training and at other races so I knew that it was going to be a difficult day.

I wanted to use this race as a practice run for my nutrition and hydration for Arizona. There was one aid station for the bike course and I would be passing it at mile 24 and mile 52. I decided to carry two bottles with me filled with Skratch Pineapple Hydration Exercise Mix. I left my third bottle cage empty and would grab a bottle of water when I went by the aid station at mile 24. The run course had six aid stations that would be passed a total of 12 times so I decided to not carry any hydration with me on the run. 

The morning of the race started like any other. I woke up, went to the bathroom, got dressed, applied my sunscreen, and ate breakfast. I had 2 eggs scrambled with black olives, grape tomatoes, shredded cheese, salt and pepper. Then I drank 500 mL of water with one scoop of UCAN. I ate in the car since it was an hour drive to the race site. 

Transition opened at 5:30 AM and we arrived at 5:45 AM. I was scheduled to start my race at 6:35 AM. I easily found a place to rack my bike and quickly started setting up my station. Once everything was set up, I got body marked and made a stop by the port-a-potty. Then I was able to chat with a few friends. That is always nice since race day is the only time I get to see a lot of them. 

At about 6:15 AM, I put on my wetsuit and made my way down to the water. This was my second time wearing my sleeveless suit. The other time was an Olympic triathlon three weeks ago. I had no issues with it then other than the neck is a little tight. I walked into the water to get my goggles rinsed out while the men were getting their final instructions. After they started, I saw my coach and got some final words of encouragement. I then gave the hubby a kiss and lined up with all the other women who were tackling the 70.3. 

I listened to the final instructions again and then entered the water. The entry was covered with rocks so it was slow going. I wasn't even to the starting line when they blew the horn to go. I started my Garmin and dove in. The sun was just rising and the winds were calm. It was a beautiful morning for a swim. The start of the swim was congested until the first left hand turn. Once along the back section of the course, it opened up and I was able to get into a nice rhythm. The swim course had been changed the night before from one long loop to two shorter loops. I hate loops. It is so disheartening to go passed the exit/finish and have to turn the other way and continue racing. By the time I was on the second loop I was passing men from the wave before me. That's always a good feeling. What wasn't as good a feeling was the chafing I was getting under my arms. Something must have been different this time and my wetsuit was eating up my arms. At the final turn, I found myself in a crowd of men. They were a bit more physical then the women so I had to be a little physical back. Finally, I was heading towards the swim exit. Once my hands hit the bottom of the lake, I jumped up and started running out. As I was running up the shore to transition, I saw my coach as he cheered me on. I also heard several other people call out my name but didn't look to see who they were. It was neat to hear though and I really appreciated it. I crossed into transition for a total swim time of 36:10. 

My husband was standing by my transition station so I would be able to find it easier. It worked like a charm and I ran straight to it. I took a little longer than usual in transition to make sure I had everything I needed for the bike ride. I gave the husband a final wave and was off. The transition area was 1/10th of a mile long. That's a long way to run in biking shoes! I exited transition in 4:07. 

My goal was to complete the bike in 4 hours meaning I needed to maintain a 14 mph pace. I felt pretty good for the first 1/4th of the ride. It was hard but I was doing ok. I took two electrolyte pills. I hit the first turn around in 1:08 which meant I was 8 minutes over my goal. I wasn't too worried about it since I knew the way back was a little easier. I started to get some headwind on the return trip and started to run out of my first bottle of drink. I passed the aid station and grabbed my bottle of water as planned. I hit the second turn around in another 1:04. That meant I had stayed pretty consistent with my speed but was still a little behind schedule. 

As I headed out on my second lap, I drank a shot of UCAN that I had in a small bottle in my back pocket. It was really thick and I was only able to get about half of it down. I started to notice more wind and it seemed to be coming as a cross wind now. I was riding dish wheels with a 60/90 combo. I was really getting pushed around on the downhills. At about mile 38, I finished my second bottle. I then used the water bottle I got at the aid station to refill my front bottle. I was really starting to get hot and started to drink more. By the time I hit the third turnaround, I was almost out of all fluids. I made it there in another 1:10. I began to worry about finishing the bike in time to finish the run by the race cut-off. I asked the volunteers at the turn around if they had any water but they didn't. I stopped to take two electrolyte pills. I only had 14 more miles and prepared myself for the final push home. As I passed the volunteers at the Olympic turnaround I asked if they had any water. They had one bottle of water that was hot since it had been sitting in the sun. I didn't care and took it from them. By this point, I only had about 6-8 racers behind me and I could tell that we were all struggling. It was hot and were now racing into a headwind. I started a long climb and began to feel myself fading. I was running out of energy. I knew that there were Rangers and an ambulance at the top of the hill. I planned on asking them for water too. I knew that if I could get a fill up there, I would be able to finish the course since there were only 11 more miles. 

I finally crested the hill and saw the Rangers. The ambulance was not there. I stopped to ask them for water. One Ranger said he had ice and took my front bottle to fill it up. The other Ranger ran to his truck and came back with a bottle for me. I chugged it down. As I was putting my front bottle back on, the ambulance came up behind me. The medics got out and started talking to us. One of them grabbed my wrists and checked my pulse. He said that my pulse was not normal and said he wanted me to sit in the back of the ambulance to cool off. I resisted because I knew that if I did that then I would probably not continue the race. After talking to me a little more, they finally convinced me to get in. They hooked me up to an IV, EKG, pulse monitor and tested my blood sugar. My blood pressure was in the 90/50s. With those low numbers they said that I was done. I started to cry. I didn't want to go out like this. I just wanted to get back to the transition area. They loaded my bike and started transporting me to the race start. 

Once back at transition, we found my husband and told him what had happened. He loaded up my station and turned in my timing chip. I was bummed. 

I ended up receiving 2500 mL of IV fluid before my blood pressure returned to normal. I was told that I had experienced heat exhaustion and dehydration. They told me that if I hadn't stopped and had tried to continue that I might have passed out on the ride. Even though I hated DNFing this race, I learned a lot. I hope to utilize this lesson to help make Ironman Arizona a success. 

This was a hard race. I made some poor decisions. It was tough conditions. Out of the 112 people registered for the half distance, 43 were either DNF or DNS. Only 69 people finished the race. 

I could let this get me down and make me question my desire to race in Arizona but I'm not going to let it. I am putting in the training. I have an amazing support crew around me. I am stronger than I think I am. My coach sent me this yesterday. I liked it. I'm ready to get out of the harbor.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Kayaking the Black Canyon Water Trail~June 6, 2016

If you are looking for an adventure that is only 30 minutes from Las Vegas, then kayaking the Black Canyon Water Trail is for you. This is something that I have wanted to do since the first time I heard about it. Finally, I decided that I couldn't wait any longer!

I gathered a group of girlfriends and set a date. I researched some of the different options. They varied from self-guided kayak tours to motored group rafts and all in between. We settled on the self-guided kayak tour for the freedom to make our own adventure. We used . They seemed to offer the most for the lowest price. Rentals included kayak, paddle, life vest, rope, map and round trip shuttle service. A one day rental was $65 plus $22 for the permit, so $87 total per person.

We scheduled our adventure for Monday, June 6th. We needed to be at the pick up location, Hoover Dam Lodge, at 6:00 AM for a 7:00 AM launch. I carpooled with a friend and we arrived right on time. Our shuttle arrived a few minutes later. We listened to a safety briefing and additional information while we waited to leave. At 6:45 AM, we loaded up and headed to our drop off location.

The launch location is at the foot of the Hoover Dam. We had 15 minutes to unload, use the bathroom, get any last minute instructions and push off. I have a lot of experience with canoeing, rafting and easy kayaking so I felt right at home on the water. 

The map they gave us was two-sided. On one side was a map with points of interest and their location along the route. The other side listed a description of each point. Since we were doing the self guided tour, we would be able to stop at any of the points as long as we were at our pick up point, Willow Beach, by 4:00 PM. So we needed to go 12 miles in 9 hours.

The first stop we made was at Sauna Cave or at least we think it was. It didn't really seem to be a cave but more of a hot spring coming out of the rocks. As we were approaching, I placed my hand in the water. The main part of the river was really cold, but the water coming out of the wall was about 130 degrees. You could feel a difference as you approached the outlet. It was really cool. 

Our second stop was at Gold Strike Canyon. It offered miles of hiking, scrambling, hot springs and waterfalls. We all got out at this stop to explore. We found a nice little pool of warm water. We all took turns sitting in it. 

Next we stopped at Lone Palm Canyon. It has a nice waterfall right next to the river. It is named after a Mexican Fan Palm that is rumored to be the first palm in the canyon. All the water entering the canyon, that we stopped at, was warm since they are being fed by hot springs. 

We then headed back onto the river. It was beautiful! The sun was still hidden behind the cliffs. I could have stayed there all day. It was so peaceful. We even saw a desert big horn sheep grazing on the edge of the cliffs. 

Next, we saw The Ear as we made our way to Boyscout Canyon. It's a rain cave that resembles a human ear. You could hear water dropping from somewhere deep within the structure. 

Boyscout Canyon has numerous hot springs, narrow slot canyons and lots of hiking. We decided to stop here for some hiking and exploring. All of us went back to the first waterfall but only half of us continued beyond that. The other girls went back to the kayaks for snacks and relaxation. As we continued into the canyon, there were several places that we had to climb up waterfalls and squeeze through slot canyons. It was really fun! At one waterfall, there was a rope in place to help the ascent and descent. We didn't go all the way to the back of the canyon because we didn't want to make our friends wait too long and the water started to get too hot to walk in as we got closer to it origin. 

After we left Boyscout Canyon, we continued making our way down the river. The sun was finally hitting the river fully. The temperature was perfect and we had little to no wind. On our way to our next stop, we pulled over to explore Sea Cave. It was a natural cave that we could paddle into. I loved going into the caves!

Next, we stopped at Arizona Hot Springs Beach. This is where we decided to stop for lunch as well as do some hiking and explore the area. There were also two pit toilets at this beach. I ate my lunch while we were walking to the Arizona Hot Springs. When we left the beach there was no water to follow but as we made our way back into the canyon, a little stream formed. We walked along it to a waterfall. In order to get to the pools, we had to climb a ladder. It was an old, metal ladder that had bowed rungs. I was a little concerned about it's ability to support me but I pushed that thought out of my mind and started climbing. Once at the top, there was a large man-made pool. There were sandbags pilled up to create a wall. I walked up to see the next two pools but had to stop there because the water became too hot. We then made our way back to our boats. The sun was in full force now so we were pretty warm and decided to take a dip in the river before we started kayaking again.

The instructions say to leave this beach by 11:30 AM (11:00 if windy). We left at 12:00 PM. We were a little concerned about making it to out meeting spot by pick up so we decided to not stop again until Emerald Cave. We were in a more open section of the river and the wind had started to pick up. It became more difficult to paddle. We made a few adjustments to boat assignments and powered through. 

Emerald Cave was my favorite! Once you were inside the cave, the water below you shined a vibrant green. The ceiling of the cave sparkled with the reflection of the water. It was absolutely beautiful!

The final thing we saw before we arrived at Willow Beach was the Catwalk and Cablecars. It's an elevated walkway used by the gauger to traverse the turbulent waters before the dam was built. No thanks.

We ended up getting to Willow Beach in plenty of time. We actually had about 30 minutes to relax so I took a little plunge into the river to cool off. Then we went to the general store and picked up some ice cream. We all sat around the table and shared two pints. It was perfect! 

The shuttle arrived and loaded our kayaks while we were eating. We then all crammed into the van for our ride back to the Hoover Dam Lodge. Once we arrived, we took one last group picture before we went our separate ways. I had such a great time with these girls!

This trip was the perfect way to kick-off summer. It was so much fun! If you're not afraid of a little work, lots of sun, and a touch of adventure, then this trip is a must. You won't be disappointed!