It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

September 30, 2015

JTB Maui Half Marathon Review

This must be just like running in paradise.....oh yes, it,hot paradise!
Pre-race fuel?  Ha, no, fuel for the road to Hana

I would just like to start with - I love Maui!!  This was my second trip to this beautiful island and I am truly in love with this place.  It is beyond magical and Jim and I had the trip of a lifetime.  It's hard to do a race recap without also sharing some of our wonderful experiences...but let's talk about the race first.

We headed out of Kansas City on Thursday and spent the night in LA.  The next morning we boarded a plane for Maui.  We left early, and with the time difference we were actually in Maui by mid morning on Friday.  We got off the plane and I was immediately HOT.  Like so hot.  We had heard they were having record high temps and it was definitely hot and humid. We picked up the rental car and drove the 45 mins to the hotel and checked in to the Sheraton right on the gorgeous Ka'anapali Beach. We headed almost immediately to the race expo after checking in.  
Sea Turtles sunning on Ho'okipa Beach

The expo was small, but they had lots of race specific merchandise for sale, which was good, because I have to say I hated the race shirt.  First, it was not gender specific, which is always a bummer for most women I think.  The shirts are boxy and just do not fit well.  The sleeves literally go down past my I'll never wear the race shirt, but I did pick up a tank and visor that I love!  Jim also got a t-shirt, but we were still in and out of the expo in 15-20 minutes.  

It was difficult to be in Maui and on vacation, but not be able to do or eat much.  We wanted to be very careful not to be sunburned or just too tired, and we really had to watch what we ate through Sat. So that first day and a half we really didn't do much.  My sister and her husband were actually coming to Maui as well because it was her husband's 50th Birthday.  So they arrived Sat night and were there to watch us at the finish line on Sun which was awesome.

We went to be early Sat, which was pretty easy to do since by 8pm in Maui it was like 1 am at home.  It was good we weren't too used to the time change yet because it was an early wake up call for both of us, but Jim even more than me.  The race started at 5 am, but my start was just .4 miles from the hotel. Jim had to be at the shuttle by 3:15-3;45 since he started in a totally different location.
The Black Sand Beach

I left the hotel about 4:15 and headed to the race start.  I expected to see lots of people walking around and was really surprised when I saw no one.  It was a little surreal and even creepy to be walking along an unlit beach board walk at that time of the morning with no one around.  Once I finally reached Whalers Village where the race start was there were plenty of people...tho not as many as I expected.  I hadn't realized how small the race was until just that moment.

I headed straight to the porta potty line, and by the time I got through it, it was time to start.  Let me just say that at 5 am it is dark!  Once we left the dim lights of the hotel area and headed for the highway it was pitch black.  There were no street lights.  You could barely see your hand in front of your face.  This is not a closed course either.  There are 3 lanes of traffic and only one lane was coned off.  So the only occasional light you got was from a car coming up from up on you from behind.  It was actually kind of scary.  I stayed as far to the right as I could, so I wasn't close to the cars, but I was always worried I was going to go off the side of the road and not realize it.  I was worried about potholes or running into the person in front of me.  Yes, it was that dark.  Lots of people were tripping over the cones and the reflectors in the street which you couldn't see at all.  It was also very crowded.  With just one narrow lane to run, you really didn't have room to move around much, so you just ended up going the pace of the other runners for the first mile or 2.
Swimming in a waterfall
Even at 5 am and in the dark it was hot.  I checked the weather at 4 am and it was already 80 degrees with 88% humidity.  It was tough race conditions, and I knew it would only get hotter once that intense morning sun came up.  We had a hot and humid summer in KC, so I think I felt "prepared" to race in hot and humid conditions.  I don't know if it was the cooler weather a few weeks prior to the race, or just simply the intense sun, but the conditions ended up being even more difficult than I thought.
Running along the ocean

It wasn't terrible before the sun came up, but once it was up even a little it seemed like the temps began to climb quickly.  I was completely drenched within just a few miles.  By 6 am the sun was coming up and you could at least see.  By 6:30 it was pretty much daylight.  The course was an out and back so there were a ton of water stops.  There was a water stop about every mile, so over the course of the half I think there were 13 or 14....which was needed.  I never passed up a water stop! The volunteers were great!  They were very enthusiastic and cheered everyone on.

By the time you made it to the turn around it was daylight and you could finally see the gorgeous ocean that you had been running alongside for the first half.  It was really beautiful!!  There is something magical about being able to run and see the ocean.  I was having a great time, but I was really starting to feel the conditions.  I know myself and I do not do well with heat.  I had made my decision before I even started training for this race that it would be a run/walk race for me.  I knew that would be the only way I would get through it.  I had trained all summer with a 2 min run/30 sec walk recovery.  I was keeping this ratio with no problem, but by mile 7 I could feel myself starting to slow down some.  For the first 6 miles I averaged about an 11;45 pace.  At mile 7, I had my first 12 min mil (12:10) and I could feel the heat was starting to get to me.  It was about this time that  lady ran beside me and said "have you ever heard of the Jeff Galloway method?".  I said, yes that's basically what I'm doing.  She asked me my pace, and said oh ok, you are going faster than me.  But for the next mile I found that we would just pass each other back and forth.  During one of these passes, I said what are you doing and she said 1:15/30.  So I was like do you want company?  She said sure.  So we walked/ran together for the rest of the race.  It was great to have someone to chat with.
Pre-race cool and comfortable lol

She was awesome!  She was in her early 60s and this was only her 2nd half marathon ever!!  She was definitely helping me stick with my plan.  She had been in Maui for about 10 days or so prior to the maybe that helped her acclimate a little better because she was from CA and she sure couldn't have been used to that heat and humidity.  We chatted and took a few pics along the way. There was a small rainbow out over the ocean at one point.  She kept saying how much I was helping her..and I was like you are totally helping I guess we were helping each other.  It made the 2nd half of the race go by in a flash.  Before I knew it we were making the last turn and my pace was back down in the 11s.  We were on pace to finish around 2:30ish.  Cheri's first half marathon had been 2;44 - she was going to have  PR in Maui!  We had about half a mile to go and Cheri, said "I'm going to try to run the rest of it out".  Not long after that I had to stop to walk and told her to go on, but she said "no we are in this together" and she stopped and walked with me for a few seconds.  We could finally see the finish line, and then she saw her husband who was cheering her on - and he was so happy for her.  I yelled "she's killing it----she's going to PR".  As we got close to the finish, Cheri still had a lot and took off ahead of me and finished.  She did awesome!

As I crossed the finish line I heard my sister and brother in law yelling for me!  That was really cool!! It was nice to have someone there at the end....especially when you are so far away from home.  The announcer said my name as I crossed the finish line and said I was from  Apparently he didn't know that MO does not mean Montana, but Missouri!

Mile 13 ended up being my fastest of the race at a 10:59 pace...pretty impressive.  Maui also ended up being my fastest half of 2015 with a 2:32 finish.  It was my 6th half this year.  Considering the heat I was shocked.  I figured I would finish around 2:45.  I had been working really, really hard since June to lose weight and get  in better shape and it definitely paid off!!

I found Cheri at the end and we even had pics taken together with our medals.  We exchanged numbers and said our goodbyes.  I then found my sister and waited for Jim to finish the full marathon.  Within 30 minutes of finishing, the heat got even more intense as the sun really came out. I was feeling for everyone still on the course, and was thanking my lucky stars I hadn't been doing the full.  I knew it was going to be difficult for everyone, including Jim.

He ended up finishing slower than his normal time, but that wasn't surprising at all!  He was still 40th overall!  I thought he did amazing!!

After the race we spent 6 more magical days in Maui.  We swam, we sunned, we did the road to Hana, we went to a luau.  We saw the black sand beach, I snorkeled with sea turtles, I swam in a was just the best, most amazing trip ever!  If you ever get the chance and you want a fabulous racecation  - I would highly recommend it!

August 18, 2015

Matt Mason Sprint Triathlon Review

Matt Mason Triathlon
Smithville Lake, Mo
August  2, 2015
Swim:  500 Meter;  Bike:  11 miles; Run 5K

Better late than never.  I did a triathlon 2 ½ week ago.  I’ve struggled lately to find the time to keep my blog updated.  Work has been busy.  Life has been busy.  You know how it goes. I’m pretty active on Instagram though if you ever want to find out what’s up with me you can find me on there. My user name is @slowtrigirl or there is a link on my blog as well.

Anyway, back to my triathlon.  It was the Matt Mason Memorial Sprint Triathlon.  It was my first tri of the year, and also my first tri in almost a year.  I was really excited to be doing a tri again.  It had just been too long.  Unfortunately none of my friends were racing this one, so it was literally just me all by my lonesome.  That part kind of sucked.  I was hoping to be surprised and run into someone I knew, but nope….just me.

The race is held at Smithville Lake which is about an hour from where I live.   It’s a pretty remote lake and the race actually takes place in one of the camping areas.  There is nothing like driving dark, winding, curvy back country roads at 4am in the morning to get the heart pumping.  I had a death grip on the steering wheel waiting for that deer, fox, etc  to come darting across the street in front of me and have me land in a ditch somewhere.  Luckily, none of that happened.
I finally made it to the race and parked.  I was there very early.  Pretty much when transition opened at 5am so I got a nice close parking spot which was great.  They provided tri tats, so no need for body marking. I got into transition and you were assigned a rack, but not a spot so since I was there early I was able to get the 2nd spot on  the rack, which is awesome! I was also the 2nd rack after the swim exit, so I knew finding my bike would not be an issue. If you've done a triathlon before you know how import your transition spot can be.  I've seen lots of people searching for their bikes before.

I set up my transition area and chatted with a few other people around me.  A few were doing their first tri, some were veterans; it was a good mix of athletes.
Before I knew it they were telling us to exit transition and head for the swim start, but before the start there was a “surprise”.  There were two parachuters from one of the local military branches (I don’t know which one).  It was pretty awesome to watch them jump and land right in front of us. I was bummed I didn’t have my phone so I could take some pictures, but we had already exited transition and I thought it was best not to drown my phone.

Before the race started there was a prayer and a moment of silence for Matt Mason.  It was really very moving.  Matt Mason was a local triathlete who was also a Navy Seal.  He and his entire Seal Team were killed in action in Afghanistan. While the race is named after Matt, all along the run course are photos of every lost team member including their K-9.  It’s really very, very moving. They do a fantastic job of honoring his memory.  Plus all the proceeds from the race go to great charities like Wounded Warrior.  
Now, it was time to start the race.  I lined up in the swim line.  It was a time trial swim start, so one person started every 3 seconds based on your estimated swim time.  I got in line with the 11 minute swimmers.  I knew this might be a bit fast, but I just wanted to get going. All of a sudden I found myself incredibly nervous.  It had been awhile, and there’s always something about an open water swim that makes you a little uneasy.  What seemed like a very long line to start went very quickly and before I could calm my nerves it was time to swim.

The water was warm.  So warm. This time of year the water is not refreshing at all. It’s like bath water.  But other than the swimmers churning the water it was pretty calm.  It took me a bit to find a rhythm, but I finally did.  I had a guy working so hard to pass me.  He finally did, then just a few strokes later I saw him turned over floating on his back to catch his breath.  Ha, I had to laugh at this a little.  The swim seemed like it went on forever, but I finally rounded the final buoy and headed in.  Once I saw land I gave it that final push and headed into transition.  My swim time was 12:38…not too bad for me. Transition time was 1:38 which included a nice up hill run from the swim.
I quickly put on my helmet, etc and jumped on my bike.  They had told us to make sure we were in an easy gear because we would be starting uphill.  I had already made sure to make this adjustment at home so I was ready.  Some people did not listen or did not hear because several people were struggling to get out of transition and get started. Once you go up the incline you start heading out of the park and almost immediately start heading downhill.  I remember when I drove in that morning thinking, man that’s going to be tough at the end.  You aren’t 5 minutes into the the bike and it is a huge downhill.  I was going 35 mph and that is fast for me, but all I could think about was man that’s going to hurt on the way back in.

The bike course was a double loop with lots of turns.  The course was very well manned however.  At every single turn there were one or two volunteers pointing to the turn, reminding you to slow down, etc.  At the first sharp turn however, the guy in front of me took it too fast and down he went.  The volunteer immediately went over to him.  It was a good reminder to me to slow down on these curves, it wasn’t worth a wreck.  A few miles later that guy passed me again. He was ok, but had a lot of road rash on his shoulder.  The course ended up being much hillier than I expected. These weren’t huge hills, but constant rollers.  It just felt like you never really got a break.  The total elevation gain for 11 miles was 600 ft, so not the worst ever, but definitely hilly.  I ended up finishing the bike in 42:38 a 15.5 mph pace.  I was a little bit disappointed with my time as I felt like my “effort” was faster, but I guess slowing down for all the turns and the hills kept my pace down a bit.  My transition from bike to run was 1:10.  I was happy with my transition times.
I was finally on the last leg! The run!  My legs felt awful!  I had done a few brick workouts, but I still didn’t feel ready for this.  It was like I was carrying around 2 lead pipes for legs.  Anyway, I attempted to run.  It was hard. I was tired.  It was hot. Very, very hot and humid.   Luckily the run was on a mostly shaded trail and was fairly flat.  That helped.  Still I did what I almost always do in a tri.  I started the run, feeling awful , but realizing I’m doing a pace that’s not at all maintainable for me and then within the first 5 mins I stop and walk to catch my breath and figure out what “pace” I need to be running.  It’s an out and back, so I saw the leaders coming past me as I was just heading out.  I cheered for them and kept going.  I had passed several people on the bike, but I was getting passed by lots of people on the run.  I’m not a strong swimmer, biker or runner, but the running leg is definitely my weakest area.  I was just about done with the run portion and grabbed some water from the last water stop about half a mile from the finish.  I was already breathing really hard and somehow I sucked it in through the wrong pipe or something, but suddenly found myself choking on it.  I panicked for a minute. I had never done this in a race before and when you are already out of breath and then coughing it's not a good combination.  I imagined myself suddenly passing out because I couldn’t breathe.  I had to mentally tell myself I was going to be fine.  I was seriously panicked.  I knew it wouldn't result in anything major, but I just didn't want to pass out on the course and embarrass myself.  I stopped running and walked trying to clear my chest and catch my breath.  It wasn’t working.  I would cough and then take in a huge breath of air and then cough more.  A lady behind me clearly concerned stopped her run and asked me if I was ok.  I told I thought I would be in just a sec.  I continued to walk and cough and breath.  Finally with the last quarter mile or so I felt like I could run again.  I wasn’t running a great pace, but this certainly didn’t help my run time any.  I see the final turn and the uphill grassy finish.  I grabbed a flag from one of the volunteers and ran through the finish!  My official run time was 35:57 an 11:36 pace. 

My overall finish time was 1 hour and 33 minutes.  It wasn’t a great race for me, but it wasn’t bad either.  It had been challenging and hot and I hadn’t trained specifically for the race.  I had literally been doing just barely enough biking and swimming to be able to do the distances. But it was a fantastic race!  It was great to be racing again and I had forgotten just how much fun triathlon could be.  The race volunteers were outstanding.  By far the best in any triathlon I have ever done. This race was just so well organized and put together.  I can't say enough about it.  Matt would be proud.
I walked to transition to grab my bike and leave and found out we couldn’t go in until the last biker had come in off the course.  I thought this was awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever been to another race where they did this (or maybe I just wasn't done in time).  I don’t know how many times I’ve had races where I’ve had to fight the people leaving to just get into transition and start the run.  It can be a very disheartening feeling.  They are finished and you are just starting your last leg.  I thought that was really awesome. 

I have one more sprint tri in a few weeks and then hopefully next year I’ll get back to doing some more races and longer distances.  This year was just about having fun and doing a couple of tris.  I had hoped to do 3, but timing for a couple just didn't work out.  
Dog Tag Medal

August 07, 2015

Get Your Electrolytes from These Summer Fruits and Vegetables

I'm excited to share this guest post with you from Saltstick.  It's especially important to get in extra electrolytes during these hot & humid summer months!


Unless you live in a stable (boring?) climate like Southern California, each season brings with it different climates and, thus, a different set of local fruits and vegetables. You may have been enjoying your springtime greens and strawberries for the past few months, but now it’s time to switch up your diet and include something new.

Given that SaltStick Caps contain five key electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride) in the same ratio that the body loses through sweat, we know the science behind salts! Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of electrolytes, and we thought we would highlight our favorites during the summer.

1. Grapefruit

Electrolytes: Like most fruits and vegetables, grapefruit contains potassium, which is critical to your body’s ability to maintain blood pressure and regulate muscle contractions. It’s also important for balancing out sodium in your body’s ratio of electrolytes, given that most of us consume too much sodium in our diets.

Other vitamins: Grapefruit is a powerhouse when it comes to Vitamin A and Vitamin C, with one serving packing in 28 percent and 64 percent of your daily needs, respectively.

Add it to your diet: We understand if you find grapefruit hard to stomach by itself. Unlike most of its citrus cousins, grapefruits are not incredibly sweet, partly due to Grapefruit mercaptan, a sulfur-containing terpene, which influences its distinct taste. Add grapefruit to salads and breakfast smoothies, allowing other strong-tasting foods (like arugula or banana) to compete with the strong grapefruit taste. Note that grapefruit can enhance the bioavailability of certain medications, so if you take any prescription medication, check if there is a known interaction before indulging in grapefruit!

2. Peas

Electrolytes: As we blogged about before, legumes are excellent sources of magnesium. This important and often-forgotten nutrient helps the body utilize calcium and keeps muscles relaxed, which helps prevent cramps. Just one serving of peas provides nearly 15 percent of your daily magnesium needs. Peas also contain potassium and calcium.

Other vitamins: With about 120 calories per serving, peas make an excellent addition to any meal, especially because they pack in 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Coupled with the plethora of B-vitamins and iron, peas will keep you feeling energized all day.

Add them to your diet: Peas make great additions to stir fry dishes or pasta, but they can hold their own as a side dish as well. Try this pea and prosciutto or pea and lettuce salad

3. Watermelon

Electrolytes: Watermelon is a great source of potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It’s low in calories because it's mostly made of water (thus the name). This makes it an effective rehydration tool and has earned it a spot among "best endurance food" lists, along with bananas and potatoes.

Other vitamins: Watermelon contains a healthy dose of lycopene, which has possible anti-cancer and skin-protective qualities. Lycopene is also believed to help reduce the effects of sun burn, so stock up if you’re planning on lots of outdoor summer training.

Add it to your diet: Watermelon makes a great addition to salads. It’s also delicious by itself! Cut watermelon into large wedges and share them around the table for a tasty (and hydrating) dessert.

4. Peaches

Electrolytes: Peaches contain moderate amounts of potassium and magnesium, both of which are important to the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure and muscle contractions.

Other vitamins: Peaches are also good sources of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which are just two of many antioxidants and phytochemicals that the body uses to ward off cancer and free-radical damage caused by stress.

Add them to your diet: Peaches are easily enjoyed by themselves, but they make great bases for pre/post-workout smoothies! They’re also tough enough to stand up to a grill (and trust us, grilled fruit is delicious!)

5. Cherries

Electrolytes: Cherries are strong sources of magnesium, calcium and potassium (starting to see a trend here?) Cherries are very sweet, due to their high sugar content, but the simple sugars make them a great addition to any post-workout meal.

Other vitamins: Cherries’ rich red colour comes from anthocyanins—the antioxidants found in grapes (and red wine)—that inhibit enzymes associated with inflammation, and may help soothe soreness linked to muscle and joint pain. Sounds like what you would want right after a long run! Cherries are also one of the few known food sources of melatonin, a hormone that helps your body regulate circadian rhythms.

Add them to your diet: Add cherries to cocktails, salads or starchy dishes, such as roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Cherries also taste great when added to breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and you’ve got some comfort food on your hands!

6. Okra

Electrolytes: Despite only containing about 30 calories per serving, okra packs an electrolyte punch! Just one cup of okra contains nearly 15 percent of your magnesium needs, 10 percent of your calcium needs and 10 percent of your potassium needs.

Other vitamins: Like peas, okra contains several B vitamins and high amounts of iron, which are both crucial to your body’s ability to metabolize food into energy.

Add it to your diet: The most popular ways to consume okra include fried okra and gumbo. While the gumbo is okay, we recommend baking okra (coated lightly in olive oil, salt and pepper) as an alternative to frying it. Forty minutes at 475°, and you’re set!

7. Yukon Gold Potatoes

Electrolytes: Yukon potatoes contain moderate amounts of calcium and potassium. They are one of the few vegetables to contain sodium.

Other vitamins: Yukon potatoes have high amounts of iron and Vitamin C. They also contain large amounts of simple carbohydrates, so you’ll want to avoid eating them too long after a workout. However, if you cover them in olive oil and rosemary and bake them, they make a great side dish to a protein-based meal.

Add them to your diet: Yukon potatoes are best served as a side dish. Aside from baking them, you can grill or boil them. Add salt and pepper, garlic, or Cajun spices for some kick. 

This post is part of our #30SaltyDays summer campaign, in which we hope to educate YOU about the benefits and science behind electrolytes. Follow the campaign with the hashtag #30SaltyDays on FacebookTwitterInstagram and the SaltStick blog. We’re offering our brand new product, SaltStick FASTCHEWS, as a giveaway for participants. More information here:

July 09, 2015

Three Things Thursday

Man it’s been FOREVER since I wrote a blog post.  So here are the top 3 “athletic” things I’ve done since my last post.

1.       Striker Life 10K – This was actually supposed to be the half marathon, but after 4 half marathons in 5 weeks I was just done.  I was actually dreading running that half and decided the night before to switch. I was never so happy to “downgrade”.  I ended up having a great race and actually set a new 10K PR by a few seconds.  I was really surprised because I didn’t feel like I was trained for that race at all…but my 10K PR is pretty slow even for me.  I haven’t done very many of them.  The race took place at the Whiteman Air Force Base – home of the Stealth bomber which was really cool. They even had a Stealth out on the runway where you ran part of the race.  Overall it was a good time and the medal was pretty epic!

2.       21 Day Fix – This is a BeachBody DVD series that is 7 different workouts for 21 days.  Of course you are supposed to basically lose like 50 pounds in 3 weeks lol.  But I did really enjoy the workouts and it was nice to do something different from swim, bike, run.  As many of you know last year was just an ultra-stressful year for me because I lost both of my parents and I developed some really bad eating habits to help deal with stress and grief. Those bad eating habits followed me in to 2015 and before I knew it I had gained 20 pounds.  I did the 21 Day Fix, mainly because I knew I could stay focused for 3 weeks and if I did I would hopefully break some habits. It worked out perfectly and has catapulted me back into eating much cleaner and finally losing some weight.  I’ve been back to a cleaner diet and incorporating new workouts into my routine.  I’m down 10 pounds!! And I haven’t had a soda or a Starbucks in a month!  I’m still trying to do different workouts 3-4 days a week on top of my tri training.  I’m only planning a couple of sprint tris this summer so it’s not too difficult to do.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m staying focused. Jim and I head to Hawaii in just a couple of months and I want to be looking and feeling great!

3.       Stars and Stripes 5K – Jim and I have done this local 5K since it started 4 years ago.  It is a great little race and is always held on July 4th.  I am definitely not in “fast” running shape right now, but I did ok.  One of my friends joined us this year and her son also ran the “Little Firecracker” run.  Everyone seemed to have a blast.

That’s all for now. I’ll try to be better about updating, but my work schedule has just been crazy lately.  I also post on Instagram almost daily! So if you miss me stop by and follow me @slowtrigirl.

May 21, 2015

Colfax Half Marathon - The Hardest Race EVER!

For those of you who don't like to read a whole race report, I'll put it simply.  This was half marathon number 35 for me.  This was my worst race to date and my first race ever over 3 hours.  My official race time 3:12!  My normal average is about 2:35.  My worst race time before this was 2:57 and that was 13 miles in 90 degree temps, after running an 9 mile warmup as part of a marathon training run.  So yes, it was hard.  I had worried about the altitude but I had no idea it would impact me quite so badly.
Pre-race before it all fell apart

And now for the rest of the story.......

Mine and Jim's 10 Year Anniversary was May 14, so we decided to make the trip to Denver for this race and to have a long weekend to celebrate our Anniversary.  We left Thursday and spent our actual Anniversary in the very exciting Colby, KS.  We had dinner at a local micro-brewery and then hung out at the local Hampton Inn.  I know you are jealous.  We roll out in style, lol, We plan to have a proper celebration later this year in Maui...that's more like it.

We arrived in Denver midday on Friday.  After a long car ride, lots of rain, and even a few tornadoes I was glad to be out of the car.  We checked in to our favorite - the Hampton Inn and took a few minutes to relax.  Unfortunately the hotel was in the middle of a remodel, so there was so much noise it was impossible to take a nap.  We decided to go ahead and get our packets picked up and I'm glad we did.  The packet pickup was the coolest one I've ever been to.  It was actually located at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.  There was lots to do and see and the packet pickup seemed very well organized.  My first impressions of the race event were very strong.
Packet Pickup

Later that night and after doing some research we settled on a place to have our official Anniversary dinner.  We went to a local place called Bastiens Steakhouse, which has been around since 1937. Pretty cool huh?  Actually it was a drive-inn in 1937 and in 1958 the drive-inn was torn down and the restaurant was built, but it was all the same family.  It is still in the same location, and I imagine it still looks very much like it did in 1958.  It's a very eclectic, fun place and the food was awesome!

The race wasn't until Sunday so we had a bit of time to kill on Saturday.  We drove around the local area and tried to catch a few glimpses of the mountains.  I wish we had a little more time and we could have driven into the mountains or gone for a hike, but not on this trip.  The weather was less than ideal for most of the stay with lots of rain and cooler temps.  We didn't do much Saturday.  We walked to Whole Foods for lunch and on the way back to the hotel on a very, very slight incline I found myself completely out of breath.  I looked at Jim and said "I'm struggling to walk up this little hill....I think that's not a good sign for tomorrow" and it certainly wasn't.  Later that evening we had dinner at another local pizza place in "Lodo" - Lower Downtown.  I had lasagna which was fantastic and Jim had the pizza.  It was a fun little place, though it seemed to draw a much younger crowd on a Saturday night.  We were glad we came and were leaving early.

We had a super early wake-up call on Sunday morning.  Jim's race started at 6 am, so we left the hotel at 4:45.  My race wasn't scheduled to start until 6:45 so I was already bummed about having the 45 minutes to wait....but my wait turned out to be much longer. I'll get to that in a minute.  Anyway, we got to the race and found a place to park, no thanks to the volunteers.  With a race this size, I fully expected people to direct you to where to park, but you just found a spot and moved on.  No biggie.

Of course Jim and I had to go to the bathroom as soon as we got there.  We walk over to the porta potties and see that there are plenty, but there are lines at several of them and most of them are empty.  We of course walk toward the open ones, wondering why everyone is in line, and then realize they are all locked.  They have zip ties through them so they can't be used and this is literally just an hour before the race.  A bit of a fail if you ask me.  Someone's husband just happened to have a pocket knife and opened a few.  I'm not sure when the rest of theme actually got opened.
Pre-race entertainment

It was rather chilly at just over 40 degrees so Jim and I waited in the car.  He finally left and I wished him luck.  I planned to wait in the car for much longer, but of course I had to go to the porta potty again and I didn't have a key to the car so I headed down to the race start at 5:55, even though my race wouldn't start for quite awhile.  Luckily they had a close bag drop so I was able to keep my coat on until just a few minutes before I got in line.

I wandered around the start area for a little while and took some pictures.  It was going to be a gorgeous race morning. Absolutely perfect temperatures to start.  Finally about 6;35, I decide to get in my corral.  I had searched and searched the website to see if they had start waves and couldn't find anything indicating they did, so I just assumed the corrals were there to have the runners grouped with similiar paced runners.  I was WRONG.  I hate, hate, hate, wave starts. I understand why some races do them, but I think they are awful.  Our wave didn't end up going until 7:17 - a full 30 minutes after the start time.  I'm sure they mentioned this somewhere, but I missed it.  If I had known I would have gotten in line much later and would have gone to the bathroom again.  By the time we started I had to go to the bathroom really badly.  I passed the time waiting for the race to start by talking to a couple of locals who both assured me the altitude would be no issue.  Um, easy to say when you are from there I guess.

We finally start and I try to start slow.  I had told myself going into the race that I didn't care about my time. I figured worse case scenario I'd be right at 3 hours.  I didn't want to go out too hard and be sick.  I was meeting up with a friend right after the race and the last thing I wanted to do was be sick. So I had set myself a run walk alert for run 4:30 and walk 1 min.  That should feel "easy".  Immediately within the first 10th of a mile I feel completely winded.  I try to slow down some and think I'm maybe going too fast.  Within just a few feet I decide to stop and catch my breath and take a picture.  I was also Instagramming for Sport Chalet during the race, which was fun, but added another layer of complexity.  I was able to somewhat maintain my run/walk plan for about the first 3 miles, but after that I just couldn't.  That feeling of never being able to catch my breath was just too much and it was constant.  I found myself walking for 2 or 3 minutes and then running for maybe a minute. I decided to reset my run/walk or I knew I'd walk way too much.  I set it for a run/walk ratio of 1:30/45.  I still couldn't do this.  I was rarely able for the remainder of the race to even finish that 1;30 interval. It was rough.  The altitude totally kicked my butt, and yet Jim said he didn't notice it at all.  I guess everyone is different.
Not sure what this was all about...mile 11ish

Back to the course.  The first part of the course if through a beautiful City park, and then mile 2-3 roughly are through the local zoo, which was pretty cool.  I stopped and took alot of pics through the zoo.  Right after the zoo you reach your first water stop at roughly mile 2.5 or 3. I can't remember for certain.  I see a line, as you often do, so I try to run past it for the next stop when I realize that was it.   They had one table for water and one table for gatorade and one single person working each table!!!  It was ridiculous.  So I had to back track and stand in line, while that poor single volunteer filled each individual cup and handed it to the next person.  I was very frustrated by this.  It was not the volunteers fault.  It was the fault of the race that they clearly did not have enough volunteers for the stop.  The next few miles were very boring and just through some old, kind of run down neighborhoods.  There really wasn't anything to see at all.  I make it to the 2nd water stop where once again you have to wait in line for water.  There is no gatorade.  They are already out.  There are a couple more people at this station, but literally only 3 or 4. I also stop here and finally go to the bathroom.  I'm also hoping if I catch my breath a bit I might feel better...but it doesn't work.

Pics from the zoo
I keep going, through more boring locations, short of breath and honestly just wanting to be finished. I was truly feeling pretty miserable.  I finally make it to the next water stop hoping for some Gatorade and not only do they not have that - they are completely out of cups.  They are pouring water into the runners hands.....seriously?  I take a handful, which literally tastes like sweat and who know what else and I start thinking about just how dirty and disgusting my hands are.  I didn't ask for more.  The great thing, you do a short out and back here so this serves as the water stop for mile 7 and for mile 8.5.  So yes, you guessed it no water on the way back either.  I was so frustrated by this point.  This is a HUGE race day failure.  There is just no excuse.  I skip the water on the way back because I do not feel like ingesting my own sweat, etc again.  As I am running back by the water stop however, someone decides to get out a hose and then immediately sprays it right at my feet.  Instantly my feet are completely soaked. So now I'm tired, thirsty and I have soaked feet.  Seriously, I am not having a good day.

The scenery finally changes and you run down some old streets in Denver with views of the mountains, through some beautiful old tree lined streets, and directly through the fire station which was really cool.  The fire station was definitely one of the highlights of the race for me.  The firemen were there cheering you on.  They were great!  The next few water stops at least have cups, but still no gatorade.  I basically did not have water from about mile 6 to about mile 10 and only gatorade at the very first stop, which I actually normally don't take.  I usually only drink gatorade 2 or 3 times during a race, but it is part of my calorie intake since I don't do gels, etc.
Through the Fire Station
I finally make it to the last mile and I seriously can't wait to be done.  I've been on my feet for far too long.  I know Jim is already done with his MARATHON and I'm still trying to finish the half.  I finally cross the finish line in my very disappointed 3:12 and find Jim who is there waiting for me. I grab my medal which is being handed out by the local fireman which is seriously cool and makes me feel a little better.  They did have some gatorade in cups at the finish...maybe they should have moved that to the course?

Anyway, I did accomplish one goal I felt okay after the race. I didn't have any sign of altitude sickness. I was just tired.  Jim and I headed back to the hotel and showered and packed and grabbed a quick bite to eat before we said goodbye.  I have a girlfriend who moved to Ft. Collins last year that I was staying with for a couple of days.  So after the race, I visited with her and her husband and new puppy!! So adorable.  It continued to rain the rest of the time I was there, so we didn't get to do much...just eat some more...I feel like I ate a lot this trip!
My friend's completely adorable puppy - Opie
Overall, Jim and I had a great weekend in Denver.  I thought the overall race was really good, but the on course support was the worse I have ever experienced.  This is the 10th annual event, so I'm not sure what happened.  But it was a huge fail.  I would probably still recommend it, but maybe just be sure to bring your own fluids.  And just be prepared to be slow if you aren't used to the altitude. At the end of the day I always have "fun" no matter what and while my experience wasn't great, I'm always still ready to put the shoes back on and race another day!
Firefighter handing out medals

May 14, 2015

10 Years

Wow, Jim and I are celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary today.  Time goes by in the blink of an eye.  In so many ways I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, but in other ways so much has happened.

10 years ago Jim’s kids were just 14 and 15, still in high school.  In 10 years I’ve seen them graduate, get married, and have children. 
10 years ago both of my parents were alive.  Now I have neither. 

10 years ago I couldn't run a mile, much less 26.2.  I probably couldn't have told you what a triathlon consisted of, and certainly could never have imagined doing 70.3 miles at one time. 

10 years ago I looked a lot younger…and well I was a lot younger. 
10 years ago Jim and I bought a house, and we are still living here.

10 years ago I married my best friend in the world, and I can still say that today.
10 years ago I was desperately in love with the man who sang to me at my wedding.  Today I love him even more.  I love the life he has given me.  I love the extended family I am part of.  I love our life together.

So many things have in my life have changed in the last 10 years, but mostly all for the better.  I wish my parents were here, but other than that I’m not sure I’d change a thing. 
Of course there have been challenges along the way…but I don’t know a couple who hasn't had at least a few. 

I look back and think about the day we got married.  It was a gorgeous hot summer like day.  I remember being slightly sunburned from our outdoor wedding.  We had a simple, small, family wedding and it was perfect. 
I didn't hire a photographer and it’s one thing I regret.  I have pictures, but not as many as I’d like. It was sunny so most of them are pretty washed out.  But I'm still glad to have the  memories.  

Jim and I rushed off to Maui after the wedding for our honeymoon and it was the most fantastic trips either of us had or have ever experienced.  This year we’ll return to Maui to celebrate 10 years together (a little late because of course now we have to do a race too

).  We’ll hit Maui in September and I can’t wait.
Happy Anniversary Jim! I love you more and more each day!  I can't wait to see what the next 10 years brings!

May 12, 2015

Running with the Cows Half Marathon 2015 - Review

This was 6th annual Running with the Cows (RWTC) Half Marathon and my third year in a row participating in the race.  If you are looking for a rural, hilly race than this is the race for you!  If you don't like cows, pasture and might want to skip it....however it does have some other things you might enjoy.

First this race is the 3rd and final race in the Heartland 39.3 race series, where you finish 3 half marathons in 5 weeks (Rock the Parkway, Garmin Half, and Running with the Cows).  This was my 2nd year completing the Heartland 39.3 series.  This year I got a larger outer medal "holder" for last year's medal.  If I complete 3 years in a row I'll get a jacket. So yes, I'll be doing it me a sucker.

Anyway, back to RWTC.  I won't lie, this is a challenging course, and was made even more challenging this year with a course change.  It's also not particularly exciting.  You pretty much run on back roads out in the country.  For many people this is awesome!  Country roads and fresh air...but I prefer people and more to see.  But this race still has so much going for it.  First, it is by far one of the most well organized and friendliest races I've ever done.  Everyone has to be bused to the race start, but they are so well organized and you basically have a bus waiting for you where you park.  They make the quick trip to the school where the race starts and when you get off the bus, there are people everywhere greeting you and telling you thank you for coming to their race. They are awesome. They have a bag drop inside the school and also pre-run breakfast if you are interested. You see nothing but friendly faces and amazing volunteers.  The medal and shirt are also great.  And the post race spread....well it's like no race I've ever done.  There is so much food.  There are homemade items as well as catered in sandwiches, BBQ, pizza...and so on.

Even though this is a smaller race, they also have pacers which is great.  After my last disaster race at Garmin I decided to start slow and to do that I started with the 2:35 pace group.  I was hoping I would finish around 2:35, but with my slower running times this year I doubted it, but thought if I at least started with the 2:35 maybe I'd stick with them and I wouldn't go out to fast.  Historically I've been about 5 minutes slower at this race than Rock the Parkway - which was the case again this year.  I did 2:35 at Rock the Parkway and a 2:40 here.
Me & Kelly pre-race

The race has true rolling hills.  The course is hilly, and the hills just never stop, but for the most part none are particularly steep.  That is until this year!  As I've mentioned this was my third year and this year they changed the course.  I couldn't get the map to pull up for some reason so I wasn't sure what the course change was. Well, for SOME reason they decided to add a HUGE hill at mile 9.  So here's my deal.  Miles 9-10 are typically the most difficult of the race for me.  They are truly my "make it or break it" miles  Honestly as I was finishing up mile 8 I was feeling pretty good.  I was hanging right with the 2:35 pace group and I started thinking wow, I might just finish here. I feel strong.  I feel great. I am woman hear me roar...blah, blah, blah.

But then comes mile 9.  Literally right at mile 9 you start the climb.  Is this the biggest hill I've ever climbed - no, but it was unexpected and for me came at my hardest part of the race.  It is a 70 foot climb over .6 miles...just up, up, up.  It was tough and here is where I faltered.  It just took too miuch out of me.  You get a nice little downhill for the balance of mile 9, and then you just go up, up, up again.  Mile 10 to 11 is basically an 80 foot climb uphill.  There are some little rollers in there, but overall you just keep going up.  It was just a killer.  I had managed to average around an 11:35 for the first 9 miles (even with that hill), but then that just took it out of me and I just couldn't keep my pace after that.  My last few miles were in the 12s, with mile 11 at a 13 something pace.

I finally reached 13 miles on my Garmin and though wahoo I'm almost done.  But, I couldn't see the finish line anywhere.  That's when I knew the race was going to be super long.  I knew by mile 11 I wouldn't make 2:35, but I thought I might still be able to do a 2:38 or 2;39.  I pushed at the end and when my watch was at 13.1 miles I was at 2:38.  I could see the finish line and thought maybe if I pushed I could still come in under 2:40....but I crashed.  I literally had to stop and walk with the finish line like 500 feet in front of me.  I ended up with 2:40:03....I just couldn't push those last few seconds.  I was kind of bummed and mad at myself that I wouldn't just push a bit more, but I was spent. Those last hills had just killed me.  Did I mention it's an uphill finish??

So yes, it's a hilly course.  It's constant hills, but I'd still recommend this race anyway.  The aid stations are awesome.  People are so friendly and they have one about every 1.5 miles.  Then when you get done you get a cowbell, your medal and of course that insane post race spread!

I found a bit of food and my friends and headed home with  my double race bling and excited to be done with 3 marathon in 5 weeks.

Now I will add another one.  I'll be doing the Colfax Half Marathon this weekend in Denver. It will be my first race at altitude and I'm pretty sure I might die.  I expect this race to be like 3+ hours.  We shall see.

If you are on Instagram please follow @sportchaletexperts - I will be Instagramming from their account on Sunday during the race.  So you can literally follow my adventure as I update throughout the race.  It should be fun!!!!
Additional race bling for the 3 race series