“That Sounds like a Horrible Idea”: Carnival of Venice Half Marathon

I heard about the Carnival of Venice 5k/10k/Half Marathon through Team RadioActive.  This was a nighttime race.  I usually run in the dark (albeit early morning) so I loved the idea of nighttime race.  And this one was on Friday night in San Antonio.  I got on Facebook and recruited as many fools friends as I could.  Jill, Elle, Judy, Dan and I signed up.  Judy, Dan and I decided to get to San Antonio before the Friday evening rush hour, so we had plenty of time to kill once we got to the race sight.  We even volunteered helping set up some of the lights that would be used along the course.

Since the race started at 8:00pm we would need to eat beforehand.  I know what I usually eat before a race: oatmeal, PB&J or a bagel, but that is at my house in the morning.  For a night race, I had to figure out what would be safe.  I determined something like a sandwich would probably work.  Dan volunteered that he wanted pizza.  “That sounds like a horrible idea!” was my response, yet, somehow we ended up at an Italian place where I could get a Panini which translates to “sandwich” in Italian.

I was thinking “sandwich” like turkey and cheese on a roll, whereas the Italians were thinking either some combination of salami, pepperoni, capocolla, and mortadella, or a ball of meat, or some fried food (eggplant, chicken, veal), with red sauce and mozzarella cheese on buttered ciabatta bread.  I opted for a chicken parmigiana, which seemed like the best of a menu of bad ideas.  Besides, I would have several hours to digest before my half marathon.  Dan opted for a pizza, and from what I could tell Judy ate three pieces of lettuce off her salad.

By the time we got back to the race sight, Elle and Jill were there studying the map intently.

This race was on a golf course.  In order to get 6.2 or 13.1 miles out of a golf course the map looked like this (with the half marathon being two loops, and for the 6.2 there was one cut through near the end to take off about 1/2 mile since one half of 13.1 is not 6.2, but 6.6 ish):

what could possibly go wrong?

I glanced at the map and just hoped the course would be really well marked, otherwise, I doubted I would ever be seen again.

We found some comfy chairs and talked among ourselves waiting for the race to begin.

the happy “before” picture

The Half Marathon started at 8:00, the 10k started at 8:30, and the 5k started at 9:00. Jill and I were doing the half, while everyone else in our group was doing the 10k.

I had my reflective shirt on and a clip on visor light.  While this is not the biggest brightest light, it does light the ground about 10-15 feet in front of me to keep me from tripping over stuff in the dark.  As I said, I run in the dark all the time so I know this light suits my purposes fine.  Besides, we would be running on a golf course on the golf cart path, which should be in good condition.

We lined-up, sung the national anthem, then the gun went off.  While I had been dilly-dallying, I forgot to set up my heart rate monitor or Garmin and as we all know, if it’s not recorded it didn’t happen.  I quickly started everything as I ran over the start line hoping my Garmin would quickly hook up to the GPS satellite.

I knew this would not be a fast half marathon as I have been slowly ramping up my speed and distance this year after a year plagued with injuries, but I was hoping to run a 9:15 min per mile pace.  I started out on pace and felt pretty good.  Got passed a lot, but that was ok, I was here for the experience and to run my own race.

I thought the course was well marked, flat and safe, and my light was adequate for the run as I could see the path ahead of me.  There was one sketchy part where we ran over a part of the river where the walkway was offset and narrow and there was a random step in the middle of it.  I remember thinking, “Err, that’s not good.” and put a mental check to be careful my second loop, but was able to circumvent it without issue.

Everything was going great until about mile 5 when my stomach was not feeling right.  A little crampy, a little burpy.  I slowed down about a minute a mile hoping it would pass.

It didn’t.  I completed my first loop in just under and hour, but was feeling worse as I started my second loop.  I briefly considered bailing on the race. I knew there were port-o-johns ahead and considered stopping to vomit, but the 5k’ers where lined up for their 9:00 start and I did not want to have to jump into that crowd coming out of the bathroom (but really, who was I kidding, at this point they would have run right by my slow nauseated ass).

By mile 8, I was much worse and slowed even more.  I was trying to hold on until the course turned onto a dark road with lost of bushes because I did not want to barf on the golf course.  So, yeah, by mile 9 I was walking dry heaving and barfing. My hope was that once I could get rid of the Italian food, I would be able to bounce back and have a 1/2 decent run.

That didn’t happen either.

In my heart of hearts, I was hoping that Dan was barfing, too.

After getting rid of dinner, while I was not actively heaving, I was still cramping and had those nausea-sweats (very different from when your just sweating because you’re hot).  I was able to start running again, but now I was running 12 minute miles (and I was really trying to run fast).  Another problem was that now my stomach was empty and I had been running for an hour and a half.  I really should have been eating something, but there was no friggin’ way I was going to be able to put any type of food in me, so I had the added benefit of starting to bonk.  But I’m gonna be honest,  my stomach was so upset that I couldn’t even tell if I was bonking.

I have never been so tempted to cut a course in my entire life, and that course would have made it easy as there were multiple places to make the course shorter or take a short cut to the finish line, but no.  I would not be dissuaded!*

*So last week was the Boston Marathon, and the weather was horrible – rainy and freezing. I read this article about why women don’t quit.  I couldn’t let my gender down!

So I ambled on the last two miles, while getting passed by the costumed runners and some fast walkers.

It wasn’t pretty.

remember mile 9 included vomiting

I crossed the finish line then laid in the grass in the fetal position for about 15 minutes waiting for the nausea to pass (it didn’t), before making my way over to my friends.  I really expected to start feeling better once I stopped moving, but it actually took several hours before I felt better.

While my splits would indicate that I missed a 1/2 mile somewhere, I swear I did not cut that course (hell, if I cut the course it would be for more than a measly half mile).  I think this may have been due to my late, rushed start of my Garmin which did not immediately pick up the GPS satellite.

Would I do this race again?  Hell yeah, I would. But I would definitely never eat anything as heavy as Italian food before a race.

Oh and God smited (smote?) Dan.  He sprained his ankle on that sketchy bridge at mile 3.


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Texas Independence Relay 2018

Once again this year I participated in the Texas Independence Relay (TIR).  This is a team relay 180 mile* race from Gonzalez, TX to Downtown Houston, TX. (*It is usually a 200ish mile race to the San Jacinto Monument west of Houston, but there were some permitting issues this year). Instead of finishing at the San Jacinto Monument, we would be finishing in a downtown Houston parking garage.  I was told it was a really nice parking garage.

Interactive TIR Map with all the Legs

My Team – Blood, Sweat, and Beers (our tagline? “Beer Me!”) – was a 12 person team where each of us would run three legs of 2.5 to 6.8 miles long. We rented two 15 passenger vans with 6 folks (and all their crap) in each van with a cooler full of supplies, food and beverages.  I was in “The Cool Van” with Steph, Melody, Thad, Kalynn, and Dan, because, of course I was. Then there was “The Other Van” with Tony, Karen, Drew, Megan , John, and Jeff.


Vans like this

Since there were 12 of us, it would be akin to running about a 10k every 7 or 8 hours and supporting your teammates as they ran, which really doesn’t sound too bad, right? But the race never stops, so if you need sleep you have to catch sleep in the van.  Grab food as we go.  Lots of port-o-john stops (and nature stops). There is an opportunity to take showers when we get to Wallis TX, but while the folks from one van are showering, the other van is still running the race (then we switch), so if you can get clean, you don’t stay clean for long.

I think I was told there were 162 teams this year, each with two big white vans, so there were staggered starts based on your teams projected finish time (which is based on the purported 10k times given by each team member).

Most of my team spent Friday night in Gonzalez to be ready for the Saturday morning race start.  The race director has a big party for all the teams on Friday night with music and beer.  It’s a great time and where we meet other teams who we’ll then see over the course of the weekend during the race while we pass each other and wait at the relay exchanges for our team mates. This is also a great time to tag the other vans with our tag line (and not cartoon penises, [clears throat] Drew & John). At the end of the party you come outside to a van much more decorated than when you went inside.

Blood, Sweat, and Beers may have had a bottle of Fireball in one of the vans, as well (which may also explain the confusion over our official tag line. Right, Drew & John?).  Because who doesn’t think beer and fireball are a great idea before a running race.


What remained of the Fireball on Saturday morning

Our start time this year was 8:58am.  At that time the whole team would run a 1.15 mile prologue leg around the perimeter of old downtown, then after that the team member with the first leg (that’d be Karen) just keeps running and the rest of us jump in the vans to offer support and take the leg #2 team member (Melody) to the exchange to wait for the hand-off, then we jump in our vans and do the same for leg #3 (Dan) and so on and so on…

Van support usually means, pulling over onto the side of the road and sending two folks out and across the street.  One had a bottle of cold water and the other goes about 50 yards up the street.  When our runner comes by, we hand her the bottle of water.  As she runs, she can drink some, dump some over her head, whatever, then hand it to (or throw it at) the other team mate waiting up the road.  Depending on how hot it is and the condition of our runner we could stop every half mile, mile, or maybe just once at the mid-point.

I will generally speak to my legs #10, 21, and 35, since if I went on about every one of the 36 legs this report would never end. So, yeah, I was hanging out in the van for hours while 9 of my team members ran (which was good because I needed that time to get over an unexplained headache and dehydration).

The morning started out warm, humid, and cloudy.  Cloudy was good, but warm and humid… ick.  I was holding out hope that the sun would stay behind the clouds until at least after my leg, but it looked unlikely since my first leg (after the mini prologue) would be around 4:00pm.

I drove the van all morning, with Steph as my navigator (if you know me, you know I need a navigator, and yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you are horrible with directions, too, but I have truly taken getting lost to an art form).  We didn’t get lost and we didn’t lose anyone.

At about 3:00pm it was time for me to get ready to run. Leg 10 was a 3.97 mile run straight down the road, with a turn right before the exchange. It was 85 degrees and still humid, but with a lot more sun.

Luckily I would be running along Texas Highway 95, between Old Mouton and Flatonia (which is not flat) so I could enjoy the heat coming of the road, as well.  I waited for Steph to finish her leg.  I had my Garmin cued up, my heart rate monitor started, an iPod in one ear and a 10 oz water bottle.  She handed off the baton (actually one of those slap wrist bracelets) and I was off.  You don’t want to go out too fast, but you also don’t want to let the team down.

But OMG, it was so hot! I looked down at my heart rate monitor once and saw 171bpm.  Ok, I don’t need to look at that again.  I just focused on keeping my foot turnover fast and not worry about my speed.  My team mates stopped about every mile to offer cold water, cheers and other support.  I tried to keep my feet fast and my heart rate steady.

I succeeded, but damn…

My average cadence/foot turnover was 174, but heart rate was 168 (So, pretty much I was in defib for a half an hour)!

HRzones leg10

I held a 8:28 minute mile which is pretty good for me considering my training so far this year.

I handed off to Thad, and got in the van to catch my breath.  We had to get moving, so Dan drove while I was trying to change out of my sweaty running clothes into clean running clothes without flashing my team mates or any unsuspecting passers-by.

We did stop to get pictures in the blue bonnets (ok, we stopped to support Thad, but were immediately distracted by the blue bonnets in the field and ended up yelling our support to Thad as he ran by and we told him we would catch him on the next mile if he needed water. Sorry, Thad).

Screenshot-2018-3-28 Blood, Sweat and Beers

As we were taking pictures in another field of blue bonnets, the other van caught up to us, then some ex-teammates from two year ago, Kat and Justin, who just so happened to be in the area between Flatonia and Engle and were driving by, stopped to say hi – how crazy is that?

My next leg was #21 and I was not predicted to start until about midnight, so I ate some pasta salad and finished my water.

Apparently, while I was running Dan invented a new game: Wave, Fist Bump, Thumbs up, or Hang loose.

As we passed a runner (or they passed us when we were stopped) we would size them up and all place our bets on either Wave, Fist Bump, Thumbs up, or Hang loose.  Then we would yell out our support.  “Looks good!” “WTG!” “Hey, you need any water?” etc and see what kind of acknowledgement we would get.  Kind of a more interactive Rock, Paper, Scissor but being in a van with a bunch of stinky runners for hours on end made this game freaking hysterical (and I whole-heartedly endorse playing this game the next time you spectate a race, any race).

As evening set in and the sun started going down, it got much cooler.  It certainly was not a cold night, but the difference between 85 degrees in the sun and 65 with no sun is well, day and night…literally.

While for most of the weekend we would have runners coming from either van, at Leg #19 we would have all 6 runners from one van run in succession until leg 24, where we would switch to the 6 in the other van in order to give us each time to stop in the Wallis High School where showers were available and maybe get a few hours of sleep.  The Cool Van ran first, while The Other Van went and got clean and a bit of sleep.  We would call them right before our last runner started their leg to give them time to get ready at the exchange.  Well, that was the plan anyway.

Everything started alright. Steph ran Leg #19 and we supported from the van.  We checked on her a few times and she was doing well, so we went ahead to meet her at the exchange. But when we got to the intersection of CR102 and Texas 71 there was a bizarre Sheriff/Truck/Boat accident blocking the entire intersection.  Apparently a guy in his truck towing a boat, ran into the Sheriff deputy who was manning the intersection for the runners (the truck collided with the police car and the boat flew off the trailer, so I’m thinking that truck-guy was having a really bad night).

We figured out an alternate route to circumvent the accident scene to get to the exchange.  But when Steph finished her run and I asked her how she got around the accident she said she didn’t see any accident.  She was so focused that she just followed the policeman’s direction while crossing the street and didn’t notice the bedlam going on around him.

what accident

What accident? *Not intended to be pix of actual accident

Leg #21 was another 3.9 mile run from out in the middle of nowhere to Eagle Lake with one right turn. It was flat and fast, and in the middle of the night.

I waited at the exchange for Thad to hand-off to me.  I had my Garmin cued up, my heart rate monitor started, an iPod in one ear, a 10 oz water bottle, my HiViz reflective shirt, a headlight, and a flashing red arm band.  No one was going to run over me unless they were aiming (and if they were aiming they would not miss). At about 11:30pm I got the baton and was off, again just concentrating on my turnover.

I immediately passed a much slower runner, then a little way up I passed a woman I could barely see – she had no lights at all, just a crappy reflective vest that I thought she might be an old construction sign (she wasn’t moving very fast).  Nope, it was a runner.  Then I passed a fella with two red hip lights on his yellow reflective vest, we exchanged pleasantries.  Then… there was no one in front of me.  Like, no one as far as the eye could see.

I kept running along Highway 90/Alt.  I knew I had one right turn at about mile 3.  I ran through town which was well lit, then into the east side of town where I saw a traffic cone with a red flashy, a TIR sticker, and an arrow on it telling me to keep going straight. I ran straight. There was a fork in the road but another traffic cone with a red flashy, a TIR sticker, and an arrow telling me to keep going straight. I kept running and running and, wow, it’s getting pretty dark.  I was in a neighborhood with no street lights, few house lights and a lot of potholes, so I kept my eyes scanning the road in front of me to make sure I didn’t fall and break a hip.

My Garmin beeped mile 3 and I got to a “T” in the road, but there was no directional traffic cone.  I looked left and right, nothing. Then behind me, no one and still no one in front of me.  Bah, I know I’m supposed to make a right turn so off I go, to the right. Worst case scenario, I am running one road parallel to where I should be. I ran for a while, then I looked back and saw a runner’s head lamp in the distance.  Hmm, maybe I am heading in the right direction.

I continued to run down this very dark, pot holed road with lots of barking dogs (I sure hope they are locked up otherwise, I am getting eaten by a dog).  It was so humid that I could see diffused light from beyond the tree line and I thought, “That has got to be the exchange, so I just need to get there,” and then the road just sort of ended.  There was a closed road to the left, then as I look I realized the broken pavement made a 90 degree turn to the right.  OK, to the right then, even though I knew I was not heading in the right direction.  I’d just take a left when I had a chance.

One of the nice things about getting lost all-the-freaking-time is that getting lost doesn’t faze me.  I just kept running thinking at some point I would see something familiar, another runner or a light off in the distance marking the exchange, or at least a main road where I could get some help.  My biggest concern was how much mileage I was adding.  I really didn’t want to run an extra 2 or 3 miles, and I really had no freaking idea where I was.

As I ran up this road in what is surely the wrong direction, I could see at the cross street several blocks ahead several white vans passing.  Ok, that is where I need to be!  I got to the cross street and turned left in the directionthe vans were all going, just as another runner was clearing the intersection.  “You get lost?” He asked. “Yep.” I replied. He was wearing two red hip lights on his yellow reflective vest.  As I passed him he said, “I remember you.” Yes, this is the guy I passed before the end of the first mile.

I continued to run, now presumably on course. The Cool Van pulled up, coming from the wrong direction (uh-oh, did I pass the exchange?).  Steph yelled something to me, but I couldn’t hear her so I just said, “Am I heading in the right direction?!”  She replied in the affirmative, so I told them to just meet me at the exchange.

I hand-off to Melody and stopped running just as another runner comes in. The other lost headlight I had seen bopping behind me.  I turned to him and said, “I am so sorry, I had no idea where I was going.” He replied, “There was no cone!” [See, that’s what I said].  He introduced himself, Mario, and we wished each other a good race.  We added about ¾ mile to our leg.  So while I ran an 8:27 minute mile (4.6 miles in 38:21 minutes) our team would get credit for ~10 minute miles on that leg (3.9 miles in 38:21 minutes).


See, the exchange was just beyond the tree line

I got into the van and Steph started apologizing to me for me getting lost, because she thought I would be mad at the van.  I said, “Why would I be mad at you.  I had one turn and I blew it. That’s not your fault!”  Steph said, “But it is.  We drove ahead and saw the two cones with the blinkies [I saw those], but there was a turn cone that did not have a blinkie and it was on the other side of the street.  Kalynn told me she wanted to move the cone across the street so you would see it.  She said you would miss it.  But I said that there were plenty of runners on the road and surely you would see it.”

Thus, we concluded that Kalynn knows me much better than Steph.

Thad was driving as I caught my breath in the back of the van, but I didn’t get changed since I knew I would be able to take a shower shortly.  I didn’t want to put clean clothes on this filthy body.

Melody had a long run, over 6 miles, so I got a little something to eat and a beer.  Melody was killing it but also hates running the dark, so we checked on her several times before heading to the exchange with our next runner, Kalynn.

Kalynn sets off on her 5.1 mile run.  Her route was straight down CR 1093 into Wallis where she would hand off to Dan.  A little note about Kalynn.  She had a baby 4 months ago.  Just sayin’, for those of you who say things like “Oh, I could never do that race.”  Girlfriend gave birth to a tiny human Four. Months. Ago!

It’s now a little after 1:00 am, and I am amazed that I am still awake and feeling good. Thad pulled the van over to wait for Kalynn to make sure she didn’t need anything and somehow, of all the places he could have pulled over (I mean heck, there was a van pulled over 20 feet in front of us), he picked the one place where there was a deep ditch (presumably dug out by an 18 wheeler’s tire) and he high-centered the van lengthwise.  Like the rear driver’s tire is not even on the ground.  Oops.

[I will update with pix as I know someone get pix of this]

Hmm.  We all got out to examine our predicament.  I suggest someone just pull a van up behind us and push us out (something I have done several times in my life*), but everyone is driving rented vans and, apparently, no one has ever had to push a car with another car (weirdos).

(*I am what they call a “late adopter.”  I keep my stuff until it is obsolete and falling apart, including my vehicles.  As such I usually have all the stuff you need when you have an unreliable vehicle and I have the knowledge of a lifetime of driving cars that could break down at any moment.)

I recommended that everyone but the driver get to the back of the van to put all of the weight on the back wheel and maybe get the wheel on the ground, but a bunch of 98 lb runners are no match for a 5500 lb van.  The occupants of a nearby van walk over and try to push us out, but we are really stuck.

We realized that we needed to get Dan to the exchange to meet Kalynn and the fellas who were trying to push offered to drive Dan to the next exchange.  (Yay!)  Ok, so Dan will have to take a minute to explain the situation to Kalynn, but our folks (and our race) are going to be ok.  After Dan is finished he would hand-off to the other van for thier 6 legs.  This means that the cool van (now the stuck van)  would have several hours to shower and sleep or try to get our van out of the ditch, so we had some time.

I look for any road debris that we might be able to jam under the wheel to give us some traction.  Nothing (not even a downed tree or a strip of retread). Nice job TxDOT.

I have a AAA Membership (see footnote above). Seriously, everyone should.  They will come to you anywhere regardless of what vehicle you are in.  They are life savers and the cost of one tow far exceeds the yearly membership dues.

I called the AAA call center (where they take all of your initial info before they give the local tow company your information) but I had no friggin idea where we were.  There were no visible cross roads, mile markers, or any signs of an address.  I did have the coordinates. But AAA Gal is having a hard time finding them and while my GPS Garmin said we were in New Bernard, TX, Steph’s phone said we were in Wallis, TX.  I was trying to explain the situation to AAA Gal, and figured if I can get her an address close enough, I can direct the local tow guy when he calls me.  I use my GPS Garmin to find a cross street in the general vicinity and tell her we are at 1093 and 264, even though we are over a ½ mile away from that cross road.

So we were stuck in a ditch at 1:30 in the morning, our runner was on the road and our other team members were presumed sleeping or showering.  This is the time where if anyone was going to start freaking out, someone was going to start freaking out.  I won’t say that Steph starts freaking out, but she called Tony in the other van telling him he had to pick up Kalynn at Exchange 23! then pick up Dan at Exchange 24 (where they were going to meet us anyway)! Because we are stuck in a ditch! And AAA can’t find us! and we’re all gonna die!!!!


(Ok, maybe not that bad… No, actually it was like that.)

AAA Gal asks, “What kind of vehicle are you in.” I say “2016(???) Ford Transit 15 passenger van.”  She asked if it was a commercial vehicle and I told her I don’t think so because I do not have a class C license and they rented it to me (shrugs). Ok. Color? “White.” I hear her keyboard clacking. “Oh, and there is something else about the van.” ‘Ok, what’s that?’ she asked.

“Umm, we’re doing a relay race across the state and there are 162 teams each with two vans.  And, well, we all have the same vans and they are all white.  And there are a lot of them pulled over on the side of the road.” Silence for several beats.  ‘OK, I will give the driver that information.’  Yeah, so we are all going to die out here.

I proposed we jack up the rear passenger side to see if we can get the weight on the driver’s side rear wheel, then just drive it off the jack. After spending 20 minutes figuring out where the jack handle is (and it is nowhere near the jack. WTF, Ford?),  Thad and I crawled under the van only to discover that the ground was sandy loam covered in dead grass and the jack would just sink as Thad tried to pump it up.

So we were just sitting there cheering on other runners, periodically checking the AAA link that is supposed to tell us where are tow truck is, while Steph texted Tony because he was no longer answering his phone.


We get word that Dan and Kalynn are safe and sound, and now it was the other van’s turn to do 6 legs in a row.  I was actually pretty cool because if you were going to get a 15 passenger van high-centered somewhere between Eagle Lake and Wallis, TX at 2:00 in the morning, this really was the best way to do it.  Think about it.  Our race was tight.  While we would be unable to take showers or get sleep, we were not DNFing and I have used AAA plenty enough time to know that we would be towed long before our next leg at 6:30am.

Just then a big truck with yellow light on top pulled up behind us.  Yea! The tow truck!  Nope.  But a party van.  They asked if they could help after much discussion one of the gals mentions that they have a tow rope.  Woot!! Tow rope!  We had them back up to our van and I got up under the van down in the ditch and attach the tow rope to our frame, then to the party bus frame.



The van started to move, they dragged us about 10 feet then —  SPROING!!!  The tow rope broke.

I jumped in the van to see if we could drive out, but no. And now we were even more high-centered then we were before.   We thanked the gals for the effort and exchanged contact information (hey we are gals (and Thad), and I do owe her a tow rope).


I got a call from the tow company asking if we were towed out, and I told him that the driver wasn’t even there yet.  He said he would call back.

We sat in the van talking about the sleep and showers we were not getting. For some reason Steph kept saying that she felt sorry for Kalynn and Dan.  Kalynn and Dan who had not been stuck in a ditch for three hours.  ???  I mean I know the other van wasn’t nearly as cool as ours, but it’s not that bad.

At this point Thad offered to run the next several legs so the rest of the team could get showers, go to Denny’s, and plot his murder.  I explained to Thad that while this sucks, it does not suck worse than anything has ever sucked before. Not even close. And it would probably be the best story of the race.  I assured him that while we are unlikely to ever let him forget it (hey, that’s what friends are for) we will certainly be laughing about it soon.  Thad was convinced we will not be laughing about it until next year (Spoiler: we were laughing about it before the sun came up).

The tow company called back.  The driver got pulled over for speeding, but he is back on his way.  I guess he was in a rush because he knew we were several damsels in distress (and Thad).

Several folks offered to help us, but after they assessed the situation it become obvious there was no way we were getting off this berm without a tow truck.


We got to meet the race SAG sweeper van (the van that is behind the very last runner on the course).  We explained that our runners were still racing and we were just waiting on a tow truck.  We’re golden, and the SAG vehicle continued on.

At about 4:00 in the morning the tow truck arrives.  Dale, our new best friend and hero, winches us out of the ditch (but we were in there so deep that after he pulled the van about 20 feet he asked me to put it in drive and we were still high-centered, so he winched some more!).

I gave Dale a tip and we got a team selfie and we’re back in business!!!  Woot!


We called the other van to share the good news.  We were supposed to meet them at about 6:00am at Exchange 30, but while we had no time for showers we did have time to meet them at Exchange 29 and rescue the long suffering Dan and Kalynn.  We hooked up in a parking lot for the hostage runner exchange.

Now, there is “running in the heat sweaty stinky” dirty, and there is “crawling under a van on the side of the road in chiggers and sticker-burs” dirty.  I was both.  I was filthy and I still had one more run to do.  I tried using baby wipes, but I was so dirty I could hardly get one segment of an arm clean without needing a new wipe. Then I made an amazing discovery – one can take a shower in a parking lot using a bottle of water and a wad of paper towels! (Note: you also have to be a master of the towel-change that is changing under a towel without flashing everyone). When I was done I was 75% cleaner than when I started.  I felt like a new woman.  I also put on my last clean running outfit.

At Exchange 30 we made a Starbucks stop.  It was now about 7:00am.  I had to run leg #35 at about 10:00am, so I was trying to figure out what to eat and when.  I have a morning routing (get up at 4:20, put on gym clothes, get my stuff for work together, feed the cats, have a ½ PB&J and a cup of tea, then drive to the gym  while drinking a cup of coffee,  and start my workout at 5:30), but that was shot to hell.

I’d eaten at about 1:00am, which was also unusual, and I was afraid that if I tried to eat something weird now, it would jack up my stomach on my run.  Because I had also been awake for over 24 hours at this time I was primed to make some bad decisions, so I decided not to eat anything. Really. No cookies, boiled eggs, or peanut butter pretzels which we had in the van. Not even a tortilla or a plain bagel that we also had in the van (and really who has ever gotten sick from a plain flour tortilla?).  So, 9 hours without food and I was ready to run Leg #35, 5.7 miles through west Houston and Memorial Park.  What could possibly go wrong.

Also, leg #35 had 8 turns in it.  This, for the gal who got lost on the run with one turn!  The other van was supporting me.  Steph had leg #36 (the last leg) and the cool van wanted to get her to the exchange point.

At 9:40am, I had my Garmin cued up, my heart rate monitor started, an iPod in one ear, a 10 oz water bottle. I took the hand-off from Melody, started running, and switched on my iPod.

I. Felt. Like. Poo.

I was trying to concentrate on my foot turnover, but my heart rate felt out of control and I had this weird diaphragm cramp that went completely across my lower ribcage. Cramps like this never last that long and usually work themselves out, but suck while they are happening.

I wondered whether slowing down would help it release, but, nah, I ain’t slowing down.  I heard my Garmin beep…way too early and I looked down. Dang it, I forgot to start my Garmin and I had already run about a ½ mile (it will beep and turn itself off if it is not started within 5 minutes of being cued). Everyone knows a run doesn’t “count” if you don’t record it. Well, I thought, at least I got that extra ¾ mile on leg #21.

I made the first turn and did not see my support van, but a fella passed me so I had someone I could follow. He commented on how humid it was. And it was humid, but least we had the cloud cover.   I was still dealing with the cramp, trying to change my breathing.  Sipping some water.  Anything to make it release (well, anything but actually slowing down). That sucker did not release until after mile 2!

As I ran, Tony pulls up next to me and says, “Hey, sorry we are late.  We missed the first turn.”  The van then waited at each turn to make sure I did not get lost and offered me water at every mile.  Just before the Loop 610, John offered me water and said “Ok, now you go under the overpass and follow it to get on the trail which goes through the park.  Got it?”  I nodded that I got it. Just as I passed John my watch beep Mile 3 (which meant I was at mile 3 ½) and I saw that I was slowing.  Then I realized how long it had been since I had eaten and that I could really use a gel or some Gatorade.  I also realized that John gave me those directions because the van would not be able to support me any further on that leg, so I had just blown my last opportunity to get food.  Damn. It!  Well, I guess I could do anything for a 2 miles.  Every time I sipped my water I pretended it was Gatorade (note: this is not particularly effective).

I will say that the cloud cover hung around for most of my run. And that running through Memorial Park with all the other runners and walker and cyclists felt like being on Lady Bird Lake, which was nice.  I ran into the exchange and handed-off to Steph and I was Done!

When I got to the van I had two mini-bagels (like I should have before I started my run), I was also told that we were out of beer.  What!?!

We drove over to the downtown parking garage finish line to meet Steph.  When Steph came in we celebrated a bit at the garage (it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  We were on the top of the garage, and there was a view of downtown Houston), then headed out to lunch at la Tiempo Cantina.  (Word on the street is that they have great magaritas.  Our team finished about four pitchers, but since I had to drive the van back to Austin, I was only able to steal one sip of Tony’s.  Yeah, it was yummy).

I think we finished in just over 26 hours [I’m sure someone has the official results, but I don’t]

So that was another TIR on the books, my 7th race with this team, and oh, yes, I will be back again next year.


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Tour das Hugel 2017

Since I was not participating in Ironman this year, I figured I might as well give the Tour das Hugel another spin.  I had done the Hugel in 2015  and don’t remember it being too bad if you were trained for it, so might as well hit a few hills, then do it again.  My training began in earnest in early October with River Place/Big View hill repeats once a week after work, along with the rest of my bike riding (spin classes during the week, group workouts, and long weekend rides).  While I cannot imagine that this would not be enough. Well, we’ll see…

The Tour das Hugel is described on its Facebook page as:

“The annual TdH: more than 100 miles of Austin’s toughest hills, including more than 13,000 feet of climbing.”

It’s Website has such gems as:

Should I ride Das Hugel?


Why shouldn’t I ride Das Hugel?

It’s extremely dangerous. Some of the descents are wickedly fast with winding turns. There’s grooved pavement, traffic, grumpy police, steep grades up that might leave you falling over in your clips, etc. Your doctor would advise against it unless your ticker is in top shape. Your spouse would force you to up your life insurance.

Inexplicably, I met folks on this ride that were surprised it was so hilly. ???

There are two parts to this ride.  The first section is 40 miles with about 3600 feet of climbing.  We start and end at the pedestrian bridge by Mopac at the Hike and Bike trail downtown.  There are no designated* rest stops on this section, and everyone rides this section.  You’re supposed to reload with anything you might need at your car before you start the second portion.  A lot of folks pre-determine that they will only so this first section (and other folks just quit after riding 40 miles).  Then you set out for the second leg, 60 miles with 7500 feet of climbing.

*Since this ride is totally informal, there are really no officially designated rest stops, but there is a stop with food at a park at mile 68 which you pass again at mile 88, so you need to take some initiative and have food/drink or stop and get some at convenience stores, coffee shops, and gas stations along the route before you get to this rest stop late in the ride.

I polled my friends to see who was riding and even tried to recruit folks to do this ride with me, but there were no takers (I’m not saying that my coach telling everyone that I am insane was not a factor, but, my coach telling everyone that I am insane did not help recruiting).


Since I am notorious for getting lost I took precautions this year.

I joined RidewithGPS and downloaded the maps, I bought a Anker smart speaker so I could hear the audio cues (this thing is so cool!), I charged up my phone and my extra battery charger (which I kept in the car in case I needed it for the second half), I even brought bifocal sunglasses so I could see my phone.  I figured I would need about 10 hours of juice from soup to nuts (apparently I am still hungry.  Translation:  I would need the batteries to last about 10 hours from the start to the end).  But I also figured I would hook up with riders my pace at some point and probably wouldn’t even need the maps.

That morning I arrived at the ride start to perfect cycling weather: dry but overcast, with morning temperatures in the low 60’s on their way up to the low to mid 70’s.  I made some new friends in the parking lot, and ran into a few old friends.  One of my friends said she was going to “get up front” for the start and I bid her good luck.  One thing I have learned with this ride is that I do not want to start with the aggressive riders if I plan on finishing.

There were a few hundred of us (I figure) and at 7:00am we were off.

I am not going to detail every climb.  There were so many and we would be here all day.

Here is the Elevation graph for this ride, so yeah, hills:

Some of the Hills I climbed: Torro Canyon, The High Road, Barton Creek, Lost Creek, Mt Bonnell, Beauford, Courtyard, Rain Creek, Bluegrass, Smoky Valley, Ladera Norte, Cuernavaca, River Hills, Big View, River Place, Jester.

I will say, my phone map/speaker combination worked great.  About 1/10th of a mile before each turn a loud, clear voice would say “turn right on Rollingwood” or whatever the turn was. I highly recommend something like this if you have no sense of direction (like me).

The first bad hill we hit was The High Road – seriously, that is the name of the road.  I’ve ridden this hill over the years about 5 times before, but apparently it is like childbirth – you forget the pain.  This is the first hill where I was in my granny gear (39X32 – the lowest gear on my bike) but the hill was so steep that I was pulling my front wheel off the ground, so I stood up to put weigh over the front wheel and keep it down, but now there is less weight on the back wheel and it starts slipping.  I quickly found a balance between the front and rear wheel to keep everything on the ground as I rode up the hill.  While the high road is three short steep hills with a tiny break between each, there is a 19-22% graded section (While a hill grade is figured by determining the slope (rise/run) presented as a percentage, this article nicely explains what that a grade feels like to the layperson: Guide to Climbing Grades).

From there we headed over to Bee Caves Road here we would find Cuernavaca/River Hills.  In my opinion, this is prettiest hill. It’s a loop in a neighborhood so there is little traffic. The road is narrow and tree lines with big old houses and the lowest point is at the water (I have no idea what water, but there is pretty water).  It’s one long down hill, then one long uphill, but it is not awful and it is so pretty.  Here I ran into Shannon.  We were certain we had ridden together before, but neither of us could remember when (Shannon – it was the Bagel Shop ride last week!).  She was riding with her friend Larry (I think), and seemed way too excited to be there.  I later learned she was doing only the first section of the ride, so maybe that was it.  We stuck together for most of that hill, but then I was off on my own again.

From Cuernavaca the route headed to Lost Creek.  OK.  Lost Creek is three hills, a steep downhill to a steep uphill, then another, then another but with a much longer up hill on the third.  It’s long, but generally pretty fun.  HOWEVER, at some point “they” grooved the road.

Like this!

So instead of flying down the hill all “Weeeee!” I was getting my teeth rattled out of my head, trying to keep my bike from shaking apart while gripping my brakes and probably getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Then, due to braking the whole way down there was no momentum to help me out on the uphill.

From there I headed back to my truck for a granola bar and bathroom break.


Surprisingly, I had not found a group to ride with, although I did see the same folks on several of the hills, we just never seemed to sync up.

I ate a PowerBar, used the restroom, and refilled my water bottle, then I checked my phone battery.  Hmm, 77% and I am 1/3 through the ride, so that should be plenty of juice.  I opted to not take my battery charger with me (while it is 2″ x 5″ x .5″ and weighs 6 ounces, I don’t need that kind of extra weight). <- more foreshadowing

I headed back out by myself. The first big hill on this side of the ride is Mount Bonnell.  As I was climbing Mt. Bonnell, Laura and Matty pass me.  The only reason this is unusual is because they should have been way ahead of me (I later found out that they stopped at Mozart’s Coffee Shop for lunch, which is retrospect was a brilliant idea).

I also determined that there are some good hills in those neighborhoods back by Mesa Drive. Who knew?

I rode down Far West  – avoiding the traffic calming obstacle course (really folks?)

on my way to the double whammy, Smokey Valley / Ladera Norte hill combo.  As I was riding towards Smokey Valley, a fella pulls up next to me and asks, “How much longer to the end?” Uh, really?  “Umm, 60 more miles.” I replied, “But you’re gonna love the next hill.”

“More hills!?!” he exclaimed (apparently he did not read the website description).  “Is there a short cut?”  Thing is, we are riding all over Austin, so there is always a short cut, but no one wants me giving them directions if they actually want to get where they want to go.  Also, once you get to  the bottom of Far West Blvd, the only way out is up, so he was committed to at least two good hills before he could try to get back to the start.  Shortly thereafter, I am by myself again (because he was walking up Smokey Valley).

So, Smokey Valley – I believe this is the steepest hill in town (My Garmin registered a 23% grade at one point):

Me on Smokey Valley in 2015

Then Ladera Norte:

So I get to the top of Ladera Norte and I gotta say, I’m not feeling great.  I’m not feeling sick (as one might suspect) but I am tired!  And I feel like I am spending way too much time climbing in my granny-gear and out of the saddle, my quads are killing me.  Usually I can stay seated in my granny gear even on some of the steeper hills, but I am not feeling strong at all.  The fact that I have been alone all day is not helping quell my doubts about finishing either.  Having a bunch of insane cheerleaders urging you to keep going is surprisingly effective.

I get through some not hideous hills, then get on 360 and head over to Beauford. Beauford is probably the suckiest hill in town.  It always looks like this.  Those grooves are there permanent and on purpose, and lookit that grade!

So from Beauford, I know I have to do West Courtyard then City Park Road, which will take me over to Big View and River Place.  Since I practice Big View/River Place loops I somehow feel like of I can get there I’ll be okay.  I also know there is a water fountain at Big View in the park where it meets River Place, then there is a gas station on 620 at River Place where I am planning on stopping for food.

Then my mini speaker battery dies.  Damn it! Why didn’t I grab that charger?  This is the first ride I have done using the speaker directions, so this is where I determine how long the battery lasts (and I can’t even remember if I fully charged it after the last time I used it).  That’s ok.  That’s ok.  I blast the volume on my phone so I can hear where there is a turn and I can stop and look at the map if I don’t hear which way to go.

At the base of West Courtyard at mile 60ish, I take a gel … in retrospect I can see that the last thing I ate was that PowerBar at the start of this loop.  I am in desperate need of some food, but inexplicably my brain is not telling me to eat everything I have on me, so I take a gel and start thinking of the best places to bail out of this ride.

Courtyard is great because it has several sweeping curves, so every time you think you must be done…Wrong! I make it City Park Road, then through the rollers of Westminster Glen (which is actually pretty fun).

At this point I have serious doubts about finishing.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for this ride. But I am not bailing before Big View and River Place. I’ve been practicing those hills, so I am definitely hanging in until I can get through them. Onward to River Place!

When I finally achieve the top of River Place (a nice 2.3 mile climb of varying grades), I stop to full my water bottle and find the Official Rest Stop at mile 68.

insert angels singing

I head over to the tables of glorious food: peanut butter, pop-tarts, bananas, Coke (full sugar Coke!), crackers with something orange between them…  I eat everything and start doing shots of Coke, while talking to the guys at the rest stop.  Everyone assures me that I can’t quit once I’ve made it to mile 68 (‘cos only 42 miles left! Wait, what?) and there aren’t even many hard hills to go.

After consuming 500 calories and getting a pep-talk, I am in a much better mood and set out to make the last 42 miles my b1tch!  It is amazing what food can do for your attitude!

Now I head over the Bullick Hollow (you ride to the Oasis then make a right).  Again, I am on my own, but one of the guys assured me that Bullick Hollow wasn’t to bad.  I ride past the Oasis and head down a long gradual grade waiting for my phone to tell me where the right turn is.  I pass Hippy Hollow and end up at Bob Wentz Park…at the end of the road…down by the water.  Wait. This doesn’t look right.

I pull out my phone and see that “somehow” it has turned itself off.  I go to turn it back on as see that I have 1% battery life.

So now I have no map and no phone and no freaking idea where I am or where I am going.

I turn around and start to climb back towards the Oasis.  At this point, I figure if I cannot find Bullick Hollow, I can just head to 620 and the Mansfield Dam since I have already added at least a few miles and good climb to my ride, but the recently consumed food is making me feel a whole lot better so I am not nearly as frustrated as I might have been.

And as I approach the Oasis, I see a big intersection turn to my left that looks like it was the right I was supposed to take on the way out, so I turn. Yep, this was my turn (I later learn that I added about 3.8 miles to my ride).

I make my way up Bullick Hollow (which really wasn’t that bad), then I head down 620 to the Mansfield Dam.  At this point I pretty much know where I am going as the Mansfield Dam is part of “The Dam Loop” an extremely popular cycling route here in town.  So I just go down 620 all the way past the dam (5.5 miles downhill), then turn into the park to get on a trail that goes to the low water crossing under the bridge, then climb the 5.5 miles back to 2222/Four Points.  How hard could that be.

I coast all the way down 620 over the Mansfield Dam, turned right aaaand, that trail should be right around here somewhere. [looks left…looks right… sees a drainage ditch… looks around for other cyclists (there are none)…where is that trail???]

drainage ditch

After riding up and down the road and peering into the drainage ditch with trepidation, I decide to ride over to the parking lot attendant for directions.

Me: Hello.  I’m on a loosely organized bike ride and I am supposed to take a trail under the bridge.  It’s not that murder drainage ditch thing, is it?

Her:  Yeah, that’s it.

Me: …

Her: It looks a lot better from the other side.

I ride back to the murder ditch and there are two other cyclists peering at their phones.  I inquired as to whether they were looking for the trail, which of course they were.

“That’s it.” I say gesturing to the murder ditch.  Neither of them was incline to believe me, probably suspecting I was the bait for a The Hills Have Eyes family, but I explained that I had ridden over to the parking lot attendant who assured me that was the trail.

We carefully began to descend the trail, riding around the over grown grass and shrubbery growing from the cracks and listen for banjo music …

We had to dismount to get over the section that was washed out.

Usually paved trails are not this technical

About half way down it started looking more like a path and less like a murder ditch and finally on the other side we were able to ride over the low water crossing and start our climb all the way up 620 back to Four Points.  At this point, I lost my new friends and was on my own again.

This brought me back to the official rest stop now at mile 88, where I had another pop-tart and some more Coke.  So now all I had to do was the short steep hill on the other side of River Place then Big View, then get back to 2222 to climb Jester and I was “done.”

Since I had been practicing on Big View and River Place, I was not very concerned about these hills even though they are steep.  I knew I could do them, even if they do hurt.  What I was worried about was Jester.  It’s just a 1/2 mile with a 12% grade, but I had some serious doubts as to whether I would be able to get up Jester at mile 99.

So there I was.  At the foot of the last big hill. Look up. Deep breath. This is it. I can do this.  I’m good enough. I’m strong enough. And gosh darnit, I’m gonna finish this thing!

I pretty much immediately got into my highest gear and, yeah, it took me over 7 minutes at 4.3mph, but I did it!

I used the last 10 miles down 360 back to the parking lot as recovery, where celebrated with a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

So, my second Hugel is in the books: 113.1 miles, 8:19:22 at 13.6 mph with 10,712 feet of climbing. It seemed much tougher than my first (maybe due to my forgetting to eat, maybe it was those extra 3+ miles), and the recovery is taking a bit longer, but I got my T-shirt and my beer (and my 4200 calorie deficit).

*postscript – so I did a test with my Anker mini speaker this week.  Just started it at the beginning of the work day playing music to see how long the battery would last.  Yeah, apparently I did not charge is before the Hugel, because it lasted the whole 9 hours of my work day until I got home (and it still hadn’t died).
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Triple Bypass 2017 (or not)

I decided early this season to try the Triple Bypass this year.  120 miles of three mountain passes and 10,000 feet of climbing, all in one day: Juniper Pass, Loveland Pass and Vail Pass.


Was I up for the challenge?  The world may never know.

I secured an AirBnB house in west Denver for Tammy, Dina, Cela (the mini wiener dog) and I; flew out to Denver on the Thursday morning before the Saturday, July 8, 2017 ride; and arrived at the condo, got settled and got some lunch only to be informed that the ride was Canceled. Due to an un-contained wildfire near Breckenridge all emergency resources had to be pulled from the Triple Bypass Ride and diverted to saving property and protecting lives (makes it kinda hard to get all indignant about the ride being cancelled).

No worries.  Talk about First World Problems: I was “stuck” in Colorado with my bike for three days with an open schedule.  There are probably worse places to be.

Day 1 – Denver -> Golden

So Friday morning we decided to ride from the condo in Denver to Golden to Lookout Mountain.  A 42 mile ride with 2700 feet of climbing, but a nice average 5% grade over about 4.5 miles.  Just a little something to warm up the legs in perfect Colorado weather.

Dina carefully mapped out the route for Tammy and I (generally something that ends up being a complete waste of time since neither of us can read a map or remember more than the next two turns).  And we set off figuring we would take the bike path to 32nd Avenue which would take us straight to Golden, and immediately got lost….multiple times…

not lost

Eventually we located 32nd Ave (and only inexplicably turned off the course once), and headed to Golden.

not lost 2

We totally did not get lost on this stretch of the route

Once we got into Golden we used our tried and true method of not getting lost by asking every pedestrian and cyclist that we saw whether we were heading in the right direction  to Lookout Mountain, and eventually found the base of the pass. Once we got to the base of Lookout, Dina and Cela showed up in the car to do S.A.G duties and keep an eye on us (after finding us after we took and “alternative route” through downtown Golden).

While mountain passes are generally pretty scary from inside a car, I find that I feel very safe climbing on my bike (especially in Colorado where I also believe not everybody is trying to kill me).  It’s usually pretty peaceful and beautiful, even though it is also work.

lookout ele


No, I don’t know what the M stands for

I found a good gear and just started cranking it out. There weren’t many switchbacks or surprises, just a steady incline with few trees, so great views.
I did stop once to take a gel, as I had no idea how much longer I might have to climb, but this was a really nice ride and a few miles later I had reached The Buffalo Bill Park at the summit of Lookout Mountain at 7,300 ft.

While I can climb all day, I suck at descending.  As I gain speed and see those switchbacks I picture every errant chipmunk, major mechanical failure, operator error, and runaway car scenario imaginable and end up gripping all the way down.  Lookout Mountain was no different, but Tammy was nice enough to wait for me at the bottom.  We then caught up with Dina and Cela in Golden for lunch (note to self – next time maybe not such a big lunch before a 15 mile ride back to the condo).  The total climbing on the ride was 2700 ft.

It was a really pleasant day!

Day 2 Evergreen -> Guanella Pass

Team Evergreen is a big promoter of the Triple Bypass.  While it is a Colorado cycling group, when I read about them I paid the nominal fee to become a member.  I can’t remember why, but something in the ride information made me think it was a good idea.  Score one for Red!  This was a good idea!

After the Triple got cancelled, Team Evergreen sent out an email to its members listing several different unsupported rides (with clickable links) they would be hosting starting from where the Triple Bypass was supposed to start.

triple rides

Our friend Carrie spoke with the ride director and determined that the Guanella Pass would be a good ride.  It was posted as a 70 mile ride “but might be a bit longer.” What was not at all clear in the “Guanella Pass” ride was that in order to get to Guanella Pass, you had to get over the Squaw Pass.  What I did not know until several days later was that the Squaw Pass was actually the Juniper Pass and the Juniper Pass was the first of the three passes in the Triple Bypass.  So, yeah, I pretty much went into this knowing nothing about what was in store


So Squaw/Juniper pass is a nice 15 mile (wait, whut?) climb at a 4-5% grade.  It is not a bad climb, but OMG it just never ends.  Most of my Colorado climbing has been at about 5-8 miles and I thought I was a badass.  On this pass, I hooked up with a local guy who knew the climb well and kept giving me information I did not want.  Things like, after climbing for what seemed like forever, “Oh, this is the half way point!” (I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t). There were a lot of trees so it was hard to tell whether/when you were close to the top.

I finally did achieve the summit at 11,100 feet (for 3000 feet of climbing on this one pass), and while the ride was long, it really wasn’t bad.  I took some pictures at the top.


The descent was pretty cool since there were not a lot of switchbacks and the incline was not really steep and it was the last pass I got to descend while it wasn’t raining (of course I am still a brake grabbing, chicken shit but I was having fun).  The descent ended in Idaho Springs, where I re-hooked up with Tammy, Dina, Carrie and Sean.  We got some nutrition and used the restroom, then headed out ten reasonably flat miles to Georgetown and the Guanella pass.  When we arrived in Georgetown it was noted that Tammy decided to forgo Guanella and SAG with Dina. [Shrug] I was still having fun! Weee!

Georgetown is this adorable little town at the base of Guanella. Unfortunately, just as we arrived it started raining.  It wasn’t too bad, but unlike Austin, Texas where when it’s 98 degrees and starts raining it becomes 98 degrees and raining, when it rains in Colorado the temperatures drop 20-30 degrees.  I stopped to put on my windbreaker and looked at my Garmin.  Inexplicably we were at mile 42.  If you scroll back a bit you may recall that this was supposed to be a 70 mile ride.  I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, I can do rudimentary math and this ride is gonna be a hellava lot longer than 70 miles:


How cute is that!

So I rode through this idyllic downtown not knowing the horrors that awaited.


Happy Little Sign

Confession:  I did not actually look at any maps or grades or really anything concerning this ride, so everything was a surprise to me.  I trusted the information my friends had.

My new Motto: Trust No One.

The Guanella Pass road starts with a switchback.  In fact, the first mile climbs about 500 feet over 4 switchbacks!  There is no joking around with this one. While the “average” grade of this 10.5 miles pass is “only” 5.5%, there is this weird false plateau and a reservoir  at mile 3.5. It lasts a little over 2 miles with some downhill segments.  Thing is, this part of the pass counts towards that 5.5% average grade, meaning you have to make it up (and then some).

By the time I got to the reservoirs I was sweating profusely and took off my jacket. I was wondering (a) what the hell was going on with the downhills, and (b) how much longer it was to the top because I must be close the way the road flattened out (ha! jokes on me).

Once I got passed the flat section the road started climbing again.  I would stop to eat because I was moving so slow I feared falling over if I took one hand off the handlebars.  Then I would stop to drink… Then I would just stop to rest…  Occasionally I would catch up to another rider and we would commiserate and ask each other “how much further” as we passed each other (talk about molasses running uphill).

Occasionally a rider would pass in the other direction flying downhill, but  beyond a “You’re doing great!”  No one was saying “You’re almost there.” 😦  Surely I must be “almost there” I’ve been riding up this hill for 1 and 1/2 hours!!

I had heard that the pass got steeper as you approached the summit, and the road seemed to be getting steeper but most of “what I had heard” ended up being lies and I was running out of food and water, so maybe it just felt steeper.

Finally, a gal coming down the pass shouted “You’re close!  Last incline!”

Ok, seriously, WTF does that even mean?  Last incline?  I had been on the last incline for the past two hours.  Also, I can say with confidence that “Marathon Rules” apply to long tough rides.  Marathon Rules include: never say “last hill” if there is anything can be construes even slightly resembling a hill in the distance.  Also your not “almost there” if you cannot see the finish line.

So, I interpreted “You’re close!  Last incline!” to mean that the summit would be around the next bend.  Nope, just another switchback… then another… and another.  Apparently, in Coloradoan “You’re close!  Last incline!” means you have at least a half mile of 8-10% grades.

Fun facts about Guanella Pass: According to the interwebs the first 3.5 miles has a 6.7% average grade and the last 2.3 miles has an average 7.4% grade (with some sections at 10-12%).  The total climb is 3600 ft (so 600 more feet of climbing than Juniper over 4 fewer miles).  Good times!

I finally reached the summit, and I was DONE. Cooked. D – O – N – E! Completely out of water/Gatorade, down to one Maple Bacon gel (don’t ask, because even I have no idea where that came from), and it’s now raining and cold.  I see Carrie right before the Summit and she says, “Did you see Tammy and Dina driving down?”

DOWN!?!  I’m out of water (actually, what I said was “I’m out of fucking water!!!” and I said it loud and with feeling).  I rode up to the summit where there were restrooms… composting restrooms, not running water restrooms.  I was able to beg a bottle of water off a hiker and drank the whole thing just standing there.  Also, where the hell is the big green summit/elevation sign?  I need a picture in front of that sign!  This was the sign at the summit:

Mission accomplished.  But now I am at the summit of a steep grade in the cold rain, with no food or water beginning to bonk, with wet roads, and as I have explained I suck at descents on a good day.

I started talking with a gal while putting on my jacket again and looking at the steep descent in front of me, waiting for the rain to let up.  I said, “I don’t think I could have done the Triple Bypass.  There is no way I could ride another pass today.”  She gave me the ‘oh, p-shaw’ hand wave and said, “Oh, this is way harder than the Triple!”  Hmm.  You’d think someone woulda mentioned that at some point.

It took me forever to get off that pass.  I have no confidence in a decent and on steep wet roads I was gripping so hard that I would periodically stop to rest my “gripping-muscles” and check and make sure I wasn’t glazing my brakes. I took me over an hour to descend off that pass (which is pretty pathetic).

When I got back into Georgetown and off the mountain my phone started pinging all the messages I had received during the 3 hours I had been on the pass and out of service range. I stopped at a gas station and realized that besides not having any food or water, I also had no money as I had left my wallet in the SAG vehicle. And my SAG, thinking I had turned back at some point (or perhaps been eaten by bears) headed into Idaho Springs for beer and pizza (which did not at all inch me towards murderous rage).

It took me three tries to compose a text message expressing my dilemma and displeasure, but also appropriate to send to folks that I love and would like to continue being friends with.

A fellow cyclist, hearing my bonk-y freak-out as I tried to compose said text message, reached into his jersey pocket and pulled out a warm Chobani yogurt he had been carrying around all day.  He said, “You can get some water inside and you can have this yogurt if you want it.” And as if on cue it started raining again.

Can I just say that that was the most delicious yogurt I ever sucked through a straw (no one has a spoon) while standing in the rain outside a gas station.

It was about ten miles to Idaho Springs.  Tammy texted me and asked if I wanted her to come get me, but I felt like I probably needed a bit more “me time” to compose my emotions and like the yogurt work it’s magic.  After taking about 15 minutes to get my head together, I set off in the direction of Idaho Springs…just as the sky opened up into a torrential thunderstorm.  Funny thing was I was actually feeling pretty ok.  That yogurt did the trick!  So when Dina pulled up next to me and asked if I wanted a ride, I said no thanks and had a fast fun ride into Idaho Springs (I did hook up with two other cyclists who were racing in the same direction).



Upon arrival at Idaho Springs, filthy and soaking wet, I found my compadres “waiting out the storm” in a local brew pub.


well, color me…

While I was game to ride the 30ish miles back to Evergreen, once I was warm and dry, and all my other buddies decided they had had enough, I determine that 78 miles and 7600 feet of climbing was probably good for the day (70 mile ride my ass!).  We drove back to the condo to spend the night eating breakfast for dinner and hanging out in our pajamas.

Tammy and Dina love Boulder.  From what I can tell it is their favorite place in Colorado, and they have several friends there.  So that night we determined that the next day we would go to their favorite breakfast place in Boulder, then re-connect with Carrie and Sean and do a fun ride there.

Day 3 Boulder -> Ward

The next morning while drinking coffee on the back patio in the cool dry morning air, I determined that I wasn’t completely psyched to ride over another mountain (which is pretty unusual for me).  Dina got up and was online looking for a good ride.  I made it clear that I didn’t want to do anything that looked like Guanella pass.  We decided on a 40 mile ride from Boulder to Ward (Lefthand Canyon).

We rented an E-Bike for Dina.  While Dina rides, she rarely rides with Tammy and I and would not be able to stay with the group on the climbs, but with an E-Bike she could stay with the group, but still get a workout since it is a power assist and not a motorbike.  I have to say that this was a really cool idea and worked out great (but for one tiny incident that I will address in a moment).

In order to get to Lefthand Canyon we turned onto Old Stagecoach road.  This was the first climb of the day and it wasn’t long, but hell, it was not what I was looking for after the previous days ride.  It was a mile and a half of 6-10% grades.  When I got over that hill I told Carrie, “If this is the ride we are doing, I will go back to the coffee shop and wait on you guys.”  Dina assured us that this was just a short-cut to Lefthand Canyon and we could avoid the hill on the way back.

I would not hesitate to recommend the Boulder to Ward ride (but avoid Old Stagecoach and just take 36 to Lefthand Canyon Drive). The average grade was 5%, which is a really nice climb.  The road was tree lined a with little traffic, and most of the way had a breakdown lane for us to ride in. It really wasn’t bad climbing and the weather was perfect.

While the signs indicated it was 10 miles to Ward, this is a lie. It was 11 miles.  While this wasn’t off by 40 miles like the day-before’s ride,  we were all pre-dehydrated and it was a warm dry day on which we started late morning. I found myself rationing my water to finish it at mile 10 (which I did).  There was a spring at the top of the canyon where I could get more water and a General Store for supplies, but the last mile and a half had an average 9% grade with a short section at 15% (good times!), and I had no water (I think everyone was rationing their water on this climb).  Oh, did I mention it started raining on us again right at the steepest part?  And because we started late when it was already warm when we started, I neglected to bring my jacket.  Yay!

So just as I got to the fresh spring to fill up my water-bottles and not 1/4 mile from the General Store which I could see in the distance, the sky just opened up. Carrie and I ended up holed-up under a near-by tree waiting for the storm to pass.  Because the rest of the group didn’t catch up to us, we figured they were probably holed-up somewhere, too (they were).

Once the rain let up to a bit of a drizzle, Carrie and I decided to get to the General Store.  I discovered that there is no way to look cool trying to get re-started on your bike on a steep incline on wet roads.  See, you have to get enough momentum to get clipped into you pedals without falling over, but you can’t actually start pedaling until you are clipped-in the pedals. So you end up with several false starts.

  1. Clip in with the right foot.
  2. Pull the pedal up to the 12:00 o’clock position.
  3. Push down hard to start rolling (but going up a 10% incline).
  4. In the microsecond before you stop moving, lift your left foot high and try to get clipped into the other pedal (which is now at 12:00 o’clock).
  5. Quickly put your left foot back on the ground before you fall over.
  6. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  7. (At this point you are pretty much using your bike as a scooter)

I decided to paperboy it.

  1. Wait until traffic is clear in each direction.
  2. Turn you bike sideways so you are facing across the street.
  3. Clip in with your right foot.
  4. Pull the pedal up to the 12:00 o’clock position.
  5. Push down hard to start rolling across the street (which is flat).
  6. Clip in with your left foot and turn fast before you ride into a ditch.


We got to the general store where I got some chocolate pop-tarts and a V-8. So yummy (I’m fairly certain this is what serious athletes eat).

The rain pretty much stopped and Tammy and Dina met us at the General Store (Sean had already headed back to the coffee shop). Now we would be descending for 11 miles.  There was a short argument between Tammy, Carrie, and I about who sucks the worst on descents. Then we started down.

I quickly lost sight of Tammy and Dina as they raced down the canyon.  Then Carrie passed me (told ya I sucked).  Then after a few minutes the street started becoming noticeably drier and I was able to relax a bit and it started to become a lot more fun. Weeeeee!  Then I passed Carrie!

We stopped at the intersection of Old Stagecoach (which we would not be taking home) and Lefthand Canyon to regroup. Where we determined that Tammy is full of [:poop], but Carrie did indeed suck at descents worse than Red (if anyone one knows of a local bike handling skills course that will teach me how to descend without being a danger to myself and others, please leave it in the comments).

The rest of the ride back to Boulder was a gentle descent that made you think you were on a flat road but a real badass.  When we got to Rt 36, it is a straight shot to downtown Boulder, so I passed Tammy and Dina to pull the group.  When I looked back, I was very surprised to see that I had dropped everyone, so I slowed down and waited.  Tammy said that she had to wait for Dina.  What?!  She’s on an E-bike, how the hell did we drop her?!

The tiny problem with an E-bike: Apparently, E-Bikes are electronically limited at 25mph, so once you exceed 25 mph, the power cuts off.  This probably wouldn’t have been as big as deal if the bike didn’t weigh 50 pounds. But a fifty pound bike with no power would be like dragging an anchor.  Every time we exceeded 25mph, Dina lost all power.

We slowed down and all rode back into town together.

The ride was a nice 42 miles with 4000 feet of climbing.


So while I could not do the Triple Bypass, I got in 162 miles and 14,200 feet of climbing.

Not too shabby!


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Round Rock Rotary Reindeer Run – 5k race report

I signed up for the Round Rock Rotary Reindeer Run 5k (5R5K), since my mother in law is a member of the rotary and a big promoter of the Play for all Abilities park which was the benefiting charity of the run. The run is the only opportunity you have to see the Round Rock trail of lights by foot (otherwise you have to drive through it). They have a 5k timed run, then an untimed run or walk, so you can walk the trail with your kids once all the sweaty people are off the course.

At about 5:25, I lined up near the front of the pack, careful not to get trapped behind anyone who did not have “cut” calves or who was wearing an Santa costume or terry cloth running sweats.

The start gun went off and I turned on my iPod to a medium high tempo song for a warm-up start. I did that crowded bouncy jog until I got close to the start line, then started my Garmin (if you don’t have a record it didn’t happen).

I remind myself to start out slow. If you go out too fast you will blow up… just like that 9 year old who blew passed me. He is going to implode before the end of this race as it is clear he is trying too hard to go super fast. Inexplicably, I find myself speeding up to pass the 9 year old. Must. Not. Let. The. Nine-year-old. Win.

Then a fast song starts on my iPod, I speed up some more. Some random guy starts to pass me. Oh, hell, no.  (dang it, you were supposed to start slow!)

Mile 1: 7:32

Hmm, that may have been a bit fast. At this point lets just try to maintain a good solid pace. Maybe even look around at the Christmas Lights which I had not even noticed during the first mile of the race.

The race is an out and back with the first half pretty much uphill*, but a nice fast second half. OK, I figure it should take me one song to get to the turn around. And slow tempo song comes on. I fumble with the iPod to get to the next fast song.  OK, “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne, not the sentiment I was looking for, but he pace is ok.

*my race file indicates that it only gains 28 feet on the uphill portion, which is crazy since you can clearly feel that you are running up hill.

Somewhere around mile 1.3 I start to lose steam. Dammit! Soon I will get to the turn around then be able to run downhill…

I turn around and continue to slow down until I get to the 2 mile mark.  Ok, drop your shoulders, fast turnover, hup, hup, hup, hup!

Mile 2: 7:45

OK, second wind, baby! Less than 8 minutes and we’re done.

Hey, where did this hill come from?
I get passed by a few folks who are certainly picking up speed for their big finish, as I continue to lose steam. THIS is what I was talking about when I questioned the wisdom of racing an inexperienced 9 year old out of the gate.

As I run the last mile I start thinking of excuses for what is looking like a fading finish (I ran 14 miles yesterday, I rode 46 miles on my bike this morning, I shouldn’t have had that taco a half hour before the race…).

There is a huge light tunnel that you run through that always makes me sick.  All the flashing lights and bouncing of the run.  I generally appreciate it for about 5 seconds, then look at my feet.  I can see the white lighted tree that signals the turn before the finish line.
Ok, you can do anything for 1/4 mile. I huff it across the finish line fairly certain I am going to puke.

Mile 3.1 – 8:00

So it took me 23:37 which is a perfectly respectable time, but if I had started at the 8:00 minute mile, then dropped to 7:45, it is very likely that I would have finished stronger than the 7:32.* So, first 5k of the season and I pretty much did it wrong. However, I have all season to get it right.

*Whereas folks think that if they start out really fast, they will be “making up time” they would lose when they get tired at the end of the race, this is completely not how it works. If you start off slower you will have more energy at the end to finish stronger. It’s a science thing called “negative splits

This is a really great, fun 5k with lots of Christmas lights to see and Christmas Carols being played if you are not listening to an iPod.  The untimed crwod is much bigger than the timed crowd but most of those folks have every intention of walking through the lights and not racing at all.  The timed crowd is small and a pretty good size run to get your feet wet if you are new to 5ks.

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2016 Ironman Los Cabos


So, sometime in early 2016 I signed up for Ironman Los Cabos (San Jose Del Cabo/Cabo San Lucas. Mexico). I didn’t know much about the race, but my training buddy wanted to do it and the location seemed really nice from the pictures.Unfortunately, my training buddy never signed up for the race and/because she did not have time to train for it, so it was just me training for IMLC. When you are a social butterfly such as I am, training by yourself sucks.

Also, it dawned on me that perhaps I should have looked into the course a bit more before I signed up: A warm salt water 2.4 mile swim (so no wetsuit); a 112 mile bike ride with over 6000 ft of climbing*; a flat 26.2 mile three loop run course; average temperature = 89 degrees.

*the only ride I could find that had a similar elevation ratio is that disaster that was the bike of the 106 West Triathlon in Colorado, and we know how that turned out.

As I started my training, my run was not at all coming a long as I had hoped.  I had to bail on several long runs during the summer heat and humidity.  I was much slower than I had been in years past, and running felt like torture. I am not a very good swimmer but I am usually consistently slow. Now, however, even my swim time was off by about 10 seconds per 100 meters, which is a lot. While the bike is my strength, 6000 feet of climbing is a lot of climbing.  To do even moderately well, I would have to have a really strong bike ride. At past Ironmans I averaged between 5:45 and 6:15 hours on the bike.

As the days ticked passed and race day got closer, I determined that I really, really was not ready for this race.  Five weeks before the race, while I was out on a bike ride, I made the executive decision that I would change my race to the Half Iron.  Suddenly it was like a giant weight was lifted off my chest.  I was confident I could do well in a half iron.  As soon as I got home, I logged onto my computer only to find that I had missed the transfer cut off date by one week.  So I was “stuck.” At this point I reluctantly began to accept my fate (note: this is NOT a good way to go into a big race). I had two not-awful runs (which was a big improvement over my previous runs), and was able to finish the Kerrville Triathlon 70.3 in just under 6 hours -I determined that if I could not finish Kerrville in 6 hours I would drop out of he Ironman race since my PR for that race was a 5:33.

After updating my passport, I had lined up a nice condo just off the run course and across the street from the host hotel, a rental car at quite a good price, and the airline tickets were bought for both my husband and I.  Phil was prepared for a week of fishing off the coast.  After all this, I would not cancel the whole trip.

I began to accept my fate, much like a sacrificial virgin to a volcano.  Ok, not much like a sacrificial vir– ok, nothing like a sacrificial virgin. Hmm, a better analogy… like a prisoner of war– but maybe one who paid money to become a prisoner of war and could actually leave if they really wanted to?  Whatever. I was gonna do this thing and it was probably gonna hurt a lot.

On Tuesday morning we set off for Mexico, and arrived in town at noon.  We had to walk across the tarmac at the San Jose airport.  It felt like 115 degrees getting off that plane into the blazing sun.

I am going to die.

We got to the Enterprise rental car counter and while the car was quoted very, very very cheap at $25 for the entire week, I figured we would get hit with a bunch of add on costs, so I was prepared for paying a couple of hundred bucks.   What!?! Oh, hell no! I was not prepared for $700 ($12,500 pesos) for a car for the week.  My husband recommended that we take the car and see if we really needed it and if not, we could just return the next day (we ultimately did return the rental car).

We drove into town and got to the condo.  Upon entering, I looked for the thermostat since it was warm and no one had turned the A/C on.  Hmm.  I went upstairs and checked the walls.  Hmm.  Phil said, “I don’t see any vents. Seriously, I don’t think there is A/C.”

Aw, hell, no!  I am not staying in an un-air-conditioned condo in 93 degree heat for the week of my Ironman.  Since it was the day the rental was supposed to start, I knew I wasn’t getting my money back, but there was no freakin’ way this was going to work.  Phil went and rented a room in the hotel resort across the street. I sent a nice email to my Air BnB owner explaining my issue (“Why would you expect everywhere to have air-conditioning!? My ad says there are fans in every room!”  I dunno.  Because Mexico is hotter than hell and not a third world country? You also said there was bottled water, but I assumed there was also running water (I didn’t say this, but it is what I was thinking)). She agreed to give me a small portion of my money back.

Let mine be a cautionary tale:  If you rent off Air BnB or VRBO make sure it specifically says their is A/C, because apparently not everyone in has A/C.  Hell, might as well go ahead and check and make sure it has heat if you are traveling in the winter.


So the trip did not start off well for a race I really did not want to do.

On Wednesday, I went our for a bike ride on the Ironman course along the transpennisular highway.

I take back every bad thing I have ever said about Austin drivers.

Ho-ly crap!  These people drive like lunatics! I had box trucks passing me with 3 inches clearance. There were very few opportunities to turn around on this divided highway, so I was committed at least for a while, until I could take an exit ramp. I was extremely relieved to get back to my room alive and determined that I would not be riding my bike again until race day.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, I had a complete emotional break down.  It was hotter than hell and humid as fark, and I wasn’t trained and I didn’t want to do this race,  but I had flown to Mexico and spent a boatload of money, a lot more than I had even planned, so I couldn’t not do it. I just wanted to go home! I didn’t know what to do.

I phoned a friend who talked me off the ledge. Thereafter, I spent every free moment at the “Serenity Pool” listening to Yanni on a chaise lounge.  There wasn’t much else I could do, so I tried to stay in my happy place.

The Adults-only “Serenity Pool”


Everyday it just seemed to get hotter.  Where the weather was predicted to be a comfy 84 degrees a week before the race, that temperature just kept creeping up from 91 to 93 to 95…


The night before the race, Mexico turned it’s clocks back an hour, so I got to sleep in a bit (Mexico was then 2 hours earlier than Austin).  I took a bus from the host hotel to the race start.  While there were only 360 folks signed up for the full Ironman race, there were close to 800 for the half Ironman 70.3 race and some folks doing the Relay and Aquabike.  The race was set up so that the Half Iron folks would start an hour early and be far off the swim course by the time the Full Iron folks headed out.  However, I still needed to get out to the race site (inexplicably transition never closed, so arguably I could have gotten out there 5 minuted before my race start).  Watching all the Half Distance racers just sent my anxiety through the roof. Breath, breath, breath… That was a very long hour.

Finally it was 7:30, time to start.


As my swim training has not gone great my swim strategy was to get on the feet of someone a bit stronger than me and  draft* the whole way.

*Drafting involves  swimming closely behind someone slightly faster than you, allowing you to coast on their wake and go along for the ride. This does not cause any determinant to the lead swimmer.


I almost immediately found some feet and stayed on them the entire swim. The water was so clear that it was very easy to keep an eye on the person in front of you, which is not often the case.  There was a school of about 5-6 of us who swam the whole race together.  I could tell that the gal ahead of me was stronger than me since I could  not pass her – because drafting makes your swim easier, you will think that you can pass the person in front of you, but as soon as you come out of their wake and lose the drafting effect you’ll be unable to pass.  I stayed behind and just to the left, while someone else was immediately to my right.  Everyone was super cordial and no one was trying to steal anyone elses’ drafter (ok, there is always that one guy who thinks he faster, so he speeds up pushing me out of the way, but five minutes later he is back.  For some unknown reason he felt the need to do this about 10 times during the swim, where most of us learn by the second attempt that, no, we are not actually able to swim faster than the group).

The water was warm, like 84 degrees, and so clear.  You could see the bottom and the fishes, and the rocks… Really beautiful. And the surf was pretty calm.  The biggest waves were those of the jet skis who were keeping an eye on us.

I was surprised to see that it took me 1:33:43 to complete the swim while drafting.  I wonder if the current was strong, because I really felt like I was moving faster than that, but this was 15 minutes slower than I had predicted.

I ran up the sandy beach into transition and was able to change into my jersey, arm coolers (didn’t want to get a sun burn), shoes and socks (after removing as much sand as possible), then grabbed my bike and ran over the cobblestones to the bike mount line.  I wasn’t in a huge rush since I wanted to be as comfortable as possible since I knew I was going to be on the bike for a long time.

T1 – 6:14.


Right out of the shoot, there was  nice “warm-up” 1/3 mile climb to the highway. The ride was two loops: a long stretch southbound on the Tranpennisular Highway, then up the toll road to the San Lucas airport, back northbound on the Tranpennisular Highway to the San Jose airport.  Then repeat.


The airports were both located up long climbs: the San Jose climb shorter but more steep than the Los Cobos climb (the peaks in the elevation map below).

The ride was rumored to have about 6000 ft of climbing even though the Ironman website said it was less than half that (the Ironman website was wrong!).

Bike Elevation:bike-ele-imlc

Luckily it was not very windy, but being on a highway when the high temperature was 96-97 degrees it was unbearably hot with the heat hitting you from above and below.

Now, the bike is my strength, and hills do not scare me, but 112 miles is a long way and 6000 ft of climbing is a lot of climbing.

There were 7 water stops on the each loop of the bike route, so one every 9 miles.  I started with a 16 oz bottle of Gatorade, a 16 oz Bottle of water, and my Aerobottle with water (probably 10 oz).  Because we started so late (9:30am Austin time) and I was in the water for 1 1/2 hours, I was not out on the bike until 11:00am Austin time, so it was already in the mid-80’s and very humid.  I finished my first bottle of water before I hit the first water stop.  Not a big deal since I had water and Gatorade with me, but still, wow.  I took a bottle of water or Gatorade at each water stop, but after the first few water stops, I started taking 2 bottles at each stop.

But the time I got to the San Jose airport, I had to stop at the water stop to get ice and refill my bottles with ice and water/Gatorade (I usually ride through the water stop and grab bottles from the volunteers).  Holy crap it was hot. I made a note to make sure that I had plenty of cold water before I had to head back out to the San Jose airport.  At this point, the Half Iron was looking like a much better option than having to repeat the bike route.

My first 56 mile loop went ok.  While not fast, I didn’t feel bad.  I drank a lot more than I normally did on a ride, but never had to go to the bathroom.  Every race I’ve done, I always have to pee somewhere between mile 26-30.  But not this time.  In fact, I never had to pee during the whole bike ride. I also ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, salt tablets, and several gels trying to keep on my nutrition plan.

I headed back out for my second loop.  I felt alright, but was actually going much slower than my first loop, at least a mile per hour slower.  Luckily, I am far sighted so I cannot read my Garmin very easily, and it would not have mattered anyway since pushing myself harder at this point would have resulted in a me blowing up that much sooner.

I passed a water stop and grabbed a bottle of water and put it in my water bottle cage on my bike, then another bottle of water which I dumped into my aerobottle, then used the rest to wet down my arm coolers and jersey.  I quickly drank the water in my aerobottle.  I grabbed my second water bottle and promptly…dropped it.  SHIT!  Now all I had was a half bottle of really warm Gatorade.  I poured that into my aerobottle, and as nasty as it was I also drank that quickly.  Now, I had nothing and was wondering how far away I was from the next water stop.  I was even thinking of begging a water bottle off another athlete, before, finally, blessedly, I saw the next water stop.  Once again, I had to stop to fill up all of my water bottles.

I was doing ok, until I had about 20 miles to go.  At this point I started getting a headache, which for me means dehydration.  How could I possibly be dehydrated with all that I was drinking!?!  I tired to increase my intake, but that headache was here to stay.

I headed back toward the San Jose airport climb, but with the headache, I was really suffering.  There had been about four or five cyclists that had been playing leap frog (usually me passing them on the uphills, them passing me on the down hills), but now they all left me behind.  About half way to the top of the hill, I saw a fellow athlete walking with his bike. “Do you need anything?” I asked, since I was only moving at about 8 mph. “Yeah, if you’ve got a tube.” He replied.

Having had zero flats, I had two spare tubes.  Since I could use the break and I was not going to win this thing, I stopped and pulled out a tube.  He had shallow race wheels (looked like 45’s, for those in the know), but “Crap, the valve is too short.”  The valve on my tube was not quite long enough to clear the depth of his wheels.


His Wheel


My Wheel

I have screw on valve extenders for my race wheels that just go over the original valves, as opposed to having to remove the core.  I unscrewed one and gave it to him.  If I got a flat during these last few miles of the ride  (maybe 6 miles), I still had one spare tube and could take the extender off my other wheel (if necessary).  So I was good.  The guy who needed a tube had already had two flats during his race, which totally sucks and why he had no spare tubes. Looked like he was having a  worse day than me.

The short break did me good and I rode up the rest of the hill, then got to coast down hill pretty much all the way to the bike finish, headache firmly in tact. On the way, I tried to stratagize my run.  Do I walk to try to recover and hydrate, or  slow run while I try to recover?

Bike: 7:06:58 at 15 mph (ouch!)

I got off the bike, grabbed my run gear bag, and pulled off my gloves and arm coolers as I headed into the transition tent. I sat down and the eager volunteers where trying to get me out of my bike gear and into my run gear, but I needed a minute.  I had to repeat several times, “Please, just give me a minute.” before the volunteers finally left me alone.  I used a bottle of water to wash my face, while sitting for a few minutes to catch my breath.  Finally I was able to get into my run gear and head out of the tent.

T2- 7:09 (5 of which were just me sitting)

The Run

I got out on the run course and immediately took in some Pepsi, and filed my hand held water bottle with cool water. There were water stops at  every kilometer (.6 miles).  I was trying to figure out how to best rehydrate and stay on my nutrition in order to have a not horrible run.

One of my buddies had cautioned me that day before that coming off the bike, the run would be really hot.  But ha-ha! I win! I learned that if you stay on the bike long enough, when you get to the run it it actually starting to cool off.

I walked about 1/4 mile then started a slow run, while taking in some coke and Gatorade at each water stop.  I actually didn’t feel terrible and the shadows were already getting long. I did alright on the first loop at about an 11 minute mile (not breaking any world records, but only 1 minute per mile slower than most of my long training runs and more than a walk). Phil joined me at the beginning of my second loop and ran about a 1/2 mile with me, which was really nice.

So in Mexico, the race phrase of encouragement is “Vamos! Vamos!”

OMG, are you folks kidding me?  Yes, I realize I am not moving very fast.  I much prefer the American lies of “You look good!” and “You’re doing great!”  Other than the unfortunate phrase of encouragement, the spectators were great, even the rowdy drinking Americans (eh-hem, Jamie, Michele, Sandy and Carolin).

Unfortunately, by the time I got to about a mile 12, my stomach was jacked.  My rehydration/nutrition plan was not working.  I had to start walking because every time I tried to run I would get super nauseated and feel like I was gonna start dry heaving.  Good times!  At this point I was aware that a LOT of folks had dropped out of the race.  I knew that if I walked the entire rest of the race, while I might hate my life, I would still finish in time.  For those of you who don’t know me well, I am not incline to quit, even when it may be in my best interest.

I hooked up with Luis.  A 130+ time Ironman, native Mexican and local celebrity.  He was encouraging, telling me that he was doing 5 IM’s in 5 weeks (Louisville, Kona, NC, Cabo, Florida then Cozemel), and that I had plenty of time and not to worry.  We stayed together for about 1 1/2 miles before he left me behind (later, when I was able to run again we would play leap frog throughout the course).

Periodically, I would try to run and almost immediately get that pre-dry-heave lump in my throat.


Ok, so walk…

I met a guy who had done 27 IMs. We discussed how tough the race had been. He told me that he nearly bailed after the ride (so a 27 timer almost quit, but I was still out there). Twenty-seven, eh?  “So, what do you do when your stomach gets jacked up on the run and you feel like you are going to puke every time you run?”  He asked what I had been eating (bananas) and recommended sipping a little bit of Pepsi and water at each stop and not go too fast.  I pointed out that “too fast” was relative, but that any time I tried to run I got sick. Yeah, he agreed, generally any running was likely to make me sick and it was hard to recover, so “Just enjoy the rest of your race.” [sad trombone]

Yeah, pretty much walked the second loop (mile 12 -17.5).  I did have the privilege of walking through the Discovery park area, where there we’re friendly (I think) little Mexican cows, much smaller than our Texas cows. There we’re also some really cool sculptures that I had not even noticed on my first loop. So there was that.

At some point it dawned on me that if I could get my stomach straight, I was going to bonk since I hadn’t eaten anything or the past 9 miles.  I took out a gel and opened it, then sipped on it for about a 1/2 mile and still only got half of it down before I tossed the rest.

So, yeah, not eating a lot.


But it was something, I figured it I kept sipping on gels as much as I could tolerate, I wouldn’t bonk.  Periodically, I would jog a bit and see what my stomach would do.

Finally at mile 18ish, when I started to jog I did NOT feel like I was going to yak!  mircle

I was so happy that I was not going to have to walk the final 8 miles!  At this point, if I was finished with the race, I would still have the worst time of all my Ironmans, but again, at least I wasn’t walking– not breaking any land-speed records, but not walking.  I hooked up with a gal who was doing her first IM  and ran with her for a while. She told me that she was “One and done.”  I told her that this was not a normal race and that she should try NC or Florida or Lake Placid before throwing in the towel.

I stopped at my special needs bag* (finally on my third loop) which contained just one can of HighBrew coffee, which I did not feel I could safely drink until now.  I drank the coffee with no ill effects!

*”special needs bags” are bags that athletes can put whatever they want in and that are available on the course -usually at the half way point, but since the run was three loops, three times on the run course.


I slowly ran most of the final loop and ran into another “one and done” gal with two miles left.  I told her that she might want to give it a few weeks, then consider a race not in Cabo, or not with 6000 feet of climbing, or not in 97 degrees.  We ran the last of the race together.  As we approached the finish shoot, I told her that I would hold back so she could get a good picture (that extra 10 seconds isn’t going to make any difference n my life).

Run: 6:03:21 (err…)

My finish time was 14:57:52, so a sub-15!  Yay! Only 2 1/2 hours longer than my last longest IM.  But…


Post Script: The Finish Line experience at Ironman is usually something to behold.  Throngs of people cheering until midnight.  Volunteers helping athletes through the finish area:medal -> picture -> food/drink -> finishers swag -> massage/ice bath and of course an available med tent.

Unfortunately, the finish line experience in Cabo was very disappointing.  I crossed the finish line, there were 6 people in the stands waiting for there athlete – that’s it. I crossed the finish line and was given my medal.  That’s it.  I had no one direct me where to go next. Phil has been down at the finish line for some time, but no one could tell him if I had finished.  After awhile, he headed back to the hotel to see if perhaps I had finished earlier and was there, so we ended up missing each other.

I wandered around until the photographer found me and took my finish picture. Then I wandered past the old pizza, bananas and oranges.  There were two vats of dirty water.  Perhaps formerly ice baths?  It was impossible to tell and there was no one there anyway.

I could see the massage tent, but couldn’t figure out how to get in.  I meandered around some landscaping planters and found the side of the tent where I could enter.  A nixe young man took me in, but when I asked him to not rub on my sunburn so hard, he told me he couldn’t massage me.  I was too tired and miserable to argue. I really, really needed to get into some dry shoes. I asked where the morning clothes bags* were.  Oh, they are 1/2 mile away at T2 with my bike. Argh!

*Morning clothes bags are bags that you can leave anything you wore to or needed at the race site (sneakers, flip flops, pants, sunscreen, et c…) or anything you may want to have immediately after a ace (clean T-shirt or sweatshirt, protein drink, dry socks).

I limped over to T2 on empty streets, where I was given my bike, and morning, T1 and T2 bags.  There was nowhere to change and nowhere to sit, so I sat in the street and changed my shoes.  I then rode (coasted) to the hotel on my bike.  Everything downtown was closed.

In an extreme rookie mistake, I did not have any real food at the hotel.  If we had stayed in a condo with a kitchen, I know I would have gone shopping and loaded the fridge with easy to prepare food, but without a oven/stove or microwave, I didn’t think to get real food.  I had used the last of a loaf of bread early that morning for my race PB&J sandwiches, so I didn’t even have bread (while I did have PB and J). Luckily (?), I had some graham crackers. :-(.  I have never so missed the Waffle House in my life.


Not the same.

The lack of food is on me, but I really did expect a lot more from an Ironman finish line.

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Why are the Medics following me? – 106° West 70.3 Triathlon

Disclaimer:  This race was such a disaster that I was not even going to share my experience for my awful performance, but a good night’s sleep as a donning of my big girl panties convinced me to suck it up.

My husband and I go to Dillon, Colorado the first or second weekend in September every year.   This year, after making travel arrangements I discovered that there was a 70.3 triathlon in that very town on that same weekend (I think a friend may have clued me in to this).  At $100 for a 70.3, I signed up not at all sure I would even participate.  At between 9,100 and 10,291 feet elevation it is billed as the Highest Triathlon in the world (also cannabis is legal in Colorado, so ya know, “highest”).  The 106° West Tri tag line is “It won’t be pretty but it will be beautiful.”

Also, apparently, there is about 1/3 less oxygen available in this altitude range*:


*It may have benefited me to do this calculation prior to the race.

But I usually ride and run when I am in Colorado, so this would only necessitate the additional packing of my wetsuit (and thermal cap, and booties). Apparently, this race is also wetsuit legal- on race day the water temperature was measured at 61 degrees. Good times!  Meh, I did the Devil’s Backbone Tri in March in Texas and they said the water was 60 degrees and it didn’t feel that cold (but oh, they lied!  that water was much much warmer than 60 degrees, as I was to discover).

I posted a few updates on Facebook, then got a PM from my age group arch-nemesis, Erin Truslow:  “I’m in Dillon!”

Stalker!  Actually, Erin was not racing, but was sherpaing for another Austin athlete.  Since I had done numerous 1/2 Iron distance triathlons I did not think I needed any support, but thank God for Erin!  I will be eternally grateful for her support.

I decided to take my road bike instead of my tri-bike since the road bike had better climbing gears.  Also, I decided not to grab my clip-on aerobars for no good reason at all. A(nother)  decision I would soon regret.  Got into town on Thursday, took a 40 mile ride on Friday to acclimate myself to the altitude (that 14.3 mph average should have been a red flag but for some reason my Garmin watch would not download my stats to my phone, so I didn’t know).  Then I picked up my packet, dropped off my bike, and listened to the “race talk” before heading to the condo for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

The strangest thing about this race was the start time. The race did not start until 9:15 am, but my swim wave did not go off until 9:45am.  My condo was 3 blocks away from the starting line, so I could sleep in until 8:30 and still set up my transition before it closed at 9:05am. Of course, I woke up at 5:30am anyway.  And it was 37 degrees!  I had a cup of tea and some oatmeal, then went out to the race area in jeans and a sweatshirt, set my stuff up, then went back to the condo to nap for a few hours.  So weird.

At 9:00 I headed back sown to the race start. The sun warmed things up nicely, but it was still in the 40’s. I put on my wetsuit, booties, earplugs and thermal cap, then hooked up with Erin and Mark at the swim start.  The water didn’t look that cold…



When it was time to get in the water for the deep water (swimming) start – HOLY SH!T that water is cold!  M***** F*****!  It think  the altitude raises the freezing temperature of water, because crap, that water was so cold I should have been able to walk on it.  Relax, relax, relax…It was too cold to even pee.

I counted to 3, then grabbed the neckline of the wetsuit and pulled it out to fill the suit with cold water.  As crazy as that sounds, that is how a wetsuit works.  It does not keep you dry, it keeps a layer of body temperature water between you and the lake.  We were in the water for about a minute before the starting gun went off, then we all started to swim.

Ha-ha-ha, I lie.

Then a bunch of folks started to swim, I on the other hand, took two strokes and stopped treading water and gasping for air.  I quickly realized that the chill of the water and the lack of air in the air rendered me unable to take to swim stokes without taking a breath.  Normally, I swim: breath (to the side), stroke right, stroke left, breath, stroke right, stroke left.  But here I was – breath, stroke right, stop gasp, gasp! stroke left with my head sticking out of the water.

Ok, this is not going to work.  I tried to breast stroke with my head out of the water, which made some progress, but very slowly.  Ok, I would try back-stroking. Have you ever seen me backstroke?  No, you have not.  Know how I know?  because I NEVER backstroke, ever.  I was able to make progress back stroking, but I had no idea where I was going.  Seriously, I was going to be DQ’d on the swim because at this rate I would never make the cut off time (1:10).  My only comfort was that I was not dead last (but why is that kayak following me?) and the folks behind me were not giving up.  In truth, several of the folks behind me were actually lapping me on their second lap of the course.

I determined that I need to keep my heart rate way down in order to breathe, stroke right, stroke left without hyperventilating.  Finally, about 750 meters in to the race, I was able to actually swim, albeit very slowly, and I started making real forward progress.

Moment of truth. As I rounded the last buoy of my first lap I had to make a decision: Quit, or go again.

F*ck it.  Let’s see if I can make the swim cut off.

Surprisingly, if you are actually swimming, even really slowly, you can make pretty good time.  Holy crap, I’m gonna finish this swim!  I crawled out of the lake and into the arms of, like, 6 volunteers who were trying to get me out of my wetsuit while calling for medical – so you know I looked good!  Once I was freed from the wetsuit, I refused medical assistance and headed into transition to get my head together and get out on my bike.

So, I would love to tell you what the times were of my first and second swim lap, but I was swimming so slowly and poorly that my Garmin registered only 40 meters of my entire swim:


My official swim race results indicated that I completed the swim in 55:14. so, better than I thought.

I ran into T1 and grabbed a bath towel to dry off.  I could not stop shaking and I needed to be dry, so I finally just sat down.  I dried off as best I could, put on my wool socks and cycling shoes, windbreaker and cycling gloves and headed out of transition praying that a hill would be the first thing I would encounter on the bike since I always warm up on a hill.

T1- 11:00 (Shut up.  At least I stayed out of the med tent!)


I hopped on my bike heading out to the main street, when I hit a slight bump.  My brand new $45 frame pump flew off.  Hell, no, I ain’t leaving that (and let’s be honest, I was not winning this race anyhow)!  I turned around (at this point there were very few late swimmers coming out onto the bike course) and a spectator handed the pump to me.  But I was still so cold that I could not get my hands to stop shaking to reattach it to the bike frame which lead to frustration which lead to a further inability to make my hands work.  Luckily, here comes Erin, who must have been watching from transition.  She took the pump, gave me a very warm and welcome hug, and sent me on my way.

By this time it was probably close to 60 degrees with full sun, so the bike was not nearly as cold as the swim.  Once I got my legs under me I ate a gel and drank some Gatorade (remember this, because it does not happen very often).  Another situation that occurs when you start a race at almost 10:00am and take another hour in the water, is that the wind kicks up in the afternoon, so there was a nice tailwind on the way out, but a stiff headwind on the way back in (and me, with no aerobars).

I was out there almost entirely by myself (and not because I was in the lead).  While I did pass a few people, this was not at all the way my bike segment usually goes in a race.  I felt strong but I was not passing many people at all. The first 6ish miles were fairly flat, but the next 10 miles were uphill:


My uphill sections were slow, then my downhill segments were faster but not even that fast.  And when I turned around at Montezuma it became readily apparent how far behind I was.  I passed several athletes who were already 1/2 way through there second bike loop.

At mile 30ish I took my second gel.  I was trying to drink as much as I could, but without an aerobottle on my handlebars to drink from without using my hands, it was hard to grab a bottle and drink with one hand when I as only moving at 10 mph uphill or flying downhill into a stiff headwind.

I can say that at the turn around for the second bike loop I was not even tempted to quit, so there is that.  Starting up Montezuma Road the second time I grabbed my third gel.  At this point the cyclists I was passing were walking their bikes, so at least I was still in the saddle.

I flew back down the hill, then had only 6 miles until I could start the run, but the last 6 miles were straight into the wind.  Good times.  I was really regretting not grabbing those aerobars for these last miles.

Bike Time: 3:58:28 at 13.9 mph (wow, really!? eek.)

As slow and difficult as the ride was, I actually felt pretty good.  I mean, even on a bad day there are always worst places you can be then on the bike, like…


I took my shoes off on the bike since I knew the run into transition was long and down hill and I didn’t want to do that in cycling shoes. I hopped off the bike in my socks and ran to my rack, racked the bike,  grabbed my running shoes, race belt, water bottle, and hey, where the hell is my visor?  Apparently my visor blew away from my transition area.  Dammit!

T2 – 2:42 (not so bad.  Probably my best performance of the day!)

I ran out of transition, up the hill to the run course and …


Yep, and asthma attack.  I have very mild exercise induced asthma that only ever occurs occasionally and then only when I am going hard, then stop.  So if it’s gonna happen, it usually happens on the bike to run transition.  The 30% reduction in available oxygen likely exacerbated the matter.

A spectator asked if I needed help and I waved her off, but apparently someone alerted the medical folks.  So I have three medics trying to take me to the med tent.  Nooooo!  Once I was able to talk I told them that I would be fine, I just needed to walk it off.  They let me go but told me to wave down a medic if I needed one on the course.

Once I finally caught my breath, I started to jog again and almost immediately started wheezing.  Dammit!  I found that I could jog downhill, but the minute the terrain flattened out or inclined I would be gasping for air.

Nonsequitor: So the Olympics were on last month and one morning, I was waiting in line in a coffee shop and they had some weird Olympic race on the TV. These folks were all noodley in the hips and shoulders, but not quite running   It was race walking.  Example: Race walking

So I started power walking.  I wogged up to a guy who was also walking and asked him how he was doing.  We laughed about how awful the swim was (probably delirium at this point) and he told me that his girlfriend finished her first swim loop, got out of the water and changed her race to the 1/4 Iron Distance.  “You could do that!?!”  Probably better that I didn’t know at the time.

I tried to keep up my noodley fast walk, then would jog whenever I saw a down hill.  Wow, I was really going to be out here for a while.

Also, fast walking is really different from running.  I started to chafe under both arms (luckily there was a bike medic with some Vaseline close by… Hey, are you following me?) and my feet just ached. Really ached.

I was so far back that as I was finishing up my last mile of the first run loop several spectators were yelling “Home stretch!”  Nope.  I sadly shook my head.  I still have another loop.

I took another gel, and by “another” I mean another for the race, my first on the run (this is not good).

At this point the aid stations are running out of water and cups (a usual inaugural race problem).  I had my hand held water bottle so I was doing ok. By now the sun was going down (well it wasn’t that late, but there were a lot of mountains to block the sun) and the wind was pretty stout, but comfortably cooling.  Those of us still out on the course were all encouragement to each other, which was nice.

I got to the final turn around and though out of water they had Coke.  Mmm, Coca-Cola – one of those things I never drink, except late  in a race.  Normally, gross, but now, so yummy!

I checked my watch to see if I could break 3 hours on the “run” and, nope.  It didn’t look like it was going to happen unless I could average 10 minute miles on the last two miles.  I started to jog again but within 1/4 mile I was wheezing.


Yep, nope.  Keep wogging.

Finally, I came into the last little turn around that led to the finish line.

Run time : 3:05:49

Total Race Time: 8:13:15

Ok, that was awful! Pretty much everything about it sucked.  What the hell was I thinking?  And why didn’t I eat more both before an during the race?  I never felt like I was going to bonk (and didn’t even realize how crappy my nutrition was until afterward), but four gels and a bottle and a 1/2 of Gatorade over 8 hours?!?  No bueno!  I have never come so close to missing every single race segment cut off, and I have never felt so bad during every race segment (except T2!) or come so close to quitting.  And I wasn’t even sick!  If that were my first tri, it would definitely be my last tri.

So now, no matter what happens at the Kerrville Tri at the end of this month, it will not suck as badly as that sucked!

Big, big KUDOs to the other competitors and Ginormous thanks to Erin Truslow who was such a great voice of encouragement every time I saw here.  Also congrats to the Race Director – while my race sucked that was not their fault. The race was really well put together and the water thing will most definitely be corrected next year.

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