Monday, June 18, 2012

Highline Hustle, Race Report

The Highline Hustle
500m Swim, 16 mile Bike, 3.5 mile Run
Grand Junction Colorado, June 9, 2012
Race Report

"The next time someone blows by you on their $6000 aero carbon fiber rocket ship or swims over the top of you like they are wrestling an alligator, smile and say, "Thank you. Have a great day!"."

The week leading into the race I took it pretty easy, my back was acting up and I didn't want to go into the race with back problems or sore worn out legs like I did for Rage and the Salem Spring the week before.  Things were shaping up to be a pretty good race weekend, if you discount our oversite in packing the vehicle, we had completely forgotten our suitcase! But at least we had all our race gear, right?!

We where up bright and early (4:15am) to read out to the lake from my MIL's home in Clifton and arrive before any other athele's, true to Jared's insistance that we get there before the next guy and we were indeed the first pair of bikes on the racks! Wasting no time, Jared racks his bike by the handle bars at the closest point to the bike out, I *attempt* to rack mine by the seat just left of him.  But just as the year before, the racks are TOO SHORT for any 'adult' sized bike to hang from (or even fit under). I try by the handle bars and my bike falls over into Jared's as it's not propped against the end post like his. I hook the brakes over the bar and giving Jared my reservations over it and I turn to start setting up my spot. When I turn around Jared has re-racked my bike on the second rack back against the post. He asks me if that's ok and I agree it's a much better position.  Problem solved...for us atleast!

In the process of getting set up a man racks his bike next to mine, "Nice bike." I think to myself...he must be here on 'business'. As we continue getting ready he makes remarkes about various things that lead me too believe he is, a) a great swimmer and b) a little cocky, which is distracting me.  Trying to ignore his commentary, I continue my prep for the swim with much focus on getting out of my wetsuit with ease (I must have used half a bottle of TriSlide). 

Slightly excited but nervous for the un-practiced course, we head down to the water.

The Swim:
After a short warm up and a 'cork screw' lesson from Jared, we head to the beach for the start of wave one. Jared and I will be starting together. I inwardly stressed over starting with men on all sides, and barely hear anything the RD says about the course.
When the mega phone goes silent I turn, take a deep breath and follow Jared to the far left side of the other swimmers. He gestures towards the course but I don't hear much through my ear plugs and double caps.

Right on the dot, the bullhorn blares and the swimmers are off in the usual mass start of wildly thrashing arms and legs.

That's about where 'usual' end's for my swim.
I immediately follow behind Jared in an attempt to draft him the whole 500 meter triangle but my plan is railroaded. Like a train set between two tracks I find myself suck between two tall, and very big male swimmers. One is wearing a blue 'Valor' Tri suit, the other has the anonymity of a standard black wetsuit and race cap. Both are swimming towards each other with me in between. I'm not sure how a person swims with half a free style arms and breaststroking one leg, but Mr. Blue Suit was trashing away and some how keeping a good pace, or was I not keeping a fast enough one?
I wasn't sure, but I wasn't going to hang around the sweeping leg that was ever so close to my notoriously bad arm. I try to go right. The guy to my right is swimming strong and throws my arm easily away from him, pushing my shoulder under the water several times. I change plans and attempt to go left and sprint ahead of Mr. Blue Suit. I quickly find that he is not going to let me pass him even if he has to push my face under the water to keep me back. I pulled and kicked with frustrated strokes with no success to take the lead or escape being 'herded'.
My best efforts were getting me no where but half drown and tired!
Swimming with women is a whole different experience as I am usually the 'bigger fish' and can push a straight line or 'guide' my competition by swimming the direction I want to go. I was completely unable to move either of these guys. Not something I'd like to experience again.  It wouldn't have been so bad if either of them was swimming a straight line to the buoy!  They each seemed determined to swim on a zig-zag and I just wanted to go STRAIGHT!
Rounding the buoy I deploy the 'cork screw' and amazingly I drop the big guys at the turn as they swing wide around the cone. FINALLY! I'm thinking I'm in the clear for a smooth swim into the beach. WRONG! I can't SEE the beach! Between the glaring sun, splashing swimmers and no other directional buoy's, I'm swimming blind. I take two strokes and spot, two more and spot again. I repeat the process till I realize the 'herd' is moving toward the flags up ahead. My gut says that's wrong, I spot again, and again until I realize the flags are NOT the swim flags but the FINISH flags on the hill above. It was very deceptive being so close to the swim flags and given the dark tree line and glare off the water. I stay on course trusting my instincts, a gamble that is rewarded with a nice solo swim into the beach and as soon as my fingers feel the sand and gravel below I throw my feet down and dash out of the water. 
Out of the water I grab at my neck to un-zip my wetsuit and to my HORROR I can NOT un-Velcro myself. Puzzled, I flash back to Jared zipping and securing my suit with a tug and a slap just before the swim. CRAP! I have been welded into my wetsuit! JARED!!!! I am near panic as I run up the hill through transition, nails tearing at neoprene and flesh (it was first time I've ever felt closterphobic in my suit, get me out of here!!!). I manage a Houdini just shy of the mats and rip my arms out, just in time to switch my watch to T1. Swim time 9:08 to the mat a tie with the overall female winner. :)

Freeing myself from Jared's welding, I feel a since of urgency to really transition fast! I run through transition , rip my wetsuit off with great ease and as I glance to my equipment I notice the guy next to me, the cocky guy with all the opinions, was STUCK. He could not get his wet suit off his right ankle. I don't hesitate, I reach a grab his suit with a swift pull but it doesn't come off! Dang, he's really suck! I grab the wetsuit at his heel and jerk with all my might and chastise him with a quick, "Body Glide dude!". Just as this thought hits me I snap out of my 'helping' mode and wonder what on earth am I doing?! I inwardly hope he's not in Jared's age as Jared was just rushing out of T1. Boy would he have words with me! :)
I jam my bike shoes and helmet on and run to the mount line, jump on and I'm off to a great start with not so much as a wiggle.  A pretty good improvement over T1 in the past! T1 time: 1:01 2nd in age group.

The Bike:
I hit the bike hard right off the bat and assumed the aero position grabbing my sunglasses off my aero bars as I sped around the corner waving to my MIL who was just arriving a little late. :)

Right out of the park I see someone just ahead who is pulling over to the side of the road. I quickly realize that jersey belongs to my own personal race competition for the day. It was Jared and (thinking he had a flat) I gave my brakes a tight squeeze to stop and help him. (Not that he needs any help, he could change one in his sleep!)  As I brake I see him yank his shoe from his pedal, ahhh, he doesn't have a flat after all... (insert picture of evil Kelly)
I go from, 'dutiful wife' mode to 'eat my dust' mode and I shout a drawn out, "Bye honey!", and blast past him. :) It was my opportunity to get a jump on him, you see, we had a little side wager on the outcome of this race and since we started together (a first for us), I knew I was now in the lead. :)
That lead was oh so sweet and way too short lived, as Jared will tell you, he jumped on his bike and dropped it into 'time trail' mode to chase me down.
Yeah, my lead didn't last very long, but it was still awesome. :)
Soon we hit the turn around and Jared and I cross paths. He lets me know I'm number three, I know I'm more like 4 or 5, but it still motivated me as I knew I needed to catch one or two ladies to podium. I glance at my watch several times and know I am smashing my pervious bike averages which drives me even harder. Best part was having my legs feel so healthy with only a few miles left to T2, also a welcome change from races past.
I see someone up ahead and I make my move to catch her, raising my hopes even higher for a great finish. Bummer part of an out and back course happens about then. Bikers headed out are holding up traffic which moves into our lane to pass right as I'm making my move to pass my target. I brake and pull right behind her completely killing all the momentum I had built coming into the next climb. I still manage to get past her but I soon lose that lead as a roadie passed me in return (she would go on to win our age group). We play a little back and forth on the next few up's and down's, she out climbs me, then I over take her on the downhill, repeat, repeat. Our final stretch of the course is a long up hill followed by a left turn at the top and a false flat into Highline State Park. I can't hang onto her up the hill and I have no more downhills to take advantage of. She smokes me at that point and I am starting to feel the extra miles I've spent in the aero position. I flash to Jameson King's race report on Ironman St. George I had read a day or two earlier. He had excruciating back pain from being aero for an extended period. I'm thinking to myself, "BABY! This is just 16 miles!".
Well, I got threw the back pain by sitting up, but that caused a frequent problem I had with my saddle to rear its ugly head. Every 10-15 feet down the last stretch had a seem in the assault and as a result the 'thump-thump' was increasing this pain. I had to stand on my pedals over the last few just to keep the tears at bay. Finally entering the park the road smoothed out but I know I've lost time managing the issue. I prepare for my dismount and hit the ground running. Bike time: 50:30 with 19mph average (a personal best) 5th in age group.

Learning to fly off my bike has been revolutionary for my T2 (with exception of my botched Women of Steal attempt!)
This time it went flawlessly and I transitioned with the best precision to date. I did make sure to clip my race belt on securely and bring my own gatorade along. Jared had told me not to expect aid on the run course and I wanted to be prepared! I couldn't be happier with my T2: :42! That is SECONDS! Yeehaw! I look at my watch as I pass the timing mat and smile, I had just smashed the T2 and now I was pumped for the run.

The Run:
Oh boy, a hilly 3.5 mile TRAIL run around a LAKE! My body is hesitating as soon as my feet hit the gravel. I remember my training, to keep my feet up, chest up, head down (and try not to let my mind play games with me). I was feeling really good and running at my target pace up till the first hill. It's practically sand and difficult to run up. My heart rate sky rockets and the grade is zapping my muscle strength. I take a mental inventory and slow to a 'hiking' pace. Managing to catch a few of the guys that had walked from the bottom. As I got to the top I was passed by another female but as they didn't mark age groups on our legs I had know idea if I needed to chase her down.
Not knowing the course and the kinds of hills or number of that I'd have to run up I decide to hold my pace which has slowed to a painful 9:45. It was hot, I was now feeling the burn of the climbing deep in my calves and my mental game started to get weak.
I needed something to distract me so I scan the trail ahead for the one person I would LOVE to run down. I don't see him at first. As my eyes switch from the trail to the trail up ahead I catch a glimpse. I smile big thinking I have a chance, he looks close enough and I know his weakness (evil grin). My disadvantage is he knows I'm coming for him and he knows I'm close enough that he needs to push it.
Turn after turn and hill after hill I see him disappear and reappear and he doesn't look like he's getting any farther away.  Odd?  It then hits me that the trail (meant for mountain bikes and atv's) is making a series of switch backs as it rolls over the hilly desert terrain.
I have to turn my focus to the trail as I hit the first switch back. Good thing too, the first corner, hidden by under brush, was a near miss!  That is it was a small 6 plank "bridge" over a narrow ravine and I nearly ran right off the side.  I had to laugh at myself at that point, I was starting to have fun and starting to realize that I was stronger than I gave myself credit. I starting thinking about the advice Coach Keena had given us 'just enjoy it, have fun'. I also thought about my friend Carriann and how'd she'd love this run course. At that point I'm having fun and I'm passing people one by one, which doesn't usually happen! I come to the top of a large hill and see Jared has made it to the dam, DANG! He's on the home stretch and there's no catching him. But I do see someone closer that I think I'd like to target for a pass. It was none other than Mr. 'I will drown you if you pass me' Blue Suit. I pick up the pace and close the gap.  The last switch back was a mean left hand turn that is nearly 180 degrees followed by a quick sharp right turn and a steep climb to the top of the dam. Mr. Blue Suit does not like the idea of being passed and picks up the pace, which I match and hold on just a few arms length back. It's always fun to punk someone in the shoot, right? :) Well I had plans to. But my shadow seemed to have given me away, as soon as he saw it he took off. I pinch my brow in disappointment as I know I can't sprint too far out without running out of steam. I glance behind me to make sure I wasn't going to be passed by any other female competitors and decide to hold off on the sprint just incase someone gets too close. I let Mr. Blue Suit go being proud that I caught him and held on just long enough to annoy him. ;)
I came into the finish to see Jared, hands on hips, with a slightest victory smile on his lips. I sprint over the mats and into his arms for a big hug and a celebratory smooch. :) I know...get a room, right?! :)
I feel really good post race, too good, and I immediately knew I could have run so much faster, run time: 33:03, not so good, and I was left to wonder if it was good enough.

Post Race:
We wait around a while for results to slowly start trickling out and it looks good for Jared but he signals to me a 4th place finish. My heart sinks. I am off the podium again and it's my run that makes all the difference, I was a little down. Jared had taken 3rd in his age group and I was trying not to rain on his parade.  Curiously I look at the overall results...
"HEY! Jared LOOK! Overall female 1&2 are in MY AGE GROUP!". I am practically jumping out of my skin with excitement! "That would mean 2nd!" I squealed. Before I let myself get too carried away I suggest we check if they pull overall's out. My hopes are dashed for the moment. Jared returns with only a little good news, they pull out overall's but only the number 1 male and female. That would land me in 3rd with a total time of 1:34:27, considering the extra distance on the bike and swim, I'll TAKE IT! :)
We grabbed our catered 'Which Wich' sandwich's and take a seat to tide our now monstrous appetites and await the awards.

The Venue & Race Company:
While this course intimidated me right up through the final 2 miles, I will give it a big thumbs up! Highline is a beautiful, small, desert lake and the surrounding trail run made for a pleasant view while racing. The water was a little fishy, but after the duck poo last week, I'm not going to complain too much! :) The trail was challenging but more fun than running on a road with hills.
Highline Hustle is put on by the city of Grand Junction and as such they don't have the plentiful opportunities for packet pick up before race day. They did however have the packets ready to go race morning right when they said they would, and it was just out of the transition area making it quick and painless.
The transition area was set up well but the racks where no laughing matter, they were seriously waist high, which would be great for a kids race, for anyone over 4'11, not so great.  The bike course was well attended too with a volunteer at every intersection. Another plus on this course is has a very light traffic load. It's a lot of farm land and good ol' country folk, if you know what I mean! My fear of dying on course was greatly diminished after seeing mostly horses and cows the night before. :)
The run course surprised us with not ONE, but TWO aid stations! The draw back was having to run off course to grab your water and not having it handed to you, trail side. Looking back throught the site info they did state there would be 2 aid stations on the run, a welcomed change from last year.
The finish was pretty much a family thing (I you had any there). No announcing names or finishers medals or buckets of chocolate milk or tables of food. No body to take your timing chip off and one person handing out semi cold water.
With that said, they had a great chiro and a massage therapist working people over and lots of freebies from 'GO FAST' and it was catered with 6" subs, chips, cookie and beverage...only they didn't have any cups for the gallons of liquid refreshment! WHOOPS! :) I bet they also left their suitcase at home! ;)

Any and all flaws with the Highline Hustle were washed away by the fun I had racing with (and against) my best friend, and the best husband and co-parent a girl could ask for. Jared won our little wager with 3 minutes and change to spare, but I did't mind.  Next time I won't go so easy on him. ;)

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