Head Games – Escape from Scofield 2011

Head Games - Escape from Scofield 2011


I came out of transition with the heaviest legs I’ve felt in a while.  As I turned on to the pavement, I realized that the first 5 miles of this 10 mile run was going to be into the wind.  I glanced down at the Garmin on my wrist, which I have NEVER worn in a triathlon before, and sealed the fact that this was going to be a VERY long run………Physically I seemed fine…….Mentally, I was about to fall apart………..

Last year the Escape from Scofield Triathlon was my first “longer” distance race.  It is hilly.  It is high in the mountains.  It has the longest swim you find outside of Ironman.  2010 brought me a solid race that earned me a 4th overall award.  I went home extremely satisfied and excited about my potential in longer distance races.  Of course, I was in for the 2011 race without reservation.  I had trained in the mountains.  My swim training was in a better place than the year before.  Best of all, I was running well.  I had high hopes for Scofield 2011…….but sometimes things get under our skin during a race that have far-reaching effects………Scofield 2011 taught me that my mental training is just as important as my physical training.


Adam and I dropped the kiddos off in Cedar City at grandma’s house for the weekend and continued the 3 1/2 hour drive to Scofield Reservoir.  Scofield is up in the mountains above Price and Fairview.  It is some of the most beautiful high mountain terrain you can find.  This year with all the snow in the high elevations, the Reservoir was bursting at the shore…..luckily the water had warmed up a bit.  We had the privilege of staying at a friends cabin (THANKS MATT AND NYLENE!)  So convenient.  We arrived about 5:00 p.m., dropped our things off at the cabin and headed to packet pick-up and too meet up with my HT Training coaches for a little evening dip in the lake before bed.

The water was surprisingly tolerable. I had been fearing a rerun of Park City with water temps below 60 degrees.  The lake had warmed up to the low to mid 60s and was actually quite comfortable once you warmed up.  Coach Heath took me and another HT Training athlete, Missy, out for a quick swim.  We practiced some sighting and drafting techniques and before we knew it we were out of the water and ready for dinner.  When I asked Coach Mahogani what my plan would be for the next day, she said to “just race.”  Heath said, “Go big or go home.”  These words would ring in my head the entire next day……….

Coach Heath crushing the climb and Mahogani cheering him on. Best coaches EVER!

After a late dinner and some nice conversation with the Bracken family, Adam and I hit the sack.  I slept terribly.  I don’t know if it was the different bed, the trains that ran through town all night long, or just your run-of-the-mill pre-race anxiety.  I was definitely anxious for this race but luckily I had slept well all week leading up to this night.

The race starts with a point-to-point 1.75 mile swim, continues with a 37 mile steep and challenging bike course, and ends with a flat and relatively boring 10 mile run.

I was up by 5:30a completing all my pre-race craziness.  After a bit of breakfast we hitched the bikes to the car and were headed to the boat ramp to set up transition.  I love transition set-up.  There is so much excitement as all the Type-A personalities that you can possibly put in one location struggle to make sure that every part of their three foot space is PERFECT!  Everyone has their own way of doing it.  Shoes, race belts, fuels, helmets and glasses.  Everything is strategically placed to make transition as quick and painless as possible.  I’ve finally gotten pretty good about setting up my transition.  The only caveat for this race was the temperature.  We were all shivering in the 37 degree air.  I knew we would be warming up throughout the morning, especially when the sun popped up, but it was COLD!  It felt wonderful to pull on the wetsuit.  People were setting out arm warmers and other coverings to pull on for the bike.  I felt a little unprepared.  I had a long-sleeved jersey, but I really didn’t want to wear it.  I decided to hang it on my handle bars and make a last minute decision after coming out of the water as to if I would need it or not.

Heath being abducted by aliens? This is my favorite photo. Just makes me laugh 🙂

It was also at this point that I asked Coach Heath what to do with my Garmin.  Should I wear it on the bike and try to take it off the bike and put it on for the run, or what?  He told me that it was more important to have it on the run, so just wait until then to put it on.  I had never raced with the Garmin, but I was willing to give it a shot.  I have been training with it religiously, so know was the time to give it a try in a race.

The Scofield swim is a water start.  They put all the Escape distance athletes on boats and shuttle us out to the “island” at the other end of the reservoir.  It is a LONG boat ride.  It is one of those times when you can’t believe that you are about to cover the distance under your own power.  To make matters worse, we got ever colder.  The cold temps combined with the speed of the boats on the way out made it impossible to stay warm.  My feet were freezing and I was struggling to not start shivering.  The boats FINALLY stopped and we were told that we would be starting in 12 minutes.  I really didn’t want to get in the water too early, so I decided to wait a few more minutes.  I finally took the plunge and was pleased to find that in the water, I actually warmed up.  I guess that is what happens when the water temperature is warmer than the air temperature.  The officials blew the horn and we were off on our VERY LONG swim.

Big climbs with Ironman Nate

I felt good throughout the swim.  I was steady and present the entire way.  In 2010 I came out of the water in just over 50 minutes, so I knew I just needed to settle into a groove and make my way to the boat ramp buoy by buoy.  I caught the draft of another athlete and did my best to stay smooth and strong.  I was definitely glad when the swim was over.  I had no idea what my time was, but I felt good.  Transition was quick and without any extra clothes, I was off to battle the hills.

My feet were the only thing that were a bit cold on the bike.  I was grateful that I decided to forego the long-sleeved jersey.  I would have roasted.  The sun was up and I was about to settle in to miles and miles of steady climbing.  The first 8 miles or so of the bike course are relatively flat.  I started to take nutrition and got into a groove.  There is no question when you get to the hills on this course.  They hit you like a wall.  The course climbs 1500 feet in about 4 miles past the Clear Creek Mine.  It is steep and it is long.  I’m a climber!  I’ve always loved to climb.  I found the gear and the cadence I needed and just went for it.  There were not many people ahead of me and I wasn’t quite sure where I was in the female standings.  Adam came cruising up in the car and let me know that the athlete just in front of me was the number one female.  I took it as good information and just kept doing my thing.  I didn’t need to waste a bunch of energy chasing her down.  I just needed to climb.

One fast lady! Breanna Nelson from St. George.

The only real companionship I had on the long first climb was that of “Iroman Nate”.  I had met him on the boat ride to the start and was now climbing with him.  How did I know he was an Ironman?  It was probably the 6 inch M*dot tattoo on his right calf 🙂  He wasn’t very comfortable with the climb and soon fell off the back and I never saw him again.  I reached the top of the hill and felt really good about my climbing.  On to the descent………The only thing I hate about climbing, is having to come back down.  The first descent isn’t too bad and I really tried my best to open up and ride well.  I knew if there was someone behind me, this is where I would get passed.  Luckily, no one passed me.  I could still see the first female making her way through the flats to the turn around and I could tell I was gaining on her.  I made the turn and realized I had more to worry about than chasing the first place women…….I had become a rabbit.

Being the prey is never as good as being the hunter.  You have a terrible disadvantage that you cannot see what is hunting you……You just know they are there.  I got a glimpse of my hunter at the turn around and knew that if I didn’t continue to climb and hopefully descend well on the way back, I was in trouble of losing my second place standing.  Of course, I still tried to remind myself that this was a long race and we still had quite a long run leg approaching.  So I climbed.  My legs were on fire.  I was working hard and I knew it.  I finally crested the final climb and hit the final descents.  I did my best.  I really did.  Unfortunately, right at the end of the descent before the final flats, she passed me.  My hunter had won, but not for long.

I need to smile like Julia when I race. Doesn't she look like she is having a GREAT time?!? Julia Rawlings of Salt Lake

I may not be good a descending, but the flats are a different story.  I opened up and had the advantage of a nice little tailwind to help me turn the tides on this other female.  I passed her about 4 miles out only to have her pass me again within the last moments of the bike.  At that point, it was not worth my energy and I vowed to see her on the run.

Transition was smooth.  I grabbed my fuel and my Garmin and was headed out, sitting in 3rd place, but right on the heels of 2nd.  That’s when I knew things were about to change.  I glanced at the Garmin and was running just under an 8:00 mile pace.  I figured that would get better as my legs transitioned into the run and I would be fine.  Then came the wind.  The wind was blowing right in my face and it was not making me happy.  Having wind in your face on the run is far better than fighting a headwind on the bike, but it can be just as mentally defeating.  I bowed my head and just tried to push through what I thought would just be a few moments until my legs were under me.

No such luck……My legs just weren’t falling into a groove.  For the first time in triathlon racing I was wearing a Garmin that began to haunt my every step.  I was also NOT wearing my fuel belt (my security blanket).  I had my less-than-desirable pace staring me in the face and I was concerned with making sure I was getting enough fluid at the aid stations.  I decided to make sure to walk through the aid stations taking in a cup of water at each.  I was using 1st Endurance EFS Shots and had quickly taken in all 5 ozs by Mile 5.

Matt Bracken looking strong on the run.

I was grateful for the turn around because it got me out of the wind.  I couldn’t believe that I had already finished all of my nutrition and was looking for more at the aid stations.  I had never used the gels they were offering, but it didn’t matter.  I needed more calories.  My head kept telling me that maybe that was the problem.  Just a few more calories and my legs would turn around.

I could see both of the females in front of me and it was clear that I was NOT gaining any time.  My pace was steady and was not improving as I had hoped.  I was just moving aid station to aid station.  Cup of water to cup of water.  My head was in a bad place.  I felt like I was failing.  I could run better than this.  I run better than this ALL THE TIME.  I couldn’t solve the problem.  I couldn’t make it better.  My head had gotten the best of me and by the final miles of the race, I was not happy.  A bit of solace came in the form of a friend and fellow Southern Utah Tri Club Member, Ryan Duckworth.  I looked at him and told him that, “I was dying.”  Ryan knew where my head was.  He told me that I was close and I just needed to get around the corner.  He assured me there was no one behind me and I just needed to finished.  He ran with me for about a quarter mile talking me out of my head.  I needed that so much!  Ryan knew how I was feeling.  He’s been there before.  He was my light at the end of the tunnel.

At least I had a beautiful lake to look at....

I turned the final corner and climbed to the finish.  I was done.  I was SO grateful and SO pissed off.  I was mad that my legs didn’t want to work.  I was mad that my head got the best of me.  I was mad that I couldn’t catch the girls in front of me.  I was mad that I was being so ungrateful and selfish!!!!!!  I had just taken 3rd place overall in a VERY challenging race.  I had taken 8 minutes off of my 2010 time.  I had a “good” race.  It wasn’t the best.  I didn’t feel that high that comes when your body gives you everything you ask for, but I had finished.  I did well.  I needed to get over myself and learn the lessons of Scofield and move on.

It is interesting how significant an athlete’s frame of mind is to their performance.  As goes our mind….So goes our bodies.  It is as important to train your mind to dig deep and stay positive as it is to teach your legs to race hard.  There will be bad races, just as we have bad days.  There may be no reason for a “bad” performance at a race.  It just may be someone else’s day.  That’s okay.  It has to be okay.  It is the hard races that teach us the best lessons.  It is the rough spots that teach us how to reach down and dig ourselves out.  I have such high expectations of myself that I find it hard to not be at my best…….I think we all do.

Thanks PowerTri!

I’ve learned a lot since Saturday.  I learned that just because a Garmin tells me my pace, it doesn’t dictate that pace.  I learned that in racing, I learn more about my training.  My coach is able to review our plan and see what weaknesses need to be strengthened.  I learned that I’m so ready for my next challenge.  My “A” race.  I’m ready to dig deep.  I’m ready to test myself once again.

Scofield 2011 will be a race that I will not soon forget and I’ll definitely be back for 2012 🙂

That's one SUPER-DUPER husband who followed me all day long! Drove me crazy, but still followed me. Love you Adam!

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