Ah Leadman! Last year you about killed all of us in Las Vegas with your fierce winds and soaring temperatures. This year you ducked down to Tempe, Arizona to dodge Mother Nature…………..Note: Never try to dodge Mother Nature! It does not work, usually, and she will just get her revenge, though not this weekend
The weekend of April 13th, I headed down to Tempe with friends, Amber, Laura and Sarah and, just for the heck of it, we threw Coach Heath into the mix. St. George to Tempe is A LONG DRIVE. Utah County, where Amber, Laura and Heath are from, to Tempe is even farther. We had A LOT of driving ahead of us on our journey.
The trailer full of bikes and gear left Utah County on Thursday morning and headed to St. George to pick me up. From there we drove up and over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (of course you can’t see the darn thing unless your toes are hanging off the edge) and down to Flagstaff to pick up Sarah.
After a quick night in the Flagstaff LaQuinta Inn and Sarah’s bike nicely squeezed into the trailer, we headed south to Tempe. Heath was a rockstar and chauffeured us ladies all around. Good thing, because the first thing I said upon entering the vehicle in St. George was, “I’m NOT driving this car with the trailer attached!”
I haven’t spent much time in Arizona and was excited for a new venue, new scenery and new athletes. As much as I LOVE St. George and all it has to offer, there is just something about being away from your comfort zone and racing as a stranger.
Though Leadman 2012 was one of the HARDEST and races of my life, I fell in love with the LifeTime Fitness brand and the distance of this new triathlon. Leadman boasts a 125K race: 1.7 miles of swimming, ~70 miles of cycling and ~8 miles of running. The swim takes place in Tempe Town Lake (which is a damned river or sorts). The bike course is a 4-loop urban jaunt. The run is 80% trail, single-track and gravel path. Very different from your traditional Half Ironman! I LOVED IT!
Going into this race, my expectations were to go out and shake off the cob-webs. This was my first long-course attempt in 2013 and I just wanted it to be FUN, keeping with my goals for this year (2013 THE YEAR OF FUN!). Though Ironman St. George 70.3 is only a few weeks away, neither Leadman, nor IMSG are an “A” race for me this year. They are merely a means to a Vineman (140.6) end.
Race morning, the water temps were in the upper 60s and the water was like glass. We dove off into the lake to the start, pleasantly surprised that we were comfortable and not cold. After final high-fives with my favorite ladies (who were all starting in the same wave), we put our heads down and began swimming the 1.7 mile course. My swim was nothing spectacular, but it was a good first-time out. I loved the swim venue and the out and back, rectangular course was nice. I found it more difficult to spot than I had anticipated with such a straight swim. We were swimming directly into the raising morning sun (WHICH WAS GORGEOUS!) but I couldn’t see a darn bouy in front of my face. Of course, the water isn’t crystal clear in Tempe Town Lake……nor even close to clear……but I managed along, coming out of the water in 45:29.
On to the bike……
Now let me be honest for a minute. I love to bike! Biking tends to be my strongest sport in a triathlon. The Tempe course…….Was not built for me! With 16 turns per loop (remember we do four loops), I was in for a technical challenge. I don’t handle my bike well. I never have. It is laughed about. It has been discussed at length with Coach M. In a nutshell…..I AM A CHICKEN! When it comes to descending and cornering, I struggle! I was going to have to really pull up my big-girl pants on this course and make it work.
In the days preceding the event, I was nervous about the bike. I new that the course would be crowded. Not only were there going to be 600+ Leadman athletes on this loopy course, but there would be another 600+ Sprint and Olympic distance athletes. YIKES! Most of the time it is not me that causes my anxiety…….IT IS OTHER PEOPLE! I don’t know what they are going to do. I don’t know if I can trust their handling skills. The last thing I wanted was to be scrapped up off the side of the road because of all the turns.
Heath gave us ladies a cornering lesson in the days before the event, but I was still nervous. To my surprise…..It was all okay.
Loop 1: I decided to go into this course broken down by loops. I knew that the first loop would not be as crowded since we started an hour before the Olympic distance race. My job was to get a feel for all the turns and out and backs, so the next two loops I was ready as the traffic increased.
Each loop is 17 miles and was taking under an hour to complete. Surprisingly, I started to feel okay. My anxiety started to dissolve and I just went into myself. I road my own race. This is SO very important for me. I do much better when I maintain MY paces and MY plan rather than someone else’s.
Loop 2: There was a marked increase in traffic on the second loop, but I felt ready for it. I was actually beginning to enjoy the course. I could break the loops into pieces and take small bites out of the 70 miles I needed to complete. The course made it difficult to maintain speed as every time you got comfortable you had to prepare to turn (okay……I needed to prepare to turn). I started to realize that it was hard to pass people. I would gain on them or even pass them in between turns, but I was being DROPPED on every corner.
Loop 3: Things were good on the third loop. There was still a lot of traffic, but it was manageable. I tried to be the very friendly athlete, who announced my presence and communicated with those around me. This helped to settle my nerves as well. As I chatted with a few athletes I realized that it was VERY APPARENT how poor my technique actually was. At one point one lady turned to me and said, “You would be killing me right now, if you knew how to corner better!” Ya think! Ha! I laughed it off. I thought it was hilarious. I stayed in my own head and started into the final loop.
Loop 4: I was digging this loop course. I knew what was coming. I knew every bump, crack and crevice by the time we were on the 4th loop. The traffic had almost completely cleared and just Leadman athletes were remaining on the course. It was blissful! My nutrition was good and I was feeling like I was riding well. I was holding a 20 mph average, which I was ecstatic about, considering the less-than-favorable circumstances. I couldn’t wait to get off the bike and start the run! Bike time: 3:24:45
I LOVED THIS RUN!
The run was the highlight of my day. Since September, I have been STRUGGLING with a hip/hamstring/back issue with running. I actually didn’t run for the majority of the winter until March. It wasn’t until I started going to a local RunnerFit class that focused on running strength and technique that things started to improve. As my technique changed and my strength increased, there was a MARKED improvement in my injury. I was loving to run again! I may not be at my fastest, but I am getting healthy. This run in Tempe would be a celebration of an end to this injury.
The run course took us into the Papago-area around Tempe. I honestly don’t know what the “Papago-area” is……but I LOVED IT! After starting out on a traditional paved bike path, the terrain turned to a gravel path and then rocky single track that climbed into this Papago park. I was passing people like crazy as they were walking the hills. I was in my own joyful place in my head. It is funny the thoughts you have when you are 5 hours into a race. All I kept thinking was “This is awesome!’ “I feel great!” “My Altra shoes are MADE for this stuff!” Honestly, it was getting pretty funny in my head
I carried my own nutrition and water with me in my UltrAspire MBS waist pack. I love to have control over my “stuff”. The aid stations were awesome and I took Coke, water and ice at each one, but in between I was sucking down water like crazy…….It was getting HOT!
The daytime temps reached 92 degrees that day, so during the race it was probably in the toasty upper-80s. I handled the heat really well. My nutrition must have been spot on. The entire run, I felt like I had energy and was making good progress. I was running just over 8:00 miles and holding them steady. I was thrilled. Definitely not my fastest run, but considering everything……..I was content with the performance.
The only part of this course that I didn’t like was a long mile-ish stretch along a canal. It was exposed and it seemed to go on forever. I just kept thinking to myself that after that, I was back into single-track and on my way home. And home I was headed.
Before too long I was back along Tempe Town Lake and headed to the finish. Run: 1:08:26
Sarah and Heath were at the finish when I got there and it wasn’t long before Amber and Laura came along. We were all happy to be done and ready to be out of the heat. I ended up 2nd in my new “old lady” age group (35-39).
So fun! Bring on IMSG 70.3!