Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tour de Summerlin with a side of Vegas

When Paula sent out an email invitation for a girls weekend in Las Vegas, I thought there was absolutely no way I could make the trip in the middle of Ironman training with so little vacation days in my bank.  There was just no way.  But then things started falling into place.  I looked up bike rentals in Vegas, knowing I needed to get in 60 miles, and I stumbled upon an organized ride that offered exactly that mileage!  I also consulted my calendar and realized the weekend spanned two pay periods, meaning I could make up more of the hours by working a little extra.   Paula found some reasonably priced flights, and her friend Donna, who was out there for a work event, was able to get us a great discount on a hotel room! We were going to Vegas!
The combined weight of our luggage, just 2 pounds under the limit!
My alarm went off at 4:30am, per usual, and I headed to swim practice.  Then, I left work early so that I could get in a spin on my bike trainer before Tommy picked me up at 3:15pm.  After cutting it very close to making our flight, Paula and I arrived in Las Vegas around 9:30pm (after midnight east coast time).  A short cab ride to the Monte Carlos to check in, and a quick change of clothes and we were off to a VIP party at in Caesar's Palace with Donna and her work crew.  We were starving when we got back to our hotel at 2:30am, so we grabbed a couple slices of pizza from the food court and climbed into bed around 3am.  That's 6am east coast time and I'd been awake for over 25 hours!
On Friday, Paula woke me up and asked me what time I thought it was.  Since she was asking the question, I figured it was later than I actually thought, so I guessed noon.  It was 2pm!  Yikes!  We got dressed and headed down to pick up our rental car and go pick up our bikes and packets (and a stop at In-and-Out Burger).  We asked the lady at packet pickup to describe the course to us, and she reported that it was fairly easy, with a slight incline on the last little bit, and that any challenging hills would be on the first loop, but even those aren't so bad.  Awesome!  Once the bikes were safely in the hotel room, it was already time to head to downtown Vegas to the 51's baseball game with Donna and Bob.  Then it was back to bed to rest up for the bike ride!
We arrived at the bike start just as they were starting the 60 mile event (you can see the final rider heading out on the right side of the photo below).  We began our ride behind the SAG vehicle and immediately got lost.  I'm not entirely sure how many miles we added on, but it took us a few stops and checking maps to finally figure out where we were going.  Eventually a group of riders caught up to us and said they were doing the same event, so we had someone to follow.  We were about 5 miles in at this point and I made a comment to Paula that it concerned me how much downhill we were doing.  Sure enough, a couple turns later and we started climbing..... and climbing..... and climbing....
After a loooooong time made it to the first aid station.  I had 2 bottles of double concentrated Infinit on my bike (so basically half bottle per hour to give me the calories and nutrition I needed) plus I was wearing a hydration pack with water (to wash down the concentrated mix).  I noted that I was on track with the Infinit consumption and still had plenty of water, so I just grabbed 2 double stuffed oreos and was ready to hit the road again.  I still had a long day ahead of me.

The route took us on a bike path and I was hopeful this meant the terrain would flatten out.  Nope!  Within a mile we were on one of the most brutal hills of the whole ride!  I stopped about halfway up to wait for Paula and when she arrived she was in the middle of an asthma attack.  We both agreed that it would be best for her to coast back down the hill and back to the aid station for a ride back to the start/finish area.  She isn't training for anything and was a great sport for agreeing to this bike ride in the first place!  I did feel bad about the idea of her waiting around for 3+ hours for me to finish, but as a stay at home mom, she insisted that she was fine with the rare afternoon to herself.  She caught a movie, got some lunch and did a little shopping.
Meanwhile, I continued on... it just didn't get any better.  We kept going up and up.  The route was divided into three loops, which we were told were about 20 miles each.  It was disheartening knowing that I was still on the first loop.  Finally there was a downhill break, though it didn't last very long.    I completed that first loop and turned the corner heading into Red Rocks Canyon.  More climbing.  So much climbing.  The only positive about this loop was that it was an out and back which meant for all of the climbing I was doing on the first half, I'd be going down on the way back.
I will say that this loop was very scenic, though it was hard to enjoy as miserable as I was.  The problem was, I had no idea where the next aid station was!  My garmin was indicating that I was already 10 miles into this loop, so where was the turn around?!  More climbing... we were out of the national park at this point, and still going.  Finally some downhill.  I knew this meant I'd have to bike up that section on the way back, but it was a nice break in that moment.  I arrived at the 2nd aid station and sat down, so tired.  I was confused because my watch said I was at mile 35, but if this was a 20-mile loop, I should have only been at mile 30.  Hmm...  I was just so tired, and I remembered that the lady told us the only real incline was on the last part of that 3rd loop.  I had already been out in the hot sun for so long, and my watch was telling me the 2nd loop was closer to 30 miles.  I didn't have enough Infinit to last me for that third loop and so I decided to just ride back to the start/finish area.  Mind you, that was still about 15 miles away...
This aid station wasn't as fully stocked as the first one, but that was OK because I wasn't hungry anyway.  I grabbed 2 more double stuffed oreos and refilled my hydration pack with more water.  After a stop at the port-o-potty, I reluctantly climbed back on my bike.  I knew I had one or two climbs, and that once I got to the Red Rocks overlook, it would be all downhill.  I stopped to take a few photos on the way back, the final stop being at the overlook (top part of that picture).  Should be smooth sailing from here... I was so happy I'd decided not to do that third loop! 
When I made it back to the end of the 2nd loop, there were two nice men on bikes standing there, and while they weren't doing the same ride I was, they had a map and helped me figure out the best (shortest) way back to the end.  Still mostly downhill, I rolled into the finish area and parked my bike.  Just under 50 miles is good enough for me, especially for such a brutal ride!  I wolfed down the free sandwich I got and met Paula at the car who was just finishing up some shopping.  We had to hurry to return our bikes and get the car rental back so that we weren't charged another day.  We were finally ready to start our real Vegas vacation!
We enjoyed an afternoon at the pool (though a little disappointed in the lazy river) before heading over to the Cosmopolitan for a happy hour in Donna's suite - bottom right picture is the view from her balcony!  Then drinks at the Chandelier bar and dinner at Scarpetto.  The full day of sun and exercise was catching up to us and we headed home after that for a good night sleep.
Sunday started with brunch at the Wicked Spoon and walking around the strip and checking out a few stores.  We spent our last evening with a Mexican food dinner, a trip to the ice bar and some cocktails at one of the bars in the Monte Carlos.  In the end, we did not spend one dime in the casino!  A good trip, but we were exhausted and happy to be heading home on Monday.
We didn't get in any runs, but I'm OK with that.  Getting in a good bike workout during a girls weekend in Vegas is a pretty big feat.  I am also proud of myself for how I handled all the climbing of that route.  It wasn't until I got home and uploaded the data that I saw just how ridiculous that was.  The lady at packet pickup lied!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Charlottesville 8K

Friday morning started with an MRI on my foot.  I saw Dr. Lutta earlier in the week and he wonders if I possibly have a stress fracture (I won't find out for another week or so at my follow up appointment).  Not exactly the pre-race activity that's normally on the agenda... Then, I took off work at noon and made a quick stop to sign up for a gym membership (specifically for boot camp/strength training classes which is part of the Ironman training plan) before setting out for Charlottesville.  It was raining and traffic was terrible on rt. 29.  This was going to be a long drive.

Jessie was awesome and volunteered to go down early and pick up everyone's packets.  She drove down with Eileen and Henry, and they got all the packets (thanks!!!) and decided to stop for a quick lunch before meeting everyone at the winery.  This gave me a little extra time to get down there, do a quick run-through at Mincer's on the corner, grab some run gels from the run store and a sandwich from Take it Away.  Yum!  By this point, the weather had cleared up and allowed for the 20 minute drive to the winery with the top down, which always makes me happy.
Everyone (me, Jessie, Eileen, Henry, Megan, Mindy, Debbie and the kids) met at Cardinal Point winery, my favorite, where we had a lovely afternoon out on the back porch.  Then, it was off to pick up Darcy, who had arrived and checked into our hotel, and make our way to the Team Z dinner at The Villa (which has cleaned up a LOT from my days at UVA!).  So many people from so many areas of my life doing this race!   It was especially nice to catch up with Hillary who has been absent from the pool for many months (she's concentrating on running this year).  After dinner, Darcy and I made our way back to the classy Super 8 hotel for a lazy evening of television and getting ourselves ready for the race.

At some point during the night I woke up and thought to myself, why am I still planning on running the half marathon?!  What am I trying to prove to myself?!  I think that I had it in my mind that in order to do Ironman in the fall, I needed to do a long running event in the spring.  Right then in there, I made the decision to switch to the 8K race instead.  I slept much better after that, no doubt!  In fact, when the alarm went off at 5:30, I allowed myself to sleep in a little more, rather than my normal type A attitude of getting to the race extra early.  Also, the 8K race started 15 minutes after the half marathon, which allowed us a little extra time.
Darcy and I parked at the downtown mall and walked to the race start.  Darcy headed to the port-a-potty line, which we had been warned was very long, while I made a stop at the registration tent to officially switch races.  I would've run the 8K regardless, but always prefer if everything is official.  It was no problem as the volunteer took down my name and number and made note of the switch.  I was ready to go, pleased with my decision to do the shorter route.
As I walked over to find Darcy, I heard someone call my name.  I looked up and saw Linda standing with a bunch of Team Z people!  We had missed Jessie, Eileen and Henry start their race (half marathon), but found Megan and Mindy and hung with them before the start of our event.  A few minutes later, we were off!  Darcy and I stayed together for the first little bit as we started down a steep hill... not a good sign for things to come!  What goes down, must go up.. and indeed, this was one hilly course.  I decided to walk up the first long hill and Darcy went ahead.  I later passed her when she had stopped to pet a dog on the side of the course.  We continued this back and forth leap frog for the entire race.  My knee bothered me a little, but my foot was fine.
When I got to the water stop which was also the turn-around point, the volunteers told me that I needed to keep going straight.  Huh?  Everyone else is turning around.. is this a joke?  Finally it occurred to me that I was still wearing the half marathon bib number, so they thought I was just really far behind in the longer race.  Phew!  I turned around and started heading back.  Less than a half mile later, Darcy catches up to me again and yells "almost there!".  I respond "nope! we're halfway!"... she hasn't learned that you NEVER EVER say "almost there" to someone unless they are within 100 yards of the finish line! 
Anyway, I kept trotting on, now keenly aware that it was an out and back course and we were going to have to do the exact same hills all over again.  Yuck.  At some point, with about a mile to go, a police officer on a motor cycle rode up next to me and explained that the roads were going to be opening to traffic soon and that us runners would have to move to the sidewalks and obey traffic signals.  I really didn't care for that at all, as we were not going super slow (under 14 min/mi) and there was no posted time limit for the 8K race (time limit for the half marathon was 3 hours, or 13:44/mi pace).  Whatever... kept going and luckily got a bunch of green lights so I didn't have to stop too much.  They also had nobody directing us on the course anymore, so I saw a few runners go off in the wrong direction, unfortunately too far ahead for me to alert.  Down one more hill and up a steep mountain (seriously, think double black diamond ski slope).  I saw Coach Ed cheering on the corner and then just a couple more blocks, and up a small incline to the finish!
As I crossed the finish line, a volunteer handed me a medal.  I didn't see anybody else wearing a medal so I took a look at it and noticed it was for the half marathon runners.  Ha, like anybody should have thought that I finished the half marathon in an hour and 10 minutes!  I promptly went over to another volunteer and returned the medal.  I feel like it's bad ju-ju to have a finishers medal for a race I didn't do.  What I did earn, however, was the pint glass and free beer (they had cider!!!).  Darcy finished just a few minutes behind me, and it got really cold and windy, so we got our post-race refreshments and headed back to the car. 
After a quick stop at Bodo's for a bagel, we drove to Megan's Grandpa's house on Lake Monticello where they were nice enough to let us take showers.  Once everyone arrived home from their races and got ready, we set out for a day at the local wineries!  At the second winery, we ran into David and Anne from Team Z and got to spend time with them also.  Then, Darcy and I said goodbye to the crew as they headed further on the wine tour.  Darcy needed to head back to northern VA by 5pm and I was looking forward to a good night sleep in my own bed.  I dropped Darcy off at her car, still parked at the hotel, and started the drive back to Fairfax, with a nice stop for ice cream.  One more stop at Chick-Fil-A to grab dinner for Jon and me, and then it was a quiet evening on the couch (asleep by 8:30!).  A good day.