Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Zooming Around Zion [National Park]

Zion has always been a place I've wanted to visit, but wasn't necessarily at the top of my bucket list. Having gone now.... that statement has certainly changed. It's definitely at the top of my list now! I thought St. George was breathtaking. Zion made the views around St. George look quaint. And to think all of this is in our own backyard, no ocean's to cross. Just a quick plane ride to see some seriously impressive works of nature. The entire experience was like walking through a painting. Or a really awesome Western Movie film set. 

With so many ways to view the impressive scenery, we chose my parents favorite IM tradition - a convertible. It started by accident at IM Florida 2017, and is one they have happily relived at every race where they have rented a vehicle. 

Into the convertible we all hopped, and off to Zion we zoomed!

The views getting there were well worth the trip in themselves.

Yeah, that's where we're going.

What a butte!

Upon arrival into Zion you have a couple of options:
1. Hop on the bus to go visit the most popular areas of the park.
2. Drive up to the East Entrance of the park, for some self guided hiking.

Being people who enjoy immersing ourselves in nature more than we enjoy miming cattle plodding along a trail, we opted for version #2. Granted, when we go back (I do mean when, not if), we will take at least one day or two to stay within the park to be able to get to all the most popular areas of the park bright and early before the tourist crowds descend. Being that we got to the park after the tourist crowd had descended, we decided to go for a little hike of our own.

Off we sped, soaking in all the butte-y that surrounded us. Yes, that should be my last geology joke. But no promises.

The drive to where we were going is quite stunning, and it kept getting more and more breath taking as we went. 

With a quick stop at a look out area, before a tourist bus rolled in and all the tourists rolled out, we gathered our bearings, and discussed which trail to hike. Thankfully, we stumbled across some legitimate hikers that dubiously recommended East Rim Trail to Observation Point Trail. I assume the dubiousness was due to our lack of any actual hiking attire or gear. Clad with nothing but what you would go for a relaxing stroll in, and a backpack full of peanut butter sandwiches we set out on what turned out to be less than a relaxing stroll.

Off we went.

Where the Wild Things roam.

You never know what might be lurking. Like photobombing parents.

And forcing Joe into being my subject for photos.

A family that hikes together, stays together. And honestly, after a race it was much needed and appreciated. 

Seriously, how could you not love this place?

The higher we hiked, the more awe-mazing the views became.

Until we found the perfect spot for our makeshift picnic.

The perfect way to celebrate getting this one to another World Championship!

Love being able to share these experiences with these crazies. 

Until next time Zion!

Monday, December 30, 2019

EA: St. George 70.3 Race Report

Get in, loser!

We're going on an adventure!

 To St. George, Utahhhhh!

This season started off with a major bang with an early season 70.3 Ironman in the gorgeous state of Utah, and did not let up since. I had never been to Utah before, and Lordy, was I missing out! Every where you turn your head, it is just striking with the jagged mountains reaching up to ever expanding surreal blue skies. Literally you turn your head slightly: beautiful, beautiful, gorgeous, yep, still amazing.

Race weekend started in it's usual fashion: a small road trip to get to the race venue, checking in at Ironman Village, and checking in at our gorgeous townhouse for the weekend.

Yes, that bed was as cloud-esque as it appears.

T-minus one day before the race meant carbing up, and getting down with some last minute tune up rides. Meaning bikes with the boys.

The Every Man Jack Boys that is.

Every ride Joe and I take together I'm reminded of just how lucky I am that my best friend and hubby loves this crazy life as much as I do.

It was so fun to be able to have Joe's teammate Devin Volk (@devinvolk) join us for the weekend, and get to roll around Utah with this speedster! Yes, he does wish he was a model.

Obviously, I led the pack!

Just kidding those EMJ boys are so speedy, this was my view. When we started!

It is always a good time to see the Every Man Jack boys in action. Surprisingly they are all humble, amazing people that are as kind as they are fast.

This was definitely one of those trips where I was constantly in awe of where this bike takes me.

Zoom zoom.

After workouts were done it was time to grab some pre-race snacks and get the run and bikes bags prepped.

With the gear prepped in their respective bags, it was time to drop all the gear off.

Off to the racks!

With the run gear dropped, it was time to head to the swim start/finish for the bike gear drop.

Yea. We were going to swim in there.

Met up with the EMJ boys for a "quick" race photo.

About as quick as herding cats with this lot!

With the bikes dropped we were ready to rip on out of there! 
To race day!

I love a good sunrise over an IM race course, with all the promise and potential the day will bring. Not to mention all the free snacks you are bound to be handed. 

Just excited to be here! 

We got to start the race with some MN friends! The Jagielo's of Outpace Coaching who got my parents some VIP passes which they seriously enjoyed all day! If you are racing in St. George, I definitely recommend getting your Support Crew some VIP passes so they can get some hot coffee the morning of the race. It is the desert after all which means it is cold!

With the sound of the gun, off we went! Into some seriously chilly water! With water in the 60's I would wholeheartedly recommend a neoprene cap. For the first 200 yards I legitimately could not put my face in the water, and basically just doggy paddled. I've never seriously considered pulling out of a race - not when I felt my body eating my muscles in IM Florida 2017, not when I broke my rib in a bike crash during IM Wisconsin 2018. But in this frigid water, I can honestly say that I was seriously considering it. The thing that kept me going, and keeps me going in all my races, is the fact that I have a whole village of support behind me. All my friends and family at home watching the IM tracker, but more importantly the fact that my parents and my coach were standing on the shoreline waiting for me to finish the swim. They came all the way out to Utah to support me, I wasn't about to let them down.

Finishing the swim marks the start of my favorite part of the race - the bike!

So cool to be able to share this race with my coach! I honestly would not be the athlete I am without him or my insanely supportive parents!
One of the most amazing things about this sport is where it takes you - getting to travel all over the country and the world to experience incredible places that you never would have thought to visit. All I could think as I rode through the mountains around St. George was "I can't believe I get to ride here!" Through the rolling climbs and descents, I couldn't help but keep repeating that thought to myself. And of course voicing it to other athletes on the course! Nothing like a good chat with your fellow racers. After the climb up Snow Canyon, you have an incredibly fun drop back into town, where you come in hot, hot, hot.

Back to town, back to the support crew, and out for the run!

Going for Most Enthusiastic Athlete at every race. Clearly.

Going out for the run, the first 3 miles is fairly flat, so you start questioning what everyone was talking about when they said the run course was insane. 

But then...

You see it. 

Around mile 3 you are running up a pretty decent hill, then you get to the top. And you see it. The hills are not rolling, but straight up punchy. Not only can you see your future before you, but you realized. You have to do this TWICE. An absolutely brutal run course with no shade, but goodness were the views amazing. Upon coming back into town I got a little too excited, I know who saw that coming? While grabbing some water/red bull/coke I managed to trip on the flat surface over myself and execute what I am hoping was a rather impressive Super Man impersonation. Want to know what is not enjoyable to land on? Chip seal. As I went hurdling through the air down to the chip seal all I could think was "I probably should have set my intentions of not falling to more than the bike...". With the only real damage being to my ego, I picked myself up, pried myself out of spectators hands trying to help me regain my balance, and got the heck out of that embarrassing situation. A little scraped up and bloody, but no worse for wear when I made my way across that finish line.

Back to this kid, back to my family, and back to my coach. Where story swapping started immediately.

We got ourselves cleaned up, and then back to the award ceremony to see if either one of us would qualify to 70.3 World Championship in Nice this year. 

Joe managed to qualify!

I missed out by one spot - there were two slots total, 6th and 11th took them. The only other two ladies in my age group that showed were myself (15th) and the 16th place girl. Not too shabby for my first time at a National Championship race! I got to bike and run around the amazing state of Utah, met some great athletes, and got to see where all my hard work over the winter took me.

Now for the best part of racing besides the race - exploring with my support crew!