- Race date: Saturday, May 30, 2015
- Location: Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, UT
- Distance: 10K road race
- Weather: Sunny, upper 60s to mid-70s, light wind
After making sure I had everything ready for the morning, I set the alarm on my tablet for 4 a.m. Mountain Time so I could be up and out of the house by 5 a.m. I wanted to be at Sand Hollow State Park by 6 a.m. so I could get a decent parking space. After power walking 6.2 miles I didn’t want to have the car any further away from the finish area than necessary.
However, the tablet’s battery died sometime during the night. Good thing my internal alarm is fairly reliable. I awoke at 4:05 a.m.
While the coffee brewed, I did the usual morning routines and lathered on the sunscreen. After dressing, I strapped on the race bib, the timing chip and my Road ID anklet. Oddly, my tummy didn’t want to be bothered with either coffee or my planned yogurt and granola. So I filled a stainless steel tumbler with the coffee and organic half-and-half. Putting the granola in a glass storage container, I put it in a cooler with some Icelandic-style yogurt, a spoon and several ice packs.
Those ice packs could also come in handy after the race if my feet sported any hot spots or blisters.
I checked my race bag once more. Yep, I had my Legionnaire-style cap with flaps to prevent sunburn on my neck and ears, a dual bottle fanny pack with three GU gels and full water bottles, and a change of clothes.
In the cloudless sky the stars were fading as the morning light grew brighter. I knew I would have to be extra careful driving to St. George. Deer and other wildlife could be crossing the roadways in search of food and water before daybreak.
When I arrived at Sand Hollow State Park at 6:05 a.m., the sun was moments away from peeking over the sand dunes and ridges. Volunteers directed the long string of vehicles into the parking area. Dozens of triathletes were setting up their bikes and gear in the transition area. The swim waves for the sprint and Olympic-distance races would start at 7 a.m.
Many of the duathletes, who would run 3.2 miles, bike 12.4 miles, and run 3.2 miles again, were getting ready, too. The 10K and 5K runners would arrive a short time later if they didn’t carpool with friends or family doing the triathlon or duathlon.
I went in search of my friends many of whom are members of Team XCELL, the Las Vegas Triathlon Club, and the Southern Utah Triathlon Club. Finding them was pretty easy because of the unique clothing called kits. I also saw a few people I met at the Huntsman World Senior Games and Nevada Senior Games.
Prerace socializing is one of my favorite aspects of this life of fitness. Everyone is excited about their upcoming race and they talk race strategy, make jokes and give well wishes.
Shortly after the swim waves started, I made my first porta-potty visit (no lines!) then went back to the car to eat my breakfast. That’s when I noticed how low my cell phone battery was.
In trying to locate a signal, the darn Wi-Fi drained the battery to 60 percent.
I use MapMyWalk to record my walking workouts and races so I can keep track of my pace and “splits” – the time it takes to complete each mile. My plan was to have a slow first 5K – between 18 and 19 minutes per mile pace – and then go to race pace for the last 5K – a sub-17:30 pace. Yes, I could opt for the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) approach but I know my RPE would go way up as the morning got hotter. It wouldn’t be as effective in measuring exertion as hard numbers.
So I started up the car and in about 10 minutes the cell battery charged up to about 85 percent.
- Find a fast-acting solar charger to use in situations like this instead of using the expensive remains of dead dinosaurs, or
- Find an affordable watch-type gizmo that I can wear and keep track of such things like this.
At 7:30 a.m. I put on my cap, sunglasses and fanny pack with the cell phone then made my way to the starting line for the duathlon and road races. Along the way I limbered up. I stepped upon the tire based of a directional sign post so I could loosen up my hip flexors by swing my legs back and forth.
While Race Director Cedric Keppler explained the courses to the duathletes and runners, I positioned myself at the rear of the group and started up the MapMyWalk app. Yep, the screen showed my precise location at Sand Hollow and the “Start Workout” button was on the screen. All systems ready to go.
When the race started and I crossed the line, I pressed the start button but the app didn’t begin tracking my workout. After fumbling with the darn thing for a few moments, it finally started tracking my progress.
- Another example of the effects of Mercury in retrograde
- I didn’t let my frustration get me off track
Because I power walk (a less formalized version of racewalking), I’m quite used to being last off the proverbial starting block. I do this to avoid blocking runners and joggers and to give myself room to get into my own stride. In many 5K races, I will catch up with those who went out too fast.
That’s what I did with the Sand Hollow 10K as well. Within moments I caught up with a very overweight young woman who apparently started running with everyone else. Her face was flushed and she was quite out of breath. She was walking.
I started the conversation with “It’s a beautiful morning for a race, uh?”
She nodded, saying she had been looking forward to this day. I asked her what distance she was doing.
“The 5K.” She then added. “Should take me about an hour. The longest it’s ever taken is an hour and a half.”
“That’s the way to go,” I said. “As it gets hotter, I’ll be getting slower.”
She asked me if I was a runner. I shook my head. “Not yet. Besides, walking a race like this, I’ll get to enjoy the scenery. Sometimes talking to the birds, rabbits and lizards takes my mind off the discomfort of racewalking.”
I tried not to laugh at her expression. I get that “Are you crazy?” expression quite often.
As if on cue a jackrabbit bounded from a cluster of sagebrush, taking long hops across the red dirt. Stopping, it sniffed the air then caught sight of me (did I forget putting on my deodorant?) as I neared the state park’s entrance. It watched me for a few moments, then seeming to sigh, it took off, streaking along in the direction I was going.
I thought I heard it say, “Come on, I’ll race ya.”
After watching the jackrabbit disappear in the distance, I saw the first uphill grade coming up. Members of the Southern Utah Triathlon Club manned the first aid station. I took some water and focused on the grade.
It seemed easy. Maybe including hills in my workouts was helping?
A steady stream of cyclists rode past me up the road. A few male runners strode down the hill heading back to transition. By the time I got to the 5K turnaround and check point, many of the duathlon and 10K runners were also coming back.
I continued on course as the road leveled out then sloping downhill a bit and then rolling uphill again. A hawk circled overhead (at least it wasn’t a vulture). An ATV bumped along the sandy trails.
I still felt good at the 10K turnaround. I couldn’t help but compliment myself for following my race plan (something, I must admit, I often don’t do…sometimes with success, sometimes not so much).
My splits for the first three miles:
- Mile 1 = 18:38
- Mile 2 = 18:43
- Mile 3 = 19:24
After the turnaround, I increased my pace by using more racewalking techniques: arms pumping, faster gait and a bit more hip swing. I continued cheering on my fellow athletes, calling out to those I knew, and accepting the same. I’ve found this helps keep my energy up and negative self-talk at bay.
I was somewhat surprised that I still felt good at mile four because the temperature, I guessed, had reached the mid-70s. I know, that sounds weird but the warmer the air temperature, the harder it is for the body to keep cool under exertion. It doesn’t help that my BMI is higher than I want it to be.
MapMyWalk reported my pace at 17-something.
Nudging the pace a bit faster, I happily took some Gatorade and water at the aid station. I also squirted water my shirt from my water bottle. Just after mile five and again before mile six, I doused my head with water. By then a trickle of cyclists past me. I had to pay attention to runners who were passing me in both directions.
At mile six, MapMyWalk announced my pace at 16:37. I was very surprised considering how warm I was getting but the downhill grade certainly helped.
As I approached the Sand Hallow entrance, I went into what I call “full racewalk mode.” With a singular focus and form, I took on the remaining .2-mile uphill grade. I leaned slightly forward, my arms swinging faster, and my foot turnover increased.
I spotted fellow Team XCELL member Jason Gradyan on his racing wheelchair. His arms moved like pistons as he ground his way uphill to the finish.
When I reached the finish line shoot, I found one more gear to racewalk as fast as I could.
I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 39 seconds – nearly matching the 55-minute per 5K expectation I had. Yes, I am happy with that!
My last splits:
- Mile 4 = 17:05
- Mile 5 = 16:06
- Mile 6 = 16:37
- Last .2 = 16:45
After receiving my coveted finisher medal – it’s all about the BLING, baby! – I downed an eight-ounce box of Hershey’s chocolate milk and a cold bottle of water. Both tasted delicious and the shade of the athlete’s tent was so welcomed.
After a bit, I left the tent to my results printout and then watch some of the sprint triathlon award presentation.
I talked with Marti Davis whom I met last year at the Huntsman World Senior Games (HWSG). She’s a real go-getter and has one of the most energetic personalities I’ve ever met.
Marti’s been competing in triathlons for more than 30 years. In the early years, she was often the only woman present. I love this motto she lives by:
“You must be present to win.” – Marti Davis, triathlete, cyclist, runner
In the sprint triathlon, Marti won her 65-69 age group and her husband Stan took second place in his 65-69 age group. He teased her by reflecting the sun off his shiny medal.
Congratulations to all the Team XCELL members who made the podium including my pals Laura Mercer (45-49, third place, Olympic) and Melodie Cronenberg (65-69, first, Olympic).
My body said it was time to go home but my tummy said to first stop at Emerald Smoothie in St. George for a recovery drink.
Think I’ll sign up for Kokopelli in September and do this again!