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Bicycle Tour Colorado -- Well... half of it!

Bicycle Tour Colorado is a week long bike tour around Colorado. For those of you who don't really know what that is, basically, you bike from town to town over a week and the "tour" sets up the route, aid stations, transports your luggage in between, etc. to make it all possible.

When Ross said he wanted to bike more this year, we set it out as our goal to do it together. That, along with the support of our awesome parents (who came to watch the kids), made it possible. Here is the route:

Leading up to the tour, we did a lot of training together and had a lot of fun on our bikes together...

Then, the morning that we had to check-in for the tour, Ross woke up SICK! He tried to sleep it off that morning, we packed up, headed up to Breckenridge to check-in, and then he slept more. Sometime that night, Ross' fever broke (we thought) and Sunday he woke up determined to do this tour (we HAD been training for it for 6 months or so). So, off we went...
Heading out at the "official" start
Riding with my honey
First Aid Station, that's Copper Mountain behind us.
Ross was doing well, but some of his symptoms were coming back. From here, we took it REALLY slow up Fremont Pass (like there is another way to do it). But we still made it!

Ross was really hurting by now (sickness, not out-of-shapeness), so we just focused on getting down the pass and to Leadville.

We did and made it to our hotel where Ross sacked out for the entire night and his condition just got worse. Knowing this, we/I (since Ross was knocked out) had some decisions to make. SAG was an option... but not really. It would not be comfortable for him to SAG the following day in the heat with nausea. SO, the following morning, I woke up early and rode back to Breckenridge by myself, got our car and then drove back to Leadville to pick up Ross (all before 10 am).

From there, it was rest and recovery in Breckenridge for Ross. While he was sleeping it off, I tried to get some good riding in.
Top of Vail Pass - I rode it both ways one day.
Top of Ute Pass - possibly one of my favorite views in Summit County!
When Ross recovered, he insisted we try to salvage the end of the trip. So... come Wednesday, it was off to Crested Butte! The tour had their rest day there on Thursday to which we went on an awesome hike!
Start of the hike
Hiking in between Aspen forests!

Mt. Crested Butte behind us
Wildflowers starting to bloom - we're about 2 weeks early for the season!

And then on Friday, we got back to riding!
I took off with the tour, Ross drove to the end and rode backward to meet us. I went through Cottonwood Canyon (so pretty!) and then up to Cottonwood Pass!
View of reservoir on way up to Cottonwood Pass
Patty, Julie and I at the top of Cottonwood Pass
Hanging with our new friend in Salida
Saturday, we took of together riding with our friends when Charley's derailer broke 12 miles into the ride. Knowing this, Ross rode back, got the car, picked up Charley and his bike and then they met us at the 2nd aid station. From there, Ross and I rode the rest of the way together while Charley drove our car to the end (thank you, Charley!).

It was a hard ride, but one that I will treasure forever. It was long and uphill, BUT well worth the views and time. Basically, I had been looking forward to riding with my hubby in the mountains and showing him what I had the opportunity to do a few years ago... and this was our chance to do that. True, it wasn't a full week of riding, but we took what we got and we made it count. This week made me realize how lucky I am to have a partner in life that treasures the same things I do and is willing and wanting to make things happen. Over the week, we got stronger as a couple and stronger as riders.

I'm a LEGEND!!!

Not really - that's a joke. It comes from the triathlon I did this weekend which was called... LEGEND.
 BUT, in all seriousness, it was a serious distance with some serious hardware at the end.

When scheduling out this season and training races and such for IMMOO, I did have trouble figuring out what to do, what would be the best path, AND what would excite me. I'm not gonna lie... the thought of returning to Kansas didn't really excite me. BUT, when Kansas 70.3 sold their rights to Legend and then added the option of doing a 100, a new distance did excite me!
2 mile swim + 80 mile bike + 18 mile run = 100... YIKES!, I mean YAY!

We arrived in Kansas on Friday night and the first thing I thought was, "OMG... I can't breathe!" That's right, humidity was at it's finest and I had been away from it for way too long. We checked in to the race on Saturday and it was HOT! but again, I signed up for this, right?

Being a new distance, the one good thing that it had going for it was that I was gonna PR no matter what AND being a new distance, course, etc. I wasn't completely sure what to expect. The one thing that I did want to do was give the course my all.  I had raced a 70.3 3-weeks earlier and felt like I wasn't really giving it everything I could, like I was just going through the motions... and I wanted this one to be different.

Race morning hit and a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call for the kids (their first). You want to know that magic word to get kids moving at that time?
Got to the park and the sun was coming up...

Got into transition, got set up, and I felt like I had everything covered. There wasn't too much time before the race to get nervous, and I was racked by Matt and Molly, so it was good to see familiar faces. And it was off to the start.
Trying to get in for a warm-up swim... No dice. Too late. Had to get right back out.
Me and Molly at the start. Man it was good to have her there!
Off we go!
The thing that I have always battled is hyperventilating at the start. I consider myself a strong swimmer, not a fast swimmer, but I have never felt like I am going to die in the water, so I don't think it is the mental part as much as the physiological part of the swim that causes me to hyperventilate. To counter that, I have been swimming in REALLY cold water (51-55 degrees) at home. This water was around 68, so it felt so warm. Additionally, I started out slower and sped up as I got used to it (instead of going out at a full sprint) and... BAM! No hyperventilating. That helped me immensely get through this swim, both mentally and physically.
Coming out at the 1/2 way mark before heading in again for lap #2.
Additionally, coming into the swim, I was a little worried about the distance because I hadn't been swimming that far or that much lately. But, about 1/2 way through I thought "No biggie, I am up for another lap" and it was a great feeling to have!  On top of that, Ross was there and told me my time -- which was right where I wanted to be. It made it nice to know I was on target and I shot for another lap at about that pace.
Coming out of the swim on time target - yay!
Next goal - nail the transition. In my last tri, I had dawdled a bit in transition. Even stopped to pose for pictures. Now, it was time to get a move on.
Coming through transition
  Having the kids around during this time is also always fun.
Hunter (left) riding with me out of transition for the first ten feet.
And then I was off on my bike. The thing I had going for me with this bike course was that it was going to be hilly and windy -- just like the course I practice on ALL. THE. TIME. Although, I will say, the wind was mighty strong this day.

The first thing that threw me was my back started cramping up right away. I am not sure why or what happened, but it was something that wouldn't go away through the whole ride. I had never had that happen before, so I didn't really know what to do about it, so I just kept riding through the pain. On some of the smaller hills I would stand up on my bike and power over them trying to loosen up my back. It helped a bit, but not much. As the ride got longer (we WERE doing 80 miles after all), I did stop and stretch my back and hips twice. I knew that would add to my time, but it was either that or give up and giving up... well, THAT wasn't an option.

Overall, the ride was hilly and windy and I was going slower than anticipated, but I kept a positive attitude because (1) the course conditions were harder than anticipated and (2) nobody was passing me. Usually, if I am bonking or slowing down, there are people passing me and that wasn't happening so all I could think was "yay me!"
Ross and kids were there as I entered back into the park!

So, off the bike and... I didn't exactly nail that transition. By this time, I was tired and I hurt.I spent some time stretching in transition and just catching my breath. The one good thing about feeling like crud -- I knew I gave it my all on the bike. The bad thing, I still had 18 miles to go on the run.

The run is essentially 3 6-mile loops, so I thought it best to break it down mentally by loop. From transition, you had a short out and back in the woods (shade!) and then up a looooong hard hill - that we would have to run 3 times that day, oy! Once up the hill, you hit a campground where you run the majority of the  6-mile loop. Entering the campground was Pete with a tent and the majority of people I knew at the race (Michelle, Bill, Andrew, Kim, Mike and more!) who had done different distances and already finished racing. Having them there was motivation enough to run into the campground. Then around the campground were plenty of campers there to cheer everyone on - many with sprinklers and hoses, for which I was forever grateful for! (About halfway through, the campsite, an aid station was within Pete's tent's eyesight and there I would hear cheers, too! Boy, tri-friends know the right level of embarrassment/encouragement to keep you going. Thanks, guys!)

Ross and the kids found me about 1/2 way through my first loop and would ride ahead, stop and wait for me to catch up for bits and pieces of the course. This helped and it was fun to have someone to run "to."
You can see Hunter behind me and Linc ahead of me in this pict.
This went on for the first loop (where at the end my tri friends saved me with some salt in my water) and then it was out of the campground, an out-and-back, down the hill and repeat the loop (2 more times!).  Once I made it back up the hill, the boys were hanging at Pete's tent for much of lap two (thank you, Pete, for being there and letting them use some of your shade). For lap three, they were in the car to cool off (I don't blame them!).

I ain't gonna lie, it was a lot of run, run, run, walk, walk, walk, run, run, run, but it was all I had in me to keep going. And keep going I did. It was at an aid station in the campground where my watched had clicked over to 16 miles and I thought 2 MORE MILES (it seemed like a loooong way), but then I thought "hey! I am 98% done, I can do this!"

And do this, I did. When it came time to finish... I was more than ready!
Not pictured: Linc coaching me into the finish line shoot and Hunter doing everything he could to smile cuz the heat really had got to him. I have the BEST family.
And done!
"Official" finish line photo

This day was LONG, HOT, and HARD, but I am so glad I did it. By no means, was this race a fast race, but it was just what I needed for a fantastic training day. Since the end goal is a great day at Ironman Wisconsin, this race prepared me for it physically and mentally. If I get a hot and humid day in Wisconsin, I'm ready. A windy day? I've done that. If it happens to be nice weather, I will be able to think to myself, "I've done this in worse." So, Kansas, thank you for giving me your worst -- I beat it!

And, while it was Kansas, there was one thing Legend promised (and delivered) that made it worth traveling for:
World's largest race medal!



-  Special thank you as always to my friends and family, for which I couldn't do this without. It was a pleasure racing with everyone on the course, to Matt for coaching me, to Pete for bringing the tent and being on the course for both me and my family. Ross was SUPERMAN this trip, not only did the conditions test me, but they tested him, the kid's patience, moods, and just about everything else. He pulled through and went above and beyond, even retrieving all of my gear (including bike) from transition and toting it all 1 mile uphill to the finish line, where I was recovering...not to mention making that drive with me. And to everyone who listened to me in the weeks leading up... you know who you are. It takes a village people and I am so lucky and proud to have you in my village. I hope I am part of yours. :)

15 weeks and counting...

Counting DOWN that is! That's right -- I am signed up for another Ironman!!! News to some, but not really to others. Not wanting to be that person who ONLY talks about Ironman, training, etc. I have tried really hard to keep my life balanced while on this endeavor (HA!), but seriously, I think I have been pretty good about it.

HOWEVER, it is getting closer and what I realized is that I do need a place to talk about it... and that place is going to be HERE.

So... to catch you all up (and by you all, I have no idea who is reading this, but it is intended for my family and friends who want to be part of this journey), this is how I came to the decision.

(1) I needed a BIG GOAL for this year. I figured out speed wasn't my thing and what really excites and challenges me is distance.

From that I decided:
 (2) IRONMAN or LEADVILLE 100? This was a harder decision, as I was doing some ultra running last year and really loving it. (See here for details.)  In the end, I decided on IM and here's why:
  • I wanted to do another IM before 'retiring.'
    That's Mike Reilly saying (one more/probably last time)
    "Randi Strand, from Aurora Colorado, YOU are an Ironman!"
  • If I am going to do another IM, it's gonna be Wisconsin cuz nothing can beat having family and close friends on the course.
    You're all gonna be there this time, right?
  • There is a huge Colorado contingent training for IMMOO this year.
    Ok, so they're not ALL going, but you get the idea. Bonus points if you can find me and Ross in this picture.
  • Ever since Jason cheered me on for my first IM (see 2 picts above), I said I would be there for his first IM (and he's doing it this year!).
    Us at his first 70.3 in 2013. Yes, I'm that short.
  • Ross wanted to do more biking this year (read: if I trained for IM, he'd be with me for some biking. If I trained for Leadville, I was training solo). Ross also promised that if I signed up for IMMOO that he would do a bike tour with me! More on that later. (Like June 22 later.)
    My favorite training partner!
So... IRONMAN it is!

AND, the other thing I needed was a plan and some motivating factors. 
In the past, I have relied on making vision boards to keep me mentally motivated -- I'm a total visual person. But this time around I thought a countdown would help. I wanted to remind myself to seize every week of training and to have fun and some accomplishments along the way. Which was where THIS was generated:

My own personal visual aid - the beginning...
AND, currently it looks like THIS: 
Today. Still a work in progress.

It hangs in my office, so I see it everyday and can be reminded not only of the journey ahead but the parts of the journey that I have already completed.

While there are no blog posts documenting these steps so far (I kind of wish there were), I am planning to keep this blog going forward. So, follow me along the way, on race day or not at all! Totally up to you, but I am going to use this as my outlet to prepare mentally, live out emotionally and share with you my journey... Cuz Lord knows I am gonna need the support come race day! ...And probably every day before.

(for those of you who kept reading)
Just recently, my coach reminded me of my goals, so I wanted to share them with you. As my support system (you get that title simply by reading this), I hope you will help hold me accountable to them.
(1) train consistently
(2) balance that training with family
(3) train WITH Ross
(4) have a good day at IM Moo.

~ randi

The BEST way to run 100 miles! {Lean Horse 100-mile relay}

What an incredible weekend!!!!

It all started in January when Ann (a running friend I met when living in Green Bay) announced she was going to be doing her first 100-miler. I inquired where and when and all and she told me to come along to which I said— NO WAY was I running a 100 this year! But Ann assured me there were plenty of *other options* and so I looked into it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be there when their friend runs 100 miles for the first time??? Not me!

I found an option that seemed doable – the 100 mile relay and I liked the fact that there was a 2-person division. That way I could get in a “fun 50”, right? I asked my friend, Todd, who said HECK YEA! and we were on!

So, fast forward to this weekend. I had trained loosely to run a 50, plus added in some overnight training (we were CERTAIN we would be running well into the next morning), along with some runs where we rested in-between. Believe it or not, the hard part about this was running, resting, then running AGAIN (6 times!). Not to mention the task of finding 6+ running outfits that match and don't chafe. Oh! The logistics you just don't think about when signing up for a race.
Arriving in the Black Hills!
The first thing Ross went for - the saloon!
Secret mojo for the following day - unicorn poop cookies - courtesy of Ann's crew.
 The rules for this relay included that we could divy it up however we wanted. So Todd and I decided to go about every 2 aid stations/8-12 miles at a time. When we did this our run looked like this.

 Seeing that, we then opted to break the long climb up into 3 parts instead of 2. Believe it or not, I was willing to run the 12 continuous miles uphill, but he insisted, so we broke it up -- good for me, not-so-good for him, but again HIS IDEA...

We started off the day, bright (or rather dark) and early at 4 am. It was raining HARD when I woke up… oh no! But, by the time we were out of the hotel (5 am) it had stopped. Phew! Rain was forecasted on and off all day, so here’s hoping…

Got to the track to find Ann and crew + Todd and Torri (Todd’s daughter who would be crewing along with Ross).
Me and Anne
Team Pizza Pounders (we ate a lot of pizza on our training runs)
Ready to run - let's have some fun!
And after a few picts – off we/I went.
 The run was a 50 mile out-and-back along the George S. Michelson trail (even though I kept referring to it as the Phil Michelson trail). It was a nicely graded trail but, for the love of God, you would think that there would be SOME flat along it somewhere. Nope.

My first leg was a lot of up, up, up. No biggie, right? The trail was beautiful with load of clouds and fog, which actually made it quite eery. Evidently, about mile 5 I ran right by Crazy Horse Monument, but he, too, was covered with fog so I didn’t get to see him. I tried to stop and take picts with my camera, but my camera quality was not so good, so I stopped doing even that about halfway through that leg… geesh! Good thing I had Ross to take picts of the run.
Ordinarily, it would have looked something like this...
But today, it looked like this...
My first leg was about 6 miles up and then 4 down. Yay, down! (I was saying this now, but would not be saying so later.) Got to the end of my first leg to see everyone waiting for me and I was happy!

I saw Ann’s crew, too, and waited for Ann to come through (the only time would see her all day). 
Ann at mile 10 -- Aid Station #2. She looked great with her new friend, Norm.

 At this point, we were both feeling good and Todd had an awesome first leg/10 miles!
Todd at mile 20'ish - end of his first leg!
Even though the weather has horrible forecast for the day - everything turned out to be BEAUTIFUL! I only got sprinkled on 3 times and 2 of the 3 times it was actually a nice little shower!

Along the way, there were plenty of cool things -- especially the tunnels and bridges we got to experience:
Old steam engine tunnel
Cool bridge
Scenery along the way -- it was just gorgeous!
30 miles in -- Aid Station #6
Recovering with chocolate milk and icy leg wraps!

Plowing into Rochford - Aid Station #8. 38 miles in.
 This was the start of the climb. Todd got the first 4 miles or so of it heading into Rochford and was quite happy to be done. (He did AWESOME!)
Up, up, up was that leg! Another 6 miles of climbing. Finishing strong about mile 44 into Nahant.

Can we PLEASE be done with this CLIMB?!?! This was after Todd climbed another 6 miles.
Answer: yes!
We ran to the turnaround together! My fave pict of the day!
My turn to head to Nahant. This was 6 miles of decent.
Waiting for Todd in Rochford.
Torri- EXCELLENT CREW EXTRAORDINAIRE - Hanging in Rochford. Literally.
AND HERE HE COMES! Into Rochford.
As soon as I started my leg, my quads were SCREAMING! You know how I was happy for downhill at the beginning? Not so much anymore. It was pure pain from step 1, but I was proud of myself for fighting through it and that I kept on going- running the whole way!

About 1/2 mile from the end, a lady runs up to pace me. She was actually looking for someone else, but decided to stick with me regardless. She was a volunteer, had been drinking, was bored, so went back to find someone else from another relay to pace. She found me instead and stuck with me. She was quite lovely (I never got her name, since I was speaking in 1-word sentences/responses) and she did a great job filling our 5 minutes together with stories -- including one about a guy who had his own gold claim passed down through the family and we saw him panning for gold as we ran. Only in the West awesomeness.
Me and my new friend coming into the Mystic Aid Station.
Happy to be in Mystic. Don't let the smile deceive you. I went straight to my chair and Icy Hot after this.

More western love. The next aid station included a covered wagon.
Todd rolling into High Country. Mile 80.
 After this, I ran from High Country to Hill City (where I got momentarily lost) and then into darkness. After I hit Hill City, it was the "just get to" game going on in my head. I believed this leg was 9.6 miles long. Hill City Aid Station was about 5 miles, so directly after that was nightfall and then "just get to 6 miles" (look at watch) 5.2 miles. "Just get to 6 miles, just get to 6 miles" run, run, run, look at watch 5.41 miles... And then once it clicked over to 6 miles, it was "Just get to 7  miles", run, run, run (look at watch) 6.22 miles. Ugh! But so on and so forth until 9.6 miles. No one. Pitch dark.  Run to 9.8 (maybe I had the mileage wrong?). Nothing. I scream "HELLOOOOOO...." No one there. I see some lightsticks a little later and then an aid station finally. (Well after 10 miles and..) what I realize about this leg -- I don't like running in DARK!

Todd saw me. Gave me a big hug. I smelled the icy hot on him, too, and was glad he used it. It was the one thing that saved me on the last leg. Also, dare I mention that another relay (a 5-person team that we had been close to all day), was closing in on us. I had lost some time running uphill in the dark and this team was getting über competitive. Nice, but competitive.

Torri, Ross and I went straight to  the last aid station, to hang and cheer Todd on. I relaxed a little (I had no more legs to run - yay!) but mostly waited for Todd to come through. It was dark, they had a campfire and the other relay had come up waiting for their runner as well. At one point, Torri and I decided to walk back to find Todd. We walked back about 1/2 mile to find him running! He was in such good spirits and let me know that he ran UP the last 4 miles - WOW! At this point, I was so proud of him. I let him know the other team was gunning for him/us and he was so determined not to let them overtake us! He ran straight through the aid station and onto the end!

After Todd came through the aid station, we went to the end. Todd had 4.5 miles of downhill to cover. I placed our light-up lantern by the trail turn so that he would see where to turn from the trail and waited... then we got to run to the end together!
Running in from the trail
And me, Todd and Torri finishing!

16 hours and 40 minutes and 100 miles later!


After finishing, we relaxed, ate a bit and went back to our hotels/teepees.

Ross and I slept in (a novelty of not having kids we don't often get), got up, texted Robin (from Ann's crew), ate breakfast, went back to bed, heard from Robin, got up and went back to SEE ANN FINISH HER 100!!!!!
Ann coming in with her 2 daughters!
Todd and I grabbing one of the first picts with our favorite new 100-miler!!!
A little recovery and off to the awards ceremony! (Also on the track grounds)
Ann got 2nd in her division

And we got first...
 While it wasn't like we beat out a ton of people -- there 2 other (5-person) teams -- I am SO proud of how Todd and I ran.We couldn't have asked for a better run - one we both enjoyed and ran well with.

Highlights of this race:
  • We had the awesome support of Torri and Ross
  • 16 hours and 40 minutes and 100 miles later!
  • Got to be a part of Ann's first 100-mile run
  • Spent a weekend with the love of my life
  • Ran 100 miles with my running BFF

Honestly, can't think of a better weekend!