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HITS Half-IM and other Grand Junction Adventures!

What's this? A race report? From moi? I know, it's been FOREVER since I have done one, but... I just had a really fun weekend (with loads of fun peeps and picts), so I thought I would share.

The adventures began Friday with a little trip out to western Colorado. Now, Ross had never been west Beaver Creek, so it was fun driving with him and seeing how the scenery changed and showing him my favorite part of that side of the state - Glenwood Canyon.
This picture doesn't begin to do it justice.
So, we scurried on over to Highline State Park in Loma (where the race would be happening) and drove the bike course. Now, if you are unaware of this course, you know you have gone too far when you get to Utah.
We went too far.
After that, it was a quick bike and swim (man that wetsuit feels weird) and off to dinner and check out the sights of Grand Junction.
Apparently, they really like their sculptures in Grand Junction.
I was advised not to climb up on this buffalo for fear of a ticket (I really wanted to).
Going into this race. Everyone has different thoughts, expectations, etc. of what they want from a race. For me, this was a "training race" as its purpose was (more or less) to prepare me for my "A" race in July. Regardless of it's "training race" status,  I was a little more anxious and felt like a little more rode on this one. I have been training hard and I felt like I needed to see improvement in my times. I wanted to be assured that my hard work was paying off somehow... and that is what I was looking for from this race.

Fast forward: Race Day!
Surrounded by some of my tri friend favorites!
What's a tri without Tyler and Keith?
World's BEST spectators (minus Joey)
I guess it is time to swim, huh?
Kelly's smile is infectious!

Feeling strong before the swim... or just convincing myself I am.

This picture is beyond awkward - which is why it makes me laugh so hard.
Ladies in the water.
The swim start was a mass swim and a little brutal at the beginning. I got anxiety about 150 yards out, but recovered ok. Spent the rest of the time trying to go fast, but really just re-learning how to swim in my wetsuit (first open water swim of the year). 1.2 miles and I was done and ready to come out of the water!
Not sure how I feel about this photo. 
 And then it was off to transition and onto the bike.

Now the bike course WAS beautiful. I guess I am a sucker for good views and you could see forever out there, so that was nice.
Just pretty wherever you looked.
Kelly on the bike!

Me coming up a hill.
Someone needs to teach me how to put on my helmet correctly.
The second half of the bike, you are climbing for a bit. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the wind had picked up MAJORLY and made it kind of brutal out there. This is where I caught Kelly and we leap-frogged a little bit. Overall, the field of athletes was very cool and friendly and there was a lot of chit-chat, support, nice comments as you would pass other bikers - this made it even more enjoyable and fun for me.

After we turned, it was downhill with a tailwind and - as Tyler would say - BOO YAH!!! This part of the ride was my favorite... till I ran out of gears. I was pedaling in my hardest gear, without my heartrate being elevated and unable to go any faster. So I got left behind as Kelly whizzed on down ahead of me. :) That is ok, cuz I kept leap-frogging with some of my other "new friends" on the course.

As we got near-ish the end, I was calculating my time... thinking "I'm gonna pr by, like, l0 minutes"... then there was some climbing involved so it turned into "I'm gonna pr my bike by about 7 minutes"... then my Garmin clicked over to 56 miles and I was nowhere near the end and it turned into "I don't really think I am gonna pr this bike course...". But, fear not, the end was near and I was happy to be done. :)
Riding into the end - no aero in the park!

Off the bike and onto the run. Now here is where things fell apart. I won't dwell on it, I will just say I didn't have the best run ever (or even close). My back cramped, by legs felt like lead and the wind was just unbearable. The good thing(s) about the course were (again) more support from other runners and the fact that it was an out-and-back allowed you to see everyone.

As I hit mile 4-5ish I was able to pull myself up out of a dark place and into a happy place for the second half of it. So, that was a good thing. :) And it gave me a number of things to work on for the future. Tra la la la laaa.
Yes, the wind was so hard that I had to wear my visor backwards so it wouldn't blow off.
And, I'M DONE!!!!
So, put it all together and what do you got? Exactly what I was looking for. I didn't have the best race in the world, but by the times, it was better than my best race in the past -- which was an indicator that I was improving -- and that is what I needed.

On top of that, I had a great weekend.

I learned a lot - like what was working and what I need to work on.
Kelly and I got 1 & 2 in our age group.
Did a little wine tasting.
Wineries - my new favorite part of western Colorado!
Got in a little recovery ride with some great scenery and my favorite bike partner.

Went hiking in the Colorado National Monument
And felt like a kid in a canyon!

Yea... this weekend is what I needed to rejuvenate my soul ... for triathlon and for life!