Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wildflower flash back...2009

 Below is a race report I had written for the Hammer Nutrition Endurance magazine in 2009. This year I decided to go back to Wildflower 4 weeks before the event......With little bike training but plenty of running my goal is to have a great time and soak up the atmosphere! 49 years old the last year of racing this age group!! Life is an adventure and I just love doing triathlons! Thanks to my husband for the birthday gift of an entry fee paid.


Wildflower 2009

Author : Suzy Degazon

Suzy and friends get ready for Wildflower It is the first weekend in May and for the last 27 years thousands of triathletes have made their way to California's Lake San Antonio to experience the thrill of Wildflower. I was one of the thousands this year and had opted to compete in the long course which consisted of a 1.2 mile lake swim, a 56 mile hilly bike, and a 13.1 mile run.
My husband Al had signed me up for the event at Christmas and it was to be part of my birthday treat. I was also moving into a new age group - the 45-49 competitive grouping. As usual something always happens before an event and a cat I had been looking after outside decided to become a mommy cat the day before we were due to leave on our 5 hour car ride! After taking care of food and bedding, we set off later than we had planned and managed to get lost only once along the way. After backtracking and asking for directions at the Bee Rock store we were soon on our way.
The weekend forecast called for rain and when we arrived at Monterey County park there was light drizzle. We showed our camping pass to the attendant and set out looking for a spot to call our own. We ended up not too far from the entrance up a muddy fire trail. Asking the campers next to us if it was alright to set up camp near them I heard a familiar voice and turned to see Brendon Halpin who worked last summer at Hammer Nutrition's headquarters. It was a nice surprise to see him there with a group of Montana triathletes!
While Al was busy setting up camp in the little bit of daylight that was left, I made sure my Cannondale bike was ready to roll for tomorrow's 56 mile ride. I changed to good racing wheels, putting on new Serfas tires, checked that my SC600 cycling monitor was picking up speed, and then Al took it for a ride to check that the gearing was not slipping. The only thing left to do was pick up my race packet and everything would be set.
The packet pick-up was at the transition area, which was at the base of a steep hill called Lynch Hill. The race organizers had a shuttle, which I caught after showing my ID and USAT card, to transport athletes back and forth. I was given a purple swim cap, timing chip, and race number. I quickly bought a pair of socks, as I had left mine at home, and then the shuttle transported me back up the hill. The daylight was really starting to fade and the rain had picked up. Al and I sat in the Dodge eating PB&J sandwiches and I was suddenly happy that I had remembered my Brooks Trail shoes. Tomorrow's run was 60% trails and with this rain it was likely to be muddy!
The Swim
During the night the heavens opened and rain it did! I slept well and though it was a little cool when I awoke it was a beautiful morning. My main concern of the morning was what I was going to wear. Because I was in the 45-49 group my swim did not start until 9:25 am. As I was relaxing and having my morning coffee I discovered that everyone had to rack their bikes by 8:00 am. Yikes - there went my coffee and breakfast! Al stayed at the campsite and I rolled down Lynch Hill which was still wet and slippery. An announcer was telling all athletes to be careful as one triathlete discovered his brakes did not work and his race ended before it started!
Suzy Degazon After finding my bike spot I did not have enough room to set up my transition as the woman opposite me had laid out a HUGE bath towel and her bike right over my spot! I looked for another patch of asphalt and set up my gear. There were still 90 minutes before the swim start so I went back to the campsite. I was certainly warmed up by the time I trekked the 2 miles up steep trails and had a minor panic attack when I couldn't find our site! I finally saw Al who wished me luck, told me to be safe, and to have a fun race. I grabbed my Hammer Nutrition fuels and left again to run back to the transition area. I put on my Profile-Design Wetsuit, consumed a Hammer Gel, and then walked to the swim start.
At 9:25 am the gun went off and the water teemed with purple swim caps. I was off on my personal journey of 70.3 miles and this was just 1.2 miles of that experience. As much as I love my sport there is a lot to be said about the swim, arms thrashing everywhere, women swimming over me... I went to breathe and another woman dunked me! Wow talk about piranhas! This was a swim for survival and I was happy to have put my timing chip under my wetsuit as I would have surely lost it with all this contact. I kept repeating "I am enjoying this mayhem!" trying to remember Caoch Martha at Tri La Vie saying relax, upwards, and onwards to her women group! As I approached the turnaround buoy silver swim caps started passing me which meant the fast relay swimmers were making head way. I passed a few green caps from the 40-44 grouping, sighted the finish chute, and was dismayed to see a huge sea of yellow swim caps! The mountain bike triathletes, whose swim was 200 meters, were exiting the water at the same time and so things were a little congested. Finally I made contact with murky green bottom of the lake and soon found my self running through the chute and over the timing mat. I found my bike and wasted time in transition deciding whether I needed arm warmers or not. I finally opted for gloves; I was wearing my trademark Hammer pink tri suit, Rudy helmet, and glasses. I managed to get in a Hammer Gel and was soon heading out on to the bike course.
The Bike
The first two miles of the bike is a small climb nothing too steep but the difficulty is that the mountain bikers share the road for the first mile, and for me it was a nightmare as they were all over the road zigzagging from right to left not looking behind them! One girl stopped right in front of me on a small hill and it took everything I had to swerve around her and not go down myself or hit the cyclist in front of me! They soon left the asphalt for trail and then the real cycling could begin. I kept climbing and hydrating with my multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem and Endurolytes. The actual 56 mile bike course is beautiful and very scenic and I really enjoyed the challenging climbs and rapid descents. The views of Lake Nacimiento, better known as the dragon lake, were literally breathtaking as the view comes right after the “Nasty Grade.” I felt great the whole ride by making sure I kept up with the Perpetuem and Endurolytes and saying thank you to all the volunteers out there. As I turned on to Lake San Antonio road I sensed the transition near, I could see other athletes already doing the run. With 4 miles to go I passed Rudy Garcia Tolson, wow he really is inspirational and when he finished the 70.3 he became the first athlete ever to finish this challenging course as a double amputee!
After a hairy descent down Lynch Hill I was told to slow down and get off my bike, I walked over the timing mat and went to change into my Brooks trail shoes which felt great as I had soaked the insoles with Kool n' Fit spray, ate a Hammer Gel, put on my fuel belt, and set off…
The Run
13.1 miles, or as I like to say 1 mile 13 times! Well hydrated I set off into the sun on a brilliant day. The run was mostly trails and very well marked with aid stations every mile. I only had to rely on water as I carried my own Hammer Gels and Endurolytes. The trails were challenging with loose dirt and some wicked climbs which were difficult to run due to the lines of tired athletes walking these single tracked sections. Every aid station had enthusiastic college students cheering on the runners. As I approached the last few miles my husband was waving at me from his mountain bike and taking photos which seemed to make me pick up my step. After running through the campgrounds, the last segment is an out and back mile. The final mile is down Lynch Hill and I tried to run smoothly as to not jar my quads on the steep descent. I was soon running through the finish chute with people on either side cheering. My name was announced as I crossed the final timing mat in a time of 6 hours 6 minutes and 23 seconds! I had done the bike in a respectable 3 hours and 12 minutes and ran a slow 2 hours and 3 minutes. I survived the swim and the mountain bikers and now proudly had a finisher’s medal around my neck!
Suzy Degazon I saw my friend Jodi at the finish area and was really happy when I found out she had won the age group 45-49! Unfortunately she had then been DQ’d because she lost her timing chip after the swim. I spent a few minutes at the timing tent were Jodi told the officials what happened, and then I went to find my husband. I really enjoyed Wildflower and was pleased with my time. It was fun seeing a bunch of Hammer athletes out on the course and I even had time to catch up with Kevin from Finishline-Multisports. After hiking up the 2 mile trail with my bike I soon found Al at our campsite and we began breaking it down. I visited with Brendon from Hammer Nutrition one last time; he smoked the course in 4 hours and 17 minutes and was the first amateur across the finish line!
A week later the results were finalized and it turned out they had a number of hiccups with the timing system. Despite my friend losing her chip she was reinstated as first female in 45-49 and I had the honor of being the 13th female in the group to finish. More importantly I was able to raise $495 for Avon of Puerto Rico’s Breast Cancer Crusade. I would like to thank Hammer Nutrition, Serfas tires, Profile –Design Wetsuits, Brooks running shoes, Polar Monitors, Cannondale, Rudy Project helmets and glasses, Fuel Belt, Kool n' Fit, and my husband for the long hours on the road and making sure I was safe!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ZION 100km Not for the faint of heart!

ZION 100km it just sounded like an incredibly beautiful trail run in a State I have never been too, add that it was my birthday and I had my husbands blessing it really seemed like an awesome idea!
 After traveling 460 plus miles in the car with my friend Ray who was designated driver we made ZION in early afternoon. Time to get our race gear ready and to go to the packet pick up to collect race number and final instructions. I had a slight head ache but nothing too major, at the packet pick up there was fresh home made pizza made to order for all the runners and the location was a private residence surrounded by the walls of ZION.
all smiles before the event
Race morning arrived quickly and we arrived at the park to check in at 5.30am, semi darkness and lots of ultra runners full of energy filled the starting area, I tried to blend in and not get nervous, my goal was to finish and hopefully not take a spill on one of the down hills....
The race began!!! there really is not a lot to say except it was 63.5 miles of breathe taking beauty...of single track running with rocks and boulders.....did I forget to mention about the marvelous uphills that seemed to climb to heaven! with vistas so beautiful it was difficult to imagine so many people live on this planet!!
Long Climb to Gooseberry Overlook.

The aid stations were all well stocked with just enough of everything that I am sure no runner lacked anything! The volunteers were all friendly and willing to help you get your race needs and move on to the next trail adventure!
The first station was at mile 10.6, and I had ran on a lot of single track, oh my favorite kind of running (note sarcasm) but I had witnessed a wonderful sunrise and red streaked sky, had found a toilet at mile 5 and had not fallen on the rocky trails.
On leaving the first station I headed out on a nice fire road to Gooseberry Overlook it was around 9 miles away and the weather was perfect conditions, I ran with a few other runners, it was nice to idle chit chat and enjoyed the company. Then ba boom an uphill and I am talking uphill, I jogged until I could not get my footing on the loose rocks, I power walked keeping my heart rate from exploding my fear of heights was in check and at the top of the climb was the 2nd aid station which I would see 3 times over the course of the day.
Gooseberry Mesa

On leaving the 2nd station I became physically challenged!! As the single track seemed to mix with sand stone and boulders, I was following white dots and could not get into a rhythm as my rock hopping skills are sketchy and was super observant so not to get lost but the turn around was AMAZING the view was just out standing!!!
  Gooseberry Mesa

I weaved around the mesa for an eternity and cannot tell you how excited I was to see mile 31 were I had my drop bag, I sprayed my legs with Kool n fit and refueled on a Hammer bar I was half way into this adventure and a nice 6 miles of fire road was ahead!!

The next 30 plus miles I went to a place I rarely go in events, I faced some fears I ran up some trails I would never do in training,I became mentally drained with single weaving tracks and the quietness was deafening!! I did not run with music as running on single track needed all my concentration! I glanced from time to time to my Polar monitor and was amazed to see my calories at 7,000 at one point I kept dreaming of my breakfast!

Eagle Crags mile 44
AT mile 41 the race director put in a rather nice steep 3 mile up hill, I actually enjoyed the jog up this fire road and was so happy to see the aid station. I restocked on water and Hammer Gel and enjoyed a small piece of Cheese burrito. The down hill was steep so I opted to carefully jog and give out high 5s to other runners!

In my mind I only had about 20 miles left I was so happy as I ran along a rolling trail I was with a nice group of female Ultra runners and passed the Grafton Cemetery unfortunately we never ran through the ghost town where westerns such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed!
Grafton Cemetery...the stones were ingraved with Killed by Indians ....etc..
Then suddenly the reflective ribbons disappeared....and then my jaw dropped as I saw ribbons going up the third major climb of the run! It ascended 1000ft in less than a mile and although I could have passed out with the dizzying view and drop offs it was a privilege to run this section which is protected by the Grafton Heritage Society.
At the top of Grafton Mesa I lost it mentally as the single track played tricks on my sense or direction, it weaved back and forwards dropping down and climbing up again, by this time I had ran out of water and race nutrition to keep my moral high I joked with the other ladies with me. I have never been SO happy to see an aid station as I was when I saw Grafton at mile 52!! 
I stopped filled up my hydration pack, took my endurolytes, race caps and anti fatigue caps, had a few cups of Hammer Heed and began to feel much better and very excited at the prospect of nearly being finished. I left Grafton eating a new Hammer Vegan bar as it was un uphill climb and did not want to run out of energy on the final stretch!
I really wish I had had a friend with me on this final 13 mile stretch as it was just a LONG fire road with the walls of Zion surrounding my shadow! I kept it together willing myself to keep moving forward I really needed to be down the final climb before darkness fell.
Affectionately named Goosebump I had already climbed this earlier in the day now with tired legs I had to descend the 1200ft drop just over a mile...
I started the final descent in day light/dusk and ended that nightmare in complete darkness talk about facing your fears one slip and I would not have been writing this report! Yet two other runners went by me with no problem.mmm...
Grafton trail
I went down EXTREMELY cautiously, my head lamp lit up the trail if you could call it that, a buzzing insect was having a field day around my light beam which attracted bats I did not dare swipe at them as needed to get to the road...the final two miles was just like a comedy strip...well now it is...no one around, bats and buzzing insects and at one point I though I saw the Grimm Reaper as the shadows were playing tricks on my vision! 
FINALLY the road I was nearly in tears I was going to finish the Zion 100km standing up and not on a stretcher I had only fell once the entire time and I was heading towards the Park Road I had finished in exactly 16 hours!!! 
At the finish line I enjoyed some great potatoes and actually felt great as was SO grateful to have finished!!!
 Hammer Nutrition went really well......Skin Protection Ocean Potion and Kool n Fit to spray on my feet !
The RACE DIRECTOR Matt! Did a great job with the trails and making sure every runner was accounted for.
 My Cascadias proudly with the ZION 100km medal!
Ray finished in just over 14 hours and he ran a little with Pam Reed it was cool to meet this Ultra Star and here her adventures.
OHANA from Ultraman Hawaii.


Was very humbled to have finished such an amazing adventure. Very grateful to Hammer Nutrition, Brooks Running, Rudy Project, Ocean Potion, Swiftwick socks, Kool n Fit, Polar heart rate monitors, my friend Ray Mena and my husband who supported the whole adventure It was a great way to celebrate 49 years old! Definitely the hardest trail run I personally have ever done and probably the most satisfying finish!
A little elevation profile around 6,000 plus feet of climbing...