November is here!

It seems like I blinked and winter is here! While my offseason technically began back in September, this doesn’t mean that the last couple months haven’t been busy. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite! With less workouts, this is the time of year where I find myself having not enough hours in the day, only for the other stuff now – catching up with friends and family, spending time on longer walks with Ramona, strategizing with athletes about the next season, and connecting with sponsors for future plans. While I do my best to keep the blog up to date these days, keep in mind that one place you CAN find me every week now is the IronWomen podcast. I am absolutely LOVING the time spent on this, with my co-host Haley Chura, and our woman behind it all, Sara Gross. We do catch up on our lives each week before answering questions from our listeners and chatting with one of our many amazing guests, so it’s a great place to see what I’m up to if you are missing your Alyssa time. You can find all our episodes here.

So….what have I been up to? Well, I went to Kona!

I also did a lot of trail running in Vermont…..

And now I’m back home! With all the running, I thought maybe racing a half marathon would be a good project. I set a lofty goal for myself (1:25) and went out on that pace. I held it….for the first 10k. Then it got a little ugly, BUT I still held on for a PR. While “bank the time early” isn’t a race plan I generally promote, it did work this time, with my 1:28:26. I think that 1:25 project will come back at some point though!

So….what’s next? Well, I’ve really been enjoying running, and I think I need some good quality time on the trails next year. So, instead of starting my Ironman season in the winter like I have the last few years, I’m going to stick a bit more local and hit some ultras that have been on my list! First up in February will be the Uwharrie 40 Mile run. It sold out in less than 15 minutes, so you know this is a good race. This is one I ran several years ago, and finished in 8:00:18. Sub-8 is a bit of a mark for that course, so I’ll be heading there to cross that off the list! Then a few weeks later, I’ll head down back to NC for the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Wikipedia calls this “a 40-mile Ultramarathon run in February of each year from the town of Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern US, and back down again. This race, intentionally run in Winter to ensure harsh conditions, is regarded as one of the most difficult trail-running races in North America.” Well now, doesn’t that sound fun?! 🙂

My other plans for 2018 so far include the Tucson camps – this year one in January (swim & bike focus) and one in April (Ironman focus). And then I plan to head back to Challenge Taiwan, and on my return trip hit up WILDFLOWER! Still so so excited that one is back on the calendar.

That should keep me busy enough, at least for a few months!!

Ideas

Something many of you may not know about me is that I love to brainstorm. I’m an ideas person. Coming up with a spontaneous list of things to do, solutions to problems, etc….I love it all. Even the most impossible or outlandish ideas are fun to think of and spend a minute imagining that you really went through with them……before tossing them aside.

I’m 99% sure that some kind of brainstorming situation is what got me to today, ready to take on IM Chattanooga – my 6th iron distance race this season – just one week after Savageman. And somehow Hillary and I forgot the “toss it aside” part of the equation for this crazy idea 😉

But the truth is, I do have a bit of confidence going into this double since usually my double consists of 2 iron distance races back to back. And since Savageman isn’t a fast course, my thought is that it was a good strong tune-up, but it didn’t take too much out of me and I’m still 100% for the race here in Chatty. Added bonus is the Indian Summer we seem to be having (insert questionable face wondering if it’s appropriate to call it this?) — it is Hot here in Tennessee and that will definitely factor into the race. You can follow all the fun at Ironmanlive.com — I’m lucky #13. The field looks good and full of women who love to run for the $$ so will be a fight till the end I am certain!

And the last tidbit of the day is that I will be wearing a brand new Smashfest Queen design that will be available in Kona! Check out my instagram story (@alyssagodesky) tomorrow morning to see the amazingness! Look fast –> go fast, so I’m ready to race!!

The lovely TeamSFQ women ready to smash it tomorrow!

Final Stretch

Well everyone, I’m in the final stretch. Sometimes it seems like I live my days in varying degrees of just trying to get to this point. It’s the 14th of the 14×150 in the pool. It’s the last 2.5 minutes of my 15 minute intervals on the bike. It’s the downhill end to my run that drops me at my door. And in an ironman there is nothing like seeing that Garmin tick over to 25 miles.

Leading up to that point is what I like to call “exercise blackout.” I basically will myself into this zone where my mind blacks out and I just let my body execute what it needs to do. This is generally reserved for the particularly hard or long days. My body will do it – the time will pass and it will happen, good or bad, one way or another – I just need to let it. But it is so hard that if I let my brain turn on, the only thoughts that will enter are ones that keep telling me how hard it is – and I don’t need to hear that. So, I turn the brain off.

And then in the final stretch the brain comes back on, because it’s that moment where you finally start to believe you’re going to do it. No matter how many times I have raced an ironman or done a particularly hard training session, I’ll admit that at the beginning, I’m never 100% I can do it. I tell myself over and over that I can — being able to compartmentalize and tunnel vision the heck out of the positive outcome has been a large part of my successful racing. I am really good at not letting the doubt creep in. I’ll out-loud positive self talk myself to sleep if that is what it takes for me to not lie awake with doubts in my mind! 

So, what else happens in the final stretch? Actually, a lot. If you’re not careful about the details and about keeping some focus, things can fall apart in this time. I ran myself into my first Kona qualifier with 400 meters to go (IM Arizona 2011). I’ve been outsprinted in the last 400 meters (IM CDA 2015). I’ve sprinted past Natascha Badmann in the last 100 meters. (IM Switzerland 2016). People let their guard down and lose focus in the final stretch all the time.

So, I’m dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s, packing my bags and getting ready to head to one of my favorite races today – Savageman 70.0! It is such a luxury to be driving to a race, with Ramona in tow no less! She is super excited for our romantic weekend in Deep Creek Lake. But we are staying focused, and ready to do the work. We have 8 more days of training and racing before I wrap up the triathlon season for 2017. And after already doing 5 iron-distances races this year (on 4 continents), a 70.3, coaching three training camps in Tucson, and co-hosting the IronWomen podcast…..I’m ready for those Mai Thais in Kona. But we’ll think more about that 8 days from now 🙂 

Leading the Chase

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 19 days since IM Canada. In that time I’ll have been to 3 different countries, 4 different states, and 7 different airports. I’m writing this from Copenhagen as my next ironman is only 2 days away, but I’ll get to that later….First to recap Canada!

I went into that race feeling fit but also feeling a bit terrified. It’s always hard I think to mentally prepare to race after a couple tough ones. While in Taiwan I had a great day with the cards I was dealt, it still didn’t really allow me to throw down the day I felt capable for. And unfortunately Raleigh wasn’t that confidence boost I was looking for after that! So here we were, and every time doubt crept in, Hillary reminded me of the countless sessions I’d been nailing. My body was ready, I just needed to let it do what it was prepared to do.

My whole 10 hour day can be summed up in the phrase “leading the chase.” For the first time I was leading my pack in the swim. I was leading a pack on the bike. I would have loved to share some more of the work but there wasn’t a whole lot of working together out there. And, perhaps rightly so. Those women are racing their race (everything was legal), I just hadn’t ever been in the position where I was the one people were holding on to….usually I’m trying to find the ones to set my pace off of!

This is one aspect where pro racing is drastically different than the age group ranks. There are tactics that come into play quite often — who is up front, will you take a turn, do you want the help or do you need to drop them all? These are all things that are running through my head which I actually really enjoy about racing now. It makes it much more engaging, one. But it also adds an element of skill and critical thinking to the race. You have to play the cards right, and try to read what the other have in their hand.

Heading out to the run, I was happy with how my legs felt for the first half, and, well, survived the second half. It didn’t take more than a few glances to see I was by no means the only one suffering out there. The run is all on dirt paths and bike path, so there’s not really open road to open up and let the pace settle in. That bike and run combo is certainly one of the most challenging I’ve done on the ironman circuit. Its also one of the most beautiful though, and the crowds and atmosphere are tons of fun.

I ended up hanging on for 8th place pro after a bit of a battle on the run, a paycheck, and overall a successful day. It was also really fun to get to race with my parents spectating – their first time seeing me in an Ironman in awhile! One of the biggest things I’ve been thinking about after that is about how I’ve now developed to the front of the chase pack. And to be honest, that’s not a place I hope to stay for a long time. I’m more of a “hold on for dear life” type of racer…..I played it safe a lot in amateur racing to ensure I had a good day and could get the time and place needed to get a Kona spot. I don’t have to do that anymore, though. So I’m hoping that in my next couple races this season, I’ll be stepping up the gutsy-factor a bit — feeling confident enough to make those decisions that put me up there more with the front pack, rather than leaving the charge to pick up the pieces and slide into what spots remain. I think Copenhagen is going to be a great course to do just that. After racing here in 2015 I loved the city so much I promised I would be back, and here I am!

After racing, I had no time to think about how I felt because I was on my way to San Diego! That was a quick stop though….it was only a few hours (and a swim!) before Hillary and I continued on to Tucson where we were hosting Women’s Camp in the desert. I had been so looking forward to these 4 days and it did not disappoint! We had changed up the itinerary from our spring camps which was really fun for us. This week included a TT during the McCain Loop ride, a trip up to Parker Canyon Lake, and a track session (along with the standard 100×100, Mt Lemmon ride, and some others!). We had an absolute blast with a lot of hard work, breaththroughs, smiles, laughs, and of course tears 😉 Hillary and I were so proud of all the women who came out and gave us 110% during those days. It was also very fun for me to have more auntie time with Madison Frankie!! (sidenote: you can’t leave a crawling baby alone for a *second*!)

I will hopefully have a Copenhagen update next week during my travels home!

It’s always better when we’re together

One of my bffs, training partners, fellow TeamHPB coach and teammate and pro, Leslie Miller, wrote a blog last week about our training tradition that we’ve been able to uphold. It involves us getting together about 2 weeks out from our big race so that we can help push each other through the last big block of work. However, I felt like Leslie must have still had a bit of a training hangover as she drifted over a lot of things, grazing over a lot of the details and leaving a lot of things to be as “oh they were great.” And don’t get me wrong, it was great. But there is a lot more to tell. So, here we go.

One of the reasons Leslie and I like to train together is that we simply train well together. She’s the yin to my yang, the salt to my pepper. It helps heaps that we share the same coach and can generally enter the weekend knowing that we’ll be at pretty comparable fatigue levels. We trust that we’ll each have our moments to shine during the weekend, and can rely on the other to pull us through our weak spots. That said, we almost always realize this in retrospect. We trust it a little more now, but the planning always does start earlier in the week with some doubtful texts: “sure, let’s do it. But, FYI, my legs are so sore I cant get out of bed.” And “No problem, I just failed my swim. We’re good.”

Going into a weekend like this, we each certainly get nervous that we’d be the weak link, and somehow ruin the other person’s training. But that is just our OCD type-A selves talking. In reality, the worst case scenario is something like “remember that time you lapped me in a 400 pull set?” or “remember that time we were supposed to swap pulls but I ended up having to do the entire ride in front?” The worst case really isn’t that bad. In fact, it probably makes for better blogging. One day I won’t get nervous over that!

Since the weekend was taking place at my house, it was my obligation to do a few things: make sure we had ample supplies, and also create our social schedule. This weekend had a few bonuses on our normal weekend sent from Hillary (with love)…..these included a brick run Saturday and a 4k swim on Sunday. Given the increased volume, and the heat, I made the judgement call to clear our schedules of all social obligations. All we had to do was eat, sleep and train.

These training weekends usually involve a later night Friday. By the time we meet up and get through our initial gossip session, it’s later than we would prefer. But, priorities. With the heat and humidity, it’s generally best to start Saturday early. However, with a swim + 4.5 hour brick, there was no way around the heat, really. So, we picked the civil time of 7am to start Saturday’s swim.

As we walked into a mostly dark gym at 6:55 on Saturday, we knew something felt off. Sure enough, some kind of electrical problems meant the pool was closed for the day. Charlottesville has a bunch of pools, but weekend hours are not the strong point.

Nevertheless, we persisted.

I remembered the new YMCA that just opened up, and checked their hours: 7:30! Boom! Only a 30 minute setback. My local swim partner Sandy joined us to help keep us on our toes for the swim. Leslie, a college swimmer, can out-swim me for sure. I give her a run for her money when I put paddles/buoy/band on, but Sandy was my ringer! Sure enough, she came through, taking the W for the day on the final swim TT.

Post swim meant hurry up, eat a bagel sandwich, walk Ramona and get on your bikes as fast as you can. We headed out for our tried and true loop. The instructions for this ride are always my favorite: 4 hours with 3 hours of trading 5 minute pulls on the front trying to kill each other. There are very few other people I could do this ride with other than Leslie. Up and over Monticello and then the fun begins, with a quick pitstop for water/red bull/ice cream….and tampons?! Luckily this is a woman-owned market and the bathroom is fully stocked. We got back on our bikes quick though, because lord knows 2 girls on bikes in rural Virginia is trouble, but menstruating female cyclists? Watch out world.

I’d also like to point out that I am 5’8’’. Leslie is 5’3’’. I’ll let you do the math who has the better time on this ride with their non-pulling turns. For this reason, I count the bike ride as a win for me. For those keeping score, it’s now Sandy, 1, Alyssa, 1, and Leslie 0.

A social patriocial brick run followed, and as we headed down one of my favorite trails Leslie exclaimed, “YAY! Nate never let’s me run single track off the bike!” – Nothing like that to ensure I keep it easy so I don’t end up with a damaged Leslie at the end of that one!

Food, recovery boots, and some quality couch time fills the remainder of the day, and then we’re on to Day Two. The Keene loop is a staple of Charlottesville. A 7 mile loop with plenty of gravel and rolling hills, it’s become our perfect test for Ironman-pace running. The loop allows for a water refill at the car too. In the past we have done 2 loops, then added an out and back on the gravel for the remaining miles. This time, Leslie wasn’t really feeling the gravel rollers and said she was going to add on “a little bit” on the road at the far end of the loop. A nicely timed bathroom stop was keeping her in eye sight, so I followed suit. And I proceeded to follow her on a 2 mile DOWNHILL at mile 10. COOL THANKS, LES! 2 Miles back up, and then thank god only 4 to the end. We both did well, but Leslie takes the W there.

After that we refueled and shook out our legs with an easy spin, which was determined to be a neutral event 🙂 The competition came down to the one tie breaker workout left: the 4k “shakeout” swim of 5×800. Again we felt Hillary’s love as one was band only. We opted to do this in long course for tanning purposes, but that was probably a poor decision as Leslie and I were in pretty poor shape by this time, so Sandy actually wins again, taking the weekend with 2 points, and Leslie and I tie for 2nd with 1. Seems about right.

A final pitstop for waffles with Nutella and brie at Millie Joe’s, and I sent Leslie off home. I’ll be seeing her again soon as we head out to Whistler, and we can both rest easy on the flight knowing we are ready after that weekend!

Don’t believe what you read on the internet

Duh.

I could probably end the blog post here, but I’ll go on.

And I’ll start by saying that my job before triathlon was in the world of digital advertising. In short, I put ads on the internet. Getting you to click on an ad essentially earned me more money. So needless to say, I know *all* the tricks about targeting and cookies and yada yada. I get it.

And yet, yesterday, a package arrived at my door. Because three days ago was Amazon Prime day. I was doing a reallyyyyy good job resisting Prime Day. I didn’t really have anything I *needed* to buy, so I had a couple phone charging cords in my cart that I figured I’d go through with the purchase if I did discover that one other thing I needed. I was going to hold strong. Food, water, shelter – those are my needs. I have them all, so I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be partaking in Prime Day.

And then, I opened Facebook. I believe the title of the article that kept appearing in my feed was “9 Things Every Grown Ass Woman Needs from Amazon on Prime Day.”

I wish I was kidding.

And now, two days later, I own this:

 

Apparently, Himalayan Salt lamps improve indoor air quality, improve mood and reduce indoor allergens. Clearly, I needed this.

This was my really long way to remind you that we’re in the thick of race season. If you’re tapering, you’re probably spending too much time on the internet. If you’re training a boatload, you’re probably still spending too much time on the internet because your legs are so tired you can’t move to go do anything. I get it. But, stop it.

Get out, go to a movie. Go eat out. Just sit outside and….relax.

Because the internet is full of crazy advice! I am, in fact, a grown ass woman and I definitely do not need a Himalayan Salt Lamp. And you don’t need to read whatever you’re reading right now* about the right way to do your training or how to taper. Just ask your coach. And if you don’t have one, maybe look into that.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on how the salt lamp works out. If you’re interested Check out these stunning lamps to see if a salt lamp is for you!

*Yes, I understand the irony of the fact that you’re reading my blog right now. I like to think one day this will be condensed and put into a memoir of short stories, so really you’re just reading literature right now in it’s pre-released state.

Back to life…back to reality!

Not too much to say here as I’m back to the grind, which means life is boring. Which means life is good, though! I’ve also been lucky as Hillary has given me some of my favorite workouts to be knocking out these days. Most recently the last couple days I did an iconic Charlottesville ride which loops from town, up to Skyline Drive, and back. I did it in reverse of my usual direction which was a fun change of pace. I also had some great company which helps move the miles by. I was really looking forward to a hot dog and Blackberry ice cream at Loft Mountain, only to find out breakfast was still being served when we got there! So scrambled eggs and hash browns had to suffice.

Then this week I *finally* ran the fox mountain loop (pic up top from that run)! Charlottesville has a ton of great trails, but we also have a ton of gravel roads. Since I’m not a gravel grinder (lol – that’s what they are called, right?!) I have never really seen them other than the occasional snafu where I accidentally need to take a shortcut home on a ride. So when I had a 3 hour strength run this loop popped into mind. It was awesome! I probably saw 8 cars the entire run,  and with the constant ups and downs I was putting good time on the legs. I also only got chased by 1 dog, and he seemed somewhat friendly actually.

The only other update I have for you is that things are going SO WELL for our Exceeding Expectations fundraising for John Alvarez. I want to send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has donated and supported this effort. If you aren’t quite able to donate, guess what – you can without even spending a penny of your own money!

Recently, Kelly O’Mara was asked by the Health IQ team to contribute a question to their Triathlon IQ quiz. She did. Then, to promote the quiz and their other health quizzes, they’re donating $1 to the charity of Kelly’s choice for every person who takes the quiz via her link. And, Kelly chose Exceeding Expectations.

So if you take the quiz via the link below, $1 will go to help John exceed expectations. And Health IQ says that offer’s good across all the contributors until the $20,000 they have set aside for donations is claimed. So, do it!!

Waiting Game

First things first:

There is a massive Smashfest Queen sale going on RIGHT NOW! Today (6/28) is the last day of this event where you can use code AGODESKYFRIEND to get 20% off (Excluding current warehouse items). Look fast, race fast. Obvi. (oh, and apparently size medium fits 58 pound puppies. Just FYI!)

Moving on….

Good news folks: whatever it was that seemed to infect me earlier in June is officially gone!

After Raleigh, I did in fact feel like…..crap. Nothing felt terribly awful, and yet everything just felt slightly wrong. It was as if a switch had flipped, and overnight I lost my entire ability to be an athlete. I could still function as a human being (whew), but doing anything hard athletically went out the window. Which is kind of a problem in my profession.

I went to my doctor and we went through the gamut, but nothing came up. A variety of physical symptoms were present, but nothing super clear, and all bloodwork was okay. In essence, I wasn’t fine, but I wasn’t dying of anything that we could pinpoint as obvious.

So, that was the good news. The bad news is that the prescription was rest, and waiting. Sure he could have pumped me with some things that “might” have helped, but without knowing exactly what was going on I didn’t want to mask anything with medication.

I was actually swimming decently still so I kept that, but the rest of my program went off the deep end. Hillary did a great job keeping me distracted so I didn’t really notice exactly how much time was passing as we waited. And waited.

Being an athlete (well, probably just being a human actually), when something is wrong, you want tangibles. You want to KNOW so at least you can be doing something to fix it. What is wrong? What are the things I do to fix it? What’s the time frame? Typically, on any given day you spend 2-8 hours thinking about your body and how it feels. When it feels so bad that you can’t do most anything you’re used to, it’s easy for your mind get a little crazy.

And for a while my mind did drift to those crazy places: I’m going to have to retire. I’m never going to get to podium. I’m never going to race again. I am sure I have a crazy disease they haven’t detected yet. I probably have West Nile. Maybe Zika. I’m never traveling out of the country again, I’m tired and overtrained from the jet lag.

But eventually, I got tired of the worrying. So, I turned to denial. OF COURSE I’ll be okay soon. So I booked all my travel and accommodation for IM Canada and IM Copenhagen (YAY!) because I’d be racing there come hell or high water!

And I kept waiting. I waited for 17 days. I even missed my birthday smashfest activities because I couldn’t run or ride hard to save my life. I doubled up my Sound Probiotic dosage and did everything I could to stay hydrated and flush this sucker out. Then, I woke up one morning, and it was as if the altitude tent I was living in had suddenly popped. I wasn’t 100%, but I felt like finally, a step in the right direction. Same with day 18, and 19, and 20. And here I am day 25, and while I still feel a bit is lingering, I know I’m on the other side of it. As Hillary said when we discussed this: PTL! (Praise the lord! – you get quite good at acronyms working with Hillary).

Of course there is a silver lining to all of this: it gave me time to reflect. What if I DID really have to retire? Would that be okay? Would I be okay if something happened today and I could never race again? Could I move forward and be content with my rack of 4th place trophies?

On a high level, the answer was yes. At this point I can honestly say I have already done more than I really thought I would be able to 3.5 years ago. But at the same time, everything I’ve done in the last 3.5 years has also shown me how much more I can do. And so for that reason, it would be quite bittersweet. So, over the last few weeks I spent a lot of time looking at the things I’m doing and making changes to do them all a little bit better so I can accomplish more before my time in sport does end (hopefully not for a long time though!). Eating better. Sleeping more. Planning my weeks so I’m not running around like a crazy lady.  Making the effort to do training sessions in the way they are intended – even if it means it’s a bit inconvenient.

So yeah….I’m back. And, moving forward smarter and stronger than I was a month ago!

 

Exceeding Expectations Kickoff!

As some of you may know, one of the many connections that Hillary and I share is our birthday: June 13th! I came out to San Diego this year to celebrate with her in person and we’ve spent part of our day kicking off our fundraising project for 2017.

I first heard about Exceeding Expectations through Hillary when a few years ago she was able to fund Nik Keller’s last two years of college at UC San Diego. He became the first in his family to graduate college–with a degree in biomedical engineering no less!

Exceeding Expectations (EE) is a non-profit foundation for at-risk kids in San Bernardino, California, founded seventeen years ago by triathlete Cherie Gruenfeld (if you don’t know who she is I do suggest a quick google investigation–one of our heroes in triathlon and LIFE). I’ve copied a full background on Exceeding Expectations for you below to read more about this amazing foundation.

This year Cherie came to Hillary asking especially for help with another one of her Exceeding Expectations kids. Hillary and I decided to take this on as a 2017 project and are so excited to introduce you to our scholarship recipient, John Alvarez!

“John Alvarez is attending California Baptist University, a private Christian liberal arts university located in Riverside, California. He started as a freshman in September 2016.

John has been with Exceeding Expectations for around ten years. He comes from a family with two caring parents, both of whom work very hard to make a good life for their kids, but were unable to even think about the possibility of college.

When John and his siblings became involved with EE, he recognized the opportunity and has focused on college and a career since that time. He’s completing his freshman year and has done very well. He’s majoring in Business, specifically oriented towards the construction business where his plan is to build his own company.

John has two younger siblings and there are two other related Alvarez families close by and of similar means with kids of school age. So there are currently 6 other Alvarez kids who participate in EE and are proudly watching John lead the way.

Last fall I [Cherie] called John’s home to speak with him. One of his younger sisters answered the phone and told me John wasn’t home. When I asked her if she knew where he was, her reply was: “John’s at college!”

So this effort is not just for John but for his siblings who will be see that higher education is possible because of the opportunity we can help provide for him.”

John’s Annual Educational Financial Information:

Costs:

Tuition $35,000

Books $ 1,200

Total $36,200

Financial Aid:

Fasfa $22,200

Talbert Grant $ 5,000

Total John is responsible for annually: $9000

Our goal: $27,000 to complete the total needed for John to graduate.

——————————————–

Hillary and I wanted to involve our TeamHPB athletes in this project (whether they liked it or not 😉 ) because they are the ones who continue to inspire us on a daily basis. Our team has always been a direct link to communities all over the world. We know that they are out there leading in their neighborhoods and setting positive examples for kids not only through triathlon, but also in their careers, and well, life. That is what Exceeding Expectations is all about.  Therefore we are donating $50 from each of our athletes Q3 payments directly towards our EE fundraising efforts. That means we are kicking off today with over $2,300 to get us started!

If you would like to help us in these efforts, please make a donation to the Alvarez Education Fund via Exceeding Expectations (501C3 tax-deductible) here. Just make a note that the donation is for the Alvarez Education fund. Any issues with this link you can just go to the EEfoundation.org homepage and scroll down to the “Donations welcome here” link and do the same. 


More on Exceeding Expectations…..

Exceeding Expectations (EE) is a non-profit foundation for at-risk kids in San Bernardino, California, founded seventeen years ago by triathlete Cherie Gruenfeld.

These kids, through a chance of birth, are very different from you and me.

The EE kids suffer the abuse of low expectations. Their environment is one where people simply try to survive, one day at a time. There’s neither time nor the means to consider making a better life and, if they have expectations for the kids, it’s that their lives will just be more of the same. Our belief is that the ticket to breaking out of this environment is education. When we started the program with twelve kids, not a single one had anyone in their family whhad graduated from high school. In the words of Nicholas, one of our original twelve kids: “College is for other kids, not for us.”

We believe that participation in sports has the great benefit of teaching skills that will be used throughout life. Personal athletic achievement leads to building self-confidence and recognizing that there are fewer limits if one is willing to stay focused and work hard. Exceeding Expectations marries these two beliefs, using the sport of triathlon as the vehicle to accomplish our primary goal of getting the kids educated.

Today every EE kid believes firmly that college is for them, not just for other kids, because they’ve watched it happen.

We have eight EE kids currently in college and four more entering as freshman next September. These twelve are following in the footsteps of fellow EE teammates Nik Keller (UCSD ’14), Marlene Samano (UCSD ’16) and Louisa Patterson (Berkeley ’16). We also have two team members with distinguished military careers: Edgar Samano, who is a U.S. Marine drill instructor at Perris Island, and Jose Lopez, who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan as a radio specialist.

Every EE kid has heard me say: Your job is to graduate from high school and get accepted into the best school for you. Our job is to make sure finances are never an issue for you. They have confidence in this promise because they’ve seen EE fulfill it over and over.

This is why fundraising has always been a critical part of our program. We want to make sure that every one of our nearly fifty kids, now in K-12, will be heading to college as they graduate from high school. Working on that goal means that fundraising will play an even larger role going forward.

It’s important to know that every cent donated goes directly to the kids. We have no paid staff, and insurance is our only administrative expense. If you donate $200, it may go towards buying college books for Enrique. $2000 will pay a semester’s tuition for Joselyn. If you donate $20 it may buy new tubes for bike tires or some breakfast bars for race day or entry into a local 5K. From you…directly to a kid.

 

 

Heartbreaker you’ve got the best of me

Yep, I just threw some Mariah Carey at you. You’re welcome.

A lot of people have asked as the start list never got updated, but I’m not racing Eagleman this weekend. Truth be told I had scratched that off the list when I was going to Taiwan – adding another full was my brilliant excuse to not have to race back to back half distances 🙂  It would be a bit sweeter if either Taiwan or Raleigh went more according to plan, but, such is life. And I didn’t want to get into the (not helpful) habit of just adding race after race when they aren’t going well. Instead, I planned a bit of a reset here and am heading out to the West Coast for a few days to celebrate turning the big 3-2.

My poor race in Raleigh certainly wasn’t due to the pre-race setup. I was lucky because this is about as “hometown” a race as I’ll ever get, in fact. Only a 3.5 hour drive, I could take Ramona and we stayed with my old training partner, Adam, and his wife, Jamie, just a few miles away from the race site. Adam and Jamie went out of their way to make me (and Ramona!) comfortable, and I was 1000% taken care of in the days before the race. With a point to point setup, it would have been easy to find stress in the pre-race happenings, but it was all seamless with their help.

Including up to race morning. With the weather showing its typical east coast hot and humid self, we were set up to swim in a toasty 82 degree lake. Before the race, I told Hillary that I thought Liz Lyles was a good point person for my swim as she’s typically ~2 minutes ahead of me in a full distance swim. I set up myself up accordingly, and after a balls-out sprint for what felt like forever, I looked up and was pleased to say I was in fact, with Liz. Okay, by “with” her I mean that every now and then I caught a small bubble – she was a few yards ahead and I couldn’t seem to close the last bit of the gap. But coming out only 10 seconds behind her is a marked improvement, and I knew that as I exited the water. I was finally coming out into the race in a position I wanted to be in!

And then, I got onto the bike. The great part about racing and training with power is that you have a good sense of how your day is going at all times. The bad part of it, is that you have a good sense of how your day is going at all times. The numbers simply don’t lie. And as I watched Liz and the others pull away from me over the first 5 miles of the ride, and stared hopelessly as the numbers on the bike computer went lower and lower, reality was setting in: this wasn’t going to be my day!

I had to pull out all the mental tricks to get myself through this one. On one hand, I was well aware that with a point to point course the fastest way home at this point was to ride, so I may as well just get there as fast as I could. I also reminded myself of Taiwan where I saw some pretty magnificent implosions on the run, allowing those with the slower bikes to run into contention. The temps were rising, but that was actually a constant reminder of the fact that anything could happen. And so I held on tight to that, and just kept pedaling.

And then, I got a flat. I suppose I would rather get a flat out of the way on a day when I was already taking much longer than I’d have liked to ride, rather than lose time on a good day. And really, the flat took me 4 minutes to change – it was most certainly not the cause of my slow bike time for the day. We have the legs to thank for that. I’d also like to point out again I changed the flat in 4 minutes. That time also included 2 pretty solid jokes I told to the kind police officer who stopped behind me to direct traffic and make sure I didn’t get run over by a car. Much appreciated!

The run was everything the run in Raleigh rumors to be: hot, hilly, still, oh, and hot! I definitely think this race carnage rivals what I’ve seen at Eagleman. The course itself though is awesome, and honestly the entire race reminded me a little bit of Wisconsin – just the feel from the community, the run course, and the finish line area — very similar vibe to Madison. Being my first race in the US in a while, I was able to experience having friends AND family at the finish line – and that was pretty cool. I’m super grateful to the people who came out (and even more grateful my sub-par day didn’t happen during a full so you’d have had to wait extra long!).

So, what now? Well, I move on. It was a bad day. I’ll go through the normal checklist to make sure it’s nothing other than just that. But I’ve raced enough to know that racing is hard. There are great days and there are bad days. And the great days are enough to carry you through seasons of the bad ones if it comes to that. In fact, enduring the bad days for those fleeting great ones – that’s a huge part of why I enjoy racing so much in the first place……The chase of something that’s never guaranteed, never given to you freely. It’s only given after a boatload of hard work and putting yourself in position to be there when the door opens….over and over again. That, my friend, is racing. And if you love to race then you have to embrace the bad days as much as the good ones. Because it’s okay that sometimes racing will break your heart.

There have been plenty of days when racing does just that: it simply breaks my heart. Raleigh was one of them. Shoot… sometimes I just watch a race and my heart breaks because I can feel the pain of someone who’s shoes I have been in all too many times. But as long as it doesn’t break my spirit, my day will come. And my spirit has sights set on July 30 …. Whistler is calling 🙂