What’s a Quarq? My Decision To Continue Training Without Power

I am by no means a purist in the sport. I don’t pretend to be. I like fancy bikes, aero helmets, and lightweight wheel rims with dimples on them. I like the fact that if I wanted to buy a cover for my tiny straw that pokes out of my aero bottle to make it .0002 seconds more aerodynamic, I could. But amidst all the gear and the goodies, something that I have always resisted has been the “numbers.” Those of you who know me well know that it wasn’t until I started working with Hillary that I even broke down to buy a watch that would take splits. And I’ve had my Garmin for less than a year so I can (finally) not say “oh, I think that was about 16 miles, probably-ish.”

These days when you talk to fellow athletes, the question always comes up about training with power. “You don’t use it?” they ask. Nope. “Well, you use heart rate, right?” Nope. {jaw drops}

As I considered the purchase of these power tools (haha) for the 2013 season I had to think long and hard about what I want out of this spot. I know that I want to be the best athlete that I can be. And for me, that includes my mental well being. And part of keeping me mentally happy in this sport right now is not having a power meter or a heart rate monitor. I simply enjoy the mental aspect of the sport without those things too much right now to give it up. I’m not disputing that they are good – okay, great – training tools. And I’m not disputing that having power on my trainer intervals may help me push harder on days when I am sandbagging and may not even realize it.

But, I take a bit of pride in being my own power meter. I enjoy the fact that I can get on my trainer and in mid-interval separate the fact that my body feels like it’s going as hard as it can – but also tune into the mental thought of “no you aren’t you can always go harder” — and pick it up.  I read a lot on sports psych, and I think my years of running ultras in the mountains has taught me that I can always go harder. I enjoy sensing my own heartbeat and learning to push those levels without a watch on that tells me exactly how many beats per minute that is. And, I have never, ever had a problem taking my easy days truly easy. I most certainly don’t need numbers for that one.

Again, I think they can be great tools. But I don’t want to get lost in the data and forget what it feels like to simply race my hardest. And I don’t want to abandon the challenge of using my own brain to get me to take it to that next level.

When I listened to Ellie Greenwood talk before racing UROC about her course record shattering run at Western States this past June, someone asked her at what point she realized she was on pace to break the course record. Her response surprised a lot of people, and she writes about it in her own words from an interview on irunfar.com:

“On crossing Rucky Chucky [85 miles into the race], for the first time in hours I looked at my Garmin for the time. I’d been using my Garmin for mileage, but for literally hours, I had not looked at the time. My focus for this race was my position, my splits and final finishing time were a bonus to the possible win. So at Rucky Chucky I saw I was 40 minutes ahead of my 2011 time, a race where I had finished 18 minutes slower than the course record. Okay, I guess the course record might be on, but still – we had 22 miles to so to go, that was not going to be my focus, there was still time for it to all go horribly wrong, for the walls to come crashing in. Call me a pessimist, but it’s this attitude of ‘it ain’t over til the finish line’ that keeps me pushing every inch of the way. Even when Meghan of iRunFar yelled out if I knew how far ahead of CR I was, I rather abruptly said I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want that pressure, all I wanted to do was to run as fast as I could and win, without the worry of possibly making the CR (or not) by one or two minutes – that would simply add to the stress, I needed to stay relaxed and focused. I needed to just run.”

That mentality hits home with me. So I’ve decided to go another year without using power. Here’s to 2013 🙂

Always an Adventure

Today’s ride was all about rolling with the punches. I went down to Virginia for a change of scenery, and met up with Kendra for a little ride. The day seemed to be cursed from the get go, and we just had to laugh as our ride ended with us staying warm in a public bathroom as Kendra warmed her Raynaud-plauged fingers in a canteen of warm water.

As Kendra and I both know, if you don’t enjoy the ups and the downs, you’re not going to enjoy the Iron distance 🙂 It was fun for me to get outside of Baltimore for a ride. And more importantly – I have a new riding friend! I’d consider today a success.

Up & Coming PLUS What I’ve Noticed….

Ever since I have been back from Hawaii these weeks have been flying by. If I don’t stop and catch my breath here, the off season will be all gone before I know it! But, the offseason doesn’t necessarily mean “off” altogether. It should be called something more like the “change it up” season – a time to break up the normal routine with some other races and workouts to keep things fit but fun!

I do have a couple races in the off-season though. First up will be the Gobble Cobble – Baltimore’s own turkey trot! I have run and/or volunteered at this race the past few years and it is always a good time. The fact that the night before is always a big night for the bars keeps it extra interesting 🙂

The “big” event on the horizon is a triathlon. A winter tri – am  I traveling to the equator? Will I be going to Brazil? Sadly, none of the above, but a new race with a Half and Full distance did pop up in Key West for 2013, so in January I am excited to head down there for the inaugural event (I’m doing the half). Well, as excited as one can be when “beware of Portugese Man ‘o’ Wars” is in the athlete guide. It’s called the Bone Island Triathlon for anyone else looking for a winter getaway!

The temperatures have been dropping here and if the Farmer’s Almanacs are correct, we are in for a long winter. So here are a handful of things that I have noticed to help you get through the long cold days/nights:

-The Oiselle Rundelicious top. Am I going out? Staying in? Going for a run? Who knows, because I can do it all in this super cute and versatile running top. Love love love this.

-J. Crew Matchstick pants. Being an “athletically” built girl, I never could ever imagine a world in which I wore skinny jeans….until I found these pants. Built for girls with cycling thighs and small waists, these are super duper cute and they have them in all styles/colors (though the cords don’t work for me…just the jeans. Still awesome though)

-Nine West boots! Both Carly and myself are blessed with huge calves, making boot wearing nearly impossible in the winter time. But, we have both found great success with Nine West boots this season. So, if you usually stray from tall boots because your athletic calves make even suede slouch boots look like pleathery spandex on you, I would head on over and grab a pair.

BlueSeventy Element goggle. The only goggle I have so far that is leak proof, and doesn’t give me a headache with marathon winter swim sessions! PS – these came free to all Rev3 participants in the swag bags this year!

-Mouse Traps. Because mice apparently like to come into warm city basements when it’s winter. Gross.

-I also just updated my winter cycling gear with plenty of Pearl Izumi winter riding clothes, so I will be putting that to good use in the next few weekends. I will let you know what is working for me when the temps are low!

Why I Voted: A Female Athlete’s Perspective

Yesterday, I voted (I am out of town on election day so early voting it is!). This was the second election I voted in (in 2004 I was at school in Ohio and to my knowledge I didn’t do an absentee ballot), but this time there was a particular reason behind my vote. Well, there are several issues that I cared about on the ballot yesterday, but this post is about one of them.

I am proud to say that I voted for Obama.

I am twenty seven years old. I have a full time job to support myself, my cat Amelia, pay my mortgage, and fund my pursuit of my passions. One of those passions, as you all know, is triathlon. I have made great strides in this past year, and have set a goal for myself of racing as a professional – hopefully in 2014.

To be a professional athlete, or even a wanna-be professional athlete, your body becomes a finely tuned machine that is your most valuable asset .  Yesterday I voted in favor of a man who will support a women’s right to choose how her body is treated. I voted for a man who will continue funding Planned Parenthood, an organization that offers women access to various medical services, so that she can pursue her dream. Yesterday I voted for a man who is helping me towards my goal of becoming a professional athlete – and he doesn’t even know it.

This is *not*, I repeat *not* a post about abortion or anything to do with it. This is a post about my right to have access to a network of doctors who help me get the medications and services I need to keep my body fit and ready, in hope of one day racing professionally. This post is to remind people that there are athletes out there who have little (if any) insurance coverage, and Planned Parenthood may be the only option for them to reasonably afford routine care.

Thank you for reading and I hope you consider this as you head to the polls on Tuesday!

(Comments have been disabled on this post as I just want to voice my opinion and do not want this to be a political debate of any sort! If you would like to share your thoughts with me please feel free to reach out via my “contact me” page. Thanks for understanding!)

Keeping the Pretty

As I prepare myself to get back into the pool for another round of winter swim camp, I am reminded how important it is to take care of my hair and skin. I am fortunate that SBR Sports is sponsoring the Rev3 team this year, so I have the benefit of the swim shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion all at my disposal. Every time I go to get my hair cut I warn them I do a lot of swimming so not to expect perfectly conditioned hair. And you know what? Every time they remark that they would have never known! That stuff works! So, my hair and my skin is taken care of. But what about the rest of the time? I know every girl has her own way of “keeping the pretty” in sport, so I thought I’d list a few other things I do or have thought of….

-Getting my nails done! I don’t have time to do it as much as I like, but there really is nothing like mani/pedi time. And trust me – I have brought in feet that have been missing toenails, had huge blisters and scratches from trail running, bruises, the whole nine yards…..never shy away from a pedicure because you think your feet are in bad shape. I assure you, they have seen it all. And now that gel nail polish is around, the nails can last way longer. Bonus point if you can match your helmet!

I don’t know why my feet look like they belong to an 80 year old and are wrinkly looking….

-Cute workout clothes! I am fast to admit that this is one of my downfall. You expect me to look cute when I’m on my way to the pool at 5am? Heck no. Huge frumpy sweats and a hoodie…non-negotiable! But….there are many other hours of the day (and workouts to do) when I can look cute. I was recently re-inspired to take another crack at this by another one of Hillary’s athletes, Julie. I certainly have plenty of cute Oiselle items to wear, so I have no excuse! My main inspiration from Julie though came in riding clothes. So then I got to looking….I had never considered something like this from Pearl Izumi before, just because I hadn’t ever ridden in anything other than a nonform-fitting, made for men, jersey. But why not?! Super cute, get’s ride of farmer’s tan lines, and it still has huge pockets in the back. Perfect! And I’d be remiss not to mention coachie’s new endeavor – making some super cute, functional, and comfortable clothes over at Smashfest Queen. Check ’em out!

-The bling! About 6 months ago, I had to stop wearing my signature necklace that I think I wore everyday since my parents gave it to me when I graduated from UVA. After swimming with it in my poorly maintained gym pool, the silver had been corroding and it was irreversible. Since then I had been looking for a replacement, but I wanted to make sure it symbolized something for me, or had some kind of representation. That’s when I found tri-bling! Susan created this jewelry line just for triathletes. Each piece has the 3 elements of the triathlon sublty woven into it –

Gliding through the water, 
Spinning the gears of the bike; and 
Pounding the tread of the shoes. ”

I have the tailsman and I love it! I put it on a silver chain and it’s the perfect size to wear with work clothes but also to race in. I have always been a fan of racing with jewelry….and I know I’m not alone here. Kendra throws her hoop earrings in her bag for T2 and puts them in as she runs — I love it! I have always gone with simple pearl earrings, and then as you can see my tri-bling is going to be another staple:

-My final “keep it pretty” suggestion for the day is regular massages! Yes, massages have all sorts of other fitness benefits and help with recovery and blah blah. But at the end of the day, they make me feel good! And when I feel good, I’m way more likely to feel pretty! I stand up straighter. I wear cuter clothes. Definitely a connection there!

A Look Back and a Step Forward

College.

When I think back to my college years, I have two distinct sets of memories. One is of the first two years at the Naval Academy. The other is of my time at UVA, which is what I am focusing on here. When I got to UVA as a junior in college it was pretty daunting. By the third year of college, most people are pretty set with their friend groups and social activities – it wasn’t easy to have to make all new friends and break into new social circles as a 21 year old. I am still a little bitter about the fact that no sorority would take me because I was “too old!” In addition to running the gorgeous trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the things that played a huge part in helping me get through this was joining the Triathlon Club. Only having done two triathlons prior to joining, I was super tentative. I avoided going to the pool with the group as much as possible. I rarely went out on the bike with the group. I could probably count the number of running workouts I did with them on one hand as well.

The good news in all of this is that despite my severe anxiety towards group workouts, the tri club was no less accepting of me as a member. I was able to join the team on a couple trips to races, including a trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2008 for collegiate nationals. Some great memories of college came from this trip, and after spending time with everyone there I realized that I truly had missed the boat on something special. Every member of the group was a great person. I got to know Andrew – who is currently a professional triathlete and engineer for Boeing. There was Rudy – he’s now also a professional getting his master’s and training at CU in Boulder. And of course, Annie — who is to this day one of the best athletes with the biggest hearts I have ever known – and taught me how to love the challenging riding of Virginia. Had I taken better advantage of the athletes that were right in front of me prior to the spring of my graduation, I would wager my progression in triathlon could have skipped a few steps.

Annie and Me after nationals!

A few months ago I had lunch with Brian (RD for the Half Full *and* a UVA alum) and he mentioned that the UVA tri team was looking for a coach. I immediately perked up when I heard this, and made an effort to get in touch with them to see if I could help. It turns out – I can. After chatting with the team it became obviously that the remote coaching which I could provide is exactly what they could use. It would mean a lot of responsibility still falls on them to execute the workouts, but for those who follow the plan and give feedback I will be available as much as my schedule can allow.

Some post race fun 🙂

I will always look back on my time at UVA and say that I wish I had taken advantage of the triathlon opportunities that were there. But, I am hoping that through coaching this squad I may be able to prevent someone else from having to say the same in a few years. In the past couple months of getting to know this group I have already been inspired by their attitudes and determination. And the icing on the cake is that Collegiate Nationals will be in Tempe, AZ in April – and as we all know Tempe holds a special place in my heart. All of this is just another reason to be excited for 2013!

Annie, Alex, me Rudy

Racing in Paradise: 2012 Kona Race Report

Well, since my jetlag is in full effect, I figure I’ll take advantage and eek out a race report here! More to come on the festivities in Hawaii later….

Race morning came and since I was still quasi on east coast time, the early wake up at 4 for breakfast was easy enough. I had everything all set to go so I walked down to town and met Julie. It was such a blessing to have her show me the ropes throughout the week, especially on race morning when my nerves were getting pretty serious. We got body-marked, weighed in, and tried to stay close behind Caroline Steffen as she did everything as well since we realized that may be the only time we get on the TV coverage 🙂 Then we said our goodbyes and good lucks and I went my own way to get my bike all set. Happy to find nothing out of the ordinary, I pumped up my tires, then went and sat to soak in all the pre-race vibes. The energy is there, but it is eerily quiet for before a race in transition as well. I also found Meredith Kessler and got a pre-race hug which was super awesome and helped me stay calm and ready.

The sun came up, the pros were sent off, and I was in the water before I knew it. As Dawn and I stepped in, the waves and pull of the ocean felt stronger than it had the whole week. Between that, and seeing the flags all over blowing around, I knew I was going to be in for quite a day. I swam out to the front left of the pack and tried to position myself around as many pink caps as I could. In my pre-race prep with Hillary and others, I had retained some of the lessons they shared: this was known to be a slow swim, start on the left, and be prepared to have that “washing machine”crazy start experience for the entire swim. They were right! Usually in an IM I am able to find some space after about 300 meters and settle into a rhythm. But since most everyone who qualified to come to Kona probably swam about an hour, that meant I was swimming in a huge crazy pack the entire time! It was exhausting, and I was actually really happy to see a 1:08 on my watch as I was getting out of the water – that was much faster than I was expecting given the circumstances. I think that was a very strong time for me with no wetsuit and a tough ocean swim!

T1 was INSANE. It was so busy at the point I got out of the water, I ended up grabbing my bag and getting everything done myself in the corner of the tent. Since I really only had to throw bike shoes on though that wasn’t a problem. Out the door and onto the bike where it was another crazy cluster of people mounting. So much energy! For the first leg of the bike out through town and then even out on the Queen K I was feeling awesome. I saw Hillary at the start of the climb to Hawi and she yelled some encouragement. However, as she yelled, she also looked like at any second she was going to blow away. The winds – which usually don’t get too bad before the climb – were already strong out on the highway. That was definitely a precursor to what was to come. As we climbed, the winds got stronger and stronger. At one point a man passed me, then promptly sat up and took a drink, slowing down. As I closed in on him and prepared to pass him back, a referee pulled up and handed me a drafting penalty red card. Was I furious? Absolutely. But, I also understand that arguing my point would waste some precious energy, so I grit my teeth and pedaled on. At the top of the climb it literally felt like I was in the tornado scene of the Wizard of Oz. It may sound dramatic, but we do not have winds like that in Baltimore. I made the turn and then penalty tent was right there, so I opted to stop and get it over with. I did feel like I lost some momentum here, but that’s all part of the game and ultimately it is up to me to do better here. But, I’ll let you form your own opinion on drafting with this picture.

The way back in to town on the Queen K was slow, but I was feeling pretty good still and even with losing 4 minutes I was happy with the ride being under 5:50. I concentrated on getting as much water as I could down, but as soon as I put the water in my aero bottle it became lukewarm so that wasn’t the most pleasant. I came in to T2, which ended up being much quieter than T1. I had 3 amazing volunteers help me out and I changed into my Oiselle Stride Shorts and Pearl Izumi tank for the run (both ended up being great picks with the heat). After a half mile, something happened and my quads just felt dead. I struggled to even run downhill. Fear rose in me, and I began having thoughts of last year’s Louisville run creep into my mind. It was truly a mental game here and for the next few miles it was mind over matter to run as much as I could. At each aid station I got fluids, calories, ice, sponges – the whole 9 yards. I wasn’t sure where I had gone wrong, so I was going to hit everything to try to turn this around. Slowly, but surely, I began to get my legs back a little bit. As I headed out to the energy lab I was able to relax more and just do my thing to get through the miles. The sun slowly began to go down, the temperature began to drop, and I began to feel like I was going to make it. All of these combined help me put together a perfectly evenly split marathon, and, while it was about 30 minutes slower than what I think I can be running off the bike, I am proud that I fought for it. I kept my head and gutted it out, and on some days that alone is the win.

I was able to make some passes in the final few miles, and before I knew it I was turning onto Ali’i Drive. There I was, running down the finishing chute that I have dreamed about for years. I crossed the line in 11:06, with a wonderful greeting by Mike Reilly. More tired than I have been in awhile after a race, I spent some time in a ball on the grass as I waited for coachie and the other girls.

So….my post race thoughts. I keep coming back to what Julie said to me in the beginning of the trip. She told me to make it about the week, about the whole experience, and not just the race. I made it a point to do this and I’m glad I did. Because, to be honest, I don’t feel like it was the race itself which was the most poignant moment of the trip. It was a dream come true to get to race – don’t get me wrong. But, so much of that dream was invested into the process. My goal was to become a triathlete that qualified for the World Championships, and that happened over the past 18 months – it didn’t happen on October 13th alone. Now my goal is to use the experience of racing the best of the best and take that as a stepping stone towards racing at a higher level. I absolutely want to go back to Kona and take some revenge on the course. But, I do want to say that for everyone out there who is still dreaming of their race in Kona, to enjoy the moment that you’re in right now. Because to be honest, Kona doesn’t change you. I am not a different athlete, let alone a different person, than I was before the race. I am a different athlete, however, than I was before I began the process of getting to Kona. That as a whole has shaped me – not this one race. Don’t be fooled by the allure of the NBC coverage. I have realized that the magic isn’t in Kona. The magic is in the hearts and the energy of the athletes – the same ones training beside you at the pool, and on your roads at home. So whether or not you ever get to Kona to race, it’s okay, just take some time to enjoy that magic that is out there in plenty of other places along your way.

Go Time

How do you even go about writing a blog post of what it feels like on the night before your first time in Kona? I could write about how my journey here started 6 years ago as an ultrarunner who picked up triathlons and thought that running a 10 minute pace was just fine. And who thought that a 5k was no different than a 100 miler in that carrying a handheld water bottle was a must no matter what. Or maybe my journey started 18 months ago, when I was lucky enough to come under the guidance of Hillary. Or did it begin 11 months ago, when I signed the paper in Arizona to take my spot?

While this is my first trip on the Big Island, Hawaii does hold a special place in my heart already. Hawaii has shown me that “we wouldn’t want it to be easy”, but if you can endure, persevere, and stick with your plan, you come out on top. My adventures in Hawaii have brought me to some great friends who I know will be around for life.

This week hasn’t been all serious and race prep: I danced with dolphins. I learned what a mongoose is (note: NOT anything that resembles a goose….very misleading). I tried acai – and liked it. I ran around Kona in my underwear. I swam with turtles. I attempted to reenact the movie Blue Crush (and failed). I’ve laughed – a lot. I’ve walked in the footsteps of great athletes who have been racing this course for many years and whose inspiration will stay with me well beyond tomorrow.

It is truly an honor to be racing here tomorrow. I can’t say enough thank you’s to everyone who has helped me get to this point. From those who have been a cheerleader for me virtually, to those who have laced up their shoes and done many of my runs with me. From coach Hillary who has pushed me to set the bar higher than I ever dreamed, to my Rev3 family who as I type are all setting up for another great event in SC this weekend.

You will all be in my heart tomorrow on the Queen K and Ali’i Drive. The only thing left to do is go fast and take chances 🙂

Goodnight!

1978

Everyday things are getting more real. Yesterday I checked in and received my bib number. I am fairly superstitious about race numbers. I say fairly because I refuse to let a bad number affect my mentality for the race, but if I have a good number, I’ll certainly take the extra boost! I am happy to report that I have officially deemed 1978 as a great number for several reasons:

  • it’s an even number
  • there is no 4 BUT there is an 8 which is a multiple of 4
  • Coachie was born on June 13, 1978!
  • The very first Ironman was in 1978
  • In 1978 the Baltimore Orioles finished the season with a .559 winning percentage!

Today I am off to swim with the dolphins, so more later!

A Perfect Day

When you are already IN paradise, it probably makes having a perfect day a little easier – but yesterday was surely the closest I have ever come! I got up early and headed into town because Rudy Project was giving away Wingspan helmets to athletes. I was able to snag a yellow/green one – not only does it match my Rev3 kit perfectly, it should help my parents as they are trying to spot me out on the course 🙂

Then it was time for a little pampering, and I just couldn’t resist getting my toenails painted in the same color as the helmet. So cute!!

After the pedicure I was walking home to the condo, and couldn’t resist stopping in for another acai bowl. This time I at least held myself to a small, but I could seriously get used to these on the regular.

I had a long afternoon ride ahead, so I put my feet up at the pool for a bit. Before long though I was heading out to the Mauna Lani with Hillary and Tati for a ride. Having these girls escort me up to Hawi for my first time was awesome. There was no better way to enjoy the gorgeous sunset than on a bike with these two! We had hoped this would give me a sense of the winds up there but no such luck – it was the most calm day ever. I know I can’t count on that for race day!

Capping off my big day was finally getting to try these vega shakes I’ve heard so much about from Hillary. Much to my surprise this is another healthy thing I can add to the ‘good’ list!