Kona!

I could not have had 2 days that were more different than each other than the last 2 have been! Yesterday ‘s hiccup came on the travel front. My flight was supposed to be from BWI –> Denver, then Denver –> Kona. I should have known it was going to be crazy weird travel day when I was going through security and a stranger asked if he could share my plastic tub that I was using to put my items in for the security check. Despite there being a perfectly good stack of other tubs he could use for his own things, he insisted on putting his dirty flip flops and sweaty hat on top of my stuff. I let him because I almost thought I might be on an episode of MTV’s boiling point or something. Needless to say, I wasn’t – he was just weird.

Well, we got to Denver (where it was 32 degrees and snowy by the way – yuck!) and *almost* made it into the air. Until they realized that our weight wasn’t within proper specs. Kind of ironic that a plan full of fit triathletes would be causing the plane weight to be too heavy! So we sat on the ground and burned fuel….for two hours! Then they finally decided to turn the second engine on to speed the process up – only to find out that the thingy that blows air into the engine during the start up process was broken. That meant just about another 2 hours sitting on the ground while maintenance took a look. Ugh! Needless to say, I thought everyone who had been trapped on the plane was handling it really well. They finally decided we were safe to fly to San Francisco, where we’d switch plans to one with a second engine for the remainder of the flight. Sounds simple right? Except it took another 90 minutes to re-board us once in San Fran, because they literally called us to board one by one. Certainly not the most efficient way! Luckily I had Katie Thomas on my flight and that gave me someone to chat with in the lulls. But alas, we were enroute to Kona, and when all my luggage came out I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was also lucky enough to have the best airport pickup ever: Coachie AND the GCM came to scoop me 🙂

I was pretty beat by this point after about 17 hours of travel, and happy to see that there were no surprises with the condo I rented – in fact it was picture perfect! I even woke up to an ocean view from my deck!

The village here is getting busy and has become athlete central. It is SO crazy to be seeing all of the sights I have see year after year during the Ironman coverage on TV in person! Julie and I were very luckily to have Hillary escort us through the course. There were no dolphin sightings though Hillary and I did hear them. I began to make my own dolphin noises in hopes of attracting them, but no such luck. After the swim Hillary took the opportunity of introducing us to Acai bowls. I have to admit, I had my doubts! I figured it would be another thing healthy people like but really they taste like wood to the rest of us. I was pleasantly surprised – they taste like candy!!! I will most definitely be getting my fill of these while I’m here.

My day was not yet over though, as Katie and I met up for a ride on the Queen K! My first time out there and it certainly lived up to all the “hot and windy” stories people tell. I have a few more rides to get used to the conditions, so I’m definitely glad to be out here now.

Then it’s been rest and recovery: some quality time with my NormaTec Boots and the Orioles game! More to come tomorrow – and pictures tomorrow as well now that my phone is back in working order!

Packed and ready!

Well, after beginning to pack last Wednesday, I am finally all zipped up, buckled, and ready to go. I have to admit, it was really challenging for me – a chronic overpacker – to get everything into bags which adhered to the size/weight restrictions and wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to check. I think I finally got everything organized:

Note: Amelia is not coming on the trip (unfortunately!)

There were a few things that I knew I wouldn’t be leaving home without and one of which was my NormaTec Recovery Boots! I crammed in one last session here tonight, and while it doesn’t lighten my load, they have become essentially to my recovery process and bringing them was a no brainer. Also, they fit in my backpack, so I’m just going to take them carry on.

I have a long day of travel ahead tomorrow, but that means a lot of time for blogging so more updates to come!

Weathered the Storm

Finally: the word taper appeared on my training calendar this week! It’s no secret that my body doesn’t like a long taper, so when we kept the volume high last week I was not too surprised. Maybe it’s because I generally don’t take long tapers that I feel like I’m in the minority of people who relishes in it. Time is a much valued commodity in my life, and I’ll take it any way I can get it!

My last big weekend was spent in one of my favorite locations on earth (or at least out of the places I have visited on earth): the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just about 40 minutes outside of Charlottesville, the Ultra Race of Champions was taking place at Wintergreen Resort. Formally the Great Eastern Endurance Run (which I ran both the 100k and 50k of in years past), this race is near and dear to my heart. So I was eager to have the chance to do the last of my big run/bike/swims in the mountains so I could help out at the race.

The race was no disappointment in the excitement factor. It truly lives up to its name and mission of bringing the best of the best of ultrarunning to one course on one day. I do have to say though, I hope the ladies can step up and be more of a presence there in the future – only a handful chose to start in the elite start! In a fun twist, Gill and Francesca (the RD’s) announced this year that UROC will move courses from year to year, similarly to how the Superbowl changes venues.  UROC 2013 will take place in Vail, Colorado. Sign me up to work that event 🙂

But first we had to focus on this year. I had not one, but two moments of being starstruck before the race began. The first came on Friday when I realized I was going to be sharing a house with the one and only Ellie Greenwood. You may remember her as the woman who set the Western States course record this year, and became my inspiration during IM CDA.  Yes, I am a nerd and yes I told her about this! She was so sweet and super cute and British, and explained how silly and how “American” she felt wearing the backwards hat – love it!

My second moment of “omg!” was during pre-race check in on Saturday morning, when who walked up to me to check in? Kelly B. from Survivor Nicaragua herself!

Kelly is no stranger to tough athletic feats – she currently holds world records for amputees in the 200m and 800m distances, has won gold at the 2008 New York Triathlon and ITU World Triathlon Championships in the amputee division, and was the second amputee to finish the IM World Championships in Kona in 2007, setting the current record for the course in the process. Kelly finished UROC in a time of 14:18:08 – truly amazing.

My final excursion of the weekend was a stop through Charlottesville where I was meeting the UVA tri team for the first time. Another post coming here about this soon, but I can say now that after meeting these athletes I am more excited than ever to be a part of their squad.

Now it’s time to pack my bags and get ready for a long flight to Kona this weekend!

Family First: I Support Rev3 and UCF

To be honest, I have a lot of things that are on my mind right now, and Lance Armstrong isn’t making the top 5. That’s why I’ll make this quick.

When I left the world of ultras (I only consider this a sabbatical – don’t worry!) to focus on triathlons, one of the hardest parts was the loss of a “family” in my sport. I don’t have a huge family – we don’t have large gatherings at the holidays, there’s no huge family reunions. And that’s always been okay because I’ve found a family in my soccer team, my lacrosse team, or later in life, my trail-running-ultra-crazy friends. At first, that wasn’t something that I had in triathlon. And then I met the Rev3 crew.

Words can’t do justice to what this group of people has meant to me over the past year. This group has helped me through it all – the petty frustrations that life hands you, to the larger stuff – like when I got hit by a car while riding my bike in July (details of this are still being withheld from the internet until the insurance claims are wrapped up). I can assure you that the reason I made it through all of this in the past year – and came out on top – is because of the Rev3 family.

Rev3 is my family. The Ulman Cancer Fund is my family. And therefore, each and every life that these organizations touch, becomes a life that I care about. I believe in the work he does and the decisions that are made by Charlie Patten. I believe in the tireless dedication and sincere devotion to changing lives that Brian, Brock, and the rest of the crew at Ulman has. I believe that there are many others out there like my date for homecoming in my junior year of high school, John Petrovick, who were taken from this world too early by cancer, and whose lives are changed by UCF.

Family. Friends. An open heart. An open mind.

Those are the things that I believe in. And those are the people that I will stand behind.

Now if you excuse me, I have a little race in Kona to prepare for.

Finding Hidden Treasure

I can’t  help but shake my head a little when I think about the past couple months. And if you take nothing from this blog post, it should be that every cliché about the value of patience in endurance sports (and probably life, but that’s another post) is absolutely spot on. Having patience to grind out day after day of training, being an observer of the sport, and taking it all in can eventually add up to some pretty great things.

But, 6 weeks ago, I wasn’t so sure about that. Coming off of IM CdA I felt pretty good – I had, after all, put down basically the same time as Arizona on an arguably tougher course. But, something was still missing from the race. I didn’t have the hunger in the race that I was hoping for. I felt fit going into the race, but something was missing. Arizona was the first time where I ever had the fitness to match the hunger and execute everything together, so I knew what that could feel like…and I wanted that again.

Hillary and I put our heads together and came up with a plan that, frankly, I had no idea how it would turn out. My instinct after CdA was to go full-introvert….crawl into my little cave of training, put my head down, and stay there until I was ready to come out, hungry for a race when Kona rolled around. Hillary pushed me outside of that comfort level and we threw some races on the schedule. In the span of 4 weeks I was going to race 3 times: two 70.3s and a half marathon.

Going into race #1 (Rev3 Dells) I was confident. I was coming off of a 1,200 mile bike month. My legs were strong and I knew it. With a mini taper I was able to throw down the much aspired for PR of 4:59, finally breaking through that 5 hour barrier. Doing so on a hard course was icing on the cake.

Race #2 (Rev3 Maine) was another story. Another mini taper, but with a long week of training in between the races, going into the race my head wasn’t 100% there. I knew I had plenty of excuses that would make sense to explain how I was slower on an easier course this time around. There was a moment on the bike when I had to make the decision: let it hurt, or give up. Honestly, in this race, having to face Hillary and tell her “it hurt too bad to ride faster” was reason enough for me to suck it up. Why? Because I am coached by a woman who is about to take on an Ironman….one week after she just did one. And you better believe it’s going to hurt. And you better believe she’s not going to complain. My coach sets the standard that I hope to match, and in Maine on that day, I needed that. Eventually I found my rhythm, pulled through the low, and was able to execute on the run. Another PR, 7 minutes faster.

Race #3 (Hidden Treasure Half) I was battling the excuses all week, yet again. Having warned me that “we won’t be going into this race rested” I was nervous. I know how much it hurts to have to run hard when you don’t have the legs. That’s part of the reason I shy away from road racing – the trails are always so much more forgiving on your slow days. I couldn’t help but remember when I attempted a similar situation with a half marathon following a big week last year and ran a 1:48, suffering most of the way. But I headed down to the eastern shore for the Hidden Treasure Half Marathon, inspired by the promise that it would be a smaller venue so if it went poorly I could suffer (mostly) alone, and also by the potential of earning some money if it did go well.  As I warmed up, my legs felt okay. Not great, but definitely not terrible. I looked around at the start and chatted with another girl who was bold enough to be standing on the front line.  She also had twelve pack abs. She looked legit, to say the least. We talked about pace and it sounded like we could run together for a bit. As girls like to do though, she completely undersold herself, and that “bit” ended up only being a mile.

Starting out with her I saw 6:30s on the watch and thought it was in my best interest to slow down early. While I had the sub-1:30 barrier in mind, there was no point in getting greedy here. So I let the couple people I was running with inch away, and attempted to settle in. Around mile 3, the good legs started to disappear, and the legs that had been training hard all week were found. As I assessed how I was feeling overall, the only real observation I could make was that it was the type of day where it was all or nothing – I would stick to the pace, or I would be running 8+’s all the way in. There wasn’t going to be a happy medium here.

In that moment, I made the decision to let it hurt. And this week it wasn’t because I was afraid of having to face Hillary – in fact, I think that in this instance we could have accepted a tough day and chalked up to fatigue. It was for no other reason than I wanted it. Really, really badly. My mind wandered to a quote that has been my inspiration throughout this training block. I found this print back in July, and it has stuck with me:

There would be no more waiting for things to happen. It was time for me to capitalize on the work I had done, take advantage of my hard work. I had the hunger, and I was bound and determined to find out if I had the fitness.

The Hidden Treasure course is pretty technical as running races go. It weaves in and out of neighborhood streets, down through little pedestrian tunnels, etc. We were fortunate to have a cooler day, though the sun was shining brightly making it feel a little hotter than it should have. I guess that’s what happens with a 9am start. My mind was complete mush and doing the math to figure out if I was going to be near the goal time was impossible. All I could remember was that back in March when I raced a half, I was trying to keep 6:50s. So I paid no attention to any number on the watch other than trying to keep the pace as close to that as I could. There were some spectators out in the last mile and they reported to me that I was close, and that’s when I started to feel like I was actually going to make it through this effort alive. The finish of the race is pretty neat as they have you actually enter the civic center for the finishing chute. I took two steps in and looked up at the clock and saw a 1:28. That number was enough to nearly make me stop dead in my tracks. I crossed the line in 1:28:49, ninety seconds faster than the half I ran last March, and knocking the 1:30 mark out of the water. And, it earned me a nice little payday!

The past 8 weeks of training has pushed me out of my comfort zone more than ever before. Starting with bike camp, I was able to do more than I ever thought possible, both in training and in racing. I still have some hay to put in the barn before Kona, but I know what I can do now. And with that comes a sense of peace, rather than a sense of nervousness or the unknown. Having the patience to carry out a training plan day-in and day-out for the past 18 months has gotten me to this point. I have a long way to go, but my mind is clear, and I am ready.

Guest Post: How to Build a Carbonator!

You asked, and here you go 🙂 Carly was kind enough to write up details on how she built our awesome carbonation system.  I have to say, since it’s inception not a day goes by where we haven’t been carbonating!!

Okay, so full disclosure, I didn’t come up with this all on my own.  I got my instructions from this website.

 
It’s SUPER sciencey, but for nerds it’s a fun read about how it works and the chemistry/physics behind carbonating.
 
My “simple” version…
 
MATERIALS:
1 – CO2 tank – 5lb is plenty big, ours is a 20lb, but mainly because that’s what I could find on Craigslist for cheap. This is the most difficult thing to find without spending a lot of money.  You can buy them new online or in a beverage store, but they’re pricey (~$100).  Also, like propane, most places you swap out your tank, so its sad to trade-in a nice shiny, new tank for an old clunker.  I’d suggest keeping an eye on craigslist.  I paid $35 for mine empty, and a fill was $23 (at Robert’s Oxygen) and should last for quite some time.
 
1 – dual gauge regulator (The only other pricey gadget you need ~$45).  I have this one and it works great!  http://www.amazon.com/Premium-Series-Gauge-Draft-Regulator
 
1 – piece of 6ft of vinyl tubing (non-braided as a safety against over-pressurizing) – I got mine at Ace Hardware.  For that regulator you want one with an internal diameter of 1/2″, external of 5/8″.  Costs a few dollars – $3-4 maybe.
 
1 roll of plumbing tape (PTFE tape) – Also Ace Hardware.  $2
 
2 hose clamps – Ace Hardware $3
1 tire valve with the stem removed (you can use needlenose pliers to just twist it out).  I bought the clamp in kind to be sure I can get a tight seal on the cap.  You can find these at an auto parts store, and they should be less than $5.  They make a “snap-in” kind that should work as well, but I’ve never tried it.  Make sure the cap has that little plastic washer underneath it.  Pepsi bottles still have it.  Drill a hole in the cap and put the valve up through the cap.  Tighten it down and connect to the hose.
 
You then just connect all the parts!  Tank to Regulator.  Regulator to Hose.  Hose to valve.  Clamp the hose on both ends.  I wrapped all the connections in the PTFE tape to be sure it was sealed.  Also, the regulator needs to have a washer between the regulator and the opening of the CO2 tank, otherwise you’ll get a leak – There should be a washer attached to your tank when you get it filled, but if not, you can find one at a hardware store.
 
To carbonate, take a regular soda or seltzer bottle filled with cool water, squeeze out the air, attach it, turn on the gas and shake.  I set my regulator to 45psi to get nice bubbles.  You can freeze a little water in the bottoms of the bottles to chill the water better.  The colder your liquid, the better carbonation.  

Happy carbonating everyone! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, and Carly will help you out!

No Maine, No Gain: A Rev3 Race Report

Only a week behind things here, so that’s not too bad! I wanted to make sure I had time to properly give this trip all the credit it deserves. If I had to pick the next “up and coming” Rev3 event, I would say that Maine will be following closely in Quassy’s footsteps! Not that the other events aren’t great – but this one really has it all.

I was able to fly into Portland, Maine on Friday night, catching a late flight after work. This meant that I was driving to Kennebunkport in the darkness of the night to find my homestay. Yep – that’s right, my teammate Jen hooked it up for me and I was doing my first homestay! Despite the late arrival, everything went off perfectly and I found myself fast asleep in a top bunk in the quiet town of Kennebunkport shortly after midnight. The next morning I got up and properly introduced myself to my host for the weekend, Nick. He offered to take me on a tour of the town, so we hopped onto bikes and pedaled the half a mile into town for breakfast at the Wayferer. It was like going back in time, and I loved getting to meet the locals. Everyone was so welcoming, and so excited to be having the race coming nearby. After eating we pedaled out to the pier and I was able to take in the sights of the quiet New England town. We even ran into some real Maine lobsterman! I have to say, I was already sold on the concept of a homestay at this point – it was a much more enjoyable way to see the area, rather than sitting in a small hotel room by myself!

Then it was time to get all of my pre-race stuff out of the way: building my bike, heading to Old Orchard Beach to pick up my packet, and do some easy pre-race shakeouts. As usual the Rev3 fam was around every bend and it was so nice to have so many familiar (and friendly!) faces. After this it was time for some relaxation before heading into Portland for dinner with the team. I realized how exhausted I was though when I was fast asleep in my top bunk again by 9:30! This was advantageous for me though – with a 6:32 start time the wakeup call comes at 4:00, so getting to bed as early as possible was only a good thing.

Getting to the race was pretty flawless the next morning. I arrived around 5:10 and was able to park in the library right next to the transition (totally work $10 if you ask me). I set up my transition stuff – I was actually racked next to some Baltimore Team Fight friends, Alan and Rachel, so that made transition more fun than usual, and headed down to the ocean for the start. I did learn one lesson here though  – totally makes sense to put on your wetsuit before you’re walking in/standing on the sand. I waited, which meant I was putting sandy feet and legs into the wetsuit – not so comfortable! I was just going to have to live with it though. We had a beach start and it was super fun getting to run in and dive through the breakers. I felt good the entire swim, though was out there for a little longer than I would have liked 🙂 Oh well. T1 here is a long run up from the ocean, so I got my bearings and it was actually pretty fun to be running through a crowd the whole way up to the bikes.

As I started riding I began to get a sense of how my legs were feeling. Only two weeks after a big effort at the Dells – with a 20+ hour training week in between – this was going to be foreign territory for me. And after a few miles I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy day. No matter what gear I was pushing, or my cadence, my quads were feeling the burn. The good thing at least was that lightly spinning wasn’t even much better, so that was motivation to at least keep pushing. If it’s gonna hurt, I’m going to make it count for something! You may have heard that this bike course is flat, but let me tell you that it is “flat” in Rev3 terms. There are no monster climbs, but you have a fair share of rollers and a few that suck the momentum right out of you. I was passed by a couple women so I did my best to keep them in eyesight. I was conscious to walk the red line with my legs though, never quite getting past it. I wanted to be able to have a solid run and that wasn’t going to be possible if I wasn’t conserving the tank of gas I had in me. When you’re only running with half a tank anyway, it means having to stay very in tune with how your legs are feeling. The bike course was beautiful though, and before I knew it I was coming in towards transition.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the run given the state my legs were in, but I was going to give it a shot. And, while my legs were definitely tired, running actually felt much better than riding did. I think I was able to use less power from my quads which were feeling the brunt of the fatigue. I began clipping off the miles, and that’s easy to do when a large portion of the run is on the Eastern Trail. While it’s a little rocky (I wouldn’t run on flats here), it is shaded and absolutely gorgeous…..and flat. There were a couple hills in the neighborhood beforehand, but once you’re on the trail you can cruise your way along. At the out and back  I was able to check out where I was in the rankings, and I saw 3 women ahead by about 3/4s of a mile. Grr. But, the best thing about 4th is that you’re not stuck running scared, you having nothing to lose. After about 10k I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I did everything I could to stay focused, keep my cadence up, and keep my mile splits down. I knew I was tired becuse every quarter mile I was adjusting my shorts and tri top – rolled up, rolled down, zipped up, zipped down – all that fidgeting is a sure sign I’m not comfortable. As I hit the neighborhoods for the last couple miles, I caught sight of one of the women ahead of me…..and I caught sight of an “R” on her leg! Ah ha! She was a relay. Well, maybe I am running scared then! Luckily there wasn’t too much further to go, and I came through the finish with a new PR of 4:52.

Afterwards it was all smiles as I learned that I lobster bake actually means you get LOBSTERS to eat! (I thought it meant lobster was baked into something….like a casserole…I don’t know…it made sense at the time.)

I enjoyed hanging out at the race and getting to see all of the finishers come through. In the afternoon it was time to head back to Kennebunkport, pack my bike, and then I had the opportunity to get to know even more of the locals at the Kennebunkport Tri Club end of season party. Again, everyone was just so inviting and friendly, they proved that they are a wonderful group of people and I hope that they continue to support and race Rev3 events!

Unfortunately it was another 4am wake up on Monday morning to get me home for work, but any of the fatigue I felt on Monday was totally worth it. I loved getting to see Maine, and I have a feeling that I will be back next year!

As always, thanks to all of the Team Rev3 sponsors for getting me to a 7 minute PR! Fueled by Powerbar, kept chafe-free by Trislide, looking cute in Pearl Izumi tri kit, leak-free goggles from Blue Seventy, no blisters with Swiftwick, and of course a post-race recovery sesh with NormaTec. It really does take a village!

 

‘Tis the Season

So, it’s that time. Early bird pricing for 2013 races are happening – if not already over (which reminds me – have you signed up for Rev3 Knoxville/Quassy/Williamsburg yet??) Those of us with fall races on the horizon  are entering our big pushes in the last of the training blocks, trying to maintain focus on these races while simultaneously planning for next season. It was also around this time 2 years ago where I finished my second iron distance race, and I knew something had to change if I ever wanted to go further in this sport. Flying home from Madison in 2010, I had some time to think. I knew in my heart that I was good. Or rather, I was arrogant enough to believe that I was good even if I didn’t have the results to back it up. But, I also had the realization to know that I couldn’t take myself to the next level on my own. When I got home that week I e-mailed Hillary Biscay.

Looking back, I am so glad that I took the leap of faith and, after talking to her more throughout the weeks, committed to being one of her athletes for the upcoming year. I am writing this blog now because I believe that there could be some people out there reading this who have had that lingering thought in their mind that they should get/want/need/would like to have a coach. For me, that thought was there for about 2 years before I actually acted on it. Back in 2008 I had graduated college and moved to Baltimore, with my first IM on the horizon. I had a couple of friends who pointed me in the right direction and I reached out to handful of coaches. For a few reasons, I never followed through. The financial commitment, not really feeling a connection with the coach, or whatever it was, I decided I could do it on my own.

And then there I was in 2010, still stuck at square one. Two years later though, I’m happy to report that I am leaps and bounds from square one.

Since I am a huge advocate of getting a coach, here are my tidbits of advice for those who are in the market:

Do your research. There are plenty of (current and former) pros and elite age groupers out there who are coaching. Follow them. Go back to as far as you can see results for them and see how they’ve progressed. Find out who coaches them. Find out who they train with. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? When you approach a potential coach, you should know as much about their background as you do your own.

Have your crap together. Don’t just shoot an email and say you’re thinking about getting a coach. Guess what – many of them probably get multiple of those e-mails a week! As much as you should be thinking about if they would be a good fit for you, you also need to make sure you are selling yourself to them. Triathlon is about to become a second job, treat it as such! I have a running/triathlon resume that I keep more up to date than my corporate one. Send that with your inquiry. Make sure they know that you are serious.

Don’t just jump at the first person you can afford, or who is accepting athletes. While Hillary is the best coach for me right now, it doesn’t mean she’s the best for everyone. And it doesn’t mean that she would have been the best for me 2 years ago, or will be in 5 more years. We don’t know that. The important thing is finding a coach for where you are right now. It should be a process, complete with interviews and conversations. Ask them questions, and they should be asking you questions. I went back and forth via e-mail with Hillary several times, and met her in person for coffee. This took months! Be patient, but more importantly – give yourself time to be patient! Start the conversations now if you want a coach for next season. Be honest with them about your expectations, and make sure that you completely understand what they’d expect from you.

Once you have found a coach, go all in. Commit yourself to their plan, and don’t question it. Give honest feedback, but give them all of your trust. Don’t expect results in days, or weeks. Evaluate progress in months and years. If you work hard, you will earn their respect, and you will also earn the respect of everyone else around you who is watching. Enjoy the process, and focus on that – results will come in time.

When you suddenly decide to commit yourself to this sport, it is going to change things, and people will take notice. Suddenly you won’t be going to all the happy hours you’re invited you. You will show up late to parties with wet hair and goggle marks. Your tan lines will never match the bridesmaids dress, ever. All of these things will happen because training will be your priority. And, while many may never say it, people will admire and respect your dedication to your goals. One of the most poignant moments where I realized this was last winter.  After about a year of working with Hillary, the company I was working for began layoffs. Ten percent of the company was gone in a month. As we all know, having a coach is a huge financial commitment, and it was one that I am lucky I afford. But, if I lost the job, I wasn’t sure I could keep being coached. One night I was talking this through with a friend, explaining how nervous I was now everyday going in to work, and how afraid I was of having to sacrifice something that I love and that has made me who I am. This was a friend who knew nothing about triathlon, but always would listen patiently when I talked about my races, and would politely ask how they went after I raced. This was a friend who, prior to working with Hillary, I hung out with about once a week. That dropped to about once a month – even every other month – when I put triathlon at the top of my priorities. After listening to my concerns, my friend looked at me and said “you know what – if you lose your job, I’ll pay for your coach in the meantime. You can pay me back eventually. But this means a lot to you and I believe in you, so don’t worry about that.” I will always remember this gesture by my friend and it was in that moment it became clear that while it is easy to think of pursuing this sport as the most selfish endeavor in the world – you have to think beyond that. My friend didn’t care that I rarely saw them, or that I was usually in bed before they even went out for the night. They cared about seeing me be happy and pursuing my goals. This also goes hand in hand with building a tribe of people of who support you and can be positive influences while you train. You don’t need a huge tribe, but at more than one time has the phrase “it takes a village” come to mind when I reflect on my training.

 How do you prepare for the realities and the unknown? Hopefully you have a mentor, a Bowerman who pushes you at that critical time. A time when someone has a belief in your future more than you do.

-Geoff Hollister, Out of Nowhere

I can’t say enough how happy I am that I finally made the decision to commit to this sport, and step one of that was getting a coach. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to me!

QOTD

Swimming, more than any other sport, requires a massive training load and consistency to truly evolve into a solid performer. There is no easy way.

– Matt Dixon

If you’re looking for some Friday reading, check out this one by Matt Dixon on Sarah Piampiano’s journey from amateur to professional triathlete. Good stuff!

Carol of the Dells: Christmas in August (A Rev3 Race Report)

There was no snow on the ground or cookies in the oven, but coming home from Wisconsin this weekend, I had a lot of the same post-Christmas feelings that I do in December. There were a lot of good things waiting under the tree for me on race day, and we’ll get to that, but first I’ll go through the usual routine. You know how your dad always makes you wait at the top of the steps before coming down and seeing the presents? Well, sit down on the top step my friends. Because I have to go get out the video camera, charge it up, and ask you the obligatory “what day is today?” before you’re going to get to the good parts!

Prior to CDA, I had a completely different race lineup for pre-Kona. I planned on maybe a local race in August, Cedar Point (half), then Kona. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling racing a lot, and just wanted to do a big training block with Cedar Point thrown in to get the lead out. After CDA, Coach and I chatted and we switched it up. The plan became “Bike Camp” through the Dells, a quick turnaround before racing again at Rev3 Maine, and then play September by ear. After all the hours of bike camp and a fairly stressful July, the Dells became the light at the end of my tunnel. I put my head down and was grinding away, and before I knew it I had my 3 day (gee, 3 whole days, I am lucky! 🙂 ) taper starting and I was boxing up my bike.

As usual, traveling was no cut and dry ordeal, and I owe a huge thank you to Erin for helping make this trip happen! Erin was doing a 200k organized ride Saturday – but she gave up her Friday evening to pick me up from the airport, help me build my bike, then make the late night drive to Madison where she organized a stay for us at a friend’s house. And then after getting up a 4am and riding 200k through hilly Wisconsin, she came out to the Dells to offer race support and drive me back to Milwaukee…..and then got up early on Monday to take me to the airport. Cannot thank this girl enough!

Erin left early on Saturday morning, but I was able to relax a little bit in Madison which I was really excited about. I slept in a bit, went for a quick spin around Lake Wingra, got some spicy cheese bread at the Farmers Market, and even got in a short jog. I really love Madison and if it weren’t for the harsh winters I think I’d be sold on living there! But it was fun to be back after 2 years away, and hopefully I can make this a yearly trip! Then Erin’s friend Patrick swung through Madison to scoop me and my bike up, and we headed out to the Dells….aka the Midwest Jersey Shore! This town was hopping all weekend, and when it was dinner time we managed to find a quieter Italian restaurant with Maggie.

Sunday morning came and was chilly for those of us living on the east coast these days. But once I put the wetsuit on I was able to stay warm. The swim venue at this race is really neat – you swim from where the Tommy Bartlett water show is. You don’t have to know who TB is – you just have to know that he has a huge amphitheater right on the lake. This made it super spectator friendly, and gave plenty of seating for those of us competing to not be on our legs before the swim. It was a TT start, 2 at a time, and my age group was in the back. By the time I started there were plenty of people in the water and I did my best to just reel in everyone I could one by one. The water could not have been more calm which was a nice treat after the choppy water I had at last week’s OWS (Christmas in August present #1)! On one hand, I felt like I was flying in the smooth water, but on the other hand it did start to feeling like I was flying for many minutes, and I wasn’t too shocked to see 32 on the watch when I came out. But after running into transition, I didn’t see more than a few bikes gone, so I knew that placement wise I was right where I wanted to be.

Knowing that there were a few bikes gone was just the motivation I needed on the bike. Well, that, and the bajillon hours of bike camp I wanted to make good use of 🙂 But seriously, if nothing else the one thing bike camp gave me was confidence. I knew nothing about the course previously. In retrospect, I had plenty of opportunities where people offered to give me details, but my busyness/laziness factor took over and I ended up blindly going in knowing nothing other than people saying it was hilly. Having done IM Wisconsin, and the rides I do at home, I knew hilly was relative. All in all, I would put this course somewhere in between Quassy and Knoxville, more skewed towards Quassy. There were 3 killer climbs, but I did find that there were some open road sections to really hammer as well. We had favorable conditions with it staying cool and cloudy, and the wind wasn’t a factor (Christmas in August present #2). And it was a HUGE boost that Erin made the effort to make it out to 2 places on the course. So awesome! As I was riding out the final few miles I knew I had passed a couple women but wasn’t entirely sure where I stood given the TT start. I decided to swap to my Garmin for the run. As I put my original watch down, I saw that I had to run about a 1:35 to have any prayer of getting under 5 hours.

By the time my Garmin picked up satellites, I was about 1.5 miles in, so I literally had no idea of my cumulative time on the run. But, I knew a pace for a 1:35 was 7-lows, so that was where I was going to try to stay. The run course was a little tight at times, but I really liked the part through the downtown area of the Dells. The backed up traffic offered some cheers from the cars, and some people pumped the jams as I ran by which, coupled with those people out on the streets, was a great boost. You also run right by the upsidedown house, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

My legs felt good…..really good (Christmas in August present #3). I stayed within myself through the whole run, keeping it dialed back until I knew that it was time to let it hurt. With 5 miles to go I opened up and emptied the tank. The final couple hills were tough, but this was definitely a race where I was able to stay in control. Haley has mentioned before that she talks to herself when things get a little rough, and I used that here as well. When I’d start up a hill I’d begin repeating to myself “you are stronger than this hill” over and over and over. And before I knew it, I was at the top. I also *never* look at my Garmin on an uphill. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m slowing down when I run uphill! It also helped that once again Erin was popping out at random places on the run, keeping me guessing where she’d be! As I ran through the finishing chute, Laura and Eric (two of my favorites from the Rev3 fam) were there to give me high fives, and the burning in my legs let me know I had run a great race.

The only question that remained was my time. As I was catching up with Tara and Kurt afterwards, Kurt pulled the results up on his phone and let me know that I did in fact get the sub-5 time, with a 4:59:27. This is a 6 minute PR for me, but more than that I finally broke that 5 hour barrier – and on a tough course (Christmas in August present #4)! I’d say this bodes well for the things to come. All too soon the fun was over…..but, just like Christmas when you have New Years to look forward to – I have Rev3 Maine in 2 weeks! Bring it on 🙂