IM Louisville in video and pictures…

I used a lot of words to describe IM Louisville in my last post. Now I’ll use some videos and pictures:
Compression socks and Noosas - I'm officially a tri nerd.
 
 
Definitely not a photoshopped pic of Hillary and me. Nope, not one bit.
 
Hillary and Maik kept watch over my hotel room before the race 🙂

I handle pre-race nerves fairly well. That being said, the morning of the race I am pretty high strung and set on doing things my way. This often means talking as little as possible to others, demonstrated by this video taken by my dad the morning of the race.  I was not a happy camper as the only words out of my mouth are “please don’t film me” (see below). Now it’s good for a laugh though.

Umm I hope you got your tickets for the gun show.
 
Aww, we're on a date. Also known as the worst date ever. Haha 🙂
Stopping to play in my Oiselle Roga shorts at the WVU track on the way home!
 

Two out of three: IM Louisville

I have now had plenty of time to think through what I wanted to say with my IM Louisville race report, and how to say it. But, writer’s block prevails and I am still somewhat at a loss for words. But if I let any more days pass I won’t write anything at all, and that doesn’t quite seem fair to everyone who has given me support as this goal approached. So, I’ll start this story at the end.

On Monday I sat at the awards banquet at the convention center. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I’d be sitting at a table with not only Ryan and Mike, but also Hillary Biscay and Amanda Balding. These two women proved to me this weekend that if you don’t keep your heart, you can’t play in this sport. I don’t think that either of them would mind me pointing out that they have had some great successes in triathlon, but also have had their share of rough times. They are two women who have seen and experienced so much happen in the years that they have been racing for their goals, that all it took was to look them in the eyes after my finish for them to know how I was feeling without words.

But before I get to my finish, I should probably tell some more about my race. Ryan and I drove out to Louisville from Baltimore on Thursday. The 10 hour drive was actually really easy. The first few hours were spent in a downpour, but after lunch in Charleston, WV and a quick detour in Lexington, KY, we were shocked to find ourselves already in Louisville. I still had a shakeout run to do so Ryan ran with me and we went to check out transition and the river. Everything looked exactly as I remembered 2 years ago, and I was excited to be back. Mike’s plane came in with only a small delay and we were all tucked in Thursday night far and away from the wrath of Hurricane Irene our friends and family on the east coast would be experiencing shortly.

Friday and Saturday were a bit of a blur but I’ll give things in no particular order:

-Lunch with Hillary!

Note: I wore those sunglasses in most spare minutes leading up to the race as on Wednesday I came down with an eye infection. No, I couldn’t just get a stye like most people who get eye infections would and that seems fairly gross but also fairly normal. Instead, I ended up with Blepharitis. Like, seriously?? That sounds like some sort of disease that geese would get in their webbed feet or something. But apparently it is an eye infection that I managed to get in the days leading up to the race.

-Drove the bike course. Here we found out that despite Mike’s age he is actually quite similar to a small child in that if you put him in the back seat of a car and drive around he will fall asleep within minutes. Psyche, we kept him awake for most of the ride at least. But anyway despite the fact I had raced here before, I managed to remember about 2.5% of the bike ride. That percentage would be summed up in me saying “umm….there are flat miles at the beginning and end.” Doing this was a great idea for those who can’t train on an IM course, and definitely was a good refresher for the ride to come.

-My dad came in town! He had so much fun watching me 2 years ago that he was coming back out to offer familial support again this year. It’s always great to have anyone out on the course and he would be there to cheer all of us on which was cool.

-Went to the 4th Street CVS about 55 times. Not only did I need plenty of Gatorade and snacks, but unfortunately my Blepharitis paled in comparison to the sinus infection that Ryan came down with. On Friday he started feeling crappy and by Saturday it was a full blown infection to the max. We tried everything possible from Claritin to Netti Potting to Saline sprays to Dayquil and only got minimal results. His ability to even start the race was in question, but come race morning he bit the bullet and tried to give it a go.

Before I knew it though the fun was over and race morning arrived. Luckily this year I didn’t enter transition that morning to find a flat tire, so I was somewhat relieved already. We got over to the swim start around 6am and quickly realized that it was probably a little later than we would have liked to have arrived. Now, again, my memory is terrible but I know two years ago I got there around the same time (actually probably later because of my bike issues) and didn’t have to wait in that long a line. That leads me to one conclusion: I must have unknowingly cut in line. Sorry to anyone I cut off in 2009! Alas, we took our spots at the end of the line and waited and waited. The pros went off at 6:50, 10 minutes later the age groupers started hopping in and the line began to move. When we finally hit the pier the line stopped again. We heard murmurs that they were pulling someone out of the water, and sadly they were true. We had really no choice but to watch a man who had suffered a heart attack be wheeled by us on a stretcher. Needless to say, it didn’t look good, and I am sad to say that it was confirmed he passed away. Not quite the way you want to get pumped up for your own day, but the race must go on and they started sending us in again. My goal for the swim was really just to swim faster than the painstaking 1:24 I managed in 2009. All I wanted was to prove to myself that I could swim a non-wetsuit race and swim it quickly. The TT start helps the nerves and I was able to get into my own rhythm early on. It felt like it went on forever and ever, but at one point I caught sight of Ryan passing me which buoyed my confidence a little. Despite the fact he basically flew by me (swimming a super fast sub-60 time!!) I knew that I couldn’t lose too much time given what was left. As I came out of the water and saw 1:05 on my watched I tapped it a couple times to make sure it was still ticking, I almost couldn’t believe it! I jogged through T2 still flying high on that swim time and hopped onto the bike. Ahh, time to relax. A little.

There really isn’t too much to say about the 5 hours and 42 minutes I spent on the bike other than there was a lot of pedaling, and a lot of GUs. The quasi advantage of starting so late was that there was a seemingly endless stream of riders to pinpoint and catch which makes the ride go quickly. Despite having stayed super on top of getting all my calories and hydration, in the second half of the bike my stomach started to feel a bit questionable. Not even like sick from racing, just sick. It became increasingly more noticeable until the final 12 miles where I actually started throwing up whenever I was taking water or food, and I would just swallow it down. Gross, I know, but I was trying my best to keep all the calories in me. As I hopped off the bike it just wasn’t enough and I threw up as I left T2. I tried to just put it in the back of my mind, but something else wasn’t right: I couldn’t run. This is honestly something I have never experienced before to this degree. I would say that both marathons in previous ironmans were tough. But never, in any race of any distance, have I hopped off the bike to find that I couldn’t even run the entire first mile.

In an attempt to stay calm I did some troubleshooting. Would GU stay down? Nope. The Perform drink? Nope. Grapes? Nope. I did my best to stay positive and be patient and just wait for my legs to come back. I wish I could say that I had even one good mile, but that wasn’t the case. In the times when I wasn’t fighting to keep it from coming out my mouth, I was trying to hurry up and get to a porta potty. This went on for 8 miles until I finally saw Ryan as he was running the other direction. Unfortunately, he was having a similar fate on the run. I hit the turnaround and finally Hillary caught me. I had been sitting for a couple minutes so I managed to gather energy to run about 25 meters with her into the aid station. She had positive words for me and I felt terrible she was seeing my demise while trying to race her race, so I did give her word of my great swim and bike at least! “Just finish the race” she told me. Wait, what??? You want me to finish the next 15 miles on an empty stomach – walking???? Absolutely she said. Just finish.

I would be lying if I said I immediately recognized the lesson and value in what she was saying. I still am somewhat sheltered by my ultra mentality – you can’t tell someone to keep going in an ultra when they aren’t eating and keeping anything in. But, this is an Ironman. We have porta pottys a plenty. It is pretty safe to say that if ever you need to rent a porta potty louisville is the place to be. We even have water and food every mile. You’re not being sent into the depths of the wilderness alone. And, more importantly, I was having a bad day, but I was still in control of my mind and body (for the most part). In plain words, I was fine. I just wasn’t going to run very fast.

I had a bit of a breakdown when I saw Ryan waiting for me just before the turnaround. I’m not sure if it was just the outpouring of emotion from the amazing race I felt I had let POOF vanish, or just the fact that I realized there was no one else in the world I’d want to suffer through this with. He asked what I wanted to do and I said that Hillary told me I had to finish. So he nodded and said he doesn’t sign up for these races to not finish either, so we’d do it together. And that we did. It was far from pretty but we made quite a team, and we crossed the line in about 12 hours and 15 minutes. I hope, for both of our sake, that is the only time we ever cross a finish line together at a race.

We gathered ourselves and made it to the restaurant where Mike (who had an amazing race – 9:49 in his second IM!! At least one of us was able to get it done that day), Hillary and Amanda were waiting. This is where I got my hugs and was able to decompress. I felt like I had let the world down and I was just plain embarrassed. I had come off the bike in 3rd place in my AG and just felt like I had let it all go. I also couldn’t explain it and had very little to offer other than I just got plain sick and couldn’t run. It wasn’t like I could point to something tangible and say this is what I’ll do different, this is how I’ll change things. And without that tangible thing, there is always going to be a thought lingering, a worry that I will have to fight, that maybe I’m just not cut out to have the race I want to have.

But, for now, I will continue to lace up my sneakers for my runs, and I’ll continue to get in the pool. I’ll continue to ride my legs off because I am damn proud of that bike split – the 28th fastest time of the day for women! The great thing about this sport is that the training – where you spend 99% of your hours – may be more relentless but it is also more forgiving. Because when you have a bad day no one has to notice. When you don’t hit your intervals you can walk it in, knowing the only price you have to pay is that next week you’ll have to find a new way to try to make it through. Second chances come along constantly in training. Second chances in racing don’t. But if I didn’t race, and I didn’t go all-in when I race, then I wouldn’t be myself. I won’t ever look back and say “maybe I could have biked a 5:55 and done some more damage control to get through the run at least at a jog.” It’s just not me. And so it is okay with me if it is simply going to take some more time to have the race where it all comes together.

In the span of an hour I came across two things that gave me confidence that time and patience is all I’m really in need of. One is Jordan Rapp’s speech he gave after winning IM Canada. As if being a rockstar and super smart human being wasn’t enough, he also has a way with words that can really comfort and inspire . The second, a bit sillier, carries the same message. It’s a cartoon tweeted by @KHESSER (who I raced against last year in Wisconsin and will be racing with at IMAZ coincidentally enough), and the message is simple: sometimes quality takes time.

I didn’t start working with Hillary expecting her to be a miracle worker, although I have to say that 1:05 swim for me is nothing short of an IM miracle! She’s started me on a process and a journey and on Sunday I realized that the best thing I can do is to take this in and learn from it what I can, and use it to better me for races to come. I have a support system that is unmatched and I am confident that in a couple months I will be ready for battle once again 🙂

QOTD

“[…] There is a great amount of faith required that the work you have done will be good enough on race day. I remember before the 2008 Olympics, training with Simon, I wondered, “how do we know if he’s ready to win a medal?” I think I realize now that we didn’t know. We just knew that we had done our best to do the best job we could and that the answer to whether that was enough would be answered on race day. […]”

-A comment made by Jordan Rapp on Paulo Sousa’s blog post “The Song of the Sirens

Saddle up: My ISM Adamo Review

I’m not one for product reviews but I am compelled to throw in my two cents about this one. About a month ago I saw that my training schedule called for several long days in the saddle. I knew I could handle them, but I also felt that it was time to try to make a change to make my chamois time a little more comfortable. That meant changing up my saddle. This was a hard thing for me to finally take the plunge with, mostly because I just believe that 6-7 hours is going to hurt no matter how you slice it. Even sitting on a couch starts to be uncomfortable after 7 hours!

I looked around a lot and after doing some research I thought that the ISM Adamo Saddle looked the most appealing to me. The shape simply looked like it would take a lot of the pressure out of the area where I generally found myself shifting around to get – and keep – comfortable. I read a lot of reviews and most people seemed to love it. So I turned to E-Bay (note – also a great place to find new and cheap cycling jerseys!) and found an online retailer that was selling the saddle for a good price. The saddle arrived in a few days, just in time for a trainer sesh. I put it on and adjusted it and on the trainer everything felt great. I wasn’t 100% sold on it yet, but the comfort factor was definitely there.

Saturday came before I knew it and I didn’t get a chance to get outside with the saddle before my long ride. Oh well, I thought – no better way than to break in a new saddle than 100 miles, right? If I could go back in time to that moment, I would, and I would slap myself. What was I thinking?!?! The ride that day first involved me riding about 8 miles up to meet the rest of the group. When I got there, OJ looked at my saddle and was like “whoa, that’s a really steep saddle angle, is that comfortable?” immediately I got defensive, but I also got the idea in my head that it wasn’t comfortable.

Great.

I spent the next 20 miles feeling like I was falling forward off my bike. How I didn’t notice this before I have no clue. Luckily a water stop was ahead and I had my allen wrench in hand for this very issue. Now I was on edge though and nervous that riding on the saddle was a huge mistake, so any help offered by the boys was not well received. I changed what I thought needed changing and got back on the bike. I made it about 5 miles this time before asking for another stop to readjust. Luckily the guys were being patient and didn’t mind the pit stop. Finally I did essentially what they had been telling me from the start, and got back on the bike. Ah, this works.

I have now ridden about 500 miles in the saddle. I’m extremely happy with my decision to go with ISM, but as you can tell it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Here are my words of advice for this saddle:

-Do some short rides outside with it before planning anything long. The fit of this is unique and takes some getting used to which is probably best achieved through a few small adjustments.

-Don’t throw out the chamois butter just because you got an ISM saddle. While this saddle does appear to reduce the occurence of my saddle sores, they are most definitely still there. I have found though with plenty of chamois butter and this saddle combined, my SS are much better.

-It’s going to get worse before it gets better. My sit bones took some getting used to with this saddle, and it wasn’t until I bruised them and let them heal that I can sit completely pain free. Was it worth it? yes. But it’s a process!

Girl Power

I was going to do a QOTD for some inspiration prior to the weekend, but when I got to searching I decided to post on something that is way more than just a quote. On July 31, Jennifer Pharr Davis broke the record for the best time traveling the length of the Appalachian Trail. Jennifer’s time of 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes bests any other time set by a male or female, by over a day. She averaged just about 47 miles a day.

47 miles.

A day.

For 46 days.

I consider myself an endurance athlete. Part of that is that I thrive on consistency, on the tough days, on days when all I can do is shake my head and look at the (now faded) reminder I wrote to myself on my bathroom mirror to “Get Tough.” I need long days of hard efforts to break me down and build me back up. To get me ready for the races that will require more time than a day of “regular” work for me. But that consistency is something I still struggle with. It’s a funny thing. On one hand, I like hard day after hard day, because I get into a routine and I just….do. Not much thinking, just doing. On the other hand though, day after day builds up until eventually it overflows. The overflow may come in the form of a negative attitude. It may come out as being stressed about what I’m going to wear that day. It may come out in tears because I am stuck in traffic (crazy, right?!).

I can only relate to the most minor of the struggles that Jennifer had to endure to complete this, and I can honestly say I am in complete awe of her.  The Appalachian Trail is a beautiful and breaktaking place. My self-proclaimed favorite spot in the world can be found on that trail. But even then, 46 days of attacking the trail to get as far as you can within each hour, just seems unfathomable.

I hope to find within myself some of the strength that Jennifer has as I continue to pursue my own AT this year – the ironman 🙂

You can read about Jennifer’s record breaking run on her blog here. The entries were documented by her husband, Brew, and are really thorough and a fantastic look into the highs and lows of such a feat. I would recommend finding time to sit down and start at the beginning – you won’t regret it!

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

-John Muir

When the going gets tough….

The tough stop blogging 🙁 I do apologize for my lack of blogging as of late – but I hope you understand that my peak training weeks + the murphy’s law of work being busy these weeks + attempting to maintain some sort of sanity leaves me far far away from my computer in the evenings when I’d blog. In an effort to keep you up to date I have compiled a miscellaneous list of thoughts and awesomeness for your reading pleasure….

-I love unexpected sources of water. Two of these happen to fall on rides we frequent in the Baltimore area. The first, the Leone Family Spring is located about 50 miles away. The water is always super cold and super fresh. When we went by on Saturday, there was a poster advertising an escaped goat. He looked pretty much like what you’d expect a goat to look like, so if you’re in the Glen Rock area and see a wandering goat, you can get a reward for returning it!

My other fav unexpected water source is on Bellemore Road. At the top of a mile long steep climb, a family on the road keeps this fountain running. It’s not really cold, but water is water and it may be just what you need to get you the final 7.5 miles home to the city.

– I ride with dudes a lot, and its awesome. Despite the times I want to tell them to slow down. Despite the times it’s rainy and their tire juice sprays all over me for miles and miles. Despite the times I have to deal with them farting in my face as I sit on their wheel.  Having guys that allow me to tag along and draft (aka “audit”) their rides has made me the cyclist that I am becoming!

-I ordered some Picky Bars today, and I’m quite excited for them to arrive!

-One of my favorite races of the year is this weekend – the Luray International Triathlon. Ryan and I first did this race back in ’08…I placed in my age group and recieved a wine glass. Then last year I did the sprint and the olympic distance and received a wine glass for my place in both of those, and another for doing the double weekend! I hope to continue the tradition this year. We have a cabin for the weekend and will be doing our respective rides on Skyline Drive on Sunday, so if you have any tips or inside info on Skyline (food, water, which direction is best) please leave it in the comments! We will be entering from the Luray area. I am hoping for some great weather and great views as a cabin in the mountains is heaven for me!

-Amelia Bedelia loves to knock over cups. They are usually full. It is not funny.

6 Things not to leave in your car during a heat wave

1. Goggles: This is a picture of my goggles after a day in the oppressive heat we had last week. The plastic/rubbery eye socket seal thing literally melted and turned into a crusty yellow-brown color. Fail.2. Deodorant.  I like the normal, white deodorant style. If your car gets too hot, it will melt, and when you try to open it, it’ll fly out and you will end up with deodorant on the floor.

3. Water bottles….they become boiling water bottles. Here’s a picture of a sweet bottle with Ultrarunner Darcy Africa on it!

4. Cats. Isn’t she cute? I’d never leave her in my car. Even on a normal temperature day.

5. Babies. Duh.

6. GU. It melts and then takes on the consistency of Powerbar gels…which are more like liquid and are pretty gross.

I didn’t come for the tomato pie

This past weekend was the NJ State Triathlon. I should have known that this weekend was bound for complications back in May when we found out that the American Zofingen Triathlon was cancelled due to lack of interest. In an effort to try to get in another race, I decided that this one would do, and Ryan and Mike decided to come with. Flat and fast, quick and dirty, we could get it in and still get in some good training hours otherwise. In theory, sounds like a great plan.

The weekend started out interestingly as Ryan and I left Panera on Saturday after getting breakfast. With my bike on the rack behind my car,  I had backed out of my spot when I spotted the car behind me starting to back out of theirs. Another car had pulled up in front of me, so I couldn’t just floor it and move forward. And my horn on the Tracker decided it wasn’t going to work. So I did what anyone would do – I just started screaming bloody murder. Something along the lines of “NOOO” and “MY BIKEEEEE” were the words, but who really knows.  Crunch!

I felt like I had just watched a dog get hit by a car. I ran out of the car and promptly yelled at the girl who backed into it. Despite profusely apologizing, I just had no sympathy seeing as we just sat in Panera and overhead them talking about being hungover and all their antics of the night before. I inspected the damage done and as Ryan rode my bike around to check it out, I discovered that my trusty Thule bike rack had put a nice hole into her bumper, and by the magic of the triathlon gods my bike had been strategically placed that, while it got bumped, no apparent damage was done. Disaster averted. (Note: After riding the bike on Sunday evening – more on that later – Ryan did notice my chain drooping in the small ring; tuns out she bumped the rear derailleur and while no major damage was done, I did need a new chain).

So anyway, we packed up and caravan up to NJ. The best part about going up north is always the Wawa stops! We eventually got to the race site and picked up our packets where, not really to our surprise, we found out that NJ was just as hot as Maryland. So hot, most of the vendors hadn’t even bothered to come out for the expo-type event at packet pickup. Onward to the hotel and into Princeton for dinner. I had tweeted Jordan Rapp asking for suggestions on where to eat. But, right after I sent the tweet we left and I didn’t bring my phone, so we ended up at the Triumph Brewery. Jordan’s suggestions were: Hoagie Haven, Masala Grill, Mediterra and Messaluna in case anyone is interested! The brewery was great though and then we took a stroll through Princeton’s campus right across the street. Definitely a cute little town.

On to bed, and up for the race. I think this was the latest I ever got to wake up before a race – 5:15 the alarm went off. Gathered up our things and headed to the race site where we were informed that the water temp was 90 degrees. Nice. Our little elite wave gathered and I noticed a couple other women as I got into the water, but I really didn’t look around too much to scope anyone out. I was excited for this elite wave – while I knew it wouldn’t be as competitive as Columbia, it’s always nice to be able to gather the fastest from the age groups and race together.

During the swim, I never got quite comfortable. Maybe it was the hot temps, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, or maybe it was just fatigue. I came out of the water with Ryan, saw a 26 on my watch, and someone told me I was second woman. Wait….what? Immediately my interest was piqued, but obviously it was no time to stop to chat. I knew, however, that there was really no way I would be second out of the water, in any race, with a 26 minute swim. Something was up. Either way, the worst was over, so I headed onto my bike. I couldn’t get my computer to work before the race so I was riding on feel…..and from the getgo I felt pretty terrible. In general, I like having a climb or two at the start of a ride to shake my legs out and wake them up. This had nothing of the sorts, it was flat and fast, requiring constant pedaling. At that point though, there was nothing to do but grit my teeth and go. I was with the girl who came out of the water right behind me through the first loop, but couldn’t quite hang on for the second loop. Turns out I rode a 1:09 and with the bike being a little long at 25.5 miles, that makes me pretty happy!

I knew at this point there were 2 women ahead, but I was interested to see during the run how close others were behind me. A run with a bunch of out and backs like this makes a perfect setup to see the competition. So I was looking…..and looking….and looking. It wasn’t until I was turning into the finish chute that I finally saw another girl behind me on the course. And then it all made sense….there were only 3 women in the Elite wave. I came through the finish in 2:26, a time that’s really consistent with my other Olympic Distance races this season. I was mostly happy to see that even on a day where my legs felt terrible, I was still able to get in under 2:30 fairly easily – something I hadn’t done much of ever before! Keeping in mind that this also followed a week with my highest volume of training to date, I couldn’t be not happy about it.

Now, I want to go back to the Elite wave issue for a minute. I was actually pretty disappointed to find out that there were only 3 of us. Now, I know that some of the girls are doing some of their first races and don’t know how good they are. But I also know that a quick athlinks search on some others reveals plenty of other races where they went under 2:30. And not only that – but, let’s be honest for a second and admit that if you’re tuning up your $5,000 whip with Zipp wheels…you’re trying to compete. And if you’re trying to be fast, you know what’s better than Zipp wheels and a nice bike? Actually racing hard against fast girls.

This isn’t the first time I have seen this phenomenon. In fact, it happens at most group rides I go to in Baltimore where I am one of (if I’m lucky) 2-3 other girls. Now, I know I have worked hard and have become pretty strong on the bike. But, I also know that I’m not one of the only girls in this area who can ride well. Rather, you hear all sorts of reasons why not to go – I’m going to get dropped, it’s too hard, I don’t think I can do it, blah blah blah. This is my official call to arms for the ladies out there – GET OUT THERE AND DO SOME WORK! It is FUN to compete against each other. Especially in a sport where we are constantly having to be at the mercy of wave starts, having an elite group gives us a rare chance to break out of that and go against the best.

And maybe some of the responsibility here falls on the shoulders of the race directors. Incentives can be put out – i.e. don’t allow AG athletes to place overall if you’re going to have an elite wave. Or, if you see a small elite field, wipe it out all together. The purpose of it is meaningful, but if you’re not going to follow through, don’t try and get away with it half-way.

Ultimately, I don’t necessarily think that my time would have been faster if I had girls closer to me to push me. But, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the chance to find out. I didn’t come to NJ to eat tomato pie (which I actually find repulsive) – I came to race, and I just wish more girls shared the same view.

Ryan’s race appeared to be fairly similar to mine (we also both came in 8th overall),  and Mike managed to crush it and get 2nd which earned him a super sweet trophy cup thing. Pretty baller! We headed home, but not before stopping at Varsity Pizza. If you’re ever up in the area, go there, it’s quite delish.

After a quick nap at home, Ryan and I got back on our bikes for what was supposed to be an easy 2 hours. 36 minutes in, 10 miles out in Shadytown, USA, I got a flat and between the two of us we didn’t have enough stuff to fix it. So Ryan had to ride back  home and get the car, while I sat and waited on the side of Rt. 40. In this hour, I received approximately 3 honks, one cop that waved hello at me when I tried to wave them down, and only one family was nice enough to stop and see if I needed help. Welcome to Baltimore.

On having a coach and believing in Santa

As I was driving back from the race last weekend with Carly, I forget why it came up but I mentioned that when I was little I believed in Santa Clause for an unbelievably long amount of time. Like, middle school age. One of the reasons I didn’t want to cave in and become a nonbeliever was that I was somewhat afraid of never getting presents again. But the other reason is that I simply liked believing in something. I have thought more about this in the past few days, and have decided that believing in Santa Clause so wholeheartedly as a kid actually set me up to be a very coachable athlete as an adult.

Santa knew when you were sleeping, he knew when you were awake. He knew when you were lying to your parents and being mean to your sister. He knew everything. There’s not too much that is different with a coach. Well, I don’t think that there should be. When I decided I was ready for a coach it was because I wanted this type of open communication with them. I didn’t want workouts being sent blindly to me, I wanted them to know my every move. With the glory of the internet these days it’s easier than ever. Hillary and I live in separate time zones, but I can tell you that between my workout log, emails to her, twitter updates, blog posts, and other texts or communications I have with her, she has a pretty good idea of what I’m doing every single second of the day. She would be able to piece it together if I’m not sleeping and taking time to recover. If I’m not doing full workouts. I’d have to be a really good liar to get away with fudging things, and we all know if I tried to make up swim times I would blow my cover pretty quickly. I’d be saying I do 100’s in 1:20 and 500’s in 10 minutes.  Hillary gets so much information from me on a daily basis, that one thing is for sure: she’d know.

Another great thing I learned from believing in Santa was not to question things. I never really cared how he fit down the chimney. I never thought we should find hoof prints outside. The question of how he carried millions of presents on a sleigh that fit on my rooftop didn’t faze me either. He just did it. And I just believed. I take a similar approach with being coached. I get my workouts, and I do them. I don’t go into every workout 100% certain I’ll hit the interval or be able to do the reps she asks. But, I try. And no matter what happens, I give her the feedback.  Tie this torture device around my ankles and swim with it? Sure, whatever you say. Set the treadmill to go how fast? Alright…  Giving feedback as an athlete is completely different than questioning the work you’re being given, and it’s a fine line I never want to cross. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have friends and training partners who look at me and say “what??! she’s having you do that?? why??” I just shrug my shoulders. And then go get the work done.

The final thing that my lasting and unwavering believe in Santa Clause taught me was to look beyond what you’re given. Santa didn’t always bring the right color jacket, or the right size jeans I was hoping for. And similarly, just because I have a coach now I don’t expect to suddenly be catapulted to the podium at every race. But I’ve learned to look beyond results and find the positives that aren’t written in the numbers. And sometimes, even when it seems there are no positives to be had, the positive comes from the fact that Hillary is there for me, even when I can’t find the good. And she gets it.  She helps me see the bigger picture – and more importantly, to believe in the process and in what I am achieving as I make strides toward my final goal.

Millions of Peaches and a Diamond in the Rough

Last Friday Night I did not go streaking in the park or skinny dipping in the park as Katy Perry may have been.  Instead you could have found me in a Minivan mid-road tripping to Atlanta for the 4th of July weekend! Six of us from Team That’s What She Said entered the lottery for the Peachtree 10K this past spring. When we were accepted, and we realized that the Orioles would be in Atlanta that weekend, we knew we had to make the trip. So Friday we piled into the minivan and made it….not that far due to traffic, haha. We did get to Blacksburg, VA for a night of sleep and some of the crew went for a run the next morning. Then on Saturday we strapped ourselves back in for the remaining 7 hours to Atlanta. After a quick turnaround we ended up at Turner Field and watched our O’s play a game before going out for a little bit. Overall I liked the area of Atlanta we were staying in a lot – Buckhead was really cool, laid back, and had a nice mix of upscale places as well as dive bars and casual options.

On Sunday we made a quick stop at the expo before going to the COKE FACTORY! Anyone who knows Ryan knows he’s a huge fan of Coke, so it was really cool to get to do this with him. The tour was super fun and involved tasting a lot of soda. My favorite was the Banana one from Mexico! I know that sounds gross, but if you like Banana Now-And-Laters you would love it too. But nothing still quite compares to an American Coca-Cola.

Sunday also meant a hotel pool swim – 3800 in a 20 yard pool makes one…..dizzy. And hot! I was lucky enough to dupe Ryan into doing it with me, and neither of us were super pumped.  But, we got it done and between that, a shakeout run, and a few miles of walking for sight-seeing, I had been on my feet more than long enough before a race.

Monday morning was 4th of July which meant race day. I was in corral A and the others in the group were in the seeded corrals in front of me, but we all started at 7:30. The pre-race national anthem and flyover was pretty cool.  The race is flat/downhill for the first 3 miles or so. I was keeping a 6:40 pace and didn’t feel great, but didn’t feel bad. Then I hit the Hills. Ouch. The hills and the humidty were in full force for the second half of the race. But the bright side is that even though I felt like I was going slow, I had really only dropped to 7:30s….which for me, is a pretty great “survival” pace.

I crossed the line in 44:18, a new PR (my last 10K was when I was like 16!) and found my friends. I ate a bite of a peach for the first time in my life. I did not like it. I pounded some coke and an ice cream sandwich, then it was time to hit the road….and run back to the start. Luckily, Ryan’s internal GPS found us a slightly shorter route, but it still felt like it took forever. Shower, lunch at the Varsity (pretty gross), and then it was back in the minivan for the trek home. We made it to Raleigh aka Ghosttown Central for the 4th of July, and finished up the drive on Tuesday. Overall it was a good trip and the race was a great way to get my speed work in for the week. I still think I have a ton of work that can be done in terms of my potential with running, but I’m really happy with how it’s progressing given that I also have 2 other sports to focus on these days.

The rest of the week was business as usual and then suddenly I was waking up on Saturday getting ready to go to another race. This time I was doing Diamond in the Rough Triathlon in Perryville, MD. It’s a smaller race but generally gets a handful of fast people to keep the competition interesting in the front.  Super fan Carly was coming along to spectate and was going to get her run in while I raced.

My wave started as the third and final one with all of the women chasing the dudes in the first 2 waves. That meant a decent size of about 85 women in the water. I had my new speedsuit ready to rock so my plan was to swim hard for the entire mile. It worked! We swam in a diamond shape, and on the final turn looking into the sun I actually had no clue where I was swimming so I was following bodies and just hoping for the best. But as I was pulled onto the steps out of the waters a race official signaled to me that I was the 10th woman out of the water. Sweet! Considering I usually hope for a top 20 swim I was excited. Carly was ready to give a cheer as I headed out on the bike and out I went into the hils of Northern Maryland. I had read/been told that this course was technical, but I didn’t really believe it until I was out there. A lot of hills, a lot of turns, a lot of fast descents into turns, and a road that was open to traffic and definitely not swept before we went out there. A technical, hard course actually suits me well so I was happy as I plugged along.

There was one scary section on the bike. I had just passed a dude and about a quarter mile later I saw, washed out on the road but there nonetheless, words reading “no pass zone, slow down.” So…I did. The dude however was more concerned with passing me back than slowing down, and I watched as he slid on the gravel ahead as he tried to make the sharp left, eventually skidding right off the side of the road and rolled over into a ditch. He wasn’t the only one either – 2 other men were cut up and off their bikes in the brush as well. I managed to stay upright, check that they were all ok, and get down the descent. At the bottom was another sharp turn and a race official, so I slowed here to tell him that there were 3 dudes off their bikes and didn’t look to be getting back onto them.  I finished the ride up strong and was told I was the 3rd woman coming in off the bike! Did my best to get a quick T2 and head out to the run. Fast and generally flat, half shaded, the run can make for some fast times.  I felt good and just focused on keeping cool when I could and maintaining my pace. I was able to see the 2 girls ahead of me since it was an out-and-back and that left little room for me to hope to catch them. But that meant I also saw the women behind me, about 2 minutes back at the turnaround and looking like she was on a mission. She also had a little pack of dudes running strong with her, whereas my little pack of dudes was walking and complaining, haha. They were all super positive for me and pushing me to get it done, but someone to run with would have been cool! Luckily I didn’t need it anyway, and I crossed the line in 3rd at 2:22:46.

Definitely a great race for the summer and a fun way to get in some hard miles. And if you’re wondering, the Oiselle Birds Tee and Roga Shorts made for the cutest outfit on the podium 🙂