Exceeding Expectations Kickoff!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John’s Annual Educational Financial Information:

Costs:

Tuition $35,000

Books $ 1,200

Total $36,200

Financial Aid:

Fasfa $22,200

Talbert Grant $ 5,000

Total John is responsible for annually: $9000

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

——————————————–

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

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


More on Exceeding Expectations…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Heartbreaker you’ve got the best of me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Did May Go?

A bit of a rundown since it’s been awhile without an update….May seemed to come and go before I knew it!

Training : Post Taiwan, I actually allowed myself to take a break. In fact, because of the bike debacle, with the exception of some city/mountain bikes the BnBs and hotels had, I didn’t ride a bike for TEN days after the race. I didn’t swim in a pool for 2 weeks (yes yes I swam open water though…). And yes, I ran a good bit. But hiking and jogging up and down mountains while stopping for sausages is hardly that taxing – I promise 🙂 So, yes – perhaps when I rest I don’t actually sit still, but we most definitely allotted for some truly unstructured training time and Taiwan was a great place for it.

When you race so much early season, you definitely do get a bit of that “offseason” blahs. The good thing is that it’s easy to snap out of that lull because everyone else it seems is just gearing up and their excitement is contagious. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to get my shit together so that I can make sure to beat Leslie at IM Canada (yes, she knows it’s on).

And it’s been fun getting back into it. The weather here is (mostly) fantastic finally, and I am in general feeling good. No, I’m not crushing every session but I am finding myself laughing out loud to podcasts while riding more than ever so I’m either in really good moods OR listening to really funny stuff. Potentially a mix of both.

Racing : I’m headed to Raleigh this weekend! Lord knows racing a 70.3 is probably up there with one of my least favorite things to do (unless it’s Wildflower: #RVLyfe2018 is a real thing and I expect the masses to join Leslie, Kelly and myself). But, I’m actually kind of excited this time. It seems that even as much of a debacle as it was, I still got a good fitness boost coming off of Taiwan and we have sharpened things nicely since then. It will be nice to drive to a race for once, definitely ride my bike, and, run in *women’s* shoes (thanks Cadence!)

What else? : Ramona is great…..We got popcorn and visited the Appalachian Trail last weekend. Pretty great dog mom over here, people!

If you are looking for some training/commuting general listening enjoyment these days, be sure to check out IronWomen with Sara Gross and myself. We have a solid lineup for the summer as well so look forward to that!

The Adventure that was Challenge Taiwan!

There are few times I look forward to more than the pre-race week. I’ve especially come to love pre-race weeks with long haul travel…..a guaranteed 10-15 hour time period where I HAVE to sit still, sleep, and watch movies?? Um, sign me up!

And to this point, those times were the best. Generally smooth sailing. 25 Ironmans in (plus Hillary’s 66!), we had to have seen it all right?

Yep…….nope.

I’ll get right to it. I was leaving on a day when the east coast was getting pummeled by rain. I had actually opted for a slightly more expensive flight over to minimize layovers (from Virginia it’s quite easy to get suckered into a 3-stop 31 hour journey to Asia for quite cheap!) with the rationale that then my bike would surely make it – after all, I was to arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday so I didn’t have much of a cushion. I find that arriving 72-hours before the race really suits me when I need to make a massive time change though (Taiwan is exactly 12 hours ahead of Virginia which can be tough to adjust to!)

With the weather, before I even got to the airport I realized I was going to miss my connection at JFK to my long haul flight. After 2 hours on the phone with the airline, I was sorted onto another option, and I thought the worst was over. No bags had even been checked at that point, things were still seemingly smooth sailing. Flights from there were easy, I knocked out about 8 hours of sleep, the movies South Paw and Why Him? on the flights, started reading Joanna Zeiger’s book, The Champion Mindset, and then settled in for my arrival in Taipei.

Once I arrived, after about 20 hours of flying, my bike bags apparently hadn’t made the trip. I filed the necessary info with the airlines, and headed out in a daze as I still had to get to the other airport in Taipei to catch a domestic flight (about 30 miles away). I was too tired to really think about any option other than the bags eventually making it, but I did email the race folks to give them a heads up that we might want to start working on a plan B…..

Wednesday afternoon (The race is Saturday)

I arrived in Taitung around 2:30 and Dougal and I had a seamless transition over to our BnB. Imagine it like Real World Taitung :  “This is the true story, of ten professional triathletes, picked to live in a house, race together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real…” . Just kidding, kind of. It is super fun when you have 10+ people coming together though from all parts of the world and sharing the experience of a race in a city where no one speaks the language. There is certainly an element of team work as we all figure out how to do the various pre-race activities. I went for a jog in my trail shoes (what I had traveled in), had some pizza at Uncle Pete’s, and thought for sure, my bike would arrive tomorrow and all would be right. But even still, just a few hours after I had been in touch with her, Belinda Granger sent word that a brand new CEEPO was being build up in Taipei and would be mine for the race if I needed it.

Thursday

I woke up Thursday feeling like the race was now much closer and I didn’t really have a cushion anymore to procrastinate waiting and hoping on my bags. The online tracker still gave no indication that my bags had even been located, and the race folks who were on the case also didn’t have good news yet.  I went to go check out the swim location, with some borrowed goggles (Thanks Dougal!) and cap, and got in my pre-race swim. Then came check-in, and expo time. Normally I wouldn’t really participate in the expo much, but this was going to be different. It was go time, and I had to start to get some shit together! I made a list of what it was going to take for me to get through this race, and we just started checking things off:

Running shoes proved to be a special treat. At the first store I kept asking for a US 9.5 of various models and they kept bringing me a 9. I’d try it on and show it was too small, ask for a 9.5 and they’d go in the back and come back with another 9. Okay, let me try the next store. Same thing! Finally one of the women, through various forms of charades, explained to me that women’s shoe sizes stop at 9. If I wanted bigger, I needed to shop on the men’s models. Awesome, right?! If I’m wearing brand new shoes, why not make them built for men too! I settled on a pair of Mizunos, also picked up some stretchy laces and a race belt, and felt good about checking things off the list.

The CEEPO tent was busy building up the bike for me. Yep, building up a *brand new* bike. I am totally and completely spoiled by my friends in this sport. We kept perusing the expo for the other items to buy: 30 gels, bike shoes, cleats, spare tubes and valve extenders. In addition to CEEPO, the folks at Vision also were integral to helping me get this show on the road. They gave me an ISM demo saddle so I could at least sit on a saddle I’m used to, and set me up with a set of race wheels (clinchers) to race on. The Giant tent also helped out by lending me their trainer for the night as by the time the bike was built, it was raining and dark outside so I needed a way to try to fit myself indoors.

A plate of fried rice and dumplings later, the bike fit began. After about 90 min -2 hours of me spinning, explaining to Sam Clark what “felt weird,” and him tweaking it, we were both pretty much over it. Tweaking a fit on the bike you know and ride is one thing, but having to learn all the intricacies of how a new bike is built and gets adjusted – with an important race looming overhead — not super fun. We called it a day, and then of course, about 30 minutes later one of the race folks showed up with some good news: my bike had been located and was in Taipei! It should make it to Taitung tomorrow. Cue the relief of it being found, and also the frustration of the last 24 hours doing all the – now unnecessary – things. But, if that hadn’t been done, the bike wouldn’t have been found, right?

Friday

I woke up Friday feeling so much better about things. There was still plenty of stress as basically I had to just sit and wait for the bike, wondering when it would arrive and then worrying about fitting in everything that would then happen around the activities set up for the pros, as well as check in. It was still a bit rainy in Taitung, so I shot an email off to the race folks asking if there was any indication when it would arrive as I was hoping not to get the CEEPO all gritty and gross riding in the wet rain for my pre-race spin if I could avoid it. They said they didn’t have that information, so just go ahead and ride the CEEPO. I did just that, but all the while thinking “thank god I have my bike coming.” This was nothing about the bike itself – the bike rides great. But it wasn’t the fit I’ve been riding for hours and hours, it wasn’t the wheels, it wasn’t my bottle setup….it simply wasn’t mine.

Mike, from Challenge Taiwan, was waiting at the BnB when I arrived back. Hoping for good news I said hello…..and then he had to relay the bad news. My bike was still located…..only now somehow it was in LA. It wasn’t going to make it here for the race.

The good part was then at least all my questions were answered: I would be racing on the new bike and new gear, that was just going to be it. The last major question was the water temperature as it had been sitting right on the line between wetsuit legal and not. Finally the announcement was made around 1pm: wetsuits would be allowed. Back to the expo to buy literally the only women’s medium wetsuit 2XU had brought with them. With borrowing Sam’s helmet and Dougal’s goggles, I now had everything I needed. I was ready to go!

So, let’s get real for a second. I should make it clear that during the entire process here I was considerably stressed and quite honestly just plain sad and disappointed. I had added this race to my calendar because I knew I was fit to perform quite well in this field. While it’s not impossible to pull off a great finish with borrowed gear, I knew that kind of Cinderella story would be a bit far fetched, all things considered. But, crying, yelling, and being frustrated and sad wasn’t going to get anything done or get me any closer to the finish line and a paycheck. Instead of focusing on those things, I had to replace all of those thoughts with the ones about all the people who were coming to my aid to help me pull this off through various means of lending me things and even more importantly morale support: Sam, Dougal, Kate, Belinda, Megan & the crew from CEEPO, Julie, Kent, Mark and the Vision folks, the Giant guys, and Charlie and Mike from Challenge. I simply couldn’t have a breakdown when there were that many people going out of their way to help me. I just had to adjust expectations and remind myself that all you can do is all you can do.

A wrapup now: I’d be swimming in a wetsuit I had literally never worn in the water. I’d be biking on a bike, shoes, and helmet I had work for 75 minutes. I’d be using a nutrition plan I never had used before. I’d be running in shoes I ran in for 30 minutes. And I’d be doing this in Taiwan which is known to be a wild ride even when all your stuff is there!

Adventure awaits, right?

Honestly after Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to the race so much because that meant there was no more questions or figuring things out, it was finally time to just execute and see what would happen. I set things up race morning, got into my brand new wetsuit, and before I knew it we were off at 6am. The male and female pros all started together, and with a relatively small group in wetsuits that first 250 meters or so was fast and HARD. A few of us held on, until we couldn’t, and then I settled in with 2 others. This felt like one of those times the swim just unfolds as I like it – I was able to stay in contact with them at an effort level I felt comfortable with, and while the second loop got a bit crowded with some of the slower age group swimmers, I was able to escape the swim without any major breaststroke kicks to the chest! I saw the clock read 58 on my exit, and was with Verena, so I knew I was in contact with at least one other woman racing. Well…….here goes nothing. I hopped onto the bike and started to chase.   Immediately my legs and glutes were BURNING. As much as I had tweaked the position and rode a few intervals the day before, there’s a difference in a pre-race ride and riding as hard as you ride in the race, and right from the start I knew that more than anything else, this was just a different feeling than when I ride my own bike hard. That said though, eventually the burning turns to numbness and you simply just push through! I lost contact with Verena, but after 36 miles I had pulled Lucie into view. That was a positive thing and between that and my garmin avg speed reading, I knew I was riding just fine.

A note about this bike course: it is one of the most beautiful I have ever ridden, but it is WILD. The course is open during the race, which means double decker tour buses, banana trucks, cars, older people on scooters, dogs, construction crews, and basically any one else could be out there – and doesn’t really care there’s a race going on! This might mean you actually do stop at an intersection, or have to stop to avoid hitting a dog or a car that just abruptly pulled in front. In a nutshell, you have to be super heads up and aware the ENTIRE ride…I think all of the pros said they had to stop and unclip at least once to remain safe. The good side of that is that it was a major distraction from me from the fact that I was riding a new whip. I didn’t have time to think about the aero pads chafing my forearms when I was avoiding obstacles every mile!

(that’s what aero looks like after 5 hours not on my bike!)

We had a pretty decent headwind on the way out of the loop, which meant tailwinds all the way home and I was very pleased with the 5:12ish I saw as I came off the bike. What I was not pleased with how those first few steps felt. As I ran into T2, I felt more new muscles in my legs and back than I even knew I had. There was no time to waste though – I was about 3 minutes down on 3rd place, and 5th place was about 3 minutes back. I had to get moving. Shoes on and out I went. We got lucky that the weather never got super hot like it’s well known to be in Taiwan. The humidity was certainly there, but cloud cover was definitely our friend. I forced out the first 5k and slowly the reality of the situation was setting in: this was not going to be a Cinderella story! As much as things hurt, I just kept going. Around halfway when Lucie caught me, we hit a section of the course where you can see for quite a ways ahead as you circle the long lake. I was able to catch sight of the next 2 girls and see that yes, things were changing up ahead. Unlike any other race, except maybe Kona, the run here really changes things up. People *will* implode. Just keep going. The support of the community and the other athletes was so, so great. And when things got lonely on that second loop it was super helpful to have Sam leapfrogging along as I knew that meant Hillary would get word if I didn’t keep running. And then she’d surely make me pay later! 🙂

I finished up the race in 4th place, narrowly under 10 hours. This is my fourth 4th place! Surely now I can move on from this, right!?? A payday, an adventure, and a good old fashioned reminder that triathlon really isn’t about the gear. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.

I am forever grateful to those companies and people I have mentioned throughout who helped me put this day together. And also to my sponsors who supported and understood that their gear wouldn’t get showcased. It means so much to have good friends and companies who ride out the highs, and the lows, with me. Xie xie!

Tai-What!?

As I mentioned last week, I am racing again this month. I’m excited to share that I’m heading to Challenge Taiwan on April 29th!! Yes…another adventure for sure 🙂 But, fitness is a funny thing and when it’s there, you need to capitalize on it. It is certainly a perk of being a pro that I have a bit more flexibility with my racing and travel schedule and can shuffle things around like puzzle pieces depending on where my head and body is at….sometimes I have to remind myself of this and let myself be a little spontaneous when I realize I can take advantage of this!

Only 16 days away and the countdown is on for sure. Last weekend Leslie came down to Cville and we recreated the magic of our training weekend we had before IM Wisconsin last fall. Things went quite smoothly for the both of us and I know she’s ready to get after IM Texas this month too. It’s always nice to have a partner in crime to push you through a few benchmark workouts like that to reinforce what you *think* you’ve been seeing in the training!

I’m super excited for this Asian adventure, and if you’ve ever traveled around Taiwan please let me know any suggestions for things to do and places to see!

Oops I Did it Again!

(yes, I just dropped a Britney reference. I miss 2000.)

But, yeah….I went a month without a blog update again! Hopefully no one is losing sleep over this. Because, well, that’s a lot of sleep – and, things are good!

I’ll give a brief recap….

IMNZ was awesome. I just can’t say enough good things about this country. I miss so many things about home when I travel, but New Zealand always this feel to it that feels like home. And that’s pretty nice when you’re living out of a suitcase for a month+. The race itself – well, funny how things work out. We had picture perfection conditions in Wanaka – I mean, I wished and hoped really hard for those! Apparently though, I didn’t put in the wishes and hopes for IMNZ, and we woke up on race day to some pretty gnarly winds. This meant things were going to get interesting! From the white caps in the lake, to the 20 miles riding into headwind on the bike (each loop!)……yeah, just a good reminder that no course is ever easy when you have to go 140.6 miles! I was not so pumped about my swim, but pretty pleased with the bike legs that showed up, and then just happy to hang on for the run and gain a place.

I was also luck to have some local support for some sightseeing in the days afterwards….doesn’t everyone want to hike up a mountain the next day?! 🙂

From NZ, I made it back to DC for a day (long enough for a massage from Anne!) and then headed out to Tucson for two weeks of camp. With all the travel – let it be known that cankles are REAL and I still suffer terribly from them on long-haul-post-race flights!

More on camp later, but this is one of my favorite times of the year. Being able to witness the breakthroughs – not only from my athletes – but from all those who have come out to challenge themselves and see what they can do, is so meaningful to me. As a coach, there really is no better way to spend my days recovering! We put heaps of pics on social media, so check those out when you get a chance.

After racing and through camp, I will be honest that I was waiting for it…..I was waiting for the downfall. I was waiting for the day I’d look at my bike and say I just didn’t want to sit on the saddle for another few hours. Or I just didn’t want to get in the pool for some laps. But, that never happened! Camp turned out to be one of the best ways to spend my recovery, and in fact only made me hungry for more. Reflecting on the races also left me wanting a bit more. I felt like there was a certain sharpness, a finesse, that I lacked in those races. I’m not all that surprised – after all, I did race a 50 miler in November. By the time I recovered from that, then started to ramp up for the 2 iron distance races, it’s not surprising that we didn’t quite get to that sharpening effect.

So…..I started to wonder, why not hit that now? I wasn’t planning to race a full distance again until summer……but……maybe……..

And so I’m back at home and into the training swing of things again. That means working, training, watching Love on Netflix (season 2 is out *finally*) and cooking my standard meal delivery meals (WHO has time for the grocery store?).  Busy and exciting life folks, you can follow it all on instagram!

More on the exact info to come, but yes, I’m excited to say I’ll be racing again in APRIL! Will share the dets soon!

Thank you as always to my amazing sponsors who support me when I say “hey, I can do this again….in a few weeks!” Smashfest Queen, Dimond Bikes, ISM Saddles, Adaptive, Cadence Running Company, Ice Friction Technology, Endeavor Cycles, Sound Probiotics, Honey Stinger, DNA Movement.

Observations from Down Under

I’ve gotten a bit away from race reports in the last few years. To be honest it just seems that they all just seem quite redundant! If you ever have any questions about the race particulars, feel free to reach out. But, when it comes down to it, I swim/bike/run as hard as I can until I get to the end. We had great conditions on the day which made it a bit nicer for us, but the Wanaka course is still tough as nails to get through. I’m quite pleased with 4th on the day — it was by no means handed to me and was a great indication of fitness for the year. Still have things left to get after, but it was a good start for sure!

As as I thought about writing this race report I was thinking through all the things I’d say – How amazing Wanaka is. How the people are so great. Everything is SO BEAUTIFUL.

Wanaka on my last sunrise there!

But, I’ve said it before. (I still mean it)

And sitting down to write it all again just felt so….American of me.

So instead I just compiled a few of the observations and thoughts I have after being in NZ for almost a month. They are in no particular order…….

NZ loves the 90s – more specifically, 90’s music. Do you miss Alanis? DMB? Come to NZ! #allday #everyday

You go to Hawaii for the sunsets. And the east coast for the sunrise. NZ has ALL FREAKING DAY.

A little bit of everything is here. NZ is a long, skinny country. With mountains. So it’s able to keep just about any kind of ecosystem within it. Brown, green, dry, wet, lakes, oceans, mountains and valleys….it’s here, and within an arm’s reach.

People are super nice. And unlike in the states when people are nice, you don’t get that weird creepy feeling that there’s more to it. They are just nice people, who like to be outside and be active. It’s a great way of life.

NZ loves coffee. And their coffee is much better than their IPAs (just sayin’…Cville has you beat there!).

But they also love their wine. And, my friends, it’s good stuff.

There are not a lot of bugs but there are spiders. There are definitely spiders.

When people tell you “there’s nothing in the lake,” that apparently also means “there’s ginormous eels.” (at least in Wanaka).

Kiwis <3 Chip Seal. You know what doesn’t <3 chip seal? My bum.

With Mackenzie Madison checking out the chip seal situation!

Everyone needs to travel more. Travel with friends, travel alone. Travel around the world. Grab a tent and drive an hour away. Just travel. And meet people, hear their stories – and tell yours. Ignore the news, for a few weeks, and just get back to…..people. Smile. Laugh. Love. And race as hard as you can 🙂

Oh! And if you’re in the DC/Virginia/PA area – board your pup at Country Dogs when you travel. Nothing but good reports to come from them for my little Ramona (aka Coco aka lord knows what I’ll call her next!).

Ramona at Country Dogs DC

Thank you as always to my amazing sponsors who allow me to chase my crazy dreams and live in New Zealand for a month, and, and, and…..the list goes on and on 🙂 I am forever grateful, so please check them out here, and support them if you can!

Just like I Remembered!

After leaving last year in a bit of a daze (and leaving a bit of myself on the pavement out this way), I wasn’t quite sure how returning to Wanaka would feel.  And after 30 hours of travel I *really* wasn’t sure. But….turns out that long travel days are becoming quite my jam and, more importantly, Wanaka remains to be one of the most special places in the world!

First things first – I get a lot of questions on the travel situation and how I’m not completely wrecked when I have to adjust to an 18 hour time difference. First steps for this happen when I am booking my flights – don’t just book the cheapest flight options. Often these leave you with the worst layover options to include potential for spending nights in random cities, or sleeping in airports, etc. If you’re going to come all this way, just resign yourself to the fact that paying a bit more might be worth it in this case! Generally, traveling west, it’s easy to schedule the long haul flight portion to be overnight. Which brings me to my next point…..I’m a really good sleeper. I could sleep just about anywhere at any time. In fact, I pointed out to Hillary yesterday on our ride that this field with sheep in it looked quite nice for a nap.

I realize that not everyone is as good at sleeping, but if you can arrange your flights to be around normal bedtimes (or, slightly later so you’re more tired!) then that’s ideal. I don’t take any sort of sleeping pills or whatever, but I do bring a comfy wrap/sweater, ear plugs, a sleeping mask, and I have some chamomile tea bags in my carry on if necessary!

Also: stay hydrated! It’s super easy when the flight is 15 hours to get dehydrated FAST. Make friends with your flight attendants and they will help you on this task. I keep NUUN tabs or packs of The Right Stuff handy and, if I’m awake, I’m constantly pounding water. So I also always book the aisle seat for easy bathroom access too!

And more than anything – just buckle up and enjoy the ride. It’s a long time to travel, but if you can settle in and enjoy some time disconnected t0 watch movies and read books, it’s not that bad. And every now and then you can meet some friends too! Accept the fact that the first handful of days after this type of travel could very well feel very shitty, and don’t expect to crush any workouts. But, I promise your fitness doesn’t just drop out into the ocean as you fly out here, and slowly it will in fact return as long as you stay focused on the basics: sleep, hydrate, and eat!

But back to Wanaka. The mountains, the lake, the people, the lolly cakes. It’s all just THE BEST and I truly hope everyone can make the time to come out to race this event at some point and experience life here.

The biggest of the workouts are over and it’s time to begin to rest up and get the body crisp for the race. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t a tiny bit afraid of waking up on race day to wild winds like last year and having to face that once again. But, I have my heart and mind in the right place so I think it will be all good!

True Life: Meditation Fail

It feels like in just about every podcast I’ve been listening to the people are talking about meditation: how they’ve incorporated it into their daily routine, how amazing it is, how it’s just a few minutes a day and they feel so much more centered.  So of course I was like “Well, if EVERYONE ELSE is doing it….”

So, I downloaded Headspace. Because apps help us do everything, apparently.

Headspace has kind of a starter pack of 10 meditation sessions – 10 minutes each – that you can try on your own before you get into the paid subscriptions. They have some sessions for athletes in the subscription stuff, so I was 10 steps ahead of myself – CLEARLY meditation would help me get faster this season – but, I decided to start with the free jams to see how it went.

Here’s a brief synopsis of how it went….

Day 1 – Literally couldn’t do it without checking emails.

Day 2 – Fell asleep at minute 2, woke up around 7.

Day 3 – Fell asleep around 90 seconds, woke up around 5/6.

Day 4 – Didn’t fall asleep! Didn’t feel any different.

Accidentally miss 2 days

Day 5 – Fell asleep for a minute or so.

……….Bueller?

I never did it again. I just wasn’t getting it. And, yes, I understand that part of “getting it” means that I should just keep making myself do it for 10 (or more) straight. But, to be honest, when I’m training a bunch again now I already make myself do *a lot* of other things I don’t really feel like doing! Yes, that’s true, even the pros don’t jump for joy before every training session 😉 I will admit that it was kind of nice to do a mini nap, but I don’t need a subscription to anything for that. And, again, I do “get” the point of it, but truth be told, it’s just not for me. At least not right now!

So if you’re out there and feeling like you just don’t get all the hype – I’m with ya!

December Download!

I actually have started a few blog posts over the last month. But then I always got a few lines in and was all like “meh, this doesn’t sound very interesting to me, let alone someone on the outside” and would stop writing.

But this week I listened to Lauren Fleshman on the Running on Om podcast discuss her writing retreat. One of the great takeaways from this for me was her comparison of writing to training (duh…compare anything to training and I’ll probably understand it better!). Essentially, she reminded me of the fact that to get good at something, you have to get up and do it even when its ugly. Or, when it feels hard. Same with writing – to have the good writing days, you have to put up with some really crappy “workouts” too.

So, I apologize to you as I try to revive my writing, and in the process will undoubtedly be publishing a lot of my crappy days. But actually, I’m not that sorry.

In those blog posts I started to write but didn’t, there was somewhat of a recap of the Mt Masochist 50 miler. This was my offseason “fun” project for the year, and I’m so so glad I went through with this! Quite honestly in the days leading up to the race I had a few doubts. Was I ready for the distance? Would it take too much out of me? Would I hurt myself on the trail because I haven’t been running trails enough lately? I’ve run over 40 ultras, but they are so different from an Ironman which is what I know well right now. But I’m a firm believer that growth comes from stepping into the things that scare you, so I didn’t let myself give into the thoughts that said “hopefully you just oversleep your alarm and miss the race…” – HA! True thoughts, people.

The race made me happy. It brought me laughter. It brought me “what the F am I doing?” and it brought me “dear god I think I’m lost and I’m never going to see another human again for all of my life.” All fairly standard ultra thoughts. But more than anything, it brought me comfort. It turns out, I was wrong : I am still comfortable out in the woods for miles on end. And I love every second of it!

The other cool thing I realized is that I am truly a better athlete than I was 6 years ago. I actually ran every step of the first 26 miles this go around. I now was able to RUN so much that I couldn’t chew and run like I used to….I guess this means the end of eating pizza while I race 🙁

And the last great observation?! The trail community is STILL the best. It was so fun to see the same faces out there and to see their excitement for me as I was in the mix for the top women. I didn’t have a crew but I didn’t even notice because of all the friends that pitched in to help and encourage me along the way.

Since the run I’ve continued my offseason and slowly – very slowly – Hillary has me back into some normal training volume. And it’s good that I’m getting there because I’m racing in 6.5 weeks!! The first part of my season will be:
Jan 22 – Mercuryman Triathlon (70.3)
Feb 18 – Challenge Wanaka (Redemption!)
March 4 – Ironman New Zealand

I’ll save all my “I love New Zealand” posts for when that gets closer. Until then – have you thought about escaping any of the following to come join all the cool kids in the Cayman’s for Mercuryman? This includes: Cold weather, snow, and the inauguration? Flights are super easy (and affordable from most places!), and it’s bound to be a good time when the view looks like this:

cayman

Come join us! And if you’re signing up, use the discount code AGMM2017 for 10% off! See you there!