An American in Vichy: Part II of the Double!

I should probably begin by going back to my other post where I touched on my (somewhat) purposeful lack of preparation for certain things about this trip. In that post, the philosophy of winging it was great. Mostly due to a local homestay (thanks again Helle!!) and the fact that pretty much everyone spoke at least some English (willingly so!), the philosophy of just figuring some things out as I went, worked out quite well.

In France, it turns out, this was much more difficult. Having spent no other time in France, I can’t speak for the entire country, but in Vichy, there is very little English spoken. And when it is used, it’s probably not in an effort to help an American traveler. That made being an American in Vichy very difficult at times! While it would be much easier for me if the residents were to take an Effortless English Club course, the lack of English spoken did give a truly authentic French feel to the place.

The extent of my French includes: Hello, Goodbye, please, Do you speak English, and a few other tidbits I have picked up in life, most likely due to the fact I have the entire soundtrack of Les Miserables memorized, and, I used to act out Beauty and the Beast a lot with my sister when we were young.

So, needless to say, if someone wasn’t able – and willing – to speak English with me, we got nowhere quite quickly. Lucky for me I did have some help. Lucy had offered to take me in for the week and be my travel buddy which was much appreciated. Lucy had a much better background in French….and, had the sense to bring a pocket travel book to translate a few things! Both of these were very helpful. Still – the fact that I was able to fly into a tiny little airport, rent a car (manual!), drive to Vichy (with tolls!) successfully confirms my belief that I’d be the most money Amazing Race partner in the history of the world.

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You know you’ll be friends when you arrive with cats on your PJ shirts!

We had a great little apartment right along the river, also on the run course. The town itself is known for being a relaxing place – spas, the river activities, etc. So, it was nice to have this as the second race where I didn’t feel the urge to go out exploring a huge city. I could just hunker down and focus on eating, recovery, and watching BBC news (our only English channel!).

The other difference with this race was that I had 3 other American guys racing as well. Steve, Chris, and AJ who I met out there were familiar faces at the pro briefing and we quickly bonded to get through some of the pre-race logistics. While Steve and I both live in Charlottesville, so we knew each other, it’s always fun to me how quickly you can bond with some of the other pros. There’s just something about the shared experiences that brings you together. Everyone has their story of language mishaps. Losing a bike in luggage. A funny homestay. Immediately it seems, it’s like old friends getting together. I think beyond the spoken stories – the unspoken understanding of what you’re all going through, is what carries the bond. The understanding that this person has also traveled just about every mode of transportation possible to get to this city. They’ve figured out a way to swim and cycle in every town along the way. They’ve slept in a bed that’s not their own for weeks. They travel alone because, well, when it’s this glamorous for one, how can you possibly bring along your significant other? And the understanding that we do it all for the chance that maybe, just maybe, Sunday will be our day.

Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool. And I was super grateful to have others out there to chat with (in English, whew) and just be able to relax around.

One of my favorite elements of Vichy was the swimming pool we had access too – a 50 meter outdoor pool that was up on top of a hill overlooking the city. Seriously insane. Apparently Michael Phelps has been there, yada yada. With the aluminium bottom I was able to tan not only my back while I swam, but also I swear it tanned my front in the reflection. Two birds – one stone. Amazing. I was swimming quite a bit in the week as that was my main way to get true aerobic sets in as I tried to recover from Copenhagen.

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Lucy and I did get in a couple spins to preview the course a bit which was great. AND Cadence Running Company friends, Jacqueline and Gordon, helped me out by driving me around the course. The course is very French! Technical stuff through these little villages, riding through sunflower fields (unfortunately sunflowers a bit past their prime), it was exactly what you’d want riding in France to be like. Well, unless you would prefer the French mountains, in which case you’d get none of that on this course 🙂

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Race day came and water temperature was, naturally, .2 degrees below the cutoff, which, by the French rules is a bit higher than the rules in other Ironmans at 24 degrees C. Despite heating up quite a bit, I felt good in the water and was swimming with a couple other women through the first loop. We did an “Australian Exit” (Do the aussies do this often?) by exiting the water and then diving (!!!) off the dock back in for loop 2. My dive was beautiful. Just saying.

Onto the bike and it was actually quite crowded from the start with age groupers. After the first 10k I was settled in at 5th place, and was feeling pretty good. I made the pass into 4th just prior to the end of the first loop, and rode the high of that for…..about 5 miles. And then the legs started to work…..10 more miles. More Work. Little by little it became WOrk. Then WORk. And then, the last 25 miles were solid WORK. But, despite feeling like I was headed way south, I knew things were still okay (still reeling in plenty of AG men who blew up! ) so I just kept pushing on. I will say, I was pretty grateful to be on the Dimond. The roads weren’t terrible but they certainly weren’t smooth like butter and I’m always happy to be riding a beam bike in those conditions!

I knew going into this project that this run was going to be what could make or break it all. I learned a few things during these next 26.2 miles:

-The French don’t like ice. That makes running a marathon in 95 degree F heat quite a bit more difficult than it needs to be.

-The French don’t like littering. Perhaps this is my “American”ness, coming out, but typically I am under the impression that the aid station rules are that it’s not littering as long as your cup is dropped within the bounds of the station. You make a best attempt at throwing it in (or at least towards!) the trash can, but as long as you do that: golden. Well, imagine my surprise when a referee stepped out in front of me as I’m running out of the water stop, shook her finger at me and held up a pencil to a pad of paper as if to say “I’m writing down your number for a penalty you litterbug.”

So, I ran back, picked the cup up (among probably 10 others on the ground, I should mention), and threw it out. Ok? I asked? She kind of nodded. Jeez.

Jacqueline and Gordon were also out on the run course giving me a few updates. This was super helpful in keeping me motivated as I heard that things were changing ahead of me. While the women ahead had a decent gap – you just never know.

You just never know. And that thought is what I hung on to for about 16 miles of that run, some of the most painful (albeit definitely not the slowest) miles I’ve run in a marathon. That thought is what got me to the finish line with another sub-10 and a 4th place finish. I was absolutely thrilled!

It was farily surreal – I’m not sure what I expected to feel after finishing the double. The nerves and the buildup to these 2 weeks was by far more stressful than one race, and I think that the relief of not just one good race – but 2 – really did just feel THAT much better. I made myself believe for quite some time that I could do this and I could do it well. But……you just never know. Until you do know. And then, it feels. So. Good.

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With Chris Sweet, 10th MPRO and 1st American!
With Chris Sweet, 10th MPRO and 1st American!

I can’t thank Hillary enough for her patience with me over the last, oh, 4.5 years to get me ready to do this one 🙂 It’s been a LONG time in the making. It was definitely a special thing to be able to carry the torch and continue the foundation for the double that she has done so well!!

This is Not a Tea Party

It seems fitting today that as I was preparing my things for tomorrow’s race I came across my finisher’s medal from last weekend. On the back of the medal it says, “This is not a tea party.”

You can read the story behind this saying on the medals here. While I think some of the story gets lost in translation, I could really appreciate the meaning behind this.

There is something very beautiful, I have always believed, to challenge yourself, move your own borders. The beauty of it is the irrationality in the project. Sport inner soul is not healthy. It is all about drama, testing of own courage. – Jørgen Leth

The irrationality in the project – that may be what best describes the back-to-back IM project: irrational. To most, at least. I am lucky that I have surrounded myself by people just as irrational as myself, and who have supported this idea, and paved the way for me both in racing it and training for it, to make me the best prepared I am for what is to come tomorrow.

I am also quite lucky to have sponsors behind me supporting me in this project, answering my crazy skype calls and emails at all hours of the day and night, setting me up with other English speaking friends here (lifesaver), and making sure I’m best equipped to face tomorrow. Smashfest Queen, Dimond Bikes, Powerbar, Cadence Running Company, ISM Saddles, The Right Stuff – you guys are great, thank you!

And now, the million dollar question of course! How am I feeling? Well, I feel no better, no worse than last week at this time. And last week turned out pretty darn good.

Double time! Part I

Wow. I can not believe that the first week of this adventure has wrapped up and I’m into week 2 already! It’s been a whirlwind. After this first race I am already so glad I had made the decision to come over to Europe to race. With 15 Ironmans under my belt, it can be difficult to find ways to spice them up too much. When you go to the same destinations for a race that you’ve been to before, the comfort factor of knowing the ropes is nice, but, it’s easy to settle in and lose some of the adventure that is such a pivotal part of the Ironman experience.

Well, for anyone who is feeling that way, let me assure you: the adventure awaits in Europe 🙂

I’m also so grateful that triathlon gives me a purpose for all these crazy travels. Perhaps it’s a bit naïve or even selfish that I am able to travel to Europe without even a dictionary for language translation in my pocket, but not figuring it all out ahead of time is part of the adventure for me. Similarly to my epic bike trips with Leslie and Hillary – I like to figure out just enough so I’ll be safe and get to where I need to go. But, I want to figure the rest out as I go. This trip I actually attempted to be more prepared than usual by changing some money in the US airport. Turns out though, Euros aren’t used in Denmark. That’s what I get for trying to be prepared!

I have also been extremely lucky this trip to have perhaps the best homestay once again! Helle has been amazing at showing me all that Copenhagen has to offer – from a local’s perspective of course. Last week I was able to join her in her morning routines of running to a beach off-the-beaten-path where she jumps in for a morning swim. I was able to eat dinner at some great local spots with her help for the translating too! Of course, there have been the typical woes here and there where I’ve found myself lost and confused, being given a sandwich when I thought I ordered anything but a sandwich. Or riding around in circles as I try to get to a certain spot. Or just staring blankly at someone who did not speak English and apparently could not understand my charades acting out what I tried say. Nothing serious though and before I knew it I felt quite comfortable getting myself around here.

Being in a new country and a race venue I haven’t raced before means there were a lot of logistics to figure out. It has been a long time since I’ve been “stressed” about a race. Making sure I will be on time, finding the right bus to places, etc – all of this left me with the least amount of sleep I have had on a pre-race night in quite some time. While I had it all figured out on paper, the worry factor was definitely there. But, as things do, it all worked out well and I was at the race on time, feeling good. Of course though, it couldn’t go off without any snafu – as I pulled my wetsuit on, I tore a ginormous hole along one seam in the shoulder. OOPS. The way it ripped, I decided it wouldn’t affect the integrity of the suit much at all, so I opted not to tear the whole thing off for a “one-sleeved” effect. Instead, I just tried to hide behind the other girls as they photographed the start – I didn’t want to be the bum pro with a hole! Dead giveaway I wasn’t a swimmer though.

Race morning was also quite windy which was somewhat different than my other days in Copenhagen so far – though, definitely normal for Copenhagen in general. By the time we rounded the swim course, the buoys for the return had been blown around quite a bit leaving us with a bit more navigation that I think we wanted! The canal you swim in is quite shallow and very nice – it would be a great swim for a first timer, that’s for sure. I felt like this swim took FOR-EV-ER and would have bet my life I swam about a 1:10 — but I knew I was with at least one other pro female, and then when I saw 1:00 on the watch as I got out I was floored. Just goes to show how much you can be in your own head!!

I headed into transition – unlike in North America, there were no volunteers to help you change. Luckily for me, I was still able to get my bike shoes and helmet on all by myself!

Onto the bike! This allegedly “flat” course first takes you through the city with many technical twists and turns, but it definitely keeps it interesting. As we hit the coast, we felt that heavy crosswind that had been present at the swim. And onto the lollipop loop—well, anyone who says this is flat is most certainly wrong! It is fast since it’s just hills and they are definitely rollers, but this is no flat course! I loved every turn keeping things interesting, with just the right amount of climbing to give you a break from the strict aero position. As the second loop started, so did the masses of age group men flying by – I was pleased to see all the marshals out doing their absolute best – especially the ones who pulled over a pack of no less than 25 men who had BLOWN by me. C’mon guys!

There are great crowds on the bike course as well, and between them and the cobblestone sections it truly felt like the ultimate #Eurostyle riding experience. So much fun.

I had been passed by one other FPRO early in the ride, and had yet to see another, until finally, at mile 100 I caught someone in view! Whew. My power was good all ride so I knew that for me, this was an okay day on the bike – but I had no sense of where that was leaving me in the field, and I like to know at least some of that before the run.

I headed into the changing tent. Wait a minute…Apparently #Eurostyle is also a joint Male & Female tent! Cue the American blushing. Ha! No, they did have cubicles for people actually changing, but you can imagine how many men were taking time to go in there. Perhaps this helped me quicken my T2?

The run…..ah, the run! Weaving through the center of Copenhagen, crowds to what seemed like 10 people deep at the heart of the course – this, my friends, is a spectacular run. I was so pleasantly surprised to see how good my legs felt as well, meaning I could take in all the crowds on the first 2 loops and really soak in all that was there. By the second half, I was working for it, but it was one of those “I have a good feeling about this” types of days and I never doubted my ability to get it done. I also dearly appreciated the “U-S-A!” cheers I heard during those laps.

Coming into the chute it’s been awhile since I’ve had a smile like that on my face at the finish. I knew I nailed it and did what I had to do for part I of the double. A strong day of racing, a paycheck!, and all in tact for the week still ahead.

I was also so thankful to have planned a few of my extra in-between days in Copenhagen as there was much more to see and do: Christiania, dinner at Paper Island, a canal tour by boat, Tivoli, and of course the cat café! You can check out my pics from this adventure on Instagram (@agodesky) or my Facebook Album here!

More from France soon!! 🙂

European Double Training Update!

It’s funny to me when people ask the simple question “how are you doing” these days. Now, of course, these people have no idea that I probably just sweat out my body weight on a treadmill. Or rode my bike further than they’ve driven in the past 3 days.  And I know that. But nonetheless, I pause before I answer because my first instinct is similar to Sheldon in this clip (about 30 seconds in):

And quite literally, I spend some of my time these days hibernating with an afghan over my head:

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Ha SO DRAMATIC! 🙂 However, unlike Sheldon, I’m not unhappy….I’m just…..tired. And constantly saving all my energy for the next swim, bike or run.

The good news? Training is going well. It certainly has its ups and downs but overall, it has been up. While I’m still scared to do the double, I’m excited for it and I feel more than prepared.

The bad news? I have basically no idea what is going on in the real world right now. My news consists of Bachelor in Paradise (trainer material people!!) and whatever is on Twitter during a few select hours of the day. I have made some discoveries over the last few weeks though – like, most excitingly, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever sneak eating the Triple Ginger Snaps from Trader Joes. The container that they are in does not open without a terribly loud noise alerting everyone around that you’re sneaking cookies. Good thing with this much training, “sneaking” ginger snaps is not considered a terrible offense 🙂

Four more days and it’s taper time baby!!

The best of months!

Since Couer d’Alene and basically all of July, I had one of the best coaching months of my career so far. Being able to host camp in Cville to see my athletes in person always leaves me loving coaching. But this year was also unique in that just a few short weeks later I would be able to see some of these athletes again taking on Lake Placid.  With so many of Hillary and my athletes racing, it was a no brainer that I wanted to try to be there in person. So, I spent the week between NYC Tri and IM Lake Placid in the Adirondacks with Ed before heading up to Lake Placid for race weekend. Three of my athletes would be taking on their FIRST Ironman, and one was tackling her second and we were looking for some major gains! As a sidenote, I’m quite positive that the Adirondack’s are the perfect summer training escape and very likely I will be spending more time of my summers to come up that way.

Back to Lake Placid – these ladies did not disappoint. Bri, Megan, Beth and Amy all threw down some really, really inspiring performances. One of the best parts of coaching is that no two athletes have the same story. Each person’s life presents its own unique challenges to try to meld with training, and that is one of the challenges of coaching that I enjoy so much. While each of these ladies took very different paths to the start line in Lake Placid, I had no doubts that they would all end up together at the finish line that night.

Some of the highlights:

Pup-sitting for Beth!
Pup-sitting for Beth!
They smashed it!!
They smashed it!!
Briana's 1st IM Finish - more to come!!
Briana’s 1st IM Finish – more to come!!
Megan's 1st finish! So awesome!
Megan’s 1st finish! So awesome!
Amy being sent off for the run by her kiddos!
Amy being sent off for the run by her kiddos!

As if this wasn’t enough, Whiting and Emily also proved that the highlights weren’t just for Lake Placid! Over in Boulder the following week, they both threw down amazing performances. With a huge PR for one, and a KONA SPOT for another, these ladies helped continue the TeamHPB celebrations for another week!

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Having these moments come during a big build for me has helped to keep my head afloat. It’s always inspiring to get to be on the other side for a race or two, and seeing their successes help me keep things in perspective AND inspired to get through my own training.

Racing season is far from done so I have a feeling this will not be the end of the success stories I share this year!

Up next…

Don’t worry: a post on one of my most amazing days as a coach EVER is coming soon in the next few days. But, I wanted to update you all on my racing plans because, well – AUGUST IS HERE! If I don’t tell ya soon what I’m up to, it might be too late!

When Challenge restructured their races this year, it threw a huge curveball in my plans. My entire fall racing season went out the window. I began to investigate other options, but much to my dismay, it seemed like the most suitable options were all in Europe.

But, then I bought a plane ticket to Europe. Cue the HUGE smile of excitement.

In about 3 short weeks I will be embarking on the Alyssa European Vacation Racecation and am doing the dirty double with IM Copenhagen August 23rd, followed by IM Vichy August 30th. While I am SUPER disappointed that this means no Penticton (I love my homestay family there, and hope they bring back the pro field for the 140.6 in 2016!!), I am very excited to be racing in Europe.

I have chosen this career to push myself and find adventure. I have no doubts that adventures await in August!

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On the road….again!

After a good 2 weeks at home after CDA, I was back on the road. Luckily for me this extended trip was a driving tour of the north east. Not that I particularly enjoy driving over flying…I just enjoy the luxury of being able to overpack 🙂 Thus, the car ended up with 3 bikes, 8 wheels and a trainer in it…..before any of the luggage was packed. Hello, roof rack! This road trip definitely made me think about upgrading our car sometime soon! One of my friends just bought a used Chevy Colorado that is great for road trips so I might have to ask her where she got her new vehicle from.

First stop on the tour: HOME! My parent’s house has actually turned into a solid training destination for me. A pool about a quarter mile down the road, good riding and running roads, and a mother who is so happy to see me I get dinner made for me every night?!! I need nothing more!! Thanks Mom and Dad! But, this was only a brief stop, and after a couple days I headed on my way to the Big Apple.

NYC and I have a love-hate relationship. I typically love being in the city for about 2-3 days. Then I start to feel quite claustrophobic and my inner country girl begins to shine through. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in the city when I’m there but I don’t think I could live there all of the time. This is a shame really, as I came across some great apartments for rent when we were helping my sister to find a place to live before she moved to the Big Apple, but my heart has always belonged in the country. My sister has been living in NY (now Hoboken) for quite some time and it was always on the list to come up for a race at some point. With a small opening in the schedule and a pro-race available for the NYC triathlon, it seemed like a good time to make the effort.

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Logistically, racing in NY is just never going to be simple. Planes (okay not really), trains (yep), and automobiles (taxis) are just all part of the fun to get yourself to the start line. But I should say that the pre-race experience as a pro was second to none. The Lifetime Fitness team really made an effort to make the professionals feel welcome, and, like they are a professional. That’s a nice touch.

Race morning was another early start. I am eager to return to a race where I can start after 6am! The swim for this one is a downriver swim (yay!)…….in the Hudson River (eek!). More than a handful of people warned me about potential diseases and debris I could find in the river. Thanks, guys. Still no sign of a third nipple yet.

The race offers a dive start from the barge for the pros. I’ve been practicing this and was eager to try my skillz. Ed was able to capture the moment in video for me! I think if I get a little more aggressive (ie don’t wait until everyone else goes in to dive) and keep my feet together, I’ll be in good shape next time. I’m 5th in from the left in this video:

The bike course is deceivingly hilly (who knew the West Side Highway has substantial hills?) and the run course through Central Park is, of course, also hilly. My powertap decided not to work when I hopped on my bike, so I bike as hard as I could for the 25 miles before heading out onto the run. Mostly running solo, I finally caught sight of a woman up ahead and was able to make the pass before the finish line where Ed and my family were cheering. I had zero expectations for what I could do in a short course situation 2 weeks after an IM, so I was happy enough with 9th place and certainly pleased to have had the opportunity to get in a hard 2 hour effort while crossing the “race in NYC” item off my bucket list.

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Post-race brought some touristy things (can you believe I had never visited the Museum of Modern Art before?!), a really really good Italian dinner in Jersey, and some rest before packing up and getting back into the car and heading up to Great Sacandaga Lake. Ed’s family has a “camp” up here and were kind enough to offer us a bed in the sleeping loft so we can take a few days of R&R on our way up to Lake Placid. Turns out, this area has great riding roads and, obviously, a great opportunity for some OWS practice right down the front yard.

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But, in keeping with the theme of things, after a few days it is time to pack up (again!) and head out – onwards to Lake Placid! TeamHPB has 7 athletes racing – 4 first time IMers! I couldn’t miss this 🙂 I’ve already decided I will need about 8 phone batteries to be able to keep the team posted on everyone’s progress on Sunday. Looking forward to catching up with some other good friends who are there racing, it will be a fun final stop on the tour before heading back to VA on Monday.

Charlottesville Tri Camp Recap!

Have a bit of catching up on the blog here so I’ll be heading back to earlier this month first —

Coming home from CDA, it was not quite time for some R&R just yet. There was still Charlottesville Tri Camp to be done!! Comprised of mostly TeamHPBers, yet open to all, it’s a great compliment to the Tucson Camp option that I help coach with Hillary and Maik.  We had a great mix of experience with the campers for this year, and I was really excited to see the weekend grow from last year.

Leslie and Nate were on the same CDA-Camp double schedule with me, and it was nice to get to see them so much more often than normal! We headed over to the UVA track to meet on Thursday night for our shakeout run with the campers. Followed by a low key pizza night, it’s always  a great night as the mix of nerves and excitement for the training ahead is tangibly in the air.

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Friday and Saturday are my favorite days of the camp, as the longest days that we have it’s often the largest chunk of back-to-back training many campers have experienced to this point. Friday’s Skyline ride is also pretty special for those coming in from out of town. They might not have called 8,000+ feet of climbing “special”, but I think that’s a good word for it 🙂 Once again, we were super lucky with the Charlottesville weather forecast, managing to narrowly miss some strong summer storms, and finding the riding weather actually quite comfortable – a good break from the stifling heat and humidity we had seen a few weeks earlier.

Skyline

After conquering 104 miles of some of the toughest (but most scenic!!) climbing in the area, Saturday’s adventures on paper don’t seem like much, but soon the campers found out otherwise 🙂 We rode over to Walnut Creek Park this year for some Open Water Swimming practice. With a comfortable water temperature and a good swimming beach, it’s a great place to practice all sorts of things for open water, especially starts and sighting. Soon everyone realized how tiring sprinting in and out of the water can be!!

Walnut Creek Park

No rest for the weay though – a 20 mile ride was ahead over to Ridge Road. A hidden gravel road that many people come to Charlottesville to experience as a runner, the 4 mile long stretch of rolling hills is my favorite place for a progression run in the area. It just wouldn’t be proper to bring people to Charlottesville to train and not show them that then, right?! Ridge road can be humbling, and it wasn’t the first time that I saw some campers experience their first “blow up” during the progression portion. It may not be fun for them to have coach running alongside when that happens, but having it happen in a controlled training environment where I know we’ll ultimately get them home safely is actually a good thing in my mind. Better in training than a race for sure!!

Some of the crew heading out on Ridge Road!
Some of the crew heading out on Ridge Road!

A final easy spin home and, time for some food and rest.

Sunday includes an easy spin along the country roads, followed by a long swim session. We had a few 100×100 takers this round, but Leslie and I used the time with folks to focus on technique and form as well. Nothing like 3 hours in the pool to really get some time looking at strokes, right?! 🙂  The traditional Sunday night BBQ was well timed this year with the women’s world cup final. We piled into the living room to watch the USA victory and I think it helped to keep everyone inspired for the last task at hand: Monday morning long run! A mix of roads, trails, gravel and plenty of hills, we tackled 3 hours on the feet before hugging goodbye and sending everyone off to the “real world” once again.

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Leslie, Nate and I had SO MUCH fun coaching this group. It was also fun to get to see Stephanie’s progression with the sessions year over year as our returning camper. She has been working so hard the past few years and her improvement is proof that it’s working. After seeing her progress this year at camp, I have no doubts about her ability to smash IM Chattanooga!  Several of the other campers I will be getting to watch this weekend in Lake Placid. They are all so fit and so ready, it’s going to be a great day for sure!!!!

Stephanie pleasantly surprised with progress from last year!!
Stephanie pleasantly surprised with progress from last year!!

Some Like it Hot: Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015

The trip to CDA this year certainly did not disappoint. I was extremely lucky that while it was a long way from home, it felt quite the opposite. From crossing paths with Leslie and Nate in the airport for the second leg of the journey, to staying with Dawn and Mike who are from DC, to having Hillary in town along with Dimond Van Chris and the TriEqual women: this race felt like home for me. I also always enjoy returning to a race, and having been here in 2012 I was familiar with the roads and routes, as well as the coffee shops for a bite and caffeine fix in the AM. This makes a big difference for being able to relax going in to a race!

I usually wait until the end of the post to thank my sponsors, but this time is different. All of them played a huge role in this race for me, and deserve some recognition here right up top. Smashfest Queen – thank you for creating a brand that gives me a team of women cheering for me and to cheer for on each and every race course. Not to mention the Sakura Sun kit looked BOSS out there! Dimond – fastest bike on the market and some of the best people working for the team. Above and beyond! And traveling with no bike fees from the Ruster Sports Hen House — Thank you! Cadence Running Co – without you guys I literally wouldn’t have made it to the race. Thank you. Powerbar, The Right Stuff, and ISM – A pivotal part to success with nutrition and comfort. Oh, and thanks to the Washington State police man who let me go with a warning for talking on my cell phone and driving. 🙂 OOPS! I promise I didn’t do it again!

Race morning started……early. With the start being bumped up to 5:30 for the heat, it meant a 3:20 wake up call. Not the worst, I suppose……but, not the best. The water felt cool at 72 and we didn’t have wetsuits, but I appreciated the laughs with some of the other pro women as we reminded ourselves that this would probably be the coolest we felt all day and should enjoy it. We were right.

Before this race, I did my homework. I knew that one of my fatal flaws in South Africa was that I wasn’t aggressive enough on the swim with finding the women I needed to stick with. Biking alone was the end of my race, essentially — this wasn’t going to happen in CDA. I stuck to my target swimmers like glue, and I came around the first loop knowing I had at least 1 of them still with me. I dove in and started the second loop, and despite having to swim through quite a few age groupers, we stayed together. I was shocked to find myself leading a group of 3 others out of the water.

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Onto the bike! I began riding with Haley Cooper-Scott. Fun fact: I’m a huge HCS fan! She is one of the women who’s careers I followed early in my ironman days, and definitely inspired me to go after that pro card. I opted not to tell her this while we rode, though….

I have been working on my bike A LOT since South Africa. In fact, I could probably count the amount of days I haven’t ridden my Dimond since that day in March on one hand. As a result I am happier than ever riding this bike and I think this day proved that good days to come on the whip are ahead!

cdabike1

Haley is a strong cyclist, and sticking with her proved to be slightly above the effort level I wanted to by mile 40ish. I let her go, and focused on staying clear of the draft zones of the many age group men around us on the course. Initially the pros were supposed to start close to 30 minutes ahead of the age groupers. However, with the earlier start, this got cut down to about 10 minutes. Needless to say, that wasn’t enough to keep the roads free and clear for the female pros, which was a bit disappointing. Given that most of us pro women were riding within 10 minutes of each other, if we could have kept things more clear it would have certainly made for a better race.

cdabike2

Over the span of miles 74 to 83 the temperatures on the road rose from 85 degrees to 100. That is a HUGE jump for a short time, and yes, we certainly felt it. It was simply hot out there. At that point I made the decision to do what I could to hydrate as much. as. possible. I knew I was going to need it. I also made sure to get my salt in me – I use The Right Stuff while on the bike and it has never let me down setting me up for a good run in hot conditions!

Heading onto the run, I actually felt pretty good and controlled. My pace was somewhere I would be happy with even if it wasn’t 100+ degrees on the road. While I was uncertain how it would play out by the end of the race, I knew I wanted to hold on and try to catch as many as I could before the wheels came off — whether they came off of me, or the others, I waned to put myself in money spot while I felt good. 11th place was not where I wanted to stay! Plus, I had Leslie to catch – she was only a couple minutes ahead of me.

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The name of the game was just staying cool. It was nearly impossible as the temps continued to rise, but I did what I could and sure enough was able to reel a couple women in. As I started the second loop of the run and found myself bending over to drink water from a leak in a hose that was supposed to be cooling runners down, it hit me that I might be in trouble. Survival mode kicked in and I just tried to hold on.

run

This got increasingly harder and harder as I felt like my skin was on fire and I was running on the sun. But, I kept moving as best I could. Hitting the downhill finish, I realized I had one woman closing in on me. You’ve got to be kidding me!!! I did everything I could to get my turnover up and my legs moving, but it simply wasn’t there. Still, crossing the line in 9th place and by far my best pro IM to date, I was proud!

For everyone else who crossed the finish line that day: Congrats! If you can do that, you can do anything. Seriously.

Standing on the stage with Leslie the next day was a great moment. Her and I have been working hard the past few weeks months years to get to this point. It is only the beginning, but boy it feels good to see some results!

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No rest for the weary just yet though as we flew home Wednesday and had a day to prep for Charlottesville Tri Camp! One of our favorite weekends of the year was yet to come!

T-minus…..13 hours!

Just in case you’ve managed to miss everyone’s posts on social media in the past couple days: Ironman CDA is going to be HOT! There were some murmurs of a shortened race if necessary to ease the stress on the regional medical staff, but, no word so far and all systems are go for the full 140.6 miles tomorrow.

For me, the heat is definitely advantageous. When conditions get this hot, the swim and the bike go as planned, and then, as Ironmans typically do, it comes down to the marathon. Running a fast marathon in 103 degree heat – ha! Raw speed goes out the window, and strong and steady will rule the day. Lucky for me, strong and steady is something I can do, and do well. Not that I won’t have to fight for it, but, I do know that the door is open wider than it is if it was going to be 72 degrees and cloudy. I plan to take advantage of that to the best I can!

I have been enjoying CDA the past couple days. It really is refreshing to be in a town that embraces the race so heartily like they do here. My only complaints come from watching athletes ride without helmets and blow through the 4 way stops while pre-riding the course (seriously guys!?!). Otherwise my ride this morning was picture perfect out along Lakeside Drive, and, I even got to meet up with another Smashfest Queen, Liz! This is the kit you should look out for me in tomorrow folks!

Sakura

Pros will be required to carry the GPS and data trackers (not in the swim) – you can follow along with us here.

Oh, and, if you haven’t already, enter the contest to guess the time differential between Leslie and me here. You could win something sweet!

Let’s do this!!