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April will go down as one of the best months of my professional life. While it was fiercely busy, it was worth it all. Ironically, as I type this blog, I am on my way from Chicago to Whistler, Canada for the Lululemon Ambassador Summit. I am honored to have been chosen as 1 of 4 from the Chicago region to attend this Summit with 120 other Ambassadors from all over the globe.
Back up to the first week of April. As I blogged about, I went with the U of I to Collegiate Nationals and spent a few days with some of the hardest working, never complaining athletes ever. Like I mentioned, it was a breath of fresh air for me and a huge opportunity to experience triathlon through the eye of collegiate kids. Both refreshing AND fun for me. I look forward to the 2014-2015 school year (yes, they are almost done with school!) and 2015 Collegiate Nationals!
From Tempe, Arizona, I decided to go straight to Tucson to start my JHC Camps. Our twins are 12 now and in school from 8am-4pm and then Jerome is home after that…so while I missed my kids terribly, it is a new chapter in our lives and something I could NOT do in the past with smaller kids, I can most definitely do now. And, with SKYPE and they text me 100000x a day, it is like I never left. (And, honestly, they are never home when I am home anymore!).
It is good for the kids to have some freedom and for them to understand that Mom does travel for her work too. And, while it is Triathlon, it is not any less important than what other professionals do. I just have more fun. It is a good life lesson for the kids – LOVE your job and have a passion in life!
JHC Camp was a blast. I always am a hot mess of worry leading into camp, but this is my 6th or 7th year and I have things running pretty smoothly. There are always insurance issues and stuff like that, but otherwise, I have the routes, safety things taken care of…plus, being in Tucson for a few days before camp really allowed me to focus on camps (& step away from mom stuff) to be 100% prepared.
The group of JHC athletes that come to camp are so fun. Every year, we have several repeat campers and then several new to camp athletes. I try to keep it at 12, but I always seem to include a few extras – this year we had 18 that included Jerome & I. I rent them all condos in my condo association and it keeps everyone together – but gives them a kitchen and some privacy as well.
Camp is non-stop. We had a couple of free hours one day and I said, “WE SHOULD BE SWIMMING!” The thing I like best about camp is it gives me time to get to know these athletes personally a bit better. I like to see how the athletes respond to the over-load in work, the heat/conditions, the climbing we go (especially Mt. Lemmon) and to see how far they can dig and still come out alive on the other side. Camp is not easy. In fact, each year I work hard to make it even harder.
We had one little fall while running Phoneline Trail this year – the camper is fine but it did require a visit to Urgent Care. Nothing 22 stitches could not fix! Accidents are bound to happen with big groups in aggressive scenarios, but we were on it, got him taken care of and he was riding the next day.
Every night we do a group dinner and it is fun to see the athletes, socialize a bit with everyone and get to de-tox from a long day. I am sure many campers just wanted to lay in their beds, but hopefully everyone had a good time at dinner and got to make some new friends. I am grateful for the athletes that come to camp and put their trust in myself and Jerome to run a fun but hard camp. Thanks to my SAG support of Jen L and Cindy P – without them, everyone would be in big trouble in the Tucson heat.
The long term plan is to run camps all Spring once my kids are in college. AND I am still young enough to do it. HA. (not funny)….Jerome & I still lead/participate all the workouts (except swimming) and work hard at sweeping the rides, riding with all levels of riders – I think that is important for me as their coach. So, I come home from camp mentally & physically drained.
As soon as I returned from Camp, besides back to normal coach work, I needed to re-group with the kids and do Doctor appointments, do Easter with my family, GETTING BRACES OFF for Morgan, and sports and activities. Normal mom stuff. Even this past weekend, Jerome’s dad and uncle were in town so they could go to DLD (Dark Lord Day) – this is an ALL DAY beer event in Indiana. Tickets for this event are harder to get than into the Ironman. And, Graham was asked to play “UP” with the big boys for soccer – so we had double the games this weekend far away. AND then I wanted to include Morgan in some fun this weekend, so I took her and her friend shopping – the BIG thing now is Bethany Moda…and anything she makes Morgan goes ga ga over. We also went to see the kid’s middle school friends on Saturday night in the Suessical play – so cute. (And then I passed out).
And, because I was not busy enough, I added a Triathlon this past weekend to my calendar. I do it every spring when I can. The weather is notoriously shitty. And, this year, was no exception. I drove up to Wisconsin and it was raining (no, pouring) and 37F. AND so windy I could barely keep my SUV on the road. Oh lovely. The swim is in a pool (our lakes are still 40-45F!) for 1000 yards and then a 27 mile bike and an off road (and wet) 10k. I suggested a few of my local athletes go up there with me and race (they hate me) and they literally thought I was NUTS when we arrived at the race site and we were freezing cold AND wet. Our bikes would barely stay on the Transition racks.
We had a good time at the race and everyone lived to tell about it. I was able to work out some of the rusty things in transition, work on riding hard aero again (outside!), nutrition and everything else as we get into race season. It was also nice to walk away with the win – no matter how small or big the race is, I surely don’t take anything like that for granted, ever.
And, today it is Monday. I am sitting on plane on my way to Whistler, Canada. I am looking forward to a few days with some great & fun people. As I reflect on my April, I had amazing opportunities with amazing people and it is months like this that remind me of what life is all about – Do what you love with the people you love.
This past weekend I was in Tempe, Arizona with the University of Illinois Team for Collegiate Nationals.
It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. This season I have been lucky enough to coach this great group of kids. To my knowledge, it was the first time they have ever had a coach writing workouts for them, analyzing their data & answering all their training/racing questions.
The whole school year has been focused on one race: Collegiate Nationals.
Jennifer, the President of the U of I team and I talked constantly about the workouts, kids, schedules, school and getting ready for Nationals. One of the issues was our brutal winter. I had to really think about how to best prepare these kids to peak for an early April race when they were not able to ride their bikes outside all winter. A rarity even in Champaign, IL. Apart from Spring Break, which was the week prior to race week, most of them were never outside on their bikes.
I was excited when Jennifer asked if I would go to Tempe and coach/support them for Nationals. I even moved my JHC camp around so I could attend Nationals – I wanted to be there!
We flew out on Thursday – U of I is a massive team. There are hundreds of kids that are part of the team, but U of I only took their top 25 athletes. And, the way Nationals works is that there are waves and the kids are placed in waves based on seed times from past Nationals or races.
It was funny, I did not know what to expect. Sure, I talk to these kids and see them, but travel with them for 4 days? I was stuck in between trying to be coach and not a mother. Little did I know, but I really did not give these kids credit for being so smart and frankly, mature.
I don’t spend a lot of time with college kids. My kids are 12. I don’t have friends that are in college..so I am stuck in the child world OR adult world above 30+ years old. So, I think back to my college days and assume that is how kids are now. THAT is the farthest from the truth. Kids are smarter now, incredibly tech savvy and relevant. I was mesmerized by their explanations of their Masters and PhD programs and how they go to school AND AFFORD Triathlon. (I graduated with $11.00 to my name, no way in hell I could do this $ sport).
There are so many good stories from this weekend – but here are the highlights:
- Walked into hotel and the front desk manager looked at me – figuring out if I was someone’s mom. Put me in a room right next to the kids…pool side. I got to my room and realized quickly this was going to be a hot mess. The entire hotel was 4 colleges – and unbeknownst to me, planned by the kids year after year who they will lodge with. Universty of Arizona was there and Jimmy Riccetello – which was nice for me to catch up with him (He coaches U of A). I go back to the front desk and ask the kid at the front desk if they can move me to the other side of the hotel. I had to move. I was either going to get arrested OR not sleep. Both, of which, would not be good. He took pity on me, upgraded me to a Suite and in the “old” people’s section. Perfect! I slept awesome.
- There are a ton of takeaways from this past weekend, but the main one was: 1.) I did not realize it at the time but these kids never once complained. NOT once. Looking back, this was the most refreshing part of the weekend. Working with adults, this is always something I help manage on a daily basis. When I had time to reflect on the weekend, this is the biggest takeaway. Frankly, they were just so grateful to be there, to race with the best in the country, be away from the daily grind of school and be with one another. They are a true team. I was so impressed by this!
- I rented a car while out there – the kids, for the most part took a Shuttle every where. At first, the kids would all take the Shuttle, as the days went by they would start to ride with me and we had some hilarious discussions in the car. I had to remind myself I was not 20-25 and don’t pretend to be. I had the music in my car on the 70s (Classic Rock). I knew the kids would needle me for this but one guy said, “Oh, I love the Oldies.” Um, no…these are Classic Rock songs. We were laughing so hard. Then one asked who my favorite band/singer was. DAMN I knew I had to say Kid Rock…and I did….some of them just laughed others were in shock.
- These boys can eat. Of the 25 kids there, 16 were guys. And, you know what is “in” for college kids now? Mustaches. So, imagine hundreds of guys between the ages of 19-25 in speedos or too small shorts and mustaches. It was like bad 1980 porn show. Thankfully no one from the U of I had a stache…but there were many there. I had to really watch myself when we ate out – the boys EAT…and plates and plates of food. This is not news, but a friendly reminder of youth.
- They asked smart questions. How to warm up, when to warm up…there were 8 waves of men/women and we had someone in almost every wave. So, the timing of food, warming up and all of that good stuff was critical. The women raced first and ALL the boys watched the girls race – then vice versa later in the day. The college teams were fun. They were all dressed up in their college kits and mascots. They all chanted their school fight songs all day. They walked around in school pride and colors all day – it was FUN! By the end of the weekend I knew the Illini fight song as well (I went to Illinois State).
- These kids are fast. I knew many of them were speedy. But, EVERY single kid (except 1) Prd. 24 out of 25 kids. The weather is Tempe was ideal. But, most of these kids raced last year too and they all Prd. In fact, one of the guys ran a 33:23 off the bike for the 10k! Watching these athletes race was refreshing and inspiring! Many rode sub 1. One female rode the just short of 40k in 1.01. It was fun to watch and I could not help be so proud of these kids all day & weekend.
- One of the girls had a bike accident the morning of the race. The kids had to ride their bikes to transition in the morning and she got her bag stuck in her spokes and flipped over her handlebars. She fell on her arms and her elbow was swollen. Thankfully, I was driving by – hoping the accident was not the U of I kids, but it was. I stopped and tried to console her – put her bike and her into my car and drove her to the race site. I assured her that it was not broken, just a strain of the tendons and while she was incredibly strong (I know she just wanted to break down and cry), she showed amazing composure. AP is a 5th year senior and swam competitively for U of I and was a butterflyer. So, she can handle pain. She raced, did awesome, Prd and was overjoyed with her race. When she got home she got X-rayed and I will be damned if she did not break her radial bone. See! TOUGH as nails these kids. WOW. SHE NEVER complained once.
- You know what else was refreshing? These kids NEVER once compared themselves to the other kids (at least not in front of me). They were surrounded by thousands of their peers. NO mention of being fat, not eating this or that…they were so confident and comfortable in their own skin. Like I said, wise above their years. Many adult triathletes can learn from them.
- The kids were pretty focused and reserved until post race. After the races we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the Awards Party. I was corrected when I said it was an Awards “Ceremony.” No, no….it was most definitely a party. The kids were not SUPER interested in it but we were there and it was all you can imagine it was – it was outside too, which was just awesome. My eyes hurt from just watching some of these kids dressed up in god knows what and drinking.
- I found that the kids are genuinely interested in triathlon life post college. Once the race was over the kids were able to relax and since they were all on CLOUD 9, they were asking me a ton of questions….How did you meet your husband? How do you have kids and race/train and work? You started in Corporate America but now work solo? They said they don’t know much about me because the focus is always on them and racing/training. So, after the pressure of their races were over, they were inquisitive. Honestly, I think they were just trying their hardest to figure out HOW in the hell someone my age has done this as long as some of them have been alive and have raced in Kona. They were interested in Kona and what it takes to qualify and go faster while not being 21 years old. I talked about balance, sacrifices and priorities as you get older, etc.
- On the way home after the Awards “Party” on Saturday night Dan asked me if I wanted to come back to the hotel with all of them and join their “RAGE.” I looked at him and said, “Not sure how that will end up for me OR you guys.” I was afraid of what this entailed so I voted to go back to my room. They partied on. I was so exhausted I would definitely have brought down their party in many, many ways.
- These kids can recover! They woke up on Sunday morning fresh as daisys. I, on the other hand, felt like I was hit by a truck and I did not even race. Goes to show I cannot train and party like a rock star at 43 years old, but you surely can do it at 21 years old (as we know!).
I was so proud of these kids. I got to meet some very, very smart young adults. Many are getting their MBAs, PhDs, etc. (USAT does NOT have an age limit for Collegiate Nationals – you just have to be taking classes!)….so the oldest was 25. Youngest was a Freshman. I laughed hard all weekend. I felt like my Triathlon life had come full circle. Tim Yount, who has worked at USAT for 20+ years announced the race – we had a few minutes to catch up and he said, “I remember when you were this age, Jennifer and racing….Funny how it all comes full circle.”
Yes, it is. And, I would not have it any other way. I look forward to my continued partnership with the U of I and some of these kids individually as they get ready for race Ironmans and the such this summer!!
I drove straight from Tempe to Tucson after the weekend. I am here now preparing for my Annual JHC Camp that starts tomorrow! Cannot wait – THIS is the way to live.