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Re-Defining Hard

Coming off another JHC Camp in Tucson this past week, I was reminded again of some of the key areas I try to work on with athletes : Re-defining hard and Suffering.

There were lots of tears at camp, but also lots of breakthroughs. Tucson’s climate is not easy for the athletes that have been hibernating all winter in their basements. Further, everyone in their basement is winning their own workouts all alone in a climate-controlled and fuel controlled environment. There is nothing wrong with this at all – hell, this is how most of us train all winter. But, at camp, my job is to show athletes that we race in shitty conditions and on not so perfect days. Tucson had record heat this camp. It was 94F on Sunday. This is hot for many northerners!

Camp is not complicated. I keep it very simple, very precise and VERY hard.

We ride a lot. We run a lot and we swim a little bit. I would love to swim more, but really these athletes need to ride outside and work on bike handling skills, shifting up hills, climbing Lemmon multiple times and how to stack day after day of big workouts and how to finish camp feeling tired but also accomplished.

The biggest thing that I want the campers to walk away with from camp is this: Re-defining what their definition of HARD is.

Some athletes excel at this. Many elite AG and PRO racers got this. They can suffer when the workout says, “RUN UNTIL YOU PUKE.” In fact, some elite AG and Pros will retire purely for this reason: THEY are done suffering. And, once you are done suffering (at that level), you need to walk away. This is what happened to Jerome. He finally just said, “I just do not want to hurt anymore.” Got it. Understand. Getting out of bed EVERY day to test yourself, rip yourself apart (when the workout calls for it) and re-defining hard every season can be exhausting on many levels.

However, there are many athletes that just do not understand this concept. Even when I say “HARD” in their workouts that they do alone or in their basements, even with data, it is not really hard…it is a “harder effort” sure, but not what I mean by OMG this is hard.

For example, on the 2nd last day of camp, after long days and long rides and crabby crotches, I make the athletes do Time Trials up Mt. Lemmon. The campers do anywhere from 1-3 x 5 mile repeats up the steeper part of Lemmon. I love this workout and think it really shows me what can these athletes endure : mentally and physically.

I do this ride at 1:00pm during the heat of the day and Sunday was 94F in the shade after many of them ran 9-16 miles that morning.

I remember doing these Time Trails with Spencer Smith back in the day – I would be gutted, tasting blood, near vomit at the top of these 5 miles ( he would be soft pedaling). But, they were pivotal in my understanding of what hard really was on the bike and what we are truly capable of mentally and physically. I had to be turned inside out and humbled to really “get it.” But, once that switch happened, I knew how to do it every time I was asked to ride “hard.”

I sent the group up Lemmon – tell the lead rider what the “camp record” is to mile 5, so he has someone to chase and the rest chase their own inner demons. Jerome and I start at the back and ride through the riders to encourage them. Honestly, I do it so I can really see who is working.

If I go by the athlete and he/she is not breathing or drooling over themselves OR blowing snots, they are not going hard enough. When I say “HARD,” I mean ALL out. Doesn’t matter what the HR says, the power says, I do not care. Get rid of it – just you and your head. Of course HR will be high, power low, we are on day 4 of a massive camp. But, what I want is for these athletes to really TEST themselves – throw away the limiting data. JUST SUFFER. Cry and even want to stop. Only then will they understand what they are made up and what their own personal limits are.

How do you really dig deep and go harder than you ever thought possible?

When it comes to athletic endeavors, especially endurance sports, your ability to suffer can mean the difference between a good race and a great race and continuing to improve and PR.

Part of this is confidence and the other part of it is experience. You have to hit rock bottom in training – where you are in tears, or near vomiting or sitting on the side of the road begging for mercy to really understand what your limits are. And you need to be able to do this in all three sports. Many athletes excel in one sport, but are challenged with how to transfer this to the other sport. I find many elite D1 swimmers who really have to re-define what hard is and learn what hard is in running, for example. For some it doesn’t come natural. For the ones where it does, they can rise to the challenges and put themselves out there, overcome their fears and rise above their competition.

One of my challenges of a coach is to teach people how to suffer and re-define what HARD really is. I would say that 85% of the athletes I work with can suffer more. And, teaching athletes really what hard vs easy is – is key too. Many athletes are training in that grey zone all the time – “just training” but with no specificity and no clear delineation between hard and easy. This will initially get you fit, and in the beginning you will do OK, but as the seasons go by, unless you tap into this “suffering” you will plateau and see less and less improvement.

In Carrie Cheadle’s book: On Top of Your Game she refers to this suffering:

A lot of athletes don’t realize that they haven’t pushed themselves as hard as they can go until they get to the end of the race and still have some left in the tank. Part of the reason people hold back is because many athletes find themselves “risk averse” and opt to play it safe versus risking the possibility of pushing so hard that they don’t finish where they want to. If you’re trying to figure out the balance you might try asking yourself during the race, “Can I give 1% more?” That way you’re playing with where the line is, but not necessarily pushing too far past it. The more you race and try out different strategies, the more you will learn how you operate and figure out what the best strategy is for you.

Challenge yourself this season and re-define your HARD. I promise you, you have more in you.

 


Comments

  1. Great post!!!


  2. Excellent post Jenny!! On point !!The last paragraph where you cite Carrie Cheadle fits me! 1% more?
    Thanks for your insights !!!


  3. Jen, I am so jealous. Sorry I came late to the party and missed out on the camp. I remember thinking you were kind of soft when we worked briefly together in 2005. Hah!!! This is so my kind of camp. Ride (until you tear the meat off the bone), Puke, Repeat! Bonus if you call me a lazy maggot. BTW, there’s no crying in triathlon. If I survive this season, I’m there next year.


  4. LOVE THIS!!!!


  5. You are so right…and this is such a lesson I need to relearn!!!! And I have spent the last year trying to relearn some of that…it is still a struggle!


  6. This is so great. This is a mental insight that I am only beginning to learn with your help. I can’t wait to grow more as an athlete and person!


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Sick in San Juan

2015 marks my 20th season of racing. And, if it is one thing I have learned in these 20 years of Triathlon is that we cannot have wins without losses. Nothing improves an athlete more than losing or facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.

I had absolutely no control to what happened to me on Friday night in San Juan. But what I had absolute control over was my attitude and the way I would handle the next 48-72 hours.

Let’s step back to my preparation for my race:

To kick off my 20th season, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone AND something out of my comfort zone.

With that in mind, I signed up for Puerto Rico 70.3 that was slated to be on March 15th. There are a lot of reasons why this is not a good idea..I have not been on a bike (apart from a few days in Tucson) since November outside, I would be far from acclimated – and I would probably be a bit heavy coming out of Chicago’s winter. Oh yeah, and the course was hot, humid and hilly. Considering Eagleman 70.3 is my favorite half ironman, this was a stretch. I hit the enter button for this race on December 15 before our real winter hits.

I came off a bigger year in 2014. I raced a lot. I did well. I had fun. What I wanted in 2015 was simpler. I wanted to go “big” early and then race local. I wanted to be around in the summer while my kids are still around and while we are selling & building a new house.

On February 2nd we got an offer for our house after 3 years on and off the market. Jerome was in China and then next 30 days were insane. Alone, I got the house ready for a house inspection (not easy we live in an 1880s house), looked for a rental and fought our new house plans in front of the Village Board of our new town. (we won). I was privately barely holding it all together. On top of this, of course, being mom and coaching full time. AND training for a 70.3 without any reservations. I was ALL IN.

I loved the training – I worked hard, trained hard, ran hills, ate hills, I did everything right to prepare for San Juan. I was lucky enough to be in a great relationship with Element Multisport in Chicago and Chris put me on a new PINK Trek Speed Concept TT bike and Rob put me on SPARKLY PSIMET wheels. I was so excited to race.

Elizabeth and I headed to San Juan on Friday. I ate normally – did not eat anything on the plane and brought my own food for the traveling. We arrived in San Juan at 2pm on Friday, took a van to our hotel and started to put our bikes together and got ready for dinner. Easy peasy.

At dinner we joined some friends and ate in the hotel, a Hilton – I had chicken and pasta and water. Many of the athletes ate similar food. Elizabeth and I went to bed at 9pm or so and talked about our next day and plans and that was it.

I woke up at 1am thinking I was going to VOMIT all over the place. I tossed and turned to fight that urge. I felt so miserable. BUT not flu -like – it was something I had never really experienced. I got up, went to the bathroom – back to bed, repeat. I was SO tired. I felt like shit.

We got up the next morning and Elizabeth wanted to go for run. I really could not get out of bed. At this point, I am thinking, “this will pass.” And, a little bit more personal information is that I was getting my period and ALL I kept thinking of is “god this is a bad one.” I could not really get out of bed. Elizabeth ate a bar, and went outside. I laid in bed. She came back and wanted to swim – so did I. I got up, we went down to the water and my stomach was a mess. We swam 15 minutes and my body did not feel that bad but I just swam super easy. I was thinking, “oh I just need to eat and then I can do this.”

We then went to Denny’s for our big pre-race breakfast. That is when I realized the extent of my problems. I could not eat – I could not talk to Elizabeth and lost my entire personality. I had to go outside to get fresh air and I just wanted to go to bed.

We went back to the room and I went to bed. I just had to sleep. I just laid there thinking, “I can do this if I just eat.” I still had not thrown up – just the other issues but nothing violent at all.

When it was time to check our bikes in, we rode our bikes to transition and my legs felt good! But, I knew it was bad. My stomach was like a vice. I checked my bike in and was solo (and Elizabeth was at the expo fixing a flat). The moment of truth was when I was walking back to our hotel, I just could not do it. I had to stop multiple times to take a break. I was dizzy, ill and exhausted and well, sick.

I got back, went to bed and slept.

Elizabeth went down to meet with an athlete and (probably get some fresh air) and she asked if I wanted anything to eat – I said, “Pasta, salad and chicken.” She brought it to me and I wanted to eat it so bad so IN CASE I woke up a new person, I could race because I was fueled. I was able to choke down some of the salad, but the pasta and chicken was a no go. AND when I went to bed that night (Elizabeth fell asleep at 7:45pm – she’s nearly 40 now you know…) I knew that was it. Even with a miracle, I was not fueling at all and that would not work.

I did not sleep all night – and I was paranoid that I was keeping Elizabeth up, so I went into the bathroom and was texting Dr Mia and Jerome as I laid on the floor in the bathroom. Dr Mia said it was probably some food or water bourne bug (like Ecoli). I kept things VERY low key with Elizabeth all weekend because I did not want her to worry or it to effect her race, so I downplayed it all. No need to ruin two races.

Elizabeth was up on race morning at 4am and I did not feel worse – but my stomach was a disaster – like someone was stabbing me with a hot knife. I wished Elizabeth luck and told her I would be down at the swim exit.

I could not go back to sleep. In fact, when it hit me that I was not racing, I started to cry. I can easily keep perspective and absolutely realize this is just a race – but it was more the prep, the hard work, the travel, the money…..and well, I was in shape and wanted to race! And, it was all out of my control. Just bad, shitty luck.

I got up and walked to the start of the race (it was right outside our hotel) and was looking for Elizabeth. I found Joel and Ali Rutledge and wished them luck – and Ali blew me a kiss (she knew I was sick). Then, I gave Elizabeth a hug, said a few private things to her and started to cry. I did NOT want to do that – damn it! It was not about me at this time! I apologized but it was just my disappointment that overtook my emotions.

I decided to be the uber spectator and friend after that. If I cannot race, well, then, let’s cheer for everyone I knew there and I did. I was able to get around OK and sat on the roads and cheered, was able to give Elizabeth splits and who was in front, in back, worked out nicely! Elizabeth ended up getting 3rd in the AG /7th OA 6 months after baby #2. Impressive.

And, yes, there was a shooting on the course. I was worried because I never heard who was hit. Two athletes got hit by crossfire between two cars. One was hit with a bullet; one with shrapnel. Elizabeth saw some of the aftermath of this tragedy. How awful.

After the race and showers, we got some food – I finally felt OK to eat something and ironically, I just wanted to drink. I had two mojitos with Elizabeth and that made me very happy; I was finally getting my personality back.

I was able to eat 1 ½ tacos and that allowed me to turn around a bit and after the drinks and some food, I was feeling much better. Funny how quickly these things come and go – and no sooner was I feeling better when it was time to get ready to come home.

I spent a lot of time in bed these past 72 hours. And I had on a lot of mindless TV on. Poor Elizabeth is scarred for life now. I watched more hours of “Married at First Sight” than any normal person should ever watch.

The good news of this whole thing is that in 20 years, this has never happened to me. I have never gotten sick at a race and not raced. And, it is just, like I said, shitty luck. And, OF COURSE I was upset – of course, I cried privately a few times – I will not sugar coat this and say it was easy. But, perspective is everything and as I said to myself and others I talked to, “It is just a race!” And, I meant that.

Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.


Comments

  1. I know that must have sucked after all that training! You’ll kick butt the rest of the season! xoxo


  2. Oh! I’m SO sorry that this happened Jen! That is really really awful :( . But I have to say – there is a lot of really good info in your post about overcoming adversity and learning. Not only are you a great athlete, but great coach and teacher as well. Heal & recover quick! Xxoo!!


  3. Jen I am so sorry! Sounds so much like my Kona 2013 … and I would not wish that on anyone!! Glad you are feeling better…hope to see you at a race or two this year!


  4. Jen,
    I’m so sorry this happened to you but thank you very much for sharing what you took away from it. “Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you choose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.” So, so, true. It also makes us appreciate the times we CAN race that much more. I bet you CRUSH your next race. :)


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Pay it Forward Contest – 2015!

Merry Christmas!

I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2015 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy, Courtney & Alisa D.

If you are interested, I encourage you to apply. Here are the details:

1.) Applicants can apply via email to: jhtriathlon@sbcglobal.net from December 7th – December 31st 11:59pm CST. Feel free to be as creative as you want in the email application. (I do accept bribes. I love Chocolate & anything pink.).

2.) For the Pay it Forward Athlete, I am looking for athletes that have overcome any type of hardship This can include , but not limited to: illnesses, financial or personal issues. This is also open to athletes who may not have any hardships but just have not been able to put together a solid year (s) of training due to inconsistency, lack of motivation, lack of focus/structure and need something new and challenging.

3.) You CAN re-apply if you applied before!

4.) You need to have at least one “A” race in 2015. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2015. All levels of athletes are fine.

5.) The coaching will start between 1/15/15 -2/1/15 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/15, whichever one is first.

6.) You will have to blog about your experience and be an active member of social media (FB or Twitter).

This year, the 2014 Pay It Forward winner, Alisa Dunlap had a great year finishing with a 1+ hour PR at CIM Marathon. Alisa kept a blog and you can read about her experience here:

http://ambitiousaspirations.blogspot.com/

I encourage you all to apply, if interested. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this blog or send me an email. I will announce the winner on January 5th, 2015. Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!


Comments

  1. I will forward this on! Love that you do this! xoxoxoxo


  2. so……did you pick a winner? Im interested to find out.


  3. YES I picked JEFF VANIS as the winner!!


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Off Season & Cross

I took a little break. I ate Reese’s PB Cups in mass quantities mixed with pounds of M&Ms. I dyed my hair brown. I co-coached 75 kids to an undefeated Cross Country season. I spent an exorbitant amount of money on MAC makeup and Roden & Fields face creams. I spent some much loved time with my nearly 13 year old twins. I ate a lot. And, lastly I have been navigating myself through the start of a mid-life crisis. I will be 44 in January so I am truly in mid-life. None of this “I am turning 40 BS.” Please. The shit is getting real as I hit my mid-40s. I look in the mirror and think “WHO is this person?” The wrinkles, the dark circles. All there and all real. I know it is just a number, blah blah blah. The good news is that I FEEL GREAT. I may look like a hot mess, but I feel awesome.

Champions!

Champions!

Of course, this was much needed break and I was able to re-charge myself a bit. After my last race of the season (September 7th), I was desperately in need of a break from Triathlon. I took a few weeks off where I did not do too much of anything at all. FULL rest for 7-10 days and then more rest for another 10-14 days and then I slowly got back into things. I took 7.5 weeks off any structure, which, I think is a bit on the long side, but this year I needed it a bit more. In fact, I took 5 weeks out of the pool and that I have not done in eons. I just could not get myself to the pool and in fact, had no interest. So, clearly a big break was needed.

After my little break, I got back into the swing of things and that really meant MORE strength for me and NO TT BIKE. In fact, my TT bike is still in the bike box. Instead, I got out my Cross bike again and start exploring trails and different areas on it. I love my Cross bike. And, after doing 3 Cross races last year as a CAT 4 after I was done with Kona, I wanted to do the entire series this fall as a CAT 3.

The Cross scene here in Chicago is great. There is a race every weekend and there are a ton of talented riders who come out and race from Iowa, Wisconsin and all over Illinois. Making the shift from Triathlon to Cross racing is like watching an Elephant run versus a Cheetah. For me, I was the Elephant on the course. After last year I was thinking, “I am not too bad at this.” I got 2nd at State and naively thought I would just roll into the series and do OK. I was so wrong. I got hammered. In fact, the best I have finished this year is mid-pack. Racing in the Elite women’s race (CAT 1-2-3) is humbling to say the least. At first I was so frustrated with myself because I could not get rid of my fear. I was just so scared. NOT nervous. There is a big difference there. Fear limits you. Nerves drive you. I was afraid because my bike handling skills were so sub-par compared to the girls I was racing against. AND people crashed. I crashed.

Photo courtesy of www.jayloo.com

Photo courtesy of www.jayloo.com

The first Cross race I cold barely continue to push the gears on my Cross bike through the sand, mud and grass my quads would NOT respond at all. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. I was breathing like I was racing a 5k run race…I was working that hard from start to finish. AND I was still in the back. In fact, one time I looked right after the start and I was DFL.

But, as the races went on I got a wee bit better (not much) and I started to have some fun with it and started to develop a camaraderie with the other riders that are always near me in races. They would scream behind me, “JEN, wider on those turns! STOP braking!” They were traumatized by my lack of bike handling skills but what I lacked there I made up in my strength and aerobic engine on the courses. In typical fashion, I got better as the the race went on.

Photo courtesy of www.jayloo.com

Photo courtesy of www.jayloo.com

Many courses I would pre-ride and I could not even make the sharp turns in practice – but when the gun went off, my fear melted away and I was able to “fake it until I made it” out there. I will probably never be great or even good – but it has been fun racing with these girls and it has helped my bike handling and anaerobic threshold tremendously. And, the others had fun at my expense. I ride on the PSIMET team – super fast girls who are winning these races. At one race the Team Manager screamed at me while I was dismounting and carrying my bike over a barrier: “There are NO words.”

Suffering.  Photo courtesy of Warren Cycling.

Suffering. Photo courtesy of Warren Cycling.

Apart from not killing myself at Cross, I eventually did get back into the pool. After 5 weeks out of the water I really could not fit into my shirts and bras anymore (too big!) – I thought about not swimming again ever, in fact. My muscles decreased and my lats and shoulders went down (yay!). The first time I swam after the break I was like Gumby in the water – I was awful. Could NOT engage my core. Reminded me to remind my athletes to always engage their core in swimming. I was so disconnected and therefore fighting the water. Not good! While I do not have my speed back yet- after 3 weeks of consistent swimming I am starting to feel normal in the pool again.

I also added MORE strength to my weeks – I never stopped Pilates (except for my few week break), which I do every Monday. Then I am now doing a TRX class this fall/winter every Wednesday that I love. And, then on Fridays I see Kate (strength trainer). Between Cross racing and strength this fall I am sore a lot. In fact, because of all the breaking and shifting on my bike hard and fast, I literally have an elbow and forearm that kills me. I am sure it is tendonitis at some level but some nights it just aches (back to my mid-life crisis here with achy bones).

And, during this time, we have had some fun times apart from sweating. We had an impromptu 25th High School Reunion (back to my mid-life crisis) this past weekend. It was hilarious. One of the many reasons I like Facebook. We all just picked up like we see each other every week. They were playing Journey & big hair bands all night; I had too much to drink. It was a good time. In addition to partying like it is 1989 (the year I graduated HS), we are breaking ground this fall on a new house. I am SO excited. We need a change and while the house/lot is only about 1 ½ miles away, it will be a welcomed change and I have spent more time on Pinterest this fall than I care to admit as I Pin all my favorite bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. In fact, I need HELP (anyone an interior decorator?) But, fun and refreshing indeed.

Dark Hair & My 25th HS reunion!

Dark Hair & My 25th HS reunion!

I am off to Arizona this long weekend. Jerome is “participating” in Ironman Arizona. He has been in China for the past week and literally comes home and turns around to head to Tempe. Brutal! So that is why he is participating :) .  It will be fun to get into the sun again and spectate some athletes I coach, friends & Jerome.  And, I may take a 90 minute detour south to Tucson for Thanksgiving & fly the kids out!


Comments

  1. Middle of the pack? Never would have guessed it. My ignorance tells me riding a bike is riding a bike, so I just assumed you would kick butt.

    I learned the age thing between girls and guys. I don’t care, and it effects girls a bit different. You maybe even more than some for whatever reason.

    Have fun, and stay fun. :)

    You have a great personality. :)


  2. Yay, a blog post!!! I’ll admit I was loving the admission about not wanting to get back in the pool ;) Want me to send you more pictures of my staircase? As for building advice, after going through an extensive remodel, you can NEVER have too many pull-outs (in the kitchen, pantry, closets, bathrooms….seriously. never), built in spice racks for kitchen drawers are GREAT for makeup in the bathroom (all those little MAC gems will fit nicely) so if you’re planning bathroom drawers, throw one of those in and it’ll keep your counters clear…


  3. Thanks for saying you love my Wed. TRX class – “skinny one”! ha!


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September already?!

I cannot believe it is September already!  This fall I was asked to co-coach at Graham’s middle school for Cross Country.  I was so excited and I did not hesitate to say YES.  Graham, on the other hand, not sure he was as excited.  Having MOM there all the time really puts a crimp in his behavior and social life. Oh well…  I know that I only have a few years to do stuff like this with my kids, so even though I knew it would be a lot, I am so glad I decided to join the coaching team.

We practice every day – PM or AM for 60-90 minutes and meets are 2x/week!  However, it just lasts until October 10th, so it is a short season at this age.  We have 50+ 7th and 8th grade boys/girls.  There is just something so refreshing with working with kids.  And, they think I am cool (most of them) because I work with the U of I kids too – so at least there is some respect level – because we all know that there is NO way I could run fast or race fast at “my age.”  :)

I was brought in to write the workouts and help lead all the workouts.  On the first day we did a super hard workout – hill repeats into 300m sprints.  I thought we would lose them all.  But, instead, they stayed and came back.  The next day,  I had them all write down their top 3 goals on an index card and share it with me.  I read them all and wrote a personal note to each of them AND a famous motivational quote on the other side – laminated them and returned them to each kid.  I wanted the kids to know that if they are going to make BOLD goals – we need to train hard to have a chance at hitting these goals.

Speaking of goals, my last Triathlon of the season is Sunday at Worlds 70.3 in Mt. Tremblant.  I am excited to race and am ready.  And, I am looking forward to an off season of Cross and pumpkin spice donuts starting on Monday.

After Muncie 70.3 I have raced a few times.  I raced a local, smaller triathlon:  Manteno Sprint Triathlon a couple of weeks after Muncie to shock my legs back into short course racing.  I love this race and did it the last time they had it in 2003 after having the twins.  So, when the re-instated the race this year, I jumped at it.  Here I am exiting the swim at Manteno.  Glad I was not serious or anything.

 "        Swim at Manteno                       "

"                               "My friend and OA Male winner, Louie at Manteno Triathlon.

Then, I raced USAT Nationals Olympic and Sprint in Milwaukee in early August.  I was excited to race short course and race some friends and an uber competitive race.  Nationals is always competitive but then add in that this race qualified the top 25 in each AG for Worlds, which is taking place next September in Chicago.  How fun!
I spent the weekend in bed with Chris Wickard.  Well, only 1/2 the time.  We both raced the OLY on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday.  I was nervous for the race but also excited to race some super fast women and see some old friends coming in to the race from all over the US.

For the OLY race, I came out of the water in the top 5 – felt great, fast and smooth.  I could only see a couple of girls up front – one of them Megan James – and I worked super hard to close the gap.  I loved the swim there – and LOVED having others with me.  Off on the bike – I felt good – worked hard and tried to keep things under control and keep myself in the mix.  I got off the bike still in good position and felt great.  My goal was top 10 and I was in the top 10.  I started running and felt great – then it felt like I was suffocating.  I was wheezing and not sure why?  It was humid but not deadly out there.  I just could not breathe well.  I have horrible hay fever and it usually starts in Mid-August – so who knows, all I know is that I was gasping for air but not running as fast as I could be.  AND if you are 1% off at Nationals you will lose your position in a heart beat.  AND that is what happened to me.  I went from top 10 to 14th in a snap.  I ran slow for me – 43 minutes – and if you run that “slow” at Nationals you will get swallowed up.  I managed it best I could and when I crossed the finish line I was disappointed but there was NOTHING I could do or would do differently – first time I had that issue.  And, on those days you just hold your head up high and move on.  And, get redemption at the next race.

Lucky for me the next race was the next morning!  Many of us decided to do the double.  Chris and I rested, ate and walked about 10 miles after our OLY race.  Ha!  The next day we did the same pre-race prep and lined up with a few hundred of our closest friends again.  This time, I felt like shit on the swim.  Ironically, the swim is where I felt the OLY race fatigue.  WEIRD — but it has been years and  years since I have raced back to back (for obvious reasons) so I had a handful of girls in front of me and I was swimming fine but had no snap.  So, I tried to draft and got out of the water in top 5 again.  One of my friends, Frank, shouted “she is 90″ up!”  NINETY SECONDS in a sprint race?  GOODNESS…this will be rough.  AND how did that happen?  WOW.  (Later I found out it was Heather W, who I have raced over the years and is a superb swim/biker).

I had way more fun at the Sprint that day – less pressure and while I was pissed about my OLY race, I still felt pretty darn good on Sunday.  I was able to maintain contact with the top 5 and came off the bike panting for my placement in 6th.  I was not afraid of having the breathing issue again.  Sure, deep down inside I was a little worried but it is so rare for me and it did not seem as humid that morning, so I went for it and if I blow up, then so be it.  But, in a Sprint race at Nationals, you have to take the gamble – if, not you will get hammered in a blink in an eye.  It is just so fast.

I got off on the run in 6th and I could see 5th place in front of me.  I had ONE goal….top 5 (Podium).  I was going to ruin myself to get that spot.  I hunted her down.  I knew who it was and felt like she was not running as well as she usually does…..so I calculated my position, my pace and effort and made my move after mile 1.  I knew I would have to REALLY go or she would latch on to me and that would be more painful.  I heard her breathing – I was too but kept it silent as I passed her – and went by her and I was now in 5th at mile 1.5 of the 5k.

I had another painful 2.5 miles to run.  I was running probably 6:40s, maybe 6:30s to make the pass and on the 2nd day of racing, that was not easy.  However, I felt way better today than for my Oly  race (grrrr)….Behind me were literally hundreds of fast girls charging us down.  I could see Chris Wickard about 45″ in front of me ….I focused on her while I did my best to hold these girls off.

I could see one and she was flying – WAY faster than I was running.  I literally had to find another gear or she would catch me within yards of the finish line.  She looked about my age and I was doing everything I could not to vomit all over myself.  I sprinted to the finish line and held her off and ended up 5th in the AG!  I was SO happy and redeemed my bad self from the OLY race.

Lo and behold the gal behind me was the 45-49 AG winner – so she was not in my AG but she was flying and did look my age, I was right!  Glad she kept me honest!

Here is the 40-44 Top 5 Podium.  I am in 5th and Chris Wickard in 4th:

Sprint Nats Podium 2014

What a great weekend of racing!  I had so many friends and athletes race so well there and q-fy for Worlds in Chicago.  I will race both the Sprint and OLY next September and I am looking forward to it and not traveling!

It took me awhile to recover from that double.  My chest hurt.  My heart hurt and every muscle was fatigued.  I was exhausted.  I got some good rest and pushed into my final prep for Worlds 70.3.  I went up to Madison and rode the course, I ran hills, I swam hard.  Personally, I was getting the kids ready for school and getting athletes ready to race & started coaching XC and the U of I was back in session.  AND Jerome was in China traveling this whole time.

Then, I had a little “HELP ME” moment.

I had to step back for a couple of days or risk getting sick.  I know when I hit my limit and I needed a couple of days to re-group.  I had to cut back on my social obligations (boo) and just focus on myself, my work and my family.  After a few days of getting my sh*t back together I was fine and bounced right back to carry on with my bad self.

Now, we are at race week for Worlds.  I went camping this past weekend with my family and we had a great time. I am in a good place and ready to race on Sunday and then ready for some R&R afterwards!


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