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I recently had a few moments of clarity and it has changed the way I have worked. Moments of clarity are really hard to come by in our busy lives. Like you, I get bogged down in the day to day activities of work, family, running kids to their activities and surviving this winter. So, when we went to Florida last month, I was able to get away from my computer for a bit – and let the kids and Jerome spend some quality time with their grandparents…I was able to step away and reflect.
My moments of clarity were nothing earth-shattering, but more of a re-set of what is important to me in my work. Being a coach is not easy work. Not many talk about it because, well, frankly, it is a profession that is not all that respected in the real world. People ask me all the time to “do this or that” and I say, “I cannot; I have to work.” And, honestly, they think I ride my bike all day for my work. Clearly, that is farthest from the truth. I train like anyone else holding down a full time job. Sure, there are perks. I can ride at 10am, if I want, but I am still working all day and nights and various times over the weekends.
Speaking of coaching, communication is key to the athlete-coach relationship. As I take on new athletes, I really think this is the biggest change from their past working relationship. OF COURSE there are exceptions to everything, and there are some fantastic coaching out there – but I am talking about the others. The coaches who are not responsive, not writing specific workouts, not asking for race plans, race re-caps, checking in on you when you are sick…all the details that go along with making you the best you can be. Frankly, they are lazy. It is important to not get complacent. Challenge yourself. Challenge your coach. If you are not getting what you want, ASK questions. Email your coach. Set up phone calls. No one is perfect, but make sure your coach has that fire for your success. This is what keeps me up at night – worrying about X athlete or Y athlete….trust me, if I didn’t worry, I would not care and WHO wants a coach that does not care?
Speaking of clarity – I also had a nice moment of clarity from an athletic standpoint. There are a few reasons I do not do the Ironman too often. One is time - I would rather coach my athletes and Graham’s basketball team, etc. than be on my bike for 6 hours. That is just where I am at in my life now. I did just race Kona in October, but that will be it for a few years, for sure. So, coming off an Ironman, we are SO fit. However, we are incredibly slow. Our aerobic engine is so top-notch, you almost forget how poor our anaerobic engine is. Even though I know this, it was not until I raced this winter, that I shocked back into reality.
This winter I have done 2 Swim Meets. I am a swim meet freak. I love them. I cannot do the big State Championships this year due to coaching U of I at Collegiate Nationals that same weekend, so I am doing as many “smaller” meets as I can to get my fix. The first meet I did was 2 weeks ago and it was a brutal day we got hammered by snow and I am still in shock I got to the pool alive. (nothing really stops in Chicago thankfully) I did the 400IM, 100IM, 50F, 100F, 200F, 2 x 50 Free in Relays. That doesn’t sound like much, but damn if I was absolutely a hot mess after that. I was slow. I was sluggish and sucked. My body was completely freaked out. On Monday I woke up and felt like I was hit by a truck.
Fast forward to just this past Sunday…another Swim Meet and I swam very much the same except they had a 500F, so I added that. AND, I felt awesome. Great pool, great swimming friends and I had shocked my body into that effort again, so I was ready for that anaerobic effort at this meet. I improved my times by seconds and that is rare for me – I don’t really get faster in the pool anymore. J It was like my body remembered how to SUFFER again! And, I woke up Monday morning, feeling FINE!
Then, earlier this week, my old running coach, Dave organized a hill run. He invited all the fast runners and then me. He failed to mention that to me in the invite (sneaky bastard). The run was 1 hour south of me starting at 6:15am. I used to do this all the time and when I got the invite, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to mentally prepare for this run and try to figure out how to manage the shoes. We were under snow and it was 7F degrees at run start. (See, these fast runners are all in racing flats – I cannot train in these conditions in racing flats, so I wore trail shoes – eeks).
The runners included a runner who just moved back from the NIKE Oregon project run team….a 2:20 marathoner…and then a gal who is a 2:4x marathoner…and the list goes on. THEN me. Gulp. The good news is that I may not be that fast, but I am a great faker and I am tough. And, I like to be scared; it is healthy and refreshing. I woke up feeling like I was heading to a race. I even ate my pre-race meal on the drive down.
The run was 11 miles and included 12 hill repeats…it was dark, snowy, cold and fast. I did not wear my watch. I never do when I cannot control the workout – no point. So, I gradually looked at one of the guy’s watch as we were warming up: 6:40 pace. Yep. That is NOT a warm up pace for me. EVER. He was talking to me and I was doing the best job I could do to talk and not die of effort OR have him think this was hard. I have not run that fast in a VERY long time….especially when it was 7F degrees out.
As the workout progresses – I am last.
We run all the hills: LAST again.
We cool down: DFL.
I say, “Don’t wait for me!”
We do 11 miles and 12 hill repeats in 1:19 in snow and bitter cold. AND ALL I wanted was a gel.
We get back to the car and Dave says, “Ok, in the field house for drills.” Secretly, I was so glad we could do them – not many indoor tracks up near me. But, I could barely lift up my legs. AND I was hungry. I quickly went to my car, got my drink and bar and brought it into the track. We all know the runners don’t eat, but it has now been 90 minutes and I need SOMETHING. They all made fun of me.
So, not only was I last, I am now the Triathlete who has to eat.
The good part is that they all know me and really don’t give me shit. One of the guys and I used to train together all the time (I would chase him around the track) before he went to NIKE in Oregon and he said he remembers me wearing socks that said, “BITCH” on them. Yes, that is true. I did own a pair of socks that said that on there. Crack me up. Funny what people remember.
One of the girls running with us just graduated college and is going after the OTQ marathon time. She is fast and 23 years old. I took a phone call from Graham on the track and she asked how old Graham was. She looked puzzled. I told her I have 12 year old twins. You could see her try to do the math – so I said, “I am 43 years old.” Her reaction to that was worth the 1 hour drive in itself. She said, “I hope I look like you and run as fast as you at 43.”
Too bad I don’t have her email. Because today I would write this to her: “Thank you for your nice comment about my age and all…but today I cannot walk normally. I am SO sore. Even my feet are sore. I had to have a time-out today because I was eating Kit Kats and M&Ms while trying to maneuver around my house like I was 83. I could not really go and swim at Masters because I would drown. So, while you hope you look like me at 43, enjoy your youth and ability to recover like a 23 year old now.” Love, Jenny
(She was probably out running a tempo run this morning as I was pulling my sorry ass out of bed.)
But, the run was worth it – for many reasons. It reminded me how to really suffer again. Again, I think we get too complacent – afraid to take risks and afraid to say “why not?” We feel sorry for ourselves in this horrific weather. (Trust me, I have had a few pity parties myself). OF COURSE it sucks – but that is what I like about our aggressive winters – it makes us even that much tougher. And, come spring time, the athletes that had to work hard to even RUN outside….really shine.
Every year I am really humbled by reading all the Pay it Forward entries. I receive hundreds and to read them as they come in to my email – I swear, I have been in and out of tears for weeks. I finally had to just file them away and then read them all at once because I was a hot mess at various times every day.
I get entries from some very amazing people. It is good to be reminded that everyone has a story. Everyone is so similar too and that people just want to have an opportunity to pursue their dreams and goals. And, if I can be involved in a very small way, then, I am all in.
Determining a “winner” is really not fun. Every year I do this I tell Jerome, “Can you work more so I can just coach pro bono??” Someday, I promise I will do more. But, right now, I am happy to announce the 2014 Pay it Forward Winner!
Alisa had to overcome a very unfortunate 2013 season. She was in an accident that broke part of her foot. Then, she developed blood clots – and DVT (deep vein thrombosis). She was so determined to not let this get in her way of competing at Ironman Arizona this past year. SHE did. And, went 14:xx.
In her words:
Looking back at my other races—I don’t think I was grateful enough; not grateful for the ability to be out there, not grateful for the support I have from my husband and family and friends; not grateful enough in life. While breaking a foot and developing blood clots isn’t beating cancer or dealing with a significant loss, it was my own little wake up to start being more grateful in my life and to truly believe in my own abilities. I’m ready for 2014. My body is ready, my mind is ready but I think most importantly, my attitude is ready!
Alisa is inspiring and something about her pulled at me. (I am a huge fan of gratefulness). In fact, my top 5 were absolutely riveting stories. Some came from domestic abuse, some had twins or triplets and then their wife or them go ill after delivering (!!!) (soft spot for that) and some lost jobs….some recovering from horrific ailments such as cancer or MS. I was paralyzed in my decision up until the last minute.
At the end of the day, I asked my sister and a good friend who are not triathletes to read some entries and help me narrow the top 3-5 down. I asked non-triathletes because there would be no bias and I wanted to keep some of the entries private in our community.
I am excited to start working with Alisa! You can follow her progress on her blog and her other social media sites:
Instagram @dunlapam0723; Twitter @dunlapa; FB @ Alisa Houghton Dunlap.
And, thanks to all who entered. Thanks for sharing some of your very private entries with me. They will inspire me all year as a coach & athlete to always remember — WE ALL HAVE A STORY.
Please feel free to enter for 2015 again!
I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2014 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy and Courtney.
If you are interested, I encourage you to apply. Here are the details:
1.) Applicants can apply via email to: email@example.com from December 16th – 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 2014. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2014. All levels of athletes are fine.
5.) The coaching will start January 15th, 2014 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/14, 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 2013 Pay It Forward winner, Courtney had a great year finishing with a super Ironman Kentucky race! Courtney kept a blog – you can find it on my blogroll if you want to read about her experience.
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 before January 5th, 2014. Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!
Even though I have not been blogging lately, I surely have not gone too far. I had to really step away from writing because on my last blog that recapped my Ironman in Hawaii, I got a very nasty comment. First one I have ever gotten in 15+ years. At first, of course, I was mad. But, once we traced the IP address, I realized how silly the person that wrote it is. I mean, we all read blogs for different reasons and we all can relate or think “that person is crazy” with many of these blogs. However, where that crosses the line is when someone takes their precious time to actually make a rude and immature comment anonymously. Most of us are mature, self-confident and secure individuals who do not need to spew any negative energy or thoughts towards someone and then not have the balls to fess up to the comment. Never in my life have I ever left an anonymous comment. Nor, will I. If I have something to say – I either attach my name to it OR say nothing at all. And, trust me, I am no shrinking violet.
The mean comment was just from someone who was giving me a hard time because “we had a fast day in Kona.” Ok, really? WHO cares? So, for ONCE I had a nice Ironman day. It was about damn time. I put in my dues in Kona with years of 50+ mph cross winds one year – no joke. After 250+ Triathlons, I think I earned the right to a nice frigging day. And, you know what? Good for us that finally got a “nice” day in Kona. And, a “nice” day in Kona is no frigging picnic, I might add. Also, I will NEVER apologize for my success or hard work. Clearly, my hard work, consistency and passion for this sport has allowed me to continue to live the way I want to live – with integrity.
So, anonymous commenter: F*CK you. If you have something to say, email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, get a life because you are not important in mine.
Back to regularly scheduled programming:
After Hawaii I took some time completely off training. It was glorious for about 2 weeks and then I just needed to move. If I had any niggles, I would have taken more downtime, but I was still motivated and feeling great post Hawaii. I decided to jump into a few CycloCross races in November. I used to Cross race a lot in 2006-2008, but I have been out of the circuit for the last few years because usually by October-ish I am over racing and I am fearful I will get hurt. This year, for some reason, I was still fired up and wanted to race Cross before it ends and I wanted to not let that “fear” rule me. However, this fall I have missed a ton of races due to travel. The last race is the State Championships this coming Saturday that I will compete in. I have really enjoyed the few races I did this season and as long as I am healthy next fall plan on competing in all the races.
I am writing this blog on the way home from Tucson. We went to Tucson again this Thanksgiving week as a family and it is the highlight of my year. It is the one time of the year that both Jerome and I are not racing, working or really training. And, there are no kid commitments either! It is the only week all year I really try to un-plug. While I cannot completely un-plug, I can keep off my laptop all week and that allows me to rejuvenate and rest a bit. The kids love Tucson & we are so active the week we are there. Hiking, riding, running, climbing and just enjoying the 70F degree temps before heading back to Chicago for the winter.
This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the holidays and all the shopping and hustle and bustle that it brings. I also like to reflect on the previous year and look forward to a new year – both personally and professionally. I love the extra time I get to spend with loved ones and friends.
As a Triathlon coach this is also the time of the year when I spend planning for 2014: Camps, Triathlon clinics, swim clinics, continuing education, new podcasts and new and exciting ways to get faster and stronger. Planning different workouts to challenge athletes and keep everyone motivated and excited for the season is not easy. I am a believer in repeatability but also really believe that the coach needs to be creative and inspiring to each athlete they work with. Getting to know each athlete takes time, patience and a degree in Psychology (kidding, wanted to make sure you were still reading).
As a Triathlete, I also get to look at 2014 fresh – and start my 20th year of racing with wide eyes. For me, getting up every morning at 5am is the easy part. I wake up and cannot wait to train. The real issue for me is deciding how much time I want to commit every year to training while keeping some sort of balance in my work and personal/family life. I love my kids. I really do. I love my job. I really do. While the kids are gone all day now in school, the times I am home with them, I want to be engaged and active in their lives. I am coaching Graham’s basketball team again this fall/winter. I want to continue to do things like this because I realize, with them turning 12 in January that these little moments are going to become less and less each year.
So, 2014 will be the year of short course for me. Ironically, I still have a pull to do another Ironman. Goodness. But, I will pass in 2014. I decided to stay local, race a lot of short course races like USAT Nationals, Chicago, etc. And then mix up a few 70.3s because that is my favorite distance…Eagleman always and possibly 70.3 Worlds. We shall see. All I know is I am going to race more frequently including swim meets (my fav!), indoor TTs and maybe even some 5ks to keep it real. I also will spend time doing fun events with Lululemon and socialize locally a bit more – because, well, I really like that. And, somehow I convinced Elizabeth to still be my friend & help me again in 2014.
On the flight out to Kona, I met a very inspiring older couple. I posted the condensed version on Facebook, but the husband was recently given 8 months to live. The wife was deeply grateful and a pillar of strength. She talked about her life with him (they were 72 years old & married 50+ years), told me their secrets (MUST have interests separately & together) and talked about her kids/grandkids (I am her kid’s age). She wanted to hear all about me: my kids, my parents & my race in Hawaii. You could tell she was absolutely sincere and engaged in life and the REASON we all do what we do.
In Hawaii when you exit a plane you walk down a flight of stairs to the outside. George was barely able to walk down the stairs but he was too proud STILL to get help. I carried his bags and walked in front of him while he cautiously descended the stairs. I said my good byes and wished them well when we got to the ground. I never thought I would see them again, but they made a lasting impression on me.
When I boarded my flight (now with Jerome) home from Kona to LAX, I walked onto the plane and there was George and Mary. He beamed and I was like, “OH HELLO!!!” I could not talk because we were not sitting next to one another but when we deplaned they were waiting for me. We exchanged some nice words and again (they asked about my race), I wished them well. Jerome and I separated (different flights to Chicago) and I was walking outside to my terminal and it was a long walk to my connecting flight. AND there is George and Mary again. George was now in a wheelchair (yes 6 days later) and I said, “Gosh, I keep seeing you!!” George tried to get up to give me a hug and instead took my hand and said with tears in his eyes, “Live the life you want and live it every day fully.” Mary is crying and I am thinking: Do not cry. Do not cry. I walked away shaking my head in disbelief that I met this inspirational couple and now I am ending my Hawaii Ironman journey with them. If that doesn’t make you go, “AH” then I am not sure what will. To me, it was a gift – a reminder to live the life you want – we are all in control of our own happiness and it was the ribbon that tied together my week and race in Kona that week.
I arrived in Kona on Sunday super late. Jerome came later on Wednesday night. I was so excited to have him with me. I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday eating local food (fresh fruit & fish!), enjoying some shopping, driving the course, registering, meeting & catching up with some of my Twitter & Facebook triathlon friends, getting my head around the race and decompressing from normal life and work. By the time the race rolled around, I was relaxed, mentally fully engaged and ready to race.
It has been awhile since I have done Kona – 2006 to be exact. That was merely by my own choice. I like the Ironman, I do. But, as I do not need to tell many, it is a LOT of work to train properly for one. And, my kids were 4 back then & now 11 and I was just not really ready for Hawaii some of those years. After 2004, 2006, I vowed that when I returned to Hawaii it was on my terms. I raced there 30-34, 35-39 and now I am 40-44. I wanted to race on the young end of 40-44 and while I q-fied at Ironman Arizona in 2011, I was not ready to race Hawaii then either. So, when I q-fied at Eagleman this year…my kids off to middle school and entering their new phase of life, I knew it was time. I was willing to go “there” this year.
I trained hard for Hawaii. I left no stone unturned. I will not sugar coat how hard it was at times. And, other times I thought it was not really bad. However, the closer to the race the more lazer focused I became. I took care of every minutiae of being the best I could be in order to train 100% every day. My final block for Kona ended with a week in the 22-23 hour range. For many racing Hawaii, that is a standard week – for me, with a full time job and 2 kids…it was a big week for me – already on top of carefully layered weeks of 18-20 hours. Cumulative fatigue is a VERY hard feeling to get used to when training for the Ironman, but by the time mid-September rolled around, I was in the thick of it AND I felt fantastic. It was an interesting experiment to see how I trained and raced Hawaii in each age category too – (30-34, 35-39 & now 40-44)…very different I might add. Less is always more now for me!
I ate almost perfectly (I am not perfect however), I slept perfectly, I did full heat acclimation protocol, I limited any late nights, I washed my hands 1000 times a day (l dislike this the most). I made sure all my equipment was in tip top shape. I took care of every little detail you can imagine. So, during race week I had NO concerns (my biggest concern was that my run shoes were too light or durable enough). I was eerily calm all week. Sure, I was anxious every morning I woke up…just anxious because I was going to do an Ironman and there is always an “X” factor in a race that long. But, the key to a successful execution of your race plan is being able to adapt during the race day…because anything can happen in a race that long and with elements like we have in Kona.
I did all the carbo loading (after eating SO well for so long the carbo loading was not enjoyable, but I did it!), I took some time and wrote out my full race plan. Hour by hour what I was going to eat, how much salt per hour (all of this done in training of course) and even when I had to switch over from my drinks to the courses how that changes my salt & water intake hourly on the bike. In Hawaii the elements are so extreme that (and I have learned the hard way in Kona in 04) if I screw up ANYTHING on that bike, I am SOL on that run. No wiggle room at all. The Queen K will chew you up & spit you out so quickly before you even realize what happened. I have felt that pain in 2004 and I vowed I would NOT do that again.
Race day came quickly and I was excited to race and was mentally & physically in the best shape I could be in at 42. I could not have been more fit or more ready. And, you know what? THE PROCESS of getting to the start line healthy and ready is more of a challenge to me now at 42 than the darn race. I appreciate it a heck of a lot more than I did at 30-34 and even 35-39. The fun thing about Hawaii is all the press & hub bub. Things are SUPER restrictive – only some press and athletes are allowed in most places. I was thankful that after I got my bike set up and out of T2 I was able to find Jerome! He kept me grounded and we made our way into the King K hotel and sat down. Luckily, Amanda W was right there with me and we agreed to go down to the swim start together and hang out. Having a familiar face before the start was a nice treat for both of us. And, treading water for 15 minutes with Amanda was nice too!
I consider myself a good swimmer…but in Kona I am a normal swimmer – The biggest group will swim between 58-1:05 here…and hundreds and hundreds. I knew I would be in this group – albeit on the higher end sans wetsuit and I was right. Ironically, the part I was the most worried about all day was the swim and getting a mechanical on the bike. See, the swim at Kona is a hot mess. You have never met so many men who could care less who they hit, run into or the like.
The cannon started and it was attack attack attack from the get go. I had to stay calm, do not think about the people hitting me, clawing at my feet, ripping my suit, punches were thrown – it was eat or get eaten. The whole time I was like – really? STILL with everyone? I do not get a lot of practice at home with aggressive men (because we don’t usually swim with the men) and rarely are the women waves that deep/aggressive. Ah, Hawaii….where everyone is fast and aggressive. We got to the Body Glide boat in 28:13. But, I know the currant was at our back, so the return is always slower. AND for a brief few minutes I had clean water! I could relax. AND at no point was I ever swimming hard. In fact, I wanted to go harder but I just had no where to go! The swim flew by. I felt AWESOME – the swim was easy. I did not let the roughness freak me out – I was mentally prepared for it. I went into my “happy place” and just powered through. Stood up in 1:03, hit the mat at 1:04.
Into T2 and off on my bike as quickly as I could. I did not change, just threw on sunscreen and a white DeSoto jersey to keep the sun off my skin as much as possible. The bike course at Kona is a grinding one. No major steep hills, but a gradual up or down all day. AND 112 miles on 2 roads basically – and the winds dictate how fast or slow we can all ride. I felt awesome all day on the bike. I had one glitch on the bike. It is SO fast and busy to start. I was riding easy but the small roads and hundreds and hundreds of fast riders whizzing by me and I accidentally hit a pot hole. I ejected my rear 2 bottles. DAMN! But, I was so composed. So calm and so in control of my race and my thoughts, that it was like a Sunday stroll. I stopped. Dismounted my bike (among people screaming at me) unclipped and chased my 2 bottles down the HILL and retrieved them. It was NOT an option in Kona. If I give up my 2 KEY nutrition bottles, I will be walking that marathon. It was never an option not to stop. I lost several key minutes there, but no regrets. I quickly got over it and moved on and back to the race. We had a nice tail wind on the way out (as you can tell w/ the paces). BUT most of us – this is not our first rodeo and I knew that I had to control this speed. IF we over-rode up to Hawi, we would get bit in the ass, so I kept it fairly light (and if I rode too easy is always a question, but the marathon will always answer that question). The time flew by. I was on my nutrition, took in 2-3 BIG bottles per hour. Pefrom and water. AND of course salt. I rode steady and strong. MANY drafting – unfortunate but it happens at all races and especially in Kona where stakes are high. I just put my head down and did my own thing. I got to 56 miles in just under 22 mph average, picked up my special needs bag, refueled and was on my way. I picked up water and Perform at nearly every Aide Station. I was peeing every 2 hours (on the bike yes, people don’t get off their bikes in Kona to pee – I did not see any of that). I felt AWESOME. I had a ton of caffeine and DANG if I was not on FIRE. In fact, my breathing was rapid for a bit and I felt I was coming out of my skin by about mile 55 and I really hit a new energy level there.
Made the turn around and we were able to get down from Hawi pretty quickly (THANK goodness as this patch can be horrific if winds are aggressive). Once back on the Queen K is when the sh*t got real. But I was ready for it. In fact, I never once wanted off my bike. NEVER have I had that feeling in an Ironman. I felt good. I never had a low point. I never got crabby. One thing about Hawaii is that NO ONE speaks to one another out there. Really! It is so intense. I had a lot of guys go by me (and some girls too) and not one person said a word to me – or vice versa. We rode in pure focus and silence. I did not think too much about anything out there, frankly. I was totally focused on watching my watts, speed and nutrition. Once I hit mile 100 (in 4:55) I was like, OK let’s get this over with. I was hoping to go 5:20s (with our initial tailwind) but it just was not going to happen. I got off the bike 5:39 as my official time. 11 minutes faster than last time I raced Kona. AND I felt great!
Ran into T2 and changed shoes, socks, took off my jersey and off I went. I only carried my salt tabs on the run. I do not need, even in the heat & humidity to carry things on a fully catered course. I ran the first mile and I needed a gel. I was a tad low but had no gels until the first aide station. Thankfully the spectators were carrying me and I was having a great time. I felt terrific. I had NO idea what place I was in and I didn’t really care (really). I had one goal in Hawaii and that was to go 10:45. I had 4 hours 20+ minutes to run a marathon to break 11. It was my day to win or lose. THAT is a great feeling. I promised myself to NOT run faster than 7:45s on Ali’I (first 10 miles). I had to hold back in the first 10k…and I did…Ali’I is the easy part. That last 10k in any IM is the monster, really. Once I got up the big hill at Palani (mile 10) game was on. I hit the ½ way part in a comfortable 1:50. NOW it all got real. I was nutritionally right on. I was taking salt in every 45 min or so – in a way to control the heat and then the clouds came out. OH MY GOD THERE IS A GOD. That saved so many of us. It was hot and humid, but that scorching sun was dampened and that helped me a ton.
I felt great. Legs were light (well, as much as possible) & my Electrolytes were spot on and my attitude was great. Looking at the results now, I passed FIFTEEN + women on that run. WOW! It was not until I hit mile 16 that I was like, “OK I am ready to be done.” I made my way into the Energy Lab. This is where I came apart in 2004. It is stale and stagnant in there. It is very hot and hard. The turn around and climb out of Hawi is the hardest part of the run (my opinion). I did not have any issues, but my splits definitely slowed down in this part. There was also an aide station that I grabbed 1 water cup, 1 Perform cup and ice and a gel. I NEVER wanted coke all day – a sign that I was managing the nutrition well. The run home from the Energy Lab is all guts. I kept repeating to myself, “it is all guts now, dig dig dig.” I could feel myself slowing down but not terribly. I was still picking girls off and my miles went from a very steady 8:30 to 8:45-50s….ack! But, then I would have a tough mile (this part of the Queen K is a long way and long, grinding hills)….I could see everyone. I just put my head down, did not pay attention to anyone or anything and ran. I was going to run 3:40s for this marathon (my goal) and be well under 11 hours…I used this as a relaxation technique and just rolled with it.
Mile 22-23 is hard. When isn’t it? I was still in control. I hit mile 24 and took a step and my little toe on my left foot just went hot – I had been rubbing that little toe all day – and I took a deep breathe and wiggled my toes and got over it. I was NOT going to let months (years) and 138 miles of 100% concentration and focus fall apart over a stupid hot spot. Whatever….and you know what? It went away. MIND OVER MATTER. THEN the YELLOW BRICK ROAD was in sight. Running down Palani is so hard (ouch quads) but once you are down Palani, there is less than a mile until you turn on Ali’I and it is the most magical and rewarding mile you will ever run in your entire life.
I was SO happy! I told myself to enjoy this. I knew that this was a gift. Sure, I worked hard, sacrificed so much, but you know what? At the end of the day – THIS is a gift – I had oodles of perspective for this race and appreciation of my body. I was NOT going to take this for granted. I took that final right on Ali’i. I saw Jerome and Glen…then the crowd was deafening, it was so awesome. Still gives me the chills. Then, I saw and heard my Mom, sister and Aunt – what a moment!
I ran hard because I felt good and I could. I took it all in. I said, “THANK YOU” out loud. I saw the clock: 10:44….and there it was 10:45 and I was crossing the line! UNBELIEVABLE! I was just so happy. I did it! And, for a split second I thought, “There is not a better feeling in sport than this…not a one!”
10:45:20 Final Time. Final Marathon time: 3:51. Slower than I wanted, but oh well, I did the best I could. AND that was my best that day. I never stopped, I never doubted I would break 11. I just executed my race plan and BAM there it was. I was a robot.
I came to find out that this was 17th in my AG and 6th American. The day was fast for many athletes and it was great to race with the best in the World and come out in a solid finishing spot. I could not have run one more step mentally or physically. I gave it my all. No regrets. No “what ifs” – it was my best on that day and you know what? My best WAS good enough! It was a course PR by 44 minutes.
So many people to thank… First, thank you to my family. My kids who are so great and to Jerome who is the BEST partner I could have – keeps my over-intense personality under control and balanced! J THANK you to my Mom, sister and Aunt who flew out to Hawaii to watch me race – first time they have really seen me race a big race. It was great to have them there. Thanks to my sitter, Melody, and my dad and neighbors (Janan & Kelly) who all pitched in to help me with the kids when I was gone.
THANKS to Mark and Pom Rouse and Runner’s High & Tri, Nathalie – Best massage therapist ever, Jon at Cadence Cycles for my awesome bike & Lululemon Deer Park for all your support! Thanks to all my Facebook, Twitter and friends far and close – all of your notes, emails and messages to me kept me going all day and I am grateful for all of you!!! Thanks to Coach Dave Walters, my mentor. And, most importantly, to my great friend, Elizabeth. We have been a great team for nearly 10 years – played a lot of different roles – and now even flipping roles as she is coaching me now. There is NOTHING more important than having someone on your team who you like (!), trust and really wants to maximize your potential. It means the world to me that I can turn off my brain and JUST follow a solid, well thought out plan. That alone is worth its weight in gold. I am able to follow instructions and that freed up any mental energy I needed to be mom, coach full time and be a good wife/friend, etc. PRICELESS! Thanks Elizabeth!
Now I rest and eat some PUMPKIN DONUTS….Kona again? Yes…but when I age up to 45-49. My goal is to do it in every age group (on the younger end). THANKS for all the cheers, love and support – I felt it all day in Hawaii !!
And, just in case you didn’t think I gave 100%, this is as soon as I crossed the finish line:
“There will always be athletes more talented than you, but do NOT let them out-work you.” Derek Jeter
As I work through my big weeks in preparation for Ironman Hawaii, I have a LOT of time on my rides and runs to think. Every big race I do – I always have a mantra – or something that I adopt that keeps my training real and keeps me on my toes. This year, it is this quote. Years ago I had a coach say this to me. And, it has stuck with me, daily, since then. I take pride in working hard and not over-thinking not over-doing but just putting my nose down and doing the work consistently day after day.
I have been overjoyed at some of the weather we have had lately. It has been SIZZLING hot. 90s and heat indexes in the 100s! AND humid like Kona. IDEAL! Last week I went out and had a 100 mile ride + 1 hour run off the ride. I was solo (as I do all my long stuff). The temps started out at 58F and I made the rookie mistake of NOT drinking enough. By the time I was done with my ride, it was upper 80s and humid. I was in trouble. I got too far behind in my hydration that I totally & utterly bonked 20 minutes into my run. I had salt, had enough calories, but not enough to drink. I swear, it has been probably 10 years since I did this – but I was due. AND it hit me like a freight train. I went from “OK” to “SHIT” very fast. My breathing was shallow and rapid. My BP was totally off and I felt like I was suffocating. Then, I realized how bad I was — > I was nauseous and dizzy. So bad actually that I was going to faint fast if I did not sit down. I sat down on the bike path and put my head between my knees. Then, I wanted to take a nap (I mean, see how bad this bonk was!!). I laid down ON THE BIKE PATH and re-grouped. I knew that if I could stabilize myself I would be ok in about 10 minutes. I had a gel, more fluids…I was sweating like crazy. But, after 10 minutes I came back around & I was OK to walk again. Like I said on Facebook, NO ONE stopped to see if I was ok. Unbelievable. EEKS.
AND coming back from a bonk is tough. One of the issues I have with Ironman training is eating enough. I have NO appetite and I find myself not interested in any food. I have to literally choke it down. And, I have to be careful not to get too light. It really can be a big problem in Ironman training and recovery. If we do not fuel properly daily – it adds up and we can get sick, not recover well enough to workout properly the next day, etc. You have to consume a LOT of good food in order to do what we do! So, when I weighed myself and I was lower than I should be at this time of the training cycle, I ate and ate and ate. I recovered well enough in 2 days, that I was back to being fine.
Today I rode 3 hours in 97F degree temps – it was awesome! Even downright windy. I also ran 1 hour…on and off the bike…and I drank SEVEN bottles of fluids in three hours. It is the only way to do it and I finally felt AMAZING – ran fast off the bike in this heat and my watts and speed increased throughout the ride. You make that big of a mistake ONCE and you learn fast how important salt, fluids and tons of calories are to a successful training day! As the weather is turning quickly now in Chicago, I am so grateful I had these Kona like temps to remember how critical the details are in having a good Ironman race in a month.
Speaking of Ironmans, I spectated my 11th IM WI this past weekend. I always leave that race totally inspired and motivated by my friends & athletes. IM WI is not an easy course. And, I really believe that there is the 20% rule when it comes to having success on race day – especially in the Ironman.
This 20% rule is what I call the details of daily training that all add up to the full 100% of training. I find that most athletes do 80% of what they need to do to succeed. They do the workouts, they think they eat right, they try hard to sleep right….but in reality the 20% is what they need to focus on.
This 20% is this:
- Doing the specifics of each workout perfectly. Not adding more, not running harder because you feel good or want to
- Doing what it takes to be fueled well BEFORE, during and after to capitalize on each workout
- NOT winging the nutrition on long runs and long bikes – really creating a plan and an hour to hour plan on what you will eat, drink, how much salt to a “T”
- When the workout calls for a brick – get off the bike and onto the run in less than 5 minutes. NO checking phone, talking to kids, get out fast
- Not just jumping into a group workout because you want to socialize – do your specific workout – you can socialize afterwards OR the next day
- Sleeping 7-9 hours per night – no exceptions here. Unless you have a newborn in the house – there is no reason and no excuses
- Consistency – day in and day out. Not missing workouts – no zeros – and taking care of the details allow you to remain consistent
- If you have a coach or report your workouts in Training Peaks – communicate! I can’t tell you how many times I open up TP and it is empty week after week – or athletes that just put in the time they did the workout. NO data, NO subjective feedback. Not much I can do with that. After EVERY one of my workouts, I download it immediately. IF you have a good coach, that coach will give you feedback (when necessary) and notice patterns and trends that are critical as she/he plans the next training block. I cannot tell you how critical this is. Imperative to your success and something I struggle with daily as a coach trying to do my job
- More is not always best. If you are tired day after day – listen to your body. Your body is an amazing vehicle. Usually being so tired is a result of nutrition issues OR lack of sleep/rest. Pay attention to the cues. REST is a very critical component to a good training plan
- Do not be afraid of fatigue. Remember on the other side of fatigue – once you get through the training cycles IS FITNESS! This is something that we need to remember during Ironman training and marathon training
- Do not under estimate life stress. The body does not know the difference between training stress, personal stress, work stress. If life is not good at home – this will create a ton of internal stress and it will affect your workouts. Same with work stress…if you are stressed at work or home and then try to stress your body killing it during workouts – you will, at some point, fall apart. Address the stressors and fix what you can. You can. We all are in control of our lives. And, if you have stressors in your life – communicate them with your coach so that the training plan can be adapted while you go through a challenging time
- Be positive. Remember, this is a hobby. Not many of us making a living racing races. It should be fun. Of course some of it is hard and draining, but that is the joy of the process. Keep it real and keep it fun!
- Celebrate each success. WHEN you have a good workout – enjoy that. When you have a bad workout, move on. Sometimes you are the nail and sometimes the hammer. As long as you are the hammer more often than the nail – that is success!
- Don’t try to “WIN” every workout. When I see files where athletes are always going faster than they do in racing – then the red flag goes off in my head – there is a disconnect between racing and training. AND I need to work with “marrying” the two.
- When I saw the Pros (Beth Shutt was the best example) and the AG leaders at IM Wisconsin, they were in the “zone”. They were engaged, focused and had flipped that “switch” and were present on the course. They were in a world of hurt – but were able to transcend that suffering to something bigger = winning OR nailing their goals. You can see it as clear as day. Watch them!
The last time I sat down on the floor of my shower while the hot water poured on me was when I was pregnant with the twins. Twelve years later and a whole lot of pain, I was again on the floor of my shower at 3:30 am grimacing in so much pain from racing I was nauseous and couldn’t sleep.
This weekend we went and raced Pigman ½ Ironman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I have raced here 2x before and ironically, this was my first EVER ½ IM back…I cannot remember the year. I picked Pigman this year because it is as close to Kona as we can get in the Midwest. It is usually 100F degrees in the shade, OPEN roads, no shade, windy and not wetsuit legal. Imagine my surprise when the day dawned, high was 82F and water temps 73F (it was way hotter than that).
Karen, Jaynie, Stacie and I caravanned to Iowa on Saturday. Luckily, Stacie’s mom (and dad) live out there, so we were able to stay at her mom’s house.
I had a rest week into Pigman and felt well – flat, lethargic and over-rested. Perfect, just how I was supposed to feel.
I raced in the Elite wave at Pigman and we did not start until nearly 8am (after the Olympic race all started). In the Elite wave were ALL the elite men & women and teams. While these starts are usually very aggressive, I needed that practice. All these swim starts with women make us way too complacent…and Kona’s start is so aggressive, this would be good practice.
The only issue: It was wetsuit legal. UGH! Pisser. Frankly, the swim at Pigman is SUPER easy. It is in a calm little lake and there is no chop, nothing. I lined up with Michael & Brianna Boehmer and the gun went off. It was an easy start (damn) and I got out in the 2nd pack and sat there and drafted. I told myself NOT to do anything silly since the water was hot and we were in wetsuits…(good news was the air was still cool). I see the front pack ahead of me and I cannot bridge that gap (these guys eventually swam 26 minutes). So, I sat in and swam with the 2nd pack of men. I almost forget how much more aggressive men swim and how big they are! But, it is so rare that I have feet in a swim, that I had to really behave and be patient and draft. In their draft I was hardly working – I was at a 5 on a scale from 1-10…and I thought, “SHIT” this is too slow. But, I would get out of their draft and try to go around them and I was now at a 7-8. I was cracking up at myself thinking, “IF I could draft in all my races, GOD IT IS SO much easier.” Nice to have men in my wave, a nice treat for me. We exited the water in 28 minutes and one of the spectators said, “You are 3:30 down.” Ok….thanks for telling me where I am next to the MEN. I ended up having the fastest swim of all women that day and fastest Elite female by nearly 3 minutes. I was not expecting that!
On the bike I felt REALLY good. Pigman is long gradual inclines and declines through rural cornfields of Iowa. No major hills but nothing super flat. It usually is windy but on race day it was a slight tail wind going out and a slight head wind coming up. Nothing major, but enough to notice it. I knew the girls would be coming at some point. I think I got passed by the eventual winner around mile 19-20. And, I tried to keep her in my sight, but I was working too hard to do that. Actually, my Quarq did not work when I got on my bike. UGH. I re-started it and still no power. (dead battery we figured out when I got home). I just like the power meter because it makes sure I am not over-riding. I rarely under-ride! Thank goodness I have raced so long without any data, that I know how to do it – and I know what my Half IM watts feel like. I did a good job of managing my effort. At one point I threw up a little bit and realized I should back down. The good news is that 56 miles flew by and I am grateful for that since I have to do 112 miles in 8 weeks. Came into T2 in 3rd place knowing I had fast Brianna Boehmer and Julie Hull behind me.
Headed off on the run and I felt AWESOME. I had my legs, felt light and all around great. The run at Pigman is hilly in the park area and then flatter until mile 6 where there is a long, big hill and then another long big hill at mile 10-11. The hard part about racing Elite is that you are out there ALL ALONE. I mean ALL ALONE. On the bike course I had to make sure I was not off course – because I would see no one for miles.
Again, I had NO data. I forgot to grab my Timex watch (pace) before I headed out. And, frankly, that was ok even though I would have liked it, my job was really to process through this race for Hawaii prep AND race the girls. So, I have no idea what I was running but every time I thought about my pace it was probably 7:20-30s on the flats. At mile 3 Brianna came by me. She was running well (even though she said she felt like awful here) and I could NOT go with her. She ended up running a 1:29 and get 2nd overall!
I was taking in salt, fluids and gels no problem. I carried a hand held flask because they had HEED on the course but I cannot drink that stuff, ICK. At the turnaround I saw Julie Hull (who was having a rare off day) and the eventual 5th place gal and they were far enough back that I could maintain my pace and hold my position. As I was running back towards home it was empty. NO ONE in front of me and NO ONE in back of me….and nothing but open cornfields. A little eerie. I had to dig super deep and not get complacent on that course all alone. OH and they repaved the run road and it is ALL CONCRETE NOW. God help me…that is why I cannot sleep tonight…my legs and Achilles hurt so bad – even my IT band aches from running on concrete all that time!
I made my way to the finish line which is basically uphill from mile 11 onwards and just felt SO good. I really wanted to be in the 4:40s and I was at 4:48. I ended up 4th Elite and 1st Masters by 25+ minutes. I had a very good race and the swim and run felt effortless. I had another gear in both but thankfully did not have to use them. My goal for Pigman was Top 5 Elite and to execute a clean and solid race for Kona final prep. And, I did just that. I felt amazing out there.
Congrats to Katie T, Stacie who broke 6 hours!!!, Karen and Jaynie who all raced at Pigman and had great races! Thanks to Jerome who was home with the twins and being Dad while I went off to Iowa to race.
And, I would be remiss if I did not thank my friend Elizabeth. I really do not like writing my own training plans or self-coaching. I think for too many athletes that thinking for myself is a burden. And, while I love my mentor Dave, he is not the right coach for long distance triathlon racing. He is the coach who trained me for Kona the last couple of times I raced there, but we both agreed it was a little over his level of comfort & expertise. And, while Jerome is superb, I do not like to mix love and racing, so I need to keep the training/coaching very separate from my home life. So, I asked Elizabeth to help me out. The whole thing is so ironic because I coached Elizabeth for a very long time…and was on the other side of her racing for years. And, over the years we have become very close and she started her own successful coaching business. But, what is key in a successful coaching relationship is TRUST; and, I trust her. She has been around me (even though I am sure she is sick and tired of me) for a LONG TIME. She has personally had a ton of success at long and short course racing and has trained athletes for success at Kona and the World Championships. So, because of that and our solid relationship, I asked her to help me (keep me in check). It was a little weird for me initially because while things in life ALWAYS come full circle, it is rare that someone you coached and feel like you were SO involved with on the other side…would be giving you the advice you once gave. Weird. But, frankly, it was easy. Elizabeth and I keep this training very business-like. I am pretty easy to coach (right Elizabeth?) and I just am a solider and do the work and move on. And, we are also able to have our friendship at the same time. A win-win for us! So, thanks to Elizabeth who has guided me to some of my fastest times & races at the age of 42. My race at Pigman yesterday was a course PR.
Next up: No more racing – just a whole lot of training for Kona! Well, after I recover or am able to walk again! Oh, and in case anyone can tell, while you can still go fast at 42, you pay a DEAR DEAR price for that…
I almost forgot what it is like to train for an Ironman. Even though I spend my days writing Ironman workouts, fueling plans and preaching about salt and calories and recovery…you *almost* forget what the day to day grind is like until you are put back into it.
I don’t race the Ironman all that often because I know the commitment it takes to do well there. And, unless I am mentally, physically, professionally & personally ready to commit to that race, there is no point for me to do “just do an Ironman.”
The last time I raced Kona was 2006. I chose not to race Hawaii since 2006 because, at the time the twins were 4 and I just did not want to spend my days on my bike. AND, to be honest with you, I did not love Kona. It was hot. So, I put it to bed…..and decided I would come back to it when I was ready.
Between 2006 and 2011 I did not race an Ironman. Then, I finally got the bug to do an Ironman I felt like I could race a little better à IM Arizona. We spend a lot of time in Tucson and I thought this would be a great and obvious choice for me. AND I wanted to race an Ironman….AND, for the most part, I did race Arizona…but I had a niggling Achilles for the ENTIRE training block and it limited my running. I ended up PRing there (not hard after only doing Kona a couple of times) and meeting my goal of going 10:30. But, I was so disheartened with all the work that came with that Achilles niggle that year that I did NOT take the Kona slot at Arizona. I did not want to go through what I just went through. I vowed I would get back to 100% and go back when I was ready!
Fast forward to 2013, I am heading to Kona and today on my long bike ride, I fell back in love with the thought of racing Hawaii. I have been feeling AMAZING. So amazing that I started to get worried – during IM training you get so used to feeling so tired that when you feel so good, you think, “Really?”
We are 2 months out from Kona and the time has flown by! I went to Tucson for a week and that jump started my Ironman training. It was HOT and humid (monsoon season) in Tucson and that helped me sweat a bit and ride Lemmon day after day. We are having such a COLD and wet summer here, that everything is “easy” here now.
I decided to go back to Kona for one main reason: The Island has always gotten the better of me when I have raced there. But, I am a smarter & more experienced athlete now and know how to race in Kona now. And, when I review my “career goals” for Triathlon, accomplishing X in Kona is at the top. I have accomplished my OLY and Half IM goals in my career. However, I still have some unfinished business in Kona. So, that is why I decided to go back this season.
I am reminded mile after mile on my bike that this is a VERY lonely process. Kristin White, the athlete who q-fied at Eagleman with me in my AG sent me a FB message yesterday asking how my training is going. We both agreed that it is LONELY!!
I don’t mind the quiet miles for the most part – but you do forget how quiet the country roads are day after day. AND the pool…..I wish my Masters team practiced in the summer. I miss them!
The other thing I forgot about was my APPETITE! I really did forget how hungry I was during IM training. I cannot eat enough. AND, in order to recover and repeat this cycle daily, I am eating a ton. I am eating almost anything I want and listen to my body – the other day I was craving Salami & cheese. So, I ate it. I am eating Pizza all the time….ice cream….had ribs and pasta last night for dinner with a salad. I honestly think this is the way to train & recover from all this training. The IM is so cumulatively exhausting that between my fueling AND sleep, I can repeat, repeat, repeat.
I am chomping at the bit now that we are 8 weeks out. I feel like I have a lot more work to do and hoping that the weather turns HOT soon? I am racing a ½ Ironman next weekend – and am hoping it is 100F, jungle humid and not wetsuit legal. I am excited to race. That is one thing I do not love about Ironman training….I really miss all the short course racing frequency!
And, in exciting news, my sister, MOM and Aunt are coming out to Kona for some R&R and to watch me race! I am so excited! They have never seen me race an Ironman OR 1/2 IM ever. My mom worries about the whole thing (she has NO IDEA).
I am a little sad I am not racing USAT Nationals this coming weekend – but you know, I always say, “don’t get greedy…” So, keeping my priorities in line and focusing on long course this summer. BUT good luck to all my friends & athletes racing in Milwaukee, the weather is going to be AMAZING!
Well, that is a BORING title, isn’t it! It is now mid-July and I am about 1 month post Eagleman 70.3 and have been lucky enough to race 2x since Eagleman. I wanted to do some fun, local races before I started to do the build for Hawaii. One of the best things about short course training is you get to race all the time. With the Ironman, I actually have to train A LOT….umph.
The weekend after Eagleman was a local sprint that is one of my favs. I am good friends with the RD and it is in my back yard and in the lake where co-run the open water swim events every week. I was not all that excited about racing a Sprint 6 days post Eagleman — and on ice cream, hamburgers and fries all week — but, it turned out OK.
I raced Elite (I love it when local races have a separate wave, just so much safer!) and was the first person (male or female) out of the water – that was fun. I just worked so hard on not letting any guy pass me, that lasted…oh, not even 1 mile! But, I felt like ass on the bike. And, this course is out and back so I got to look at my competition as I turned around. Not always the most exciting thing to do when you are flat flat flat, but I was able to rally and get into T2 in the lead. Ironically, my average watts were lower at the Sprint than they were at my 1/2 IM. Got onto the run and felt good, but did the STUPIDEST thing ever. I took a wrong turn and ended up running over 90″ longer. All of a sudden the ring road I was on re-joined the main race and there were the girls coming – SHIT! I really did not want to have to dig deep, but I had to dig to put a gap on them again. (My instructions were: “do the least amount of work you have to to win.”) Silly me. I can do this course in my sleep…!! Anyway, I managed to keep my lead and win overall and with a faster time than last year even with my detour!
After my local sprint, I just put in some time training. It was time to start to pick things up a notch and get reunited with some longer riding – nothing too long now – but some quality and heat. Jerome and I even made a trip on the 4th of July morning to ride the IM Wisconsin course. No matter how many times I ride that course (and it is A LOT), it kicks my ass every time.
This past weekend was one of those insane weekends with kid’s activities. I was watching my niece Friday /sleepover and then camp pick up Saturday, One Direction concert with Morgan on Saturday (thanks to my sister who helped me out a TON – best.sister.ever)…I so badly wanted to race this past weekend. I had 2 options with Evergreen Lake 2 hours away on Saturday and a local race 20 minutes away on Sunday. Neither was perfect….and I was not going to race. But, I just could NOT get it out of my mind….and my gut was telling me to race before I really get too deep in my Hawaii training. So, I decided to just “wing it” on Sunday. I would not get too much sleep the night before and I would jump into the local OLY race. I also wanted to race because I had a large group of friends and athletes racing and it was a great time to be with everyone socially.
I got home from the 1Direction concert after 12am and was up by 4:30am, so it stung bad…but you know what? Except for a higher HR I could feel – even in the swim – I was OK. I was not sharp, but I was OK. The water was hotter than a$$ at definitely over 78F degrees, but *of course* the RD said it was 78F and let athletes wear wetsuits. UGH…..so I melted in my wetsuit and had to manage not over-heating AND not losing sight of Mary Bradbury who is a great swimmer. I knew if I could keep that gap under 90″ I would be in a good position. It is fun to actually have someone in front of me in the swim – I am always used to being chased. SO fun for me to chase on Sunday. I ended up catching Mary around mile 8-9 on the bike and then just held there and ate, drank and then passed Mary. We came into T2 together and then I took some extra time in T2 because it was HOT and I needed to get my HR down a bit….so I did that and then passed Mary and ran steady to win the race overall.
FUN times! I love racing locally & never take for granted a win. I was coming down the finishing chute and said, “enjoy…enjoy this…” I take nothing for granted anymore.
Here is a picture that Scott (Mary’s husband) took of me racing. Look at those blue skies (another thing I do not take for granted living here!):
And, now I am done racing for a bit. I am doing Pigman 1/2 IM in the middle of Iowa in mid-August…I was trying to find a local race that is as much like Kona as possible. Pigman is notoriously hot, windy and similar to Kona. It is actually where I did my 1st Half Ironman back in the day. I am looking forward to racing Pigman again – hope it is not wetsuit legal and as hot as a$$.
With that being said, I decided NOT to race USAT SC Nationals. I really wanted to and really REALLY like that OLY distance (and it is in Milwaukee – a great course for me), but I just cannot do it all. Well. So, I will focus on long course (dumba$$) and do Pigman and then Kona.
I am heading off to Tucson on Sunday. The twins are at their annual Summer Camp get away with their cousins and since I can work anywhere – I am going to head to more heat and some quiet time down in Tucson for next week. Looking forward to some major heat, hills and a break in my daily routine here at home!
Sorry, in advance, this is so long!
I was so excited to race. The family and I headed out to Eagleman 70.3 to race, for what would be my 8th time. We drove 12 hours to Philly to visit with Jerome’s parents and then after a couple of days visiting with them, Jerome and I drove to Cambridge, Maryland to race.
I did not race Eagleman last year. I decided I needed to step away from the race after I had a complete and utter meltdown on that course in 2011. Sometimes we all just need to know when to walk away and re-group. I did that and was determined to come back in 2013 ready to mix it up again.
I have had a great block of training leading into EM. I was rested (which is critical) and I was strong – fit and ready. I was mentally on my game. Two weeks ago I did a hard & long indoor bike in oppressive heat (at my doing) in my basement and then turned around and ran a course PR at a local 10 miler this next morning….with my last mile being sub 6:30. I knew I was ready. It was my race to win or lose.
I went to Eagleman with one goal — To be in the TOP 3 in my AG and Masters. I had NO idea who was going. I never once looked at the Start list or anything from previous years. It just doesn’t matter. I cannot control any of that. All I could control was getting myself ready and mentally up for racing. AND especially if it was going to be hot. EM is always hot and windy and just HARD.
Race day it was beautiful. I little humid, yes, but temps did not get over 80F. It was perfect and the wind was minimal – a RARE nice day in Cambridge. I knew it was going to be a fast, head to head race day. Me pre-race in my thoughts…
My race plan that I put together for EM was pretty simple. I have been SO HOT at the swim at Eagleman that I am overly hot and my HR too high to start the bike – so my goal this year was to have a pedestrian swim. Really. I started out in the front of the AG and with only one gal (Jen S-M!) in front me, I put my swim on auto-pilot and just went easier. I had to make sure I did not ruin my race in the swim. I knew I could do this because I knew where I was in the swim and knew strategically I had to just relax. I was freaking out a little bit because I felt like I was swimming at IM effort, but I kept telling myself, “patience grasshopper.” (really?) I usually like to race this distance MUCH faster than I did but in the end, this was the right decision. Came out of the water 2nd with 3rd, 4th and 5th all right there. And, hot in the water for sure, but no overheating that has plagued me before.
Onto the bike –> I let everything calm down but I could not believe how GOOD I felt. I was light, pedaling easy and my watts were way high. I started to drink and drink and drink. I had my salt mixed into my bottles and I was determined (again) to NOT over heat on this course. In 45 minutes I had gone through one entire bottle and a gel – perfect and my salt. Just like in training. I was like a robot out there. Never did think, just did. My plan was simple. I knew what watts to hold and I just put my head down and did the work. Ironically, my HIM watts seemed like a breeze out there and too low, but I was going 22+ mph. Hmmm…But I had passed the 1st place gal and was in 1st at this point and then I said…just settle down grasshopper and let this race unfold a little bit. So, I kept my bike easy….NO need to over-ride the front end of this course. EM doesn’t get hard until 1:45 or so into the bike (head wind usually at this point)…So, I stayed under control, RPE was light and HR was low. I thought to myself, “this is going too good OR this will end very very badly.” AND in about 2 minutes a 40-44 girl went by me. OK, now it is time to race.
I had to make the decision – DO I go with her or let her go. She was riding way to fast for me to go with her (Kristin who ended up winning the AG biked a 2:21! = good call Jen), but then another 2 girls came by and I was like, “Oh no….” I made a strategic decision to go. I was still going under control but now I had to race this sucker if I wanted to be in the mix. AND that was the game day decision, I went for it. I rode and finished up the bike within fighting distance of top 5 in the AG. I think I came off the bike in 5th, but 3-5th were all right together. I ended up biking a 2:32 (and nearly at my OLY watts), which is a great time for me on this course and considering I was taking it easy through 1 hour, pretty solid time. My nutrition was spot on, salt was perfect, gels…I felt GREAT and kept thinking to myself, “GO with it, Jen!”
I had to pee in transition, so one of the girls (maybe 2?) got away from me, but I HAD TO PEE badly and I cannot run if I do not pee. So, off I went. First mile in 6:55. OK…..again, “patience Jenny”…you will not run 6:55s for this full 1/2, so bring it down a notch…and I tried, but I felt SO good. I took my salt, drank and had a gel. Setting myself up for the calm before the storm (last 10k). I was running under control and running 6:55-7:10s. I was like, “ok, enjoy this Jen….races like this are RARE (feeling SO GOOD).” I was actually having fun. I did not want the bike to end. I was having fun on the run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was laser focused.
I was so focused actually that I was carrying my salt tabs in a container and apparently I did not close it and they all fell out, so when I went to get my salt at mile 5-6 they were GONE. SHIT! THAT is how focused I was I did not realize they were dropping out all over the place? REALLY?
So, here is when the fun starts AND this is when the shit got real. I get to mile 4 and feel amazing. 2nd place is up ahead as is 1st. (I cannot see them yet). I think 3rd is up ahead or I had just passed her (can’t recall) and I am running in 3rd BUT 4th place is coming up on me. She comes up on me and I slow down on purpose to try to listen to her breathing. I shifted all my thoughts to her breathing pattern. I had to understand IF she was already working too hard OR she was going “easy” and had more gears. So, I listened. AND in my opinion, at mile 4, she was already working at her max effort for that point in the race. Her breathing was labored already. THE LAST THING I wanted to do was run shoulder to shoulder for NINE more miles and suffer with someone who I am trying to beat.
So, I did what any other person would do: I surged and made my move. I put enough space on her that I could get back to running my race and not worry about her – but she stayed close to me THE ENTIRE race (I am sure, hoping I would crack).
At EM it is a very hard run course. I realize it is flat, but it is hot, windy and NO shade and roads that go on forever and you cannot see the turn around. My absolute favorite (that is what I train on here!). So, at mile 6 – I am almost to the turn around and I see Kristin (AG winner) and she has a huge cushion on me…and she looks like she is running my pace (and she was). So, I am like, “SHIT.” So, I still cannot find 2nd place girl. But, soon I see her and she does not look good – has a hitch to her gait and fatigue in her eyes. OFF I GO.
Now, let it be clear, I am not “just jogging” here. I am working and turning myself inside out. AND the thing that messed me up was I dropped my salt and I was only at mile 6 and I wanted SALT BADLY – but had NONE. So, I had to really prepare myself to suffer and get ready for this shit to get ugly…b/c I could already feel my quads barking back at me. I have never cramped in a race before, but without salt I start to fade terribly and “bonk”.
I see 2nd place about 1/4 mile up and I start to go. I pass her WITH a huge surge = just in case. I say: “nice race” and go by. She doesn’t even look at me. THEN there I was…I was at mile 7 in 2nd place. I see Jerome and Spencer Smith in the crowd and Jerome yells, “you are in 3rd!” I put up 2 fingers and put my head back down to grind out the last 5 miles.
I am throwing ice down my pants and jog bra — taking in the fluids (3 cups per aide station) and keep on taking my GU Roctanes. I did look back a few times to make sure, as I felt myself slowing down a wee bit that 3rd place was not too close to me.
Then, I NEVER once thought about anything like, “I am in 2nd, here it is!” or anything silly like that. This is a long race…and at that turnaround you come back towards ALL THE RUNNERS and you see all your competition and it is like a death moment. EVERYONE has fire in their eyes – they are hammering and you are the one being chased. IF that doesn’t keep the shit real, nothing does. It is like I can feel them breathing on my back.
It was mind over matter. I have learned by doing all these races and coaching that EVERYONE at the top levels are physically prepared…but not everyone is mentally prepared for that battle on race day. AND this is always something I capitalize on. ANYTHING can happen. Anything. No one is unbeatable. No one. AND this, this is why I race. I train for these moments, when it is so raw and the competition and pain is so palatable.
I get to mile 12 (OH THANK god!) and I look around and do not really see anyone that close, but you just never know. So, while I was suffering (and looking on the ground for ANY salt tabs) I just closed my eyes and put my head down and ran. I can do anything for 1 mile. I was breathing like I was on the track running 400s, but in theory, I was. Then, I made the magical turn to the finishing chute at Eagleman. Many special memories here for me and today was no different. BUT I had to finish first and finish hard. Here is me doing what we always say DO NOT DO – but at a race like this – where I ran from 5th place into 2nd place and for Kona slots – YOU need to know (I turned around looking for anyone):
AND there it was! I FINISHED. I collapsed at the finish into the volunteers. I did not want to run another step. But, I felt good and as soon as I was able to sit down, I was OK. I did it! My overall time was 4:46:01. (my course PR here is 4:41 at age 33….so 9 years later only 5 minutes slower? I will take that as a WIN).
3rd and 4th place finished within 25 seconds and 1 minute from me. IF I would have mentally cracked out there, I would have gone from 2nd place to 5th or 6th in a SNAP. THAT is how close it was.
I was so happy! I kept looking for Jerome and Elizabeth! I found Jerome and just jumped into his arms. Having him there to Sherpa for me and cheer of me (he did not race this year) was a TREAT for me and I loved it. He was great! Such comfort for me in a time of stress.
I immediately went up to Kristin (1st place) and Congratulated her. She raced Professionally but is racing Amateur this year and wanted to go to Kona. So, even though she beat me solid on Sunday, I feel good since she has raced PRO all these years and this is her first year back as an Amateur (that is what happens in the 40-44 AG!). She had a great race!
Here is the 40-44 AG podium TOP 4:
The Awards Ceremony and Kona slot allocation TOOK FOREVER. We did not leave until 6:30pm! IT was insane and I was not showered. UGH! BUT, of course, it was all worth it. The biggest AG was my AG and we got 2 slots for Kona as did W35-39, so that meant Kristin and I both got the Kona slots. All the other AG had ONE slot for Kona.
AND I did not know I would take the Kona slot until about 1 hour before the awards. I did not bring $, no checkbook and even after Elizabeth texting me on Saturday to see if I brought a check, I was like, “NO WAY!” See, I do not race for Hawaii. I know that is what so many athletes want and so set up their seasons to do that…but that does not motivate me. I do not say, “I want to q-fy for Kona” because, frankly, KONA is a monster and I don’t usually take my slots.
What motivates me is head to head racing and being my best, executing my race plan and being in the mix to WIN. That is what makes me happy and gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me say NO to the late night social commitments. Kona is just the icing on the cake when it happens. And, it is nice to be in a position to have that option (and I am FULLY aware of that). I never take anything for granted at 42 years old. NOT ONE THING.
So, I thought long and hard about Hawaii. Talked to Elizabeth, talked to Jerome. See, I am signed up for IM AZ this year and *if* I were to q-fy at IMAZ this year I do NOT want to do another IM in 2014. I do not like to race them back to back years. Last time I took the Kona slot was 2006!!! But, I am fit, healthy and feeling good this year — so I decided to do it all this year – so next year NO IM! So, yes, I took the slot.
I have been SO excited since Sunday. I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on anything – so I know I made the right decision. THE MAIN reason I did not want to do Kona only had to do with my kids….that is a biggie for me – I do NOT want to be riding their summers away while I try to work full time AND be mom….and train at that level….but this year they are 11 1/2, they are at camps, they are older and have a ton of friends and commitments…it is just a little easier now at 11 than when they were 2, 4 ,5 6 years old, etc. (in a different way).
I have not felt this good in years at a 1/2 IM. I was on fire at Eagleman and just felt confident, I did a TON of specificity training, so my body “knew” what to do at this distance. I knew what watts, RPE, paces I could handle at this distance and I had enough confidence in my nutrition and training plan that ALL I HAD TO DO was execute my plan. All the hard work was done well before the race. The race was “easy” compared to my prep for this race. AND that is how it should be. Robotic.
Thanks to my in laws who had a great time with the kids while we were in Cambridge. My kids LOVE this trip. Thanks to Jerome for EVERYTHING. He is a rock for me and I was so relaxed with him helping me all weekend. He was so unselfish (going to bed at a silly early hour, eating pasta, doing my bike). AND, thanks to Elizabeth and Dave W. Both of these people are not only dear friends of mine but also have helped me with all the details to get ready to race my best. I think Elizabeth said it best in an email to me late last night:
I’ve know you a long time – seen many “shades” of Jennifer along the way. Younger, aggressive, very fit/fast Jennifer is not much different than “over 40″ Jennifer (see, I did NOT say older) – other than she’s SMARTER and has realized (or maybe accepted) that now you can stay nearly as fast by working smarter vs harder – stay in the game longer by doing that, stay healthier and race/train more consistently. Less ups and downs, more even keel.
Yep. Being 40-44 is not too bad, eh? Now, let’s get on with this KONA thing!!!!!