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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.
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:
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!
I am so glad I went down to Muncie 70.3 and raced. I cannot believe I have never done this race and it is only 4 hours from me. It falls at a weird time of the summer with my kid’s activities & camps – and it is usually 100F degrees in the shade…But, this year I really wanted to race a 70.3 in mid-season and Muncie scared me a little bit (which I need).
Matt Peterson & Jenny Hayes, two friends and athletes that I work and I with stayed with Matt’s parents who live about 45 minutes from Muncie. I was so glad I had the opportunity to stay with them. They were SO accommodating, super supportive and hospitable. It was so relaxing and set us all up for a great race day. Here is Jenny with Matt and Matt’s dad.
It was a good weather day in Muncie. For once it was not 100F or scorching. We got a gift and it was upper 70s….very humid, but not oppressive. I registered for this race late, so I was not racked with the girls in my age group and that was FINE with me. I had no idea who was there as I never looked at the start list. I wanted to just fly in, race hard and see where the cards land. I was super excited to race and woke up on race morning before my 4am alarm SO excited to race!
Unfortunately, the water was wetsuit legal. Really, it was so hot I almost ripped my wetsuit off in the lake. Honestly, it does not matter to me if we wear a wetsuit or not. I just want the swim to be hard and aggressive and fair. The wetsuit surely makes it 100% easier and I can just drag my legs thru the water so I always feel so much more fresh on the bike after a wetsuit legal swim.
My goal in the swim was to come out of the water in 1st. Didn’t care what time that was. I lined up just to the left of the start buoy – picked my line of sight and when the gun went off I went out HARD. 200-400 m as hard as I could swim (well, within reason) and we still had clear water until we caught the other waves. I wanted some feet so I could chill and draft, but I was solo. No one went with me. So, I relaxed a little bit and keep swimming strong. I felt SO good – fluid, light and feeling like I was not putting out a lot of effort. Then, I got REALLY hot. I had to grab my wetsuit at my neck every couple of minutes to put some of the water into my wetsuit so I would not over-heat. And, then I purposely slowed down even more – super easy. I kept it chill to keep my core body temp under control. If I had to go with another swimmer, I would or could, but I just held my position and got the hell out of the hot tub. I was out in 30 minutes and did not see anyone behind me – I ran like hell into T 2.
I was having one of those days where it was all coming together. One of those race days that are almost magical. AND when and how these happen, we never know 100% why. But, when they happen, you go with it and capitalize on it…and know you can take some risks!
I loved this bike course. Sure, some of the road conditions are really crappy. AND they changed the bike course so there were 40 miles OF TWO loops with 2000 riders on it. AND my Age group was in the 2nd to last wave…so the bike course was a HOT MESS.
I got out onto the bike and knew I was leading my AG. I rode hard but smart. By the time I hit 50 minutes on the bike I had gone through 2 bottles on my bike alone. I had to drink a ton to ensure that swim did not catch up with me later in the day as it got hotter. We had some cloud cover on the bike and I knew that was my “get out of jail” pass to take some risks and push this course harder than I could if it was super hot.
At mile 15 the 2nd place girl went by me. Ok! Time to race – I kept my legal distance but kept her in my sights. She was riding very well.
Around mile 30, I heard the Marshalls driving up. I was passing a ton of riders – and this is tricky. Some of the riders were riding 3-4 abreast AND I had no room to pass. AND if I did pass a man, he would re-pass me and that did NOT help the situation at all. I was riding as clean as I could – we all were. I did not see any major drafting out there (I am sure there was some though) on a course that is silly for 2000 athletes.
Then, BAM….the Marsall flashed his RED card at me. Then, drove up and did the same to others. Then, others…it was really the silly. I even said to him, “WHAT do you want me to do when I don’t have ‘clear line of sight!!?’”
As an age grouper, we do not have “clear line of sight” – this means you can ride to the LEFT of the athletes (think more middle of the road) and go by everyone faster & NOT get called for BLOCKING. PROS have this. BUT I was doing this but then getting over to my right as quickly as I could. I was in and out of people all day. ANYWAY, I got a red card for this. AND because this was my 1st penalty ever, I did not remember (remember I am racing and not thinking clearly) what a RED card meant. I just had to report to the penalty tent and stand down for FOUR minutes. I thought I was being DQd.
TO SAY I WAS Pissed would be an understatement. I went through the initial PISSED OFF emotion & then the “NO way I can have a good race now – FOUR MINUTES is a lifetime!” I thought about stopping and saving myself for another race the next weekend. SILLY things that you think about. THEN about 2 minutes later I re-grouped, put my head down and used that set back to ride even harder.
I will show HIM (aggressive, I know b/c “HE” doesn’t care)…..! About 20 miles later I got to the penalty tent (it was packed) and I started my FOUR minutes – Tick tock tick tock…..I ate, drank and peed while standing there. I refused to look at anyone passing for fear I would see 10 girls in my AG pass while I stand there and pick my ass! AFTER 4:23 (that is the total time I was idle) I took off. AND goodness did I ride hard. I knew I was taking a gamble but I was going to kill myself to re-gain my lead OR die trying. I had nothing to lose now.
I averaged close to my Olympic watts on the miles after my penalty. AND my ride was 22.8 mph on the way home, which was not flat like the loops. Again, I was taking a gamble. I came off the bike 3rd in my AG and was on a mission to go and find these girls.Bike time was 2:34 with penalty. 2:29:xx actual ride time.
I FELT amazing. Another “Oh my gosh I feel amazing!”….There are just not too many long races where you feel unstoppable – IN YOUR WHOLE season or seasons – but I was feeling like that so I went with it. I was confident in my fitness and preparation and knew I could run hard and be fine. And, my head was in the game. I had fought the vomit coming up on the bike several times on the bike – and am feeling the same thing on the run – but I was in control of this – so was just over/under that magical red line. It is a slippery line, but I was loving it and having fun.
The run at Muncie is rolling. It is a hard run and open and in between corn fields with NO movement in the air – humid and suffocating. I had my salt, gels and flask to drink. I took ice at every aide station.
Then, it started to happen. I see 2nd place up the road and she is not looking good. It is like the switch – that was already flipped to crazy – went DEEPER into the crazy pain cave and went after her. I passed her hard and went to find #1. I am at mile 5 now, so it is all fun and games thus far.
I get to the turn around at 6.5 miles and I see her coming the other way. She has at least 2 minutes on me. THAT is a lot of time for a 10k…..but she did not look that good. And, that is all I needed – a glimmer of hope that I was running faster than her. I counted her foot strikes & it was low – she was suffering more than me. AH! I will get her.
I dug deeper – the hills coming home were brutally hard…now I am at mile 8, where in a 1/2 IM you are really just wanting to vomit or die. But, I wanted to win more. I went to Muncie to win or kill myself trying. I had almost given up. I had almost resigned to 2nd place because “that is good enough – I did have a 4 min penalty after all” that is the shit that goes on in your head when your mind does not want to suffer anymore.
AND that is when you control what you can and forget the rest. I AM in control of my mind and that mind controls my body. SO once I told my legs and lungs to shut up, I picked up my cadence and took pop at every aide station (suffering now) and went to a very dark place. Honestly, I may have been foaming at the mouth. I could not talk – I just grunted at anyone that said HI.
At mile 9-10 I see her and she is the only thing between me and my goal. AND today is the day to make this happen – I still felt awesome (all things considered) and I had other gears on that run course still, I was not maxxed out quite yet. I had no idea what paces I was running – I did not have a watch. I mean, who cares – as long as I am in the lead, it doesn’t matter.
I came up on her shoulder, drafted on her for about 1 minute and listened to her breathing. IF she was not breathing I would have to run with her to the finish line (UGH). IF she was suffering, I would go past her so hard so could not go with me. It ended up being the latter. My fast at this point was probably not that fast really, but I felt it BIG TIME.
I surged (I did say something nice to her) and went by her right up a hill. I continued to put time on her and was never so happy (always) to see the finish line. I was a little sad this race was over though because I know that races where you feel THIS good are rare and happen so rarely you want to bottle it all up. I felt almost unstoppable.
I ran hard through the finish line and was DONE. I wanted to vomit, but instead I had this huge sense of relief and was like: ” YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Complete satisfaction. I was SO happy. That is why I race – for that competition and to bring out the best in myself and see where that best leads me.
I ended up 1st AG/1st Master, 4:50 (that includes the 4 minute+ penalty).
And the first text I saw post race was Elizabeth’s –> “You are the grittiest person I know.”
I thought it was “prettiest” at first…and I was like, “she is losing her mind!” – (when in fact, I was!).
I stayed for Awards because Amanda W (2nd AG/2nd OA), Jacqui G (2nd AG/4th OA), Jenny Hayes, Ali R (4th AG) did so well… and I got to catch up with Beth Shutt who was 3rd PRO (she has a fun pic of us on her blog - I don’t have it b/c it is on her phone)! I also took the Worlds 70.3 slot. I did not take it at Eagleman, mainly because it is IM WI weekend and I have never missed IM WI – but this year, it is time for a change.
Great times in Muncie and a hard reminder on NEVER EVER give up because you just NEVER know.
Goodness, where to start. I have not been good at blogging for many reasons. I love to write and love to journal (my blog) but as the years go by I struggle with IF people are really interested. I think everyone blogs now – so the “uniqueness” of the blog is gone. And, I struggle with laying out my races and “I kicked ass!” or “I had an off day.”
And, I spend my days & nights talking Triathlon – and keeping athletes focused on what really matters –> Progress, growth, consistency and accountability. So, when it comes to me blogging about ME. I am light on ideas and excitement. Internally I am driven and motivated, that is not what I mean. But, as I get older, I almost become more private and selfish on WHY I race.
Let’s step back…In May I did one of my all time favorite races in Galena, Illinois. My sister’s BF and a sorority sister of mine has a house there and a few of us head up, race and have a nice little overnight trip. I am not sure, but think this is like my 10th year racing Galena. I was SO excited to race. It was cold, water was COLD and after our winter, I could have raced naked and not noticed. Also, it is so good to see so many friends and athletes here – It is what makes me come back every year. I felt AWESOME and had a good race finishing 2nd OA to my friend, Jenny Garrison. And, the comments continue with the Garrison/Harrison connection. We have fun with it. As Jenny and I cooled down we were laughing that a few years ago we finished 1-2 as well. JUST a fun race and I was super happy with my day.
I continued to train and train through the Elgin 10 miler. I did a long brick (swim,bike, run) the day before and wanted to execute a solid run on tired legs. On race day I accomplished what I wanted to do and it was a great confidence boost for my “A” race of the early season: Eagleman 70.3. I ran this course as fast as I ever have – another confidence boost in my race prep for EM.
This year has been odd for me. I realized that in 2015 it will be 20 years of racing for me and only ONE year I did not race & that was in 2001 when I got pregnant and was pregnant w/ the twins. Every year I have to decide IF I am going to race some of the same races I do frequently. And, Eagleman is one of them. Can you imagine doing races for 20 years – and a lot of the same ones – AND trying to maintain that edge? HA. That is my private challenge within myself. I don’t necessarily feel slower and my times are not that much slower and this year I was only 6 minutes off my all time PR at EM…. & I PRd my IM at age 42….so it is NOT time that motivates me nor is it a PR – could care less. What motivates me is competition. I crave head to head racing. I always want to race the best 40-44 girls – ALWAYS. That is what drives me to races like Eagleman, which are fiercely competitive. Or Kona, Or USAT Nationals….if I want to rise to the occasion and challenge myself, I want to race the best.
I was uncharacteristically nervous for Eagleman. Weird because I was prepared 100% perfectly with Elizabeth’s help…and I was injury free, excited, etc. But, I did feel a little pressure coming off 2nd last year & the Kona slot. This year, I have no interest in an IM, but my desire to win is never gone, of course. I knew a few girls competing and frankly, that is all I needed to know. The reigning champ was racing (Kristin) and so was Ange B, a good triathlon friend of mine and an athlete I coached for a couple of years – so I KNEW exactly what she was capable of. If I wanted the competition, I was going to get it.
I had a hard time sleeping into Eagleman. Just this pit in my stomach for most of the week. I think one thing that athletes do is chase times on specific courses. When I put together my race plan, I barely mention times. Instead my focus is –> BE IN THE MIX and race the best I can that given day – so that I can walk away and say, “I DID my best.” Whether that is the pointy-end of the podium or not. In 2013 I had a magical day, everything was easy and I felt AWESOME. This year, I felt tired – not because I was not rested, but because I needed to take a nap! Regardless, I kept to my plan and besides a slower bike for me than usual, I gave it my 100%. It was a real nail biter of a race! I wanted to come out of the water with Ange or keep the gap 30″ and I did that – I was happy with that. I had to swim hard to do that, but that was the plan. I felt a little flat and hot on the bike…but managed it best I could. And, I felt AWESOME on the run. I was hotter than hell, but nutrition was great and I ran as hard as I could – even negative split my 1/2 marathon by 2 minutes – I was definitely chasing these girls.
When I crossed the finish line I was HAPPY. And, it is VERY important that you keep that feeling as you digest the race as the days go by. I worked hard to get on that podium and once I knew 1st and 2nd were out of reach for me – it was a race between 3-6th and I absolutely gave it my all. It was the best I could do on that day and for that, I was satisfied. I was on the podium with some great competition and left Eagleman as, “that was the best I had that day.” I could not have given more.
As the days went by I grew frustrated with my 5th place and had a few blah days. To keep it in perspective, it is NOT that 5th is not good. But, it is funny because even though I like to win – I really hate to “lose” more. And, my goal for EM was top 3 AG. And, I fell short of that goal. I can’t remember the last time that has happened. It has been years and years.
Jerome kept it real and was like, “really Jenny, Please. Get over it. It is ONE race.” And, I did. I rolled right into my favorite race of all time – Lake in the Hills Triathlon. It has 400 athletes and is run on the course I swim on, bike train on, it is awesome. I was super tired coming off Eagleman so I knew this was going to really hurt. But, it is a local race with a LOT of my friends, athletes and even neighbors there. I look forward to it every year. Lululemon even came out and had a full support /cheer section. It was awesome. I felt like ass most of the day but rallied and was the first woman across the finish line. It was like I won Kona. Seriously, everyone was so fired up and the crowds there are awesome. (After the race was over one girl (literally a 14 year old) ended up going faster (20 seconds) than me but she did not race in the Elite wave).
It has been a fun couple of months of racing. My goal is to keep healthy and race super hard and try to always be competitive. I do a lot of things right. In fact, I do most things right. And, let me tell you, it is never easy. It is not easy for anyone. Competition gets tougher and it is all the little things that REALLY matter as we try to compete at a high level.
After this cycle of racing, I had to decide what I wanted to do next. I am signed up for USAT AG Nationals and am excited to race there (talk about competition!) but I really LOVE the 70.3 distance (my fav) so I changed to race to Muncie 70.3 in July. I have always wanted to do Muncie – god knows why it is hotter than hell…but it is a midwest race and I am excited to race next month there.
Here are some pics from the last few races. They make me happy.
The last 2 are from Eagleman – Chris W, Amanda and I at awards and the last pic of the 40-44 AG Podium minus Ange. I like that podium pic because I worked my ass off to get my ass up there. Animals. And, I will always remember the PURE satisfaction of that moment. And, that is why I keep going back. A huge sense of accomplishment, even if you are a little short on your goals.
Like I always say, “Onward and Upward!”
April will go down as one of the best months of my professional life. While it was fiercely busy, it was worth it all. Ironically, as I type this blog, I am on my way from Chicago to Whistler, Canada for the Lululemon Ambassador Summit. I am honored to have been chosen as 1 of 4 from the Chicago region to attend this Summit with 120 other Ambassadors from all over the globe.
Back up to the first week of April. As I blogged about, I went with the U of I to Collegiate Nationals and spent a few days with some of the hardest working, never complaining athletes ever. Like I mentioned, it was a breath of fresh air for me and a huge opportunity to experience triathlon through the eye of collegiate kids. Both refreshing AND fun for me. I look forward to the 2014-2015 school year (yes, they are almost done with school!) and 2015 Collegiate Nationals!
From Tempe, Arizona, I decided to go straight to Tucson to start my JHC Camps. Our twins are 12 now and in school from 8am-4pm and then Jerome is home after that…so while I missed my kids terribly, it is a new chapter in our lives and something I could NOT do in the past with smaller kids, I can most definitely do now. And, with SKYPE and they text me 100000x a day, it is like I never left. (And, honestly, they are never home when I am home anymore!).
It is good for the kids to have some freedom and for them to understand that Mom does travel for her work too. And, while it is Triathlon, it is not any less important than what other professionals do. I just have more fun. It is a good life lesson for the kids – LOVE your job and have a passion in life!
JHC Camp was a blast. I always am a hot mess of worry leading into camp, but this is my 6th or 7th year and I have things running pretty smoothly. There are always insurance issues and stuff like that, but otherwise, I have the routes, safety things taken care of…plus, being in Tucson for a few days before camp really allowed me to focus on camps (& step away from mom stuff) to be 100% prepared.
The group of JHC athletes that come to camp are so fun. Every year, we have several repeat campers and then several new to camp athletes. I try to keep it at 12, but I always seem to include a few extras – this year we had 18 that included Jerome & I. I rent them all condos in my condo association and it keeps everyone together – but gives them a kitchen and some privacy as well.
Camp is non-stop. We had a couple of free hours one day and I said, “WE SHOULD BE SWIMMING!” The thing I like best about camp is it gives me time to get to know these athletes personally a bit better. I like to see how the athletes respond to the over-load in work, the heat/conditions, the climbing we go (especially Mt. Lemmon) and to see how far they can dig and still come out alive on the other side. Camp is not easy. In fact, each year I work hard to make it even harder.
We had one little fall while running Phoneline Trail this year – the camper is fine but it did require a visit to Urgent Care. Nothing 22 stitches could not fix! Accidents are bound to happen with big groups in aggressive scenarios, but we were on it, got him taken care of and he was riding the next day.
Every night we do a group dinner and it is fun to see the athletes, socialize a bit with everyone and get to de-tox from a long day. I am sure many campers just wanted to lay in their beds, but hopefully everyone had a good time at dinner and got to make some new friends. I am grateful for the athletes that come to camp and put their trust in myself and Jerome to run a fun but hard camp. Thanks to my SAG support of Jen L and Cindy P – without them, everyone would be in big trouble in the Tucson heat.
The long term plan is to run camps all Spring once my kids are in college. AND I am still young enough to do it. HA. (not funny)….Jerome & I still lead/participate all the workouts (except swimming) and work hard at sweeping the rides, riding with all levels of riders – I think that is important for me as their coach. So, I come home from camp mentally & physically drained.
As soon as I returned from Camp, besides back to normal coach work, I needed to re-group with the kids and do Doctor appointments, do Easter with my family, GETTING BRACES OFF for Morgan, and sports and activities. Normal mom stuff. Even this past weekend, Jerome’s dad and uncle were in town so they could go to DLD (Dark Lord Day) – this is an ALL DAY beer event in Indiana. Tickets for this event are harder to get than into the Ironman. And, Graham was asked to play “UP” with the big boys for soccer – so we had double the games this weekend far away. AND then I wanted to include Morgan in some fun this weekend, so I took her and her friend shopping – the BIG thing now is Bethany Moda…and anything she makes Morgan goes ga ga over. We also went to see the kid’s middle school friends on Saturday night in the Suessical play – so cute. (And then I passed out).
And, because I was not busy enough, I added a Triathlon this past weekend to my calendar. I do it every spring when I can. The weather is notoriously shitty. And, this year, was no exception. I drove up to Wisconsin and it was raining (no, pouring) and 37F. AND so windy I could barely keep my SUV on the road. Oh lovely. The swim is in a pool (our lakes are still 40-45F!) for 1000 yards and then a 27 mile bike and an off road (and wet) 10k. I suggested a few of my local athletes go up there with me and race (they hate me) and they literally thought I was NUTS when we arrived at the race site and we were freezing cold AND wet. Our bikes would barely stay on the Transition racks.
We had a good time at the race and everyone lived to tell about it. I was able to work out some of the rusty things in transition, work on riding hard aero again (outside!), nutrition and everything else as we get into race season. It was also nice to walk away with the win – no matter how small or big the race is, I surely don’t take anything like that for granted, ever.
And, today it is Monday. I am sitting on plane on my way to Whistler, Canada. I am looking forward to a few days with some great & fun people. As I reflect on my April, I had amazing opportunities with amazing people and it is months like this that remind me of what life is all about – Do what you love with the people you love.
This past weekend I was in Tempe, Arizona with the University of Illinois Team for Collegiate Nationals.
It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. This season I have been lucky enough to coach this great group of kids. To my knowledge, it was the first time they have ever had a coach writing workouts for them, analyzing their data & answering all their training/racing questions.
The whole school year has been focused on one race: Collegiate Nationals.
Jennifer, the President of the U of I team and I talked constantly about the workouts, kids, schedules, school and getting ready for Nationals. One of the issues was our brutal winter. I had to really think about how to best prepare these kids to peak for an early April race when they were not able to ride their bikes outside all winter. A rarity even in Champaign, IL. Apart from Spring Break, which was the week prior to race week, most of them were never outside on their bikes.
I was excited when Jennifer asked if I would go to Tempe and coach/support them for Nationals. I even moved my JHC camp around so I could attend Nationals – I wanted to be there!
We flew out on Thursday – U of I is a massive team. There are hundreds of kids that are part of the team, but U of I only took their top 25 athletes. And, the way Nationals works is that there are waves and the kids are placed in waves based on seed times from past Nationals or races.
It was funny, I did not know what to expect. Sure, I talk to these kids and see them, but travel with them for 4 days? I was stuck in between trying to be coach and not a mother. Little did I know, but I really did not give these kids credit for being so smart and frankly, mature.
I don’t spend a lot of time with college kids. My kids are 12. I don’t have friends that are in college..so I am stuck in the child world OR adult world above 30+ years old. So, I think back to my college days and assume that is how kids are now. THAT is the farthest from the truth. Kids are smarter now, incredibly tech savvy and relevant. I was mesmerized by their explanations of their Masters and PhD programs and how they go to school AND AFFORD Triathlon. (I graduated with $11.00 to my name, no way in hell I could do this $ sport).
There are so many good stories from this weekend – but here are the highlights:
- Walked into hotel and the front desk manager looked at me – figuring out if I was someone’s mom. Put me in a room right next to the kids…pool side. I got to my room and realized quickly this was going to be a hot mess. The entire hotel was 4 colleges – and unbeknownst to me, planned by the kids year after year who they will lodge with. Universty of Arizona was there and Jimmy Riccetello – which was nice for me to catch up with him (He coaches U of A). I go back to the front desk and ask the kid at the front desk if they can move me to the other side of the hotel. I had to move. I was either going to get arrested OR not sleep. Both, of which, would not be good. He took pity on me, upgraded me to a Suite and in the “old” people’s section. Perfect! I slept awesome.
- There are a ton of takeaways from this past weekend, but the main one was: 1.) I did not realize it at the time but these kids never once complained. NOT once. Looking back, this was the most refreshing part of the weekend. Working with adults, this is always something I help manage on a daily basis. When I had time to reflect on the weekend, this is the biggest takeaway. Frankly, they were just so grateful to be there, to race with the best in the country, be away from the daily grind of school and be with one another. They are a true team. I was so impressed by this!
- I rented a car while out there – the kids, for the most part took a Shuttle every where. At first, the kids would all take the Shuttle, as the days went by they would start to ride with me and we had some hilarious discussions in the car. I had to remind myself I was not 20-25 and don’t pretend to be. I had the music in my car on the 70s (Classic Rock). I knew the kids would needle me for this but one guy said, “Oh, I love the Oldies.” Um, no…these are Classic Rock songs. We were laughing so hard. Then one asked who my favorite band/singer was. DAMN I knew I had to say Kid Rock…and I did….some of them just laughed others were in shock.
- These boys can eat. Of the 25 kids there, 16 were guys. And, you know what is “in” for college kids now? Mustaches. So, imagine hundreds of guys between the ages of 19-25 in speedos or too small shorts and mustaches. It was like bad 1980 porn show. Thankfully no one from the U of I had a stache…but there were many there. I had to really watch myself when we ate out – the boys EAT…and plates and plates of food. This is not news, but a friendly reminder of youth.
- They asked smart questions. How to warm up, when to warm up…there were 8 waves of men/women and we had someone in almost every wave. So, the timing of food, warming up and all of that good stuff was critical. The women raced first and ALL the boys watched the girls race – then vice versa later in the day. The college teams were fun. They were all dressed up in their college kits and mascots. They all chanted their school fight songs all day. They walked around in school pride and colors all day – it was FUN! By the end of the weekend I knew the Illini fight song as well (I went to Illinois State).
- These kids are fast. I knew many of them were speedy. But, EVERY single kid (except 1) Prd. 24 out of 25 kids. The weather is Tempe was ideal. But, most of these kids raced last year too and they all Prd. In fact, one of the guys ran a 33:23 off the bike for the 10k! Watching these athletes race was refreshing and inspiring! Many rode sub 1. One female rode the just short of 40k in 1.01. It was fun to watch and I could not help be so proud of these kids all day & weekend.
- One of the girls had a bike accident the morning of the race. The kids had to ride their bikes to transition in the morning and she got her bag stuck in her spokes and flipped over her handlebars. She fell on her arms and her elbow was swollen. Thankfully, I was driving by – hoping the accident was not the U of I kids, but it was. I stopped and tried to console her – put her bike and her into my car and drove her to the race site. I assured her that it was not broken, just a strain of the tendons and while she was incredibly strong (I know she just wanted to break down and cry), she showed amazing composure. AP is a 5th year senior and swam competitively for U of I and was a butterflyer. So, she can handle pain. She raced, did awesome, Prd and was overjoyed with her race. When she got home she got X-rayed and I will be damned if she did not break her radial bone. See! TOUGH as nails these kids. WOW. SHE NEVER complained once.
- You know what else was refreshing? These kids NEVER once compared themselves to the other kids (at least not in front of me). They were surrounded by thousands of their peers. NO mention of being fat, not eating this or that…they were so confident and comfortable in their own skin. Like I said, wise above their years. Many adult triathletes can learn from them.
- The kids were pretty focused and reserved until post race. After the races we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the Awards Party. I was corrected when I said it was an Awards “Ceremony.” No, no….it was most definitely a party. The kids were not SUPER interested in it but we were there and it was all you can imagine it was – it was outside too, which was just awesome. My eyes hurt from just watching some of these kids dressed up in god knows what and drinking.
- I found that the kids are genuinely interested in triathlon life post college. Once the race was over the kids were able to relax and since they were all on CLOUD 9, they were asking me a ton of questions….How did you meet your husband? How do you have kids and race/train and work? You started in Corporate America but now work solo? They said they don’t know much about me because the focus is always on them and racing/training. So, after the pressure of their races were over, they were inquisitive. Honestly, I think they were just trying their hardest to figure out HOW in the hell someone my age has done this as long as some of them have been alive and have raced in Kona. They were interested in Kona and what it takes to qualify and go faster while not being 21 years old. I talked about balance, sacrifices and priorities as you get older, etc.
- On the way home after the Awards “Party” on Saturday night Dan asked me if I wanted to come back to the hotel with all of them and join their “RAGE.” I looked at him and said, “Not sure how that will end up for me OR you guys.” I was afraid of what this entailed so I voted to go back to my room. They partied on. I was so exhausted I would definitely have brought down their party in many, many ways.
- These kids can recover! They woke up on Sunday morning fresh as daisys. I, on the other hand, felt like I was hit by a truck and I did not even race. Goes to show I cannot train and party like a rock star at 43 years old, but you surely can do it at 21 years old (as we know!).
I was so proud of these kids. I got to meet some very, very smart young adults. Many are getting their MBAs, PhDs, etc. (USAT does NOT have an age limit for Collegiate Nationals – you just have to be taking classes!)….so the oldest was 25. Youngest was a Freshman. I laughed hard all weekend. I felt like my Triathlon life had come full circle. Tim Yount, who has worked at USAT for 20+ years announced the race – we had a few minutes to catch up and he said, “I remember when you were this age, Jennifer and racing….Funny how it all comes full circle.”
Yes, it is. And, I would not have it any other way. I look forward to my continued partnership with the U of I and some of these kids individually as they get ready for race Ironmans and the such this summer!!
I drove straight from Tempe to Tucson after the weekend. I am here now preparing for my Annual JHC Camp that starts tomorrow! Cannot wait – THIS is the way to live.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com. 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: