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“There is no celebration of any victory in the past. Work for the next victory, the one yet to come. You cannot allow complacency.” BB
I am not sure what came over me, but I decided to do 4 races in 4 weeks. I really like to race. And, as I get older, it is the “use it or lose it” mentality. I enjoy training, but if I can just race every weekend and do limited training in and out of these races, that makes me happy. In the early summer with the kids home, working, and well, just wanting to go canoeing, out at night, drinking wine and frankly sleeping a bit, I thought it would be a good idea. I really want it all (who doesn’t), but something always has to give…Damnit! 😊
Three of the four races were local – and started at 6:30am, so I was home by 10am or so – way before my teenagers knew what was going on. The fourth race was Madison 70.3 and required a road trip, but that was a good mini- get away for me!
June 4th: Sprint Triathlon
June 11th: Madison 70.3
June 18th: Sprint Triathlon
June 25th: Sprint Triathlon
As to be expected, the June 4th race I felt AMAZING. Racing again, fresh, bam! I ended up crossing the finish line in first but was beaten by a girl from the back. The race was super hilly (for our standards) and it was a 3 x 1 mile loop on the run and I hammered the downhill on that run only thinking about: 1.) winning and/or 2.) how this is going to impact my race in Madison the following weekend. GAH! I have never raced the weekend before a Half Ironman. But, you need to mix things up sometimes and try it or you never know.
I recovered well and rolled right into Madison 70.3. The good thing about racing so much is that you do become a robot. Train, sleep, eat and race. Pretty much all week. So, as I recovered from the 1st Sprint, I was getting mentally ready for a hilly and hot Half Ironman.
Elizabeth and I were traveling together to Madison. We both had a big group of athletes up there racing and were both eager to race long again. Honestly, the Half Ironman is my favorite distance and one I wish I raced more, but the “longer” bikes always persuade me to stick to short course racing sometimes.
The Madison 70.3 was a new course this year. Hilly. And, the temperatures were in the mid 90s. We knew that this course would reward the patient and the strongest for sure. We drove the bike course (thankfully we did that!) and stopped about half way through because some CHICKEN STORE seemed to be more interesting than the 56 mile bike route we were driving. It was 95F degrees, we were in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin but came to an oasis of quaint little stores that Elizabeth and I needed to stop and shop – so we did! Chicken store was a disappointment, but the town was worth the stop.
Also, for the 70.3, we just ate so much food on Saturday. That is probably one of my least favorite parts of racing. Sure, I get to eat a lot of food, but it is not what I would eat in one day: CARBS and more CARBS. Pancakes, Sub sandwiches, pasta, pretzels. Nothing I don’t normally eat, but all in 12 hours of the day? Yuck. But, we were ready. And, that really helps when we are racing for 5 hours.
Madison did not disappoint. I really love that town. And, the course was hard. The swim was easy – but HOT- I found the 71F water temps hot – I am always hot in the water (ugh). But, I came out in 30 minutes – so not a bad swim for me, but nothing spectacular either. It was a rolling start and frankly, I hated it. I want to go head to head with the girls I am racing. I want contact! I want aggressive water, chop and tons of swimmers. I am not a fan of the Ironman wave starts. I call it the “pussification” of our sport. Now, I realize some of you like it, but, what happens when we do bigger races like Naitonals and Kona and we must fight for our position and fight to be up front in those mass starts? I am just not a fan of the “soft entry” and everyone having their own water given to them. But, that is just me. So, I found the swim easy and boring because of this.
The bike at Madison was hard. I was a little under-prepared for it. But, that was my own fault. I had the miles in my legs and the training, but I lacked the bike handling skills at descending at 40 mph and stopping quickly and turning. Plus, I had a bike mechanical on the course. Because the roads were in such poor shape, as the pounding intensified out there, my aero bars came loose and were soon (at mile 30 ish) wiggling all over the place. And, it was windy that day, so I was trying to over-steer to correct, could not ride aero at all after mile 30. Thankfully, I could manage the mechanical, but it was not fun. I had to ride a bit more conservatively than I would like and it landed me a slow (er) bike time than I wanted at 2:5x.
The ironic part of this is that no one in my AG passed me. Sure, I had some other girls pass me on the bike (Erin K, Angela Kidd) but NEVER saw another 45-49 AG girl ALL DAY LONG. Either I was in last or still up front. And, I knew, Megan James, who I coach, was up in 1st because she would swim 27-28 minutes (she did).
During the bike, the patience paid off. While I was slow and under-rode the course, I was able to get in all my nutrition. I drank SIX bottles in 2:5x. I took in salt, a Powerbar, 4-5 gels. I was feeling great and managing the heat well. I even wore my white cooling jersey I wear in Kona and it was great!
I had no idea where I was when I got off the bike. There was only 1 bike in transition for the AG (Megan) and I did not see another bike. But, with the TT start, I was racing the clock not the girls! (Reason 450388383 I do not like the TT starts- let me race head to head not some stupid clock!). Anyway, I sat down in T2 and peed while I put my shoes on and off I went.
The first mile is never awesome, but I settled in to a good pace and went off. The run is a huge loop around the lake with only one small place to see the competition, but that is at mile 1, so that is not super helpful. But, as the run went on, I was noticing no one was passing me and no one was moving fast. At this point of the day, it was hot and windy. I did not find the run as hard as everyone described. Sure, it was rolling and HOT but it was not as challenging as the bike, frankly.
Anyway, I was in no man’s land. I NEVER SAW another female really out there. One 28 year old ran by me and she was moving – but otherwise, no one. I ran as hard as I could. Took ice (and put in my sports bra) at every aide station, water at every aide station. Carried salt and my sports drink in my hand held. I took gels every 30-40 minutes – I was a robot and if I could keep cool, I was moving swiftly comparatively.
But, it was hard (duh). And, while I could feel the fatigue and heat as the miles clicked on, I was determined to not give up one second or give one inch. I was hoping to get top 5 in my AG, but, I knew they were breathing down my neck and chasing me from behind. It was purely mind over matter. Nothing else prepares you for the last 5k of a hot and hilly half ironman – except to dig deeper and push harder and turn yourself inside out to get to that line. Go fast where others go slow.
I was thrilled to see the finish line! I finally crossed in my slowest HIM time but for some reason, I had a feeling it was going to be good enough for the day. And, that was all that mattered. Times, watts – > none of that matters if you are 1st, does it? I did not even use data out there – I had my power on, but could not really read it and I ran and swam naked. I ended up 2nd in the Age Group behind my athlete, Megan James who had a great day. And, I was absolutely content with 2nd place. Even if I did not have the bike mechanical, I am not sure I could have caught Megan, so all in all, I was happy. I could walk away knowing I did my best and move on.
It was just a fun weekend. Elizabeth and I had fun, stopping for chicken stores and beer and DQ (priorities) and we both raced well (Elizabeth was 3rd AG) and we both had athletes that did great up there and socialize a bit. A nice get away for both of us.
After Madison I could barely walk. I was so tired and just absolutely spent – more mentally than physically after a race like that, but I had to figure out how to recover and do a SPRINT triathlon 6 days later.
Race #3 was my hometown race. A race that is near and dear to me and one that I have done 9 times out of 10 (I was at Eagleman 70.3 one year) and won all the years but one. This year; however, since it was the 10th anniversary, they added a prize purse for the elite girls – so that meant all my fast friends decided to come out for it. But, that is OK – the more competition the better! Thankfully the elite wave all started together so we could race head to head!
I ended up 3rd OA after Jenny Garrison and Jacqui Guiliano, so I was in good company. I felt ok out there. I felt GREAT in the swim – but I can do this swim with my eyes closed and that helped me on race morning as some of the MMTT (Elite Kids triathlon team) went too wide, I kept it short and beat them to the buoy. I felt tired on the bike and so-so on the run. All in all, not a bad race considering this was my 3rd weekend of racing.
But, I had to will myself to run hard – the run felt HARD and I was under a ton of fatigue. I just kept telling myself, “Just get it done, do the work, suffer, suffer, dig, dig.” That was all. Usually this race is not as competitive and I can relax a bit – NOT this year (of course)…so I had to push from start to finish.
Then, just yesterday I raced my 4th race in as many weeks. I did Twin Lakes – a local, fun race I have done a number of times. First time I did this race was in 1997. I was 3rd OA then and was racing under Jenny Parker (as I got married later in 1997). The last ~6 years or so I have won this race and consider it another local/hometown race. I love the atmosphere of this race: old and new friends, many of my athletes- just so laid back and fun. And, that is why I do it every year. I love the social scene of racing.
Weather was perfect. In fact, it was cold for many (the colder the better for me), as it was 52F at the start! OH YES! That means one thing: FAST. People said it was windy, I really did not notice that, but the bike was only 14 miles. The run here is 4.5 miles, so it is really a runner’s race.
Again, it was a TT start (gah) but I did go off in the first group of 3, so I was able to know where I was all day. I LOVE racing off the front. I remember, back in the day, working so hard to catch anyone in front of me, now, with my swim, I work on holding anyone off. It was a hard thing to learn -HOW to race like that and not over-bike, etc., but now I love it – even if it is lonely sometimes. And, I remember that switch from coming from behind to the front over the years – it was something I had to figure out and learn how to race a little differently and change up some of my tactics.
I was 2nd onto my bike behind my good friend, Dean Hewson. He is a great athlete, so my goal was to keep him and the cop car in my sights for as long as I could. This year I was able to stay closer to him and I actually felt AWESOME on the bike. I never looked at my computer as I was just RACING to hold off the girls and trying to keep Dean in sight (that lasted only about 8miles or so). As long as I am in front, watts don’t really matter at a race that short.
I came into T2 as the 1st girl, but due to the wave start that does not mean that much and I knew there were fast girls behind me. I was a little surprised Aneta did not catch me on the bike – she is a great cyclist, frankly. But, I headed out and the run felt pretty horrible. FINALLY the races caught up to me – I was tired and could feel the fatigue in my body. The weather saved my A$$ because I felt like I was running fast, but I was thinking it may not be enough to hold the girls off.
Never ever look back, right? At mile 3.75 or so, I could see the 2nd place girl gaining on me. She was flying! Damnit! I went as hard as I could and knew EVERY.SECOND.MATTERED. I crossed the finish line in 1st. But, then it is a waiting game (did I mention I hate TT starts?).
At the end of the day, I did win OA, but only by THREE SECONDS. I just had to laugh. I have always thought to myself, “WHEN will you feel this shift, Jen?” Well, it is almost there at 46. While I am not running that much slower – overall I am a little bit slower, YES. And, the girls are getting faster.
The girl that ended up 2nd ran 6:27 pace for 4.5 miles. I ran 6:5x pace. She is ~35 years old. But, what was the icing on the cake? This was HER FIRST TRIATHLON ever. She is a runner, clearly, but OMG. Just so impressive. I thought that was just awesome. I was telling her to get out and race more now!
Yesterday post race I was EXHAUSTED.
I was so tired I forget to even get DQ! I did get some Entenman’s donuts (another vice of mine), but I have had enough DQ, it is time to get a grip!
Four races in Four weeks was fun! In fact, it was perfect for me. I love to race & I worked hard this winter and early spring, so I could get away with this. But, unfortunately when you race that much, you also lose a little bit of fitness & you are tired. Back to the grind after I recover from this race and go to NYC this weekend with my Mom and Morgan for some R&R!
Next up: A local OLY in July and then USAT Nationals in August. I will finally get my mass start at Nationals!
I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2017 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy B, Courtney, Alisa D, Jeff Vanis & Nicole H.
2017 will be my 7th year Paying it Forward with a new athlete.
If you are interested, I encourage you to apply. Here are the details:
1.) Applicants can apply via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org December 1st – December 15th at 11:59pm CST. Feel free to be as creative as you want in the email application.
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! I encourage it! Jeff applied three times and was finally picked last year.
4.) You need to have at least one “A” race in 2017. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2017. All levels of athletes are welcome!
5.) The coaching will start in January, 2017 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/17, whichever one is first.
6.) You will have to blog about your experience and be an active member of social media (FB ,Twitter and Instagram if you have it).
I encourage you all to apply. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this blog or send me an email. I will announce the winner by Christmas, 12/25/16!
Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!
Hey athletes! Are you a beginner? Did you catch Ironman fever or get talked into signing up for your first half or full Ironman?
WE have the program for YOU!
Designed with the beginner in mind, this easy-to-follow program will help you to finish your first half or full Ironman in 2017. No prior triathlon experience is necessary!
· 24-week half iron or 36 week full iron distance training plan with daily swim, bike, run, strength workouts
· Easy-to-use online program delivery via Training Peaks
· Exclusive Facebook group where you can interact with & learn from participants & coaches
· Monthly webinar with tips & tricks to prepare you for your best race day possible
· Monthly “ask me anything” on Facebook with a variety of sports-related experts
· Registration opens October 15, 2016
· Program start date is based upon the date of your half or full iron distance race
· Participants must commit to the program in full
Program registration & more information:
· Contact Jennifer Harrison: email@example.com
*Inquire within about fees*
Elizabeth and I are excited to offer another great program to each of our coaching businesses.
“In Between.” That is what I am calling this year. I am in between making any major decisions in racing and training. I loved last season. I raced short, hard, local and culminated my season with the USAT National Championships in MLK and ITU AG Worlds in Chicago. I had fun. I raced well and at the end of the season I was satisfied.
My days, nights and weekends are filled with Triathlon. Aside from my family and friends, Triathlon is my life’s work. When most people sit in meetings and think about ways to design websites, or teach our youth or serve our country, I decided to help people reach their Triathlon goals. Most non-Triathletes kind of look at me funny when I tell them what I do for a living. “You do WHAT??” They are trying – really hard – to understand HOW this job allows me to pay the bills and more shockingly, how I can do it all the time – All day looking at data numbers, answering the thousands of emails and managing athlete’s on-going expectations, fears, disappoints and successes in a very timely manner.
It is not a glamourous lifestyle I have chosen. In fact, most nights you will find me reading trashy magazines or unwinding in front of some really bad TV (all while answering the constant incoming emails and Training Peaks updates). I need that – just like everyone needs to unplug from their job – I have a small window in which I can do that since I am an athlete too. I have worked over the years to be able to “switch” on and off. I can go from coaching athletes, answering questions pre-race to jumping into the race and racing myself. I am able to leave the worry, stress and busy-ness aside, compartmentalize my race and pivot on a dime and be in the moment and race for myself.
When I finished my 2015 season, I was starting to think about 2016. What did I really want to do and the age old question, “what excites me?” The catch was we were in the midst of living in a small, apartment (with 2 teenagers, let me tell you – THAT is a blog for another time) all while we were building our dream house with our Builder. It was like after all these years of swim/bike/run, a spark went off and I was loving the new adventures. I was spending my free time picking out door knobs, doors, paint colors and even flowers. My free time was obsessing over Pinterest and HOUZZ pictures.
The last few months of the build was like a wedding – all the stress, money flying out the bank, excitement and anticipation. I realize it was “only” a house. But, to us, it was the culmination of a dream and hard work (and saving!). Once we closed on our house in mid-February I was much more interested in picking out lights than I was riding my bike for 4 hours. I was already spending all my working hours coaching Triathletes, I wanted my “free” time to be a Mom and “workout” and then do house stuff.
When you have teenagers, it is an icy road. Sometimes you are needed and sometimes they look at you like you are a complete alien. It is a rollercoaster to say the least. The good news is that while this is a challenging age of our kids (middle school – YUCK) this too shall pass and they will eventually not think we suck so bad. You go from the kids really needing you to “Mom, can you just drop me and 100 of my friends off and pick us up at 10:30pm?” That is just how it is now. Drive, drop off, pick up. Repeat. And, if I am lucky a kiss in between. And, 10:30pm? Way past my bedtime.
The point is – my role of Mom has changed too in the last year. I went from having babies, toddlers and then kids to teenagers and young adults. The real world is right in front of their faces and I did not want to miss anything. I wanted to be there (and I was) the minute Morgan’s BFF called and said she may be moving. No matter how much teenagers roll their eyes and grunt, they still (deep, deep down) need that hug and unconditional love.
So, while I was thinking of my 2016 I decided I did not want to travel. No planes. I wanted to race local so I could drive to the race, race and be home by 10am or lunchtime. I also decided no long course racing. While I could spend my mornings riding my bike, I was not willing to give up my weekends and all the soccer games, sleepovers and kid things that I may miss if I was on my bike riding 100 miles. I wanted to do summer stuff w the kids in my free time. I am already at my desk most of the day – so I wanted my precious “non working” time to be available to them.
I still have the urge to do another Ironman, but the good news is that Ironman is not going anywhere. And, my kids are.
This season I have raced 6x so far – all Sprints and run races and 1 Olympic. I was cracking myself up though because the Olympic felt long! I have not ridden my bike longer than 2 hours all year (aside from my times in Tucson). I do not feel the pressure to nail this time or that time. I really just train. Instead of my normal training load, I am “only” training 10-12 hours/week. That is just so dreamy! I get up, train early and then have my day to work all day and my nights free to be Mom and do house stuff.
I have loved it. I go to all the local races, see my athletes, see my friends and socialize. Oh, and race too. Don’t think I have lost my competitive fire – oh, not at all. I am working less but still working hard and taking care of all the details that are necessary to succeed. I am still racing at 45 and am able to continue to perform well and have fun.
This year I went back to my first ever Triathlon in my hometown. It is a 400m swim, 12.8 mile bike and 5k. I warmed up by my childhood house – the course took me all around going past all the places I went as a kid and all my friend’s houses. I was on that line of working hard I wanted to vomit AND getting all nostalgic. I was interviewed after the race (because I won) and they were in awe that I had raced there 20+ years ago and decided to just come back in 2016.
And, if you think my competitive fire is gone – don’t be silly. I secretly went to break the Course Record. I thought that would be so cool. Not only go back to my first triathlon, but at age 45 break the course record. I did. There was no hoopla over it, no neon lights – just an internal satisfaction all to myself
As I look at the rest of the season, I have another local, competitive Sprint this weekend and then I have not decided what I will do apart from a couple of ½ marathons. I am taking the weeks as they come and continue to stay in shape so I can “jump” into anything I would like on the fly.
I still cannot find my aero helmet from the move. I have no power on my bike outside. I have not raced with a watch all year and I do not have a bike computer on my bike. I just race and race 100% – when you race short course, it is just about going as hard as you can to get up to the front or stay up front the entire time. It is refreshing and fun and frankly, the way I like to race. Back to the basics and rawness of competing, which is how I started 20 years ago before all the hoopla of data and comparisons. And, I do NOT miss being tired all the time!
“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” Coach John Wooden
There has been a ton of activity in our life the last 4-6 months. Most of it was very exciting; but, truthfully, most of it stressful. Jerome and I bought a Lot in 2011 during our taper for IM Arizona. (You think you have taper issues?). Our twins were 9. We drew up plans for our dream house and put our house on the market. Then, we hit a recession. Our house took 2 1/2 years to sell.
Fast forward to 2015 and we moved out of our 15 year house (our first, cute little 1880s house). We lived, with now, 13-14 year old teenagers, in a rental apartment. We spent our free time designing our house. We picked out EVERYTHING in our house. Knobs, toilets, paint colors, floor plank width, heights of ceilings – you name it, we picked it out. It was invigorating! I was able to spend my free time obsessing over Pinterest and HOUZZ. I was able to take a breather from reading about swim/bike and run and instead obsess (if you want to know ALL about grey paint, call me) about everything you need to know about house building. The good, bad and ugly.
I loved our General Contractor. We grew up in the same hometown and have a lot of the same circle of friends. He was a referral from some good friends. The GC and I spent A LOT of time together. He runs (not literally) as fast as I do – so there were days we would rip each other apart because when you get two overly intense people together —> BAM. Jerome would sweep in and save the day, typically. He is not a morning person and I am. He always wanted to talk around 9pm at night. It didn’t take long before we started to understand one another. I am fiercely organized. Our GC: not so much.
We are now in the new house. We moved in over Valentine’s Day weekend (it was -5F out and windchill -25F – awesome) and we just closed this past Monday. We were so relieved, it is like we finally are sleeping and breathing freely now.
Looking back, I am not sure why it was SO stressful, but it was. Like most new home builders, we were bleeding money. Everything was “another $1,000.” And, I was in massive decision fatigue. I was so tired of making decision I couldn’t even pick out a salad at Panera one day. My phone rang constantly about the trade guys needing this and that, the lights need to be picked out in the next 3 days, the fans don’t fit, the tub pump is not the right one…I realize these are 1st world problems, but for someone (ME) who likes everything to run smoothly -this was a pure test of my patience.
And, I am all about integrity. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing right. This motto of mine was tested daily with tons of guys in and out of this house…not showing up, not doing a good job. Finally, I was so fed up with one of the trades (roofer) that when he came to the house and the GC did not handle the situation, I went right up to him and got into his personal space and absolutely fired him off the job. Told him not to come back and I would not be paying him out. And, to call my attorney if he wants to talk about any leins. I was so disgusted. I am so lucky that I usually only deal with high quality people — I am a Triathlon coach and that affords me the luxury to deal with people that are passionate about being awesome. So, this was my first rodeo with the trades. I learned a ton about people during this process.
Further, I was not sleeping. In fact, I started to lose weight. First 5 lbs. Then, 8 lbs…and then, the wheels came off in December. December is a very busy coaching month for me – all the re-starts and new starts for 1/1, the holidays, kids off school, shopping, etc…and we were supposed to be in the house by Christmas and were not. I almost became completely un-glued. i had no appetite.
During all of this, I never stopped training. However, “training” is all relative, really. Last year I LOVED my season. I did all short course racing culminating with ITU Worlds Short Course in September. It was perfect for me with the house, teenagers and working. I took some time off post Worlds and then started to get back into things. Honestly, I like being fit. I have never not been fit, except when I was pregnant with the twins. Otherwise, I am super consistent and like to have a “base” so that I can leap off that platform and race what interests me when the spring/summer rolls around.
But, in December I was out running – doing a 2nd workout of the day and I just stopped and cried. It was freezing out and I was cold, too thin (no appetite, not eating AND NOT SLEEPING) and I had enough. I am like, “Why can’t I just step away from this??” It is so hard when this is what you do and you do not know how to slow your roll. This is my 21st year of racing. I aged up to 45-49. I wanted to race and had huge goals for an IM this year. And, while it was only December – things were crashing around me in regards to my training. I was still doing the workouts and hitting the paces, but I was dreading them.
It is funny how the body and mind work. You can trick your body easily to do what the mind wants. But, you know what you cannot trick? Your gut. I woke up on Saturdays and always wanted to do a short run, but was happy to go and run 5-7 miles and then get showered and go to the TILE store and pick out tile with Jerome. I no longer wanted to spend large chunks of the day training OR recovering from training. I could not train long or too hard because then I was too tired to do anything major like shop for countertops all afternoon!
And, because I coach and my job is to inspire and motivate and lead people all day – the last thing people need or want to hear about is me crying on my runs in the ice cold, dark days. So, I kept my mouth shut, put my head down and kept things pretty private (which is not like me).
45 has been an eye opening year for me. I never had a mid-life crisis. But, I think this year has really been a game changer for me. I realized many things this short year. My life just got REAL. My friends are getting cancer. My friend’s parents are sick and starting to pass away. My friend’s kids are having real life altering problems & issues. And, frankly, raising teenagers is not easy. It is 100x harder than anyone can ever tell you. Jerome and I looked at one another the other day and said, “THIS is parenting now?” Sex, middle school, hormones and complacency? Gah. I want to turn my parent card back in. Boys are hard in their own way, but girls…….OH GIRLS. And, Morgan is a dream, but that does not mean 8th grade is any easier. Helping the kids navigate through middle school is hard.
I realized I really just want to be around people that are positive, inspiring and truly care. I want to entertain people at my house. I want to have lunch with my friends and go brunch with my neighbors. It is like a turned in my “young” card and upgraded to a “responsible living” card holder. Not to be mistaken for your AARP card. I am not there yet.
During that run where I cried – I decided I had to hit the “pause” button. I realized this winter I wanted to pick out window treatments for 2 hours instead of ride my bike for 2 hours. I started to look at Training Peaks and be happy when there was only 10-12 hours in it! In the past, I would be moaning that was my rest week. And, I realized it was okay. The house gave me another sense of excitement and fulfillment. It was that “break” I was looking for to hit the “reset” button. I did not know I needed it, but when it came into my life, I fought it and then realized –> I just cannot do it all well. And, I was tired of trying to do it all well. I think if this was my 5th or 10th year racing/training, I may feel differently. But, 21 years? I mean, really, it is okay, Jenny.
But, the catch is this. I am still in shape and fit. I am not sandbagging my fitness (I hate when people do that). I am here to say, I still train every day. Today I swam 3700 yards and ran 6 miles. Now that we are in the house, I can breathe and get some normalcy back. However, I really have to think about my season and if I really want to spend my days on the bike. The runs and swims are easy, but hours and hours on the bike is the game changer. You either want it or you don’t. There is no in between for the goals I would have. I would have to alter my expectations or training. Because, I know what it takes and what sacrifices have to be made to meet those goals for long course.
And, on the flip side, I keep enjoying my coaching and doing more and more of it. I started to take on new, fun and challenging opportunities. I spend all my days coaching and working and frankly, I love it. I workout at 5am every day and then work (yes, like a normal person). Then, I run or bike at lunch, if I need to. This passion for coaching has not changed – my love and excitement to coach has almost nearly exceeded my own passion for racing. And, I knew this would happen and I am excited that it has. I got into a pattern where I would get up early (before 5am) workout and take a shower, put on make up and start my day. I cannot believe I like that, but I do. And, I have agreed to stop berating myself about it.
It is now March. I am racing a 1/2 Marathon in a few weeks and have my JHC Camp later in March. I am excited about both. I have not signed up for any Triathlons yet this summer. I will race. I love it, but I am definitely thinking short and local. Pop in and race for 1-2 hours and be home by 10am to wash my windows. Sounds dreamy, right?
Don’t answer that!
I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2016 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy B, Courtney, Alisa D and Jeff Vanis.
2016 will be my 6th year Paying it Forward with a new athlete.
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 1st – December 15th at 11:59pm CST. Feel free to be as creative as you want in the email application.
2.) For the Pay it Forward Athlete, I am looking for athletes that have overcome any type of hardship – This can include , but not limited to: illnesses, financial or personal issues. This is also open to athletes who may not have any hardships but just have not been able to put together a solid year (s) of training due to inconsistency, lack of motivation, lack of focus/structure and need something new and challenging.
3.) You CAN re-apply if you applied before!
4.) You need to have at least one “A” race in 2015. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2015. All levels of athletes are welcome!
5.) The coaching will start in January, 2016 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/16, whichever one is first.
6.) You will have to blog about your experience and be an active member of social media (FB ,Twitter and Instagram if you have it).
I encourage you all to apply. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this blog or send me an email. I will announce the winner between 12/15 and Christmas, 2015.
Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!
This past weekend at the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. Just like at Nationals in August, I raced both the Sprint and Olympic Distances at Worlds too. The only difference was that the Sprint was first on Thursday and the Olympic was ~ 48 hours later on Saturday. I was really interested to see how that would feel and go for me. I had never pulled that combination off before. At Nationals I did the Olympic on Saturday and gutted through the Sprint on Sunday. I was worried doing it the opposite order would be even more challenging.
Ironically, I felt like a million bucks for my Olympic Race and had one of those days were I just felt great all around. It was about 100% different than I felt for the Sprint 2 days prior where I was super tired. My goal was to go Top 10 at both, but I also knew that would be an aggressive goal, with how stacked USAT Nationals was last year with everyone wanting to race in the USA for Worlds.
I ended up 8th in the Sprint and 7th in the Olympic. I had very specific goals for the races and paces I knew I had to hit in order to be in the mix. I knew I had to have a better swim than at Nationals in the Olympic. At Nationals I had a sub par swim for me and came out of the water in 9th. I vowed that would never happen again, so I killed myself in the Sprint and OLY races in the cold, choppy Lake Michigan (loved it) and came out of the water in ~5th in both races – Mission accomplished. I was breathing HARD and took off like a rocket and had full blown clean water for both races.
Coming out of the water in the Top 5 sets you up nicely at Worlds and I knew the movement would be minimal in the Top 10. At Worlds it is not like anyone will really out bike or out run anyone by 2-3+ minutes up in the top 10 – so the swim matters – big time. In my opinion at this short course World level, it is all about the swim – as long as you are a strong rider and runner you can hold your position.
I also knew I had to run a 42 minute 10k or faster to be in the Top 10 or about 6:40s pace. Chicago is flat and that suits me well. Choppy water – cold and windy. Honestly, the conditions were everything I dream about. I knew this and made sure I capitalized on my strengths.
I ended up running a 42 min 10k and not one girl passed me on the run. I held my spot and held tough. The course was long at 6.7-6.9 miles, so our 10k times are long, but I was okay with that as I was running well and enjoying the moment.
2015 ends my 40-44 age group racing. I age up to 45 in January. I am excited to age up and be the youngest again in the age group. Racing at 44 is very different than 40. And, remaining fast after 40 is a major balancing act of many, many things. I thought I would talk about racing fast after 40 – way more interesting than another full blown race report.
Racing “Fast” after 40:
Since I have been racing Triathlon since my early 20s, I don’t PR anymore. I may PR my Ironman (just did that at 41) but I will not getting any bests in my run races or shorter triathlons and honestly, I don’t even think about times anymore. For example, last time I raced at Worlds was 2008 Vancouver. I was 9th there but ran a 39:xx 10k at the age of 37. Now, at the age of 44, I ran a 42 minute 10k on an easier course. A 2003 study by Stephen Baird stated: Ten-kilometer race performance decreased at a rate of about 0.5% per year, or a tad under two seconds per mile per year after the age of 40. I do not go into any race saying, “I need to PR.” I just try to manage the slide. I go to race the competition. I can feel the times decreasing a bit, but I am realistic and focus on other goals when I race. (Of course there are 40+ athletes that still PR, they just are late comers to the sport).
Specificity and Focus:
I don’t pretend I can do all distances well in the same season. Some athletes can, but I don’t enjoy the mix at all. I like the focus and specificity of training for short course OR long course and keeping things focused and specific. One of the major differences in my 40s versus 20s and 30s is my family and work life. When you are in your 40s, you are at the height of your careers and (usually) have kids in middle school and high school. The weekend and night commitments are plentiful and the time shifts from the little kids and toddlers to hanging on to every last few seconds we have the kids at home. So, I do not mess around. My motto for this year in training was, “Just enough.” I was going to do “just enough” to meet my goals. That doesn’t mean the bare minimum, it just means I was going to keep it all in perspective. I did not want to miss much with my kids. I just don’t spread myself too thin. Trust me, I am on the edge many days and weeks – but now I realize when I am and I yank things back. Last week I drove to Cross Country workouts instead of walking over with the kids – I did everything to stay off my legs to ensure I was fresh for Worlds.
As I have been aging through my 40s, I have noticed that my tolerance to speed training has diminished – this is really more applicable to running right now than swimming and cycling, where I don’t feel quite that tolerance waning yet. I work hard to defend my speed but not too hard that I mess something up. This season there were a few workouts where I was on the line and even over that line. I was on the track – forgetting I was 44 and running like I was 30. I have a love affair with the track and I can still get around the track almost as quickly as 10 years ago, but the difference is I will pay for it for days. Another area of major change for me in running is my stride length. In your 40s, your stride rate has nearly decreased by 40%! I spend a ton of time working on my turnover, snap and rebound. One of the first things I noticed was that I did not have the snap as I once did → That recoil and bounce. Now, I do a ton of my longer runs on crushed limestone. I mix up the terrains and keep my body adapting and different terrains, but in my 40s, the softer surfaces really help me recover better. The running is the biggest change in my 40s. My easy runs used to be 7:00 min miles – 10-15 years ago – now that is considered a tempo pace for me and very far from “easy” for me.
This will probably not apply to a ton of 40+ athletes, but for me, it is a game changer. I do not train with a Garmin or pace on my watch. I just cannot. I know what it is like to run X pace, so there is no issues with effort. However, I think it is an athlete’s kiss of death when they age to spend too much time worrying that their warm up pace is now an 8:00-9 min mile and Masters athletes can get into a horrible cycle of over-pushing the effort or pace because they are not content with their paces. I cannot tell you how many days (early mornings especially) where I start out and I bet you I am barely running a 9 minute mile. I cannot warm up quickly and it just takes longer. I hate the watch screaming 9:00 min miles to me – so I just keep it simple. Easy for me these days is definitely 8-9 min miles. Hard is hard and I do not need a watch to tell me how to suffer. I do; however, use power on the bike, because that is a little easier to manage and my watts have decreased over the years, but not as dramatically. But, I do not live and die with it – Ironically, it did not work for my Oly on Saturday at Worlds.
One of the major changes now is my sleep quality. As you move through your 40s as a female your hormones are changing and your body is adapting to reduced levels of various hormones. I have found that my PMS is horribly worse. My bad hormone days are worse than ever. I have an APP on my phone called “Period Tracker” and I can manage all my symptoms on it. Physically & mentally it keeps me on target with my bad days, nights I will have a hard time sleeping and when I will have my most horrible fatigue days (and I am prepared for that in my workouts). I am still like clockwork – so I am able to manage these hormone symptoms, but as I creep into my mid 40s and late 40s, I know this will change and it is something that is worth keeping a careful eye on. With the hormone changes comes a reduced sleep quality. I just do not sleep as well as I once did. I really like to sleep and prefer 7-9 hours and I usually get it. But, hormones make some nights really tough and as I get older, I just get more sensitive to noise and I am a huge worrier – so my worry keeps me up some nights (teenagers and building a house will do that).
Seems to be a hot button in our sport, but something I don’t tend to over-think. I have always eaten everything. I eat meat, carbs, you name it, I eat it (except fried food). Back in the day, I would restrict chocolate and M&Ms and things I absolutely love. At the time, it was worth it. But, at 44 – I do not care that much to give up things I love. This is a lifestyle for me and if I gave up my favorite things every year, well, then my entire life is not eating what I love? No, thanks. When I race short course, weight does matter. I know what weight I need to be in order to run well and not get sick or do anything stupid. Every year I am able to get to this weight that I like by just moving a bit more in my daily life – Not training more or eating way less….just summertime things like mowing the grass, walking to places, coaching Cross Country, etc. Also, I eat for fuel. I do not binge or starve myself. I am super consistent year after year and my body knows what is coming and it is the same every year. The key to my consistent weight – even at age 44, when it just does not want to move as easily – is consistency. I have never ever done a cleanse. I have never tried a fad diet. I eat food for fuel and recovery. Plain and simple. Don’t over-think food. Have some chocolate, beer, whatever your vice is and it will prevent major peaks and valleys in your diet, weight and personality.
I cannot write about being racing fast after 40 without talking about Recovery. I think what is so key here is to make sure you are working with someone that understands this. The biggest kiss of death I see with Masters athletes who are doing group programs/workouts with the focus on the fast 30 year old single male. Make sure you are following a training plan that is specific for you as a Masters athlete. The key difference here I find is I need more recovery at the tippy top end of training. I can still do all the hard workouts but I need more recovery time in between the intervals OR days. I rarely do hard days back to back. For Ironman I do, but that is different training than short course prep. If I run the track on Tuesday, I am not doing a bike TT on Wednesday. Could I do that? Oh sure….but then I build a hole that is hard to climb out of. And, my goal is repeatability and consistency day to day.
One of the best things about aging is experience. I have this calm about me now. I can flip the “switch” and be “ON” and race on a dime now. I am still just as hungry as I was 20 years ago to race and meet my goals, but now I have a ton more confidence. I understand what I need to do in every race. There are no more surprises. If they cancel the swim? No biggie, roll with it. 30 mph winds? Bring it on. Starting in the last wave of 2000+ athletes? Okay, whatever. I have this utter calmness about me now. I have raced over 200 triathlons and am able to keep each race in perspective. I know what races need me to be plugged in and 100% rested for. I know what works regarding my nutrition. I do not eat anything ever on my bike or runs that I would not train on (long course sometimes, yes, but not short course). I eat my pre-race breakfast before every workout I do when I can. If I get up at 5am to run, I always eat race food (just small portions) and I never just get up and go. I also tend to not over-think anything. I never go into a Triathlon saying, “I need to go 2:15 to be in the top 10.” Deep down inside, trust me, I know what I need to do, but anything can happen. I just stay as connected to the girls up front as I can and the times will take care of itself. If I swim a 20 min 1.5 k or 22 minutes – does it matter if I come out in the top 1-5? Absolutely not. This saves me and keeps me fresh year after year. If I over-thought all of that and worried that I swam “slow” or whatever, it is really just a matter of perspective. What you need to focus on is where did you finish or swim compared to the girls/guys in the AG? That is the reality of racing and keeping it real. Because, as you get older, these times will slide & you cannot fight that slide, it is too exhausting.
Strength and Flexibility:
It goes without saying that this is critical. Every Monday I go to Pilates. I have been doing that for a couple of years consistently now. I need it. I tend not to do a good job of stretching well myself. This is critical in staying injury free. I also get a massage as much as I can. One of the hot areas of aging athletes are lower legs: Achilles, calves…many Masters athletes have issues with these areas because, as we age, these tendons and ligaments just do not recover and have as much elasticity as before and when we push and push, these areas of our bodies take the most stress. Another area that I noticed is the groin and adductor/Hip area. Same theory here, putting the same stress on these areas year after year but these areas getting weaker as we age. If you don’t do the preventative care as a Masters athlete then you are just inches away from an injury. These areas have grown increasingly tight on me and unless I strengthen and work on these areas they get progressively worse.
Statistical analysis has shown that much of the decrease in race performance with age can be explained by decreases in oxygen uptake, upper and lower body strength, flexibility, and muscular (explosive) power. At 44, almost 45, I am the athlete in front of the freight train running as hard as I can to outrun being hit from behind.
Time for some R&R now! As I wrap up my 2015 season I want to thank:
Elizabeth – we have worked together in various capacities for ~14 years. Thanks for all you do to help me stay competitive and healthy every year – We make a great team! I am grateful for our coaching relationship and most importantly our friendship.
Jerome – I love you. You are the best partner for me and thanks for supporting me for all these years. Even when I know you enjoy beer more than your bike now.
Chris V and Element – I love my Pink TREK and your support this season has been nothing short of amazing.
Dave Walters – I would never be the athlete I am now without you. You are an amazing coach, friend and mentor.
PSIMET – Thanks Rob & Leah for the awesome race wheels and support of the Triathlete in your “real riders” group. Hopefully I have not embarrassed you too much yet.
Ian and Roka – Best wetsuit I have ever worn. Thanks for all your support.
Nathalie Banfield – BEST Massage therapist ever.
416 Pilates and Meghan – Thank you! 😉
This season I have been focusing on short course racing and I have really enjoyed the simplicity and intensity of it. I honestly like it more than Ironman training and racing. I decided 2015 was going to be the year of short course and local racing. Aside from an early season San Juan 70.3, where I ended up spectating the race instead of racing, all my other races this season have been within driving distance and over in ~ 2 hours or less!
We sold our house and moved in late April. 15 years of being in one house and I like “stuff.” I had bags of letters from my childhood friends, old boyfriends and well….just a lot of junk. It took Jerome weeks to clear out the basement of all our bikes, triathlon junk and crap. I cannot believe the amount of crap we accumulated all these years. We went through nearly 100 x 100 gallon bags+! I was so tired – like deep bone tired. I have only been that tired the first few months after the twins were born. We then moved successfully into a rental townhouse. Prince and Princess live upstairs and Jerome and I are re-living our college glory downstairs. My bike is in the closet-size entry way on the computrainer.
In April we also broke ground on our house and we are currently under roof, hardie board is going on and we are in the midst of designing and picking out the kitchen stuff and bathroom stuff now. Building a house has been fun. It is a little financially stressful – and there are A LOT of decisions. And a lot of phone calls. You almost can barely think every time the Builder calls and asks “Did you want a can light in X spot?” BUT, honestly, it is re-freshing and Jerome and I have embraced the process and having fun with it – we have waited and worked hard to build our “dream house.”
So, due to wanting to be PRESENT for this process as well as the feeling that my kids are leaving us soon…I decided not to ride my bike long this year. The longest I have ridden since my JHC Camp in March has been 2 hours and 37 minutes. It has been blissful.
Along the theme of short course races this year, I decided to make USAT Nationals Olympic and Sprint and Worlds Sprint and Olympic (in Chicago) my “A” races this year. I am lucky that Nationals was in Milwaukee, a mere 1:45 from my house. Again, within my “driving range” rule. I had a sub par Olympic race last year but a great Sprint race there. My goal was to get myself on the Podium for both races this year (Top 10 for OLY and Top 5 for Sprint).
I love Nationals because I love super competitive races. And, honestly, I like competitive races where the girls are my age. I am motivated by the fierce competition in my 40-44 age group. The girls are fast and getting faster – it is something that has changed dramatically over the years!
Last year I did a poor job at simplifying my life the week leading into Nationals and I arrived a wee bit tired. This year, I was adamant on not letting that happen again. All the small details really matter at a race like Nationals. Aside from some personal stress that is just normal life, I did a good job compartmentalizing life, work and racing. I was nervous all week. I was a little on edge but worked hard at staying positive and visualizing being strong and fast on race day.
I roomed with Chris Wickard again. We shared a room last year and we get along swimmingly. Not only are we friends, but I have been coaching Chris for 4+ years and I was excited to spend some quality “spooning” time with her. Honestly, she is easy and let’s Miss Daisy watch HGTV (the way I unwind) at night. And, she let me use her Recovery boots – Wow, am I missing out!
Saturday arrived and I woke up after 8+ hours of sleeping and ready to GO. I was still super nervous but confident in my preparation. I arrived healthy and hungry to race; two things that I don’t take for granted.
Our wave was late – 9:18am start time. This year we lined up on the wall and had to hold the sea wall that was high with one hand. I did think this was fair since last year we kept inching up and inching up in the water. I started next to my athlete and eventual winner of the 40-44 age group, Megan James. I know how she swims and knew she’d be the first out of the water, so I was just going to try to keep the gap as small as possible. I was looking for Elizabeth too, but did not see her at the start unfortunately.
Gun went off and we shot off the wall like a cannon! I went hard – got a good line – never touched anyone, never had anyone near me and I tried to find Megan the whole time. She was in a pack of 3-5 swimmers and I was just trying to keep that gap as small as possible. I consider myself a strong swimmer and my goal was to be in the top 5-6 out of the water. I felt awful. Just flat and could not get going – my stroke was good; I felt smooth. But, I had no top end. Weird. I have been swimming solo so much this summer (as my Masters team is on break) and I know that bit me in the ass – just not enough hard swimming that I just cannot replicate unless I am chasing feet in the pool. Anyway, I had a sub-par swim for me and came out of the water in 9th-10th. I had a little, “OH SHIT” moment, but just pressed on and passed 1-2 girls in T1.
One of the things with Nationals is that one just does not make up time on others easily. Everyone is fast that is around you – so if you think “I will just catch her on the bike” – that does not really happen.
I felt good on the bike. Really good. I came out of T1 with Elizabeth – and I was riding right behind her (legally) for the first 5-6 miles and then we came through a bumpy part and my bottle ejected. Ugh! And, I had to stop, get off my bike and turn around and get the bottle. Huge bummer because I lost Elizabeth, but I had no choice. I needed my nutrition (or the run would be awful) and I did not want to get a penalty. The marshals were all over us.
I was riding well and felt great. Last year I felt like I was on the bike forever (that is when you know you are off a bit). This weekend I felt good. I was pushing strong, felt smooth and on top of the pedals. I knew that I was capable of riding a 1:05 on this course and that was my goal. I passed three girls right away on the bike. That motivated me because now I was in 6th-7th place. The bottle drop cost me 45-60”, but it was the right decision. Just shitty luck. Two girls came by me drafting and that was really too bad. I was so mad. One of the girls thankfully got a drafting penalty. But the other one did not. Otherwise, the ride was clean from the other girls I saw, which is nice.
I got off the bike in 6th place or so.
I felt great on the run. I had my legs, I was taking salt and drinking and carried a hand held so I did not have to stop at the crowded aide stations. The first part of the run is an out and back and the race is so tight, so you can see it all unfold. I could see Megan in first place and Elizabeth making ground on 2nd, 3rd, so that was exciting. I was working hard to close the gap on the few girls in front of me. We were all kind of running the same pace ~ 6:50s. No one was running 6:30s, so every time I assessed the time gaps, they were about the same. I kept pushing and pushing. I was talking to myself, “Jenny you are in the TOP 10, keep digging, get top 5…get top 5.” I ran out of room and finished in 7th. I was happy with my finish and had met my goal. While my race was far from perfect, it was a solid effort for me and I was on the podium with one of my athletes, Megan and my dear friend, Elizabeth!
After the Olympic race we sat around and tried to force food down our throats to recover. Luckily, I had a VIP pass from my result from last year, so Megan, Chris Wickard, Elizabeth and I were living it up in the VIP tent. So nice.
I had a nice group of athletes racing over the weekend, so I set up a get together at a local brewery after the race to put some food down in order to recover so we can race again in the morning. I was a zombie and unsure how I was going to pull that double off again. After the JHC get-together, Chris and I rode our bikes down to T1 again to re-check in for the Sprint race. Then off to the Awards ceremony. Then shoved more food in our throats and off to bed.
Up again on Sunday morning to do it again! I actually did not feel too bad. We headed back down to the race start and I walk SO slowly, I think Chris felt like she was cattle prodding me all the time. I just like to “stroll.” We set up in the transition area, talk to some of my friends and athletes and then make our way to the VIP tent to hang out until the race starts.
I was a little relieved that the Sprint wave was a little smaller, I felt like I could breathe a bit more with less commotion and bodies around.
I knew I had to swim harder than Saturday – and ironically, last year I felt like crap in the water after racing Saturday. But, I actually did not feel too bad on Sunday. My breathing was much more labored than usual, but I went out hard, had no contact again and made my way to the front. I was right off the back of the 1-3 girls and just trying to hang on. I was swimming way better today. Heather Westerman (eventual winner) was off the front and out-swam us by nearly 2 minutes in a SPRINT! She is a super swimmer. And we were hauling ass!
I cannot over-emphasis here how important the swim is in short course racing. For example, Megan James (who won 40-44 Oly) and Heather (who won 40-44 Sprint) BOTH out swam their competition by 90”-2 minutes. At the Nationals level, that is a ton of time and really, really hard to make up. They both had the fastest swims of their days and went on to win their age groups. Unless someone 40-44 is running a 38 min 10k (rare) – these gaps are hard to break.
I came out of the water in about 4th place. Heather W, Becky Paige in front of me. I went for it – I accidentally went too far down on my rack for my bike (had a stupid moment thinking I was racing the Oly again)….but grabbed my bike and off I went. I felt a little flat on the bike – but that was to be expected. My watts were lower, so I never looked at them again. The best part of racing at a race like Nationals is how many girls there are near you! It’s like I can feel their breathing on my neck.
And, I love racing people, not the clock. In a short course, competitive race like Nationals that is my favorite part – knowing where I am at – chasing girls and holding girls off – I did not even start my watch, look at my watts or computer the entire day. It just didn’t matter – I was in the moment, racing the girls.
My goal → DO NOT GET PASSED. I hammered, I was flat, but it was just mind over matter. No one passed me on the bike – I passed no one. Ran into T2, threw my bike in and was off on the run. No visor (I love running w a visor), no socks (of course – but my feet were a hot mess after Saturday’s race – bloody, cut up, pretty bad). But, I was in 4th and every second mattered. I could see people all over the place. I just had to go go go.
I started the run and felt great! I felt way better even than Saturday’s 10k, where I thought I felt good! I could see Becky ahead of me by about 20-30” so I just focused on her. I was running well. I knew that if I could keep running my pace I would be able to hold this position. I could see one girl at the turn around that was charging hard. A little too hard.
I was breathing like a freight train and even was having that little “throw up” in my mouth as I tried to manage the effort and pain. Ironically I never felt my feet. I gave it my all. In the end I finished ~ 20” behind Becky (she did the Double too) and 5” behind Ceclia Dubey (Duathlon National Champ) and in 5th. I gave it my all. I visualized the hard track workouts I have been doing as we closed in on the final 1 mile of the race – just trying to get to the finish line as fast as I could.
I did it! I was 5th and was over the moon. I was able to hit both my goals at Nationals. While I was slower both days, I did not care. The day was different, the courses are never exactly the same, I was there to race the girls, not the clock. And, at 44 (nearly 45) in the 40-44 age group, I was happy to still be in the mix.
The Awards ceremony on Sunday was just as special as Saturday’s. Some of these athletes – and many very young ones at the Sprint – are just so fast and amazing. It is a very inspiring collection of athletes of all ages. And, you know, all the hard work, detail management, that it takes to get there you can finally say, “It was worth it.” And, Becky Paige was 1st in the Double and I was 2nd in the Double (yes, there are awards for fastest combined Oly and Sprint times. She beat me by 80” or something like that). That was fun!
Chris Wickard won the 45-49 AG and to be there and share that with her was special as well. Chris has had some minor (or major) niggles this year so this win for her was extra meaningful.
Every day we question our sanity of why we do this sport. The time, the money, the sacrifice, the early mornings, the preventative work on our bodies…but when I drove away from Milwaukee I was once again reminded how great this sport is. How great the people are in it and how much I love the competitive arena, the outstanding performances by so many and the overall camaraderie that a National Championship event holds.
Thanks to everyone for their support and most importantly, thanks to the girls in the 40-44 age group who pushed me both days to my limit; ultimately that is what I crave and why I do this sport.
Next up: ITU Worlds in Chicago
Coming off another JHC Camp in Tucson this past week, I was reminded again of some of the key areas I try to work on with athletes : Re-defining hard and Suffering.
There were lots of tears at camp, but also lots of breakthroughs. Tucson’s climate is not easy for the athletes that have been hibernating all winter in their basements. Further, everyone in their basement is winning their own workouts all alone in a climate-controlled and fuel controlled environment. There is nothing wrong with this at all – hell, this is how most of us train all winter. But, at camp, my job is to show athletes that we race in shitty conditions and on not so perfect days. Tucson had record heat this camp. It was 94F on Sunday. This is hot for many northerners!
Camp is not complicated. I keep it very simple, very precise and VERY hard.
We ride a lot. We run a lot and we swim a little bit. I would love to swim more, but really these athletes need to ride outside and work on bike handling skills, shifting up hills, climbing Lemmon multiple times and how to stack day after day of big workouts and how to finish camp feeling tired but also accomplished.
The biggest thing that I want the campers to walk away with from camp is this: Re-defining what their definition of HARD is.
Some athletes excel at this. Many elite AG and PRO racers got this. They can suffer when the workout says, “RUN UNTIL YOU PUKE.” In fact, some elite AG and Pros will retire purely for this reason: THEY are done suffering. And, once you are done suffering (at that level), you need to walk away. This is what happened to Jerome. He finally just said, “I just do not want to hurt anymore.” Got it. Understand. Getting out of bed EVERY day to test yourself, rip yourself apart (when the workout calls for it) and re-defining hard every season can be exhausting on many levels.
However, there are many athletes that just do not understand this concept. Even when I say “HARD” in their workouts that they do alone or in their basements, even with data, it is not really hard…it is a “harder effort” sure, but not what I mean by OMG this is hard.
For example, on the 2nd last day of camp, after long days and long rides and crabby crotches, I make the athletes do Time Trials up Mt. Lemmon. The campers do anywhere from 1-3 x 5 mile repeats up the steeper part of Lemmon. I love this workout and think it really shows me what can these athletes endure : mentally and physically.
I do this ride at 1:00pm during the heat of the day and Sunday was 94F in the shade after many of them ran 9-16 miles that morning.
I remember doing these Time Trails with Spencer Smith back in the day – I would be gutted, tasting blood, near vomit at the top of these 5 miles ( he would be soft pedaling). But, they were pivotal in my understanding of what hard really was on the bike and what we are truly capable of mentally and physically. I had to be turned inside out and humbled to really “get it.” But, once that switch happened, I knew how to do it every time I was asked to ride “hard.”
I sent the group up Lemmon – tell the lead rider what the “camp record” is to mile 5, so he has someone to chase and the rest chase their own inner demons. Jerome and I start at the back and ride through the riders to encourage them. Honestly, I do it so I can really see who is working.
If I go by the athlete and he/she is not breathing or drooling over themselves OR blowing snots, they are not going hard enough. When I say “HARD,” I mean ALL out. Doesn’t matter what the HR says, the power says, I do not care. Get rid of it – just you and your head. Of course HR will be high, power low, we are on day 4 of a massive camp. But, what I want is for these athletes to really TEST themselves – throw away the limiting data. JUST SUFFER. Cry and even want to stop. Only then will they understand what they are made up and what their own personal limits are.
How do you really dig deep and go harder than you ever thought possible?
When it comes to athletic endeavors, especially endurance sports, your ability to suffer can mean the difference between a good race and a great race and continuing to improve and PR.
Part of this is confidence and the other part of it is experience. You have to hit rock bottom in training – where you are in tears, or near vomiting or sitting on the side of the road begging for mercy to really understand what your limits are. And you need to be able to do this in all three sports. Many athletes excel in one sport, but are challenged with how to transfer this to the other sport. I find many elite D1 swimmers who really have to re-define what hard is and learn what hard is in running, for example. For some it doesn’t come natural. For the ones where it does, they can rise to the challenges and put themselves out there, overcome their fears and rise above their competition.
One of my challenges of a coach is to teach people how to suffer and re-define what HARD really is. I would say that 85% of the athletes I work with can suffer more. And, teaching athletes really what hard vs easy is – is key too. Many athletes are training in that grey zone all the time – “just training” but with no specificity and no clear delineation between hard and easy. This will initially get you fit, and in the beginning you will do OK, but as the seasons go by, unless you tap into this “suffering” you will plateau and see less and less improvement.
In Carrie Cheadle’s book: On Top of Your Game she refers to this suffering:
A lot of athletes don’t realize that they haven’t pushed themselves as hard as they can go until they get to the end of the race and still have some left in the tank. Part of the reason people hold back is because many athletes find themselves “risk averse” and opt to play it safe versus risking the possibility of pushing so hard that they don’t finish where they want to. If you’re trying to figure out the balance you might try asking yourself during the race, “Can I give 1% more?” That way you’re playing with where the line is, but not necessarily pushing too far past it. The more you race and try out different strategies, the more you will learn how you operate and figure out what the best strategy is for you.
Challenge yourself this season and re-define your HARD. I promise you, you have more in you.
2015 marks my 20th season of racing. And, if it is one thing I have learned in these 20 years of Triathlon is that we cannot have wins without losses. Nothing improves an athlete more than losing or facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.
I had absolutely no control to what happened to me on Friday night in San Juan. But what I had absolute control over was my attitude and the way I would handle the next 48-72 hours.
Let’s step back to my preparation for my race:
To kick off my 20th season, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone AND something out of my comfort zone.
With that in mind, I signed up for Puerto Rico 70.3 that was slated to be on March 15th. There are a lot of reasons why this is not a good idea..I have not been on a bike (apart from a few days in Tucson) since November outside, I would be far from acclimated – and I would probably be a bit heavy coming out of Chicago’s winter. Oh yeah, and the course was hot, humid and hilly. Considering Eagleman 70.3 is my favorite half ironman, this was a stretch. I hit the enter button for this race on December 15 before our real winter hits.
I came off a bigger year in 2014. I raced a lot. I did well. I had fun. What I wanted in 2015 was simpler. I wanted to go “big” early and then race local. I wanted to be around in the summer while my kids are still around and while we are selling & building a new house.
On February 2nd we got an offer for our house after 3 years on and off the market. Jerome was in China and then next 30 days were insane. Alone, I got the house ready for a house inspection (not easy we live in an 1880s house), looked for a rental and fought our new house plans in front of the Village Board of our new town. (we won). I was privately barely holding it all together. On top of this, of course, being mom and coaching full time. AND training for a 70.3 without any reservations. I was ALL IN.
I loved the training – I worked hard, trained hard, ran hills, ate hills, I did everything right to prepare for San Juan. I was lucky enough to be in a great relationship with Element Multisport in Chicago and Chris put me on a new PINK Trek Speed Concept TT bike and Rob put me on SPARKLY PSIMET wheels. I was so excited to race.
Elizabeth and I headed to San Juan on Friday. I ate normally – did not eat anything on the plane and brought my own food for the traveling. We arrived in San Juan at 2pm on Friday, took a van to our hotel and started to put our bikes together and got ready for dinner. Easy peasy.
At dinner we joined some friends and ate in the hotel, a Hilton – I had chicken and pasta and water. Many of the athletes ate similar food. Elizabeth and I went to bed at 9pm or so and talked about our next day and plans and that was it.
I woke up at 1am thinking I was going to VOMIT all over the place. I tossed and turned to fight that urge. I felt so miserable. BUT not flu -like – it was something I had never really experienced. I got up, went to the bathroom – back to bed, repeat. I was SO tired. I felt like shit.
We got up the next morning and Elizabeth wanted to go for run. I really could not get out of bed. At this point, I am thinking, “this will pass.” And, a little bit more personal information is that I was getting my period and ALL I kept thinking of is “god this is a bad one.” I could not really get out of bed. Elizabeth ate a bar, and went outside. I laid in bed. She came back and wanted to swim – so did I. I got up, we went down to the water and my stomach was a mess. We swam 15 minutes and my body did not feel that bad but I just swam super easy. I was thinking, “oh I just need to eat and then I can do this.”
We then went to Denny’s for our big pre-race breakfast. That is when I realized the extent of my problems. I could not eat – I could not talk to Elizabeth and lost my entire personality. I had to go outside to get fresh air and I just wanted to go to bed.
We went back to the room and I went to bed. I just had to sleep. I just laid there thinking, “I can do this if I just eat.” I still had not thrown up – just the other issues but nothing violent at all.
When it was time to check our bikes in, we rode our bikes to transition and my legs felt good! But, I knew it was bad. My stomach was like a vice. I checked my bike in and was solo (and Elizabeth was at the expo fixing a flat). The moment of truth was when I was walking back to our hotel, I just could not do it. I had to stop multiple times to take a break. I was dizzy, ill and exhausted and well, sick.
I got back, went to bed and slept.
Elizabeth went down to meet with an athlete and (probably get some fresh air) and she asked if I wanted anything to eat – I said, “Pasta, salad and chicken.” She brought it to me and I wanted to eat it so bad so IN CASE I woke up a new person, I could race because I was fueled. I was able to choke down some of the salad, but the pasta and chicken was a no go. AND when I went to bed that night (Elizabeth fell asleep at 7:45pm – she’s nearly 40 now you know…) I knew that was it. Even with a miracle, I was not fueling at all and that would not work.
I did not sleep all night – and I was paranoid that I was keeping Elizabeth up, so I went into the bathroom and was texting Dr Mia and Jerome as I laid on the floor in the bathroom. Dr Mia said it was probably some food or water bourne bug (like Ecoli). I kept things VERY low key with Elizabeth all weekend because I did not want her to worry or it to effect her race, so I downplayed it all. No need to ruin two races.
Elizabeth was up on race morning at 4am and I did not feel worse – but my stomach was a disaster – like someone was stabbing me with a hot knife. I wished Elizabeth luck and told her I would be down at the swim exit.
I could not go back to sleep. In fact, when it hit me that I was not racing, I started to cry. I can easily keep perspective and absolutely realize this is just a race – but it was more the prep, the hard work, the travel, the money…..and well, I was in shape and wanted to race! And, it was all out of my control. Just bad, shitty luck.
I got up and walked to the start of the race (it was right outside our hotel) and was looking for Elizabeth. I found Joel and Ali Rutledge and wished them luck – and Ali blew me a kiss (she knew I was sick). Then, I gave Elizabeth a hug, said a few private things to her and started to cry. I did NOT want to do that – damn it! It was not about me at this time! I apologized but it was just my disappointment that overtook my emotions.
I decided to be the uber spectator and friend after that. If I cannot race, well, then, let’s cheer for everyone I knew there and I did. I was able to get around OK and sat on the roads and cheered, was able to give Elizabeth splits and who was in front, in back, worked out nicely! Elizabeth ended up getting 3rd in the AG /7th OA 6 months after baby #2. Impressive.
And, yes, there was a shooting on the course. I was worried because I never heard who was hit. Two athletes got hit by crossfire between two cars. One was hit with a bullet; one with shrapnel. Elizabeth saw some of the aftermath of this tragedy. How awful.
After the race and showers, we got some food – I finally felt OK to eat something and ironically, I just wanted to drink. I had two mojitos with Elizabeth and that made me very happy; I was finally getting my personality back.
I was able to eat 1 ½ tacos and that allowed me to turn around a bit and after the drinks and some food, I was feeling much better. Funny how quickly these things come and go – and no sooner was I feeling better when it was time to get ready to come home.
I spent a lot of time in bed these past 72 hours. And I had on a lot of mindless TV on. Poor Elizabeth is scarred for life now. I watched more hours of “Married at First Sight” than any normal person should ever watch.
The good news of this whole thing is that in 20 years, this has never happened to me. I have never gotten sick at a race and not raced. And, it is just, like I said, shitty luck. And, OF COURSE I was upset – of course, I cried privately a few times – I will not sugar coat this and say it was easy. But, perspective is everything and as I said to myself and others I talked to, “It is just a race!” And, I meant that.
Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.