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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.
I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2015 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy, Courtney & Alisa D.
If you are interested, I encourage you to apply. Here are the details:
1.) Applicants can apply via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org from December 7th – December 31st 11:59pm CST. Feel free to be as creative as you want in the email application. (I do accept bribes. I love Chocolate & anything pink.).
2.) For the Pay it Forward Athlete, I am looking for athletes that have overcome any type of hardship This can include , but not limited to: illnesses, financial or personal issues. This is also open to athletes who may not have any hardships but just have not been able to put together a solid year (s) of training due to inconsistency, lack of motivation, lack of focus/structure and need something new and challenging.
3.) You CAN re-apply if you applied before!
4.) You need to have at least one “A” race in 2015. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2015. All levels of athletes are fine.
5.) The coaching will start between 1/15/15 -2/1/15 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/15, whichever one is first.
6.) You will have to blog about your experience and be an active member of social media (FB or Twitter).
This year, the 2014 Pay It Forward winner, Alisa Dunlap had a great year finishing with a 1+ hour PR at CIM Marathon. Alisa kept a blog and you can read about her experience here:
I encourage you all to apply, if interested. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this blog or send me an email. I will announce the winner on January 5th, 2015. Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!
I took a little break. I ate Reese’s PB Cups in mass quantities mixed with pounds of M&Ms. I dyed my hair brown. I co-coached 75 kids to an undefeated Cross Country season. I spent an exorbitant amount of money on MAC makeup and Roden & Fields face creams. I spent some much loved time with my nearly 13 year old twins. I ate a lot. And, lastly I have been navigating myself through the start of a mid-life crisis. I will be 44 in January so I am truly in mid-life. None of this “I am turning 40 BS.” Please. The shit is getting real as I hit my mid-40s. I look in the mirror and think “WHO is this person?” The wrinkles, the dark circles. All there and all real. I know it is just a number, blah blah blah. The good news is that I FEEL GREAT. I may look like a hot mess, but I feel awesome.
Of course, this was much needed break and I was able to re-charge myself a bit. After my last race of the season (September 7th), I was desperately in need of a break from Triathlon. I took a few weeks off where I did not do too much of anything at all. FULL rest for 7-10 days and then more rest for another 10-14 days and then I slowly got back into things. I took 7.5 weeks off any structure, which, I think is a bit on the long side, but this year I needed it a bit more. In fact, I took 5 weeks out of the pool and that I have not done in eons. I just could not get myself to the pool and in fact, had no interest. So, clearly a big break was needed.
After my little break, I got back into the swing of things and that really meant MORE strength for me and NO TT BIKE. In fact, my TT bike is still in the bike box. Instead, I got out my Cross bike again and start exploring trails and different areas on it. I love my Cross bike. And, after doing 3 Cross races last year as a CAT 4 after I was done with Kona, I wanted to do the entire series this fall as a CAT 3.
The Cross scene here in Chicago is great. There is a race every weekend and there are a ton of talented riders who come out and race from Iowa, Wisconsin and all over Illinois. Making the shift from Triathlon to Cross racing is like watching an Elephant run versus a Cheetah. For me, I was the Elephant on the course. After last year I was thinking, “I am not too bad at this.” I got 2nd at State and naively thought I would just roll into the series and do OK. I was so wrong. I got hammered. In fact, the best I have finished this year is mid-pack. Racing in the Elite women’s race (CAT 1-2-3) is humbling to say the least. At first I was so frustrated with myself because I could not get rid of my fear. I was just so scared. NOT nervous. There is a big difference there. Fear limits you. Nerves drive you. I was afraid because my bike handling skills were so sub-par compared to the girls I was racing against. AND people crashed. I crashed.
The first Cross race I cold barely continue to push the gears on my Cross bike through the sand, mud and grass my quads would NOT respond at all. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. I was breathing like I was racing a 5k run race…I was working that hard from start to finish. AND I was still in the back. In fact, one time I looked right after the start and I was DFL.
But, as the races went on I got a wee bit better (not much) and I started to have some fun with it and started to develop a camaraderie with the other riders that are always near me in races. They would scream behind me, “JEN, wider on those turns! STOP braking!” They were traumatized by my lack of bike handling skills but what I lacked there I made up in my strength and aerobic engine on the courses. In typical fashion, I got better as the the race went on.
Many courses I would pre-ride and I could not even make the sharp turns in practice – but when the gun went off, my fear melted away and I was able to “fake it until I made it” out there. I will probably never be great or even good – but it has been fun racing with these girls and it has helped my bike handling and anaerobic threshold tremendously. And, the others had fun at my expense. I ride on the PSIMET team – super fast girls who are winning these races. At one race the Team Manager screamed at me while I was dismounting and carrying my bike over a barrier: “There are NO words.”
Apart from not killing myself at Cross, I eventually did get back into the pool. After 5 weeks out of the water I really could not fit into my shirts and bras anymore (too big!) – I thought about not swimming again ever, in fact. My muscles decreased and my lats and shoulders went down (yay!). The first time I swam after the break I was like Gumby in the water – I was awful. Could NOT engage my core. Reminded me to remind my athletes to always engage their core in swimming. I was so disconnected and therefore fighting the water. Not good! While I do not have my speed back yet- after 3 weeks of consistent swimming I am starting to feel normal in the pool again.
I also added MORE strength to my weeks – I never stopped Pilates (except for my few week break), which I do every Monday. Then I am now doing a TRX class this fall/winter every Wednesday that I love. And, then on Fridays I see Kate (strength trainer). Between Cross racing and strength this fall I am sore a lot. In fact, because of all the breaking and shifting on my bike hard and fast, I literally have an elbow and forearm that kills me. I am sure it is tendonitis at some level but some nights it just aches (back to my mid-life crisis here with achy bones).
And, during this time, we have had some fun times apart from sweating. We had an impromptu 25th High School Reunion (back to my mid-life crisis) this past weekend. It was hilarious. One of the many reasons I like Facebook. We all just picked up like we see each other every week. They were playing Journey & big hair bands all night; I had too much to drink. It was a good time. In addition to partying like it is 1989 (the year I graduated HS), we are breaking ground this fall on a new house. I am SO excited. We need a change and while the house/lot is only about 1 ½ miles away, it will be a welcomed change and I have spent more time on Pinterest this fall than I care to admit as I Pin all my favorite bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. In fact, I need HELP (anyone an interior decorator?) But, fun and refreshing indeed.
I am off to Arizona this long weekend. Jerome is “participating” in Ironman Arizona. He has been in China for the past week and literally comes home and turns around to head to Tempe. Brutal! So that is why he is participating :). It will be fun to get into the sun again and spectate some athletes I coach, friends & Jerome. And, I may take a 90 minute detour south to Tucson for Thanksgiving & fly the kids out!
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.
Thanks Lululemon and PowerBar for the support!
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.