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Even though I have not been blogging lately, I surely have not gone too far. I had to really step away from writing because on my last blog that recapped my Ironman in Hawaii, I got a very nasty comment. First one I have ever gotten in 15+ years. At first, of course, I was mad. But, once we traced the IP address, I realized how silly the person that wrote it is. I mean, we all read blogs for different reasons and we all can relate or think “that person is crazy” with many of these blogs. However, where that crosses the line is when someone takes their precious time to actually make a rude and immature comment anonymously. Most of us are mature, self-confident and secure individuals who do not need to spew any negative energy or thoughts towards someone and then not have the balls to fess up to the comment. Never in my life have I ever left an anonymous comment. Nor, will I. If I have something to say – I either attach my name to it OR say nothing at all. And, trust me, I am no shrinking violet.
The mean comment was just from someone who was giving me a hard time because “we had a fast day in Kona.” Ok, really? WHO cares? So, for ONCE I had a nice Ironman day. It was about damn time. I put in my dues in Kona with years of 50+ mph cross winds one year – no joke. After 250+ Triathlons, I think I earned the right to a nice frigging day. And, you know what? Good for us that finally got a “nice” day in Kona. And, a “nice” day in Kona is no frigging picnic, I might add. Also, I will NEVER apologize for my success or hard work. Clearly, my hard work, consistency and passion for this sport has allowed me to continue to live the way I want to live – with integrity.
So, anonymous commenter: F*CK you. If you have something to say, email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, get a life because you are not important in mine.
Back to regularly scheduled programming:
After Hawaii I took some time completely off training. It was glorious for about 2 weeks and then I just needed to move. If I had any niggles, I would have taken more downtime, but I was still motivated and feeling great post Hawaii. I decided to jump into a few CycloCross races in November. I used to Cross race a lot in 2006-2008, but I have been out of the circuit for the last few years because usually by October-ish I am over racing and I am fearful I will get hurt. This year, for some reason, I was still fired up and wanted to race Cross before it ends and I wanted to not let that “fear” rule me. However, this fall I have missed a ton of races due to travel. The last race is the State Championships this coming Saturday that I will compete in. I have really enjoyed the few races I did this season and as long as I am healthy next fall plan on competing in all the races.
I am writing this blog on the way home from Tucson. We went to Tucson again this Thanksgiving week as a family and it is the highlight of my year. It is the one time of the year that both Jerome and I are not racing, working or really training. And, there are no kid commitments either! It is the only week all year I really try to un-plug. While I cannot completely un-plug, I can keep off my laptop all week and that allows me to rejuvenate and rest a bit. The kids love Tucson & we are so active the week we are there. Hiking, riding, running, climbing and just enjoying the 70F degree temps before heading back to Chicago for the winter.
This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the holidays and all the shopping and hustle and bustle that it brings. I also like to reflect on the previous year and look forward to a new year – both personally and professionally. I love the extra time I get to spend with loved ones and friends.
As a Triathlon coach this is also the time of the year when I spend planning for 2014: Camps, Triathlon clinics, swim clinics, continuing education, new podcasts and new and exciting ways to get faster and stronger. Planning different workouts to challenge athletes and keep everyone motivated and excited for the season is not easy. I am a believer in repeatability but also really believe that the coach needs to be creative and inspiring to each athlete they work with. Getting to know each athlete takes time, patience and a degree in Psychology (kidding, wanted to make sure you were still reading).
As a Triathlete, I also get to look at 2014 fresh – and start my 20th year of racing with wide eyes. For me, getting up every morning at 5am is the easy part. I wake up and cannot wait to train. The real issue for me is deciding how much time I want to commit every year to training while keeping some sort of balance in my work and personal/family life. I love my kids. I really do. I love my job. I really do. While the kids are gone all day now in school, the times I am home with them, I want to be engaged and active in their lives. I am coaching Graham’s basketball team again this fall/winter. I want to continue to do things like this because I realize, with them turning 12 in January that these little moments are going to become less and less each year.
So, 2014 will be the year of short course for me. Ironically, I still have a pull to do another Ironman. Goodness. But, I will pass in 2014. I decided to stay local, race a lot of short course races like USAT Nationals, Chicago, etc. And then mix up a few 70.3s because that is my favorite distance…Eagleman always and possibly 70.3 Worlds. We shall see. All I know is I am going to race more frequently including swim meets (my fav!), indoor TTs and maybe even some 5ks to keep it real. I also will spend time doing fun events with Lululemon and socialize locally a bit more – because, well, I really like that. And, somehow I convinced Elizabeth to still be my friend & help me again in 2014.
On the flight out to Kona, I met a very inspiring older couple. I posted the condensed version on Facebook, but the husband was recently given 8 months to live. The wife was deeply grateful and a pillar of strength. She talked about her life with him (they were 72 years old & married 50+ years), told me their secrets (MUST have interests separately & together) and talked about her kids/grandkids (I am her kid’s age). She wanted to hear all about me: my kids, my parents & my race in Hawaii. You could tell she was absolutely sincere and engaged in life and the REASON we all do what we do.
In Hawaii when you exit a plane you walk down a flight of stairs to the outside. George was barely able to walk down the stairs but he was too proud STILL to get help. I carried his bags and walked in front of him while he cautiously descended the stairs. I said my good byes and wished them well when we got to the ground. I never thought I would see them again, but they made a lasting impression on me.
When I boarded my flight (now with Jerome) home from Kona to LAX, I walked onto the plane and there was George and Mary. He beamed and I was like, “OH HELLO!!!” I could not talk because we were not sitting next to one another but when we deplaned they were waiting for me. We exchanged some nice words and again (they asked about my race), I wished them well. Jerome and I separated (different flights to Chicago) and I was walking outside to my terminal and it was a long walk to my connecting flight. AND there is George and Mary again. George was now in a wheelchair (yes 6 days later) and I said, “Gosh, I keep seeing you!!” George tried to get up to give me a hug and instead took my hand and said with tears in his eyes, “Live the life you want and live it every day fully.” Mary is crying and I am thinking: Do not cry. Do not cry. I walked away shaking my head in disbelief that I met this inspirational couple and now I am ending my Hawaii Ironman journey with them. If that doesn’t make you go, “AH” then I am not sure what will. To me, it was a gift – a reminder to live the life you want – we are all in control of our own happiness and it was the ribbon that tied together my week and race in Kona that week.
I arrived in Kona on Sunday super late. Jerome came later on Wednesday night. I was so excited to have him with me. I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday eating local food (fresh fruit & fish!), enjoying some shopping, driving the course, registering, meeting & catching up with some of my Twitter & Facebook triathlon friends, getting my head around the race and decompressing from normal life and work. By the time the race rolled around, I was relaxed, mentally fully engaged and ready to race.
It has been awhile since I have done Kona – 2006 to be exact. That was merely by my own choice. I like the Ironman, I do. But, as I do not need to tell many, it is a LOT of work to train properly for one. And, my kids were 4 back then & now 11 and I was just not really ready for Hawaii some of those years. After 2004, 2006, I vowed that when I returned to Hawaii it was on my terms. I raced there 30-34, 35-39 and now I am 40-44. I wanted to race on the young end of 40-44 and while I q-fied at Ironman Arizona in 2011, I was not ready to race Hawaii then either. So, when I q-fied at Eagleman this year…my kids off to middle school and entering their new phase of life, I knew it was time. I was willing to go “there” this year.
I trained hard for Hawaii. I left no stone unturned. I will not sugar coat how hard it was at times. And, other times I thought it was not really bad. However, the closer to the race the more lazer focused I became. I took care of every minutiae of being the best I could be in order to train 100% every day. My final block for Kona ended with a week in the 22-23 hour range. For many racing Hawaii, that is a standard week – for me, with a full time job and 2 kids…it was a big week for me – already on top of carefully layered weeks of 18-20 hours. Cumulative fatigue is a VERY hard feeling to get used to when training for the Ironman, but by the time mid-September rolled around, I was in the thick of it AND I felt fantastic. It was an interesting experiment to see how I trained and raced Hawaii in each age category too – (30-34, 35-39 & now 40-44)…very different I might add. Less is always more now for me!
I ate almost perfectly (I am not perfect however), I slept perfectly, I did full heat acclimation protocol, I limited any late nights, I washed my hands 1000 times a day (l dislike this the most). I made sure all my equipment was in tip top shape. I took care of every little detail you can imagine. So, during race week I had NO concerns (my biggest concern was that my run shoes were too light or durable enough). I was eerily calm all week. Sure, I was anxious every morning I woke up…just anxious because I was going to do an Ironman and there is always an “X” factor in a race that long. But, the key to a successful execution of your race plan is being able to adapt during the race day…because anything can happen in a race that long and with elements like we have in Kona.
I did all the carbo loading (after eating SO well for so long the carbo loading was not enjoyable, but I did it!), I took some time and wrote out my full race plan. Hour by hour what I was going to eat, how much salt per hour (all of this done in training of course) and even when I had to switch over from my drinks to the courses how that changes my salt & water intake hourly on the bike. In Hawaii the elements are so extreme that (and I have learned the hard way in Kona in 04) if I screw up ANYTHING on that bike, I am SOL on that run. No wiggle room at all. The Queen K will chew you up & spit you out so quickly before you even realize what happened. I have felt that pain in 2004 and I vowed I would NOT do that again.
Race day came quickly and I was excited to race and was mentally & physically in the best shape I could be in at 42. I could not have been more fit or more ready. And, you know what? THE PROCESS of getting to the start line healthy and ready is more of a challenge to me now at 42 than the darn race. I appreciate it a heck of a lot more than I did at 30-34 and even 35-39. The fun thing about Hawaii is all the press & hub bub. Things are SUPER restrictive – only some press and athletes are allowed in most places. I was thankful that after I got my bike set up and out of T2 I was able to find Jerome! He kept me grounded and we made our way into the King K hotel and sat down. Luckily, Amanda W was right there with me and we agreed to go down to the swim start together and hang out. Having a familiar face before the start was a nice treat for both of us. And, treading water for 15 minutes with Amanda was nice too!
I consider myself a good swimmer…but in Kona I am a normal swimmer – The biggest group will swim between 58-1:05 here…and hundreds and hundreds. I knew I would be in this group – albeit on the higher end sans wetsuit and I was right. Ironically, the part I was the most worried about all day was the swim and getting a mechanical on the bike. See, the swim at Kona is a hot mess. You have never met so many men who could care less who they hit, run into or the like.
The cannon started and it was attack attack attack from the get go. I had to stay calm, do not think about the people hitting me, clawing at my feet, ripping my suit, punches were thrown – it was eat or get eaten. The whole time I was like – really? STILL with everyone? I do not get a lot of practice at home with aggressive men (because we don’t usually swim with the men) and rarely are the women waves that deep/aggressive. Ah, Hawaii….where everyone is fast and aggressive. We got to the Body Glide boat in 28:13. But, I know the currant was at our back, so the return is always slower. AND for a brief few minutes I had clean water! I could relax. AND at no point was I ever swimming hard. In fact, I wanted to go harder but I just had no where to go! The swim flew by. I felt AWESOME – the swim was easy. I did not let the roughness freak me out – I was mentally prepared for it. I went into my “happy place” and just powered through. Stood up in 1:03, hit the mat at 1:04.
Into T2 and off on my bike as quickly as I could. I did not change, just threw on sunscreen and a white DeSoto jersey to keep the sun off my skin as much as possible. The bike course at Kona is a grinding one. No major steep hills, but a gradual up or down all day. AND 112 miles on 2 roads basically – and the winds dictate how fast or slow we can all ride. I felt awesome all day on the bike. I had one glitch on the bike. It is SO fast and busy to start. I was riding easy but the small roads and hundreds and hundreds of fast riders whizzing by me and I accidentally hit a pot hole. I ejected my rear 2 bottles. DAMN! But, I was so composed. So calm and so in control of my race and my thoughts, that it was like a Sunday stroll. I stopped. Dismounted my bike (among people screaming at me) unclipped and chased my 2 bottles down the HILL and retrieved them. It was NOT an option in Kona. If I give up my 2 KEY nutrition bottles, I will be walking that marathon. It was never an option not to stop. I lost several key minutes there, but no regrets. I quickly got over it and moved on and back to the race. We had a nice tail wind on the way out (as you can tell w/ the paces). BUT most of us – this is not our first rodeo and I knew that I had to control this speed. IF we over-rode up to Hawi, we would get bit in the ass, so I kept it fairly light (and if I rode too easy is always a question, but the marathon will always answer that question). The time flew by. I was on my nutrition, took in 2-3 BIG bottles per hour. Pefrom and water. AND of course salt. I rode steady and strong. MANY drafting – unfortunate but it happens at all races and especially in Kona where stakes are high. I just put my head down and did my own thing. I got to 56 miles in just under 22 mph average, picked up my special needs bag, refueled and was on my way. I picked up water and Perform at nearly every Aide Station. I was peeing every 2 hours (on the bike yes, people don’t get off their bikes in Kona to pee – I did not see any of that). I felt AWESOME. I had a ton of caffeine and DANG if I was not on FIRE. In fact, my breathing was rapid for a bit and I felt I was coming out of my skin by about mile 55 and I really hit a new energy level there.
Made the turn around and we were able to get down from Hawi pretty quickly (THANK goodness as this patch can be horrific if winds are aggressive). Once back on the Queen K is when the sh*t got real. But I was ready for it. In fact, I never once wanted off my bike. NEVER have I had that feeling in an Ironman. I felt good. I never had a low point. I never got crabby. One thing about Hawaii is that NO ONE speaks to one another out there. Really! It is so intense. I had a lot of guys go by me (and some girls too) and not one person said a word to me – or vice versa. We rode in pure focus and silence. I did not think too much about anything out there, frankly. I was totally focused on watching my watts, speed and nutrition. Once I hit mile 100 (in 4:55) I was like, OK let’s get this over with. I was hoping to go 5:20s (with our initial tailwind) but it just was not going to happen. I got off the bike 5:39 as my official time. 11 minutes faster than last time I raced Kona. AND I felt great!
Ran into T2 and changed shoes, socks, took off my jersey and off I went. I only carried my salt tabs on the run. I do not need, even in the heat & humidity to carry things on a fully catered course. I ran the first mile and I needed a gel. I was a tad low but had no gels until the first aide station. Thankfully the spectators were carrying me and I was having a great time. I felt terrific. I had NO idea what place I was in and I didn’t really care (really). I had one goal in Hawaii and that was to go 10:45. I had 4 hours 20+ minutes to run a marathon to break 11. It was my day to win or lose. THAT is a great feeling. I promised myself to NOT run faster than 7:45s on Ali’I (first 10 miles). I had to hold back in the first 10k…and I did…Ali’I is the easy part. That last 10k in any IM is the monster, really. Once I got up the big hill at Palani (mile 10) game was on. I hit the ½ way part in a comfortable 1:50. NOW it all got real. I was nutritionally right on. I was taking salt in every 45 min or so – in a way to control the heat and then the clouds came out. OH MY GOD THERE IS A GOD. That saved so many of us. It was hot and humid, but that scorching sun was dampened and that helped me a ton.
I felt great. Legs were light (well, as much as possible) & my Electrolytes were spot on and my attitude was great. Looking at the results now, I passed FIFTEEN + women on that run. WOW! It was not until I hit mile 16 that I was like, “OK I am ready to be done.” I made my way into the Energy Lab. This is where I came apart in 2004. It is stale and stagnant in there. It is very hot and hard. The turn around and climb out of Hawi is the hardest part of the run (my opinion). I did not have any issues, but my splits definitely slowed down in this part. There was also an aide station that I grabbed 1 water cup, 1 Perform cup and ice and a gel. I NEVER wanted coke all day – a sign that I was managing the nutrition well. The run home from the Energy Lab is all guts. I kept repeating to myself, “it is all guts now, dig dig dig.” I could feel myself slowing down but not terribly. I was still picking girls off and my miles went from a very steady 8:30 to 8:45-50s….ack! But, then I would have a tough mile (this part of the Queen K is a long way and long, grinding hills)….I could see everyone. I just put my head down, did not pay attention to anyone or anything and ran. I was going to run 3:40s for this marathon (my goal) and be well under 11 hours…I used this as a relaxation technique and just rolled with it.
Mile 22-23 is hard. When isn’t it? I was still in control. I hit mile 24 and took a step and my little toe on my left foot just went hot – I had been rubbing that little toe all day – and I took a deep breathe and wiggled my toes and got over it. I was NOT going to let months (years) and 138 miles of 100% concentration and focus fall apart over a stupid hot spot. Whatever….and you know what? It went away. MIND OVER MATTER. THEN the YELLOW BRICK ROAD was in sight. Running down Palani is so hard (ouch quads) but once you are down Palani, there is less than a mile until you turn on Ali’I and it is the most magical and rewarding mile you will ever run in your entire life.
I was SO happy! I told myself to enjoy this. I knew that this was a gift. Sure, I worked hard, sacrificed so much, but you know what? At the end of the day – THIS is a gift – I had oodles of perspective for this race and appreciation of my body. I was NOT going to take this for granted. I took that final right on Ali’i. I saw Jerome and Glen…then the crowd was deafening, it was so awesome. Still gives me the chills. Then, I saw and heard my Mom, sister and Aunt – what a moment!
I ran hard because I felt good and I could. I took it all in. I said, “THANK YOU” out loud. I saw the clock: 10:44….and there it was 10:45 and I was crossing the line! UNBELIEVABLE! I was just so happy. I did it! And, for a split second I thought, “There is not a better feeling in sport than this…not a one!”
10:45:20 Final Time. Final Marathon time: 3:51. Slower than I wanted, but oh well, I did the best I could. AND that was my best that day. I never stopped, I never doubted I would break 11. I just executed my race plan and BAM there it was. I was a robot.
I came to find out that this was 17th in my AG and 6th American. The day was fast for many athletes and it was great to race with the best in the World and come out in a solid finishing spot. I could not have run one more step mentally or physically. I gave it my all. No regrets. No “what ifs” – it was my best on that day and you know what? My best WAS good enough! It was a course PR by 44 minutes.
So many people to thank… First, thank you to my family. My kids who are so great and to Jerome who is the BEST partner I could have – keeps my over-intense personality under control and balanced! J THANK you to my Mom, sister and Aunt who flew out to Hawaii to watch me race – first time they have really seen me race a big race. It was great to have them there. Thanks to my sitter, Melody, and my dad and neighbors (Janan & Kelly) who all pitched in to help me with the kids when I was gone.
THANKS to Mark and Pom Rouse and Runner’s High & Tri, Nathalie – Best massage therapist ever, Jon at Cadence Cycles for my awesome bike & Lululemon Deer Park for all your support! Thanks to all my Facebook, Twitter and friends far and close – all of your notes, emails and messages to me kept me going all day and I am grateful for all of you!!! Thanks to Coach Dave Walters, my mentor. And, most importantly, to my great friend, Elizabeth. We have been a great team for nearly 10 years – played a lot of different roles – and now even flipping roles as she is coaching me now. There is NOTHING more important than having someone on your team who you like (!), trust and really wants to maximize your potential. It means the world to me that I can turn off my brain and JUST follow a solid, well thought out plan. That alone is worth its weight in gold. I am able to follow instructions and that freed up any mental energy I needed to be mom, coach full time and be a good wife/friend, etc. PRICELESS! Thanks Elizabeth!
Now I rest and eat some PUMPKIN DONUTS….Kona again? Yes…but when I age up to 45-49. My goal is to do it in every age group (on the younger end). THANKS for all the cheers, love and support – I felt it all day in Hawaii !!
And, just in case you didn’t think I gave 100%, this is as soon as I crossed the finish line:
“There will always be athletes more talented than you, but do NOT let them out-work you.” Derek Jeter
As I work through my big weeks in preparation for Ironman Hawaii, I have a LOT of time on my rides and runs to think. Every big race I do – I always have a mantra – or something that I adopt that keeps my training real and keeps me on my toes. This year, it is this quote. Years ago I had a coach say this to me. And, it has stuck with me, daily, since then. I take pride in working hard and not over-thinking not over-doing but just putting my nose down and doing the work consistently day after day.
I have been overjoyed at some of the weather we have had lately. It has been SIZZLING hot. 90s and heat indexes in the 100s! AND humid like Kona. IDEAL! Last week I went out and had a 100 mile ride + 1 hour run off the ride. I was solo (as I do all my long stuff). The temps started out at 58F and I made the rookie mistake of NOT drinking enough. By the time I was done with my ride, it was upper 80s and humid. I was in trouble. I got too far behind in my hydration that I totally & utterly bonked 20 minutes into my run. I had salt, had enough calories, but not enough to drink. I swear, it has been probably 10 years since I did this – but I was due. AND it hit me like a freight train. I went from “OK” to “SHIT” very fast. My breathing was shallow and rapid. My BP was totally off and I felt like I was suffocating. Then, I realized how bad I was — > I was nauseous and dizzy. So bad actually that I was going to faint fast if I did not sit down. I sat down on the bike path and put my head between my knees. Then, I wanted to take a nap (I mean, see how bad this bonk was!!). I laid down ON THE BIKE PATH and re-grouped. I knew that if I could stabilize myself I would be ok in about 10 minutes. I had a gel, more fluids…I was sweating like crazy. But, after 10 minutes I came back around & I was OK to walk again. Like I said on Facebook, NO ONE stopped to see if I was ok. Unbelievable. EEKS.
AND coming back from a bonk is tough. One of the issues I have with Ironman training is eating enough. I have NO appetite and I find myself not interested in any food. I have to literally choke it down. And, I have to be careful not to get too light. It really can be a big problem in Ironman training and recovery. If we do not fuel properly daily – it adds up and we can get sick, not recover well enough to workout properly the next day, etc. You have to consume a LOT of good food in order to do what we do! So, when I weighed myself and I was lower than I should be at this time of the training cycle, I ate and ate and ate. I recovered well enough in 2 days, that I was back to being fine.
Today I rode 3 hours in 97F degree temps – it was awesome! Even downright windy. I also ran 1 hour…on and off the bike…and I drank SEVEN bottles of fluids in three hours. It is the only way to do it and I finally felt AMAZING – ran fast off the bike in this heat and my watts and speed increased throughout the ride. You make that big of a mistake ONCE and you learn fast how important salt, fluids and tons of calories are to a successful training day! As the weather is turning quickly now in Chicago, I am so grateful I had these Kona like temps to remember how critical the details are in having a good Ironman race in a month.
Speaking of Ironmans, I spectated my 11th IM WI this past weekend. I always leave that race totally inspired and motivated by my friends & athletes. IM WI is not an easy course. And, I really believe that there is the 20% rule when it comes to having success on race day – especially in the Ironman.
This 20% rule is what I call the details of daily training that all add up to the full 100% of training. I find that most athletes do 80% of what they need to do to succeed. They do the workouts, they think they eat right, they try hard to sleep right….but in reality the 20% is what they need to focus on.
This 20% is this:
- Doing the specifics of each workout perfectly. Not adding more, not running harder because you feel good or want to
- Doing what it takes to be fueled well BEFORE, during and after to capitalize on each workout
- NOT winging the nutrition on long runs and long bikes – really creating a plan and an hour to hour plan on what you will eat, drink, how much salt to a “T”
- When the workout calls for a brick – get off the bike and onto the run in less than 5 minutes. NO checking phone, talking to kids, get out fast
- Not just jumping into a group workout because you want to socialize – do your specific workout – you can socialize afterwards OR the next day
- Sleeping 7-9 hours per night – no exceptions here. Unless you have a newborn in the house – there is no reason and no excuses
- Consistency – day in and day out. Not missing workouts – no zeros – and taking care of the details allow you to remain consistent
- If you have a coach or report your workouts in Training Peaks – communicate! I can’t tell you how many times I open up TP and it is empty week after week – or athletes that just put in the time they did the workout. NO data, NO subjective feedback. Not much I can do with that. After EVERY one of my workouts, I download it immediately. IF you have a good coach, that coach will give you feedback (when necessary) and notice patterns and trends that are critical as she/he plans the next training block. I cannot tell you how critical this is. Imperative to your success and something I struggle with daily as a coach trying to do my job
- More is not always best. If you are tired day after day – listen to your body. Your body is an amazing vehicle. Usually being so tired is a result of nutrition issues OR lack of sleep/rest. Pay attention to the cues. REST is a very critical component to a good training plan
- Do not be afraid of fatigue. Remember on the other side of fatigue – once you get through the training cycles IS FITNESS! This is something that we need to remember during Ironman training and marathon training
- Do not under estimate life stress. The body does not know the difference between training stress, personal stress, work stress. If life is not good at home – this will create a ton of internal stress and it will affect your workouts. Same with work stress…if you are stressed at work or home and then try to stress your body killing it during workouts – you will, at some point, fall apart. Address the stressors and fix what you can. You can. We all are in control of our lives. And, if you have stressors in your life – communicate them with your coach so that the training plan can be adapted while you go through a challenging time
- Be positive. Remember, this is a hobby. Not many of us making a living racing races. It should be fun. Of course some of it is hard and draining, but that is the joy of the process. Keep it real and keep it fun!
- Celebrate each success. WHEN you have a good workout – enjoy that. When you have a bad workout, move on. Sometimes you are the nail and sometimes the hammer. As long as you are the hammer more often than the nail – that is success!
- Don’t try to “WIN” every workout. When I see files where athletes are always going faster than they do in racing – then the red flag goes off in my head – there is a disconnect between racing and training. AND I need to work with “marrying” the two.
- When I saw the Pros (Beth Shutt was the best example) and the AG leaders at IM Wisconsin, they were in the “zone”. They were engaged, focused and had flipped that “switch” and were present on the course. They were in a world of hurt – but were able to transcend that suffering to something bigger = winning OR nailing their goals. You can see it as clear as day. Watch them!
The last time I sat down on the floor of my shower while the hot water poured on me was when I was pregnant with the twins. Twelve years later and a whole lot of pain, I was again on the floor of my shower at 3:30 am grimacing in so much pain from racing I was nauseous and couldn’t sleep.
This weekend we went and raced Pigman ½ Ironman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I have raced here 2x before and ironically, this was my first EVER ½ IM back…I cannot remember the year. I picked Pigman this year because it is as close to Kona as we can get in the Midwest. It is usually 100F degrees in the shade, OPEN roads, no shade, windy and not wetsuit legal. Imagine my surprise when the day dawned, high was 82F and water temps 73F (it was way hotter than that).
Karen, Jaynie, Stacie and I caravanned to Iowa on Saturday. Luckily, Stacie’s mom (and dad) live out there, so we were able to stay at her mom’s house.
I had a rest week into Pigman and felt well – flat, lethargic and over-rested. Perfect, just how I was supposed to feel.
I raced in the Elite wave at Pigman and we did not start until nearly 8am (after the Olympic race all started). In the Elite wave were ALL the elite men & women and teams. While these starts are usually very aggressive, I needed that practice. All these swim starts with women make us way too complacent…and Kona’s start is so aggressive, this would be good practice.
The only issue: It was wetsuit legal. UGH! Pisser. Frankly, the swim at Pigman is SUPER easy. It is in a calm little lake and there is no chop, nothing. I lined up with Michael & Brianna Boehmer and the gun went off. It was an easy start (damn) and I got out in the 2nd pack and sat there and drafted. I told myself NOT to do anything silly since the water was hot and we were in wetsuits…(good news was the air was still cool). I see the front pack ahead of me and I cannot bridge that gap (these guys eventually swam 26 minutes). So, I sat in and swam with the 2nd pack of men. I almost forget how much more aggressive men swim and how big they are! But, it is so rare that I have feet in a swim, that I had to really behave and be patient and draft. In their draft I was hardly working – I was at a 5 on a scale from 1-10…and I thought, “SHIT” this is too slow. But, I would get out of their draft and try to go around them and I was now at a 7-8. I was cracking up at myself thinking, “IF I could draft in all my races, GOD IT IS SO much easier.” Nice to have men in my wave, a nice treat for me. We exited the water in 28 minutes and one of the spectators said, “You are 3:30 down.” Ok….thanks for telling me where I am next to the MEN. I ended up having the fastest swim of all women that day and fastest Elite female by nearly 3 minutes. I was not expecting that!
On the bike I felt REALLY good. Pigman is long gradual inclines and declines through rural cornfields of Iowa. No major hills but nothing super flat. It usually is windy but on race day it was a slight tail wind going out and a slight head wind coming up. Nothing major, but enough to notice it. I knew the girls would be coming at some point. I think I got passed by the eventual winner around mile 19-20. And, I tried to keep her in my sight, but I was working too hard to do that. Actually, my Quarq did not work when I got on my bike. UGH. I re-started it and still no power. (dead battery we figured out when I got home). I just like the power meter because it makes sure I am not over-riding. I rarely under-ride! Thank goodness I have raced so long without any data, that I know how to do it – and I know what my Half IM watts feel like. I did a good job of managing my effort. At one point I threw up a little bit and realized I should back down. The good news is that 56 miles flew by and I am grateful for that since I have to do 112 miles in 8 weeks. Came into T2 in 3rd place knowing I had fast Brianna Boehmer and Julie Hull behind me.
Headed off on the run and I felt AWESOME. I had my legs, felt light and all around great. The run at Pigman is hilly in the park area and then flatter until mile 6 where there is a long, big hill and then another long big hill at mile 10-11. The hard part about racing Elite is that you are out there ALL ALONE. I mean ALL ALONE. On the bike course I had to make sure I was not off course – because I would see no one for miles.
Again, I had NO data. I forgot to grab my Timex watch (pace) before I headed out. And, frankly, that was ok even though I would have liked it, my job was really to process through this race for Hawaii prep AND race the girls. So, I have no idea what I was running but every time I thought about my pace it was probably 7:20-30s on the flats. At mile 3 Brianna came by me. She was running well (even though she said she felt like awful here) and I could NOT go with her. She ended up running a 1:29 and get 2nd overall!
I was taking in salt, fluids and gels no problem. I carried a hand held flask because they had HEED on the course but I cannot drink that stuff, ICK. At the turnaround I saw Julie Hull (who was having a rare off day) and the eventual 5th place gal and they were far enough back that I could maintain my pace and hold my position. As I was running back towards home it was empty. NO ONE in front of me and NO ONE in back of me….and nothing but open cornfields. A little eerie. I had to dig super deep and not get complacent on that course all alone. OH and they repaved the run road and it is ALL CONCRETE NOW. God help me…that is why I cannot sleep tonight…my legs and Achilles hurt so bad – even my IT band aches from running on concrete all that time!
I made my way to the finish line which is basically uphill from mile 11 onwards and just felt SO good. I really wanted to be in the 4:40s and I was at 4:48. I ended up 4th Elite and 1st Masters by 25+ minutes. I had a very good race and the swim and run felt effortless. I had another gear in both but thankfully did not have to use them. My goal for Pigman was Top 5 Elite and to execute a clean and solid race for Kona final prep. And, I did just that. I felt amazing out there.
Congrats to Katie T, Stacie who broke 6 hours!!!, Karen and Jaynie who all raced at Pigman and had great races! Thanks to Jerome who was home with the twins and being Dad while I went off to Iowa to race.
And, I would be remiss if I did not thank my friend Elizabeth. I really do not like writing my own training plans or self-coaching. I think for too many athletes that thinking for myself is a burden. And, while I love my mentor Dave, he is not the right coach for long distance triathlon racing. He is the coach who trained me for Kona the last couple of times I raced there, but we both agreed it was a little over his level of comfort & expertise. And, while Jerome is superb, I do not like to mix love and racing, so I need to keep the training/coaching very separate from my home life. So, I asked Elizabeth to help me out. The whole thing is so ironic because I coached Elizabeth for a very long time…and was on the other side of her racing for years. And, over the years we have become very close and she started her own successful coaching business. But, what is key in a successful coaching relationship is TRUST; and, I trust her. She has been around me (even though I am sure she is sick and tired of me) for a LONG TIME. She has personally had a ton of success at long and short course racing and has trained athletes for success at Kona and the World Championships. So, because of that and our solid relationship, I asked her to help me (keep me in check). It was a little weird for me initially because while things in life ALWAYS come full circle, it is rare that someone you coached and feel like you were SO involved with on the other side…would be giving you the advice you once gave. Weird. But, frankly, it was easy. Elizabeth and I keep this training very business-like. I am pretty easy to coach (right Elizabeth?) and I just am a solider and do the work and move on. And, we are also able to have our friendship at the same time. A win-win for us! So, thanks to Elizabeth who has guided me to some of my fastest times & races at the age of 42. My race at Pigman yesterday was a course PR.
Next up: No more racing – just a whole lot of training for Kona! Well, after I recover or am able to walk again! Oh, and in case anyone can tell, while you can still go fast at 42, you pay a DEAR DEAR price for that…
I almost forgot what it is like to train for an Ironman. Even though I spend my days writing Ironman workouts, fueling plans and preaching about salt and calories and recovery…you *almost* forget what the day to day grind is like until you are put back into it.
I don’t race the Ironman all that often because I know the commitment it takes to do well there. And, unless I am mentally, physically, professionally & personally ready to commit to that race, there is no point for me to do “just do an Ironman.”
The last time I raced Kona was 2006. I chose not to race Hawaii since 2006 because, at the time the twins were 4 and I just did not want to spend my days on my bike. AND, to be honest with you, I did not love Kona. It was hot. So, I put it to bed…..and decided I would come back to it when I was ready.
Between 2006 and 2011 I did not race an Ironman. Then, I finally got the bug to do an Ironman I felt like I could race a little better à IM Arizona. We spend a lot of time in Tucson and I thought this would be a great and obvious choice for me. AND I wanted to race an Ironman….AND, for the most part, I did race Arizona…but I had a niggling Achilles for the ENTIRE training block and it limited my running. I ended up PRing there (not hard after only doing Kona a couple of times) and meeting my goal of going 10:30. But, I was so disheartened with all the work that came with that Achilles niggle that year that I did NOT take the Kona slot at Arizona. I did not want to go through what I just went through. I vowed I would get back to 100% and go back when I was ready!
Fast forward to 2013, I am heading to Kona and today on my long bike ride, I fell back in love with the thought of racing Hawaii. I have been feeling AMAZING. So amazing that I started to get worried – during IM training you get so used to feeling so tired that when you feel so good, you think, “Really?”
We are 2 months out from Kona and the time has flown by! I went to Tucson for a week and that jump started my Ironman training. It was HOT and humid (monsoon season) in Tucson and that helped me sweat a bit and ride Lemmon day after day. We are having such a COLD and wet summer here, that everything is “easy” here now.
I decided to go back to Kona for one main reason: The Island has always gotten the better of me when I have raced there. But, I am a smarter & more experienced athlete now and know how to race in Kona now. And, when I review my “career goals” for Triathlon, accomplishing X in Kona is at the top. I have accomplished my OLY and Half IM goals in my career. However, I still have some unfinished business in Kona. So, that is why I decided to go back this season.
I am reminded mile after mile on my bike that this is a VERY lonely process. Kristin White, the athlete who q-fied at Eagleman with me in my AG sent me a FB message yesterday asking how my training is going. We both agreed that it is LONELY!!
I don’t mind the quiet miles for the most part – but you do forget how quiet the country roads are day after day. AND the pool…..I wish my Masters team practiced in the summer. I miss them!
The other thing I forgot about was my APPETITE! I really did forget how hungry I was during IM training. I cannot eat enough. AND, in order to recover and repeat this cycle daily, I am eating a ton. I am eating almost anything I want and listen to my body – the other day I was craving Salami & cheese. So, I ate it. I am eating Pizza all the time….ice cream….had ribs and pasta last night for dinner with a salad. I honestly think this is the way to train & recover from all this training. The IM is so cumulatively exhausting that between my fueling AND sleep, I can repeat, repeat, repeat.
I am chomping at the bit now that we are 8 weeks out. I feel like I have a lot more work to do and hoping that the weather turns HOT soon? I am racing a ½ Ironman next weekend – and am hoping it is 100F, jungle humid and not wetsuit legal. I am excited to race. That is one thing I do not love about Ironman training….I really miss all the short course racing frequency!
And, in exciting news, my sister, MOM and Aunt are coming out to Kona for some R&R and to watch me race! I am so excited! They have never seen me race an Ironman OR 1/2 IM ever. My mom worries about the whole thing (she has NO IDEA).
I am a little sad I am not racing USAT Nationals this coming weekend – but you know, I always say, “don’t get greedy…” So, keeping my priorities in line and focusing on long course this summer. BUT good luck to all my friends & athletes racing in Milwaukee, the weather is going to be AMAZING!
Well, that is a BORING title, isn’t it! It is now mid-July and I am about 1 month post Eagleman 70.3 and have been lucky enough to race 2x since Eagleman. I wanted to do some fun, local races before I started to do the build for Hawaii. One of the best things about short course training is you get to race all the time. With the Ironman, I actually have to train A LOT….umph.
The weekend after Eagleman was a local sprint that is one of my favs. I am good friends with the RD and it is in my back yard and in the lake where co-run the open water swim events every week. I was not all that excited about racing a Sprint 6 days post Eagleman — and on ice cream, hamburgers and fries all week — but, it turned out OK.
I raced Elite (I love it when local races have a separate wave, just so much safer!) and was the first person (male or female) out of the water – that was fun. I just worked so hard on not letting any guy pass me, that lasted…oh, not even 1 mile! But, I felt like ass on the bike. And, this course is out and back so I got to look at my competition as I turned around. Not always the most exciting thing to do when you are flat flat flat, but I was able to rally and get into T2 in the lead. Ironically, my average watts were lower at the Sprint than they were at my 1/2 IM. Got onto the run and felt good, but did the STUPIDEST thing ever. I took a wrong turn and ended up running over 90″ longer. All of a sudden the ring road I was on re-joined the main race and there were the girls coming – SHIT! I really did not want to have to dig deep, but I had to dig to put a gap on them again. (My instructions were: “do the least amount of work you have to to win.”) Silly me. I can do this course in my sleep…!! Anyway, I managed to keep my lead and win overall and with a faster time than last year even with my detour!
After my local sprint, I just put in some time training. It was time to start to pick things up a notch and get reunited with some longer riding – nothing too long now – but some quality and heat. Jerome and I even made a trip on the 4th of July morning to ride the IM Wisconsin course. No matter how many times I ride that course (and it is A LOT), it kicks my ass every time.
This past weekend was one of those insane weekends with kid’s activities. I was watching my niece Friday /sleepover and then camp pick up Saturday, One Direction concert with Morgan on Saturday (thanks to my sister who helped me out a TON – best.sister.ever)…I so badly wanted to race this past weekend. I had 2 options with Evergreen Lake 2 hours away on Saturday and a local race 20 minutes away on Sunday. Neither was perfect….and I was not going to race. But, I just could NOT get it out of my mind….and my gut was telling me to race before I really get too deep in my Hawaii training. So, I decided to just “wing it” on Sunday. I would not get too much sleep the night before and I would jump into the local OLY race. I also wanted to race because I had a large group of friends and athletes racing and it was a great time to be with everyone socially.
I got home from the 1Direction concert after 12am and was up by 4:30am, so it stung bad…but you know what? Except for a higher HR I could feel – even in the swim – I was OK. I was not sharp, but I was OK. The water was hotter than a$$ at definitely over 78F degrees, but *of course* the RD said it was 78F and let athletes wear wetsuits. UGH…..so I melted in my wetsuit and had to manage not over-heating AND not losing sight of Mary Bradbury who is a great swimmer. I knew if I could keep that gap under 90″ I would be in a good position. It is fun to actually have someone in front of me in the swim – I am always used to being chased. SO fun for me to chase on Sunday. I ended up catching Mary around mile 8-9 on the bike and then just held there and ate, drank and then passed Mary. We came into T2 together and then I took some extra time in T2 because it was HOT and I needed to get my HR down a bit….so I did that and then passed Mary and ran steady to win the race overall.
FUN times! I love racing locally & never take for granted a win. I was coming down the finishing chute and said, “enjoy…enjoy this…” I take nothing for granted anymore.
Here is a picture that Scott (Mary’s husband) took of me racing. Look at those blue skies (another thing I do not take for granted living here!):
And, now I am done racing for a bit. I am doing Pigman 1/2 IM in the middle of Iowa in mid-August…I was trying to find a local race that is as much like Kona as possible. Pigman is notoriously hot, windy and similar to Kona. It is actually where I did my 1st Half Ironman back in the day. I am looking forward to racing Pigman again – hope it is not wetsuit legal and as hot as a$$.
With that being said, I decided NOT to race USAT SC Nationals. I really wanted to and really REALLY like that OLY distance (and it is in Milwaukee – a great course for me), but I just cannot do it all. Well. So, I will focus on long course (dumba$$) and do Pigman and then Kona.
I am heading off to Tucson on Sunday. The twins are at their annual Summer Camp get away with their cousins and since I can work anywhere – I am going to head to more heat and some quiet time down in Tucson for next week. Looking forward to some major heat, hills and a break in my daily routine here at home!
Sorry, in advance, this is so long!
I was so excited to race. The family and I headed out to Eagleman 70.3 to race, for what would be my 8th time. We drove 12 hours to Philly to visit with Jerome’s parents and then after a couple of days visiting with them, Jerome and I drove to Cambridge, Maryland to race.
I did not race Eagleman last year. I decided I needed to step away from the race after I had a complete and utter meltdown on that course in 2011. Sometimes we all just need to know when to walk away and re-group. I did that and was determined to come back in 2013 ready to mix it up again.
I have had a great block of training leading into EM. I was rested (which is critical) and I was strong – fit and ready. I was mentally on my game. Two weeks ago I did a hard & long indoor bike in oppressive heat (at my doing) in my basement and then turned around and ran a course PR at a local 10 miler this next morning….with my last mile being sub 6:30. I knew I was ready. It was my race to win or lose.
I went to Eagleman with one goal — To be in the TOP 3 in my AG and Masters. I had NO idea who was going. I never once looked at the Start list or anything from previous years. It just doesn’t matter. I cannot control any of that. All I could control was getting myself ready and mentally up for racing. AND especially if it was going to be hot. EM is always hot and windy and just HARD.
Race day it was beautiful. I little humid, yes, but temps did not get over 80F. It was perfect and the wind was minimal – a RARE nice day in Cambridge. I knew it was going to be a fast, head to head race day. Me pre-race in my thoughts…
My race plan that I put together for EM was pretty simple. I have been SO HOT at the swim at Eagleman that I am overly hot and my HR too high to start the bike – so my goal this year was to have a pedestrian swim. Really. I started out in the front of the AG and with only one gal (Jen S-M!) in front me, I put my swim on auto-pilot and just went easier. I had to make sure I did not ruin my race in the swim. I knew I could do this because I knew where I was in the swim and knew strategically I had to just relax. I was freaking out a little bit because I felt like I was swimming at IM effort, but I kept telling myself, “patience grasshopper.” (really?) I usually like to race this distance MUCH faster than I did but in the end, this was the right decision. Came out of the water 2nd with 3rd, 4th and 5th all right there. And, hot in the water for sure, but no overheating that has plagued me before.
Onto the bike –> I let everything calm down but I could not believe how GOOD I felt. I was light, pedaling easy and my watts were way high. I started to drink and drink and drink. I had my salt mixed into my bottles and I was determined (again) to NOT over heat on this course. In 45 minutes I had gone through one entire bottle and a gel – perfect and my salt. Just like in training. I was like a robot out there. Never did think, just did. My plan was simple. I knew what watts to hold and I just put my head down and did the work. Ironically, my HIM watts seemed like a breeze out there and too low, but I was going 22+ mph. Hmmm…But I had passed the 1st place gal and was in 1st at this point and then I said…just settle down grasshopper and let this race unfold a little bit. So, I kept my bike easy….NO need to over-ride the front end of this course. EM doesn’t get hard until 1:45 or so into the bike (head wind usually at this point)…So, I stayed under control, RPE was light and HR was low. I thought to myself, “this is going too good OR this will end very very badly.” AND in about 2 minutes a 40-44 girl went by me. OK, now it is time to race.
I had to make the decision – DO I go with her or let her go. She was riding way to fast for me to go with her (Kristin who ended up winning the AG biked a 2:21! = good call Jen), but then another 2 girls came by and I was like, “Oh no….” I made a strategic decision to go. I was still going under control but now I had to race this sucker if I wanted to be in the mix. AND that was the game day decision, I went for it. I rode and finished up the bike within fighting distance of top 5 in the AG. I think I came off the bike in 5th, but 3-5th were all right together. I ended up biking a 2:32 (and nearly at my OLY watts), which is a great time for me on this course and considering I was taking it easy through 1 hour, pretty solid time. My nutrition was spot on, salt was perfect, gels…I felt GREAT and kept thinking to myself, “GO with it, Jen!”
I had to pee in transition, so one of the girls (maybe 2?) got away from me, but I HAD TO PEE badly and I cannot run if I do not pee. So, off I went. First mile in 6:55. OK…..again, “patience Jenny”…you will not run 6:55s for this full 1/2, so bring it down a notch…and I tried, but I felt SO good. I took my salt, drank and had a gel. Setting myself up for the calm before the storm (last 10k). I was running under control and running 6:55-7:10s. I was like, “ok, enjoy this Jen….races like this are RARE (feeling SO GOOD).” I was actually having fun. I did not want the bike to end. I was having fun on the run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was laser focused.
I was so focused actually that I was carrying my salt tabs in a container and apparently I did not close it and they all fell out, so when I went to get my salt at mile 5-6 they were GONE. SHIT! THAT is how focused I was I did not realize they were dropping out all over the place? REALLY?
So, here is when the fun starts AND this is when the shit got real. I get to mile 4 and feel amazing. 2nd place is up ahead as is 1st. (I cannot see them yet). I think 3rd is up ahead or I had just passed her (can’t recall) and I am running in 3rd BUT 4th place is coming up on me. She comes up on me and I slow down on purpose to try to listen to her breathing. I shifted all my thoughts to her breathing pattern. I had to understand IF she was already working too hard OR she was going “easy” and had more gears. So, I listened. AND in my opinion, at mile 4, she was already working at her max effort for that point in the race. Her breathing was labored already. THE LAST THING I wanted to do was run shoulder to shoulder for NINE more miles and suffer with someone who I am trying to beat.
So, I did what any other person would do: I surged and made my move. I put enough space on her that I could get back to running my race and not worry about her – but she stayed close to me THE ENTIRE race (I am sure, hoping I would crack).
At EM it is a very hard run course. I realize it is flat, but it is hot, windy and NO shade and roads that go on forever and you cannot see the turn around. My absolute favorite (that is what I train on here!). So, at mile 6 – I am almost to the turn around and I see Kristin (AG winner) and she has a huge cushion on me…and she looks like she is running my pace (and she was). So, I am like, “SHIT.” So, I still cannot find 2nd place girl. But, soon I see her and she does not look good – has a hitch to her gait and fatigue in her eyes. OFF I GO.
Now, let it be clear, I am not “just jogging” here. I am working and turning myself inside out. AND the thing that messed me up was I dropped my salt and I was only at mile 6 and I wanted SALT BADLY – but had NONE. So, I had to really prepare myself to suffer and get ready for this shit to get ugly…b/c I could already feel my quads barking back at me. I have never cramped in a race before, but without salt I start to fade terribly and “bonk”.
I see 2nd place about 1/4 mile up and I start to go. I pass her WITH a huge surge = just in case. I say: “nice race” and go by. She doesn’t even look at me. THEN there I was…I was at mile 7 in 2nd place. I see Jerome and Spencer Smith in the crowd and Jerome yells, “you are in 3rd!” I put up 2 fingers and put my head back down to grind out the last 5 miles.
I am throwing ice down my pants and jog bra — taking in the fluids (3 cups per aide station) and keep on taking my GU Roctanes. I did look back a few times to make sure, as I felt myself slowing down a wee bit that 3rd place was not too close to me.
Then, I NEVER once thought about anything like, “I am in 2nd, here it is!” or anything silly like that. This is a long race…and at that turnaround you come back towards ALL THE RUNNERS and you see all your competition and it is like a death moment. EVERYONE has fire in their eyes – they are hammering and you are the one being chased. IF that doesn’t keep the shit real, nothing does. It is like I can feel them breathing on my back.
It was mind over matter. I have learned by doing all these races and coaching that EVERYONE at the top levels are physically prepared…but not everyone is mentally prepared for that battle on race day. AND this is always something I capitalize on. ANYTHING can happen. Anything. No one is unbeatable. No one. AND this, this is why I race. I train for these moments, when it is so raw and the competition and pain is so palatable.
I get to mile 12 (OH THANK god!) and I look around and do not really see anyone that close, but you just never know. So, while I was suffering (and looking on the ground for ANY salt tabs) I just closed my eyes and put my head down and ran. I can do anything for 1 mile. I was breathing like I was on the track running 400s, but in theory, I was. Then, I made the magical turn to the finishing chute at Eagleman. Many special memories here for me and today was no different. BUT I had to finish first and finish hard. Here is me doing what we always say DO NOT DO – but at a race like this – where I ran from 5th place into 2nd place and for Kona slots – YOU need to know (I turned around looking for anyone):
AND there it was! I FINISHED. I collapsed at the finish into the volunteers. I did not want to run another step. But, I felt good and as soon as I was able to sit down, I was OK. I did it! My overall time was 4:46:01. (my course PR here is 4:41 at age 33….so 9 years later only 5 minutes slower? I will take that as a WIN).
3rd and 4th place finished within 25 seconds and 1 minute from me. IF I would have mentally cracked out there, I would have gone from 2nd place to 5th or 6th in a SNAP. THAT is how close it was.
I was so happy! I kept looking for Jerome and Elizabeth! I found Jerome and just jumped into his arms. Having him there to Sherpa for me and cheer of me (he did not race this year) was a TREAT for me and I loved it. He was great! Such comfort for me in a time of stress.
I immediately went up to Kristin (1st place) and Congratulated her. She raced Professionally but is racing Amateur this year and wanted to go to Kona. So, even though she beat me solid on Sunday, I feel good since she has raced PRO all these years and this is her first year back as an Amateur (that is what happens in the 40-44 AG!). She had a great race!
Here is the 40-44 AG podium TOP 4:
The Awards Ceremony and Kona slot allocation TOOK FOREVER. We did not leave until 6:30pm! IT was insane and I was not showered. UGH! BUT, of course, it was all worth it. The biggest AG was my AG and we got 2 slots for Kona as did W35-39, so that meant Kristin and I both got the Kona slots. All the other AG had ONE slot for Kona.
AND I did not know I would take the Kona slot until about 1 hour before the awards. I did not bring $, no checkbook and even after Elizabeth texting me on Saturday to see if I brought a check, I was like, “NO WAY!” See, I do not race for Hawaii. I know that is what so many athletes want and so set up their seasons to do that…but that does not motivate me. I do not say, “I want to q-fy for Kona” because, frankly, KONA is a monster and I don’t usually take my slots.
What motivates me is head to head racing and being my best, executing my race plan and being in the mix to WIN. That is what makes me happy and gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me say NO to the late night social commitments. Kona is just the icing on the cake when it happens. And, it is nice to be in a position to have that option (and I am FULLY aware of that). I never take anything for granted at 42 years old. NOT ONE THING.
So, I thought long and hard about Hawaii. Talked to Elizabeth, talked to Jerome. See, I am signed up for IM AZ this year and *if* I were to q-fy at IMAZ this year I do NOT want to do another IM in 2014. I do not like to race them back to back years. Last time I took the Kona slot was 2006!!! But, I am fit, healthy and feeling good this year — so I decided to do it all this year – so next year NO IM! So, yes, I took the slot.
I have been SO excited since Sunday. I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on anything – so I know I made the right decision. THE MAIN reason I did not want to do Kona only had to do with my kids….that is a biggie for me – I do NOT want to be riding their summers away while I try to work full time AND be mom….and train at that level….but this year they are 11 1/2, they are at camps, they are older and have a ton of friends and commitments…it is just a little easier now at 11 than when they were 2, 4 ,5 6 years old, etc. (in a different way).
I have not felt this good in years at a 1/2 IM. I was on fire at Eagleman and just felt confident, I did a TON of specificity training, so my body “knew” what to do at this distance. I knew what watts, RPE, paces I could handle at this distance and I had enough confidence in my nutrition and training plan that ALL I HAD TO DO was execute my plan. All the hard work was done well before the race. The race was “easy” compared to my prep for this race. AND that is how it should be. Robotic.
Thanks to my in laws who had a great time with the kids while we were in Cambridge. My kids LOVE this trip. Thanks to Jerome for EVERYTHING. He is a rock for me and I was so relaxed with him helping me all weekend. He was so unselfish (going to bed at a silly early hour, eating pasta, doing my bike). AND, thanks to Elizabeth and Dave W. Both of these people are not only dear friends of mine but also have helped me with all the details to get ready to race my best. I think Elizabeth said it best in an email to me late last night:
I’ve know you a long time – seen many “shades” of Jennifer along the way. Younger, aggressive, very fit/fast Jennifer is not much different than “over 40″ Jennifer (see, I did NOT say older) – other than she’s SMARTER and has realized (or maybe accepted) that now you can stay nearly as fast by working smarter vs harder – stay in the game longer by doing that, stay healthier and race/train more consistently. Less ups and downs, more even keel.
Yep. Being 40-44 is not too bad, eh? Now, let’s get on with this KONA thing!!!!!
This past week was INSANE. It was the last week of school for my kids and their last year in Elementary School. This meant year-end parties, cook outs (in 40F degree temps), parties, Award ceremonies, you name it, we were there. My feet hurt so bad on Friday that I was shaking my head at how I was going to get my workout done appropriately.
I have been feeling REALLY good. Apart from my allergies (that are kicking my ASS), I feel really good. And, it is a good feeling to have going into one of my “A” races of the season. I am racing Eagleman 70.3 in less than 2 weeks.
Friday was insane. I did a early AM swim, then got the kids ready for school, did some work, Jerome and I went to the kid’s Year-End awards ceremony and got home at 10:30am. I had to be back at the school at 2:30 sharp for the “Bell ringing” that concludes the last day of school for the year. I did not want to miss any of it. But, I also had a 3 hour ride to do. Temps were cool at 60F, but it was lovely outside. However, I can ride and kick butt at 60F, so I decided to do my 3 hours on my Computrainer and suffer. NO TV, NO FAN, sweating and working hard on my salt and nutrition for Eagleman. I have done this race 1000 times and ONLY 1x has it been below 90F degrees. In 3 hours, I went through over 5 bottles of fluids. I needed to train in that heat to prep appropriately. Specificity.
Here I am with SOME SUN above me and heat (ha):
I got off my bike with 20 minutes to eat, shower, put make up on and get to the school and then off to Dairy Queen with all the kids for the last day of school tradition.
I laid in bed on Friday night and my legs ached. I almost had to take NASIDs because they were so, so painful. Instead, I foam rolled, used the STICK and tried hard to get them rested before I was going to “participate” in the Fox Trot 10 miler this next morning. And, I ate A TON of Carbs.
Woke up on Saturday AM and despite really (REALLY) wanting heat and things to get hot here in Chicago (to no avail), I was secretly SO happy because it was 46F degrees outside and overcast. BAM! PERFECT running temperatures. I have never done this race in nice weather, so this would be a treat. AND, frankly, I have never done this race on absolutely trashed legs.
I have always wanted to have the balls to race tired. It is just not something I like to do. I think there is a time and a place for racing in a training program. But, we decided I would do the 10 miler but warm up for 3 miles, steady for 4 miles and then race the last 3 miles. And, I can follow directions well. So, first 3 miles I went out and was keeping it under control at my target pace of 7:10-5. But, I also needed to warm up better coming off the training and trashed legs. But, to my surprise, those miles felt good. I was chomping at the bit. There were a ton of girls ahead of me and I thought….GRRRRRRRR, I do NOT like to “participate.” Patience, Jenny. My goal was to not leave Eagleman on the Fox Trot 10 mile course.
After I get past mile 3 and still in some hills, I decide to get down to what I think is comfortably hard – but not out of control. I drop down to 6:50s and feel that that is comfortable without shredding myself. I start to pick off the girls ahead of me and now I am having some fun. I head out on this out and back part of the course that is flat (near my house too!) and I see Stacie, Heidi, Scott, Rich, Jen….seeing everyone and actually LOOKING at them and waving at them was the NEW JENNY participating not racing. I was trying!
I got to mile 7 FINALLY and said, OK now I can go. Mile 8 has a big hill, but otherwise, I ran the last 3 miles sub 6:30 and, for once, I was not trying to hammer to hold pace or not get slower. What a concept! It is so hard to negative split a hilly run race. It requires such discipline. But, the reward is massive. I finished the 10 mile race in 3rd OA (caught everyone but 2 gals) and my last mile was 6:28 — and I felt good. In fact, so good, I could have kept running at that effort/pace for the 1/2 Marathon. Just exactly what I needed before Eagleman. And, a course PR for me.
I just could not believe how good I felt at the race after destroying myself the day before?!!! Shows that when you are in good shape, things are just well, easier.
And, the MIND will always win. I willed myself to run that well on trashed legs. (I paid for this Friday/Saturday combo on Sunday!).
It also made me think about something I have been chewing on all weekend –> One thing that is so hard for me to teach athletes is that BRIDGE from training to racing and HOW to race versus train. Many athletes nail training workout after training workout. But, then on race day things do not work. They don’t race up to their potential. They do not go any faster than they do in training. They just can’t bridge that GAP. It is almost like the blog I wrote earlier this year about the “SWITCH” —> Same thing…they just cannot switch from training to racing. It is something, as a Coach, I work tirelessly on with athletes. Some really can do this and do it flawlessly; others cannot grasp it.
But, this Fox Trot 10 miler was my training. It was my chance to be mentally tough. To practice SOLO (I ran solo) without music, without groups, without “winning” in my basement by myself…or obsessing about my paces. I was practicing how it feels to race, grab fluids while running fast, taking in gels when going hard and how to be strategic out there, just like I will have to be at the 1/2 Ironman coming up. The reason I can race on tired legs is because my body is used to it — and now I was training my HEAD. The head is always way more stubborn than the body. Doing it in training makes it “easier” to do on Race Day.
A successful weekend for sure! Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!
This weekend I headed over to Galena, IL (on the border of Iowa) to race the Galena Triathlon for the …I am trying to recall…I don’t know, 10th time? I love this race. We jokingly call it the Chicago World Championships because the competition is actually pretty deep and everyone is chomping at the bit to get racing after our long and arduous winter.
I felt relaxed, fit and ready to race. I am in a good place right now with my fitness because I am healthy, happy and doing Eagleman in less than 3 weeks, so this was a tune up and I was anxious to see how my fitness was coming along. As I prep for my 1/2 IM, there are always some key workouts that I can do or “feelings” that I have in my workouts when things are on target.
Galena is hilly. Not only hilly, but for us flatlanders, massively hilly. It is short with a 800meter swim, 17.7 mile bike and 4.5 mile run. Historically, I have complained (and not quietly) about the wave starts – there is NO Elite wave here and last year I was in the last wave. THIS year, I won the jackpot and was in the 2nd to last wave in the combined 35-44 year olds. Honestly, I was so happy to hear this. I had the opportunity to race head to head with Jenny Garrison and Elizabeth – THANK goodness. I had athletes to chase and I was very happy about that.
Elizabeth was talking smack all week. Typical Elizabeth style. I knew she was going to figure out a way to draft off me that ENTIRE swim, that witch. AND, let it be noted, she did a helluva job accomplishing that task! (smart girl).
Stacie, Karen, Elizabeth and I headed to Galena on Friday afternoon and stayed at my sorority sister’s house we always stay at. We love it – it is near the race finish and in the middle of nowhere quiet! Our trip was uneventful – which is the way we like it.
I changed up my race warm up for this race. I wanted to experiment with warm ups and decided to swim the swim course nice and easy for my warm up. The water was AWESOME. 65F degrees. I like really COLD water, so this was not that bad at all, but perfect to race in.
My wave was at 9:36am. We lined up and I grabbed Elizabeth and told her to get up front and start right next to me –> I knew she was going to draft off me, and that is OK but she is a good starter in OW, so I was trying to pull these girls into the start corral with me.
Gun went off and I got a great start. In fact, almost a false start, but after all my swim meets, I am used to going to so hard, so I did just that and I soon found myself leading the AG. THE WHOLE time I am thinking, “Where is Jenny G that slacker!” I could feel finger tips once in awhile and I knew Elizabeth was on my heels. I was actually just cruising along – after swimming the 1650 at State and Nationals, this felt like a breeze! I was working but totally solid and just felt amazing – fast, long and smooth – just what we want! (The swim warm up was perfect). I exited the water 1st and then little Elizabeth next to me — I said, “Nice swim!” and she just grunted at me. (She is crabby, eh?).
Out of T 1 is Jenny, Elizabeth and then me. The hill out of T1 is aggressive and then the climbs start. I have ONE job this entire ride. Do not lose sight of Elizabeth. She stood, I stood. She hammered, I hammered. I was about 15-20″ behind her the entire ride. She pulled a little ahead of me on the last 1 -2 mile climb and she was leaving her bike as I rolled into T2.
I worked so hard on my bike. AND this year the course was a little more open to descend safer -THANK goodness. I just worked on the left side of the road and just put my head down and suffered. I was on top of the pedals and was just feeling AWESOME again. I felt so good. AND I was having fun! I did not want the bike to end…because the run is way harder than the bike.
My transitions sucked, but they were still in the top 2-4 overall in the race (women), but I need to do some more work on them! I was out of T2 and onto the run. The first 1 1/2 miles were just up up up. I mean, grit your teeth and run hills. It was hot (80s) and I was so glad I had my little hand held drink thing…I needed the electrolytes! I could see Elizabeth putting room on me and I was just working and working and working – we all were!
Up and down and up and down. I felt really good though. I felt hot but otherwise, really good. I finished the race and ended up 1st AG by 9 minutes – I never saw anyone from my AG or Masters out there, so I was again so thankful I was in the 35-44 AG to keep me honest!
I just had so much fun! It was great to see all my friends and athletes there. I know many had a tough race with the hills and heat/humidity, but now everything else will feel easy this season. Everyone did so great and I was just loving racing my friends and some of the younger girls that keep things honest and fresh.
The race day would not be complete without a stop at Dairy Queen for a HUGE blizzard —> Chocolate ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate covered pretzels + PB cups. Elizabeth, Stacie, Karen and I were in HEAVEN.
Next up: Eagleman 70.3, my all time favorite race. Excited!
One of my big goals for 2013 was to race and compete at USMS Nationals in the 1650 in Indianapolis. I was excited Nationals was in the Midwest and within driving distance.
It was refreshing to compete in a National event that was not Triathlon. Traveling with a backpack and goggles? Count me in!
The Masters team that I swim with had nearly 15 athletes competing this year and it was fun to be in Indy with a group of dedicated and passionate swimmers!
The girls in my Lane at Masters are super. We refer to ourselves as LANE 8 is GREAT (hey, whatever works). These girls can SWIM and I am along for the ride. They make the 7:30-9;00 PM workouts that much easier for me (I am a passionate 6am swimmer)!
The 1650 at the infamous IUPUI pool in Indianapolis was on Thursday – MID DAY! So, Krista and I drove down together on Wednesday night so we could check in and warm up properly on Thursday morning. It was nice to travel with Krista. She is my age and has 3 little girls. And, I think I met someone that talks MORE than me? IMPOSSIBLE I thought. I was wrong!
Krista and I (thankfully) were in the same heat of the 1650. Seeded by time and mixed genders. Except the 400 IM and 1000 Free, every other event at Nationals is HEAD to head age group racing – AWESOME really.
I was nervous for the 1650. Like, REALLY nervous. I knew I had just swam an “OK” time for myself at the State Championships 2 weeks ago. But, because of the swim taper, some workouts and ANOTHER swim rest cycle, I felt flat. I knew I could swim about the same time I did at State (20:3x). But, I really REALLY wanted to faster. (I mean, of course, right?). Krista and I were ranked 1-2 for Nationals and it was our race to lose. I knew my work was cut out for me with Krista. Frankly, she is faster than me now…and beat me at State as well. But, anything can happen, right?
Finally our 1650 was up on the blocks…I was so nervous my back start leg was shaking. Once I dove in – I felt pretty good. Went out in 6:04 for the 500 Free and just felt strong but not like I was swimming downhill. Damn! The water felt a little thick to me (just an expression meaning, I felt slow!). I was working way harder than I should have been for the pace I was going. AND every card (in the 1650 we have counters b/c it is 65 laps!!!) I was like, “that is it!” HA HA. I did not feel good. DAMN DAMN. So, at that point I just had to gut it out. Head down, rip my lats apart, pull hard, kick and turn well. I could see Krista really pull ahead of me and I was trying so hard, but I was maxed out. That was all I had.
I touched the wall and looked up at the board. Fearful that my time was going to REALLY SUCK. And, it was slower than I wanted and far off my PR (20 seconds) but it was only a few seconds off my State time and for feeling so awful, I will take it. After everyone was done swimming (ALL DAY) the final results had Krista 1st and me 2nd! I was so happy for Krista because she has improved a TON in the last couple of years and she has worked so hard. And for teammates to go 1-2 was a special treat for sure.
I was not disappointed at all. I did my best. I got 2nd at Nationals and Krista is just faster. Plain and simple really. Here we are with our medals:
The next day I swam the 400 IM and 200 Free and then headed back home. I could not stay and swim all the events I wanted to because I wanted to get home on Friday night because of the kid’s soccer games, my Mom’s Birthday and Mother’s Day Brunch with my mom. I just needed to be home. AND I had big workouts to do this weekend. In fact, I got home on Friday night from Indy and turned around and was on my bike by 6am Saturday morning for a 70 mile ride + 4 mile T run…
My 400 IM and 200 Free went fine. I PRd both of them, which made me happy. The heats of the 200 Free were the 40-44 AG together and it was fast. The gal that won went 1:56! AND swimming head to head with these girls kept things super honest! I was working so hard in that 200 Free to minimize that gap, I was tasting blood.
I left Indy completely exhausted and never wanting to see the pool again! It was a great experience to witness some AMAZING swimming. One guy went 22 seconds in the 50 back. I mean, just crazy fast swimmers. It was awesome.
A few years ago I could not really string together a proper fly or breaststroke to compete. I could always swim Free and did meets but ONLY Free. I got over myself a few years ago and needed a new challenge. I was bored in the pool. So, I said I would do the 400 IM in a meet…I worked really hard at it. My lanemates helped me a ton (REAL IMers) and there I was competing at the Nationals at the 400 IM (I got 11th at Nationals). I GOT over my fear and did it. And, that in itself, is a huge accomplishment.
AND then, next year, I promised I would do the 100 fly and 200 Fly…and I will.
Thanks to Cheryl Stine for coming up from Bloomington to count the 1650 for me. Cheryl is a phenomenal swimmer and I was certain she would be freaked out at my swimming (turns, walls, etc) but she was a good sport and a GOOD counter, so thank you, Cheryl! Good to see you!
And, that ends the Masters season for me. Now onto Open water and Triathlon season – FINALLY!