Friday, March 16, 2018

Never Let Your Dreams Go to Die

Just this past week I took a moment to look back through this blog and look at the goals I had listed out more than seven years ago.  Three longer term goals were set, some of which were a shot in the dark, and three longer term goals achieved.  Each one a stepping stone and a part of my journey.  Each year my coach has me do my own goal setting specific to that season - including process goals, targets, and some outcome oriented goals.

Training Weekends with Friends <3 td="">
There have been times each season I've thought that I should just throw in the towel.  Things weren't going well, the goals wouldn't be achieved, and it'd be easier to just walk away.  Instead of walking away, I've adjusted expectations, focused on the process and bringing the joy back to why I do what I
do.  Sometimes it's taking away the watch, not looking at power or not even glancing at the pace clock.  Other times it's signing up for races with friends, planning a training weekend with my best girls, or planning a weekend that has nothing at all to do with triathlon.

Honestly, when I set the goal of qualifying for and racing in Kona (the Big Island) I'm not sure I believed it was truly possible.   I knew I wanted it and that I would work for it but I also knew it was an outcome goal that wasn't fully under my control.  It took a bit of luck, 6 full Ironman races (3 in which I knew the tools were there and I just had to execute) and a support community that runs deeper than the Chattahoochee.  I look back at my finish line pictures when I qualified and can feel the emotion that is written all over my face.  The day was everything I had asked for and more - and I had stopped asking for an outcome goal for that race, all I wanted was the opportunity to execute the best race I was capable of.  Ironman Mt. Tremblant just 5 weeks earlier had been a bust, I had also solely been focused on an outcome goal for that race.   That experience built character and helped me to realize what was important to me - the process and utilizing what I worked so hard to build over the entire year.

Post IM Lou
The first long term goal I wrote in 2011 was to become an Ironman before the age of 26.  Bless my naive heart and determination that got me to that starting line and through the finish line at Ironman Louisville in 2012.  It's amazing how much I've learned and grown as not only an athlete but also as person through this sport since then.  I was optimistic going into that race, clueless but optimistic that I could finish top 10 in my AG.  I had to settle for top 20 and a soul crushing death march of a marathon.  What I don't share often is that I wasn't sure I'd ever toe the line of an Ironman again after that experience.  I sure as heck wasn't going to put myself through training like I did to feel let down at the finish line again.  I had written my own training plan, followed it to a T, and added extra since I was between graduation and starting my career.  Simply, I was overtrained when I got to the start line, I didn't know it back then, but looking back it's very obvious.  For the remainder of 2012 and 2013 I only wanted to focus on getting faster at Olympic and Half Distance racing.  For most of the year after IM LOU I wanted nothing to do with the full distance.   So what changed?

I went to IMLP in 2013 to spectate and sherpa for Adam and a ton of other DC Tri Club members.  I also went up earlier in the summer to do a training weekend with a few friends from DC Tri and fell in love with the Adirondacks.  Mirror Lake is clear and crisp, the bike course was fun and scenic, and the entire town came out to support Ironman.  While sitting at the awards ceremony with Adam and knowing on-site registration was opening in just a few minutes I had stated I would register for 2014 only if it fell on my dad's angel-versary.  We pulled up the website and sure enough, there it was, July 27th, 2014.  I grabbed my wallet and walked over to registration, and never looked back.  I committed to doing things "right" if I was going to do this again and hired my coach, crossed my t's and dotted my i's throughout the whole dang training plan and loved every second of training and racing (ok if you've read every post on here you know I didn't love every second in the moment).  I finished 6th in my age group at IMLP, 3 slots away from a KQ, and an uncomfortable but tangible dream was born.

IM TX 2015
If I've learned one thing in this sport it is that progress is not linear.  There will be training blocks where everything clicks and all goes well - the paces drop, the watts go up and our body feels good.  And there will be training blocks where nothing comes together - we get sick, our HR seems out of control, life is happening all around us and the body carries too much stress to make the physical adaptation.  It's the consistency of putting in the work day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year that we start to see the major differences physically, mentally, emotionally.  The journey from Placid to Kona wasn't smooth - up, down, sideways.  You can read the race reports on the blog but IMTX - huge lessons learned, IMCHOO - amazing day, amazing finish, no KQ, IMMT - more lessons learned, BUST, IMMD - dream come true.  And then there is Kona (race report coming soon) the place Ironman athletes dream about, the place that breaks even the toughest of competitors, the place that can steal your drive or light a fire under your ass.

Kona Start List 2017
Walking away from Kona on October 14th, I didn't know what would be next for me.  I knew the immediate future was complete vacation mode for one week on the island with my #1.   Triathlon wise - I wasn't sure and I was ok with that.  I needed time to process - th
e race, the training, the entire journey and where this journey was headed.  I wrote out some goals early in 2017 - some achieved,
some not yet, some huge goals that I may never achieve but I'm all in and fully committed to doing everything I can to see if I can get there.  Not every goal is triathlon related - some are just general life goals - but if there's any other lesson I've learned in this sport it is that the perseverance, grit, strength, determination, friendships, and support that I've gained from this sport is exactly the same stuff I need to be successful in every other part of my life.

So I'm holding on to the big goals, the scary goals, I'm embracing them and going full throttle ahead into this 2018 season.  A little dirty double 140.6 action to highlight the season and some local racing to kick things off has me excited to race and train, to beat yesterday, to find faster, to find joy in all of it and to have no limits.  One of my goals is to just blog more - and be real, open, humble about this life and this journey.  As for the other goals, I'll write about those soon and update the tab that says "GOALS".  It's not always easy, but it's worth it.

Don't give up on your dreams because of the time it will take to get there, the time will pass anyways.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Maine 70.3 Race Report

By the time August rolled around I was feeling much more fit and excited to get another shot at 70.3 before Kona.  And honestly, I needed it.  With my 2 less than stellar runs at the early season 70.3's I wanted to put together the race that I knew I was capable of.  Beyond that, there was a super fun group heading up to race, how could I not be excited?

Hand written Rev3 love at this 70.3!
We opted to drive up on Thursday and crash at a hotel just south of Old Orchard Beach.  Great decision as we had plenty of time Friday to check in for the race, find our house, and do a some shake out swim/bike/run action.  The weather was absolutely ideal, which was a welcomed change from out 90s and super humid in DC.  Once everyone was back from jogging and what not a few of us headed down to the ocean for a quick swim.  Oh my, that water was freezing.  Somewhere between 57-58 degrees is what I heard.  Tom, Heather, and I swam out just past the first turn buoy.  It wasn't too bad, more rough than a lake swim, and the salt took some getting used to but all in all not bad.  Tom and Heather decided to cut straight back toward the beach from our turn around point and I decided to follow the L shaped course markers.  About 30 seconds after them going their way and me mine, I slightly freaked out about what I was going to do all alone out there if I saw a shark.  I wasn't that far from shore and it's not like they wouldn't have been able to do much if we were all together but for some reason this became 'a thing' and I couldn't wait to get my ass back to the beach.

Maine also happens to be the home state of super-sherpa, Pete.  Saturday was a perfect pre-race distraction day of big breakfast with the crew, a quick bike check over and drop off and then heading out to Freeport for a few hours.  It happened to be LL Bean's Dog Days of August and there were a ton of dogs and dog events all over the place.  We watched some dock diving and police dog demos between checking out all the LL Bean stuff you could ever want with Pete's sis and BIL.

Back in OOB we had grillin' and smore eating to do for our pre-race dinner.  Super sherpa Pete took on the roll of grill master while just a few of the athletes sat in the hot tub prior to cooking up some pasta, sweet potatoes and whatever other yumminess we all needed.  We had a wonderful dinner and relaxing evening rolling, stretching, and enjoying each other's company as well as our hand written notes in our bags (still waiting for Lisa's Pizza but whatever).


Up at the normal race day time of 4:30 to eat and get my stuff together to walk over to transition.  Let me tell you the porta potty lines at transition were ridiculously long!  I went to pump my tires and had a slight issue getting air to go into the disc.  Tom was helping me and we couldn't get it, at all.  Thankfully Pete was waiting for my at the exit of transition and I was able to take the bike over to him in order to help me out, the darn crack pipe was just being feisty.  I was freaking out that we would need to replace the tube and race day morning but thankfully all was fine and we got it pumped up.

Once Tom, Heather and I took care of setting up transition and waiting in the porta potty line we gathered and walked over to swim start together.  Once we were at the beach we stuffed ourselves into our wetsuits and merged into the growing line.  It was a nice crisp Maine morning and the ocean water actually felt nice compared to the air.  I was feeling good about this swim and looking forward to the day.  We started 2x2 on the beach, so Tom and I entered the water together and I just took off running as far and as long as I could run until I was forced to swim.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 39:15
The swim felt good - a bit choppy at times but pretty much what I expected an ocean swim to feel like.  I chose to wear my sleeveless wetsuit so that my shoulders wouldn't have any extra restrictions to overcome.  After the first few minutes of feeling like my arms were going to fall off my body got used to the water temp and all was fine.  I was on and off feet most of this swim and feeling good with my effort.  I wasn't thrilled with the time, but it was my first ocean swim and there was still a lot of racing to be done to just rolled with it and ran my way into T1.

T1 - 4:31
This transition involves maybe slighty longer than 1/4 mile run from the water to the racks.  The run was lined with spectators and the energy of the day had me feeling optimistic.

THE BIKE - 56 Miles - 2:32:39
I got on my bike with the main goal to be smart and set myself up for a good run.  I knew Heather and Tom would likely be ahead of me on the bike and that I might catch them depending on everyone's day.  The course had 8-9 miles of pristine new pavement which was super fun.  I stuck to my nutrition/hydration plan and executed my HR/power plan as best I could for the day.  Power was 5-10 watts lower than I'd expected but no big loss there.  About 15 miles into the course a man started leap frogging with me.  He'd sit behind me (don't draft guys just don't do it) then come out and pull ahead, usually just to sit up a few minutes later and take break.  Once I'd pass again this scenario would repeat itself.  I knew if I dropped the hammer for 10 minutes or so I'd be rid of him but I also know that move would cost my some precious gas for the run.  I just kept racing my race and let him do whatever it was that he was doing.  He did actually find me on Strava (stalker) in the days after the race and apologized, saying he wasn't trying to mess up my race and it was his first non-drafting race.  I managed to stay even most of the course and increased my output just a touch near the end.  I was feeling good coming in from the bike and excited to see what I could do on this great weather day on the run.

T2 - 1:26
A very quick in and out to rack the bike, grab the race belt, and step into the run shoes!

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:44:44
At this point I had not yet seen Tom or Heather, I was slightly worried, but just figured they were having great races!  As I came around the exit of transition I looked up and there was Tom running step for step with me.  Ten seconds later Heather was running with us - barefoot- I was confused.  As Tom and I settled in to a manageable effort Heather relayed her unfortunate series of events that caused her to DNF on the bike course.  Tom and I ran together for the first few miles until he slowly pulled away.   Overall this was the best I felt on a run course all year.  Pete was at the end of the trail just before the last couple miles to tell me I was in 9th.  Ok 9th overall, I thought, not bad.  The last couple miles of this run course is slightly rolling and with a fun flat into the finish line.

Our house was close enough to the finish line that I was able to have some post race water and snacks and then walk back to get cleaned up before cheering in some more friends and collecting our things from transition.  And of course hitting the post race lobster bake before awards.  Upon checking the official results I ended up coming in 13th OA, 9th AG. Talk about a stacked AG.  I would have been top 2 in any other AG on the day.  Overall it was a great race and tune-up for me and I was focused on process goals for this race, and I nailed what I needed to nail going into my last big build for Kona.  Once everyone had crossed the finish line and regained their wits we all hit the post race Lobster Bake (so Maine).  I tend to shy away from shell fish and the like but seeing everyone dig in and enjoy I mustered up the courage to try some lobster meat.  It wasn't bad, mostly tasted like butter.  We had one more night in the house with the crew before seeing some more of Maine and visiting Pete's family.  Old Orchard Beach, though slightly tacky, was a great host town and I think our entire group loved everything about the race.  I'd highly recommend it and would be willing to go back.  There's not much better than a Maine Summer (just a Michigan summer :P)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Adventures in Cross...

After Kona I wanted to continue to use all my hard earned fitness.  I signed up for the now annual tradition of the Annapolis 1/2 Marathon and had thoughts of running a full marathon 2 weeks after.  Other small detail, I bought a used Cyclocross bike about a month before Kona.  I went over to Erin's backyard a couple times and practiced riding around in the grass, jumping over things and jumping on and off my bike.  Ready, set, CX!

Silly me, I thought I would pick a few races and test this sport out to see if I liked it.  **News Flash** you can race a couple times every weekend!  I went all in and signed up for 2 races the first weekend after I returned from Kona (2 weeks post IMWC).  When you're used to training for 40 weeks for just one race it's kind of like being a kid in a candy store when you can race 2 times in just one weekend.  I'll admit I wasn't coming into cyclocross completely clueless - I'd been working my ass off on my bike for the past 6 years and went into Kona holding the highest power #s I ever had - so let's just say the fitness base was strong.  Erin saw the posting the my CX bike and Pete made the connection to actually get it which certainly helped all this fall into place.  Erin had been filling me in on tips and tricks each weekend she would race and even coached me through the basics in her backyard (don't ever ask me to dismount while holding the top tube).

Off I went, rolling up to the start line.  It had been a long time since I'd put myself on a line as a total newbie, feeling clueless, excited and terrified all at the same time.  I was literally shaking.  The whistle blew and starting off fast was lost on me.  When I get on the bike at Ironman no one cares how strong that first pedal stroke is and if I can get out to the front off the line (heck there is no line haha).  I can't wait to go back to that course because at the time I found it terrifying.  Steep descents and off camber turns that had me squeezing the brakes and just hoping to stay upright.  Thankfully I did and in the end I had a blast.

The learning curve in this sport for me was steep but I put myself back on the line the next day (on a slightly less terrifying course) and actually felt like I was racing.  I was able to slightly improve my start off the line, carry some speed through some turns and actually race enough to land on the podium.  One of the most fun things throughout the (short) season was my own skills and confidence developing.  With more than enough fitness to race for for 30-40 minutes the great potential improvements for me were in skills and learning to read and pick better lines.  Once I had 5 races under my belt I was able to upgrade to and race in 2 separate fields, if I so desired.  I had so much fun the few times I got to race twice on a course.  I rode faster and more confident in the 2nd race of the day each time.

One of the best parts of this whole adventure into cyclocross was getting to race with friends.  Erin and I haven't raced together since some weird swimming thing way back in the day and though we ride and train together all the time we go our separate ways to race.  Off she goes to kill it at road races and I go on my merry way to triathlon.  We had just a couple races where we got to actually race together and many more to come next year!  The last couple weekends of the CX season we got some more triathletes to test out dirt and wider tires.  Turns out they loved it and hence started #tricross.  We even got SuperSherpa, Pete, to get out a race a couple times!  Don't let him fool you, he's pretty talented on 2 wheels.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the new faces and wonderful ladies I met who were at almost every single race with a smile and words of encouragement.  It was a total breath of fresh air after a very long triathlon season.

Below is a short race report on each CX race that I did this year as there's no way I'd ever get around to writing individual entries for each.

Staging at Biketoberfest

Biketoberfest CX W4/5 (8/18) - This was my first CX race so I will fully admit it probably wasn't as terrible as I remember.  Technical off cambers, steep descents, and a small wooded section.  All I remember from this race is being terrified and pulling the brakes on all the descents and being disappointed that I didn't come to any barriers other than a big log in the woods.  I was literally shaking standing at the start line.  Once the whistle blew the nerves subsided and I just focused on staying upright.  It was a beautiful day and we had a ton of fun hanging out and watching the other races.

Tacchino CX W4/5 (4/12) - This was a fun course with some technical turns and a wooded section.  I was more confident at this race and super excited to actually get to hop barriers.  Had nightmares for days of 'PEDAL JENNY' as she wasn't far behind me and I was getting overly frustrated trying to clip in to my mud laden pedals.  Learned that a lot of bike races for 5 deep on the podium and had a ton of fun at this race.

W4/5 Podium at the Ed Sanders Mud Fest
Ed Sanders W4/5(2/19) - This was fun - albeit a SERIOUS mud pit.  There was nothing too  crazy about this course except it turned to complete mud and we were running tons of it!  Lots of tracks around little lily ponds and what I can only assume are fun off cambers when you aren't running them.  I just focused on moving forward as quickly as possibly (on foot or bike).  I was super surprised to hear I was in 2nd as I was midway through my 2nd lap.  Had an awesome remount fail and I basically flew over the bike, but the mud was soft and I entertained a spectator or two! 

Germantown W4/5 (1/20) - Really really great race for us triathletes - lots of areas to just go fast.  The small up/down section was fun and the woods were great.  I wasn't a huge fan of the log coming out of the woods.  Started learning how to ride those after this race but just ran that section every time.  Took the lead within the first couple minutes and just kept after it.  Rory, Kara and Pete were all there to cheer and we headed out for cider and donuts after.  Best day ever.
W4/5 Podium at Germantown

Rockburn CX W4/5 (1/11)  - This may have been one of the most fun courses of my mini CX season.  A little bit of everything, including a sandpit (the only one I encountered this year), a fun up/down W thing, a couple wooded sections and some screaming descents.  Not too mention meeting some super awesome youngins' from BYC that I'd see at a few other races.

Winchester Applecross W4/5 (1/4) W3/4 (3/10) - HOLY TECHNICAL.  Fun course and event with apple cider, apple butter, fireplace etc.  I just don't even know where to begin other than thank god this wasn't super wet/muddy.  Lots of steap little hills that were run ups, 2 Belgian walls and this weird off camber thing between 2 run ups that turned out to just be faster to run unless you could mount your bike from the right side.   It's one of the further away races from DC so the 8am races didn't draw a huge crowd.  First time racing in the 3/4s and learning some lessons in pedaling despite not being clipped in.

Coming over the barriers in Taneytown

Taneytown (MABRA CX Champs) W4/5 (1/8) W3/4 (2/9) - Another fun course with some fun up/down thing, long grass/gravel sections to really push, and a bit of technical stuff around trees.  Pete, Mom, Rory and Kara all came out as well as Erin and Brian (Erin raced the 3/4).  Racing the 3/4s and just trying to stick with her seemed to work out all right!

Capital Cross W4/5 (2/41) W4 (1/20) - They did a huge push to bring beginners out to this race, which worked!   Tons of Cat 5 men and women came out which was awesome.  Unfortunately, with the size of the men's field starting in front of us it made things a bit more difficult.  Decided to not burn too many matches and not even worry about chasing down 1st since I had another race later in the day.  Way more open space and room to race in the W4 race, which was nice.  A fun course with the chutes, stairs and climbs through the woods.   Super happy to get Pete, Katie, Beckie and Shannon out before the end of CX season at this one!

Bike Doctor CX
Bike Doctor CX @ Red Shedman  W3/4 (2/8) - I warmed up at 7:45am and the course was fun and fast.  Then snow started to fall around 9am.  By the time noon came around for my race it was slick and I knew it would be a race of who could manage it better.  Well managing mud, snow and slick conditions don't seem to be my strong point.  I took a turn too hard warming up
and hit the ground pretty hard.  I know this made me a bit skidish going into the race.  Enough open space and climbing in this race to let me use my fitness to chase down some others.  Cool location at a brewery and probably really fun it it isn't freezing and snowing all day!

Bikenetic CX W3/4 (5/17) - Super fun course and last race of the local season.  This year it turned to a snowy muddy mess yet somehow still managed to be fun.  As I stated above managing mud and slick conditions are not my strong point.  Started out well but fell back in the field as we hit some of the muddier areas of the course. I Was surprised to see that I held on for a podium spot.

Welcome to Prime Time ;)