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)