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Thursday, February 11, 2016

More or less an update

Thanks, Dave. See? Your name isn't always preceded by the F word.

There have been a lot of things running through my mind. Given the circumstances, that's pretty normal. 

I had my first race of the year; recovery time after that. 

I was starting the ramp up to my Spring race. Then, I was notified that the Spring race was canceled. Hmmm, what to do. Mr. Tea and I considered a number of replacement races.

Me, in my brilliance, came up with an incredible idea. Forget racing. Let's go on vacation instead. 

Instead of racing, instead of finding a replacement, we're going on vacation. 

I think I deserve a, "well played, Tea", for that one.

This blog is a safe zone. You can make whatever comments you want. I value all comments and opinions. When people agree with me constantly, I tend to become suspicious. Likewise, this is a space for me to share my ups and downs, thoughts (whether right or wrong) and processes for becoming a better athlete.

Those of you who know me outside of the blog, know that I have no ego. You can tell by the pictures I post & the things I say. I'll make fun of myself but won't make fun of others; unless, your name is Jeremy. 

I wanted to mention that before I share this story. I was genuinely touched & quite honestly a little surprised by a conversation I recently had.

I met with someone who I only recently met (about 9 months to a year ago). She said, "do you realize what an inspiration you are? Do you realize how many people you are inspiring?"

My skin crawls whenever I hear or read "inspiration" comments. I think the word is overused. I think people tend to say it as a way to make others feel good.

I never see myself that way because I'm just a regular chick. I'm not particularly fast, but I'm faster than I used to be. I'll work my ass off. If you are in the swim lane next me, we are most definitely racing. If you're on the treadmill next me, I surrender. You win. You could see me as "boring" because so much of my life is scheduled to make training a priority. I don't drink alcohol and haven't in forever, not for any reason other than I'm just not a fan. I go to bed early. I set up a race schedule a year ahead of time and don't waiver from it. (Other than throwing in the random 5k or 10k here and there with coach's blessing). Speaking of coaching, I do the work. If my coach or nutritionist advises something, I do it. Sometimes I ask "why", but I have grown to trust my coaches. Sometimes, I don't really care about the "why".

And, I analyze: what I can I do better, this year, than last year? What can I do today, better than yesterday?

Everything that I've done has taken time. Nothing has happened overnight. I think if you ask anyone about how to be successful in this sport, they will say, "It's the little things you do daily, over and over." (By success, I mean whatever YOUR goals are. You don't have to come in 1st).  My goals started with simply, "JUST DON'T BE LAST THIS TIME."

That was pretty ambitious back in the day.

It's doing the boring stuff. It's doing the stuff that's not sexy. It's the stuff that no one sees when you step up onto the podium for the first time; or the time you get a giant PR; or you swim your first 1.2 mile open water swim.

I considered the people that I am truly inspired by; I realized that inspiration doesn't come from finish times. Inspiration comes from attitude and the willingness to do what others are not.

I have always been a little afraid of saying things on my blog. There are days that I feel like a World Champion and days that I'm frustrated beyond belief. Sometimes, that's the reason for my absence.

I've never seen myself as an inspiration. I see myself as someone who does the work without wondering what anyone else thinks.

You should know this, people who are inspired....truly inspired by you....are probably watching you quietly. They won't tell you, but you'll see it in their actions.

Keep posting your workouts. Keep posting your wins and frustrations. Keep being the awesome YOU that you are.

You never know who is watching. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Results speak for themselves

I have written many coaching recommendations over the years. I have written about my own personal successes. This is why.

Join the MSM Facebook page here to get updates on all her athletes to see what an incredible team she has built.

(Not mentioned: She also had several Boston Qualifiers, and 5, I think, athletes qualify for ITU Worlds).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The race don't lie.

And just like that, I was running my first half marathon in over two years.

It's now been 48 hours since I raced. I really want to talk about what I got out of this race.

First, a few memorable moments:

My plan called for 3 miles easy at a 10:00-9:50 pace. We all know how the first 3 miles of a half marathon feel.

Needless to say, I may have over-run it.

The next 3 miles, I was to have my pacing down for the rest of the race. That pace was supposed to be 9:46. I nailed it.

That pacing gave me a 10K PR. Of course, you all didn't know that at the time you got the text message. But, I knew that when Mr. Tea got the message. I knew that he knew.

When I left the hotel room, the last thing I said to Mr. Tea was, "In Vegas, I passed the 10 mile marker at 1:42. If I pass 10 miles in anything faster than that, you know I'm having a very good day."

I passed 10 miles at 1:40.

About miles 7 through 11 are uphill.

Halfway up the hill, an extremely fit woman about 15 years older than me passed.

Do you not realize we are at mile 10 of a half marathon?

At mile 11, I realized why I stick with shorter races.

At mile 12, I heard Dave W asking me, "How's that pain taste, Tea?"

Then, I ran under the overpass and over the next. I saw Mr. Tea yelling for me.

I knew I had my PR.

The PR was awesome. It was the biggest PR I've ever had at the half marathon. I had a 10K PR within the half marathon.

I can look at this race and say, "I did this well" and "I did this not so well". One of the things I did better this time was the last 5k. In the past, the last 5k did me in. I would walk. I would stop. This time I ran. I know there is a giant gap between "not giving up" and "excelling", but I have to take my wins where I can. My pace didn't drop off as much as it did in Vegas on a much harder course. That's progress.

The reality hit me around mile 11. I had brought my ipod and never turned it on. I was running and really hurting. I was in a group of about 15 people. It was quiet as we went under the bridge. It's that lonely section before you can see or hear crowds. I could hear the echoing of our feet scraping along the ground.

That's when I heard the voice in my head.






Every person around me was hurting.
I always thought I was different. I am feeling more pain than they are. I'm not a runner. This is harder for me than it is them. That's how I could justify my lack of pushing through. But I'm not special. Those people were just pushing through, and I was never willing to go there. 

The fact is that I am where I am. I want to believe I'm that sub 2 hour runner. I've had people tell me that I will run sub 2, but I'm not that runner. I might be in the future. I might not be. I have to accept where I am. I am a 2:14 half marathoner. I need to let go of what other people's expectations of me are and be who I am, now. Today.

It doesn't mean I will quit trying to be a sub 2 hour half marathoner.

I ran this race because I wanted to get an idea of what I should aim for at my 70.3. On Sunday, I ran a 2:14. I know this is crazy. I know this is aggressive. I know this is completely unrealistic......but I'm going to aim for a 2:14 off the bike at my HIM. That alone will give me a huge PR at my 70.3. That doesn't even include swimming and biking improvements. Because although I can be better at the standalone half marathon....I can make even more improvements in my running off the bike. I have an even bigger gap there.

If anything, this race was an awakening for me.

I'm a really strong swimmer. I'm really strong on the bike. My goal has always been to improve on the bike and swim where I can and close the gap on my run. Bit by bit, I'm doing exactly that.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I know two women. They are in my age group. Two to three years ago, we were about the same speeds. We'd finish around the same time. Recently, one of those women said, "You've blown right past us. We're not even in the same league anymore." 

First, I disagree with the language. 

You know that saying: Don't compare your start to someone else's middle?

How about we stop comparing ourselves to other people? We are all in different places in our lives.

The only difference between me and those two women, is that two years ago, I made a commitment. Liz and I see eye to eye on so many things. The BIG one has been that she doesn't believe in goals. Goals don't mean shit if you aren't committed to what it takes to reach those goals. Liz asks her athletes, "What are you willing to commit to?"

If you say, I want to do Ironman. Liz will say, "This is what is required. Are you committed to that?" (She said those exact words to me when I started with her).

This is where, I believe, the disconnect comes in for many people. You want to do Ironman. You want to qualify for Kona. You want to qualify for Nationals. You want to move up to middle of the pack.  But, they aren't willing to do what it takes.

I was thinking about this conversation. I have made tremendous strides, some can be seen in race finish times; some can't. More often than not, the progress that I've made has been mental. Liz has helped me understand pain and how to deal with it. Ultimately that will show up on race day. However, it is a lengthy process.

Still, the conversation got me thinking about some of the changes I've made and other "traits" (I guess) that I have that have really helped me over the last few years.

1.) I won't be outworked. At every workout, I give what I'm supposed to give to that workout.  In strength work, I will go to failure. Rest. And go again. I'll do it again. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts so bad, I think I can't do another set or interval. I know, I will because the pain of not reaching my goals is more painful than any interval.

2.) My commitments and goals are aligned. I have no interest in being on my bike for 6, 7, 8 hours....whatever period of time is required to train for Ironman. Even if I want to do Ironman, I won't commit to that training. I don't do it. Instead, I have a laundry list of goals for shorter distances. All of which I am committed to. 

3.) I stopped being realistic. I'm not interested in mediocrity. My goals go far beyond that. When I stopped being "realistic" about what I could do, I started making the biggest strides. When you stop putting a ceiling on yourself, you see there is a lot more than you ever imagined. I've been saying that I'll go sub 6 for a few years now....even back when I wasn't committed to the goal. My best 70.3 is 6:40ish. Is sub 6 realistic this year? I don't give a fuck. It's what I'm going to do. I recently shared a story with Liz that I have never told anyone. Not one person. It was a goal that I set for myself after I finished my first 70.3 in 8:45. It wasn't a realistic goal back then. That's why I never told anyone, but I knew one day I would do it. This will be the year. When I do, you can be sure that I will blog all about it.

4.) Focus on every seemingly small detail: sleep, recovery, fuel. I don't skip workouts. I don't move workouts around. You'll never hear me say, "I wasn't feeling it". I don't cut workouts short. Training isn't a 2 or 3 hour a day thing for me. It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week venture. No thank you, I would not like a piece of cake right now. I won't be able to hit up at 9pm movie with you.

I won't complain about workouts. I will do them. This is what I signed up for. This is what I committed to.

5.) I'm all in. I learned that to be successful, you can't go into this sport half assed. If you hire a coach, then skip workouts or move them around to fit your fancy, you're not going to get the results you want. If you do the workouts but don't focus on nutrition, you aren't going to get the results you want. If you focus on nutrition but don't focus on the workouts, you're not going to get the results. The list goes on and on and on. 

6.) I'm a very patient person, but I don't hesitate to make changes when I don't see results. Results don't happen overnight, but there should be results. If not, you need to make a change. A couple of years ago, I was getting really frustrated with my swim. When I started with my (previous) masters program, I made improvements in leaps and bounds. Then, I plateaued...for a year. I kept going to practice, patiently waiting for a jump in my speed. I knew I still had room for improvement. I researched and switched masters programs. Within a few weeks, I started seeing improvements again. 

Patience is important because it takes a long long time to get good at this sport. (Long time as in years). I was ok with that. It can be tough to know when you need to make a change. It was hard switching masters. Looking back now, it was the best thing for me. I need to be pushed. I will always take the easy way out. 

None of us are perfect. Some of us just work better with our own limitations.

7.) This might be the most important one for me. I always want feedback. I don't trust people who tell me that I'm doing fine. I know when I'm doing well and when I'm not. I will lose respect for someone if they tell me I did well.....when I know damn well I didn't.

Then there are times that coaches will recognize behaviors that I'm not even aware of.  When I started with Liz, after a few races, she said to me, "You're steady state Sally. You're afraid to go fast."

NO ONE EVER SAID THAT TO ME BEFORE. When she first said it, I was mad. I didn't respond. I took a few days, and I realized that she was right.

I went back to her, and I asked, "how do I stop being steady state Sally?"

More recently, I shared this story with Liz. 
At masters this week, Coach D started the set. He says to me, "I want you to do something different than everyone else."  

Of course, I'm like "whut?"

He says, "You start too fast. You do it every time. From now on during long days, we're going to start working on your pacing. Starting like a bat out of hell is great for 100's, but your races start at 600's."

He had me do 8 x 75 (basically a broken 600 in swim speak) as sort of a test. He timed each of my 75's.  At the end, I learned that I failed miserably. 

He even said, "Do you even look at the pace clock?"


Then he had me do a straight through 600. I did better. After the 600, he said, "Still too fast.  You need to start slower. It's going to feel stupid easy. Over time, Your first half will go from being :03-:05 slower to :02-:03. Our goal will be to get you to an almost even first half to second half. "

Then I swam a 500. I did it perfectly. I was surprised at how hard it felt in the second half compared to my actual pace.  He said, "That's something we're also going to work on. We're going to work on matching your effort with different paces. It WILL feel harder at the end, even though your pace is staying the same. The goal will be to learn that THAT'S ok and to match up the effort with early pacing and effort with late race pacing."

Feedback on something that I would NEVER have picked up on if it weren't for a coach that really cared about helping me improve. 

I changed my mind. This next one is the most important one for me. 

8.) If you haven't figured it out, I surround myself with the right people. 

I won't name everyone by name because I will leave out someone inadvertently. I have Coach Liz as my tri coach. I have my swim Coaches Andrew and Dotson and to a lesser degree but still important Elliott. I have my lanemates who are much faster than me and have said, "You can do it, Tea." They have never told me to move down a lane. They don't mind lapping me, and I don't mind getting lapped.

My nutritionist still checks in on me; even though we stopped working together at the end of October. I received an email from her today wishing me luck and asking what my fueling looked like for Sun and Sat.

Mr. Tea: 

New friends: You know who you are. The ones who always say encouraging things or make me smile when I've had a tough day.  You might not have been with me from the start, but you are an important piece of where I am today.

Old friends: There are no words for this group. The people who have been with me since I started. Some of whom have seen me go from runner to triathlete. They've put up with my moods. They've listened when I thought I had no one left to listen. They've been through every pivotal moment with me. You make me laugh and make sure I know when I'm taking myself too seriously....which hopefully, isn't very often. 

Wherever you are in this process, start there. None of this happened overnight for me. Each day, do one thing better than you did the day before. Before you know it, a year has gone by. You've made 365 small changes that will pay you huge returns. 

Don't compare yourself to other people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


How to track me this weekend, click here. I am not notified of who tracks me.

If you haven't read Coach Liz's most recent blog post. It is worth a read.

My race plan?  Will Smith says it best.