Saturday, June 25, 2016

The changing of the guard


Earlier this week, I had a bit of a flashback.

Two and a half years ago, I went through a really bad time. One of the things that happened was that I lost my best friend. I went through a very dark period for a long time.

In fact if I met you during that time and you're still with me, thank you for that.

This post isn't about loss and how to deal with it.

Earlier this week, something happened and out of nowhere I thought about my old bestie. I took a minute to think about the last 2.5 years. I thought about the amazing things that have happened with the company. I thought about JMan & Googs and what they are doing now. Of course, I thought about training. I thought about our trips and house remodeling. So much has happened in 2.5 years.

Then I thought of my recent race. The week before my race, I realized my old wetsuit was 3 sizes too big. I bought a new one that I only got to wear for about 10 minutes before the race started.

The DAY before Boulder, my very old garmin died. It didn't completely die, but it wasn't reporting power or reading satellites. I raced mostly "blind". I bought a new 920XT and quickly realized that there was no way I could learn about it in time for the race.

It felt so good to replace some of this really old stuff. (I mean, seriously, my wetsuit was so old.....I repaired it numerous times. I remember last year, I put a giant tear in it a couple of days before Nationals. Whether or not I lost weight, it needed to be replaced).

Something got into me. I started digging into my tri-kit crate. I keep all my kits & cycling clothes there. I started throwing out all the old stuff. Kits that no longer fit or kits that are so old......they show more ass than they they cover.

I ordered new tri kits.

I didn't stop there.

I bought a new transition bag.

I bought sunglasses and new running shoes.

Although this was a long overdue physical cleansing, it was emotional too. In a very symbolic way, I felt like I was turning the page.

Since last August, I have changed in many ways. I think I hung on to all that old stuff because I couldn't let go, but it was time.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The struggle


It's easy to write about the fantastic races and breakthrough training days. It's easy to write about the days that seem almost magical, fluid, as though you became superhuman overnight.

It's much harder to write about the bad days. I'm not talking about the days that you are pushed to your limits and beyond.

I'm talking about the days that are utter and complete disasters.

Today was one of those days. Not every day is going to be rainbows and pixie dust.

These are the days that really test your character. I see many athletes give up on these types of days.

Let me tell you what happened. Liz scheduled me for masters. I got to the pool a little early and started warming up. I wasn't feeling quite right, but sometimes that happens.

The workout was a big one. It was 4000yds. It consisted of 12x 100's, 4 x 200's and then a 400 all out. (Obviously, there was other stuff thrown in there).

On the 8x 50's, I missed the wall FOUR times on my flip turns.

I hit my shoulder, knee and achilles on the lane lines.

When we got to the intervals, I couldn't hold my normal pace. I normally feel fluid and relaxed in the pool, today was about as opposite as it could be.

Coach came over and asked how I was doing. I told him, "I can't do anything right today. Everything is just HARD. Nothing is easy. For goodness sakes, I'm getting lapped by the slow lane! Ok, so they're all wearing fins. STILL."





This was the type of day where I would see an athlete post on strava and say, "I just didn't have it, so I left." (We've all seen it, right?)

THAT IS BULLSHIT. 

It's ok to get frustrated. It's ok to get mad. It's ok to have bad days.

IT'S NOT OK TO QUIT.

As I was swimming, the thought didn't occur to me to "just call it a day"; get out of the pool.

Do you know what I did think about?

It's always darkest before the dawn.

Over the years, I have seen a trend. Right before a huge breakthrough, I have a really bad swim. As I was swimming, I started thinking about how many people quit at this point.

"I'm just not a swimmer."

"I'll never get it."

"I just suck at swimming."

What they don't realize is that they are going through growing pains. If they just hold on, they'll see the athlete they always thought they could be.

On these days, don't give up. Don't let that inner awesome slip away, just as you were going to get to see it.







Sunday, June 19, 2016

My race schedule & my "why's"


I've gone back and forth about whether or not I post my race schedule here.  The reason for it is the "why" I'm doing certain races. Maybe the "why" matters. Maybe it doesn't. Obviously, it matters to me.

In order to address the "why", I have to talk about what happened last year.

Next year, I turn 50. That's right. This is my last year in the 45-49 age group. In the world of triathlon, aging up is always a big deal because we get to race at the young age of an age group against athletes who are older. Granted, triathlon is highly competitive. As time goes on, recovery methods, nutrition, training tactics, change. Athletes are getting stronger and faster as they get older. (Case in point, there is a woman in the 50-54 AG who runs a 1:20 half marathon at the 70.3). Still, it's an advantage to be at the young side of an age group. (There is an exception to this rule, but I'm just talking about age groupers who came to the sport later in life....not in their 20's or teens).

I started triathlon in the 35-39 age group. I always thought when I turned 50, it would be a good time, fun idea, to do a full Ironman.

Don't get your panties in a twist. I'm not done with my story.

Last year, Mr. Tea came to me and said, "Next year, why don't you do two 70.3's. If it goes well, you could do a full Ironman when you turn 50."  To get that level of support from your better half is a really big freaking deal.

I gave it some thought. I talked to Liz about doing Ironman. I registered for the Boulder 70.3.

The result was the same. I left feeling incredibly satisfied with my performance, but I can't imagine going further. I have no desire to go longer. I don't want my weekends spent training. Fueling for a 70.3 is incredibly tough. I don't even want to think about having to do that for double the distance.

This has been something that other triathletes struggle with. The triathletes that I know have (99.9%) are always trying to convince me to go long. I've even been told that my confidence would increase dramatically by going long.


um.

Ok.

I've given up trying to explain my position.

I get it. YOU like going long. YOU find challenge in logging hundreds and thousands of miles a year.

I. DO. NOT.

I find challenge in going as hard as I can for shorter distances. When Liz tells me "+500 watts", I want more. I want to see how much I can handle. I want to be completely spent after an interval only to realize I still have 10 more to do.

I live for the feeling of shaking legs. I live for getting off the bike and starting my run with jelly legs.

You don't get that with long distance training. It's a different pain.

That's my whole point. No distance is better than another.

There are merely.....different.

After Boulder, as much as I enjoyed everything I accomplished. AND, Liz is the only Coach I've ever had for 70.3 training, prior to that I followed training plans......SINCE I've been with Liz, I have shaved OVER an HOUR off my 70.3 time by training for shorter races and doing 70.3's sporadically.

If I can get faster at the 70.3 on fewer training hours, why wouldn't I do that?

ANYWAY, I finished Boulder and once again confirmed that "every few years" is about all I can handle of 70.3 training. The likelihood of me doing a full Ironman is 1%. (I have to leave the door open).

The other thing that Boulder did was solidify my goals. I have long term goals that I want to accomplish. There are other things I want to do and other races I want to try out.

Here's my race schedule and my "why":

July 24th, I will be doing a sprint race.
Why: To get me ready for Nationals. I haven't had a sprint race since last year. I need practice in moving fast through transitions, fast in the water, fast on the bike, fast on the run.

August 14th, I will be doing Age Group Nationals, the sprint distance.
Why: Last year, I did back to back races. It was stupid hard. Honestly, truly racing an Oly on Sat and racing a Sprint on Sunday was 100x harder than my recent 70.3. This year, I decided to focus on the sprint distance.

August 27th, another Sprint.
Why: I really really want to qualify for Nationals again. It is not easy to do. I picked several races to do, so I have as many opportunities as possible to earn my spot.

September 10th: Big Shoulders 5k swim
Why: It's a bucket list thing. I love open water swimming.

October 1st: sprint tri.
Why: Another attempt to qualify for Nationals.

As far as qualifying for nationals, a podium does not necessarily guarantee qualification. Qualification is determined by the number of people in your age group and where you place. Sometimes, you have to win to qualify. Sometimes, you can come in 3rd and qualify.  We don't find out until around Thanksgiving.

In the Spring of next year, I have (so far) one race planned. Next year, I'll be doing more work on the olympic distance with sprints thrown in for serious speedwork.

Sprints and Olympic distances: That's where this party is.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Where we go from here





Earlier this year, I had a number of races on my schedule. Two of them were canceled by the race director. The RD was very easy to work with, and I got a deferral for next year.

After a number of twists and turns, I ended up having surgery.

I scrapped my race schedule and thought, "One race at a time."

This week, Liz and I had my mid-year review. Although we talk all the time, the mid-year review is when we can take some time to talk in detail about everything triathlon: how am I feeling? How is our relationship? Is there anything I need from Liz? Is there anything she needs from me? Am I on track to reach my goals? Do we need to do anything different?

After the talk and after Boulder, once again, I've found my motivation at an all time high. There were so many things that I did right at Boulder. I got a glimpse of what could be, and I liked it. 

We came up with a new race schedule. I had previously registered for a couple of races (which I've kept on the DL). Those races are back on my schedule. In addition to those, we've added a few more. 

I am so excited. SO excited. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

It takes a village




My Boulder recap can be found here.

"A good coach changes a game. A great coach changes a life". --John Wooden

The excitement and emotion from my race are starting to calm down. There are a few people in my life who deserve special recognition. 

First, my Coach Elizabeth Waterstraat: There aren't enough ways that I can thank you for your support over the past 2.5 years. You have helped me find that athlete that was buried deep an inside and pulled her out. This year alone, I have PRd at every single race I've done. For me triathlon, goes way beyond finish times and paces. You've shown me what it means to be a great person. With all your own accomplishments, you remain humble and your sense of humor keeps me laughing even when I'm wiped out from a workout. Thank you for everything you have done and thank you for the confidence you have given me. 

Dina Howton Griffin: I never understood the importance of nutrition. I know most people probably contact you to lose a few pounds. Daily and race day fueling go way beyond losing a few pounds. At (almost) 49, I feel better than I ever have in my life. That goes a long way in helping me achieve my goals. I raced on Saturday, and I'm shocked at how well I'm feeling today (Mon). But, besides finding an amazing dietitian, I met a friend. One who sends me emails before getting on a plane, at stupid early in the morning before my race. Thank you, Dina. 

My swim Coach Andrew LeVasseur. This past weekend, I swam a 1.2 mile PR at the half iron distance. I know I'm one of the slowest swimmers at masters, but you treat us all as equals. You have spent so much time with me on stroke. My swim has improved so much. You always make practices so much fun. I look forward to hearing your countdowns (FIRST GROUP 5-4-3-2-1!) I know I have more in me to give. I know I have more to learn. Having you as my swim coach means I know I'll reach all my goals.

Mr. Tea: Because.....Best Man.


I can't tell you how much this meant to me. There are few people I respect as much as Liz.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Boulder



"You about to see something, you ain't never seen before!"

I stood at the edge of the water, thinking of Secretariat. A few weeks back, we were getting ready to watch the Kentucky Derby. The day of the Kentucky Derby was one of those lazy days. Secretariat was on, and we fell into watching it.

Halfway through the movie, Mr. Tea says, "You're Secretariat. The harder Liz pushes you, the better athlete you are. You never complain. In fact, you crave it. You want it. You are stronger than I've ever seen you. No matter what she puts in front of you, you give it everything. You are secretariat."

I don't seek out compliments. My goal isn't to inspire others. My goal is simple. Do you best every damn day. When he made that comparison, I was touched.

I stood there and thought about what I was going to do. In the past, I'd be nervous. Today, I was calm. I was prepared. Liz and I had several meetings about my race strategy. Dina and I had several conversations about my fueling. I knew I had put everything into training. It was tough. It was the hardest training I'd been through.

My goals had nothing to do with times. Although Boulder was an A race, I'm short course person at heart. The sprint is my best distance, and I love the way the oly challenges me. I decided to do Boulder for a different type of challenge. I like to mix in the 70.3 every few years. Boulder was my 4th 70.3 in 12 years and my first Ironman race.

It was everything I could have hoped for. I was tested throughout training. I was tested the week of the race. I was tested on race day.

I have always said that the only thing you can control on race day is your attitude. As a good friend said, "Pain is pain. Suffering is a choice". Yesterday, I proved it. From having to stop my race because of a cyclist that was hit by a car to losing my fuel to having a mechanical (minor) issue, I was never once frazzled. I was in control of the entire day. The result was a 23 minute 70.3 PR. I ran. I ran more than I ever have during a HIM; once again, facing challenge after challenge. I was 20th on the swim; 20th on the bike; 37th age group. It was unreal when I saw the results. I never focus on placings and podiums. In Boulder the competition is so tough. The day before, I said to Mr. Tea, "Don't worry about where I am. It doesn't matter. I won't even be top 20 at Boulder. I rarely do 70.3's. And these women are fast. Really fast. It'll be amazing if I'm even in the top 50."

I think in every long race, we all hit dark moments. Liz dragged me through more than a few dark moments in training. She trained me for these moments. In training, I had to figure out how to recover and move on. I had to face my own demons and insecurities.

I know some of you remember my breakdown a few weeks ago. I had a long run. Halfway through the long run, I did hill repeats. I did a moderate run; then, I ran mile repeats ending faster than HM pace. That was all in one 2 hour run. I broke down after the hill repeats. I had to make a decision, "Do I continue? No one would know if I stopped. No one would even care. But I would."

I continued on to run my fastest ever mile repeats. I cried in the car on the way home.

I wrote about the whole thing. All of you were there and were encouraging. You showed me how important YOU are.

On Sat, I started thinking, "I don't think I have anything left."


And I thought of all of you. I thought about the workouts that I thought I couldn't get through but did. I remembered the pain I went through.

I thought about the donut mile. I thought about JWs breakthrough swim. I thought about my conversation with A right before race start. I thought about JH out there somewhere on the run course, probably running a PR. I thought about D's marathon training & the big hairy goal to go with it. I thought about the Hershey kisses. I thought about the bitches whatevering. I thought about all the advice and trash talk.
One mile left.

All I had to do was run. It didn't matter how fast. In fact, I was so focused on my plan that I didn't have "time" set up on my Garmin. I had no idea what my race time was. I was racing blind.
That's almost a smile.


When I crossed the finish line, I head back to transition. I turned on my phone. My phone was blowing up with messages. I spent at least 20 minutes trying to read all the texts and facebook messages.



I didn't have any idea what I accomplished until I saw your messages. At a distance that I thought I couldn't even compete.....I was 20th on the swim and bike and 37th in my age group at the finish.

It was an amazing day.

Boulder and the training leading up to it was a stepping stone. Now, my biggest race is on the horizon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Things I'm doing during taper


1.) During my last long ride, I had two mechanical issues. One was a chain problem. It took me about 10 minutes to get that one fixed, but I got it. Immediately after that, I could feel my rear brake rubbing. I stopped a few times to mess with it. There was nothing I could really do while on the ride, so I finished the ride. I called the bike shop. He gave me a few things to try. (He knows I'm racing Boulder. I know they were probably swamp with last minute issues, so I wanted to avoid being that triathlete.) The tricks didn't work. Off to the bike shop, we go. When he took it apart, he said, "You did everything right. We have a problem. We can do a temporary fix to get you through Boulder. Long term, we need to upgrade the braking system." Option 2, thankyewverymuch. I mean. It's brakes. I don't really want to do a band aid approach. That qualifies as an emergency, right? Two days later, Black Betty is rolling once again.



2.) Change the battery in my power meter. I can't tell you how many times I've showed up to a race only to find the battery died. (I also bring them with me in case someone else has that problem. Call me generous. You better do it).

3.) Heading back to the bike shop because WHERE ON EARTH ARE MY 80MM TUBES AND CARTRIDGE THING-MA-DEAL? I swear, I don't know what I did at the end of last season. I can't find anything.

4.) Telling people over and over, "I just need to get through this week. I promise. I will get to it next week. Right now, I can't take on anything more".

5.) Trying on my NEW wetsuit. Ok. I know. Nothing new on race day. Technically, this is a few days before race day. Regular readers know that I've lost a lot of weight. It's a lot. Last week, Mr. Tea says, "I wonder how your wetsuit is going to fit".





That sent me scrambling. I go into the closet and start flinging things all over the place. For no reason, my wetsuit is hanging right there. I look at the size and run to the computer.

My wetsuit is 3 sizes too big. 


AHHHHH FAAAHHHHHK.

Liz has the most amazing discounts for her athletes. I hit up the Roka website. Fortunately, they have my size in stock. I ordered it. I did rush shipping and begged and pleaded through email that someone contact me if the suit wouldn't arrive in time.

I never heard from them.

I waited and waited. Then, I started hoping the swim wouldn't be wetsuit legal, so I could wear my swimskin.

I got home from masters today. The wetsuit arrived. It's here!




Other than last minute wardrobe decisions, which I had to change.....and meeting with Dina to go through every single detail about my nutrition for this week, specifically Friday and Saturday, I'm about as ready as I can be.

Can we do this thing now?