Saturday, May 27, 2017

Reminders

There is nothing wrong with changing your nutrition.

There is nothing wrong with changing coaches.

There is nothing wrong with thinking something IS THE BEST THING EVER one month and not liking it the next month.

I've been blogging since 2003.

Can you imagine if I kept doing the same things that I did in 2003?

The fact is, you must change to improve.

I don't eat the same things I did last year.

I don't train the same way.

I have changed my mental outlook. (Oh good god. I can't tell you how many times I've changed this).

I recently changed my race day fueling....again.

I don't change for the sake of changing. I don't jump on bandwagons with new products.

I make changes when things stop working.

Making changes requires being honest with yourself. It's uncomfortable. Many people will continue to force issues rather than be honest with themselves.

Over the past few weeks, I've had a couple of situations that have caused me to assess and change.

The first was feedback that I got from my masters swim coach. I was telling him about some recent frustrations that I was having. He knelt down on and the edge of my lane and said, "Tea, these are the things I see you can work on".  He then listed out 3 things for me to think about and work on.

I took the feedback to Coach Liz. She said, "That's outstanding feedback".

Keep in mind. Getting feedback doesn't mean you are a bad person. Your coach wants the best for you. It's up to YOU to ask for help. It's up to YOU to ask for feedback. If you don't, they think you aren't interested. The other side is that if you ask for feedback and don't get it, it's also time for a change.

The hard part? Knowing when it's time to ask for help.

I listened to what my swim coach said. He was absolutely right. I told him that I'd never even thought of it before. The things he pointed out......never even occurred to me.


The next thing, that caused me to stop and think, was a picture.

It was a race picture that Coach Liz posted. She recently raced back to back races (Sat and Sun).

The look on her face in the picture was sheer pain and effort.

That picture showed exactly what short course racing is all about.


I stared at the picture.

I don't get to that level.

Someone can tell you over and over (cough-Liz-cough) what short course racing is feels like, but an image is worth a thousand words.

Over the years, I've gone from being last to being middle of the pack to chasing the podium finishers to being a podium finisher to being in the lead.

My mental outlook has had to change as I've gone from being last to being a podium finisher.

Only in the last few weeks have I realized that my mindset has changed since I've gone from "chasing" to "being chased".

It hasn't been a good change.

If I want to continue becoming a better athlete, I need to change....yet again.

In masters, I've moved up a lane. I'm chasing much faster swimmers. I'm pushing my comfort level to learn to pace better and handle a higher effort level.  When I show up on race day, my goal will be to think about chasing those masters swimmers. I'm not going to look back to see who's behind me. I'm not going to look for people ahead me. My goal will be to give my best effort. Not the effort I think is my best effort; my best effort.

During the run, my goal is to remember that picture of Liz. Years ago, I said, "You always have another gear".

I'm going to find that next gear.

Gone is my old comfort zone. It's time for me to take it up a notch.....again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sand Hollow Olympic Distance

Several weeks back, I quietly stopped posting my workouts to Strava.

I'm a huge believer in Strava. Many times, the information on Strava is used by local governments to make roads more pedestrian/cyclist friendly.

But, I had to get away from it for awhile.

I was heading into the hardest olympic distance race I've ever done. (This year was a new bike course).

I hadn't done an olympic distance in TWO YEARS.

I was nervous. I was having race dreams for weeks leading up to the race.

I have never raced the oly well. It's my nemesis.

Do I even need to mention that the oly distance is really f*cking hard?

It hurts. It's mentally draining to push threshold for a couple of hours.

Still, I had my race plan ready. I had done as much research as I could.

All I really wanted was to accomplish two things:

1.) Try not to be last.

2.) Have a successful race.

The morning of race, I was one of the first women to rack my bike.

Then, I went back to my car for a little while to have my second breakfast, read over my race plan and listen to my pre-race playlist.

When I went back to transition, the rack was filled with women setting up their bikes.

Bikes that represent these women don't play.

Bikes that cost more than some cars.

I took a deep breath.

Ok.

Then, I noticed that three of the women were wearing their Age Group Nationals jackets.


I grabbed my wetsuit and went down to the water.

I have only podiumed at the oly distance once. It was in 2013. I came in 3rd....because there were only 3 of us in the age group.

I went down to the water. I stood there and looked out over the water. "One event at a time, Tea. You're not racing these women. Your goal is to do the best that you can today."

The RD announced that the water temp at shore was 62 degrees.

For two weeks prior to the race, I'd been working with my masters swim coaches on cold water races.

They set me up with a warm up plan and gave me advice on how to handle the swim overall.

I do my warm up routine.

My nerves left me.

I head over to the start.

I don't care what the distance is.

It was time to race.


When I got to the start, the pack splits up very easily: fast swimmers, faster swimmers, fastest swimmers.

I went to the front. A few seconds later, I felt a woman push me to the side saying, "Sorry. I need to be in the front".

I looked over at her.

That was the last time I saw her.

I took off running as hard as I could and hit the water in an all out sprint.

There were very few buoys which made sighting very difficult. Around 600m, I glanced over my shoulder....to the right.....there's no one there.

....to the left.....there's no one there.

I glance back.

I can barely see anyone behind me.

As I made the first turn, then the second.....I start catching previous waves.

I see a couple of people with my swim cap color....ahead of me.


Where'd they come from? How'd they pass me without me seeing them?

I'm not going to worry about. Back to MY race plan.


SPOILER ALERT:

I found out later in the day that those swimmers were sprinters who started after me and were doing the shorter course.

I finished 1st in AG with a 5 minute lead on 2nd place.


I tore up the hill. The path to transition is deep red sand. I had decided ahead of time to ride without socks, thinking that my feet would dry off enough that I could put socks on for the run. Normally, I don't run with socks but the majority of the run would be on gravel/rocks.

It was time for Black Betty.

How do you know when you are in the correct zone for an olympic distance bike?

Your legs start burning and they don't stop until you get off the bike.

Early on in the ride, we have to climb the Beast. Liz gave me specific information for the climbs.

I was focused. I climbed. I passed people. I passed people who were off their bikes and walking the Beast.

My legs were burning.

Shortly, after the top of the hill, I pass the sprint turn around.

I still have 20 miles to go.

I won't say the bike was easy, but I was ready for it.

I'm catching everyone ahead of me.

I noticed there are few women coming from the other direction.

I'm passing even fewer women.

For a brief moment, I start thinking, "Can I possibly be in 1st place?"

With that little glimpse of a thought....not only NOT being last....but possibly being in first????

I started riding harder.

I didn't really believe it, but I was doing the math. What about the women who were mysteriously ahead of me on the swim?

I pulled into transition.

I wiped off  the sand as best I could and ran.

I knew that if I was in contention for a podium, I was going to have to run my heart out.

A woman in my age group passed me around mile 2.

During the run, I didn't follow my plan.

But, I didn't give up. I suspected that I was in the running for 2nd now. 

Could I hold off 3rd? Don't think about it. JUST RUN.

With 2 miles left, I was running as hard as I could.

I crossed the finish line and KNEW I had a 10K OTB PR. Although, I didn't follow my plan. I hit the EXACT TIME and pace that I thought I could.

I immediately took off for the results table. 

I came in 2nd.

My first ever LEGIT Olympic distance podium.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Race Report: The Rage


Normally, I don't like to talk about the week leading up to the race. It's important for other's to realize that shit is going to happen. It all comes down to your attitude.

The week before the race, I was exhausted. I hadn't slept in over a week. This is all cycle related. Normally, the insomnia lasts a couple of days. This time, it just wouldn't end. I tried to take naps to no avail. I thought that once I got to Henderson, NV, I'd get to sleep. I didn't realize that many people who stay in Henderson are there to party in Vegas. The 2 nights leading up to the race were worthless in regards to sleep. Drunk people running around above me. Others banging on doors trying to find their rooms.

In the past, I stayed at the Wynn on the Vegas strip (for those of you outside the US). The Wynn is the quietest hotel I have ever stayed at. I have never had any problems. I just assumed that being in Henderson wouldn't be different. It was closer to the race site. The hotel is a nice hotel. But the Wynn? You'll pay for the luxury, but it is worth it.

Besides the sleep issue, I have to say that Henderson is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, Mr. Tea and I are thinking of buying a winter home there. It is THAT amazing.

The morning of race, I was able to sleep from about 10pm to 2pm when the drunks starting arriving back at their rooms. Was I mad? No. It's Vegas. Those people are there to have a good time. I didn't really plan it very well.

I brought breakfast with me and turned on the coffee maker. My head is foggy. I went back to read emails between Liz and I from the week. I gave it a lot of thought. I said, "Your body is ready for this. Your head might not be ready. Your head can't think straight. Let your body take over today. RULE YOURSELF."

I'm sensitive to caffeine. I started drinking more coffee than any person should be able to (3 cups....a whole lot for me). I needed all the help I could get.

Because I was up, I head to transition (which opens at 5:30). My wave didn't start until 7:40. I was the last wave (except for the beginner wave).

Have I mentioned that I was nervous AF?!?

When I arrived, I realized that my transition area was going to be near the top of the hill. THIS IS PERFECT. I won't have to run far with my bike either UP or DOWN the hill.

From the second you step out of the water, to about a half a mile into the bike, you are on a steep hill.  The run from the water is on rough, rocky terrain. Last year, I struggled in flip flops. I was slipping and sliding and could barely make it up the hill.

This year, I was ready with my new/old shoes.

This was my first race of the year. Being from CO, I hadn't had any opportunity to swim in open water. I hadn't even tried on my wetsuit. No practice of getting into and out of it. I hadn't ridden my bike outside.

Needless to say, this was going to be a practice run.

I went to the water's edge, praying that I'd be able to fit in my wetsuit after a winter of.....um....well....WINTER.

I got to the water's edge, and people were talking about how cold the water was. I looked out and could see the swells of water and waves coming into shore. Lake Mead is a LAKE, but it is known for it's swells and unpredictable conditions. The previous day, there were wind warnings telling boaters to stay close to shore.

It's cold water and rough conditions.
I've got to get into the water to see what I'm dealing with.

Once I got into the water, I immediately realized that I couldn't see the first turn buoy with the swells. 

One of my coaches at masters is a world champion swimmer in the 1 mile open water event. She has been coaching me on pacing. One of the exercises she has me do (Coach Liz also has me do this), is head out of the water swimming. Different coaches call it different things. This is not a doggie paddle (that's a different drill). This is regular swimming with your head up, looking straight ahead. Some coaches refer to it as water polo swimming (click here if you want to see the drill).

I realized that I can't sight because sighting is a split second, and I couldn't get a visual on the buoys in that split second. I thought, "head out of the water swimming." This would allow me to keep up my speed and look for the buoy. As I was swimming into the swells, I had my head out of the water, staring straight ahead until I got a good visual on the buoy.

PERFECT. I put my head down and started swimming and then turned to swim back to shore.

My wave was already lining up. I wiggled my way to the front.  My wave is all women over 40, relays and athenas over 40.

THE SWIM

I know what you're thinking.

 I'm getting there.

Not a lot of people know this, but I LOVE swimming in rough conditions. I love swimming in cold water. I love swimming in less than optimal conditions. It ignites the fight in me. When I'm faced with a challenge, I bear down and go for it.

When the horn went off, everyone took off. I see the crowd ahead of me. Of course, I can't see the buoys. I start swimming "head out of the water". I catch a sight of the buoy, put my head down and go for it. I see on my right the crowd is veering off to the right.

I'm right on course for the buoy.

When I get to the buoy, there are 3-4 other blue caps with me. I know they can't hold on. This isn't being cocky. You can tell when you're out there swimming, who is the confident swimmer. You can tell.  I turned the corner and took off. At this point, the swells are coming at me from the right, so I have to only breath on the left.

NOTE to you triathletes: You MUST MUST MUST learn to breath bilaterally. 

I turned on the gas and noticed I had left all the other blue caps behind. I turn at the next buoy. My arms and back are really quite uncomfortable at this point from forcing myself through swells and staying on course.

I turn at the next buoy. (The course is rectangle).

And....I see a blue cap in front of me.


Where did she come from?

I had already passed several other waves. I thought, "Make a go at it. Catch her".

As we were coming into shore, I realized that SHE was a HE and was a relay swimmer.  He had either slowed down or I had sped up or a combination of both. 

SWIM: 1st out of the water

I get to shore, shove my feet into my shoes and run full speed up the hill, passing many people along the way.

I get to my bike. As I mentioned, this race starts on an uphill. I have my bike set in smaller gears. I jump on the bike and go.

I stay in aero and pass people like they are standing still, heading out to the main road. I know that once I get to the main road, it's all hills all day. My absolute favorite bike course. 

Here we go.

Slingshot ENGAGED.
I was flying. All I kept thinking about was how much I love going fast. I love climbing. I love descending. I love going fast.

As I was about 3 miles from the finish, A guy in a Team Venezuela kit passed me. 

He was a BEAST. I was watching him ride. I could keep up with him on the uphills, but he was killing me on the downhills. Now, the guy easily had 40lbs on me. Still, I started watching him descend. 

I noticed that his "tuck" was extremely tight and low on the downhills. I decided to copy him. As soon as I tucked more, I was going even faster.

 We turned to head into transition. Curves, downhill and an abrupt stop.

My bike was racked very close to the top. 

Got my run gear, and I took off.

THE BIKE: 1st on the bike

THE RUN

I wear my garmin for my races. However, for the sprint, I don't look at it. 

When I started the run, I had no idea what my time was. I had no idea where I was. This strategy works best for me.

It's one of the ways Liz has coached me over the years. Effort and attitude. Period. I give my best effort.  

Case in point: On the swim, I ended up being 1st. Had I looked at my garmin, I would have seen that it was slower than last year's swim. This year, the conditions were such that a PR or even being a little faster weren't realistic. The next closest person to me was 2 minutes behind me. 

I took off running. This course is basically 1 mile up hill, 1 mile flat, 1 mile downhill.

One mile into the run, I decide to check my garmin (to keep me honest). I'm not really running my best. Then, I remembered something that Liz said to me when I first started working with her (over 3 years ago). At the time, it made sense, but I wasn't at the point where I could implement it.

One mile into the run, I was ready to implement it. From here on out, my goal was to negative split. Now....look....one mile downhill....I get it....pretty easy to neg split. But, I added a challenge. My heart rate had to start increasing as well.

Mile 1: 10:15
Mile 2: 9:28
Mile 3: 8:40

Toward the finish, I was running all out. 

I crossed the finish line and stopped my garmin. 

Still having no idea what my finish time was. I knew that I felt really good about my race. It was my first race of the year, a first for many things, and I felt great about it.

I knew that this is a highly competitive race. Out here, in the west, the Rage is the first real race of the year. People travel to this race in hoards to gauge their early Spring fitness. 

I never think about getting a podium. I don't think of the other women in my age group. I go out there and give the best that I can give that day. The time will be what it will be.

I decided to look at my garmin to see where I came in.

I blinked. I stared at it. I did a double check. That can't be right. a 1:27 finish time would give me a podium. 

I went over to the results table.

Sure enough. I came in first.
I went back to transition to text Mr. Tea and Liz before the award ceremony.

Once again, I had messages from people telling me congratulations! (You freaky ass stalkers).

I head over to the awards ceremony, in shock. I never expected to have a HUGE PR. I never expected to podium.

I am confident in my abilities, but every time I step up on the podium, I'm beyond excited. I'm humbled. I'm honored. Mostly, I'm in shock.

I ran into Sarah. Sarah is a MSM Coach and athlete. She was racing the Olympic distance and came in 1st overall. We saw each other on the run course. She runs like a freaking gazelle. This was a "comeback" race for her as she had to take all of last year off.

 One race, two winners.

I don't think I stopped smiling all day. This was so unexpected. On my drive home, I kept thinking about my BIG race in May.  

I once again learned a lot from this race. I know that I have the physical and mental strength to swim well in rougher conditions.

I learned how to descend even faster.

I learned how to negative split the run and be confident in my run. I learned to trust my body to do what I need to do.

Most importantly, I did WHATEVER IT FUCK IT TAKES.







 

















Monday, April 17, 2017

Taper time

I kept this on the DL.

I'm racing on Saturday.

My first race of the year was cancelled, and I got all {{sadface}}. I found out the race was cancelled around Feb.

After about a month of thinking that my first race of the year wouldn't be until MAY. MAY! And feeling like I really do need as much practice as I can get.....

I talked to Liz about a race. She sent me an email with two simple words:

DO IT!!!

That race is this weekend. My training volume for sprints/olys tends to be very similar (or more) than your average triathlete's 70.3 training. So, I can go about my training with no one really noticing when I'm training or tapering or having a step back week. 

It's actually pretty cool. 

I kept the race on the DL for no particular reason. I race sooooo much that (again) most people can't really keep up with my race schedule. My friends who do long stuff, typically do 1-2 races a year. I race 6-8 times in 6-8 months...sometimes more.

Being that it's taper time, I had to send Liz my race plan. 

It was succinct.


 
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ask me anything

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take part in the AMA on the Multisport Mastery Facebook page.

I was to talk about my experiences going from last to fast. When Coach Liz asked me to do this, I was so touched that she would think of me.

I was also really nervous. I kept thinking, "What am I going to say to people? I'm just me. Nothing special".

I was so afraid of having a "dud" conversation that I asked a few friends to stage questions. As it turned out, I didn't need the staged questions.

It was so much fun.

Here's the link to the conversation. You do not have to be an MSM athlete to be part of our group. You'll have access to great coaches and amazing athletes. Feel free to join the group. I don't think you have to be a member to see the conversation.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Overwhelming gratitude

The longer I do this sport, the more I appreciate some of the very special people in my life.

It's because they have such a profound impact on my life. I am so humbled by this sport. I am so honored to have these people in my life.

You may have read about a recent swim breakthrough that I had.

I had another one (a couple of days later).

I'll give you the short story. At the end of masters, my swim coach came over to me and asked if I'd want to do an 800m time trial. The pool was set up as long course meters. He was going to take my splits for me.

Of course, I said, "YES".

The plan for the time trial was to practice my race pacing. When I race in open water, my plan is to always go out as hard as possible, get to the front (or away from the pack), and then settle into a very hard/fast pace.

I've always been afraid of going too hard. Isn't that a fear we all have?

For the time trial, I decided to give it a try. Who cares if I slow down too much? It's my safe place. This is where I can take those risks, try things out before race day.

I went out like a bat out of hell. Every time, I hit the 100, Coach yelled out my paces, but I couldn't hear him.

The entire time, I kept my eye on the clock, but it didn't make any sense. The times/paces didn't make sense. I didn't judge myself on the times...I was either swimming crazy fast or crazy slow.....I left the labels behind and swam as hard as I could. When I was coming up on the 800, I thought, I think I have 100 more to go. So, I did another 100.

When I finished, Coach told me I did the 900 in 13:20. That's an average pace of 1:21 per 100 and a HUGE new PB.

And that was at the end of my masters practice. A practice, in which, I covered 3600m.

When I finished, we talked about my open water race strategy. He told me that my first 100 came in at a blazing fast 1:10, exactly what I want.

AND I MANAGED TO HOLD ON for the rest of the swim.

I had two other incidents this week. I had run intervals.

Because I do shorter races, I tend to bring my garmin but not look at it when I run intervals. It's really important to learn how to race to feel. For me, knowing my paces and heart rate can be an inhibitor. I use my Garmin selectively.

Liz and I have been talking a lot about running lately because something has been happening. We've seen gigantic jumps in my paces.

The goal for my run intervals was to get outside and run them on the track. The past few months of training have taught me more in regards to mental toughness than any months before.  So, when I got to the track, I knew I was going to run those intervals hard. (technically, they were builds. I didn't start super hard).

I blew away my previous times/paces.

I ran 1200's, 800's, and 400's paced perfectly and when I needed to go harder, I went harder.

I had the same thing happen for my 2 hour bike.

As I was pushing watts, I kept saying "Fearless". Fearless, as in I'm not giving in. Not this time. Not next time.

I was telling Liz about this change.This is a really big thing for me. I'm not afraid of pain. I'm not afraid of going too hard.

She told me that I've expanded my comfort zone.

I realized she was exactly right. I'm now most comfortable at the top edge....or as some people call it "redlining".

This is a first for me. I can get to a high level of output and hold it. It has nothing to do with physical ability.

It has everything to do with mental toughness.

This is a level of toughness that I've not had before. I wouldn't have it if it weren't for the coaches in my life who constantly work with me, teach me, push me to give my best and believe in me.

That's where the overwhelming gratitude comes in. I'm so humbled by the fact that they believe in me so much, to give me so much of their time.

The results I'm getting are because of them. They've helped me get where I am today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From last to fast


I've been struggling in the pool lately. I've been tired and sore and haven't been able to hit any of my normal paces.

This has been going on for weeks. It's been so tough that I surrendered my lane leader role and told the lane that I can't go by pace. I'll give the best effort (sound familiar?) I can and take whatever rest is scheduled. 

The struggle is real. It's hard, and it can really frustrating.

I knew, I KNEW, if I kept at it....kept giving everything I could even though my paces weren't there.....eventually I'd have a breakthrough swim.

Days went by. Weeks went by. I had nothing to show for it, except a growing frustration.

I showed up for masters swim yesterday and looked at the schedule. Great. USRPT (ultra short race pace training) was the training for the day. AWESOME. Another day of of struggling.

At the end of the workout, we had to do 15 x 75's.

My Coach came over to me and said, "Tea, I want these done in 1:00".

I stood there in disbelief. My PR at the 75 was 1:08. That was for ONE interval, and I haven't been able to hit that for a couple of months.

I rolled my eyes and replied, "You realize that my PB is 1:08, right"?

Coach (who is not in the least intimidated by my eye roll) says, "Trust your body. You can do this".

My mind was filled with "but this....and that....and but.....but....I'm tired.....but....I haven't been able to hit any paces in weeks".

I kept my mouth shut.

I turned to my lanemates.  They said, "You're leading. There's no way we can hit that time".

Rather than argue with Coach and my lanemates, I said, "Ok. Interval time 1:20. We'll do the best we can. If anyone misses the interval (thinking it would be me), the next in line takes the lead and the person who misses skips the next one".  (This is how the workout is structured. If you miss your goal time, you sit out an interval, swim an easy 25 to get back with the group. The extra rest is meant, so you can hit your goal for the next intervals).

Let's do this. On the top.

As soon as I took off, I felt different than I have in months. Every stroke was powerful. My kick timing was right on with my stroke.

When I'm swimming inefficiently and wrong, I can feel it, but I can't figure out how to fix it.

Yesterday, I was swimming as well as I could, and I felt it.

I hit the wall in 1:02.

That was a :06 PB at the 75. Of course, I thought, "One and done. There's no way I can do that again".

Then BAM. It happened again. BAM. Again. Over and over, I kept coming in exactly at 1:02, 1:01.....even 3 in 1:00.

The rest of the lane slowed down a chose a slower pace. My friend said, "I can't do this. I don't know what's wrong with me". I told her, "You'll get there. Come in every day and give what you can. You'll get through this".

At the end of the intervals, Coach came over and asked if I hit the intervals. I said, "Yes. I did."

A smile spread across his face as he could see my disbelief.

I have never been so excited about any race or any PR as I was about this PB in the pool yesterday.

It's because I have NO swimming background. I taught myself how to swim using videos.

At my first sprint race, I don't believe I was the last swimmer to exit the water, but I had a canoe escort bring me in (which is what they do with the last swimmers).

At the time, I was swimming about a 3:00 per 100 pace. Yesterday, my time came anywhere between 1:20 and 1:22, which was PB in the 100. My previous best was 1:25.

But, the part that really gets me excited is how this will translate to open water. Last year, I was swimming 1:35's in the pool and 1:20's in open water.

I finished the swim and practically rushed to get out of the pool. I wanted to tell Liz. When I started with her, I was swimming 1:50's. I've now shaved off about :30 per 100.

When it's comes to swimming, there are few people who really understand how much dedicated work it takes to become a better swimmer. Even Mr. Tea. He see's me come out of the water, but he doesn't really get 1:20 per 100, etc. That's because open water swimming has a number of issues: currents, water temps, sun, etc. All of those factors can dramatically change a pace.

So, I sat in my car. I'm sure I had the biggest smile I've ever had.

I'm so excited.