Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nationals weekend: Chasing dreams

Last weekend was Nationals.

I have never had more fun over a weekend than I did last weekend.

Liz had 13 athletes at Nationals. I don't know how many other athletes were there from the other coaches.

MSM had a pretty big showing. I was the self-proclaimed Party Coordinator for race day.

Here are the highlights:

1.) Racing an oly and a sprint on back to back days is physically and mentally exhausting. Prior to the race I had a conversation with Dina about my week leading up to the race and how to fuel & recovery between races. It was the best thing I could have done. Because of the stress of threshold racing on back to back days (versus one really long day at Z2-Z3), she gave me pointers that I hadn't thought of.

2.)I have never been more prepared for a race of this level. For weeks, I had been exhausted. Then a day or two into taper, I started to feel like I could take over the world.

3.) Results:

Oly:
In 2015, I did the oly at Nationals. I came in 119. This year, I came in 46th. That's a huge jump. Although the courses really can't be compared, this was a non wetsuit swim. In 2015, the water temp was low 60's.

Oly swim: An unusally slow swim for me, even without a wetsuit.

Bike: Fastest oly bike. I averaged 92% FTP for the race.

Run: RUN PR!!! BY 2 MINUTES!!! I don't think I've ever been more excited about a 2 minute PR.

Sprint:

For the morning of the sprint, it was pouring rain. Sadly, that morning, in transition, I sliced open my foot and had to go to medical. They medic said that I could race, but that it would be painful. He was pretty sure the bandage would hold up, though.

The swim: Unusually slow.

My bandage came off.

I limped up to transition and sat there for awhile debating whether I should continue. I had brought socks with me. I thought, "I've trained too hard for this. If I can get my sock on, I need to get on my bike".

If you know me, the worse conditions are.....the better I will do. I slowly put my sock on and squeezed my foot into my shoe.

I hopped on the bike. Because there's no pressure on your foot (cycling comes from your legs not your feet), I felt really good on the bike. It was raining for my swim, and it was still raining when I got on the bike. Mud and rain is splashing up.

I avoided puddles. I avoided the paint.

I KILLED THE BIKE. I held 95%FTP the day after riding hard for the oly.

The run:

When I got to transition, I made the decision that I was going to finish the race.

Getting my running shoes on was brutal. I was soaking wet. My socks were wet.

Along the entire run, I cheered for everyone and anyone. If someone had a Team USA kit on I yelled for them. I cheered for my team mates. I cheer for local athletes that I knew.

At the halfway marked, I looked down at my shoe, it was covered in blood.

When I crossed the finish line, I knew I hadn't blown away any of my times (except on the bike). I limped over to get my gear bag. All I wanted to do was get my shoes off.



Later that morning, I ran into Chris (Liz's husband). He came in 4th in the 40-44. I also talked to Jen Harrison.....who completely dominated the women's 45-49 (both days). (Chris raced both days, also, but I can't remember where he finished).

It was so nice to talk to both of them. Even though, they were podium finishers, and I came in 46th on one day and (maybe) 30thish on the 2nd day....our bodies had felt the same. We all woke up with our backs screaming at us. We all thought, "How am I going to do this"?  We all thought, "Maybe once I get moving, I'll feel better"?

Once we got to the swim, we all felt pretty damn good.

I have another story. One of the MSM athletes name is Nick. He ran passed me on the oly. I yelled at him and he gave me a smile.

When he ran passed, I thought, "OMG. He's running a sub 6 mile. He doesn't even look like he hurts".

He ran a 5:30 pace for the 10k. I know he was hurting.

It doesn't matter if you run a 5:30 or an 11:30.....the pain is the same. That's what makes this sport so much fun and the athletes so supportive.



The week after Nationals, I have been doing hardcore recovering. I'm recovering this week and (basically) tapering next week because I have another race in 2 weeks.

Liz is giving me a whole new level of  "recovery workouts". I have been eating really well. Today, I woke up feeling pretty good.

My foot is healing up just fine.

Liz and I talked about my weekend. We talked briefly about my ongoing goals. Briefly. I was so wiped out after the weekend, I didn't even want to THINK about triathlon. I wanted to lay on the couch and never move again.

Anyway, Liz said something that stuck with me. She made a comment about the next time I go to Nationals. My first thought was, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME"?

A couple of days later, I was feeling better. I realized that she (only) stated my own personal super secret goal. It was a goal that I had never told anyone. I thought, "She knows me better than anyone". She knows my abilities better than anyone. By sharing her thoughts, she was showing me that she believes in me and my goals. I thanked her for her vote of confidence. Sometimes it's hard to see ourselves for who we actually are when we are going through training like that.

I sat down and drew up a plan. It was a general plan for next year.

If I have a goal and if my coach believes I can get there......isn't it worth working for?

My plan for next year was to focus on the 70.3.

On Tuesday, I found out that I qualified for Nationals next year.

It was almost like a sign to keep going, keep chasing that dream.

Monday, July 31, 2017

1.2 mile swim race

This picture was taken by SwimLabs at the open water swim race I did. This show the start of the 2.4 mile swim. A friend won the 2.4 mile swim and swam it in 50 minutes. So, I'll just let you ponder that for a minute. 


In other news, I did an open water swim race this weekend. You can't even see the turn around buoy in this picture because it's waaaayyyyy out there. 

The purpose of the race was to work on pacing. Liz wanted me to surge for 200-400m, swim moderately, then surge 200m to the finish.

There were over 100 people doing the 1.2 mile swim.  

It was a very congested swim start.   

As we were waiting to start, there was a woman in front of me. I know her from my old masters. She immediately started talking loudly about how she was going to be last.

I know her. She would be one of the top 3-4 finishers. 

I tried to hide my eyeroll.

I hate that shit. 

The one thing you know about me. I NEVER sandbag my time. I NEVER lie about my times.  You might disagree about my assessment of myself. (For example, I will say the run is my weakest event....which it is.) But I HAVE NEVER said, "My 10k time is 1:10" when my 10k time is :59.

I never refer to myself as "slow". There is ALWAYS someone faster. There is ALWAYS someone slower. 

SO....eye roll galore.

When we started, it was an absolute slugfest. I surged. I got stuck between more swimmers. I surged again.

I had a hard time separating from the swimmers. 

I decided to take a risk and go all out. I didn't have to go far. I needed just enough space to separate from the group I was stuck between. 

I surged, like I've never done it before. I put a gap of about 10m between me and some other swimmers. I realized I could do it. I could surge and regain composure. 

You see, for those of you who are not swimmers, surging and going fast is hard because unlike land sports, where you can catch your breath relatively easily; with swimming, it's harder because your FACE IS UNDER WATER.

I felt my triceps and back really working. My breathing was hard, but I immediately went into a moderate pace without missing a beat. I'd never done that before! I was so happy. I kept swimming and held a good pace throughout.

The only problem I had was that I didn't expect a cloudy/drizzly morning. I didn't even think about it, and I had dark goggles. My clear goggles were sitting in the car. 

 I was still able to see, but it was challenging. My second win of the day was that I trusted my internal gps this time. In my races this year, I kept stopping trying to get a good visual. 

I didn't stop today. If I couldn't get a good line of sight, I kept going, trusting myself. 

As I was approaching the turn around, I realized that I didn't remember turning on my garmin. I glanced at it and was shocked to see my time of 16:15. What?! That means I just swam a PR pace for 1.2 miles.

With that, I got super excited. I started picking up the pace. I was running into more 2.4 mile swimmers, some of whom were doing the backstroke, so there was some dodging on my part. There was a guy who was zigzagging all over the place. I took the time to surge again. Feeling more and more confident that I could surge at a 1:10 pace, hold it for awile, then settle back into a 1:30 pace. (Of course, at the time, I had no idea what my pace was. I was merely going by how I felt physically and how my breathing sounded).

There was a woman who was with me the entire time. She was a little faster than me. I decided to pull in behind her and use her draft. She started going faster with about 300m left. I stayed with her, swimming really hard to keep up. 

When she stood up, I saw that I was drafting off someone who swam without a wetsuit. She was one of those stupid fast swimmers.

I stood up, started heading out when I realized that I forgot to give the timer my number. (There were no timing chips).

I also forgot to turn off my garmin and went all the way back to my back pack before I remembered to turn it off.

I looked at it. 32:56.

Holy cow. If I subtract off the time from the water back to my stuff, which was easily a minute, that means I swam a 32:00 1.2 mile swim. 

That's a 2.5 minute PR for that distance. 


I was THRILLED.

I want to say something about swimming, specifically MY swimming. If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I have worked very hard on my swimming.

If you want to get faster, you have to train faster. I have done that. I have pushed my comfort zone and taken risks.

In open water swimming, there can be a lot of external factors that affect a swim time: bright sun, bad conditions, etc. 

Sometimes I will be first out of the water. Sometimes I will be 4th. It changes from race to race.

None of that matters. I have absolutely NO swimming background. I taught myself to swim when I started triathlon.

There are few things that I am as proud of as how much I have improved with swimming. 

When I finished, I stayed to cheer on the the last of the 2.4 mile swimmers. The last 2 swimmers, were escorted in by the SUP team. 

I remember my very first tri, when that was me. I was one of the last out of the water, and I had my own personal escort into shore, with the guy telling me that I was doing great! Just keep doing what you're doing! You're almost there!

I always stay for the last of the swimmers to cheer them in because I know what it's like.

It didn't happen overnight. There have been tears and mostly a lot of fun making the improvement that I have. 

It doesn't matter what distance you are working for, you have to get out of your comfort zone in order to get faster. 

Get out there. Go fast. Hit the wall breathless. Then do it again. 

That's the secret recipe.

 



 

Monday, July 24, 2017

I never said it would be easy....

I started with Liz in Jan 2014.

I set a goal of qualifying for Nationals in the next 5 years.

I qualified for Nationals in 2014 (for 2015).

In 2015, I raced Nationals and set a goal to make Team USA in 5 years.

In 2016, I focused on the Sprint distance. I made Team USA for the sprint distance that year. Yes, 2016....the year I set a 5 year goal to make Team USA.

In 2017, I started focusing on the Oly distance in an effort to make Team USA at the Oly distance.

In 2017, I forgot about my 5 year goal. Actually, I forgot that it was a 5 year goal. 

You see. I was getting frustrated with myself. I picked a very tough race schedule this year to get me ready for Nationals. Every now and then, I'd see glimpses of greatness. I'd do something incredible that I'd never done before. 

Mostly, though, I had a growing frustration with myself over some things. I'd look at my times and paces and realize that this probably won't be the year I make the team at the Oly distance.

Over the past 2 weeks, I realized that I let those small things take over my head. I let those little things take over the fun of the sport. For weeks, training had become an irritating chore, like doing the laundry.

I stepped back for a minute and had to remember that I set a 5 YEAR GOAL. I already achieved that goal at the sprint distance, FIVE YEARS EARLY. 

The Oly distance is excruciatingly difficult. Coach Liz says it's the hardest distance.  I have only done two Olympic distance races this year. AND I PRd both races. 

My times might not be where I want them to be, but Rome wasn't built in a day. 

It's a daily, constant reminder that great things take time....and certainly more than 2 races.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

4 Down, 4 to go. A race report



A few weeks back, Coach Liz had a heart to heart talk after she could sense my growing frustration with my swim.

Her advice to me was, "Stop killing yourself on the swim. Put your energy into the bike and run".

My initial response was....

What?!

The SWIM is my STRENGTH.

You want to take that away from me?

What will I do?

I'm sorry......

Of course, my emotional outbursts last about 30 seconds.

It takes 30 seconds for me to remember that she is the mastermind.

Saturday morning, I wake up to an email from her wishing me luck. I told her that I'm going to take her advice.

I'm not going to worry about the swim. I am going to put my energy into the bike and run.

Sunday morning rolls around. After a week and a half of dealing with personal issues, I didn't really know how the day was going to go. All I knew was that I was going to give it everything I have.

I racked my bike and ran back to my car. When I returned, the racks were full. Several women were talking about how this race was going to be a tune up race for Nationals.


I frantically sent off a text to J. 

"OMGOMGOMG. THEY'RE ALL RACING NATIONALS. THEY'RE ALL FAST. OMGOMGOMG"

You know your real friends when they answer your frantic text at 6am on Sunday

Of course, his response was, "They're all thinking the same things about you".



oh.


I decided to leave transition and go find my zen.

I was pretty sure I left it near the porta potty.



About the race itself.

I didn't worry about the swim. I got to transition and saw one bike already gone. At the time, I didn't know how far ahead of me she was. I found out later that she beat me on the swim by seconds. I beat her in transition by seconds. 

As soon as I saw that I was in 2nd, possibly 3rd, I had one goal in mind: 



 AND I WILL PASS YOU.

I DON'T CARE HOW FAST YOU ARE.

I WILL BE FASTER.


Within 2 miles, I passed a woman with 50-54 age group on her calf. 

What if she isn't the only one?

I kept going. 

I had my BBS segment watts. I knew what I goal wattage I needed to hit.

I kept riding as hard as I could.

I had another goal for this race. For YEARS, I have wanted to break 47 minutes on this ride. I have come painfully close multiple times.

I pulled into transition, not knowing what my time was but knowing that I gave it everything I had. 

I start running toward the racks. There are no bikes in yet. 

I'm in FIRST.

At this point, I have a 3 minute lead. I just didn't know it at the time. 

My plan was to use the HR monitor to keep me honest on the run. For some reason, my HRM didn't work; even though it worked perfectly fine yesterday. Without it, I started strong and faded a bit. That's on me. I know I shouldn't count on technology. 

I ran the first mile strong. The last 2.....I just kinda fell into a rhythm. 

I was passed on the run. She only beat me by 2 min. I didn't know she was only 2 min ahead. I didn't know I had a 3 min lead when I started running.  I am a really competitive person. Had I know all of this, I probably/definitely would have run harder. 

I'm learning that as long as I ride hard and give my best run, I can compete with these women. One of my goals is to learn how to use my competitive spirit to push me to be my best....with or without technology.

I finished in 2nd place and 11th overall female.

When I saw my bike time: 46:31 and a speed of 22.3mph. I held 95% FTP. I was nothing short of glowing. 

I grabbed my ticket with my finish time. In disbelief, I sent off a text to Liz, Mr. Tea & J. 

I remember my first podium. It was a fluke....one of those where I was 3rd out of 3. Then I got my first 1st place, beating second place by over 12 minutes. I thought it was a fluke. Then, I regularly started stepping up on the podium.

To this day, every time it happens, I am in shock. 

But today was bigger than any podium. Liz has given me the courage to take risks, to do things I've never done before. Today was a breakthrough like I've never had before. 

I sat at the picnic table at the awards ceremony. I thought about where I'd been and what I still want to accomplish. Some days those goals seem SO far away. Then, I have a day like this; where all the work starts to show.

All top 5 women in the 50-54 AG beat the podium finishers of the 45-49 AG by over 10 min. That's how strong this age group is. There were many of us in the 45-49 age group who aged up this year. I know these women. I have been racing with them for years. They are nothing short of amazing.

It means so much to me that I can hang with them. I'm learning something at each race. I'm getting stronger and smarter. That's a good place to be.


4 races. 4 podiums. 4 races left.

Up next Nationals. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Relationship Status: It's complicated (Episode #5)

Over the years, I've talked about my relationships with people, coaches (technically coaches are people; even though, I tend to see them as superhuman), training, races, daily nutrition, and the list goes on.

Recently, maybe it was a few weeks back now, on the MSM FB page, someone asked me about my race day fueling.


It's complicated.

A great starting point, and what I usually say to people, work with a sports dietitian. At least, you can knock out about half the trial and error.

I worked with a sports dietitian. I have done sweat tests and sodium tests. Before going through all that, race fueling was absolute hell.

What I've learned since then, is that it will always be a work in progress. There are no two races the same. Your body changes as well. Something might work well for years; then BOOM out of nowhere, you can't stomach it anymore. 

Things that affect my fueling decisions:

1.) Race distance: Races under 2:15, I don't need fuel other than electrolytes/water combination. 

Races from 2:15 to 4 hours, gets tricky, especially if that race is an olympic distance triathlon. I take in calories and electrolytes.  The calories tend to be liquid because of the high speeds I'm going on the bike; and running and chewing....just below threshold....really isn't easy or advisable.

Once I get to the 70.3, that's a different ball game altogether. Liquid calories, real food, on the race course I drink coke at every aid station (after the halfway mark of the half marathon).

2.) Whether or not my hormones are being assholes. The week of PMS, for all women, our blood plasma drops. Because of this, we are right on the verge of hyponatremia on a daily basis, which is ok if you are not an athlete. It has some dangerous outcomes if you are an athlete and don't address it. During this time, our bodies do not process fats for fuel as well as they do during the rest of the month. The good news is that all is not lost. We can add carbohydrates and electrolytes to offset these hormonal changes.

3.) Weather. Cold, heat, wind, humidity, altitude, rain, hail. Again fueling changes based on these external factors. Is there shade on the course? Are you running on pavement or trails? 

Believe it or not, you need to know all of this before a race.

(NB: This is why writing a race plan is so important. When I started with Liz, I'd never written a race plan. For my first race, she asked me for it. I had NO idea what she wanted. Now, I can't imagine heading into a race without a plan. Just another reason you should hire her if you are looking for a coach. She does things long before other coaches do). 

Another very important thing to keep in mind. Please don't take advice from coaches who are not trained sports dietitians. I cringe every time I see coaches giving out fueling advice. They aren't trained in the field. 

Would you go to an eye doctor for advice about putting in a sprinkler system?

With all that said, here are the products that I use. It'll seem complicated, but it's not. Now that I know what I need and when I need it, it's easy.

Tailwind Nutrition:  Created right here in Colorado, by ultra-marathoners, this drink tastes good hot or cold. It is meant to be an all in one fueling. The flavor is extremely mild, and they have an unflavored version as well. I use this for olympic distance races or any race where it's easier for me to drink than chew. For hot races, I will make tailwind ice cubes the day before. When the ice melts, I know I'm not just having straight water.

For 2017, with my focus on olympic distance races, this has been my go to fuel.

One other point: Tailwind is the only product I've ever used that dissolves within a matter of seconds. It completely dissolves. 

I use pre-load the night before a long or hot race, and I sip on it the morning of a race. The pre-load is a very high sodium drink. There is a women's version as well as a men's version (since we have different needs). 

(Note: The Right Stuff is very similar to Pre-load. Right stuff also works well. The main difference is that Pre-load is a powder. The Right Stuff is a liquid that comes in a pouch. I no longer use RS because: 1.) I noticed some of the salt was staying in the bottom of the pouch. No matter what I did, I couldn't get it out. 2.) MSM gets a discount from NBS Nutrition--which is why I tried it to begin with, but I am still giving you an honest opinion of the product). 

The hydration product is meant to be taken with real food, so this is a very good option for long course racing. It has all the electrolytes but not many calories. The calories would be taken in separately.

I use the hydration product for short races such as a sprint. It's an electrolyte/water mix that works well for me. The taste is also mild, so that's a bonus. I absolutely can't handle sweet stuff. 

Precision Hydration For those of you salty and/or heavy sweaters, REJOICE! Precision hydration might be a good one for you to try. 

I should point out that my sweat rate and sodium losses are very low. I'm on the very low end of the spectrum....like freak level.

Precision Hydration offers a sports drink, salt tablets and effervescent tablets. I have not used the sports drink. 

Why is this different? PH makes products with as little as 500mg of sodium (good for people like me) and up to 1500mg of sodium per serving, good for those of you with a high sodium loss.

I use the effervescent tablets. Again, this is mostly for short efforts, pre-race drinking. I also use it for things like masters swimming.  

Skratch Products: In an effort to completely transparent, I am not currently using Skratch labs because my distances aren't long enough. I use this product for 70.3 training and racing. (I do not use the hydration product because I have found it doesn't dissolve as easy as the other mixes I've mentioned here. In fact, I've had to use hot water to get it to dissolve. That's not good when you're trying to get ready for a hot race and have limited ice availability).

I use the Skratch labs chews for the run and the cookie mix for long workouts or races.

When I'm too tired to bake, I use Picky Bars

These items are the "real food" products that I mentioned above. These need to be taken with an electrolyte drink. (Keep in the mind, the chews have incremental sodium in them but not enough to sustain an athlete during long training/racing).



Although I had a starting point in regards to sodium and sweat loss because I worked with a sports dietitian, I've figured out most of this through trial an error. 

It's up to you to figure out what tastes you can handle. I know that I can't handle sweet tastes. Some products dissolve better than others. Different products have different calories, electrolytes, etc. Unfortunately, fueling is not a one size fits all. You'll have to try different things and see what works best for you.


On a related note, here are some warning signs that you should pay attention to when training.
This is not medical advice. I am not a trained sports dietitian. 

For those of you who are training for a 70.3 or a full Ironman, if you notice that you are getting angry or frustrated or feel like you hate a particular training session, you are not taking in enough fuel. If, during training, you are starting to question what you are doing. Those are signs of bonking. You need more calories. DON'T SKIMP ON CALORIES when training for long course. 

If your heart rate drifts upward, if you cannot hold the watts or pace you need to.....look at your hydration. You are likely dehydrated. (This is slightly more complicated. During a an ultra endurance race, you will likely see HR drift-especially when it is hot-but in training you need to learn what is an acceptable level. You can really only do this with the help of a knowledgeable coach. I have been training in very hot and humid conditions recently. Liz has been helping me figure out how much MORE water/electrolytes I need to add to my training).

If you feel sloshing in your stomach when you drink, you are dehydrated. I know. It might seem like you are taking in too much, but it's exactly the opposite. The general gist is that without the correct balance of electrolytes and water, your stomach shuts down (basic terms) and will not allow the absorption of the water. Water alone will not hydrate you. You need a mix of electrolytes and some carbohydrates (as found in hydration products). 


I know most of you, experienced athletes, know all of this. I mention it because I see comments on strava. I've been doing this for a very long time. I can see when people are new to endurance events based on their comments. From training volumes, I can tell if someone is training for a tri or a marathon or an ultra event. I can usually tell if someone is in a build period, taper or recovery.  It's like when I go to the pool, I can see when people are using bad form. I can see what needs to be changed. But, I don't know exactly what that particular person needs to do to fix the issue. 

That's because we are all unique individuals with unique needs. We can't train or fuel like our neighbors. We have to do what's right for each of us individually.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The up and coming

I have had insomnia for over a week. For the last two days, sleep has been better. Still, it takes a long time to recover from that.

Why am I telling you this? Because I get cranky, emotional, irrational, fill in the blanks, when I'm tired.

That's the reason I haven't written in a bit. I don't really want to sound sad or down, or super negative.

It is what it is, though.

Take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt.

I have gone back and forth with how much I say about my upcoming race schedule.

I don't really want to hide it because it puts my training into perspective.

I am racing this weekend. This will be my 4th tri of the year. It's sprint with a long bike, which is shall I say....right in my wheelhouse.

(Oh, I just remembered. I'm also doing an open water swim race next weekend).

It's my last race before my A races.

I'm going back to Nationals and racing back to back days. Nationals consists of an Olympic distance race on Saturday and a sprint on Sunday.

You might remember that I qualified for Team USA at the sprint distance. I have a pipe dream to do it at the Olympic.

To make that happen, I pretty much have to run my absolute best race at paces and speeds that I've never done before.

I'm working my ass off to do exactly that, but I'm not holding my breath.

Still, anything can happen on race day.

A few months back, I started thinking about next year (2018). Part of this came out of the fact that USA-Triathlon announced that Nationals would be held in Cleveland, OH in 2018.

I have no desire to race in Cleveland. There's nothing wrong with Cleveland. (I've never even been there).

Still, I don't want to go.

If left me with this: it's unlikely that I will make Team USA.
OK, how about I say this. It's improbable but not impossible.

If I don't race the world championship AND I don't want to do Nationals next year....WHAT DO I DO?

Mr. Tea to the rescue.

Mr. Tea came up with the idea that we should go back to Coeur D'Alene and do the 70.3. In 2008, I DNF'd at the full IM.

This would be a celebration of how far I'd come.

BRILLIANT. I loved the idea, but CDA is in June.

WHAT IF>>>>>WHAT IF>>>>>I MAKE TEAM USA?

(Yes. See? I'm not giving up on the dream).

June is cutting it too close to race the world championship to my absolute BEST.

I liked the idea of the 70.3.  After IM Boulder 70.3 last year, I'd wanted another shot. I did Boulder 8 weeks after surgery. I lost my fuel on the bike. I had a monster PR, but I knew I wasn't at my best. I can only do so much after being unable to train for 3 weeks.

I definitely wanted another shot at the 70.3.

What about May? St. GEORGE. YES. I LOVED racing the olympic distance there this year.

And, I'm particularly good at climbing on the bike.

Something didn't quite feel right about the race. I found out that a large group of people from CO were going to be racing there. This will sound strange, but I prefer to race where I don't know people.

I put THAT race on the back burner.

I have time to figure it out.

Weeks go by.

I started thinking about Choo. Bleh. A good race for my strengths, but I didn't really want to go to Tennessee. (Again, nothing wrong with Tennessee).

I got an email (last week) from Ironman. Because Multisport Mastery is a club team, we get priority slots in registrations.

The email stated that I could register for IM Florida 70.3 (Haines City) between 7/13-7/17 before registration opens to the public.

Holy cow. Florida wasn't even on the radar.

The timing (April....after Easter....our busy season) was perfect.

IF that slim chance, of making Team USA, actually happens.....this gives me time to train appropriately for an olympic distance race.

Mr. Tea's brother now lives in FL (a short drive from Haines City).

I checked out the course. The description was moderately hilly. I looked it up on map my ride and Strava. I uploaded the course to Best Bike Split.

Moderately hill: 2-3 hills at 5%. The rest of the ride is a rolling course.

PERFECT.

It'll likely be a non-wetsuit swim. (Although, in 2016, it was wetsuit legal). Non-wetsuit? PERFECT.

The run? Other than a hill on 10th street......500feet of elevation gain over 13.1 miles? Hell, I do 500 feet in under 6 miles.



GAME ON.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

In the moment

I have a few (very) long time readers. People who have followed me from an old forum to my first blog to this one. If you are in that group, you might remember this story.

I have been running for a very long time. Many years ago, about 20, I started a light yoga program. I bought videos and did what I could at home.

At one point, I had a minor accident that resulted in a fractured heel. I went to a sports doctor, who I thought I could trust.....I mean really a sports doctor would do anything to help someone get back to running, right?

When I asked this doctor when I could run again, he said, "Run?! You'll never walk again without pain. You won't ever run again".

Running was everything for me. I had two sons, Mr. Tea, and a job that required a ton of travel (across the US and internationally). Running was the only real time I had for myself.

Believe it or not. I wasn't discouraged by what he said. In fact, what I thought to myself was, "That's bullshit".

There's more to that story about how I recovered. This post isn't about that.

I went home. Walking was incredibly painful. I was doing the light yoga. I decided to throw myself into a more significant yoga program.

I had read a lot about the healing ability of yoga. I believed that yoga was going to help me get through it. I did it daily. Some days, I only did 15 minutes. Some days I did 1.5 hours. Some days, I did two shorter routines, but I did it every day.

It took two years. Two years, and I did my first pain free run. During that time, through yoga, I'd learned how to be in the moment. We don't know what the future will hold. The past is done and can't be changed. The only thing we can change or be is the moment we are in.

The accident above is also what led me to triathlon.

As my interest in triathlon grew and the training hours increased, I slowly dropped out of my yoga routine.

For a couple of months, I have been struggling personally. In a way, I have felt lost, like I don't have a purpose.

Several months back, I started working with Jyoti, a sports massage therapist. He is absolutely fantastic. At one point, he asked me if I do yoga. I told him that I did many years ago. He said, "Good. Then, you'll be familiar with the homework I'm going to give you".

He then showed me a number of poses that he wanted me to do at home to help regain flexibility and improve my posture and mobility. He worked with me to show me how to adjust moves to my current ability.

All of the poses were yoga poses. Of course, I had to adjust many (and by many I mean all) of the poses because of my lack of flexibility.

He asked me to spend at least 15 minutes a day working on the poses.

15 minutes. That's a commitment I can make.

For months now, I have been doing these basic yoga movements. This past month, I started adding more moves.

I have been re-learning how to breathe and focus on relaxing the muscles (or as Jyoti says "image butter melting in a pan". Who doesn't love butter?)

In doing this, I have found what I lost: being in the moment. Taking a breath and focusing only on the breath.

This time is allowing my subconscious thoughts to come to the forefront without forcing the issue.

This morning I woke up at 4:30, wide awake.

I woke up, and I realized what had been missing from my life over the past months.

I knew what I had to do to change it.

I no longer felt lost.

I, once again, have a purpose.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Head games: Mental block

A few weeks back, I got tired of my own bullshit.

Around the same time, Coach Liz attended the GAIN Symposium.

For me, it was a perfect storm. She returned full of new ideas. She emailed me and said, "Wait until you see what I have planned for you".

And I was....tired of my own bullshit.

Throughout the month of June and (I guess) part of July, we had ongoing discussions.

I'm going to mix up the order of events. Please bear with me.

One day, she gave me some cadence drills. I'm so over cadence drills. I actually hate them because I cannot do them.

I told her this. She ask, "What's holding you back"? I said, "I don't know. I physically cannot do the drills. I mean. I can do them for a few seconds. That's it".

She explained to me that this isn't my fault. And that she suspects it is due to weakened muscles due to all that baby making I did.

You have no idea how good this made me feel. (I probably should have brought it up to her sooner). The fact was that I'd been told....I'd read articles....over the years...SO MANY PEOPLE/ATHLETES/COACHES have told me about how importance cadence was. They all just said, "Do these drills".

I was afraid she was going to say the same thing. You'd think I'd have known better since we've been together +3.5 years.

Sometimes, drills aren't the answer. Sometimes it takes having a coach willing to listen to you. We've been together long enough that she knows when I am giving it everything I have. She knows when I'm frustrated. This was one of those times.

She set me up with a routine that I do 2-3 times a week. The very first day I looked at the workout, and I thought, "This is weird. How can these possibly help me"? Sure enough, there were several exercises that I couldn't even do and even more that I could do, but I couldn't do the number of reps.

The exercises are still hard for me, but only 2 weeks into it, and we saw an improvement in my cadence (particularly on the uphills).

Now, you might be thinking, "How is this related to head games"?  This WHOLE cadence thing became a mental block. When I ran and had to do the drills, my entire body tightened up. I was no longer relaxed when I ran.  I was starting to think that I was different. (For those of you who have been long time readers, you might remember a few posts about how NONE of us are special. Very very few of us have actual issues. The rest of us fall under the bell curve).

It became a mental block. I couldn't get past it. I was mad at myself. I was mad at Liz for asking me to do it. It was Newton's 3rd law in action. There can be no acceleration when two forces are working against each other.

Then, an easy conversation with her, new exercises, and I'm already seeing progress. What used to weigh me down is now a work in progress.

Moral of the story: Mental blocks can and will slow or derail your training. You need to know when to ask for help. I didn't know there was something that could help me until I asked. Maybe you haven't been able to break the 2:00 per 100 pace in swimming. Sometimes it's more than just swimming harder. Maybe you can't seem to climb hills the way you want to on the bike. Sometimes it's more that just working harder. We all have physical limiters that we aren't aware of. Those physical limiters can actually become mental inhibitors if we allow them to. Don't let them. Ask for help. You can't always power through things. Sometimes, the devil is in the details; and a very simple, easy fix is all it takes.



Up Next
Head Games 3: Going to failure to reach your goals




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

IM Madison 70.3


Another great race report from Coach Liz: how do you approach a race when you don't feel like you are really ready to race?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Head Games



For the last two months, I've had a lot going on in MA HEAD.

Each race has brought out more feelings of frustration on one level or another.

I have an amazing team of coaches that I work with. I am so genuinely taken by how much they care about me and my performance.

I decided it was time for me to write about some of this.

I'm going to speak in general terms because in races there are tons of nuances and small things that take place that can affect pace or time. These are things we cannot control. I don't worry about them.

I have been swimming faster (in the pool) than I have ever swam before. This speed has not been translating to open water.

It's been making me a little crazy. I haven't been able to figure out why. In open water with wetsuit or with a swimskin, I should be swimming substantially faster.

After my first race of the year, I went back to Coach Liz. We talked through some issues. She felt that the cold water impacted my speed. (Especially since swim times across the board were very slow for an oly, and I got out of the water with a 5 minute lead).

She set up my training with with open water swims that would help me translate pool speed to open water.

I went to my swim coach. At masters, he started spending more and more time with me (which he tends to do in the Summer) correcting some minor things in my stroke.

In my most recent race, I had my best swim of the year (3 minute lead getting out of the water), but I STILL wasn't doing what I am capable of doing.

I went back to Coach Liz. She recommended that I stop killing myself on the swim since I'm getting out of the water with such a huge lead.....I should put my energy into my bike and run.

I chewed on that for a bit.

I relayed this conversation to my swim coach, "But I'm not killing myself. That's the problem. If I finished feeling completely wiped out, it would be one thing. But I'm finishing, and I'm like, "LET'S DO THAT AGAIN"!

I knew it was something about open water. Something was happening in open water that was causing me to slow down.

I had to figure it out.

I had another race coming up.

As I was racing, I remember thinking "I'm moving really quickly".

When I finished, I'd had my best swim so far, but I was far from "moving quickly".

After the race, I realized what was happening.

Then, I remembered something my swim coach had said months ago.

He had me do a long course meters 900m time trial. When I finished, he asked me, "How does swimming fast feel"?

Breathless.....I said, "Good".

He stared at me for a second and said, "Let me know when you figure it out".

For months, I thought about that conversation. I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then, a few weeks later he made the comment, "Swimming fast is different. It feels different. People swim differently when they are swimming fast".

I started putting two and two together.


Because I work by "feel", this can be hard to explain.

I realized that the difference was the controlled environment of the pool versus the very uncontrolled environment of open water.

When I swim in a pool, the water is nice and calm. When I am swimming fast, my breathing is labored and (this is the important part).....the water is moving over my head very fast. I know I am moving fast because of these external factors.

The water is moving fast AND my breathing is labored.

When I get to open water, I am dealing with other people, the current, wind, sun.....etc.

I start swimming in open water, and the water is already moving past me very very fast. That led me to believe that I was actually swimming fast. But the effort (on my part) was not there.

It was the external factor of how the water felt, that fooled me into thinking I was swimming fast.

Could that really be it?

I had to try it. I was looking forward to my next open water swim. My goal was to ignore how the water felt and pay attention to every aspect of my stroke (diversion technique) and most importantly constant do a system check, "How do you feel"?

For my first interval, I noticed right away that YES the water was moving FAST.

How do you feel?

I'm not struggling at all.

I paid attention to every part of my stroke: Hand entry, PULL, PUSH, LIFT. Entry, Pull, Push, Lift. I ignored the people I was passing. I ignored the water speeding over my head.

All of a sudden, I realized I was swimming very fast. My effort was much harder than normal but sustainable. I felt efficient. Which each stroke, I felt a power that I had never felt before.

When I finished my swim, I looked at my interval paces. For 3:00 intervals, I swam the following paces :59, 1:06, 1:13, 1:16, 1:13.

Considerably faster than my races.

I was so excited that I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and my swim Coach.

When I went to masters the other day, the first thing I did was call him over to tell him about my mental breakthrough.

He smiled and said, "You get it. Now you know what swimming fast feels like".


Now, I'm never fooled by ONE good workout. One good workout can happen for any reason: a great night of sleep, great fueling, proper recovery.

As I told Coach, this will take some work on my part. Now, I know what the issue is, and I know how to work through it.

The timing couldn't be better with my next triathlon coming up and an open water swim race coming up.



Get ready.....there's a Head Games parts 2 and 3 coming up that deal with the bike and the run.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twas a mixed bag

I have never been more excited, ready, geeked, prepared.....to race than I was today.

For weeks, I have felt like I was on the brink of a breakthrough.

I had a race plan unlike any I've written before.

I was so ready for this.

The weather was absolutely perfect racing weather.

Luck of the draw gave me the very first spot on the very first rack near the bike exit.

I felt great.

When I got to the race venue, I thought to myself, "the stars are aligning for a great day".

Then, I realized that based on the way they did the bib numbers, I was the only person in my age group on the rack.

I took this as a sign. This will force me to focus on my race and not pay attention to how many bikes are racked after the swim.

Normally, I don't worry about what other women are doing, but I do take note of who's out of the water or who has already started running.

I thought about it. This is really good for me.

My wave started at 7:30. I thought, for sure, the sun would be up and well out of our way before we started swimming.

I was wrong.  No one could see anything. This was across the board. Small groups of athletes were checking with each other to see if anyone could see the buoys.

The RD repeatedly told us, "You can't see the 2nd green buoy. It's out there. Trust me. That's where you turn".

Staring out on the water, for a split second, I thought I could see a buoy.....wayyyyyy out there......I had to come up with a strategy.

The buoys didn't really line up. Three were in line. One was out of line. I looked out.

I thought, "everyone is going to attempt to go from buoy to buoy. That's going to add distance".

I opted for what was behind door number 2.

I wasn't going to chase buoys. I was going to beeline straight to the dam wall. (Oh. The sun also made it impossible to see swimmers off in the distance. So, trying to follow them was impossible).

The olympic distance group started before the sprinters. My plan called for trying to stay focused. I was shooting for a focus rate of about 90%.

As soon as I ran into the sprinters, I would go after a fast one and draft off of him.

We took off running into the water. Immediately, everyone veered to the right, except me and another woman. Throughout the entire race, I didn't know if I was following her....or if she was following me....or a mix of both.

We stayed neck in neck the entire time. Twice I pulled into the lead. Twice I stopped swimming to try to get a visual of the buoy. I should have trusted my internal gps instead of stopping.

....because all of a sudden I look up, and the 2nd green buoy is directly in front of me.

Me and the other woman had already caught the slowest swimmers of all previous waves. As we made the final turn, I see the sprinters merging with the olympic racers.

Find your guy. Find the guy you can draft off of. Unfortunately, this plan didn't really go as expected. I had started to pick up speed and was passing guys like crazy.

I caught the other woman in my sights. She was picking up speed. DRAFT HER. GO NOW.


As a side note: my open water swim speed (in races) has been lacking.

Although I was first out of the water, I did not hit my training paces. Granted some of that had to do with stopping three times.

Still, I got to shore and I thought, "Best effort this year. Let's go crush the bike".

Swim result: MIXED: not as fast as I can swim; first out of the water; best effort this year.


OH LAWDY was I ever ready for that bike.

The minute I jumped on my bike, I knew I had a problem. I'm trying to change gears, and I got nothing.

NOTHING.

Well now. Isn't that sucky.

I look down at my gearing. I'm in the big chain ring (in front) and about the middle cog in back.  I decide to stay in the race.

I think, "Use what you have. Do what you can".

I know I will not be able to hit top speeds. (There is an awesome, super fast, steep, with no curves descent on the course. I was going to tear it up).

BUT, I could push it on the uphills.

I'm catching and passing sprinters.

I'm catching and passing people from the oly race.

I'm too focused on the job at hand to notice that I hadn't seen any women, any women +40 since...well, since we were talking at the racks.

When I get to the top of the big descent, I notice that the road was all chip seal. Well dammit. I'm still going to go as hard as I can, at least until I get to "spinout". Then, I'll have to coast the rest of the way.

For the entire bike, I averaged almost 21mph, which is a huge PR for the course. My previous best was 18.5 mph. My top speed was 33.7 mph. That was disappointing. I could have easily hit +45mph. I love going fast.

Bike result: MIXED. I'm happy that I PR'd, but dammit, I could have really blown away my previous time.  Best Bike Split said I could do 1:12. I finished in 1:16. Four minutes doesn't seem like much, but when the swim and bike are your strength, it's kinda a lot.


When I pulled into transition, the thing that struck me was HOW MANY BIKES were already racked.

WOW. Am I in last place?

I committed to this race. I might be in last place, but I am going to run like I'm in first.

I have an opportunity to PR this run. I'm not going to give up on that.

I won't drag you through step by step of the run. Except to say that I was running and didn't see any women, again. Oh, I saw a few young'uns, but that was it. I thought about all the bikes that were already racked when I pulled into T2. I kept thinking, "Holy cow. Am I THAT far behind"?

STAY FOCUSED.

It was awesome seeing Coach Amanda from MSM out there. (Amanda is a coach and pro-triathlete).

She was saying stuff to me.....no idea what....but all that came out of my mouth was: EVERYTHING HURTS.

She said (at this point, I might be making up what she said), "You're in the last mile. You'll be hitting the downhill. Everything you have right now"......or some kind of coachy-motivational-talk.

Oh, and she took this picture of me.


When I crossed the finish line, I met Tara (another MSM) athlete. She and I met up with Coach Amanda. I went over to the results table.

I came in 2nd.

W.T.F.

I don't even know how it happened.

The entire race ended up being a +7 minute PR for this specific course and tied with my all time fastest oly. (NOTE: This bike was a longer than normal bike course).

RUN RESULTS: MIXED. I tied my all time 10k off the bike run. Could I have run better? Yeah. I think so.

So, what was up with all those bikes in transition?

For some reason, this race had a very high DNF rate. It was very strange. I had 3 friends DNF on the swim. The woman who was next to me in transition took a DNF. And I saw an old coach of mine (from years ago) walking his bike back on the side of the road; I can only assume, with a mechanical issue.


As I was waiting for the awards ceremony, I was talking to a guy. He'd never done a triathlon before. He asked to see my results, and I handed him my sheet. He said, "You guys are the toughest athletes I know. It just seems so hard".

Triathlon is hard. And it can be frustrating at times. And progress can feel slow. Then, to have a day like today that was set up to be one of my best races.....only to end up with a mixed bag of emotions.....it can be hard.

I'm not disappointed. It's kind of hard to explain what I'm feeling. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit about my weaknesses and strengths in each of the events. Things that I would have never noticed before if:
1.) I hadn't been chasing sprinters on the swim.
2.) I hadn't had the bike failure.
3.) I hadn't thought I was in last place on the run.


The pursuit of my best race; the one that I know I have in me, continues.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ICYMI: MSM results

This weekend was a HUGE racing weekend.


More impressive results came in after this post was published.

The coaches of MSM are hands down the best coaches. If you are an athlete (single or multisport) and you want to become a better athlete, you owe yourself to contact Head Coach Liz

Anyone can throw a training plan into trainingpeaks and call it "coaching". The difference with the MSM coaches is that they coach the mental side of racing and develop athletes. Afterall, we can't improve our speeds if we don't improve our minds. This is in addition to putting together highly effective, individualized training plans.

Still unsure?


When you are shopping around for a Coach, the #1 question to ask is "Can I talk to those athletes you have taken from beginner to top age grouper?" Or middle of the pack to PRO.
That's how I met Liz. I personally knew 5 athletes who started with her as beginners or back of the pack athletes. I watched them grow into World Qualifiers (for all distances).





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Running ugly


Yoda was full of shit.

A couple of weeks back, I was physically tired and had masters on my schedule. I showed up and thought there was no way I was going to keep up.

We ordered the lane, and I was second. The entire time I said, "I'm going to stay to the right, pass me if you need to".

I was determined to give it everything I had even though I felt like I had nothing.

Something magical happened. I was swimming fast. I switched places with the leader and was lapping the last people in the lane.

Afterward, I sat in the parking lot, completely amazed at what I did. I furiously typed up my notes in trainingpeaks.  Coach Liz responded with, "Sometimes all you have to do is try".

Once again, it's simple but not easy.

On various social media sites, I see comments such as "I didn't have it today. I called it quits. My legs were dead. I'm too sore. LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY"!

These are precisely the days that we need to push through.  If you are working with a coach, your coach knows how you feel. There is a reason for that workout.

For those of you who have been following along for at least a year, you already know this. For those of you who are new, you might find this interesting.

Last year, Mr. Tea......the BEST man, almost died due to a major health issue. When it happened, he was over 100lbs overweight.

Unlike many people, he took this incident seriously and set out to change his life. He has now lost 119lbs; eats an incredibly healthy diet and exercises every day.

Because he was overweight for so long, he has to re-learn what "healthy" feels like. It's uncomfortable getting healthy. On almost a daily basis, I'm sore or my legs feel dead or I'm tired or.....there are days that I'm just not right. (A good example was yesterday's open water swim. I felt uncoordinated and couldn't fix it).

I'm not one to complain. You'll never hear me complain about the heat or about a course being too hard or water being too cold or *me* being sore or any of that. Likewise, I never use any of those at an excuse for race times or training paces. And, as I said, I don't use them as an excuse to quit a workout.

After the open water swim, I had an hour run planned.  I'd had a weekend of very tough workouts. I was feeling the open water workout. Running was the last thing I wanted to do.

Of course, I knew I would do it, anyway.

Several months ago, Mr. Tea made a comment that I make training look easy. The comment stuck with me. It takes a ton of scheduling and re-scheduling. It takes a ton of prep. It takes a ton effort to get out there day in and day out.

Because I don't complain, it comes across as though it's easy for me.

With Mr. Tea taking on new exercise challenges and learning how his body will feel, I really wanted to make sure that he understood that what I do......it isn't easy.

Before I left for my run yesterday, I said, "I want you to know. I'm tired. My legs are sore. I don't particularly want to run, but I'm going to do it anyway. This is what people don't see. When you drive by me, know this......I'm struggling".

I was running ugly.

After a 30 minute warm up, I ran track intervals. The entire warm up, I kept saying, "All you have to do is try".

And I did.

When I got to the track, I gave it everything I had. I emptied the tank.

I've never emptied the tank before.

I ran my fastest intervals ever. I saw paces that I've never seen before.

I sat on the side of the track and sent off my notes to Liz. I could barely contain my excitement.


This is what people are missing out on when they quit a workout. They are denying themselves the chance to breakthrough, mentally.

The next time you're tired or slow or feel the dreaded dead legs; hell, if you are getting off the couch for the very first time, remember.

Sometimes all you need to do is try.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Letters to myself

I'm so fucking fed up.

I've been desperate before. That's when I started working with a sports dietitian.

I've been frustrated before. That's when I started working with Liz.

I've never been this fucking angry with myself.

When you're doing the best possible training and following the best nutrition plan, there's only one change left to make.

That change is ME.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been writing letters to myself. Some are plans for races. Some are random, but really quite insightful, thoughts.

And I've been reading, a lot.

Out of nowhere, I stumbled upon information that hit me like a brick....and a light came on.

First, I was really mad. Then, I calmed down and came up with a plan. Not at all a detailed plan. It was more of "YOU'RE GOING TO FUCKING DO THIS".....type of plan.


Because I'm finally tired of my own bullshit.

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.