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 my old coach (from years ago) walking his bike back on the road; obviously, also 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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Race Report: The Rage



My first race of the year.

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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Shaken confidence


I wasn't going to write about this because it seems like a small issue. Then I thought, maybe it was one of those things that every person has to deal with at some time.

Saturday, my confidence was completely shaken.

My races this year have very difficult bike courses. I did this intentionally. The olympic course of Nationals has one climb that we hit twice. Now, this hill isn't substantial for someone who lives and trains on hills.

But, I have a bigger goal on my radar. 

In order to reach that goal, I chose a race schedule that is filled with hills.

In order to race well, we have been doing all new types of bike training.

I saw Saturday's workout. I set it up in Zwift. I looked it over and thought, "a 1 hour and 15 min workout. Ok. I can do that". 

A short workout means there will be some serious intensity. I had 4 intervals to get through.  This is my bread and butter. This is the stuff I love. I don't cringe when I see these workouts. I look forward to them.

When I was 2 minutes into the first interval, I started thinking, "I'm not going to make it through this workout". 

During the recovery, I thought, "WHAT IS THIS WORKOUT"?

WHY is it so hard?

The second interval hit. I check my power. I check my HR. Everything is where it needs to be, but I feel like I'm going to pass out.

There has to be something wrong with me. I can't keep going like this. I need to drop power.

Just keeping pushing. Keep pedaling.

For the last 2 intervals, I used every single mental strategy I had to get through. I was counting down intervals. I was saying, "You can do anything for 7 minutes...anything for 6 minutes. Only 5 minutes left. Chase down that guy".

I was repeating, "You've got this".

On the last interval, my legs were burning like they never burned before. With every rotation, the voice in the back of my head was there saying, "This shouldn't hurt so bad. There's something wrong with you".

At the end of the last one, I collapsed on my aerobars, unable to even spin the pedals. My legs were shaking. My arms were shaking, and I had sweat running off my face like a river.

As I recovered and started my cooldown, I started analyzing the ride. Why was it so hard? What am I going to tell Liz? "I did it, but I didn't do it well".

I stared at the treadmill. For the first time I can remember, Liz gave me an out, "OPTIONAL OFF THE BIKE RUN".

I sat there and debated skipping it.

For no reason, except that I was so tired, so very tired. I couldn't even think of attempting to run.

I sat on the edge of the treadmill.

I remembered something. Back in 2008, I was training for Ironman CDA.  There was a day that I wanted to give up. I was on the trainer for hours upon hours. JMan came down to check on me. I told him that I was thinking of quitting.

He replied, "So. Are you just going to quit? Are you going to do that in your race, too? Just get off the bike and walk back"?

That day, I kept going.

I sat on the edge of the treadmill and started getting my shoes on. I started running.

I thought of something that Liz said to me years before, "Your legs won't feel like they are there, but they are. You have to trust your body".

Step by step, I kept going. My legs never felt good; in fact, they felt about as bad as they could feel. I never felt "energized", but my pace and heart rate were right where they needed to be.

I could only think of one thing, "If you don't fight for this now, you are giving yourself permission to quit down the road".

I finished the run. I laid on the couch and thought about the workout. No sense of satisfaction. No feeling like a bad ass fighter. No sense of a job well done; just the feeling of being thankful that I was done.

A few hours later, and after I ate and recovered, I typed up my notes to Liz, telling her everything that went through my head.

The very first thing she said was, "tea, this is an extremely difficult workout". She explained how it was going to help at my races.

There was a lot going on in my head on Saturday. I pulled from every single mental strategy I had to get through the workout.

But this is what I want YOU to know, when you think you are at wit's end; when you think you have absolutely nothing left to give........You ALWAYS have more to give.

Training won't always be pretty. Some days, it will be downright ugly, but ugly counts.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The end of an era

The end of an era and a new beginning.


As I look back over my time in triathlon, I can see where (for lack of a better word) one chapter ended and another began.

It's not that all those times were monumental. They represented change or a new outlook or something like that.

I think I'm heading into my next new beginning. There are things I'd like to accomplish that I wasn't ready to tackle until now. It's simply because of growth. We all have goals. But reaching those goals takes a plan and steps along the way.

You can't be a podium finisher with the mindset of a middle of the pack athlete. You can't be a World Champion with the mindset of a podium finisher. With each level that we go for, we change. We become better.

It's a long process.

Some of the goals that I've set for myself for this year are things that weren't really on my radar even last year. That's because I wasn't ready for them.

"You aren't given a wish without also the ability to make it true".

That means, as we grow, our dreams can change.

While my big goals are out there on the horizon, I'm taking my smaller goals and making them bigger.

Liz has helped me get to a new level.

When it's my turn, I will shine.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

From here to there

Back in Nov, Liz made a comment about the difference between triathletes and runners (or triathletes with a strong/competitive running background).

I'm sure the comment was an off the cuff observation that she's seen over years of coaching.

That little OTC (off the cuff) comment has stayed with me. Even though it might not be earth shattering for a lot of people, it was something that I'd never thought of before. Honestly, I didn't really think there was a difference. After all, triathletes are runners, right?

For months, I have been working on moving from "here to there". It's a bit of a mindset change. 

Change doesn't happen overnight. It's the result of a bunch of little steps put together. Some days, I think, YES...I'm almost there. Other days, I head back to the drawing board. 
Remove the word "sacrifice" and replace it with "investment".


I know it's up to me to figure out how to get there in my day to day training. 

Three and half years with her, and she still says things that make me stop to think.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Goals

This is me.





These are my goals

I struggled with goals for a long time. It wasn't setting goals that was difficult. It was the implementation. I would set a finish time goal and always be disappointed when I didn't hit it.

One day, Liz asked me what my goals were. Bear with me, this is a little complicated in my head. In order to make Team USA at the standard distance and sprint distance, athletes have to place in a certain position at the National Championship. 

SO. Liz told me to look up the finish times of athletes who finished in X place. 

THAT finish time became my goals for Nationals this year.

I have repeatedly said, "Don't have time goals for races. It's all about effort and attitude". 

That is 100% true. Don't think about the other athletes and their abilities. Don't think about them as your competition because that's false. That is your excuse to fail.

We don't accept excuses here in the Land of Ch.

Can you tell these are conversations I've had with myself over the years?

How do I make sense of all this?

That's where Liz came in. I told her the times. She asked, "What do YOU need to do in each event to make that a reality"?

This also requires a realistic assessment of my own ability. At this time, a 2:15 oly finish is WAY too aggressive. In fact, my goal of 2:35 is going to be hard enough to hit. 

I need to be realistic and aggressive. I have to find that balance. It's not realistic for me to say that I'm going to run a 45 min 10k off the bike when I JUST did a standalone 10k in 59 minutes. An aggressive goal at the Olympic is truly an aggressive goal because of the pain involved. For me, that is what makes this a very tough race. At a 70.3 and Ironman, I could walk the aid stations. (Obviously, I doubt the pro's do that, but I suspect most age groupers DO walk the aid stations). That's not an option at the oly, especially not for me since I will be doing everything I can to hold off the runners breathing down my neck.

I sat down and I scribbled out what times I need to have in order to hit that time goal.

My swim time plus transitions are X.

My bike time is Y.

My run time is Z.

Add them all up, and you have my goal time.

That's what we are training to. 

This isn't just Nationals. I took several other races that I'm doing this year and did the exact same thing.

Now, this is important.....anything can happen on race day. That's why effort and attitude are the most important things to bring to the table. A race can be unexpectedly hot or cold or rainy or snowy or windy or......for a race I've never done.....the course can be unexpectedly difficult. 

Because I primarily do short distances, I can race a lot. I can race 1 to 2 times per month. Although these races are practice races, they are all out efforts to see where I am in the process. 

This is why it's also very important to have a race plan, developed hand in hand with your Coach.

What will you do if you lose your fuel on the course?
What will you do if it is unbelievably hot?
How will you handle rough currents?
How will you pace each event?
What will you do if the aid stations run out of water, food, gels, etc?

What will you do the morning of the race if your race start is delayed?
How will you eat in the morning?
What will you eat the night before?


Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

These things might seem like small details, but you need a plan.
 
This is how I come up with my goals and the plan to get me there. 

I have many races coming up. I needed something to get me back on track and focused on my upcoming races. 

I wrote down my goals for a few races. I picked the first 2 races on my calendar and Nationals. My thought was that I'd get through my first sprint and oly of the year and reassess at that time. Not reassess my goals. Those races will show me where I was strong and what I need to work on. My goals remain constant. I will continue to train for those goals. We all know that every race brings it's own challenges. The more I race, the more I learn about myself and what I need to do to accomplish my goals. 

 
During the year, this is my thought process. This is how I have been setting and hitting my goals.

Of course, I'm leaving out the single most important piece. 

That's heart.

When you're out there racing, you've gotta do whatever the fuck it takes.




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pinch me

It was a regular evening. Mr. Tea and I were hanging out.

I don't know why, but I picked up my phone and thought I should check my email.....which I NEVER do in the evening.

An email caught my eye. It was from USA Triathlon, but not a generic USA Triathlon. It was from a PERSON at USA Triathlon.


I read it again.

I started shaking.

I made some weird noise, and Mr. Tea turned around quickly and asked, "What's wrong"?

I had tears in my eyes. I handed him my phone.

I stared at him, waiting for him to tell me that I misread the email.

Slowly, he said, "Oh my god. YOU DID IT"!

I just sat there crying and shaking.


I started triathlon in 2006. From 2006 to 2010, I couldn't commit to it. It was more of a hobby, a way of exercising. I had two sons, Mr. Tea, and we had started a company. In 2010, this were settling down. I decided that in 2011, I was going to really commit to triathlon. I had a dream. I wanted to race as part of Team USA. I didn't tell anyone. At the time, I was a back of the pack triathlete. I'd never even qualified for the National Championship.

To qualify for Team USA there are two layers of qualifications:
1.) You have to qualify for the National Championship.
2.) At the National Championship, you can qualify for Team USA.

I never put on any airs about my abilities. I knew exactly who I was. I always believed, and I've said here so many times.....I always believed I was faster than what my times showed. 

I didn't know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.

For the next couple of years, I worked my ass off with no significant gains. I was still a middle pack triathlete with big dreams. That's all I was. 

I listened to people insult my running.  I listened to "well meaning" advice.

People made jokes about my abilities. There was a group of people who called me the "one legged runner" because I ran so slowly. 

At masters, there was a group of gossipy stay at home moms who were out to make my life miserable. I routinely walked in on their conversations about me.

 I had a friend (at the time) that I thought I could trust. I found out that person didn't respect me as an athlete.

Even now, just typing this hurts.

I listened to it all. I smiled, nodded my head and tucked it away. When I trained, I remembered those comments. When I ran on the treadmill, I visualized racing at the World Championship. I experienced the emotions of being part of the parade. I sometimes ran with tears running down my face because I wanted it so badly.

Every morning, I got up and went to work again. 

In December 2013, I left my old coach. I left the masters team. I cut out every single toxic person in my life. At the same time, a brick hit me when I lost my best friend. All of a sudden, the person I would text several times a day was gone. For months afterward, first thing in the morning, I would reach for my phone.....and then it would hit me. 

I was at rock bottom. I felt alone and lost.

That's when I found Liz.

I was truly starting from scratch.  I started working with Coach Elizabeth Waterstraat. I joined a new masters and found a wonderful swim coach. Over time, I met new athletes. 

Liz had her hands full with me. I was an emotional mess. She took me back to square one. We started with very basic workouts. She explained why my old workouts didn't work for me. She explained how we were going to change how I trained. She taught me what it means to be an athlete at the top of your game and also be a class act. She taught me how to race. She coaches newbies, middle packers, pro's and top age groupers, and she treats every single person like they are the most important athlete she has.   That year, 2014, 6 months after starting with her, I got my first 1st place age group. Two months later, I found out that I qualified for Nationals. 

For the first time, I was with a Coach who wanted to help me develop into the athlete I always believed I could be. 

I started seeing that those crazy dreams could become a reality.

I had a plan to get to Nationals in 5 years.  

In my first year with Liz, I qualified for Nationals at every race I did. I stood atop the podium, most of the time, in shock.

You'd be surprised at how success starts to bring out the worst in people. I had cut out all the toxic people in my life. Yet, here we were again:

You're obsessed. You're too hard on yourself. You could be so much more if you just fixed your running. That podium doesn't mean anything. It's all about who shows up on race day. The list goes on and on.

By now, I was used to it. I realized that people will always try to tear you down in order to build themselves up.

What they didn't realize is that confidence comes from reaching your goals. And I was knocking my goals out of the ball park. 

"When voices inside are quiet. The voices outside can do you no harm".

And I went back to work. Liz pushed me harder than she's ever pushed me. She demanded my best, and I did everything I could to be my best. 

Mr. Tea and I built this company together. We've been through very tough times and very good times. We've had the most heated arguments about the company or steps we need to take. It's because we have a passion for what we do. Arguments come out of passion. At the end of the argument, the company and "we" are better for it.

Coaching/athlete relationships are the same way. I think there's a misunderstanding that your relationship with your coach has to be sunshine and roses. It's not. Liz and I have disagreed. Liz and I have been frustrated with each other. It's because we are passionate about what we do. At the end of the day, I'm a better athlete for it.

Last year, I decided to share most of my big goals with Liz. We set on a plan to achieve those goals.

So yesterday, when I read the email, all those horrible things people said and did to me came rushing back. All those years of feeling like I wasn't respected as an athlete....they came rushing back to me.

I MADE TEAM USA.

I sat on the couch and cried. I hugged Mr. Tea, and I cried more. I emailed Liz. I texted JMan and Googs. I texted the people closest to me. I realized that my circle was far bigger than I realized. I took to Facebook to thank everyone.

This was the first of my really big goals. The people who have been there for me and who have never once questioned me or ability were the ones I wanted to celebrate with.

There are a number of you, who have been with me for so many years. We've had our own share of disagreement and "passionate" discussions. I think that's why we've made it so long together.  There are some of you, who I've only known a short time, but you've managed to touch me in some way or another. There's no possible way for me to reach out to you all individually. 

I continue to be humbled by this sport. I'm incredibly proud to be able to represent the USA, but I'm humbled by the sheer number of athletes out there in the world. Working for years on a goal, only to accomplish it....it's overwhelming. I still feel like an underdog when I show up to race. I don't think that will ever go away. I don't think I want it to either.

I want you to know, you are an important part of this journey.

And, we're only just getting started.