Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Confession...I had an eating disorder

One of my fellow Zoot teammates posted a blog in February (which was Eating Disorder Awareness Month) about her battle with an eating disorder. She rocks. Her name is Ashley, and you can find her here…https://sandborntorun.wordpress.com/page/2/

Reading through her story inspired me to share mine. Why you might ask? Why not? It’s part of me, it’s why I am the person I am today, and I’m certainly not ashamed of it. Ashley and I are not alone in our struggles, and we are both very fortunate to be on the “mend” from our own issues…as anyone who has dealt with these types of issues in the past knows it’s a continual healing process.

Deep breath, here I go…

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been VERY open about my eating disorder once I accepted the fact that I had one (I’ll get to this later). I’ll talk to anyone about it. I just haven’t put it out there in this way yet. I’m the type of person who heals by talking about my struggles (I have not always been this way, see below). I respect that not everyone functions in that way. But I’m about to get real honest. Caution…this will be long and there will be pictures.

It started at a very young age for me. As a child, I realized that I got attention for doing well in school, being a really good tennis player, and how I looked. Being the Type A/perfectionist I’ve ALWAYS been (even as a child), I wanted to EXCEL in all 3. I made sure I kept excellent grades, worked my booty off at tennis, and equated skinny to looking good. When I was younger, skinny was “in”. This concept of being fit or strong wasn’t there yet, or at least not in the crowd I ran with. 

It’s amazing the things I remember…being told I was so lucky to have a tiny waist, that boys would like my figure when I grew up…these types of comments were all before I was 10 years old. They were meant to be a compliment, but to me…all I could think of was I NEED to stay skinny. It started out very innocently for me, I didn’t starve myself, I just ate healthy and worked out or played tennis. Super simple. Eventually that changed. I remember the first time I had a conversation about an eating disorder, I was around 10 years old, and in DisneyWorld. Who talks about these things at that age in DISNEYWORLD?! I did, with my sister. This was obviously something that was prevalent in my life at a very young age.

I went on my first “diet” my sophomore year in high school. I had gained a few pounds from eating absolute JUNK food (nachos, McDonalds, effing garbage) and wanted to eat healthier. That was THE LAST time I’ve eaten at McDonalds, or really any fast food. 15 years old. That “diet” I went on 100% changed my eating habits for the rest of my life. This was genuinely for the better (fast food serves me NO purpose) but not until many years later when I didn't take it to an extreme.

Everything that happened prior to my junior year in high school was just leading to an explosion for me. I was always comfortably around 115lbs in high school. I decided I should lose 5lbs (just because), so I did it. I ate JUST enough so I was always a little hungry, and I actually started to enjoy the feeling of hunger (this is terrifying). I felt like I was getting skinner when I was hungry (so this was a good thing in my mind). 

I was insanely active in high school, I would workout at home before school and have tennis practice after school, so I did have to eat enough for energy, but I was much skinnier those last two years. Looking at me, you would never think anything was wrong though, I still didn't look alarmingly thin. I also made the decision to stop playing tennis after my senior year in high school in lieu of a social life in college. I didn’t want to get involved in the demands of college sports. I can’t even believe I’m saying that now, look at my life ;)

Then I went away to college, and I LOST it. After 6 weeks of being away at college, I was below 100lbs. My parent’s were mortified when they saw me. I was literally staving myself. I drank pots of decaf coffee to keep my belly “full” without eating calories, it actually hurt sitting in chairs in class because I was so bony, and I used to get lightheaded and dizzy walking to class because I was so hungry. I was also working out 6 days a week for at least an hour a day. I was freezing ALL the time and slept in a room with a space heater…it must have been 100 degrees in there. I counted calories, would never eat more than 1200 calories a day, and a Luna bar with yogurt and maybe a piece of fruit was my “big dinner” for the day. Yikes.

Exhibit A - this was about 2 months after being away at college.

When I came home for Christmas break that year, I was about 88lbs. I was so self involved with my eating disorder, that I couldn’t see how hard it was on my family. Looking back, it breaks my heart knowing what I put them through. My mom told me while I was home that I had to gain weight or I couldn’t go back to EIU for my sophomore year, I would have to stay home. Once I went back after the holidays, my dad started driving down almost every weekend to bring me food my mom cooked for me so I would eat, and he works about a million hours a week, but he still made the 3 hour drive ALL THE TIME. I’m literally crying as I think back to this. But being the “good little girl” I thought I was at the time, I didn’t gain weight. So I came home for summer looking exactly the same. Next up, I was told I had to go to counseling to go back to EIU. I cried the entire first hour session, could barely get a word out, and did NOT want to be there. Eventually I actually started enjoying my twice a week sessions, and learned that I had control issues, buried my feelings (I obviously don’t do this anymore, duh), and didn’t get over my Aunt Kathy passing away when I was 8.

Still skinny.

^^ Those legs ain't pushing big watts ^^

I convinced my parents to let me go back to school even though I was still insanely underweight. It was shortly after I got back to school that I REALIZED I had a problem. I was sitting in a bar at beer breakfast on Homecoming Weekend (my god my life was different back then). It was probably 10am, I had several drinks in me, and finally saw how different I looked. I was going to Acapulco for Spring Break later that year, and I told my friends that I wanted to gain 10 pounds before that vacation. They were awesome. We all lived in the sorority house, and they secretly bought snacks that they knew I liked to leave in their rooms so I could eat them when we hung out (Planters Dry Roasted peanuts were my thang). Love those ladies <3 See, sororities aren’t always what you think ;) My mom sent me care packages almost every week with my favorite foods, and I slowly started to put on weight. This was NOT easy for me. It felt uncomfortable not being able to see my hip bones (no lie), it was weird seeing curves come back, but I tried to roll with it. Right before my junior year in college, I was right back to my normal 115lb weight range.

After depriving myself for SO long, I started to allow myself to eat things I wouldn’t before. This was a slippery slope, and I blew up my last 2 years in college. When I graduated from EIU, I weighed around 160lbs (yep, almost double my lowest weight). I was drinking way too much alcohol, eating pizza at 2am after long nights out, and would eat to the point of almost throwing up because I was so full. I knew I had to get ahold of myself, and was honestly relieved when I graduated from college because I was starting my full time job and the going out constantly would be coming to an end.

2 years after those pics above, about 50 pounds heavier, and black hair (yep, forgot to mention that).

It took me several years to “regulate” myself after college. I got back into a more regular and consistent exercise schedule, started eating better, went out less…but it really wasn’t until I found the sport of triathlon that I really began healing from my eating disorder. Getting back into sport was the game changer for me. Sport has always given me so much…self confidence, structure, motivation, passion, drive, and a continual pursuit for self improvement…I lost this when I gave up tennis. Triathlon, especially long course, has given all of that back to me and more. As an adult, I appreciate all of this so much more then I did as a teenager. 

Where am I at today? Thankfully, on the OTHER side of this. I absolutely DO NOT regret going through my eating disorder, I do not wish it away, and I’m actually thankful that I had this experience and was able to get out of it. I now eat for fuel…I eat clean, whole foods. In fact, I eat a TON…more than most boys and I LOVE it. I treat my body with respect. My goals are clear, and it’s all about doing everything I can to meet those goals. Eating junk or starving myself is NOT going to help me meet those goals, so that’s out of the picture. I can honestly say that I LOVE my body. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine. I’m so lucky it puts up with the demands of training and racing, and it’s served me well over the years in both.

I’m incredibly grateful to have stumbled across this sport when I did, it has 100% changed my perspective and saved me from a ton of physical and mental damage I used to put on myself.

This is me today. Loving my life, loving who I am, and loving my body.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Diaphragmatic Breathing Clinic @ Edge Athlete Lounge Recap

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with a group of athletes at Edge Athlete Lounge about Diaphragmatic Breathing. You might be wondering how this even came about?? Well, I met with one of the owners, Robyn LaLonde, to discuss a topic for me to come by and do an educational talk about. She said her members were interested in learning about diaphragmatic breathing and how it could make them better athletes...

Mind. Blown.

As a yogi turned endurance athlete, I'm well aware of the MANY benefits of true, deep belly breathing...not only for the general population, but especially athletes looking to their enhance their performance in ANY sport. Then to find a group of athletes actually interested in learning about this, I was pumped. This is NOT your average group of endurance athletes...loving on it.

Since everyone couldn't be there, here's a recap :)

In my opinion, diaphragmatic breathing is one of the little tweaks that athletes can make in their training and racing that will produce BIG gains in their sport. Don't get me wrong, this isn't an easy concept for most and requires practice. Once you get it down, it becomes second nature and you'll do it out of habit. Even when you're suffering through a tough interval, or at the end of a race. Trust me on this...I've been doing it for years.

You might ask...what is a diaphragm? I'm going to make it real simple, it basically separates your chest and abdomen, and it plays a major role in breathing.

See...this is a diaphragm.

Got it? Great. Next up...how to deep belly breathe (aka diaphragmatic breathing).

You really want to focus on breathing with your abdomen, not just your chest. As you inhale, you will start breathing into your abdomen. Your belly will expand in ALL directions (not just forward). Then allow the air to continue filling through your upper body and chest in all directions (slowly and naturally)...front, sides, and back. Once you've completed a full inhale, start your exhale in the same direction. Your belly will begin to contract back towards your spine, then slowly allow the air to naturally exit your body. Your chest will relax back into it's normal state.

There are 2 exercises I really enjoy practicing this technique with...

1. Laying down.


The absolute EASIEST way to feel yourself using proper diaphragmatic breathing is to lay down. Close your eyes, and place your hands on your abdomen. Begin your inhale, and feel your belly expand into your hands. I recommend having one hand to your side as well as the front of your body to make sure you are breathing in all directions. Then as your inhale moves through your upper body towards your chest and neck, allow your hands to follow your breath, walking them up towards your chest and neck. Your chest should be expanding just like your belly on the inhale. Once you begin your exhale, bring your hands back down to your belly to feel your belly contract back towards your spine. Again, as you continue to exhale and your breath begins to leave your body, slowly move your hands back up to your chest and neck.

2. Sitting up.

Repeat the same exercise sitting up as you did laying down. It's not as easy to feel sitting up, so move on to this once you've felt diaphragmatic breathing laying down.

A couple tips on diaphragmatic breathing...

  • On your inhale, imagine yourself filling a tire with your belly. Expand in ALL directions.
  • You don't want to force your breath, it should be natural. Feel like the air is suspended, not held.
  • Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
This is all great...but how will this impact your athletic performance?

Running, training, and exerting hard efforts can cause muscle groups involved with your breathing to tighten. This will reduce air intake which results in less oxygen availability for working muscles which means the heart has to pump more of your subpar-oxygenated blood at a faster rate in order for you to maintain your "relaxed pace". Long story short, this can cause your 70-75% effort feel like 95%. Therefore, if you can master diaphragmatic breathing and incorporate it into your training and racing, you will be able to sustain faster and harder efforts for longer periods of time. It can also help you get through those tough, painful, and dark moments in training and racing.

Soooo...if you can manage your breath, there is NO DOUBT you will see significant performance gains. 

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into my training and racing...
  • When you're running - inhale with 4 strides, exhale with 4 strides. Do this at your own pace, it can be on 2 stride intervals, or whatever works best for your body. I highly recommend trying this on your zone 1-2 runs.
  • During your activity of choice - feel your breath through your belly with your hands every 5 minutes. Make sure your are breathing into your belly and your belly is expanding out on the inhale/contracting back towards your spine on the exhale.
  • Shake out your arms every 5 minutes, and relax your jaw. This will encourage more relaxed, deep breathing.

Find comfort being uncomfortable, let your breath be the guide.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Other Side of Racing...

You guessed it (or maybe not)...coaching.

I've known for a long time that I want to coach triathlon, running, and strength.  Why you might ask??  I could go on for hours about why, the list is LONG.  I'm going to try and make this short and sweet...

I love the feeling of being fit and fast.  I love setting goals for myself, working hard to meet those goals, and then trying to put everything together on race day to accomplish them.  I love doing things that most people don't even dream of.  I love dreaming.  I love pushing myself beyond my set "limits", embracing the suck (thanks Coach Jen Harrison), and suffering.  I love triathlon, it's that simple.  All of these things make me feel alive and when I'm happiest.  I've been blessed to work with THE most amazing coach for the past 4 years (see above, Jen Harrison) who has taught me all of this, and I want to do the same for others.

I was lucky enough to be given that opportunity this year with 2 new athletes.

Side note...for those of you who don't know, I went and received my USAT Level 1 Coaching Certification last October in Kona and have slowly been dreaming this coaching business into life.  The pieces are starting to come together, and I'm loving it!  My coaching business is called FIT Coaching, and little by little it's becoming exactly what I had hoped for...

Thanks for the logo Mattie P!!

Ok, I'm back.  So these 2 athletes...I was stoked when they approached me about coaching.  Stupid excited.  They were both very new to racing, and had both registered for the Chicago Marathon.  And NO, they didn't know each other...just a coincidence ;)  Both had never run a marathon, and one of my athletes had never done a triathlon (or a century ride) but wanted to do both (including a 70.3).  They were two totally different athletes as well...one was a masters male with past injuries and the other a younger female with young kids.  We started working together early spring with plenty of time to get ready for the Chicago Marathon and their other "B" priority races.  

It was so much fun to live through their training and racing all spring and summer.  First triathlon, first century ride, and MANY firsts with distances for their long runs.  Every weekend was another "win" making it to 18, then 20...you get the point.  I loved talking through their long run/race day nutrition, gear choices, race plans, and of course the VERY few mini-meltdowns.  It totally took me back to my first few years of racing.  Loved every single minute of it.

Before I knew it the Chicago Marathon was here.  I felt like a mom all weekend.  Talking with both athletes, making sure they were eating enough, staying off their feet...total nag.  On race day, I couldn't stop tracking them.  Sending texts I knew they wouldn't get until later, and SO excited to see them both finish with GREAT races.  Then came the post race recaps and phone calls I received.  Made me cry to hear how well their days went, how great they felt to accomplish this goal, and how thankful they were to work with me.  I'm crying even as I write this.  This was it, this is exactly why I want to coach (see above).  Having the opportunity to have a positive effect on their lives, it's so gratifying.

Ashley post Chicago Marathon - could she be any cuter?!  OH!  And why does she do this??  To set a good example for her kids.  Adorable.  And yes, I had her permission to post this ;)

Then came this...

Ashley finishing her first half at IM 70.3 Austin with her husband.

The email I received following this race was so touching.  Hearing how excited she was, how emotional it was for her to finish...it really doesn't get any better than this.  For the athlete or coach.

So what's next for FIT Coaching??  I'm getting all of the pieces in place...Facebook, Twitter, and hopefully a website soon.  Oh, and more athletes.  Duh ;)

Very much looking forward to many, many more experiences like I had this summer with two incredible athletes.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

My 2014 Goals...

It sure has been awhile since I've had a minute to update my blog.  I have really good intentions to write race recaps, talk about training...ya know, all that fun stuff.  The problem is, racing and training kind of get in the way of me having time to blog.  Ha!  Sooo, instead of going back and trying to recap all the races I've done this summer, I want to talk about the goals Coach Jen and I set for myself going into the 2014 season (and how I performed!).  Since my season is OVA (for the most part, minus some cx this fall/winter), let's get to it.

After a chat with Coach Jen in November (yes, November) last year, I had 3 very clear goals in mind...

1.  Focus on 70.3 and get a big PR.

2.  Podium at a tri.  Not just in my age group, but overall.

3.  Qualify for IM 70.3 World Championships.

I felt good about my first goal.  I had PR'd last year at Muncie with a 5:18, and knew with all the work I put into my bike this year I could make up a significant amount of time.  I gave myself several chances this summer, I wound up racing FOUR 70.3s!  That wasn't necessarily the plan, but just sort of how my season evolved (more on that later).  After racing the tough IM Syracuse course, I was back at Muncie.  Even though I was just "off" all day, I managed to pull out a 10 minute PR...5:08!!

SO happy, despite feeling flat for most of the day.

After Muncie, I decided to sign up for Steelhead a few weeks later (again, more on this in a bit).  I was pumped to race Steelhead, I love this course and it was the first 70.3 I did back in 2010.  Everything I didn't have on the Muncie course, I had at Steelhead.  I felt great all day and took another minute off my time from Muncie...5:07 :)  On a more challenging course, in my opinion.  Crazy cool to see how far I've come in 4 years, I finished in 5:45 back then.  Love progress!

Goal #1 - check!

Ok, goal #2 - I've come VERY close to making the Overall podium at races.  I've been in 4th place TOO many times...I wanted on the podium.  I knew this would take incredibly hard efforts, suffering, and going to some ugly places...but I'm learning to LOVE and crave this feeling.  Was I able to make it happen??

After my niece made my bike bottle the night before the Sisters Lakes Olympic Tri...

It happened!  Ahhh!  Overall Female Winner.  I need her to come to every race with me :)

Then, it happened again.  Not technically an Overall podium finish, but it was my first podium at an Ironman event.  4th place 30-34 at Steelhead. #stupidhappy #imadethesamebottleasmyniece

And then it happened AGAIN, at a race I didn't even know existed until 2 weeks before.  Overall Female Winner at the Great Illini Challenge Half Iron Distance + my first payday (and a couple trophies)!  I couldn't have asked for (or dreamt of) a better way to end my season.  AND, to answer your question...same bike bottle that little Miss Cara helped me make.  That girl is my lucky charm :)

Could she be any cuter?!

I took care of goal #2.

Goal #3, this one scared me...but I wanted it SOOOO bad.  So, so bad.  Crazy bad.  I knew this was going to be a tough one, I knew it was going to take a big effort, and I knew the stars would have to align for me to have the opportunity to make it happen.  I chose to race Syracuse in June to get in an early season 70.3 AND it offered I think 75 slots (more than the local HIMs).  I had a solid race at Syracuse and stayed for the rolldown ceremony...missed it by 4 places.  No big deal.  I was super happy with my race and had a great vacation with my mom :)  I knew I had Muncie in a few short weeks to try again, and Steelhead was a last resort.  As I mentioned above, I didn't feel good at Muncie.  I still had a good race, PR'd, and of course stayed for the rolldown ceremony.  No joke, I missed it by 1 place.  Just over a minute.  I dusted myself off, didn't get upset at all, but kept it for fuel.  I took this as another good sign of progress and was proud of myself for getting THAT CLOSE to qualifying for Worlds.

When Coach Jen and I were discussing this last year, Steelhead was the last resort to qualify for Mont Tremblant.  Trouble with that plan is Steelhead qualifies you for Worlds the following year, not this year.  I knew this shortly before I went into racing Muncie, it was my last shot to make it to MT.  Did I cry?  Nope.  Did I feel sorry for myself?  Not a chance.  What did I decide to do?  Be a big girl and race Steelhead, OH, and PR :)

I did just that.  I felt stupid good, it was the race I wanted to have all summer.  I was dialed in, focused, and knew when I crossed the finish line I did myself real good.  I really didn't know what that meant, but I found out real quick.  My girl Kim sent me a text congratulating me on taking 4th in my age group.  AHHH!!!!  Insanely happy, there is no way I can describe how good it felt to finally have all the hard work come together for that result.  My first Ironman event podium, PR, and believe it or not, my 70.3 Worlds slot!

This one meant a lot to me.

While I didn't qualify for 2014 70.3 Worlds in Mont Tremblant, I DID qualify for 2015 70.3 Worlds.  In my mind, goal met.  As much as I would love to race 2015 Worlds in Austria, I didn't fit in with my plan for next year.  Timing of it didn't line up with one of my "A" races that my heart has been set on for quite some time.  So I passed (I pray I have this chance again).  You must think I'm crazy, right?!  I sure did.  I sat and thought about this for a long time at the awards ceremony.  I had to go with my gut and follow my heart (and of course, had a real quick chat with Coach Jen), and it's staying here racing Ironman Wisconsin.

This season has been exactly what I wanted it to be, it took me out of my comfort zone.  I'm learning how to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and really enjoying it.  I had so much fun traveling with some of the most important people in my life.  Especially my mom, she's up to go anywhere with me...I'm so lucky we have this time with each other.  To top it all off, I was able to accomplish the 3 big goals I had in mind all year...even my BIG, scary one.  It's been an amazing year, and one that I'm so happy I was able to share with my support crew and THE best coach, Jen Harrison :)

For now, time to rest up and get ready for a busy 2015...IM Texas, IM 70.3 Muncie, and IM Wisconsin - CAN'T WAIT!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Duathlon World Championship Race Recap

I don’t even know where to begin with this post.  I apologize in advance for how long it may be…

When I found out last year that Duathlon Worlds would be in Spain, I was all about it.  Had to be there.  I’ve always wanted to go to Europe, especially Spain, so this seemed like the right way to do it.  I also have THE best mom who agreed to travel and sherpa for me.  Perfect.  After months and months of planning, training, talking about Spain…it was here.  I still cannot believe I had this opportunity.

Traveling to Europe ain’t easy people, but SO worth it.  After 3 planes (most of which were delayed), running through a few airports to make connecting flights, a 7 hour time change, shuttle to the hotel, and surprisingly no fights…we made it!  

And we're still smiling ;)

The next few days were filled with lots of shopping (my mom’s favorite, I was trying to be a good daughter), sightseeing, riding my bike on the streets of Europe, cured meats, scrambled eggs, and learning how to function in Spain.  In case you were wondering, it’s COMPLETELY different there…duh.  Everything is LATE, real late…very different from how this girl usually functions.  And of course, a TON of Team USA stuff.  Some of my favorite parts of the trip revolved around these events…the run course preview, riding the bike course with the ENTIRE team (there were 250+ athletes), the post race party, etc.  All so much fun, and I met some really great people.  As an athlete, Team USA really takes care of you.  We had bike mechanics who put my bike together in no time (and boxed it back up), massage therapists, a chiropractor, a few doctors…I took advantage of everything.  

A video from the Team USA bike course preview...stupid, crazy fun. 

All of a sudden it was Saturday, almost time to race!  I wasn’t feeling amazing, but not terrible either.  When I decided to do this race, I knew it would take me out of my comfort zone…and that it did.  The 7 hour time change, different foods, change in time I did everything had an effect on me, but I was doing everything I could to manage it and get ready for Sunday.  

Bike check in started at 8:30pm Saturday night (not normal, right?!), and we waited in line for about an hour and a half to get into transition.  I was finally back to the hotel just before 11pm to get to sleep, yikes!  

Waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Again, this was roughly 9pm...notice how light it is??  The sun doesn't go down until after 10pm.  I don't comprehend.

I had to be up at 5am to get back into transition to set up my gear, go back to the hotel and nap, then get back down to the start by 11:30am for my 12:25pm start (see, it’s all late!).  Luckily, I was able to sleep for about an hour and a half, it was THE best thing I could have done for myself.  I was refreshed and ready to get moving.  

LOVE this basket idea.

It was gorgeous on race day.  Starting so late meant we were racing at the hottest time of the day…hells yeah!!  It was sunny and high 70’s, low 80’s…couldn’t ask for better weather.  The course was crazy awesome…like nothing I’ve ever seen in the US...

Run #1 - 10k, 4 loop course.  We started on a track, and the girls took OFF!  I knew this would happen, and was ready for it…Nationals and Worlds start FAST.  The run course was SO much fun…16 turns per loop (yes, that means x 4 for the first run), a super steep climb at the start of each loop which continued on for half of each loop, cobblestone streets, and TONS of spectators lining the entire course.  It was a HARD and technical run…I loved it.  I felt good, strong, and was working hard…I was so happy to get on my bike and be done with holding that pace.

Adore this kit :)

Bike - 38k, 2 loop course.  Funny, we were originally told the course would be flat.  They lied.  We climbed up a mountain, then descended, then climbed back up the mountain, and descended.  It was so steep at times, even when we rode our brakes going downhill, we were going 30+ mph.  If there is any key takeaway from my race, this is it.  I need to get comfortable going downhill, and going downhill fast.  Athletes were FLYING by me while I was clinging on for dear life.  I lost so much time because of this, but truth be told, I was just happy I didn't fall off my bike and come home broken.  Besides that, I felt strong on the climbs, had an aero pad crack halfway through the bike (meant no aero for the second loop), and tried to take in the views every once in awhile.  I don't get to ride on mountains like this everyday ;)

See, my mom was a real good sherpa :)

Run #2 - 5k, 2 loop course.  It was the same course which meant 16 more turns (x 2) and 2 more steep, unforgiving climbs.  My legs were cooked after the bike course (climbing at steep grades, then descending without pedaling don't do great things for leg turnover) but managed to get them back and negative split the last 5k.  The crowd support was great, spectators from every country would cheer us on...totally helped keep my spirits up.  With about a quarter mile to the finish, Tim Yount was handing out American flags to each US athlete to carry across the finish...so freakin' cool.  

Overall, I finished 15th in my age group, 2nd American.  Really proud of that.  

Honestly, I wasn't worried so much about how I placed or what my times were.  This was all about the experience.  Getting out of my comfort zone, racing internationally for the first time, my first World Championship event, learning how to adapt to a different environment, and do something that really scared me.  I did all that, so grateful for the experience.  

Doing these types of things...the ones that really scare you and take you out of your comfort zone...this is how we grow.  As athletes, and as people.  It's important to me to keep challenging myself in this way.  I'm so lucky that I have and make the CHOICE to live my life this way...and that I get to share these experiences with the most important people in my life.  Looking forward to more of it.


Team USA Pic!

Post race party clothing swap :)

Post Race Party.

Spectating the Elite race.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Galena Race Recap

a.k.a - a lesson in pre-race stress management...

After what felt like THE longest winter ever, playing sherpa for my man at Ironman Los Cabos, and feeling dialed in with my training for the past several months…I was DYING to race!  I race a little bit in the winter, mostly indoor cycling time trials, but Galena is pretty much the start of my race season.  I race the duathlon there every year (try one - trust me on this…they rock), and Galena was perfect timing to get in some race prep for Duathlon Worlds.  I should also mention I’m currently traveling to Spain for Worlds…just felt like you should know. ;)

Anyway, back to Galena…

Life really tried to mess with me the week leading in to Galena.  These problems are not major life problems in any way, this I realize, but I wasn’t sure whether or not I would have a bike to ride, or if I would be borrowing Mattie P’s bike.  Either way, I wasn’t going to be racing on a bike I had ridden but 30 minutes prior to race day.  Hm, don’t love, but at least I had options.  You might be wondering, where’s my bike?  OH, right!  In a box, traveling to Spain…duh.  

I found out a week before Galena that my bike would have to be making it’s way over to Spain literally the day BEFORE Galena.  Seriously.  You might say, Jen, why would you plan 2 races that close to each other and assume you could use your bike for both?  You see, I had a plan.  After many, many months of drooling over the new Trek Project One Speed Concept 9 Series (I’ve literally had a picture of it on my phone since Kona), I ordered one.  

Where my love affair with this bike all started.

Yep, major big girl bike…and it was supposed to be done mid April (see my plan would have worked).  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  It was actually delivered the Tuesday afternoon before Galena, in a box and ready to be built.  Relieved and stressed at the same time.

Luckily, the guys at Element totally took care of me and had it built right away so I could get fit.  Wednesday was Retul fit day with my man (I’m the luckiest) where we realized that I needed a smaller part for my bike so it would actually fit me.  We ordered it for Thursday and crossed our fingers that it would be delivered on time.  Believe it or not, the part arrived, and I went in to finish up my fit with Ed.  Done, right?  Nope.  There was another series of issues with transferring my Quarq, finding a crank I could use, blah, blah.  That was it, complete meltdown…poor Ed, he totally handled it and fixed the problem.  I FINALLY picked up my bike at 7:30pm Thursday night.  It wasn’t 100% done…I would be riding on a compact for the first time and had no power…but I didn’t care, I had my bike.

Just waiting for her Quarq Elsa :)

Geez, enough about all that…how did the race go?

Friday was an easy travel day up to Galena.  I DID get to take out my new (almost complete) bike in the morning, she was worth ALL the trouble. #lovemybike  After a rough night of sleep on Friday, I woke up ready to race.  It was chilly, below 40 degrees at that time, didn’t even care, alls I wanted to do was race.  After setting up in transition I headed up to the Duathlon start to warm up, have my traditional GU Chocolate Outrage 15 minutes prior to race start, and get to the front of the start line.  I was talking with a young girl next to me before the gun went off, she told me she was 14 years old…I knew she was going to be my girl to chase.  I also realized she was less than half my age, when did this happen?

Run #1 - It’s an out and back 2 mile run.  For the most part you run down a ginormous hill for a mile, then run right back up it.  I want to throw up on this run every year coming back up the hill, I also wonder why I sign up for the Duathlon at that same point every single year.  I went out hard and tried to keep the girl in sight, and I was right, girl took OFF.  I came into transition dying to get on my bike.  I also knew I had taken a good amount of time off my first run from last year.  Time this year 13:55, last year 15:31. #hellsyeah

T1 - Since it was so cold (and I’m a baby), I decided to put on gloves and a cycling jacket.  I didn’t make the best decision on what order to do this, I took forever.  However, I did make the right decision to have a quick GU Salted Caramel BEFORE I put on my gloves…genius.  This year 2:01 this year, 1:47 last year.  Eek.

Bike - I admit, I was worried about the bike course.  While I love my new bike, I’m absolutely not comfortable on it yet, especially on a hilly course.  About halfway through the bike I was feeling better and more confident with the ride, but then the wind changed.  Instead of the headwind I was feeling, we were getting a lot of crosswinds.  I should mention that when I bought my bike I decided to go all in and get a pair of Zipp 404/808s, this was also my first time riding the new wheels.  The deeper wheel set was a much different feel with the crosswinds, and threw me off a bit.  I kept it positive and tried to keep control of my bike.  The bike course wasn’t the same as last year, but I was still wanted to beat my time.  I didn’t quite make it, but all things considered I was happy.  This year 1:04:12, last year 1:02:48.

T2 - Another slow one taking off so many clothes, but at least I made some time back.  This year 2:08, last year 2:24.  What was I doing last year??  

Run #2 - The second run course wasn’t the same as last year either, but had a nice hill coming out of transition.  Other than that, just a couple rollers…my favorite type of run :)  I tore off out of transition (or at least that’s how I picture it) and just suffered hard during the run.  I was able to negative split each mile, and wanted to vomit the entire time.  Perfect.  Again, I took a nice chunk of time off my run split from last year.  This year 31:21, last year 34:59.

Overall - I took about 4 minutes off my time from last year and won my age group.  Just thrilled with my results.  What am I even more excited about?  This race definitely pointed out some strengths and gains over last year, as well as key areas for improvement.  I have a clear idea of what I need to work on from both a physical and mental standpoint.  My bike and transitions will be a big focus moving forward, I need to dial those in if I want to achieve the big goals I’ve set for myself this year.  My ability to manage stress, things out of my control, and just “roll with life” is another lesson learned.  I’ve got control issues, REAL bad, time to start working on that.  Stress leading in to a race, or just life in general, will serve me no good.

On a positive note - I’m SO proud of the improvement in my run AND how hard I pushed myself during both.  I have learned to truly enjoy the art of suffering thanks to Coach Jen, it’s what I look forward to most when I race.  Not the finish, not the times…it’s that feeling of just working hard, focusing solely on my race, and applying all of the hard work I put in every single day into the event.  

This was also the first time Ed and I raced together…SUPER cute ;)   He beasted out a 2nd place finish in his age group, so proud!  Not a bad way for us to start :)

Next up is Duathlon Worlds…a race that is completely taking me out of my comfort zone.  Scared, nervous, and crazy excited!  

Until then, I rest...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ironman Los Cabos “Race Report” - Sherpa Style

I’ve been on all sides of Ironman…spectator, volunteer, 2 time athlete/finisher, and now 3 time girlfriend/Sherpa.  Over the past 6 months I’ve been at 4 different Ironman events ALL over the world.  I’m beyond lucky, I love that this is my life…love doesn’t even come close to describe what I’m trying to say.  Each Ironman is a different experience, different venue, and plays a different role in my life…but it always has the same effect on me.  It fuels me, inspires me to keep being a better athlete, and always motivates me to sign up for another Ironman.  To answer your question…NO, I have not signed up for another one yet, but plans are being made for 2015 ;)

Truth…I love playing ANY of these roles.  More often than not, I’m the athlete…but I don’t always have to be, nor do I think it should always be that way.  It truly takes an army to get someone to an Ironman, and I think at some point all Ironman athletes should experience not only being a spectator, but also a volunteer and Sherpa.  It really gives you an appreciation for what others do for YOU when it’s your turn to play athlete.  The more I see the other side of Ironman, the more thankful I am to have support from my family, my man, and friends.  Especially from those that don’t DO Ironman events…you know they are just supporting your dream because they really care about you, event though they don’t understand WHY in the world you would put yourself through it.

Being a Sherpa/partner/family member doesn’t just start race weekend, it starts the day you even think of signing up for the event.  A lot of thought, planning, and conversations happen around just registering.  Then comes a year of training, money spent, early weekend nights, even earlier weekend mornings, social life compromises, travel (to other races), tears (or maybe that’s just me??), then more conversations about Ironman…I mean, this list could go on and on.  Let’s just be honest and say it’s life changing.  If you ask me, it’s for the better and the life I CHOOSE.  So when I had the chance to Sherpa for my man in Los Cabos, I was in :) #dontgottaaskmetwice

The weeks leading in to Los Cabos were typical…lots of food from a slow cooker (don’t judge me, I’m training too), really early weekend nights (yep, someone may have passed out on me before 8pm a few times…not naming any names), encouraging text messages during trainer rides from different homes (so cute), “dates” that included 5am weekday runs together literally in the freezing cold, and a ton of excitement about our “vacation” to Ironman Los Cabos.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.

After what seemed like forever, we were in Mexico.  The nice thing about being a Sherpa in Mexico is just that…I wasn’t racing and I was in Mexico.  Alls this girl had to do was some open water swims in the ocean and run in 80 degree weather in San Jose del Cabo…life could be worse.  Oh, and make sure my man was all set to race on Sunday.  Duh.  I got this.

A nice change of pace from running in Chiberia.

The days leading in to the race were super easy, fun, and relaxed.  We did everything we needed to do so he was ready on Sunday, and enjoyed the rest of the time eating, relaxing, eating more, and getting some sun in Mexico.  All of a sudden it was 4:30am Sunday morning, and we were up…well I was (another plus of not racing…”sleeping in” by race morning standards), he was up well before that eating, drinking coffee, you know the drill.  We quickly got on to the shuttle, him to T1, then to the beach start with plenty of time to spare.  After he took off, I watched the swim start, then went up above the swim area and did my own little strength workout…

What else was I going to do for the next hour or so??  I like to multitask ;)

I went down by the swim exit around 8am to get a good spot and keep an eye out for Ed.  If I needed any type of reminder or validation for why I was there (I didn’t, but just sayin’), I got it the minute I saw him exit the water.  Let’s start out by saying swimming is his weakness, by far, and he has been working really hard at building his fitness and technique for months.  He took 8 minutes, yes 8 minutes off his swim time from IM AZ just a few months ago, crazy awesome.  Seeing the excitement on his face when he ran up to me screaming that he swam a 1:19, gave me a quick kiss, then went on to T1 was it, that’s exactly why I’m here.  I want to be a part of him achieving his goals (not just on race day, but also continually supporting him during the daily grind of training), I want to be there to share in that excitement…I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.  Why you might ask?  When you really care about your athlete, when you’re fully invested in them having a great day, when you see them reaching their goals…it’s as though you are as well.  The feeling is almost as good as if it were your own race, at least for me it is.

After that it was back to the shuttle, roughly a 75 minute ride back to the hotel (it was 3 miles away), and time to see Ed as much as possible.  Anyone who has spectated an Ironman knows this is no easy feat, especially alone in Mexico with no way to get around but my own 2 feet.  Luckily the bike and run course were 3 loops, so I had a plan to park it at a few places, take pics, walk to the hotel and upload those pics to FB (the only place with WiFi), then go back out to see him…and repeat…and repeat.  It’s exhausting spectating an Ironman, in a much different way than actually doing an Ironman (obviously), but it’s logistically hard.  I managed to see him 6 times on the bike course, and then another 5 on the run course = success.  I got to see some really high points…feeling great, having fun, and a huge bike split (and another huge PR over last year #beast).  I also was there for the dark moments we all have in Ironman…truth is I’m glad I was there for it.  We had a minute together, he worked it out, and finished with yet again, another PR for his run split on this course from last year.  So proud of my mans.

Point is, I loved every minute of being a part of this race…the before, during and after.  It isn’t exactly the same experience as when you’re the athlete, but it comes a close second.  Next up, a new Ironman experience…we’re going to race one together. #cantwait

Some awesome pics from the swim.  Mountains next to the beach make me happy.

Our last night out in Mexico to celebrate :)