My sporting history goes back to ice skating at our local rink in Calgary Alberta where I thought I was Olympic caliber material. That was until I decided that I didn't like the cold so instead jumped into the water. I pursued synchronized swimming for 11 years and focused on my dream to represent Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Although I encountered much success this dream was never realized.
Triathlon came about after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters in Public Administration and traveling the world as an active travel guide for Backroads. In 2005 while working for the Canadian Government as a Senior Planner I needed to channel my immense energy. I did my first sprint triathlon and won my age category. Later that summer I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon and won first overall woman. There was no turning back; I was hooked by the sport. I received my elite card status in 2006.
I started with Olympic distance draft-legal racing. Although successful at the Pan-American Cup level of racing I realized that my future was in longer-distance non-drafting triathlons. I became a full-time professional triathlete in 2010 and I changed focus to 70.3 or half ironman events in 2011.
Fourth Place - Urban Geelong Long Course TriathlonFebruary 12, 2013
Geelong Coast Line
Phil, my manager, sent a note two weeks ago with the message “what do you think of doing the Geelong half?” With Abu Dhabi on my mind it was a definite training opportunity – a hard days work among many others.
Racing pushes you more than any training session can. It brings excitement, intensity and adrenaline. It gives you that extra edge. Geelong Long Course became the perfect opportunity to get the kinks out before toeing the line at “the big one.”
So Wednesday after a hard bike hill session I started stepping back from training and praying that my legs would come around to give a solid effort on Sunday. It is amazing how your body can go from feeling the burn as you climb a stair, the kind that you actually lean forward to have your hands help you get up, to being able to bounce up them (almost). Friday I arrived into Geelong late at night mostly ready to go.
The men and women were starting together for this race – something I am usually very happy about. This start however, was not the smoothest for me. A horn went and we were off... false alarm. Hate that. Back to the line. My second start was not all that much better than my first. I was not aggressive enough so by the time I started swimming I had a lot of work to do to get through the mens chase pack. I ended up swimming by myself in between the front and chase pack. Sadly for me Emma Moffat and Anna Cleaver were in that lead pack. I started 1:30 down onto the bike.
These days when I race I am consistent and usually negative split. I don't go too hard to start and usually get better as I go. This race was no different. I stayed “safe” plugging away but not getting any ground on the leaders. The girls behind me actually gained on me. Not good. Every time I started to really move I thought, great my legs are going to give me something here and I can finally gain ground. Every turnaround though there were those darn girls. The second lap I thought – ok you got to do something here Hoogland. Thirteen minutes HARD. Then reassess. At the turnaround they were still there. Twenty minutes HARD. Still there. One hour ended up passing while I upped the pace and finally I put some time into some of the girls. Definitely a negative split, an additional 15 watts on that second lap and lots of room to improve.
I love getting to the run now. I tried something new with my nutrition. At my last Ironman in Cozumel I realized too late that 9 hours of gels was a little much no matter how much you like them. So Brandon Marsh gave me the idea to have a GU chomp every mile. Just stick it in no matter what and either chew or dissolve the calories. And so I did. I have to say that it worked for me and so the strategy for Ironman nutrition unfolds again.
As hard as I tried I was not able to run Anna Cleaver (third place) down in this race. I ended up fourth. Solid but a step from the podium. Bummer. I keep reminding myself the point of the race – hard training day but really would I be where I would be if fourth was good enough? Nope. And so 3 weeks to go – going to make every one of those days count. Hard work and recovery. And maybe some chocolate to keep me going. Onwards!
Saturday I got to meet the Scody crew at the expo. Having sponsors is a big and important part of being a professional athlete and are far more than a product that we want to endorse. They are often the people at the race who you know have your back, will solve problems and be the face that says – you can do this and get it done. Meeting Bernard and Kristina from Scody, hearing from them the effort they have put into the fabrics, design, cuts of the garments, where they have been made (Australia!), the interest they have in creating a positive experience for everyone in their brand and just being good people, means so much. Check out the video about the race!
Specialized as always did not disappoint. I am not sure where Specialized finds their crew but no matter where I am in the world, the mechanics are brilliant. They live and breath the passion for Specialized bikes, their belief in Specialized athletes and bring attention to every detail of their work. Arriving to the tent I met Dan and mentioned casually that there was something up with my gears. Three hours and a few new cables and housing later my Shiv was a dream. He worked on and fixed every small and big problem there was. Second problem came at the end of the day when I found I had a flat tubular tire. Not an easy fix. It requires a new tire, new glue and essentially time and work. Dan again to the rescue. “Tenille – I'll fix it. Go home. Rest. I'll check your bike into transition and text you so you know it is done.” I wanted to kiss the guy. Sure enough that evening and I received a text with my beautiful Shiv sitting on the rack ready to go. If you want the best, you have to get the best and Specialized does not compromise or ever cut corners. Thanks Specialized!
It's All About the SmileNovember 1, 2012
When you come back to a place where you started on a journey it can be rewarding to see with new eyes how far you have come. Arriving into Austin, walking into my favorite bike shop (Bicycle Sport Shop), staying at my friends and huge supporter Marks house, running in the old south neighborhood has led me to walk a little straighter with my chin up and with a huge smile.
In the winter of 2010 I came to Austin still very green at triathlon. I was aiming for the 2012 Olympics and willing to do “what it takes and whatever it takes”. I was ready to follow the script needed to become an Olympian. Mark graciously allowed me to live with him while I got on my feet as a full-time pro. I ended up living with him six months. Fast forward to where I am today.
Running in the foothills of the Flatirons with Anita last weekend we were talking about what I needed to do to mentally prepare for an Ironman. What to think when it gets really hard and when you need to overcome that point in the race where everything hurts, you want to stop, think this is crazy and maybe even dumb. Strategies like telling yourself to be kind to your body, to say “hello pain I expected you” or “this too shall pass”, count to 20 steps again and again and complete mental checks on hydration and nutrition were discussed. Like most pros pushing myself to the brink is not a problem. It is being able to keep that ability to do so in check. Before this year I used to joke with my friends and family that after a race if you can't find me, look in the medical tent. I always ended up there.
Last year at the Austin 70.3 race I wanted to win so badly and had the attitude that if you want something badly enough you can overcome anything. I pushed hard on the bike creating a huge lead. I ran out of transition like it was a sprint rather than a half marathon. I had blinders on, heard and saw nothing except the voice in my head – you want this, push harder, you can do this. One and a half miles to the finish I started running into a field off course. My body was done. I tried to bring myself around, to be conscious of where I was but all I could think was water. Then failure. Then water. Then failure. Why was it that when I have always been told it is a mental game and the will to succeed had I failed. I pushed myself so hard mentally that my body physiologically had to stop me. Even down on the ground I remember think keep going, at least walk. Failure.
This year after my struggle to get to a start line mentally prepared and physically sound everything had to change. The script had to be re-written. And the only person to write it could be me.
Anita and I started to talk about Chrissy Wellington. To me what is most striking about her performances is her constant smile. I think people may have thought it was a strategy to make her competitors think she was unbeatable – how could she be still smiling, she must have a lot of energy left. I think now it was not a strategy it was her joy. It was then that I came to realize that for me, when I can't smile doing what I love, there is something truly wrong. Every race since I restarted my season in July I have kept a smile on my face. I have run across the finish line, totally physically spent but exclaiming how fun it was. I absolutely have to still overcome pain and mental blocks but with those I embrace. Embrace with a smile because I am now ready for them.
This year at Austin 70.3 I want to win again. The competition is tougher, the stakes maybe even higher. But unlike last year I come with something different. My success is rooted in awareness that I am out there living and loving my passion for sport and whole health. This year I will see you all my friends, cheering me on, supporting me as you always have. I will be the one with a huge smile on my face. This year I don't need a platform to publicly thank-you for all you are and what you have done for me to live this whole incredible life. You already know.
Rev3 Anderson Race Report- Tenille HooglandOctober 22, 2012
I have a little sticky note on my computer that has my races listed. In September it had five races. After each race I delete the race just completed making the next one rise to the top. Rev3 Anderson welcomed me into each day as I ritualistically checked email/facebook with my morning coffee for the past two weeks. It meant a return to my Anderson homestay where Gina and Scott feel like family rather than people I have only known for 3 days. It meant a warm breeze in rolling agricultural terrain. It also meant racing with Rev3, a business that is more like a community of friends and family bringing out the best in each other and the whole race experience.
I had exactly 14 days before I had to be race ready again. When you race a lot you compromise on solid training blocks. In preparation for my first Ironman getting the distances and intensity of training in becomes challenging and a real push to a fine line. Coming into Anderson my body was tired but my excitement and love for the experience kicked in. Traveling by cab, bus, plane and car for 8 hours, being interviewed, doing a mini-photo shoot with Nicole, pro-panel, bike maintenance, course recon, race prep was all done in a quick 48 hours. No time to just stop, breathe, slow down. At least not until race morning when I found that my heart was pounding even before the gun went off. I found a bench through the trees by the lake and in utter quietness. The sun was just starting to rise. I just sat there, closed my eyes and meditated. I let the thoughts come in and out, felt my shoulders finally relax and felt my feet on the ground. Just in time I was ready.
Jennifer Speildenner and I raced each other in ITU “back in the day”. Both coming from a swimming background we always duked it out, sometimes worked together but always pushed to be the first out of the water. It being her first half distance I knew she would push the swim like it was an Olympic distance race forgetting that going lactic in the first 24 minutes of a much longer race is not really beneficial. I let her go. Hard but smart.
Thanks to an awesome mechanic at T1 who addressed some almost serious mechanical issues that morning, my bike worked like a dream. My legs however, were not working quite like a dream. I was working HARD out there but my power meter was not showing the numbers I am used too. No option but to listen to my body and my breathing. When Malaika passed me and then slowly pulled away, I thought “well this is going to be a good opportunity for me to push the run!” A goal this race was to show my run fitness, to work hard. Thankfully toward the final 10 miles of the bike my legs decided to wake up, my heart rate came down and I found my rhythm. According to spectators who were giving splits Malaika had pushed to 1:30+ ahead and I brought it back down to around 45s by T2. This was VERY motivating and I knew I would be good.
The run was two loops around the second transition area, different from last year. Definitely not flat but not as hard as Muskoka or Pocono 70.3. Every hill I came to I picked up my cadence, leaned forward and kept my shoulders relaxed. I had my sites on Malaika who I was quickly putting time into step by step. It was a very new experience for me. I finally passed her and thought make the move definite, no holding back. My feeling good and thinking 'hold on, not long now I am in the lead' was VERY short lived when Nicole literally flew by me. It was almost funny as I thought 'she just really interrupted a fine moment for me, I actually passed someone running!' I tried to stay with her but my body thought differently. I put in my best run time yet (course was 13.3) and although I did slow toward the end it was solid. I was thrilled.
The interview said I was looking for redemption. Today while riding with the flat irons of Boulder laid out in front of me I think that this is wrong. I was not looking to redeem myself from last year. I was proud of that race and had given it all I had. I can't ask for more. This year was no different. I know where I am at, what I have behind and ahead of me. Nicole was absolutely better on the day. What I do feel though is happy to have had such fun once again, to have raced with such a stellar group of athletes and enjoyed their effort, drive and inspiration. My work environment depends on everyone bringing the best of themselves out. This includes the race organizers, media and volunteers. If we all do this then the atmosphere is electric, charged with good-will, excitement and drive. It is exactly why I race and this race delivered 200%!
The Nitty Gritty Details:
Wetsuit swim: Nineteen Rogue
Bike: SHIV with 110PSI pressure
Nutrition: 4 GU gels on the bike (Peanut Butter, Chocolate mint, Chocolate Raspberry and Bluberry Pomegranate); 3 GU on the run (Island Nectar Roctane)
Hydration: Kangan Water 9.5! (I actually carted 4 litres of water with me across the country – yes I believe in it!)
Post-Race: Burger and Beer with AWESOME company!
Pocono Mountains 70.3 VictoryOctober 2, 2012
Enjoying the run down the finishing chute in first is an awesome experience. It is hard to sum up all the emotions that flood your consciousness when you take each of those final steps to the winners tape. It is the joy of putting together a great race built on hard and smart training. It is knowing how many people who love and support you are celebrating the victory too. Mostly though it is the power of belief in oneself and perseverance when you have had to overcome so many challenges.
I was super excited about this race. My friends from Ottawa came down to be sherpas, it was on the east coast in the fall and it was a race that suited me – rolling. On all fronts I was not disappointed. Jamie and Ryan were in constant competition with who was the better sherpa - who could direct the route better, who fetched ice cream to go with the apple pie, who took gear bags at the start or who offered cloths off their backs so I could stay warm. Who wouldn't love these guys? Ryan gently reminded me of the early days when I went to visit him for running advice and orthodics (which I am still wearing!) when I asked what racing flats were. Yes I was THAT green.
While doing my warm-up on Saturday I swear that I saw the film location for Dirty Dancing – a favorite adolescent movie of mine (Nobody puts Jamie - I mean Baby – in a corner). The fall colours were amazing and air had that smoky crispness to it. I'll admit it made me want to curl up with a good book, pumpkin latte and eat apple pie. Although apple pie was the secret weapon of the weekend there was no curling up!
This is a very logistically challenging half ironman. Two transitions and a finishing line/expo. The swim is in a glass like “pond”, the water a mere 64F(i.e., cold). The shape of the swim course was interesting leaving the leads to navigate the best line from buoy to buoy. The women started with the guys which was brilliant for me. I hoped to get in with the front pack but sadly by the time I sorted through the guys, I had slipped back. I ended up leading the chase pack. No drafting in this one.
The bike started with a 4 mile descent. It included a 9% grade down and although cold was super fun. The Shiv is a seriously solid machine that handles really well so there was no braking as I tucked my head down with my jaw almost sitting on my elbow pads to get more aero. After this the course mellows out and it is actually hard to really sense whether you are on false flats or descents. It rolls gently throughout but is kept interesting with sharp get-out-of-the-saddle ascents,tuck in descents and twisty turns through park lands. The roads in some parts were a little bumpy (actually washed out too) but again the carbon frame just seemed to absorb those and I kept rolling along happily. Coming to T2 I had no idea where I was in the race. I knew I was ahead but did not have a sense of how much. Apparently nine minutes. I never for a moment took it easy which is likely why I got the course record.
The run I thought was supposed to be easy and relatively flat. As I ran up long hills and pounded down others I kept thinking that it was going to be the last. It was supposed to flatten out. It never did. The volunteers were awesome – some in pink tutus and a huge guy in a bright florescent pink wig. My focus was to keep a steady pace until the turn-around when I would finally see where I was at in the race. I did not see the first girl for 3-4ish minutes (i.e., 7-8 minute lead). I figured that this was a pretty good cushion but did not back off too much. I didn't press hard either because there was no need to dig a deeper hole . I have another race in two weeks and want to get back to training. In those last miles when I actually thought walking would be nice, athletes just starting their run cheered me in yelling 'first woman'. There was no way that I couldn't smile and finish strong. This race was unlike any other win. I could savor each of those final steps. The great thing is that I look forward to the first ones back out in training. My job. Best job in the world.
1 Specialized fuelsalage water bottle (water in a bike)
1 GU recovery drink sports drink
4 Gels (peanut butter, mint chocolate and espresso love)
My amazing Shiv of course.
Wheels: Tubular 404 and 808
Tire psi: 100 (perfect for the road conditions)
What I wore:
Thanks to Ryan Cain's suggestion (learnt from Jordan Rapp) -put a silver mylon sheet down my Nike top which broke the wind and kept me a bit warmer. So SMART!
Taking Three Shivs 127 miles up the Highest Continuous Road in North AmericaSeptember 15, 2012
Ok I’ll admit I was a little nervous this morning preparing for my ride with Melissa and Jared Hauschildt. Melissa (Specialized Super Triathlete) is arguably the strongest cyclist in our sport and she LOVES really long hills. Jared, Melissa’s husband, is also awesome on the hills because he is of the elite running pedigree, qualify for Kona on your first Ironman 10hrs of training or less type talent. In other words they kick my ass going up!
So off we go on a 100km ascent from Boulder (5430ft) through Estes Park (7522ft) and up Trail Ridge Road. This road is the highest continuous paved highway in North America, traveling through the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. We turned around just past the highest point (12,183 ft) but not until we stuffed ourselves with goodness from the Alpine Cafe and Tourist Center.
All in all it was the most spectacular ride I have ever done. The sun was shining on us. The leaves were turning yellow. Everywhere we turned the views were breathtaking (or maybe that was the altitude). There were moments of uggh like when I passed a horse stable and considered that it may be better if I climbed to the top on a horse instead. There were moments of “thank-goodness for GU” like when I pulled out the Espresso Love with 2x caffeine – brilliant boost. My own little bliss balls were genius for the long hall. Mostly though I was thankful for Jared and Melissa who were willing to wait at times for me, who kept me going up and up and were truly the inspiration for the day.
Muskoka 70.3: Just the BeginningSeptember 12, 2012
How you arrive at the finish line depends on how you get to the start line. After my crash I had to practice patience while my body healed. I had to overcome the frustration of starting my run volume again for the third time this season 20 minutes at a time. I had to keep telling myself that everything would be ok, hold on, the process is rich, your time will come, keep believing. On the start line I was healthy, itching to race, prepared and happy. Crossing the finishing line I had a huge smile on my face, saw my friends beaming faces and knew that, although not the World Championships in Vegas, there was no place I would rather be.
Swim: With the exception of veering a little to left of the course at one section my swim was awesome. I actually had a thought before the race that my swim was really not where it should be. I have been doing a lot of open water ‘look at the pretty mountains as the sun comes up’ workouts because I simply love it. What I potentially lacked was the killer workouts where I hang onto the wall gasping for air. We started with the guys which I like as it seems they are more interested in forward movement than girls. There are arms swinging and kicking but they lack the desire to maul, push, hold onto, or grab peoples feet. I also knew there had to be one that I could draft. My swim start to finish was beautiful rhythm drafting from the mid-point to the end. I was first female out of the water. A great start.
Bike: The bike was cold, beautiful, hard and interesting. The first 45 minutes you are on back country roads that are anything but flat. You go through gorgeous deciduous forest, along the lake and in and out of small towns where people are cheering loudly and the fire truck signals the siren when you pass. Then it is onto a main road where speed and rhythm is the name of the game. The sun was finally warming things up so I could stop wondering if my hands were going to fall off. Rachel Joyce (Britain) and Michelle Vesterby (Denmark) along with two guys caught me half way through and from then on it was the five of us. I found that there was a lot of potential too close for my comfort riding (i.e., drafting) happening as the speed was inconsistent. It was like in a crit race where in the back of the pack it is like an elastic band -speed up and slow down. It was annoying and so, although not the smartest thing likely in terms of energy conservation, I led most of the way. At least then I knew I was within my own power abilities and not worried about others drafting. If it was happening I did not know. (It ended up that a guy did get a penalty.)
Run: One of the biggest changes for me since starting to coach myself is that I know that I am prepared for the distance from an aerobic strength perspective. Even though I have not been able to put in more than 8 miles running since my crash and am VERY conservative with speed work given my history of injury, I have lots of time on my feet and hiking is my secret training weapon. So although it was a very tough run course I was ticking off kilometers. I also thought (wrongly) that the road back was net decline. The path we took that paralleled the highway was turny, up and down and all around. It felt like it would never end. Then as a grand finale “this is how Muskoka rolls” there was one last hill to transition and the finishing chute. When I finally saw transition I don’t think I ever ran so fast with the crowd and my friends cheering loudly. It was so awesome.
Now I am back in Boulder and moving into my rhythm of training. It started with a gasping at the wall swim workout. Felt great to be working again. And so it begins again - I am ready. Next up Pocono Mountains 70.3!
Boulder 70.3--Did Not StartAugust 5, 2012
The media sphere is full of comments on the upset of Canadian triathlon superstar Paula Findlay and her total breakdown on the run at the Olympic Triathlon. There can be blame, fingers pointed or speculation of whether she should have started but at the end of the day every athlete has to swallow each decision that they have been part of be it training, psychological work, injury recovery, sponsor work or a million other choices. Success often only comes at understanding the process that led to what feels like failure. The publicity of “failure” and the feeling of letting friends, family or your country down can feel crushing. What Paula has had to brave is what every elite or professional triathlete must go through – understanding their own body, their mental strength and weaknesses, ability to take on pressure and perhaps most important is allowing oneself to make mistakes to be stronger. Some are lucky to find a support team immediately (coach, sports doc, therapists etc) that keeps them on track. Most though, go through a series of professional relationships as the athlete evolves.
When we look at current triathlon superstars there is always something in common. They have made mistakes, been injured, come back, kept going, believing and loving what they do. This has all taken tremendous time and learning.
Nicola Spirig – 21 years doing triathlon (2012 Olympic Champion)
Mirinda Carfrae – 13 years doing triathlon (2010 Ironman World Champion)
Melissa Hauschildt – 16 years of elite level running before starting triathlon in 2010 (2011 World 70.3 Champion)
Simon Whitfeild – 27 years since his first ever triathlon. That is holy smokes phenomenal! (2000 Olympic Champion and still going strong in 2012)
Paula Findlay – Swimmer growing up but first competitive triathlon season in 2006 – SEVEN years
So should Paula have been on the start line? Was it pressure, injury, poor training or lack of tools to overcome mental hurdles? When do you pull out? I think only the athlete themselves can answer this honestly and it is often not easy.
Pulling out of Boulder 70.3
Three days ago I crashed on my bike while reviewing the Boulder 70.3 course. I had swum and run in the morning so got on my bike by noon. Afternoons in Boulder often have thunder, rain and high winds so I knew to get out quick and be back by early afternoon. Unfortunately for me I didn't get back soon enough. While riding my bike got swept out from under me by a gale-force wind. There was nothing I could have done to avoid it. I broke my helmet in two and fell very hard on my right side. Since then I have been to the chiropractor to get aligned, seen a sports doc, been icing, taking ibuprofen and smearing more Hylands Arnica gel on my bruised and battered body than I have in a year. I hoped I would be ok to race but I am not.
In the past I would have raced. I would have fought through the pain and thought I had to do it. It is not the Olympics but to me one last attempt at qualifying for Worlds 70.3 this year. But after enough experience to understand what it is like to race injured I will not go there. So I have to wait, let my body heal and be ready with a full heart to race the next one. August 19 Steelhead 70.3. I will be hungry.
My best wishes to Paula Findlay as she recovers from all she has gone through. Life awaits her with new perspective. She will seize it with a fight and vigor she has shown thus far.
Lake Stevens 70.3 Race ReportJuly 18, 2012
Lake Stevens 70.3 Race Report
To say I am back means that I went somewhere. The truth is that I never left but may have been a little lost. Injury does that to you. It brings in doubt, frustration and can be down right depressing. It is a battle of the mind where the devil tells you that you have done all you can but the angel says, pass through this, keep believing, the best is yet to come. If it were not for a series of events that got me to Boulder I would have made it to the start line but not with the energy and full-spirit I have now. Racing at Lake Stevens 70.3 I knew that no matter what happened in terms of placing I would have a smile on my face while crossing the finish line.
The swim has never been easier for me. There is a rope that you follow from buoy to buoy. There was a strong swimmer Teresa Nelson whom I drafted. For the first time ever I decided to just chill out and hold back. I kept thinking to myself – patience, your older, be smarter, it's a long race and no need to burn matches too early. As we were nearing the beach I decided to pick up the pace a little and get out of the water first. Why not? I made it in easily and was out of the water with time to spare.
The bike was challenging, cold, wet and very slick. The terrain is rolling, through lush green forest, along small lakes and a few towns. It is stunning. I had a close call on one descent/turn and from there on I was super cautious. I did not need to take the road home with me. Mirinda rode awesome and caught me at mile 15. I kept her within sight for the next 38 miles. In the last few miles she pushed again pulling a little away from me, then I had to slow down so I didn't eat a horse trailer and from there she put on another solid minute or so. For nutrition I ate 5 GU gels and decided to hydrate like never before. I drank so much that half way through the bike I had to pee. Unfortunately I am not one that can pee under pressure so knew that it was going to be a long 2 hours of holding it. I swear if I was drinking my Kangen micro-clustured 9.5 this would not have happened!
Coming into transition I had a smile on my face. My feet were completely numb which made it hard to run but my energy was still great. My sister and mom were out there cheering me on with everything they had. Before the race they asked me what their role should be. I told them that I wanted to know how far was the person ahead/behind me was. As I rounded one corner my sister yelled – you are 3 minutes ahead of third, then a minute later I saw my mom who yelled – you are 7 minutes ahead of third. I figured that I was in a good position with more than 3 minutes and less than 7. Excellent. It did not really matter of course. I was just doing my thing. When I ran past the mile 8 marker and still felt strong I realized it was the longest run I had in 6 weeks. I pushed a little harder at that point. For the first time ever I did a negative run split. No speed work, no long runs just a whole lot of hiking in the Boulder mountains with runs thrown in there. To me it does not get much better than that.
I still have lots of work to do. There always is. But I am on the right track.
Special thanks to my amazing home-stay hosts Sarah and Gary who not only welcomed me but my mom and sister too. We all had an incredible stay, ate amazing food and had great conversation and laughs.
Motivation – Not the kind that comes from an icecream cone.May 25, 2012
Recently I was asked how do you stay motivated? This question came to me after a really tough and lonely training block where I dug myself into a physically injured and mentally fried self. I don’t show publicly the inner turmoil but I can assure you that I, like everyone else, can get to that place that wonders how I am going to get out the door? Coming out the other side and reflecting back I can start to understand the critical components of staying motivated to pursue sport excellence.
When I was training at the High Altitude Training Centre in Kenya I took the opportunity to ask elite and amateur athletes “why do you run?” Their responses were consistent and simple – Because I love it. They also said because it was rewarding, good for their health, mental sanity and release. One athlete said it was because it is only about his breathing, his body working and aided by nothing but his self. Another originally thought his love of running came because he was good at it. Once injured though he realized it was the sensation and love of being outdoors. Each reason is tied to a positive feeling of wholeness.
The next question I asked was if there is one thing that could help you be a better athlete what would it be? These responses were more varied. It included consistency of training without work or injury getting in the way, more high altitude training camps and understanding of what commitment to sport at the highest level truly means. Paula Radcliffe made me laugh when she said – speed. Of course! Consistent through responses was the need for support. Training partners, coaches, physio or massage therapists and chiropractors are all part of the team that is critical to keep an athlete going.
So the answer to the question how do we stay motivated I believe is in the route of why we do something and how it is that we have most satisfaction from it. Coming back from Kenya I took on a desire to perform because I wanted to use my success to make a difference in people’s lives there. I wanted to run like Kenyans with life on the line. With my privilege, my passport and US P1-Visa my life is far from that line. The reality, although not nearly as altruistic, is that my desire has to first come from the essential element of enjoyment and love of my sport. Next it has to be set on the desire to be the best athlete I can be. It is not about podiums, fame or money. These are simply the results of my commitment to this goal will allow me to “make a difference”.
The next key to motivation is how we share experiences. I am very good at being alone despite being an absolute extravert. I enjoy introspection and quietness. I have incredible support from people that just give with no expectations of return. It is absolutely apparent to me however, that when climbing mountains, literally or figuratively, the views are so much better when you have people right beside you to enjoy them. My room-mate has this crazy habit of trail running with her friends at 5am in the total dark and headlamps on. She comes back, coffee in hand, smiling because she shared life, an experience and the joy of movement with people. We thrive and are motivated to continue pursuing goals and life by including people that are taking it in alongside you without always the words to explain what it is you did.
So how does one stay motivated? Return to the deepest question of why you are doing something. Don’t let the why be the result of your effort. Find people that understand and can share the experience with you. This may be a run group, support group, your partner or sister. If it is hard to get out the door have someone to walk out with you, no words, just a helping hand.
Part of the road to recovery and brilliance: My Specialized Body Geometry Bike FitMay 14, 2012
This latest injury was a big blow to my mojo. I felt like I was finally seeing myself coming around. I was tackling workouts and hitting paces again. After leaving home on Vancouver Island I tackled a hard training block before Wildflower. I took one session at a time because mentally that was all I could handle. I was digging deep. The problem with me is that I am REALLY quite good at digging. My body and my mind were throwing up red flags but I thought – taper is coming, one more day, do what it takes.
What it takes is a constant checking in with your self. The self that you like and that you want to be. The self that sees the small things and can truly appreciate it. An example is when I was at Pure Austin the other day and saw a woman learning to swim, I was able to encourage her and blow some bubbles too. There is always time to be right there, present and see what is in front of you. I couldn’t get there in San Francisco – I was trying to claw myself mentally from being in a dark hole.
So since Wildflower I have decided to check off absolutely every box so I can to be smarter. This means I am taking stock of what I have done, where I want to go and how I want to do it. Part of that was to ensure and have absolutely no doubt that I am on my bike correctly. No doubt I have the best bike company in the world behind me to do this.
I went to Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill to meet with BG Fit Master Aaron Post. This experience gave me another window into why Specialized is such an incredible company of people and product. It began with a full assessment of my injury history, sport history and I gave him a little of my life history too. Then it was flexibility assessment, strength, neural position analysis. From there it was shoes, cleat position, where my foot falls and needs support to get back to neutral.
Then it was pedaling easy, hard, in TT position, up on the hoods. It was adjustments, computer monitoring, little white stickers with dots to find body angles. I actually was set pretty well in terms of my seat and pedal stroke but we changed the front end of my TT bike. We raised me up, brought my wrists into a resting position, made my back relaxed, not hunched. Essentially Aaron brought me to a position where I could relax and make sure every bit of energy was going into the power of my legs.
The test ride was with the small pro-tour team know as Quick Step (please note dripping sarcasm). I was there on the perfect day where all these very small guys with big legs led the infamous “Specialized lunch-time ride”. It was really hard to just play it cool when all I wanted to do was fly… taking on Tim Boonen though may have been a little out of my reach even on my newly fitted TT bike. Next time and maybe after Tour of California when he is completely knackered…
So this was step one… Bike Fit. Step two – Advanced Rehab to get me back on my feet. Step three…. coming to a blog soon!!!!
A spring day on the West CoastApril 26, 2012
Early morning in Courtenay, BC
With a cup of coffee in my system I make it to the deck of the pool where jumping in is always the hardest part. After a warm-up the coach Brian looks at me and says “you know in pool swimming you don't have to bring your head so far out to breath?” He actually has lots of tips for me – I love it. So far no coach has quite managed to get the wiggle out of me although all have tried. A couple hours later I come home to 2 little girls preparing for school. Their outfits are bright colors, absolutely not matching, layers of skirts, tights, shorts and frills. After a quick reading of The Bernstein Bears with them cuddled close to me on the couch they are off. My sister and I then take off on an “easy” run along the Puntledge river. Yes this is work.
Mid-morning ride San Francisco, California
After a quick stop at the local bike shop on Divisadero I have my route picked for hill repeats. I make my way through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge and arrive at perhaps the infamous Conzelman Road to do 6 x 10 minute hill repeats – steady power workout. The view is phenomenal as San Francisco lies before me. I am not alone as a woman asks me “how many times you doing this hill?”. “Six” I say. Her response, “I'm doing it 11 times”. I know she was dying to tell me as I power past her with an encouraging smile.
Lunch at Swartz Bay Victoria BC
I am sick. I had been fighting it but eventually succumbed to the fact that I just couldn't ignore the burning in my chest feeling. I am in Victoria with my mom sitting on the water waiting for the ferry to Vancouver. While waiting my mom pulls out the picnic lunch of amazing goodness. Arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado, feta and peppers, edamame hummus, carrots, Rebar chocolate espresso muffin, nuts. A whole day with my mom eating, sitting, talking and getting ready to embark on another journey. Best sick day ever.
Mid-afternoon snacks Hornby Island
It is Easter weekend and I am with my family on Hornby Island. We are staying at a home that sits next to Helliwell Provincial park. It is breathtaking and the type of place that even a person who can't sit still can just stare at the ocean and the distant coastal mountains for hours. Eventually we gather on the deck – glass of red wine, lightly sauteed oysters just picked hours earlier.
Early Evening in San Francisco
Noreen has done it again as she treats me to Alfonzo King modern ballet performance for the second year in a row. The artists/athletes capture me in their movements which of course look effortless. Toes pointed, gliding and bounding across the stage, holding legs and arms with grace. This is far from my mornings at the Velo SF with Matt Dixon where a grimace is normal and sweat pours off bodies leaving pools of water. The dancers are trying to tell me a story. The story I wonder though is how do these professionals make it? Do they too have an assortment of GU gels back stage? This question is fleeting though as I am once again absorbed into their movement and effortless power. That will be me in Wildflower – effortless power.
My body is tired as I stretch out on the couch. My quads are pulsing even though I am not doing anything. The veins in my arm I notice are popping out. I have a glass of red wine on the table and am completely absorbed into the The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It is no wonder my taxes are not done and I am behind on my blog. I can't put it down and read and read until the late hour of 9:30 where I make my way to bed. The day is done.
When I am on the road people and businesses amaze me with their willingness to help. They make me feel important and this can be the little boost I need to get through another workout. Someone smart said that it is all the moments that make up ones life. It is so often though the people that make up the moments. Thanks does not quite do it.
Genki Bar (I can't tell you how many times my Genki Bars have saved me from gnawing off my arm!)
Noreen Beiro and Meredith Kessler for helping me get sorted in SF
San Juan 70.3March 26, 2012
I took a chance on this race. Racing can be a bit of a game. The challenge is to race enough 70.3 races to get the points to qualify for Worlds 70.3 in Vegas. Start early and then you don't have to pack a whole bunch of half ironmans in a 2 month period compromising performance. After Panama 70.3 and my flat tire pulling me out of the race, I was supported (free airmiles) to go to San Juan 70.3. Since Kenya though I developed a nice case of plantar fasciitis which was seriously limiting my run time. With hard work from Kiprunning Sports Massage (6 back to back treatments), ice baths and a bottle of ibuprofen, I was feeling better right before the race and ready to go. The problem was that I had only got to 5 miles of running on land. I went to the race believing that I was still fit and there was the possibility that I could rely on Kenya run fitness to get me through 13.1 miles.
San Juan 70.3 is an amazing race. It is beautiful, well organized and certainly a challenge. The swim is in a sheltered bay so very calm and straight forward. Sighting is no problem. From the swim you run just under one kilometer to transition. The bike portion is also beautiful as you ride along the ocean. It is flat and the only concern is whether one of the many iguanas will be crossing the road from the ocean to the mangroves on the other side of the highway. The run is very challenging and hilly. It takes you into the old fort and city, along a sea wall and back again. When healthy it is truly an awesome course for me.
The swim was awesome. Nina Kraft led the way for the first 1000 meters then I began to make my move. Both representing Nineteen we worked hard and had awesome gear to help the rest of the way. I exited the water first and then grabbed my running shoes. I was nervous to run a kilometer on bare feet. This was a bummer though as I lost the other girls in the lead pack. On the bike I was as steady as can be. In reflection I was playing it too safe and "in my range". It's always a gamble but if you want to be the best you have to gamble and play hard!
Getting onto the run I was prepared to go slow and steady on the first loop and then use what I had left on the second. The problem was after about 5 miles my body thought it should just stop. That was the end of pushing for me. I knew that the race was over at that point so I literally walked, jogged and just made it to the finish line. I talked to local triathletes on route, learned about the Puerto Rico relationship with the US (in the US but not in the US) and had a LOT of time to appreciate the view and just think.
Going in Zane made me write an email to myself stating what the race was going to be for me. I knew the risks so if the run was not there I had to accept that and not beat myself up over a poor placing. When I got back to the hotel room I read the email, took a deep breath and decided that I was not allowed to be too bummed out. I decided that I was not going to "give a go" at Galveston and was going to ensure that I was run fit for the next race.
So I have moved some things around, made lots of decisions and I am heading to Wildflower. When it comes to California I know I race well. Something is in the air there and I have awesome support of my friend Noreen and Specialized to get me ready. Until then though I get to get grounded and just train hard.
Saturday afternoonMarch 1, 2012
Saturday afternoon after my ride with “the guys” I ate, got my self upstairs to bed and totally fell asleep. Two hours later I woke up and had no desire to go anywhere. I missed my water jogging session promising to myself that tomorrow was a new day and I would be ready to take everything on. Sunday morning came and on the trainer I went for an easy spin, low watts and just moving those legs. Then it was off to the pool for Masters swimming. Twelve o’clock and in the water. Then it was 12:01, 12:02, 12:03 and I was counting every minute. By 1:05 I called it a day – I was barely moving by that time and only could think of the wonderful hot shower. Little did I know that Zane, based on my zombie like state, decided it was time for a recovery week.
It is now Thursday and I have had a week that included a whole day off training (very rare) and other days with one or two easier, no intensity workouts. I feel like a new person and actually was disappointed when I rechecked my schedule this morning and found that no I still only had a two workout day. This week I have truly tried to be a good recovery machine. I decided to keep track of my food for 3 days and also keep my “running around” in check. For the most part I think I have been pretty good! My life in a nut shell when I don’t train 5-6 hours a day.
Monday – Little work, errands, Costco run, sitting on the couch catching up on Weeds and talking with Alan Edmunds, sport psych to talk about just about everything under the sun…
Tuesday – Swim easy and run. It was then I realized that my plantar issues have not gone away so a desperate call to my Kenyan answer to all plantar issues – Kiplimo at Kiprunning Sports massage. Torture Session number One. Then as a reward – Ibuprofen and an evening ice bath at Barton Springs.
Wednesday – Ride in the rain followed by ride on the trainer. Then it was all about fixing stuff on my car… long overdue. I am proud to say that not only can I swim, bike and run but I can change a cabin air filter! Then a wonderfully pleasant visit to see Tim at Bicycle Sport Shop where my NEW SHIV is being built.
Thursday – 6000 yards in the pool and holding 1:10s happily! Nice. Then torture session #2 with Kiplimo. Nap – 40minutes and now blogging with ice before another go at running and Kiplimo torture #3. I will finish the day off with another ice bath and likely glass of red wine.
And so ends my recovery week. Tomorrow I am aloud to start pushing the efforts again and I am ready.
Here is my Nutrition Data for February 29… A whooping 2822 calories! Apparently with my physical exercise and eating quantity I would weigh 126lbs. Right.
Why - A film by Corey RushFebruary 23, 2012
Loved this short film and wanted to put down some thoughts on paper. Corey asks three phenomenal athletes – Rebecca Rusch, Dane Jackson and Alex Hannold – Why?
Their answers to this question are simple and complex. It is for the race and competitive aspect. It is because it is what they know and because it is in sport they can tap into who they are completely stripped down to the core. It is because the “only constant is that there is no constant”. It is because in sport they can find and be in incredible beauty of the natural world.
If you read my blog or if you read others, the question of Why often surfaces. For me it has come up more often of late. This past month training has been hard with a bummer race in between. It has been lonely at times going out for another 4 hour ride, pacing the black line for 4 kilometers only to come back be disciplined by “resting” and preparing for the next session. I was literally wringing out my cloths from a trainer session and thought - oh the glamour, the ideal job. It is not only hard work and time that an elite athlete puts in it is that little something extra that counts. It is waking up everyday with a “no regrets” attitude that can set you apart. But to have this you have to know why and have a fire that burns inside.
One reason of why became abundantly clear at my morning masters swim practise. I have been working hard in the pool trying to get my swim fitness back from days past. I have been pushing hard but staying steady in my times. I have not understood why. Yesterday Zane spent some time with me in the pool . He told me my problem was my catch – I was gliding too far, too long and missing water. Today I made the fix and held times strongly, felt good and had the aha moment.
I love it that the why is because things are never constant in sport. The turbulence of having good days/months, bad days/months, pushing through and learning something new is rewarding. It is being made to stand still but then all of a sudden going again and getting better. I think it is how we can understand ourselves. My mom always has said to me – you can only make someone happy if you are happy yourself. To be joyous and exude passion is to feel it inside. This is why I do what I do.
Panama 11.3 was a bustFebruary 14, 2012
No it’s not a typo- my race ended at 11.3 miles. The gun went off for the pro women at 7:00am. There was an amazing current that swept us along easily. I stayed in the first pack and was quickly into transition with the leaders. I grabbed my bike and was off to weave my way onto the Pan-American Bridge. This is where my trouble began. My cable on the rear derailleur had somehow been altered from the previous day making me stay in a certain 3 or 4 gear range. Because of the rolling terrain gears were rather useful to have. It took me time to figure out what I was working with out on the course – stick to three gears and use the front derailleur for the rest. I took inspiration from Meredith Kessler who managed to bike 20 miles without a seat and still put in a stellar performance at Rev3 South Carolina. I could push through even if it meant standing for every hill.
With that resolved in my head I was off and flying down a hill. Unfortunately I missed seeing a pothole. I hit it very hard. This may have been where things started to go wrong with my tubular tire although I can’t be sure. I had to stop on the side of the road with a flat. Normally this is ok – that’s why you have repair kits. Despite my efforts prior to the race I could not find a Pit Stop repair kit for tubulars. Airlines don’t allow you to bring them on the plane and having been stopped once and held up in Seattle I don’t try.
Eventually a mechanic came by with a pump and filled my tire. Forever the optimist I thought well maybe with some air I can get through 56 miles. It could be a slow leak. So I got back on my bike, started going again, remembered that I couldn’t change gears despite my desire and put my head down… for 2 miles. It started to loose air. It was there that I knew my day was over. Just like that. It took me longer to get back from 11.3 miles out on the course than it did the pro men to complete the whole race. I was absolutely upset by my day. By the grace of some resident New Zealanders I got back to my hotel.
This race I was made to stand still on the side of the road watching athletes pass by fulfilling a dream, a goal or for many pro’s, to get a pay cheque. Not sure what I am supposed to learn from this but maybe being made to stop and just be so I can really see where it is I am and where I am going can be good. Maybe it is to learn again that when you are at your lowest and when the mountain seems really tough to climb you have to choose over and over again to put one foot in front of the other. Without choice we are not truly free in what it is we aim to do and it is very hard to succeed. Maybe though there are times when you have to just take the experience as it is and not think anything more of it and move on. Stepping off the plane into Austin will mark me moving on – one step in front of the other.
Panama 70.3 and Beyond!February 13, 2012
I am in Panama, in the heat/humidity and preparing for my first race of 2012! I definitely feel the nervousness for the first race of the season. Will my body remember how to do this? How many GU’s do I have to take in? The last image in my mind of racing was in Eldama Ravine, Kenya. I was doing a half marathon at 2000 meters and the whole course was an incline. To keep me going was Tony my pacer and a motobike with 80s tunes blasting from a makeshift radio attached to the bike. Along the course we passed through a village and the people showed me incredible enthusiasm cheering me to do my best. One mama, dressed in her beautiful African dress and flipflops decided to help me a little more and ran beside me. She laughed and wanted photos. I was dying from the effort but couldn’t help but smile. Tony (still yet to break a sweat) ran ahead with her phone and snapped a few photos. She dropped back with laughter. I kept going with a smile. With this image I know it is early in the season but an important start to something good.
This year I will focus on high performance in fewer races allowing for quality training blocks. I will be aiming to qualify for the Ironman World Championships 70.3 again this year but will also be putting a large focus on REV3 races. I am thrilled to be returning to a few venues and excited to experience new places. There are also a few races that I have not written down that I want to do but will depend on a few things so will keep these to myself for now.
Feb 12 – Panama City Latin American Championship 70.3
April 1- Galveston 70.3 Half
June 2- Quassy Rev 3 Half
June 10- Eagleman 70.3
July 2 – Portland Rev 3 Half
Aug 26- Maine Rev 3 Olympic
September 9 – World Championship 70.3
October 7 – South Carolina Rev3 Half
October 28 – Florida Rev3 Half
So there it is! And here I am in Panama to start this incredible year…
Biking at 2500 metersDecember 28, 2011
When I first arrived into Iten it was raining everyday. The Kenyans at the HATC kept shaking their heads in despair. They assured me that this was not normal, was unseasonably cold and would pass eventually. They told me that “normally” there was sunshine everyday. Lucky for me they were right. Everyday for the past two weeks has been beautiful sunshine. I have long forgotten the mud that stuck to everything and about venturing out into the rain as I braved another ride descending long hills. All I can say is thank-goodness I have a brilliant sponsor in Specialized who set me up with a Crux. It is sturdy, ready for mud, bumps and a whole lot of rough riding.
There are tons of mud roads to explore but these roads are best if I was an x-terra athlete. As I am not (never say never) I have one road to ride on. One direction from the HATC takes me down 1000 meters over 15 miles into the Rift Valley. Everything changes as you descend. It gets warmer, you see papaya trees everywhere, cows and goats are grazing, mud/clay bricks are being made and baking in the sun. If you continue descending another 300 meters or 10 miles you arrive at a beautiful gorge where crocodiles lay. They say that elephants also roam nearby but I have yet to see one. Not sure if I really want to while on a bike! For fun I have shared my SRM power file from a ride in early December... this was the return from a ride where the focus was pole pole (slowly slowly). There was no other way as climbing 1300 meters is rather challenging.
The other direction I can take is toward Eldoret, the fourth largest town in Kenya. Along this route the terrain is rolling and takes you through a few small villages, past wheat fields and tree farms. As with every ride or run there are always children that run after you yelling muzungu (white person) or how are you? The ride to Eldoret is brilliant as the wind is almost always at my back making me feel like I finally have acclimitized and can fly! When I turn around though I realize that perhaps the wind may have attributed to the “flying” part rather than my legs. It is more pole pole on the way back.
Overall the result is that I am getting stronger! I feel slightly guilty as I pass people on their 25 kg bikes with sometime no pedals. Once a young man tried to keep up, I told him to grab my wheel, I slowed. Between gasps he said - one gear, too hard. Me and my envied bike left him. Another time I was caught riding up the rift valley by the Kenyan Cycling time. This was rather humbling. I was breathing hard as I often am, looked over and saw three guys going for an “easy” ride up 1000 m on old road bikes and one on the infamous black mamba 25 kg fixed bike. My eyes almost popped out of my head as he bravely made the last ascent up a very steep hill. Give Kenyans an opportunity to develop descending and technical road skills and they once again could show the world incredible athleticism.
So although I have stuck to one road I have found myself finding all that I need- hills, wind and some flat (ok not really but the wind helps). The traffic (cars and cows) is fine and they stay clear of me. I am also very very proud that I can now hop road bumps like a pro. I feel so cool :)
Seventh – ITU World Championships Long CourseNovember 7, 2011
This race for me was a long time coming. Since I was a little girl I wanted to represent my country in sport at the highest level. Coming seventh among such phenomenal athletes, having a great race and smiling through most of it was awesome.
The day started a little different than planned. The swim was cancelled. The difference between the water temperature and ambient air temperature was too great. For me this was really too bad as I usually come out of the water with a good lead. It also meant a very different race in terms of who was riding where. They started us in a time trial start 5 seconds apart in ranked order. I started 18 spots back from the leader.
The bike was a little lonely as I was out there on my own for about 50 of the 75 miles. I suppose in one way this was good because I stayed right within my power range that Zane had identified. The hard part about it was that I couldn’t use energy from anyone around me. It was funny because I usually have lots of things going through my head – songs, what kind of dinner I will have that night, different GU flavours that would be fun. This time I only thought of drinking my fluids, where the next aid station would be, how I was feeling, where I was in the race, whether I needed as many electrolytes as planned given the temperature. I did think about how beautiful the course was though. Getting out of Vegas, the lights, and busyness and getting to Lake Mead might be the best thing you could do while visiting. The desert can be rather dramatic.
Coming into T2 was very fun – I heard my brother and thought I saw him which made me really happy. He tells me that I got a 10 out of 10 for my dismount. His friends were judging apparently and giving scores to the athletes. Getting onto the run was simply just good. I felt great. I got into my rhythm and again just thought about everything Zane and I had gone over everyday leading up to the race. For the first time in a race I drank gatorade on the course. (I trained with it already) I also pretended that Zane was following me on the bike just as he did a few days ago in a training session. Throughout this session he cued me to see the terrain before I got there and use it. No braking on the descents, rolling up, lean into the hill, form. I used this learning on every step of the 18 miles. The last mile I gave it everything I had - no regrets as Alan would say. The crowds were great cheering us all on. So wonderful to constantly hear GO CANADA!
It has been a tremendous year for me. I let my Olympic dream go, grasped new goals, took on a new distance, moved countless times…. It sometimes feels that I am living so much life in such a short time. I am continuously looking hard at myself, my fears, my weaknesses and strengths and trying to make it so that I can be the best athlete I can be. There is a whole lot of picking yourself up in this game and not a lot of room for sitting back. I am thankful I have people that can give me a hand when I am down and always there to share the moments of joy when they come.
I think that it will take some time to absorb this race, this year and where I have been. Luckily for the first time in years I am taking this time and heading to another world entirely. I will be removed from triathlon, everything I know and absorbed in another culture. I know that when I do come back though the fire to be best I can be will be stronger and I will be ready to take on 2012 with my regular determination. But first I rest….
World Championships 70.3 Race ReportSeptember 14, 2011
They never said it would be easy and sometimes it is not the race that is the hardest part. Going into this race I was ready. I knew this course was going to be hard and I was prepared for it. I only had to do what I do every day. Unfortunately I had an asthma attack on the run taking me out of the race I was hoping to have. There is so much though that I can take from this race in a positive way and be stronger for it.
The swim course is really well set up in that it is a really long there and back, easy spotting and good temperature. Many people thought the water temp was too hot but to be honest it was not as hot as the Courtenay pool back home so this did not bug me. Before the gun went off I looked for Leanda Cave and Julie Dibens whom I knew would be gunning for first out of the water. They chose though to pick the opposite side of the pack. Together they put in a gap and myself along with two other girls spent the rest of the time chasing. I came out of the water in fourth - respectable but with room to improve.
After running a quarter mile to transition and up and over a hill to the dismount line we were on our bikes. I was happy on my bike for sure. First thing you do is climb out of the Lake Las Vegas area and head toward the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I immediately got into a solid rhythm and believe that I held it there for the duration. A pack behind me was working hard and caught me a few miles before the first turn around. Once they were there I did not let go and we ended up in a group of 5 pushing each other and constantly passing back and fourth. The best part of the bike were the descents for the reason that I had a 54, Zipp wheels and most aero bike there - I smoked every downhill without bringing my heart rate up. Brilliant. The last few miles of the bike I was a little disappointed that we had to get off. I was just starting to pass people again that were hurting from the effort. This gave me confidence into the run.
After handing off my bike and flying through transition, I immediately found my rhythm. The run course is hard in that it is either up or down. My strategy was to push the downs and stay in control on the ups averaging a solid 1:30 half marathon or just below. Again in my range and nothing that I had not done before in racing and in training. First lap was ok, managed the heat with water and sponges. Second lap though I had acid reflux causing constriction in my breathing. The Ironman Perform drink was not going to stay down. This happened two more times causing more constriction and eventually setting off the asthma attack. It was scary and really frustrating. Two things got me moving again. My inhaler and an Italian angel. This fellow competitor recognized what was happening and talked to me calmly. He matched my breathing and pace - perhaps not purposefully but enough for me to find my breathing again. I ran the last 2 miles. I wish I could thank him.
So that is how it goes. Joe and Mallory from Specialized were there to support me at the end of the race. Amazing to have people you know and trust to keep you up right and tell you immediately that no matter what they are proud. It is this type of support that helps me get up again and push more. I did not have the race I had hoped for but this is truly just the beginning of what I will be able to do in this distance. I know what I need to work on from a physical conditioning stand-point and now know what I have to do to avoid my asthma in the future. So yes I am back and stronger for it. I love what I do, the people I meet along the way and the things that challenge me to be better. Next big race is ITU World Championships Long Course. Once again, I will be ready on the start line!
In a word - BeautifulAugust 3, 2011
After the race people kept asking what it felt like to cross the line in first having just edged out the competition. To be honest I think the first feeling was of relief that the line finally came. I had not an ounce of energy left to go any further. I also felt very aware of how much I wanted this win and how much I had to fight for it from start to finish. I was glad that I never for a second had taken it for granted. Apparently if I had, I could have come second. But let me take you back to the beginning of my Calgary Viterra 70.3 race and the experience of it.
Coming to Calgary is like coming home in some ways. I spent more consecutive years in Calgary than anywhere else. I have childhood memories of long summer nights and many early mornings at the Lindsay Park Aquatic Centre. I was once again struck by the incredible sky line and view of the rocky mountains that sit in the near distance. The race organizers capture the essence of what makes the city and area so incredible - clear (cold) lake water, views of the rocky mountains, rolling terrain through pasture land and a pathway system that meanders through birch tree forest and along the Glenmore resevoir.
One word - beautiful.
First Place - Mt. Washington Hill Climb!July 25, 2011
I am "home" in Courtenay BC between 70.3 races. I have ramped up again to a full training schedule which feels good given all the tapering I have been doing of late. Seeing that I had a whole weekend off racing, I proceeded to find a race to do - the classic Mt. Washington Hill Climb. I have always wanted to ride up this hill and while in an awesome Specialized bike shop (Simon's Cycles in Comox) the opportunity presented itself. Simon set me up on a Tarmac for the race because my Amira is in Austin. The Tarmac was fantastic and although I love being on my Shiv, it was great to be on a road bike for the day.
It was FINALLY a beautiful day in the Comox Valley. Like most of BC, it has been nothing but clouds and rain this summer so this was a very welcome change. I started the day with an hour in the outdoor pool. Lovely. Rode home, had breakfast #2, then was off again to the start line. The course was being shared by some Down Hill Long boarders which is an absolutely INSANE sport - 80+ km/h on a skateboard. Really? They probably think the same of us - why work so hard going up a hill when you can race down it? I digress.
Given that this was a workout, I sat back a little from the neutral roll out. First mistake. I spent the next 7 miles chasing down 2 riders who were between 30-45 seconds ahead of me. One of those riders was Jordan Duncan, a 16 year old who will one day represent Canada. The gauntlet had been thrown down the day before and I was determined to stick with him and beat him if I could. So as any smart racer would, as soon as I caught him he attacked and that was the end of that. He dropped me like I was standing still. I tried many times to pull myself back in but to no avail. I came 7th overall and was the first female. http://comoxvalleycycleclub.blogspot.com/
I finished my training day with another few hours of riding in and around the Comox Valley. It was absolutely beautiful. When I finally arrived home my brother had also been working all day... fresh cornbread, foccacia and pulled pork. I made some yummy rhubarb crisp (fresh from my sisters garden) and the day was complete. So yes - settling in nicely to Island living. Today off to Hornby Island for some of mom's TLC!
Vineman 70.3July 22, 2011
Walking through transition after the race I was truly amazed at the sea of beautiful bikes that were racked, the thousands of athletes, volunteers, and supporters cheering people on to fulfill their dreams and goals and at the incredible energy and organization that this triathlon had. I had just completed “another” race but was really glad to have had this awareness to remember how special and privileged this experience is.
The Vineman 70.3 is an incredibly beautiful course winding through the Sonoma wine country. The ride takes you on small roads through vineyards and through the hamlet of Geyserville. The run is equally beautiful as you go along country roads turning around at La Crema winery. It is a race that you could get lost in the beauty of it all. Of course – I didn't. I had a job to do!
This past week I took it really easy. I stayed at my wonderful Marin County home up in the redwoods breathing fresh air. My big adventures from the house were going to the local high school pool and visiting a fantastic massage therapist Kevin. I knew I felt way better than last week going into this race and was ready to take it on. The swim is in a river that at points is so shallow that you actually hit the ground with your stroke. There is also a current that sweeps you along slightly making for a very quick swim on the return. I swam literally side by side with Meredith Kessler and Leanda Cave just edging them out of the water in first. After a quick transition I was on my bike.
Ok so lets talk about my bike again because I will never get bored talking about it. I now have an even sweeter ride than last week because my fancy, new to me, 2010 Zipps 404 and 808 tubular wheels arrived! So for all you out there wondering if equipment matters, whether there really is a difference, whether you can actually notice it... I can assure you that you get what you pay for and you really can notice it! These wheels may not be the firecrest zipps that came out this year but they are truly phenomenal engineering and fast. I was also really happy with the handling in/out of turns and on hills. No speed shake and responsive. One other thing is that I think my Shiv machine is just about the sexiest thing there is. People noticed and many came up to me to ask me about “my ride”. I made a lot of friends this weekend telling them about it. I wonder if that is what it is like when you have a cute puppy going to the dog park... hmmm.
So it is no hidden fact that I am always working on my run. I keep learning and adjusting how I tackle a course. I have had an asthma attack causing me to walk (Galveston), a great run at Wildflower, a total blow up with a major collapse/ambulance ride (Eagleman), and a limp and fade at Muncie with Team Hoogland propelling me to get to the end in a semi-happy manner. This race I decided that I was going to just chill out with it, enjoy the scenery and really aim to be strong until the end. I sang songs, I kept telling myself that it was just a long sunday run and I ran down markers I had noted on the pre-drive of the course. I thought of Allison Macsas, elite runner with Rogue, while going uphill knowing that she would likely be talking away as she bounds up them. Basically I kept my mind very busy. I didn't want to worry about anyone else's race, their pace and if they were gaining. The result of the approach was a solid run but not fantastic. I will adjust again and do better next time.
So with that I earned a sixth place finish. It was a solid effort and a solid result among some awesome athletes. I loved hanging out after getting to know Rachel Challis (fifth) and Leanda Cave (second) just a little bit better. So grounded and really just lovely people. I also saw some familiar faces from past races and met some new friends in the bike shops. Next race will bring a home crowd in the town I grew up in - Calgary. I can't wait. Until then, back to the grind tomorrow with 6000m swim. Excellent!
As a kid growing upJuly 11, 2011
As a kid growing up whenever my mom or dad would come back from a trip I would make a poster welcoming them home. When I drove up to my homestay I could not believe my eyes when I was welcomed in the same way with posters, balloons and huge smiles. I had found my way to the Garber clan and my Muncie home. Being a pro and still “trying to make it” is not easy from a travel, lack of home perspective. I have stopped counting how many different places I have lived in the past year. Arriving to smiling faces and huge hearts open to sharing in the “Ironman” experience is what makes triathlon so incredible. There wasn't anything that this family couldn't do for me – with a basket filled with goodies, ready made coffee in the morning, wonderful dinners and treats I was ready to race.
The Muncie Triathlon has a long history and I felt privileged to be part of it. The race organizers shut down the interstate highways and cyclists ruled the road for the day. The course rolls through the cornfields of Indiana and along quiet roads. The swim is in the reservoir and was really wonderful water. The weather was perfect. Not much more one can ask for.
I felt ok going into this race. I know I have my work cut out for me in these next few weeks so I approached it as head down, go to work sort of race. My swim went well as I led the way start to finish. Leanda Cave swam on my feet the whole way only to pass me running up a hill to T1. Getting onto the bike I was in third after a slow transition. Leanda pulled ahead quickly and Dede quickly put the burner on. I worked to stay in contact with her but by mile 35 she pulled ahead. Meanwhile Margaret Shapiro and Mellissa Rollinson were working their way up to me and eventually passed me but I never lost touch. Getting onto the run I thought patience, time, 13.1 miles, drink, stay cool... I ran ok but did not have the ummph that I feel that I should have given my recent training. Zane and I will visit this. Perhaps this is part of the learning I have to do in racing this distance.
One thing that did keep me going was the thought of Team Hoogland in purple and grey shirts and braids that were going to cheer me into the finish. And so seventh is what I will have to take for my days work. Up next Vineman. California is always good to me so I will race with heart and conviction. Love it.
When I got the callJuly 5, 2011
When I got the call that I was getting a Shiv from Specialized I could not believe it. It is a long way from my humble beginnings in the bike world to where I am now - the ultimate. There is no better TT bike out there. Period. When I began triathlon I was so green. I remember going to my first professional race in St. Petersburg Florida (St. Anthony's Triathlon) and meeting Julie Dibens. I must of asked her a million questions about gear - from bike boxes, to wheels, to helmets, and band-aids. I had a road bike, no race wheels and an old helmet. The thing must have weighed a ton. When I arrived to the transition area there were literally thousands of age-groupers bikes totally decked out with everything. I looked at mine and laughed. I figured I still had a long ways to build my motor before I got a bike to really use it. Five years later, no home, no furniture and no fixed address I have finally proved that my motor is
ready. The minutes saved with being on the best of the best will mean a podium finish or not. Specialized is standing firmly behind me in an unbelievable way.
And so it was off to see my mechanic Tim at Bicycle Sport Shop. First I should say that Tim is the most patient, sweet and lovely person. He also happens to be an extraordinary bike mechanic that can build and tune a bike like no other. Like my Specialized mechanics he is meticulous with the details and knows it is all about speed and fluidity for top performance. And so he got the challenging job to build my Shiv in record time. Of course he delivered.
Next I was off to see Skot. Skot and I had spent quality time together when I was getting fitted for my Transition Pro. I look back now and realize that I had no idea really what being on a TT bike was supposed to feel like. Luckily Skot helped me figure that out. This time coming in I had it dialed and new what I wanted and how it would feel. Special to the Shiv is the very aero front bar. There is not the same adjustability that you have with the Transition. Your arms rest where they rest. The only thing that really can be adjusted is the height- a lower stack is very aggressive and a higher stack less so. The key to positioning is how aggressive you can be comfortably over the course of 56 miles. Ultimately this bike is all about performance where seconds matter.
So here I am in the living room staring, drooling and just loving the machine that graces the area. It is a magnificent work of art. Although I have gone up and down the street, tomorrow will be my first ride on it where I put it into some serious action - hill repeats followed by some endurance riding. I can't wait.
Thank-you Specialized for supporting me. Thank-you Tim for your patience and commitment to getting me on this incredible beauty so quickly. Thank-you Skot for getting me as aero and as comfy one can be on a hard saddle. I really could not do it without all of you.
And now -I use the motor, push it even more and settle for nothing but my best on the best. YIIIIIPPPPPEEE!!!!!
Soaring high after Eagleman 70.3June 14, 2011
I had a hard time thinking of the right title for this blog post about my Eagleman 70.3 race. Many came to mind:
Respecting the distance
The good, the great, the ? and my ride in “ the race limo” at the end
Determination can’t be learned but I got enough to pass around
Running at the top and falling hard
The Choptank (the river we swam in)
Counting 1-20 for 5 miles
The last mile
All these titles are appropriate as they get at something about my race but the one I choose speaks to where I am at now and where I am going. I also know I will be learning more from my race in the coming days and my understanding will adjust the further I get from it. This too is good.
For some reason I was more nervous on race morning than I normally am. My large sweet potato and hard-boiled egg were not sitting as well as it normally does. I tried to push all that nervous energy away and focus on the task at hand. Setting up transition, making sure I knew where to go -swim in, bike out, run out, finish line. I got in the 82f water to warm-up and felt ok. I was not feeling particularly zippy though. I had to keep saying ‘trust myself, trust the training, trust the process, there is no other place I would rather be.’
Sure enough as soon as the gun went off I did go and went hard. I saw super swimmer Amanda Stevens pulling ahead and tried to stick with her but no luck. She was swift! I came out of the water just behind her and after a super speedy transition moved ahead quickly. From that moment on, I was in the lead. I knew from Wildflower that no time could be wasted getting into a strong pace with these girls. With Sam Warriner and Tyler Stewart on my heal, I had some good competition on the bike, never mind Mirinda’s phenomenal run.
The bike was great and 2:20 went by really fast. It was SUPER flat and really quite pretty. Although we were told that there were 60 Eagles nesting in the marsh area, perhaps alligators and snakes on the road, all I saw were little turtles basking in the sun. I willed them to start their trek into the water so there was not turtle soup on the road after the 2200 other athletes passed by. Because it was so flat, I got through it by playing mind games. I challenged myself for 10 miles here, 10 minutes there, until the next turtle, next water stop. Rewards were electrolyte tablets, a swig of my drink, GU – exciting stuff!
Before I knew it I heard Julie Moss announcing like the pro she is that I was first female into transition and to go! I took that energy and my own excitement and took off like I was going to do a 10km run. It is SOOOO deceiving when you get that extra endorphin rush coming out of transition behind the lead bike. The lead biker called out for the water for me and constantly announced that I was lead female. It was star treatment. I told myself to slow down but didn’t listen to my own voice. I ran hard, too hard, venturing too close and over that magic red/threshold line, overheating and then having to pay a really serious price. I started to really go downhill in the last two miles. I tried desperately to calm my breath, to believe that I just had to hang on a little longer, to think form, to just put one foot in front of the other. I had been counting already from 1-20 to keep my mind occupied from mile 10. I totally talked to myself in the last mile – people must have thought I had gone NUTS! I had a little and to be honest don’t remember so much. Tyler Stewart passed me in that last mile. Sam Warriner passed me in the last 200m. I could do nothing. I had already done it.
I collapsed at the finish. I had nothing left. I raced with all the passion and drive that I have. There is nothing wrong with this and will not change but next time I am in the lead, I will be a little smarter and stay there. There is no doubt, I have turned a corner and I am not turning back. I am smiling as I write that – I love the fire that burns within me to do better and be better next time. Just wait.
My first non drafting Olympic distance raceJune 1, 2011
My first non drafting Olympic distance race of the year and I did not too bad - sixth with some pretty top-notch athletes around me. Getting to race in my adopted "home" town of Austin is truly awesome as there was rarely a corner where I did not have support cheering me on! I also was really excited for all the Rogue athletes that were racing their first Sprint or Olympic Race ever and for those that were coming back for another year! It is truly awesome that age-groupers and pros can, at the end of the day, talk about the same race and the challenges that we all had to overcome.
This event was sponsored by Specialized and Bicycle Sport Shop which also made it important to me. The amount of work that goes into preparing for such an event is huge and the sponsors are a big part of that. Sharing experiences, supporting athletes, telling people about the products really becomes a labour of love and there was no short of it to go around.
So about the race! My swim was ok. It was only ok because it was all about catching the draft in this race. If you got it, then you were just that much better for it and able to make tremendous time because a few women caught the men and used them. Unfortunately I did not which meant that I had a few drafting off me. In other words, I worked hard for a solid swim time (19:20). There was nothing easy about it but what do you expect really?
My bike was solid in terms of time and performance. I did learn some things though in this race. First is that my Transition Pro can corner like a road bike in a crit style course. It was awesome, stable and swift. I will be changing one thing though for my next race. In this kind of heat I get really sweaty hands. I felt that my hands were slipping on my bars and due to the course I could not stay arrow the whole time. I will be putting on a tacky like grip tape or one with bumps if I can on the small brake hoods. One benefit of having an amazing bike shop and bike sponsor behind you is that they will get all techy on this stuff and will sort it out. I will let you know what we come up with. In addition to being a little slippery on my bars, I lost both my water bottles during the ride - honestly they slipped out of my hand. Not so good for the whole hydration plan!
Getting onto the run was fine. It was certainly a race as there was a lot of movement among positions. I was running with Becky Lavelle, passed her, to have her only pass me back in the second lap. We both then passed super swim/biker Sarah McLarty. I was holding 5th until Nicole Kelleher came whizzing by me in the final mile. That girl can RUN! I put out there what I could though and have to say that if anything, I am consistent in my running! I really like 38 minute 10 kms whether there is a bike in front of it or not. One day though watch out... :)
I am really going to miss my Specialized support crew at the next race and am already mentally preparing for it. It will be my first one where I don't have them taking care of me before the race and just being there for a shoulder to lean on after (literally). These next few days I will be working really hard in preparation for Eagleman 70.3 on June 12. I am gunning for points and to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas so lots and lots of racing for me! Awesome. I LOVE this stuff!
Fourth Place at Wildflower!May 3, 2011
A fourth place finish at Wildflower is something I am very happy and proud of. After a really tough go at Galveston 70.3 I was really ready to show the hard work that has gone into my winter training. I was confident in every way once I had got to the race site and took in what was going to be a really tough days’ work on the course. I had perfect preparation, lodging, meals, and mental space. More than that though, I came to understand how well Zane had prepared me physically for this race. I understood all those hill repeats, final 3 mile run efforts, long rides… During the race I had a few ‘aha’ moments where I thought, oh this is why Zane had me do this, I have been here before and now I just have to do it again. It was awesome to be so prepared and confident.
The swim was solid. It was steady and relatively smooth. My nineteen wetsuit was great and other than super buoyant legs, I hardly noticed it. I came out of the water with the lead pack of girls and moved quickly onto the bike.
Right out of transition the bike is tough. It goes up, up and up. Cave, Ellis and Swallow quickly formed a little group and powered up the hills. I decided to hang back a bit and keep my power where I knew I needed to be – the brilliance of an SRM. I knew it was going to be a long day out there and there were lots of hills to come. Call me a pessimist but I also was waiting to see which of those three would unintentionally get a staggered or drafting penalty – they were riding too close. The officials really mean it when they say there is zero tolerance and you have to play by the rules. There is no room for slipping up. Swallow was the one who slipped and it was perhaps too hard to get back in mentally at that point. Samantha Warriner caught me and passed but for the remainder of the race I decided she was a great rabbit and never let her out of my sight. We were met with some pretty huge cross winds that actually threw some people off their bikes entirely. I was ok but was ever vigilant. Coming up the hill named “big nasty” I felt great, stayed in my seat and just kept things smooth. My nutrition was OK although I somehow lost 2 water bottles at different times. Guess I need to fix that.There were tons of aid stations though so I really was never worried or unable to solve what could have been a potential problem.
So although it is obvious that equipment makes a difference I can’t tell you how much faster by power numbers alone how much of a difference it makes.Zipp gave me the new 808s for the race and they were truly something. They demand better bike handling, fluid pedal stroke, and are just darn fast. That, in combination with my totally dialed Transition Pro (THANKS JEFF!), I could not ask for much better.
Coming into T2 was very nice and I was looking forward to getting onto the run and having only 1.5 hrs left. I was still feeling good and was in my rhythm. It was great to see my Specialized crew there and I think they were breathing a sigh of relief when I got in safely with a smile on my face… their work was done with me. I still had Warriner in my sight and knew that unless she put in a major surge, I would catch her. It took me 6 miles to do it but I reeled her in one step at a time. The course was very tough and whoever tells you that the hard part is done at around 5 miles needs to do the course again.I think that the hard part is done at 13.1 miles and not a moment sooner. The last hill before the last descent to the finish line was the hardest hill of the day. I once again was so glad for all the work Zane has been making me do and to Alan for helping me prepare mentally for that last mile.
What is next you ask? A am doing a wee little 10km race in a few weeks and then am stoked to return to Austin and race the Capital of Texas Triathlon!It will be SOOOO short in comparison.
Will write again soon.. stay well, healthy and happy!
Freedom in movement and loving the hills!April 26, 2011
"In great works, by man or nature, a polar balance of physical and metaphysical principles exist, both fulfilling a function and expressing a meaning." Alonzo King, Choreographer of LINES Ballet.
Yesterday, I was treated to an amazing experience that reminded me of the power of the human body and mind while it is supported, suspended and captured in the environment which it is within. I was taken to see a modern dance ballet by Noreen, an incredible woman and friend. The dancers captured in artistic form and in physical strength what it was to shift, change, grow and be still in what was to be wind, ocean, and earth. I was taken into their movements.
It made me think of myself as a triathlete and particularly how I have been grappling with an assortment of health challenges, so many related to the environment (allergies). Alonzo says that "we are stuck, obstructed, when there is no flow and the mind/body isn't moving creatively." Before coming to California it really was like I was stuck, my body unmalleable, unable to move freely. I tried to force it into submission, kept wondering what was wrong, why it was like I was hitting my head against a wall... hard.
Since Thursday I have transformed back into myself. I am staying with an incredibly gracious woman who's home eludes peace and calm. It is surrounded by Redwoods, on top of a hill and smells of eucalyptus. I am in heaven. The air is cool here by Austin standards but clear. My body has responded both to this environment and to what Dr. Noah Moos has given me to fight the blockages in my body - essentially vitamins and minerals that I have not been absorbing through my own diet/nutrition. Each day I feel better and tackle the surrounding hills with exactly who I know my body to be - powerful, free and determined. I meet the challenges not with a fight against my body telling it to do what it does not want, but with a joy of being part of the experience. I have once again the energy and ability to relish in the experience of breathing hard and pushing harder up the hill, through the wind and rain. It is a gratefulness that I have to be out there in the trees, on the hills, and once again in my body and doing what I love.
The dancers had peace and control in both the movements and in standing still. They were completely absorbed. So this is what I will continue to strive for - to find a calm, control and freedom in my movements no matter how challenging. The environment will support me. Up next Tri-California Wildflower Long Course! SOOOOO EXCITED!
Fresh AirApril 22, 2011
Over the course of the last few weeks I have become heavy with frustration. I was angry with my body not being able to perform with how I know it can. I was frustrated that I continue to struggle to find air and manage digestion. I was frustrated that I couldn’t “figure it out”. Managing these frustrations made me also really face the reality of my profession which is so singularly focused on training, sleeping and eating. When the joy of the training is off it is all too easy to be derailed, negative and surrounded by the sense of loss and wonderment of why you are doing all this. It is a slippery slope…
At the track two days ago I was attempting to do mile repeats on a tough but manageable pace. I had done it before and this was just another hard training session. Mile 1 - legs felt ok, mentally was focused and was on pace. Mile 2 – started ok but then the tight feeling where my body works harder and harder to get air set in. Mentally I thought, not already it is only mile 2, please no, stay calm, breathe deeply, relax. I finished but by the end my chest had completely tightened and I knew what was coming. Mile 3 – lasted not more than 200 meters until I was trying so hard to get air down I stopped. I broke in frustration with my body.
Austin is an incredible city. It is vibrant, rich in trees and green space, warm and full of incredible people. It is also notoriously bad for high pollen counts. This coupled with forest fires in west Texas, high winds, high humidity and no break of rain to bring the airborne allergens down a bit is a recipe for disaster for asthmatic and non-asthmatic alike. For me, it just has meant that I can’t breathe.
And so I am off to find fresh air. I want to be able to breathe deeply and have every cell of my body enriched with oxygen. I am off to California where the land is lush with evergreens and the air is clear. As I write it seems dramatic to me and very privileged. It is. Zane reminds me that this is what it is to be professional. Alan reminds me to trust myself and make decisions that will enable me to be the best athlete I can be and have no regrets. I just want to remind myself what it is like to be free in breath and in spirit.
Almost a week laterApril 14, 2011
Almost a week later and I am finally sitting down to write what happened at the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 in Galveston last weekend. If I wrote it before now it would have been a little bit or perhaps much more “whiny” and woe is me oriented. Perhaps this is ok because it is in truth that I seek to write about my experiences as a triathlete. I still am sorting through emotions and the challenges of not having a race go the way I hoped but have things in perspective again and this is a very good thing.
I had the best pre-race preparations. I had incredible bike support from the guys at Bicycle Sport Shop and the Specialized truck. I had a quiet hotel room away from the anxiousness and hype of race prep. I ate well, hydrated and was able to totally relax. The morning of the race I knew I was ready.
The swim was brilliant. It was pretty windy so there was definitely a challenge in getting through the chop. All the better for me as the harder, the better. I came out of the water in second behind Mary-Beth Ellis who had a great swim as well. I got through transition without a hitch and was off on my bike.
This is where I had fun. The course is very flat, very fast but is deceiving in that there is a terrific wind that blows off the ocean the whole time. While riding in one direction I actually was doing a full lean into the wind to keep my bike upright. I kept the intensity up and steady. My bike was amazing and with the full aero gear I felt like I was flying. I held the lead for about 50km when I was passed by some outstanding cyclists. I actually didn’t even see Theurig pass me as I think she was going so strong. I took in my nutrition, drank and was super happy to get off the bike after 90km. I felt good and I was in fourth.
Immediately getting onto the run I started having digestive issues. This was not new for me as I have been struggling the past few weeks with keeping any sort of nutrition down. I have been playing with different gels, different levels of electrolytes, and varying combinations of solid food vs liquids. I knew going into the race that it was not sorted completely but I didn’t think that it would really get me. Heat has got me in the past in a big way but this was different and usually I am ok. But it did. Essentially what I know now is that I started getting and have been getting gastro-esophageal reflux. The sequence of problems was burping, reflux, irritation and inflammation of the esophagus causing difficulty in breathing. This triggered my asthma causing complete inability to breath and me walking. A 1:45 half marathon time is hardly what I have been working for.
I think what frustrates me the most is that it is another “thing” to get over, figure out and deal with. Some ask whether it is a stress response and thus a mental issue. I would say that it is potentially a bodily stress response that has been building – starting a long time ago with imbalance in hormones, developing exercise induced asthma, inability to fight allergens, becoming lactose intolerant and now not being able to keep nutrition down. So then the question still is whether I can change my mental game to stay calm and avoid all these “issues”?
My answer to this is that although I do believe I can strengthen my mental preparation – this was not a mental issue. This is what I am proud of in the race – I finished and not once did I give up trying to get going again after “problem-solving” throughout the race. My thinking was sort of like this - just drink more, try taking in more nutrition, sponges, ice, slow down and come around, form, get inhaler, Gatorade, and finally – just walk, no shame in walking. I was determined. I had two medical people follow me for 10km. I had an age-grouper tell me that I was a pro and to act like one. I had support telling me that I was doing great knowing that it was a complete lie. I had to fight my personal demons to keep one foot in front of another. It is this fight in me that pushes me in training, in racing and will get me to another finish line with a smile on my face. What I do know though is that I am just so thankful once again that I am not alone to do it. To my sponsors and my personal support, thank-you for sticking by me. Let’s climb another mountain.
How many times have I heardApril 11, 2011
How many times have I heard myself say to
someone or someone say to me – how do you find balance? Up until 1 year ago I tried to balance work,
being a pro-triathlete, relationships and life.
Once I realized that I was on the brink of exhaustion I made being a
pro-triathlete my work and my priority. The question remains though – have I
achieved better balance? To answer this
question I have looked to the dictionary and talked to several people. This is what I learnt in my quest to
understand what it means to me.
#1: An even distribution of weight
enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
To me this definition gets at the physical
dimension of balance that triathletes struggle to achieve in their quest to
strengthen three demanding sports. I,
like many others, have not managed to stay “upright” or “steady” in training or
races due to injury, poor mechanics, or nutrition. Lack of balance can be too much emphasis on
motor development at the detriment of skill development. It can be too much time spent on one sport,
leaving another to become the weak link.
It can also be missing the recovery needed to keep going at such intensity,
volume whilst meeting life demands. For
me - there really is only one solution.
Get a coach. Zane has taught me
so very very much about the need to balance skill and motor development with
recovery. He constantly is finessing my
training schedule to meet me where I am at and where my body is at. Some say planning is the biggest job and
execution is the easy part… to keep me swimming, biking and running healthily,
I believe it.
#2: A stable mental or psychological
state; emotional stability
I had the incredible opportunity to listen
and speak to Peter Reid at the Specialized Training Camp I attended two weeks
ago (For interview go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir-qWuItgck). One thing that really struck me is how
strongly he emphasized knowing why you are doing something. Triathlon is no easy undertaking. For me there are times when everything hurts,
I am tired and that it takes everything in me to step out the door to go for
that second run. These are the times
that knowing why is critical. There are a million different reasons why
each of us undertakes the mission to complete a triathlon. It is only your reason that matters though and
that will bring joy to the training day and to the race. Know it and breathe it – it will bring
stability just when you really really need it.
#3: Something that is left over; a remainder.
I like this definition as it applies to
life because it is often that we are cramming in lots of life into the
“remainder” time we have after training, working, school, etc. Two friends of mine were talking about what balance
means over dinner and the suggestion was that balance is meeting the must dos
and being able to pursue the want to’s beyond that. Important to this notion is accepting that you
likely can’t do or achieve all your want to’s.
Skot Campbell, BG bike fitter at Bicycle
Sport Shop said to me that balance is something that we all aspire to but rarely
attain because we are, after all, asymmetrical.
I loved this because it reminds me that it is the pursuit of life that
brings balance and that it is human to be a little lop-sided.
Perhaps as we struggle to strike the right
balance of work and play, family and friends we need to fundamentally remember
that life is in balance when it is full of all those things that are important
to us, that we are meeting those things that we have set as priorities and are
enjoying once and awhile the nice to dos.
February 12, 2013
November 1, 2012
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December 28, 2011
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