Friday, November 16, 2012

Where the Buffalo Roams...ITU Elite Nat'ls

For this year’s nationals (just as I did last year), I traveled from the home of the buffaloes (CU Boulder) to the actual location of Buffalo. This year, I had just three simple goals in mind: eat buffalo wings, get a picture with a buffalo in Buffalo, and not be involved in a pile up crash (like last year where I got back up and finished slowly). SPOILER’S ALERT: Mission accomplished!

Going into this race, I was nursing a foot injury I picked up a week after my Kelowna race and 2 weeks out from nationals. So, my goals slightly changed leading up to the race. Now, after taking 2 weeks off of running leading up to the race, I was just praying that I’d be able to make it through and not end my season on a DNF.

The swim start took place on a wobbly boat dock complete with hooks for boats to be tied to. After all the rocking last year though, I’m happy to say I was prepared for this year and had a decent start. I was wearing #7(my lucky number) and therefore, was able to pick a decent spot near the outer left side. I thought I’d done a good job of getting out fast after the start but was quickly proved wrong once I hit the first turn buoy and ran into most of the main pack trying to turn at the same time as me. I came out of the first lap, ran around the turn around cone and realized I was further back than I wanted to be. So, I red-lined the first part of the second lap and was able to make up some ground in the very choppy waters. With about 300 meters to go, I felt like I was in a good position in the main group.

Then came the hardest part of the entire race…running up to transition on a hurt foot. The run-up was a little more of a Sunday jog than I would’ve liked, but I was so excited that I was able to hook onto a bike pack right out of transition that I quickly forgot. The bike course was mostly flat but the winds and the u-turns made it a bit tricky. My bike group of 4 did a good job of not losing too much ground to the group ahead of us and we added another with 3 laps to go on the 8 loop bike course to dismount as a group of 5.

I’d decided before the race that in T2 I would put on socks and wear my training shoes with orthotics to give my feet as much support as possible. As I did so, I watched as my fellow competitors quickly changed into their racing flats and took off. A couple seconds later, I was off and running as well. Having not run in 2 weeks, I had no idea what to expect and decided that if hurt to run right away I would stop. However, to my amazement I felt okay (thanks endorphins!) and continued on. I tried to stay relaxed and run a consistent pace, which I successfully did for the first 4 miles. It was about at this point that the throbbing pain in my foot started. It really didn’t get too bad until about 1 mile to go but at that point I thought I’d get to sit down faster running than walking. When I hit the finish line 12th overall and 9th American, I was in a world of pain and had trouble hiding it. Grrrrr….I hate feeling like a drama queen! But, I made it and the fact that I didn’t DNF made me so happy at the end of the day. Congrats to Sarah Haskins and Flora Duffy on an amazing race out there in which they literally swam, biked and ran away from the rest of the field!

So, as you all probably guessed, that was the end of the season for me. For now, I am in foot rehab and wedding planning mode. It’s amazing all the little details you can get caught up in…. Forced downtime is always a good thing, however, it is absolutely gorgeous right now in Colorado and I cannot help but be jealous of the runners I see heading out to the trails…oh well, I’ll be out there soon enough!

A “Low” in Kelowna

After a 5-year hiatus, I was back in Kelowna, Canada for another crack at this ITU race with a monstrous hill. Back in 2007, my first year as a pro triathlete, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t know how to ride a bike too well and relied mostly on my swimming and running skills to get me through. However, after training at altitude in the mountains of Colorado, I felt more confident in my biker chick abilities and was ready to race for the podium!

Sadly, my bike had other ideas… apparently the electronic shifting must’ve been a little bit off and every time I tried to shift from my small to big ring after climbing the aforementioned monstrous hill, the chain would slip off and I’d have to put it back on. I continued on each time, picking up a new group of people to ride with almost every lap until the final lap when instead of just slipping off, my chain jammed underneath the frame and I was unable to continue.

The positive things I had to take away from the race were this: 1) I can finally make it up the hill no problem and stay with the group 2) Kelowna is an absolutely gorgeous city! I’m going to go there as often as I get the opportunity! 3) The race organizers and volunteers there are so sweet! They came to get me after my bike broke and made sure I was physically (and mentally) okay…awesome people! 4) The other Americans rocked this race… 3 Americans in the top 5!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Orleans and Boulder Peak Tri

After the Dallas race, I was back to the non-drafting format and back in the hunt for points to qualify me for Hy-Vee at the New Orleans 5150 tri.

Although it was a relatively small field, it was still a stacked one and I knew I’d be challenged by these girls out on the course.

In the swim, the most of the group stuck together throughout and we exited within seconds of each other. After about a half mile run to transition, we hopped on our bikes to start the bike portion of the race.

In past years, the New Orleans bike course had been traditionally flat, but this year to change things up a bit, race organizers decided to add in a bridge that the athletes would cross over 4 times on the 2 lap bike course. I feel like I was able to get in a good rhythm on the bike and keep some of the top girls in my sights. Then, when I was about 1.5 miles out from the bike finish, I hit a bump and all of the sudden my chain was jammed and wouldn’t move. Although admittedly mechanically challenged, I knew that I should check my derailleur, try to switch into a different gear, etc. to see if that would help. It turns out a couple of bolts in my chain ring popped off, and I was unable to get my pedals to turn over. Therefore, I had to sit and wait for the sag wagon to come get me and take me back to the finish line. After my DNF, I was pretty bummed since I felt like I had a good race going and knew I wasn’t going to get any points. I decided not to get too down on myself and was able to enjoy a beautiful long run along the coast before I left the venue.

Because of the DNF and no points, I knew that the Boulder Peak race was really my last chance to gather any points for Hy-Vee. I was really looking forward to racing at home because that meant I didn’t have to deal with flying and I got to sleep in own bed. Also, I knew this course like the back of my hand and was eager to see what I could do on it. Furthermore, I knew that a lot of people I train with would be out there racing as well and I was excited to see them race.

The Friday before the Sunday race, I woke up coughing and sneezing and with a sore throat. I decided to take a day off and try to rest up and recover from my bug. On Saturday, I felt a little better and was able to do my usual short pre-race warmups, although they wore me out a bit. I decided I would make a decision when I woke up Sunday as to whether I’d race or not. When I woke up, my sore throat was gone but I was still congested. I decided I’d give it a go and hoped by blowing my nose a gazillion times it would somehow clear up. I started the race feeling ok and was able to have a decent swim, exiting the water as the 3rd pro woman.

Onto the bike, I immediately felt congested and tried to take some deep breaths and keep a rhythm going. By the time I got to the steep hill in the course at Olde Stage, my throat was starting to clog up too and I could barely breathe. So, the cliff’s notes version of the rest of my bike is that it was more like a Sunday stroll than a race as I struggled through to the bike finish. Still hoping to get some points, I also struggled through the run and to the finish. It was very disappointing to have to race sick in front of the hometown crowd. However, I feel very blessed to have had my family, friends, and sponsors at Sklar Exploration out there to support me. Note to self: Racing sick is never a good idea, hometown race or not!!

Dallas ITU Pan Am Cup - Feelin' HOT HOT HOT!

After racing a couple of consecutive non-drafting races, I was excited to switch back to the draft-legal format for the my first Olympic distance draft-legal race of the year.

Because there were multiple races being contested in one day, the pros were given the final 2 time slots of the day, with the women starting right around 11am. The swim started out as it most always does, with an initial sprint to jockey for position followed by a more controlled swim stroke in the pack. I don’t feel like I really was able to wake my body up until about the 2nd lap of the swim (halfway through), when I realized I had some serious ground to make up on the lead pack of swimmers. I exited the waters near the Marriott Las Colinas way further back than I anticipated and definitely a bit discouraged.

Onto the out and back bike course which was located on a road just in front of the Marriott grounds, I tried to dig deep for the first couple laps of the bike and see who I could connect with to form a pack and by the end of the third lap was able to settle in with a group of about 7 other athletes. With about 2.5 laps, some of us decided to use one of the turnarounds to make it a break for it, which split our group in half. Now with only a lap to go, a few of the girls kept pushing harder at which point I felt like my body was shutting down. I don’t think I’d ever felt so hot riding my bike. I knew if I wanted to have any shot of finishing the race I needed to slow it down and save my legs a bit for the run.

So, after letting the other girls go, I entered transition by myself and headed out onto the run, unsure if I’d be able to finish. I started out by jogging for a couple minutes to see how my body would respond. After 1 of 4 laps, I started to feel better so decided to pick up the pace and see how many girls I could pick off. I was able to run lap 2 and half of lap 3 at a somewhat normal pace before I started getting overheated again. At this point, girls were dropping like flies in front of me (passing out or pulling out of the race). This is the part where the mental battle started. I wanted so badly to quit and just lie down (it seems like the easy way out when you see others doing it) but somehow I was able to trudge on even though my body was shutting down and I was getting dizzy. My coach and two of my close friends (Renee and Forrest Lewton) urged me to keep on running and I can’t thank them and the other people out there supporting enough for keeping me going. The last lap was mostly a blur but I do remember closing my eyes for a couple seconds at a time and deep breathing. Oh yeah…and running into a parked car while I had my eyes closed (whoops!). I don’t remember finishing the race and had no idea what place I was in, but I do remember getting carried underneath a shady tree and lying there for quite awhile before sitting up and eating lots of popsicles.

This is definitely up there in the books for “hottest/most humid race I’ve ever done.” The only other race that comes close is one I raced in Rincon, Puerto Rico back in 2007…if you were there, you know what I’m talking about.

I ended up 6th place in the pro women’s field. While I was obviously happy with a top 10 finish, I can’t help but have mixed emotions after having a sub-par swim, bike, and run. But, I guess some days splits don’t matter and it’s more about doing the best you can and surviving under tough conditions.

Thanks so much to my friends Forrest and Renee Lewton for being my homestay for the weekend and making sure I was taken care of after the race. Much love to you guys!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Memphis in May Tri

After racing St. Anthony’s and a couple of weeks of downtime to recover and get in another good training block, I raced the Memphis in May Triathlon which is actually now being held in Tunica, Mississippi. So, it’s Memphis…in May…in Mississippi!

What makes MIM different from other races is that instead of a mass start on the swim it is a time trial start. This means that after every 10 seconds a horn would sound and another athlete would run down the ramp into the water individually. This year’s race had the pros start out in alphabetical order by last name and alternating gender. So, the closest girl was 20 seconds ahead of or behind me. Since there were 2 other 5150 series races being held on the same weekend, it was a considerably smaller field than St. Anthony’s.

After the horn sounded and I dove in the water, it was actually nice to not have to deal with kicking and fighting for position in the water. I was able to find my own rhythm and swim in “clean water,” something that is usually only reserved for the lead swimmers in the pack of other mass start races. As the swim progressed, a couple of swimmers came by me and I was able to hop on their feet and catch a draft for a bit. Coming out of the swim I felt strong and ready to bike!

The bike sent us way out across town down mostly quiet roads (away from the casinos of Tunica), into a nice headwind for most of the first ½ and then a turn around tailwind on the way back. I started out on the bike with a group of 3 other girls and was able to keep them in my sights until the turn around on the bike where they gapped me a bit. Since it was a hot day, my main goal was to drink every last ounce of liquid I had with me and I am happy to say that I succeeded…

…. But going on to the run I was still pretty darn hot! I tried to start out the run at what I’d trained to be my 10k pace (using my trusty Garmin as my guide) but after 2 miles realized that my body probably would bonk if I kept it up. I forced myself to slow down a bit and remember to breathe! The finish line couldn’t have come soon enough on that run! I ended up in 4th place and was happy to get some more points towards my 5150 series ranking. I was also so thankful to have my fiancĂ© there to support me and take care of me in my extremely tired state after the race.

One of the highlights of the weekend was getting the chance to go into downtown Memphis and see the ducks at the Peabody, something I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl. Apparently many animals have graced the fountains at the Peabody hotel, but the ducks have had staying power at the hotel. :) For quite a few years, the ducks have been involved in a show which has them coming down the elevator, filing out into the lobby and hopping into their beloved fountain…so cute! Can't wait to do that race again in the future!

Early Season Update

After a long break from blogging, I’m back at it again... I know you are all shocked ;) Since my last blog post, I’ve completed 4 races: 2 drafting and 2 non-drafting which are part of the 5150 series. After almost a 3 year break from the non-drafting scene, I decided to go “give it a go” once more this year, this time on a time trial bike instead of a road bike (which definitely helps a ton!). Thanks so much to my main sponsor Sklar Exploration and to Colorado Multisport for helping me get setup on Mr. Shiver Me Timbers (my Specialized Shiv time trial bike) and also my road bike as well. Prior to this year I’d never had an in-depth bike fit and I can’t recommend them enough to make you go faster and make your body happier while riding! In other exciting news, I am now an engaged woman! On one of the last days of my winter training in California, my boyfriend surprised me by taking me over to Malibu where I thought we’d just be going to dinner. Instead, we ended up taking a walk on the beach which turned into drawing in the sand, which turned into a proposal, which turned into me now having to wear something besides a Timex watch on my left hand/wrist…but I’m not complaining one bit! At the beginning of March, after my training block in the warmth of California, I competed in the Clermont ITU Continental Cup in Florida to test out my early season fitness. Unfortunately, I felt sick to my stomach pretty much the entire race. I was able to work through my discomfort until the run, where I was forced to jog pretty much the entire way and finished pretty far back. Although this was not the way I’d envisioned kicking off my 2012 season, the weekend was not at all a waste. Since the race was in Florida and fairly close to my hometown of Gainesville, I was fortunate enough to have two of my best friends (Darcie and Wendy) there to cheer me on and support me throughout the weekend. In addition, I was able to visit Animal Kingdom which is the only Disney park I hadn’t been to in the parks located in Orlando.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Hey y'all! Happy New Year! I'm sure a lot of you wondered if I was ever going to update this every again, huh? Well, I must admit that 2011 was a year that chewed me up and spit me out. Between misfortune such as crashes, flat tires, and stolen equipment (which resulted in a DQ) in my races and dealing with pneumonia for almost 3 months, I am looking forward to a happier and healthier 2012 for sure! Through the trials and tribulations, I learned one very important thing: the whole reason I'm in this sport is to live out God's plan for my life and spread His word.

One particular experience that sticks out in my head from this season was when I was on my return flight home from sprint worlds in Switzerland, the race where my shoes were missing when I returned to T2 :( Admittedly distraught, I spent most of the flight lamenting the race when it occurred to me that the lady next to me looked visibly upset. After several hours of frowning and sighs, I finally got the courage up to ask if she was ok. She revealed to me that her dad back in the US had had a stroke and she wasn't sure if she'd make it there in time to see him alive. Way to put things in perspective...and I thought I was having a rough weekend!! I asked her about happy memories she'd experienced with her dad and after recounting story after story and praying for her dad's safe journey "home," by the end of the flight she was smiling, thinking about what a blessing it was that she'd been given such a great dad. Stories like this happen to me now and again, and remind me that although sport is great, there's so much more to life.

Anyways, I am thankful to be healthy enough to do what I do and for the people that support me - you truly are the wind beneath my sails. I am excited to embark on this new year and test the waters of both non-drafting and draft-legal triathlon.

This past weekend I kicked off 2012 the best way I knew how.... by combining my two favorite things into one weekend - Disney and running! I ran the Disney marathon relay with one of my best friends and had an absolute blast doing a "fun race" before the real races start in a couple of months. I look forward to all this year has in store for me and wish my supporters all the best as well!