Monday, August 25, 2014

Canadian Nationals in Magog

The following week I traveled to Magog, Quebec to race the Canadian National Championships. As opposed to the previous weekend, this weekend’s race was a sprint (half of an Olympic distance). Initially, I was pretty bummed when I heard the race distance had been switched from an Olympic to sprint. However, by the end of the race I was thanking my lucky stars…

This was my 2nd time racing in Magog and I can say without a doubt that it is one of my favorite race venues. The organization and atmosphere is top notch! Not to mention, the swim takes place in a lake that I could just swim in for days, as opposed to those races where you come out of the water caked with dirt,etc.

I knew with just a 750m swim that I’d need to get out to a good start and get on some feet. After the gun went off, I saw in my peripheral vision some girls running to the right, and I immediately followed them and dolphin-dived til I got on their feet. I wasn’t able to stay with them for the entirety of the swim, but the good start put me in a great position coming out of the water.

After a quick transition, I was out to start the very hilly/technical bike course. I had no idea what place I was in coming out of the swim, but was enthused to see only about 4 girls ahead of me on the first lap. Near the end of the first lap, a group of about 6 of us formed a pack and started to work together for the remaining 10k of the bike. Because of the nature of the course, we were really the only large pack to form – most everyone else was going it alone. Unfortunately, on one of the last hills I mis-shifted and my chain briefly came off. Luckily, I was able to think fast and shift it back on, but I lost my mini-pack in the process. I sprinted the downhill as there was only about 3k left at this point, but was never able to get back on. I entered the 2nd transition about 10 seconds back of my group.

Mad at myself for making such a rookie shifting mistake on the bike, I took off kind of like Roadrunner in those Looney Tunes cartoons. I wanted to reel those girls back in as quickly as possible since it was such a short race. All of the sudden, I felt a stitch in my left side and I started to be thankful that this was only a sprint 5k run! After a little over a mile, the stitch subsided and I was finally able to get back into a quick pace and finish at a decent pace, though my legs were pretty spent by this point and I was running out of "real estate." Once again, my run left me feeling that I can do so much better than this and that all my hard work is not showing as of yet.

The positives of this race:
• I finished 10th overall
• I was the 2nd overall elite (not counting the U23 results). Basically, I was second out of the old people ;)
• Getting good points towards my world ranking
• There was a Tim Hortons visit post-race which included baked goods
• Spending the weekend in Magog staying in a beautiful lake house with great company

If only I spoke French, I would consider vacationing there. Bonjour and merci can only get you so far...Now that I’m back home from training in Colorado for the summer and racing in Canada, I’m looking forward to staying in Cali for a bit and not having to pack and fly with my bike. My next race is in Pacific Grove on September 13th. Thanks for reading and as always, for the support! Cheers!

Toronto ITU: Shoe Know It!

In mid-July, I headed to Canada for two ITU Pan American Cup races. The last time I raced in Canada was back in 2012, a race that I traveled to on my own. That trip included many miscommunications and a motel room with a front door that wouldn’t latch (eeeek!). Luckily, this time around I had a support crew which made me much less stressed and enjoy the races a whole lot more!!

I cannot thank Canadian triathlete Leanna Lee and her family enough for hosting me for the time I spent in Toronto and in-between my Toronto and Magog races! I’ve only ever flown through Toronto so I was excited to finally get the opportunity to explore this beautiful city. In my week there, I was able to visit the CN Tower (one of the world’s tallest) as well as the Bata Shoe Museum. Even though I own mostly athletic shoes and sandals, I was intrigued by the evolution of shoes from the days of the ancient civilizations to today. Fun fact: for about a century, men wore heels higher than women to show their status in society. Luckily this fad didn’t last haha!

The first race of my Canadian double took place in picturesque downtown Toronto: the Toronto ITU Pan American Cup/Pan Ams test event. After a very chilly (16 degrees C) wetsuit-legal swim, I exited the water leading the second pack. I was pretty pleased with my position considering that most of my body was numb and that the swim was a bit long as well! It took about 5 miles into the bike before my feet and legs thawed out and I was able to get into a good rhythm. My pack knew we had a lot of work to do if we wanted to catch the leaders in the group ahead, and once we were swallowed up by a couple of girls from behind, the pace quickened and we began to chip away at the lead. A hard effort on the bike was made even harder by a pesky little 100 meter-ish climb we had at the beginning of each lap, but by the end of the bike our work had paid off and the front pack was in sight!

Coming off the bike, I tried to stay calm and have a good turnover… and not let that aforementioned pesky little climb take too much out of me on each of the 4 laps. This was not my fastest run ever (by far!), however, it was one of the fastest I’ve had in awhile since my foot injury late 2012. Knowing what I am capable of on the run, I usually end up beating myself up but I have to remind myself that you can't come back overnight and must accept and celebrate progress. I ended up 11th on the day and am so thankful to Leanna’s family, friends, and coach for cheering for me as well! Always nice to know at least one person out there is supporting you. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to a little hole-in-the-wall place in Kensington Market, where we began an afternoon eating marathon that included: fish tacos (my first ever), fresh squeezed pineapple juice (I’m a fan!), cupcakes (yum!), English breakfast tea, and burgers. Don’t judge…we earned it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dallas 2014

In early June I headed to Dallas, hoping to avenge my 2013 race on the same course, where I suffered from mechanical problems on the bike and was eventually lapped out after stopping to fix them.

Unfortunately, the story had the same ending this year as well. However, I had no mechanical problems to speak of, the DNF was totally my fault this time. I exited the swim in what I thought to be a good position but had a pretty bad run up to transition and transition which left me with a smaller bike pack than anticipated. I lasted for 6.999 laps out of 8 laps on the bike and (along with the rest of my pack) was lapped by the larger lead pack with a couple hundred meters to go, thus ending my race.

This was definitely a disappointing result as I had hoped and prepared for so much more. However, failure just makes an athlete work that much harder. And, I feel very fortunate to have no injuries on the radar! My bad mood didn’t last for long as I woke up early the next morning to cheer on my very talented friend, Valerie Eipper, the other age groupers, and the paratriathletes as well. The smiling was infectious out there and you couldn’t help but be inspired by the dedication and talent of these athletes. In addition, I was reminded how ridiculously lucky I am to have a job that I love and also happens to keep me healthy and fit.

So, this is where I’m at right now. Luckily, I believe it’s about the journey (not the destination) and I will live to fight (read: race) another day. Don’t feel too sorry for me… I am currently doing a training block in beautiful Colorado and will leave next week to race in Toronto and Montreal… life is not too bad…

As always, thanks for reading! And check back in a couple weeks for updates on my Canadian adventures!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Memphis in May: Taking a Gamble

After struggling with a sinus infection that turned into an upper respiratory infection for most of March and April, I knew I needed to decide when I’d throw myself back into racing and test exactly where my body was at. I thought Memphis in May would be the perfect opportunity for me to do that, as well as get an Olympic distance non-drafting race under my belt before the ITU Pan American Championships just two weeks later.

Having raced here in 2012, I was familiar with the course, which helped ease the stress a bit. However, the conditions couldn’t have been more different than 2012. Instead of a hot, humid weekend, I was now dealing with a rainy and cold climate that left me wishing I had packed a couple more pairs of sweats and maybe a beanie or two!

Quick side note: although this was the Memphis in May Triathlon, the venue was actually located in Tunica, Mississippi, one of the casino centers of the south. Before the race, I met a man in the elevator who asked me what my winnings were for the weekend, and I smiled and told him I’d find out tomorrow (figuring he was talking about the triathlon, obviously!). He gave me a funny look, before telling me he’d lost $100 already on the slots but was on the comeback trail for the rest of the weekend. Now I understood… casino!

Anyways, onto the race itself… since it was such a cold morning, I decided to skip my usual swim warm-up and just prep for the race with a bike and run – that way I’d be able to keep myself as warm as possible for race start when I ran into the chilly water. The only problem with this plan was that a sweaty post-run warm-up me made it very hard to get into my wetsuit. I recruited my husband for help pulling the wetsuit up, and, as we both tugged, unfortunately some fingernails punctured my beloved wetsuit pretty good. At that point, I didn’t want to be cold so I figured I’d take my chances with it. As you probably guessed, by the time I got out of the swim, I’d taken on the form of a whale with all the water I picked up during the swim. However, all things considered, I was very pleased with my swim and felt I was in a good position for the bike.

Since it had been raining most of the weekend, what was once a grassy area had now turned into a mud pit. As I slogged my way through the run and to my bike I could only think of how many people pay hundreds of dollars to do a mud run and here I was competing in one for free….#winning! Once on the bike, I was able to settle into a good rhythm. This bike course involved very long stretches of road before turns, so I tried to make the time pass by quicker by challenging myself to look at my power meter often and try to up the ante every couple of minutes. Another entertaining part of the bike was reading the signs of the roads we turned on – most every one had the word “casino” in it somehow…”Casino Strip Blvd, Casino Resort Rd, etc etc.” With about 10k to go on the bike and biking into a headwind, I really felt like I was starting to lose some steam and my legs were starting to cramp a bit. I was passed by two girls within the last two miles and knew I’d have my work cut out for me on the run.

As I started the run, I immediately noticed that my legs felt heavy and the energy I usually have to run just wasn’t there. I tried to hang on to my goal pace as much as I could, but after a couple of miles, I had to accept that I’d have to pace myself a little bit more to make sure I was able to finish. I crossed the finish line in 9th and although I was disappointed, I was mostly just happy to be back racing. Sometimes you just have to look at the little victories.

In addition, I was grateful for the awesome company, including two friends who drove all the way from Chattanooga to watch me race: thanks James and Kimberly! After the race, I did a quick recovery spin, with two ladies I admire very much and don’t get to see enough of at the races: Abby Geurink and Natasha Van der Merwe. Wishing both of them best of luck at their races until we meet again!

Like I mentioned, I had a quick turnaround til my race in Dallas on May 31st for the ITU PATCO Championships. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”

Thanks as always to those who support me both in good times and bad: Premium Remodeling, Sklar Exploration, and Serious Cycling. Your support allows me to do what I love!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Walkin' on Sunshine

I am happy to announce that my 2014 racing is officially underway! For my first race of the season, I competed in the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA. This was the first half marathon that I’d raced in over two years and I was definitely nervous to see where my running fitness was at after having a dismal year of running last year coming off a late 2012 foot injury. After I started the race, the nerves quickly faded away and I had an absolute blast! Running races (especially marathons and half marathons) are known for having awesome signs, and with the race being on Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day, this race was no exception. Some of my favorites included:
1) Puxatony Phil predicts you will finish before Spring!
2) What’s super about today? YOU ARE and the Broncos!
And I can’t forget to mention the guy running in the pick tutu with a life-size Justin Bieber doll attached to his belly. Whether or not this aforementioned dude beat me or not, well…you’ll just have to decide that for yourself ☺
Anyways, back to the actual race. My goal was to break 1:30 and I was about 3 minutes under. I ended up running only 20 seconds off my lifetime PR that I’d set coming off of college running at FSU. Therefore, I was ecstatic with the way it turned out. Race #1 – in the books!

For the 2nd race of the season and my first triathlon of the year, I headed to the other sunshine state (Florida) for the ITU Clermont Continental Cup. This is a race I’ve done multiple years now and admittedly is unlike any race I’ve ever done. In years past, the water level has been so low that it’s turned into a run/swim/run to transition/bike/run (lots of running=HR fun times!). However, this year the event used a deep water start so that there was less running (initially) which I liked better. After a good swim in the midst of the main pack, I had one of the worst transitions ever and had trouble getting my wetsuit off. I lost loads of time and a few bike packs. I time trialed the first 2 laps of the bike solo before a pack caught me for the last 2 laps of the bike. My run wasn’t particularly spectacular either but I was just glad to get the cobwebs out and have that first tri out of the way. I now knew what I had to work on for the following race.

Another great thing about this race besides the awesome race organizers, volunteers, location, etc. was that the race was specifically set up so that athletes could stay in the Clermont area and compete in the Sarasota ITU Pan American Championships the following weekend. I had a great week of training in Clermont training with an awesome group of Canadians (Leanna Lee, Colin Campbell, other Canadian Colin) as well as local tri coach Boki Maric. Huge thanks to Boki for leading many of the rides – otherwise, I still might be biking somewhere around Clermont …. ☺

Anyways, onto my 2nd race of the Florida March sprint tri madness and 3rd race overall – Sarasota ITU Pan American Championships! I felt like this race was much more solid overall than the one the previous weekend in Clermont. Although I didn’t have quite the swim I’d hoped for, I was able to turn in a solid bike and run and improve from my Clermont mistakes. I was also amazed at how seamlessly my gears shifted during the race as I was using the full range of gearing. To that, I can’t say thank you enough to Serious Cycling in Agoura Hills for getting my bike tuned perfectly to race. Speaking of bikes, I’d like to thank Sklar Exploration for lending me a bike to race on for the year after my road bike frame cracked late last year.

Most of all, I would like to thank my friend, Darcie, who came to cheer for me for both races and also was my homestay for the week – I miss you already… as well as the Publix sweet tea you kept stocked for me! Also, a big thank you to my friends, Laura and Dustin, who came out to cheer for the Clermont race. I am always so blessed to have such an awesome cheering squad at the race, which I totally attribute to my Florida roots ☺ To my husband Tony, thanks for being my sherpa and psychologist during this trip, and for the support always! For helping me get to the race, I’d like to thank Premium Remodeling, Inc!

To those of you who take the time to follow/support/pray for me, I can’t thank you enough! That’s all for now… may the madness surrounding March inspire you to reach for your goals!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why I Want the Broncos to Win the Super Bowl: A Love Letter to Colorado

The NFC and AFC Championship games are fast approaching this weekend, and although I usually have no vested interest in any of the NFL teams (being raised around good old college football in the south), this year is a little different. I know it’s wrong to pray for a team to win, yet somehow I can’t stop thinking: “I really really want the Broncos to make the Super Bowl and win it all this year.” You may be wondering:
A) Does she want the Broncos to win because she feels the Patriots win too much in the playoffs and they need to beat? This would be a good scenario, however, not true.
B) Is she hoping for a Bronco victory and Super Bowl berth because she loves the fact that every time Peyton yells “Omaha” in his pre-snap count, $500 will be donated to his foundation for at-risk kids? Also not the reason, but kudos to Peyton!

Let me explain. From 2008 until the end of 2012, I had the privilege of living in the beautiful state of Colorado. At first, I was very nervous about moving across the country from Florida. However, once I moved out there and settled in, I was quickly welcomed with open arms by my fellow Coloradans and the triathlon community there. Even more, I felt like I belonged. For once, no one blinked an eye when I told them that I sometimes took 3 trips to the gym per day or that I woke up before 5am to get a swim workout in. It seemed most people had a similar lifestyle to my own, bikes outnumbered cars, and most people seemed ridiculously happy… that is, unless they were stalking a spot in the Whole Foods parking lot ;)

But then again, how could you be sad for too long with the amazing views and gorgeous sunsets that proved to be almost a daily occurrence?! And sunrises too for that matter. I’ve never been much of a morning person, but I must credit Colorado to slowly transforming me into one. Most mornings I’d just stare into the sky and think, “Geez…you are really showing off today, God!” I can also recount many bike rides where I had to stop, if even for a couple seconds, just to make sure I got a quick photo in to capture the moment. If you’ve ever felt the need to be reminded just how tiny you are compared to the rest of the world, go biking/hiking in the Rockies. The expanse surrounding you will leave you breathless.

But, enough with my ramblings on the amazing scenery in Colorado. You probably already knew that. Now, rewind back to September 2013, a little over half a year since I’d moved out to Southern California from Colorado. When I received the news that Boulder and surrounding areas of Colorado were devastated by a flood, I was heartbroken. Even after looking at pictures and seeing videos, I was still in disbelief. This idyllic area that I’d come to love was damaged. Bike routes that I knew like the back of my hand were completely wiped out. All I could think of was the wonderful people back in Colorado and my friends who were affected by this natural disaster. I knew that the community would come together and help each other, yet I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.

Furthermore, I thought of the young children I volunteered with during my time in Boulder, most of them mini Bronco fans. It pained me knowing the general vicinity of where they lived and accepting the fact that they were most likely hit hard by the flood.

However, amidst all this tragedy and stress, there is one thing I do know: one of the greatest distractions from all the stresses of life is sport. Instead of being emotionally vested in what’s going on in our own lives, sport demands our emotional attention as we tap into the players’ moods, and the grueling competition throughout the innings/quarters/halves, etc. Thinking about it this way means that on average football is about a four hour distraction per week! And I'd argue that this is a good thing.

So, why do I want the Broncos to win the Super Bowl? Simply put, most of the wonderful people I met in Colorado are Broncos fans. I believe that between the fires, flooding, and another school shooting tragedy last year, these awesome people deserve a reason to be happy and celebrate a championship together. So, in closing, just let me say… I love you Colorado and Gooo Broncos!