Return to Lake Logan

They say “you never forget your first,” and I can verify that is certainly true when it comes to triathlons.

It felt like things had come full circle this year for me to return to Lake Logan Half, the race that was my first ever half iron four years ago. I very distinctly remember the experience of training for and racing this event the first time. The distances were daunting and my volume was higher than ever before. I was all kinds of excited and all kinds of terrified. Race day was full of successes but also mistakes; I over-biked and under-fueled, leading to one very painful and miserable run. After a 5:35 finish, I was equally exhausted and euphoric. Just over a month later, I was signed up for my next 70.3.

Fast forward 4 years, and I’m driving down the same roads to the same race site, feeling a lot of similar feelings. I’m excited and I’m nervous. But so much more has changed. I’m more comfortable and confident. I have more experience, more concrete plans, and much more ambitious goals.

I arrived at the race site early and got set up efficiently, with enough time to get down to swim in a not-last-minute-hectic-rush, which is a nice change for me. I jumped right into the lake, which was just as stunning as I remembered, and got in a warmup before lining up to start with my wave. We took off quickly, aided by a strong burst of early race adrenaline. I ended up swimming directly next to my teammate Tom for a bit before shifting over to catch a draft that I rode for almost the entire swim.

Many strokes later, we made it under the bridge, where the water temperature drops at least ten degrees to give you a nice chill before you finally haul yourself out of the water and onto the dock. I slipped out of my wetsuit and moved briskly through transition, and heard that I was the first woman as I hopped onto my bike.

That’s when I gave my first real, big smile of the day.

I was excited for this bike course. It’s hilly and dangerously beautiful – so much so that it’s easy to get overly excited and bike way too hard (I’m looking at you, 2015 self). I had a simple race plan to stick to target power numbers as best I could, accounting for modulation for climbs and descents. That was really the key for me: to race my own race. When I was passed by another woman 10 miles in, I just let her go and tried not to dwell on it. If I was going to beat her, it would have to be on the run. The rest of the ride was beautiful albeit uneventful; I saw a few other riders but otherwise was mostly alone on the course, steadily chugging along at my target power as the course climbed uphill through the second half.

After my second pass through transition, I started the run feeling pretty good. Soon I heard that I was 5:30 behind the leader, which felt like a lot of ground to make up. Again, I told myself that I needed to race my own race at my own pace, and either I was going to catch her or I wasn’t. Maybe I could take a risk later, but for now it was too soon – I needed to be patient.

I was surprised when I saw her in front of me only 4 miles in, and I made the pass not long after. That’s when I knew that, barring catastrophe, I could win the thing. At the halfway turnaround, I came up behind Tom and momentarily raced alongside him for the second time of the day. After some words of encouragement, I was off to finish the second half of the run on my own. By this point, I was hurting physically and mentally and definitely slowing down, but I forced myself to smile and grit it out – I had a solid lead but I didn’t want to get too complacent. After a few short eternities and not much else to note other than general suffering, I finally made it to the finish line, in just short of 5 hours.

In between gasps for breath, I was beaming.

Returning to the course where I raced my first ever half made this win especially meaningful. For me, it symbolizes so much of the progress I’ve made as an athlete. Physically and mentally, I’ve come a long way – and I’m still going.

3… 2… 1… GO!

Being my first year competing on the TMS-IOS team, I was absolutely thrilled to get ready for the upcoming racing season. However, this excitement was not without reservations—over the summer of 2018, I developed a pretty nasty medial tibial stress fracture while training for NC 70.3 2018. The timing was kind of odd—I received news of the stress fracture about two weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated the Wilmington area of NC. Not long after the immense damage of the storm was assessed, Ironman emailed all the eager participants to inform them that the race would be cancelled. Surprisingly, Ironman offered race deferrals due to the circumstances under which the race was called off, so I was fortunate enough to be able to defer until the following year (I’m coming for ya, NC 70.3 2019!).

The following weeks were tough, as my teammates and ride-or-die training partners (Kelsey Noll, Sloane Tilley, and Cath Ruckeis) were able to find another race on the same day as NC 70.3 was supposed to take place. While I was at home moping about my bum leg, the people I had spent tons of hours training with were off to conquer Toughman Tennessee 70.3. The typical mixed bag of emotions that comes along with being sidelined due to injury (self-pity, jealousy, frustration, anger, sadness—you know what I mean) was completely wiped away when the three of them absolutely dominated the course and landed in top placing spots (HELL YEAH!). Their performances made me so proud to be their teammate and also motivated me to do the best that I could to get healthy. For most of the summer, we had all been pushing each other through some tough 70.3 training, so it was very exciting to think that I could get myself there again if I made the necessary changes to my training to stay healthy.

I won’t lie—the next few months were tough. This was my first serious injury as a triathlete (so honestly I shouldn’t be complaining at all), and it totally caught me off guard (I know that seems ridiculous with a stress fracture, but I had very mild displaced pain until one day it suddenly hurt very bad all up and down my tibia—yowza!). I did not realize exactly how much I had been relying on training to deal with life, until I was forced to cease and desist all training and don Das Boot (what I affectionately called my air cast). My only outlet for stress and processing my thoughts/feelings was ripped out from under me, and I didn’t have any other tools at my disposal. After a few really bad mental health days, I realized that this was not going to fix itself, and that it probably wasn’t healthy to rely on exercise as the sole source of mental health care. So I got set up with a therapist (can not recommend this more strongly as a life-changing way to care for yourself), started going to a yoga class (Monday mornings with the 65+ crew of mostly little old blue haired ladies, who are so impressive!), began learning the practice of meditation (the Headspace app is what got me started), and embraced the newfound free time to enjoy other activities that had fallen to the wayside during intense months of training.

Honestly, getting injured was probably the best thing that happened for me this past year. It forced me to face some inner demons, make intimidating but important life changes, and re-center my focus and priorities outside of triathlon/training. Sure, there were days where I hated every second of it and there were many bouts of ugly crying and “Woe is me” rants (both internal and voiced aloud), but it was an important process to move through, the kind where you come out on the other end stronger than before.

When I was cleared to run again, I didn’t start up right away. Things still didn’t feel quite right in my leg and I decided to trust my body. Thanks to Dave William’s wise coaching and my newfound training mantras of “less is more” and “listen—no, really LISTEN to your body”, I was able to slowly (albeit sometimes painfully) and safely build back into a training plan. Things were different this time around—full days of rest (often more than once per week!) and a new attitude towards body maintenance allowed me to spend more time on things like proper stretching, strengthening, foam rolling, and sleeping. There were a few minor setbacks along the way, but I listened to what my body needed and took the right action (often, adding in another day off training for recovery and routinely visiting Dr. Jason Pyrigi). Dr. Jason Pyrigi and the team at Carolina Pain and Performance played an integral role in my path to recovery, and I still go in on an as-needed basis to check in on things. Dr. Pyrigi and his team truly worked wonders on the problem areas of my leg and in doing so, have taught me so much that I never knew or fully understood about how to sense when your body is recovered and ready for another grueling workout, or when you need to take the day off or cut your workout short and focus on other recovery habits (as mentioned above—foam rolling, strengthening, and proper stretching).

After many challenging weeks that tested my patience and willpower, I slowly built back into structured training, and things felt good enough to start setting my sights on spring races. With Dave’s blessing, I set my sights on the inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty 70.3 in May, which would require a very conservative low-volume training approach but would be doable. Since I had been training for a 70.3 when I got hurt, I was very hungry to tackle that distance. I also wanted a tune-up race, so I signed up for the Beaverdam Olympic, a super fun course I had put down one of my best performances on in 2018. For funsies, I also ended up signing up for the Triangle Sprint since I have raced that one on and off since 2014—another wonderful local race!

It turned out that all the pain, anger, sadness, and frustration that resulted in taking a long, hard look in the mirror (which subsequently led to making some major changes to both self-care and training practices) ultimately paid off in a big way. I am not accustomed to landing overall podium spots at the local race level, so you can imagine how humbling and emotional it was to pull off:

3rd—Beaverdam Olympic (gotta love the squishy beavers)

2nd—Inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty (a race so wild it is deserving of its own blog post)

1st—Triangle Sprint (made extra special since my parents happened to be passing through town and got to see me race for the first time since my first ever sprint triathlon in 2013)

Looking back on the journey from a solid 70.3 training regimen, to a serious bone injury, to a period of relearning how to care for mental and physical health, to the slow transition back to a new “normal” training schedule, to being able to race competitively again… it’s been quite a ride.  

The takeaways from this whole experience have been impactful. I’ve developed new ways to take care of my mind and body, deconstructed some of the toxic ideologies I had towards training and replaced them with a much more balanced approach, and gained so much confidence in myself as an athlete along the way. I strongly encourage you (whether you’re a “serious” athlete or not) to take a few steps back to examine whether your training and athletic lifestyle are truly in balance with other important aspects of your life. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself!

Ready? 3…2…1… GO! 

Rex Wellness – Garner Race Report

I meant to write this blog after my “A-race” for the year, an ultra-marathon in Key West, in May. However, as that race didn’t exactly go as planned, I decided not to dwell on the negative and wait for something positive to come around. That day came with a perfect race, in perfect weather, only a few miles away from my house at the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Garner.

Last year I raced in all three Rex Series races that FS Series put on. They have always been one of my favorite races in town. The swim is in a pool so we get wall breaks. The bike is on good roads so you can put your head down and hammer. The run is only two miles so it’s done before you know it.

The Rex Garner race was on July 7th. There was no wind and it was 70 degrees. I slotted in behind teammates and superstars Cari Soleo and Stephanie Sullivan for the time trial swim start. I was nervous about the swim as I have not swum, at all, since the final Rex Series race of last year. I kept the stroke long and efficient and ended up with the 20th best swim overall (3:53 for 250 yards). I was glad to be done swimming and sprinted through T1 as quickly as possible.

The bike has historically been where I can catch up from my swim deficit and build a little gap on the competition for the run. I knew my legs had good endurance from the ultra-marathon training but was unsure about the top-end power needed for these sprint races. My legs felt AMAZING all day. I kept my head down and pounded as best I could. I knew I had good legs as I watched my splits on the Garmin mid-way through the 10-mile bike. On the way back, I focused on keeping the pressure on as every second counts when the entire race is only 40 minutes long! I finished the bike very pleased with my effort and had the fastest split of the day (24:10 for 10 miles). I cruised in to T2, racked my bike, and took off.

For the previous 6 months, all my training was based around running. I was routinely logging 80-90 mile weeks during the build-up for my ultra. I knew my legs could withstand any beating I threw at them on a 2-mile run. The question was if I could get them to turnover quickly enough for a sprint. It felt incredibly strange running at that pace; fun but also uncomfortable. On my way out to the turnaround, I saw teammate Kerry Martin absolutely flying on the way back! I knew I had to pick it up to have any chance at beating him. Just after the turnaround I was able to catch and briefly run with another teammate, this time it was Kelsey Noll. It was a nice mental break seeing that Kelsey was destroying the women’s field and making it look easy. I kept pushing and made it to the finish with the 2nd fastest run of the day (11:44 for 2 miles).

I could not have had a more perfect race. The swim was smooth, the bike was fast, and the run was over before it started to hurt. It was encouraging to have this happen after my ultra-marathon that did not go as well… to say the least! It was a great day individually and also for the Inside-Out Sports Elite team as we finished 1-2 overall on both the men’s AND women’s side.

Redefining: Ninja Racing

Merriam Webster, June 2019: Entry: Ninja Racing

noun

plural: ninja racing

Definition of Ninja Racing

: deciding to race at the last minute without properly training or informing your coach

I’ve been competing in triathlon for 4 years now. Almost 3 years to the date, I was hit by a car on a training ride resulting in 3 fractured vertebrae, a fractured tibia, and a partially torn meniscus and ACL. I will never have a physiologically normal body. I will not be able to handle the typical high-volume training that many of my teammates do. I may be facing another surgery in the coming months. I may never be the athlete that I theoretically “could have been.”  

It is okay for me to be sad about this. It would be strange for me NOT to be sad about this. But it is also okay for me to claim and be proud of the athlete that I am. But, for 3 years, I’ve been trying to fit into the mold of what I see as the dedicated, typical triathlete. I feel like an imposter every time I earn a podium spot for a race I decided to do 3 days prior. I don’t kick in the pool, and I haven’t done bike intervals in 8 months, and I don’t train my run.

I’ve done 3 races so far this season and exceeded my own expectations in all of them, including a 70.3. I’ve done them all sneakily, deciding to race and signing up last minute because I love and miss the sport and the community. I was scared to race because I was afraid to finish badly, or, perhaps, not finish at all. What I’ve learned is that sometimes the mental toughness it takes to get yourself to the start line far exceeds that needed to get yourself over the finish line. I would never discourage another person to race because they were worried about being slow, so why was I doing it to myself? I don’t know what is next for my body, but I do know that as long as I can safely make triathlon a part of it – I’m in: full send.

Merriam Webster, July 2019: Entry: Ninja Racing noun

plural: ninja racing

Definition of Ninja Racing : racing to have fun and admitting that the endorphin boost doesn’t suck either

Half Iron, Full Send

Hello and welcome to the second installment of “races I did in Tennessee because NC 70.3 was canceled” (see first installment here).

I was excited to make the trek back to Tennessee with both current and former teammates to race Chattanooga 70.3. I had a pretty strong build leading up to this race, featuring memorable workouts such as 3×20 min at threshold on the bike and an 18 mile long run (“Hey coach, people keep asking me if I’m training for a marathon…”). Still, I didn’t go into this race feeling totally confident in myself – lots of ups and downs happen in any training cycle and leave little seeds of doubt. But regardless, I approached the race with a positive attitude and a plan to get out there and just do my best, whatever that might be on the day.

My race plan was pretty simple: “have fun, go fast, don’t die.”

On race morning, we arrived to transition early to set up our gear, then boarded buses to take us to the swim start. With over an hour to kill before the start of the race, I took in some caffeine, got in a warmup jog, liberally applied lubricant all over my body, and got into my wetsuit before lining up for the rolling start. My teammates and I seeded ourselves towards the front, and even then it took over 20 minutes before it was finally our turn to descend the ramp and jump off the dock into the Tennessee River.

In the lead up to this race, whenever I’d have a bad training day in the pool, I’d remind myself that this swim course would be mostly downstream – so hey, swimming would barely matter, right? That turned out to be the case even more than I could have imagined! On race morning, the current was deemed too strong for us lowly age groupers, so following the pro wave the buoys were towed in and the upstream portion of the swim was cut out. That lead to an extra short, extra fast swim. Despite not having been able to warm up, I felt pretty good in the water. The rolling start meant it wasn’t too crowded, and I held a good steady effort while hopping onto anyone’s feet to draft whenever I had the opportunity. In just over 1300yds and just under 17 mins, we were already exiting the swim – I wasn’t kidding when I said short and fast!

I made the long run up to transition with a pitstop at the wetsuit strippers, and managed to totally run right past my bike. After a brief moment of confusion, I located my trusty steed and soon after we were on our way along the bike course.

The course starts out going through town before it really opens up into some nicer rolling countryside. It was definitely a little bumpy at times, with a fair number of railroad crossings (did someone say “Chattanooga Choo Choo?”) – I was grateful my water bottles stayed put the whole way since many others were not so fortunate. The first half is predominantly uphill, so I just tried to keep a steady, controlled effort and not burn out too early. The second half of the course felt like a reward, featuring some really lovely winding downhills that were just a treat to ride. When I started to get inside my head about hitting specific power targets, I just let those thoughts go and went by feel, which worked out for me – even with lower-than-planned watts, I came in with a faster split than I had anticipated.

I hopped off the bike and ran into transition feeling pretty solid, and managed to find my rack spot on the first try this time. At this point in the race, there was just one thing left to do – run 13.1 miles. Just 13.1 miles under the hot, Tennessee sun.

Despite my plan to take the run out relaxed and ease into it, the excitement of the crowd and the day lead me to breeze through the first few miles under my goal pace. That magic started to fade though, and I was left to face the heat, the hills, and the heaviness in my legs. It was a lot of grit that took me through the rest of that run course, desperately trying to keep myself moving when all I wanted to do was to stop or slow down. I was taking water, cold sponges, and ice at every aid station I could (special shoutout to the volunteer who dumped ice straight down into my sports bra). Miles 10-12 were a true ride on the struggle bus, but I did manage to find some fire within for a strong final mile and a big kick down the chute to the finish.

After catching my breath, walking around a bit, and taking advantage of an amazing free post-race massage, I picked up my phone and saw a slew of messages from friends who had been tracking me, congratulating me on my race. “TOP 10 OVERALL!!!!!” they said, and I was confused, thinking there was no way that could be right. Because of the rolling start, I hadn’t any idea where I was placed relative to my competitors over the course of the race. But despite my initial disbelief, my friends were correct – I finished 8th amateur female overall, and second in my F24-29 age group.

Other highlights of the day included strong finishes by my TMS IOS teammates Sloane and Tom and the solid pound of loaded french fries that I consumed post-race.

Until next time, Tennessee! 🤙


Swim – 16:48
T1 – 3:33
Bike – 2:33:46 (22.2 mph)
T2 – 2:17
Run – 1:36:06
Total – 4:32:30

Time Trials and Tribulations

I sat in the middle of the crosswalk, holding the back of my head, confused as to what just happened. People around me were talking but I couldn’t pay attention to what anyone was saying. As I saw blood now streaming onto my leg from the back of my head, my first thought was: “I guess I’m not going to get to run tonight”.

Minutes before, fresh off my muscle physiology exam, I was walking back to my car to go home for an evening run. I was excited. It was a nice evening, I finished my last class of my PhD program, and I wanted to go enjoy the nice weather while pushing some intervals track. As I was crossing the most dangerous intersection in Greensboro (in the crosswalk, with the “walk” light on), a vehicle struck me from my back right, sending me up and over the front corner of their car. I barely remember getting hit, but distinctly remember landing almost exclusively on my sacrum, catching a little bit of the weight with my elbows, and whipping the rest of my momentum through my head onto the asphalt.

Since there has not yet been a settlement, I will not go into much more detail. I’m about a week after the accident and still dealing with concussion symptoms and a broken sacrum. Needless to day, I’m not racing for a bit. Hell, I still can’t really bend over much.

I didn’t want to have to write another blog about being injured. In fact, it was supposed to be some triumph story from the last injury blog. Well, okay, I actually did have a good build from my last injury, which is the good part. The bad part is I only really got to race one triathlon since that accident.

But rather than an injury blog about ‘moving forward’, I’ll still do a short recap blog.  During major injuries, I find it is better to reflect on past experiences for confidence, rather than the uncertain future.

After my injury last year, I put in a ton of hours on the indoor trainer. I did a lot of Zwift racing, intense workouts, and recovery rides all from my home. It wasn’t what I pictured as glorious, but in the early stages of my recovery, it was really helpful to have my space. I was strong. I set a new FTP by a sizeable margin, even at a lighter weight than I used to be. Once I introduced running back, my focus was set on speed, and it sure came easier than I thought.

I did the Frosty 50k relay with a fast group of guys (12.5k each), and even managed to PR my 10k time and sustain it the rest of the 2.5km. I had a bit of plantar fasciitis after this race, but I was able to run through most of it. I shifted focus back to cycling for a bit and did a number of criteriums (just to accumulate race experience and get out of Cat 5 – not really to win), but still managed to be competitive in a number of them.

In April, I did the Riverlights TT triathlon in Wilmington. It was a 20km bike TT, a 1000m swim tt, and a 5km run TT, all separated by ~40 min. I loved this format. I am a big fan of ‘non-traditional’ multisport races – they allow you to try new things and come up with new strategies, rather than the standard formulas.

Of the triathletes, I had the fastest bike time, which is rare for me (one guy beat me but only did the bike, not the triathlon). I had been aggressive on the bike. I had sprinted out of every corner and really didn’t let off. I was worried about how that would affect my swim and run, but I just wanted to focus on one thing at a time.

They got to the swim start before I even had a chance to warm up so I went in “cold”. My legs were already vaguely wanting to cramp but I just sucked it up and went hard. I definitely held my own, only really losing time to the overall winner, who is a fantastic swimmer. Otherwise I had a fairly good swim, especially for my training.

My legs getting out felt exceptionally bad but I didn’t have much choice. They got started with the 5k a little early too, so I only got a 2 minute warmup and a couple of strides, which felt… bad. I just decided to give it whatever I had left. I caught and passed the race leader, but due to the timing system, I didn’t know how much of a gap he had on me in the standings. I knew a couple of guys were close to me in time, and they were literally right behind me from the start of the 5K. One of the guys (who usually beats me) made an early pass at the one mile mark and started stringing the race out. I could tell I overcooked the first mile at ~5:30, but I thought “whatever, just keep going as hard as you can in each moment until you get to the finish”. It was a reckless mentality but it paid off. I finished the 5K in 18:08 [on gravel]. Not my fastest 5K, but faster than I thought given the efforts I put in already.

Nobody knew what the final placings were, so there was about 10 minutes of us speculating and chatting at the end of the race. Then someone came and pointed “1, 2, and 3” at people around me, but not me. I was a little bummed – I felt suspiciously good. Then I found out they had trouble with my timing chip. Once they correctly located my chip number (which got mixed up pre-race), my name popped up in 2nd place. I was very happy about that. It felt like things were going right. I even pushed myself past what I thought was capable given my ‘untested’ fitness. I mean, I hardly raced last year so it had been quite awhile!

That’s what makes my current situation tough. I knew I was fit and I was ready to use that fitness for some races! I put in months of long, hard work. At the time, I enjoyed the challenge of building myself back, but it’s more fun to be fit. And now, I sit here, knowing that I’ll have to do it again. I know I can do it again, but this time seems different; partially because I just did it and I know how hard it will be, and partially because this time isn’t my fault – I went from a great fitness level to hospitalized all because of an inattentive driver.

I plan on posting again by the end of the year to hopefully have the real triumph story, but as of now, the path there is unclear. It’s hard to know exactly how long it will take before I can even think about training again, but I know it’s out there. Call it resiliency or call it stubborn, I will keep fighting my way back.

Titanium-man

clavicle2018 wasn’t the year I was expecting. This year, I had two bike crashes and some complicated injuries as a result. The first crash brought about an inflamed (possibly torn?) hip labrum and a broken rib. The second crash was even worse, and resulted in a broken clavicle requiring surgery and 3 broken vertebrae. Both crashes seemed like flukes, but in an instant, my plans, training, and goals all drastically changed.

In times of an injury or forced time off, it’s too easy to feel like you’re falling behind. I’ve been there before; I think many athletes have. I didn’t want to let myself go down that rabbit hole again. I could have written a whole blog post on what I went through for each injury. Being forced out of the sport for most of the year, I’ve learned a lot. In some ways have a new appreciation of triathlon. I thought about sharing this new view in a blog post, but it didn’t feel organic. I realized that everyone has their own views, goals, and desires for sport, and to share my ‘enlightened’ view felt too preachy.

Instead, I want to extend gratitude for all those in the sport who helped me in ways I couldn’t have planned on. I instinctively wanted to retreat and not acknowledge triathlon. After all, it’s hard watching people achieve your goals. But after discussions with other TMS-IOS athletes, employees at Inside Out Sports, my coach (Dave, of Triangle Multisport), and the kind folks at FS Series, I realized that almost everyone had stories like mine. No one wants to get injured; but the reality of it is if you do the sport long enough, crashes and injuries happen. Time doesn’t stop moving – injuries heal, training resumes, fitness comes back, and everything will work out. The most experienced and successful triathletes I know have all gone through a time like this, and hearing their stories (some a lot worse than mine) gave me confidence that I will be just fine.

And so, I look forward to next year. I am looking forward to having fun getting back into the sport and training with such a good group of teammates and being back in the triathlon community.

New Baby, New Races

Pushing a baby stroller is a great way to stay in shape, apparently. That is the only explanation as to why I was able to maintain any semblance of fitness throughout this year. Prior to my son being born I was able to train on my own time table. I could easily fit in long rides and run with friends throughout the week. Not this year! I knew this was going to be the case and, as such, determined sprint triathlons would be the best option for me this year (well apart from the beer-mile which is perfectly suited for me).

There will be a common theme throughout these quick race recaps: the swim was terrible, the bike was tolerable, and the run was painful. Add up those ingredients up and it makes for a fun race!

Season Results:

NC Beer Mile – 24th OA

Rex Garner – 1st OA

Rex Wakefield – 4th OA

Rex Knightdale – 1st OA

YMCA Wrightsville Beach – 8th OA

NC Beer Mile:

I entered this race having done three previous beer miles. I might have forgotten about how painful these races are! Four beers in 7:34 is not my typical drinking pace. My wife and son came to watch the race so IMMEDIATELY after the race it was time to go home and put my son to bed. This becomes a struggle when a wave of beer flushes over your nervous system the second you get out of the car from the ride back home. Needless to say, my wife thought I was less than helpful that night!

Rex Garner:

My parents were in town for this race so it is always fun to race with family supporting you. This race was in July. I had not swum one stroke since September. I was a little scared of what would happen even during a 250m pool swim. My worst fears were realized when I flipped at 150m in to the swim. My back was DONE. The rest of the swim seemed like a doggy paddle that took forever. Sign number one that not training is not the way to get fast. The bike is a straight forward out-and-back route that takes you over some rollers. I had a blast seeing all of my teammates out on the course since they were all so far ahead of me after the swim. I knew my only chance at these races was to chase everybody down on the bike and run so I just gunned it from the beginning. My bike time was slower than the year before but the effort was much higher. Again, training apparently is important when it comes to racing! Finally, we got to the run and my legs showed up! It was the first time I had run hard in a few months and most certainly the first time I had run without pushing a baby stroller in a few weeks. I felt as if I was running on clouds without the added weight of my son slowing me down. With the race only being a two-mile run, I knew I could push the pace and hang on.

Rex Knightdale:

I had not done this race before so the course was new to me. I looked at the course map online and decided it was simple enough and that I would just “hammer it out” and hope for the best. That was a mistake. This course had many more turns and hills than Garner did. It was fun and fair but I wish I had driven the course at a minimum. The swim was even worse than my previous race! My back decided after 100m it was done so my swim time ballooned and my heart rate followed! I tried to push on the bike and run but my body never recovered from the abomination that occurred in the pool. I was happy to start my run prior to Dwayne finishing his run. This, however, was the first race I was at that the IOS-TMS team showed up in full force. The team had a great day as we had five of the first six men and two of the top four women!

Rex Wakefield:

A swim finally was not a complete disaster! I seeded myself higher in this race to avoid the pool zombies (triathletes who start walking during the swim portion) and it worked! I made it to the 200m mark before my back decided to quit on me! I am not proud to admit it but I was thrilled to have made it that far. It is wild what a difference a positive attitude can have on an entire race. Since I had seeded myself higher, I expected to be able to catch the front of the race during the bike portion. The legends, Dave Williams and Marty Gaal, were both having great races up front and kept a gap on me the entire bike leg. From my experience at Knightdale, I knew the importance of nailing my transitions in such a short race. I made it my goal to have a quick transition and get on to the run as quickly as possible. As I was running out of T2 I put my hat on and started to clip my race belt when it snapped. I had to stop, turn around, and tie it in a knot around my waist before starting to run again. This blimp in the race actually helped fire me up and jump started what was a very good run for me.

YMCA Wrightsville Beach Triathlon:

I was VERY nervous about this race. Not only do total studs show up to race but it also has a 1,350m swim! How in the world was I going to survive that? Hurricane Florence took care of that for me. However, it also took care of my strongest portion, the bike, as well. Hurricane Florence caused massive flooding and damage throughout the area and as such the race organizers were using the race as a community building event. They collected goods and donations for those impacted by the storm and also gave the families a chance for normalcy by hosting the 5K portion of the triathlon as a standalone event. It was great to be able to take part in the race even though this was my first open 5K since high school cross country! I always swore I would never race one again but I had to make an exception under these circumstances. The weather was perfect and the course was fun. I was able to maintain a very consistent pace and finish my season on a high note.

Time for beer and rest. On to big things in 2019!

Thank You!

Throughout my many years of training and racing triathlons (this year was my 28th consecutive season!), I’ve had many great training buddies, unforgettable teammates, and made countless friends. In general terms, this year was no different. But, on the other hand, there were some stark contrasts.

For several reasons, before this season I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to race and, after two years of very little training, came into it in the worst shape of my life. But, after finding out in April that I was going to be staying in the area, I was excited to start thinking about trying to jump in some races. In addition, I’ve struggled with a very painful hip issue for numerous years which made running difficult. However, when Monette asked me to run with her as she started to get back into it after several years off herself, I noticed that if I ran at a pace that felt really slow I could run more often and relatively pain-free. Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but I had to learn the hard way, I guess. While I could go out and average sub-7 pace, I wouldn’t be able to walk normally for days afterwards if I did so. I let go of the ego, or as much as I could, of running faster and embraced being able to do what I could without pain and while staying healthy. No, I didn’t miraculously run faster at races. Not by a long shot. But, I was able to enjoy training runs more and get outside more often, which I always appreciate.

That leads me into the big difference this year. I’ve always had a blast training for all three disciplines, and that hasn’t changed, except possibly that I appreciate the gift of being able to do what I do even more so than before. What is different, though, is that I didn’t stress about my own workouts at all, choosing instead to take advantage of training with friends and teammates whenever possible. Don’t get me wrong. I did put some great work in, especially on the bike. But my goal was more about enjoying the time with whoever I was with, soaking in the sunrise or new route, sticking with and supporting a friend who may be struggling during a workout, and embracing the occasional stoppage when someone wanted to chat in the pool, rather than making sure I was training as hard as I could/should be or doing whatever workout I felt was best for me personally. And, do you know what? It was so much fun!

As for racing, it was a similar story. I went to one race at the last second simply because a friend asked if I wanted to go down with him. And, at every race that I did, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have friends and teammates that make this stuff so enjoyable. As an example, I had what I’d call one of my worst races ever at nationals after hoping to bring back some old magic. But, when I think back on that weekend, that’s not what comes to mind. No, instead I first remember meeting up with an old friend and his family, my teammates and clients crushing it on the course, and hanging out before and after the race. Each race was a similar story in terms of the fact that what I remember most is sharing the experience with familiar and friendly faces.

The team aspect of the UNC Triathlon Team and the Triangle Multisport-Inside Out Sports Team made this year very special for me during a season that I didn’t know was even going to happen. I wish to extend a heartfelt and sincere THANK YOU to everyone involved, to everyone that joined me in a workout, to the race directors, such as our sponsor FSSERIES, that put on amazing events, to the phenomenal athletes on the team that continue to inspire me, and to our amazing sponsors that offer much appreciated support. You all are amazing. You make me realize how extraordinarily lucky I am. Let’s keep it going!

It’s a Journey

A journey is the act of travelling from one place to another. That can apply to many facets of life from the big metaphorical journey right down to the journey from Swim to Bike to Run and Finish. One of the things I love about volunteering for races at packet pickup is meeting new triathletes at the culmination of their journey for their first race. It wasn’t really that long ago that I was there myself. Despite the number of races in a season or many I’ve done over time, I still get the nerves and excited anticipation before the start of the swim. There are so many ways to mix it up in the season too– sprint/olympic/half (not full for me, ha!), pool/lake/ocean swim, flat/hilly course, tried-n-true/new-n-different… Everybody’s journey is different and I love seeing that despite those differences, we all come together on those race mornings to race our hearts out.

The motivation of having those dates on the calendar is a huge push too. Last year I had a baby and the big challenge this year was working in training despite the hectic family life with 3 kids, husband, a home, and part-time work to hold up. It didn’t always work. It felt good when it did. Some seasons are better than others and we are all human. Fellow teammates’ and athletes’ stories of the trials they have overcome are heartening and inspiring. I draw from those when talking myself into and through the tough times. I also remind myself that every stage of life is so different from the next. My first half-iron feels like it was ages ago but really it’s only been a few years! So much has changed. Maybe I need to give myself the same advice I pass on to those nervous first-race athletes. Have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, it’s a great accomplishment no matter what.

There’s that quote about ‘ it’s not the destination but the journey.’ In my experience, that finish line is great but pales in comparison to all that happens along the way. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I could get all sappy and deep here but the gist is how much more of a journey I’ve experienced through the triathlon part of my life than just training for a race and for that I’m forever grateful. Looking forward to seeing everyone on the course!