Wilmington 70.3 – No hurricane this year!

This season, I used a deferral entry to compete for the second time at the NC 70.3 in Wilmington. It had been so hot the month of September and early October, I was worried that is might be miserable based on weather – but in fact, it turned out to be a perfect triathlon day.

I was able to connect with team members prior to (see photo of Todd and Millie) and post race (see photo of team at finish), team IOS-ETT did really well overall at the race.

My swim was ok for me, this is usually my best leg, but I stayed in the chop a little too long at the beginning and thus my time wasn’t as fast as it has been.  I finally got over and found the deep water with the current (I did feel pretty idiotic once I moved over, and realized what I was missing!).  Note to all triathletes contemplating Wilmington – get over in the channel as soon as you can!!!!

T1 is LONG…. I had stashed some shoes and put those on once my wetsuit was stripped, this really did help with the long run into transition. 

Once I got on the bike, I got to see several team members as they passed me (I am much more of a runner and a swimmer, but I hung in there and cheered for them!). It was windy out on the course, particularly on Hwy 421. Overall, I enjoyed the bike except for 2 main things 1- I hated the drawbridges, felt very unstable on these and really slowed down and 2- there was a really large peloton that swallowed me up, passing on either side, and clearly drafting off each other… I sure wish officials had seen this massive group! Here is the really unusual thing on the bike – I saw a black bear on the side of the road! (And no, I was not hallucinating – others saw this too!). I suspect that he was dead as he wasn’t moving, but it certainly got my heart racing – it was a huge bear, just off to the side of 421 on the way back into town…. Wow! Later on, our waitress at dinner said that Pender county does have black bears and this wasn’t that unusual (really?) Wow!

T2 was smooth – but there were actual lines for the port-a-potties, so I decided to forego that and just get on with the run. I  got into a groove on the run, and the weather wasn’t too hot, so I was able to maintain. I ended up running  a1:43.01 for the 13.1 (which is actually the best run I have had at the end of a 70.3 by 2 minutes, so I was pleased with that).

Overall, a good day – the weather held out, no one I knew got hurt, our team rocked it (way to go Lindsey!), what a day to remember! Well done all….

Post-Race – We did it!
Todd and Millie Pre-Race

The Love-Hate Relationship With Xterra World Championships

Checked In @ Ritz Carlton

Xterra World Championships is in Maui, HI, one of the most scenic and picturesque destination races I’ve done. It’s completely contained within the Ritz Carlton Kapalua resort property from pre-race dinner, entire race course, to the post-race awards dinner. You could check-in to the Ritz and never have to leave the entire stay.

We arrived on the Island on Wednesday which was about 5 days before the race. I was able to get in some good training which included one lap of the bike course on Thursday, several laps of the swim course Thursday/Friday, and a small preview of the run course during the days leading up to the race. Xterra changed up the swim and bike course to be a two-loop format this year which is great for spectators, not so much for the athletes. The multi lap course created a lot of lap traffic on both the swim and the bike. The bike course being two loops was a double edge sword in that you knew what was coming for the second lap, both good and bad 😉

Bike Course Preview With Charlie

The weather leading up to the race this year was completely dry as opposed to 2016 when I raced there and it rained the entire 4 days leading up to the race making for a very slippery and muddy day. I was really looking forward to the dry conditions on the bike course to maximize speed and minimize time out in that brutal heat and humidity.

We woke up bright and early around 5:30am on Sunday morning to a dark sky. Once it was light enough to see outside we noticed that there were some dark looming clouds right over the property. Around 7am it started raining and didn’t stop until 8:45 which was a cause for concern because I was very much mentally prepared for a fast dry course and wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like until I got out there. I tried pushing that out of my mind and focusing on my time leading up to the race.

We headed to the transition area around 6:15am and grabbed coffee and something to eat on with the Butlers on the way. As mentioned everything is on property so I only had to walk about 5 minutes from my room to get to the transition area. I setup my bike and gear in the pouring rain and then went back to the room to stay dry and finish my pre-race routine. We headed back down to the transition around 7:45am to watch the pro’s go off at 8am. Once they started I went off and got in a good run warmup with some dynamic stretching and drills. I then got into my swim-skin and headed down to the water to get a swim warmup in. Legs felt good on the run and body felt good overall on the swim warmup.

Almost Go Time!

Around 8:50am I gave Amy a hug and kiss and went to line up in my wave. Anxiously waiting, I went through my visualization of how the swim would go and getting into transition. It seemed like we stood there for forever until finally the announcer came across the microphone with “one minute to go!” The cannon went off and before I knew it there were a couple hundred of us running toward the ocean. I took a couple hop-steps and then dove in and started sprinting to get out of the washing machine of athletes. I got a good start and found some feet early. My strategy was to find someone slightly faster and stick on their feet for the first lap to conserve some energy. I must have been swimming too close to the guy in front of me because he turned over on his back about half way through the first lap and gave three giant kicks as to say piss off and stop touching my feet haha J I backed off and swam in the rest of the way by myself. The surf was relatively low so there wasn’t much fighting to get out of the water. Once on land I picked it up across the beach to head out onto the second lap. I dove in and found myself with significantly less people around me which was a good sign. I pushed a little harder on the second lap and actually found some more feet to draft off allowing more energy savings. We ran into a lot of lapped swimmers on the second lap since there were multiple waves that started behind us. I kept sighting the large Xterra inflatable to ensure I was on course still. I swam until my hands touched the sand and then stood up and took off to the transition. I was happy with my swim and was able to conserve quite a bit of energy. I ran past Amy with a smile and she mentioned I was second out of the water in the AG with a time of just over 23 minutes.

Swim 23:08

I got into transition and quickly pulled my swim skin off, took a couple gulps of water/rinsed my face off, threw my shoes/hydration pack/helmet/sunglasses on, and off I went. The bike course is by far the hilliest course I’ve ever ridden with the first climb right out of transition around 10% on loose gravel. We then headed onto the cart path as it flattened out which gave me a chance to throw on my gloves and get a couple gulps of nutrition. We then headed through the infamous tunnel where the climbing began immediately. The first 3 miles of the bike course ascend just over 1250 feet with gradients ranging from 6% up to 15% with average gradient being around 8%. My race plan was to hold back on the first lap and give what I had left on the second lap. With this plan there were a lot of great climbers that left me in the dust on the first 3 miles. I got to the top and felt really good and was able to make up some places on the technical descents however the course was very slick in spots from the couple hours of rain we had so I approached those cautiously. This course is also tricky because there are still some very steep punchy climbs mixed in with the descents so you don’t get complete recovery.

Bike 1:46:09

After the first lap I really had no idea where I was in my age group and knew I had to give a little more on the second lap to try make some positions up. We went past transition, I gave Amy another smile, and headed out for my second lap. Once again I had several people pass me on the climbs to get to the top of the mountain. Once at the top I was still feeling good so started pushing to make up some ground and all seemed to be going well until that infamous medial quad muscle twinge started happening. This was very frustrating because I felt like I had nailed my nutrition to this point and tried to be conservative on both the swim and first lap and a half of the bike course. From that point on the wheels just fell off. The combination of punchy climbs, accelerating to pass lapped riders when the trail widened up, and the heat/humidity that were setting it just made things worse. I came into transition and wasn’t really sure what to expect on the run. I hopped off the bike, threw on my running shoes/race belt, and grabbed my nutrition bottle and spicy pickle juice bottle to sip on.

Run 1:00:58

Off I went on the run and hit the same steep hill we started on the bike, no cramping at that point! It then leveled out and I was able to get into a good stride and started feeling a little better until I hit the next hill. From that point on the quads and hamstrings were locked up for the majority of the run and my legs just hit a wall where they didn’t want to turn over anymore. I was walking up one of the steep hills when I heard a familiar voice behind me, it was my buddy Charlie Ledford. He gave me a word or two of encouragement and told me to “come on.” I stuck with him for a couple strides and then locked up again. Around mile 2 – 2 ½ I stepped wrong and felt like I had broken my left foot and every step after that was excruciating.

Finish 3:15:46

Physically and mentally I was ready to quit at about mile 3 but knew that I would regret that decision in the long run. I gritted my teeth, shortened my stride and arm swing and just did everything I could to keep moving forward. Athlete after athlete started passing me on both the uphill’s and the downhills which was also frustrating. Finally I saw the beach approaching and knew that we only had about a third of a mile to go. I got one final boost of energy to run through the thick sand, get up the last uphill, and run through the finish line. I was absolutely spent and had nothing left in my legs. I went and collapsed in the shade and dumped several bottles of water on my face.

I was very upset and frustrated after the race and the rest of the day because I felt like I had put in the necessary training and year-long prep to set me up for a great race. I’ve since had time to reflect and pull out the positives which include an amazing trip to Maui with my beautiful wife and some great friends, racing with the best athletes from around the world, and cutting an hour and 15 minutes off my last race. Time to enjoy the off season and back to the drawing board to figure out this cramping. Until next time, Mahalo…

What I learned from my 32nd Ironman

1) It is possible to condense 6 months of Ironman training into 6 weeks:

You register for an Ironman with great intentions of training properly, allowing for a gradual mileage build up, with plenty of long rides and runs while still getting enough recovery. You even plan to put in more time in the pool, so that you can actually enjoy (and not dread) the swim. Then life gets in the way. Daughter goes study abroad and you go visit her during the summer. Son has a weeklong soccer tournament in Louisiana. Work gets busy, house needs repairs and more travel come up and suddenly the race it’s only a few weeks away. Sound familiar? Yeah, it was July and I felt completely unprepared for an early September Wisconsin Ironman. However, with a careful and almost reckless plan, I was able to do 6 months of training into roughly 6 weeks. With long rides on Sundays and Tuesdays, long runs on Saturdays, high intensity rides on Wednesdays and high intensity runs on Thursdays, and hard swims on Monday, I was able to get Ironman fit and fairly prepared for my race. Sure it was hard and painful, and I was tired all the time. I felt like I was constantly toeing that overtraining red line so it took some extra attention see that things didn’t break down. But if you have the motivation and the focus, the physical durability not to get injured, an understanding wife to put up with the chronic fatigue and lack of productivity on other aspects around the house, it can be done. At least this way the training time doesn’t drag for an entire year.

2) Recovery is key:

My good friend Wayne has a saying that goes something like this:”If my training goes according to plan, I will probably be injured by the time I get to the race!” If you’re going to train hard, and I mean really hard, getting injured as you attempt to complete the training is a real possibility (and therefore one that needs to be managed carefully so it can be avoided). So in living through the above (6 weeks training) successfully, I realized quickly that paying more attention to recovery would be crucial, especially now that I’m 50 years old. For me, the two things that had the biggest impact on facilitating a quicker and more complete recovery were recovery boots and recovery drinks.

Recovery boots, which provide graduated compression through air pressure in compartment inside a full leg boot, are now widely present in endurance sports and college athletics. They have come down in price significantly without substantially reducing the benefits. I have one of the cheapest models available and it worked wonders on my legs. After using the boots for 20-30 minutes the night before, my legs were noticeably fresher the next day workout. I had to take turns almost every night with my high school son who was playing club and high school soccer in order to use them but they definitely helped me stay physically sharp and more recovered during the high mileage weeks

Drinking a glass of Infinit Repair or one of chocolate milk every night was also astonished helpful. Yeah I’d seen the commercials and drank them occasionally. But being more diligent about drinking them after hard days helped me immensely. I’m sure that other specialty recovery drinks would have the same effect. The important point here is the focus on getting some of the right nutrients during the right time to assist with muscle and overall body recovery, and a recovery drink or a glass of chocolate milk is a convenient way to do it.

3) Train with friends when possible but don’t be afraid to go out alone:

We all know that training with friends is much more fun. However, this year all of my training partners were either injured or smarter than me, so they were training only for the short stuff. As a result, company on the long rides and runs was very limited. I did most of these workouts entirely by myself, which pretty much always meant the last half I would be alone. The first few times I kind of dreaded them, but eventually I learned to embrace them. It allowed me to work on pacing and on the mental and physical toughness that comes from grinding out endless miles alone. I actually felt like the long rides got easier and that there was a certain degree of satisfaction from being in complete control of the workout a pushing through those low spots. During the race, the benefits of all those solo relentless rides were obvious. I rarely had to look at my Garmin to see that I was hitting my goal wattage and when I got to the hills and headwinds of mile 80ish, I felt as strong and as in control as ever.

4) Trust your gut and test your equipment:

When doing an Ironman, one has to make numerous equipment choices. Some of these get oddly nerve-wracking as you approach the race. These include wheels, tires, helmet, wetsuit, apparel, etc. And many people tend to wait until the last weekend to figure these things out, only adding to the pre race stress and poor decision making. I learned that some things need to be addressed weeks before the race so that there is enough time to be tested. My aero helmet is a case in point. I don’t particularly like wearing aero helmet, especially one with a shield like mine (I like the flexibility offered by glasses). However, I have always felt like they are faster. So I started doing some research a few weeks before the race to see if the time gain offered by the aero helmet was worth the additional “discomfort”, privately hoping that it would point out that it wasn’t. To my dismay, after looking at published data and getting input from a friend who spends a lot of time in the wind tunnel, I decided that it was. Full aero helmet was the way to go if you want to go fast. Nevertheless, I still had an issue with the tinted shield that was too dark on rainy days and impacted my visibility. So I then researched again the benefits of wearing the aero helmet without the shield and came to the conclusion that my particular helmet was developed to be worn with the shield in order to get the full benefits. Once again not the conclusion I was hoping for. But the solution was not a complicated one: purchase a clear shield available aftermarket. Race day was rainy, dark and very overcast. The shield was the best spent $30 and after having ridden several times with the aero helmet, it no longer felt clunky and unfamiliar. The result was a fast ride with no visibility issues.

5) Red Bull Can Fuel a Marathon:

I’m not sure I would recommend this for everyone but it definitely worked for me. I have always liked the taste of Red Bull and have had one once in a while at country store fueling stops during my long rides. However, when the fatigue was setting in early on the run portion of Ironman Wisconsin, I had a cup of Red Bull and immediately felt better. The caffeine along with some calories and the welcoming taste were the boost that I needed. Two miles later, still nothing appealed to me except for another cup of Red Bull. The effect was pretty much the same. OK, I wasn’t breaking any speed records by then it was enough to keep me running. One of my rules at an Ironman is that if it’s working, go with it for as long as possible. 20 miles later I was still guzzling Red Bull. I must have had 15 (smallish) cups of Red Bull by the time I reached the finish line (and a couple of gus and a handful of pretzels). I haven’t had one since but I sure hope Red Bull is still a sponsor when I decide to do my next Ironman.

6) If you’re going to talk the talk you have to walk the walk once in a while:

Several weeks before the race I was really wondering whether I really wanted to do this (Ironman). What sounded like a good idea a year ago no longer sounded so appealing. Nevertheless, I decided to follow through with my plan and go for it anyway. Sometimes it’s good to go through the mental and physical challenge of such a difficult event to really truly appreciate its complexity and relive the satisfaction of completing it. It’s also good to occasionally be humbled by the length of the event and by other athletes out on the course. I’ve always said that I never wanted to be an ex-athlete, talking about how fast or how tough I used to be. So if I’m going to talk the talk (which sometimes I have to do in my business), I feel like I should also have to walk the walk with other fellow Ironman athletes from time to time.

Sandling Beach Formula 1 Sprint

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I raced Setup Events’ Sandling Beach Formula 1 sprint last weekend and had a blast!  I enjoyed the Old School Aquathon races put on by One Step Beyond and FS Series years ago, so I thought it would be fun to mix it up at the end of the season with something different again this year.  This race consisted of a 5 mile two-loop bike course inside the Sandling Beach Park, followed by an out and back 2k run, 500 meter open water swim, another 5 mile bike and 2k run, and then repeat the swim bike and run one more time (15 mile bike, 6k run and 1000 swim total).

The first bike was a self seeded time trial start, so I got near the front with Bri Gaal and several of my TMS-IOS teammates and headed out on the course a little after 9:00 am (the later start was really nice).  The course was only 2.5 miles long so there were lots of turns, a few hills and three speed bumps in each direction.    Despite these obstacles it was still possible to build some decent speed on the course.

The run was in the opposite direction from the bike course and started uphill, which made it even harder to adjust to running. However, it did have some flatter sections in the middle and a downhill finish!

The swim was nice but very shallow due to low water levels.  It was wetsuit legal (77 degrees I think), but since the swim was not first I don’t think anyone bothered to put on a wetsuit in transition.  The water actually felt perfect without a wetsuit.  It definitely felt different swimming after biking and running.  My arms felt like lead, and I felt like I was barely moving.  The shallow water certainly didn’t help.

Mentally, it was nice breaking up the bike,  run and swim into smaller chunks.  It was easier to focus on each section since they were short, even though there were 7 transitions!  It was also nice not having to worry about cars on the bike course.

I ended up 5th overall female, behind teammates Kelsey and Stephanie who were 1st and 3rd overall. Not bad considering the fact that it has been a very tough summer for me training wise.  Since turning 50 last year, I haven’t felt the same physically, and really struggled with my training in the humidity this summer, especially on the run.  However, now that the weather is finally starting to turn I am starting to feel more like myself and look forward to winter training, and hopefully a better racing season next summer!  This race also reminded me that racing in triathlons is fun, even when you’re not in the best shape.  I hope Setup Events will keep this race on the schedule for next year!

How can I get faster?

Hypothetical conversation:

Triathlete:   Hey Coach.  I’ve done all the basic things to improve my overall time.  I’ve worked on my swim technique, ridden more miles and hills, and done extensive running training including intervals & hill work.  What can I do to get faster?  

Coach:         Do you really want to know what else you can do?

Triathlete:  Yes.  Let me know and I’ll do it!!

Coach:         Get more sleep and lose some weight.

Triathlete:  No, I want to know what ELSE I can do to get faster & stronger!!!  

Ha, ha. It sounds funny but have you ever skipped over those ideas?

It seems we always want some magical technique or workout.   Or maybe just longer, harder workouts.   But when given such a simple thing as “Get more sleep & lose weight”, many triathletes just skip that.

If you are in that boat, I recommend you really think about that suggestion & reconsider.    After the 2018 season, I looked ahead to 2019 and saw some big goals.  I asked myself the same question and really thoughtfully considered getting more rest and losing some weight.  So I started in October of 2018 making sure my eating habits didn’t get out of whack at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s Eve parties/holiday over-eating.   Not to say I didn’t eat SOME sweets and 2nd helpings at Thanksgiving but I really tried not to overdo it.  Smaller portions of desserts, more prudent choices of what to eat, etc.   My usual routine of gaining weight in the off-season only to have to work hard to lose it early in the following year was broken.   It really wasn’t that hard to do.  It just required a focus & commitment.    I saw the benefits in training and early races in 2019.    One training example:  My spring training includes a triple brick session.   I compared my triple brick stats from 2019 back to 2018.   In 2019, I weighed about 10 lbs less than the previous year and was 14 seconds/mile faster on round 2 (Zone 2) and 3 seconds  faster per mile on round 3 (Faster) with SAME heart rate!!   Your specific weight loss & run speed will vary, but all else being equal, you’ll be able to run faster and with less effort when you drop some weight!   So do it!! 

From a sleep standpoint, I was given a heart rate tool (WHOOP!) to test.   Only after using that was I clearly aware that I was getting only about 6 hours of sleep per night on average.   The Whoop! device has a sleep coach and it was recommending more sleep so I decided to try to get more sleep.  Now I’m averaging about 7 ½ hours of sleep per night.   This is a 25% improvement in sleep time from what I was averaging before.   Not only do I feel more rested, the workouts don’t seem as hard since I’m not as tired.   And as my coach says “Sleep is the best type of recovery you can get!”.   I think this has also made a difference in me not getting injured this year.   I have been doing more core/strengthening work so that has definitely helped, but I do think getting more sleep has an impact on how you feel, your attitude, how your body responds to training and how much it is ready to take on more strain.   So I would really encourage you to try to get more sleep.   You’ll see a difference and your family likely will too! 😊

So getting more sleep and losing weight is something anyone can do.  You just have to make a decision and DO IT!!   I highly recommend it as I’ve seen the results it’s had on my racing this year.  You won’t regret it and will enjoy the many benefits that come your way as a result.  Good Luck!!

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