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What happened at Chattanooga?

What happened at Chattanooga?

It’s been just over a month since Chattanooga.. a little late on the recap, but better late than never? 🙂 I’ve had enough people ask me about “what happened” that I thought it would be worth putting my thoughts on my blog.

Chattanooga was my second full Ironman race, and one I felt confident going into.  I knew it would be hot and humid, but I felt prepared for that. I’ve raced in all sorts of conditions, and I felt like I was ready. As you may know, it didn’t end the way we all hoped it would, but it was still a great day full of mostly positives.

So WHAT happened?

Long story short: I felt ready for a great race, and given the course and competition on the start list, I felt confident that I could place pretty well.  I followed my plan and was doing well.  I came out of the swim with a few girls (2nd-4th place out of the swim), and then was 3rd female off the bike.  A good place to be for me off the bike, so I just had to put together a solid run and I’d likely be able to hold off a lot of the super runners.  At mile 16 or so of the run, I was running in 4th when I started to feel light headed and, overall, not well. I spent some time trying to convince myself it was in my head and that I just needed some walking and water and fluids, then maybe it’d go away.

After a few miles of trying to shake it off, it was clear to me that I was not going to finish unless I walked the rest of the marathon. Feelings of passing out were frequent and very unwelcome! I full on walked the last six or so miles and finished last female pro.  Everyone has their reasons for quitting or for finishing no matter what, and on that day, I did not want to quit. I came to have my best race ever, so at the very least, I had to finish for myself and for everyone supporting me.

Walking up a nice hill to tell my husband my race was done.

Want even more details? Keep reading :).

Pre Race

Everything was pretty basic and according to plan before the race. I ate the usual foods, tried to get plenty of rest, had plenty of time off my feet, and stayed well-hydrated.  Race week you can always over analyze any strange feeling in your body, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few of those feelings I wanted to over analyze.  I’m a huge believer that your mind can really nurture and determine your fate, or just make small things worse, so I didn’t allow myself to entertain thoughts of being sick or not feeling great in any way, shape, or form. I just focused on getting good sleep and eating well. Race morning – I felt good and ready to go execute a great race all day long.

Dropping off special needs. Don’t forget your headlamp on dark race mornings!

The Swim

Chattanooga has a 2.4 mile downstream swim, so you get some serious assistance from the river.  I had NO idea how fast the swim would be because I’ve never swam downstream like that, so I just had to focus on going hard at the start and getting on feet. Drafting in the swim is legal and VERY helpful if you can stick with some people who swim your pace or, even better, faster.  I went out hard and strong but didn’t catch feet, but I was swimming about 5-10 meters behind a couple women for several minutes.  We were staying the same distance apart and I wasn’t catching up, so I decided that I just needed to surge and catch their feet so that I could save some energy being in their draft.  I would say between 600m-800m in, I caught their feet and then just stayed on for the rest of the swim.  I didn’t know if we were front pack or not, but either way, I knew I was not going to let myself get dropped and I knew we were towards the front.

I came out of the water and saw 45 minutes on the clock – I was SHOCKED. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect out of a swim time, but was pleased to see 45 minutes. Might never see that time again in an Ironman :).

Start of the swim.
Posted this on Instagram, but I love it. What an amazing swim venue!

The Bike

Never underestimate how long the bike of an Ironman will feel! MAN, a five hour ride at home is so different than a five hour bike in an Ironman.. must be because we are going race pace and in aero as much as possible for the whole five hours in a race, and no gas station stops for food and beverages! 🙂 Anyway, enough whining. I’m not afraid of the bike – I ride a lot at home, and I live in a very hilly, mountainous area, so elevation gain isn’t something I worry about.  Chattanooga is a rolling hills course so I knew there would be good overall climbing, but also good downhills to push. I wore a watch for this race (I gave up my gadgets for my last several races) just to monitor my effort and to help with timing and eating, etc.

I had my nutrition all set for the bike, most importantly my F2C Glyco-Durance, but I also had Plan B or C set in my head if needed.  Turns out, I did need Plan B.  About 40 miles into the bike, one of my F2C Glyco-Durance bottles of nutrition popped off my bike.  Fortunately, I knew I had enough calories on my bike without that bottle (thank you back up Snickers bar in my bike bento) so I didn’t panic, but I knew I should probably take on some extra electrolytes and liquid at aid stations. In addition to what felt was a lot of water, I also took on some bananas, a mini Clif Bar, and Gatorade from aid stations throughout the bike to compensate for the lost bottle.

I rode a lot of the bike in 2nd place, but got passed by one woman at some point during the 4th hour of the bike.  The 4th hour was my darkest hour on the bike. I started feeling hungry – not lack of energy, just feeling that hungry feeling in my stomach.  This same thing happened to me in my first Ironman, so that’s why I brought the Snickers on board – solid food for my stomach.  I also welcomed the bananas and Clif Bar mentioned above, and for the last hour of the bike I got my mind and body strong again. I got off the bike feeling confident, but also very much like I had just been on my bike for a little over five hours (if you’ve done an Ironman, you know what feeling I’m talking about!).

The Run

It took about half a mile to shake off the bike legs, but then I felt like I was ready to settle in and put together a strong run. After a nice big hill right at the start, I was able to settle into a good rhythm and I just focused on running well and getting from aid station to aid station.  I forced myself to take in my calories and liquids regularly and felt like I was on track with nutrition.

The first loop of the run went by really fast mentally, and though I was passed by one other woman, I was holding onto 4th pretty strong. I started to “feel” the run a little more on loop two of the run, but that’s when I just told myself to suck it up and focus on being strong every second. A few miles into lap two, things started to feel pretty terrible.  I started feeling light headed, which I’ve never experienced in a race.  I wasn’t sure why I was feeling that way – I had followed my nutrition and felt like I made up for my dropped F2C bottle just fine, I had energy, and I was taking in water, ice, Gatorade, and coke at the aid stations.

Ice, water, sponges – everything to keep cool.

I asked myself several times, “are you just making this up because you’re in the back half of a marathon in and Ironman and it’s hard?” I’m sure there was a lot of mental dialogue that I don’t even remember, but I just didn’t want to walk or not do justice to my training, I didn’t want to quit, and I didn’t want to give up the race that I had already worked so hard for up until that point.  I know I can do hard things and I know I can push through the back half of a marathon in an Ironman. Having done an Ironman before, I knew the last several miles would most likely feel physically terrible, but I was expecting that to be in my legs and not my head.

When I started to feel nervous that I was going to pass out is when I let myself stop and walk.  I think I even stopped completely once or twice just to bend over, take a breather, and try to feel better.  Everything kind of turned into a blur at this point :).  I ran walked for a bit, and then I was at a complete walk around mile 19 or 20. I saw my husband at some point and told him I was feeling terrible but that I was going to finish.  I remember telling him I was going to run/walk the rest and would still have around a 4 hour marathon.  Well, THAT didn’t happen. I had to completely walk the last several miles, and many times during those miles, I was questioning why I didn’t just stop.  A few times I thought that I was going to pass out, and I was scared of waking up with medics over me haha.  Thinking about it now – it sounds insane to push through those sorts of feelings, but I did not want to quit.

Taking it all in. A HUGE thanks, as always, to the many amazing volunteers who are out there all day long.

The cool part about walking was being able to chat with a few of the other athletes who weren’t having a great day.  Multiple athletes told me they were happy to see me finishing despite not having the day I wanted. Apparently they find it disappointing when pros just quit because they aren’t performing how they wanted to.  Everyone, pro or not, has to make a call for themselves on whether or not they finish a race, but I appreciated the comments in that moment and they made me feel better about walking through the terrible feelings I was having.

My husband was right by the finish and I walked and talked to him while I went through the finishing chute. I cried my way through that finishing chute, but I knew I gave my all on that day and that was all I could do.  I was SO disappointed to have the day end the way it did, but I knew it did not change how prepared I was or what the possibilities were for me going forward.

The Takeaway

I’m not one to regret my decisions, to over-analyze, or to dwell on things that didn’t go well.  While I was disappointed that the race didn’t go how I thought it could have (and how it WAS going), I got over that pretty quickly. It’s onto the next. Even though my run blew up, I had a great race outside of that.  Surely I will be changing a few things for my next Ironman, but I feel like I’m on the right track overall.

After talking with my coach and some experienced teammates, I think the mistake may have been hydration or electrolytes. It’s hard to know for sure as we can only speculate, but it would make sense that perhaps hydration was the issue. I’ve raced and spent a lot of time training in hot and humid conditions, but I’ve never done an Ironman in one, and Ironman is a different beast. A hard lesson to learn, but better now than later :).

This experience has definitely given me more respect for the Ironman distance, and I think even just that will help me as I prepare for the next. Looking forward to a successful Ironman in 2018!

There’s a first time for everything: Ironman Arizona

There’s a first time for everything: Ironman Arizona

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Let’s just address this photo right now because I LOVE it. The fact that my beloved dog is wearing a backpack/harness along with an oversized “Ironman training buddy” bandana is ridiculous enough, but then he is being held up mid-air to “cheer,” all while my husband is cheering and taking a picture of me racing.  It’s just all too perfect.  A huge thank you to my teammate Suz Martin for capturing this moment.  Guaranteed this will end up framed somewhere.

So now about being an “Ironman.”

A full Ironman never seemed like an impossible thing to me because I knew when the time came for me to do one, I would be prepared and ready for it.  While Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) wasn’t on my schedule (or radar) until about eight weeks before the race, I still felt extremely prepared and knew the only thing I had to do on race day was just go out there and cover the distance as fast as possible.

So why IMAZ?  I raced the ITU Long Course World Championship at the end of September which was a 4k swim, 120k bike, and 30k run.  That means the swim was 200m LONGER than a full ironman, the bike was about 75 miles, and the run was nearly 19 miles – a race that can more or less be considered in between a half and a full.  After doing ITU Worlds, I still did not have any intention of doing a full until one of my teammates teased me about doing IMAZ with her, along with many other BAM athletes.  I laughed and told her it was kind of tempting but I was in no mental state to make that decision (this was hours after finishing ITU Worlds).  Admittedly, I was less “afraid” of doing a full after ITU Worlds, but I knew that a full would still be a different beast.

Just some of the BAM team who raced IMAZ. We love our ROKA gear!
Just a few from the BAM team who raced or cheered at IMAZ.

After a couple days of thinking about doing IMAZ and after my coach told me I could do it if I was okay with extending my season, I decided to do IMAZ and felt excited for the new challenge. I knew that I would one day be doing fulls as part of my professional career, so why not go out and see what it was like.  Maybe I would perform better or like the fulls better? You don’t know until you try.

I’ll spare you ALL of the details of the race, but I would say overall it was a great first FULL experience.  Here are some things that were notably different from my usual half ironmans:

Change tents: HELLO! Having three or four women helping me get my wetsuit off while handing me my helmet, or helping me change my shorts, and then bagging up whatever gear I left behind was AMAZING. I also thought it was fun to interact with some people briefly between disciplines – almost like a quick break.  I’ve done other races that have change tents, but I didn’t have to run through them, so I didn’t.  Here the change tent was the only option, and it was great!

Mile .01 of 112 of the bike. Photo thanks to BAM teammate Tracy Campbell.
Mile .01 of 112 of the bike. Photo thanks to Tracy Campbell – BAM teammate!

Running shorts: I usually stay in my tri shorts and tri top the whole race, but this race I changed into running shorts for the marathon.  I haven’t loved the waistband on my tri shorts while running, and I knew I would be much more comfortable in just pure running shorts.  I don’t plan to change my shorts every time I do a full, but this was something I wanted to do this time.  I didn’t want to be worried about my shorts cutting into my bloated race belly or having to pull down my tight speed top to cover that same bloated race belly :).  I only wanted to be worried about putting one foot in front of the other.  No regrets here and I’ll make sure I’m in a tri suit that I’m totally comfortable in going forward. 

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Just me or is this the photo Matt was taking in the photo we started with??

Mind over matter:  I turned off all the thinking and doubting and negative thoughts that can go on during the race.  I knew that my biggest challenge would be my mind during a full ironman.  Sprint to full – or really anything difficult in life – THE MIND is key to success.  I told myself that my only job on race day was to push hard and just cover the distance as fast as possible while still looking out for my nutrition.  I did JUST that.  There was a time during the bike where I didn’t feel great – part nauseous, part hungry, part needing to just be vertical (this race was VERY aero), and that’s when I thought outside my plan and had to make some adjustments to make sure I could finish the bike strong and safely.  

The other time I “used my brain” was at mile 16 of the run.  Let me tell you – something happened at mile 16 and from that point on, EVERY SINGLE STEP HURT. My quads were just so fatigued and in serious pain.  For a moment I thought “here we go, now my pace is going to drop like crazy so I can manage this pain.”  Then I realized that that wasn’t the right approach – my legs were going to be killing me no matter what, so I had better suck it up, embrace the pain, and push my body as best I could.  Everyone on course was likely feeling what I was feeling. My pace did drop some, but I can tell you that I was embracing the pain and had accepted that in order to finish, it was going to hurt no matter how fast or slow I went.

Beautiful picture of the swim start thanks to Tracy Campbell. The morning started quite dark in the water!
Beautiful picture of the swim start thanks to Tracy Campbell. The morning started quite dark in the water!

ALL THE BAGS: I probably asked for reassurance 12 times to make sure I was doing special needs and all the gear bags right.  I didn’t want to screw anything up and be left without my run shoes or needed nutrition at any point!  I never ended up using my special needs bags (bags available during the bike and run that you put extra nutrition or anything you want in), but I did check them in just in case I came across a nutrition disaster during the race.  I’m mostly sad I never got the chocolate muffin back that I stuck in my run special needs (sometimes you just need a calorie slam in the form of a muffin and I wanted to be prepared haha).

A cool view of transition - all the athletes, all the bags, all the gear, all right there!
A cool view of transition – all the athletes, all the bags, all the gear, all right there!

Moral support: Many of my races this year have been without my coach and/or teammates, and while I am perfectly fine to go out and do a race on my own, it sure is nice to have a huge support squad on the course and on the sidelines cheering for you! I looked forward to every loop where I knew I would see my coach, my husband and dog, teammates, and friends.  I’m extremely grateful that my first full had so much support because it absolutely made the day better. It’s a LONG day out there, so THANK YOU to everyone who cheered and supported all race weekend long.

Moral support at its finest!

My biggest takeaway from my first full Ironman race: Ironman taught me that when I think I’m in pain during a race, I’m really not at my worst pain.  I don’t think I had felt pain like I felt for the last 10 miles straight finishing IMAZ (not to mention the days after the race – unbelievable pain!!!), so I know there is MORE pain to be had for me in my races. I hope that my experience racing a full will help me suffer more in all of my races, because the person who can suffer the most is the person who will likely get the best out of themselves on race day.

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If you need more Winston in your life, check him out on Instagram @winstogrampup!

Lost and found bike piece in Mexico & Cabo 70.3 race recap.

Lost and found bike piece in Mexico & Cabo 70.3 race recap.

I’ve been fortunate to have pretty smooth races in terms of mechanical, nutritional, or any other sort of major errors.  Los Cabos 70.3 was my first race that had some mechanical hiccups, and honestly, I’m glad I finally experienced some problems because it’s good practice to work through things you can’t control.

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This picture makes me laugh now. I took the picture when we were waiting to get off the plane in Cabo. My bike box is on the ground and I was so grateful to know my bike made it safely. Little did I know that I was in for a bit of a roller coaster with my bike!!

Our first night in Cabo, Matt talked me into setting up my bike before going to bed.  I started setting up my bike in the condo and quickly realized that I was missing the wedge that holds my seat post in place.  ENTER IMMEDIATE PANIC AND SICK TO MY STOMACH FEELING.  I was so annoyed with myself because how many times had I packed my back and this DIDN’T happen?? I knew this wasn’t going to be the end of the world and I would find a way to make it work, but it is never ideal to have something automatically wrong going into a race.

I immediately called Jeff (the bike whisperer) and tell him I need help.  We talked through the options and scenarios.  He told me to shake my bike because sometimes things fall in the frame if you take your seat post completely out.  Matt shook my bike frame while it was still attached to the mount it goes on in my bike box.  We heard rattling and thought “HALLELUJAH, it’s in there!!” but then the rattling stopped.  Ugh, must have been something else.  Jeff and I talked through every option we had in the next three days and spent the next morning doing everything we could.  I reached out to people who I knew were coming to Cabo, I looked at shops online that had the part that I could possibly have ship the piece, Matt had our neighbor go check our garage and driveway where I was packing up my bike to see if the piece was left behind – all possible solutions were considered.  This was Wednesday night, and the race was Sunday. Something was going to work out.

One option was to have Jeff find the missing piece or a replacement somehow and have it shipped overnight to Mexico.  Not ideal as it would likely cost a lot of money, but better than riding uncomfortably and not being able to push power as well because I’m sitting on a loose or low saddle.  Jeff found out that no one would overnight the piece because if it didn’t get there until the weekend, Mexico would not process it (so if you’re going to lose something, lose it at a U.S. race :))  I took a deep breath and accepted that I would probably be riding on my saddle about 1 cm lower than I usually do.  Not terrible, but definitely not ideal.  I decided to take my bike out for my scheduled ride anyway – I shoved a plastic grocery bag in the space where the wedge should go so at least my seat wouldn’t wiggle around, and it worked pretty well and looked pretty ridiculous haha.  

It’s a good thing I’m stubborn and generally don’t let people/things stop me from doing what I want to do, because going out and riding on my low saddle is what solved my problem!  The bumpy roads of Mexico SAVED THE DAY and loosened “something” in my frame.  Bikes aren’t supposed to rattle when you ride, so when they do, you know something is wrong.  In this case, though, something was very, very right.  I heard the rattling and knew that my wedge had to be in there and it had just been stuck in my frame somewhere.  Matt and I spent a lot of time trying to shake it out without success, so that’s when I called Jeff and he said to just take it to the nearby bike shop and have them take my crank off.

I wasn’t excited about taking my bike apart even more right before a race, but it was the only way.  Sure enough, one hour and 300 pesos later, the bike shop took my bike apart and we got the wedge out of my bottom bracket!  WHAT A PAIN, but I was SO SO glad that the racecation of the year could go on in peace now :).  

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This race was awesome. It’s not every race morning you can show up in exactly what you plan to race in and not need a jacket or sweats to keep you warm.  The sun would be rising JUST in time for the race to start, and it was beautiful thing to watch.  There is a half and full ironman that goes on the same day in Cabo, so all the half ironman athletes went off starting at 6:20am, and then the full started one hour later.

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Swim – non wetsuit, WARM ocean swim. I’ve learned the importance of going hard at the beginning and staying with a pack that is moving fast enough, but also a little faster than maybe I’d comfortably like.  I stayed on some feet after going out hard (probably one of the more physical swim starts I’ve had), and felt like we were moving pretty good. I wasn’t always just easily hanging on to the girls ahead, and I could see girls not too far ahead of the pack I was with.  I was expecting to get out of the water and to see a much better swim time than I did, but after the race I learned that everyone’s swim times were a few minutes slow (including the top male pro swimmers, past ITU athletes, etc.).  No excuses – but it made me feel like I didn’t just blow the swim.  I’ve been working hard to be more part of the race coming out of the water, and sometimes a swim time doesn’t truly reflect ability or effort.

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Pro women waiting for the gun to go off. It was fun to have a running start!

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Bike – I knew I was in for a hilly course.  Lots of rollers and plenty of false flat/gradual uphills.  It was one of those courses where if you weren’t grinding slowly up, you were flying down.  I enjoy a challenging bike course, and bike course elevation gains don’t scare me.  I made several passes on the bike and could tell I wasn’t TOO far back from some of the chase girls, so I stayed positive, even on the slight uphills that felt like forever to climb.  I focused on making sure I felt like I was pushing hard enough.  The watts definitely weren’t coming easy for me this day, but I was still making passes and holding my ground, so I focused on that.  

Around mile 40 is when I started to wonder if my tire was going flat (I’ve NEVER flatted in a race before).  If you ride a bike and have had a flat, you know the feeling.  Sometimes flats go really flat really fast, and sometimes it’s a gradual thing and you feel a weird wobble in your riding.  I could feel that my tire was getting low but I also didn’t want to believe it, until I couldn’t deny that my tire was flat.  About mile 42 is when I finally stopped and got off my bike.  I was on my race wheels which are tubular, and I had my Pitstop handy, so I hopped off, squirt the Pitstop into my tire (mix of air and sealant – very convenient for flats), made a quick check to make sure the air was holding and my tires were at a respectable PSI, then got back on my bike and took off.

During my flat, at least two women passed me which wasn’t great, but it’s part of the game.  I caught one more female pro in the last 10 miles, and was eagerly looking forward to finishing the bike so I knew I was free of any flat tire problems!

Run – pretty flat, a couple quick, steep hills, GREAT support, and hot!  I really enjoyed this run –  a two loop course which makes it easy to see your competition out there on course. I focused on the moment and didn’t think about the miles I had left, and that helped mentally in a major way.  I didn’t run what I felt ready and wanting to run, but I put in my best effort and felt like I stayed mentally committed the whole time.  Sometimes you can’t have it all, but there are lessons and victories in each race :).

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I finished 7th – not what I was hoping for or felt capable of, but I’ll take it.  The whole experience in Cabo was awesome, and I would definitely go back and race it again!  I was able to watch some of the Ironman athletes as they were on the run later that evening.  I felt so inspired by this because I knew how hot I was out on the run hours earlier, and these athletes were still out fighting and pushing through ALL. DAY. LONG.  It was also neat to watch part of the full Ironman because I knew I would be taking on my first full in three short weeks (now we are down to a week!!).  I am excited to be officially ending my season in Tempe, Arizona racing my first FULL Ironman next weekend!

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Ironman athletes on the run course.

 

Cabocation – where “every day is perfect!”

Cabocation – where “every day is perfect!”

Oh, Cabo, from the moment I laid eyes on you in the Ironman pro race schedule, I knew you’d be my favorite race trip of the year and the perfect way to end my season!  I’m a girl who LOVES the beach, sunshine, hot weather, swimming in warm water, and eating good food, and Cabo delivered ALL of that and more.  

Turns out Cabo won’t be my last race :), but it still made for a great racecation!  I want to share my Cabo experience to talk about the race, but also to share how wonderful a trip to Cabo is (because life isn’t all about triathlon and I seriously LOVED Cabo).  Talking vacation and the race in one post would make for one really long post (not that I’m a stranger to long posts haha), so I’m going to break it into two.

Let’s talk the vacation aspect first (winter will be here before we know it here in North America, so probably a good time to start dreaming of a warm, sunny vacation).  

Cabo San Lucas vs. San Jose del Cabo

Matt and I stayed in San Jose del Cabo, which is about 30 minutes up the highway from Cabo San Lucas.  I had never been to either place, but the race headquarters and finish line were in San Jose del Cabo, so that is where I looked for accommodations. Now, after having stayed in San Jose del Cabo and spending a day in Cabo San Lucas, I’m extremely happy with my choice to be in San Jose del Cabo.  It had a historical downtown and was much less “touristy” and busy.

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Lodging

San Jose del Cabo had several reasonably priced resorts available (around $100+/night), but I knew I could find the best deal on Airbnb, and that I did!  I found a cute little studio condo for about $40/night that was right on the run course and walking distance to the finish (as well as walking distance to restaurants and the beach).  There were several full condos that could sleep 4 or more that were available for around $70/night, but the studio had everything we needed for two.

Car Rental

Matt and I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, got our rental car, and headed to our Airbnb.  Note on the rental cars:  the rental cars are insanely cheap online when you book, some listing as cheap as $1/day.  I booked one that was $5/day.  I had heard that you had to buy mandatory insurance that covered every last thing, but turns out you can opt out of that.  Matt and I like to live on the edge apparently, and opted out of the full coverage.  We  made it safely through the trip and the rental car cost us about $35 for SIX DAYS.

Food

We enjoyed a lot of wonderful food – all the places we tried are listed below.  The food was all very reasonably priced.  We could get waters or soda, guacamole to start, and then entrees, and get away for less than $40 in most cases. Breakfast we could get entrees and delicious fruit smoothies and still be under $20.

El Fish & Grill – Mexican, great tacos, fish, salad, super close to where we stayed.

Salad entree at El Fish & Grill.
Salad entree at El Fish & Grill.

La Lupita Taco & Mezcal – we found this place on Yelp and after eating there, we had more than one person tell us to go try it.  We were happy to say we had already tried it and loved it.  It was delicious! Amazing tacos with endless variety. The flan and chocolate mousse were also quite delightful.

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Las Guacamayas – ever heard of a Stone Bowl?  I hadn’t until Matt found this place and we went there for a bigger lunch.  So fun to experience and taste the different foods in Mexico.  This restaurant wasn’t very busy in the middle of the day, but there was a man who walked in with his daughters and when asked how his day was, he said “Every day is perfect!”  He was so right, and “every day is perfect” became a trip phrase (and the title of this post).

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Salad! – standard salad joint.  Pick your salad size, toppings, meat, etc.  Perfect dinner after a heavy lunch!

La Dolce – Italian food in Mexico is also delicious!  We went here the night before the race for my standard favorite.  Everything was delicious.

Claros Jr. – ON the run course.  We walked by after the race and it was packed.  When looking for a place to eat after showering, we decided to walk back up to watch the Ironman athletes and eat at Claros Jr.  Lots of tacos with a huge toppings bar so you can load up your tacos just how you like them.

Casasola Cafe & Brunch – this was in Cabo San Lucas.  Charming little restaurant with an amazing menu.  We loved everything we got (and trust me, we got A LOT).  My favorite? Toast with bananas and cheese, and the fact that they served sweetened condensed milk as a syrup option for pancakes (just give me a spoon – no pancakes needed!!).

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Habaero’s Gastro Grill – varied menu with Mexican and more American style menu.  Matt got a chile relleno and said it was the best he’s ever had.  

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Matt’s “best ever” chile relleno. He probably wasn’t making that face on purpose haha.

El Pancake House – standard breakfast joint and delicious.

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Groceries: Walmart and La Comer.  The first night I thought going to Walmart would be most familiar/like home.  I was wrong.  Walmart was quite different compared to Walmart in the U.S., but we got what we needed for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and Walmart’s bakery was probably my favorite!  La Comer looked a little nicer and more specialized in JUST groceries, so we stopped there when we needed a few things and I would probably make that my initial grocery stop next time.

Beaches, more beaches, and other things to do.

Pre race day, our trip was filled with trips to Palmilla Beach (probably my favorite beach)  for me to practice my swim in the open water race course, me doing my workouts, eating delicious food, and relaxing, staying cool, and watching movies in our condo.  

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Palmilla – great for swimming.

The day after the race we spent the day going to beaches and being tourists.  First stop was Playa Chileno – a nice, swimmable beach that had some fun snorkeling.  We swam and laid out for an hour or so before heading to Cabo San Lucas for brunch.  After brunch, we knew we wanted to get to Lover’s/Divorce beach (one side is Lover’s, one side is Divorce).  Apparently you can hike over some rocks and walk your way to the beach, but that sounded tiring and hot the day after a race, so we opted for a boat tour of the famous arch and other sites, and then getting dropped off at the beach for a couple of hours.  Round trip for the tour and beach drop-off/pick-up service was $35 total.

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Playa Chileno

 

The famous arch and a couple of tourists! :)
The famous arch and a couple of tourists! 🙂

 

Divorce Beach
Divorce Beach

 

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More Divorce beach – ironically, we watched someone get engaged on Divorce beach (Lover’s beach was too full because a couple cruise lines dropped off that afternoon).

 

A sign in our tour boat :)
A sign in our tour boat 🙂

If I wore “real clothes” more often or if I needed more leisure swim suits, shopping at the big mall (Puerto Paraiso Mall) located on the harbor in Cabo San Lucas would have been fun. We walked through it and the shops looked great.  Plus the mall had two Haagen Daz locations – I made sure to visit at least one of them and found that they had flavors I had never seen/tasted in the U.S. before. Amazing.

The day we were leaving Cabo, we took a trip to the beach in the morning, packed up, and then tried another brunch spot before heading out of town.  There were things like horseback riding, swimming with dolphins, parasailing, and more as options to do while in Cabo, but we we were after more relaxing, inexpensive ventures and loved beaching and eating.

Mexico takeaways

-I wish I could speak Spanish.  While we were able to get by, and there were a lot of people who knew Spanish and some English (and a lot of the food menus were in both Spanish and English), it would have been really nice in some situations to know Spanish.  Needless to say, I started learning some words and phrases on the trip through a wonderful app called Duolingo, but don’t quiz me yet :).

-You will buy every drop of water you drink.  Water isn’t expensive in Mexico, but just be prepared to buy a lot of water either in jugs or water bottles in order to stay hydrated.  At restaurants you can’t just ask for water and get a free, bottomless cup of chilled water.  You will get one chilled water bottle at a time.  I bought A LOT of water!!!

-”No bad days” is a common brand/theme in Mexico.  From window decals, to bumper stickers, to restaurant uniforms – I saw the phrase “No bad days” and loved it!  Fit well with the “everyday is perfect” response from the man at the restaurant.  It’s easy for there to be no bad days in paradise, but it’s something I want to stick with me in life in general.  No bad days. There’s always something good about a day.

-We were in Mexico for Halloween, and therefore the Day of the Dead. You can tell that this is a holiday celebrated in full force.  Restaurants were decorated, stores were filled with Day of the Dead bread (YUM – you know I carb loaded on that!), and there was extra Day of the Dead stuff for sale at all the shops.

Day of the Dead decorations set up at a restaurant.
Day of the Dead decorations set up at a restaurant.  You can see small loaves of Day of the Dead bread in the middle of the table.

-Mexican grocery stores have huge bakery sections.  You take a tray and pile it with all the baked goods you want (pastries I’ve never heard of, donuts, bread, scones, empanadas, etc), and then you take the tray to a worker and they weigh it, package it, and stick a price on it.  Let’s just say I learned you can get a lot for just a few dollars :).

Walmart's bakery. The Walmart by my house has some serious work to do!!
Walmart’s bakery. The Walmart by my house has some serious work to do!!

-Not every beach is great for swimming.  The beach by our condo had resorts lined on it and a great beach to lay out and put your feet in the water, but the waves definitely crashed hard.  If you’re not experienced in ocean waves, it would be pretty intimidating / dangerous.  Drive down the highway a few kilometers and you will find a beautiful, much calmer beach for swimming.  Pick your beaches wisely!  We enjoyed both types of beaches.

Sunset on the beach that all the major hotels sit on in San Jose del Cabo.
Sunset on the beach where all the major hotels sit in San Jose del Cabo.

 

Check back in a couple of days for my post about race prep and the actual race – I’ll give the full story on how I lost a very important piece to my bike during travel!

 

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ITU Long Course World Championship: When you can’t tame the wind, tame your mind!

ITU Long Course World Championship: When you can’t tame the wind, tame your mind!

Every race is hard because that’s the point of a race, but there are a lot of variables that can make a race even harder than just the distance, course, or competition you’re up against. I posted on Instagram that this was was one of the toughest race days I had experienced, and during the race I yelled to Matt that this was THE hardest race.  Now that the race is well over (though my legs are still reminding me that race day did happen), it feels like just another race, but in the moment it truly was one of my biggest mental tests!  With that said – any day I get to go race and do something I love is a great day!

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Mandatory bike check-in the night before. Just taping on the ol’ pit stop in case of a flat out on course!

Here’s the rundown on the race:

Leading up to the race I felt ready and excited to do the longer distance (used to doing 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – this was a 2.5 mile swim, 74.5 mile bike, and 18.6 mile run).  I read on the race website that the challenge of this race would be the wind, but I’ve been in some pretty fierce wind during training (thank you Florida and St. George training camps!), and thought “how bad can it be?”  Well, PRETTY BAD is the answer to that question.

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It’s not every race they line us all up and introduce us before the swim start.

The swim was an out and back two loop swim.  Going out on the first loop, the swim was choppy but manageable and I felt like I was staying with a good group of girls.  Enter massive waves and whitecaps at the turnaround point.  The swim turned into the kind of swim where you hope to get a mouth of mostly air instead of mostly water when you turn to breath. That’s if you can turn to breath because maybe you’ll actually just get a giant wave to your face and chest and end up 5 feet to the right of where you were just a moment ago.  That kind of swimming :).

I knew the worst thing that could happen was to be completely alone in the hard conditions, so I made sure to keep with the girls I was with.  Coming back through the waves the second time just became comical.  There was one point where we stood up to dolphin dive in a shallow part of water, and a few of us just looked at each other and I think we all quickly verbalized some sort of disbelief of what we were swimming through.  I probably said “OH MY GOSH,” one girl said, “THIS IS THE HARDEST SWIM I HAVE EVER DONE.”  There’s a first for everything, and this was definitely the first time I had spoken with other athletes during the swim portion of the race haha.

By the end of the swim, I already felt mentally exhausted but was determined to reset for the bike.  I know how to bike hard, and was ready to get to work!

Thank GOODNESS for a noticeable tailwind on the way out to the area where we had two 42km loops, but you know what a good tailwind means :).  Despite the ever present wind, I tried to stay focused and push hard on the bike. In addition to the PhD Glyco-Durance I had on my bike, I was grabbing the cold water bottles and drinking and squirting them on me as much as possible.  I knew it was warm and the humidity was going to suck sweat out of me more than maybe I realized, so I hydrated a TON.

I made up good ground during the headwind sections of the bike and was encouraged by the progress I felt like I had made. The second loop flew by pretty quickly, and then I got to the stretch back to transition where it was just a straight road for a long time… straight into a head wind.  I fought hard to get back to transition and tried to keep it together mentally after being in the headwind for what felt like ages.  

If you haven’t run in a swim suit, you should try it :). Pros didn’t have to wear race belt numbers for this race (ITU rules) – a nice bonus!

Starting the three loop run was a huge relief because I knew the wind would be less noticeable, but I was definitely feeling the mental impact of the conditions.  I decided to just be smart.  Being mentally drained and having 30km to run in the heat and humidity – I just wanted to make sure I would finish.  I settled into a pace that I felt like I could maintain, but also that I could decrease as the loops went on.  After a couple miles into the run, my body shook off that “just got off the bike” feeling, and I was in a good rhythm.

I hydrated a TON (I think I mentioned that) – more on this race than ever before.  I took a very quick walk through a lot of the aid stations to make sure I got down the calories and liquids I needed to, and I think that paid off overall.  I got passed on the run, but I also made some passes on the run. I finished 8th and definitely ended the run in a better mental state than when I started it.

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MADE IT!

Thank you to all who offered support and kind words before and after the race!  It means a lot!  A special thank you to John and Shantile Longan and his wonderful family for hosting us while in OKC for the race.  Such good people!

Race takeaways:

-Mind over matter. Control what you can control  This race was a strong reminder to me of how mentally tough I need to be ALWAYS.  Don’t lose focus and don’t waste energy hating the elements.  Just deal with it, cause everyone is out there dealing with it.

-Maybe I should be, but I’m not scared of a full Ironman anymore.

-Racing in a swimsuit makes for quick, convenient porta potty stops.  No regrets wearing my Moench USA swim suit.

-Matt should probably just take over my social media (if you didn’t know, Matt is the new, comedic live tracker for my races – @mcmoench on Instagram, @mmoench on Twitter).

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Fun fact: my legs have never hurt as badly immediately following a race as they did after this race. Can’t imagine what an Ironman feels like!! Matt and I were walking out and I was dying, so we stopped to rest and put the legs up haha.

 

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Matt walking my bike out <3. WE did it!
A Day in the Tri Life – Indoor Edition

A Day in the Tri Life – Indoor Edition

Is there a better time to finish a blog post than when you’re sitting in bed, stuffing your face with carbs, just waiting for race morning to arrive? I don’t think so.

I’m here in Oklahoma City getting ready for the ITU Long Course World Championship TOMORROW morning.  This will be the longest race I’ve ever done (4K swim, 120K bike, 30K run), so I’m looking forward to seeing what that feels like :).  Racing is always exciting because it’s an opportunity to test all the training!

Speaking of training – here is a day in the life from this summer that helped prepare me for tomorrow’s race.  This day was a mostly indoor day, which I have actually come to really love and appreciate.  I used to LOATHE treadmill running – two miles on a treadmill felt like an eternity to me, and trying to keep myself entertained at home on my bike trainer for anything longer than an hour was asking A LOT.  Not even my favorite chick flick could keep me occupied.  Ever since I started training with BAM, I’ve done more Computrainer riding and treadmill / AlterG running than I ever did before, and I’ve really enjoyed it!

What changed my feelings toward indoor training?  I think being with friends and teammates has helped a lot, but I’ve mostly just come to appreciate how high quality the workouts are when you can control everything with the touch of a button.  I am able to dial in exactly where I need to be in terms of watts / cadence on the Computrainer, and I can control the pace and incline perfectly on the treadmill.  I want to be as strong and fast as I can be, so I know if I can nail my workouts properly, I’m going to be that much better off come race day.  This day in the life was during the summer, but you can bet that this is how a lot of my winter training is going to look, minus the outdoor pool :).

So here it is – a day in the life from August 3, 2016!  This was the day after another day in the life I blogged about here. Two huge days back to back!

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Started the day off with a 7:30am swim at the lovely outdoor pool in Draper, UT. This pool is a 50m pool (50m from one end to the other), has great views, and was such a delight to swim in this summer!

 

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Wednesday swims here are always challenging. On this day we did warm-up (usually 1000m), 40 x 50m with every fourth 50m fast, and the last set was a 1000m pull (swimming with paddles on the hands and a buoy between the legs). A great swim, and definitely one you want to be doing with friends. Counting to 40 alone is HARD, even if you’re an accountant :).

 

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After swim, I went straight over to BAM’s facility in Sandy, UT. Just my typical summer fashion statement – ready to spend the next several hours training inside at BAM!

 

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Let’s talk about the cooler I can always be found carrying around on long training days (or any day for that matter). The only way to get through the volume and intensity of training I do is to stay fueled. If I let myself get too hungry, then it may be past the point of no return for a workout. I can honestly say that I excel on the caloric intake part of this sport 🙂 (I’ve always been a good eater haha), but really, I know proper calorie intake is a huge part of being able to nail workout after workout. Here’s a look at what was inside my cooler: Core Power, of course! Peanut butter to spread on the rice cakes, a peach, a yogurt, some mixed nuts in there somewhere. Typical things I’ll take for long days to eat between workouts. I generally over pack the food, but when I’m gone from my house from 7:00am to 4:00pm and training most of that, you have to be prepared!

 

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Oh, Computrainer workouts. Whenever I am summoned to BAM for a Computrainer workout in the summer, I know it’s going to HURT.  Luckily I had my junior teammate, Ty Perkins, to push the watts with!

 

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I had to post this picture because Ty was obviously really loving this workout :). I ended up riding for 2.5 hours which consisted of several different intervals at different zone levels.  For those who aren’t familiar with power training – we train in “zones” and the actual watts associated with each zone is unique to each person depending on their weight, cycling strength, etc.  We do lactic acid threshold testing to get exact zones, and this testing is done every so often to make sure we are still working hard enough :).  BAM hosts Computrainer classes all winter long – if you’re in the area you can join by signing up here.  Here was the workout, if you’re interested:  20 mins of warm up, 6 x 3 mins at low zone 3, 3 x 4 mins working progressively from top of zone 3 to top of zone 4,  3 x 5 x 1 at 130% of mid zone 4 , 3 x 10 min low 3 at a slow cadence (like climbing a 10 min hill), and then cool down.

 

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Can’t forget the run! After that tough Computrainer session, I went straight onto the AlterG for 90 minutes of easy running. The AlterG is an anti-gravity treadmill that is great for injury prevention, injury recovery, physical therapy, weight loss, etc. etc. It’s great for everything and we use it a lot at BAM. If you’re in Utah you can use the AlterG at BAM’s facility by booking here.

 

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You zip yourself into the AlterG by wearing these lovely shorts! I run on the AlterG about once a week just to reduce the impact of running mileage on my body. I typically run at 80% of my body weight, and it feels wonderful :).

 

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After ALL the sweating during the bike and run, it was time for a full wardrobe change before working with my strength coach, Andrew. Ended the day with some solid strength to keep the body strong and injury free!

 

After wrapping up all my workouts at BAM, I went straight to a massage, then home for napping and eating.  Making it through these long, tough days is always a good feeling!!

 

A Day in the Tri Life – Tuesday, August 2

A Day in the Tri Life – Tuesday, August 2

Here’s a peek at what a solid day of training looks like for me!  This is how Tuesday has been for the past few weeks (with some variation in the actual workouts).  The day starts early and requires smart fueling, a nap, and taking the easy stuff easy so I can recover and have a solid day (again) on Wednesday – which will be my next day in the tri life post.

Enjoy! I know I did :).  Special thanks to all the people I bugged to take pictures!

Side note – sometimes my pictures show up sideways or upside down when viewed on a mobile phone. Trying to fix that, but just know I know :). All is well on a laptop or computer!

 

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At the track by 5:45am before the sun is up – but still plenty warm outside. I had oatmeal and a banana for breakfast before arriving.

 

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My workout was 15x800m at 6 minute/mile pace with a 200m float (active recovery, just a gentle shuffle).  There was a whole group at the track, but only one other guy was doing the workout at my pace, so I did the first 9×800 with him and then the last 6 by myself.  A TOUGH workout that takes a lot of mental control and feels so good to finish.

 

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The sun came up by the time we left – love this track at Olympus High School!

 

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Snapped a picture with my coach Wes, and then Sarah Crowley and her coach Cam. So fun having them around!

 

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The track session lasted about an hour and a half, and then it was time to head to the pool. I needed calories to recover and to make it through the swim to follow – Core Power is my go to along with Quaker Rice Cakes!

 

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Hopping in the pool at the Salt Lake Sports Complex. We just did an easy 2500m recovery swim – main set was 10x150m on an easy interval. Much appreciated after such a hard track workout :).

 

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Sarah Crowley, Wes Johnson (my coach), Ali Black (BAM teammate), and I all swam together.

 

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I got home around 9:45am and was STARVING (what’s new?). Double early morning workouts guarantee a second breakfast. Oatmeal sounded amazing again, so I had oatmeal, strawberries, an egg, yogurt, and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Fueling is key on long, hard days. I knew I had more to come, so I needed to make sure I was recovered AND fueled for the next workout.

 

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One of my favorite parts of the day 🙂 – snuggling up with this guy for a nap. Much needed after a tough morning.  I took my nap and then spent time off my feet working on my computer (and more eating).

 

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Up next was a 3 hour easy bike ride at 3:00pm! I drove up to Park City where Sarah was staying and we rode together.  We covered about 45 miles and 2800 ft of climbing, but kept it all very easy!

 

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Jordanelle Reservoir. It was fun riding up in Park City to mix up the scenery, and to beat some of the heat down in the Salt Lake Valley!

 

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Cute kit, Sarah! We got some good cloud coverage on this ride – it felt great :).

 

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I got home and made dinner. I cook most nights because I love to cook and because that way I can control what I’m eating. I’m not extreme in my diet or a perfect eater (diet is a whole other post), but I do try to keep things high quality!  This was garlic pomodoro with shrimp and whole wheat angel hair pasta, plus cauliflower on the side.

 

After dinner I was off to bed – I’m sure I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow.  Stay tuned for what I did the day after this!

Because Summer Isn’t Over Yet!

Because Summer Isn’t Over Yet!

I love summer and never want it to end. We are sitting here at the beginning of August, and despite blazing hot temperatures outside, I’m already starting to feel like summer is over. But HOLD ON – summer isn’t over yet, and there is still some good racing to be done this season! (see my schedule here)  In the meantime, here is a little mid-season update!

I’ve had a couple races this summer I am proud of (see my thoughts here and here), and I’ve had races that I just took as good races and even better learning experiences. I most recently raced Vineman 70.3 on July 10.  The race was good and I learned a lot, as usual.  I finished 12th female pro – nothing too impressive – but I gave what I had that day against a very talented field.  Once I got back to Utah, some people asked me how I felt about the race, probably wondering if I was disappointed considering how much better my last couple of races seemed to go in terms of placement.  I just said it was good and there were a lot of tough ladies!

Vineman 70.3 pro women swim start. The Russian River was such a cool swim spot!
Vineman 70.3 pro women swim start. The Russian River was such a cool swim spot!

The reality of racing in the pro field, I’m finding, is that there are PLENTY of fast women to come and race on any given day, and you never know who is going to show up or who will have the race of their life.  Point is – placement isn’t always an indication of how well you raced for yourself on that day, especially when you aren’t the athlete who is breaking the finish line tape on a regular basis (the ladies winning these races are quite consistent no matter the course or conditions). The level I’m performing at right now is the level a lot of female pros seem to be performing at (give or take a few minutes), so I go to every race fully expecting to fight completely for whatever place I get, and some days I’m stronger at that fight than others. Don’t get me wrong – I go to every race hoping to place well and to have my best race, but I know I’m up against extremely fast ladies, and that’s part of what motivates me to keep working hard day in and day out. Vineman 70.3 happened to be a very popular race that had a lot of women who were very fast.  Either way, the venue was beautiful, I enjoyed the event, and I left looking forward to my next chance to race!

Pro bikes all racked and ready to go!
Pro bikes all racked and ready to go!

So what’s next? I’ve been asked that question a lot, and some people are surprised to hear that I will have had six weeks between Vineman and my next race – Ironman 70.3 Timberman in New Hampshire on August 21.  Considering my last two 70.3 races were two weeks apart, and I sprinkled in local Sprints and Olympics through May and June, a six week period between races probably does seem like a long time.  To me, six weeks means plenty of time to get in some serious, high-quality training, which should translate into stronger racing to finish off the year.  

Which brings me to my next point – the training this summer has definitely been solid! I am grateful to have been able to stay home and get in quality training. The elevation and heat in Utah makes for a great place to train in the summer, and I’m lucky to have my coach Wes and a whole team of strong athletes here to train with.  I’m also extremely grateful to have stayed injury free and have generally felt great in training, even with the number of hours and miles logged each week.  

Track workouts always bring the burn! Nice to have strong ladies to train with.
Track workouts always bring the burn! Nice to have strong ladies to train with.

I’ve had some particularly long, intense weeks the last couple of weeks. “Long” weeks will be relative to each athlete since it depends on what they can handle with other life responsibilities, how many hours they have been training in the past, etc, but for me, long weeks are about 27-30 hours of training right now.  The past few weeks I have also been lucky enough to do some training with Sarah Crowley – an Australian pro who is training hard under TriSutto coach Cameron Watt.  They came out here for some hot elevation training in Park City and Salt Lake City.  She’s got 70.3 Worlds and Kona coming up, so she has been great to train and talk pro triathlon life with.  I’ve loved every minute of having another focused, hard-working female pro to train with, and as an added plus, I’d like to think I’ve really expanded my Australian vocabulary since spending some time around Sarah and Cam :).  My fingers are already crossed they come back next summer!

Sarah provided me the opportunity to have my first taste of Vegemite - apparently Australians love this stuff. It was also likely my last taste of Vegemite :).
Sarah provided me the opportunity to have my first taste of Vegemite – apparently Australians love this stuff. It was also likely my last taste of Vegemite :).

I’ve been holding up physically and mentally, so it’s been fun to train so much and it feels oh so satisfying to get it all done.  With that said, I am constantly figuring out how to best manage each day to make sure I get the most out of training while still maintaining my marriage and household :). With the amount I am training right now, I admit that I do the bare minimum outside of training and recovering. I say “bare minimum” not because I’m lazy or don’t have the desire to do more, but because it’s physically not possible for me to do all the “extras” right now (and yeah, even watching a movie on Friday night is an “extra”).  So what do I do? I make dinner and prepare all my meals on a daily basis, go grocery shopping, work a little, spend time at home with my husband and dog, sleep as much as possible or whenever needed, make sure I’m ready with all my gear in good shape for all my training sessions, and anything else on top of that is just a bonus (like hair and makeup done with “real” clothes on, or even just sweeping the kitchen floor, is a HUGE bonus).  The athletes who are most successful in this sport are the ones who have their full focus on training and recovery.  I’m learning how to focus in as much as I can, and I’m grateful for a husband who supports me in doing so.

I love this photo! Our friend got a Snapchat of Matt waiting at the finish :).
I love this photo! Our friend got a Snapchat of Matt waiting at the finish :).

I am looking forward to the rest of summer and certainly the upcoming races on my schedule!  Thank you to all the people who support me in this crazy dream!

***

P.S.  I get a lot of questions about what a typical day is like for me, so I’ll share what some typical days have been like lately :).  Watch for a few posts with plenty of pictures to come in the next week!

Learning How to Race – Thoughts After Coeur d’Alene 70.3

Learning How to Race – Thoughts After Coeur d’Alene 70.3

Racing in the pro field this year has been a wonderful and challenging experience, and one I have absolutely loved.  If you want to realize how not tough and not fast you actually are, and how much better you need and want to be, I recommend you give it a try :).  This year I am truly learning how to race.  I know how to swim, bike, and run; I know how to train hours and hours every week; I know how to fuel, recover, and hit targets during key workouts, but knowing all of this doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to race. I am realizing more and more that learning how to race is something I will always be doing, and it’s an exercise that mostly goes on in my head.  I am doing the training and will continue to build fitness and get stronger with time, so I have to make sure I’m mentally committed to executing and putting the hours of training to work on race day. I’m talking about committing to the pain, the suffering, and the discomfort of pushing your mind and body to the limit.  It’s something that takes practice and unwavering focus.

Coeur d’Alene (CdA) 70.3 was working out to be a race I was really excited for.  Everyone kept talking about how great the course is and how beautiful the venue is (and they were right!).  I was coming off a taste of success by placing top ten in St. George, and I certainly wanted to keep that success going.  I also had a six week block between these races where I was home (the longest I’ve been home in months) and focused on training and recovering.  My training consisted of high volume and more intensity – all things that help me to feel ready and confident for race day.  Leading up to CdA, the work was being put in, and I was thinking how the only thing I needed to do was commit.  Commit to using my mind to push my body where it was trained to go.

Beautiful view of Lake Coeur d'Alene - this was during my evening spin out after arriving in CdA.
Beautiful view of Lake Coeur d’Alene – this was during my evening spin out after arriving in CdA.

Two areas where I felt like I wasn’t performing to my abilities on race day: the swim and the run.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t feel like I have been able to consistently swim in open water as well as I can swim in the pool, and it’s not like I haven’t been practicing in open water. There are some obvious differences between the pool and open water, but I don’t like excuses and feel like I should be able to swim just as well in open water. Even more important than feeling like I SHOULD be able to, I NEED to be able to swim just as fast if I want to really be competitive in the pro field.

Bonus picture of my beloved Winnie cheering me on during the swim :). I'm not obsessed AT ALL.
Bonus picture of my beloved Winnie cheering me on during the swim :). I’m not obsessed AT ALL.

All I wanted at CdA on the swim: finish the 1.2 mile swim in under 30 minutes. So off went the gun and the pro women ran off the beach and dove into Lake Coeur d’Alene!  The water felt great, I pushed hard and got a great start, and before I knew it I was swimming on my own.  While some feet to draft off of would have been nice, I didn’t mind being able to just focus on my stroke and how hard I was pushing.  I used each buoy to ask myself if I could go harder, and would adjust my effort accordingly.  Aside from totally botching the first turn buoy (not used to doing a complete 90 degree turn!), the swim went well and I pushed it JUST enough to finish in 29:57. COUNTS.  Breaking 30 was a great start to the day, and I heard Matt say I was 7th out of the water, so I felt great about where I was sitting. I wanted to come in a little more under 30 minutes than three seconds, but I can do that at my next race :).

Practicing my run and dive the day before the race.
Practicing my run and dive the day before the race.

The first 20 miles of the bike were a lot of fun – I FLEW.  I’ve decided for myself that part of racing is not holding back (within reason), so I went out aggressively and felt great. I passed two girls within the first 15 miles and thanks to the first out and back, I saw that the lead pack wasn’t too far away. Pushing it on the bike is something I feel confident in and know how to do.  Each discipline has its own pain that takes getting used to, and the bike is something I’ve become very comfortable with being uncomfortable on (referring to discomfort from using my lungs and muscles, and not discomfort from sitting on a tiny saddle for hours :)).

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The last 36 miles of the bike had more wind and false flats than I was expecting, but that is how racing goes.  One female pro passed me in the last half, but I was otherwise able to hold my ground.  Despite feeling like I wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted to or should be moving, I would check in with my power meter and see that I was pushing plenty of watts, so I just kept pushing and came in 6th off the bike.  I knew the podium and money was top six, so of course I wanted to at least hold this place!

Now time to run.  All I wanted on the run was to push harder than I’ve pushed before.  I know I am capable of more than what I have been doing on race day.  This wouldn’t be determined necessarily by a goal time (though a sub 1:30 would have been great given my past run times), but mostly by my own mental and physical feeling.  You just know when you are digging deep and putting in your very best effort.

The first mile or so was slightly uphill, and my coach and I talked about taking that first bit slightly conservatively so that I could really push hard the rest of the run.  I got passed almost immediately by the lady who ran her way to 3rd place (she was FLYING), so there I was sitting in 7th.  It’s not all about placing in races, but when money and recognition is on the line, it’s something worth thinking about :).

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I sat in 7th for a long time.  The run was a two loop out and back, so I was able to see where the ladies ahead of me were.  During my first look on the first loop, most of the 1-6 ladies seemed out of reach based on my pace and how everyone was looking.  I focused on running hard and maintaining quick feet, but I had all but settled into 7th place (BAD HABIT!).  Then things changed at mile 9 when a fellow female pro, Sue Huse, ran up behind me and said “let’s go get them.”  I looked up and realized there were 2-3 other female pros not far ahead of us, and not cruising at the speed they seemed to be going at before.  I immediately upped my speed (and suffer level) to keep up with Sue.  We very quickly passed two other female pros, moving us into 5th and 6th place.  The race was ON!  It’s amazing how fun suffering becomes when it’s a real race to the end and you feel like you are digging deep. Not much time passed before we ran past another female pro, which then put us at 4th and 5th.  I held on with Sue as long as I could, but between mile 11 and 12, she really pulled ahead and I just kept pushing hard to hold onto 5th place.

I finished the run in 1:27:40 – one of my best half marathon splits at the end of a half ironman.  While I was elated to have finished 5th, especially after thinking I was going to finish 7th or even 8th place, I was even more happy to have really pushed myself, especially on those last four miles of the run.  I finally felt what it needed to feel like mentally and physically to go harder than my “comfortable uncomfortable,” and I finally ran a time that I was proud of.  I am SO grateful that Sue encouraged me to dig deeper.  I have a lot to learn from the strong women I line up with at every race.

Found this while walking in downtown CdA. This was before the race. I had to take a picture because I knew race day was up to ME!
Found this while walking in downtown CdA. This was before the race. I had to take a picture because I knew race day was up to ME!

Of course I want to be faster and stronger in all the disciplines of triathlon, but CdA 70.3 was a great experience for me to really race and to teach me what racing needs to feel like.  I want to finish every race feeling like I gave my absolute all both mentally and physically.  Regardless of placement, I will always be happy with my performance if I know I pushed my very hardest.

A very happy 5th place finish :).
A very happy 5th place finish in Coeur d’Alene.
The female pro podium!
The female pro podium!

 

Gooeys at The Dockside to celebrate post race!
Gooeys at The Dockside to celebrate post race!
Five Things I Would Tell My Beginner Triathlete Self

Five Things I Would Tell My Beginner Triathlete Self

For those of us who participate in triathlon, we all came to the sport for various reasons. Some of us have a lifelong background in one of the three disciplines of triathlon (swim, bike, run)  and just needed a couple more sports to add to one athletic event.  Maybe some of us wanted to find a way to be motivated to exercise and stay healthy, or it was just something fun to do with friends.  There may even be those of us who got tired of watching our loved ones at every triathlon event and decided being a participant would be more fun and even less exhausting than tracking and running around the race course in hopes of spotting their athlete for two seconds.

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Running is where my triathlon journey is rooted. I LOVED racing and pushing my limits, especially in the half-marathon. This is from the Deseret News Half Marathon in 2014 where I placed 3rd.

Whatever the reason, we were all beginners at one point, and even if you’re years into the sport, there is always more to learn.  It is a constant learning experience as we try to develop ourselves as athletes, not to mention keeping up with the ever changing world of gear and technology the sport has to offer!

I have been asked more than once what advice I would have for someone just starting in triathlon, so I thought I would share those thoughts here.  These things aren’t in order of importance and come from the experience I had before I was a full blown triathlete, as well as the experiences I have had in the recent past.  Everyone is going to have different advice and opinions on this – so by no means is this an exclusive list of what to know.  If you’re a beginner, be sure to consult all of your triathlete friends :).

  1. Don’t underestimate the swim.

When I tell people I’m a triathlete, many people go into how they would love to do a triathlon… “BUT THE SWIM.”  So what about the swim? Don’t know how to swim? Terrified of water? Can’t get your breathing figured out? There are a lot of reasons for “but the swim,” and that’s why I say not to underestimate it.  It turns out that the swim is, in fact, part of a triathlon and the time it takes you to get through the swim and out of the water does count in your race time (I’m still accepting this fact myself :)), and the better you feel and perform on the swim, the better the entire race will go.  

It’s worth your while to get in the pool regularly – at least 2 to 3 times a week if possible (pools open early so set that alarm!). If you don’t know how to swim well, it would also be worth your while to get some instruction on how to swim.  Of course I would recommend a triathlon or swim coach (I know a few great coaches here), but I’m sure even some solid YouTube videos would be better than going out and winging it.  If you really want to be brave, go jump in a master’s swim class and get comfortable with swimming around other people.  

All swim ready as a newbie! I'm sure I swam at least a few times before this race :).
All swim ready as a newbie! I’m sure I swam at least a few times before this race :).

Don’t dread the swim or plan on just “surviving” the swim – embrace the swim, because it’s not going anywhere in triathlon!  The more you swim, the better you will get at swimming, and hopefully the more you will enjoy it.  

  1. Do some brick workouts.

Brick workouts have nothing to do with what your house is built out of, and everything to do with getting your body used to combining three sports into one event.  A brick workout is doing one workout right after the other.  Most common seems to be doing a run right after a bike ride because we want our legs to be used to running after using them so much on the bike.  I’m not sure I ever did a single brick workout before I got a coach, or at least if I did, it wasn’t intentional.  Now I am running off the bike regularly to make sure my body knows how to handle the transition and change in muscles.  If your schedule is limited, I would at least recommend doing a short transition run off the bike – even 10 to 20 minutes at an easy pace will give you an idea of how your body will feel.  This will also help you recognize any aches and pains that your bike may be causing you, which leads to me to my next point…

  1. Get a bike that fits you, and then get your bike fit to your body.

Bikes are one of the biggest expenses in triathlon. You can spend anywhere from hundreds to thousands, but more important than what you spend is how your bike fits.  A $10,000 bike that doesn’t fit you is still going to ruin your race (especially if you’re doing half or full ironmans!), so if you are planning on taking triathlon seriously and especially if you’re digging into longer distances, make the investment of getting your bike fit to your body.

Getting serious on my first road bike during one of my first local triathlons in 2010.
Getting serious on my first road bike during one of my first local triathlons in 2010.

I didn’t buy a triathlon specific bike or get it fitted to me until I got with a coach (triathlon bikes are more aero, have a different geometry, use different muscles, etc).  I always got by on a road bike that was fitted to me at the bike shop I bought the bike from, and that seemed to do the trick well enough. With that said, I can’t tell you how much better my biking and running experience has been since I got a triathlon bike and then got it fitted to me.  I remember one of my first workouts with my team and with my new bike (before I had time to get it fitted), a few of us did a longer ride and then did an hour run right after.  My lower back was KILLING me during the run, and I kept having to stop to stretch it out.  I was with one of my coaches, and I told him I don’t usually have lower back issues running.  He told me I needed to get with our bike fit guy as soon as possible because my pain was likely due to my bike fit.  I got my bike fit and now running off the bike feels like a dream.

Point is, road bike or triathlon bike, if you want to do your best, get your bike fitted to you. If you’re just testing the triathlon thing out, maybe give one shorter race a go and see how you feel.  If you decide triathlon or even just cycling is your new found passion, get serious about the bike fit.  I get my bike fit here, if you need a guy :).

  1. Make a plan and stick to it.

Hiring a coach is the easiest way to do this one – puts the planning and the science in the hands of someone else and you just have to stick to the plan.  For many people, a coach is more commitment than they’re ready for, or a coach just isn’t in the budget.  It took me years until I talked myself into getting a coach.  

If a coach is out of the picture, you can still make a plan!  I’m not one who is into researching workouts or reading about threshold and recycling lactic acid, and it wasn’t until I was doing my second half-ironman that I even remotely drew up a training plan.  A training plan doesn’t have to be complex, especially if you’re just looking to “finish” a triathlon.  My plan was honestly as simple as planning to swim, bike, or run, and which day/time of day I would do it. So start with scheduling out the days you will swim, bike, or run, and when you will do them, and then make it happen!  When triathlon isn’t your full focus, workouts will likely be missed or negotiated because of work, family, etc., but try your best to get them in.  Just don’t forget those brick workouts :).

  1. Get involved with a training group or friends who swim, bike, or run.

Being friends with people who were into triathlon is how I got into the sport, and now being part of a training group is how I’m getting better and enjoying each day.  Whether it’s a triathlon club, swim group, running club, cycling group, ANYTHING, being around people who are doing what you are doing will help you feel motivated and will likely teach you a few things.  

Here with some BYU Tri Club originals - this was after winning a 24 hour relay running race. Our 6 person team beat all the 12 person teams! These guys were my first triathlon friends.
Here with some BYU Tri Club originals – this was after winning a 24 hour relay running race. Our 6 person team beat all the 12 person teams! These guys were my first triathlon friends.

Joining new groups can be intimidating when you feel like you are completely inadequate (the reason I was always too scared to go swim with the master’s swim group), but from my experience, most people are friendly and are willing to help and give advice :).  I’ve never been to a workout of any kind with any group of people where we didn’t talk about our experiences in the sport, what we learned in our last race, the latest gear we have our eye on, or what we are trying to improve on.  You will get all the opinions you could ever ask for on every topic imaginable, but it’s better than sitting at home just trying to figure things out on your own. What might seem like going out of your comfort zone will quickly turn into your new comfort zone.  

Triathlon is a wonderful sport and I hope that if you are just getting into it, that you will love it as much as I do!  If you’re not a beginner anymore, what would you tell your beginner self?  

Questions and comments welcomed!