Browsed by
Tag: race recap

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!

001-5
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.

001-3
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.

001-1
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).

001-2
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.

 

file_000-4
Matt walking my bike out <3. WE did it!
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 :)).

cdabike

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 :).

IMG_1191.JPG

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!
The Rainiest Race of My Life (So Far) – St. George 70.3 Recap

The Rainiest Race of My Life (So Far) – St. George 70.3 Recap

St. George 70.3 North American Pro Championship was a race that will be remembered uniquely (and differently) by each racer who started it. I say “started” because many athletes unfortunately did not finish (DNF). It’s been hardly a week and I’m learning just how diverse the outcomes really were: for some this was a terrifying race, for most it was a crazy weather experience, for too many it was a DNF, for a few it was their first ever 70.3, and yet for others it was just another day of racing.  The differentiator of this race turned out to be the crazy weather – an unusually frigid and torrential St. George Spring day determined so much about individuals’ results. Hats off to everyone who still lined up to start the race and gave it their best, finish or not.  Also, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who braved the weather with us!

St. George 70.3 was my second race as a pro.  The competition was stacked, and I found myself up against many of the top long course triathletes from around the world.  For this race, I tried alleviating my nerves and anxiety by not putting too much pressure on myself. I tried to just go out there and give my best, accepting what comes of it.  But my desire to perform well worked in spite of that, and I did feel some nerves going into St. George. I knew I did not want to settle for a “newbie pro, middle of the pack” attitude. I’m not here to be that athlete.

Race morning came routinely as it always does.  I got to transition, got all set-up, enjoyed the “pro only” porta potties, got a warm up run in, then went down to the water.  The weather seemed pretty nice so far, and I felt 100% optimistic that the weather would be perfect all morning.  My weather app even said so.

The water felt great and seemed decently calm for a good swim.  The cannon went off and released our wave’s sprint off the start line.  I pushed hard, heart beating plenty fast, and I focused on on feet or at least close to them.  I succeeded at my goal until the first turn buoy, when the water transformed into a choppy mess.  At that point, I found myself mostly alone on the swim, except for one athlete who swam slightly ahead of me for the remainder of the swim.  While alone, I used each buoys as a personal check to see if I was pushing hard enough. I got out of the water and noted my time of around 31 minutes.  Disappointment immediately struck because I knew I am faster, but also acknowledged that the choppy water didn’t help. I so badly want my open water swims to reflect the swims I am capable of in the pool; I’m working on figuring that out. In transition I worked to get over my disappointment and focus on what laid ahead.

Running out of T1.
Running out of T1.

I jumped on my bike and within the first 5 miles I passed a few girls, but kept pushing as hard as I could knowing there were even more ahead.  My coach Wes and my family would be on the bike course around mile 27, so I looked forward to seeing them.  Weather was not an issue at this point.  Sure, it wasn’t bright, sunny, and happy outside, but Mother Nature certainly wasn’t freezing my extremities or otherwise dumping rain.

Rolling past my family and coach.

At mile 27 I saw my family, coach, and of course, my dog.  My coach told me that there was a whole pack of girls just a few minutes up, and instructed me to go get them.  Everyone else cheered.  The only “person” I actually acknowledged was my dog :).  Apparently it’s hard to get attention from me during a race unless you’re an adorable, furry, four-legged variety named Winston.

My mother-in-law bought Winston the "Ironman Training Buddy" bandana. LOVE it.
My mother-in-law bought Winston the “Ironman Training Buddy” bandana. LOVE it.

I nearly cried seeing my family.  I don’t know if these emotions were induced by the importance of my family’s support, or if the grueling reality of the race hit me hard.  Either way, I then thought about how badly I wanted to be doing what I was doing at that very moment.  I thought of how hard I had worked to be there; of the things I had changed and given up in my life in order to be racing pro, and how I was out there trying to earn a name for myself in triathlon where many of the women racing already had done just that.  In that moment, my mental game changed.  I felt an added amount of motivation and desire to actually GO catch the other women.  Don’t get me wrong – I was pushing hard and trying to catch anyone I could, but I the reality check of WHY I was out there took me to the next level.  As I write, it sounds so common sense; but putting yourself through so much physical and mental strain doesn’t always lead to common sense mental practices (just ask my husband).

Later in the bike, the complete DOWNPOUR of rain began.  The rain itself didn’t really bother me, and I didn’t seem to lose too much speed or power due to it, other then taking corners a little more gingerly.  Once I got into Snow Canyon, the rain petered out for a bit.  I rode aero as long as possible through Snow Canyon and was able to pass another female pro.  I took the descent into St. George as aggressively and safely as possible in the rain, and arrived in T2 before I knew it.

And then the rain actually got to me.  Once off the bike, I realized just how frozen my hands and feet had become.  Getting my run shoes and socks on turned out to be a relatively slow and painful process, but I got the job done and went out on the run.

Up we go to start the run!
Up we go to start the run!

I felt great starting the run!  I generally always feel great starting :).  I passed another female within the first mile or so, and my coach was there to let me know she was 11th place.  I felt confident I would be able to hold 11th, but could I pass another? Would anyone else catch me?  I took the first few miles quite conservatively as they were all uphill.  During this time I saw another female pro who had obviously decided to drop out of the race. I was sitting at 10th place and I knew it.  Again I nearly cried  at the thought of  a 10th place finish. (I promise I don’t just cry all the time. I put A LOT into this sport, so it means A LOT to me emotionally).

I felt good throughout the  run.  I dismissed pains in my legs and pushed on the uphills and even harder on the downhills. Before the race, I decided with my coach to walk the aid stations to make sure I got proper calories and water, and to help the legs through the run.  I quickly walked probably 9 of them, and I think that paid off.

With about 4 miles left in the run, there were a couple females who seemed to be fairly close behind me (closer than any other part of the run). Ninth was out of reach; but I would not be losing my 10th place, so I upped my intensity and kept shoulder-checking.  Whoever it was, I pulled ahead and they disappeared.  I cannot express how happy I was to crest the FINAL climb on that run.  Despite feeling great the whole run, running up steep hills is never easy. Being on the homestretch and cruising to the finish line filled me with gratitude.

A beautiful race face :), but visibly happy to be on the downhill!
A beautiful race face :), but visibly happy to be on the downhill!

I finished the race in 10th and was THRILLED!  My coach excitedly greeted me at the finish .  My husband Matt ran over and gave me a hug and HE started crying, so then I really had no choice!  We’re just a bunch of bawl babies over here.  But really, we both invest so much into this crazy dream of mine, so to see success unfold just calls for a good cry sesh, am I right? 🙂

After all was said and done, I finished well and got on my first pro podium (Top 10 at a regional championship means money and podium).  St. George was the confidence booster I needed to get my head where it needs to be.  It’s been a mental shift for me to accept that I actually can become a successful professional triathlete (I always believed I could be, but REALLY accepting it and realizing it is another story).  Having a good day in St. George has helped me believe not just that I CAN be successful, but that I AM successful. I just have to keep working hard and believing :).  Every race is another opportunity to push limits and learn!

Amazing group of ladies I was honored to be in the top 10 with!
Amazing group of ladies I was honored to be in the top 10 with!