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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!
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!

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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!