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!
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!!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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 :).
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 :).
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 :).
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.
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!
Trading in My Heels and Make-up for Chlorine and Carbs
Some of you reading this may know my story of getting serious about triathlon, but I thought it would be worth sharing the FULL story according to me. Sit back and relax – this is a long one :).
In order to capture my full journey to where I am today, I’ll need to back up about 10 years – that puts me at graduating high school and starting university. I had run track and cross-country in high school and ran a marathon when I was 16, so I came out of high school with running as one of my biggest hobbies and passions. I knew how to swim from swim lessons as a child, and I always rode a bike as a kid, so the basics of triathlon were there. I even wrote a paper in high school called “Trying a Tri,” so the triathlon flame had been lit!
I care deeply about being my best at anything I do, and that was reflected in my academics. Despite graduating high school with a nearly perfect GPA, I still did not qualify for any sort of default scholarship at the school I wanted to attend the most – Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. My parents could not afford to pay for all of my schooling, and they were very clear with me that I would have to figure out a way to pay for all of my schooling and other expenses once I started graduated high school. I remember my mom telling me about some of our family members who had worked really hard and paid their way through school, and at a school like BYU, I would be able to do the same if I wanted to.
After talking with my mom, I decided on my own that I was going to work my way through school and do whatever it would take to not take on any debt. I have always enjoyed working hard and earning money, and have had a job since I was 15 years old, so it wasn’t too difficult of a transition for me.
Working two part-time jobs through school, I was accepted into one of the most competitive programs at BYU – the accounting program, with the infamous “Junior Core” that consumed any student who walked into it. Students were encouraged not to work, and to focus strictly on school, so I cut back my hours slightly at work, but still supported myself and worked throughout the program. If accepted into the master’s program after the Junior Core, students would receive undergraduate and graduate degrees with only one additional year of schooling and graduate tuition, making the whole experience five years. I did well enough to be accepted into the master’s program and chose to focus that year on tax accounting.
Graduating 100% debt free with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree is an accomplishment I am proud of and it is something that has allowed me to do what I am doing now. The self-respect, responsibility, and time-management skills I gained during the process are part of what makes me who I am today, and I would not trade that experience for anything.
During my time at university, I became more and more passionate about running, and more concerned with getting faster. Triathlon really entered my life when a good friend became involved with the BYU triathlon club and encouraged me to get involved. In the Fall of 2009 I participated in my first reverse super-sprint triathlon wearing an old swim suit, cotton shorts, and using all borrowed bike gear. I think I made the top 5 or so, which was better than I was expecting. I loved the fun of triathlon and combining the swim, bike, and run, but there was just one problem – I didn’t have a bike, and while paying for all my own schooling, I wasn’t too keen on dropping a chunk of cash on a bike just yet.
All my hard work in school and in the accounting program at BYU started paying off (literally) when I got an internship with Ernst & Young (EY) in Salt Lake City. I interned there from January-April of 2010, and got paid “real” money. Once my internship was over, I went back to my budget spreadsheet and made some calculations to see if I could afford a bike AND pay my last year of graduate tuition. The spreadsheet never lies, so after seeing that the numbers would work, I went immediately to a local triathlon store and spent the afternoon (seriously, HOURS) there getting everything I would need for triathlon. Wetsuit, helmet, bike shoes, road bike, tri shorts, the WORKS. Walking out of the bike shop, I felt so excited about all the biking and triathlon I would now be able to freely do. I participated in 2-3 local triathlons a year from that time on, and I was always able to do pretty well considering my level of experience and no coaching whatsoever. I would swim just enough to know I would be able to finish the swim, and went heavy on all my cycling and running.
Cycling became one of my favorite things to do, along with running. There weren’t any girls who I knew at the time who could ride hard enough for my liking, so I found several guys who would invite me to ride along. Being the competitive person that I am, I would try my hardest to beat as many of them to the top of whatever canyon we were climbing that day. It guaranteed a good workout, and I loved every ride. Climbing the canyons in Utah quickly became my sanctuary – I love the feeling of being away from things and covering so much ground with my own physical power, not to mention the gorgeous scenery Utah offers in the mountains.
In April 2011, I graduated from BYU and moved up to Salt Lake City, to start my full-time career with EY. I found a house that was in an ideal location for cycling and running and was just a 10-15 minute commute to my office. I lived there with roommates for almost five years, and wouldn’t move until I got married at the end of 2015. The house was perfect for me.
After working hard to get through school, I was thrilled to be making money and NOT paying tuition. Working full-time was a nice change, but it was also extremely exhausting during the first nine months as I was also studying for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams (four grueling exams requiring a score of 75 to pass, each requiring 60-100+ hours of studying). My life consisted almost exclusively of running, working, studying, maybe a swim or bike ride, and then more studying until I fell asleep drooling all over my text book. Then repeat. That’s all I did until all my exams were passed. My social life was non-existent, but I always had my running and exercise. Running, biking, swimming, and strength training saved my emotional well-being.
Over the course of the next four years, my life settled into running 7 or 8 miles in the morning, working all day, and then maybe a swim or 1-2 hour bike ride in the evening. Saturdays I usually tried to run at least 10 miles or go on a longer bike ride, or both. When I say I would “swim” I mean once or twice a week and it was about 2000 yards of some workout I made up in my head. Usually a 500 yard warm up, and then 10×100 or 5×200 – the main set rarely breached 1000 yards. I wasn’t usually focused on training for a specific triathlon, but I liked swimming, and in the winter it was another form of exercise I could do inside. Thinking about it now, I realize I just exercised my way through my desk job. My main competition during those years were the other women (and of course my guy friends) on STRAVA, and the women I lined up to race half-marathons with. Cycling and running were my main focus and I got stronger each year.
Towards the end of 2014, I realized how dissatisfied I was with my work life. Life was generally good; I was dating Matt (now my husband), I had great friends and relationships, I was financially very comfortable, I was getting faster on my bike and in running, but I still did not feel like I was reaching my overall potential. While I was a high achiever at work and felt satisfaction with that, sitting at a desk and working hard for an upper level manager ahead of me in the ranks wasn’t bringing me true joy. I felt a deep sense that there were strengths within me that were not being utilized, and it was killing me mentally and emotionally. I felt as though my job was sucking the life out of me. Several months passed by and left me feeling less than jazzed about work, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was sitting there with a master’s degree in tax accounting, 4 years of experience in public accounting, and a CPA license – certainly I couldn’t just throw all of that away, but I didn’t think changing to another tax job was going to be the fix.
The idea had popped into my head more than once in the years prior that I should get a triathlon coach. I felt like a coach would really help me perform better, especially on the swim (little did I know JUST how much a coach would help me with everything). I would watch the live stream and NBC special of the Ironman World Championship in Kona every year, and every year I had the thought that I wanted to do that, and an even deeper part of me thought I COULD do that if given the opportunity. I would also follow the top pros in the sport and would think to myself, “if they’re living their dream and doing what they love, why can’t I?”
While feeling completely lackluster about my accounting job, the thought that I should chase a dream of being a professional triathlete popped into my head (again), and it eventually became my most appealing alternative.
True to my risk-averse accountant-like nature, I was afraid of throwing away what I had worked so hard for, and was afraid of walking towards the unknown, especially the financial unknown. Going “all-in” with triathlon meant paying for a coach, buying more gear, paying for travel, paying for more races, and on top of the added expenses, I would have to cut my paycheck in half because I couldn’t do the amount of training I would want and need to, and work full-time at EY. It all seemed a little crazy, but I decided it was going to be my best shot at feeling completely satisfied with my life.
February 2015 was when I made my decision. I decided the financial consequences of going part-time were worth it, and because I had worked so hard and had no debt, I was able to securely make the change without too much immediate risk. I first told Matt and he was completely supportive, even without fully understanding exactly what it all would mean for him and for our future. The next week I walked into my boss’s office and asked to talk. The first thing he said to me was, “you’re not quitting, are you?” I responded with, “not exactly.” I told him my feelings about working at EY and explained how I felt like I had a passion in triathlon I needed to pursue, and asked if I could go on a part-time and mostly work-from-home Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA). My boss was always hugely supportive of my running and anything I wanted out of my career at EY, and he was extremely supportive of me going on an FWA in order to chase my dream. He told me he could tell I wasn’t as happy at work as I once was, and he wanted me to be happy. He’s one of the best bosses I have ever had.
My next step was finding a coach. I really didn’t know very many people in the triathlon community, but luckily for me, I had met a wonderful gal named Jen Johnson in Washington D.C. about one year before. We were both in D.C. participating in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, and we randomly met while out shopping the day before the race. I was staying with a good friend from BYU with whom Jen went to high school, so when we ran into each other,Jen was introduced as someone who “ran a triathlon training and coaching business with her husband.” I was immediately intrigued and thought “I seriously should just get a triathlon coach” followed by the thought “no, I shouldn’t spend money on that.” We became Facebook friends after that, so I spent the next year seeing random posts about her “triathlon coaching business she ran with her husband.”
Having Jen be the only triathlon coach I had ever met, I reached out to her on Facebook. We talked on the phone the next night for an hour (probably mostly me venting about my life), and that’s when I was first REALLY introduced to Balanced Art Multisport (BAM). I told her I was ready to go part-time at work and was ready to dedicate a lot of time to triathlon. I was somewhat hesitant to come right out and say I thought I could get my pro card, but I think the message was clear that I was making big life changes and wanted to see some great results.
I started with Wes Johnson (Jen’s husband and owner of BAM) as my coach on April 1, 2015, and went officially part-time at work on May 1, 2015. I had an amazing year with Wes as my coach in 2015 and was able to qualify for my pro card by the end of 2015 (see my results here). The journey has been one of excitement, learning, and adjusting to the different challenges of heavy training and pushing mental and physical limits, but I find far greater joy in what I’m doing now than I did as a full-time CPA. I have since left EY and now work even more part-time for a small, local accounting firm, but I feel deep gratitude for the opportunities and experiences I had at EY, for the relationships I built along the way, and for the flexibility they allowed me to have as I first leaped into the world of triathlon.