The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A few weeks ago, on my mid-week ride leading up to Challenge Knoxville, I was riding home after a great 40-mile ride when a kid flagged me down. He was probably no older than seventeen or eighteen and walking along the highway I was riding. He asked if he could borrow my phone since his truck had broken down and was walking home. I pulled over, watched a bit anxiously as he dialed a friend and asked for a lift. “Hey, good luck,” I told him as I started to push off. He shouted after me. “Oh don’t you worry! I don’t need no luck—things always work out for me!”

I laughed and pedaled away.

I kind of understood. The past few years, things always seemed to fall into place. I went into races under-trained or feeling junky and then always pulled off a solid race. I’d tell a fellow racing friend that I was worried going into a race and she’d reply “oh, you always say that and then you always do great.” And oddly enough I would. I spent the weeks leading up to Coeur d’Alene last year driving across the South numerous times (ATX > NOLA > ATX > NOLA > NC > NOLA > ATX) and skipping training sessions as I said goodbye to my grandmother and yet pulled off a great race. Training was hit or miss going into Kona 2014 after wrecking myself at Norseman weeks earlier—and yet somehow I did okay. Luck has always tended to be on my side.

10426278_10204181752603421_3452646572227573600_n

Not more than 10 minutes after leaving the kid walking on the side of the road, I was still pedaling home and an old pick-up truck came roaring down the hill after me. The skinny kid from earlier leaned out the rear window and yelled at me, “I tollllld you I had luck!!!” I gave him a fist pump in return and laughed, shaking my head.

Well folks, it seems like my good luck has passed. The past few months have been somewhat of a rollercoaster, between awesome running PRs—both distance and time—to start the year, followed by some stagnant training and then a sucker-punch as I was knocked down for three weeks from the worst round of flu/fevers/chills I've ever experienced.

Each day as I get further away from my two sub-par races at New Orleans 70.3 and Challenge Knoxville, I seem less and less interested in providing any recap of either race. BUT—something we don't always see day-to-day is the sheer amount of hard work and struggle and set-backs that go into any success. I know I'm guilty of this at times with Insta and Facebook, showing happy cycling photos or picture perfect sunsets from my favorite loops, consciously choosing to not show the photo where I'm really sitting on a curb, throwing myself a pity party as I eat a half-melted Snickers bar.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.48.12 PM

This filtered life seems to be a very common theme in the self-indulgent world of triathlon. Lots of smiley faces and fist-pumps, lots of "BOOM! hit my watts" posts, lots of high-fiving and navel-gazing and back-patting. In contrast, there have been a few posts lately that challenge this trend, that I've honestly found very refreshing.

World Champion Pete Jacobs on "Why I Struggle". Elizabeth Rich on "I Quit". Reading a throwback post by Beth Gerdes on tackling St. George two years ago, before she knew how much she'd be crushing her competition only two years and a baby later.

I look to this specific quote by Beth as inspiration:

When a wheel is "out of true" and you try to ride your bike, the wheel wobbles from side to side, usually rubbing the brakes and slowing you down. In order to fix it, you need someone with some knowledge- a bike mechanic or such, to spend some time "truing" the wheel to get it back into alignment. The whole bike is not broken, you just need to take some TLC and careful adjustments to fix it.

My race at St. George 70.3 is reminding me that my life is a little "out of true" right now. My alignment is off. I know this. And so, when I raced on Saturday, and placed 24th, I was still happy to get out there and compete with the very best in the world and place in the top 25. Was it a top 10 finish in a stacked field? No. Was it indicative of the fitness I've had before in triathlon or my fitness in the future? No. Was it a good current "state of the union" address of my current fitness? YES. And for that, I can walk away from the race content to have given my best on that day, and ready to move forward.

The reality is inspiring. I'm ready to move forward too.

The struggle to keep things light and shiny continues to be tempting but after the story of Madison Holleran hit a little too close to home (she was also a Penn athlete, someone who struggled with [self-imposed] expectations regarding performance, both in athletics and the classroom), I thought it was time to share a bit of the #lifeunfiltered as well. This might be helpful for anyone struggling through a plateau, much like myself.

Bottom line is even before getting deathly sick, I was struggling with training. Among work priorities and life's distractions, it just wasn't fun. I lost my ability to totally smash myself, maybe as a result of trying to do just that on too frequent of a basis. I was digging myself into a hole, always tired—and from not that much activity. I resented training for taking up too much of my time and for not giving me the joy that it used to bring. I had to keep reminding myself that I'm still relatively new to triathlon, with only four seasons total under my belt and only two at the Ironman distance, and that despite my elite card, this is a HOBBY at the end of the day—albeit a super intense one. Bottom line, I knew something had to change and it was just going to require taking a deep breath and stepping off of that cliff from the familiar into the uncertain. For me, the "uncertain" meant a shift in training back to the basics.

Now, less than a few weeks into a slightly different routine, already I feel myself on the upswing, physically and emotionally. I may not be doing monster sets on the track or teetering the edge of accidentally making myself black-out on the treadmill but I'm running slower and longer and then the "slow" is getting faster and day by day I'm finding myself feeling a bit more like my old self, loving every moment—both in racing and the training.  Yeah, maybe it's actually more boring—but I feel better and oddly enough the peaks and valleys are slowly getting smoothed out as I find consistency.

This all gives me some hope. Maybe in two years, I too can link back to this after making the podium in a top regional race and laugh at how far I've come.

10313688_10201897088488246_3403118305846504139_n

So here it is, a quick and dirty of the last few months, that I'll be sharing across my next few posts (links to be added across next day or two):

The Good: Early Season Racing & Awesome Sponsors

The Bad: New Orleans 70.3

The Ugly: Challenge Knoxville

Here's a Toast to what was an EPIC 2014!

There is no way to describe 2014 other than “NON-STOP!” In all, 2014 involved...

  • moving to five different houses/apartments,
  • racing four Ironmans,
  • winning two overall Ironman amateur titles,
  • finishing second at the toughest triathlon in the world,
  • placing # sixteen in my very first professional race,
  • moving 1200 miles half-way across the country,
  • taking on three different jobs at my company and
  • adopting one precious and precocious black lab mix.

While it was still a whirlwind stop that took all of December (and finally staying in one place for more than 2 weeks at a time) to recover from, I can't say I regret a moment of it!

If you couldn’t tell, my blog has been quieter this past year than most and this entire post kind of captures why! 

January

Ran the 3M Marathon to set a new 13.1 PR in 1:31! And re-stocked all of my office supplies for the new year while at it. Everything else was enjoying my first full and only mild Austin winter (well, aside from that one time it baby-snowed).

January
January

February

Adopted my lovely Lucy on Valentine’s Day and couldn't stop raving about her for the next few months (oh, wait... I still am). Ran my 4th half-marathon with a slightly sub-par race at the Austin half-marathon but a good way to celebrate my one-year anniversary of getting hit by a car. Then closed out the rest of the month by driving clear across ALLLL of big ol' Texas with Dawn to join the rest of Team HPB at Smash Camp in Tucson, Arizona. From 110x100 yard swims (helloooo, lightning) to the most epic summit of Mt Lemmon ever (ft. snow at the top and getting stranded at the cookie cabin) to train runs through the desert and just awesome biking all around, it was the best of best #smashfests.

February
February

March

Just one week after returning back home from SmashFest, I entered a local Texas duathlon on two days notice and won overall female—the prize was a bag of walnuts! By the end of month it was already feeling like summer—with a Friday post-work ride finishing at Sonic for a little fruit slush ending! (one of the big things I miss about Austin—warmer weather!) Lucy and I became dog park regulars and she learned how to swim with the biggest of labs. And then it turned into gorgeous bluebonnet season, my rides featuring seas of blue.

March
March

April

April was good to me! Most of all—I was first overall amateur at New Orleans 70.3! The perks of a hometown race included pre-race bike rides with the #OCDSherpa and post-race beignets. But before that, I kicked off the half-ironman season early Tri Tyler Half Ironman, doing half-decent on one of the hardest courses I had done up to that point! (IMCDA and Norseman would soon change that, however). Oh yeah, despite a slow start, Lucy also graduated from Puppy School :)

April
April

May

Ended up spending most of my May shuttling between New Orleans, Asheville and Austin. Two weeks of Asheville hill training sandwiched the Rev3 Knoxville AG Championships where I ended up 3rd overall in their funky hybrid Olympic/Half distance, second to HPB teammate and fellow baby pro Leslie! There was also a pre-Knox moment of panic where I couldn't find my bib but got a little creative with things... Sadly there was never a race report about Knox since all of May was pretty hectic and depressing as it was spent saying goodbye to my grandmother. On the brighter side, both Lucy and I fell in love with Asheville and decided to make it our mission to move there as soon as possible. I rode every hill I could find, including a trip or two up Mt Mitchell and soaked up the Asheville love and wilderness until it was time to head back to beyond bearably-hot Austin.

May
May

June

June was ALL about Coeur d'Alene, where I won my FIRST AMATEUR IRONMAN TITLE! Of course, this also meant a podium with teammate Laura and sealed the deal for a return ticket to Kona World Championships! Of course, I was ecstatic! But I went into this skeptical after a few weeks of sub-par training. Lots of driving, lots of tortured training in the Austin heat (but, oh, the sunflowers!) and lots of distractions—including a new family member (welcome nephew Lex!) and a family reunion in New Orleans, that featured a trainer ride in a stuffy hotel room while all my cousins were out partying in the french quarter and a few 5am runs down (still-beer-drenched) Bourbon Street and along my favorite streetcar tracks.

June
June

July

Less than 20-hours after winning Ironman Coeur d'Alene I had to forget about that high since I was back in Austin and frantically packing and painting my apartment—my move to Asheville was OFFICIAL! Lucy and I drove a stuffed car 1200 to then settle into our temporary new home, a cabin in the woods with amazing views. I had less than 4 weeks to officially prep for Norseman and crammed accordingly. No lie, thistrainingwasbeyondtough. My new whip, a BLUE Triad (aka #bluecrusch) arrived and I got to set breaking her in. From there, it was off to Norway, the land of fjords, ferries, trolls, historic sea towns and churches and battle sites, beautiful views and overpriced, well, EVERYTHING! But I was here and my dream was coming true... it was time to conquer Norseman!

July
July

August

In the race and experience of a life-time, I finished second at Norseman. Beyond that, I slowly got back into training and life was nothing but puppies and gorgeous sunsets.

AUgust
AUgust

September

To be honest, all of September I was in a bit of a funk. Looking back, I barely remembering it because it was a mix of kind of quiet and kind of hectic and juggling work and training and some other oddities. I moved into a cute little house, then quickly  moved out for safety purposes/it was falling apart. Training was all about Kona: in prep I rode with friendsElizabeth and Jared and Corey and Meghan through some killer hills in South Carolina, climbed Mt Mitchell on numerous occasions (if you ever need a fun, long route - let me know!) and got in my solo Birthday swim one weekday morning before work (set if you're interested here).

September
September

October

All about the KONA Ironman World Championships! Leading up to it, I was on local television in a segment for being a "game changer", featured in a SELF Magazine post about the "Top Inspirational Women in the Ironman World Championships" and featured in the local newspaper with Elizabeth! In Kona, we swam the course with all of Team HPB, rode on the queen K and just in general questioned whether it would be feasible to move to Hawaii ;) Race day wasn't what I wanted but raced hard on a tough day and ended the run in an all-out duel with new friend Erin for a well-earned medal and lei—what would I have given to be able to bring the flowers back to the mainland to dry an frame somehow. To think, next time I race IM KONA, it will be in the pro race—just give me a few years, just you wait!! While the legs were still de-puffing post-race, I traveled straight from Kona to San Fran for Dreamforce, where I spoke at one of the sessions on platform adoption. While there, I also got in a few good trolley rides, got to see Bruno Mars in concert and snuck in a run in along one of my favorite routes in the world!

October
October

November

We woke up to nearly six inches of snow on November 1st! Lucy's first snow and a shock to me as well! Along with a few other athletes, we braved the snowy day taking place in a photo shoot with First Bourn, including some of the awesome people I got to meet and ride with a few weeks before when I was introduced to this awesome venture kicking off right here in Asheville! With a quick bounce back from Kona and onto Arizona, I raced my first professional race at Ironman Arizona!

Nov
Nov

December

Much like it was a struggle bouncing back after Norseman, I spent the next few weeks after IMAZ slowly easing into things. Lucy and I used the down-time to finally make our new home cozy, both inside and out. There was the epic proposal ride where I was the secret photog for Duran and Laura and some hilarious puppy sitting that followed. I started the project of trying to become a serioustrailrunneremphasis on "trying". :) And to cap off all of amazing 2015 in a poetically fitting way (with a full post to surely follow shortly), I headed down to Atlanta for New Year's Eve and swam FIFTEEN KILOMETERS with the Dynamo Masters Crew. Nothing short of epic.

Dec
Dec

What's Next?

Who knows, but I'm excited to create it! Oh, yeah, and I ended up featured in 220 Triathlon's yearly calendar insert for their magazine—check out August! :)

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 6.37.43 PM
Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 6.37.43 PM

Life Lately: Country Roads

One little overlooked fact in the few posts I shared between New Orleans this April to Norseman earlier this month (August - whoah, where does the time go?!) is that I moved to Asheville, North Carolina! As much as I loved Austin, Asheville is the one place I have been dying to live almost my entire life. When the opportunity to become a remote employee for my company popped up, I took it and ran! In May, some time around the Rev3 Knoxville race that I never got around to blogging about, I spent a few weeks living in New Orleans (saying goodbye to my grandmother) and then was camped out in Asheville to train, race and confirm how much I wanted to move here. While it was fun being a temporary nomad, it was even better when I could make the move official. In the few days after Coeur d'Alene, I packed up my entire Austin apartment and headed for the hills: two days, a U-Haul and 18-hours of driving later, I was back in NC! Granted, that might not have been the best move with only 33-days between CDA and Norseman but I figured that in the last few weeks of ramping up to Norseman, it wouldn't hurt to have the hilly terrain on hand for training purposes.

So my silence over the past few months has mostly been a reflection of the fact that between switching jobs at work, moving nearly 2000 miles and then some pretty massive training in prep for Norseman, most of my free time has been spent on the couch in a daze, probably scrolling mindlessly through twitter. And sharing pictures - twitter, insta and facebook galore! - lots more exciting stuff over on those platforms lately than here, to be honest. I've also been leaking some of the amazing shots coming out of Norseman but hopefully will get them all in one place when I finally get around to that full race recap. :)

But North Carolina!

16698_10202589296433012_238328308263846397_n

I mean, forget the corner office... how can you beat this view? I'm actually moving to town this weekend but it has been fun having my work desk al fresco (yes, even in the rain - the porch is protected), complete with freshly picked wildflowers from the backyard and being able to hop straight off a call or whenever the workday is over, to get to another kind of "work". Can you guess which I prefer? ;)

Asheville also happens to mean rides with friends and in the past few weeks I've been lucky to tag along with Maggs, Lora and Heath for some fun rides in the area.

Plus the whole "working from home" part—haven't touched a blow dryer or make-up in a few weeks, no commute and my wardrobe is exclusively lululemon—is particularly helpful when your "hobby" has the time commitment of a part-time job and the exhaustion levels of someone working an 80hr work week.

And then I get to puppy sit not only Lucy but also the pack: my parents fur-kids Nick and Nora and their recent adoptee Liberty from my brother, plus the neighbor's dog Ricky when he comes over to play. It's a total zoo around here at times... I've had to become really good at putting myself on mute during conference calls to cover up the occasional outburst over food or chasing the deer that sometimes peek out on the edge of the tree line.

BvriTNhIEAEqpwA

I can't say the motivation is entirely back post-Norseman—there may or may not have been a "long" ride this last weekend where I crashed and burned only two hours in and opted for a nap instead—but we're getting there and Kona is looming... last I checked we're at 38 days!

#Lucygram

10014998_10201644909303924_1249740418_n1.jpg

In case you somehow missed it over on Twitter and Instagram, I have a new pal and training partner. 10014998_10201644909303924_1249740418_n

 

Meet Lucy, rescue pup and goofball

1011266_10201468322489364_2145187096_n

We brought her home on Valentine's day, perfect since she's such a sweety.

 

image-14

She tries to help me pack for workouts...

923514_10201689051207444_914080013_n

But usually only ends up making a mess.

10151339_10201715474508010_1481385377_n

She's an aspiring triathlete...

image-10

If only she can get over her fear of the bike.

image-12

Her #velcrodog personality certainly makes working from home a tiny bit tougher

1514965_10201594865972872_699791133_n

But at least she's good about fetching my recovery drinks...

image-11

And keeping me company while foam-rolling or stuck in my Normatecs.

image-13

I can't wait until she's old enough to join me on some of the runs—but in the meantime, we're happy just tearing up the dog park.

image-16

 

Dream Big - 2014

bike.jpg

Accountability. It has taken me a few years to not cringe when hearing the word. You see, back when I played volleyball, our coach had us do an exercise. Everyone had to write down a one-word goal, much like the one-word mantras going around the blogging world right now. We then built a "pyramid" of sorts, where a handful of words made up the base, others made-up the middle section and that word, accountability, sat at the tippy top of the pyramid. Literally, a pyramid of cut-out pieces of paper that was taped to the locker room wall. We'd be sitting in the locker room during half-time and the coach would point to the wall. To "accountability".

That was our team's one word for a season.

But I hated it—because in my mind, accountability didn't matter all that much in the team atmosphere. I felt like no matter how hard some players worked in practice, during weights and during strength and conditioning sessions, hard work didn't necessarily correlate to talent, playing time or to success.

Maybe that's why I like triathlon so much: more work, harder work tends to mean faster times, more success. It's a simpler equation: what you put into it equals what you get out of it, barring the occasional flat tire or bad race day mojo. And even if you don't podium or qualify for Kona because of girls ahead of you, you can still "win" a race—heck, even the person who finishes last can "win", if they're judging performance against themselves. There's no black or white "winner/loser" scenario—which, by the way, makes it a lot easier to be friends with the girls you are racing "against"—it's not like volleyball where you actually celebrate with the opponent misses a serve or shanks a ball. There's not a lot of luck involved. It's just who put in the most work leading up to race day and who executed the smartest race plan.

To this point—of true accountability—I've decided that 2014 is the year I make peace with the word and bring it back into my vocabulary. To hold myself accountable, I'm putting it out there.

As I was scrolling through old Notes on my phone the other day, I came across three things I had written down for myself in January of last year. It was titled "Dream Big - 2013." At the time I wrote these three goals, they felt impossible. I don't think I told anyone that I wanted to accomplish these, let alone accomplish them within the next twelve months. They were my BHAGs.

unnamed

Just one month after writing this crazy goal down, I got hit by a car and broke my collarbone: no running for 8-weeks, no swimming for 12. At one point, I told my coach that I was still going to do the 140.6 I had already committed to - I just was going to make the mental downshift from "competitor" to "finisher" and treat 2013 like a rebuilding year.

Well, at some point between my resignation to focus on "just finishing" and the first race of the year, I found my fire. And somehow by the end of the year, I had ticked off all those BHAGs (and more!) I set out to achieve. I didn't look at this list every day - in fact, I forgot the note on my phone actually existed until going back and scrolling through months later.

However, just having the goals out in the universe seemed to make them all the more likely. It's funny, Greg LeMond did something similar, at the age of seventeen. Putting pen to paper can motivate in strange ways:

lemondgoals

Along those same lines of dream big thinking, I was at a tech conference where I got to see Marissa Meyer (formerly of Google, now CEO of Yahoo) speak. She mentioned a successful college friend of hers and her attitude toward to do lists, She said,

'Look, I just make a to-do list every day in priority order from most important to least important and celebrate the fact that I'd never get to the bottom of it, because if I did, I would have spent a bunch of time doing relatively unimportant things.'

That's part of why it's okay to "Dream Big" - better to map out the possibly unattainable than a bunch of relatively unimportant things. So in the spirit of accountability, putting in the required hours of hard work and dreaming big - fingers crossed for no more near-death experiences (two in a year is enough, thank you) - here are my 3 BHAGs for 2014....ish (maybe leading into first half of 2015):

bike

All three of these are insanely lofty for me but since I accomplished everything last year even with a major set-back, time to set the bar even higher. Yep, there's a bigger possibility of failure but the risk is worth it for the added motivation!