Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Late Update

So it’s been a while and a lot has happened since I last wrote,
Training in Spain, London WTS and Tommy’s seizure are all of note.
After Japan I headed to Spain,
Where I was a little too eager to get back in the game,
After thee weeks off running I tried to come back too fast,
And ended up injuring my Achilles, not learning from the past.

I raced London WTS anyhow, something I do not regret,
I led out of the water in one of my best swims yet.
Scrambling out of my ROKA wetsuit to make the front pack,
Working hard with fellow competitors; rotating through front to back.
Off onto the run, trying to put myself in good position,
Ahead fellow Americans Gwen and Sarah out on a mission.
I wanted so badly to be able to hang with them on the run,
But unfortunately the fact I hadn’t run in a while stung.
I fell back and ended up finishing thirteenth in my best WTS finish yet,
But being able to taste the potential of an all-American podium is something I will not forget.
I finished London knowing if I was injury free,
Up on those steps is where I would be.
I was really happy with my race considering the past few weeks,
But to get back to where I was I needed consistency rather than little peaks.
I was happy but not satisfied and a fire had been set,
To set myself up to reach the goals I hadn’t met yet.

 Later that night when I was enjoying my fish and chips meal,
I found out that Tommy had suffered quite an ordeal.
Upon his finish in Dallas he had two seizures resulting from heat stroke,
And when I found out he was in the hospital my heart completely broke.
 So I headed to Dallas to be by his side,
The flight there being by far the longest plane ride.
Although scary moments; after a few days he was released,
And then it was off to Santa Cruz to recover by the beach.


 We were both taking our time getting back to training,
Me still getting over Achilles issues that were remaining.
It was the perfect place to be and we had some fun,
We got to meet his new nephew for one,
I also celebrated my birthday learning how to surf,
And did some rides on the coastal Santa Cruz turf.

We drove down the coast on Route 1 to pick up my car,
From Cathy Holl who had done a great favor by driving it up so far!
We were surrounded by all the love and support of family and friends,
And in time with that and some rest, both of us were on the mend.



So where we are now? Well we went on quite a long drive,
And after three days of driving finally in Boulder we did arrive!
It’s been great getting back into things and figuring everything out,
I’ll be finishing this season even stronger; I have no doubt.
I learned a lot throughout this trying part of my year,
First being that I am not invincible I fear.
It was a hard truth to swallow but leads me to the rest,
That sometimes taking some time off is going to be best.
 Listening to your body is a very important skill,
And when it says no, well you better just sit still.
When it’s ready you’ll be good to go,
But if you keep pushing, your recovery will be slow.
Currently I’m getting back into things and being smart,
Hoping to race soon with both Coeur-age and heart.
At the moment I'm not quite sure what my next race will be,
But I'll keep you posted when I figure out what path is going to be best for me.
Thank you to all my family, friends and sponsors for your unfathomable support,
I’m excited to be back at training in all three aspects of the sport!



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brains over Brawn

It's not exactly how I imagined my race morning; unconcerned of when exactly I woke up, no need to meticulously go over what I would take down to the course and the timeline I would need to follow for my race day schedule. I wasn't applying my race tattoos or checking to make sure everything on my bike was good to go. Rather, I found myself doing my best to maintain normalcy around the people who would be racing. Hoping to do anything I could to be useful to others on race day. Even if all it was was carrying a spare wheel to the course or returning a wetsuit to the athlete lounge. You see, WTS Yokohama was the first race I've ever sat out due to injury. After crashing in Cape Town the doctor had told me at best it would take 2-3 weeks for my ribs to recover. Well as many athletes in my situation would believe, that doctor must be telling me the recovery time for a "normal" person-- not me. So I had every intention of traveling to Japan and racing.

It turns out I am a bit more human than I'd like to believe. My ribs didn't mend themselves as quickly as I had hoped. It took me until the day before the race, doing the swim course recon, when I realized racing was not going to be a smart idea. Even if I was able to get through the race, what would be the future cost? Sometimes it takes heart and courage to decide not to race and it was a risk I ultimately decided I was not willing to take.

It's funny how many personalities I found myself to have when making this decision. There were two little consciences sitting on my shoulder battling it out. One of them telling me to be tough and fight through; telling me that I could finish and that the pain would be worth it. The other one taking the more rational side reminding me of the physical demands a triathlon would require of me. Also reminding me what toll a race could have with my body not fully repaired or ready. I sought out advice from others, but ultimately I knew I had to make the decision myself. So all leading up to the race I prepared to take my position on the starting line. Then the day before the race clarity hit, and my thoughts were reaffirmed. Racing=mistake. As hard as it was for me to come to that decision I was confident that I had made the right choice.

However, all was not lost in my trip to Japan. Due to the fact I was getting ready to race I got very familiar with the course. I rod the course everyday leading up to the race and even though the stop lights were quite cumbersome I grew to love it (which made choosing to race even harder, because I felt the course suited me). I really liked the swim with its two lap course and dive in right after coming up the ramp. So although this year did not work out, I am already anticipating a return next year and I cannot wait to race at this lovely venue!

 I also got to experience a wonderful culture with great people who follow the rules. There is no jay-walking here and even with a severe lack of trashcans the streets are so clean! There is so much pampering in the bathrooms where the toilets are bidets with heated seats and rushing water sounds to aid in the process. It was pretty cool, though at times challenging to come to a place where English speakers are a rarity and you order your food based on pictures.

Then it was race day where I watched my friends and teammates prep for a race that I should be doing as well. I learned a lot watching the race. It was my first WTS race I'd ever viewed and I got quite a different perspective watching it rather than being in it. Watching it I was able to see how much those precious seconds count; whether it be a gap in the swim, a speedy transition or watching the time between bike packs deteriorate and all of a sudden the race had become a road race. It's fun witnessing true grit take place on the course and seeing how different strategies play out. Seeing some athletes have breakthrough performances while others struggled a bit on the day--every single person leaving it all on the course.

Watching the race was inspiring. It makes me even more motivated to get back out there as soon as my body is ready. As I've been reminded there are plenty more races to come and I can't wait to perform at the level I know I am capable of. Competing not with just a "race to race" attitude, but rather with a "race to win" one. I really can't thank my friends, family and Coeur Sports enough for being there for me as I made this decision and supporting me in my choices. Now onward to the next race where I am so looking forward to embracing the Team Psycho in me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

So you had a bad day...

This past weekend’s race at the Auckland WTS did not go as planned or as hoped. I started out the race with a solid swim which gave me good positioning on the bike. However very early in the bike I found I did not have the legs to get me up the hills of a very challenging course. Throughout the eight laps I continued to get dropped from pack after pack. In addition I got a bit caught up behind a crash (first one not to hit it, so body completely intact), but to be honest I don’t think it really affected me other than just creating another challenge. Towards the end of the ride I thought I was going to get lapped out, meaning I wouldn’t continue on to the run. I got flustered when that didn’t happen and came into transition unprepared to dismount my bike. This is where I made my biggest mistake of the race. In allowing myself to get frazzled I dismounted my bike and unclipped my helmet before racking my bike. The moment I did it I knew it was wrong and that I would be serving a penalty, but off on the run I went.

At this point my legs had nothing, but I have vowed to never let myself quit a race. And so I mustered up all the Coeur I had inside me and I continued on to the run. I was able to pick off a few people ahead of me but my run was far from spectacular. On the second lap I passed the penalty box and saw that my number had been removed from the board. After asking twice if I needed to stop I was told to just continue to the finish. My incorrect assumption was that I was too far back and that my penalty no longer mattered.

Finishing the race I was disappointed in myself. I wasn’t sure what went wrong or why I was unable to perform to my potential. However, after a bit I was able to regroup and get myself to a happier place where I realized not all was lost in the race. I had a solid swim and I finished the race without giving up. It also helped me identify weaknesses and reflect on things I could have done differently to change the outcome. The race didn’t go well, but it was done and it was time to move.

 And then I found out I was disqualified. I was devastated. Turns out that unclipping your helmet when still in possession of your bike is grounds for disqualification. The call could have been contested but only within the first five minutes of my finish and after that there is nothing that can be done. I was now physically and emotionally defeated. To me placing 36th is a lot better than a disqualification.

And then the support came. So much emboldening and consolation from many different people. Coaches of other athletes giving me encouraging words. Athletes who had done spectacularly and should be celebrating their own performances comforting me. New friends from New Plymouth reminding me not to forget accomplishments of the past. Veteran triathletes reminding me that it happens, it sucks but it’s no big deal and to move on. Friends and family from back home sending their love. Messages from my Coeur family being unfathomably supportive and reminding me to keep my head up. And Tommy who was there to listen to me as I talked everything out.

So now after having time to digest everything, I’m still disappointed but I also have learned invaluable lessons. The biggest, is that by not giving up I felt the hurt, I suffered through it and I know I’m a stronger athlete today than I was yesterday because of it. I’m also driven to not let that happen again; to compete as the strong mental and physical athlete I know I am and to not make silly mistakes that can cost me a race. I’m ready to go back to Scottsdale regroup and better myself. Yesterday was no bueno, but it’s now time to learn and move on and get ready for the next one…Capetown WTS!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Plymouth Rhymes

We flew over from Mooloolaba in a small jet,
To a place I most certainly will never forget.
The town of New Plymouth welcomed us with open arms,
A place with a beautiful countryside with bountiful farms.
Then there is Mt. Taranaki that rises from the ground,
And I quite enjoyed being able to listen to that ocean sound.
Team USA was adopted by Devon Intermediate, a local school,
The kids made us banners and flags, and wore USA dresses that were super cool!
Everyone so friendly and welcoming us for the New Plymouth World Cup,
In such an awesome place it was quite easy to get pumped up!
Leading up to the race the wind wand was bending,
But come race day the breeze was ending.
We had the perfect day, and galloped into calm waters,
All our parents following on triathlon.org cheering on their daughters.
Carol Routier led out of the swim like a beast, 
I wasn’t able to hold on to her super fast feet.
So I came out of the water with a group of other girls,
A fast transition, into the air and onto the bike my body hurls.
 
We had a group of thirteen working hard with McIlroy leading the way,
It was a tough course and all I had to do was make sure in the group I stay.
4 laps around and then we were done,
Time to get started onto the 5k run.
 Heading out of transition I just tried to relax,
Making sure to work each hill to my max.
My strategy worked and throughout the race I opened a small gap,
Giving it everything I had on the final lap.
 
It was such a cool feeling crossing the finishing tape,
Thinking of all the things that led to getting first place.
Now onward to the Auckland WTS,
For my final race before heading back to the U.S.
Stay tuned and I’ll be sure to fill you in,
And for all the support, I thank you again!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"I Won't Quit, Cause I Want More"

Do I remember how to do this? What does it feel like to race again? How do I make sure not to get clobbered in a mass swim start? Transitions? Can I still do a flying mount? What does it feel like to hurt on the bike? And then I have to run? What have my competitors been doing? Am I ready?


All these things were running through my head a couple days leading up to my first race of the season, the Mooloolaba World Cup. Typically before competing in my first race of the season I like doing a low key race just to brush off the cobwebs. I was supposed to do a local duathlon in Scottsdale, AZ before I left for Australia but unfortunately it got canceled last minute due to flooding (in the desert). So heading into a “big” race I was more nervous that I had forgotten how to race than nervous for the actual race itself.

Then moments of enlightenment kept popping in and out of my brain. Those Coeur type moments that were more meaningful than all those doubts or insecurities. The moments where I got back my courage and realized in my heart that I was beyond ready. It was the confidence in my training and in what I have achieved in the past. In the pool leading up to the race I had been swimming faster than I ever have in training. In biking we had been well prepared for race situations by doing a ride in Phoenix called the Underground Crit. It was rides like this where I tried to hang with the boys in a group situation
with attacks and turns that made me feel both mentally and physically ready for the race. I also had a solid block of running under my belt where I had not only been having good workouts but also doing a significant amount of volume. Realizing all these things made me believe in myself, masking any uncertainties I had. It didn’t matter what everyone else was doing because I knew I was probably more ready and prepared for racing this season than I ever have been going into a first race.

The race started out exceptionally well with me leading out of the water onto the bike. It was pretty awesome starting in that way. I was told to go hard until the first turnaround on the bike and then see what was going on with the rest of the groups. I first got caught by Sweetland from Canada and Routier from Spain. Then our group continued to get caught by two other groups and pretty soon basically the entire field was together. It was a tough course and racing hard on the bike was a bit of a shock to the system. I came into transition in a good position and was able to get out and onto the run somewhere around 5th. When fellow USAT athlete Gwen Jorgensen came up behind me I decided to get right on her heels. Knowing she’s a dominating runner in triathlon it was a pretty safe bet that if I could hold on to her for long enough I would run my way to a solid finish. So I was able to stay with her for about 2.5 out of 4 of the laps. Then it was me and Ai Ueda fighting for the next position. We went back and forth but ultimately I was able to hold her off in the end and get 2nd behind Gwen!

It was awesome having two Americans on the podium and really exciting to start my season in that way. I think what made me the most stoked though was knowing that it was a good race but it wasn’t extraordinary and it was nowhere near perfect. There were things in the race that I can do better, and I know I can be stronger and faster. Right now I’m at a good point, but I also know I can be better all around.

The biggest lesson I learned going into this race is to always be confident in your preparation. Look at all the things you have done to get yourself to the starting line. Think of all those workouts you finished, and thought about how ready you were to race. Then think about the tough workouts that may not have been the best ones but that you gritted your way through the pain and finished anyways. No matter what type of workout or how the workout went all of these have prepared you for the race. They prepare you for the speed, the hurt and the mental toughness you’ll need to get through it.

So when you’re standing on the line with a few butterflies you know they’ll all fly away as soon as the gun goes off as you put into action what you’ve been training for all winter. I’m not on a team called Team Psycho for nothing, we’re crazy to do some of the things we do, but that’s why I love being on a team with a bunch of other nutcases who like to do the same thing. My theme song for the past weekend was “My body tells me no, but I won’t quit, Cause I want more, cause I want more”! And oh boy did that start to the season make me crave more! Good luck to everyone this season!!





Tuesday, February 25, 2014

No Reservations

Blog featured on usatriathlon.org...
A year ago I was preparing for my first professional race in Clermont, Fla. Not only was it my first race as an elite, but it would also be my first draft-legal race. I remember being so nervous and intimidated. How was I going to stay on someone’s wheel? Was I going to be able to do the 180-degree turns? I’m going to be racing against Olympians? All these things were going through my mind leading up to the race, but the gun went off for the start and all reservations were forgotten. I hung onto the lead bike pack and placed eighth.
This past year has taught me how crucial that “jump right in” attitude is to success. Throughout the rest of the season, I continued to have one new experience after another. Just like Clermont, they seem daunting at first, but ultimately every challenge made me stronger both mentally and physically. In only my third ITU race, I raced at the San Diego WTS. The World Triathlon Series exposed me to the highest level of racing and all the challenges of racing against the fiercest competitors. I traveled to Europe to train and race for a month. In my training there, I was pushed to new levels. I even ran my fastest all time 1500-meter during training. I remember talking to one of the USA Triathlon coaches before racing in the Palamos World Cup. I was asking him what place he thought I should aim for.  At that moment, I realized his response really didn’t matter. No matter what he said, I was going to go out and race my hardest.  If I did that, there was no losing. The next day I won my first World Cup race.  
I came back from Europe confident in my ability and the processes needed to achieve my goals. It was no longer about the outcome. It was about the steps to get there that became most important. To have a goal is one thing, but ultimately it is more important to have a plan for achieving that goal. I’ve learned to be reflective. In triathlon I find it is easy to be reflective because there are so many different components of the race. In each race, I have been able to celebrate a part of my race that went really well. However, after a season of racing, I have found a bazillion other things to work on to make me better. I have also discovered the best news about triathlon — you can always be better. 
I was ready to make the changes in my life and my training to assure the momentum I felt returning from Europe didn’t dwindle. In November, I was given the opportunity to remain in the Collegiate Recruitment Program as a resident for one more year. USA Triathlon moved the Resident Program from the OTC in Colorado Springs to Scottsdale, Ariz., for a variety of reasons. The most relevant to me of which were the lower elevation and more consistent outdoor riding opportunities. Fellow resident athlete Chelsea Burns and I headed south to be joined by four other triathletes on this new journey. During our time here, we have been provided with all the necessary tools to succeed. I have continued to be challenged and have achieved things I never thought possible. A couple of weeks ago, I ran my first 100-mile week in addition to swimming and cycling. Every Tuesday night we take part in a ride called the Underground Crit where I get to compete against the boys while getting to work on my bike handling skills at speed, and in the dark with headlamps.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best bike specialists at Cyclologic in order to find every avenue for free speed via bike position and body mechanics. We also work with a great team of physical therapists at Endurance Rehab who implement strength programs to hone in on our weaknesses as well as prevent injury. I am also excited to have the continued support of Team Psycho this season as well as a new partnership with Coeur Sports and Brooks Running Being part of such amazing communities of people has played a great role in helping me achieve my goals. Knowing I am in the optimal environment here not only makes me happier than I have ever been but also makes me more confident going into this season.
Now I am going into my second season as a professional. My goals for this season are drastically different than last year’s. This year I am preparing to compete against the best in the world. Instead of going to the Clermont Continental Cup, I am traveling to Australia and New Zealand to focus on the higher level of WTS and World Cup races. My goal is not only to compete in them, but to be the triathlete that I feared going into Clermont last year.   

Why Choose One, When You Can Choose Three!

A blog that was featured on Coeur Sports Website! Check it out here! **Apply title of post, when picking out some new cute endurance apparel ;)
Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer. I identified with that sport from the age of 5 through 16. I also played soccer and lacrosse. During my sophomore year of high school, I decided to stop playing lacrosse. While looking for something to help me stay in shape for soccer, I decided to try spring track. I ended up having a knack for running and ultimately, by the end of my high school career, I was deciding whether I wanted to run in college or swim. I remember looking at schools where I could potentially do both, but ultimately I decided that I had to focus on one if I was going to be successful. Thus, I went to Syracuse University and ran for the next 5 years. It was the best decision I had made in life and a decision I definitely will never regret. 

Last week a new option became available to young women choosing colleges. It is an opportunity that I never had. Triathlon has been cleared as a NCAA Division I emerging sport for women. Starting next year, varsity programs will be initiated in schools across the country. Now girls who have grown up doing triathlon or girls who have a background similar to mine won’t have to choose just one discipline to focus on in college. They will be able to compete in triathlon throughout college. They will continue to refine their skills and get them ready for their post collegiate careers. Not to mention, the chance to continue doing all the sports they love rather than choosing one! 
As a college graduate and professional triathlete, I see this movement as an amazing opportunity for our sport to grow. The first race I ever qualified for my elite license was at the Nickel City Triathlon in Buffalo, NY. That same weekend, at the same venue, the USAT Elite Nationals race was held. It was sad how few spectators had come out to watch the race. That race consisted of the best triathletes in our country including Olympians! The lack of hype that surrounded this style of racing was disappointing. This was the same style of racing that I have fell in love with this past year during my first year as a professional triathlete focusing on the ITU/draft legal racing style. There is a speed, intensity and strategy that make ITU racing exhilarating, challenging and most of all fun!  
Check out the spectators in the back! It was so awesome!
When I traveled to Europe I discovered what was missing in the USA. Crowds of people were lined up at all the races. There was support and excitement that was lacking at home. People want your autographs and pictures. The race itself is a big deal with celebrations leading up to the race and continuing after the race. Most importantly, on race day crowds of people are there supporting not only their fellow countrymen (and women), but also every other athlete in the race. It is truly an incredible experience. 
A lamp post when racing in Tizzy!
This is something that I would love to experience when racing at home. By adding triathlon as a DI sport, I feel our country has taken a gigantic step towards increasing the popularity of triathlon. Not only will this make racing on home soil more exciting, it will also help the US in its quest to become an international triathlon powerhouse. With increased popularity and support, the triathlon field is going to become larger and stronger in the United States. As the competition within the United States becomes fiercer, we will be able to take on some of the more dominating countries in triathlon. I am so excited to be competing in triathlon in the US at a time when it is experiencing such a reform. I can’t wait to continue to be a part of its growth and look forward to all the positive effects that are going to come from its inclusion in NCAA athletics!