New Orleans 70.3 – A Season Finale Culmination Of Love and Oliver’s Last Stand

“New Orleans is the only place I know of where you ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying, I want to be a policeman, or I want to be a fireman, he says, I want to be a musician.” – Alan Jaffe, Jazz Musician and Founder of Preservation Hall

Next weekend, is a culmination of love – favorite city, great music and clarinet playing, triathlon, my best friend, and my bicycle.

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It’s been a quiet year blog-wise. I took a lot of the year to regroup and reflect on triathlon. My goals this year were to just have fun and enjoy training again. It was another year that I couldn’t quite afford a bike and mine is on his very last legs. I am eeking out everything he has for this last race. After cutting last year short with surgery, paying for said surgery, I just needed a breather year. So I spent my money on a destination race for fun and left out all gadgets.

This was that year. I chose races that looked fun – races that were new to me. Destination races and races with new faces. Races that took me to unfamiliar courses. I also chose races that would challenge me and embraced the suck with my friends at Triple T. I had fun at every race.

There is one more. As I head to New Orleans next week, I am looking forward to my final triathlon of the season. I am looking forward to racing with strangers, looking forward to being in the city that I love. I’m racing with shoes that have too many miles on them, a bike that could fall apart at any second, a wetsuit that has seen better days, and goggles that are so scratched it is a wonder I can see out of them.

But none of this matters. I have no worries about making cut-offs like I have in the past. I’ve been racing for years. Experience has taught me to control what I can and leave the rest to mother nature and whatever else. My race sim day I split a tube and had to rethink my whole plan. My rear tire tube blew to bits. Like butter…I just readjusted my brain and timeline and went out and did the sim like nothin. No poo-pooing, just onward. I am a poor (monetarily-speaking) triathlete. This year has taught me to work with what I have. I can’t train with power. I have to spend my money smartly. I still go out and race with everyone else and I love it. I work my butt off out there, and I do just fine with what I have. My body gets me through each course and my gear is just along for the ride.

I’m finally managing to scrounge up enough to get that elusive bicycle next year without using credit, while at the same time making sure I can also get the “extras” that go with it. I plan to spend modestly on a bike instead of the “dream bike” so that I can also get a power meter, pedals, new shoes ( I have never EVER had new bike shoes since I started tris in 2007), a professional bike FIT, and hell maybe if the cards are right – a new smart trainer. Hopefully, there will be $100 left over to get a new pair of running shoes.

Thankfully, the gym at my apartment just got brand new cardio equipment (which includes spin bikes with power meters) so I can train all winter with power and hope to pick up in the spring with new wheels and power meter.

OliversFirstRace

Pictured here – Me and Oliver. Oliver’s first race. Look at that set-up! HAHA. Look at that WATER BOTTLE. Very aero. 🙂 I love this.

 

I’m so looking forward to the race-cation. But really, the race is one day. The culmination of this season is to go relax, eat amazing food, vakay, listen to some fantastic clarinet playing, spend some much needed together time with Eric, and spend 6ish hours pumping out some enjoyable swim, bike, run action and the last 56 race miles with my beloved bicycle, Oliver – with me since my second year of triathlon. It will be amazing to be out on a long(ish) course again, smiling, waving, salting, and making new friends while we all love the pain together.

 

In New Orleans.

I can’t wait.

Dreams do come true in New Orleans.

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TTT and TT and RESTTTT

The first weekend in June brought with it an interesting sampling of difficult races in succession. I had been looking forward to it for months – until I started really digging into the bike elevation maps. My tri bestie warned me against looking at them – but it’s like saying “do not touch” – the first thing you do is touch. Talk about difficult biking. Looking at those courses ahead of time only made the anticipation that much worse.

It was a 7 hour drive from DC to Shawnee State Park in Ohio and about a 7 hour drive for my Wisconsin tri friends who were meeting me there. Anna’s parents had a cabin reserved for us and we were all planning to roll in around 2ish on Friday afternoon. I left the DC area around 7 PM on Thursday to avoid the bulk of rush hour and drove to a halfway point to stay in West Virginia for the night. After a few harrowing moments of the check engine light appearing, and some interesting mountain driving, it was relatively uneventful.

IMG_2784The first race was at 5 PM on Friday afternoon. A super sprint. Ok. An easy 250m in the lake (with about 50 m of that being goose poo) sans wetsuit, brief little 4k bike (mostly all uphill) and then a mile run (little more hill). It was fun but also eye-opening. I told myself do NOT go out hard – this is a long weekend. I tried to do all paces at long-distance paces. It was fun, hill. Lots of hill. A preview of the weekend.

We went back to the cabin and Anna’s parents – who are quite possibly the most wonderful triathlon-Sherpa parents to roam the earth – did our laundry and made some food. Bedtime came early every single night. The three of us were sharing a room and in bunk beds in the cabin. I think it was lights-out at 9 PM after all three of us spent the majority of the night trying to pry Gator Skins onto my bike. Beezey ended up with a beautiful thumb blister.

Saturday – 7:30 AM (Sprint) Rise and shine. Sprint number 1 for Beezey and I. Swim – bike – run. Wetsuit, goose poop, hills, HILLLLS, DOWNhill, speed bump, and hill, running, hill, rock, tripping over rock, and some more running. Basically – it was super fun. There was a huge 2-mile hill that everyone clumped together on. We got about a mile up and the guy next to me yelled – only a mile to go! Talk about a race where everyone is just rooting everyone else to perform their best. Shouts of joy from all cyclists upon getting to the top of that 2-mile hill-we’d have to do it again on Sunday morning….on tired legs. The downhills were so challenging and Beezey and I had a great time passing eachother back and forth on the bike. I’d spin up the hill – she’d catch me while flying down the other side. The bike course was very challenging. Steep up and downhills with plenty of switchbacks. It showed me who was boss and was defintely a great weeknd to hone in on cycling skills. The run was fine. Small bit of cramping on the uphills, but the second half was downhill. Okie dokie. Go rest and repeat later that afternoon.

Saturday – 3:00 PM (Sprint) Bike – Swim – Run. We biked first. More hills, but smaller ones. One road on this course was the type where they put down oil and then cover it with gravel. It was pretty unpleasant and I ended that ride white-knuckled and happy if I never saw gravel again. I kept the rubber down and finshed up the ride. Swimming after hilly riding…in a cold lake…let’s just say, I took the time to struggle into a wetsuit and am glad I did. Instant quad cramping when I hit the cold water. I swam the entire distance using only my arms. Any time I would kick, my legs would just seize. I know how to prepare for next time. Got out and was never happier to run, despite how my legs felt. I followed Beezey the whole run – just like old days she pulled me right along. I told myself to just keep her pink compression socks in view and all would be well. We ended up getting a ride up the hill back to our cabin from a nice gentleman in a white pick-up truck. At that moment – it was heaven on earth.

Back to the cabin, more laundry, Beezey did some grillin, and then early bedtime again.

Sunday – 7:00 AM (Oly. Distance) I knew that hill was coming again on the bike. I felt so much better than I had on Saturday afternoon. Legs felt fresh, I was rested. We hit the lake for one last shake through the goose poop. keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut And yay! Bike time. I felt good. Spinning along at a moderate pace. Knowing that hill was coming again. This time, I knew what I was in for. I seemed to get to the top a lot sooner, even though I think it was because I was focusing on other things. Then once I hit about mile 18 on the bike, I started to hoof it. I knew that my legs would be fine. I had made it this far and was ready to push it a bit. Finshed really strong and of course – smiling – at the end of the bike course! Slapped on my shoes and started out for the insanely uphill 6.5 mile run. I walked up every hill. I was tired at that point. But I mustered a decent pace for the downhills. haha. I probably could have tucked and rolled at the same speed, but whatever, the end was near. Finished. Got my food and a 3rd place AG. Savored my last few minutes with my bestie and then trucked the 8ish hours back to DC.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do this with and I LOVED being with my tri bestie/Sherpa extraordinare/all-time favorite running partner. It was too short but I wouldn’t have wanted to do that suffer-fest with anyone else!!

Fast forward to that week. All of my tests: Run TT, Bike TT, Swim CSS, were that following week. The point was to do these on tired legs after a long training weekend to see how I fared.

Since March
Swim CSS – 9 second per 100y improvement
Bike 15 mile TT – 2:00 improvement
Run 5K TT – 2:14 improvement

MOST OF ALL THOUGH – I don’t feel drained or in pain every single day. I don’t have nagging little niggles, I feel rested and strong all the time. Add to that – a renewed focus on Injury Prevention and having set days built into my training plan where I focus on injury prevention and rest. I have specific injury prevention sets and we focus hard on making sure that my body and core remain strong in place of just “getting in the miles.”  I have a set number of hours in my schedule and I finally have a great balance between swim-bike-run workouts and the rest, foundational strength, and foam rolling required to stay healthy all season. My individual needs and goals as a triathlete and as a busy person who also plays music in her downtime are all balanced in my plan. I’ve not been able to find that for some time and it’s awesome to see improvement not only in my fitness, but also in my personal life and my outlook on the sport and why I really started triathlon in the first place. My goal this season was to re-find what I loved in the sport – and I have certainly done that without even having a single A Race yet.

I will take this. I am gearing up for my early August short-distance A race and hope to have everything honed in by then. I’ve got a big apartment move in the middle of July, some family visiting, a trip to see the Brewers v. Phillies, and a tune-up race. It’s going to be a busy month and having the solidity of a training plan always helps keep things normalized for me.

Then after that August A Race, it’s all New Orleans training, all-day. I’ll have a good 2 months of longer distance building on a solid fitness base that I will have developed by August and then the month of October for a brief taper.

This is really shaping up to be a fun and fantastic season. It’s drama-free. I am having the time of my life with the people and the sport that I love. I am doing races that I want to do and having just a dandy old time. Just what the doctor of life ordered!

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Everything Is New! – Big Changes, Bigger Smiles

It’s been a long, long time since a blog post. After pulling out of the end of my season last year with a knee that could no longer propel me in any sort of forward direction – I’m starting to get back on track. I took some time, focused on life in general, and rebooted.

Obligatory reboot picture – baseball, bestie, smiles.

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My run fitness suffered the most. Having not run from July – about mid-November, I lost whatever speed I had gained over the past year. (Not that I am the world’s fastest woman – but I had made some progress.) Crawling back now, but ready for race season. AND HUGE PLUS – I haven’t been sick since July! I was sick ALL winter last year. Mmmm hmmm, feels good.

Swim Assessment

  • Hey! I got better. 🙂 I’ve dropped my CSS by 6 seconds since my initial post-surgery test. I’m now back at pre-surgery CSS.

Bike Assessment

  • Hey! I am getting back into fighting form. On a windy day, I managed to knock a solid 5 minutes off my post-surgery test. Unfortunately, I still had steam left in the tank so wish I had gone a bit harder. Biking is the best. I biked amongst the cherry blossoms today. While some may think it’s too “touristy” – it’s still quite beautiful and I like to bump down there every year and take in some me time.

Run Assessment

  • Wellllll…I have to be below-average at something…. This was a fail. I don’t know what was wrong. Not enough calories – heat – something was amiss. Let’s just say my 5k TT wasn’t anywhere near the pace I recently held at my last 10k. I have work to do. It’s on my list of discussion points for the next call with coach.

EVERYTHING IS NEW!

I have revamped my training. New plans, new coach, new goals, new gym, new sponsors, etc. My job has changed drastically since the acquisition of our company, I have a supportive significant other with whom I’ve relocated to Arlington, VA – let’s just say – life is fresh and lovely. Just like the spring. None of these changes, decisions, or circumstances has been easy, but I’ve settled into a completely new lifestyle. My schedule is clear as glass and I have set times for when I meet with my coach. This is something that I like very much. An exact schedule to rely on. I pulled myself away from distractions and drama to focus on recovery and getting back to loving triathlon. That is exactly what has happened.

BUT WHAT WILL THE SEASON BRING?

I am running a two-part season this year – with long course focus during the second half. I have some very specific goals which will play out blog-wise as the year continues. The season begins with some shorter races – one sprint and a handful of olys just to see how things roll. A fun race – Triple T in Ohio! This will be great as I am meeting some of my wonderful tri friends from Wisconsin and we’ll be sharing a cabin! My most beautiful Sherpa will be racing it too and I am very much looking forward to spending time with her and doing what we love best – supporting each other during races and such! It’s a long training weekend for me and I am working to an “A” short distance race mid-summer. Details forthcoming. 🙂

Long course. It’s Ironman New Orleans 70.3. I’ve always had two dream races – IM NOLA 70.3 and IM Wisconsin (still on the radar). Now that NOLA has moved to the fall instead of an April race, it’s much more feasible to prepare for it. Sitting on a bike trainer in the middle of winter for 4 hours…not great…being outdoors training all summer…GREAT! The SO and I are making a race-cation out of it and together we’ll enjoy some of the sights and sounds of my favorite city.

APRIL MINI-GOALS – Nutrition and Sleep

We’re focusing hard on nutrition this month. Not race nutrition, but balanced meals. Working out the spacing of meals and making sure that there are no energy dips through the day. Also, the focus is on making sure to be properly fueled for whichever workout the day brings. Food diary and meal prep is key here. It helps that SO is totally on board and we’ve already made a few pretty fabulous meals. I never knew this kind of support was out there until it drop kicked me in the face – I say as he plays some tank video game while I blog…he’s getting better at this video game but mentioned it’s probably good that he doesn’t drive a tank in real life (annnddd he just got destroyed and it’s playing Mozart’s Requiem…I digress…he switched to an airplane).

Sleep – This is still a struggle for me. Some nights I sleep soundly and some nights I am insomniac-city. I’ve tried many things – monitoring foods I eat, shutting off screens, settling in, same bedtime and wake-up time every day, etc. I still can’t figure out why sometimes I just do not sleep. A work in progress. The experimenting and monitoring continues.

SO – let’s get this season rolling!!! – obligatory motivation quote

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Song of the week: Newsies: Seize The Day

Now is the time to seize the day
Stare down the odds and seize the day
Minute by minute that’s how you win it

Cut. It. Out.

I have a thing. In my knee. It hurts. It’s annoying. And it’s coming out on Monday.

I haven’t posted in a long time. I’ve been angry with triathlon and my own stubbornness.

After having a personal best race on July 10 at Colonial Beach International distance tri, something finally gave out on me. That thing was my knee. 4 miles into the 6 mile run – I knew something wasn’t right. I finished. I didn’t stop. Had my best 10k split ever (in a tri) – even held my tempo pace!  I have not been able to run longer than a mile since that day.

I was very proud of the race and – at that time – I really thought this was going to be an amazing race season. However, after that, things started to fall apart. Week by week, training got more painful. I’d rest and wait for the pain to subside – then try again in a couple of days. Same thing. It started with the run. Then it crept into my bike. Then it crept into my swim. I now can’t do more than about 20-30 minutes of any activity without pain severe enough that it forces me to stop the activity.

I dropped out of one triathlon. And another…and then the big one. The season is over. I tell you – it was a personal struggle for a while. In the whole of life and humanity – it’s a very insignificant issue, but it’s preventing me from the activity I love. The wind in the face riding down a hill, the feet on the pavement…and even that damn black line in the water.

At one point during a terribly difficult morning on the bike – leaving my denial behind – I realized my A Race was no longer an option. This weekend I am prepping for a knee scope and cheering from home for my coach and teammates who are participating in that race.

So I finally saw the ortho. Thanks to Dr. Ben and OrthoVirginia – it was easily diagnosed (I even knew exactly what it was!) – we have a plan of attack.

So what the heck was it? My stowaway. My calcium pal. My pearl. I did a full Ironman without any pain last year with that thing along for the rideKnee.jpg.

16 years ago in soccer. I dislocated my knee. Then I dislocated my knee again. And again and again and again. Repeat ad nauseam. Something broke loose at that time that they never saw on the x-ray. It floated around in there – sometimes catching in the joint. No big deal. I always worked around it, no major pain or symptoms. Just some instability. Honestly, I probably should have had it removed a long time ago, but it never actually sidelined me – until now. It was growing, calcifying, through all those years – and it’s now the size of a half dollar and thickness of a cough drop. It hangs out in my thigh, above my patella. That is the only place where there is room for my cal pal. It pushes on things…tendons, patella, femur. I can easily feel and move it with my fingers. I can see it below my skin. The pearl that I have spent the last 16 years cultivating has got to go so I can get back to the sport I love. It’s technically a “loose body” or “joint mouse” … a giant joint mouse. I prefer pearl.

Monday afternoon Doctor Ben spends a cool 10 minutes to slice in and tweeze the intruder out of my thigh. Thankfully, this is no big deal. There is no ligament damage, tendons are great, muscles are strong. Doc doesn’t even think I will need crutches or PT.

My patella will be able to breathe again. In 2 short weeks, I’ll be able to return to what I hope will be pain-free training. My current focus is on some minor running races at the end of 2016 and race execution for next season. Locating places in my race where I can shave off 10-12 minutes of total race time – clarity of goals and redeveloping lost fitness. It will feel weird to have a normal-ish knee. I am looking forward to it and so thankful that it is a minor issue that in no way effects my overall health, well-being, or lifestyle.

Shoutout to all my amazing Rogue teammates who have been checking in on me. Thanks to my Coach for keeping me sane through tears and angry frustrations about the season – for reminding me of the bigger picture when I refused to look at it. Thank you to my friends and family who may not always understand the tri lifestyle, but stick with me anyway.

I can’t wait to root for everyone taking on those amazing A races! AC, LOU, IMMD.        Trust the plan. Smash the race.

“A minor setback paves the way for a major comeback.” – Unknown

RTC/Smallwood Reports, Inspiration, and the Beezey

2 races into the season and 2 very interesting sets of results.

RTC Sprint – Richmond, VA

In keeping with most of our spring in the DC-area, this was a cold and somewhat yucky day outside – although no precipitation. I went to Richmond the day before and spent the night. Despite the drive to Richmond on a Friday afternoon….this was a good choice – better than having to wake up at 2 AM on race morning to drive south.

Swim – 800m pool swim – snakity-snake style – in waves of 10. We had to seed ourselves by estimated swim time. This was unusual but uneventful. Around 425m or so I was momentarily caught behind a breast-stroker in the middle of a lane but finally managed to get around him at the buoy. I can’t complain as my swim is never going to WOW anyone. I’ll probably never reach “dolphin” or even “fish” status during my life, but will keep striving for “better-than-lead-balloon” status. Out of pool – pretty damn fast T-1 and onto the bike….WHEEEEE.

Bike – 12.75 miles. This was FAST. I love the bike. Broken record on that one. Averaged 20mph and managed 2nd in my AG on the bike. This is where I need to do the work. It’s where I am strongest and need to give myself a nice little buffer for the run. I loved this bike course, although on a windy day – I think it would be a little brutal. It was perfect on race day and I wouldn’t have minded a few more loops on it. 🙂 T-2 – a little slow for my liking – I still don’t have those Yankz for shorter-distance races…but when my usual A-Races are longer distance – are they worth it?

Run – 5k. It was 2 pretty boring 1.5 mile loops around a parking lot and some tennis courts. Flat and fast though. For scenery, this isn’t the race to do. But for a first race of the season, brush off the cobwebs, I’d recommend it. Lots of wonderful people and a nice down-to-earth race director. Unlike some of the other races. The run was fine. I ran about as fast as I can go (at the moment) so I will take it. Only cramped up one time.

Overall – I was able to land my first podium (thanks to a strong bike and T-1). I never expect a podium. I race my paces and my goals. Anything else is just extra. I had created just enough buffer that the runners couldn’t quite catch up. It’s a tough age group and these girls (30-34) can run! I’ll never have a 21:00 5k even on fresh legs. Woof.

General Smallwood International – Indian Head, MD

Oh boy. This one was no joke. It might have been the toughest race I have ever done (and yes…this includes finishing an Ironman). It. Was. Pouring. Surprising? Not really, it had been forecast all week and spring has been abysmal here! No shocker.

I got to the site WAYYYYY too early. I could have slept another HOUR. But I am the person who follows the directions exactly and prefers the hurry-up-and-wait method as opposed to the scramble-last-minute. My teammate, Steph, arrived a few minutes later and we chatted a bit and stayed in our vehicles as long as possible to avoid the rain. I can’t say enough about how fabulous she is. She is an amazing athlete and person (who I might add picked up 3rd place OA and somehow managed a 20mph bike in CRAZY conditions)! She is a source of positive energy and certainly someone who provides me with triathlon inspiration as well as inspiration to fight personal/mental battles (maintaining grace & focus). Again, how lucky to be surrounded by great people.

Welllllllll – eventually the time came to grab packets, use the John, and set up…lost cause. Despite a poncho, rain jacket, etc.etc., I was drenched in about 3 minutes. Set up transition…everything in plastic bags. At least I would START with dry shoes…put on my wetsuit…did a little warm up and headed down to the lake.

IMG_9775Swim – I think the worst swim of my entire life. I managed to swim JUST shy of half-iron distance. Mind you – this was only an Oly. distance course. They had changed the swim from one loop to two loops (something about avoiding swamp beast – AKA seaweed). I still somehow managed to get it all up on my arms… Regardless, I was all over the place – see map (facepalm).
I was sighting the wrong buoy and swimming a diagonal…a boat guy had to tell me. Enter expletives. Lessons learned. Takeaways – when not bilateral breathing I really pull left hard. I used to pull right. WUT. IS. Happening? It was pathetic and all I could think about by the last turn was how much I wanted out of my wetsuit….I really need a sleeveless one. I HATE how restrictive mine is around the shoulders. I’m not in WI anymore, how often will I need a full sleeve wetsuit? That wiggly man wasn’t getting any closer and I just kept PULLING. Almost 1.2 miles later, I was onto transition. T-1, long run, overall – I was fine with it considering the conditions.

Bike – Rarely do I not have a great time on the bike. I did not have a great time on the bike. It poured for almost the entire 24ish miles. I knew it was a hilly course and was ready to tackle hills. I had been spending some time doing hills lately. But the roads were so wet and I just couldn’t push it like I wanted to. I was worried about my brand new back tire – it was either that or race on the old bald tire. Lose, lose. Lesson learned…get new tire more than 2 days before race. Just shy of 17mph average. This is slow for me, but considering the conditions I … well no … I wasn’t pleased with this. Some element of fear held me back. I wanted to be smart, but I think pushing a bit more would have been safe. Not sure. All I know was that I got off the bike and was drenched, frozen (I was wearing a cycle jacket but it didn’t matter), and stiff. I wasn’t in aero much on the ride and was very stiff. I kept trying to loosen up but just had to focus on areas of standing water, trying to avoid places where I might take a digger. I couldn’t relax at all on the bike.

Run – The run was okay. And I actually did hit a partial goal on this one. I wanted to land an average somewhere between my tempo pace and 10:00 miles. I did. A few times I had to lower my heart rate as I felt myself getting tight. I am learning where my heart rate needs to be to prevent cramping. So even though I had to slow it a few times, I didn’t cramp. When I cramp it’s all over and I am slowed to a halt while I try to stretch it out. I was happy with the way I managed this and just hope to continue to get that heart rate lower at faster paces.

Overall, it was my worst olympic distance performance ever. I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near having the best performance of my life – still, I had a weird mix of disappointment and achievement. I didn’t really know how to feel. It was weird, because aside from the swim, I felt that I had a decent race for me, given the conditions. I’ll never be able to blitz on the run, but there were times when I felt really strong…and for the first time, a 10k didn’t seem long. Just — a really interesting mix of emotions. Happy to be one of the 165 who actually decided to show up – more space in transition for me (although that didn’t stop me from coming back in T-2 and seeing some guy’s bike in my spot…*insert eye roll* I was too stiff and drenched to be very upset about this). I learned a lot out on that course and will do that one again. I think in nicer conditions, it would be beautifully scenic.

Inspiration

IMG_3658Today, my friend and fabulous Iron Sherpa takes on her first half-Iron and I am so proud. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to run together on a regular basis, but it was our weekly Monday afternoon run sessions that provided me with motivation, inspiration, and a truly amazing friendship. Always an adventure on those runs and a world of fun stories. While I miss running with her, we always make sure to get in a few training sessions whenever I get back to WI – and now that she is a triathlete, we swim together too!! I remember the days of, “I’ll never do a triathlon”- Beezey. But now, she is working her way up to Ironman and there is no doubt in my mind that she will dominate her half-Iron and I can’t wait to be there for her first Ironman. She is one of those people that can and will do anything she puts her mind to. A fantastic weight-loss journey, several personal life obstacles, and venison tacos that are out of this world – she is truly someone I admire and adore. I can’t wait to keep following her adventures!

Food

IMG_9776Last parting thoughts. As someone without much of a sweet tooth who prefers pickles and beef jerky on long rides over anything sweet, I am always looking for things I might actually ENJOY eating while training. Honey Stinger is starting to come up with some not-so-sweet stuff which is good. I downed some GU during yesterday’s race and almost gagged it back up…not because I felt ill…but just because I am so tired of putting that stuff in my body. My taste buds can’t handle it anymore. I want food. Digestible food…that isn’t sweet. But that will still provide calories and sustenance. Enter: A couple of new things to try. New toys. Feed Zone Cookbooks. Looking forward to this week’s food prep.

I feel it is going to be a wonderful racing season. Clear mind, clearer goals, and the continued hope for better race weather.

“I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable. I am an original.”

-Hamilton: An American Musical

 

 

The Helpers

“Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

Thanking all of my helpers who have been there the last few weeks! You know who you are. I am truly grateful for all of the love and support that is pouring in from every corner. With everything from my grandpa to this week’s car accident and total loss of the blue bomber Aveo. The cards, warm wishes, positive vibes, and genuine human kindness have been overwhelming. Thank you for the hands, the shoulders, the hugs, the tears, the strength, the laughter, the borrowed vehicles, the offers of kindness at every corner. My body hurts but my heart is so full. Every day I remain shocked at how much love is in the world and I can’t even begin to describe the love I have felt. I am touched in so many ways. Always look for the helpers – always be a helper.

RIP my little blue gumdrop bomber. No UPS man will be able to buff out the dings you now have.

My strength has been tested over the past few weeks, and again I find myself so grateful for triathlon. So grateful for music. So grateful for humans. Renewed faith in the human race. Renewed faith in myself and always the ability to see strength.

Dear Triathlon:

Welcome back. I present to you a healthy and happy woman who is ready to respect you again. No longer sick with stress and lack of sleep. I apologize for neglecting you for a few months while I stressed, fretted, and got sick over things that were perfectly in my control. You have my attention and devotion once again. I look forward to smashing goals with you all summer long. Thank you for the most recent bike hill adventure – you reminded me how strong I am and of the joy I find in biking. While I may not have a car to get to the pool for a while – I promise you I will find a way.

Dear Clarinet:

Hello there. How are you? I never neglected you, but I lost some joy. I am sorry that I didn’t turn to you in times of need. Music, my soul, my love. I took for granted the fact that I got to play in an orchestra concert for the first time in years. I’m sorry I let that joy be dimmed.  Picking you up and letting my heart soar through you is a gift that I never want to take lightly. I won’t do it again.

Dear Aveo:

We’ve been through a lot together, you and I. My first real adult purchase. I am sorry that you had to go out this way. Although it wasn’t my fault, I wish you had received a royal send-off on your final journey as car. Thank you for accompanying me just recently on my Ironman journey and for driving me to my very first “big girl” job all those years ago. Thanks for forcing me to learn how to drive stick shift. I got you for that reason and taught myself well. I’ll remember the good times. 🙂

Dear Mumford & Sons:

Whoop! Windows down time and some singing in the car never felt so good…I’ll get a new car for you soon enough.

Dear Me:

Hi. Remember you? Here you are again. Your life journey continues with a few new scars. Look at your helpers – your wonderful friends, family, coach, training partners, co-workers, musician co-horts. Remember them and their love for you. Some surprised you! Some you hadn’t spoken to in years! You made an impact on their lives at some point in time and there they were. You never had to say a word. Forget who you are again? I think not. Your smile is fierce. Your laughter and your joy are everywhere again. Here you are with another brand new triathlon journey. Here you are enjoying your beautiful music. Here you are getting a chance to play at the Kennedy Center. Here you are with the joy and beauty that is life. The ups, the downs, and the everythings in between. Enjoy your reading again. Earlier nights. Morning workouts. That beautiful sunrise. You are you. 🙂 It’s pretty cool.

The music. The sport. The life. But most of all…the helpers. The helpers who are there but who also give you the strength to enjoy your moments of solitude. Those nights you do just enjoy being alone with thoughts and mind. You need no one else but even in your moments of quiet, the helpers are still there.

When you are a helper to others, there will always be the helpers for you.

Look for them. Listen for them. Help them too.

rogers

 

 

I Train Best When…I Think…?

The past month or so has been difficult on my training schedule. First it was a trip to Wisconsin (a very important trip…), next a sinus infection that knocked me out for three days, then a solid several weeks of decent build, HALT – a terrible terrible flu from which I am still recovering … etc. etc. … no excuses but I just can’t seem to get on a roll here. I’ll have some decent training sessions and then a slew of days where nothing clicks. It’s either all there, or all frustration. There is no middle ground these days.

News on the family front has put things into perspective. To those of you who know me, you understand how close I am with my family — some of you are just as close to them. They are my family and they are my best friends. Mom’s side, dad’s side. I treat them all with love, respect, and care for them deeply. When one hurts, we all hurt. As the oldest grandkid, cousin, kid, etc. – I have always been sort of in the middle. Not as young as the bulk of my cousins, and not as old as my aunts and uncles. It has given me an interesting perspective and has made me close to all of them in different ways. As we face difficult times ahead, I find myself feeling far from home. My heart hurts and I am sad to not be sharing this journey with the people that I love so much. As the girl who always made it home at least one or two Sundays a month to visit, catch the home church service, and hang out with my family – it is difficult to be half a country away from them. Hugs, hands, tears, wishing I could share this time with them – not for myself – but for everyone. To share the love we all have. To be there to support, and also to have that support in return.

IMG_7559

Right – so what does any of this have to do with triathlon, training, etc.? The above picture was taken last summer (July 2015) while I was home in WI for my sister’s wedding. I had just finished a 70 mile bike ride from Milwaukee out to my grandparent’s house and my dad drove and met me there. He forgot to bring my dry clothes so here I am in my gross bike gear. Stinky no doubt – but these people love me anyway. 🙂 These are my lovely grandparents. You never know what life will deal you or when it will deal…so I try to never take anything for granted. This day was spent with great loves: triathlon and family. We told wonderful stories that day and sang songs together. Grandpa told his usual naughty jokes, grandma tried not to be embarrassed as she sat holding his hand, we shared memories of old times, we talked about my upcoming race, and (of course) the terrible Milwaukee Brewers. It wasn’t easy to leave that day, but it’s a day I will remember forever.

Today I returned to my training with a different mindset. Again, it is life that reminds me to put things back into perspective. Today, just like always, I hit the pool. This time, filled with thoughts of my family. Clear, wonderful thoughts. Memories flooding through me. I heard the water in my ears and remembered wonderful times spent at my grandparents’ swimming pool. I thought of my cousins, my sister, my parents, my aunts and uncles. Love in general. I couldn’t get out of my head how lucky I am to have such beautiful family members in my life. Not everyone is so lucky. I wasn’t thinking about a specific pace, my workout data, my coach, my training partners, none of that. I don’t want to hear any of that. It is so easy to get wrapped up in drama and data and this and that. But I improve and am at my best when I am focused on my own thoughts — drowning out the drama and data and talk of those around me. In the end, my training does need to be my time. I love the group support sometimes and seeing everyone once in a while. It helps especially on very long rides to know there is support there. But I also like knowing that I can do a lot of my training on my own. I like the push and competition and it is necessary at times – but always training with a group or with other people would be a tedious task for me.

It always comes full circle. I am my happiest when I am training alone with my thoughts. Those thoughts might be sad, happy, angry – it doesn’t matter. But in the end, all of those sessions that end up being my best sessions are the ones in which I am listening to my brain and my heart. I love the times when it is me and my own mental and physical battle. Whether it is fighting something physical (flu, knee), mental, or just boredom sometimes (bike trainer), I realize that my favorite times are when I fight through those battles on my own. When I stop for just 30 seconds to watch a sunset or a heron glide across the water, to wipe a tear from a wonderful memory, or to blow a dandelion into the wind and make a wish — these things are worth it to me. What is 30 seconds during training? Would I do it in a race? Nah….I’d want that 30 seconds to try to win…but you can bet I will still be enjoying every minute and smiling as much as I can (see Ironman). Do I want to be competitive at this sport? You bet! And in time, I think I can get there. I work hard every day with the help of my coach — but it is the brain and the “me” time that really play a role in how my training goes. The training is my therapy. Sometimes I forget. My swim today proves that bit by bit I am improving. The joy for me though, comes in those moments when I can reflect. I do that with the black line, the miles on the bike in the beautiful sun, and one foot in front of the other during a run. Even with the memories flooding my brain today at the pool — I dropped my Critical Swim Speed another few seconds (yay!). My body felt balanced and smooth in the water. I didn’t even feel like I was going that fast.  Today, I have to thank my family for my training session. The beautiful thoughts and memories provided a perfect backdrop as I inched through the water.

Far in distance — so close in heart.

RunningGoucher

With love, to my family at home: It truly is a wonderful life.