Monday, August 25, 2014

Kona

This morning my alarm went off at 4:40 am, just like most Monday mornings.  I got up and put food in the dog's bowl (but no sign of dog, she sleeps in these days), put on my swimsuit, collected my things for masters practice, and then quickly checked my email.  And there it was, the email that I had been hoping and working hard for, an invitation to compete this year in Kona.  I smiled.  I told Oscar on the way out the door.  He smiled and gave me a kiss.  I drove to masters.  I had a great workout with my good friend Chad, who I've been doing triathlon alongside for 8+ years.  I talked to my friends and Coach Jen.  I took a shower.  I got in my car to drive home.

And then, unexpectedly, as I turned the keys in the ignition, I burst into tears.  I think all the emotion that I've pent up these past couple weeks and months, finally came bubbling to the surface.  This year is turning out to have some of the very highest highs I've ever felt, but also some of the very lowest, lows.  And while I would never consider my "problems" to be on the same level as what many go through on a daily basis, I also don't want to minimize some of the emotional turmoil I've felt this year.  No matter what it is you are down about, being depressed is a real condition that needs to be treated.  And it's not a small thing.

This morning in the car, I was elated, relieved, happy beyond words, excited, and of course, thrilled.  But mostly, I was so filled with gratitude.  It's a great thing to achieve a dream, but even more wonderful, I'm learning, is to realize just how many people have helped you in doing so.  So above all else, what I feel is thankful.  So very, very thankful for all the people that gave of themselves so that I could get to do this.

So this Kona thing, it's really happening!!  Which means I get to train for another Ironman!  I hear it's a bit hot and maybe a little windy on the Big Island in October, 'eh?  ;)


Friday, August 22, 2014

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

I went to Ironman Mont Tremblant with one goal: get enough KPR points to qualify for Kona.  I knew that placing 3rd (or higher) would likely be enough.  Placing 4th or 5th would put me at a much less certain maybe.

But let me back up a few steps first.  I wasn't supposed to do Ironman Mont Tremblant.  At least at the beginning of this season, this race was not on the schedule.  Of course I also wasn't supposed to tear my labrum and be on the disabled list for 6 weeks (and then be VERY unfit for many weeks after that).  And so I've (re)learned, this season, that things don't always go according to OUR plan, but that doesn't mean all is lost.  So it goes, I went into IMMT with a lot of uncertainty and although I tried desperately to avoid it, self-induced pressure.  Because I VERY, VERY badly want to race in Kona, and it was hard to look past the fact that IMMT was my last shot.

The end result?  I finished in 3rd place.  After a fantastic day of close racing with several other pro women who I truly respect and admire, I made my way down towards the finish line and tried to choke back the tears.  Nope, Ironman Mont Tremblant wasn't in the original plan.  But sometimes the plans WE make are far less amazing than what God has in store.  Will it be enough for Kona?  Well, on Monday (or Sunday night), I will find out.  But either way, I can say, I know I did the very best I could to qualify given the circumstances of my year.  And it's hard to be disappointed in that.

Here we go!  Photo credit: Julien Heon

Time to ride my trusty steed!  Although shortly after this picture was taken, I dropped my chain and then spent the remainder of the race with bike grease all over my hands/face/body.

Running through the village on the mountain was thrilling!

Photo credit: Nils Nilsen

Almost done!

Those checks aren't signed.  :)

I have so, so, SO many people to thank!!  Bear with me.

To CID, Coeur, QR, Rudy Project, PowerBar, NormaTec and Fuelbelt: I am so thankful to be a part of your team.  You make this possible for me!

To Peter and Lorna Bailie: your hospitality and generosity blew me away.  I am so thankful to have gotten to know a little piece of your lives.  Homestays make this possible for me.  YOU make this possible for me!

To QT2 Systems: what an amazing family.  Thank you for letting me be a part of it.

To my friends, training partners and all those that encourage and take the time to send a message or text: it means more than you could possibly know.

To my family: you've put up with more than most would tolerate for YEARS!  Thank you for being there on race day and sharing in my joy, but also being there when things aren't so great.  Your support makes all the difference.

To Tim: when I texted you after the race and asked "who would have thought we'd be here 4 months ago, when I could barely lift my knee to my chest because of my hip pain?" and you simply replied "me" - well, that pretty much sums it all up.

And last but not least, to Oscar: what is left to say?  There won't be enough years in this life to repay you for all you've done for me.  But I'll give it a shot anyway.

The Bailie's backyard served as my swimming pool for the week.

Mont Tremblant has big chairs!

Thank you, Mont Tremblant!  The venue is every bit of awesome that you hear about.  AMAZING race!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's In The Tweets

If Twitter (and what we tweeted about) were an accurate account of our lives, my tweets would indicate that my life revolves around triathlon training, Roxy, Oscar, and WATERMELON!  Oh wait...Twitter might be onto something...

A smattering of my tweets the last few weeks:


Seriously, he really did laugh for a LONG time.  And then had to tweet it to all his math teacher friends...  :)

She's so cute!

Cute, except for when she barks her head off.

As for training tweets, I just completed my "overload" block for Ironman Mont Tremblant.  For you non-QT2 people out there, overload is a several week period of training that is ~15% above your normal volume.  This puts me up above 30 hours (it's obviously different for everyone) which I love, but which also makes me really tired.  :)  You wouldn't think an extra 4 hours (or so) above normal volume would make such an impact but darn it if those 4 extra hours aren't exhausting!

This must have been early on in overload because I was still REALLY excited about sitting on a bike saddle.

Things start to get real during the 2nd week of overload.

Several 8+ hour training days = LOTS of gels, bars, sports drink, etc...

There ain't no crying in triathlon!

And of course, watermelon tweets!



My sister assures me that a watermelon milkshake is both creamy AND slushy.  #dreamy

So while I certainly don't tweet about everything going on in my life, I think our tweets are probably somewhat indicative of what's important to us.  Happy training, watermelon-eating and tweeting to all!  :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Muncie 2.0

After the Syracuse 70.3, I had two good, hard, (relatively) pain free weeks of workouts and then a bit of a rest coming into Muncie.  I felt good about the progress I had made in training and my confidence was in a much better place than when I had raced just a few weeks before.  And I was MUCH more excited to race and put myself out there.  

Unfortunately, on race day, my body had other ideas.  You know how some days racing feels effortless and the watts and run paces just show up?  Yeah, not so much this past Saturday in Muncie for me.  BUT, that doesn't mean you can't still race well, despite the struggle.  I had to remind myself of this many times on Saturday!

Swim:
Do we have to talk about it?  Okay, it wasn't that bad.  But I will say I was happy to exit the water and move on to another discipline.  The thing about swimming in the pro field (and especially the smaller women's field) is that if you squander an opportunity to swim on some good feet, that's pretty much it.  You *might* get lucky and get another chance but usually not.  And let's just say I squandered some opportunities on Saturday.  I then spent the next 30 minutes feeling sorry for myself, feeling tired and feeling like a boiled lobster in my wetsuit (one of those swims where the temp was right at the cutoff).  So yeah, not my best effort either physically or mentally, but I've learned you have to let the swim go.  It's a long race.

Bike:
I felt so happy to be out of my hot wetsuit!  And on my QR!  But it did take a while for my legs (and perhaps my mind) to come around.  Like, um, 15 or 20 miles.  HA!  Once I did finally get moving, it felt very good to push hard and try and track some of the girls ahead of me down. I started the bike in 9th and came into T2 in 4th.  (but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my Coeur teammate Kate was sidelined with not one but TWO flats - was a huge bummer to see her standing on the side of the road but she did still finish!)

Run:
I spent the first few miles of the run thinking I was in 6th (Oscar swears he told me I was in 4th but I don't hear or think too well when I'm working hard).  When I made a pass to put myself into what I thought was 5th (but was really 3rd), I got a lead biker.  I really like lead bikers.  They give you something to focus on, especially on a day when you need all the help you can get.  Muncie is an out and back course so as I neared the half way point, I anxiously awaited the other women in front of me to come back the other way to see if any were close enough to get after.  When I realized there were only 2 women ahead of me I got confused.  So I inquired of my lead biker what place I was in.  "3rd" he replied.  OH MAN!  Not that this changed much but it did put a little spring in my step.  And so it went, one foot in front of the other, lots of ice/water/Perform/sponges at each aid station, and telling myself that sometimes it's good to have tough days too.  Having seen at the turnaround, how far ahead 2nd place was at that point, I had made the assumption that she was out of reach and my goal was to hold onto 3rd.

Well, you know what they say about assuming things!  With about 1.5 miles to go, the people running out started to encourage me that "she's right up there, you can catch her!".  Really?  My lead biker confirmed this but I still couldn't see 2nd place.  Until I saw her.  And then it was like a switch went off in my head and I wasn't tired any more.  But would I have enough space?  Of course, the answer is "no", because I ended up in 3rd place.  But it was a very important lesson for me to (re)learn - it ain't over until it's over.

All in all a solid day and while I would have loved to swim, bike and run faster, and feel better while doing it, isn't that ALWAYS the case when we race?  Most of all, I was truly thankful to be out there racing hard and doing what I love with a hip that allowed it all to happen!  My hip and my fitness are coming around, slowly and surely and that's exciting for me!  Oscar and I had a super fun trip (including the ride home where he was so loopy from fatigue that he had me in hysterics).  And we got to catch up and stay again with our homestay from last year, James.  Muncie is a really awesome race and should the timing work out again next year to do it, I'll be there!

I know I say it every time, but without them I wouldn't be able to live this life!  So thank you to my sponsors, my family, teammates and friends, the homestays all around the country that have taken Oscar and I in and QT2 and Tim.  It takes a villiage...

Some highlights of the trip definitely include:

Getting to see and race with my Coeur teammate Malaika.

Getting to chat with THE Jen Harrison!  Jen has been a role model for me since I very first got into the sport.

And finally, getting to see Ashley take her first pro win!  (not that I saw it because I still had a mile left to go, but you know what I mean...)  Very happy and excited for her!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

I gotta say, it feels really good to be writing a race report instead of an injury update.  :)

Since the last time I wrote, about 3 weeks ago, my hip and I have had a lot of ups and downs.  Although I wouldn't consider ANY injury "easy", this one has been one of my tougher ones for the mere fact that there is nothing straightforward about it.  My hip and I are essentially playing a game of "let's see what you can take" - me challenging it with training, it challenging me with some pain, some soreness and a good dose of emotional turmoil.  We've had some good days and we've had some very bad days.  Some setbacks and some steps forward.  The hardest part is being in limbo, not really knowing what to expect or hope for.  As my friend Jocelyn (who has had her fair share of injuries x 10,000) says, "being in limbo sucks".  Yes.  Yes it does.

And then before I knew it, race week was upon me.  About 4 or 5 days before the race it was decided that I was indeed going to do the entire race (including the run).  Oh boy.

If you've been reading this blog long enough (or you actually know me in person), you know that race week is my FAVORITE week(s) of the year.  I love, love, love to race.  But this race week had a different feel to it.  Mostly I just felt afraid and worried.  Worried about my fitness (what fitness??).  Afraid my hip was going to be very painful.  Worried I'd have to drop out.  Afraid I'd set myself back even further.  I wondered whose idea racing this "early" was (it was mine) and desperately wanted another couple weeks (for what, I'm not sure).

This has always been one of my favorite quotes.
And then the cannon sounded on Sunday morning at 7:02 am and in a frenzy of arms and legs and gasping for breath, all my fears melted away.  It was like I was "home" and I was reminded that yes, I do really love to race.  And although the last couple months have been pretty rough and I had so many doubts, right here, right now, I was getting to feel the passion I have for this sport.  And that made me really thankful and really happy.

I may have never been so happy to ride my bike hard as I was in Syracuse, up and down all those big hills.  IT FELT SO GOOD.  So, so good.  Somewhere on that ride a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  It was the reassurance I needed that it really is worth the struggle that I've put myself through these past couple months and I'd really rather be no place else.

As for the race itself (seems kind of secondary, but this is a race report!), well, it was kind of a shock to the system!  I've not swam, biked or run that hard in a very long time.  Nor had I run that far since IM Cabo.  But our bodies are stronger than we think and mine held up pretty well.  About 8 miles into the run, my legs had had enough and my lack of run fitness reared it's ugly head.  But in truth, I far exceeded what I thought I would be physically capable of.  I had to start somewhere and I think this was a pretty good start.

And how was/is my hip?  Well after a good pep talk, it held itself together pretty well on race day.  And it doesn't seem much worse for the wear after the fact!  THANK YOU, hip!  Now we have just a bit more work to do...

Other than my hip, I have a ton of thank yous: (bear with me)

Casey at CID.  You make this dream possible for me and I'm so thankful.  I always feel your hometown support out on the course!  We are!

Hailey, Kebby and Reg at Coeur.  Awesome people that run an awesome business that makes awesome gear.  I am so lucky to be a part of your team.

Mac at QR.  You took me on and then I promptly injured myself.  Ooops!  But my first race on my Illicito was a smashing success!  Here's to much more of the same.

All my other sponsors.

Awesome family and friends!  You put up with a lot!

Brad & Brittany.  You go above and beyond in keeping me healthy.  I so appreciate it.  When your PT texts you after your race to see how your hip felt, you know you found a keeper!

My QT2 family.  Best teammates EVAH!!!

Tim.  You need a raise.

And most of all, Oscar.  Nobody knows the ups and downs like you do.  Thanks for always being there no matter what.  12 years, baby!!

And now it's time to get back at it and keep it rolling.  Hang on, hip, we've got some work to do!

Syracuse is a beautiful race.  And it was a BEAUTIFUL day!

I was a hurtin' puppy on that run.  And that large, grassy field we had to run through wasn't any fun.  :)

Podium with some awesome ladies!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy QT2 Anniversary!

At this time last year I was completing my very first QT2 training week from coach Tim Snow.  It was a recovery week as I had just come off back to back 70.3s.  My first QT2 workouts were a recovery swim and a recovery ride, both of which I got disciplined for going too fast (a recurring theme throughout the next several months until I finally caught on).



Becoming a part of QT2 has been a great privilege and one of the best decisions I've made!  I've learned a ton over the past 12 months.  What have I learned?  Well, I'm glad you asked!

1) Recovery means recovery.  Oh Lord have I learned this.  Over and over and over.  Like 50W rides, 9:30 paced runs and swims so slow you don't even keep track.

2) The devil is in the details.  And there are a lot of details!!  I laugh now at just how naive I was about a lot of things, all of which were details I felt like I had a really good handle on!  QT2 has a "protocol" for it all.  And it makes a big difference.  There is a caffeine matrix.  There is a beet juice protocol.  There is a restoration checklist.  There are exact HR averages to hit.  There are mental fitness tools.  The list goes on and on...  And there is no messing around!  If you want to know that you've taken care of EVERY detail when you're standing on the starting line of a race, QT2 is the way to go!

3) In an individual sport like triathlon, being on a team is really awesome.  And I do mean team.  Being at the QT2 pro camp this past winter was one of the best athletic experiences of my life.  But really the QT2 "team environment" goes well beyond camp, even when we are all training by ourselves at home.  It's an amazing group with vast experiences and therefore major resources.  When I graduated from Penn State I remember feeling very sad that I wasn't going to be on a "team" again, in life.  Little did I know what was in store!

Dont' be fooled, everyone is smiling in this picture because Jesse has just announced that our final camp workout was completed!  :)


4) Having a detailed race plan AND fueling plan for each race makes a huge difference!  DUH!  But how many people don't do this?  I know I raced for 6 years, 1.5 of that as a professional, without having either!

5) Improvement takes A LOT of work.  Of course!  I think most everyone understands this concept.  But after working with Tim this past year, I've realized that it's much more work than I originally thought.  Hours and hours and HOURS of hard work for YEARS.  Years.  Probably much more than most people realize.  Certainly more than I realized.

6) Having a great coach is a game changer.  NOT in any way does this suggest that my previous coaches were not good coaches!  On the contrary, I'm very thankful for all the amazing people I've gotten to work with through the years - from my first middle school track coach to my all triathlon coaches!  But one thing is for sure, the QT2 coaches are truly invested in the success and happiness of their athletes and the level of dedication they ask from you is 100% returned in the dedication they give back.  It's pretty amazing.

Mile repeats under the watchful eye of Jesse.  (and that evil little black book of his...)

Here's to many more years of QT2 success!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Beth's Guide To Being Injured

I *hope* you never need to put this advice to use, but should you find yourself injured, here are my tips for survival.

1)  Let yourself be sad.

I realize that, in the grand scheme of things, a sports injury isn't that big of a deal.  It's not cancer.  Nobody died.  The sun still rises every morning.  BUT for many of us, sport is a big part of our lives and when that part is missing, it's depressing.  Training and racing make me happy.  Without training and racing, I am sad.  No point in trying to pretend otherwise.  The trick though is, you can't wallow in your own sorrow forever.  Eventually you have to move on.

How fun is this guy?  He's orange!  But he does look sad.  And that's okay.

2)  "What-ifs" are toxic.  Don't let them win.

By "what-ifs" I mean the "what if I can't race X race because of this injury", "what if it doesn't heal and I lose all my fitness", "what if I disappoint my coach, my family, my sponsors", "what if I have to get surgery", "what if the surgery doesn't work" "what if I can't race this season at all", "what if I can NEVER race again", etc...  What-ifs can totally consume you and leave you in a pit of despair.  And really they are just a total waste of energy, emotion and time.  Why worry about something that has yet to happen?  When dealing with injuries, work only with the information you KNOW to be true.  And take it one day at a time.

3)  Don't be too proud to reach out for help.

And by help, I mean your friends/family/coach/teammates, but also, professional help.  More than any other time I've been injured, I did just this, this time around.  And it has made a huge difference.  These people all really want to help you.  Let them.

4)  Focus on what you CAN do.

I was definitely guilty of just the opposite when Ironman Texas rolled around.  I so desperately wanted to be in The Woodlands racing, that I really struggled to focus on anything else.  Bad news bears.  When you're injured there are plenty of things you can't do, sure, but there are also a lot of things you can do.  In my case, I couldn't bike or run but I sure could do a ton of all pull, one-legged, open turn swimming!  And so I did that with all my heart.  What else?  Get tons of sleep to help with healing (you will have the time, after all!), rehab with a passion (time to strengthen all those weaknesses!), focus on your nutrition, read, go to the movies, plot your comeback.  There are plenty of variables you can control, so control those and let the other stuff go.

5)  Don't take your anger and frustration out on your spouse/significant other/coach/friends/etc...

Easy to do (sorry Oscar and Tim!), but obviously not a good option.  It's not their fault you are hurt!  Store up all that frustration and anger for your next open water mass swim start.  All your pent up aggression will come in handy then!

6)  Realize that everyone goes through their ups and downs.

When pushing to their limits, very few people make it through without an injury or some sort of "down".  I personally just had to accept that it was my turn.  I ask a ton of my body and I pushed it very, very hard for a very, very long time.  It finally said "no more" and I had to respect that.  My body wanted a break and it got one - about a 6 week break to be exact!  As the saying goes though, the lows only make the highs that much better.

6)  Know that once you can train/race again, you will be so thankful, hungry and motivated that you are bound to see a jump in performance.  Plus your body will be refreshed!

Injuries force us to take the extended breaks that we probably need to take all the time.  I never really lack for motivation but now, after this down time, my mind and body are rearing to go, more than EVER before!

7)  And finally, once you are back to training/racing, DO NOT allow yourself to make comparisons.

Comparisons to others, comparisons to your former self, etc...  These are bad juju and only steal your joy!  I was so, so happy to start back into some training these past couple weeks.  But it wasn't long before I started fretting about how much fitness I had lost.  It's one thing to be out of shape in December but being out of shape is May/June is less than ideal!  BUT, but, you have to put on the blinders and focus on the process of getting back in shape on YOUR body's timeline.

See this racehorse?  He has blinders on so he only worries about himself!
Hope these tidbits will help someone at some point!