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Author Archives: Elizabeth Waterstraat

I Paid How Much For That Swim?

It comes around once a year – the Naperville Sprint Triathlon. To be contested: who shall be the next Queen of Triathlon in Naperville. Self-proclaiming myself as this queen for many, many years, I urge you to understand that with this crown comes great responsibility; to welcome the newbies, to be that person on the masters team who still doesn’t flip turn, to convince your athletes/friends to litter the internet with pictures of their bikes propped next to a Live Bait sign at a gas station on long rides to Morris.

Blaines bike

THERE IT IS! Blaine’s P5 in Morris!  (and as a kind old man last weekend informed me, all sorts of Grundy County hoodlums are stealing expensive bikes & setting fires to dumpster in Morris so don’t leave your bike resting alone out there!)

Last year, if you recall, Amanda took the crown. You borrowed my crown. Her reply: I won it. Doesn’t count, I was pregnant. The year before that some 16 year old won it and….so….I haven’t actually won this race since 2012 but still, it’s like those honorary degrees they hand out to celebrities. I CAN CALL MYSELF THE QUEEN!

All joking aside, I was excited about this race and ready to race.

Don’t be fooled by the small town feel and quarry swim in this race: fast athletes always show up.  I went into it with my bigger sessions pushed to earlier in the week so I had a fighting chance of racing a perennial podium placer and one of my own fastest athletes: Jenny Garrison. Make no mistake, I had no delusions of beating this woman, I just had a desire to get as close to her as possible.   Great competition brings out greatness in everyone if you welcome the opportunity!

Jenny and Liz

Though I signed up on Monday, I ended up with number 11 which meant a fantastic spot in transition around a lovely mix of athletes. None of us had any idea how we got so lucky – some of us signed up late, some were consistent podium placers, others complete beginners.  The conversations were priceless.  From I’m just hoping not to die to full on race report about someone’s half Ironman where – surprise! – they had a great bike but cramped on the run.  I just sat around fielding questions of so, is this your first triathlon?  


I set up my belongings quickly and then sat around talking with Adrienne, one of my athletes racked right near me. Around 6:25 am, I made one last check of my wheels (no brake pads rubbing!), my gear (all set up!) and headed over to the swim start.

Jenny and I swam the course twice for warm up.   In the past week, summer has finally arrived in a heavy wave of 90 degree temperatures.  Quickly, the quarry went from pleasant place for a swim to murky bath of hair, sweaty residue and leaving you smelling like wet gym socks.  Not surprisingly, the water was 83 – no wetsuits permitted.

The race start is unique as you line up 4 across and get sent off every 10 seconds. As in years past, I lined up in one of the first lines getting right behind Adrienne, a former D1 collegiate swimmer. As in years past, I totally belonged up there. I didn’t but – fake it ‘til you make it and ride the fastest draft possible is my motto when it comes to swimming.

As we waited in line, I looked around to see myself surrounded by my friends, coach athletes, lanemates – this is why I love this race. Gather up 1600+ of my sporty friends from Naperville and go as hard as we can for close to an hour.

Just a few minutes prior to the race start, a man came up to me. Number 11? Come here.

All of a sudden, my friends, athletes and lanemates started oooooo-ing in a collective grade school somebody just got called into the principal’s office. Though a few possible scenarios went through my mind (bike got knocked over, they caught me hopping the fence to the bathroom), I didn’t anticipate this one:

Your tire is flat in transition.

My mouth dropped. As did my stomach. It’s about 5 minutes until the gun goes off and I had no idea what to do. Before race day I envision many scenarios but this one never crossed my mind. EVER. What now? I asked if I had time to fix it – he said you do, go now.

I ran up to transition and sure enough, my front tire was completely deflated. Not a problem unless you traveled to the race with absolutely no tubes and no C02. Yes, I know better. And living about 6 minutes away, I probably should have thrown spare wheels in the car too! But hindsight is much clearer than reality and my reality was I was standing in T1, minutes from the race with absolutely no way to fix this.

Kindly, the others in transition (relays? officials? do people normally just hang out in transition?) informed me that they asked the bike mechanic but they only had 700s and I ride 650s. I ran back down to the swim start with no idea what to do. I figured, at worst, I would do the swim and my day would end there. When I got back to the start, my husband told me to run back up to my bike – Adrienne was actually riding my sister in laws bike and it had 650s, with spares! I ran back up to find my brother in law, who was also racing, already there and trying to change the tube for me. We started working together quickly.

Meanwhile, the national anthem was being sung.

Moments later, my husband appeared in transition and told me to go on and race. I will take care of it. I gave him that are you sure look, he told me to GO and I ran back to the start line.  I was impressed as I knew this act of kindness could possibly sacrifice his own race – Chris would have to start with slower swimmers and swim through over 1500 triathletes, self-seeded by swim ability.  As I stood beneath a sign that read 5:00 for 400 meters, one can only imagine how good triathletes at self-seeding!

Back at the swim start, I politely crammed myself back into my original starting position next to Jenny and they sent the first line off. Goggles down and we went in 10 seconds.

I JUST MADE IT! (barely)

I ran into the water with Jenny right next to me. She giggled and then face flopped right into the water. As she got up I shouted GARRISON, I AM COMING AFTER YOU! I trailed her for 200 meters before taking the lead. I exited the swim right ahead of her and then, side by side, we completed the long run to transition. This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time – running into transition with an amazing athlete but even better friend. The day was looking hopeful. I might get within 1 minute of this woman today. I might actually challenge her. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  She was totally in control and I was wheezing.

As we ran down our lane in transition, I started to pull off my speedsuit when I realized it was stuck on something. I asked a relay participant to help, UNZIPPER ME! He started tugging but explained it was stuck on my top. So I did what any athlete would do – I yanked the zipper and in doing so, tore my top and squeezed my way out of the speedsuit. Just then, I heard a POP and knew it had happened. My tire had gone flat – again.

Just like that, it was over.

It took me all of 2 minutes to get over it, put on my running shoes and head out to start spectating. I found a friend/athlete out on the course, we ran a bit shouting at everyone. I got some confused looks (as in: how are you done racing already?) but made the best of it. Trying to salvage the day, I cut out to run an old favorite Jen Harrison workout:  6 x 3 minutes hard followed by 3 minutes easy. It was hot and I had no water along with me. And learned a very powerful lesson of why you never, ever run without water. It was one of those desperate acts of swallowing my saliva and calling it “hydration.”

It didn’t help, really.

As lousy as it was to pay $110 to race 6 ½ minutes, I learned a few lessons here. Always carry spare tubes to a race – no matter how short the race is. Always pack your training wheels in the car for nearby races. And, we also discovered the cause of my flats (and perhaps this discovery was priceless to avoid it happening again on, let’s say, a Big Island?): Chris put Velo Plugs into the inside of my race wheels as opposed to rim tape. One of the plugs slipped down and the tube was effectively being pushed into that hole. No matter how many times I would have replaced the tube or even the tire, it would have kept exploding. I would much rather learn this lesson in Naperville than in Hawaii.

In over 15 years of racing, I’ve only flatted twice: this past weekend and in Memphis. And it was in 2004 in Memphis where I learned another valuable lesson: always preview the bike course before the race. Had I previewed that course, I would have avoided the metal grate at mile 22 that blew a hole in my tire. I set out for a 2.8 mile walk back to transition. Along the way, I encountered another participant who had a flat tire. Except he didn’t know how to change it. I helped him and sent him on his way.


It turned out to be a beautiful day to watch a triathlon. I watched my athletes take the overall win and the F25-29 and F20-24 age group.  Plus I got to hang out with these guys who create the illusion that I am far more vertically challenged than in reality.  And as for racing, well, I shall race again another day (with rim tape – no more plugs!).

Multisport Mastery July 2015 Athlete of the Month- Shana Jurgemeyer

The July 2015 Multisport Mastery Athlete of the Month is Shana Jurgemeyer.

Shana started working with Multisport Mastery coach Amanda Wendorff in April 2015 with goals of improving her times in triathlon, as well as the half marathon and marathon distances. She’s made great strides in a short amount of time, and is on track for big Personal Records at the HITS – Twin Cities Olympic Distance Triathlon and the Twin Cities Marathon in the coming months.

Shana 1
We asked Shana a few questions about her life in and out of sports.
Q :Tell us a little about yourself: where do you live, what do you do outside of swimming, biking and running, etc.?

My name is Shana and I live in Minneapolis, MN. I am a veterinarian with the USDA, a mother of two young girls, a wife, and a devoted but talentless gardener.

Q: What is your history with running and endurance sports?

I always was an active child, though I never played any official sports. In college I could be described as a gym rat. I started running in 2001 while in veterinary school when the elliptical machine couldn’t counteract the chocolate chip cookie dough I was eating while studying. I began running in quarter-mile increments and slowly built it up to run a half marathon. My race time wasn’t too shabby! Then I graduated, started working full time and had my babies. I ran off and on during that time, but never more than a few miles at a time.

I started running in earnest again in 2011. I ran two to three half marathons a year, but wouldn’t describe myself as a runner. Over the years, I grew more confident as a runner and as an athlete. Due to all the cross-training I was doing anyway, I raced a sprint triathlon in 2013 and was hooked. In 2014, I raced a 70.3, a marathon, and a half marathon in the span of three months. I also came up with numerous overuse injuries.

Q: What are your 2015 season goals?

My original goals for 2015 were simply to heal my injuries and work on speed. But things have gone better than planned1 I have already raced [Ed. Note: and PR’d!] a half marathon, eight-mile race, and intermediate distance triathlon this year and plan on an Olympic triathlon, a full marathon, and several other small races.

Q: How has working with a coach helped you to work towards your goals?

I teamed with Amanda in April and it has been a huge game-changer. My training is completely different than anything I had ever done before. When training solo, I was only concerned about whether I could get the miles done. So, I’d practice the race distances over and over, always at the same intensity. No wonder I came up injured!

Now, my training sessions all have purpose that fit the overall goal, with varying degrees of intensity. My workouts have dramatically improved in quality, and that is reflective in my performance as well. In just a couple of months, I shaved off a significant amount of time off my personal records and my legs feel fresh and pain-free. They haven’t felt like this in a long time! Seeing my results and having the support of my coach has increased my athletic confidence and abilities tremendously.

shana 2

Q: What motivates you to get up and work on your goals daily?

It is not hard for me to find the motivation to train. Exercise keeps me grounded while recharging me. It calms me, helps me focus, and makes me feel like one with the world. The feelings I feel after a great run are one of my most favorite feelings. Even if I’m not in the mood to get out the door, I know I will feel better if I just give myself a little push. I am proud of what I have accomplished, which helps me set new goals.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give anyone starting out in the sport?

If I could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in the sport, it’s that what seems impossible when starting out, is totally doable with time, dedication, and great support. Even after racing several half marathons, I couldn’t call myself a runner, let alone an athlete. Now, I have plans for a Boston qualifier and a full Ironman. And I know I can get there with Amanda’s help.

A Note from Coach Amanda:

I love working with Shana because she is someone who is truly passionate about endurance sports and, every single day, relishes the positive impact running, cycling, and swimming has had on her life. She truly enjoys training, works hard, is willing to try new things, and treats each session like an exciting adventure. She is driven by her desire to set a great example for her daughters and she’s doing just that — the discipline and tenacity she is showing in her training and racing certainly is inspiring to all those around her! I love that Shana has set long-term goals– she pretty much has a 10+ year plan for athletics — and isn’t going to let anything get in her way.  shana3

Congratulations, Shana!

Muncie 70.3 Race Report

Muncie. One of the longest running half Ironmans in the country. This weekend, I competed at Muncie for the fourth time. Back to the beginning. The year – 2001. Then called the Muncie Endurathon, it was my second half Ironman. The result – 1st in AG, a very young F25-29. 2002, another age group win. 2003, Muncie was the USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship. I finished 3rd, F25-29.

Here we are, 14 years later – 2015.  Back to Muncie. Now a “70.3” – the course was slightly changed but Muncie it remains – an unusual place to host a half Ironman but somehow 2000+ athletes decided to see if what this bird told us through our childhood was true:

Is there really more than corn in Indiana?indiana bird


This year I tried something new – going into a half Ironman with a bigger load of training. My coach encouraged me to race this summer but not to get into a position of resting into every race. I’ve never done a half Ironman not rested (or peaked/tapered). And, it’s not something I encourage my own athletes to do. Going into a race with an “excuse” for why you don’t feel good or fresh can become a slippery slope of giving up on race day when it gets tough. Especially in a half Ironman, at some point the race will get tough and you must be ready to rally. But in the spirit of learning more about myself and the sport this year, I was willing to give this new approach a try.

Last week concluded a hefty week of training and a few days prior to the race I did a fairly big workout. By Friday, I won’t lie – I felt “ok” but lacked the usual zip in my legs and mental fire I feel for a race. Bigger training leaves my head filled with a little fog – usually a few good days or rest helps that fog clear to restore my clarity and confidence. Late in the week I still felt a little foggy but was ready to fight in the race. I packed my bags, loaded the beet juice and wrote a race plan.

I drove to Muncie with Amanda. A four hour drive, deep into Indiana down the I-65 corridor. A drive I had made countless times en route to college in southern Ohio – I knew every exit, every rest stop, every Stucky’s.  Speaking of – what happened to all of the Stucky’s?

We arrived late afternoon, weary. After checking in at the race site, our hotel was still another hour away. Tempted by a $10 spaghetti dinner and a $15 cot, we gave in to sleeping at the local church that was 10 minutes away from the race site. We had our pick of rooms under the chapel. After a close battle between choosing the mother’s nursing room (too many germs!) or Room #12 bursting with rainbow-colored chairs, a mini-fridge and a microwave, Amanda chose Room #12. We soon realized it was the Sunday school snack shop, filled with Pop-Tarts, goldfish, cookies, crackers and Capri Sun. If we weren’t in a church or, better yet, a race, we confessed we would have stolen (eaten) half of everything.

That night we slept about as well as you can sleep on a cot in a church snack shop.

Race morning.

I came to Muncie for a good old humid, Midwest scorcher. I got 70 and sunny instead. It wasn’t even humid! And there was no wind. The problem with these conditions is that it means you have to race – fast. My strengths lie within out pacing, out smarting, out lasting my competition. I tend to suffer better and make adversity my advantage. There is nothing at all adverse about 70 and sunny! That’s what you call perfect!

After a long line of traffic, a parking attendant who seemed to be tempting fate (come on, come on, you’re not gonna hit me, pull forward, come on) we finally arrived at the race site. On the list of things to do was to get a timing chip as I had forgotten to pick mine up the day before. Upon doing this, I realized I had also been body marked with the wrong race number. One of my athletes was standing there and said, Coach Liz, best we not share these mistakes with your other athletes. The shame! After convincing the timing guy that I was indeed 1830 and not 1803 he gave me timing chip number 4 instead. I had utmost confidence that I would end up with the proper splits today.

The morning flew by quickly as I did my usual pre-race rituals, feedings and waits in the porta potty lines. Tires were pumped, friends in the AWA rack were heckled, transition areas were double checked and we made our way to the swim start. Due to traffic, the race start was delayed by 15 minutes. Amanda spared me half a bagel as second breakfast while waiting.

My start time approached and I previewed the swim. Though I required a tutor in geometry, I have a basic enough understanding that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I envisioned the straightest line between the swim start and the turn buoy.   I started in the front line of my wave and took off at the race start. To my left, one woman kept up with me for about 400 yards – right on cue, she dropped off and I took the lead, weaving through the waves of older men and women in front of me.

I cruised the swim effortlessly. I felt fantastic. Each week, I swim with our masters team in my wetsuit at the quarry. This practice is priceless. I have the fastest guys on the team to chase or chasing me. I learn to go ridiculously hard in my wetsuit, I find my different gears. It’s a different skill set and practice is everything. On the way back, the course goes directly into the sun. The swim exit was adjacent to the end of the tree line so I planned to sight upon the trees. However, the sun was so bright I couldn’t even see the trees. Instead, I swam from buoy to buoy. I couldn’t see the buoys until I was right upon them but had counted 8 before the race and – thankfully – they were numbered. Before I knew it, I was at the swim exit in a little over 29 minutes!

Wetsuit strippers proved to be a slow move on my part. I had to help the stripper help me take off the wetsuit. The run to T1 was long on a series of carpets covering chunky rocks. I kept getting caught up behind people slowly running or walking, having to run in the rocks (YOW!) while also trying to be polite (excuse me, on your left, please, coming through).

Meanwhile, keeping with the theme of trying new things, I was also trying to put on my Garmin. I’ve only raced with a Garmin once (in Texas) and never on the swim. So today I had it in my cap (I find it only reads accurately in there) which required a switch to my wrist. Turns out holding a wetsuit, cap and goggles while trying to fasten a Garmin to my wrist is a bit challenging!

Finally through T1, it was time to bike.

The Muncie bike course starts out on rough roads through a neighborhood. I settled into the ride but something wasn’t right. I was being passed, aggressively. I know, I know – it happens. But I was being passed by athletes I had just outswum by up to 24 minutes! I looked down at my HR and watts – all lined up perfectly with where I should be but one after another athletes, some on road bikes, were passing me. Two women in my AG passed me. I didn’t know if my Iron Engine was just taking its time to warm up, if I had lost all of my fitness from Texas, if everyone else had no idea how to pace a half Ironman, if my brakes were rubbing, if my tires had gone flat. My head was a nonstop chain of questions, chatter and what the …..!?!?! questions. In other words, I was having a moment of Peg (from PBS Kids Peg and Cat)


But Liz Waterstraat is a patient breed and knows that 56 miles is a long way to go and anything can happen. I kept thinking back to the sign on Room #12: Bee Your Best.  Be your best, Liz!  Maybe right now this was my best so I just went with it.

Bee Your Best

Room #12 was like staying in Willy Wonka’s vending machine supply closet. 

Besides, Best Bike Split had predicted I would ride 2:33:27 and even though I didn’t “like” that split perhaps that was the best I would do today in order to run well off the bike (incidentally, I rode exactly 2:33:27).  Nothing to do but accept it! Still, 40 minutes into what was becoming the worst ride of my racing career, at the point where I started to write my race eulogy in my head, Amanda, my often training partner & who started 8 minutes behind me was already passing me.


I couldn’t find the button so I violently smacked my fancy hydraulic brakes instead (because in moments of frustration it helps to hit something).

I don’t know if it did anything but all of a sudden I started going A LOT faster.

Maybe it was a mechanical issue or maybe the proverbial brake was on my entire body – who knows. Whatever the case, it cost me a lot of time! So, I started flying through people. We were out on the highway which was a gradual incline going out and decline coming back that sailed alongside barren roads with empty buildings and corn. This course was fast. Course marshalls kept us honest but the course being an 11 mile stretch of highway that you rode back and forth twice – riders were everywhere. Sometimes I was passing people who were passing people. It was a tricky mess of riders to navigate.

I kept picking up more and more speed. I kept feeling better and better. I thought about something I heard from long ago pro, Marcel Vifian: let the race come back to you. When it starts unraveling or something doesn’t go your way, let it come back. As the miles clicked off quicker, I kept telling myself stay the path, stay the path! Around mile 50, I found one of the women in my age group, PASSED! Around mile 53, I found the other one. I made a pass but she passed right back. We arrived at transition within seconds of each other.

The Muncie run course is not flat. It’s a series of long, gradual inclines or declines along forested roads – perfect for me! I ran out of transition with first in my age group right ahead of me. Be patient, I said to myself. Pass her patiently and don’t rush things. I went out controlled but the first mile clicked off at 6:51. I figured it was a pace much more painful for her than me. Shortly after, I made the pass and didn’t look back. Time to put distance between us.

Racing at the front of the race, it was lonely! A few younger men passed me but mostly I was passing 40+ men. I made my way to the out and back thinking I just needed to keep clicking off as many miles at a certain pace as possible. I kept waiting for my legs to fall heavy from the last week of training but it never happened. My coach continually puts me into a position to trust my running legs and then find them. I kept telling myself to keep pushing to the turnaround. Soon after the turn, I realized I had only put a minute on the woman, Kelly, behind me. I gave her a smile but knew I still had a lot of work to do. There was no room for backing off.

In 15 years of racing, this was the second time ever that I wore a Garmin while racing. I liked it!  Like Ironman, I watched my HR and time. I did not watch pace – I just pushed or backed off the effort based on the pace that came up at the mile. That is what I do in training. I knew I just had to keep clicking off miles at the same pace without much fade to hold my lead in the last half of the run. My HR was a little stale (again, not surprising given the work last week) so I just gave it as much effort as possible. I made the turn to the final road before the finish line knowing I still had two miles to go – two miles that felt like forever. The last mile contained a tough hill and finally there it was, the turn to the finish line. Following the pattern of this year, I sprinted to the finish line because I knew the younger women were charging hard behind me to finish off the run in a little over 1:34.  Every second would count!

Sprint Finish

“Sprint finish” – cut me some slack, this was after 4.5 hours of racing!

In the end, I finished 1st in age group and 9th women overall. It was a glorious day to be racing and so much fun to be surrounded by my athletes and friends.

Liz at Muncie

THIS is 40-44 (and was shortly after I rubbed the furrow lines between my eyes & made Amanda take the picture again).  Next person who calls me ma’am gets punched in the face.

All in all, it was very exciting to return to a race, 14 years later, and win my age group once again. I’m grateful for my longevity – it’s something I respect in other long-time competitors and something I hope I am wise enough to maintain.  If I’m still doing triathlon in another 14 years, I’ll come back to dominate F50-54.

Wait – one day I’m gonna be 50?


Here are my “details” (I told Sue Aquila, who I met after the race, that I would list this all out):

2 ½ hours prior to race: ½ cup oatmeal w/currants, almonds, brown sugar, 2 packets of Via (in Muncie, we called this “coffee”), Beet-It shot, 24 oz water

45 minutes prior to race: ½ cinnamon raisin bagel, sip water through morning

15 minutes prior to race: 1 Power Gel plus water

Bike: 3 Power Gels (2 caffeinated), 6 salt tabs, 32 oz water, 60 oz sports drink (Accelerade made with 1.3 scoops for every 24 oz), ½ Coconut CLIF Bar

Bike totals = 340 calories/hour, 73 g carbohydrate/hour, 946 mg sodium/hour, 50 mg caffeine, 36 oz fluids/hour

Run: 1 Power Gel @ mile 1, 5, 9 (one with double caffeine), 2 cups water at every aid station, 3 salt tabs

Run totals = 220 calories/hour, 54 g carbohydrates/hour, 730 mg sodium/hour, 50 mg caffeine

Post race: water, pretzels, Gatorade, Dairy Queen, beer, pizza, and a small tantrum at a gas station in Lebanon, Indiana when I realized they had everything else BUT plain Cheez-Its (who eats white cheddar Cheez-its – WHO!?).

Summer Days

We wait all year for it and once arrived – the days seem to fly by. I love the summer for so many reasons; my garden bursting in coneflowers, cold beer, the occasional Dairy Queen for dinner, windows down, music up, daylight beyond 8 pm.


I’m just one hosta away from needing a bumper sticker that says, “I’d rather be gardening.”  Here’s my explosion of Phlox, Beardtongue, Purple Coneflower, Guava Ice Coneflower, Cheyenne Spirit Coneflower, Gayfeather & Purple Fountain Grass

With summer here, training is in full swing. Recovery after Texas went well. I never thought I would attempt two Ironmans in one year so I consider this year a science experiment to better understand how athletes recover from an Ironman and then leverage that fitness into the next one. Sitting here about 8 weeks after Texas, I’m finally seeing my fitness come back around to where it was prior to Ironman. I’m grateful for my health and excited to build from this point.

This past weekend, I enjoyed some good old summer fun training. One of my long-time athletes, let’s call her M., came out to join us for training in Naperville. While Naperville doesn’t seem like a mecca for training, when you dig deeper you realize we have it pretty good out here. Situated 30 miles west of Chicago, we have miles of crushed gravel trails that run through beautiful woodlands and meadows. We have hills and flats. Though I have to drive 30 minutes to get there, we have uninterrupted roads lined with corn and endless blue skies. We have a quarry for open water swimming or long course meter lanes. An amazingly fit and fast masters team led by quality coaches. A diversity of training partners in my arsenal including national champions and a world champion. I’m a pretty lucky athlete.

Thursday started with a long hilly run at the Arboretum. The Arboretum has approximately 12 miles of roads undulating with short and long hills. We warmed up slowly and then took on some long hills at tempo effort and short hills at a hard effort. I started the run by telling M that I don’t usually talk when I run but then, as usually happens, I started talking. I told her my goal this weekend was to show her what a great athlete she really is. What I’ve learned in 8+ years of coaching women is that I’m not predominantly coaching fitness and physiology – I’m coaching confidence. I’m coaching their ability to trust what’s inside and then give experiences and skills to bring that out. M stayed gritty on the hills; she was right there putting the pressure on herself and also putting the pressure on me. Sometimes we need that to rise up and fight through a workout.

Later that evening, we went to masters along with my husband, Chris, and local athlete, good friend and now coach in my business – Amanda. Our masters team is run much differently than others. We don’t have lanes separated by base pace. That is how I end up swimming with people much faster than me – to push me and make me understand what fast swimming really is! But on Thursdays, it’s sprint night and everyone swims together on the same interval. This means you can find yourself swimming with someone who can usually lap you on a 150. Thursdays are USRPT practices. For short course season, we focused on 25s. You basically had a goal pace for a 50, split it for a 25 and learned to repeat that pace for more reps and eventually on shorter rest. By the end of the season, we were doing 30 x 25 on the :35. We started with 10 x 25 on the :40. It sounds easy but when you’re going close to “all out, it’s a challenge! Personally I loved the sets as they forced me to figure out the form, effort and subtleties of how what I’m doing translates to a half second faster. Now, we are working on 50s. Lucky for M, we were doing sets of all out 50s on the 1:15, some 25s and then an all out 100. For someone who always swims alone, she bravely rose up to the challenges and found herself putting down her fastest 100 ever.

Quarry 2

Deep water mass starts at the quarry.

The next day, I took M to my open water swim class that I teach at the local quarry. Some people talk about how they want to get faster in open water. Those who do get faster actually practice it. We practice everything – race starts in the water, from the beach, going around buoys, drafting, pace lining, pier sprints, diving, jumps. Most of all I encourage them to not play nice – they get all over each other and some even swim over each other. Just like racing. We work at all intensities to learn to find different gears in swimming rather than just getting into open water and “just” swimming (which – surprise! – doesn’t make you faster for open water swimming).

Beach Swim

Swimmers – ready, GO!  Running in from the beach & don’t play nice!

Later in the day, we rode up to Fermilab with Amanda. Fermilab is part of the Department of Energy, a particle accelerator laboratory. It’s closed to general public traffic. Low traffic roads mean lots of cyclists. There’s a herd of buffalo that reside on site and the highlight might have been watching the “teenaged” buffalo awkwardly run with the herd. We kept the watts low and conversation going.


Herd of buffalo in Fermilab & token midwest red barn in background.

Saturday was the big day. An “organized” ride. These rides take place nearly every weekend. Usually they start at a local school and for a $25 entry you get a course map, marked roads and rest stops. It’s a great way to feel safety in numbers and find some new routes. Parts of this course actually went through our normal route to Morris. And, in case you haven’t heard, Morris is the new Boulder. Somewhere off of I-80, the small town of Morris rests with a gas station on Washington Street equipped with the usual population of small town and a sign that promises LIVE BAIT.  This gas station is a haven for cyclists after 30+ uninterrupted miles on some of the flattest roads around.


There may be plans in the works of driving 45 miles & abducting this sign in late October.

We actually rode to the start of the route – with Chris leading and a warm up pace over 2 mph faster than my usual pace. This could only mean one thing: NO WIND. And in Chicago, we never, ever have no wind. Today would be a very fast ride.   It was a feeling of pure awesomeness to sit on fast wheels while literally flying past large packs of riders like a freight train. It reminded me of the years of Ragbrai – the thrill of riding set against the peacefulness of farm roads.  At one point, geared out, spun out I found myself dropped but not alone. Behind me trailed a long line of men holding my wheel!

We regrouped in Morris making a critical error. Should you ever have to choose between making a left turn towards home or a right turn towards the gas station to buy your usual hit of 5-Hour Energy, turn right. TURN RIGHT! In a very un-Coach Liz like moment (I am human, after all!) I started to unravel, fall apart and, gasp, bonk. With 1 hour to go, I found myself again, alone, watching the Chris, Amanda and M disappear further and further ahead. It was then I found myself thinking of my favorite quote from Ragbrai:

If you find yourself alone, riding in the corn fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in ______ (Plainfield?  Morris?  Seneca?) and you’re already dead!

Right on cue, I hit bottom with a nonstop chatter of negative thoughts and feelings flying through my head. You’re slow, you can’t keep up, you’ll never be what you once were, you’ll never achieve your goals, you don’t belong. Fear, shame, embarrassment – feelings that were wrapping strong around me. For over 20 miles. And you know what I did? Just kept pedaling. Just kept moving forward with the same pressure on myself to maintain the effort. I didn’t give up, slow down or stop. I stayed the path. It wasn’t easy but one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years is to keep the momentum going and stay the path. What you do in your dark moments is just as important as what you do when it’s going well. An hour later, I got off my bike, albeit alone, but it was done and over it.

The run off the bike? Well, after riding 92 miles faster than I’ve ever ridden (including races!) at half Ironman watts (ouch), safe to say that run felt very, very special. It was hot and my head was filled with clutter as I watched Chris and Amanda pull away around the path. 25 minutes of running felt like an eternity of self-doubt, self-hate and when will this be over already!? It didn’t take a sports scientist to diagnose what was happening – I had depleted all of my resources in many ways. By the time we got back to the car, it required a Pop-Tart to save my life.

The next day, we woke up to swim one last time at the quarry. Not surprisingly everyone was beat up, tired and feeling the effects of a few days of more training than I’ve done in years! The swim was refreshing and easy. It took another two days of easy before I felt like myself again (and before I peed clear and slept through the night; the difference between younger Liz and older Liz is a lot more recovery time).Mack and Amanda

“Surround yourself with those who see greatness in you, even when you don’t see it within yourself.”

As for how M did over the weekend? As expected, she rose up and met the challenges in front of her. She swam, biked and ran outside of her zone of comfort. She took risks and went all in. If you want to breakthrough, that’s what it takes. Sometimes you find yourself keeping up, sometimes you find yourself falling behind. But if you’re going to answer your questions and find meaningful answers – you’ve got to take that risk. You’ve got to be brave enough to face whatever it is waiting for you at mile 80, alone or with others. There’s no other easy way. I didn’t videotape her, perform masterful analysis, test her V02 max – I just observed. Put her into a variety of situations and watched how she reacted. Honestly this is the most valuable thing you can do with an athlete. All of the years on deck at masters or coaching my Ironman group weekly at Well-Fit and what I’ve found is that by simple observation you can learn how an athlete works. This is more valuable than knowing any test result on paper. Put the real world challenge in front of an athlete and then watch. What do they do when tired? When scared? When with others who are slower? Faster? The physiology is all very interesting, the psychology is what makes it happen out there.

And this week it’s been back to training – solo. Unless you count my two children. The stress level of any workout increases exponentially for each child present during a workout. I had to make a prison of empty boxes around my bike so no one would touch my wheels or get under my pedals! And like my coach said to me when I confessed the Pop Tart required to recharge my life force (and personality) on Saturday: whatever it takes, Liz.

Esprit de She Sprint Triathlon

Here we are, four weeks post Ironman.

The high of Texas has worn off, the blisters have healed and my body seems to be recovered. I took one week of easy riding on my cyclocross bike while eating a page out of my Food Fantasy Log every day (cupcakes, ice cream for dinner, peanut butter cups), ten days off of running (let’s not talk about that first run back) and slowly rebuilt my way back into training with workouts designed to wake my body up. V02 max intervals, all out reps, big gear pushes, hill repeats. Combined with some very hot days, let’s just say it’s been a very painful wake up call!

WAKE UP, body!

So what better way to jolt the body back into fitness than a race! (hey, at least I got out of another workout that contained the words ALL OUT on my schedule!) I signed up for Esprit de She, the local women’s sprint triathlon. In Naperville, the spirit of women in sport is strong– this “little” race of up to 2000 women offers a mixed bag of mountain bikes, beach cruisers, hybrids to the most tricked out tri bike with the latest aero toys. Not surprisingly, this race can dig up some fierce competition from former pros, national champions and local up-and-comers. On race day, one thing is certain: you never know who is going to show up ready throw down.

After some insightful observation from my coach, we’ve determined I race better when a little tired. So he planned out a normal week of training. THANKS? Bike intervals, a long run and the day before the race? What happened to be one of my worst 3 hour rides ever. On a scale of zero to ten, with ten being “raging corn bear” and zero being “I quit the sport and sold my bike to a meth addict in Morris” – this bike was a legitimate .5.


I made it through 90 minutes of the ride before I felt like a giant hot, fuzzy blanket of humidity and fatigue was wrapped around me. And I still had 90 minutes to go – with intervals. I got home, completely devoid of energy, sick and washed out. I wondered how I would race, how I could race the next day. Wondering wasn’t productive so instead I forced myself to eat (tons of carbs), drink (lots of Gatorade) and rest (two hour nap – and I don’t nap!). I went to bed with my race bag packed.

All night long it stormed. Pouring rain, thundering, lightening. By morning, it was still raining with no signs of stopping. Yet I woke up feeling fantastic and ready to race. I drove to the race site, sat in my car knowing that as soon as I got out, I would commit to spending the next few hours soaking wet. Immediately I reconnected back to 70.3 Worlds in 2013 (pouring rain) and Duathlon Worlds in 2006 (again, pouring rain). Racing in rain – nothing much changes except your approach to the corners and your bike speed. The effort and mindset must STILL be there and often even with less effort, if you can mentally stay connected to the race, you will prevail.

This being a hometown race, it’s a busy one. Women I coach, women I know from masters, women I know from racing – it’s nonstop catching up and chit chat. Honestly after a big race like Ironman where every detail, every calorie, every move needs to be planned, these smaller races are refreshing. After 15 years, they are the races that feed my triathlon soul – the feel good, all about fun races. That said, I didn’t put much thought into it. My race plan was simple: 1) don’t crash, 2) get uncomfortable, 3) finish top 3 overall.

I quickly set up my belongings and then stood around – in the rain. The race was slightly delayed due to rain and then the elites were asked to line up – no warm up – to get ready for the swim.  Coaching four of the women in the wave, I knew who to line up near and  Taylorsuspected how the swim would play out. Line yourself up near your former collegiate swimmers and you will ride a smooth draft to the swim finish! I held on to Taylor’s feet and hip, exiting right behind her.

(me, behind Taylor, thinking best draft ever!)

The swim finish dumped us into wet sand, up a hill and it was STILL raining! The run to transition was long and I lost a lot of time in transition with my bike shoes and wetsuit. It was a painful reminder that in short course racing every second counts.

On to the bike where it was – you guessed it, still pouring rain! I suspected I was 3rd on the bike knowing that the current junior national champion and one of my own athletes (Jenny Garrison also a national champion who has won this race 10, yes 10, times before!) were ahead. I had some work to do! It’s a two loLiz Biking Ali 2op course that’s usually quite fast. Some standing water made for some big splashes, cautious turns but other than that I tried to shred through my legs. At times it worked, at other times I felt a little rusty. Within the first lap, I passed the younger woman and knew I needed to put as much time on her as possible.

Meanwhile, still raining!

(amazing photo courtesy of Ali Engin Photography:

I entered transition 2nd overall suspecting that 3rd was within 1 minute of me. While I can’t do math sitting at my desk in my office, I can do math wile racing (how?) and calculated 3rLiz Biking Alid place would need to outrun me by 20 seconds per mile. For her, quite possible but on this day in these conditions, for me to hold her off was not impossible so I went with that and set out to run.

Immediately the humidity wrapped thickly around me, I had a cramp in my upper diaphragm and I was wheezing. I felt TERRIBLE! All signs that I was exactly where I need to be for a sprint distance triathlon. The problem is, you have to hang there for a 5K. Which at this point felt like a marathon! At every pass of spectators, I listened for the cheers behind me to get a sense of where 3rd place was – 40 seconds, 30 seconds. I hit mile 2 with 3rd place less than 30 seconds behind me.


(another bad ass photo courtesy of Ali Engin Photography:

We soon approached the final stretch along the Riverwalk and a spectator was right there telling her, it’s time to go, NOW. I thought about something I read in Elite Minds (as you all know, one of my favorite sports books) – in which the author says there will come a point in the race where you will be forced to make a decision to go (and the author says): I’m telling you to go.

Liz RunningAnd so I did.

(photo credit to Nic Ruley)

I picked up the pace, the best I could and did a few sneak peeks over to my shoulder to see her right there. I couldn’t believe it was happening – another race with a potential sprint finish! What happened to cruising into the finish line and enjoying myself? This is not that year! I then told myself little does this young woman know that 1) I am old enough to be her mother and 2), if I can put together a sprint finish at the end of a 10 hour Ironman, you better believe I can put one together at the end of an hour and 10 minute race!, and 3) this is the longest 400 meters ever!

(I also told my coach that if this trend continues, we are going to start needing to do 200 repeats on the track to work on my kick)

In the end, I finished 9 seconds ahead of 3rd place and a few minutes behind the overall winner (Jenny, again!).  This podium proves the awesome power of us F35+ moms (Jenny has 3 kids)!  And big congrats to the young woman, Audrey, who at 16 is quickly becoming a local force to be reckoned with in short course racing!

Podium Naperville Women

I met with a local run coach earlier in the week.  He worked with me many years ago as well as before Texas. I go to him to work on the little things because when you’re training and racing for the top, the little things count. On the day we meant, it was 90 degrees with high humidity. We were on the track and broiling. He said to me that in the heat, he tells his athletes to TWIG it. In other words, take what is given and work with it. Accept the conditions and where you are and race to the best of your ability.

I thought about that a lot last week – and how applicable it is in so many situations. When I stood at the start line on Sunday, I had a dozen excuses on why the race didn’t have to go my way – I was tired, I was sick the day before and it was pouring rain. If you’re not careful, you can talk and excuse your way out of any challenge in a race. And since most races are challenging, you risk checking out before the gun even goes off. There goes your race ….

Instead, I said to myself: twig it. You’re here, the race is now, it’s time to race. When the gun goes off, all of the excuses fade away and you focus on what you can do in the moment. String together enough of those moments and you’ll find yourself pretty satisfied with your effort (and the outcome) in the race.

Congratulations for all of the women for staying gritty in tough conditions out there.  Multisport Mastery had 3 athletes in the top 10 in the elite division, a course PR and an athlete doing her first triathlon (ever!).

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