triathlon-coaching-chicago

Follow Us!

twitter-icon  facebook-icon

Author Archives: Elizabeth Waterstraat

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

IS THERE?

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)

I AM TOTALLY FREAKING OUT!

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.

SOMEONE PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON!

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?

I AM TOTALLY FREAKING OUT (AGAIN)!

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.

IMG_6144

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.

Buffalo

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.

Morris

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.

Barely.

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: www.alienginphotography.com)

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.

COME ON, LEGS!

(another bad ass photo courtesy of Ali Engin Photography: www.alienginphotography.com)

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!).

Ironman Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas. Serving sizes, rainstorms, pick-up trucks, waffles and possibilities.

Waffle

Many times I’ve raced in Texas. It’s one of those states where I race well. Arizona – completely off of my map . The entire state makes me itchy. But Texas welcomes me each time with warm hospitality and strong race results. Back in 2006, I traveled to Lubbock to race in Buffalo Springs. When my bike didn’t arrive via FedEx, Chris flew out with my road bike and I rode it to a 25 minute age group victory. It was my first time qualifying for Kona. A year later, I traveled to San Angelo to compete at a long course duathlon. Chris and I won our respective races. I fell in love with amazing coffee, tall grasses and raging winds. Texas, you’ve really grown on me.

9 years, 2 kids and 3 trips to Kona later, I arrived at the 2015 Ironman Texas. The experience was big as was the result. I have so many awesome, amazing memories of race day that I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll go back to the beginning …

Over 8 months ago. Baby number two, c-section number two. I exercised diligently through pregnancy but anyone who has been through it knows that 9 months of exercising through pregnancy leaves you with strength and perspective but does not magically leave you with fitness. I had a lot of work to do.

I recovered from birth, quickly. I got back to exercising within a week. I was ready to take on focused training 6 weeks later. And ready to set goals. I knew I needed a big, scratch that – audacious goal to motivate myself. I chose Ironman Texas. At first it seemed completely crazy – basically 7 months of preparation for an Ironman with the majority of training done indoors and starting from a place of very low fitness. But after 15 years in this sport, I am not interested in safe, mediocre goals. I’m going all in, I’m saying why not, I’m raising the bar – high.

I enlisted the help of a phenomenal coach, Matthew Rose of Dynamo Multisport. He guided my fitness with precision but most importantly with care. He kept me grounded in my progress, which was never quick enough. He kept me focused on the big picture, which always seemed very far away. Little by little he made me feel like the impossible was very, very possible.

Training went as well as training can go living in Chicago. It’s been a long winter. All but three of my rides were done on the trainer. Most of my long runs were in the frigid cold. Add to that two children. The chaos of my daily life is a whir of meal preparation, baths and laundry. I also run a full-time coaching business. Life is busy but I prefer it that way. I have an incredible support system but more importantly I take it day to day, rocking each day the best I can.

In the final 8 weeks before Texas, each week it became more and more real: I was training for an Ironman. I made those 8 weeks count. I managed my details. I finally committed to physical therapy for the assorted aches you get from 15 years of racing.   I got bloodwork done which revealed I needed to address some low iron (remedied by a superb supplement: Floradix). I got down to race weight – not by eating less (which does not work as I get older) but by moving more. I read a lot of race reports to gather tips about the course. I researched heat acclimation. I asked Jana, a top Ironman competitor, about her beet juice protocol. I looked for any advantage possible knowing that at the level I wanted to compete – fitness wouldn’t matter so much as the finer details, the little things that add up and give you that extra edge.

And, mostly, I went all in. I fully trusted my coach, Matthew. Early on, he told me to put these splits into my head: 1:03/5:23/3:27. Times supported by my past race results and performances at Kona, these were not whimsical. At a time when my fitness was nowhere near supporting those, he helped me to dream big and then laid the foundation of fitness to make those dream splits possible. And by race day, my training data proved I was ready to hit those splits. The training approach for this Ironman was completely different than anything I’ve done before and that was scary. I did a bunch of 4 ½ hour rides and 2 rides of 120 miles. I never ran longer than 2 hours. The flow and composition of training was entirely different; more strength, more intensity. Most noticeably, I didn’t carry around the blanket of fatigue I had felt during past Ironman preparations. Was I really going to be ready? Then came the taper. A series of fairly substantial workouts every 3 to 4 days.   And the week of the race? I did more than I’ve ever done before. But I arrived on race day feeling fresh, ready and most importantly, confident.

I also heat acclimated. I’ve never done this before (not even for Kona) but after feeling “hot” in San Juan, I wanted to be better prepared. I did my research then started 18 days prior to the race, committing to doing something “hot” every day. Either sitting in the dry sauna for 30 minutes, standing in the steam for as long as I could breathe, overdressing on the bike, not using a fan for up to 100 minutes (supported by research). We had a few very warm days in the 80s where I snuck in my long runs. Of all the things I did, the only things I felt prepared me: standing in the steam room (I actually felt the Houston humidity wasn’t thick compared to the steam room) and riding with a long sleeved cotton shirt – the discomfort and sweating prepared me for the blanket-like thick air. I also read a fantastic article on the physiological and psychological adaptation to heat stress. Something in that article resonated: you can view heat as a challenge or a threat. If a threat, you will crumble both physically and physiologically from the heat. If a challenge, you will rise up confident, composed and in control –in other words, you will be hardy.

All preparations complete, before I knew it, race week arrived.

Ironman Texas takes place in The Woodlands, an upscale developed community with lush greenways, beautiful real estate and high end shopping. I enlisted the Iron-Sherpa skills of one of my closest friends and strongest athletes, Amanda. When we arrived, the Houston area had been under a few days of unusually high rainfall, leaving a thick blanket of humidity, overcast skies and intermittent downpours. Thankfully, I didn’t find it all that uncomfortable. Heat acclimation worked. Or perhaps it was just mindset. I didn’t sign up for Texas with any visions of it being overcast and 60. In fact, I wanted temperatures to burn. I know my strengths and knew that the hotter, windier and nastier the conditions, the more likely I would prevail.

The days leading up to the race were a blur of the busyness before Ironman – assembling all of your gear, thinking through your special needs bags, putting salt tabs into assorted containers. I started to change my diet on Wednesday, increasing carbohydrates. On Thursday, I cut out most fiber (fruits, veggies, whole grains) and stuck to a safe, bland, white diet. On Friday, I did the same (two bagels, peanut butter, banana, 2 bars, 2 eggs, half bag of a BIG bag of pretzels, pasta, chicken, breadsticks). While I did more pre-race workouts than usual and there is always a lot of walking involved in pre-race activities, I also took the time to sit around and do absolutely nothing – I disconnected from my work and my life. I spent 3 hours sitting on a park bench. I got a 2 hour pedicure while watching Man vs. Food. For the first time in a long time, my head was completely quiet and empty.

Race morning arrived. I ate my usual oatmeal breakfast. An hour later, I shoved in half a bagel. Are you sensing a trend here? It takes shitloads of carbs to perform well at long course racing. I had a small cup of coffee. And also a shot of beetjuice which I had loaded for the past 6 days.

Overnight rains left transition as a thick quagmire of wet grass and foul-smelling mud. Amanda dropped me off and my goal was to get in and out of there quickly. I put my nutrition on my bike and then set out for the 15 minute walk to the swim start. I made a new friend. I dropped off my special needs bags. I found Amanda. I petted a Corgi named Loki and declared him my spirit animal. Before I knew it, it was time to line up in the corrals. With a rolling start, you had to position yourself in a corral around the time you thought you’d swim. Matthew advised me to start in the back of the 1 hour corral, to position myself behind a faster crowd and get pulled along in the draft. Just like masters – I envisioned the swim as a giant draft of Marty. While standing in the corral, I finally met Matthew, who was on course to watch a few of his athletes racing.

Liz and Matthew

At 6:40 am, the age groupers started rolling into the murky 81-degree water, a comfortable temperature and non-wetsuit. I chose the far left line along the buoys. I had a fairly contact-free, flawless entry. I really eased into it.   Occasionally I would come into contact with another swimmer but would readjust my course to stay contact free. I wanted the swim to be as low stress as possible – no need to waste energy here. I broke the swim into thirds: one third out, one third back and then a right turn into the canal to the finish (a point to point swim). The way out felt fast.   The way back, I swam further right. I was entirely alone. The water chopped a bit more and at times I felt like I was making slow forward progress. Finally, the right tSwim Start Texasurn to the canal where Matthew advised me to ignore the buoys and sight on the kayakers instead.   The water way became lined with spectators and as the cheers grew louder. The swim felt long and I knew my time would be slower than anticipated. I hit the mat in 1:05:12, not too far off where we had projected.

Amanda and Chris both warned me that though I’ve done Ironman 3 times, 3 times I’ve done Kona. An Ironman mixing with the general triathlon population would be different. They were right. It’s more fun. People are friendlier, more talkative! But it’s also more lonely. They said I would be near the front, less crowds, more service. Sure enough, I had a gaggle of volunteers helping me put on my helmet. With the mud through transition, they advised me to carry my shoes to my bike, where I put them on and set out to ride.

For the first time, I raced with heart rate. Matthew gave me a framework from which to make decisions for race day – mostly which included some HR caps which I then blended with the advice I got from my “bike guy” – Greg. Greg is a former athlete of mine but one of the most intelligently analytical engineers I know. He’s given me guidance in every race for how to pace the course with regards to the weather, the elevation, my fitness and gear. I have a lot of good people in my inner circle. He’s one of them. He ran all of my numbers through Best Bike Split and we had many conversations about how different weather patterns, road quality and power ranges would influence my race.

From training rides, I knew that I could hold my HR at 145-155 bpm for many, many hours. So I worked within that range. Though the week had been rainy and overcast, Texas delivered bright sunny skies, humidity and warm south winds on race day. I knew that on this day, in these conditions, HR would be wiser than power. It would take into account the real work/stress that was going on under the hood of my body. Above all, it would keep me in check. Obviously, then, I kept my range of watts in mind, but didn’t chase it.

The way out is mostly uphill but with tailwind. When you can clearly hear the thoughts in your head, you know that you have a stiff tailwind. Still, I couldn’t believe how many people were pushing the pace – passing me in small packs, aggressively. While they bombed any steeper downhills, I took the opportunity to get out of my saddle, pee and let my HR come down. I grabbed water at every aid station – drinking and dumping it on myself. I stopped at special needs to grab my 2 prepared bottles and 5 Hour Energy. I didn’t get caught up in the race. I was mindful of who was passing me but didn’t let it change my plan. The course rolled through beautiful tree-lined roads up towards the ghost-like town of Richard. At that point, a short while after special needs, the roads became lined with enough chip seal to break your rhythm. Except for a few small packs that would pass every now and then –I was out there, mostly alone. It was beautiful landscapes but felt more like a training ride – I suspected I was racing near the front (knowing I was 15th out of the water) but with passing a few women and getting passed, I lost track of where I might be. But I knew it wouldn’t matter. Chris had reminded me that position wouldn’t matter until the last lap of the run.

Shortly after the halfway point, the course turned south into a fairly strong and consistent headwind. The day was heating up. The sun was out in full force. I kept my power ~10 watts lower than anticipated in order to obey my HR cap. The heat was clearly stress on my body and I needed to be mindful not to let it accumulate above a rate I could handle. Every 10 miles was ticking by, slowly. Not surprisingly, some of those who passed me earlier were blowing up – slowing, sitting up. The last part of the course tilted mostly downhill through some neighborhoods. Along the way, a man passed me and said you must be having a good race. I laughed and said I have no idea. I was just out there following my plan. I finished the bike in just over 5:24, one minute faster than the Best Bike Split projection (as a side note, BBS also predicted my San Juan bike split within a minute!).

And for those interested, my IF was .7, VI was 1.04, TSS was 266. What this all means is that I rode fairly easy, smooth and with my best run in mind.

What did I think about for over 5 hours out there? A lot of things but mostly nothing.  Sure, it was boring at times, hot and I was chafing but – I didn’t expect to have 112 miles of sparkly, comfortable, feel good thoughts out there. Instead, I focused on the controllables. I focused on the process. I had my checklist of things I needed to do: eat every 40 minutes, 2 salt tabs every hour, drink 1 bottle of sports drink per hour, drink enough water on top of that to be sure I had to pee, mind the heat and manage my mind. Meaning, keep it empty. Free it up so you can focus on the process. Get caught up in the details of executing your best ride.

I took my time in transition. The day before the race I had gone running and I realized with the humidity that I would be most comfortable free from the confines of tight tri shorts – yup, I changed into running shorts. I took a shot of beet juice. I grabbed everything else I would need, stopped to get patted down with sunscreen and headed out to run. And for the first time in three Ironmans…

My legs felt amazing.

For the first time, ever, I also raced with a Garmin and heart rate monitor. Like the bike, I had my framework from which to make decisions. And good thing – because I hit mile 1 effortlessly in 7:33. Not exactly Ironman pace! I reeled myself in and said slow down, you’ve got 25 more miles. Save your heart beats and energy until the last lap. I also used HR to keep tabs on my energy and hydration. I saw Matthew somewhere around mile 1, he looked at me and said, be patient.

An email he sent a few months ago kept ringing in my head. It was one in which I was frustrated by my slow progress, slow paces. He replied with:

Deliberate patience: process, process, process.

It was the theme of my training journey and stuck with me throughout race day. At the AG level, you don’t race an Ironman. You patiently execute your plan, focus on your process while slowing down as little as possible throughout the day.

I kept my HR in mid to high zone 2 for the first lap. I put the biggest smile on my face – here I am, in Ironman, running. I don’t like running long but I absolutely love running. The first lap was an amazing adventure – the course twists around so many neighborhoods, the running path, parks, it was so many little out and backs which break up the monotony and keep you engaged. Playful signs were posted along the course (“you are NOT almost there”). And then, around mile 5, the course snakes down towards the waterway, enticing you with a sign that says “waterway ahead” and another 3 signs that read, in line, HERE WE GO!

IMG_5739

The waterway: a fun, energetic scene along the canal with spectators, crowds, noise, music.   I fed off of the crowd who were shouting, playing, clearly over-imbibing and calling my name. I had a spring in my step I hadn’t felt since my early 30s. What has changed? Nothing other than my attitude and confidence. Matthew told me to trust my run, believe that it was there. I hit all of the times I needed to in training, it was just a matter of belief and execution.

Lap 2 the real work began. Time to dig in a bit more. I had been carrying around a 5 Hour Energy and told myself at mile 12 I could finally take it, excitedly. I was getting splits from Amanda that the top two women in my AG were ahead and I was gaining on them. But I wasn’t chasing. I wasn’t hunting, in beast mode or going after them. I was simply out there following my plan, managing my details, running the best I could within the parameters of my HR, my energy levels and the heat. I let my HR drift into the high 150s. I continued to feed off of the energy. I kept my mind empty focusing on the process of each mile – not looking too far ahead. As I approached the 2 hour mark, I had a fearful thought of what happens after 2 hours, I’ve never done this in training. I kept wondering when the bear would jump on my back. Mile 16. Mile 18. Mile 20. It never happened. I felt fantastic. I kept running.

Early in the second lap, I passed the woman second in my age group. And at mile 20, I was now approaching the first woman. I passed with authority, telling her, good job, good race. But I knew better than to think she would just lay up and let me run away. I knew she would dig in deeper. I kept a smile glued on my face and went for my third lap.

Lap 3. At this point, I told myself with regards to heart rate, anything goes. It started to dip into the low to mid 160s, squarely in my zone 3. My pace wasn’t improving but it was consistent. I continued to take ice and water at the aid stations. At times when I didn’t get enough water, I dug into my bra to pull out ice cubes to eat them. I felt challenged by the heat but not threatened. I met the challenge with mindful management and a can do attitude. I want to prove I could be bigger than it, act like it didn’t even matter. I didn’t feel hot once out there.

Sherpas

It also helped to have an amazing on course support/Sherpa crew!

At mile 22, I felt a slight bark in my left hamstring. So I popped a salt tab every mile from there on out. Research is inconclusive as to why we cramp but all I know is that I felt a cramp coming up, I popped a salt tab and it went away. That to me is the only science necessary! At mile 23, I started taking a few sips of Cola as a precaution for any impending low energy (which happened late in my last Ironman).

Then there I was, late in the marathon and I thought about something my husband said to me.  He taped a card to my disc wheel, a welcome and touching surprise.  In it, he told me not to count the miles until I felt pain.  At that point, those would be the miles that would count that would make me a champion.  He was right. At mile 24, I finally felt it – the quiver of fatigue mentally but not physically. I had been completely “on” for nearly 10 hours and in the last 2 miles there was no coasting or enjoying the Ironman. Kim was hot on my heels and at the final out and backs, I calculated that she was gaining. In a rolling start, heck in any race, every second counts out there. Like Chris said, these would be the miles that would count.  Two to go.

Around mile 24 ½, Emily, who ended up 1st overall, passed me assertively. I had no idea what position I was in and would learn later that she went on to outrun me by a little over a minute to take the overall win for amateur women. A little after mile 25 ½ , when you make the final turn towards the finish line, I had no idea where I was going. I hadn’t previewed the course, it was too confusing. So I did what I knew needed to happen; I sprinted. Full on end of a track workout, arms pumping, teeth gritting sprinting. Looking back at the file, my HR shot into the 170s and I dropped a sub 6:00 pace in the last minute. I sprinted down towards the finish line only to realize I had to make a hairpin turn to go back up the hill to the actual finish line. I kept sprinting, knowing Kim very well could be right behind. When it was all said and done, I ran a 3:29 marathon.

Finish Line

I crossed the line and then in a moment of awkward over-emotional exhaustion, hugged my catcher. A woman came up to me and said that I was selected for drug screening. At first I thought it was random but then realized they also tested 1st overall. Which made me then realize that I had come in 2nd place overall in the amatuer race.

Drug testing escorts you to a tent where you need to provide a sample. I had last peed around mile 15 (actually on myself while running which might be my most impressive feat ever while racing) and consistent hydrating actually left me with the urge to urinate. We walked to a private porta-potty; it was hot, stuffy and this strange woman had to watch me urinate. Lucky for me, childbirth prepared me to drop my pants in front of anyone. Unlucky for me, I only produced 20 mL.

You need to give us 90.

I then had to carry my urine sample out to a tent to sit, hydrate and wait.  It took me two bottles ofwater and one Gatorade to finish my sample and then go through the process of pouring it into containers in front of a man who then had me declare anything I’ve taken in the past week (multivitamin, Zyrtec, inhaler, beet juice and Floradix).

At some point during the drug testing experience, Amanda – who is now known to WADA as my “agent” – informed me that I had gone 10:06 – I had no idea, never once looked at the overall running time of my race. I trained with sub 10 hours in mind and training supported that. But on this day, in Kona-esque conditions, it didn’t happen. Regardless, it was a 16 minute PR, I was elated. I had also won my AG. By ONE SECOND. That all out sprint at the end made for some ridiculous looking finish chute pictures but it turns out it mattered, big. I was now the W40-44 North American Ironman Champion.

A few days have passed since the race. I stood on the podium, collected a nice award, an Ironman champion jacket and a ticket to Kona.

Texas Podium 4044

All along my goal was to be top 3 in my age group and qualify for Kona but the week of the race, something changed. I was lecturing to my Ironman Wisconsin training group on the Tuesday night before I left, reading some passages from one of my favorite books, Elite Minds by Stan Beecham. In it, Beecham advises you to set goals you are only 80 percent sure you can reach. Anything less is too easy. I revised my goal to win at Ironman Texas. I went into the race not just wanting but expecting to win. For when you expect to win, you free up your mind to actually be in the moment and race your process, focusing on what it takes to win a race.

As for what lies ahead? Kona is the only other race I have planned for the season. It will take a few days to figure out what else is between now and then. Until then, my body, diet and life will get some downtime. Racing an Ironman is not difficult, actually doing the work to get there is straining on many levels; physically, socially, emotionally & life-wise. Not surprisingly, people often ask how do you do it. I lead a very busy, full life. And yes, I just had a baby 8 ½ months ago. How do I do it? It’s rather simple: I just do it – day after day. Day after day, I set about in my life to make it happen. This includes sacrifice on many levels, impeccable organization and an incredible support system (husband/grandma/friends). I nail one day and then move on to the next. That’s called consistency. And if I “fail” a day – whether as a parent or athlete, I don’t dwell. I move forward in the direction of my goals and chalk it up as experience. I realize I don’t have endless time to focus on myself, my workouts and recovery. But I don’t think that level of self-centeredness is necessary – if you do what you can with what you have while maintaining a “can-do” attitude, what you do will count and your self-efficacy will multiply until you feel ready to tap into the awesome potential you’ve built up inside of yourself to let out on race day.

Thank you for reading. And a huge thank you to all who helped to make this happen (you know who you are!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

usmasters - Chicago Area Triathlon Coaching

certified usa triathlon coach

certified-pn

alts_certified_instructor_logo

 

 

ironman-university-drk