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Author Archives: Elizabeth Waterstraat

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!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chatter

The other day I was out for a long ride – 90 miles.  I’m training for an Ironman.  Actually, I’m just about done training for Ironman.  Taper is just around the corner for Ironman Texas.  I didn’t realize I was training for an Ironman until the last 4 weeks or so which is around the time I started to hate training.  Not surprisingly, as fatigue builds, so does my disdain for training!  Not so much that I get tired from the training (that’s actually the FUN part), I just get tired from fitting the training in around life.

(Life is fun too but when combined with training it can get, well, difficult)
On this particular ride, I set out at 6:45 am.  It was cold, windy and I was (mostly) alone.  In 90 miles, I passed 3 cyclists.  I’ve endured some fairly long rides in preparation for this early season Ironman.  There have been countless 4 ½ rides on the trainer.  There was even one that lasted 6 ½ hours.  Those were easy – climate controlled, fuel at hand, headphones, internet to keep me busy for hours.

In contrast, the long rides (and runs) outside are perhaps the only time these days where I’m totally disconnected and alone with the voices in my head.  And, boy, do they talk loud.  The more tired I am, the louder they talk.  The first 45 miles of my ride were a constant chatter of hatred for everything – Ironman, my training, my bike shorts, myself.  What was I thinking – train for an early season Ironman, 8 months after a baby, with mostly indoor training and setting out today WITH NO CHAMMY BUTTER!?  What is WRONG with me?  It was around 2 hours into the ride when I found myself bare-assed in a ditch off of Grove Road taking a pee, actually peeing on my bike shoe.  The wind was whipping 20 mph from the east.  I was tired.  My legs hurt from a long run two days before.  Even worse, I had set out for the ride without coffee.

I couldn’t help but wonder: am I the only one?

Your Twitter feed is full of pictures of perfectly executed workouts of nothing but awesome done with tailwind at your back and nothing but sunshine.  No one posts pictures of themselves shorts down, peeing on their bike shoe and one pedal stroke away from crying because the thought of going another hour into the wind is that overwhelming.  No one takes pictures of those meltdowns.  No one takes pictures of themselves with hands over ears at mile 38 saying trying to silence that voice in your head that says you’re slow, you should stop, what were you thinking.  I want to see that picture.  That’s real life training. 

Someone humor me next weekend, please?

The voices in my head run constantly.  If I’m not doubting myself about parenting, I’m doubting my ability to be a good wife, mother, coach, athlete.  Self-doubt is sometimes the backdrop of my mind.  In my moments of weakness, my self-doubt is a comforting friend.  See, I told you so.  Nearly 40 years old and I have yet to figure out how to silence those voices.  The older I get, the more that is thrown in my plate, the louder they get.

The only thing I have learned to do is let the voices run while I keep moving forward.  I can hear them but it doesn’t mean I have to listen.  If they choose to stick around for the ride, know that at some point one of us is going to give in.  And hell if it’s me.  I don’t give up easily.  So I challenge those voices to keep up.  My hope is that I will outlast them.  I might be 80 when that happens but at least I know I’ve given it a good fight.

Between the chatter, the winter, two kids, trying to regain fitness/race weight after pregnancy, training for this Ironman has been a challenge.  I’m not one of those people who nurses their way to race weight.  At times, I counted calories.  I’m not one of those people who ran all through pregnancy and emerged just seconds off of my old pace.  My first runs back were still 2 minutes per mile slower, which was slower than some of my pregnancy runs (HOW?!).  Needless to say, there have been very few magical days in training.  No glorious sunny days to capture in photo and post on Instagram.  Most of my runs were done in the dead of winter.  No warm weather triathlon camps to escape life and focus on ME!ME!ME!.  I’ve done my training in the maelstrom of every day – those days where everyone needs something all at once, all before 7 am, all at the exact moment I start to put food into my mouth.  How can all 3 living things under 40 lbs in this house need to crap SIMULTANEOUSLY!?

NO magic.  Instead, it’s been nothing but a grind.

(and if you don’t know what the grind is, watch this:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNL_DAI19_I)

Real life pulls at me in so many ways that skipping my training or giving up on my goals feels like the easier way.  When I was in my late 20s, even early 30s, training for BIG things was easy.  It was all about me.  And a little bit of my husband.  And a small house.  These days, I feel like ME gets the shortest reserve of focus and energy.  I need to remind myself that I’m worth it, that my goals are worth it.  The voice in my head tries to lure me to a more comfortable way of life by way of guilt or doubt.  It tries hard to undermine me.  At times, I feel like my own worst enemy.

Some people get all pent up about the chatter their head.  They listen, get scared and cower back.  They think it means there’s something wrong with them or that they lack self-confidence.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve had two athletes talk to me about their own chatter.  The impression I get is that we  think that once we start hearing the voices, we have to listen and then we are doomed for failure.

Trust me, the chatter doesn’t mean you’re broken, weak or not meant to be a winner.  Some level of doubt is normal, even healthy.  You can be highly confident in your abilities yet at the same time full of doubtful voices in your head.  Those doubts are just helping you do your homework.  You see, if anything, the voices in my head have kept me honest.  It’s tougher than any competition.  It’s me against me.  What are you doing, Liz (I better know my WHY).  It knows exactly what button to push and senses my weakness.  It constantly does calculations, looking for the distance from where I am to where I want to be.  It tries to convince me I’ll never get there.  If I want to get there, I’ve got to be able to do what it’s telling me I can’t do.  You’re slowing down (better work harder).  You’ll be out here riding all day (better find a way to push more power).  You’re crazy for even trying (I better reconnect with my motivation).  I’ve got to rise up above myself.

On race day I expect there will be voices.  I know it’s going to get tough – no, ugly.  I expect it to be sweltering, competitive and long – after all, it’s an Ironman.  I expect to have moments of feeling totally awesome but even more moments of feeling like I want to quit.  I know the chatter will speak the loudest when I am at my weakest and most uncomfortable.  I know, too, from going there in training that all I have to do at those moments is keep moving forward.  Sometimes I hear the chatter go on and on and on about how it’s hot or the legs are tired or how I’ll never be fast again.  Yet I never change what I’m doing.  I just keep going with chatter ticking away in my head.  At some point, I figure I’ll outlast it or very simply get the workout done.

And at its most basic level, that is the purpose of training: to just get the workouts done day to day.  The pay off from the grind is a very potent variable called consistency .  Training can feel like a grind and still be very, very effective.  It doesn’t need to be magical or life changing!

When you hear the chatter – don’t get scared or think there’s something wrong with you.  I took a huge step forward in life when I just embraced the inner voices, let them chatter on and stopped trying to control or wish away every little damn bad thing about myself.  They’re chattering for your attention so don’t give it to them!  We make mistakes when we change our course of action based on what those voices are saying.  Instead, I’ve learned the best way to manage the chatter is to just stay the path, to move in a forward direction towards your goals or the end of the workout.  Chances are you’ll get fit, finish or surprise yourself.

Time To Fly

Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the masters state swim meet.

My last trip to the state meet was two years ago.  I swam the 1650.  This year, the meet was special.

We were defending champs.  Every point would matter.  The peer pressure was intense  – 140 other swimmers were swimming.  There were signs on deck calling out those who weren’t registered.  But most importantly, we were swimming in honor of two swimmers who we lost this year.  One who was especially important to me.

Years ago, I let a brilliant young woman named Clari borrow my cyclocross bike to take it on the adventure of a lifetime.  She rode it across America for a charity group to support research for a condition that her brother had.  That same summer, she also babysat Max at the quarry while Chris and I went swimming.  When pregnant with Mackenzie, Clari and I swam in the same lane at the monster swim.  Over the years, Clari’s mother had been a frequent lanemate of mine.  In 2013, I advised her on how to train for her first Ironman – as a thank you, she bought my plane ticket to the 70.3 World Championship.  Clari and her mother were a part of our life in very unique and close ways.

This past November, at the age of 19, Clari passed away.  Unsure of whether it was the personal connection or the fact that I now had my own daughter, I felt incredibly sad.  When the head coach announced that we would swim the state meet in memory of Clari, I felt compelled to swim.  I felt it was the best I could do to honor her life and spirit.

Now, I’m a decent triathlon swimmer but pool swimming is a completely different story.  I can fake it in the fast lane but I’m guilty of lane line pulling, open turning and putting on toys when intervals get really tight.  When it comes to swim meets, I’m not exactly going to be a high points earner.  So when I asked the head coach what I could do to gain points for the team, she came back with an immediate answer: 

200 fly

I couldn’t believe I walked right into that bear trap.

No swimmer in their right mind wants to do 200 fly.  It’s painful.  Most triathletes cannot even do fly.  But as the coach reminded me, you’re an Ironwoman, you can do this!  Mostly I just wanted to stay on her good side for the next year.  Being on the head coach’s bad side could mean very, very painful things for a full year at masters.  If all it takes is less than 4 minutes of pain, get me registered!  Sure enough I looked at the results from last year and only 5 women did the 200 fly.  As long as I finished, I would get points.

I had two weeks to panic train.  In that time, I tried to swim as much fly as possible.  Every workout I attended the coach suggested I do fly.  Sprint 25s?  Do them fly, Elizabeth.  Distance day?  You should do the “fast” as “fly”, Elizabeth.  One day, she put Andrew (another poor swimmer who asked what he could do to get points) and I in a lane and made us do 200 fly in its entirety.  The good news:  I didn’t die.  The bad news: that’s a lot of fly – 8 x 25 with NO REST!

A few nights, I even researched my strategy.  I watched videos and searched forums how to race 200 butterfly.  The general consensus was: 1) don’t, 2) go very easy for the first 50.

All of this effort was impressive if, and I mean IF I actually knew how to swim proper fly.  And technically speaking, I have no idea what I am doing in the water.  Years ago, tired of watching other swimmers so effortlessly move through the water with both arms and hips undulating as I had to substitute free for every set of fly, I finally said f-it, I’m trying.  So I just started doing what I thought fly looked like.  For whatever reason, it worked.  I was moving forward and actually had some rhythm.  But I still have no idea if what I think I’m doing is actually what I’m doing.  I have visions of my Phelps-like powerful arms sweeping through the water with an explosive dolphin kick.  When really I’m 62 inches tall and turnover like the wings of a hummingbird on meth.  That fast.  More like frenetic.  As my masters coach said when I did the 1650, I cannot take credit for that stroke (in other words, she won’t).

The day of the meet, I traveled an hour north to Wisconsin for the Illinois state meet (huh?).  The facility was beautiful – two pools – one for men, one for women with an additional warm up pool attached to an indoor water park.  My mom accompanied me with the kids and after the meet we enjoyed that water park!

The warm up pool was salty mess of swimmers of all paces.  Pretty much all that I accomplished was getting wet.  I then waited nervously on deck, I in a bright pink cap and rainbow suit while everyone else around me had on one of those speedsuits.  

Next up: 200 butterfly

In the 30 seconds before the race started I decided I would indeed dive off the blocks.  But first I had to get on the block and look down.  OH MY GOD WHO PUT THESE BLOCKS UP SO HIGH!?  A long whistle, a take your mark and a beep.  It was go time.

Sitting on the bulkhead was Amanda, Taylor and Beth (mother of Clari).  An audience!  I can only imagine the heckling.  I glided through the first 50 (easy, go easy, this feels amazing!).  The next 50 felt fantastic.  That is, until right before the wall when I missed a breath.  And then I started to burn – bad.  I pushed off the wall and felt myself losing it.  PANIC!  But I was trapped in the 200.  There was no turning back, no breaststroking.  I had to regain my rhythm.  And is that wall actually moving further away?

HELP!

At that moment, I actually thought about Clari.  As cliché as it sounds, it’s the truth.  I thought of her spirit and how she would love to be there right now swimming.  Pull it together, Liz.  And then remembered something a lanemate said:  Remember the time Gary did 200 fly and hung on the gutter for 2 seconds at every 25?  I was going to channel my InnerGary.

Each pause at the wall was longer.  At one point, Beth asked Amanda if I was ok.  100 yards left.  75, 50.  The final 25 I picked up the pace.

I didn’t break any records, didn’t win my heat but did earn points by finishing 5th place in my age group.  That would be 5th of 5.  But really, I was 1st place.

Listen, it’s not my problem those other 4 swimmers showed up and stole 1st place from me.

Next up, 200 free relay.

Amanda, Beth, Carrie and I stood on deck.  It felt special to be in a relay with Clari’s mom, Beth.  She swam so many events in honor of Clari’s memory.  She even swam 400 IM.  I’ve never seen someone so relaxed about the 400 IM – it’s easy, you don’t have to go fast you just have to finish it.

I’ve also never seen someone so frantic about my limited counting/number turning skills when Amanda swam the 500 and someone (AMANDA) told Beth to keep an eye on me because of my potentially sub-par sign flipping skills; put it in the water – now, NOW!  Get out of the way of her flip turn!  More to the left!  Don’t turn it until she hits the flags!  Pay attention!

Our relay ended up placing 3rd in state – though I had the slowest time of all 4 of us!  Turns out I swim faster at practice from a push.  The reason?  Even my nonathletic mom said it:  it’s your dive and she then proceeded to demonstrate some bizarre arm flailing and belly flop motion which made me realize if that’s what my mom sees god help me with what the athletes and coaches were seeing!

And that is how I ended up starting IN the water for the 500 free.

500 free.  My last event.  The long whistle and I hop into the water.  I had been wet, standing around in my bathing suit going in and out of warm up lanes for the past 3 hours.  I had eaten nothing but chunks of bagel and was really thirsty.   But once the the race started, I felt amazing.  One of those times where you feel totally in sync with the water and like nothing can slow you.  I counted down the laps until one to go when I realized the final lap bell was being run IN FRONT OF MY LANE!  The winner of the heat got a stuffed teddy bear and all I thought about was I want a damn bear!  I swam one of my best 500 free times at a meet and won my heat.  And, Mackenzie got a new teddy bear!

At the end of the day I was cold, wet, tired and yet invigorated.  There’s just something about swim meets.  Maybe it’s the energy of people of all ages, all sizes, all speeds sharing a common interest:  swimming.  First timers, ex collegiate swimmers.  Triathletes talk about enjoying races because they get to share the course with the pros while they’re racing.  Been to a swim meet?  Sometimes I watch people like Adrienne on our team who threw down a 1:53 for the 200 free and wonder how they let me even swim in the same pool let alone the same lane.  And what I love about swimmers?  When we have swum together on sprint night, even when I’m panting with a time seconds slower than hers for a 25, Adrienne turns to look at me and says, good job, Elizabeth.  I feel like the newbie swimming with the pro.  And, I don’t know, it makes me feel all giddy.  It makes me wonder if I can one day look that effortless and powerful.  It makes me want to keep trying.

For the first time in a few years, our team didn’t win this year but … I think this year we did it for other reasons.  It was a large coming together of people who wanted to honor two women who were completely different yet shared the same passion for swimming.  I’m glad I was a part of it.  And I’ve already decided that I’m going to do 200 fly again.  I have a mental map of where it goes and how it feels.  And next time I’ll be ready for it.  I only have to take off over a minute to be the state champion.

That’s 15 seconds per 50.

I better start training.

March 2015 Athlete of the Month

Multisport Mastery is pleased to announce the March 2015 Athlete of the Month:

Russell Sellers

Below, Russell shares his story of a “goofy” challenge that resulted in an amazing transformation.

In June 2014 I weighed 226 lbs. I was reviewing my life plan and this did not align with one of my life plan categories which is health. Without personal health you are not able to take care of your loved ones and your quality of life is not what it could be. If you are interestRusselled in learning more about life planning you can read more about it here. It was time to address this issue. I committed not to a diet and exercise routine, I committed to a lifestyle change. With any significant change you need to set a difficult but attainable goal, plan on achieving that goal, and make adjustments as necessary. To that end, I set a goal of completing the Disney Goofy Race and A Half Challenge in 2015. The Challenge is a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday. 2 days, 4 parks, and 39.3 miles, couch to 39.3 miles that sounds like a reasonable challenge right?

I had 3 criteria for this event.

  1. Don’t kill yourself.
  2. Don’t get hurt. (overt training etc).
  3. Finish the race in under the required time limit

After reviewing these training plans I realized that to satisfy my 3 criteria, I shouldn’t attempt it alone. So I contacted Elizabeth Waterstraat with MultiSport Mastery and asked if she would coach me. Most of the training plans that I had reviewed were running alone. Since I was overweight, sedentary, and completely out of shape, Elizabeth recommended a mix of activities to build fitness while I lost some of the weight. One of the first questions that I asked Elizabeth was, is this a realistic goal?

“I have NO way of knowing this as we have not worked together.  You have set the goal and certainly have plenty of equipment/resources to make achieving your goal that much easier.  That said, the ONLY thing that matters to your success is consistency – this means following the program day to day, staying healthy/injury-free.  Anything you can do to stay as consistent as possible will help you get closer to your goal.

To put this in perspective, when I started, I couldn’t run for more than 2 minutes without having to stop for a walk break.

My friends, family, and colleagues thought I was having a mid life crisis and had lost my mind. Initially rather than being supportive, most questioned my changes and some even challenged them. Getting started can be very difficult, you are sore and before a workout you think of a thousands reasons not to do the workout. You question yourself and why you are doing this and having everyone else question it as well makes it that much easier to quit and go back to your “normal” routine.

The first few months I lost some of the weight and got to a baseline level of fitness. After every workout Elizabeth would ask, how was it? how do you feel? She was there being supportive even when others weren’t. When things hurt or didn’t feel right she would ask questions and offer advise. When I started having shin splints she offered advice, changed the workout mix and helped me work thru it. I was still aching and progressing slowly. I sought medical advice and was advised that it was normal, that I had atrophy in some of my muscles and that things would get better as I got more fit and the weight came off. I decided to return to a vegetarian diet.

Over time my fitness increased and I lost more weight. To Accompanying my new fitness I had a almost unrelenting desire to go faster and do more.

When I wanted to go to far too fast she said I feel like right now you are making progress – slowly, surely and safely.  You’re on a good path. Let’s keep it up.  In due time we will extend the duration of workouts, walks, etc.  For now, let’s continue the path we’re on and continue to make progress. Without her help I don’t believe I would have accomplished this goal and met the criteria I set. I would have either given up due to the mental stress and lack of support or hurt myself by trying to do too much and not having all the background, information, and experience that a professional coach brings. During this period I also developed a unrelated health issue with my arm that ended up requiring surgery 11 days prior to the race.

At the end of 2014:

  • I weighed 163 lbs (down from 226 lbs)
  • I cycled 495 miles
  • I ran 487 miles

On January 10-11th of 2015 I completed the Disney Goofy Race and A Half Challenge.

Russell, it was a pleasure to be a part of your journey.  Thank you for that opportunity.  – Coach Liz

 

San Juan 70.3 Race Report

Racing is always an adventurSJ 2e and this weekend’s race in San Juan provided plenty of it!

Six months ago, after Mackenzie was born, I thought about racing.  I had “exercised” through pregnancy but emerged in typical post-partum shape: heavy, slow and wondering when I would wear my real clothes again.  Though race shape seemed very far away, I started to think about racing.  I knew I needed to have a big, scary race on the calendar early to keep the momentum going through the cold of winter and the fog of having a new baby.  San Juan, an early season island race getaway seemed like the perfect goal (and escape!).

I traveled to the race with my loSJ 3ng time friend, mentor, long ago coach and now one of my own athletes – Jen Harrison.  This year is uniqute in the same age group, something that happens only once every 5 years.  When e – we both compeI told her I was signed up for San Juan, in typical Jennifer spirit she invited herself along.  And then in even more typical Jennifer competitive spirit she said train me to beat you

To get myself ready, I enlisted the help of a great coach, Matthew Rose, out of Atlanta.  I’ve worked with several incredible coaches and being a coach myself I set the bar high.  Matthew has far exceeded my expectations of what I thought a coach could deliver in terms of service, caring and my own performance.  To introduce yourself to a coach and say “you have four months to make me fit” is no small task yet one he has excelled at!  I couldn’t be more satisfied.

Jen and I both worked hard in training this winter.  You don’t sign up for an early season, hot, hilly, competitive half Ironman without putting in the miles.  Albeit they were miles in the pool, on the basement trainer and runs in what had to be one of the coldest winters on record.  Every time I had a long run scheduled, it was about 16 degrees – where your Fuel Belt bottles freeze after 8 miles and the snot is frozen on your mittens.  Not only was I cold but slow.  Fitness after pregnancy never comes back quickly enough and it’s hard to keep sight of your goals in the midst of measuring yourself against where you used to be and where you want to go.  Many times I felt discouraged.

And many days I was just plain tired.  The fatigue of caring for a newborn and a 4 ½ year old was (and still is!) unrelenting.  I nursed until nearly 5 months which meant the demand on my body and energy levels was draining.   Up until a few weeks ago, Mackenzie still wasn’t sleeping through the night.  My body and mind carried around a deep fatigue that not even coffee could help.  As I fit in training sessions at all hours of the day, routinely two times a day I questioned the choices I made – what am I doing here? 

And why?SJ5

None of this was perfect preparation which was difficult for a hard-charging “perfectionist” to accept.  But something I read from Lauren Fleshmann resonated with me: there is no such thing as perfect preparation, only excellent adaptation.  Each day required many, many adaptations. 

Yet somehow I arrived at race day feeling ready.  That is, until the plane touched down in San Juan and I looked out the window at blue skies and palm trees thinking to myself WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?  This was real.  This was really happening.  Here I was – not entirely fit, not entirely at race weight, not heat acclimated, race wheels haven’t touched pavement since September of 2013 but still I was here to compete at a hot, hilly 70.3 with a heck of a start list.  As I deplaned, I thought to myself – WHAT was I thinking?

The day before the race was filled with the usual preparations.  I did my usual pre-race run which felt horrible.  Just as I expected.  We did a pre-race swim which felt amazing.  Then we prepared our gear for the race.  We stayed conveniently near the swim start but inconveniently about 1.5 miles away from transition.  This meant a lot of walking.  The day before the race I walked over 6 miles! 

I rarely ride my bike before a race but I wanted to be sure all of my gears shifted.  So we rode over to bike check in.  I stopped to fiddle with my water bottle cage when I heard the sound of a tire popping and thought to myself oh that poor person who now has a flat!  Unfortunately, that person was ME!  That led to some panic-ridden texts to my husband, a friend at the race who is a bike mechanic and a poor attempt at trying to express my frantic I NEED 650 TUBES emergency to the bike shop at the expo, in Spanish.  Como se dice 650?  No necessita 700s!   Mas pequeno!  Something that wasn’t in my high school Spanish arsenal was how to say “extended valve.”  

(thanks to mechanic Erik for helping me!)

Race morning arrived.  Jen spent all night on the bathroom floor with food poisoning.  As a friend and her coach, I felt sad for her and didn’t know what to say.  But I’ve known her long enough that I didn’t need worry – if I know anything about Jen it’s that she has the ability to gracefully accept obstacles, move on and race another day.  I left the hotel to set up my gear in transition, alone.  It was dark, everyone around me was speaking Spanish and I felt, well, lonely

SJ 1The non-wetsuit swim started in a lagoon, absolutely a perfect temperature and then went under a bridge into a cove off of the ocean.  Before I knew it, my swim start was approaching.  Months of training came down to NOW, this moment.  Once they let my wave in the water, I quickly (and aggressively!) made my way to the far right next to the buoys and then set out to take up space.  I’m small but the key to a clean race start is making yourself as big as possible – I was on my stomach with arms and legs moving.  When the starting gun went off, no change in position necessary, I just accelerated. 

As I’ve gotten more experienced in the sport, here’s what I’ve learned about swimming – so little of swimming well is about fitness. It’s a matter of skill, position and tactics.  I had a clean line from buoy to buoy.  While the other women were beating each other up to my left, I was smooth sailing to the next buoy in my own space.  By the time they had faded from their initial surge, I caught up smoothly and settled right into someone’s draft.  There were 4 of us, we worked together, moving effortlessly through the other waves.  I kept hearing Matthew saying do NOT overkick – so I let my feet hang out, kept my turnover up while making myself as long as possible to sail through the water.  I felt great.  As we approached the bridge, I dropped the other women in the chop and pulled ahead.

I hit the mat in a little over 30 minutes – right around where I expected to swim and 2nd in my age group.  I was absolutely elated.  It’s been a long time coming to have one of the top swims in my age group.  As someone who used to swim around 38 minutes for a half Ironman WITH a wetsuit, I am proof that if you stick with it, put in the time and embrace swimming, you can make tremendous progress.

The run to transition was about 600 meters on very rough pavement.  My plan here was to be efficient and quick.  As I started running, I wished I had put a pair of shoes by the swim exit – ouch!  I fumbled a bit with my sunglasses in transition and then – for some reason – decided to take the time to spray myself down with more sunscreen.  It may have cost me an extra 30 seconds but as I’d soon learn, it may have saved me my life!

The bike course started with a series of short rises around some highway ramps.  The course was fairly empty as I had swum through many of the earlier waves – leaving me on course with mostly men.  About 5 minutes into the ride, as I was approaching an overpass, I heard something that sounded like 4 to 5 rapid succession gunshots.  Two spectators ran out in front of me looking startled and a police car started to turn towards me.  Moments later as I passed under the overpass, I saw some bikes on the ground and a woman who clearly had been hit in the leg with something.  

In my 15 years of racing, I’ve ridden through a lot of things: rain, snow, 35 mph winds but never, EVER gunfire!  The thoughts were flying into my mind quickly as I started to put together what was happening.  First thought: my mom is never going to let me race again!  Second thought:  my kids.  What if something happened to me today while – all of things – RACING?  The next 10 minutes were a blur of escalating panicked thoughts at 22 mph —- what’s happening behind me?  Would the race be stopped?  Was that woman shot?  Should I keep going?  Am I still racing? 

Meanwhile, no one was saying anything.  The competitors ahead of me kept riding.  A man started to pass me and I said to him what was that?  He said, gunshots, let’s get the hell out of town

So I kept riding.  My legs were burning – maybe from the run to the swim, the pain of rusty fitness or my body not being able to integrate the confusion of what just happened with the pain of racing.  I had my range of watts but I was about 10 under it.  I didn’t see any women and wasn’t sure where I was in the race.  I wasn’t even sure if there still was a race.  At that moment I said to myself emotional control, Liz.  Manage your emotions, go by feel and stay the path. 

From that point on, I rode by feel.  The course flattened out and the road was empty.  I passed a few men and a few men passed me.  We had a nice tailwind on the way out and coming back a light crosswind.  I started getting passed by 25-29 guys which reassured me that the race was going on as I knew they started 4 minutes behind me.  I figured I was near the front of the age group race so I kept telling myself to see how long I could hold off any women.  20 miles.  30 miles.  On the second loop, the day started to warm up and the wind picked up.  It took until about 40 miles for another woman to catch and pass me.

The final 10 to 15 miles of a half Ironman are typically a struggle – I expected to revolt aero position, ache in my quads due to lack of outdoor miles or limited fitness.  None of that happened.  Instead, I got hot.  The wind picked up.  I struggled to maintain my focus.  I was getting dehydrated, not good with no more aid stations.  Up until then I was on track to ride 2:30 but I started losing watts and dropping speed.  Hindsight is much clearer but I fell apart in those last 30 minutes.  I hit the mat in 2:35, second in my age group.

I dismounted and immediately wondered how I would run a half marathon – on these legs in this heat.  I felt one salt tab away from an entire body cramp and my head was burning.  I took the time in transition to pour an entire bottle of water over my head and then shuffled out slowly.

The run course is a series of challenging hills and turns with spectacular views of the ocean.  Two loops and between the spectators and competitors, the course felt narrow and tight.  At times that was motivating, yet at other times I found it oSJ4verwhelming.  The sun was out in full force and the way out was a strong, stifling tailwind.  The way back was into a stiff headwind, though cooling, it felt like I was running uphill the entire way!  Around mile 2.5 you made a cobbled descent into a fort entrance which then snaked along the ocean on a twisty path.  No aid stations, no spectators.  The next water stop was 1.5 miles back down the path and up the cobblestone hill. 

Early in the run Jennifer called out some splits – I knew that first place was 3 minutes ahead of me while third place 6 minutes behind.  I did the math and knew that 3 minutes over the course of 13.1 miles was nothing!  I can do this!  Yet at times it didn’t feel like I was racing – just chugging away at a consistent but slow pace (for me).  My run fitness after Max took about one year to return to full speed as well as my weight to completely drop to where I race best.  Not surprisingly, on the course I felt a little flat and heavy – lacking my usual oomph and that extra gear to go chasing.  I’ve always been able to use my run to chase down other competitors and as I did the math on the out and backs I realized I wasn’t gaining on first while third place was closing in on me.

I won’t lie – it was a tough place to be and a new experience.  But I never lost the spirit to fight out there.  I thought about something I read on the plane: one person’s challenge is another person’s breaking point.  This was my challenge today.  And it would not break me.  Thoughts were creeping in of walking the aid stations – but no way.  Every second would matter.  Anything can happen.  I’m in this until the end.  I took me 1:42 to finish – by no means slow but definitely off for me.  In the bigger picture of the past 6 months, it’s something I just need to accept right now.  Regaining fitness after baby is a process, one that moves slowly but surely.   

In the end, I finished 7th overall and 3rd in my AG.  On this day, I was lucky enough to race against really strong competition.  Competition that made me rise up and stay honest under challenging conditions.  As I continue in the sport after so many years I see my competition is changing.  They’re getting faster, the sport is stepping up.  My goal as I get older is to stay in step with them, to be consistently competitive for top 3 in my AG.  And to get to the very top of the AG, this race reminded me that it takes perfect execution of all of the little details during the race. 

All of this – the preparation, the process, the details, the challenge, it’s what keeps me racing.  I have this enormous drive to be at my best, whatever that means for the place I’m at in life right now.  That challenge is my why – and I had to think about the why many, many times this weekend.  When that challenge no longer interests me, then I will be done racing.

Not yet!

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