Category: triathlon

On Goals & Owning Them (Patriot Half)

I’ve not been one to share my goals out loud. I’ve been known to not tell friends and family when I race. I’ve long held odd, superstitious thoughts about goals:
…If I say them out loud, I might jinx myself.
  …If I tell someone they might think they’re too big or too small.
      …If I tell people, and then fail, I will be embarrassed.

I usually race with two goals: the ‘ever so reasonable’ one that I can share and the real one, the one I secretly hope for.

At some point last year, after finishing the Patriot Half for the second time, I realized that I wanted to see if I could PR this race as a 50 year old. More specifically, I wanted to complete a sub 5 1/2 hour 70.3 AND be happy on the run. This is what I wanted to give myself for a 50th birthday present. I don’t know why this felt so meaningful, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted it, like a toddler wants a giant, stuffed rainbow unicorn, I wanted it bad.

Owning the goal and being able to speak about it allowed me to find the right coach. Kathleen was the perfect coach for me and this endeavor. Where I waver in confidence about my ability in any given workout, she is confident about where it fits in the bigger picture of my goal. She was able to feed me the right balance of information, education, and support so that even the most craptastic workout was quickly redefined as useful learning.

The first few weeks of training felt really, really awful. I was sluggish. Struggled for energy and felt like I couldn’t get my muscles firing. I thought I was sick or crazy. I thought maybe I needed to accept being old (which was the opposite of what I was going for). I wondered whether the insane hot flashes that kept me from sleeping were to blame. I asked everyone I could find in my new age group for advice and thankfully got my hands on ROAR by Stacy Sims, PhD. Once I changed my fueling to include more protein, things came back together again*.

Even with proper fueling, there were days when I was certain my coach was crazy…the volume was too much…the intensity was too high. I’d never done this before! And I talked to myself, a lot. “Do you still want it?” “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to do any of this. If you want it, this is the path. Your choice. The goal doesn’t matter at all… except that its yours… if you still want it.”

I changed my 5am alarm so this goal was the message I’d see it every morning before I debated getting out of bed. This goal powered me through over 2,000 miles of training (81 swimming, 1707 cycling, 383 running) and countless hours of stretching, strength, and PT.

At the end of April, a hamstring issue severely impeded my running. Injuries and goals are frustrating. Trying to figure out the right balance of pushing through, treatment, and rest without panicking and making bigger problems is awful. It was the mental undoing and second guessing which felt endless and was exhausting. When the last call for switching to AquaBike email came out, I half thought or hoped that Kathleen would just tell me to give up and switch. (thankfully I didn’t tel her this until after the race, she said she would’ve hit me!)

Every workout during the final weeks leading up to race day was “show up, do my best, and trust.”

Race morning, thunderstorms threatened to wreak havoc with the swim and rain was forecast for the bike. These didn’t feel like the ideal conditions for my goal. I was pissed, but didn’t want to stay there. I reassured myself that I had done the training that under the right conditions, would have led to my goal, but I don’t control the conditions. The part that was in my power, I had done faithfully and well. All that was left to do was go out and have the best race in the conditions that the day brought. That’s it. Oh, and I could still try to be happy on the run.

As I pulled out of my parking space at the hotel Best Day of My Life came on the radio. I had a dream so big and loud… This song stuck in my head for the entire race. It was the soundtrack for the day.

The swim wasn’t canceled. I swam strong and reached the wetsuit strippers without feeling dizzy. The bike was drizzly, but not pouring and I mostly kept to plan for pacing and fueling. The transition to the run was the best ever. Better than any previous Patriot or any long training brick. The first half of the run I was moving along in zone 3…and then the hamstring did its thing.

Absolutely I had hoped it was miraculously gone and I felt so disappointed. In an instant, I regretted telling everyone about my stupid goal. I had a huge crowd of family and friends who had driven from all over to cheer me on. What was I thinking?! Ugh. This sucked.

Ok, so what?! If tried as hard as I could and missed my goal… failed… my family would be disappointed??? More likely they’d be proud of me for going for it! And let’s be honest, 5:30 meant nothing to them! They couldn’t care less about a number. Shake that off. And yes, I still wanted it, dammit.

Of course… I had also mistakenly pushed the wrong button on my Garmin and ended the triathlon, so I had no idea where I was in relationship to my goal. No idea at all.  I started to see the absence of timing as a gift from the universe to help me reach my goal of a happy run.

I remembered that when I asked Kathleen before the race about my readiness she had said something like: the swim was good, the bike was good, and the run was the wildcard – but since I’d been running forever, she knew my muscle memory would carry me.
So I believed strongly that as long as I kept running, just didn’t stop, I could still make it.

I did.

5:22:48 – a 10 minute PR… at fn50!

I still feel immense joy just for being brave enough to not abandon my goal when it felt unreachable. I always learn from my athletic endeavors.
What I learned is that abandoning the goal won’t prevent disappointment. I don’t really talk myself out of wanting what I want. It feels incredible to let myself want something, even if I may or may not get it. I will survive disappointment. Just because I do not understand how something can come together, doesn’t mean it won’t.
And of course, when you have a great coach, always trust your coach.

Patriot Finish

*PSA: Women, in perimenopause and menopause your estrogen crashes. Estrogen was used to convert carbohydrates into energy that fuels your muscles. The fueling plan you’ve used successfully may not work anymore. You’re not crazy or getting slow or lame. You may just need different fueling. I did. Why don’t people talk about this?!

Cranberry TriFest Race Story – Good Things Come in 5s

I just completed my 5th Cranberry TriFest Olympic Distance Triathlon. To keep things neat and tidy, I finished 5th in my 5th (and final) year in the 45-49 age group.

Each time I race, I learn about myself: how I make choices and how I feel about the outcomes of those choices.  I’m pretty sure that this and the fact that the learning opportunities seem to be endless are what keep me racing.

A little piece of relevant history… Back in the beginning of July, after 4 weekends of racing each weekend, and after thinking a lot about my training and the mental fatigue I was experiencing at 5am when it was time to wake up and train I made a a conscious, out-loud to Jason choice:

“This summer, I’m just going to have fun and enjoy swimming and biking and running. I’m gonna ride on the beach, run without a watch, and just swim with my friends at the reservoir – maybe the pool once in a while.” Long pause…
“And please remind me that this is the choice I made in August when I’m wishing I made a different choice at Cranberry.”

It’s been a delightful summer. I’ve had great open water swims followed by chatty runs with friends. Jason and I rode so many gravely, sandy, grassy miles on our CX bikes. I was a little sad when I had to wipe spider webs off my TT bike for a local sprint at the end of July, so a weekly TT bike ride got thrown in. I ran hills one day for fun and a lot of beach, off-road miles. I enjoyed every minute.

Although I worried that I’d lose fitness, the reality was that I never had a week with fewer than 5 workout days, many days included bricks (because I like them), and off days meant long beach walks with the pup. I stayed very fit. In many ways because of the off road miles and resting when I felt like it – I felt healthier and much less injury prone. My morning workouts just made me happy and set me up for a great day with work, with friends, with everything.

I didn’t lose my fitness – I did however lose some speed. And we’re back to the race story…

Cranberry was a great race. The swim was a wetsuitless, hot, shallow, 2 loop, pond scummy mess. And I found myself entertained by the chaos. It was on the bike, when I was trying to push a speed that I probably could have held back in June that I started wishing I could undo my choice and go back in time. 

When training regrets creep into your race, flatting is almost a promise. Not that your tire will get punctured, but you feel like it did and the whole race feels flat and frustrating.

I was right there, when a flash of words flooded my brain:

Would you rather have some excuse or rationale for a race outcome: Sick last week, got a flat tire, missed a feed, had to sneeze when the winning attack went, or even just that you lost your nerve that day when it got really hard (yes, this happens). With that, you can forever clasp onto the worrystone-mantra of “I could have won, if only…?”

Or, would you rather honestly know you had ridden a race to the very best of your strength and ability, know there was nothing else you could have done and have that be…not…quite…enough?

Mara Abbott’s thoughts following her courageous 4th place Olympic finish had clearly made a lasting impression and became my mantra for the rest of the race. I would ride to the best of my present strength and ability and let go of the energy wasted on rationalizing anything. And thank goodness, because it was such a more pleasant way to race!

I raced hard. I gave all I had. I’m sore today and I was slower.

And to further emulate, Mara, I’ll be really honest (as she was) and share one more thought I had when I finished …

Yet here is what I will always sort of wish I had:
A podium spot.

The day after, I’ll tell you without hesitation that I wouldn’t change a thing about my summer. It turns out you can still be pretty speedy when you do what makes you happy, play and share joy. I’m thankful that Mara’s story collided with mine when it did.

And thanks to Sun MultiSports and all the wonderful volunteers for a great race!!!

Cranberry Trifest 2016

Plunging into 2016

The 1st Annual ISLAGIATT New Year’s Day Backward Xterra Triathlon

The plan was hatched in the usual way 2 weeks earlier.

Last year we celebrated with a Sufferfest, which was the perfect start to a year in which we would quest for Knighthood of Sufferlandria. With new goals and schemes, we needed an appropriately epic kick-off for 2016

For Kristin, it’s The Year of Dirt – gravel rides, Xterras, CX, plus the full 3 Day PMC. For Nancy, it’s The Year of Epic Cycling, including theBattenkill & PMC. For me, it’s The Year to Bring it All Together – all 3 disciplines, better nutrition & injury prevention. This terrible idea brought it all together and the plunge into the icy, cold water would seal the deal!

As usual in New England, the weather necessitated plan modifications. Recon on the course the day before, revealed too much ice on the trails to make the run leg hit our minimum fun level – so it would be a road run. The crunchy trails were fine on mountain bike, so Fatbikes would be perfect.

We met at noon and it was on! This was actually the first time we had all run together. We pretty much crushed the hilly run, each setting a PR for the number of times we stopped to play with items on lawns along the way.

After the second longest transition in history, we were in the woods, crunching through the snow on Fatbikes. (Special thanks to Anders for letting me borrow his Xmas present.) We covered every trail we could find and following Kristin’s lead, we opted for riding across streams despite the availability of a wooden bridge. We discovered beautiful structures crafted from fallen trees and only a single set of footprints in the first snow of the winter. It was colder in the woods than we expected based on the run, so we determined the ride duration by the discomfort of Kristin’s hands, knowing that body heat was required for the final leg.

We peeled off our warm layers and waited in the warm cars for the arrival of the life guards, Jason & Steve. (Safety is a priority, even amidst craziness) Once the men arrived, we forced ourselves from the warmth out into the cold air. (For her first plunge, Nancy was the most prepared with the awesome robe) Just to add to the shenanigans, we added a shot of Irish liquid courage and started the swim lap on our Garmins. Kristin and I set up for a last pre-swim picture and realized that Nancy was marching stubbornly into the reservoir muttering, “I can do this, I’m a triathlete, dammit.” We dashed in to catch her and take the plunge into the new year, together.

The water was just frickin’ cold – stupid cold, but exhilarating…life affirming… adventure commencing.

It’s amazing what epic adventures you can create with friends who are willing to jump in with both feet with you. Not just in sport, but in all aspects of life, I feel lucky to have many wonderful friends who are willing to jump in with me! We support each other. We rely on each other. We humor each other. We challenge each other.
Together, we live the kind of life you feel; where there’s no doubt we’re alive.

Polar Bear Roar

Patriot Half 2015 – Race Stories

Sun MultisportBefore a super long narrative, which includes deep reflection on everything from my sock choice to the Lorax, I’ll summarize… I am over-the-moon-happy with my finishing time! I never tallied the target times I had for each leg – but somewhere I settled on the idea that anything under 6 hours would be awesome and anything in the neighborhood of 5:45 would be spectacular.  I didn’t have an adjective picked out for 5:33:09! (I’ve come up with quite a few since)

The super long narrative: 

Lead up to the Race: Overall, I’ve been very happy with my health, energy, and training / preparedness. I’ve been injury-free since my ankle sprain in April and triathalife has been busy, but not in too much competition with training goals. I’m feeling strong.

Day before: Nerves. Definitely thinking that 70.3 is a little too much. Nervous about nutrition and all the unknowns. A nice short brick in the morning, a little less tea than usual, and a schedule of morning meetings, helped to distract me. I was home around 1:00 and packing the car to head to Freetown. Making a packing spreadsheet/list was still one of the best things I’ve ever done. (Although now I occasionally worry that packing isn’t stressful enough – and I probably forgot something.) In any case, I was in the car and heading to meet up with Nancy before the kids were off the bus. Cape traffic made the drive longer than planned, but we arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare.

Recon: Packet pick-up – easy. Sleeveless wetsuit rental – easy. Transition walk around – so awesome to have Nancy to walk me thought the maze of transition and run-ins and bike-outs. We take a drive of the run course – very pretty, but clear that mid-day sun is going to be direct, on most of the course. (Noted & added to list of things to worry about.)
Nancy left to head home to rest and hopefully get on the other side of her hacking cough. I joined the VMPS swim clinic and got in a quick swim. I happily ran into Shira Flowers, who was also racing and arrived with a batch of 5Q tattoos and swim caps – AWESOME!!! I popped my 5Q cap on and waded in. The water was lovely. So clean, great temp, calm – really, just lovely. Before I made it back to my car, I ran into more triathletes wearing #50womentokona shirts and had passed out all but a few of the tattoos. AWESOME to see such awareness and support for equality in sport!

Accommodations: Days Inn, Middleboro. This was a last minute change of plans. Until the week before I’d planned to drive from home the morning of. The 7:00 am race start and a little working backward, motivated me to find a shorter commute and get more sleep. This was a great call! The room was smelly, but the location was perfect for traveling to the venue and for Jason and the kids to join me.

Morning of: Fell asleep before 10:00 while the kids watched the Lorax and woke at 4:50. Felt rested. Checked my phone – ugh! Nancy was too sick and had to call it. I’d always assumed I’d be with her, waiting to start, eep!  I got dressed and left with bags without waking the kids – Jason was stirring.  Beautiful morning – low 60s. Off to Dunkin’s for a large tea and a raisin bagel. SO nice to not get lost on the way to a race.

MotivationRack 16: I was racked with a very nice group of female athletes, which is more often the case than not. I passed out the rest of the 5Q tattoos and applied my own. The baby powder for inside the socks was the most shared item in my race bag. We all made sure we were well-covered with glide and sunscreen.  There were several racers rocking some sweet Betty Designs kits and the new Team Betty kit got rave reviews! Lots of compliments for the new partnership with Hincapie and the long zipper on the new tri top.  At the request of another racer, we hung my Team Betty jacket on the end of the rack, for VERY easy visibility. (this received many thank yous post race)

Warm up: A few minutes of dynamic stretching and then into the water for a warm up swim. I felt calmer than I’ve been at races in the past. I was happy to be in the water. I felt ready to go see what my winter of training has prepared me for. It was exciting, in a good way, to have a new distance and no idea what to expect.

Line up: Patriot uses a time trial start, so we enter the water in groups of 3, every 10 seconds. It didn’t take me too long to find my friend, Lisa, in the wave of purple caps, right at the front. This was good, we’d be on our way soon.

The swim: This was the most present, strong, relaxed swim I have ever had in a race. I felt comfortable. There was a lot of maneuvering around people, but I was able to keep swimming forward as I dodged limbs. The water got a little choppy, but no anxiety. Just kept my head in it. I loved the sleeveless wetsuit, whether it made me slower or faster, I’m not sure I care – I just felt so good. I think my sighting was fairly good and remembered to get my legs ready before I tried to run to transition on them – all good. 38:22

T1: Wetsuit came off easier than the day before – thank you BodyGlide. My Injinji toe socks were not too bad to put on when filled with baby powder. And a huge improvement over the the first race of the season, I didn’t get water all over my lens and could see as I ran out of transition – yay! (small wins) 02:36

Bike: Ok, here was where I got unsure about my plan. I knew that I’d done solid training through the fall and winter. I know I’m a stronger rider. I know I can do this. I fight the compelling worry to slow down and save myself for the run, but stay with my plan. On every uphill, I could hear Nancy in my head – “don’t burn watts!”. I focused on my heart rate  – steady and easy (no power meter) and soon enough I’m settled into a pace that averaged around 19.5. It felt right, but my head was definitely having a hard time accepting that I could make and sustain this higher pace for 56 miles. Lisa passed pretty early in the first loop. (I had no idea I was ahead of her from the swim) I thought she’d blow past me like a freight train, but I stayed ~30 yards back for many, many miles. She’s a strong rider, so keeping her in sight actually made me nervous, but I just kept reminding myself to stay in my own race. The bike course is really great – lots of rolling hills – but not too many crazy scary down hills. There was an accident on the course – a rider crashed into a pedestrian who was on the ground when we passed. So scary. Bikes are fast. Somewhere around 50 miles, I felt ‘done’ with the bike. I wasn’t I’-want-to-throw-my-bike grouchy, but definitely ready to get off the saddle (Note: remember chamois lube next race) I briefly caught up to Lisa again before she took off for T2. The wires between the CX and the tri sides of my brain got crossed as I coasted into the dismount area. I left me left foot clipped in as I dismounted – not pretty – but I stayed upright. (another small win) 2:53:38 (elev. gain: 1,818 ft)

T2: The run in wasn’t speedy, my legs were definitely complaining about the repetition of movement over almost 3 hours. I took my time to reapply sunscreen (although I missed a patch on the back of my neck) and get sunglasses, visor, and Fuel Belt set. 03:31

Run: Oh, stiff legs.  Thankfully, I started out with Lisa and another racer who calmed my worries with veteran assurance that they’d feel better after the first mile…they did. And then the next few miles felt pretty good. My thoughts were clear and focused on posture and nutrition timing, Around 4 miles, I started getting unpleasantly hot. Ice at the water stops was amazing – in the top and shorts…ahhhhh. At around an hour into the run, my legs felt tight again, and getting tighter. The last 5 miles weren’t easy and required a lot of mental endurance. I knew I could add 2 min. walk breaks and keep a pretty decent pace (thank you, Nancy), but decided to see how much farther I could go before I started #galloway. I was nervous that my legs would get stiffer in the walk breaks be harder to move.  Any patch of shade felt like a miracle. As I reminded myself to be grateful for each one, I thought about the kids watching the Lorax the night before. “I am grateful for the trees and the Lorax”  ran through my head over and over – and didn’t seem crazy, at all, at the time.  When I passed the 12 mile marker, I thought of Jes…”I can do anything for 10 minutes.” I wasn’t going to stop – I was going to run all the way into the camp – as long as I didn’t fall down.    1:55:03 (elev gain 394 ft)

The Finish: The run into Cathedral Camp, over the grass, the little bridge, and into the finish chute was awesome! I had no idea what my finish time would be – and really didn’t care. I’d done what I wanted to do – I gave it all I had, 100%  I trusted myself and my plan and didn’t get caught up in anyone else’s race. My body hurt and I felt strong.  I saw and heard  Jason, Hannah, and Will as I ran the last few feet. I had told Jason it was ok, if the day was just too long and they didn’t make it – but I was so happy that they were there.

70.3 Cool downTaking off my shoes & socks and sticking them in the ice cold baby pool was perfect. All my peeps came over and hung out with me while I cooled down. Jes was happy she didn’t have to yell at me to run faster. Nancy ( germs and all) was so excited – she couldn’t wait to see my time. I saw the time on the finish clock was 5:50someting, so I was pretty sure I’d met my time goals. My head exploded when Nancy said 5:3:09. I was just happy. Amazing! I can’t describe the joy to realize that this 48 year old body can accomplish something like this. Amazing! Ha! At that moment I think I fell in love with everything, all at once.

Thank you, Sun Multisports – It was an amazing race. Around mile 9, I was certain that I’d never do another half iron. A week later, I’m sure I’ll trt Patriot again next year.

Sneaking up on 70.3

70.3 bumpah stickahshhhh…I’m doing a half ironman tomorrow, but don’t tell me.

I don’t know why it’s been so hard to accept. I’ve been signed up for the Patriot Half since December, so it’s not like it just happened. I’ve been training. The bike sessions have certainly gotten longer. I’ve got about a thousand calories of race food tucked into various feed bags, so I know I’ll be working for a long time tomorrow. Hell! I’ve even done a pre-ride of the course with a 70.3 veteran. ( I never follow this excellent advice – I like ignorance)

So why is it that I’m just getting around to mentioning it to my family?
And why haven’t I added it to the Team Betty race schedule?

In some weird way, I’m afraid of failing. And I don’t even know what ‘failing’ means to me. Being slow? Being last? DNFing? Getting lost on my way to the race? Looking foolish?
(I’ve done all of these things before and survived.)

It’s not because I’ve never done a 70.3 before, but possibly it’s because I have.

In 2012, after completing my first Olympic distance triathlon (as a total non-swimmer) a single thought inspired me to sign up for my first  – “Holy crap, you just swam a mile! You should totally sign up for a half iron right now while you can swim a mile, cuz what’s another .2?!” 6 weeks later I was doing my first. Never mind that the oly race was my only open water swim and I couldn’t even move in the 59° water…Wow! 56 miles on the bike is so much further than 26 miles!

So, now I have no bliss of ignorance. But I do have more appropriate training. I have an awesome respect for the distances. And I think it’s possibly this respect that has me a little nervous. I hope to show up tomorrow to race on the course – last time I just wanted to survive (and shake off the hypothermia). I’d like to be able to manage my pace and my nutrition so that I can race the whole course. But I’ve it before.

So what’s the worst thing that happens? I don’t hit my pace goals for some reason or another – I will learn. Just like everyone else who is now a veteran of the longer courses. That’s cool.

Ok, so world… I’m doing a 70.3 tomorrow. Holy crap!

peace - love - 70.3