Friday, June 13, 2014

A different kind of pain

Triathletes are no strangers to discomfort. It comes in many forms like training-related muscle soreness, blisters and chafing or perhaps the grueling demand of threshold intervals in the dead of winter before dawn (no hard feelings, Flanny). It seems that pushing oneself outside of the typical peaceful realm of everyday life is part of the appeal of such athletic endeavors.

While I have become rather accustomed to certain types of pain, the past several months have exposed me to new facets of torment, both physical and mental. Navigating this virtual obstacle course of optimism and defeat is proving to be quite the personal journey. Here are a few snippets of my odyssey. 

Where’d the sunshine go?
Short arms make for poor selfies
Being stuck inside is painful for me. If you read my Miami70.3 race report, you’ll recall that I had some nagging ankle issues going into the race. The consistent inflammation that occurred with running and skiing forced me to stick to the trainer and pool over the winter months, drastically impacting my mental state. I struggled to find meaning and enjoyment in my workouts. I don’t live to train. Rather, I use my active, outdoor lifestyle as a catalyst for fueling my competitive nature. Asking me to hole up indoors (even in the wintertime) is like asking Jesse Thomas to race without his aviators…not gonna happen.

Swimming hurts
Why does it seem that swimming is frequently the triathlete’s nemesis? In his article, Diaryof a Wimpy Swimmer, Jordan Rapp states that he never learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable in the water, “which is the real difference between someone who just swims and a swimmer.” I have embodied this mentality over the past 6 months and forced myself to think like a swimmer. This means doing whatever excruciating workout our master's coach Kyle devises at our 5:30am sessions. I’ve become more accustomed to doing IM until I resemble an active drowning victim. I’m learning to embrace that lung-bursting, tingly-legged sensation that follows hypoxic sprint sets. Though I’m tempted to agree with my friend Dusty (see his thoughts on swimming here) I’m also gradually learning that pushing myself out of my comfort zone in the water is taking my weakest leg of triathlon into a new realm. More on this later.

Battling the unpredictable, gusty spring winds added a new
level of challenge to the Jason Broome TT
Time Trials make me want to cry like a baby
With my ankle being uncooperative and forcing me to forego my first planned race this season (St. George 70.3) I was seeking some kind of competitive outlet. When I texted Flanny that there was a local time trial coming up one weekend here was his response: 

Breathing fire at the Bogus Basin
prologue at Bob's Time Trial Festival
Pretty sure he piddled on the carpet with excitement. This was my first experience with an all-out, 10-mile effort on the bike. I guess if it feels like you’re coughing up Brillo pads for a week afterward you’re doing it right. Since I don’t own a road bike, I was relegated to racing events that allowed TT bikes on course. Thus, I decided a Time Trial Festival sounded like fun. Doesn’t it??? Turns out it REALLY HURTS. I have a whole new respect for pure cyclists demanding repeated maximal efforts of their bodies like that. The prologue left me with an inferno in my esophagus that wouldn’t quit, along with the sensation that I had hot wings stuffed deep in my ear canals. No joke. The following day we were to complete a 40k time trial and cap it all off with…wait for it…another 10k time trial- Merckx style! I’m feigning enthusiasm because it hurt in a magnificent way. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

DNF = Did Not Fail
Going into Boise 70.3, it was becoming apparent that my little ankle problem was not going away. I’ll spare the details at this point, but running was not an option. The disappointment of this realization was suffocating. Being only my second season racing in the pro field, and having yet to execute a 2014 race (with no prospects in sight) was excruciating emotionally. I spent several weeks processing the mental demons that nagged at me, causing me to feel defeated before even toeing the start line.

Pre-race Lucky Peak swim with fellow Wattie Ink teammates
Travis Thomason and Sarah Barkley
I had a choice to make. I was reminded that I could still participate in my hometown race, but my goals would be different. I solicited input from coach Flanny, multiple friends and of course MFMG. “Whatever decision you make, own it and follow through,” urged Flanny. Matt was adamant that I start the race, if for no other reason than to do battle in the swim. Ultimately, choosing to complete an aquabike in the pro field was the right choice for me. It was important for me to gauge my swim fitness against the pro ladies and have the privilege of racing the bike with them. I had placed nothing in T2 prior, so I knew my race would end as soon as I completed the bike leg. Arriving in transition was a culmination of both torment and personal glory. I had accomplished what I had set out to do without compromise.  Though it was my first-ever DNF, it was on my terms and hinged on a new set of objectives that forced me to transcend any physical or mental pain that threatened to obscure my focus.

Ready to kick some ‘boot’ie

So here I sit, post-op with a heavy-ass boot dangling off my left leg. I’ve been given a couple different medications for pain, was warned of discomfort lasting for days afterward, and am prepared for the slow, steady road to recovery. Funny thing is, this surgery is the least distressing thing I have experienced all season. In fact, having a clear diagnosis and a genuine feeling of optimism is making for a relatively painless experience thus far.  And in any case, so long as I’m learning from the pain, I’ll welcome more in the future.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Winter Challenge: Tri-ing something new

Well, it finally happened this past Saturday…my 2014 triathlon season kicked off with a local multi-sport event of a different kind. The Winter Challenge was a jovial mix of winter games, springtime liveliness and sunshine with a touch of Mardi Gras. And it exceeded all expectations of how Boiseans know how to have a good time!
Some of the costumes from the race. Bonus: can you spot the Matt Green Photo cameo?

Now, I realize I'm coming off of blogging hiatus and it is a bit interesting to be writing a race report so early in the season. In fact, I have been quite busy with other adventures… such as a kick-ass spring training camp with Black Dragon Racing and Wattie Ink. Unfortunately, I missed the boat on writing a feature article on it, so I'll let you read about it here, here, here and here. I have so many positive things to say about my first camp, but I'll limit it to: love Coach Flanny even more, very thankful for amazingly generous friends and sponsors, 2014 is going to ROCK!

Back to the action…

When I'd heard friends Adam Wirth and Antonio Gonzalez were scheming to organize a winter triathlon I was intrigued and (I'll admit) a bit apprehensive. My trepidation stems from Idaho's notoriously fickle spring weather. We could be planning a winter tri, but end up getting sunburned and covered in mud while hike-a-biking through the remnants of the Bogus Basin Nordic trails. Plus, I'd struggled with a nagging ankle issue all winter that interrupted my blossoming love affair with skate skiing (more on that later).

My cohort with her,
um, teammate Sunday.
Taking the plunge, I signed up and promoted the event with fervor. I borrowed a bike (again) from friend and XTERRA aficionado Allison Moore. I tested my mended ankle with one last ski. And before I could say "who's blow-up doll is THAT?!" it was time to race!

The event started with a 4k run along the Nordic Highway, which is actually a continuation of Bogus Basin Road when it is not snow covered. The run took a hard left downhill into the trees for some solid rolling hills, looping back to the finish. The main thing I remember about the run (besides "Thank heaven for Yak Trax,") was how sorry I felt for all of the poor suckers taking off fast and chasing Adam and Tom Liby straight out of the gate. Have fun with that…

Men's Podium
Women's podium
I've never been one to claim transitions as my strength. They still need work. My transitions in a winter triathlon need LOTS of work. Change shoes…grab gloves I forgot at the start…beanie off, helmet on…wait, glasses off ($h!t)…mount bike…GO!

Riding on snow was hanging over my head as the unknown factor in this event. I pictured slipping and sliding around every corner, hopelessly losing control in the spring slush with my rudimentary single-track skills. With the first turn, though, I was pleasantly surprised at the traction provided by the icy surface. Freezing crystals flipped up and peppered my face, like little gnats that dissolved on contact. I have skied this trail countless times and this experience brought mirth that I can't put into words. I went from "ugh, I have to ride 3 laps of this?" to "WOO HOO!! Can I ride more than 3 laps of this?!" I'm still smiling...

All too quickly my joyous ride was over and the ski loomed ahead. Another clumsy transition ensued and it was time to throw down the last leg of the race. I had no idea who was ahead of me or behind me…I was having the time of my life! Friends were hanging out near transition, ringing cowbells, heckling and cheering as the racers made their way through.

Since the ski route was a reverse of the run I had gotten a good idea of snow conditions. The occasional crusty patch threatened to grab my ski's edge and toss me into a snow bank, but I managed to keep upright and strong. Remember that steep downhill coming off the Nordic Highway I mentioned during the run? You guessed it: we got to climb that puppy twice during the ski leg. If I could describe for you non-skiers what it's like to climb a steep hill while skating… did you ever try to climb up a slide at a water park while it's running? Progress is painfully slow and you'd rather just give up and slide back down.

Kirk Jackson, a member of the Bond team
sporting black tie attire on course
Just when I was reveling in my final, triumphant climb and I thought I could just cruise to the finish, I saw him. Frenchie. My friend Walter was just up ahead and looked like he was running out of steam. This race ain't over! In my mind, I threw myself into a powerful V2 sprint a la Kikkan Randall. To anyone watching I just started breathing harder. Nonetheless, I was gaining on him with less than a half kilometer to go. YES! Bragging rights over Walter…this is better than any trophy! Alas, Frenchie glanced back to see me gaining on him and lit up whatever gas he had left in the tank, which was enough to finish just 8 seconds ahead of me. Next time, Walter. Next time.

The day was wrapped up by swapping race stories, excellent food by Kanak Attack catering, beer by Payette Brewing, awards and costumes. Head on over to the Winter Challenge Facebook page for additional photos. Hats off to Adam and Antonio for putting on one hell of an inaugural event! Thank you to local businesses Bogus Basin, World Cycle and Tri Town for amazing race organization and support. And volunteers- you guys were fabulous! Events like this can't be executed without dedication, enthusiasm and true pioneers at the helm. For all of you locals who missed out: this should top your list of fun, must-do events next year!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bienvenido a Miami 70.3

Yes, I had a Michelob Ultra after finishing
From the moment Miami 70.3 was put on my schedule, I'm pretty sure I've played this song daily in my mind. After a fairly aggressive early season it was time to look ahead to what goals I wanted to pursue for 2014. Coach Flanigan and I discussed various options, but ultimately my sights were set on earning my ticket to the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont-Tremblant. Miami was chosen for a few reasons:
  1. Reasonable travel requirements. Yes, it is in the opposite corner of the nation, but being a major city made the airfare a bit more affordable.
  2. Timing. I needed a solid block of time to build for this race after chinking my armor a little too much earlier in the season. (and I won't lie... the thought of escaping the cold, windy fall weather in exchange for palm trees and a warm breeze was definitely appealing).
  3. Points. In order to race in the World Championships I need to earn enough points to get a slot. Miami offered higher points than Austin 70.3 (which was held the same weekend).
My new buddy Murph and I did plenty
of this the days leading up to the race
The 10 weeks of training leading up to this race went almost entirely as planned. Aside from a couple hiccups with my running at the beginning of October, everything else was executed impeccably. Very few distractions. Head down. Eye on the goal.

Wattie Ink fan and fellow RD Susan Kitchen
stopped and introduced herself. Great gal and athlete!
This was my first race traveling solo. No MFMG to act as sherpa or keep me company on the flight. No Wattie Ink contingent or other companions to provide pre-race support. And I know this isn't rocket science, but putting my bike together before the race also fell entirely on my shoulders. But as my husband reminded me, "This is, after all, an individual sport."

As race day approached, the familiar jittery excitement continued to build. Thanks to a pleasant home stay with a great local athlete, Ola Besser, stress was kept to a minimum and logistics were simple. Some ill-timed sinus congestion, a few near-death experiences with Miami drivers and one very inhospitable car rental agent were no match for the focus I had going into this race. Matt paid me  a very big compliment the night before I departed Boise: "I've never seen you so prepared for a race."

The best part about a home stay is the ability to
make a customized, delicious pre-race meal.
Race reports can easily turn into rambling, detailed accounts of every moment of the very long day. So much happens the days leading up to the race and even more occurs the day of; it is nearly impossible to cover it all. What may work best is to highlight the highs and lows of each leg of the race. Here goes…

All racked and ready to go…
right next to Leanda Cave
The High: Being racked near Leanda Cave and Matty Reed in transition. Watching these two triathlon legends entertain droves of fans from around the world while obliging photos and hand-shakes was very cool. This was my first time meeting both of them, and from my brief interactions I can honestly say my admiration has only grown from the experience. 

The Low: NERVES!! I kept thinking, "jeez, just get me in that water and sound the gun!" All of the announcements and pre-race briefings were translated into Spanish and Portuguese, which made it feel like the World Championships. EEK!

The High: I found feet!!! Many of you who spoke with me prior to this race know that the swim start was a source of much angst for me. I've been working hard on my swimming and I knew going in to this race my swim was stronger than ever. Setting myself up for a solid swim by staying with the group was crucial. I was determined not to swim alone (like has happened several times this season). I also wanted to prove that I'm worthy of sporting the wicked fast Blueseventy PZ3TX with the big dogs.

The Low: Alas, they were the wrong feet to follow. By the time I had reached the first turn buoy I knew the lead pack had taken off, but I was still with a few other girls and I thought, "this is fine, just hang with them, you don't want to swim alone!" Well, about halfway through the swim I suddenly found myself engulfed in seaweed, as if someone had dumped a loose bale of hay into the harbor. I had followed those feet right off course into a big, floating mass. Imagine trying to crawl your way through several partially deflated air mattresses. The seaweed was buoyant, but not so much that it would support the weight of a human body. As I struggled to slog my way through this stuff (there has to be and END somewhere, right??) I heard a kayaker yelling and pointing me toward clear water. I was literally a couple feet from escaping the straw-like cloud but it was so thick I couldn't find my way through without the help of that kayaker. Once back on course the rest of the swim was smooth sailing…and I promptly surged away from those feet that led me astray.
No, this is not me. But it's a cool shot.
Photo credit: Ironman 70.3 Miami

The High: Simple- I raced. Even with the seaweed debacle I came out of the water around the same time as 3 other women. We all left T1 together and were leap frogging our way through the first several miles of the bike. I knew the ride would be flat and fast and I was concerned about getting stuck in the draft zone of the other riders. Flanny and I had reviewed my target power the day before, and throughout the season he has encouraged me to "race" and use my power meter as a tool rather than a limiter. So I went for it, pushing the pace above my target watts several times early in the bike in order to try to get away from the other women. The confidence I had from being adequately prepared for that ride helped me push harder than I would have earlier in the season. All that time tucked in the aero position was definitely made easier by my Adamo Breakaway and Speedfil setup. In the end, my average power was about 3.5% higher than previous races this season. WIN!

The Low: The congestion that had set in the days leading up to the race came loose from all that salt water during the swim. Snot rocket does not even begin to describe what was coming out of my face. Remember the reference to shoelaces from the movie Turner and Hooch? Enough said.

The High: Finding my run legs! Flanny had warned me that because of the time-trial nature of the bike I would likely be stiff and uncomfortable starting the run. It was true. Man, that first mile felt like the longest mile I'd run in a very long time and it crossed my mind that I was too ambitious on the bike. I focused on turnover, form, fuel, hydration. Sure enough, within a few miles my legs came around and before I knew it my K-Swiss Kwicky's were ticking off the miles and I began feeling stronger as the run unfolded.
May I draw your attention to the left side of the photo. I am just starting the run and Terenzo Bozzone (the men's champion) just passed me with the grace of a cheetah, powering into his second lap. I remember thinking, "picture yourself running like HIM!" (Photo credit: Ironman 70.3 Miami)

The Low: I'm not sure what to call this "issue" I've been battling on the run, but it has been suggested that the problem originates in my lower leg and causes pain in my knee by compressing the peroneal nerve. Whatever. It sucks. Typically when my leg acts up it is only a matter of time before I'm walking. This time I managed to find a way to run through it will little issue, other than a slightly slower pace. While it is incredibly frustrating to know that I couldn't produce the run I'm capable of, it is encouraging that this "issue" continues to be less and less significant when it does rear it's ugly head. Here's to hoping it packs it's bags and leaves in 2014.

Nothing like sandy toes and
the sound of the surf in your ears.
I came in 9th, which is not the race I was hoping for and not the race I had prepared myself for. It also does not give me a great start at points accumulation for 2014. While my perfectionistic nature causes me to analyze what I could have (should have) done differently, I have been reminded by my coach and my network of supporters how far I have come this season. I have shown continual progress and consistency with my racing. I have attempted a heavier season than ever before, toeing the line with some of the best athletes in the sport to see how I measure up. And I have learned…a LOT. 

Back in Boise.
From beautiful beach scenery to picturesque fall colors.

The offseason is upon me…FINALLY! I am already thinking ahead to next season and the accomplishments and challenges that lie ahead. But for now I'll happily spend a significant amount of time sleeping in, baking and kicking MFMG's tail in cribbage. I can't begin to express my gratitude for all of the support I've received this season. This year has been an extraordinary journey, and I feel like I'm just getting started.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Closing Down Summer

For Real?? It has been over 2 months since I've purged my brain of all randomness involving triathlon and my life. I guess that's an indication of a couple things: a) I needed a bit of a breather from all of the racing hullabaloo, and b) life has kept me busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger.

Let's have a quick run-through of what's been going down in my little world:

Bend, OR

Shortly following XTERRA Les Bois MFMG and I loaded up with our good friends Clay and Jen and headed to Bend for a little bike and beer time. Jen and I participated in the Trek Women's Dirt Series all-women's clinic and got to hone our mountain bike skills while the boys, um... rode on their own.
A few of the props for technique building

Still working on my cornering skills...I'll get there!
Crux is a great new addition to Bend's many breweries!

Miles and miles of this!

MFMG chillin' mid-ride.

Emmett's Most Excellent Triathlon:
I have not missed this event in the past 4 years. Never a disappointment, the Emmett Triathlon is an impeccably organized local favorite that almost serves as a reunion to Treasure Valley Triathletes. Setting up transition is almost like mingling at a party with friends- music, friendly conversation, jokes and an overwhelming sense of community makes this race one that I look forward to each season. Congrats to Jen Luebke for taking the win; it was my second year in a row taking the bridesmaid slot by mere seconds. Next year...
Matt was working and unable to take pics that day. This is all I got.

Our wedding anniversary and my birthday are two days apart. For the past couple years, we have spent the days surrounding these events doing this:

2012 70.3 World Championships, Matt plays sherpa, chauffeur, coach and photographer.

But this year we got to do some of this:
Dinner at our local fave, Berryhill

A reminder to MFMG who the
cribbage master is in this house.

Matt Green Photo also hit a major's first birthday. We spent the evening surrounded by friends and clients who have helped to make this venture a success. Here's to many more!

Getting back and giving back:

We vowed to schedule a getaway in McCall one last time before summer departed for the year, and we barely made it. In fact, unseasonably cool temps and mountain rain made it feel more like November than September, but that didn't stop us from enjoying every last second of our long weekend! My great aunt hosted us in the family's lakefront cabin for 4 blissful days of much-needed R&R.
Payette Lake at sunrise
Getting some swim time
At the end of September I also traveled back to my hometown of Nezperce to visit my family and attend the 14th annual Combine Demolition Derby. You read that correctly...crashing large harvesters into each other for entertainment purposes...fourteen years in a row. Visit the Facebook page to view a quick video teaser.

Sadly, the derby was cancelled for the first time ever due to record rainfall turning the fairgrounds into a mud bog. But there was another reason for me to get back to my hometown- to give back to my school. Nezperce Schools is involved in the Fuel up to Play 60 program and I was asked to put together an assembly for the students on nutrition and racing triathlon. What an honor to give back to my hometown and the school in this capacity! Special thanks to Callie Zenner, Jacky Mosman and the young Maddie Stapleton for encouraging me to come and giving me this fun opportunity!

We talked nutrition, then headed outside for a little mock-triathlon action complete with cowbells, transition a water station and LOTS of cheering!


Ok, ok... of course there has still been a fair amount of training in my life. Well...actually...a LOT of training as of late. Coach Flanny and I have set our sights on Miami 70.3, which is now less than 3 weeks away! I hadn't had a solid training block since my season began back in May, so the past 8 weeks have been focused, consistent and intensive.

Stay tuned for another update before the big day on 10/27!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gettin' Dirty- XTERRA Les Bois

I was first introduced to mountain biking back in June of 2005 while attending college at University of Idaho in Moscow. Learning to ride single track on Moscow Mountain (which is more like an exaggerated pitcher's mound with grass and trees on it) was not a cakewalk. Roots, downed trees, loose dirt, was not love at first ride. But my boyfriend had won a guided mountain bike tour in Utah in just two short months so we bought me a Trek 4300 and got me on single track as much as possible that summer.
A blast from the past: biking through Utah in 2005

Despite several bruises, a trip over the handlebars into a creek and a wickedly miscalculated off-trail ride that resulted in a broken helmet and severe gravel-rash, my confidence gradually improved- as did my love of riding. After moving to Boise years later, I fell in love with our incredible network of foothill trails surrounding the north and east ends of town. However, my love of triathlon (coupled with a lack of confidence due to less time on-trail) slowly pulled me away from mountain biking for the past 2 years...

...UNTIL THIS WEEKEND!!! Feeling bummed about a lackluster result at Lake Stevens and desperately needing a breath of fresh air in the tri department, I made a very logical decision: sign up for XTERRA Les Bois to shake things up a bit. I borrowed a friend's Stumpjumper and refreshed my skills with a couple pre-rides with MFMG.
First ride back. Still smiling and in one piece!

This is the second year Boise has hosted the offroad triathlon, and this time around it has been included in the XTERRA family. With Wattie Ink as a title sponsor, and my friend and Wattie teammate John Shilt at the helm, this was sure to be a premier event.

The best part about local races is that one gets the opportunity to race with friends. Several local competitors toed the line, including pros Kevin Everett, Chris Ganter, Captain Awesome and Trish Deim (who made an impressive debut on knobbies!) and at least a couple dozen people I see regularly at TriTown and the Y. I had my orders from Flanny, too: "HAVE FUN." Check!

Goofing around with Jannalyn Luttrell and
Trish Deim prior to swim start. (Photo by Kevin Schultz)
I hadn't swum in Lucky Peak since Boise 70.3 and let me tell you, the water is soooo much nicer this time of year! I came out of the swim just a few seconds behind Jannalyn and got to work on the bike. The course is pretty straightforward: a two-loop hammerfest on fire roads and singletrack with a couple pitchy climbs and one very technical gully descent toward the end of each loop. But as I learned all those years ago: "if you ain't hikin' you ain't bikin'." (friend and race supporter Walter Poly took a good shot of me navigating the rock garden). With their superior technical skills, Hortie Everett and Sara Lloyd both passed me on the second lap, but I was just happy to have made it into T2 unscathed. Now time to conquer the "groin"...twice.

No wonder it's a restricted sucks!
I had run the course on a relay team last year, so I knew what was ahead of me. Nice trail through grassy hillside, a long, gravel downhill, some pavement, some sand...and then the groin. This little gem of a climb gains around 200 feet in just .15 miles. It is a sandy, rocky slog that makes it (nearly) impossible to maintain a rhythm or even attempt to run. And once at the top, wheezing and near fainting, you get to look forward to doing it aaaaaall over again.

Adam Winspear saw an opportunity to play
MC and, boy, did he deliver!
The groin is what makes this race notorious and proves that it lives up to the name "XTERRA". The finish line is just at the base of the climb, so at least there's some "ooncha ooncha" music to help push you to the top. To go along with the beat booming from the speakers below, local triathlete Adam Winspear decided the poor souls trudging up the groin could use some encouragement. He grabbed the mic and started hollering run splits and supportive words to all of the participants. Thanks, Adam!

Fellow Watties and good friends
Sue Marston and Jay Sampsel
(who finished 6th amateur and won his AG!)
With this being my first offroad tri and only 6 short days after Lake Stevens, I was thrilled to be the first female to cross the finish line. Let's qualify this win a bit, though: I was one of only two female pros to compete, and Trish had (as I understand it) never ridden singletrack before (you go, girl!). The field was mostly local athletes, with 130 competitors registering for both the sprint and olympic distances. While it feels good to come away with a win in my first XTERRA, I have no delusions about my abilities...I have a long way to go before being able to compete with the true lady pros of XTERRA. :-)

Major kudos go out to John Shilt and all of the volunteers and staff that made this race a success! Thank you Wattie Ink for your continued support of the sport of triathlon! Blueseventy's wetsuit and goggles made for a very pleasant swim. Kswiss, thanks for making a tri shoe that can handle trail like no other. And Powerbar, your Double Latte Powergel is da bomb!

Next stop: Emmett's Most Excellent Triathlon!

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