Friday, September 23, 2011

VIP #2

I wanted to include the write up on my VIP #2 in my last blog, but my Vegas race report was rather lengthy and I just didn’t have time to add the VIP section at the end - writing these blogs is a little more time consuming than I thought! I also wanted to make sure I dedicated the time to the write up that this person deserves! Anyway, better late than never, right?

My VIP#2 is Chas Pavlovic. I chose Chas partly because I think he is an amazing competitor, but also because over the past year he has been a great teammate and friend. I met Chas at the 2010 Wildflower triathlon – my first with Team Sheeper. We rode the boat back to our campsite together after the race and it was such an interesting conversation. I was amazed by Chas’ knowledge of gear and training (or maybe he made me feel amazed at my lack of knowledge in these areas), and his overall racing experience.

Over the next couple months Chas and I became friends, having chats on some of our team rides. Having been to Kona before, Chas gave me great advice about the race for my first trip there in 2010 (if only I had listened to all of it!). He was also completely committed to helping me get where he thought I could go – always telling me I needed a new bike (road bike with aero bars not good enough?), that I just HAD to go talk to some amazing coach in San Francisco (Matt Dixon who?), and was concerned when I told him I might be racing the full Vineman – that’s not a Kona qualifier!

I think every successful triathlete gets to where they are partly because of some (or maybe a lot) of natural ability, definitely a lot of hard work, maybe a little luck, and of course determination. But I also think most probably have a few friends and/or teammates that are instrumental to their success, Through Team Sheeper I have definitely had more than my fair share of those people (don’t worry, I will definitely have write ups on all of you! Esp you, Mikey Osmond  ), and Chas is definitely one of them.

My coach, Matt Dixon, will tell you that he first heard about me from Chas. When Matt offered his ‘train with a pros’ program, two people from Team Sheeper forwarded me the information and insisted I apply, Chas was one of the two. Not only that, but he bent Matt’s ear about me every chance he got while taking Matt’s indoor cycling classes at Velo SF. I really think without Chas my application for that amazing opportunity might have gotten lost in the shuffle, instead I was chosen and my life has been completely changed.

Now whenever I meet or new goal or accomplish something I didn’t think was possible (or at least possible so soon) I think about Chas and I am grateful for all he has done for me. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him. He has helped open doors that might have otherwise been closed, and at times has had more confidence in me than I have had in myself. It’s amazing how uplifting someone else’s faith in you can be. His unwavering belief in me has helped me believe in myself and I will forever be grateful for that.

Thanks Chas! You are a true friend!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Somebody pinch me please!

Wow, what a weekend at the 70.3 World Championship in Vegas! In my wildest dreams I was winning my age group or at least finishing in the top 3, but I never really thought about winning the overall amateur division. It feels a little surreal. It also feels like this was only the first battle in a war for the bragging rights in the F30-34 division. I am so honored to compete with such an amazing and talented group of women and while I was lucky enough to be able to pull out the win this time, I know that it really could have been anyone’s race.

Before I go into my full race report, I want to give a few shout outs. First, congrats to Beth Shutt and Beth Walsh on second and third in our age group, respectively. You both put in such amazingly strong efforts and literally had me running scared for 13.1 miles! I also want to give props to Miss Sarah Piampiano. You have the ability to embarrass us all and while it wasn’t the day you wanted, or should have had, you kept pushing anyway and gutted out a tough one. I think it says so much about your character that even when you weren’t at your best, you didn’t give up. You are such an incredible competitor and I know you will bounce back quickly and be so much stronger for the experience (which terrifies me a little since you are already SOO strong!) I also want to thank you for being such a supportive friend, it means the world to me.

Alright, on to the weekend. I really didn’t know what to expect coming in. I have been training my big butt off (unfortunately not literally) all summer with very little racing. The up side to that is being able to focus on training, the down side is not knowing how much I have improved, if at all, or what kind of results to expect.

I got into Vegas late on Thursday night. After picking up the rental car, and spending an hour at ‘Whole Paycheck’ (aka whole foods), Mimi Winsberg (one of my 4 roomies for the weekend) and I were on the way back to the hotel to get to bed as quickly as possible. Our plans were derailed a bit when we were pulled over for speeding. Mimi begged the officer to let us go since we were lost, tired, and supposed to race in a couple days. He asked us if one of us was going to win and Mimi said that I was (with a laugh and a ‘yeah right’ from me). Finally he said he wasn’t going to give us a ticket because he might know the World Champion. Of course being the idiot I am I immediately said, “Oh you do, who?”

The next two days were a little hectic and spent registering, building bikes, training, resting, meeting with my coach, and attending a breakfast and photo shoot for the Soas Ambassadors. For those of you who don’t know, Soas is a company that sells the BEST tri kits for women…seriously, the BEST! The owners Kebby, Reg, and Steph treated us to a delicious gluten free breakfast while I was able to get to know all the other amazing Soas women. (some seriously impressive women on this team, holy moly!)

Finally on Saturday afternoon I was able to take the nap I had been looking forward to all weekend. It was great to finally lie down and actually rest as I felt like I had been on the go since I arrived. I ate dinner around 7PM (chicken, pasta, veggies) and tried for an early bed time. I was hoping for a good nights sleep, but as usual I woke up several times during the night. Each time I would look at my watch and be relieved I had 4 hours until my alarm, then 2 hours, then 1 hour, then oh crap, only 15 minutes!

Waking up on race morning always feels so strange. You put in so much time preparing for a race, and when you register it always feels as if it’s never actually going to happen. Then all of a sudden there you are, looking at yourself in the mirror through sleepy eyes, putting on your tri suit and wondering if you are going to have a good day. After getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and wondering if I really should have registered for this race (a typical, but usually fleeting thought I always get along with the prerace jitters), I headed to the kitchen to start fueling. I recently began working with a nutritionist, Dr. Phil Goglia, so I have been changing up my diet a bit. We had planned out everything I was to eat for the entire day and I was trying to stick to plan as much as possible as this was to be the practice run for Kona. Breakfast was a small bowl of steel cut oats (my new favorite type of oats) with blueberries, ½ an egg – it was supposed to be a whole egg, but I just couldn’t get it down. Finally it was 8oz of a protein shake that I sipped all the way to the race site.

The venue for the swim was great. I got to the race site, double checked my bike, aired up my tires, and went to the bathroom about 10 times – the last time was sans shoes…yuck! The waves started at 6:30AM and after that time flew by. Before I knew it I was diving in the water. Having a swimming background, I knew it was important for me to get on the front line and be ready to race from the gun. I was wearing my new Xterra speedsuit for the first time and was excited to see how it felt (it took me back to my old swimming days because it’s made of the same “paper suit” material I wore when I was 13).

As soon as the gun went off I went for it. I tried to set a strong pace for the first couple hundred meters before settling in to a slightly uncomfortable pace. We were swimming right into the sun and I couldn’t see a single buoy. Luckily there was a paddle boarder leading our wave so I kept looking for her to guide me – having no idea if she was following a straight line or not. Unfortunately I lost the feet I was on and ended up swimming alone for about 20 minutes, definitely not ideal. I new I didn’t have the swim I was hoping for, but was surprised to see a :28:35, about 2 minutes slower than I would have liked. Hey, it’s more open water swimming experience, right? On to the bike!

I was very conservative on the first 15 miles of the bike, knowing there would be lots of rollers, some fairly steep hills, and possible wind in my future. I caught another girl in my age group fairly quickly and then rode by myself until about mile 15. I knew Beth Shutt would be coming after me on the bike so I was hoping I would see her later rather than sooner. When she passed me at mile 15 I was worried I might not be able to stay with her. She was with another girl in our age group so as soon as they passed, I decided it was time to pick up the pace a bit. Over the next 30 miles we worked together (legally of course) to keep our pace strong. This was the most fun I have ever had on the bike leg of a race. I have never been able to ride “with” anyone before and it really helped me keep my focus and stay in the race. About mile 45 I could tell I was starting to lose a little steam. I popped some cliff bloks and within 10 minutes I felt great (thank you caffeine!). I rode to the front and was able to pull away from the other girls (slightly) over the last few miles. I kept thinking any minute I was going to see one or both of them, but on the way into T2, I was riding alone. I had no idea how far back the other two girls were, but I think I might have had about a 35 second lead. I tried to get out of T2 as fast as humanly possible (fast transitions have never been my strong point) as I knew I had some strong runners hunting me down.

The run was definitely challenging. There weren’t any super steep hills or technical turns, but the 2 miles down and 2 miles up combination made it difficult to find a rhythm and stick to it. It was, however, very spectator friendly which meant there were always people along the road cheering you on. I saw my coach and he gave me some quick words of wisdom, which helped me keep pushing and focus on the race plan we had set. I knew I had to race from the front, which I was doing, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. I actually thought at the start of the run that at least I had the fastest swim/bike combo for the day and that no matter what I could be happy with that.

Over the next 13 miles I tried not to think about the possibility of winning my age group. I thought it was within reach, but I knew it was important to focus more on the little things that would keep me running strong – making sure I was getting my nutrition right, ice down the jersey, first and last ice down the shorts (not a fan of that one I discovered), and keeping only positive thoughts in my head. A few times I started to think the run was getting hard and Kona was just around the corner – how could I possibly do all this again x 2 in such a short time? I had to push those thoughts out of my mind, I would have to deal with Kona later. Finally on my last turn, with 1 mile to go to the finish, I knew I had it. All of a sudden my body didn’t ache as much. My turnover increased and the internal smile began because I knew I was on the home stretch.
w/ Coach Matty D

After I crossed the line I had to be helped by a couple of the many amazing volunteers. They sat me in a wheelchair as I tried to recover. My coach checked my final results on his phone and confirmed I had won my age group. It was a couple hours before I knew I had won the overall amateur division – by about 50 seconds…what? I was super excited about the result even though I’m still not sure it has really sunk in. Or maybe it’s just that I know in 3 weeks we get to do it all again. I will be racing all the same girls + lots more fasties for the Ironman title. I have the tiara ready for the winner, although of course I’m hoping I might be able to keep it!

Vegas was not only a great race, but it was also a great learning experience. My swim wasn’t my best, but I had a bike, run, and overall 70.3 PR on the hardest half ironman course I have raced. I felt like I was able to really race for the first time and it was a blast. I am so excited to see progress after all this hard training, and I can’t wait to keep going and see how far I can get in this sport. I also really enjoyed hanging out with my roomies, meeting other amazing triathletes (probably the best part of racing), and of course the DQ blizzard with Hailey (thank goodness for triathlete buddies from the midwest who know what DQ is all about! )after the race (even if I couldn’t finish it). Boy have I missed DQ! On to the Big Island!

Monday, September 5, 2011

5 months down, 5 weeks to go

It’s hard to believe that it’s already September and there are only a few short months until the end of my 2011 Triathlon season! Where does the time go? The biggest races of the year (Vegas and Kona) are just around the corner. Only 5 more weeks and I will be on the big island…I hear the Coco Loco calling my name from the Kona Brewery already!

While I start to prepare for the two biggest races of my season, I can’t help but think about what I have done the past several months to get to where I am today. It has been a crazy ride, with ups, and downs, but truly an experience of a lifetime.

My journey really started about 5 months ago. I had just gotten back from the Purplepatch pro camp in Tucson, that I was selected to attend by Coach Matt Dixon. It was the first time I had ever been able to focus solely on triathlon for more than a weekend and it was AMAZING! After the camp Matt became my full time coach and it has been all down hill from there. Just kidding – the past 5 months have been way beyond what I expected.

Camp picture montage interlude (yes, I do realize I have the same cheesy smile in all my pictures)

Biking up Mt. Lemmon w/ Purplepatch pro Jen Tetrick

Getting ready to ride w/ my new buddies!

Top of Mt. Lemmon w/ some of the best triathletes. Jesse Thomas in his “outfit of the day”

Since starting with Matt, I have added indoor cycling at Velo SF to my schedule, which instantly multiplied the intensity of my bike workouts by about a million. I have stepped up my game at the Stanford Masters practices, although I still haven’t quite made it permanently to lane 1 (just a few guest appearances)…soon! And of course I have been busting my butt to keep up with the boys from Team Sheeper, aka the best triathlon team in the world! Each one of the groups plays such an integral part in my training and I absolutely love being a part of them all. And of course orchestrating all of the work has been coach Matty D. Matt has completely changed my approach to training and racing, for the better, of course. I’m so excited to see all this hard work pay off and to continue working hard to see how much further I can get!

Recent training ride w/ Hailey – 105 HOT miles in Livermore California, good thing we had our awesome Soas kits to keep us comfy!

Making new friends after the Treasure Island Olympic. Love new tri buddies!

Making the case for doing more non-wetsuit races! Mirella and me before the SJIT, where I would go on to do an extra 8 miles on the bike after missing an unmarked, unmanned turn

5 months ago I decided it was time to go after my dream of being an elite triathlete and I made some big changes in my life. Now with 5 weeks to go until my big race of the season, it’s time to start thinking about the little things – getting plenty of rest, not cheating on the diet, no alcohol. I definitely have goals in mind for both Vegas and Kona. I know how I want to finish and what I want my times to be. I also know that while these races might be the end of my 2011 season, they really are just the beginning. Now for the next, most important part of this blog!

In addition to my random blog subjects, I wanted to include a special new section every time I post called “My VIPs”

I think there are a lot of things that make an athlete successful. Of course there is natural ability, hard work, and determination. But I also think, at least for me, one of the things that has helped me be successful are inspirational people. These are coworkers, teammates, family members, and friends. Each time I write a new blog, I want to highlight someone in my life who has motivated me to be better. I chose this person first because she was actually the inspiration for this idea.

My very first VIP is Anne Thilges. Anne, I hope you don’t mind that I lifted this pic from facebook without asking  I felt it was fitting since this is about what you looked like the first time we met.

I met Anne a couple months ago at Velo SF. We were taking the same spin class and realized we had a few mutual friends. Anne was super friendly and it was very clear right away that she is an extremely caring, positive, generous, and amazing woman, not to mention an EXTREMELY hard worker.

It was a Saturday morning spin session (2hrs on the trainers…woohoo!) We were doing some high power work and the workout was starting to “accumulate” (which is what everyone says when you have been working hard for a long time and you feel like you are about to die). Anyway, Anne was clearly in high power and her cadence started to drop. Instead of giving up or lowering her power, she just kept grinding away. In the middle of a set, I looked over Anne looked so focus and strong that it instantly made me want to push harder. I realized that I was able to put that little extra bit of effort in on that set that I otherwise might not have because of Ann.

After that set I started thinking about all the times someone else has done something that motivated me to give just a little bit more. I want to make sure that eventually all those people know how much I appreciate what they have done for me and that they are a part of helping me get to wherever it is I end up going.

Thanks Anne for your inspiration!