Big Ideas: Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my Big Ideas blog. The business is up and running and let me tell you, it is a lot of work! There is something slightly unsettling about working long hours 7-days a week without a paycheck, but that is the risk you take when starting up a business. For those of you that are interested, the company name is Modern Approach and we are boutique customer company that uses data science and advanced analytics to help companies create an awesome customer experience…if you want, you can check us out at www.modernapproach.com !

Okay, so with all of the craziness that comes with plugging your nose and plunging into entrepreneurship, Peter and I thought that we might as well pile on a bunch of other life changes all at once, I mean why not? And that brings me to big change number 2 – Peter’s Voluntary Separation Program application was approved and he will be separating from the military on September 29th of this year! This is a huge answer to a long-time prayer and we are so very thankful to be moving on from our military past. We have had some amazing experiences and opportunities but we are both whole-heartedly ready to experience the normalcy of a more settled life outside of the constant moving and change in the military. I am thankful for the sacrifice and service Peter gave to our country, flying all over the world in the C-17. But now it is his chance to get out there and try something new and we are ready for the adventure!

But, it wouldn’t really be an adventure if we didn’t take advantage of the fact that the military is no longer in charge of where we live. Keeping true to our constant itch for adventure, we both have not only quit our jobs but we are selling our house and moving out to the land of opportunity…California. Okay, hold on all you non-californians who are going to get totally offended here. The Silicon Valley is the center of high-tech development and innovation. So, although we realize it is expensive and that there are lots of other nice inexpensive places to live in the US, there are not many places outside of San Francisco that are more intriguing for a business owner in the advanced analytics industry (me) and a program manager interested in software development (Peter). And, now we have the amazing opportunity to be close to family, something that was never possible before! Oh, and the ocean…and the mountains…and the sunshine…and a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Hawaii. Colorado, I will not miss your frigid winters and your summers of daily thunderstorms. Peter and I recently took a trip out to Lake Tahoe in Northern California to visit my parents and it was exactly the rejuvenating training experience I needed. Long bike rides in the warm sunshine are the cure to any ailment and with the beautiful weather and long undulating roads, I re-kindled my passion for biking. Our 90-mile excursion around Lake Tahoe made into my top-10 all time bike-rides list.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

And the roads around San Francisco are amazing too: up and down the coast, through Napa Valley, the hills of Santa Cruz…I seriously can’t wait.

With all of the crazy life changes we have going on at the moment, training has remained a constant yet challenging force in my daily life. I am somehow still getting in around 20 hours of training per week chasing after this passion for triathlon.

please don't take me on another run...you run too much!

please don’t take me on another run…you run too much!

Ironman 70.3 Boulder was back in June and since it was a local race for me, it definitely made the experience much less hectic and not so much of a production. That was a nice change. And I made a HUGE breakthrough at this race! I am still in shock, but I swam the 1.2 miles in 30:39…I was 2nd out of the water in my age group and the 21st overall female out of the water! To give you some perspective…last year I was usually around 20th out of the water in my age group and somewhere around 100th overall female. I can’t believe I actually learned how to swim! I was able to keep on the feet of the same girl the entire swim and I am definitely sure that staying in her draft helped me get such a great time. So, thank you whoever you are!! And, my level of fitness out of the water has drastically improved so I did not feel nearly as tired when I got on the bike. I was happy with my strong bike effort, but I did try to hold back a little bit so that I would not blow up on the run like I did in Texas. I completed the 56 miles in 2:31:16, which is good, not great. But then I was still unable to perform on the run. I was pretty disappointed with my 13.1 mile split of 1:38…it seems where I have made gains in my swim I have made losses in my run. IMG_1746 Although, a lot of the run was on a gravely-dirt path and that was NO FUN, making it more difficult to keep a fast pace. If I wanted to run in off-road races, I would sign up for them! But I guess that is part of the challenge…as if the race itself isn’t a challenge enough. The absolute best part of the race though was having my Tribella teammates there cheering me on! It is so fun to race when the people there know you and are supporting you! And when you get to race with your teammates, it is definitely more rewarding. There is comfort in knowing they are out there with you, experiencing the same thing. In the end, I won my age group and was 5th overall amateur female. My first age group win ever!!! IMG_1569

Recovery fuel

..and recovery fuel

Even though I claim to hate biking in Colorado, I have to say that this past month has been quite amazing. This is partly due to my incredible new Ride Blue Triad SL di2 bike. I honestly cannot thank Tribella enough for helping me to get this crazy awesome bike that I hardly feel like I deserve. No really, I am actually quite embarrassed to say that my bike has electronic shifting…but then all of that embarrassment goes away quite quickly once I get on it!! This bike is a lot smaller than my previous one and it fits me much better. And, after getting a professional fit from the Denver Fit Loft, I am finally riding in the correct position on a bike for the first time in my life. The difference is quite amazing. And it could not have been more perfect timing as I am preparing for the full Ironman in Boulder that is now only a week away.

Peter, my fearless photographer

Peter, my fearless photographer

I am actually thinking the 112 miles will not be bad, that is how comfortable this bike is! This race is going to be a wild experience, but I have been training for it for about a year now and I think I am ready to do some damage. I can’t wait to finish up an easy 2.4 miles of swimming, a casual 112 miles of biking and then slip on my running shoes to go and run a marathon, it’s going to be epic!

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Big Ideas!

Lots of racing, training, and life changes lately! I figure I will split this post into two parts so that it does not get too long.

I’ll pick up where I left off – Ironman 70.3 Galveston back in April. I can’t even believe it has been that long already!! The best part of that race was seeing my wonderful friend Brittany, spending some time with her, and finally meeting her uber cute little boy. Peter and I were so thankful her and her hubby invited us into their home to stay.

We were exceptionally excited to come down to Texas for a weekend full of sunshine and to take a break from the freezing cold Colorado weather. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out and it ended up raining the entire time – so I felt like I was at home, shivering on the bike and battling pelting rain. I guess I was well prepared for the race!

I also met an amazing friend on this trip. It was our first time working with Wes who owns Pro Bike Express. He has this really cool setup in a custom trailer he built to transport bikes from Colorado to races all over the country. His saying “mi casa es tu casa” is very true, I can’t tell you how nice it was to have him there helping us with our bikes and all of our gear. Anything we needed, he was there for us and more. And, he was even out on the course cheering for! I must say that I felt like first class rolling my bike out of the trailer right before the race and then rolling it back on right afterwards. No hassle and no worries – it was awesome.

I only had one pretty simple strategy for this race – go balls to the wall on the bike (as Peter would put it). I have always heard other athletes warn against putting in too hard of an effort on the bike portion because it can be detrimental for your run. You know, kill your legs for 56 miles and then try and run a short 13 miles right after – it feels like death. I had never experienced this first hand and, although it may seem a little twisted, I really wanted to know how it felt. Sometimes I think it is good to understand your limits.

not a race pic but I had to show off the new race kit!

not a race pic but I had to show off the new race kit!

Well, I definitely accomplished that mission. I finished the bike in 2 hours 21 minutes.   Don’t get me wrong; this was an extremely flat course. But with the rain and crazy wind I was still very excited about my time. And, I am fully aware that you don’t win with just a fast bike time, but I would like the tiniest moment to boast that my bike time was faster than 12 of the 16 female pros that were racing. Okay, selfish boasting segment over, sometimes you need something to feel proud of. But all in all, I feel like I am making awesome gains in this aspect of my training and I am at least heading in the right direction.

And, there is a reason why the pros are pros…I ended up paying for my kick-ass bike on my run, posting the slowest run time I have ever had in a 70.3 race. And it wasn’t just my slowest run, it was by far my most painful! When your legs are so numb that the sensation starts to trickle up to your face, you know you have a problem of some sort. Sorry folks, there is no positive mental talk that will dig you out of that hole…maybe if I had just sat down and forced myself to suck down 5 of those nasty gu packets.

At the end of April, Peter and I decided to tag along on a group training trip out to Moab, Utah. We brought Tucker along with us and packed our tent to save some money in hotel costs, and get in some family camping time. The first morning Peter and I got up early and met up with Liz, our awesome supporter from Tribella, and our new friend Wes. We were excited for a peaceful morning biking through and exploring Arches National park. And it was exactly what I had hoped for – beautiful weather, early morning sun shining on the magnificent red arches, and wonderful company to bike with. I had been yearning for a ride like this for a long time.

Beautiful morning

Beautiful morning

Liz and I...great company

Liz and I in Arches National Park…great company!

After a nice afternoon nap in the tent, Peter and I met up with Liz and James for some Mexican food and Margaritas at a small local joint. As many of you know, Liz and James own Tribella and have graciously agreed to sponsor me and let me race for their 2014 team. Honestly, I mostly wander around wishing there was something I could do to repay them for how amazing they are. I am honored to wear their race kit because it is very meaningful to me. To Peter and I, they are more than just a bike shop that we have the amazing opportunity to work with. They are an awesome couple that knows there is more to life than just bikes, triathlon, and training…they are passionate about people and building meaningful relationships. They understand that there needs to be healthy balance or else you will go crazy! And, even though they are instrumental in my ability to race and train today, I am so thankful for the advice and help I have been able to get from on other aspects of my future life.

Okay, so take a pause from the Mexican and Margs and let me quickly take you back a few weeks. I had mentioned in my previous blog that Peter and I had big ideas and I would share them soon…well Big Idea #1 was for me to quit my job and start my own business. For Big Idea #2, you will have to read part 2 of this blog!

Now, fast forward back to Margs and Mexican. Might I remind you that James and Liz are small business owners who quit their own jobs to pursue a dream. So, as I am at the dinner table expressing my inner turmoil of quitting my job and pursing my own business dream, I couldn’t help but feel like I was meant to have that conversation with them right in that moment.

If I have kept any of you on the edge of the seat (or if you are falling asleep wishing for this to be over) the moral of the story is that 1-week later I quit my job. After thoughtful consideration and amazing support from my family and friends I made the decision to jump head first into starting my own business.

To prevent myself from boring you with a novel, and to maybe entice you to ready my next blog, I will save our Big Idea #2, details of my business, my Ironman 70.3 Boulder race, and some other fun details like my new bike!

Cheers!

Cold days and long nights

“You can’t always get what you want – you get what you need” as the Rolling Stones would say. And on this last day of March as I am emerging out of winter hibernation I am looking for new-found motivation to train, blog, and race. My state of “hibernation” this winter seemed like it didn’t have much of “what I wanted” and I am still hoping that I will soon learn it was “what I needed”.

I fell in love with triathlons while living in Hawaii. So it makes sense that when I think of a love for running or biking (or I guess swimming even though I never use “swimming” and “love” in the same sentence) I associate those feelings with warmth, sun, and the ocean. Not much can top a long run along the ocean in a sports bra and shorts and then jumping into the coolness of the green-blue water. Or a bike ride around the island with never-ending panoramic views of water on one side and the massive Koo’lau Mountains on the other. Then in the height of the excitement around my new-found passion, I was ripped away to a new location. Colorado is beautiful and has a lot of great places to explore and be outdoors, but I wasn’t prepared to be in-doors, training in the dark all winter. And don’t kid yourself, I did my fair share of runs in below zero temperatures wearing two pairs of leggings, 3 long-sleeves, a down vest, beanie, mittens, down jacket…sweating but freezing at the same time. But you can’t ride your bike outside on the snow and ice so I became a slave to the trainer. And sadly I have ridden inside so much that Tucker now knows the difference between when I slow pedal for rest between intervals and when I slow pedal to cool down and finish workout. I no longer swim outside in the sunshine but rather in the stuffy chlorine-vapor humidity of the indoor pool. For three years I was used to having these major tan lines that made my white parts look ghostly white… now those lines are gone. As you can probably tell, none of this was particularly “what I wanted”.

Mom, I'm really cold...

Mom, I’m really cold…

This sun kind of feels like Hawaii...

This sun kind of feels like Hawaii…

How do I get inside there?

How do I get inside there?

In this hibernation period, Peter and I both struggled with our motivation behind training at such a ridiculous level. I didn’t feel like enjoyment and love like it did in Hawaii. It felt like hard, miserable, please-make-it-stop work. If you haven’t met us yet, I will save you the confusion: we are high-strung over achievers that have a hard time not being the best in whatever we do. It’s not that we have to beat out everyone around us, it just means that we have a hard time half-assing things. If I am going to just be mediocre at something or do something and not really try, then I would rather not do it at all…it feels like a waste of my time. This means that we will either put up huge 20-hour training weeks where we train twice a day so that we can realize our full potential, or just quit all together. So when you are both exhausted, waking up at 4:45am so you can do a bike ride before rushing to work and then go straight from work to the pool and then straight home to make dinner and hopefully eat by 8:30pm (and you don’t even have kids!!) you wonder what the heck you are doing this for. There have to be reasons beyond self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction because soon those things can turn into self-glorification.

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If only the ocean were really behind us

I decided to take a long hiatus from blogging and posting things about my training or the small races I did over the winter to prayerfully reflect on my motivations for training so hard and sacrificing so much. And even though I felt so enclosed all winter, confined to this feeling of hibernation, I am hoping that all of that focused training and reflection was “what I needed”. Here I am, one week out from my first 70.3 race of the season in Galveston, Texas. I am excited to race and see how all of my hard work over the winter pays off and I am especially excited to race for my awesome new teammates on the TriBella team. Maybe God had a reason behind all of my sacrifice. But I am determined to not make this season of my life all about self-glorification. After a lot of prayer, Peter and I have come up with some fantastic ideas that I am excited to share. Stay tuned, more to follow. But first, it’s time to race!

Training in the Fall

Fall has officially arrived here in Colorado which means less daylight, colder weather, and beautiful scenery.  It is also a completely different training atmosphere for me.  I am not used to wearing so many layers of clothing!  It’s not that I have never lived somewhere cold (I grew up near Lake Tahoe, lived in Colorado before, and spent 2 years in Boston) but up until I started training for triathlons, I spent all of my time training indoors on the volleyball court.  No matter what time of year it was, you wore spandex and a t-shirt.  It didn’t matter when the days started to get shorter, the gym lights were always on.  I am now realizing how nice it was in the summer to wake up early before work and go for a run or to fit in a bike ride after work.  Getting in workouts has been a little tricky but really, it just calls for some creativity.

Fall Family Picture

Fall Family Picture after a beautiful (and chilly!) run

When we first moved here back in June and I started working full-time, it was very stressful for me to fit my workouts in.  I actually started to resent it.  It is hard when it feels like every waking moment of your time is either at work or working out and no matter what, you are always exhausted.  I have taken the time to reflect on my training this past season, pray about it, and work on understanding how something I love so much caused me so much stress.  I think it is amazing because God has given all of us these amazing human bodies that are so complex and resilient and unique.  Everyone of us has some unique talent and we use our bodies as the vehicle to perform that talent through.  I mean think about it.  For some of us it is the gift of speaking, for others it is artistic gifts through their hands, others it is their mind.  I have taken a step back from being so serious about “getting the workout in” and approaching my training time as a way to express the talent that God has given me.  I take my watch off a lot more and go on runs purely to see the beautiful colors of the changing leaves and to rejoice in how thankful I am to have 2 working legs, a healthy heart, and body capable of training.  I also run a lot more with Tucker…this dog runs 10 miles like nothing happened!

I feel rejuvenated and now my creative juices are starting to flow.  First, I examined all of the things that make working out feel more like a chore and less like enjoyment.  I hate waking up early to swim.  It is such a production for me and everything about it is stressful.  I have to make my breakfast and lunch the night before, get all of my workout stuff together, pick out my clothes for work, and get a bag of makeup and toiletries together.  After the alarm goes off at 4:45am I am jumping into a pool of cold water by 5:15am (which I hate…every time) and then I get ready for work at the gym and don’t eat breakfast until I arrive at the office, which by this time I am starving.  I have now started swimming after work and I love it.  It is a refreshing way to end the day.  And afterwards, I can just throw on sweats and a sweatshirt and head home.  Peter works Tuesday through Saturday so we have turned Monday nights into swim dates where he meets me after work at the pool and we swim together.  I love this time we spend together.

I still do all of my runs at lunch which I thoroughly enjoy.  And now that it is cold outside, I do not sweat as much so showering after my run is not as big of a production.  It is a great break for me to get away and loosen my legs after sitting at my desk all morning.  Biking during the week has turned into trainer rides for now because there is not enough daylight after work to fit them in.  But, Peter and I have set up our trainers in the garage and we have fun riding dates.  This past Friday night we rocked the Kelly Clarkson Pandora radio station (it was my turn to pick!) and had an awesome date on our trainers while Tucker curled up in a ball on his bed…our garage is freezing.  We have also done a few early morning trainer rides and for some reason, these do not bother me at all.  The alarm still goes of at 4:45am, but I can throw on a sweatshirt and soft-pedal on my bike until I warm up.  I wake up gradually on the trainer instead of experiencing the shock of cold pool water.  And afterwards, I get ready for work at home which is much easier.  I still ride outdoors on the weekends though, which has been the best way to get outside and see the fall colors with Peter.

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It feels great to be back where I started, loving my training and feeling inspired to keep going.  Sometimes we can get so immersed into what we are doing that we forget why we started doing it at all.  We just need to take a step back, re-evaluate, and remember that we are all so uniquely talented.  I firmly believe that God places passions in our hearts that align with the talents he gave us.  The best part is humbly displaying these talents so that others are inspired to search for theirs and let them blossom.

I thought you said it was fall?!?!

I thought you said it was Fall?!?!

Tucker is very confused by the white stuff on the ground

Tucker is very confused by the white stuff on the ground

The Tears of Race Week

We just had our friends Mike and Anna come visit us for the weekend.  Anna mentioned that my honesty about being tired and having rough weeks was very motivating for her during her training.  I mean, we all are real people who struggle and I have definitely struggled.

I am starting to notice that the weeks leading up to a race are when I have most of my breakdowns.  Typically, in the three weeks before any major race, you will have no fitness gains.  This late in the game, you plateau at a level of fitness and any work you do is just to maintain that level and cruise into the race.  I think knowing this fact is where I get my anxiety.  Going into a race pace effort run somewhere in this three-week period and not hitting your pace, or hitting slower than normal swim splits when you feel like you are going hard, or not getting the power you should be seeing on the bike, these are all moments that make you question your level of fitness.  You know it is too late to make any more gains so is this really how you are going to race?

Last week I hit a record.  I broke down in tears during three separate workouts.  And not just little streams of water dripping down your face in frustration after a workout kind of tears, I mean deep gut sobs straight in the middle of a max effort bike interval.  Good thing I was anchored to the trainer because I was out of control crying into my sweat towel.  My dog, Tucker, was extremely concerned as he uncontrollably licked my hands and legs, trying to comfort me.  I almost gave up.  I was so tired.  And not from the workout, but from getting very little sleep, working all day, and trying to fit all of my dang workouts in.  I mean it was 8pm at night, I hadn’t eaten dinner yet and here I was still on the bike.  I decided to stay on the bike and not look at my power meter for the rest of the intervals.  I would just go at an effort that felt hard, no matter what the numbers said.  So, I didn’t hit my power that workout but I finished it with Tucker laying right beside the bike to make sure I would be okay.

Sunday rolls around and I have a semi-long run off of a long bike ride.  Peter did not have a run since he had just raced in the Pike’s Peak Ascent, and since it was 90 plus degrees outside, he decided it would be a good idea to follow me in the car with water.  Seriously, what a great husband.  Turns out he did more than just feed me water.  I took off from the house and proceeded to try to hit my race pace in the first mile when the first mile goes up a pretty steep hill.  Instead of listening to my body, respecting the hill and the heat, and working up to race pace, I burnt all of my gas.  Peter was going to meet me at the first mile mark and by the time he got there in the car, I was lying on the grass under the shade of a tree, crying in the fetal position.  It was too hot, I had just put all of my energy into sprinting uphill for a mile and there was no way I could go five more.  He pumped me with fluid, dumped cold water down my back, made me eat half a gu and said he would be there for water as many times as I needed it…which turned out to be every half mile for the rest of the run.  I felt like I was going to pass out, I had major tunnel vision, and I was half-crying half-choked-breathing but I finished.

The next morning I got up super early to get my swim in before work.  I dragged myself out of bed with my eyes burning from being so tired.  I got in the pool busy with early morning swimmers, pushed off the wall and at that point realized I didn’t have my goggles on.  How embarrassing! This was the point I knew I was too tired.  I ended up cutting a few meters off of the swim and skipping the bike ride later that day.  I needed sleep!  I cried about missing a workout (obviously) but I just couldn’t bring myself to get on the bike.  So I went to bed.

I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off the next morning feeling amazingly refreshed.  I hadn’t felt this rested in a while.  Maybe it was the 10 hours of sleep but maybe it was also not pushing it through another workout when I had already hit my limits.

It is now less than one week until the race and my mantra this week has been positive talking and thinking.  I made it through the crying saga of last week realizing that I need to trust my training and the consistency I have managed to maintain despite my crazy schedule.  I am prepared for this race, I will hit my times, my body can take it.  I just need my mind to be ready too.  Each workout this week is easy, it is taper week, just keeping the blood flowing and the muscles moving.  But I am working on sharpening my positive-talk muscle.  My goal is to tell myself how awesome I am doing during each workout this week, look at how far I have come, and remember all of my fantastic training sessions, the ones where I really pushed though and came out successful.  Those are what will show through during race day when I start believing in myself.

So, it is true, we all struggle and we all have a hard time feeling motivated about training.  I love biking but there are times where the thought of getting on that bike disgusts me.  But in the end, I want to come out of this race knowing I gave it everything I had, not just during the race, but in all of my training leading up to it.  There is something exciting about trying to see how far you can actually go against the best competition in the world.  This sunday, we will see.

Training in Kona

I have almost caught up on sleep so I am finally coherent enough to sit down and write about the amazing time I had training in Kona last week.  When I boarded the plane early Friday morning, all I had with me was my bike and a back-pack full of workout clothes.  I knew it would be a long 5 days of pure training without distraction and I could not wait.

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About an hour after I landed and dropped my stuff off at the athlete house, we were headed to Kealakekua Bay for our first ocean swim.  It was a picture perfect afternoon in the refreshing, clear, sapphire-blue water.

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I hadn’t been in the ocean in a long time and I almost welcomed the familiar taste of salt water on my tongue.  I was swimming with the fish and the coral and felt at home again in the water.  We used the swim to determine our level of swimming compared to the other athletes at the camp so we could find a swim partner.  I found Kelly and little did we know that this was the start of a swimming bond I will never forget.

Following the swim was a short hour run.  I haven’t felt that great on a run in a long time.  Even though it was rolling hills, I hardly noticed.  This is obviously from training at altitude in Colorado, but you don’t understand the benefits of that training until you have the opportunity to go back down and train at sea level.  I was holding a solid pace and yet my lungs weren’t burning and I was not gasping for air…strange.

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Day 2 of camp was my biggest hurdle and probably the one day I was not really looking forward to. This was the day of our 10k swim from Keauhou Bay to the Kona pier where they hold the Ironman World Championships swim course.  I never doubted that I could complete all 6.2 miles, but I knew it would be painful and extremely long.  Not being the strongest swimmer, I had no idea how long it would take me.  We arrived at Keauhou Bay early Saturday morning and Kelly and I talked strategy while watching the sunrise.

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Every group of swimmers had a kayak escort which was an essential part of completing this swim.  We had Michelle’s husband who is very experienced with this kind of thing and this helped to calm my nerves.  He not only guided us on the most direct route (with my inability to swim in a straight line, I probably would have been out to sea without him) but he carried all of our water and nutrition.

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When Kelly and I started the swim, the conditions were beautiful.  The water was clear and calm, no clouds in the sky, the swim felt like butter.  It was almost effortless to glide through the water, I have never felt so serene.  Kelly and I had agreed to stop every 45 minutes for a water/nutrition break and after our second stop, an hour and a half into the swim, we couldn’t help but boast about how great we felt and how amazing this swim truly was.  We blew through the first 3.5 miles.  Then, very abruptly, the water turned choppy.  I thought maybe a large boat had passed and we were stuck in the waves from its wake but after a few minutes, it did not let up.  I popped up, Kelly stopped to.  The clouds had rolled in, the wind had picked up, and the water was anything but calm.  What happened?!?

The conditions of the last 2.5 miles were exactly the reason I had dreaded this swim in the first place.  I have swam in the ocean in nasty conditions before and it soon becomes a fight to survive.  Turn your head to breathe and get smacked in the face by a wave.  Swallow a bunch of saltwater.  Get sloshed up and down.  Try to swim left but the wave pushes you right.  Feel glimpses of helplessness. My only saving grace was Kelly.  Just seeing her out of the corner of my eye and knowing that she was pushing through the same thing saved my mental state.  She looked so strong, like none of this was affecting her.  I had to stop a couple of times and hang on to the kayak to grab more water and nutrition.  Fighting the waves was starting to take it out of me.  We only had half a mile to go and we could see the finish, but I was struggling to stay positive.  Kelly kept me straight.  She told me I could do it and we could stop as many times as I needed.  She was awesome.  And then we made it, 3 hours 54 minutes.  My arms felt like jello, my tongue like sandpaper.  It was like I had gargled saltwater for the last 4 hours but I still had a sore throat.  But I had finished something that up until this point, I wasn’t actually sure I could do.

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To celebrate, all of the athletes headed over to the Kona Brewing Co. to have a few beers and eat a lot of food.  I was starving.  I took a deep breath, worst part of camp for me was over.

I woke up Sunday morning excited for the long bike ride ahead of us.  We planned a 110 mile ride on the Ironman course and, based on my poor performance there back in June during my half-ironman race, I had a few mental blocks I needed to work through.  I wanted to conquer the climb to Hawi and prove to myself that I am a capable cyclist.  Truthfully, I have been judging and questioning myself as an athlete ever since this bike ride back in June.  This time I had my power meter and a better perspective on how to tackle the gusting cross-winds.

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After 30 miles of relaxed pedaling in the group, we hit the turn-off for Hawi and I immediately got in the zone and took off.  I didn’t tell anyone my plan or give any warning, I just wanted it to be me and the road with no distractions.

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The wind was impressively strong, just as I had remembered, but I dug in and took control.  I kept my focus, maintained my power, and nailed the ride.  Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own sub-conscious and I can now happily say I left that enemy in Hawi.

At mile 80 I learned an important lesson about myself.  My coach and I were drilling it back down the Kamehameha Highway into a fierce headwind.  We were each taking 3 minute pulls and it was getting to the point where my 3 minutes of drafting was not giving me any rest.  I was dying and I could not keep the pace any longer. I had nothing left in the tank.  We backed off and she immediately told me to eat something.  Wow, I hadn’t eaten in a while, it was something I was not paying attention to.  After a little while of taking it easy and eating I felt my pep come back and my strength rejuvenate.   It was amazing!  Keeping up on calorie intake is so essential and now I understand the consequences of forgetting that key part.  I ended the ride feeling strong, even though I had gone very hard for the majority of it.

Monday consisted of 70 more miles on my bike seat, something that was extremely painful to be on at this point.  After Monday, all I wanted to do was pack up my bike, put it on the plane, and then maybe not unpack it for another week.

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Like a whirlwind, the last day of camp came and I couldn’t believe it was almost over.  I was secretly looking forward to this day all week and not because it was the last day but because it was the long run day! I was so excited to do a long run back in Hawaii considering how painful my long runs have been in Colorado.  I was craving a flat road at sea level.  I woke up Tuesday morning to an uncharged Garmin watch and my mood turned sour.  I had a goal pace that I wanted to hit on the run and now I would have no way of tracking that.  My coach, on the other hand, was ecstatic that I had no watch.  In a desperate attempt to give it a little juice, I left it charging with one of the girls who was leaving the house a little later than us, hoping she could bring it to the run.  I later found out that my coach intercepted my devious plan and I was seriously going to run 15 miles with no gadgets, no headphones, no music.  Very organic I guess.

I had three pivotal learning experiences during this training camp.  The first happened during my push through the final 2 miles of the swim, the second happened at mile 80 on the bike, and the third happened in the last 7 miles of this run.  I had gone out at what felt like a great pace and by the turn-around point, I felt like picking it up and really pushing it on the way home.  I was keenly aware of my body and the feel of my legs, I had no distractions.  I thoroughly enjoyed running along Ali’i drive and even though I don’t know exactly what pace I was going, it felt fast and fluid.  I have never felt so satisfied after a run, this was one of the top 5 runs I have ever had.  I finally finished a run putting in an amount of effort based strictly off of how I felt and not influenced by a time, a heart rate, or a pace.

We all finished up, showered at the beach park, and headed out for celebration burgers and beers.

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I met some amazing people on this trip and have new friends that I can now keep up with and follow their crazy training and racing lives.

And then I got on the plane a few hours later and headed back on a red-eye flight.  Of course I pulled my least favorite stunt of getting off the airplane and heading directly to work.  Thankfully I wore a long skirt to hide these bad boys.

Riding with Power

My race bag is packed, my bike is in the car and we are headed to Racine, Wisconsin for the weekend. One of the great things about working at Sports Authority are the Fridays in the summer. Every Friday is a half-day! So, after I get off work at noon, we will start our road trip out to Wisconsin for my next half-ironman race! It is a 15 hour drive so Peter, my awesome Sherpa, will be taking over the wheel in the night time hours while I sleep in the back. We hope to arrive early-earlySaturday morning so that we can get some sleep before the festivities of athlete check-in, bike check-in, race briefings, etc. begin. At least this time we will have our own car packed with everything I might need (and a cooler of food!) so the logistical aspect of the race will be smoother.

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And we made a nice bed in the back so we can take driving shifts.

I am mentally approaching this race as a training event because I am using it as preparation for my big “A” race at the World Championships in Las Vegas early September. I get to try out three new and really cool toys: my power meter, my wetsuit, and my pink aero helmet!

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Through a few awesome athlete connections I made back in May, I got my new SRM 7900 wireless power meter for a great deal and started training with it right when I got to Colorado. Training with power has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Before, I rode my bike purely off of perceived effort with a little bit of Heart Rate training. This means that when my coach told me to go “strong” for 10 minute intervals, I would go at a pace and cadence that felt like I was working hard. Well, feeling like you are working hard and actually having a device tell you whether you are working hard are two separate things. Basically, the power meter tells you how much force your legs are putting into your pedal stroke over time. So, ideally, you want to be able to output a lot of force in the shortest amount of time possible. This is harder than you might think. Just think about riding a bike and shifting down into a harder gear…its harder to pedal because you have to apply more force to move the pedals around. Now stay in that really hard gear and try to pedal as fast as you can…this is how you die of a heart attack…I mean bike with a lot of power.

Aside from adjusting to Colorado and the altitude for the last few months, I have been adjusting to riding with an appropriate amount of power. The line is now starting to blur between whether my respiratory distress during bike workouts is from the altitude, the power meter, or a combination of both. My coach gave me an interval workout the other day with a set power that I needed to maintain. As she would say, I had to put my “big girl pants” on to finish this workout. Thankfully, I did this workout inside on the trainer (good timing for the Colorado thunderstorms to roll in) because there were points during this workout where I thought I might actually fall off my bike. My mouth was hanging open, saliva and sweat spraying everywhere (don’t worry, I had lots of towels laid out on the ground around me). Tucker was even upset to see me in this state as he tried to lick my hands and legs (not helping!). I entered a new realm of pain where I consciously had to focus on putting everything I had into the pedals and engage with the resistance. One minor loss of focus or a split second of relaxing your legs and your power plummets. And then when the fatigue sets in, this is where you learn the difference between how hard you think you are riding and how hard you are actually riding. There were points where I thought I was giving everything I had but yet my power was no where near the level it was supposed to be. It felt like it was impossible to get it back up. But then you learn to dig deep, embrace the feeling of your quadriceps ripping apart, and mash the pedals to get that power back up. I am at the beginnings of learning to take my riding to a whole new level.

Power has not only been a way to increase my intensity level, but also to gauge myself and learn how to bike more consistently over an entire ride. This past weekend, Peter and I headed out to Boulder to get a long ride in without all of the crazy climbing we have around our house. It was also a great excuse to go and explore the awesome and beautiful city of Boulder. We ended up finding a great 80 mile route that takes you from the heart of Boulder out and around Carter Lake, and then back along the Boulder Reservoir. This is some of the best bike riding I have ever done. The roads are extremely nice with wide shoulders, the scenery was beautiful, and there were barely any cars. And, even though the ride was not completely flat, the climbs are at a steady and gradual incline which is perfect for a long ride where you are trying to log miles, not time. This was the perfect prep ride for my race this weekend because I got used to using my power meter as a gauge of my effort level. It is going to take time to learn how to keep consistent power over the course of 4 hours, but the benefits will be huge. Sometimes I have the tendency to go too hard and then there are times when I back off too much. If you go too hard, you are at risk of wasting valuable energy that you will need later in the ride. It’s like starting a marathon by sprinting the first few miles and then having no gas left in the tank to finish the race. You will end up with a better time if you run a consistent pace throughout the whole race. Unfortunately we got no pictures of Carter Lake, which was beautiful. I guess we have an excuse to go back!

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Riding on the quiet and peaceful roads of Boulder.

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And a nice post ride refresher! Margaritas made with pure lime juice.

The swim portion of my race this weekend is going to be interesting because it will be the first time I race in a wetsuit. I tried the wetsuit out for the first time this past weekend in the Chatfield Reservoir.

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Swimming in open water in Colorado is completely opposite from swimming in Hawaii. In Hawaii, you can go and jump in the ocean any time you want and swim wherever and however you want. I mean literally, you can go any time you want: early morning, under the moonlight (if you are brave), in the heat of the day, or even when you don’t want to but your coach forces you to; like during a storm with major waves and currents (thanks coach!). You swim at your own risk. Here in Colorado, apparently the treacherous waters of a man-made reservoir are too dangerous for a swimmer, you must abide by strict rules and sign-in/out.

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I won’t tell you whether I swam during the specified time periods, signed-in, got the special permit, or if I swam in the proper direction on the correct side of the buoys. But I will say that no one seemed to care or be bothered by me swimming around. Tucker even got a chance to cool off and swim a little. The current in these glassy waters was sure difficult to manage though.

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I am glad I was able to get acquainted with my wetsuit before the race because it is a very different feeling in the water. It almost feels like you are wearing a one-piece life jacket, just floating along. But, it is also strange to feel so constricted. It gives me a slight feeling of claustrophobia especially when I start to pick up my pace and my heart rate increases. I am sure that my adrenaline will kick in during the race though and I will be more concentrated on my competition and not getting kicked in the face than I will be with the wetsuit.

Now it is time to relax and enjoy the 15 hour road trip to Wisconsin! And I mean relax in a literal sense because after receiving our shipment of household goods this past Monday, my life has been nothing but chaos. With boxes and stuff EVERYWHERE, I will have to let go my type-A desire for organization and cleanliness and worry about tackling the mess when we get home, even though that probably won’t be until the wee hours of the morning on Monday. Lets just hope we get home early enough for me to get a few hours of sleep before I have to go to work. Heading straight to the office after racing a half-ironman may be very interesting!