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

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Butternut Squash Risotto

Fall is here!  And this means it is time to make soup, eat squash, and bake all sorts of pies.  The Colorado weather has definitely cooled off, making the atmosphere perfect for these foods.  But, sometimes it can be hard to make all of these delicious things and stay healthy.  This is a great fall recipe that Peter and I both think is yummy and comforting but is also healthy.  I made this dish a couple of times last year, but even though it was the fall season, Hawaii never felt like fall.  I remember a few nights when the tradewinds gusted and felt cool.  We put on a sweatshirts and pretended the weather was changing.  But no more Hawaii warmth for us – this year it has already snowed!

Tucker is already freezing!  It is going to be a long first winter for him

Tucker is already freezing! It is going to be a long first winter for him

So, in the spirit of the changing season, I wanted to share this dish and more to come.  Here are the ingredients you will need for the Butternut Squash Risotto:

Don't forget the onion! I forgot to put it in the picture

Don’t forget the onion! I forgot to put it in the picture

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 (3-lb) butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-in cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Step 1:  Place the broth and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

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Step 2: In the meantime, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the squash cubes adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir occasionally until the squash is golden in some spots (about 8-10 minutes).

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Step 3: Stir in the thyme.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and the broth is evaporated (about 8-10 minutes).  Remove the squash from the heat and set aside.

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Step 4:  Meanwhile, in a heavy pot, cook the onion in 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium heat.  Stir and cook onion until it softens (about 6 minutes).

Step 5:  Add rice to the onion, stir to coat it with oil, and let it toast for 2 minutes.

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Step 6: Stir 1/2 cup of the simmering water-broth mixture into the rice and cook it at a strong simmer, stirring continuously, until the broth is absorbed.  Keep adding 1/2 cup of the broth at a time, stirring continuously, and letting the broth completely absorb until you add more.  Add broth until the rice is creamy-looking (about 20 minutes total).  When you add the broth in small amounts like this, it allows the rice to get perfectly creamy.  It should be the consistency of a thick soup and you may or may not use all of the broth.

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Step 7:  Stir the butter, cheese, and squash into the rice (or if you are like me, add the cheese after you take out your portion!)

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Wow its been a while since I have been able to post a recipe!  Actually, since the movers packed up our kitchen back in Hawaii in May until just recently, I have not had any of my cooking stuff.  My kitchen in Colorado is now completely unpacked and everything is in its place.  This has rekindled my desire to get in the kitchen and get creative.
I have been dying to share this recipe for quite some time now, since Peter and I eat these every single weekend!  Even when the kitchen was in disarray, I still made an effort to throw these together (although I was guesstimating measurements because I didn’t have any of my measuring cups or spoons yet!).
Here are the ingredients you will need for these simple Whole Wheat Pancakes:
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1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder (make sure its baking powder NOT baking soda!)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (optional…we actually prefer to toss these on top rather than cook them in)
Step 1: Preheat a skillet to 325 degrees F.  We make these on an electric skillet so if you are doing them in a non-stick pan on the stove, heat the pan to medium/ low heat.
Step 2: In large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, flax and salt.
Step 3: In separate bowl, mix together almond milk, water, honey and vanilla extract. While mixing, slowly add the blueberries if you want to cook them in.
Step 4: Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet into the dry and mix until smooth. If you need to, add a little extra water so that you can more easily spoon the batter onto the skillet. Interestingly, this is a step we always did in Hawaii, but now that I am in Colorado, it makes them too watery.  So, adjust for your altitude and preference!
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Step 5: Drizzle a little oil onto the skillet (I prefer coconut oil) or use a non stick spray. Pour ~ 1/4 cup of the batter on to the skillet per pancake.

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Step 6: Cook for 1:30 – 2 minutes or until bottom begins to turn golden and then flip. Peter is the best pancake flipper around and he uses the method of
looking at the bubbles in the batter.  Once it is nice and bubbly, flip it over!  Cook the other side for 1 minute.
Top with some fruit and Enjoy!
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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.

Piece by Piece

I think it is amazing when pieces of your life begin to come together and form a picture that is not quite what you imagined, but is much more amazing than you could have dreamed up on your own.  Shortly after arriving in Colorado, I noticed my back tire rubbing on the frame of my road bike.  It was subtle at first but after a few rides, the rubbing became more substantial and started to wear the frame and the tire.  We went around to a few local bike shops to get it looked at and received a myriad of responses.    One shop trued the wheel – which means to make it spin straight again –  (or at least they claimed to) and when that did not fix it, suggested that we shave out a notch in the frame.  I was extremely weary of altering the frame of my bike, especially since it is a super expensive carbon frame.  We decided it would be best to take the bike to a cervélo rep in order to get better advice on how to handle the situation, especially if we wanted to go through the warranty with the company.  We searched for a cervélo shop in the Denver area and one of the first places that came up was TriBella in downtown Denver.  Peter was the one who did the google search so I knew nothing about the shop and only assumed it was another typical bike shop.  I was not particularly excited about going since it was a Sunday afternoon and I did not want to waste it driving downtown.  But, Peter was motivated to fix my bike so we headed that way.

We walked in the door and the first thing I noticed was all of the pink colors around the store.  Awesome pink swivel stools sit underneath a wrap-around bar that opens up to the work area. You automatically feel invited to sit down and watch or strike up a conversation as the lead mechanic and shop owner, James, works on the bikes.  Peter’s first comment was that the store had no men’s clothing.  Instead it is full of triathlon gear for women.  (You have to check this place out!) I felt comfortable and at home, wandering around the store to look at all of the clothing and equipment.  I have never had an experience like this.  Usually bike shops are very intimidating, male dominant, and full of guys eager to share their macho biking stories with each other.  This can be very uncomfortable, especially if you are new to the sport.  Before talking with anyone it the store, I knew what TriBella stood for and I loved it.

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The more I thought about it, the more I realized that TriBella aligns with who I want to be as an athlete.  I want to be more than just an athlete who promotes an active multisport lifestyle.  I want to share the love that I find in triathlon training to inspire and motivate anyone and everyone to jump that intimidating hurdle of trying something new.  TriBella cultivates that atmosphere and I know that is why I was so immediately drawn to them.  So I am tickled pink (no pun intended!) to share that TriBella and I have decided to work together to achieve that common goal.  I am so honored to have TriBella as my very first sponsor.  It is my future goal to pursue this sport as a professional triathlete and I am so overwhelmingly thankful to now have TriBella there to support me on this journey.  Another wonderful part of this relationship is that the husband and wife shop owners, James and Liz, are well on their way to opening up a men’s specific store, separate from TriBella, and with that they have decided to sponsor Peter.  So, Peter and I now have the opportunity to work together on this mission of empowering other’s to reach their potential. We can’t wait to get started.

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The shop took care of us right away getting us a top of the line bike fit at the Denver Fit Loft, a bike fitting studio in the back of the shop.  This is honestly one of the coolest things I have had the opportunity to do.  The Denver Fit Loft uses a Retul 3D Motion Capture system and the expertise of their head fitter, Josh, to uniquely fit your body to your bike.  They hooked me up to these motion sensors, analyzed every angle possible from my ankles to my shoulders, and then positioned me on my bike in a way that optimizes my power output, efficiency, and aerodynamics.  When you spend hours and hours on your bike, it kind of helps to know that it is adjusted properly to your body and I am eager to see and feel the benefits of my new fit.  The best part of this fit was what I learned from Josh.  From the video analysis he was able to show me different things about my ankle flex and where I sit on my seat and how minor adjustments to things like this can greatly improve my efficiency and power.  I find this stuff so interesting.

I got my first chance to sport my new TriBella kit this past weekend.  Peter and I rode the 78-mile Copper Triangle organized alpine road ride.  It is an amazingly beautiful route that crests Fremont Pass, Tennessee Pass, and Vail Pass with 6,000 ft of climbing.  It is a no pressure ride and we thoroughly enjoyed the casual atmosphere and the scenery that comes with climbing in the mountains of Colorado.  It was also really cool to hear a few other cyclists shout out “TriBella!” as I biked past.

My next big adventure will be the Kona training camp I am going to this next week, put on by my coach.  It will be five days and four nights of straight training with lots of mileage in the ocean and on the roads.  I can’t wait to be back in Hawaii, to swim in the ocean, and to breathe the wonderfully moist sea-level air.  I will be putting lots of miles in on my bike so I am also very thankful to have my new bike fit.  All of the athletes are staying in big a house together with my coach and this will be an amazing time for learning, growing, and sharing with other athletes.  I cannot wait!

Thanks to a random issue with my road bike (which, by the way, James fixed for me by correctly truing my wheel), I was led to a bike shop in downtown Denver that I am not sure I would have found otherwise.  My life picture is forming and pieces are coming together in ways I could never have dreamed of.  I am just excited to share it with others!

Ironman 70.3 Racine

My race this past weekend in Racine, Wisconsin seems like a blur.  After driving 30 hours over the course of two and a half days, I can’t believe I actually raced a half-ironman somewhere in between.  And, I am so thankful for everything Peter did for me this weekend. He made everything go smoothly so that I never felt stressed and I could just concentrate on the race.

Right after I got home from work early Friday afternoon, we packed up the car and started the long drive.  I drove the first leg while Peter slept in the super comfortable bed we made in the back of the car.  It had a thick memory foam mattress pad with a warm down comforter over top.  This meant that the person driving was freezing because the air conditioning was blasting on high so that the person sleeping could snuggle in and sleep better.  Peter wanted to make sure I kept a normal sleep schedule so around 10pm, we switched and I laid down. I slept restlessly at first, but was finally able to relax and get a few hours of quality sleep.

We arrived at the Marriott in Racine at 5am on Saturday morning.  How Peter managed to stay awake through the night is beyond me.  I deliriously helped to grab my gear and our bikes and we dragged everything up to our hotel room.  I immediately fell into the comfortable Marriott bed but as Peter fumbled for the light on his bed stand, he put his hand in a puddle of water.  Of course, this is not something you expect especially when you are exhausted from driving through the night and all you want to do is go to sleep.  He finally got the light on to find the night stand full of water, the floor around the bed soaked, and steady drops of water falling from the ceiling.  We were too tired to deal with it so we decided to sleep a few hours and then figure it out.  Come to find out, even when you are completely fatigued and desperate for sleep, the sound of water drops hitting a night stand will still keep you awake.  Move the night stand out of the way, and drops hitting the already saturated carpet will still make a loud noise.  At this point I felt really bad for Peter because I knew he was frustrated and all he wanted to do was sleep.  We took the towels from the bathroom and managed to smother some of the water drop noise by balling them up and placing them underneath the leak.

We slept until 9:30am which gave us enough time to deal with the leaky ceiling issue before heading out to the race site.  They moved us to a different room and gave us that night for free.  I guess it all worked out for us in the end!  I ate my oat bran with blueberries, strawberries, and almond milk in our new room and I realized how awesome it is to drive yourself to a race.  You get to transport your own bike, which is a huge cost savings, and you get to bring a cooler packed with all of the food you want to eat.  I think one of the hardest parts about traveling to a race is the logistics of getting the right food.  You want to eat things that your body is used to and that you have been eating throughout your training.  The last thing you want is an upset stomach before or during the race.  It is also hard to fit a grocery store run in, especially when you are busy with race prep on a tight schedule.  I had made a large batch of veggie lasagna (sans cheese) before we left and then we had fruit, veggies, yogurt, pretzels, oatmeal, and a few other things packed into our cooler.  All of our meals were taken care of for the entire weekend.

After sign-in and attending the athlete briefing, Peter and I headed out on the bike course to get an easy ride in, make sure my bike was shifting correctly, and get a feel for the course.

By the way, take note of those cracks in the road...

By the way, take note of those cracks in the road…

I then took my bike over to the transition area and racked it among the thousands of other bikes already there.  This is always the most intimidating part of the race for me because you get to see all of the gear that other people have.  There were so many super nice and expensive bikes it was amazing.  It makes you feel like what you have is not adequate and everyone else must be so good to have such nice bikes.  But, speed doesn’t come from a bike alone, it also depends on the person operating it so you just have to try not to psyche yourself out before the race actually starts.

We then headed over to the swim start so that I could get a feel for the water with my wetsuit on.  Lake Michigan is cold! I was so happy to have a wetsuit on, it kept me nice and warm.  It was very strange to swim in this lake because it is very wavy with a strong current, just like swimming in the ocean but, it is fresh water.  Getting smacked in the face by a wave was a much more pleasant experience.  A mouthful a freshwater does not make you gag like getting saltwater up your nose does.

As I rested back at the hotel room and watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith for a little pre-race motivation, Peter had to go back out and do his 2 hour training ride.  It was already 5pm and he was hungry and tired from the long day after getting little sleep.  But, just because I was racing this weekend didn’t mean Peter’s training stopped and once again I felt bad for the sacrifices he had made all day for me.

4:45am came faster than I had hoped.  After I shook off the initial haze of confusion from why my alarm was going off so early, I remembered it was race day and my excitement kicked in.  I felt surprisingly calm and relaxed all morning.  I didn’t have the nervous or anxious feelings like I had at my first race, I just felt ready.  I felt prepared.  I managed to get down my pre-race bowl of oat bran before we headed out the door to the race site.  The transition area was already buzzing with nervous athletes prepping their bikes and organizing their running gear.

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I laid out my towel on the ground behind my bike, positioned my bike shoes and running gear, pumped up my tires, filled my bottles with nutrition, and placed my helmet and sunglasses over my handle bars.  Now it was time to get my wetsuit on and head to the swim start.

I jumped in the water for a short warm-up swim and to prepare my body for the shock of the cold.  The water was surprisingly rough this morning, much like a stormy and wavy day in the ocean.

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The conditions did not bother me because I have swam in rough water like this before. A lot of people out there seemed pretty nervous about it.  The starting waves for this race were much different than usual because they sent us off in waves according to our age group and gender.  They had close to 20 different waves with the women’s waves starting first.  I enjoyed the broken-up start times because my swim was much more peaceful and more of swim, less of a fight against other swimmers.  I also appreciated starting before the men because I swam with women the entire time and never had to deal with the aggressive men.

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I'm in there somewhere!

I’m in there somewhere!

I felt amazingly buoyant and fluid the whole swim, which I know was due in part to the wetsuit, but I felt like maybe some of it was from the hours I have put in at the pool lately.  I did, however, struggle with my line and I spent a lot of the race trying to figure out why I was so far out from the buoys.  It almost seemed like I was always trying to swim back in to shore and get back to the pack.  There are a lot of benefits to staying in the pack, one being the speed you can gain from drafting, but the other is that you do not have to worry about sighting as much.  I spent most of the swim out in left field by myself so I gained none of these benefits.  But, I came out of the water 2 minutes faster than last time so I was happy about that, even if it was all because of the wetsuit.

Since this was my first race wearing a wetsuit, I was a little nervous about getting the thing off.  I had sprayed a bunch of tri-slide (which is essentially an oily spray) all over my ankles, calves, and forearms so that it would slip off easier.  As I was running up the ramp towards the transition area, I found out that volunteers lined the side of the path waiting to help with your wetsuit.  It was awesome!  I had already gotten the suit halfway off down to my hips and so I just laid down on the ground, stuck my legs up in the air, and swoop, the volunteer pulled the wetsuit right off!!

This is where the race really started for me.  I was 24th in my age group out of the water and 94th out of the women so once again, I had a lot of work to do.  I was excited to get on my bike and start doing some damage.

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I felt great right from the start and I immediately fell into a rhythm.  I worked hard to focus on maintaining the power wattage that my coach had planned for me.  The bike course in Racine was beautiful.  It traveled through the countryside with amazingly green fields, barns, farm houses, and big trees.  It was much nicer to look at than the never-ending lava fields of the Big Island.  The only downfall, which turned out to be a huge mental hurdle for me, was the condition of the roads.  The roads had these cracks going through them and not just little cracks, I mean deep crevices that span the entire width of the road.  I was not prepared to hit these cracks every 10ft…for the entire race.  Every crack was a jolt, spilling water out of my front bottle, ramming me into the seat.  I kept trying to imagine myself gliding, trying to think of just smoothly whisking over the road.  Then “clunk”…”clunk”…it really wore on my nerves after a while.  Of the entire 56 mile course, approximately 50 of the miles were full of these cracks.  But when I reached that smooth and newly paved stretch of road without them, I felt like I was on butter.  Best feeling of my life.

I was so thankful to have my power meter.  Despite the jolting bumps every few seconds, I had a way to keep focused and not let the road win.  I strayed true and constant and continued to pick people off all while singing a stupid song Peter had made up and I couldn’t get out of my head: “Eat ’em up, eat ’em up, Alligator, Alligator”…”Eat ’em up, eat ’em up, Alligator, Alligator”.  It’s not even a song really. More like an annoying chant.  But it helped me focus on catching the next person in front of me.  We had also listened to a bunch of Queen on the way to the race so another theme song I couldn’t stop singing was “Another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust…And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust”.  Now looking back, considering I actually sang those two songs over and over for two and a half hours, seems slightly mental.

By the way, between taking my first bike picture and this one, Peter did a 13 mile training run.  He was all over the place but always there for me!

By the way, between taking my first bike picture and this one, Peter did a 13 mile training run. He was all over the place but always there for me!

I think another key for this race was my fueling.  I fueled much better than I did last time and the difference was incredible.  I felt energized, strong, and I had a lot of positive self-talk going on…in between the singing of course.

I was convinced that by the time I got off the bike, I would be waddling from the abrasive jolts I had endured on my very unforgiving bike seat.  But, I quickly transitioned into running mode and forgot about that pain.  I made up a lot of time on the bike so I started the run positioned 4th in my age group and 22nd out of all the women.

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I think it is very interesting that when you have made something up in your mind, your body will usually surrender to it, despite your actual physical state.  When I first started the run, I was running an okay pace, but I had convinced myself that I could not go any faster.  I was kind of battling it out with one girl for a while.  She would speed up and take the lead, and then I would speed up and get back in front of her.  It just felt too hard and mentally taxing.  I did not think I could keep it up.  The great thing about this run course was the double out-and-back route.  You ran out 3.3 miles, came back 3.3 miles, and then did that lap again.  It really helped to mentally split the run up into more manageable sections and you could get a good visual for your competition ahead of you.  After about a mile or so into the run, I started to see the pro women heading back towards us.  The pace that some of these girls were holding was incredible.  I immediately thought about how if I ever wanted to try to be that good, I needed to learn to suck it up even if it was painful and not just cruise.  Somehow, I made a mental switch and I picked up my pace substantially.  I definitely stressed out the girl who I had been battling with.  She tried to hold the pace for a minute or so and then I dropped her.  Best. Feeling. Ever.

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I managed to keep this pace for the entire run except for a small patch in the middle where I got a side ache.  It was bad timing for me but it was a good learning experience to fight through the pain and not let it over take you.  And, of course, for some reason I was in a singing mood because Mandisa’s “You’re an overcomer, stay in the fight ’til the final round” was on replay.

Because of the out-and-back format, I was able to see Peter twice on the run which was extremely helpful.  He kept me updated on how far back I was from the other girls and also yelled words of harsh, yet encouraging motivation.  On my last leg as I sprinted to the finish, all I could hear was him screaming at me to pump my arms.  I guess Peter overheard one woman turn to her friend and say “That must be her husband” and the friend replied “Shouldn’t he add ‘I love you’ to that?” Hilarious.

Final sprint!

Final sprint!

I crossed the finish line and crushed my goal of getting a sub-5 hour time.  I came in at 4:47:23 which put me 3rd in my age group, 4th amateur overall, and 20th female overall.  20 pro women raced that day, so you do the math.  Because of the caliber of the race, had I been top 3 amateur overall, I would have qualified for a pro-card.  Missed it by a little over a minute.  At this point though, I do not think I am ready for that considering the level of my swimming ability.  I would not want to move up to the professional level and then get embarrassed by the extremely high-caliber female professional triathletes that are out there.  I did have the 2nd fastest female amateur bike split and I was right behind, if not faster than, many of the pro women. I am confident that one day I will be able to compete at this level, and this is a distant goal of mine, but for now I need to focus on my swim and learn a little more about racing.  This was only my second race ever so I have a lot of time to grow and continue improving.  I am just so thankful for the opportunity I have had and for the amazing support I have received from so many people.  I am humbled to chase after a talent that I truly believe God has given me.  What I will use it for, I am not sure, so I will continue to remain inspired by the sport and everything it is has opened up to me.

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Just in case you are wondering, the ride back home consisted of two tired athletes desperately trying to stay awake as we took shifts driving through the night.  I drove the last leg from 4am to 6:30am, we arrived home, I took a nap until 8am, and then went straight to work.  Miserable, yes, but worth it!!

I was born this way

After the hectic move over from Hawaii, staying with friends, transitioning into a new job, and acclimating to Colorado’s brutal altitude, we have finally moved into our house. One more step towards normalcy! Tucker is now spoiled with a huge yard to play in and he loves it.

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And yes, that is a swing set in the background! It came with the house. I forgot how fun it is to swing! Living in a neighborhood with a house and a yard is a huge step up from our condo and lanai in Hawaii. I feel like such a grown-up. We even bought our first lawn-mower.

We still don’t have any of our stuff yet, somehow it got lost on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We hope to have it by the middle of July so we can really start settling in. Until then, we are hanging out with paper plates and a futon in an enormous and empty 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 4,000 sq. ft. house with a finished basement. It’s a little crazy for two people and a dog, I know, but it was literally the only thing we could find for rent in the location we needed. So, if anyone wants to visit, we have plenty of rooms. You could probably sneak in and live here and we wouldn’t even know it. Oh, and there is a wet bar and wine fridge downstairs, just in case you want to throw a party. Crazy!

I am most excited about having a kitchen again. I can’t wait to start cooking and experimenting with new recipes. This kitchen is twice the size of ours back in Hawaii so I have more room to spread out and Peter has bigger messes to clean up.

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Double oven, yay!!

Since we don’t have our stuff and there isn’t much to do around the house yet, we have taken advantage of our weekends to explore our surroundings and nail down our training routine. Unlike Hawaii where you can go to the neighborhood 50 meter lap pool and swim for free, (we didn’t know how spoiled we were) we now have to pay to swim. Most pools are associated with a gym which requires you to purchase a gym membership – not cheap! I finally broke down and joined a gym with an amazing pool facility that is on my way to work. It even has an outdoor pool that stays open year around. As long as it is above 10 degrees outside, the pool is open for lap swim. Umm, no thank you. I think I will stick to the indoor pool as long as it is below 50 degrees outside! Peter swims at the pool at his work where they like to remind you about the altitude.

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Yes, the air still feels rare but it is slowly getting better. My training sessions are starting to transition out of death from heart failure to death from volume (thanks coach!). Once I even remotely hinted that I felt better in the altitude, my coach so graciously started tacking on the mileage. Thankfully I have a lighter recovery week this week!

Along with figuring out the pool, I have found a couple of routes I can take to bike to work. They are around 20 to 25 miles each way, which is going to be a great way for me to get my mileage in during the week. The ride to work is mostly downhill which makes it pretty fast and easy. then after work, instead of driving through 45 minutes of traffic to get home and then starting my 90 minute ride, I can knock out the workout while I commute.

I have also come up with a good running routine so far. If the run is less than 45 minutes, I can fit it into my lunch break. There is an awesome running trail along the the South Platte River right next to my work so I can hop on that very easily. We have a small locker room with showers at my work so I have just enough time to rinse off, change, and run a blow dryer through my hair before my lunch break is over. For my longer runs, we are fortunate to live a little over a mile from Daniel’s park which has a plethora of trails and paths with amazing scenery. It is pretty hilly, but I don’t think I will be bored with the same running route.

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Fourth of July sunset at Daniels Park

Sometimes I think it is crazy trying to balance all of this training and have a successful job. I feel this now more than I ever have as my training intensity has increased at the same rate as the responsibility I have at my new job. But, in my blurred haze of exhaustion at mile 11 on my long run this past weekend, I made a seemingly clear connection. For four years during college I struggled to balance the demands of playing Division I volleyball while also double majoring in Mathematics and Operations Research. Everyone thought I was crazy and I remember wondering why I was putting myself through that. I did not have the fun partying college experience. I was either in the gym or in the books. But, during that time I learned how to balance, time manage, and most importantly, still be successful. Up until lately, I have kind of regretted those years, not lightening up and having more free time. I am now realizing more and more that this is just who I am. I thrive on not just being physically and mentally active but seeing how far I can push myself. I don’t like to be average, I like to see how far I can go and then try to push beyond that. But, this takes time and commitment. In a way, it is almost like God used that time in college to teach me how to balance working hard in both aspects of my life. He knew I would use it later on – right now. I have learned that this is just the kind of person I am, I was born this way.

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