Embracing The Squiggly

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My 2017 season has been one of ups and downs. This spring, I asserted myself at the Continental Cup level, with a 3rd place finish at CAMTRI Havana and several other finishes circling the podium. This summer, training with the boys of Team IE pushed me to take my performances in training sessions to the next level. I am very good at pacing my efforts; but training with them, I had to burst through that comfort zone and do whatever it took to stay with them. I broke through boundaries -- sometimes without even realizing it -- as I sought to glue myself to them.

Alas, the fitness and speed I knew I was building did not show up on race day until Yucatan World Cup in August. There, I was finally able to put together a swim I knew represented where I was at, coming out of the water 20 seconds behind Summer Cook, who went on to win the race. To the outside world, my most recent race – Sarasota World Cup – likely seemed like a disaster. On one level, it certainly was. But on another, I committed to going out with the leading ladies, including a World Silver medalist and former professional runner, and sticking with them as long as I could. I committed to ignoring any alarm bells and digging in until I couldn't anymore. My body surprised me – for the first time in my life, I had enough leg speed, enough power that was able to go out with these women; but I was also now able to dig myself into a massive hole. This surprised everyone –- most of all, Coach Greg and me. But this experience allowed me us to learn and me to grow in a way that a measured effort wouldn't have.

I was so excited to take these lessons and allllllll the fitness I had painstakingly built over the course of this year and show them off at the final World Cup of the year, Salinas WC. Alas, my body had different plans: I came down with a case of shingles last week (queue the questions: "What the heck is that? Isn’t it for old people?”) Discomfort turned to deep pain beneath the growing rash at my lower back. Since it’s a virus, anti-virals would help it progress more quickly but unfortunately there’s no miracle Z-pack for this kind of thing. It has to go away on it’s own. Today is the first day in two weeks that I’m feeling back to myself – I finally slept through the night now that the pain is gone (insert sigh of relief!) and am left with just a little itching from the healing rash. While it is hugely disappointing not to be toeing the line in Salinas this weekend, the decision was surprisingly easy since I've felt like such a shell of myself. With my body so compromised, I wouldn’t have been able to truly go to battle the way I want and need to on race day at this point. It was the right thing to just let, embrace the squiggly, and focus on getting back to 100% as quickly as possible.

Sooo I’m taking my annual break and enjoying time with my parents and Tessie. Adam’s joining in a couple days, and I’m looking forward to hopefully catching up with all my east coast friends who I rarely see in the heat of training/racing! I firmly believe that everything has a silver lining… even a reason for happening… I’m keeping the faith that this latest zig zag in my journey to be the best is no different. I've already got eyes on 2018 -- it's going to be a big year! -- but first things first, get healthy :)

Answering the Bell

We all face critical decision points, whether you’re a CEO, lawyer, athlete, or stay-at-home mom. Those moments that define your momentum and who you are as a professional, a leader, and at the core, a person. We constantly discussed being able to identify these points in business school and on the crew team at Dartmouth. As a professional triathlete, the question is not whether I will face a moment like this on any given day; it is how many times this moment will arise.

Since Major League Triathlon wrapped up earlier this month (with a win for Cleveland! WOOHOO!), I’ve had my nose to the grindstone (hence, the way-to-long gap since my last post!). I’ve made some exciting progress in the water and am swimming the fastest I ever have, feeling the strongest I have on the bike, and am even finding hints of speed and lightness on my feet running even though it’s not an explicit focus right now!

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Greg has made some adjustments to my training, which have been the catalysts for these gains. They have involved a good bit more intensity and strength work – particularly in the water, but also on the bike – and require much more focus. In almost every workout, I face that internal alarm: the one that says, “This hurts! Maybe you should back off!”

In a draft-legal race, this alarm starts going off 100m into the race and only gets louder as you progress through the swim, bike, and run, all at full gas. The victor is the woman who is able to silence that and keep pushing anyways. Who can fearlessly forge ahead to claim that key position in the water, to make the strategic move on the bike, and to throw down that final sprint on the run.

Misery! x-) Source: Pascual Bartolo Perez

Misery! x-) Source: Pascual Bartolo Perez

General rule of thumb -- the wider the mouth, the more pain I'm in :-P Source: Trimexico

General rule of thumb -- the wider the mouth, the more pain I'm in :-P Source: Trimexico

Gasping for air!

Gasping for air!

Something I have been working on in the midst of these painful workouts is being aware of that bell when it goes off, whether in the middle of a training session or towards the end of the week when I see my triathlon friends enjoying incredible race results over in Europe (which are no doubt inspirational but also hard to watch when I am back at home!) and my non-triathlon friends going out together on a Friday night while I lie exhausted on the couch gathering my strength and energy for a hard swim early the next morning. I have found that awareness of these moments allows me to consciously respond in a way that turns each decision point, each ringing of the bell, into a source of confidence that I can draw upon on race day.

Some days I am better at responding to – or even pre-empting – these moments than others. In a 5k swim, I might succeed in fully breaking through that brick wall 9 times out of 10. That needs to turn into 10 times out of 10. But each time I consciously answer the bell the way I want to on race day, I get more confident that when it’s time to throw down, I will have what it takes. It's much easier said than done, but I’m pretty psyched at the progress I’m making turning my mind into a fortress so that my fitness can show in two weeks when I toe the line at the US Elite National Championships.

I will leave you with a post from the folks at VASA that I absolutely love. It really captures the queues that have been my guiding light in those dark moments when the devil on my shoulder is ringing his bell:

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Tugging at the Cord: Yucatan World Cup

Hello from Colorado! It is absolutely gorgeous here and has been incredible to catch up with old friends, to make some new ones, and to work with a number of swim experts in the area as I continue my pursuit of front-pack swimming, which as many of you know is one of the keys to success in draft-legal ITU racing. The last week has been quite the whirlwind, from racing down in Mexico, to heading up to Boulder for some training at altitude with lots of new workout buddies for 10 days leading up to next weekend’s MLT Vail.

Many people have asked about my experience at the Yucatan World Cup, so wanted to share this latest chapter in my triathlon journey and some of my takeaways! Heading into race weekend, I had a mixed bag of emotions. I felt stronger, fitter, and faster than ever in swim, bike, and run, but my July racing had been rocky to say the least. I knew my last two races weren’t representative of what I am capable of, but to be honest, they had shaken me a bit and really forced me to take a look within at my self-image. I spent a lot of time outside of training reading my new favorite book, The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, and applying it to my every thought, move, and breath, confronting self-doubts that had been lingering under the surface and reared their heads with my recent stumbles. I think this self-reflection helped me to re-calibrate, and while I certainly had pre-race butterflies heading into my 2nd World Cup, I was focused and ready for battle.

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Complementing this process as I headed into just my second World Cup was the story about circus elephants that Adam sent me in his amazing pre-race email. He said to me:

Just because you've had some certain prior outcomes (training and racing) doesn't mean those are your perpetual reality - don't allow yourself to be "roped" in to a certain level. I'm not saying you must break free, though, I'm just saying that you deserve to give yourself the chance to yank on that rope a little...just see if it starts to stretch a bit.

With this in mind, it was kind of perfect that our race day coincided with world elephant day. On that day, my spirit animal was the elephant. I stretched the cord a bit. I took it one thing at a time and laid down a performance that was by no means perfect but that had a lot of positives and was a step in the right direction; a fight I could be proud of.

Head down, driving the train.

Head down, driving the train.

I’m continuing to work my swim and continuing to build the mental focus, self-belief, and confidence needed to perform to the best of my ability every time I get the opportunity to toe the line. I’m so grateful of the support I received from Greg, Adam, and my family and friends as I’ve regained my footing. I’m really excited to build on this performance going into fall racing. As I said, next up is MLT Vail Valley on August 26 (all you Coloradans – come out and watch! You won’t regret it!) and the MLT Championships in Cleveland on September 9th. Still figuring out fall world circuit races: stay tuned for updates in the next couple weeks!

On the lighter side -- SOO fun exploring the local cuisine! A couple USA teammates and I found a hidden gem in Mexico with handmade tortillas and amazing fresh toppings!

On the lighter side -- SOO fun exploring the local cuisine! A couple USA teammates and I found a hidden gem in Mexico with handmade tortillas and amazing fresh toppings!

Lots of hurry up and wait in Mexico! And "interesting" transport strategies haha Luckily great company to make light of the constant craziness :D 

Lots of hurry up and wait in Mexico! And "interesting" transport strategies haha Luckily great company to make light of the constant craziness :D 

Racing into the sunset! Photo Credit: Wagner Araujo/International Triathlon Union

Racing into the sunset! Photo Credit: Wagner Araujo/International Triathlon Union

Finding Chinks in the Armor

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I have been fortunate in my year and a half as a pro: I have seen almost constant progression in training and race performances. This hasn’t come easy. It has been the result of incredible coaching from Greg Mueller and guidance from others – Kim Whitney, Kim Brackin, and Al Lyman to name a few – support from Ad, my family, and friends, and a constant drive to be better in everything I do. Every day. Better diet, better recovery, better technique, better movement, better strength… you name it! All in the name of speed on race day.

We took this to the next level, and after a strong showing at CAMTRI Ottawa I would say I pushed harder than I ever have in my training. Going into CAMTRI West Des Moines, I was excited to showcase the fitness, power, and speed we had seen in training sessions. But something didn’t quite feel right – Had I been not eating enough? Not recovering well enough with changes in our housing? Was it nerves from placing perhaps too much pressure on myself? Was I just plain tired?

I acknowledged these but kept my head down and kept my mind on the positives. And everything caught up with me as I toed the line in Des Moines. Rarely has my body let me down when I went to step on the gas. I felt so drained half way through the swim and could barely bring myself to do more than jog to T1. What was going on?!?! I kept pushing and finallyyyy found some semblance of my legs in the last mile of the run to cross the finish line in 8th. However, it was a painful day in more ways than one.

This truly bizarre and disappointing performance led to some serious reflection as well as lots of hard questions. I poked holes everywhere I could to figure out what it was that got me to that point. After some hard conversations, Greg and I concluded it was a little of all the things I mentioned above that built up and broke me down, leading to the frustrating day.

Since then, I’ve been taking each of those chinks in the armor and addressing them one by one. I took a few days of rest, complete with some awesome ice cream concoctions! I'm focusing more than ever on the power of my mind to make (or break) me. And perhaps most importantly, I'm making peace with the fact that I'm human. Bad days happen. I am using the experience to grow and am finding a new confidence in myself as a result. With these changes, I have been hitting splits, watts, and paces that I couldn’t have come close to even a few months ago in my training. 

One of my mid-season break ice-cream sundaes! :D

One of my mid-season break ice-cream sundaes! :D

I hesitated sharing this whole kerfuffle, because I pride myself on my positivity and grounded-ness in the best and worst of times. I was ashamed for not being “stronger,” and keeping better perspective over the last month. But I decided to share with you all, because I truly believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...If you choose to embrace it as such. It can be the hardest thing to do, but I’ve discovered how freeing it is to allow for those bad days, embrace them as learning opportunities, and moveeeee on. Being nicer to yourself will enable you to be open to the valuable learning that can come from them.

I am emerging from the last few weeks focused, calm, relaxed, and happy with armor stronger than ever. I am really looking forward to toeing the line in just over a week at one of my biggest races yet – WTS Edmonton! – and invite you to watch the race at 1pm PST on July 29 at TriathlonLive. Stay tuned after the race for a recap of my experience stepping up to race the best in the sport!

The Learning Journey

I'll never forget attending the Cadence triathlon camp a few months after I started doing triathlons. Chrissie Wellington came up in conversation and I asked, "Who is that?" I knew immediately that I had just shown my newness to the sport.... Everyone gawked at me and my coach responded, "Only one of the most accomplished female triathletes of all time!" This question was indicative of just how little I knew about the sport. At that point, I didn't even know that ITU/draft-legal racing existed. As I told people, I just put one foot in front of the other and did the workouts I was given with little or no knowledge about swim/bike/run training, recovery, nutrition for endurance sports, the list goes on. 

As I have immersed myself in the world of triathlon, one of the greatest joys for me has been the opportunity to learn. All the time. It started with little lessons: how to shift, how to ride my bike in a group, technical details of swimming. One of the things I took away from my MBA at Booth was the importance of first principles. If you have a foundation of knowledge, your ability to rise above any challenge that comes your way. The same is true in sport as in business. As those pieces of knowledge have accumulated, I've gained mental confidence and physical strength, and I have been able to learn broader lessons about where my limits lie and how I can expand them; about the strength it takes to pursue something where everyone says you have no hope because of your background.. and the gratification of proving them wrong.

I'm continuing to learn everyday about how to train, eat, rest, think, and race better. But I look back at that Cadence camp, and I am a completely different athlete. I love sharing my new-found knowledge to help others improve, so I was honored when Health IQ asked me to contribute to their recent Triathlon IQ quiz along with numerous other pro's who I have looked up to as I have grown in the sport. Check it out, test your knowledge, and expand your horizons! Added bonus: for every person that completes the quiz here, Health IQ will donate $1 to an amazing cause: Girls on the Run!

Questions Approved By:

Siri Lindley

Head Coach (Team Sirius) and 2X World Triathlon Champion

Siri Lindley dominated the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Rankings, winning 13 World Cup races between 2000-2002 and was the 2001 ITU World Champion. Siri won the World Cup Series both years by being the #1 ranked triathlete in the world!

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Cody Beals

11X Ironman 70.3 Podium Finisher

Cody is a Canadian professional triathlete. His resume includes multiple IRONMAN 70.3 titles and bike course records. Cody prides himself in taking an evidence-based, data-driven approach to training and racing.

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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Have you heard?! Triathlon is no longer just an individual sport! At least, at the professional level. While individual racing still makes up the majority of triathlon events, a new team event has also come to town: the mixed relay!

This event is under review by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, and everyone in the tri world is hoping it gets in! The racing is fast and furious and super fun for both athletes and spectators. How do I know this? Because I am getting a taste of racing the mixed relay – and my friends/family are enjoying the chance to watch all the fun in person – through Major League Triathlon (for more on the MLT series and the mixed relay race format, check out my informational page on the League).

It’s been so interesting to observe teamwork come into play in an individual sport. My experience on the Dartmouth Varsity Crew during undergrad gave me insight into just how amazing it is to be on a team where everyone bans together. Rowing takes teamwork to a new level: for the boat to move, 9 minds must become one and 8 bodies must move in absolute sync. When they do, the feeling you get flying through the water with grace and power, is goosebump-worthy. While I adore triathlon and there is nothing like seeing your own hard work paying off with improving race results, there is another dynamic that comes into play when you’re racing than more for yourself. Teamwork in triathlon comes in a bit of a different form, but it’s awesome to race for something bigger than myself. It is certainly a different kind of accountability!

Last weekend, MLT hosted its first showdown of 2017 in Charlotte, NC. I was excited to toe the line racing for my hometown team – Cleveland Rock & Roll – with three other Midwesterners! Statistically, our team looked like we could be competitive for the win, but you never know what will happen on race day. Leading off for my team, my role was to set the tone by hanging on to the top ladies in the League as best I could. No pressure. :)

A misstep (or should I say, misstroke) around one of the many turn buoys in the swim opened a gap that I wasn’t able to close (queue internal cursing). But as my teammates reminded me from the sidewalk, “every second counts!,” and I did my best to minimize the damage. We knew that if I could execute this and AJ Baucco was able to hold our ground in the 2nd leg, then Lindsey Jerdonek (who raced third) and our anchor, Kevin McDowell, had a good chance of making up any time and opening a gap to ultimately cross the finish line first. That is exactly what we did! It was inspiring to see Lindsey take women down one by one, and Kevin crushed the run, laying down the fastest men’s run split of the day.

Digging in to hold the gap to the front pack (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

Digging in to hold the gap to the front pack (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

Numbah 1!! (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

Numbah 1!! (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

The folks at MLT did a great job covering the race, and you can see a full video here. I’m super excited for our next race this weekend in Atlantic City, hosted by The Claridge Hotel. We had stiff competition from the Sarasota Suns and Colorado Peaks, and with the change in order mandated by MLT, it could really be anyone’s… er, any TEAM’s game next week! Follow along and give a shout out to CLE – hopefully we can take home another W!

Team lovin! (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

Team lovin! (photo credit: Shea Parikh)

The Step in Front of You

Just under 2 weeks ago, I toed the line with 26 other women at CAMTRI Richmond. I was feeling pretty fit, particularly in the water, and I love the whole race - course, people, you name it - at Richmond. The course has technical intrigue: I’ll never say “no” to a wetsuit swim, and the energy/excitement surrounding the race is infectious. Endorphin does a fabulous job making the race seamless from start to finish for the athletes, and both last year and this year I have been stunned at the volunteer power they generate (including my amazing homestay host, Dennis!).

I knew there was going to be some stiff competition at the race, but as always, all I could do is throw down and give it my best. I executed a strong swim just like my coach and I talked about, but I got away from myself in transition. As I let my mind wander in T1 instead of focusing on the step right in front of me, I began to make silly errors. Grabbing my bike before putting my helmet on and missing my feet in my shoes as I mounted the bike (read: futzing alert!) led to critical lost seconds that created an uphill battle on the bike and a soul-crushing 10-second penalty on the run. The result was a disappointing 7th place finish in a race where I thought a podium might be possible on my best day.

TeamIERichmond

Total blast having Team IE-mates at this race as well! Including some of my bestest friends who live in the Mid-Atlantic region!

As I’ve jumped back into training, I’ve been particularly focused on keeping my mind in the “now.” This is a skill that is particularly critical in the race format that I have coming up this weekend: the super-sprint mixed relay. At Major League Charlotte, my race will be 20 minutes long... if that. It’s the perfect opportunity to apply the work I’ve done on keeping my mind on the stroke, step, breath in front of me as I race against some new faces on CLEVELAND ROCK & ROLL (yeahhh baby!).

Uncharted Territory

It was another whirlwind weekend of travel and racing this weekend as my quest for experience, speed, and ultimately, excellence, continues. The theme of this weekend was definitely “uncharted territory,” from travelling to a new place – beautiful Barbados – to navigating new positions and racing experiences in triathlon. While there was lots of the usual – pre-race workouts, pre-race breakfast, travel snacks, my daily meditation (more on that in another post!) – there was SOOOO much was NEW! (Exciting!) Which afforded me an amazing number of many opportunities to learn and grow as a person and athlete!

As with many of my growth opportunities in triathlon, this weekend was all about jumping into new experiences and learning as I went! (photo credit: Nicole Truxes)

As with many of my growth opportunities in triathlon, this weekend was all about jumping into new experiences and learning as I went! (photo credit: Nicole Truxes)

My list of “new’s” for the weekend:

New country

Barbados is a gorgeous island, and I had to laugh when our homestay noted that everything was “dry and brown” since they are in their dry season right now. There were beautiful flowers all over the island, and I couldn’t look away from the gorgeous crystal clear water in every shade of blue. The island also has such an interesting history and is in a really interesting place developmentally. I LOVE seeing new parts of the world – experiencing new cultures, seeing new ways of life – and staying with a Barbadian family was such an incredible way to do that. I must stay longer at next year’s race in order to see more of the island and have more time with my AWESOME host family (see next “new”)!

New friends

I had the most incredible homestay for my short time in Barbados! I stayed with fellow USA athlete, Nicole Truxes, with the Stanley family. Man! What an amazing group of people! Jason is a contractor on the island and a former pro surfer – it was so cool to hear about his adventures as a surfer! Next year I’m staying longer so he to go kite-boarding with him (WOO!). His wife, Elena also surfs and went totally above and beyond to make sure Nicole and I were comfortable and had more food than I could possibly eat over the weekend (and those of you who have seen me eat… that’s saying a lot!).

Their two boys – Luke & Erin – are the coolest little dudes ever! They chivalrously gave their beds to us for the weekend, and inherited the family surfing gene – I didn’t get to see in person but saw some pretty impressive pics of them in action. I can’t wait to see them surfing in Tokyo in 2020! It was also so fun to get to know a fellow American athlete better as well. I love making friends on the circuit and hearing everyone’s amazing stories and experiences in the sport!

SL&E
SarahNicole

New swim execution

I didn’t get quite the explosive start that I hoped to have, so I was swallowed up in the mayhem of the pack pretty immediately. But I kept my head down and my focus internal. I got kicked in the face and knocked around, and it didn’t phase me. I found pockets to make my way up in the group, then held my position, and for the first time in my 16 months as a professional triathlete, coming into shore, I actually found myself thinking, “I have more. I could accelerate up front right now.” But we had sizeable front pack so – also for the first time in my year-ish of ITU racing – I settled in, calmed my breathing, and got ready to hit the beach strong and ready for the next leg of the race.

New bike restraint

Historically, my M.O. is to drive the bike. It must be the rower in me. I don’t feel like I’m racing unless I’m on the limit the entire time. But Greg and I agreed to experiment: if I was in the front pack on the bike, I would of course do my fair share of work, but I wouldn’t drive the pack. I would hold back, and we would see what my legs could do on the run when they hadn’t just crushed 20k on the bike. So I did just that. It made for a very tame bike.

New run experience

My race in Cuba this February was the only other time that I’ve come off the bike in the front of the race. And this time, I have to admit I was surprised to find myself running in 1st for much of the first lap of the run given the depth of the field. Queue internal voices: “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” and “You can do this. Just run your race. You can do this.” Nutrition was my downfall – not enough calories on the bike and no gel with on the run meant that the final ¼ mile felt like 2 as all of a sudden my body shutttt dowwnnnn. Just like that. I went from second, to 3rd with under a quarter mile to go, to a 4th place finish with a painful 100m to the finish line!! It was painful (in more ways than one) to finish just off the podium. But I broke that streak of 5th’s, so I suppose that is progress!

New nutrition requirements

One of the things we discussed in my MBA studies at Booth was how, in a start-up, there comes a point where what led to success up until then must change in order to reach the next level. As we shift my training this spring and I find new levels of performance, I am finding my nutrition needs to also adjust keep up with – or better yet, propel – those efforts. While I’ve begun to make changes in my day-to-day nutrition, I haven’t in racing, and fueling mistakes cost me my second ITU podium this weekend.

That said, all the “new’s” this weekend indicate that my training is continuing to go in the right direction. So I gave myself a the afternoon to stew about the avoidable mistakes that I made (afterall, I am only human!), I then committed to focusing on those positives and looking at every lesson learned as something that will make me smarter, stronger, and faster in the long run!

Women's podium (see results here)

Women's podium (see results here)

champagnepodium

I’m heading home to continue chipping away, seeking those incremental gains day-in and day-out, and taking a hard look at my nutrition with the help of Coach Greg, the team at my nutrition sponsor, Hammer Nutrition, and other folks on my support team to make sure that nutrition it is never my limiter again, but rather, something that lifts my performance to even greater heights!

I’m hungrier than ever for more, and I am looking forward to another honest look in the mirror in 2 weeks at CAMTRI Richmond!

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Precious Cargo: traveling with your bike

In sport, business, and life, we often talk about and work on controlling what we can control. In ITU racing in particular, I find I am constantly operating in situations where there are factors outside of my control that can have defining impacts on my race finishes. I am therefore constantly problem-solving to determine what I can do to either be prepared to react to the situation or – ideally – adjust my approach in order to take control of the situation.

A prime example of this is traveling with my bike. While this is something that might have never crossed many travelers' minds, it is as common as flying with a carry-on item for professional triathletes. As an example, starting with Hamilton Continental Cup 10 days ago, I will be traveling with my bike domestically and internationally every other week (7 times) through late June/early July. That’s a lot of travel for me and my precious little bike!

Obviously, it is critical to get your bike from your home to the race with minimum risk of damage. To do this, every athlete has his or her trusted bike bag/box, and there are many to chose from! Hard cases are very secure with their thick plastic sides but also very heavy and hard to handle (which, I theorize, leads to more instances of mishandling by cargo crews). Soft cases are typically lighter and easier to handle but can be less protective since they lack the plastic armor of boxes. What to do?! It can be a conundrum for even the most experienced of athletes. I've had many people ask my opinion/experiences in this area, so I thought I would take a second to share it here!

I have personally only ever had soft bike cases. My most recent case – the Helium Biknd case – was awesome because I barely had to take apart my bike, the sides had inflatable panels that provided good bike protection, and it averaged 45 pounds with bike, wheels, pump, and even some clothes tossed in! I had an older edition that didn't have all the awesome handles and the tapered design that they offer now, so while I lucked out ~20% of the time, I had to pay a bike fee 80% of the time. That said, I like the changes they have made to their bags! That said, I only ever felt 90% confident that my bike would arrive to my destination untarnished. At the level at which I’m seeking to perform, I would never consider 90% execution of my training, nutrition, or recovery. It’s 100% or bust. So why should my bike case be any different?

For this reason, I recently switched to the Ruster Sports Henhouse case. Folks, I’m in heaven! I didn’t realize how much my bike’s safety weighed on me until I tried out this bag for my trip to Cuba in February when I had to borrow my coach’s. While this bag requires you to dismantle your bike a few steps beyond some other bags, everything is packed so tightly, and the bags are so well constructed and light that I feel 100% confident my bike will arrive with me in equally good shape as I left it. I actually also love that I’ve gotten to know my bike better in the process of taking it apart and putting it back together – I’m much more confident troubleshooting issues, and that is important at races where mechanics aren’t accessible! Plus that peace of mind while I travel is absolutely worth the investment. While we’re talking money, in my experience, the bag has qualified as regular luggage. In only a few flights, the bag has pay for itself.

The pictures below show my bike-packing process with the case (1hr to pack my first time, down to 45 the second, and I think I can get it down to 30 for my trip this weekend now that I have the routine down!). Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the case, the packing process or packing for races!

My case fresh out of its box last month!

My case fresh out of its box last month!

Only 2 tools required for (dis)assembly! (I'm upgrading to a torque wrench... should have long ago eek!)

Only 2 tools required for (dis)assembly! (I'm upgrading to a torque wrench... should have long ago eek!)

Bike disassembled, ready for padding + packing

Bike disassembled, ready for padding + packing

The foam tubes, velcro straps, and plastic discs for wheels are KEY in the packing process!

The foam tubes, velcro straps, and plastic discs for wheels are KEY in the packing process!

Bike parts ready to be locked 'n loaded

Bike parts ready to be locked 'n loaded

Ready to Rock!

Ready to Rock!

2 Seconds

I'm gonna keep this post brief.... it matches my most recent race/trip to beautiful Bermuda!

This past weekend was a whirlwind. Nothing like flight cancellations, itinerary diversions, and arriving in the country you’re racing in only 18 hours before you toe the line! All this considered, my race at the Hamilton Continental Cup this weekend was decent – not outstanding, but not poor by any standards. I was glad to have a swim that more accurately reflects my fitness/ability versus my last showing in Sarasota, and at the end of the day I was grateful just to be able to race this weekend.

But the race was a reminder of how 2 seconds can make or break your race in draft legal racing. While non-draft and draft-legal racing are all technically “triathlon,” they are two completely different sports. ITU/draft-legal racing is unique in that even the smallest lapse in focus can turn a 2 second deficit coming out of the water into a 1+ minute deficit by the end of the bike. One false step coming out of T1 and I couldn’t quite make the front pack. I continued to dig in on the bike and put up a respectable run given the fact that we continue to keep bike and run mileage low to focus on the swim. But it’s both encouraging and frustrating to be so close but so far from the medal hunt!

I’m coming home from Bermuda happy with the baby steps of progress and of course grateful to be bringing back some cash-moneyz, but more hungry and motivated than ever to keep chipping away to close that 2-second gap…. Actually, forget 2 seconds… we're shooting for 10secs in that swim. Go big or go home, right?! Gotta get fast enough so I can return to the gorgeous island and its amazing people for the WTS race next year :D

For your enjoyment, a few shots of my brief (48-hour) trip to Bermuda:

Wiser, not older

The last day of my 20’s (Monday) was a day off from training, which was great cause it gave me a little time (or maybe too much time?) to reflect. Feels like just yesterday I was turning 20 – I spent that whole day on the bus with my Dartmouth Crew teammates driving home to Hanover from our spring break training trip in Oak Ridge, TN. It’s hard to believe all the adventures I’ve had between then and now… although I guess 10 years IS a long time!

I choose to believe that age is merely a state of mind (in which case I’m nowhere near 30 yet!), but perhaps it’s also true that wisdom comes with age. There’s so much more to see, learn, and do for me, and I’m thinking the best is yet to come! But I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned (many of which I’m still working on!) over the last decade:

No pain, no gain. From falling over and over again - day in and day out at the ice rink - to perfect that triple salchow; to falling off the erg and thinking my lungs might actually burst at the end of a crew race; to pushing to the point of hurling in triathlon training and racing. I remind myself that if it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. So when it hurts, find more. It will pay off.

Perfect your game face (I’m still working on this one)…. And your sad puppy face (also still working on this one). They will both come in handy.

If it scares you, GO FOR IT!

Save your work often. Diligence always wins. Just do it.

Say yes to adventure (see the world! Note: still working on this one, and excited about the opportunity to do it through triathlon!)

Get outside. Having spent 8 of the last 10 years in school or at an office job, too much of life is spent inside. Don’t let the world pass you by!

sailboat

Cherish time with the people you love. With the demands of triathlon, and school before that, and work before that, and school before that, and skating before that, it can be hard to make time to just be with the people you care about. But it’s those moments that have been some of the most meaningful for me.

You are what you eat. So don’t skimp on the good stuff (note, I don’t necessarily mean only eat organic everything. But seeking a “rainbow” at meals and knowing where your food comes from as much as possible has made a big difference in my energy and performance!).

Take it like you stole it! (Learned this one from Tessie!)

tessastarbucks

Spend time with people who inspire you to be better than you are.

Be silly sometimes! (Cause it feels good to let the weird out!)

Last but not least, It’s OK... even good!... to say no. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned… and am still working on. As someone who wants to please, and a high achiever that wants to achieve, saying “no” doesn’t come naturally to me. But committing to a journey requires closing doors to others. It’s so hard to do, but it’s incredible what you can achieve when you throw your heart, body, and mind wholly into one thing. That kind of gratification is something I wish for everyone!

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Since I started my career as a professional triathlete last year, I’ve been chasing. Chasing the collegiate swimmers and the women who have been doing triathlon since before I even knew what the sport was around the race course. But after Cuba, even though I knew it was only a Continental Cup (the first of the three levels of ITU racing), I felt like all the blood, sweat and tears this winter were beginning to pay off. While I knew I had no means made it, the feeling of being in the front pack – being in the race – was so gratifying.

However, my most recent race in Sarasota was reminder that I am by no means in a place where I can have a bad day on the race course and expect to still be in the race. I didn’t execute the swim to my ability, and it was a chase from there. I organized the ladies around me on the bike and we worked decently well together to hold our ground after the first lap of the bike. And I dug in on the run – putting up a decent split given the fact that I have still never worked explicitly on my run… well… ever!

Taking a couple quiet moments before my name is called to the starting line.

Taking a couple quiet moments before my name is called to the starting line.

Despite these silver linings, Sarasota was a harsh reminder that I am still chasing. And this fuels me every day in training! After Sarasota, Adam and I hopped in the car and hit the road back to South Bend. We were ready to get home and did the 17+ hour drive in one day – talk about getting it done! While Florida was amazing from a weather perspective and it was fun to have all of Team IE around all the time – so much laughing! – it is definitely nice to be home! In our own bed, with our clean kitchen. And since then, we’ve gotten right back to work. Up to 10k a day in the pool, baby! It’s back to real life. Back to reality!

This might sound weird to some, but funnily enough, while the result wasn’t what I wanted in Sarasota, it was more the feeling of not performing to my potential that frustrated me and has fueled me every step, stroke, and lap since getting back to South Bend. I’m more focused and driven than ever and excited to hit it every day leading up to my next showdown in Bermuda!

We arrived home to temps in the 20's and snow. Yikes! Luckily it has all melted and spring is in the air as I write this post!

We arrived home to temps in the 20's and snow. Yikes! Luckily it has all melted and spring is in the air as I write this post!

Bringing back the layers big time! 

Bringing back the layers big time! 

Cold weather and big training days called for some turkey pot pie! yummmmm.

Cold weather and big training days called for some turkey pot pie! yummmmm.

All work and no play makes Jack & Jill dull kiddos! Ad and I departing for a birthday scavenger hunt (which ended in insane burgers + birthday cake at the Morris Inn!!)

All work and no play makes Jack & Jill dull kiddos! Ad and I departing for a birthday scavenger hunt (which ended in insane burgers + birthday cake at the Morris Inn!!)

ITU RACING: Havana Nights

Many of the ITU Continental and World Cup races are in locations that are veryy off the beaten path. In only 1 year of racing, I’ve racked up some great (at least, in retrospect) stories, and Greg has told me even more amazing ones from traveling with his former athletes.

CAMTRI Habana – at Hemingway Marina, Cuba – was no exception, with limited cellular service; no wireless access; crazy data fees even if you have general international service; cars from the 1950’s driving on streets with 0 traffic signals and next to no signage; and a race in a small town 30/45 minutes from “downtown”/Old Town Havana.

Life in Cuba moves at a refreshingly slower pace than in the States, and it is so different from anything I have experienced, but in a quaint way that I absolutely loved! It was a trip I would recommend to everyone, and I would certainly love to go back, whether for work/racing or for play (note: I would not necessarily say this for everywhere I have raced!).

It was a great weekend for me, with the cherry on top being a 3rd place finish – my first ITU podium! I’m still reflecting on the race and a report with takeaways is forthcoming, so stay tuned!

USA swept the podium with Kaitlin Donner taking first, Erin Storie second, and me claiming bronze!

USA swept the podium with Kaitlin Donner taking first, Erin Storie second, and me claiming bronze!

A big part of my ability to enjoy the trip and race well was due to pre-planning and organization, some of which was very tricky leading up to the trip, as information was very dispersed and oftentimes unclear. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you the essential planning/packing list for general travel to Cuba (whether you are a triathlete or not) and additional Cuba-triathlon-specific items that made my trip smooth sailing!

But first, some of the sites of Habana/Cuba:

OK. On to business.

General Preparation List

Whether you are going to Cuba for an athletic event like I was or just to kick back, explore, and/or experience the culture, there are a number of basic things you will need to know/take care of before you go. It was hard for us to find this info in one place, so I’ve compiled it here in the hopes it can help all of you before you travel to the island:

Medical insurance

Technically, everyone must have international medical insurance to enter Cuba. We went through insuremytrip.com for this on the recommendation of the folks at UnitedHealthcare – it was easy, cheap ($7.75 for 4 days), and reliable. We read we would need to show proof of this at the Havana airport but they didn’t say a thing…. So unclear if we actually had to worry about that! My motto when racing though = better safe than sorry! (FYI Michael, my teammate, flew Southwest and they said medical insurance was included in airfare, but I didn’t read that anywhere for JetBlue, which we flew).

Cuban Visa

You will need a visa to get into Cuba, but this can be bought at the airport when you check in – it is $50 and, at least with JetBlue, that includes entry into Cuba and back into the United States.

Currency Exchange

Everything in Cuba is done in cash (as of Feb 2017 credit cards are a no-go!) and you can't make the exchange until at the airport, but it is easy to do there! The currency you will need to use is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC; they ALSO use CUP - Cuban Pesos - but only in local markets, etc. So unless you are going off the beaten path for food, etc. you will only need CUC's). There is an exchange fee for USD, so you only get 0.87 CUC per $1 USD as opposed to Euros, Sterling, and Canadian currencies, which exchange without the fee. We figured that it would pretty even out as compared to doing a double exchange (USD à Euros or pounds à CUC), but if you have Euros on hand (slash the time and energy to get em), go for it!

Transportation

There are plenty of taxis available at the airport – you can negotiate your fee before you get in (to a certain extent!). For us, a sprinter van that took 5 people + 3bike cases + suitcases from Havana to the Hemingway Marina neighborhood was 60 CUC.

Lodging

When we were looking into lodging, there were many beautiful hotels to choose from but there were very pricey! A friend of a friend who had recently gone to Cuba recommended we go the route of AirBNB, which was much cheaper and, as long as you were careful with your selection, much nicer! I can’t speak to the hotel experience, but our AirBNB experience was fabulous! While there was a bit of a language barrier, it was great to meet Cuban natives and get to know them a bit! The home was also so spacious, comfortable, and easy to come and go from (thanks to Jorge, our host who drove us to the race course and back whenever we needed it!).

Cuba+Triathlon-specific checklist:

I have a standard race-travel packing list (such as race flats, rubberbands, helmet, etc. etc. Stay tuned for a later post on that! Having your standard checklist and organizational process is a must when dealing with crazy travel logistics and navigating new exciting/confusing places!).

But beyond those standard items, I brought the following specifically for Cuba:

FOOD!

It’s a little different traveling to new fun places when you’re racing there. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to get, and we heard about a number of athletes getting sick last year from one thing or another. So I brought with me enough essentials to get through at least race morning if I had to: packed with me: 1 bag of rice cakes, 1 jar of peanut butter, 2 bags of dried mango, 1 can of soup, 1 can of tuna, 2 bags of oats/chia seeds/cinnamon, 2 bags of my latest favorite light snack: Peas Please!, 4 Hammer Whey Bars, 6 Hammer Vegan Recovery Bars, 8 Emergen-C’s, and Goldenseal (plus race-day nutrition – Recoverite, 2 gels, and Endurolytes). Luckily our AirBNB actually had a beautiful kitchen and our hosts were amazing cooks! So we got to experience true Cuban cooking on both Saturday and Sunday night. Also remember: bottled water only! (We bought 2x 5L jugs each from the little “Mercado” 2 blocks from our house for only 3.80 CUC!)

Bike Parts

Pump – I invested in the Lezyne travel pump before traveling to Cuba and am so glad I did! Definitely no bike pumps in site here! This pump is so easy to use and will definitely now be in my packing list for any race I go to.

Miscellaneous items – derailleur hanger, allen wrench, Park tool, chain lube, extra skewers, extra tube, and electrical tape. Most of these things I take to any race I go to. It sounds like a lot but I keep all of these things in one little bag, and there were absolutely 0 bike shops or maintenance support leading up to race day. So while luckily everything was fine with my bike, I was so glad I had everything I could have needed since it would have been bad if anything had happened!

Spanish Phrase Book

OK so I didn’t bring this but I WISHED I had! My very long life to-do list includes learning Spanish, particularly after a few races in predominantly Spanish-speaking countries over the last 12 months (6 years of French and 2 years of Italian unfortunately don’t seem to translate as well as I’d have liked!). But in the meantime, if I could go back, I would have invested in this before coming to Cuba to be able to communicate better with everyone down here!

These 8/9 items felt like a lot to think about in the days leading up to the race (particularly since it was hard to find all of this information in one place! So there was a lot of time spend researching everything), but it’s not actually that much nor was it that hard to do in retrospect! Next time we race here (and I hope there will be a next time), it will certainly be easier (particularly once I get my Spanish Rosetta Stone rolling!!!!)

Hereee we go! Race time HUH!

Hard to believe racing season is already upon us! It feels like just yesterday I was wrapping up last season in New Orleans, hungry to find speed in the off season; hungry for more in 2017! But here we are - Major League Triathlon just had its draft for this season and I leave tomorrow for first race of 2017!

Training has been going well - I'm a different swimmer and different all-around athlete from a year ago... even 4 months ago! There are always jitters going into the first race though -- will that progress show when it counts? How did everyone else grow in their off-season? In the midst of all these questions, I continue to remind myself to focus on what I can control: me, myself and I!

Racing the boys for the wall has been great prep for race day!

Racing the boys for the wall has been great prep for race day!

My Team-IE-Mates - Michael, Elliot, Alissa - and I are hopping down to Cuba to face off against some stiff competition this weekend. Lots of logistical details (stay tuned for my "triathletes guide to racing in Cuba" because there really needs to be one!) and little bit of butterflies, but excited to lay it out there and get that honest look in the mirror!! No live coverage due to lack of service in Cuba, but check out ITU's website for results on Sunday afternoon (we race at 10am EST)!

T2 compliments of Kyle Doehla

T2 compliments of Kyle Doehla

Post-hill run powwow!

Post-hill run powwow!

Races don't change the routine -- train hard, recover harder, and don't forget to SMILE! :)

Races don't change the routine -- train hard, recover harder, and don't forget to SMILE! :)

Focus. Persistence.

Coach and I talk a lot about “distraction” and being able to focus within, keeping an eye on controlling what you can control when everything around you is out of control. This is something I’m continually working on mastering, and I would say it’s played a big role in my consistency and associated growth as an athlete over the past 16 months.

But this week was a reminder to me of how much easier it is to do this when things are going smoothly. What is meaningful is maintaining that zen when mayhem ensues. In the last 24 hours, my phone was stolen (along with credit card and license), January paycheck intercepted and deposited in mystery bank account (whattt!); phone reclaimed (thank you Clermont Police!) but SIM card and credit cards gone; AT&T said it could replace SIM card for me; then AT&T said it couldn’t replace SIM card immediately since we had deactivated device while it was missing; 2 of 3 credit cards easy to replace and cancel the fraudulent cards made; 3rd of 3 was so difficult to deal with that it outweighed ease of the first two. Top it off with a rough rough swim this morning and it was the kind of day when nothing could go right! Basically, it was the perfect test of my ability to focus on controlling what I could control and not letting the craziness take away from my ability to perform in training.

I was somewhat successful…. Somewhat. Some wins and some stumbles, slowly working through the craze, keeping my training priorities in line, and hitting reset while reminding myself how much worse life could be! THEN, lo and behold, Mayor Pete Buttigieg put it perfectly in his tweet this afternoon: “ ‘Nevertheless she persisted’ sounds like a perfect motto for today’s happy warriors.”

Your problems right now may be far graver than mine, or perhaps today was close to a perfect day (yay!) – either way, may this motto guide you through the good and the bad: focus on controlling what you can control; block the distractions; and PERSIST!

Scene of (one of the) crimes.... But I still love it so!! 

Scene of (one of the) crimes.... But I still love it so!! 

I've heard that smiling improves your mood.... Today, I'm a believer! It worked. Truly. Give it a try!

I've heard that smiling improves your mood.... Today, I'm a believer! It worked. Truly. Give it a try!

New Year's Resolutions

I’ve never been someone who does a lot of new years resolutions. I’m more of a proponent of constantly self assessing and asking myself, my coaches/managers/mentors, and my family/friends “how can I be better?” This constant search to find “better” is something that definitely translates into my quest for speed and high performance in triathlon.

That said, January 1 is always a good prompt to think about what you can do to create a better version of yourself. I am a little late (26 days, to be exact), but in that vein, I’m re-committing to sharing my journey with you – and all the lessons and stories along the way – more regularly this year. To get back on track, in this post, a summary of the 2 months in photos, including Adam's and my WEDDING (for wedding photo blog, click here!), Naples FL swim camp, holiday baking, and Team IE’s set up in Clermont FL this winter.

Family shot from my bridal shower in Boston!

Family shot from my bridal shower in Boston!

Ready to walk down the aisle!

Ready to walk down the aisle!

The big moment :)

The big moment :)

Basking in the freezing cold Newport RI December sunset

Basking in the freezing cold Newport RI December sunset

From wedding dress to swim suit in 48 hours! Open water swim camp was a bit of a shock to the system (now I get why people honeymoon right after their wedding!), but we wouldn't have it any other way (honeymoon plan is Japan..... timing/dates TBD!)

From wedding dress to swim suit in 48 hours! Open water swim camp was a bit of a shock to the system (now I get why people honeymoon right after their wedding!), but we wouldn't have it any other way (honeymoon plan is Japan..... timing/dates TBD!)

Holiday baking (and ice cream!) nom nom

Holiday baking (and ice cream!) nom nom

Our home away from home in Clermont, FL

Our home away from home in Clermont, FL

Gorgeous view for my PM strength sessions!

Gorgeous view for my PM strength sessions!

Coach saves a turtle (and gets peed on in the process!)

Coach saves a turtle (and gets peed on in the process!)

ROKA contingent of Team IE, ready to hit the open water!

ROKA contingent of Team IE, ready to hit the open water!

First date as a married couple! Training consumes the days (and works up an appetite), so great to have some one-one-one time with my better half (and bottomless tortilla chips on the side!)

First date as a married couple! Training consumes the days (and works up an appetite), so great to have some one-one-one time with my better half (and bottomless tortilla chips on the side!)

Back to the Drawing Board: 2017 on the mind!

Hard to believe that my 2016 season has already drawn to a close! It's flown by in a blur of travel, adventures, and defying boundaries I was unsure I could. I capped off my season with a bronze medal at the Elite Sprint National Championships in New Orleans 2 weekends ago. It was a small but competitive field and I had a blast racing with my new Team IE teammate, Alissa Doehla!

While I was of course happy with a podium finish, I was equally disappointed because I did not execute the race I was hoping for and know I was capable of! It was a good mental test, though, to have to fight to the end - and I mean, to the END! - as Brittany Warly and I had a sprint finish for 2nd.

Nationals Podium: USA Triathlon's Up & Comers!

Nationals Podium: USA Triathlon's Up & Comers!

And so I entered my end-of-season break happy but with an underlying frustration and fire. That said, I’ve been working on living in the present and that’s exactly what I've done the last 10 days, enjoying ice cream, home-baked cookies, and even a full day (or 2) in bed… plus some quality time with Ad and my family!

Wedding planning is kicking into high gear! Guestbook arrived!

Wedding planning is kicking into high gear! Guestbook arrived!

Visits to Buck Hill Falls (Ad's childhood home) are good for the soul!

Visits to Buck Hill Falls (Ad's childhood home) are good for the soul!

COOKIESS & CREAMMM -- the ultimate combo :D

COOKIESS & CREAMMM -- the ultimate combo :D

crazy for gummy candies!

crazy for gummy candies!

Nothing like a good game of keep-away -- Tess loves her Starbucks!

Nothing like a good game of keep-away -- Tess loves her Starbucks!

Swapping spandex for suit/dress at Dario & Lizzie's wedding!

Swapping spandex for suit/dress at Dario & Lizzie's wedding!

Having enjoyed my time off, I’m hungrier than ever. 2016 was a fabulous rookie year, including three top-five Continental Cup finishes and the opportunity to race at Montreal World Cup and WTS Edmonton. But that was 2016 and there are MUCH bigger fish to fry. So now, I’ll enjoy my last night on the couch. Tomorrow, it’s time to hit it. It may only be October, but I’ve got 2017 on the mind.

For last year’s words belong to last year's language and next year’s words await another voice. ~T.S. Eliot

New Heights

When I went to Greg for coaching 2 years ago, I told him I wanted to do two things: 1st, race the best in the sport, and 2nd, be the best.

We’ve been working towards that goal since then, and it has been baby steps. Incremental gains that are barely visible on a day-to-day basis but seem to somehow keep adding up to leaps and bounds when I least expect it!

The first big leap in our journey came when I stepped up to the elite ranks. Since then, my first 10 months as a pro have been a constant test of my ability to find consistency in the midst of constant change, to be comfortable with discomfort, and of staring walls in the face and breaking through them.

While I have been making steady progress this year, up until even a month ago, if someone told me I would be racing a WTS and that I would actually be IN the swim, I would have probably laughed in your face! But in late August, the opportunity arose for me to throw my hat in the ring at Edmonton WTS, and, as I said, my time as a professional triathlete thus far has been defined by aiming big and embracing discomfort. So, why not?!

Legit!

Legit!

Beautiful greenery of Edmonton!

Beautiful greenery of Edmonton!

Prepped and ready to race!

Prepped and ready to race!

There was so much learning in Edmonton. On the one hand, the weekend was a celebration of my hard work and of reaching my first goal: racing the best in the sport. But on the other, I was there to do a job, and it honestly felt like any other race (well, except for looking to my right at the pre-race briefing and seeing Jonny Brownlee a few seats over... I admittedly did a double take!).

My biggest takeaway from the race?

At this level, you can’t lose focus for a second.

And by a second, I mean not even ONE second. I was thrilled with my swim in Edmonton – coming out on Non Stanford’s feet?! Hell yeah! Still not satisfied, but it was lightyears from getting dropped in a continental cup less than 10 months prior. That being said, I got out of the water and was perhaps so shocked to be “in it” that my focus lapsed. I fumbled T1 and proceeded to watch the main pack pull away as I pedaled in vain to catch up. Womp, womp. From there, my mindset went to simply biking as hard as I could and working with the handful of girls around me to minimize the damage. Off the bike, I focused only on running as fast as my legs would go and having no regrets once I crossed the finish line. My legs didn’t have it and my result was admittedly underwhelming.

On the other hand, I’m so proud of my effort and there are so many “results” that don’t show in my official race finish of 40th place. The race was just positive enough that I could walk away happy and proud; and it was just frustrating enough that I returned back to The States more motivated than ever to continue the exponential progress I’ve experienced in 2016.

All smiles + fire in the eyes -- there is WORK to be done this fall!

All smiles + fire in the eyes -- there is WORK to be done this fall!

The following weekend, I got to have some fun with Major League Triathlon in Portland, ME. Finally, a race on the east coast! My mom, aunt, and puppy got to watch my team as we raced to our best finish of the season (4th!), and I got some quality time with them before and after the race…. Happy days all around!

Bird's eye view: Portland, ME

Bird's eye view: Portland, ME

Tessa really liked her first hotel experience.....

Tessa really liked her first hotel experience.....

Now it’s back to the grind! I’m back to 40k weeks of swimming plus biking, running, and swim cords galore from now until my final race of the season: the Elite National Championships in New Orleans, LA. From there, I get a week off (woohoooo!) and then we really get to work! Stay tuned for training updates, NOLA stories/race report, baking adventures on my week off, and the wedding planning fun in store for me this fall! Lots of excitement ahead :D

Seeing is Believing

Before heading out from Flagstaff for my first World Cup race – the Montreal World Cup – Greg told me, “You belong there, you just have to believe.” I wanted to believe. I felt fit and strong and perhaps the most rested/freshest I’ve been since worlds last year. But I couldn’t quite silence the nagging voice in the back of my head… You know it. The one that keeps saying, “What if I don’t stack up to the competition?” Going head to head with Flora Duffy, ranked #1 in the world, and 13 other Olympians was no small feat.

But going into race day, I was calmer and more focused than usual. I knew all I could do was push as hard as possible – as Adam said, I just had to make those girls take every inch they got from me. Perhaps having my mom, aunt, and cousin there helped keep my mind off of what lay ahead as well!

It’s weird not racing until the evening. So much time chilling in the hotel room! But everything went as smoothly as it could leading up to the race, including warm up (this is the first race ever I’ve felt like I got a full warm up in! Boy, does it make a difference!)

Greg and I talked about not shelling myself in the swim – just looking for feet as soon as possible, as I probably wouldn’t out-swim the strong field of women I was racing. I did just that, but upon reflection, sold myself short. In the process of not quite believing I could hold my own in the midst of the pack, I let myself drive to the back of the group. And while this is still light years ahead of where I was less than a year ago in my first pro race, and quite an accomplishment for someone without a swimming background, I know I have more to give. This leaves me eager for my next chance to race these ladies!!

Elite Women's swim start (thanks Leah for the vid!)

Coming out of the water, I was in the “take no prisoners” state-of-mind. I had a quick transition and started picking people off one by one. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite bridge up to the group just up the road, but I definitely put up a fight on the bike, dropping numerous competitors in the process. Heading out onto the run, I thought only about turning my feet over. It’s the first race in which I haven’t looked at my watch once. My eyes were glued on the back of Jillian Backhouse, with whom I ran for the first lap of three. Unfortunately, I let her slip away in the second half of the run. I put up a competitive time, but one that Greg and I know can be improved significantly once we actually start working my run!

Overall, I’m not sure I could have asked for a more positive World Cup debut. Each time I race, I learn to much about the sport of triathlon, the art of racing, and about myself. But perhaps my most important lesson this weekend came from seeing that I do belong racing at the top of this sport. I believe. And that’s a huge step in the right direction.

Thanks to my family for coming out to watch and cheer and experience Montreal with me; to my Team IE family for all your support from all over the US; to Coach Greg and Kim Whitney for your endless guidance and believing in me before I did myself; and to my sponsors – Rudy Project, Kiwami, Hammer Nutrition, Northeast Site Contractors. Next up, full steam ahead with training, some short hard racing at Major League Triathlon, and then…. Who knows! Stay tuned. Onward and upward!

7000 FEET

Hello from Flagstaff! A week after arriving here, my lungs are finallyyy beginning to adjust (I only sometimes feel like lungs are gonna explode) and it’s hard to believe I only have a few more days in the beauty of the southwest before heading back east for some racing FUN!

Nothing like hills to open up the lungs (and eyes -- love the view from the top!)

Nothing like hills to open up the lungs (and eyes -- love the view from the top!)

Making the adjustment to training at 7000 feet has gone relatively smoothly (I think?), and the last couple days I’ve been able to jump into some VO2 bike sessions, to throw down a ‘lil bit of fast running, and most recently, (to try) to hold my own in quite the solid swim session! I believe that you are the average of the company you keep. So as an athlete with the highest goals and aspirations in the sport, it’s an incredible opportunity to train with Olympic-bound athletes. I am seeing firsthand the gaps I must bridge to get to where I want to go.

I am seeing the intense focus and commitment it takes to be the fastest in the world but also the power of maintaining balance. I’m coming to embrace more than ever the importance of enjoying the journey, loving the process. As always, I continue to be a sponge – soaking up every bit of wisdom I can while I’m here and getting psyched to see my new training mates kill it in Rio!