Engage

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

~Winston Churchill


It’s a good feeling to stand on the start line with no fear of what’s to come—you’ve done the requisite preparation and you’re confident that you’ve earned the right to be a player in the race to come.

That’s exactly the feeling I had as the announcer called my name last Saturday morning. No fear, ready for battle. The women’s field for Weihai World Cup was strong and deep, but I knew I would be competing against the formidable course as much as I would the 43 other women lining up alongside me.

 The “flat, less technical” portion of the course! :P Source:  Lori McCarney

The “flat, less technical” portion of the course! :P Source: Lori McCarney

Our swim was in Half Moon Bay (the Yellow Sea). The water was quite protected, so I knew it would be a fast swim. The 6-loop bike course included a grueling climb and technical descent. And the 4-loop run was uphill out, downhill back. While it rained the first couple days we were there, the sun was beaming on race day. The course and weather conditions were such that everything—mind and body—needed to be firing on all cylinders.

 Swim course in Half Moon Bay

Swim course in Half Moon Bay

How do you react when your physical or proverbial “legs” don’t show up? I think this cuts to the core of a person’s resilience, and—fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it—I had the opportunity to find out in Weihai. I made a tactical error in where I lined up for the swim and got stuck in the mayhem around the first turn buoy but was still able to come out of the water with a group of women—Ueda, Dennon, Miller, and Kovacs, to name a few—who I knew to be strong cyclists. I just had to stay in the group and, if I executed that for 40k, I was confident I had developed the running legs to earn a strong finishing position. But ¾ of the way up the long climb in the first lap, it became clear that my legs still hadn’t absorbed and bounced back from the big training block leading up to race week. I could hold threshold all day, but couldn’t seem to find that next gear.

But that didn’t change my mindset. There was no panic. I had come there for a fight and I wasn’t backing down, no matter how it played out. I kept giving it everything I had and was fortunate to find Kirsten Nuyes and my teammate, Sophie, in order to pick up a bit of momentum in the 2nd half of the bike. I ran okay – not horrible, not great – and crossed the line in 30th. This result was quite the disappointment for me, as it is far below what I know I am capable of based on my training leading up to this trip.

But I am not upset, as some might think. Why is this?

To answer that question, I come back to the question: how do I react when my legs don’t show up? This weekend, I summoned the inner strength to stay composed, confident, and aggressive when the chips were down. I engaged the challenge of staying in the race and fought harder the more my legs protested. Crossing that finish line, I knew I had given everything I had on the day. And that’s all I can do. That grit is how I measure myself as an athlete, and more broadly as a person. That, combined with my confidence in Jarrod’s training program, is how I know deep in my bones that the best is yet to come. It’s a feeling I wish for everyone to have; with it, you are unstoppable.

Jarrod and I have already identified key changes to make for faraway races on the heels of big training blocks. And so I come away from this weekend with valuable lessons learned, mental and spiritual strength developed, and experience gained, and now I’m gearing up for the next battle: Super League Jersey, in the Channel Islands. Of course I know I still have much more power, strength and endurance to develop to achieve my goals in the sport. But for now, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have competed in such an epic race and to have seen a beautiful region of China; I’m continuing my journey around the world confident, motivated, and excited for my legs to show up next time around!

Expecting the Unexpected

Ask anyone who knows me: I am a planner. I love my spreadsheets and iCal and color-coded schedules. Growing up, I had a very clear path: excel in classes and take all Advanced Placement classes possible to achieve admission in a top undergraduate institution; advance through the ranks of figure skating via specific tests and competitions in pursuit of a spot at the National Championships. Once I arrived at college, it was similar: earn top marks in classes in order to secure a corporate recruiting position to kick off a successful corporate career and win seat races (1-on-1 rowing races)/pull specific splits on the ergometer to position myself as a top rower on the crew team and help lead us to the NCAA championships. Check, check, and check.

As I pursued a corporate career with athletic goals on the side, the path was clear, and I knew that if I did X, I would achieve Y: there was little ambiguity, and 9 times out of 10, I was able to make decisions with full information. But as many CEO’s and accomplished professionals promised me throughout business school, this is not true in business or, well, life. I learned firsthand that they were spot on when I launched my career as a professional triathlete after business school.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 2 ½ years of ITU racing, it has been to expect the unexpected. As a developing ITU athlete, ambiguity is simply a way of life on both the micro and macro scales. On the micro scale, race venue access and course familiarization schedules and even sometimes race schedules are frequently changing with little or no advanced warning. On top of that, many of the race dynamics embedded in ITU racing are outside of my control; unlike non-draft racing, I can’t say “if I can swim X time, average Y watts on the bike, and run Z time, I will contend for a certain finish.” The dynamics of open water swimming and drafting on the bike create races where times in the pool mean very little and watts on the bike can mean absolutely nothing. On the macro side, it’s nearly impossible to plan out even a whole year of racing, as race opportunities are so dependent on swim/bike/run advancement. This has been particularly true for me coming from an untraditional background with no formal background in swim, bike, or run before starting triathlon. Building all three from nothing to world-class status has meant that I’ve frequently been planning race schedules out with my coaching teams on a month-by-month basis.

The last couple weeks have been no exception to this rule. Two weeks ago, I headed up to Penticton with my Triathlon GOLD-mates to compete in the Super League Triathlon qualifier. Approximately 20 pros and I arrived ready for 3 days of grueling racing through which we could earn prize money and a “golden ticket” to race in the upcoming Super League Championship Series. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. With air quality five times worse than that of Beijing due to smoke from surrounding forest fires, we were only able to race the first day’s time trial and were prevented from racing the rest of the weekend. The Super League team did an incredible job of communicating with us proactively to try to help us plan our nutrition/meals, training sessions, etc. But we were all ultimately going hour by hour and playing everything by ear over the course of the weekend. The ambiguity surrounding the weekend’s schedule challenged my ability to measure my emotions: remain sharp and ready for racing but never get too amped up so that I’m left drained in the very moment that I need to muster the energy for Super League’s extremely challenging race format. Ultimately, the weekend ended in a very hard treadmill session and we were all granted the opportunity to race the first Championship race in the Channel Islands (Jersey), where there will be a race-within-the-race to determine which of us continues on in the series.

The following week, we traveled to Montreal where I raced in the CAMTRI elite women’s event. I had been hoping to be in good enough form to contend in the upper level WTS race that weekend, but a summer of adversity had put my development a bit behind schedule – such is the nature of sport and I was still eager to put forth a great race, since I have been feeling strong and fit despite my setbacks over the last couple months. I executed a front-pack swim positioning me right where I wanted, but a collision coming out of T1 blew all of my plans to pieces. As athletes raced by me, I had to keep my wits about me enough to make sure my bike (and body) were OK, get my wheels spinning again (one had seized up from the impact of the fall and had to be unhinged and subsequently re-attached to my bike to get it to move), and then get back on the bike and fight my way back into the race. In short-course racing, even a 10second penalty can feel like an eternity, so the 60 seconds lost just trying to get back on the bike was a total game changer. I was able to claw my way back to the chase pack and put forth just an OK run. I was left with mixed feelings: extreme disappointed with a 17th place finish—my lowest finish ever in a continental cup; but pride in my resilience and ability to maintain calm and function at a high level even when chaos and adversity surrounded me. These are skills that I know will serve me well as I continue to progress in the sport of triathlon and in other future professional pursuits.

MontrealCAMTRIStart

When things go awry and all your well-laid plans crumble, it is so easy to let yourself fall to pieces and focus on all the uncontrollables that seem to be dictating your fate. Sport is an incredible way to learn to focus your mind on what you can control and to maintain composure when chaos surrounds you in order to not only handle these situations but to come out of them as a stronger athlete, business(wo)man, spouse, parent, you name it! On that note, coach and I barely blinked after the race and it was back to work. I’m pushing hard in swim bike and run and seeking to take advantage of a few more training weeks before a big block of racing this fall! Next up, Weihai World Cup on September 22nd!

72 Hours in Lima

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." ~Helen Keller


Two weekends ago, I packed my bags for a weekend in Lima. The trip was a bit of a last-minute decision. The last couple months have been chock full of adversity, and I’ve been focused on simply re-finding my groove, executing each day and not looking beyond that. When coach suggested I go down to Peru for the ITU CAMTRI race there, I had mixed feelings: “Peru seems cool! But am I ready to race?” I knew I needed a points infusion to improve my ITU world ranking, so as I’ve found myself doing so often since embarking on my triathlon adventure, I put feelings and emotions aside; I knew it had to be done, so like it or not, I was going, and I had no choice but to show up.

The first 60 hours of my trip were all business. Food packing (Trader Joe’s and Hammer Nutrition galore!), bike packing/unpacking, training sessions, and rest, as I went into the weekend coming off of a big training block to get back in the swing of things and my legs were feeling it! My only goal going into race day was to race gritty and let everything else take care of itself. I was certainly very pleased with the result—who doesn’t love the podium?!—but I was more pleased by my consistent run and my ability to just get out there and race hard, regardless of the last couple months. The result also doesn’t change all the work I have ahead of me as we proceed into the 2nd half of the season—it was right back to work for me with a 70min run immediately after we raced!

WomensPodium.jpg
 All smiles after champagne showers. Source: Lima 2019

All smiles after champagne showers. Source: Lima 2019

But training shmaining. the last 12 hours of my trip, I was free to explore before I headed back to real life. Fellow competitor (and English speaker!) Leanna and I headed out on the town, and we covered a fair amount of ground!

A few things I took from my time in Lima during my brief visit to the southern hemisphere:

Lima has Winter!

For some reason, I didn’t process how south Peru is! I always thought it was a temperate beach town. Beach town it is, but Peru definitely has as winter. It was grey, drizzly, and in the 50’s for the entirety of my time there. The water was a balmy 59 degrees—brrr! For vacation, I suggest going during our winter!

Peruvian cuisine is bomb

I was conservative leading up to race day and stuck primarily to food from home. But afterwards, we were able to explore a few of the local culinary options. Yummm! Still dreaming about my croissant and chocolat chaud (insert heart eyes emoji!).

Two Thumbs Up for Hospitality

The people I met during my weekend in Peru were all so warm, welcoming and helpful. I was particularly impressed by the lengths all the race organizers went to in order to make sure each athlete was looked after. For being in a country where few spoke English (and given my Spanish is still next to non-existent), I hardly ever felt like “WHAT IS GOING ON?” (which believe me, can be a common feeling at ITU races in Central and South America!).

Bonus Points for Views & History

I can only imagine the views from “El Malecon”—a stretch of about six miles along the cliffs overlooking the coast—in the spring/summer when the sun is shining! Even in the fog, it was quite a view; in the last lap of our bike, which climbed quite a little hill up from the beach to the Malecon, I honestly had to take a second and just take in the amazing view and the fact that I was there racing in this beautiful place! I also loved all the colorful buildings tucked in near the Bridge of Sighs, closer to where we stayed in Barranco, the “Soho of Lima.”

Following the race, I was only able to scratch the surface of the amazing cultural experiences Lima has to offer. Leanna and I visited the Basilica & Convent of San Francisco and the historic quarter of the city. The European architecture and quaint alleyways were so fun to see and walk through. I always love learning about the history of the places I travel, and this city is chock full of it!

PlazaMayor.jpg

I only wish I had more time to explore the countryside and mountains outside of the city. Machu Piccu is on my life bucketlist… but that will be for Adam and me sometime after my athletic career is over. Needless to say, we’ll need much more than 72 hours!

Show Up

Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up. ~Des Linden

It’s been too long since my last post. I must admit, the last two months have been a bit of a struggle: illness in Chengdu, China drained all the nutrients and energy from me leading into race day; a duathlon in Astana Kazakhstan where just an OK first run and mistakes in T1 resulted in a disappointing finish; a good swim/bike in Huatulco, Mexico followed by a lackluster run left me just outside the top 20; a crash at ESCAPE Philly sidelined me for two weeks, and a subsequent tumble in training blessed me with some rather painful road rash.

In the midst of what has felt like one thing after another, I’ve constantly sought to keep everything in perspective—trade wars are brewing, families are being separated, people are losing their homes to fires blazing throughout California (and other western states), and on the teeny tiny triathlon scale, athletes sustain injuries far worse than I did… life could be so much worse! On top of that, there have certainly been many happy moments along the way this year—friends made on the other side of the world in Astana, Kazakhstan; Adam’s decision to attend The Law School at University of Notre Dame; my brother’s first solo gallery opening (and the fact I could actually attend it!!); west coast sunsets; pizza nights with the girls; “family” dinners with the Triathlon Gold squad and family dinners during my mid-season break at home on the East Coast; and most recently, a week at the Olympic Training Center.

Keeping the bigger picture in mind has certainly provided me with an appreciation for what I do have; it has enabled me to always find “silver linings” and maintain faith in the path I’ve chosen and my ability to achieve my goals. However, at many times, it has also felt like the life changes and investment of time, money, and energy (not just mine, but also Adam’s and my family’s) have all been for naught. There have been many times this year when I’ve questioned what I’m doing and my place in the sport.

I got back to Encinitas a few weeks ago feeling a little less than motivated, to say the least. But in my free time over the month prior, I also began reading more and actually got into podcasts. My homestay host in Encinitas sent me the link to an incredible interview with Desiree Linden, and it really struck a cord. As Linden spoke about the personal journey she had been through over the year (or rather, years) leading up to her win at the 2018 Boston Marathon, it became clear it was no cake walk. Her story served as a reminder to me that great things can come from unexpected places when you put in the work day in and day out. I adopted her mantra: show up. Motivated or not, I committed to "showing up" to each session and executing. I told myself, it's ok if some days I don't have anything more, but I can never give anything less than my best effort. This is a motto that extends far beyond sport (or your work). I have sought to show up as a friend, as a wife, a daughter. Basically, I have committed to bringing my whole self to any situation I find myself in; to being 100% present.

In the process of applying this mantra, I have discovered firsthand how motivation isn’t necessary for action. In fact, action can create motivation. With each session that I push through and execute, I find renewed strength of spirit and inspiration to make that next one just as productive and fulfilling. As David Goggins put it, “How you develop mental toughness is becoming hard, and how you become hard is doing [things] that you don’t want to do.” On the days when I’m not feeling a fire lit under me, I tell myself, "You're here, so just do it." In the moments when my legs are protesting, I say to myself "show up, show up" in rhythm with every stride. Pushing through and executing in these moments gives me that much more confidence that I can hang tough come race day.

I’m still working on fully re-finding (or re-defining?) my mojo, but in the meantime, the strength and toughness that come from thinking only of what I can do each day to create the destiny I desire—not the “what if’s” that can arise along the way—and then executing on that are incredibly rewarding. I’m embracing that process and building on it in a renewed effort to develop into the strongest, hardest athlete I can be, inside and out. Next opportunity to bring that journey to the race course is this weekend, in Lima, Peru. Cold ocean and drizzling rain so far—will be the perfect opportunity to test that toughness!

D is For...

The last couple weeks have been reminders of three key D’s that I know to be critical (in both good ways and bad) when it comes to high achievement in all things, but especially for sport: distraction, details, determination.

Distraction

When New Orleans World Cup was cancelled, Coach Jarrod decided I should do Escape Surf City in Huntington Beach instead. While it was a non-draft race—meaning that people race on time trial (TT) bikes and cannot draft in the bike portion of the race—versus the draft-legal races that I am training for, it was just an hour north of our base in Carlsbad and a great opportunity to put in a hard 2-hour effort (it was an Olympic distance: 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) in race conditions. (And on the personal side, it was a great opportunity to visit some of Adam’s family who live in the area!)

Leading up to the race, there was a lot of back and forth as to what bike I could race on: my S5 that I use for my ITU races or a time trial-specific frame. In general, a time trial bike is faster than a standard road setup; it is engineered strictly to move the solo rider from A to B as quickly as possible by minimizing drag. So I sought to find a TT bike that would allow me to take advantage of the superior aerodynamics afforded by these kinds of bikes. Nytro Multisport was kind enough to loan me a Cannondale Slice, which I was so incredibly grateful for (all you San Diego/Encinitas athletes—recommend these guys hands down for anything cycling/multisport!). However, after countless “fitting” sessions (read: Adam and me tinkering on the trainer) I couldn’t seem to get comfortable on it, and like we’ve seen in Cinderella: if the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s not meant to be.

So a few days before the race I decided to just stick to what I know: my trusty S5! But worrying about the TT bike, I realized I had gotten completely distracted by a bottomless pit of gear possibilities and forgotten about my primary objective: just “going hard.” By focusing so heavily on my bike equipment, I completely overlooked what ended up being my real challenge on race day: the skill of getting through the surf. The waves humbled me, brought me back to reality, and reminded me that on race day the best gear can make a difference, but ultimately it’s simple: the fittest, strongest athlete, who is laser-focused on performing to their potential, is the one who will have the best outcome.

Details

Having been reminded of the importance of focus, I had just that going into Chengdu World Cup two weeks later. I was proud of my training block heading into the race and eager to express my newfound fitness on race day. I headed across the Pacific confident and—for the first time in a while—excited to race. I knew if I executed to my potential, I could certainly make the final and improve upon my best World Cup result to date: 18th at Yucatan World Cup last year.

My body was feeling the travel the first couple days in Chengdu, but I took each session one at a time and patiently let my body come around. In the meantime, I did my best to get all the nutrients I needed via a combination of food that I packed and food from our hotel. By Thursday I was finally feeling good in the water and on the bike, so I knew my running legs would follow closely behind! Alas, I slipped in my eating, and a stomach bug snuck up on me. I think of myself as very resilient person, and as an athlete, it can often be easy to think, “I’m invincible!” Despite all of my food passing straight through me, I didn’t concern myself too much with it, and just tried to take in as many calories as I could. As I write this (with my stomach finally back to normal one week later), I realize how empty I felt on race day. I felt good in the water but just had zero power in my stroke, and I came through T1 dizzy and seeing stars. I thought about pulling out a number of times over the course of the bike and nearly halted to the walk a couple times on the run but then reminded myself, “you came all this way!” (Plus a few expletives!) I couldn’t give up, and so I fought the whole way, down to a sprint finish for 16th, missing out on the final by 2 painful seconds.

Heading into race day, I had been pretty careful but for some reason felt silly to be paranoid about everything. In the process, I let crucial nutrition details slip. To get to this level from my background, every part of my preparation has had to be turned to 11, and it was foolish of me not to apply that approach to my eating, particularly on the other side of the world. I lost that for a split second, and I paid the price. I’ve definitely learned my lesson that I have to have a healthy dose of paranoia when it comes to food overseas, even if it seems weird to others. It was a valuable lesson, and I’ve made some major edits to my international travel packing list so that I’m more than prepared next time!

Determination

Clearly, it’s been a big RE-learning month! Given my goals, I am hard on myself, and given the caliber of athlete I’m going up against, I have to be.[1]  But it can be easy to beat up on yourself and focus only on the negatives. In that sense, I love this quote from Olympian Silken Laumann because I think it’s true, to a certain extent, about high-performance anything: “I never felt good enough, fit enough. I simply didn’t feel ‘enough.’” It’s easy to fall into this trap as someone always looking for more. So I’ve been conscious of looking for the good amidst the not-so-good. One thing I’m giving myself credit for is my determination throughout these experiences. Grit can help you overcome a lot, and it is something I do feel I showed, regardless of my outcomes.

While I have yet to express the fitness that I’ve worked so hard to build this spring, I’m staying the course, putting faith in the guidance of my coach, and embracing each day, each race as an opportunity to get better for the next one. I’m re-focusing now that I’m settled in my next destination, beautiful Astana, Kazakhstan; I’m paying more attention to every detail than I did before; and I’m trusting that with my continued hard work and determination, the results will come! My next opportunity will be next weekend at Astana World Cup. Can’t wait!

When People Say, "You Can't"

You’re capable of much more than you think… It’s the most powerful lesson you can possibly learn.
— Ambrose Joel Burfoot

Since getting home from my races in Florida last month, I’ve had the opportunity to kick off another block of solid training, hitting close to thirty hours per week the last two weeks! It feels great to whip my body into shape, finding a new level of fitness and confidence.

That said, on long training days, I find my brain is sometimes lulled into a fog, where all I want to do is nap or tune into one of my favorite mindless shows on Hulu or Netflix. My teammates call this phenomenon “cardio brain;” I call it mush!

As someone who has always loved learning and challenging my brain, I do my best to keep a book going outside of the consulting I continue to do outside of my day job. The whole reading thing can be hard for me to maintain, particularly because it typically takes a good fifty pages or so for me to really become invested in a book. It often takes me just as much if not more time to get through those first fifty pages as it does to fly through the following 250!

However, my most recent read was an exception to that pattern. I flew through Alex Hutchinson’s Endure from the start and absolutely loved it, particularly because it sought to answer the very question that has been on my mind so much lately: as we seek to explore and expand our limits, which plays a more important role, the body or the brain?

Hutchinson does an incredible job of presenting both sides of the argument, and I ultimately agreed with his conclusion that it’s likely neither one nor the other: both play a crucially important roll in elite performance. Of course the body must have a certain level of natural ability paired with diligent work and proper conditioning. But the mind is so incredibly powerful—I feel like we see it time and again every Olympic season when we hear athletes’ stories, but it can be easy to question if your own mind and internal motivation is as strong as those warriors we see on NBC Sports.

Having had this topic on my mind, I absolutely loved elite triathlete Amy Dixon’s recent Instagram post:

This story is the quintessential example of how belief in yourself (paired with hard work, of course) can take you further than even the most qualified expert could have predicted. Amy’s experience reminded me of conversations I had with a couple coaches when I was deciding whether to pursue professional triathlon full-time out of business school. More than a few told me not to even consider draft-legal triathlon, as there was no way that, without a swim background, I would be able to make a Continental Cup front pack, much less a main or front pack at a World Cup or the top level of draft-legal racing: the World Triathlon Series. While my swimming still has a ways to go, I have proved those naysayers wrong more than a few times in the past 2 years.

It’s for this reason that I have so much respect for Gwen Jorgenson’s quest for Olympic gold in the Marathon. I was particularly drawn to this quote in her recent interview with Sports Illustrated:

“It’s definitely a huge feat. That was a bold statement of mine. It’s not a statement to put down anyone else. It was a statement to hold me accountable. For me, when I say a big goal, it’s out there and it makes me get up every day. I’m reminded and confronted with that goal. I hope that by me saying I want to win gold in the marathon, it motivates people as well to set big goals and go after them.”

I absolutely love this approach and think there is really no other way to approach life than by making bold statements and setting bold goals for ourselves. Doesn’t have to be the Olympics—it could be an executive position at your company, completing a race that scares you, or taking on a role that you’re not sure you’re qualified for.

As I check the “body” box everyday, I am working to check the “mind” box as well. One of the ways that I am doing this is by taking a more aggressive mental approach to training. In Hutchinson’s discussion of the various keys to Kenyan dominance in endurance running, he notes, “Every Kenyan runner wakes up every morning with the firm conviction that today, finally, will be his or her day.” They go out with the lead runners every session, hang for as long as they can, and then go home and repeat again the next day. I am adopting this mindset each day, and I find it is helping me to push a little further than I thought I could in swim, bike, and run sessions alike. I have almost exactly a month to keep building the confidence that is coming from this approach until I toe the line at Chengdu World Cup and am excited for the growth to come in the process. Give this approach a try and let me know how it goes for you!

Marginal Gainz

The 2018 season is underway! As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently made a coaching switch, which has brought with it a great deal of changes (all of which have been exciting, but changes nonetheless). In a weird way, my first three races provided a bit of consistency, as they were in locations I’ve raced or lived in before—Barbados, Clermont, FL, and Sarasota, FL. The Florida races in particular felt a little bit like coming home!

 4 place at Barbados -- loved sharing the top 5 with my three AWESOME teammates! <3 <3 (photo credit:  Dana Allison )

4 place at Barbados -- loved sharing the top 5 with my three AWESOME teammates! <3 <3 (photo credit: Dana Allison)

The common theme in all three races has been bittersweet: I’ve been able to swim at the front and bike well, but then lose places on the run. Seeing the last few years of double swim days begin to bear fruit has been very satisfying, but that feeling of being “almost there”—nipping at the podium in Barbados and then coming off the bike first in both Florida races but not having the run legs to hold that position—brought a familiar takeaway of “it’s not enough.” Like most athletes, I’m already thinking of the next step.

 Charging into T2 at CAMTRI Sarasota (photo credit:&nbsp; Dana Allison )

Charging into T2 at CAMTRI Sarasota (photo credit: Dana Allison)

In reviewing this first race block with Jarrod, we agree that my performances were fair reflections of my training up until this point, for better or worse. The truth can be harsh but it is the only language Jarrod knows—which I love and very much appreciate!

Reflecting on each of the races—all the way from the tiniest details to the events as a whole—I’ve continued to come back to the concept of marginal gains. This theory is not very glamorous to report on, and of course we’d all love our progress in anything we do to skyrocket or at the very least move in a step function! But the aggregation of marginal gains can be so powerful, as long as you have the patience and faith to commit through that slow and steady phase.

 Source: https://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains

Source: https://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains

The phrases “process” and “incremental gains” get thrown around a lot in the sport, particularly when the numerical result is less than desired, but that doesn’t make them useless. You can call it marginal gains, process, pebble in a jar, brick in the wall, etc. etc. but the premise remains. And I continue to find a lot of value in breaking a big goal down into pieces that I can control. Looking up the “mountain” that is the ITU rankings can often be intimidating and discouraging. But I continue to believe that if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth pursuing. When you break the journey down into stepping stones, leaping from one to the next, things seem less menacing, and even energizing!

I’m excited to have 6 weeks of training coming up before my next ITU race: Chengdu World Cup. There will be a couple of training races between now and then, including Surf City Escape, but I’m excited to be able to put my head down and accumulate those incremental gains. Having had a look at Coach Jarrod’s training plan, I see many one percents in my future!

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Making Magic

“Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.” ~Anonymous

It’s been far too long since my last blog post. The reason for my radio silence? Big changes! The last month has brought significant change for me: new coach, new coast, new squad, new training regimen, new city…… so much new!

Now that I’m finally finding my feet and getting settled, I wanted to take a moment to share my thought process in making such a big decision, as I’ve had many questions from you all!

As I mentioned in my last post, at the start of the year, the second half of 2017 brought disappointment – not just in terms of results but more so in my progression towards performing in swim/bike/run at the WTS level. Cutting my season short due to illness last year ended up being a blessing in disguise—it really pushed me to take the off-season to do some serious reflection. Should I keep doing short course when I could presumably win more money and have more “results” in long course right now? Removing results – which are never guaranteed in sport – what did I want to take away from my time racing as a professional triathlete? To put it bluntly, what would make my triathlon journey fulfilling?

My massage therapist referred me to the Universal Laws, which might seem a little hokey, but really provided clarity for me: I love draft-legal racing; I want to race the best, and with draft-legal triathlon being an Olympic sport, I see that format as being the pinnacle of the sport.

I recognized that at my core, I began my journey as a professional triathlete with the goal of making a run at the Olympics, of earning a start at the 2019 Test Event. As a US female elite triathlete, that will be a battle. It might not happen. But if I knew that I had left nothing on the table—committed to that goal with every ounce of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy I had—then I could be happy, whatever the result.

I’m currently reading The Mindful Athlete, and really connected to this quote from George Mumford: “To learn, you’ve got to take risks and stretch yourself. You’ve got to romance the unknown and concentrate on pushing the envelope so you can gain new skillsets and achieve flow even under the most trying circumstances.” It perfectly captured how I felt heading into 2018—in order to achieve my goals, I had to commit even more, to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone; I needed a change.

After speaking at length with my coach at the time, Greg Mueller, we decided that the best course of action for me was to switch squads. I consulted several coaches to see whether they had capacity for me and, if so, whether we would be a fit. My gut quickly told me I had found the right person: Jarrod Evans. For those of you in the sport, Jarrod needs no introduction. However, for those not as familiar, Jarrod has developed and guided many athletes to top WTS finishes and was recently named head coach of USA Triathlon's Women's High Performance Squad. During our conversations, it quickly became apparent to me that between Jarrod’s experience, demeanor, and analytical mind; his squad of down-to-earth, talented, hard working women to push me day-in and day-out; and my focus, work ethic, and determination—my dream could very well become a reality.

In her TedTalk, Brene Brown reports that in her extensive research, those who are happiest and achieve the greatest success have a unique “willingness to do something where there are no guarantees.” That is what brings me to California. To take my commitment to the next level and chase my dream with reckless abandon, knowing that nothing is guaranteed.

I owe so very much to Greg. His unwavering support, guidance, patience, and mentorship over the past three years have gotten me to where I am. When I came to Greg, I had been in and out of a walking boot for almost two years—I had zero fitness, major musculoskeletal imbalances and no idea what an ITU point was or why anyone would ever want to rubber-band their shoes to their bike in a race. But what I did have was a competitive fire and a desire to work hard to achieve a childhood dream. Greg helped me translate that passion for my newfound sport of triathlon into performance. The many lessons he taught me will undoubtedly help me through the inherent ups and downs of draft-legal racing and stay with me for the rest of my life. I am eternally grateful for his time and investment in me as an athlete... and for all the laughs we've had along the way!

My commitment and determination are things that Jarrod has already recognized, and I am extremely excited to be on his squad—it has exceeded all expectations thus far! I have a lot of work to do to continue clawing my way up, but I have clear eyes, a full heart, and for the first time in a little while, the wholehearted belief that I will make my dream a reality!

 

The Past & Future 365 Days

The new year is always an opportunity reflect on lessons learned and commit to changes that will make the coming 365 days brighter and more successful than the last. With that in mind, I thought I would take a few minutes to look back on a couple of 2017’s highlights and lowlights, and share with you my resolutions for 2018 in the hopes they might inspire you to make some of your own – I would love to hear yours as well – share them with us below so we can all inspire each other to be better in the coming 365 days!

Highlights

Yucatan World Cup

It wasn’t so much my top-20 finish at Yucatan WC that was the source of my happiness over this race; it was coming out of the water in the main pack, just 20-seconds behind first-out-of-the-water Summer Cook. In my two years racing professionally, my constant focus has been to develop my swim to a level where I can compete at the top races of the ITU world circuit. This was a huge step in the right direction and confirmation that I was learning from the disappointing races that preceded this event and growing accordingly. 

 Racing into the sunset in Merida (photo credit: Wagner Araujo, World Triathlon)

Racing into the sunset in Merida (photo credit: Wagner Araujo, World Triathlon)

Holiday festivities with my families

2017 was a year of ups and downs professionally. That said, I believe that if most of my annual lowlights stem from less-than-stellar race days, then I have a lot – and I mean, a lot! – to be grateful for. To achieve the goals I have set in triathlon requires the same time commitment that a top executive role requires, and that means fewer visits with family and friends than I would like. However, this holiday season, I was able to spend more than the short break between workouts with my family and even share some nights out with Adam’s and my friends. It was extremely grounding and refreshing – just what I needed in the off-season in order to regain the vibrancy and motivation for the hard work required for my current build to 2018.

Lowlights

CAMTRI Des Moines

I went into CAMTRI Des Moines fitter than I had ever been and confident that if I simply executed on the day as I had been in training that I could earn my second podium finish of the season. I am typically the queen of consistency, so I was not worried. However, when race day came, fueling errors and fatigue that I hadn’t been aware of snuck up on my body and mind. The result was a horrendous swim, lack-luster bike, and average run.

The lesson from this disappointing day? I am human, and I may not always execute to the level I’d like. That said, there are some concrete ways to stack the cards in my favor: Greg and I looked at adjustments to my taper and to fueling in the days leading up to each race. These tweaks have led to more confidence that my body will do as I wish on race day—especially as we seek to increase my level of racing in 2018.

WTS Edmonton

Some might look at my race in Edmonton and jump to the conclusion that I didn’t have the fitness to keep up with my competitors. And they would not be alone in that sentiment; I shared those same thoughts in the hours immediately following the race. But upon reflection, conversations with Greg, and consultations with my competitors, I realized that was not it at all. In draft legal racing, your race can’t be made in the swim but it can certainly be lost.

My biggest takeaway from WTS Edmonton was the hard lesson that you cannot view the swim simply as a 750m/1500m open water time trial. The opening 200m sprint to the first buoy is what will define the rest of your day—for better or for worse! I learned that my approach to this kind of racing had to change drastically, and my mental and physical training has changed to reflect that to I don’t repeat my mistake. 

 Solitary ride at this year's WTS Edmonton for me (photo credit: Salud Aquawiz Photography)

Solitary ride at this year's WTS Edmonton for me (photo credit: Salud Aquawiz Photography)

3 Resolutions for 2018

Be compassionate to myself

In my quest to defy expectations and excel at the top of the sport of Olympic triathlon, I can be hard on myself. But this year, I was reminded that I am human; I’m not perfect…. And that’s OK! By allowing for failure and bad days, it is possible to open the door for unimaginable accomplishments. I am seeking to be kinder to myself on those inevitable bad days.

Re-focus on process

Results are what I’m after, but process is how I get there. Sometimes I can neglect my process-orientation and get overly focused on what I don’t have, forgetting where I’ve come from and what I do have. Balancing the process, celebrating the everyday gains, and balancing those with my hunger for results is my goal.

Kick some butt

That said, when the gun fires, sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and just do it! In 2018, I’m embracing the fierce competitor inside that sometimes in the past I’ve been scared to let out. We’ll see where that takes me!

 

All I Want for Christmas

Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone had an amazing holiday full of family and friends, warmth and love!

When asked for my Christmas list earlier this month, I had to laugh: what I wanted the most was not something anyone could give to me. It is something I have to earn myself. That said, just as executives-in-the-making seek out mentors and leaders to coach them to excellence, I believe that working with swim/bike/run experts can help me defy the odds and achieve the big goals I have set for myself in the sport.

During my two years at Chicago Booth, the academic focus was always on “first principles.” All of my professors emphasized that if you understand the fundamentals, you can handle any challenge, no matter the complexity. This is a theme that has run through my academic and professional lives. The liberal arts education I received at Laurel School, and subsequently at Dartmouth, rarely touched upon specific professional skills. But the reading, writing, and analytical skills I acquired over my years at both institutions could be applied to any assignment, quantitative or qualitative.

I believe the same is true in sport, whether in skating, where the goal is to launch yourself in the air to complete three revolutions before landing again on a blade only 4mm thick, or swimming, where you must harness a liquid and leverage it to propel your body forward. Regardless of the event, the ability to perform at an elite level first requires the mastery of basic, fundamental movements.

 Whether moving through air or water, the fine details matter -- first principles are key!

Whether moving through air or water, the fine details matter -- first principles are key!

With all this in mind, I gifted myself with an opportunity by seeking out Sheila Taormina and spending the week prior to Christmas working with her in Florida. We identified critical stroke fundamentals that I was missing and began the process of replacing incorrect movement patterns with correct ones. Working with Sheila was an eye-opening experience – she came to each session hungry to break another bad habit of mine, and I was equally determined to execute each stroke change she brought to the table. It was a powerful combination. Her thought, care, and engagement over the course of many 3-hr sessions at the pool was incredible, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her time and wisdom!

While I felt like I had hit a bit of a plateau coming into that week, I knew I had more, and I knew I must find more in order to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself in 2018. I left feeling like I actually had a grasp on the first principles of swimming – conceptually, my brain understands, and physically I am able to execute here and there. While it is still coming together and will require continued vigilance, I left with a stroke that I feel has so much more room to grow.

After a couple days full of family, eggnog, waffles, and lazy afternoons by the fire, I’m back in the pool and out on the roads. I’m looking forward to building on the strong foundation that Sheila and I have built this winter in Clermont. Lots of work to complete before the 2018 season begins, but I’m feeling re-energized and excited to embrace that work!

Living For Yourself

I recently listened to a really interesting podcast from NPR with Adam on our drive up to a family weekend in Connecticut. It was the November 3rd episode -- "Prisons of Our Own Making" -- of Hidden Brain, a podcast that uses science and storytelling to reveal unconscious patterns that drive our behavior. This podcast focused on an aspect of health and wellness that often plays second fiddle to diet, sleep, and fitness: social connection. The podcast discussed how connection to the people around us is so critically linked to our state of well-being. However, as with most things in life, too much (or too little) can be detrimental.

The portion of the podcast on over-connection discussed FOMO (fear of missing out) and how social media has created a culture of constant comparison, making people generally less happy with what they are doing and less able to live in their own moment.

This struck a chord with me – while the prevalence of information afforded to us by the Internet and social media bring so many positives, I’ve caught myself at times become less proud of a good workout or less satisfied with my day, where I am, what I’m doing, etc. when I see a picture of someone else who looks so happy and fulfilled. I’m happy for them, yes, but at times seeing those pictures launches a myriad of questions in my mind: am I that happy? Satisfied? Maybe what I’m doing is not enough? Maybe I should change what I’m doing? Logically, I know this is crazy – I have so much to be grateful for and so much in my life that brings me happiness! But that little tug in the back of my mind always seems to creep up when I spend a few minutes too long scrolling through that Instagram feed.

 Caught in the act, going down the insta-hole :-P

Caught in the act, going down the insta-hole :-P

Greg and I have talked about this in the context of triathlon, and he refers to it as “the moving target.” Athletes look at others and think, “I need to do what they’re doing” versus just focusing on themselves. As someone who is always seeking to learn and trying to figure out how to be a better athlete, it can be a fine line between leveraging social media to learn from others and becoming plain distracted.

With this in mind, I’ve tried implementing a few habits this fall, using my annual break from training as the opportunity to hit “reset” on several fronts:

Mindful Media Interactions

I no longer go on social media in a moment of boredom or simply to fill the time. Not only have I found this to be a huge time suck, but it also becomes easy to mindlessly scroll through picture after picture and lose oneself in the process. Before I go onto Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., I have committed to this internal conversation: Am I in the right mindset for this? What is my purpose for signing in to the social media-sphere right now? How long will I allow myself to spend (sometimes I literally set a timer to avoid those 30second-turned-30minute Instagram sessions… you know what I’m talking about!).

Own It

Seeing what everyone else is doing, it can be so easy to say, “I should have done this or that.” As Adam will attest, I can be the QUEEN of shoulda-woulda-coulda. This fall, I am committing to “owning it.” From the smallest of scheduling decisions to major life decisions. I’m making them, owning them, and not looking back, regardless of what other people choose to do given a similar set of options.

Live in the Present

Social media is redefining the concept of living in the present. It’s not just about focusing on “the now” versus the past or future, it’s also about focusing on YOUR now versus others’. This is a perspective I’m working on cultivating, knowing that social media is part of my career as a professional/sponsored athlete and not something I can (or want to) cut out of my life completely. It’s all about maintaining the self-awareness to remember that at the end of the day I am living, training, racing for me, not for the picture/post that will come from it.

It’s a process and it is certainly not some black or white thing that happens overnight. I certainly recognize the irony of sharing my thoughts on this topic through an online blog, which I’m posting on social media, but I think that goes along with the fact that I believe social media is a part of our lives and a great way to learn, grow, and share in our family/friends’ joy and sadness. It is up to each of us to ensure that it does in fact play that role instead of morphing into something else.

Embracing The Squiggly

images-2.jpg

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!

MajorLeagueChampions

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:&nbsp; 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:

vasainspiration

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.

MERIDA.jpg

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&nbsp;

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

fail_succeed

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!!&nbsp;(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!&nbsp;(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!

champagne

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!