Feel all the Feels

As a competitive figure skater growing up, my coach was born and raised in Russia, competed on the Olympic Russian figure skating team, and then came over to the United States as a coach. She met most of the stereotypes you might have about Russian coaches: intense and demanding, she set high performance expectations and enforced strict codes of dress and behavior. There was no lolly-gagging or chatting with other skaters—we were there to do a job and were to remain focused and productive for the entirety of each session. If you couldn’t stand the heat—prioritize all things training/high performance and withstand the harsh critique and intense physical and emotional demands—you were ousted from the “kitchen.”


For better or worse, my coach placed a central role molding me into who I am today. High performance in any setting requires unrelenting work ethic, the continual pursuit of mastering your craft, and the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable; and my coach drilled these skills into me. Subsequent coaches, professors, and managers alike have commented on my high pain tolerance and ability to keep training, racing, and pushing my mind and body when many others would stop. All of these skills have played an essential role in my ability to succeed in both NCAA Division I rowing and my quest to be a top triathlete on the world stage, and I know they will continue to help me not only in sport, but also beyond athletics, in the world of business.

But on the flip side, a large part of how I’ve been able to do this is by disconnecting from emotional sensations and silencing that inner voice that tends to pipe up when we are uncomfortable. While this can be a powerful skill, I’ve begun to discover the limitations inherent in this approach.

Strictly adhering to what is ideal on paper, without regard for joy or happiness, can create an artificial ceiling when the time comes to dig deep for a big performance. As an example, when Jarrod and I created a plan for my 2019 season, I continually emphasized my desire to base it upon what was “optimal” from a performance perspective. But this plan resulted in me spending a lot of time on my own, sometimes going for days without interacting in person with any friends, family, or even close acquaintances. I was apart from Adam (the hubby!) for over four months at the start of the year and have only been with him for 6 weeks of the 39 that have passed thus far this year. This took an unexpected emotional toll on me, which I was able to block out in day-to-day training but always seemed to rise to the surface on race day. Reckoning with this has certainly been a process. At first I questioned it deeply: did it mean I have I lost my edge?

But as I’ve faced my deep-seated perceptions about what it takes to perform at the highest level, I’ve come to realize that as much as performance can come from silencing emotion, even more can come from embracing it. Bringing joy and gratitude to each session can foster an inner fire and an even greater depth of power and strength than almost robotic discipline. Of course, I still think the magic comes when someone can combine the two! I ended my season with so much unexpressed fitness, and that hurt; but I’ve let that hurt in and come out on the other side more motivated than ever. I’m taking my off-season break for honest reflection on the best environment for me to not only train hard but also tap into the joy that, for me, comes from being able to both pursue my potential and to share that journey day-in and day-out with the people I care about the most—my friends and family. I’ve seen through the examples of many top women in long-course triathlon that it is more than possible to combine the two, and I can’t wait to find that for myself!

All this is to say: yes, if you are setting big goals, you must organize your life to meet the demands inherent in achieving them. But don’t lose sight of the other things that are important to you. Clear eyes, full hearts—both, not one or the other—can’t lose. Stay tuned…. Onward and upward!

Flipping the To-Do List Upside Down

I am a list maker. There is nothing like the feeling of checking a box or crossing off an item in that long, and seemingly always growing “to do list!” And I’m not alone in that feeling. There has been extensive research on the effectiveness of to-do lists, from improving people’s time management, to allowing them to fall asleep more quickly. Articles on to-do lists abound, from “7 Expert-Approved Ways to Write a Better To-Do List,” to “The psychology of the to-do list—why your brain loves ordered tasks." And good luck sifting through the thousands of to-do list apps!

While I love a good to-do list, one of the first things I had to teach myself to do when I embarked on my full-time triathlon career was to flip the “to-do list” mentality on its head. For the first two and a half decades of my life, I was always trying to push the boundaries of how much I could achieve in a day. But that approach had to go out the door if I wanted to become a top elite triathlete.

When I began training/racing full-time in triathlon, I instituted a “stop doing” list. At that time, my goal was to stop doing something at all times. That was a hard habit to break! But once I allowed myself to slow down, take time out of each day to nap or do literally nothing, I found that not only was my mind so much more at peace, but I was significantly happier and the quality of my training and work improve. In that process, I saw firsthand how important the “not doing” in between activities could be; sometimes equally, if not more important, than the action itself.

In the spirit of focusing on quality over quantity, my “stop doing” list typically just has one thing on it at a time that I’m trying to work on, and it has evolved over time. At one point, it was “stop saying yes to everything.” I’ve gotten quite good at saying “no” over the past few years—something I was historically quite unskilled at doing. Low and behold, just as when I integrated daily naps/nothing-ness time, I found that as my ability to say “no" improved, so to did the quality of my concentration and quality of training sessions. Currently, the key item on my “stop doing” list is multi-tasking. As anyone I know can attest, I’m kind of the queen of having a show going in the background with several Chrome windows and Word/Excel documents at a time while also hopping on and off Instagram on my phone. This year, I’ve been working on doing on one thing a time, doing it well, and then moving onto the next activity. When I execute this, my mindfulness goes up and distraction goes down. I’m still not 100%, but as Napoleon Hill famously said, “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort.”

To “stop doing” some things makes room for you to do the other “important” things that much better! Source:  Paul Higgans ; included in picture,  the best triathlon watch

To “stop doing” some things makes room for you to do the other “important” things that much better! Source: Paul Higgans; included in picture, the best triathlon watch

I’m not saying to throw out that to-do list. Oh no no no—that would be heresy! But give thought to developing your parallel “stop doing” list. Are you filling every moment of your day or do you take time out to quiet your mind and create mental space? Do you say “yes” to everything and constantly find yourself stretched thin or are you intentional about each commitment you take on? You might be saying to yourself right now, must be nice to have time and space to have a “stop doing list!” But regardless of your point in life or profession—athlete, artist, teacher, lawyer, high-powered corporate crusher—I’m confident that not only are you capable of creating one, but forcing yourself to take time to develop it will empower you to discover a better you, personally and professionally. If you don’t believe me, ask Jim Collins and folks from his 11 good-to-great companies

I would love to hear what your “stop doing” list looks like and how it goes for you—let me know in the comments below!

Short-Term Wins or Long-Term Victories?

I like having my cake and eating it too. Who doesn’t?! But unfortunately, we can’t always get what we want!

I was quite happy with aspects of my races at Gulf Coast 70.3 and Chattanooga 70.3 in May—strong swims in both, great progression in my biking, and bright spots in the runs. But there are still chinks in my armor, and I fell short of my goal to qualify at these races to compete in the elite field at the 2019 70.3 World Championships. Therefore, I faced a decision when it came to my racing season and triathlon career: strategically pursue a race (or races) in June in an attempt to qualify for Worlds this fall? Or take the long view and invest in a big training block this summer with the goal of another step progression before toeing the line again in the second half of the season?

Of course I wanted to be able to do both. But as Jim Collins explains in Good to Great (my current read! Highly recommend!), one of the several ways that the great companies differentiate themselves is by maintaining unwavering faith that they can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever they may be.

My facts were: 

    • I had made a tangible step forward quantitatively (performance data) and qualitatively (in terms of confidence) in my March-April training block—I was closing the gap identified in 70.3 Geelong back in February; but

    • I still had a gap between my performance and that of the top women in the distance; and

    • If I had to choose, I would prefer to be consistently on the podium by the end of the season and focus on laying the foundation to be a top competitor in 2020 versus simply participating in 2019 worlds and compromising my progression in the process.

For me, this decision came down to winning a battle or the war. While short-term wins can certainly create momentum (and provide immediate satisfaction!), they don’t necessarily translate into long-term victories if they come at the cost of overall progress. And that is exactly what they would do based on my current “fact set.” As I confronted the facts, I knew that to achieve my goals in the distance—to be great—I needed to favor the progression I knew would come pairing patience with discipline and persistence versus seeking out that immediate satisfaction. 

So for the past month, I’ve had my head down. The day-to-day life of the professional triathlete is not particularly glamorous or exciting to most: it’s about executing sessions to achieve incremental gains day-in and day-out. It’s the perfect example of Thomas Edison’s famous quote: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” But for me, that process brings both inspiration and excitement—it’s investing in those daily details and training sessions with laser focus that makes the progression so satisfying when you look back and see how far you’ve come and that, ultimately, enables you to exceed even your own expectations!

I have another month of training left until I toe the line again at IM 70.3 Santa Rosa. I’m focused on the present, taking one day at a time, but also can’t wait to test myself again at the end of the summer. I’m feeling like I have the right balance of short- and long-term goals in place and am truly excited for what the days and months ahead will bring, both in terms of internal growth and external race opportunities! 

Over the Hump

Soooo, I’m kind of a huge rom com fan. This week, I rocked Legally Blonde 1 and 2—classics! I had to laugh, though, because in every rom com, there’s a low point where the opposition seems to be too much to overcome. However, that point is short-lived, and before long, some “ah ha” moment kicks in where everything comes together for the happiest of happy endings!

While this feel-good formula is part of what makes the rom com so fabulous, in real life, that forlorn scene before the happy ending can seem to stretch on forever. You’ve been working your butt off, invested so much, received support from so many individuals, overcome obstacle after obstacle, and it feels like on the one hand, that goal is just around the corner, on the other, it is just as far out of reach as ever. It can be easy to find yourself questioning your ability to push that boulder over the top of the hill; to achieve that happy ending.

This is something I have been working through lately. I know I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been, as evidenced by my ability to lay down the second fastest run in the elite women’s race at St. Anthony’s Triathlon last weekend. But I haven’t been able to put everything together, and in the hours between sessions, the self-doubt can creep in. 

Unfortunately this blog post is not one that provides the *magical solution* to breaking through. But many often wait to share what they’ve going through until there is a “happy ending” to report. So I thought it was worth sharing from the trenches! Going through a rough patch? You’re not alone :-P

But as Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” I continue to love what I do, believe that I can win, and commit to doing everything in my power each and every day to make that dream a reality. That is the best advice I can provide for others: continue being true to yourself, putting in the work, and keeping the faith that your time will come.

When it does, through the process of pushing that boulder up the mountain, you’ll come out the other end not only with the result you’ve been working so hard to achieve, but also a greater sense of self and more strength than you ever imagined! This anonymous quote captures it well: “The ‘bad’ things that happen in our lives often put us directly on a  path to the best things that will ever happen.”

My next opportunity to track the progress of my “boulder-pushing” will be next weekend at Gulf Coast 70.3. I can’t wait for another honest look in the mirror that racing always provides! 

P.S. Don’t forget to smile along the way! :D

P.S. Don’t forget to smile along the way! :D

Punch a Hole in the Sky

On one of my flights home from Australia, I finally watched Bohemian Rhapsody. I was blessed with a middle seat, and my two neighbors must have been extremely uncomfortable at the number of times I was brought to tears over the course of those 2 1/4 hours! 

To be honest, I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to “pop culture”—it’s a real hindrance on trivia nights!—and I didn’t know anything about the story behind Freddy Mercury or Queen. Obviously their music is legendary; but what struck me as the movie unfolded (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) is the epic level on which Freddy’s mind worked. Throughout the film, people would propose grand plans and Freddy would respond, “Is that all?”

The world constantly tells dreamers directly or indirectly, “Look at examples X, Y, Z [all examples of fell short.. or “failing”].  It can’t be done.” I hear too many people say, “What you’re doing is so great. I could never do that.” To that I say, “why not?” For me, I’m immersed in sport. But what’s your passion? Your start up? Your art? Your progression to a business leadership role? Whatever it is, why not take it go all the way? 

As someone who can often get tied up in the data, I am guilty at times of questioning my admittedly audacious goals. I find there’s a direct correlation with fatigue levels and the old internal dialogue: “What am I doing with my life? What is even the point?” This has been particularly true over the past couple months as I’ve pushed myself to punch through to new levels of performance an ocean away from my husband, family, and friends and without immediate results to provide that external gratification and positive reinforcement we often crave. But when my body and mind are drained, the questions that drown out this self-doubt and get me out of bed in the morning are: “Why not?” and “Is that all?”

Next time doubt sets in, or the discomfort seems too much to bear, or someone questions your abilities, channel your inner Fred Mercury. I know I will.

Punch a hole in the sky as you shot for the moon; worst case, you’ll be surrounded by glorious stars.


Build Me Up Buttercup

“You have more than you think you do.”

“You can do more. Is this your best effort? You can do more.” 

“Quick quick, cadence up. Lighter, faster, come on!”

“Push, pull, pedal, push, more, more, more, more”

These are only a few of the thousands of mantras that go through my mind on a given day. I view them as self-motivating, as they help me push my limits and dig into reserves sometimes I didn’t know I have. But when I write them down, I see another side of them; a potentially dangerous side where nothing I do is ever enough.

Throughout my years as an athlete, student, and businesswoman, I’ve met many likeminded people who have compiled their impressive resumes via a relentless pursuit for more. More focus, engagement, power, results, speed, strength, analysis, you name it! That constant driving force to be better each day than the last is without a doubt a key ingredient for high performance. 

In my ITU training, all of my key sessions were done in group formats. So while I was motivating myself throughout these workouts, I could also alway count on my squadmates to push me out of my comfort zone. As a long-course athlete, the dynamic of my training has changed significantly. While my swims are still with the squad, bike and run workouts — certainly my hard sessions — are predominantly completed on my own. This magnifies the importance of my ability to push myself harder the more the heart pounds and lungs and muscles scream. It also removes any opportunity for comparison, because I am admittedly behind the times and still do my trainer workouts on a classic trainer—not quite on the Zwift train yet!—and I am the only long-course athlete on the squad

Draft-legal triathlon training with TriathlonGold Elite squad. All about the group dynamics! pc:  Gavin O’Sullivan

Draft-legal triathlon training with TriathlonGold Elite squad. All about the group dynamics! pc: Gavin O’Sullivan

On the one hand, I love and value these new dynamics. On race day, I am out there alone and the ability to be a master of my mind in every way is critical for my ability to perform. Additionally, the lack of comparison means that I am constantly focused on the only thing I can control—myself—versus having the temptation of looking around at how many watts other people are pushing or how fast they are running. I’m 100% focused on finding and expanding my limit, my best. This is such a gift, as it can be so easy to detract from your own performance, whether in the work place, in class, in a training session, or out on the race course, because you are too busy looking at what everyone else is doing. 

But it also has a pitfall: nothing is ever enough. I have found that I have to be very self-aware of the line between being my own best supporter and pushing myself so hard that I break myself down. It can be so easy to always think “I need to be doing better” or “I need to be capable of more.” I realized earlier this year that too much of that line of thinking was leaving me anxious and lacking confidence when in fact I had a lot to be confident in! 

Pushing for more “in the dungeon,” as coach calls it!

Pushing for more “in the dungeon,” as coach calls it!

Over the last month, I’ve integrated three changes that have helped me find a more sustainable, productive balance:

Own your thoughts and actions

One of the most impactful changes I’ve made is to hold myself accountable for my thoughts. Rather than letting that little nagging voice in the back of my mind chatter (i.e. complain) and be somewhat aware of it but also try to avoid or suppress it, I now take a moment to acknowledge the thought. Then I am empowered to say “No, I don’t choose to take that approach” and actively replace it with a more productive thought. Or, I welcome it and say, “It’s okay to dread a workout; I’m human!” Facing that dread when it arrises has helped me to process where that dread is coming from, embrace my insecurities and develop more honest, effective cues to overcome them when they rise to the surface in the future.

Be kind to yourself

As I’ve processed that dread, I’ve found that it comes from worrying about falling short of workout targets. And the biggest growth for me has come from learning to tell myself (and believe!) that if that happens, it’s ok. At the end of the day, if I gave everything I had to execute a session to my very best capacity, that is all I could do. Some people see this kind of internal conversation—being kind to yourself—as making excuses… I know I used to! But saying “it’s ok” doesn’t mean I’m okay not hitting the goal; it doesn’t mean I’m not hungry to achieve it. It just means I accept that I gave everything I had, and it wasn’t enough on the day. Some days, you are stressed and your patience is running short; your body is tired and you have to work harder than you want to hit that goal power or split; your mind is foggy from a huge week at work and you’re not getting as much done as you planned. On these days, sometimes the best thing you can do to yourself is give yourself a break.

Celebrate your wins

Alternately, when I execute a training session as (or better than!) expected, I have a tendency to shrug it off and say, “I only hit what was expected. Plus, it’s still not enough!” I will always be that way to a certain extent—that’s just who I am. But I have been working on taking a second to give myself a pat on the back when I have a good workout. To celebrate the little wins and baby steps forward! Hit a new benchmark at work? Went above and beyond to help your team make a deadline? Pushed through a wall to earn a new bike power record? Take a second to acknowledge the effort that went into that accomplishment—the grit and determination you’ve developed to earn that result that will catapult you to your next accomplishment. It’s something to celebrate!

Take each accomplishment and, knowing there’s always more, use it as a springboard for the next step!

Take each accomplishment and, knowing there’s always more, use it as a springboard for the next step!

At the end of the day, everyone will have opinions about everything you do—both positive and negative—but what matters is how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror (cheesy, I know, but true!). I still hold myself to an incredibly high standard, but I’m working on being my own best cheerleader along the way, on creating my own rising tide. I hope you will too, and that these tips will help you on your way!

Life in the Arena

"Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Growing up, I was lucky enough to constantly receive praise for putting myself out there; for striving to “level up,” regardless of whether I got knocked down along the way or made the leap flawlessly. This positive reinforcement has blessed (or cursed?! haha) me with the confidence to lay out goals that some might label unrealistic and go after them.

I’ve become increasingly aware of people criticizing others who are chasing their dreams, from the safety of their home, having never put themselves out there. Maybe this awareness is a natural byproduct of pursuing a career in sport, where you are only as good as your most recent result, or perhaps its because social media gives everyone a soapbox and megaphone. I’ve heard it in reference to me, and I’ve seen and heard it in reference to others. So when I came across the following quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it resonated deeply:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

In the words of FDR, I’ve chosen to live my life “in the arena,” whether in the context of school, business, or sport. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I’ve gotten closer to the pointy end of the female draft-legal triathlete field, I’ve come to realize that in a certain respect, I used to be one of those critics. It’s very easy to watch people on a livestream or the television and say, “Why did they even attempt that <insert event>? They’re getting crushed,” and overlook both what it took to reach that level and the bravery to step out of their comfort zone, into the arena. I realized how guilty I had been of passing judgement when I didn’t really know athletes’ stories, motivations for racing a certain event, etc.

Picture Credit:  Super League Triathlon

Picture Credit: Super League Triathlon

As we begin 2019, I have plenty of big exciting goals in 70.3 to chase; I’m scared and excited and have an amazing team surrounding me—coaches, squad-mates, family, and friends—all the making of something special. But I’m also using the new year as a chance to remind myself of who I want to be when I look in the mirror: not someone who says, “I could easily do that. Look at them flying across the world only to get crushed. I could beat them. I’m more legitimate than them” without having gone for it myself; but rather, someone who says, “Good for them for putting themselves out there!” And suits up for battle myself.

This year, you can say, “I’m totally as good as them. I could do it.” Or you can go out there and actually find out. This year, I challenge you to dare greatly; to do that thing you’ve been wanting to but have avoided, haven fallen prey to Resistance. And the next time you catch yourself judging someone else who is fighting the fight and doing the same, stop yourself to ask, “Are they in the arena?” If they are, celebrate their choice and wish them only the best in their quest for whatever they define as greatness for themselves.

Embracing Change

“Certainty is the enemy of growth.” ~Mark Manson

New chapters can be as challenging as they are exhilarating. While I now have have three years of experience racing as an elite triathlete, the shift to 70.3 has me feeling like a rookie all over again—it has been incredibly exciting to step up to an event that I believe will play to my natural strengths, but also unnerving with all the unknowns it brings.

While draft-legal ITU and non-draft/long-course racing both fall under the general umbrella of “triathlon,” they might as well be two different sports. All of this “new” is exciting! Especially if you believe, as I do, that change and growth come hand-in-hand. But as I’ve mentioned, the vulnerability that accompanies change can leave you looking around, comparing yourself to others, and doubting yourself. The problem is that in doing so, you prevent yourself from discovering your potential.

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 3.12.27 PM.png

I’ve gotten many questions from triathletes and non-triathletes alike about the difference between preparing for the two events. So I thought it worth sharing a couple of the biggest changes I’ve faced as well as the practices I’ve adopted to help me embrace them instead of getting in my own way:

New Bike, New Muscles

I have always admired the bikes that Felt makes, and I’m thrilled to finally be riding one! Thanks to the guidance of Jim Manton, I decided to invest in a Felt IAx. We opted for the IAx, which doesn’t have a fully integrated headset and thus allows for TriRig’s front-end solution, which provides more adjustability to get to my ideal position on the bike, from both the aerodynamic and performance points-of-view. I have always lived by the motto of “do it once, and do it right,” so I am grateful to be able to ride on such a state-of-the-art machine. 

The time-trial position is extremely different from that on a road bike. On my TT bike, the power and stability is really rooted in the lower core/glutes whereas, while my legs and hips did most of the work on the road bike, I was also able to stabilize myself and generate power with my upper body. I certainly have never needed to roll the back of my neck as much as I do now! Since getting back into training in mid-November, Jarrod has had me simply riding my bike versus jumping right into specific training sessions. While mentally I wanted to jump right into harder sessions, this has actually been great, because I have been able to adapt to the position, develop those new muscles, and really get comfortable generating power in a new way before we get down to business. 

Practicing Patience

I found myself going through some of my earlier posts and found one written shortly after I decided to become a full-time professional triathlete. I was reminded that big journeys begin with small steps. Infusing patience into my more common “get it done 5 minutes ago” approach has allowed me to enjoy this adjustment period and base work, as it’s the type of session that I really love to do! As we were first ramping up my volume, I also used the extra time to re-focus on regularly addressing details and going that extra mile that can sometimes get dropped in the heat of training: pre-hab, bandwork and foundation training, and post-workout rolling.

New Training Structure

While the top ITU women are extremely strong across the board in swim, bike, and run, the draft-legal dynamic of ITU racing often means that races come down to the swim and run disciplines. Because I didn’t have a background in either, I spent the last three years swimming an ungodly amount, running a lot, and biking a little. Now, that order has now been flipped on its head. At times, I’ve found myself feeling anxious about this shift and the unknowns of how I’ll respond to these changes. Training with a squad of ITU athletes is a gift because it keeps me in touch with that swim (and run) speed. But it is also a daily reminder of the familiar training structure I’ve left behind. 

I have committed to embracing becoming as aerobically fit as possible and letting go of my swimming specifically. When I start looking around or feeling doubt/anxiety, I just remind myself of my my motto these days: “be the aerobic beast you know you can be!” Cheesy, I know, but it re-focuses me and keeps me calm. I also think of May Sarton's quote, “The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures.” I have faith that there are many treasures in store for me if I don’t cling to the losses along the way.

Looking Inward

The scientific power of meditation and mindfulness is compelling, so much so that high-powered corporations are investing in it to improve their employee well-being and performance! And with the challenge I’ve had focusing inwards lately, I decided to commit to spending at least 10 minutes a day with Headspace to quiet my mind and channel its energies in all the right ways. It’s not only helping me take control of when I use my external environment for motivation and when I put the blinders on, but it is also helping me focus on the present when I begin worrying about what training will look like, how I will respond to it, how I will compare to a new and unknown field of athletes next year.

Of course there’s no guarantee that these practices will be the key to success. But since I have implemented these changes and returned my focus to conscious mindfulness, I have noticed I’m calmer, more focused in sessions, and my progress in all three disciplines is gaining momentum. Whether you’re embarking on a new life journey right now or not, with the new year—and new year’s resolutions—around the corner, I recommend implementing these practices to execute even the smallest changes you’re seeking to make.

Onward & Upward

“The real (wo)man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” -Thomas Paine

I deeply believe that you have to look back in order to gain clarity and understand what lies ahead. When I saw the Thomas Paine quote above, I couldn’t help but be struck by how it incapsulated my 2018 season (at least, in my opinion). 

I specify “in my opinion,” because I’ve had conversations with more than a handful of people who have remarked at what a strong season I had. Hearing them say this has pushed me to acknowledge the progress I have made. 

Looking back to this time in 2017, I have evolved into a very different athlete and person. Adam often teases me because of how excited I get when I earn TrainingPeaks “Peak Performance” medals, but it’s the progression that they represent that thrills me so much. And this year, I earned many medals! Across the board in swim, bike, and run, my power, speed, form, and fitness improved drastically. This growth enabled me to step up to new levels of competition, from standing on the podium at the CAMTRI Lima Continental Cup, to earning consistent starts in highly-competitive World Cup fields, to racing Olympians and World Champions in Super League Triathlon.

The podium at 2018 CAMTRI Lima

The podium at 2018 CAMTRI Lima

Making the step up to racing the best in the world is certainly an opportunity I am grateful for and have worked hard to achieve. But as Laura Joffe Numeroff showed us, “if you give a mouse a cookie, he is bound to want some milk. If he is given the milk, what will he want next?” With each step I make, I can’t help but want more.

So while I do acknowledge this progress, I came away from this season with a sense of disappointment; of coming up short. From my perspective, there were races where my new-and-improved swim showed up; where my transition work showed up; where my bike showed up; and where my run showed up. But no races where they all came together to reflect a result that I knew I was capable of based on my performances in day-to-day training. 

Given how much I have invested to perform on race day, this incongruity was at first distressing. But speaking with extremely accomplished athletes and reading about the journey of World and Olympic champions, I realized that this is part of what makes sport—and especially triathlon—so challenging, and therefore, so magical. The champion is the (wo)man who executes everything in the exact moment when it matters. Swim. Bike. Run. Transitions. Nutrition. It takes hours and hours, years and years, in order to achieve a lever of mastery where this is possible. I’m on my way, but I still have marble to chisel before my masterpiece comes together.

On top of these conversations, I layered consultation with my support team—including Coach Jarrod Evans and my #1 fan/advisor Adam Sopko—and then last but not least, quiet reflection. Just as Paine predicted, reflection—about how far I’ve come in draft-legal racing; how far I have to go to race at the level that would make the investment worth it for me; more broadly, where I am in my life; and what I want from sport and outside of sport—made me brave and gave me confidence in the decision that followed: to shift my focus in 2019 to non-draft triathlon, specifically the 70.3/half-Ironman distance

I’m incredibly proud of the progress I’ve made in ITU. I achieved results that countless experts in the sport told me would never be possible given my age and athletic background. That said, the further I’ve gotten in the sport and the more I’ve addressed weaknesses to build sport-specific fitness and speed, the clearer it’s become that my strengths—such as finding a speed and holding it (energizer bunny, anyone?!)—are not able to fully shine in draft-legal triathlon. The shift is bitter-sweet: bitter because it represents the end of an era—my push to qualify for Olympic trials; but the sweetness far outweighs that bitterness because it opens the door to a race format where I believe I can compete at an even higher level and experience a really rewarding racing career. It’s an exciting pivot, and I can’t wait to explore this uncharted territory! 

Nothing brings a smile to my face like setting big goals and putting every ounce of energy I have into achieving them. I’m confident my 3 years in draft-legal triathlon have provided an amazing foundation to build on as I pivot to long-course triathlon racing! PC:  SLT

Nothing brings a smile to my face like setting big goals and putting every ounce of energy I have into achieving them. I’m confident my 3 years in draft-legal triathlon have provided an amazing foundation to build on as I pivot to long-course triathlon racing! PC: SLT

For all you long-coursers out there, I’m all ears! What has been your greatest challenge racing the 70.3 distance? What has helped you the most in executing great races? What are you most curious about in terms of the shift from draft-legal/short-course racing to the longer formats? I’m excited to share this learning journey with you so we can all grow together!

Around the world (and back again) in 60 days

ITU racing necessitates global travel. I’ve gotten very used to living out of hotels/AirBNB’s, having traveled to over 15 countries, and relying on only as much as what I can carry. The last two months have included weekly travel, having journeyed from San Diego —> Weihai, China —> Jersey, Channel Islands —> Charlotte, NC —> Sarasota, FL —> Salinas, Ecuador —> Malta —> Mallorca, Spain —> South Bend, IN —> San Diego.

Every day was an adventure, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for all the beautiful places I saw and new friends I made. I love experiencing new cultures and comparing the quirks of each country! Not to mention comparing swimming pools around the world.

Since I began racing professionally, travel has certainly become a skillset of mine. In the process of discussing these adventures with family, friends, and even competitors, I have come to realize how many “tricks of the trade” have become second nature to me. I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my travel via my top 5 travel tips:

Food, glorious food.

I love exploring local cuisine when I travel—for me, it’s how I truly connect with a new culture. Unfortunately, when traveling to perform in races, food experimentation had to be kept to a minimum. Even after the race I chose to keep things as familiar as possible, given the next event was going to be only 5-6 days away. While some people can get away with being a bit more adventurous with their diet, I learned my lesson the hard way in Chengdu this past May, I can’t afford to do that. 

With that in mind, I invested in the smallest size Instant Pot for my travels this fall. I stocked up before heading to China on essentials (for me): tuna packs, beef jerky, dehydrated veggies, lentils, favorite snacks like trail mix and pita chips, and even rice/pasta (believe it or not, sometimes it’s hard to just get plain rice even in China!). Luckily in the European destinations and in the US I could rely on local restaurants and the hotel. Even in Salinas there were some amazing (and reliable) food options. But I made all my own food in China and leading up to the race in Salinas I did all of my own lunches and dinners. To work so hard and travel so far in order to achieve results at my races, it was just worth it to take no risk. Plus, I enjoyed having some of my favorite snacks when I was feeling far from home!

Home is where the race is.

When living on the road, I have found that it is important to find ways to feel at home wherever I am. I have come to find home in my routines. Some of the daily routines ground me are breakfast — I start everyday at home off with steel cut oats, chia seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon and sea salt — being able to make that in my instant pot was a game changer; nightly quiet/reading time before bed; and connecting with my loved ones, especially Adam and my Mom.  

Long-distance relationships can be challenging, especially when across the world from each other. A piece of my heart was certainly in South Bend with Adam as I toed the line in one country after the next. So we anticipated each time difference and planned out how my schedule would align with Adam’s in my next destination. Maintaining the routine of FaceTiming everyday kept me grounded and feeling connected. When far apart for months at a time, we’ve also found it’s the little things that often get lost in the shuffle. Our text message media list shows how we’ve used technology to share good mornings, meals, memories, favorite songs, and little moments throughout the day!

Acknowledging the little things that make you happy—that connect you to “home” in the traditional sense and the people you love—will provide a sense of comfort when you’re in a new country, particularly when it’s incredibly difficult to communicate with many (if not all) of the people surrounding you.

What is time, really?

Global travel really checks in on your basic algebra skills: pacific time, plus 15 hours, minus 8 hours, minus 5 hours, minus 1 hour, plus 7 hours, minus 6 hours, minus 3 hours… whew! Everyone handles time changes a bit differently. For me, sleep is SUPER important, and too little of it leads to sickness. So I made a point of always mapping out a “sleep plan” when I time travel. Even if I didn’t stick exactly to it, having that structure really helped me shift time zones more quickly and maintain better energy in the process. I always go for the window seat because it’s easier to curl up there for me. And key investments for any international traveler? Eye mask, ear plugs, noise cancelling earphones (while a bit of a splurge, this was one of the best and most used purchases I’ve made since turning pro!), and a great travel pillow (I like this one because it is very compact for travel yet comfortable for sleep, but everyone has their own personal preference!).

Never underestimate the power of perspective

Luckily, my travel this fall was a huge step up in terms of travel and lodging logistics from my first two years in the sport. The Super League Triathlon team takes incredible care of its pros, and as I’ve gotten to know athletes on the circuit, I’ve come to feel much less alone when traveling to races in foreign places! 

I’d be lying if I haven’t had “WTF” moments in the course of travel, but I always make a point of coming back to an appreciation for the opportunity to race the fastest women in the world and to see the world in the process. That said, enjoying the good and being able to laugh about the bad (such as, you know, wooden planks for beds, sand bags for pillows, and never-ending travel days on planes, trains, buses and automobiles) with squadmates and fellow athletes racing on the world circuit has made the experience much sweeter.

Picture credit: Sarah Alexander & Super League Triathlon

Find your happy place

Last but not least, travel can be a huge drain on your energy. There are germs everywhere (yes, I have become a germaphobe); people sprinting past trying to make tight connections (and yes, this has been me on more than a number of occasions!); other people aimlessly wandering from store to store; and angry customers yelling at airline attendants. Most of the time, circumstances are outside your control, and for a lot of people, dealing with that reality week after week is exhausting. I admit I was glad that I wasn’t going to be flying again for another 6 weeks as I boarded the plane for my final flight of the fall to San Diego (which I made by about 30 seconds, I might add! Shout out to Delta for holding the gate open for me until 4mins before departure time!).

I first learned to put blinders on and keep my mind quiet when surrounded by chaos in my skating days. Being able to block out distraction was an important skill for me to develop in order to execute in my competitions; and it is something I have applied to my performance in school, office work, and triathlon racing. It has been a critical skill as a world traveler, as well! Shutting down, accepting my lack of control, and not internalizing the stress of airports allows me to travel from continent to continent, layover to layover, security line to security line while staying positive and keeping my cool. 

I hope one of these “pro tips” will set you up for easier, less stressful, more successful travel as you pack your bags for your next trip!


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.


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!

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!


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.


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.


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!


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! &lt;3 &lt;3 (photo credit:&nbsp; 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!


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.


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!