Women in Sport

One-Two Punch: Clermont + Sarasota CAMTRI Cup Recaps

Once racing season begins, it seems that every week we get a deluge of race reports. Story after story of the trusted race morning breakfast, the nerves and excitement that filled the air, the crazy start, the hard effort put forth, etc etc. These are great sometimes, and I do have many people asking me, "How do you warm up?" "What kind of nutrition I use to be able to perform?"

While I enjoy sharing my tricks and tips, I figured I'd mix it up sharing my experience at ITU CAMTRI American Cups at Clermont and Sarasota the last couple weekends. Growing up, my family and I would play “highlight-lowlight” at the dinner table every night. Here, I give you my highlight-lowlight for each race along with a bonus: takeaways from my first ITU races of my first pro season.

lineup

CLERMONT

Highlight: My run. Laid down my fastest 5k time with no dedicated run training to date. There is no doubt still a long way to go, but it was awesome to see that kind of progress and know that there is more there – this is just the beginning! Oh, and amazing pizza dinner with the team at Goombas the night before the race. Team IE might have a new Clermont pre-race tradition here!

Lowlight: Hmm tough one, because there were so many positives in Clermont. Lowlight was probably two-fold – playing catch up after getting out of the water 20 seconds back from the main pack and then not having quite enough in the tank at the end to hold onto 10th (props to Dominika Jamnicky and Calah Schlabach for laying down a STRONG final 400m - just out-kicked me! - and to Abby Levene for an impressive 17:15 …. I’m comin' for ya, girls! :)) But in this "lowlight" lies clear opportunity for improvement, which I'm all about! 

SARASOTA

Highlight: Racing on one of USA’s teams in the relay – this new format of racing, where four triathletes (two men + two women per team) each do a super sprint before tagging their teammate, is SO fast and exciting!! I would say it was equally thrilling for athletes and spectators alike and made me even more excited to race in the inaugural year of Major League Triathlon starting with its first Temple race next month (go California Cadence!).

Lowlight: Mmm, there are two. First, while I had an improved swim from Clermont, which was improved from Tritonman, which was improved from last fall (yay progress!), I have a lot of speed to find and again I was playing catch up. That being said, having the opportunity to compare my skill/fitness to a stronger field of athletes was invaluable both in terms of gaining experience and gathering data! Second, WIND! Made for some challenging biking and running conditions (although, who am I kidding! I love a good challenge!).

Key takeaways:

  1. Greg’s master plan is working. Since last October, I’ve found significant speed in the water, and it’s continuing to come little by little every time we get in the pool (knock on wood!). But while I’m encouraged, I’m by no means satisfied. Being THIS close to front pack out of the water has made me hungrier than ever. We barely skipped a beat of training for the Florida races and are already building up yards again to keep finding seconds.
  2. It takes a village. Between the trip from Vegas to the east coast and our time at Florida, I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the Team IE family. Between homestays, home-cooked meals, cheering squads on the sidelines, it’s incredible how at home you can feel when you’re so many miles from home. Thank you to everyone who has supported my teammates and me, including incredible sponsors like Kiwami, which OVERNIGHTED my suit so I would be ready to rock in Sarasota. Above and beyond. Thank you to everyone.

And because pictures are worth a thousand words, a few snapshots from the weekend!

Heart of a Lion

2016 is now in full swing. It feels like just yesterday we arrived in Vegas for camp, and here we are with my first race around the corner (T-minus 4 days to Tritonman!) and beginning to pack up and head east again (only now we head to the state of sunshine and citrus since South Bend is still getting piled with snow).

As racing draws near, I can feel little butterflies fluttering in my stomach now and then -- racing is where we get that objective feedback. It’s that honest look in the mirror. And while the work I’ve done and my personal quest for excellence serves as inspiration, one of the women I’ve met out here in Vegas is a new source of inspiration.

Rachel Jaten just competed in the US Olympic Team Marathon Trials. She placed 48th, finishing ahead of many women who, on paper, she wasn’t expected to outrun. She was also our housemate for the month of January.

Over the month that we lived with Rachel, or “Rochelle” as we came to call her, she truly became part of the Team IE family, from poking fun at Greg, to joining in for nightly Shark Tank marathons, you name it! She became one of the crew – a friend, and an inspiration.

For those of you who haven’t heard about this amazing woman, quick background: Rachel ran when she was younger, but when she reached the point of burnout by the end of college, she hung up her running shoes. Rachel didn’t run for more than a decade. Only recently did she make a comeback.

Since returning to running, Rachel has balanced two full-time jobs – making deliveries for UPS and training for the Olympic trials. Our jaws all dropped when she humbly told us about her typical day, which would start at 4am in order to fit in her work responsibilities and training demands. Rachel’s story is impressive in itself – lining up to race women averaging 10 years younger than you takes guts! – but what was more inspirational to me was her grounded approach to training, racing, and running in general.

Rachel was always cool and collected; she embraced the hardest workouts and training with girls running more miles and faster than her, coming in the door just saying “it was so great to be pushed like that.” She was an elite athlete, but unlike many driven, high-achieving people, she was so refreshingly chill! Not to mention  curious, open to learning, super funny and sarcastic, and, well, NORMAL! :D

Her coach was spot on when he described her as having “the heart of a lion.” Rachel’s race last weekend in LA was a testament to the power of doing the work and executing when it counts; of believing in yourself; of doing what you came to do, what you know you can do, and nothing less. This year, I hope to take a page out of Rochelle’s book! 

Jaten. CrushingIt. (source:  http://www.facebook.com )

Jaten. CrushingIt. (source: http://www.facebook.com)

Winter Training

Ahhh winter training. The term brings back fond memories of grueling workouts at the boathouse up in Hanover. As a rower at Dartmouth, winter training is infamous. With long stretches of temperatures in the negatives and feet of snow on the grown, winter training was a critical component for us – if we had less time on the water than most other teams we raced against, we’d have to make up for that in the early season with better fitness!

Dartmouth Boathouse (our home away from home)

Dartmouth Boathouse (our home away from home)

When I think of winter training, I think of my teammates and myself putting in hours of stadiums and lunges in the ice rink and seemingly impossible workouts on the erg (indoor rowing machine, see below) as inches of snow piled up outside.

We decided to "dress up" the ergs

We decided to "dress up" the ergs

Typical women's practice - erging/rowing in tandem

Typical women's practice - erging/rowing in tandem

But winter training was just as much about mental strength as it was about physical fitness. As a figure skater growing up, I worked extensively with a sports psychologist to have a mind of steel at each competition. Rowing (and triathlon) required a slightly different type of mental strength – yes, it was key not to psych yourself out as in skating. But there was also a component of being able to turn off your mind and even harness it to push through pain that you didn’t think possible to push through.

DRC Crash D's (compliments of Coach Gherst)

There is something about having to motivate yourself for a dreaded workout when it’s freezing cold and dark outside, and your non-athlete friends are curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and a book. It makes you stronger in a very intangible way. I will never forget the walk down to practice, bracing myself for what laid ahead as I made my way along a peaceful, snowy path lined with gently whispering pines. This quiet would be shattered by blasting music as I opened the boathouse doors. It was in that boathouse that my teammates and I shared many highs, but also where we supported each other through the lowest lows of being broken down by the demands of training.

Catching up with Dartmouth Women's Crew Spotlight on Sarah Alexander '10 (compliments of Coach Levash & Coach Gherst)

As Adam and I returned to chilly Chicago earlier this month after a week of training in Sunny Las Vegas with Team IE, as we trudged through the snow to get to the pool in subzero temps, as I’ve chugged away on the trainer and as I’ve run through the snow along Lakefront Trail, I’ve had to smile to myself. THIS is winter training.

U Chicago Ratner Athletics Center on a snowy morning

U Chicago Ratner Athletics Center on a snowy morning

People often ask, “How are you a triathlete living in Chicago?? How do you stay motivated when it’s so cold/snowy/dreary?” I can tell you it’s not always fun. Some days are just plain rough, and there are certainly days when I wake up to my alarm only to want to curl back up in bed. But it’s the confidence that this is when the magic happens that gets me out from under the covers. This is what will make me stronger in mind, body, and spirit. In short, this is when champions are made.

Biking through deserts!

Biking through deserts!

Team SalAd on the way to a recovery hot tub sesh (Hi Michael!)

Team SalAd on the way to a recovery hot tub sesh (Hi Michael!)

Team IE's gorgeous backdrop for swim/bike/run in Vegas!

Team IE's gorgeous backdrop for swim/bike/run in Vegas!