Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Half Distance Duathlon?

The Rev3 series finale was a half distance triathlon in Venice, FL. The winds were very strong and caused dangerous rip currents in the gulf, so the swim was canceled and replaced with a 1.5 mile run. I was a little disappointed, because I do triathlons to compete in all 3 sports, but swimming is my weakest, so I knew it would not hurt me to replace the swim with another run. It has been a long season and I was excited for a solid taper going in to this race.  I was feeling good the last couple weeks, but I am still a little weary of the half distance...this was only going to be my second race.

It was very windy, as I stated before, so there was no way I was going to lead! I was glad when there were 2 guys that wanted to be in the front on the way back.  I sat behind them and let them fight the head wind.  I was 4th into T1 and 3rd out...perfect position for me at that point in the race.  Once out on the bike I started watching my watts.  I knew where I had to be to have a good run, and the line I did not want to cross.  I have never been that close to the front at the beginning of the bike, usually I am 1-3 min down coming out of the water.  It was a strange feeling, and I liked being there, but it was a long race so I had to chill and relax early, so I let the pack go.  It was a crazy tailwind going out so I knew the wind was going to punch me in the face all the way home.  I rode a steady pace for the first half of the race and then really tried to ramp it up with 11 miles to go, I wanted to be as close to the front as I could.  I got as far back as 13th place and then started to pass people as they began to fade.  I knew by the end of the bike that I rode a little too hard, but I did what I thought I had to. My quads were jello coming off the bike, and I figured the run would get interesting.  I got in to T2 in 7th and did what I could to move at the beginning of the run. I probably went out a little too hard but I thought if I could pass guys early, then I would be able to stay away.  Well I passed guys early, then the wheels fell off the train.  I moved up into 3rd place at the halfway mark.  I did all I could to keep moving, but I stopped sweating at 3 miles, so I tried my best to hang on.  When Viktor went around me I tried to stay with him, but my body did not respond...I was in survival mode.  Then I heard Ben coming up behind me, I tried to dig deep, but there was nothing I could do.  I was dead on the road, I had to hope for the finish line to get here before someone else passed me.  I was able to hold on for 5th place.  That ended up being just good enough to sneak into 4th place in the series.  So even though my legs still hurt 3 days later, and am hobbling around, it was all worth it.  It was my last race of the season and now I have two weeks to relax and recover before I start building for next year.

It was a hard race, but it fit well as the end to this season. I went through a few rough patches, but just kept going forward with the guidance from Greg.  I would not be where I am without him!  I would also not be able to compete week in and week out without the help of my sponsors: N.B Properties, Bralin Laser, Champion System, Profile Design, Rudy Project, BH Bicycles, Cobb Cycling, Scott Shoes, CompuTrainer, Hofferth Chiropractic, Pro-Form Bike shop, and Express Press.

Melissa as well as her aunt and uncle, Katie and Ryan, came down to Florida with me.  It was great to have them there cheering as well as someone to hang out with post race/end of season!!  It was a fun weekend and am glad I did the race. The Rev3 crew puts on the best races and series in the US.  I am glad to have something that great in the sport of triathlon.

"When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on." ~Thomas Jefferson


Monday, October 29, 2012

REV3 Series Title!!! and 2nd at REV3 FL!

Before and Now.

Yesterday, I had the biggest race of my career. REV3 Florida was the season finale and the decisive race for the Pro REV3 Series Title. Before the race, people kept asking me how I was dealing with the pressure. There was the title and 30+K on the line- and the title race was all coming down to whether Lauren Goss or I had a better race on that single day.  Lauren has been having a really great year and I knew the day was going to be tough. However, I am not sure I felt that much pressure.  I have everything I really need in life right now.  Greg and I set the goal of winning the REV3 Series way back in January and it was something that I really wanted- but I knew I would be ok, more than ok, if it didn’t happen either. I have been overwhelmed this year with the support and love I have received from people in Charlottesville, people connected with the Ulman Cancer Fund and REV3 and other folks around the country. It has been humbling and deeply satisfying to connect with people over triathlon and to be given so much from these people all the time.   I have been given so much this year.   My sponsors have really stepped up to support me this year, and I am so thankful for that.  Thank you Profile Design and Rudy Project, thank you- I am so lucky to have these superior products (ie: Altair Wheels, Wingspan helmet, Wahoo wetsuit, best sunglasses EVER, profile drink systems, ect..) and so thankful to be associated with two companies so deeply dedicated to the sport of triathlon. Also deepest thanks to Quintana Roo for my super speedy CD 0.1, Hammer, Champion System and Computrainer.  I have an amazing local team in the Ragged Mountain Racing Team.  They are a rock in my life and have supported me in everything I have done this year. Dana Thiele and Mark Lorenzoni have created a great community of serious athletes that has been so important in so many lives, including mine.   I am so grateful to REV3 and their sponsors for making the sport of professional triathlon possible. I am so proud to be associated with REV3 this year.  REV3 treats the professional like real professionals; they are absolutely great to us, and to all of their athletes. They do things the right way for the right reasons and I am continuingly impressed by their commitment and conviction to do the right thing by all of their athletes.  Lastly and, most importantly, I am so thankful to Greg Mueller (and Lisa, his better half =) ). His passion and drive to be the best triathlon coach in the world and to make his athletes the best in the world is contagious.  He really has a gift- and it is mostly his passion for what he does and the love and dedication he gives to his athletes.  I trust him for advice in so many areas of my life and I know he is committed to helping me achieve my dreams, both in sport and in life. He is a different kind of elite triathlon coach, he makes you love the sport more- never any less.  Thank you, Greg, for getting me here!!

I didn’t feel pressure this weekend because I really have so much already, never did I think I would have so much in life.  I have lost a lot in thirty years of life so far with losing people I love and some other really tough challenges- but I seem to be getting it all back in different ways now. How could I have felt that much pressure on Sunday? I have what I need; more than I could ever want- to even think of it is crushing.   I have had nothing to lose this year and, for that, I have been given even more.

Sunday, The Race.
                                                               Photo by Eric Wynn/REV3
Due to Hurricane Sandy and a Riptide warning, the swim was cancelled. We started the race with a 1.5 mile run. Like most of the group, I went out conservatively and just tried to tuck in from the wind and relax. I knew the day was going to be long enough.  Coming into T1, Lauren had about a 10 second lead on the field but I had a quick transition and was with her pretty quickly on the bike. Alicia Kaye and Becky Lavelle rode by us hard and eventually Malaika Homo made her way by us as well.   I rode with Lauren until about mile 30, when we made a sharp left hand turn directly into the headwind (did I mention the winds were 25-28mph).  I had an instinct that this would be a good time to try to put a move on and I committed to riding hard for the next 10-15 miles. I put my head down, hammered on the pedals and tried not to look at my watt meter.  At mile 45 there was an out and back so I could see that my move had worked and I had  put something of a gap back to Lauren. At mile 50, I started to suffer really really badly. I have never suffered so badly on the bike and it took every ounce of my will to make it to mile 56, the pain was really really bad. Coming into T2 I was very concerned about having to run a half marathon. My legs were so shot that I had a hard time standing out of the saddle on the last rise over a drawbridge on the bike. I couldn’t imagine being able to run at that point, nevermind race. I grabbed my run gear and tried not to think about it. I started the run very conservatively (not that I had a choice) and started running at 620-630 pace, instead of the usual 555-605 that I have been starting out at.  I tried to keep my miles in the 620 range for as long as I could and I just hoped that it would be enough to hold Lauren off.  Then, interestingly, I found myself in second place all of a sudden. It seems as though maybe I wasn’t the only one suffering the consequences of such a hard bike in the wind.  I came within about 30 seconds of first place with 3 miles to go but I was suffering so bad at that point. I didn’t want to make any moves that might cause me to walk or cramp and risk the series title win. Becky (in first) pulled away from me pretty hard after she saw me at the last turnaround and put some time into me in the last 3 miles. I finished second, sealing the series title, and was thrilled. I was very happy for Becky, she is such a great athlete and a true professional through and through.  I was, and still am, overwhelmed by winning the series and still not sure it has sunk in yet. 

Something I did well on Sunday was being able to focus on the race in front of me the whole time. Anytime a thought about the series or what winning would mean or the amount of money came into my head, I tried to block it immediately and just focus on exactly what I needed to do at that moment in the race.  This is something that Greg takes about a lot- being in the moment. The idea is to not think about what you still have left to do or in the next 7 miles or winning or anything like that.  Just think about the moment in front of you and what you are doing in that moment. If you can do that at all points in the race, you will have done all you could. I think the same probably applies to life- what can I do in this moment, right now, that will move me in the right direction? Do that and just that, without worry for the rest of it.

After the race, I talked in the car with a friend who came down from Charlottesville to watch me (again, I am the luckiest.)  We talked about the fear of failure and I think that is a big piece of why I have been able to win 4 races and the series this year. This goes back to the beginning of this story but I think I am becoming less afraid to fail- which is an easy thing to say but is actually very difficult to move toward in my core (I imagine I am not alone here.)  Having so much unconditional love and support right now from people around me and having my health and a future I look forward to makes it hard for me to feel like I have anything to loose; I have it all already.  Certainly I can lose these things, but it is not going to be from failing to win a triathlon series title.  Somehow that frees me. For that, I am thankful.

Thank you everyone again, time to party!
                                                                Photo by REV3 Photography

Monday, October 22, 2012

Toyota US Open Triathlon (Dallas)

The final stop of the Lifetime triathlon series is the Toyota US Open Triathlon in Rockwall, TX (just east of Dallas).  I won the elite amateur race here two years ago.  I enjoy the race as a whole, but I still have mixed feelings about the Lifetime series.  I decided to do this race for my sponsors...BH and Champion System are large supporters of the Lifetime series.

I knew going into the race that it was going to be a chilly weekend.  I was prepared for it but at the same time I was not.  I do not have the amount of body fat necessary to perform well in cold temperatures.  As much as I want to mentally, my muscles lose too much of the elasticity to perform at the level I would like to.  I remember one time when the heater was broken at the pool where I workout.  As much as I tried, after 30 min I could no longer swim hard in the cold water.  I knew it was something I was just going to have to deal with.

The air temperature at the start of the race was 48 degrees, by far the coldest triathlon I have ever been a part of. The water was the warmest part of the race, but still not cold enough for a wetsuit.  It would have been nice to come out of the water a little overheated before getting on the bike.  I knew I would have to overdress to survive the bike and in turn the race.  After a very lackluster swim I took my sweet time in T1.  I wanted to put on a long sleeve and knee warmers so my body would make it through the bike.  The stretchy material of the long sleeve led to the slowest T1 of my life and one of the slowest of the day.  Oh well!  I had a pretty good bike ride, but the leaders were riding at tremendous speeds.  Cam and Ben rode 3 min faster than the rest of the field.  I had a good T2, all things considered.  I took off my knee warmers and long sleeve, because I knew I would get warmer on the run, and still had a middle of the pack transition.  The hardest part of the day to swallow was missing the fastest run split.  Chris Foster out ran me by 15 sec.  I'm not mad about Chris outrunning me, he is a solid runner and triathlete, and I was training through the race to get ready for Rev3 Florida.  It hurt because the pay day at Lifetime races is terrible if you are not in the top 4.  So instead of coming out comfortably ahead on the trip, I lost money on it.

I did this race for my sponsors and I am glad I went, it just wasn't a great investment for me.  It was nice to chat with Brien from BH and Ronnie from Champion System.  I look forward to long partnerships with both companies, they both make top of the line products.  A big thanks goes out to Melissa for coming with me.  She was a trooper and hung in there during the race.  She was freezing but still able to give me split updates, words of encouragement, and a warm smile while I was racing.

Set your goals high, and don't stop till you get there. ~Bo Jackson


Sunday, October 21, 2012

REV3 South Carolina and REV3 Maryland Race Reports


This past weekend I won REV3 South Carolina.  It was such an awesome experience and a wonderful follow up to winning REV3 Maryland, The Half Full Triathlon, the weekend before.  (BTW- ALL the profits from the Half Full Triathlon go to the Ulman Cancer Fund for young adults. It is a really special race and everyone should think about it for their race calendars next year. There were 29 cancer survivors competing and 92 % of all competitors raced in memory/honor of someone. It is a special atmosphere and a real celebration of life and hope.  It should be on everyone’s radar for next year!!) 

South Carolina was such a great experience, mostly because of the awesome competition (awesome as competitors and buddies). It was great to catch up with my Canadian friend Tenille Hoogland- but I knew she was going to bring the heat - that is what she does. She is such a fierce competitor and someone who is not afraid to ride the bike all out- it was going to be a hard day with her there.  Malaika Homo has also decided that she is going to dominate everyone on the bike in the late season races and I think both Tenille and I were surprised by how much time she put in on us during the bike course- wow- I was impressed with that.  As a recap of the race, basically I had a good swim for me. This put me about 2 minutes down from the leaders coming out of T1. I caught 2 girls on the bike and was sitting in third at mile 35ish of the bike- a position that I was not surprised to be in at that point considering the strong swim/bike combos of both Tenille and Malaika.  Starting the run, I was about 4 minutes down from Malaika and about three down from Tenille. I knew my run has been going well recently so I thought that I had a shot at the win if I just focused and ran smart. I found myself in the lead at mile 7 and from there I just tried to run as comfortably home as I could (although I have realized that the last few miles of that half marathon are never comfortable not matter what.)

Right now I am sitting in the lead of the REV3 Point Series Race, which is a $25,000 prize to first place.  That, coupled with an additional $12,000 on the line for the win in Florida next weekend means that there is quite a bit at stake, to say the least, for this upcoming decisive race. When I think about the situation though, I just feel so blessed to be where I am right now in general and have this awesome opportunity going into next weekend.

The thing is, I have pretty much already won. Not the money, but in general. I have an incredible coach who is unmatched in his dedication, care and investment in me as both an athlete and, more importantly, as a person. I have people from Charlottesville flying down to Florida with me to see the race that care about me, no matter how I do. I have sponsors that have been with me since the beginning of my professional career and have supported me long before I ever started winning races. Profile Design and Rudy Project, in particular, have supported me with the best products on the planet and really believe in me.  These sponsors do anything they can do to help me succeed- which says a lot about their dedication to this sport as well as their dedication to their customers.  Quintana Roo, Hammer, Champion System and Computrainer have stepped up this year to help me in any way they can, also enabling me to use the best products on the planet (it feels good to believe so strongly in the products of my sponsors). I am so thankful to REV3 and their sponsors like Pilot, who make it possible to pursue a career in professional triathlon.  We are so blessed in triathlon that the money is there to make a living. I have friends who are dominant professional runners and swimmers who struggle, so I know we are lucky.  It is all thanks to organizations like REV3 and their sponsors that support the pursuit of professional endurance athletes and a quest to expand the limits of human performance.   Mostly I have won because I am healthy, happy and living a great life right now. It may sound nauseatingly cheesy, but that is how I feel. I have a great future, no matter what I decide to do, and I have the freedom and support to pursue it.  To be toeing the start line next Sunday in the position I am in right now- it would be insane for me not to realize that I already have it all.  Of course I am going to turn myself inside out on the course next Sunday, but no matter what happens, I am loved, supported and blessed beyond anything I ever imagined- the rest is just gravy…and it is going to be fun....

 Can’t wait.