Stage Race, 6th Place

Stage Race, 6th Place

Wow, what a roller coaster. I competed at the Chico Stage Race as a Cat 4 cyclist in the Cat 3/4/5 races and got to work with and strategize with 7 of my amazing JLVELO team mates. When we did our team call the Wednesday evening before and discussed personal and team goals, I had little understanding of what to actually expect. Being my first stage race, even with the preparation and discussions with team mates, many aspects of each race were surprising. Each day held some excitement and accomplishment as well as opportunities for learning and growth.

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The Road Race
On Saturday, we rose bright and early and drove an hour from our hotel to arrive at the Paskenta Road Race. The first 36 miles was comprised of 13 mph mellow coffee-ride cruising, Vo2 max attacks, a crash that caused three riders to go down, and a mixture of chatting with team mates and other riders as well as hollering at sketchy riders! Finally, at about mile 37 of the race we hit the pot-hole section, affectionately deemed the ‘lunar surface’ for its crater like, unavoidable holes scattered all over the road. It was during this time that the group began to fall a part and I watched as my team mates and fellow competitors danced around the road.

Immediately following the pothole section was the much anticipated 4 miles of gravel. By the time we hit the gravel the women in the front group were launching attacks again. Without thinking twice I put my head down and sprinted to stay with the women that were pulling further forward. There were about 8 of us up front and I imagined my teammates and other races were close behind us; I was doing my best stay protected and stay with the group.

Soon it dawned on me that I couldn’t see any other bright yellow JLVELO kits out of the corner of my eye, so I turn my head to look behind me. To my surprise no one was there. We had broken away from the main group. And I was the sole JLVELO rider in the breakaway. I chuckle to myself now thinking that that I was in a breakaway without realizing it. I’m glad that I didn’t hesitate to go with them considering there had been several attacks earlier on that I chased down (and burned matches) only to be caught up by the main group shortly after.

 

Eventually we were back on pavement, only a few miles until the finish, and still no other riders had caught on. With someone cheering on the side pointing at the finish line and the ‘200 meter to go sign’ in sight I knew it was about that time. One rider quickly passed by me on my right side and I immediately got on her wheel. With 100 meters left I pulled around her, started my snap, and buried myself with gritted teeth to sprint ahead toward the line. I crossed the finish line and whispered aloud to myself, “I can’t believe I just won.” Not in my wildest dreams did I think that I would not only survive the gravel, but even pull out a win on the first day.

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Following the road race, my teammates began to trickle in, many of whom did not know that I had made it into the breakaway group. As they rolled over they asked me how I did, I simply grinned and held up one finger (still a little in disbelief). Watching my teammates react with excitement and pride was an even better feeling than crossing the line. That’s the thing about racing with the team. You work to support them and they work to support you. A victory for one truly is a victory for all. I enjoyed standing on the podium sporting my first ever yellow, “race leader” jersey and soaked in the feeling of post-race-victory-bliss.

Unfortunately, In spite of my efforts to prioritize nutrition and take my medication on time, within an hour or so after the race a migraine set in. Pounding head pain, numb and tingling, dizzy, and nauseated. It was difficult to focus on homework back at the hotel room when I just wanted to rest. The pain lasted throughout the night and it was a challenge to keep nourishment down. Upon waking the next morning I was exhausted and dehydrated, but eager to push through.

The Criterium
When I saw my teammates my spirits were lifted and I knew that, regardless of the rough night I’d had, I was going to leave everything I had out on the course.

To my surprise, at the start of the race the race organizer began with a ‘call up’ where, as the race leader, I was invited to the start line first.

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As the race started I had my eyes glued to my teammates knowing that if any break away plan were to work, I would need to be close by. While we did not successfully make a break away stick, several JLVELO team mates effectively tired-out the stronger riders by launching multiple attacks that others were compelled to chase down.

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As it came down to the final lap I worked my way up towards the front of the group with the help of team mates. I could see one JLVELO, Andrea, on the front. I was concerned that she was unprotected, but hoping she would have enough left in the tank to hold out for the final sprint. Rounding the last quarter, I got out of the saddle and pushed forward. Now or never. I could see Andrea and I was amazed that she had not only maintained pace through the final lap, but still was putting down an inspiring finish sprinting alongside another rider.

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As I rounded another teammate, Serenity, who had led me out, she cheered me on. My competition was closing in and I was giving it everything I had. Crossing the line I wasn’t sure if I successfully cinched 3rd. When the results were posted I discovered I had done it and was even still the race leader by a few seconds. The small margin that separated the riders in the top group made it evident that the final GC results were going to come down to the time trial.

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We gathered as a team after the criterium, shared our own personal experiences and again I found myself reflecting on how many teammates had supported me in various ways throughout the race. I was absolutely thrilled for Andrea that she had not only displayed and astounding measure of fitness that day, but also had redeemed herself from the challenge of being so close (yet so far!) to the front group the day before.

A few hours later it was time to shake off the fatigue and my body’s signals saying it was time to rest. My head was pounding, but I had come this far and wasn’t going to give in.

The Time Trial
Unlike the races leading up to it, the time trial would not allow me to rely on my teammates nor those around me to stay protected or pull ahead. This would be an individual effort. Upon review of last year’s TT times, I found that finishing under 26 minutes would have earned a podium spot. I decided 26 minutes would be my goal and I would do everything I could to maintain 105-110+% of my FTP throughout the time trial to reach that goal. To stay focused I planned to mentally break up the 10 mile race into 4x 6.5 minute intervals. This would keep me focused on one portion at a time.

As the race leader, I was sent out on the course last to go and each rider went off 30 seconds apart until it was my turn. We lined up in a row, received a few instructions and some encouragement from the clerk of the course, and were on our way. As I rolled up, the course clerk complimented my name (the same as his niece) and sent me off with an enthusiastic “Andiamo!” (Let’s go! in Italian).

I started out strong, but not too hard. I was on pace from the start. After the first interval, I was out of my comfort zone, but I could hold it. As each minute slowly ticked by, I stayed focused on my power numbers, staying tucked into an aero position (as best I could!), and pictured a podium finish. It was difficult, mentally, especially through the third interval of the race when I wanted to let up and the wind was pushing back. I knew that’s when it would count, where others might falter, and I had to dig deep. Finally the finish line was in sight. There was not enough left to get into a sprint, but I pushed with everything that I had left in my body. I crossed the line at 25 minutes and 45 seconds. I had hit my time goal and maintained the pace I expected of myself.

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As I rolled over to my teammates one of them called out to ask how I did and I shared my time. I didn’t know where it ranked compared to others, I just knew that it was what I had wanted to achieve for myself. A couple of team mates exclaimed in excitement and approval of my time. They too had reviewed last year’s results and knew that a time like that, last year, would have finished in the top group for the TT. It was a momentary high as I imagined that, just maybe… I might podium in all three races. But alas, moments later someone pulled up the live results and shared 5th place was earned by a 25 minute effort (my amazing teammate, Andrea). It quickly dawned on me that, not only did I not finish in a podium spot for the TT, I was well behind that group. 10th. I was certainly proud of Andrea in that moment, but I was also filled with a roller coaster of confusion and frustration; wondering ‘could I have done more’ and ‘could I have pushed harder’. Now, a few days after the race, I am resolved in the fact that I gave everything I had that day. I put everything I had, physically and mentally, out there and it just so happened that the girls that I was competing against had more (and perhaps faster equipment too).

GC
I changed into comfortable clothes glad to be out of race gear for the rest of the weekend and drove over to the site of the criterium to see Eric in his last race and check on the final rankings for the overall contenders for the GC.

I found I had finished in sixth. Just a few seconds behind the 5th place, podium spot for the overall position. I had so many conflicting feelings. One was that I had performed well beyond what I ever imagined going into the weekend and another that I had let down the team that had done so much, on and off the course, to support me. Again, now I can reflect with pride and know that I did everything I could this past weekend and most importantly I learned so much to prepare me for future stage races.

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I am so grateful most of all for the team camaraderie and spirit that surrounded me throughout the weekend. They were what made my first stage race such a wonderful and enriching experience. And though I didn’t come out on top of the podium, I did manage to earn myself enough podium points to upgrade and as of today I am now a Category 3 Road Cyclist!

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Just Ride

At the start of 2018 I whole heartedly and solely identified as a triathlete. Fresh out of completing in my first half-iron-man (70.3 miles of swimming, biking, and running), I felt as though I was breaking new ground in the sport. So, when I ventured out to Folsom to the, advertised ‘beginner friendly’, early birds clinic and practice race I had no idea I was on the road (pun intended) to becoming a cyclist. In the past I watched cycling races with wide eyed awe and would often remark, “I could never do that.” Little did I know that the races I found so intimidating would soon become a thrilling part of my year and my passion.

I experienced a lot of memorable races through out the year, especially my first win at Cat’s Hill Classic and my second win at Wente Road Race (the next day!). I discovered a love for sprinting and found joy in road races and criterium races alike. I felt support from my team mates, friends and loves ones as they watched my excitement and enthusiasm for the sport grow. With each success I found myself eager to share with team mates what they did to contribute to my race and I developed a deep gratitude for the importance of team work in this sport, even at our amateur level.

Now midway into the 2019 season, I have fully embraced my new identity as a cyclist. I feel that my experience in this sport and my membership on the Revolution Racing powered by JLVELO women’s cycling team is beginning an exciting chapter of my endurance career. I look forward to pushing myself towards new levels as an individual athlete as well as a contributor to the team that brings me so much joy and encouragement.

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Stress and Head Pain

Stress and Head Pain

   Stress induced migraines are not new to me. In 1st grade at the after school program I attended I was crying uncontrollably over a worsening migraine that was likely the result of a long school day. The teacher looked at me in awe and commented to her co-teacher, “This is more than just a headache. Take her to the office and call her parents.” Even they were alarmed by how severely my head was hurting • I can remember as a 7 year old frantically panicking that my head hurt too badly to complete a book report that was due the following day. My parents urging me that my teacher would understand and it would be okay. Meanwhile I was ill with anxiety which only exacerbated my head pain. • I recall a boy in 5th grade making fun of me for going to the nurses office everyday accusing me of just trying to get out of class. I turned to the teacher for my defense and her reply was, “Well, it’s not your fault you get headaches… but you DO go almost everyday.” And it’s true, I would walk to the nurse who always seemed unsurprised to see me. She would offer me an Advil that my parents had provided to be kept in her medicine cabinet and she would let my lay down with an ice pack and the lights dimmed for about 15 minutes before sending me back to class. • Much of middle school was this way too. The exception being when the pain was bad enough that it made me sick and they would allow me to call my dad in tears to pick up early from school • In high school I remember being at cross country practice in the sweltering East County heat holding my head against a cool metal gate in the shade trying to find a little relief in between hill repeats • And in college during one of my last finals handing my phone and notes to the GSI and explaining, “I want you to have these now because I have a bad migraine and I will be running to the restroom to throw up every 30-40 minutes until the exam is over.” (Mind you this was a make up exam because I had already cancelled the first one as a result of, yea you guessed it, a migraine) •
   As I’ve ventured to address my head pain I have tried acupuncture, essential oils, biofeedback therapy, Botox injections, occipital nerve block injections, physical therapy, chiropractic work, a variety of medications including but not limited to: SSRIs, opioids, beta blockers, triptans, and herbal vitamins. I am glad to report that looking critically at what I eat as having a direct impact on my head pain has actually been quite profound. Taking gluten out of my diet, reducing dairy and many spicy foods, and incorporating more whole raw foods has influenced a phenomenal improvement.
   Over the past 2-3 years the daily headaches have all but evaporated and the migraines have reduced from 3-5 times per week to 3-5 times per month (with some slight variation). The diet change along with a couple of the medications I’ve tried (Tramadol, Treximet, Relpax, and Frova) on an ‘as needed’ basis, Hemp Extract oil, and daily meditative deep breathing have helped to eliminate most headaches and migraines. Unfortunately, when I DO get migraines they are still so awfully severe I feel like pulling my hair out, like slamming my head against a wall, like I’m losing my mind! It’s a whole body experience of nausea, shooting pains, dizziness, and at its very worst even passing out. And this inescapable variety of pain is a direct result of stress. And this is so difficult to overcome because it becomes a slippery slope, a downward spiral of stress causing migraines and migraines causing stress. 
   When I develop high expectations for myself (namely an exam or a race) I often feel a varying degree of stress. Stress that is usually manageable. But once a migraine creeps in there is an all encompassing anxiety accompanied by a pounding pain that takes over. Suddenly the upcoming fear feels just as impossible and overwhelming as it did when I was 7 years old worrying about turning in my book report. 
   I experienced that feeling this week as a result of my nerves and excitement going into the race this weekend. A headache set in late Thursday night and did not let up until the following Wednesday; with varying degrees of nausea, severity of pain, and of course increasing feelings of stress and insanity. I tried every method of treatment at my disposal and nothing made a dent.
   Now on the other side of this migraine I’m doing my best to channel positivity for this upcoming race (because really… it’s just a race!) and keep perspective on the whole thing. I plan to think about the things I love about the sport, about racing, and have some fun with it! 
   I have come a long way from the hormonal 14 year old channeling anger and frustration over the incessant pain interrupting AP Courses and Cross Country practices. I’ve also come a long was from the 20 year old at University plagued by 72 hour migraines on a weekly basis impeding lectures and exams and triathlon training. I am grateful for the progress I’ve made, but I know I will need to find greater internal peace, day to day patience and mindfulness, and keep perspective in the face of stress and anxiety if I truly want to be free from head pain. 

“The Hay’s in the Barn”

“The Hay’s in the Barn”

Years of racing cross country, track and field and now triathlons has helped me accumulate a variety of motivational phrases. While I do and have for a long time loved to train and compete in endurance sports, there are inevitably times when doubts creep in, nerves get the better of you, or you’re just plain tired! That’s when the endless reserve of confidence boosting quotes and affirmations comes in handy.
My beloved former high school cross country coach had a lot of funny phrases, motivational speeches, encouraging tips and in general an inspirational way of approaching training and racing. In a lot of ways his coaching and encouragement not only shaped the athlete I am today, but has also influenced the person I’ve become and the way I encourage others in my sport. A few of Coach Connolly’s words still resonate strongly and one I always think of when I reach a taper week is “The Hay’s in the Barn.” I can’t quite illustrate as eloquently as Coach C would what this means, but in a few words it means: all that training, consistency and continuous effort has set you up for success, you are prepared for the race you are about to do because you’ve already put in all the hard work, now all you have to do is race! This is not meant to insinuate that racing doesn’t require effort, but Coach C had a beautiful way of reassuring you that with all of the training you put in there was no way you weren’t going to have a stellar race.
Years later, here I am 5 days out from USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals and ya girl is crawling out of her skin with nerves. I’m just being honest. I’m constantly flip flopping back and forth between excitement over being days away from a race I’ve had my sights set on for over 2 years and terrific, unshakable fear! 
What’s there to fear? In the past I’ve feared not being able to finish or struggling in the swim, crashing on the bike, messing up my mount or dismount, and cramping on the run. Needless to say, there’s plenty to fear. However, with the tireless practice and preparation that has gone into this coming weekend there is only one fear that remains. Fear that I’ll hold back. I fear crossing the finish line and thinking, “I could have pushed harder, pedaled faster, or kicked sooner.” This time, when I’m on the other side, I want to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I have left it all out on the course, that every ounce of energy left in my body has been expelled. That’s what racing is all about, a test of physical and mental stamina and seeing what you and your body are capable of. 
So I’m doing my best to be meaningful in my taper workouts this week, take some extra time for meditation and visualization and remembering that all my hard work is about to pay off or as coach C would always say: “The Hay’s in the Barn.”
Some other thoughts and words of motivation that will come to mind leading into and during the race:
“The best pace is a suicide pace, and today is a good day to die.” -Steve Prefontaine
“Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will.” -Gandhi
“That’s the hurt locker. Winners love it in there.” -Chris McCormack
“It never gets easier, you just go faster.” – Greg Lemond 
“Be not afraid of greatness.” -William Shakespeare 
“Always try to be the very best you can be. Learn from others, yes. But don’t just try to be better than they are. You have no control over that. Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best that you can be. That you have control over. Maybe you’ll be better than someone else or maybe you won’t. That part of it will take care of itself.” -John Wooden
My self proclaimed catch phrase as a spinning instructor, “You want this!”
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” -Steve Prefontaine

Shut up legs!

Shut up legs!

The talented former cyclist Jens Voigt, whom during his career wore the yellow jersey of The Tour de France twice (for stage wins) and won the Criterium International 5 times, is no stranger to suffering. He is also known for aptly describing the mind-body discourse of an endurance athlete: “Shut up legs, shut up body! Do what I tell you to do!”

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The ongoing fight of fitness over health is a battle professional athletes, cyclists especially, are well familiar with. Surprisingly, in spite of their impressive determination to push and pull pedals to the pointing of vision-blurring suffering in an effort to put forth their best performance, the ongoing extreme endurance is in fact putting their health at risk. This is due to the demands placed on the heart and large arteries as well as the muscular micro tears and wear on the immune system that don’t adequately repair without recovery.

While those of us who endeavor age group racing on the recreational scale and aren’t versed in the back breaking, white knuckling, teeth grinding suffering that Tour riders uniquely experience, we are still confronted with the dichotomy between health and fitness. There’s a line many athletes, in my opinion endurance athletes in particular, will cross where their health is sacrificed in favor of building for future performance.

In college I experienced this in the form of shin splints and Iliotibal Band Syndome . I would run only on race days, seek out a variety of resources to adjust my bike fit, habitually ice and go to physical therapy, aqua-jog, E-Stem, cupping, cortisone shots, you name it. And only as an absolute LAST resort would I opt to just rest. Which is really what my body needed. REST. I have given that advice to peers, team mates, and fellow racers. I get that advice from coaches and loved ones with the pitiful attempt to console: “There’s always next year…” Then when push comes to shove, like it or not, there have been and will continue to be times that I’m forced to give in to my body’s need for TLC.

All that said, as an endurance athlete (especially those of us who have been doing one or more of these sports since our youth) we are well accustomed to aches, pains, and minor injuries, that we can easily bounce back from and have even ignored without consequence. So it can be tricky to identify when something is ‘take the day or weekend off’ vs ‘you’re out for the season’.

The motivation to push and insist, at least for me, is almost always dictated by an upcoming race. In reality a little time off would not be the end of the world, but there’s a significant level of time, dedication, and even of sacrifice (usually social and financial) that is going to culminate in a meaningful and challenging competition. Indulging in time off from that hard work and focus can feel impossible even when confronted with illness or injury. Our bodies either do what we hope for and recovery quickly OR get worse and end up taking longer to get better.

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For me this season/this year the ongoing health battle has been getting knocked down by sinus infections and chest congestion. I’ll start to feel better and then it flares back up. I’ll have a good training week and then a few weeks of nagging sinus pressure. So why not just rest and get better? Well, the honest answer is that it feels like I’m in too deep! I’m weeks away from my big competitions that I’ve had my sights set on since last October and it feels like every single day counts! I’m managing my training in spite of being unable to fully kick this illness. And because I’ve already gone months training through it, I’m determined to stubbornly stay the course until I cross those finish lines. Would I be better off now if I would have just taken 1-2 whole weeks off when this started instead of a few days? Ya, probably. Shoulda woulda coulda. I’m here now, putting in solid efforts, getting stronger and faster and admittedly putting my fitness and desire to perform over my health.

I’m telling my legs…and my lungs to shut up and do what I tell them to do.

My nugget of advice (that I didn’t and often don’t take for myself) is to listen to your body when something doesn’t feel right. Get supportive shoes, visit the doctor, google exercises that will help you strengthen the muscles and tendons around your knees, take recovery days seriously, and above all – it’s okay to just REST. This advice should especially be strongly considered if you are early in a season, far out from your goal race or competition and if you want to cultivate healthy habits in your own life.

In the mean time I’ll be relying on good sleep, my inhaler, and God’s good grace!

 

 

Half Moon Bay Triathlon

Half Moon Bay Triathlon
Pre - Race

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When I arrived at the race site it was 4:50am, 10 minutes before transition was set to open. I walked over to the transition area which was clearly uninhabited. I was first in line and nervously eager for the event ahead. It was a cold morning with a biting wind. My teeth chattered as I waited to wheel my bike in for the perfect spot in transition. Promptly at 5am I set up my transition area making sure to place each item in the planned spot. Once that was done I had two hours to kill before the race would begin. I probably went to the bathroom about 10 times between when I arrived at the race course and when the actual race began. I’m not sure if this was due to my adequate level of hydration or more because of nerves. I started to see familiar faces as the sunrise approached, said hello behind anxious eyes and gave hugs to friendly competitors. About 45 minutes before the race was meant to start I did a warm-up run on the run course. It was starting to feel real. With the windchill still a factor I grabbed my roller stick and went to my car to roll out my calves in the warmth. As I willed my muscles to loosen up before the upcoming endeavor and listened to my pump-up playlist through the car speakers I wondered to myself “What am I doing here? How come I’m not in bed right now?”

With 20 minutes till race start it was time to adorn my skin with slick silicone-based spray and squeeze into my wetsuit. I pulled and tugged at every inch of my wetsuit to make sure to give my shoulders as much room as I could. I double checked my timing chip wrapped around my ankle, grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed to the start. As I walked I heard others laugh and mimic my thoughts, “What are we thinking!?” and “Is this fun?” I smiled to myself as my I tried to ignore the sharp gravel beneath my bare feet. We reached the sandy shore of the bay. I watched as a another racer pointed out at the buoys, describing the proper direction to swim and which colors were sighting versus turning buoys. 6:40am, I took a few nervous deep breaths heading into the water to let my face and feet turn numb and acclimate to the cold. I rarely get into the water long before the start, but today I decided a proper warm-up would be worth it. About 5 minutes before the start they announced that one of the buoys had drifted farther than they expected; the race would be delayed as they reset it. I was treading near a few other women in my age group – we rolled our eyes and shook our heads, but there was nothing we could do about it. A few went back to shore, but many of us decided to stick it out and stay near the starting Buoy’s to do a few more warm up efforts. Someone turned to her friend in an attempt to be comforting and loudly said, “Don’t worry it’ll be fun! If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!” We were silent. I piped in, “I think I’m doing something wrong…” We laughed together acknowledging the lunacy of treading freezing water and trying to pretend we were enjoying it. Shortly after 7am it was finally time to begin the race. I was somewhat acclimated and lost some energy to the cold, but most of all was ready to just do it.

Swim

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The racers counted down along with the announcer, “5 – 4 – 3 – 2-, ” then feet kicking, arms swinging, bodies flailing, everyone lurching in the direction of the next buoy. In spite of the extra time in the water I hadn’t fully succumbed to the cold. Now it was inescapable, the freezing water stabbed every inch of my body. My lungs felt tight, my breaths were short as I took big salty gulps of bay water. I coughed and choked repeatedly as choppy water splashed into my mouth every time I lifted my head. My mind screamed at my arms to flail a little faster. I tried to kick harder, but couldn’t feel my legs enough to know if they were moving. Water flowed between my fingers as I tried to squeeze them together, but with each pull I but could barely find the strength to control them. Reaching each buoy was bitter-sweet it was another check-point accomplished and yet still another to go; particularly at the farthest turn which felt inexplicably long (clearly their attempt to reset the buoy at the proper length was futile). As the sun rose I couldn’t determine what was bright sun and what was yellow buoy so I just looked for splashing water nearby. All I could do was swim and pray to get to the shore alond side my age group. Finally, with the feeling of sand at my fingertips a sense of relief washed over me and I popped up onto my feet and ‘high kneed’ out of the water. I ripped my cap and goggles off of my head and forced my arms out of my wetsuit as I sprinted as fast as my numb feet would allow over sand, rocks, gravel and asphalt.

Bike

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As I stepped out of my wetsuit with my legs I strapped my helmet on. Within seconds I was sprinting alongside my road bike. I jumped onto my bike with ease placing my bare-feet on top of my already-clipped-in tri shoes. I began spinning my legs to get up to speed and to get warm and took a couple gulps of Gu Brew. Once I could comfortably coast at 15 mph I reached down to squeeze my wet feet into my shoes. The right foot slid in easily as I had practiced. The left took more than one try and in wiggling to try to get it to fit I almost unclipped and lost the shoe. Finally, both feet were in- crisis averted. I lost a little speed struggling with my left shoe, but was mentally already focused on passing the women ahead of me. My eyes darted to each racer’s calves looking for my age group. I attempted to gauge where I was and who I needed to catch. I made a few good passes on the short steep climbs and didn’t hold back on the short descents going into sharp turns. I ate a gu and drank a little more gu brew. I enjoying the whirring of Eric’s carbon wheels, urging my bike faster with each pedal stroke. At the turn around point I was riding straight into headwind. The miserable feeling of wind wiping my face, challenging my pace made me sarcastically chortle, “Fun.” I reminded myself that everyone was feeling that same sense of dread when faced with intense wind, but if I pushed a little harder it could make all the difference for a podium finish. A few quick, hard efforts before the final turn made me feel like I was flying. With transition in site it was time to prepare for the dismount. I pulled on the neon tab at the back of my tri shoe, lifting my barefoot out and placing it back on top of my shoe. I dismounted with ease just before the dismount line.

Run

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Yes! 2/3 done! A rush of adrenaline filled me as I flew through T2. I racked my bike, pulled on my running shoes, ate a quick gu-chew and grabbed my race-belt/bib. I strapped the bib on as I ran out of transition into the final effort. 10k to go and then done. I found a quick cadence to warm up my feet and get my blood pumping. I ran alongside another woman in the next age group up. We held a solid 7:25min/mi pace and my legs began to open up. She offered encouragement as I slowly pulled ahead, I echoed her sentiment. I felt strong and light on my feet. I took small sips of water at each aid station without slowing my pace. At the turn around I was again faced with that head wind. A guy I was nearby on the bike encouraged my pace and block the wind for me. Our pace dropped to 7min/mile, but with 3 miles to go I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it. I tacked onto to another girl nearby, closer to my target effort, and focused on getting to the end. I tried to find fast legs as I threw one leg in front of the next. At each turn I took 10 quick strides to quicken my pace. Going into the final 800 meters there were plenty of spectators cheering us on. A few people yelled out “Yeah Cal!” and cheered “Go Bears!” I kicked into my final gear trying to pass anyone who was between me and the finish. A smile crept across my face as I crossed the finish line.

Finished

There’s nothing quite like the euphoric relief of crossing the finish line. Feeling accomplished, happy, and complete bliss. I chuckled to myself, “Wow, what a fun race.” After I had a chance to cool down and call my dad and boyfriend to let them know how the race went I moseyed over to the awards area to see if results were posted. I held my breath hoping to see my name next to #1. Alas, I had come in second. Although content with a podium spot, I was disappointed that I hadn’t qualified for Age Group nationals. I had targeted this race as my qualifying race and was disappointed to find I was not in 1st. Low and behold later that evening as I looked over the results online I realized that my #2 spot was still enough to be in the top 10% of my age group and therefore I DID in fact qualify! Two days ago I got the official email from USAT inviting me to compete at Age group nationals this August! With that I am well on my way to accomplishing my goals for 2017. It is an awesome feeling!

HMB awards 2

Stats
  • Olympic Distance
  • Overall: 110 of 516
  • Gender: 17 of 148
  • AG: 1 of 22
  • Swim: 40:26 (2:41/100m)
  • T1: 1:53
  • Bike: 1:17:31 (19..27 mph)
  • T2: 1:42
  • Run: 45:34 (7:20min/mi)
  • Elapsed: 2:47:09

“Because when I race, I feel like I’m FLYING”

“Because when I race, I feel like I’m FLYING”

While at Lake Temescal (a short jaunt out of Berkeley into Oakland), my sophomore year in college, I was about to do a Tuesday tempo workout with my triathlon teammates. We were stretching, talking about the target paces, how many loops around the lake we planned to attempt, etc. I turned to our lead female athlete, a legend on Cal Tri, and my idol at the time and asked her, “Do you enjoy racing?” She looked at me a little surprised (I assume this was less because of the question and more because of the intensity with which I had asked it– really wanting to know); she listened as I continued: “I mean I know you are GOOD at racing, your talents are undeniable – you’re an incredible athlete. But.. do you ENJOY it?” She smiled sincerely and answered as if it’s a question she already knew the answer too. “Yes. I love racing. Because when I race, I feel like I’m FLYING.”
I have pondered this response for the remainder of my collegiate racing and have continued to be entranced by it into my age group racing phase of life. This woman, an intellect, humble, talented, kind, and above all FIERCE, was our number one female athlete and the top ranking female repeatedly at collegiate nationals. Needless to say she had cultivated the ability to suffer and she was GOOD at it. (It’s an odd thing to say someone is good at suffering, but then again so is swimming, biking and running as fast as you can and hoping you don’t keel over — for FUN). Knowing this, knowing how hard she had to push herself, knowing how much it must have hurt (in spite of injuries I might add), she still enjoyed it. Amazing!
I’ve spent years since, especially on tempo days and especially on days I ran at Lake Temescal, repeating in my head like some kind of ritual or mantra, “I love this, I love what I’m doing, just a little faster and I’ll be flying.” I’d say it over and over with an inward smile as if a smile and that mantra would cast away any doubt, mask any shin splints, cure any migraine. Even when I didn’t believe it I would say it until I had convinced myself to no longer entertain stopping; until the only possibility within the realm of consideration was to push harder. It’s gotten me through some of my hardest workouts, most painful injuries, and seemingly impossible feats. Drawing inspiration from this person I watched from the sidelines overcome great obstacles with a humble fierceness. Drawing inspiration from an idea that I’ve turned into a empowering beacon of gratitude for what my body can do.
When I think about the races ahead of me, this weekend and this season – I have a lot of hope and expectation. Inevitably with that comes certain doubts and insecurities – and of course the inescapable question “why do I do this?” But then I remember, I remember that little manta (stolen and tweaked to make it my own); it’s in the back of my mind, a little voice urging me on: daring me to FLY.