Sunday, June 8, 2014

Two Birds With One Stone

Last week I made my annual "killing two birds with one stone" trek back east to race the REV3 Quassy Half and visit family & friends in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The trip actually started inauspiciously at the SLC airport when we boarded the plane and taxied to the end of the runway only to turn around and head back to the gate to deplane because of bad weather in Denver (where we were headed for a stopover). Eventually we got off the ground, but what was already going to be a late night arrival in Hartford turned into a VERY late night (actually early the next morning) landing. Luckily my great homestay Kim DuBord was willing to sacrifice some of her sleep and pick me up at the airport!

Post-race with the other half of my homestay, Sheri, who kept me fed and cheered like I was a rockstar.

Saturday was a BUSY day that included building the bike, driving 45 minutes the race site, packet pick-up, leading a Blueseventy swim clinic, sneaking in a practice swim and ride, then volunteering at the Powerbar booth for three hours. On the drive back to the house I had the opportunity to repay Kim for the late-night airport run as her car had a flat tire 5 miles from the race site and she needed a ride back home. Then it was dinner, organize the gear, and time to hit the sack!

Giving back in the Powerbar booth.

Race morning greeted us with absolutely gorgeous weather, the best I have seen in the four years that I've raced at this venue. The vibe was a little different than in previous years because for the first time in the history of the race there was no professional field. I have to admit I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere---it was nice to tackle one of my all-time favorite courses without any sort of pressure or the usual pre-race jitters that abound when you've got a field of thoroughbred pro triathletes assembled. I started like all the other "regular folks" in my assigned age/gender category, which meant a start time 30 minutes after the first wave. My approach to the day was to "go fishing"---reel in as many people as possible---while teasing the best out of myself and having fun doing it. Mission accomplished! The race dynamic was definitely different but thoroughly enjoyable, and I was able to try a few new things that I might not have been willing to attempt in the heat of a pro race. I ended up slightly shy of my best time on that course but I felt great all day and took away some valuable nuggets from the experience. I landed on top of the podium which is always fun, though a bit less satisfying than if it had been against the world-class field of elites this race has drawn in the past!

Shaking hands on the podium.

A nice video recap of the event was put together by local reporter Joe Palladino of the Republican-American in Middlebury, CT. You can watch it here.

A HUGE thanks to my awesome homestay family Kim & Sheri (and their girls Molly, Kona, and Greta) for going above and beyond in making my weekend run smoothly! I'm pretty sure I would have gone hungry without their help. Congrats to Kim on her finish in the half, and thanks to her dad "Sparky" for capturing some nice photos of the event. Thank you to Charlie Patten for giving me the opportunity to compete, and to the entire REV3 staff for putting on great events and just being awesome people. I will miss seeing you all and doing your races! Thanks to my Aunt Candy for making the trip up to Quassy despite a bad back and for whooping it up like nobody's business. Finally, thanks to the companies whose support helps get me to every start line: Red Rock Brewery, Powerbar, Coeur Sports, Blueseventy, Rudy Project, Maxxis, Powertap, The Bike Shoppe, Fezzari, and ISM.

The second part of this trip was all about family and soaking in my heritage. The following photographs give a little taste of what we did:

A visit with my Pop-pop, who was awarded four Gold Stars for Bravery during WWII.

We enjoyed the sights and sounds of the eastern Pennsylvania countryside.

I spent time with my Grandma Jane and toured the Oley Valley with my new friend Ginny.

We visited an old Revolutionary War graveyard which is only a couple of miles from the house where my mother grew up.

Other highlights included "re-meeting" my Uncle John and having ice-cream with fresh strawberries from my grandmother's garden. All in all, it was a well-rounded trip!

Monday, May 19, 2014


They say that all good things must end someday, and the 2014 edition of REV3 Knoxville certainly marks the end of an era in professional triathlon racing. A few weeks ago REV3 announced that they would no longer be hosting professional fields at their races, making the 2013-14 Series Championship race in Knoxville the final REV3 pro race. I understand the decision, and I know that Charlie Patten and his crew at REV3 must have hated making it, but that doesn't make it any easier for anybody to swallow. It's a huge loss of potential income for professional triathletes, particularly the second-and-third tier pros trying hard to make something of a living in the sport...but for me personally the loss extends beyond the monetary aspect. When I first hopped on the REV3 bandwagon in 2011 they offered an alternative vision that reignited my competitive fire at a point when I was foundering in the sport, and REV3 essentially helped to rebuild my confidence and resurrect my career through the racing and media opportunities they provided. It sounds cheesy but over the past few seasons the staff has become something of an extended "triathlon family" to me. They have worked very hard to provide a race experience where the age-groupers feel like pros and the pros feel like rock stars; it's a wonderful feeling to go to a well-organized, professionally run event where most of the staff know you by name and they always greet you with a smile and a hug. I will really miss that. I sincerely hope that through their current restructuring efforts REV3 is able to build an even stronger brand that continues to be a major player in the sport of triathlon, and that someday they are able to bring back an even bigger and better pro series which offers the same sort of opportunities they provided to athletes like me over the years.

Now onto the race experience! It's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for me this off-season and I entered the event with somewhat shaky confidence in my fitness. I love Knoxville though, and the rolling hills and technical descents on the bike course really suit me so I was looking forward to getting out and testing my legs. I was also looking forward to reuniting with my Knoxville homestay family: Bradley and Kellie Toon, their boys Kaleb and Evan, and the Toon's friend Trish from North Carolina. Usually Kellie and Trish would be racing too but this year they've both had other things going on so they planned to spend the entire weekend being my super sherpas instead. I couldn't ask for a better support crew!

Super sherpas Trish, Kellie, and Bradley.

Race morning dawned overcast and cool, but not cold and rainy as some had predicted. The water temperature had dropped a surprising three degrees overnight to sixty-eight, which made it just barely wetsuit legal for the pros. Luckily I came prepared with both my blueseventy swimskin and Helix wetsuit just in case. I opted for the sleeveless wetsuit because I tend to run hot in the water, a decision that Trish and the Toons were thankful for because it made me easy for them to spot during the swim leg.

And we're off!

Naked arm---that's me!

The pro men started at 6:50am with the ladies following three minutes later. I knew there were some STRONG swimmers in the field and my goal was to catch their feet at the start and hang on for dear life. This strategy worked for about the first 2-300 meters before I got left in their wake. From there on out it was a lonely swim with nobody else around. I exited the water about 2.5 minutes down from super-swimmer Haley Chura and about a minute back of the pack of main contenders. This is an improvement compared to my abysmal swims from last year but there's obviously still work to do!

Running up the ramp in my Blueseventy Helix and Coeur Sports Chinese New Year kit.

T1 was a little rusty with a slight hair-snag problem when putting on my brand-spanking new black Rudy Project Wingspan helmet, but once I hit the mount line things went smoothly. I LOVE this bike ride and felt surprisingly strong despite a relative lack of bike training so far this year. I spotted Bec Wassner up the road early in the ride and set my sights on catching her. About the time I rode up to her Mandy McLane zoomed past me, so I had a new target to stick with. At some point we passed Haley Chura and also saw Jen Spieldenner on the side of the road wrestling with a flat. Bec and I spent some time trading back and forth on the hills---due to our relative sizes gravity was on her side going uphill then became my friend coming down. At the out-and-back section I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were only 45 seconds back of the leaders, and that motivated me to ride harder. I also had in mind making a move to try to get away from Bec and Mandy on the last major climb because I knew there was a technical descent coming down the backside and I wanted a clear road in front of me for that part. I was pleased to successfully execute the move and to not only create a gap over the last 10 miles of the course, but to also catch the next rider up the road, Anna Cleaver, as we rolled up to the dismount line. I learned after the fact that I had actually posted the fastest bike split of the day for the ladies---a bit of a puzzle considering my lack of bike training but I'll take it!

Ready to tackle the hills.

T2 also proved to be a little rusty (note to self: practice transitions) as I struggled with getting one of my shoes on, but once I finally completed that maneuver I was off and running ahead of Anna in 4th place. My mantra during the run was to "keep your hips open, keep the tempo up". I felt pretty strong (not to mention super comfortable in my awesome Coeur Sports race kit!) and was holding a good pace, but Anna and Mandy were running a wee bit faster and both overtook me by mile 2. I worked to keep them in my sights and maintain my pace. Bec came by about mile 3 then disappeared as we began to hit the hills. I did okay keeping things together on the climbs, but I had to change my normal stride slightly because I was wearing a new pair of shoes and had embarrassingly failed to tighten the elastic laces enough and it felt like they might slip off my heels if I pushed off too hard going up the inclines. DOH! What do they say about never trying anything new on race day...?!

Gotta clean up those transitions...

Coming up to the turnaround I was able to get a good look at where the other ladies were---if I worked hard and someone struggled in the second half I MIGHT be able to move back up a place or two. What really surprised me was how far back the rest of the field was; the bike ride must have really tested the legs of some of the girls and barring a complete blow-up on my part it didn't look like anyone had a real chance of catching up. Woohoo! It was a nice spot to be, but I tried to avoid becoming complacent and focused on keeping my pace up and getting the best out of myself. My watch told me I slowed down some in the last mile and a half, but I was able to still maintain a decent pace through the finish line. It was really great to be greeted with high-fives from my super-sherpas in the finishing chute and to hear the familiar voice of announcer Sean English calling me in across the line. I landed in 7th place on the day---still plenty of work to do but a solid showing that indicates things are moving in the right direction. The best part is that I had FUN! That's something that I lost a little last year so it was nice to be back racing in a happier place. I also managed to sneak into the top 5 in the overall series which meant it was a double payday. Bonus!

A big smile and high fives at the finish.

I have so many things to be thankful for, and people to thank who have helped me along the way. Thanks first to Charlie, Eric, Ashley, Alex, and all the other current and past staff at REV3 who not only provided the opportunity to race in top-notch events across the country, but have also been so friendly to me over the years and each contributed to the joy that I find within the sport. Thanks to the Toons and Trish for their hospitality and support this past weekend, and on other weekends in other years at this race and in South Carolina. Thanks to my friends, family, clients and co-workers for the cheers and belief from near and afar. Thanks to Albert for supporting me in my career for the past 9 years, and for holding down the fort on numerous occasions while I'm away racing. Thanks finally to my sponsors and supporters for helping me get to the starting line and performing my best on the day: Red Rock Brewing Company, Powerbar, Coeur Sports, Rudy Project, BlueSeventy, Maxxis, Powertap, The Bike Shoppe, Fezzari Bicycles, and ISM Saddles.

I'll leave you with a couple of bonus shots from the weekend....this is what it's all about!

My rock star athlete Katy who took 2nd in her age group in her second-ever Olympic distance race!

We went straight from awards to watch these two yahoos do their thing as pitcher and catcher of their baseball team. They won, and we celebrated by showing off our muscles and unicorn horns!

Thanks Charlie & Co. for the memories. Photo by David Laskey

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Heart and Courage: Coeur Sports

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed that I've been expressing a lot of enthusiasm lately for a company called Coeur Sports. I'm very pleased to be on board with this women's endurance sports apparel company this year for a number of reasons. First of all, they make darn good performance wear---designed by lady triathletes FOR lady triathletes---that is comfortable, functional, and (GASP) stylish! No more running around being mistaken for a man while out on the race course! I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to that. Founder Kebby Holden and her partner in crime, Hailey Manning, have come up with a unique "wing-shaped" seam-free chamois design for their triathlon shorts that eliminates chafing on both the bike and run. So comfy, and SO important in long course racing! The tri shorts have a nice wide "yoga-style" waistband which is both comfortable and flattering, with discreet yet easily accessible pockets for stashing gels etc. The tri tops are also super comfortable with support in all the right places and a stylishly flared cut that is a little longer than most tri tops---both flattering and great for keeping your skin covered while in the aero position. Like the tri bottoms, the tops feature rear pockets in addition to a mesh panel on the back which makes the top extra breathable. There are a nice variety of colors and fun patterns to choose from so you can find something that suits your personality, either going with a complete set or doing a little mixing and matching. And they don't just make tri suits! Coeur also offers swimming, running, and cycling gear as well as a developing line of cute casual wear. You can visit their website at to learn more about the company, check out their products, and read the Coeur Sports blog to keep tabs on what the Coeur ladies are up to.

Speaking of what the Coeur ladies are up to...what a team! I am honored to be in the company of such an accomplished and motivated group of women. Although my own racing won't kick off for another month or so, the triathlon season is in full swing and the Coeur Sports girls are already tearing it up. It's inspiring to hear about my teammates notching up great performances each weekend, and Coeur Sports does an AWESOME job of highlighting their athletes' performances on Facebook, Twitter, and the company's blog. The support has been phenomenal, and I'm not even racing yet! It's a wonderful feeling to know that you're not just another number but that your sponsor sincerely cares how you're doing and is rooting for you the whole way. If you read my previous post you'll know that I was at a pretty low point at the end of last season, and one of the things that has helped dig me out of that hole and given me new energy is the enthusiasm of the Coeur team. I can't wait to get out there and represent them with a healthy display of Heart and Courage on the race course this year!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Yes, it has been almost 4 months since I've blogged! Whoops. Sometimes you need a little break though, and after a long and in many ways trying 2013 triathlon season I definitely needed some time to step back, think some things through, and recharge.

After Ironman Cozumel in early December I found myself at a very low point mentally. It had been a tough year with an early season hip imbalance followed by a mid-season ankle sprain which kept me from running on all cylinders in training. Things started turning around just before Ironman Wisconsin in early September but without sufficient run training under my belt I wasn't quite able to pull off a miracle on race day. After a couple of outings at REV3 events and a decent block of training I felt ready to put together a solid effort in Cozumel. The setting was gorgeous, the vibe was good, and who doesn't enjoy capping off the season with a tropical race-cation?! Unfortunately while the trip was a lot of fun, the race itself proved to be a bitter disappointment which left me questioning whether or not I still wanted to be involved in the sport. In retrospect, I didn't fully do my homework prior to the race and failed to realize how a completely flat, looped course would create a hotbed for drafting which drastically affected the race dynamic. It was discouraging to work so hard to get into a good position during the bike only to be swallowed up by a veritable peloton in the latter section of the ride, and even worse to realize that try as I might to stay in a legal position the only true way to do that would be to sit up and let the entire field ride past---or attempt to re-pass everyone at once and power away from the field off the front, which I tried multiple times unsuccessfully before figuring out I was burning up all of my matches. The rest of my day was pretty sour; I was mad at the apparent lack of integrity amongst my fellow competitors, mad at the complacency of the draft marshals (although I'm not sure how they would have enforced the rules with that many riders), and mad at myself for getting stuck in a position where my race was being so strongly impacted by other athletes. If only I had swum a little stronger or if only I had pushed the pace earlier in the bike ride...then maybe I wouldn't have gotten caught up in the drafting mess, and I would have had a clean race that I could have been proud of. Instead I finished off the day disheartened, ashamed, and ready to throw in the towel. It was a pretty terrible way to end an already lackluster season. Unfortunately there weren't any convenient races left on the calendar to jump into and try to redeem myself, and frankly I didn't have the energy to do that anyway.

So I took some time off. I stepped away from swim-bike-run and became a Bikram yogi for a month. I lifted weights five days a week. I drove my car to work everyday. I baked my first turkey and had such a great experience that I baked two more. I explored downtown Ogden and visited all the shops on Historic 25th Street. I took a trip to Indiana to see friends and family. All the while I mulled over my feelings about triathlon and my place in the sport. I asked myself some tough questions and thought about how my life would change if I were not involved in triathlon in the same way anymore, and whether I was ready to make that transition. And the answer is yes---but not quite yet. After easing back into some training I have found that the fire is still there, I'm enjoying the process of rebuilding my fitness, I've got some fresh goals driving me, and I'm looking forward to toeing some starting lines and achieving a new level of competitiveness this season. Most importantly, I'm excited to get back to "racing happy" and regaining a sense of joy and playfulness that got a little lost in the shuffle last year.

So where can you find me this year? I'm currently doing some local running races to ramp up for my tri-season kick-off, which will be on May 17th at REV3 Knoxville. I've committed to doing most of the REV3 races this year, with a few 70.3 and Ironman races sprinkled in. I'd like to revisit Madison in September and put together the type of race I know I'm capable of on that course. I've decided that I'm not interested in running myself ragged trying to chase points to qualify for Kona. The last two years I over-raced and never really peaked; this year I'm planning to race less often but with an eye for much higher quality at my target events. It's going to take some patience and self-control, especially with the season already in full swing and impressive performances happening every weekend---but with a little faith in my training, added to the support of a good team around me, I should be able to put together something special this year.

See you at the races!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cozumel Picture Book

I took A LOT of photographs while in Cozumel; here is just a sampling of my favorites. Enjoy!

Look for underwater pictures soon!