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 http://www.coeursports.com 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

Recharging

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!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

REV3 Florida

While I'm sitting here looking at this today...


...I thought it might be nice to reminisce about this:


Photo by Eric Wynn/REV3.

Florida! It was a fun trip jam-packed with all sorts of action. I headed down to the Sunshine State early in the week for a quick visit to my old stomping grounds in Clermont first, then a jaunt up to Gainesville to see my dear friend Ali who is teaching at the University of Florida this semester. The trip down memory lane in Clermont was short but sweet; it was interesting to see how little has changed in the 9+ years since I trained there with this crew:


With Ric Rosenkranz and the boys at the National Training Center, 2003.

The visit with Ali was a refreshing change of pace; we sat and talked, looked and listened, which is something I'm desperately out of practice with. There's something about the sunlight and the lazy sway of the Spanish moss in the trees that slows things down in Florida and lulls my sense of urgency. I have no desire to live there again but I can see why the tropical climates are appealing to so many people. I prefer the mountains though, and knowing that I don't have to worry about running across any of these guys during my swims:


One of MANY gators basking in the sun at Payne's Prairie outside of Gainesville.

After a relaxing couple of days in central Florida I headed down to Venice on the gulf coast for the final REV3 triathlon event of the season. I know I've said it before but it bears repeating: REV3 is a fantastic company that not only produces top-notch races but is comprised of the most friendly, helpful, and genuinely caring staff in the triathlon production business. Seriously, how many other races will you go to and get a greeting like this one below from the owner and mastermind of the entire company?!


A great big bear hug from REV3 owner Charlie Patten, captured by photographer David Laskey.

It was a lovely reunion with the entire REV3 family, as well as my real family! Both my mom and my Aunt Candy made the trip down to Venice to soak in some sun and cheer me on. It's become something of a tradition the past three years for them to travel to a November race---ITU Long Distance Worlds in Vegas in 2011, Ironman Arizona in 2012, and now Florida in 2013. Aunt Candy comes to REV3 Quassy every year as well, and my mom was on hand for my magical day at REV3 Cedar Point in 2011 and again in 2012. They've become real groupies, and I'm lucky to have them on my side! Unfortunately I don't have any photos with them to prove it happened, but they were there---I promise! I also got to reconnect with my friend Brittany (with whom there is never a dull moment), meet some Facebook Friends in person for the first time (Alex, Jaime, Nina---nice to meet you all for real!), and make some brand new friends along the way:


Friends, old and new.

As for the race itself, I got out of it what I came for: a solid race effort, a promising fitness check, and experience on a flat/hot/humid/windy course going into Ironman Cozumel in a few weeks. For the second race in a row my swim was the most disappointing leg of the race; I'm not sure exactly what is going on but it's obvious that my swimming strength is not where it needs to be right now to compete with the top girls. I lost contact with the leaders within the first 200 meters of the swim and it ended up defining my race: another day in No Man's Land. I exited the water several minutes down from the leaders and then struggled to make up any of that ground on the bike. The ride was a series of out-and-backs which I enjoyed but at the same time it was frustrating to see exactly how little headway I was making. Once I hit T2 I was pleased to feel my running legs had shown up and I was able to find a good rhythm within the first mile. Last year on this course I completely bombed on the run and I was determined to have a better performance this time around. I felt AWESOME though about 9 miles, then felt my hips and legs tightening up a bit. I tried to keep my stride open and relaxed but I definitely slowed down in the last four miles and *almost* ended up in yet another sprint finish. Flashback to St. George and Williamsburg earlier this year! It wasn't the most impressive run split but it was certainly respectable on the day and I was pleased to successfully apply some techniques I've been practicing in training. Even better, I steadily moved up throughout the race, going from 8th out of the water to 7th off the bike to 6th place by the end of the run! I often find myself going the other direction through the ranks so this was an encouraging experience. Now I just have to get my swimming skills back then I'll be in a pretty good spot!


Exiting the swim way to far behind the leaders. Photo by David Laskey.


Ticking off the run miles. Photo by David Laskey.


Happy to cross another finish line. Photo courtesy of REV3.

I have so many people to thank and things to be grateful for that there is no possible way to cover them all, but I'd like to mention a few:

THANK YOU to REV3 Triathlon for being such a great company with a great staff who put on great races!
THANK YOU to the City of Venice for being so welcoming and to the fabulous volunteers who made this event possible!
THANK YOU to Mom & Aunt Candy for making the trip and cheering your hearts out!
THANK YOU to Brittany for being my roommate.
THANK YOU to Ali for reminding me to slow down and soak things in.
THANK YOU to all my friends and family, near and far, for the continued cheers and support.
THANK YOU to my sponsors for sticking with me through thick and thin.

A parting shot:


Giving back to the sport that has given me so much: showing athletes the ropes at the Blueseventy Swim Clinic with fellow pro and native Hoosier Eric Limkemann.

Monday, September 23, 2013

REV3 Branson

Well, another race is in the books! It did not end up being a great day for me but I enjoyed racing anyway, reuniting with the REV3 crew after a few months away, and getting to spend some time in an area I would not otherwise visit. Branson, Missouri, is smack-dab in the middle of the Ozarks and is all about "God and Country" and a "Thousand Hills". It's known as the "live music show capitol of the world" and the main drag through town is lined with all sorts of glitzy theaters for miles and miles. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but since everyone drives at least 5 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit (probably because they're gawking at all the tourist attractions) it SEEMS like HWY 76 through town is endless. It's an odd place but one that I've become fond of over the past several days.



A sampling of wonders along HWY 76.

The newer retail area on the waterfront at Branson Landing is absolutely gorgeous, and this was the setting for the REV3 expo, run course, and finish line area. With the run meandering through the heart of the shopping center on the Promenade, along the river, through a couple of parks and back along the boardwalk it offered a varied and engaging course. The bike route was the crown jewel of the race, featuring a closed-course looped section along a scenic four-lane highway with challenging climbs and sweeping descents. The swim presented its own challenge, namely the morning fog lifting off the 80-degree water into the chilly autumn air which made navigating around the buoys something of a trick. Overall it was a great course that will go down in my memory as one of the toughest yet fun bike rides I've ever tackled.


This is where we got to ride. Photo by Eric Wynn.

My day began with falling asleep during the swim. I'm not sure if it was the warm water that lulled me to sleep or what, but I certainly was not out there racing anybody in the water. I had a little difficulty seeing the far red turn buoys in the fog so I may have swum a little further than I needed to, but I think everyone had some trouble with it so hearing that I was three-and-a-half minutes down from the leaders coming out of the water was an unpleasant shock. I knew there were some fast swimmers in the field and I expected to be a little behind after the swim but not THAT far back!


Warm water, cool air = gorgeous morning fog. Photo by Eric Wynn.

Time to buckle down and get to work on the bike then. I kept telling myself that I thrive in adverse conditions and this presented a perfect opportunity to make some magic happen. Except there was one problem: my legs didn't show up for work today! I simply felt BAD and hurt all over as soon as I started turning the pedals. My power numbers weren't horrible but I was just not going anywhere and it felt like I was riding through mud. Jessica Meyers and Rachel McBride came rolling up early in the ride and I tried to stay with them but once we got onto the Ozark Mountain Highroad where the loops began they eventually pulled away and I ended up riding in no-man's land for the majority of the bike. It was really frustrating because with the wide-open views I could see the action up the road but was never able to make any headway at closing down the gap. I rolled into T2 in a discouraging 7th place well out of touch with the leaders. But ever the optimist I told myself that it's not over 'til it's over and maybe the girls up front rode a little too hard and would blow up and start coming back to me during the run.


I ended up riding about as well as this guy during the race.

I hit the run course and my legs FINALLY decided to cooperate. It's been a very challenging year for me in the running department, with a couple of injuries inhibiting my ability to train effectively. While my run volume and speed training have been laughable this season, I've had a couple of "aha" moments with regards to running technique and have focused on improving my form instead. While I'm still well shy of my best running form, and even further from where I aspire to be, it has helped me hold things together enough to post respectable enough run splits. My goal on the day was to keep driving my hips forward and turning my legs over quickly, and to see if I could track down any of the girls in front of me. In the end I got close, but was also passed by two other girls, so landed in 9th place when it was all said and done. Not a great performance by any means but one I can be proud of from the standpoint that I never gave up and kept pushing all the way through the finish line. It sounds cliche but it's really true: you often learn more from the bad races than the good ones, and sometimes the races you end up being most pleased with are not those that look the best on paper.


Pushing hard on the run. Photo by Eric Wynn.

What a finish line it was! Thanks REV3 Triathlon for yet another stellar event. It's a real shame that more people didn't turn out to experience the epic course, but for those of you who did, PLEASE TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, NEIGHBORS, TRAINING PARTNERS, and anyone else who will listen just how awesome this event was! I know I'm not the only one who would love to see REV3 back in Branson for many years to come.


A unique and memorable finish line.

Thanks as always to my friends and family for the support and cheers, and to my sponsors for seeing me through thick and thin: Powerbar, REV3, Recovery Pump, Reynolds, Fezzari, Powertap, Maxxis, Rudy Project, Blueseventy, and The Bike Shoppe.