Monday, August 14, 2017

When we don't know what to say

There are moments in life when things come up and it is hard to know what the right thing to say is. A friend is diagnosed with cancer, someones beloved pet passes away, someone expresses feelings for you that you don't reciprocate. I often find it hard to find the right thing to say in these situations and struggle to put together the right string of words that will comfort and soothe the other party. What words are appropriate? What will help the situation? How do I say something that will ease the heartache that others are feeling? That is not cliche?

Especially in situations where I have never been through what the other party is facing, it is hard to know what to say.

However, you say something. You try. Could you imagine standing there in silence, never saying anything at all about what has just happened? Turning conversation to whatever was next or going on in your own life, ignoring it completely because it is not a situation that affects your immediate life? You don't turn silent on those that you care about and you don't say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. You approach it with empathy and honesty and you try. You say something.

Lately, I feel like we are living through a time in history that is just one prolonged moment of "I am feeling a lot for you right now but don't know the right thing to say." And just as I would never stand in the face of a friend who brought forth a troubling moment in their life to me and go silent - I don't want to go silent to what I am seeing happen in our country.

This weekend the events that took place in Charlottesville left me feeling heartbroken. And partially speechless because I don't know what to say that hasn't been said by someone more eloquent than me. I don't know what is appropriate. I don't know what I could say that would help vs. just rile up more angry or painful feelings. However, not wanting to be silent, although I don't know the right thing to say, let me just try and say something.

I hate what happened this weekend. I hate that it is happening more and more. I hate that we are living in a moment in American history in 2017 where Nazis and White Supremacists aren't even ashamed to cover their faces when they go out to rally. The images out of Charlottesville this weekend were powerful and shocking. How people can proudly wear and show swastikas is beyond me. And the person who holds the position of supposedly "leading" this country cannot outright name the groups that caused some of the violence - such as driving a car into a group of protesters, killing a woman, is painful. It is painful because we know the hypocrisy behind it, if things had been the other way around.

I feel such anger toward the fact this person was elected because we knew this was coming. We saw it. He indicated this in the way he campaigned, his indifference or support of violent actions through his words, and the beliefs of the people he surrounds himself with. I have had discussions with the people in my circles that had different beliefs than me throughout the past year. Many people smarter than I had documented concern and predictions of the type of culture we were deeming "okay" by supporting and empowering a man like our current "leader" and now we are here. I don't know what to say and I don't know what to do and that frustrates me. I know that the person I am directing a lot of my anger towards did not personally participate in what happened in Charlottesville this weekend. So my anger might seem misdirected. And trust me, I don't for a moment, take away the blame of the individuals who actually committed these actions, but I believe the climate for something like this to take place was due to politics. However, I remind myself to put blame where blame is and to embrace others with love because there is no other way out.

I'm trying to find other ways to get involved as well. I am exploring local politics. I continue to read the news and publications of the parties that are different than me. I work to learn about how people who have different beliefs than me think. I continue to have those conversations. More often than not I end up frustrated and angry. I have more than once disengaged for my own sanity but I need to get better at figuring out a way to stay involved and I need (and will) to continue to find ways to channel that into positive actions.

My skin is white and I am in a majority group in almost all ways. Shocking, I know, right? But with that, I am afforded the privilege that my frustrations and my anger is at least not also mixed with fear based just off of who I am. My skin color affords me that.

This weekend in my personal life was a joyous one. We celebrated love with events for the upcoming wedding of one of my best friends. The discussion of what was going on throughout the weekend in Charlottesville didn't come up much except for a small moment on Sunday afternoon. Two of my friends, both black, were talking about another friend, also black, who had happened to be out of town in Charlottesville over the weekend as these events broke out. She had posted about how despite being in the midst of this national terror, she went out for a run while there, not letting fear and terror stop her from doing what she loved. The comment was made in person on Sunday, "I can't believe she did that - I wouldn't have left the house if I were there!"

The response was, "Right?!" and incredulous laughter before conversation moved on. But I couldn't get it out of my head.

When was the last time that I had to worry about leaving the house for fear just because of what I look like? I couldn't get this exchange out of my head it just hurts me that people that I love feel this way.

I get mad at myself because for not being a stronger advocate. I feel helpless to be able to actually affect any change. I feel ashamed for my country to the rest of the world. I feel scared for what is going to happen next. I feel sickened for Heather Heyer, who was hit by a car while protesting against the white supremacy rally. And for the others who have lost their lives, such as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, due to people emboldened by our current political landscape. We can't forget these people, their names, or what led to their deaths.

We all need to keep learning about the lives and experiences of people different than us. We need to approach one another with love and kindness. We need to surround ourselves with people different then us, not push them away or approach with hate. I write these things as a reminder for myself, because I do feel angry. And I write these things also feeling privilege to even be able to write it. I am white and that alone makes it slightly easier. Black men and women in America, my friends included who I have either bare witness to or have heard stories from, have been having to live with this mindset for so much longer than I have. They've had to think and interact and pay attention to things differently than myself or other white Americans have had to.

This weekend, I reposted on Facebook a post from Senator Cory Booker that resonated with me. I didn't add any commentary around it because I didn't know what to say. But regardless, one single person liked it. I typically get more engagement than that and I think it goes back to what I said at the beginning. So many of us don't know what to say or what to do. Maybe people read it but didn't engage with it because they thought it would be easier to not get involved, to be participate in the dialogue themselves. Who knows? Before the elections, I remember having conversations with people who supported the Republican candidate urging them to reconsider and that I was confident that they were standing on the wrong side of history. Cory Booker finished his post on social media over the weekend by saying, "May we all rise to meet the urgent demands of our moment in history."

I hope that more and more people are seeing that this is our moment in history and following what is happening. Reading articles. Having conversations. Learning about others. Embracing people with positivity, empathy, and curiosity. Let's everyone pay attention a bit more and start talking and doing more, even when we don't know what to say or do. Let's channel the outrage we may feel and do something with it. Let's turn it into positivity.

That's it for tonight from me.

From Cory Booker:

The evil of hatred isn’t just the overt torch-bearing bigots in Virginia. The evil of hate is also the ignorance that breeds it, the apathy that sustains it and the Trump-like rhetoric that gives it license to flourish. 

When speaking about so called “radical Islamic terrorists” last year, President Trump said, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country.” 

On Saturday, President Trump demonstrated a hateful hypocrisy in failing to name the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Alt-Right hate for what it is: not only the cause of the horrific violence in Virginia, but the evil enemy of our Nation’s hope and promise. 

President Trump’s words in his statement -- “hatred, bigotry and violence that's on many sides” -- not only fuels a misleading account of what actually happened but shamefully puts the counter-protestors on the same moral level and as those carrying Nazi flags and chanting vile racist rants. 

I mourn today’s loss of life. I celebrate the peaceful activists who would not be silent in the face of hate. And for those of us watching these events unfold, simply condemning the violence and hate of today is not enough. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., aptly said, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.” 

It is up to us to do more than just look upon the violence and hate on display in Virginia with disapproval. There is serious work to do in our nation from addressing the growing hate and hate crimes in the United States to dealing with persistent systemic injustices in our criminal justice system. 

Condemnation is expected. Anger is understood. But only action, work, sacrifice and struggle will yield progress. The focus should not just be about what “they” did in Virginia, but what we will do where we are to advance our nation toward greater justice. 

I believe in love.

I believe that love can indeed conquer hate. 

But love is not passive. Love doesn’t just sit back and hope that things will change.

Love demands us confronting our own ignorance or complicity in injustice or our own biases and humbly working to change ourselves and our community.

Love is courageous and relentless and it is indeed what our nation needs now.

I believe in love.

I believe in us.

May we all rise to meet the urgent demands of our moment in history.

[Side note: yes, I know that there was another statement made today. This was written by Cory Booker before that occurred and besides, the speech today was not much better.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Berlin nerves, marathon nostalgia, and growing up

Well we are about 7 weeks away from what will be my 5th (!!!) marathon - the route that dreams are made of - Berlin Marathon. I coined that phrase myself (TM?), because it seems like everyone who goes to Berlin to run, goes to run a personal best time. At least that is what it seems like from all the blog recaps I have been reading. And my own personal experience.

The course is known for being flat and fast and holds some of the world record times in the marathon. Just this weekend I started reading blog entries with recaps of the race and almost every one I read started something along the lines of "If I got into Berlin Marathon, I knew I was going to train to race it..."

It sounded familiar. Primarily because that's exactly what I said all along when I first entered the lottery for Berlin. I set my PR in the marathon at Chicago Marathon in 2015 at 3:58, in one was one of the most amazing races of my life. I loved everything about that race - including all of the training leading up to it. I felt like it was the most perfect equation of everything going my way in order to achieve that time. Great friends that I trained with all summer, great support leading up to the race, great course, great weather, friends along the route, etc. I went into the day wanting to run fast and through all of that coming together, I did, running faster than I could hardly believe. I proved something to myself (and to others) on that day.

Then in 2016, I ran New York City Marathon, one I knew all along would be about the experience and not the time. I enjoyed it and am glad that I did that race that way, but wanted to go back to a year of racing a marathon. So, here we are in 2017, as I head into another world major and back into the mindset of racing with a time in mind.

This really scares me. Part of me is thinking, "Wait, why did I want to do this again?!"

It scares me for a number of reasons. It scares me because I set an aggressive goal and time for myself that I don't know if I can actually do. It scares me because as much as I remember how wonderful that day was at Chicago Marathon, I also remember how hard it was. How everything had gone perfectly for me to hit that goal and I don't know if I will have that same experience again. I reread my blog entry from the Chicago Marathon last week and found myself sobbing at the end of it, reliving that day over in my mind. However, part of the reason that I think I was crying also wasn't just the happiness from the day but it also reminded me a little bit of the loss of the person that I once was.

The common theme throughout this year for me has been improvement and growth. I have been getting faster and stronger and smarter and fitter. I know this. I can see this. And although they still surprise me sometimes, the paces of my runs and races don't lie.

Mentally I am growing as an athlete as well and that becomes SO apparent to me especially when I go back and read my blog entries from one or two years ago as I train for races. I am training with really strong, impressive athletes, I have invested in resources to help me - not just with the actual training but with nutrition, recovery, etc.  I have even done a number of things throughout the year to improve my own personal education... such as taking a course to get certified as a running coach myself! Part of the reason I don't even write as much anymore is because this used to be my place to think out loud, pose questions, record and track my training, post my struggles with weight loss and training, and things along those lines.

I didn't really know anyone else to talk to about the things I was facing as I "grew up" in this sport and this was my place to do that. Sometimes rereading my old blogs makes me a little sad because I almost don't really need that anymore...

Part of "growing up" (transition from HungryTwenties to HungryThirties if you will!) is that I have a coach and TrainingPeaks and all of these tools and resources as my fingertips. I train with people who are faster and stronger and more experienced then me. And I am taking advantage of all of these things, soaking up as much as I can, and utilizing all of them. And they're working! I am not just becoming stronger physically but I am becoming smarter about my training and more confident.

But rereading my Chicago blog, the race I am comparing every other race to at this point, and rereading some of my old posts from when I trained for it, I feel a little sad. A little bit of longing for that naive girl who was just out running with her friends every day and excited to fit it all in.

I have a more aggressive goal this time. And a more aggressive training plan. I am still having fun and learning and loving this sport, but it has definitely changed for me. Maybe slowly at first. But now I look around and it is like I am a completely different person. Part of me wonders... will it feel as good to hit my goal at Berlin Marathon as it felt to break 4 hours that day? Maybe it will. Maybe it won't.

It's funny. As I write this right now, I remember thinking the exact same thing after my FIRST marathon, the Paris Marathon. How could ANYTHING beat this? Would anything EVER feel as good as it did to run my first marathon?!

And now, that marathon isn't even in my mind as I sit here and write about marathon nostalgia. The girl who ran Chicago was so different than the girl who ran Paris. And I guess the girl who runs Berlin will be different than all of those. I used to have one of those "one-a-day" calendars that had quotes about running and I remember one that I had on my refrigerator for a long time that said "The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race" and maybe that's the exact conclusion I am coming to right now.

One of the most obvious changes (to me) that I've realized in myself is my ability to set and talk about goals. Earlier this year I would never have told you the time that was in my mind for the Berlin Marathon. Well, if I am even being honest, I didn't even set the time for myself, my coach did. In the second conversation we ever had together about what I wanted out of the year and my races. I suggested a time, and he threw back a time that was 10 minutes faster than that asking, "Why not this?" Ummm... because that time is really, really fast?

For months if people asked me about goals if I answered at all, I would say, "Ha. Well, Jerome thinks this... but that's insane."

Eight months of training with him and I am getting faster. I can see that and I am proud of that. I have set personal best times in the half marathon and 10K this year, and my 5K splits from those races and from training breaking any 5K race personal best I had. In addition to PR-ing those distances in standalone races, I have set personal best or near personal best times for myself in both of those distances as part of triathlons as well! I still can't wrap my head around that I ran 1:56 half marathon during my half ironman this year.

Training regularly this year with a group, others have noticed it as well and have commented to me about it. I love this support and the fact that I have all these people around me who are fellow athletes who are cheering for me. It is also a little bit new to me. And intimidates me a bit.

I've always shared aspects of training on social media or posted my workouts on the blog. But I never have been super detailed with all of my training times or paces or speeds. And that's been purposeful. I know how I am when I see other people's times and paces posted to social media and I have never wanted to do that myself. I like sharing the workout itself... but my actual statistics from training I generally keep to myself. I am not on Strava and I am not connected with others on any form of app or connected tools. You'll see me post actual times following races or every once in a while after a milestone workout as part of training where I am really proud of something.

Otherwise, that information I am more private about. I've always loved to come out and surprise people on race day, not during training! So the fact that people are taking notice of my paces during training is new to me.

Over the past few months, my language has changed as to how I talk about upcoming goals. This has been one of the biggest signs of my growth in confidence I have noticed in myself. If you ask me now, I will confidently tell you what my goal is for the Berlin Marathon and what even more longer term goals I am considering. I NEVER did this before. Ever. I had been thinking it is a good thing and as I mentioned earlier, a sign of "growing up" in the sport. However, lately, this, as well as the fact that people have been noticing my improvements, I am starting to freak myself out a bit.

It feels like in the past when I used to be able to surprise myself and others and be thrilled with that, I feel like there might be expectations. Expectations from myself, from others who I have shared my goals with (which is anyone who asks) and expectations from the people who have noticed my improvements. These mental changes make me nervous going into my race. What if I can't live up to all of this?

In rereading my blog entry to the Chicago Marathon and remembered the feelings I had leading up to the race. I didn't get a time goal stuck into my head until the end of my training cycle. Once I did I was fixated on it and couldn't sleep I was thinking of it so much. I remember crying to my mom on the phone because I was so nervous. I told maybe 3 or 4 really close friends what my time goal was before the race because I was afraid I couldn't do it.

That day was so special because I shocked myself and a lot of other people. I came back to Atlanta and people were literally talking about it. "Did you see what Katelyn ran in Chicago?!" People were honestly in disbelief. I was a bit as well.

I've run enough races now that have really shocked people that I feel a little bit like the cat's out of the bag and we've moved on to a place where there is a different type of pressure on me and I am not sure how to handle it. My coach keeps asking me when I am going to stop writing in my comments after my workouts "I can't believe I ran that fast!!" but part of me hopes I don't even lose that shock. I don't want running fast to ever be an expectation for myself. The surprise and excitement of being assigned a specific workout to try and achieve has become what is fun for me now in my growth. I never did this before this year.

Honestly, sometimes I miss the mornings of running casually through Midtown Atlanta with my friends or the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Path in Schenectady and talking while I ran... not worrying about pace or time or anything. It was simpler. It was easier. It was a different kind of high to my morning routine. There has been a lot of change this year and growing out of this type of running has been hard on me.  It's something that I don't always talk about but lately I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for those days. On the other hand, I am SO PROUD of where I have come and love the high of nailing a hard workout or seeing a fast time. It is so exciting to me. Yet it is a weird feeling to feel both nostalgic about and miss something but at the same time be happy with where you are. Our morning run crew is all in different places than where we were that summer as well, but that doesn't mean those weren't some of the most fun mornings running. Or my old morning runs while I lived in Albany either.

July 2015 in Atlanta
April 2014 in Schenectady
Although it feels a little sad at the same time it's not something that I am really wishing to go back to training wise (but I could always go for more time with my friends!) I enjoy where I am right now with training and life. I don't think I would have the same fulfillment if I was still doing that for all my runs or still in the same place I was 2 or 3 years ago. It would mean I wasn't growing or evolving or challenging myself in the sport at all. At the time, just getting in the runs was the challenge and I've moved beyond that. It is hard, but finding the right balance.

And I think it's okay to feel a sense of sadness for something that has changed with time. I will end things on a non-running related note with a story that made me smile and feel a similar sense of nostalgia this week. In November I have a trip planned to go to Chicago with my childhood girl friends (KO, Teenie, Meag, and E) as the first in our group is having a baby girl. This is wild to me on a whole other level - I love these girls so much and it feels like we were just little girls ourselves not too long ago.

The Fab Five <3 td="">
I was laughing to myself as we coordinated our flights - I arrive a few hours after everyone else and in our discussion the girls replied "Great, we'll get food and cook dinner for when you land Katie!" Which, sounds about perfect to me. Whereas about 5 or 6 years ago, the same exact group went to Chicago to get together and I flew in a few hours after everyone.  However they had all been out drinking at happy hour and the conversation was around how do I catch up to everyone on the drink scale! Times change. People change. It's part of life. I think back to leisurely running the same way I think back to chugging a few drinks to catch up with my friends - I miss it, it was fun - but I don't need to be in that same place still.

The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes. Here is to more race finishes and continual growth as a runner and a person!

Monday, August 7, 2017

My first century ride

A couple weeks ago I achieved a goal that had been in my mind prominently since this past April, which was to do my first century ride, or 100 miles, on the bike. You may recall back in April when I threw a little fit to my coach about wanting to ride 100 miles at the Tony Serrano ride. I was interested in doing it then for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time, however, I settled on knowing that I wanted to do one this year. I knew it would be a cool accomplishment and give me confidence to know I had done one this year (as I think ahead to NEXT year where I would like to do a full Ironman.)

I had started scoping out rides and also looked at some dates with my friend Lauren, who I knew still had some long bike rides ahead of her for the year as her first Ironman is in September! We decided to do one together because we've become really compatible riding partners and I just have a lot of fun with her. I knew it would mean a lot to do my first 100 mile ride with her and was really excited when we settled on the Covington Century ride at the end of July. I had the full support of my coach as well :)

The week of the ride, I was up in New Hampshire with my family and was not on my bike for 2 weeks before doing the ride. This made me feel a bit anxious - especially as the last bike ride that I had been on had turned into a bit of a cluster when I had my first, and second, flat tires while riding.  The Saturday before heading out on vacation, I had a two hour bike ride that ended up being pretty stressful. About an hour in, I got my first flat and changed it with the help of a fellow member of the ITL group. However, after having that first flat, I was way behind the overall group and therefore when I got my second flat, nobody was around. Plus, I had used all of my spare repair kit items the first time!

Luckily, two of my friends had realized I wasn't behind them fairly quickly and turned back for me. However, none of us had experience changing a flat and were about to do our best to have at it when (luckily) two men from Atlanta Triathlon Club came upon us and (thankfully) stopped to help. They identified the culprit - a piece of glass deep in my tire that we hadn't noticed before - and helped to repair the flat.

I was pretty nervous the rest of the day thinking it was going to happen again and I didn't feel relaxed on the bike the rest of that day. Thinking ahead knowing that the next ride I would have outdoors would be the century, I stopped on my way home from that bike ride at my beloved Atlanta Cycling to have them check out the tire. I was assured by the techs that the second repair looked good, my bike was fine, and I restocked my spare tire repair kit (as well buying replacements for my friend whose I had used the second time!) The next day I rode my bike on the trainer at home and all was fine. I left for vacation with my bike still on the trainer, back wheel suspended in the air.

Fast forward to the day I return home, which is also the night before the Covington Century. As I worked to get all my gear together the night before and took my bike off the trainer, I realized that my back tire was dead flat. It hadn't even been sitting with any pressure on it, and it had somehow over the week and a half had gotten down to about 20 psi (whereas I usually ride at 100.) I know that tire pressure can drop when sitting over time, but the front wheel was only down to about 60 so the big drop for the back tire - the same one that had just flat-ed twice - was really concerning to me and tipped me over the edge with nerves.

I started to full on panic, which I know was a result of my feelings for the whole next day but I was so scared that my bike ride was going to turn into another day like the one I had on my last ride. I was worried I would be getting flat after flat, not have enough supplies to change it multiple times, would struggle doing it by myself, and worse that I would hold up Lauren and ruin her day as well, which was also a training day for her. I didn't want to have to deal with that when I would need my energy to get through the day. That evening I was crying and texting my coach, but afraid to text Lauren as I didn't want to worry her about it. I was assured over and over that it - and the ride - would be fine, and I put air in the tire the night before with the plan to check it in the morning.

When I tell you - as soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I jumped out of bed to run and feel my back tire air pressure. Luckily, it was fine. So I hoped it would remain that way throughout the day.

In addition to my issue with the bike tire, the week before while I was away, my TomTom Multisport watch that I had been wearing for about 2 years mysteriously went haywire on me. I had gone for an open water swim in the lake and when I returned to the shore and went to turn off my watch, it simply would not turn off. Eventually I was able to get the activity to end, but it wasn't really anything I did. The watch just started to freak out and do whatever it wanted. A factory reset and all the online help tutorials later, it was still making its own decisions and somehow had turned its default language into Polish, which limited my ability to even troubleshoot. This wasn't the first time I had problems with a TomTom watch malfunctioning and it was the motivation I needed to start to consider more seriously an investment into a new watch. That being said, I wasn't ready to purchase right away, despite two trips to REI on the day I returned to Atlanta. The thought of being watch-less for 100 miles made me really nervous!

Before heading to Covington, three friends met at my apartment and we drove together, and I was graciously able to borrow a spare watch from a friend - which was a huge comfort for me. With a watch and a tire with air, I felt somewhat ready to go, although a bit nervous about the feeling of my gear all seemingly failing on me.

As soon as we started riding, I began to feel better and the nerves slipped away and my confidence grew. My bike was having no issues and the watch was working. I was having fun and we were on our way!

I am not going to break the ride down mile by mile or anything like that. But overall, moral of the story... I had such a fun experience and such a good day doing this ride.

We started as a group with a lot of the ITL people all starting off a few minutes before the mass start to avoid any craziness with large peloton groups at the beginning causing accidents. It was a fun decision as there were quite a few riders from our group there, so we were able to all chat a little bit as we made our way out of town and onto the main portion of the ride as a group.

It wasn't too long into the ride that Lauren and I were on our own riding together but I seriously had such a great time with her. She had done her first century ride the weekend before and gave me such helpful advice from the beginning like an old pro ("Don't count!") and cheered me on through the whole thing -- despite the fact that this was probably harder on her, doing back to back weekends of century rides!! We caught up about what had been going on in our lives. We stopped at every rest stop. We snacked. We laughed. We made friends with random drivers who stopped to shout at (encourage?) us. We pushed ourselves. We enjoyed the scenery. And we just kept on damn pedaling.

I was really, really thankful to have her with me and it made the whole experience such a great one. My only goal for the day was to finish. I didn't care about speed or time or anything like that but just wanted to see 100. Lauren shared her goal with me and although it scared me a bit, I wanted to help her realize that so took it on myself to try and help get her there the best I could. We've I think both gotten good at knowing when the other one needs a push so I did my best to keep motivating her too at some of her tougher points in the ride.

One of the things that surprised me was that I honestly felt good throughout the whole thing. I did have some hip pain that made me feel a bit uneasy throughout the ride, but I never vocalized it or tried to think about it much because it wasn't going to stop me or change the effort I was putting into the day. And towards the end the balls of my feet starting to really bother me as well. It felt almost as if it were that weird feeling before you get a charley horse, but it never came. I think it was just the nonstop push-pull for hours that was bothering me. My seat bones got sore and I was of course tired at the end, but physically, besides those things, I felt good! There were no major issues and I didn't crash or feel overwhelmingly fatigued during the ride. And mentally - I was with it the whole thing.

Afterwards thinking about it, I feel like I was mentally "in it" and positive the whole time because this event, this day, this moment - this was my goal! Before we started the ride a number of people asked the question around "What are you training for?" or essentially... "What is this century ride a stepping stone for you for?"  For most triathletes, these events are part of a training program. But for me, this was it. This was the ride and the day I had been continuing to bike for throughout the summer. I felt determined and happy and grateful to be able to be there and enjoying it with good friends. Aside from riding with Lauren, we ran into others with the group at the various check points and a few times on the course and it was always fun to catch up with them.

There were definitely points that were harder than others as well. And one of the things I said to Lauren when it got a bit hard was "Focus and find the place where you feel strong."

I don't know where that came from, but as I said it aloud to her, I was saying it to myself as well (which is often what I do when I am cheering on others in an event I am doing myself.) For some reason I liked that and I want to remember it for the future. A lot of times in the middle of an event when things get tough or aren't going our way you can start to doubt yourself and question "Can I do this?" or worse you talk yourself out of it "I'm never going to hit my goal - I should just back off."

However, I want to remember that piece of advice for Berlin Marathon and my own races to find the place where I feel strong when those thoughts come. Push them away by channeling memories and emotions and mantras that remind myself how strong I am. Remember the times I pushed through something tough, channel that, and find my strong. Find the mental place where I feel strong and stay there.

I finished the ride at 102 miles and 6 hours and 5 minutes. I hit 100 miles on the watch just seconds under 6 hours for an average speed throughout the ride of about 16.7 mph. I was really, really proud of that and proud of how I did mentally and physically throughout the day. There was definitely a bit of a "woohoo!" that occurred when I hit 100 and also a feeling of "Okay I'm done" and was ready to be off the bike, ha. It had gotten hot and was feeling a bit clammy in my biking gear. I had gone through a ton of liquids that day and still couldn't get enough in me. I never went to the bathroom and think I definitely needed salt as well.

Luckily, the ride had a catered meal afterwards so after a change of clothes we head over for plates of food. But not before a photo shoot! I was so thrilled to have hit this milestone and to have had such wonderful, supportive friends by my side. From having Lauren to encourage me and cheer me on and hang out with all day, to Jaclyn for loaning me her watch, and Whitney for carpooling, and everyone else who was a part of the day. It really meant a lot to me and was a big milestone for me. I am looking forward to riding more centuries in the future and grow in experience and strength - as well as grow in memories and fun throughout the journey.

One thing I will say is that at the end of this day, I was DEAD. I was so tired, ha. I came home and spent the rest of the day exactly where I wanted to be... which was in the t-shirt they had given me from the ride and on the couch!

In true awkwardness though, I did waddle over to Krog Street Market which is near where I live (okay I drove there, even though it is just a couple blocks away) to pick up dinner (and a bottle of wine.) I was in the race t-shirt, flip flops, with air dried hair after having taken a shower earlier, and no makeup... and OF COURSE I run into people that I know there! Not only did I run into someone I know, but someone who had also done the century ride that morning. She'd done the same ride yet had managed to put herself together looking so cute, out with friends, socializing as if she'd done nothing strenuous the morning earlier. I was a mess and ready for bed and not in a state to socialize or be seen in public. So yeah. Gotta love it!

Hopefully this is similar to me in my journey with running. I remember vividly the day I ran 10 miles for the first stop and spent the rest of the day laying on the floor. Now I go about normal business after doing that distance. Maybe someday I'll get there with these long bike rides.

This was also a new thing for me to have a goal that was not a race. It was just something that I did because I wanted to do it to feel strong. A milestone that meant a lot to me. I'm happy I did this when I did and proud to have a century ride under my belt in 2017!

P.S. Holding that bike up is tiring after 100 miles!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Peachtree Road Race Recap

This year, for the second time, I celebrated Independence Day with 60,000 of my friends with a run down Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The Peachtree Road Race is the world's largest 10K and it is really an experience unlike any other. It brings out everyone I know in the running community in Atlanta and also basically just everyone IN Atlanta. Elite athletes, runners, walkers, and spectators fill the streets and it is a party from start to finish.

I ran the Peachtree Road Race in 2015, which was my first year living in Atlanta. It was a fun experience but it started to downpour in the middle of the race. I ran the second half of the race in soaking rain and thunder and lightning. Half of the start waves were held from beginning because of the weather. It was pretty miserable at the end so rather than meet up with any friends, I just immediately got myself out of Piedmont Park and connected with my family. What made the race super memorable for me in 2015 was that my dad, his wife, and my twin brothers were in Atlanta visiting that weekend and met me at the finish. It was also the race where I had set my 10K PR, which remained my stand alone 10K PR until [spoiler alert] this year's Peachtree Road Race!

2015 PTRR
A few weeks before the race, I set a goal for running this years race to break 50 minutes in the 10K, which would also set a new PR for me. When I unexpectedly hit that goal during the Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic triathlon, I needed to set a new goal for Peachtree.  I set that at running 47-ish minutes and aim to try and run around 7:30 minutes/mile. The weekend before the race, I talked to a training partner of mine, Zach, who had helped me to reach my PR in the Publix Half Marathon and we discussed running together. We'd both hit our Peachtree goals of breaking 50 during Chattanooga Waterfront and simultaneously had to set more aggressive goals for this race.

I was a bit nervous going into the race and the night before was unsure of what I would be able to accomplish. I just didn't feel like I had much in me. Part of that was tiredness from the super busy weekend I had just had - I biked my longest bike ride ever on the Saturday before of 80 miles, then immediately flew to Albany, NY that evening. I arrived late on Saturday night, went to bed, and woke up in the morning to run 10 miles, then changed and went to the wedding which kept me up WAY past my bedtime (believe it or not I managed to stay awake until 3:00 a.m.!) After not enough sleep, I was up in the morning (my body wakes up regardless of what time I go to bed), flew back to Albany, and immediately went to the race expo to pick up my bib. It was a whirlwind but so much fun and I wouldn't change a thing about it. (Wedding pics below, because, why not?)

The downside though was that by Monday evening, I was wiped and just wasn't sure what I would be able to muster up in the morning for the race.

It made me a little more nervous because I'd discussed running with another person too and was unsure how it would go if I wasn't feeling my most race ready. And on top of that, the forecast was predicting a super hot and super humid day. Not the best time to still be dehydrated from flights, drinks, and lack of sleep.

In the morning, I got up and got myself ready for the race, then left my apartment and began my "warm up" by running 1/2 mile-ish down the road to the Marta station. One of the things that is exciting to me about where I now live is that I can take the Marta for these types of events. In the past, my neighborhood was nowhere near a Marta stop, so this was pretty cool to me. I got to the train station and made my way towards Buckhead with the tons and tons of other runners all decked out in red, white and blue on the train.

I actually stayed on the train one stop longer than the mass unload of runners going to the race, getting off a bit later as I planned to meet other runners from ITL for a pre-race photo. Then, we'd all run another mile to the race start as part of the warm up. Some of the group actually turned the race into the end of their long runs in Ironman training and had run up to 12 miles before the start of the Peachtree!! Another one of our teammates was out there, walking the 6.2 miles when she was literally 9 months pregnant. She was scheduled to be induced two days later, but [spoiler alert again] ended up having the baby the very next day. Talk about no excuses! These people push me to work harder than I have before.

After some fun seeing everyone in the morning, I eventually made my way to the start corral. I was in Wave C, which is the same wave that I ran in when I did 2 years ago. For this event, it can be an accomplishment just to achieve getting into Waves A or B as they place you based on time. I have been pretty happy with being in C the past two races and this year my scheduled start time was 7:40 a.m. The way that the race staggers the starts, many waves have finished the race before some of the latter waves even start! Knowing that, and knowing how hot it gets, you can see why people like to get placed earlier. I have heard that if you are in one of the later waves, it is a completely different experience then running in the early ones due to the amount of people on the course, time of day, etc. This year I had the same feeling I did 2 years ago, where I wished I could do the race twice. First, running for time, and then a second time, stopping for food and drinks from spectators, taking pictures, and just enjoying the party!

When Zach and I met in the morning, we both approached each other and said the same exact thing to one another "I don't know how I am feeling for today." We both seemed to be feeling the exact same way, of being really unsure given the elements, but also not wanting to let the other down. We agreed to run together but just see how things go and if we needed to separate because one was feeling good or bad, just adjust as we went. I let him know what my coach had said, which was if wanted a 7:30 average at the end, to aim to be a little under 7:30 in the beginning when it was downhill, expecting to be a bit over 7:30 in the 2nd half where it was harder with the uphill.

We set the plan and were in the start corral. It was really cool to see the massive American flag hanging overhead, the National Anthem, and to see the fly-by of the fighter planes before the start of the race. We got to watch the Elite women start on the big screen TV and I had my pre-race ritual of a little dance party to get loose and warmed up. Another friend we ran with at Publix was with us at the start corral, so it was very similar to our start of the Publix Half Marathon crew!

Once we started the race, the first half mile was a lot of bobbing and weaving around people. Zach is pretty tall so I just did my best to post him and stick behind. We were both in ITL blue shirts, but the challenge with that is that on the 4th of July - so is a third of the other people out there! There are tons of spectators all throughout the course and even from the very start it is a celebration for sure.

We made our way to left side of the road and ran along that side of the road. This is a well supported race with numerous water stops on the 10K route, even starting at the very beginning. I skipped the first ones and just tried to find a steady pace that I could feel comfortable at. However, from the very start, I did not feel good. I was pushing to a point of being a bit too uncomfortable trying to keep with Zach, and trying to run a little under 7:30. I felt tired and it just was harder than I wanted it to be in the very first mile. It just felt way too hard too early.

When we hit the first mile marker we looked to one another and checked in. I said immediately to Zach when he asked how I was doing, "I don't think I have it today. It feels too hard." He suggested we try for another mile and I said sure, but immediately after that started to drop behind. I just couldn't hang at that pace. Zach started to creep ahead little by little and at one point he looked back at me and I sort of gave him the nod to just go, and he turned back and continued on.

For the majority of the next few miles, I could see Zach ahead of me but I didn't have the energy to push harder to stay with as he slowly creeped ahead. I looked at my watch to check my pace as we started the downhills and I was running right exactly at around 7:30. I knew if I was doing that on the downhill, I wouldn't expect to average that throughout the whole race with the tougher back half of the course. But just settled in to do my best for the day. I was a little beat up and disappointed with myself that I couldn't keep up and part of me wanted to just ease up completely and turn the race into a jog. However, once I settled into 7:30 for the next mile or so, I started to feel a lot better and much more comfortable. This pace I could do.

Right around 3 miles at this course, the gradual downhill turns into uphill. They call this Cardiac Hill as it is right around Piedmont Hospital and it is a doozy. I saw my friend Tisha on the course cheering, just as I was about to head up the hill and it was so great to see her. With so many of my friends on the course running, there weren't a lot of people I knew to actually look for as spectators. It was a fun and needed surprise to spot Tisha on the route! I also love that someone managed to get this photo of the moments when I made eye contact with her and went in for a high five.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with race photos. Okay, well, maybe it has been more of a hate relationship with photos. I am not a cute runner. I very rarely find a photo of myself running that I think is flattering. When the proofs come out I usually cringe clicking through the photos, most especially the ones that are captured on the down stroke of the stride when gravity and impact is just not doing pretty things to the body.

However, I have come to appreciate race photos and pictures of me running because I now focus on how strong I look or how proud I was of that moment. Is the picture below flattering of me? Absolutely not. Do I love it? Absolutely I do. I love how exhausted yet happy my face looks and how excited I am to see a friend along the course. To me it is the definition of what a well timed high five can do for you and the boost of adrenaline it can bring in a tough moment. I'm sweaty. My hair is a mess. But I know looking at it that in the moment, I was flying. I appreciate race photos and love this one in particular.

As I passed Tisha and hit the hills, I maintained my pace as best as possible - or more importantly, worked to maintain my effort level. Having run this route many times I know that there is sort of a double hill you've got to get through. You think it's done, but then it's not done. I prepared for that. And I also enjoyed the inspiration along the course. In the middle of the, you run past the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where they had many of their patients there for rehabilitation out on the route in their wheelchairs cheering and there is NO WAY that you can run by that and not get a bit choked up and push a little harder up that hill.

I regretted that I was all the way on the left side of the route and cut across the street in order to get high fives. However, with all the people on the route it would have been tough and a lot of energy. I definitely was soaking it all in though, especially after having met people over the past year who have benefit from the Shepherd Center. There was a small group of push assist athletes that were competing that morning so I was thinking of all of them as well as I ran up Cardiac Hill.

Once you get to the top, you get a little bit of relief and then the hills continue. I knew once to the 4 mile mark, I could mentally push through for 2 more miles. This part of the course I have run so many times on morning runs from Atlantic Station, it felt so comfortable to me and I knew the elevation and the turns really well. By the time I got to 17th street, I was counting down block by block, landmark by landmark, and bump by bump in the road.

Besides Tisha I had only seen one other spectator I knew along the route, which was Coach Adam, who I saw for a split second as he yelled my name. Right somewhere around this point, another thing happened, as I was getting into Midtown. By this point I had lost sight of Zach completely but I heard my name called and turned to my right where I saw Zach, heading through one of the water stations. Apparently I had caught back up to him and was passing him through this section, continuing on!

It was a tough moment for me because I had one of those split second, "What do I do?" thoughts and moments when I saw him. I was feeling good and still pushing, feeling adrenaline knowing I was through the hills and wanting to maintain it. But I also wanted to stop and check with him and see how he was doing. And even MORE SO, I wanted him to come into the finish with me. Just the week prior, my friend Rahul had encouraged me to stick with him through to the finish, which meant so much. And Zach himself had done that for me, pacing and supporting me through the finish of the Publix Half Marathon!

With some hesitation, I waved to him and kept moving, he was on the other side of the race course and at this point I was in a bit of a zone pushing myself mentally to the finish. I still feel bad about this even writing it up now. I wish I had been able to repay the favor and am not sure if I did the right thing in continuing on.

As I mentioned, when I hit 17th street, I counted down the blocks one by one to get to 10th street where it would then just be the final stretch to the finish. I checked my pace a few times and saw I was slowing into the 8s so I had no idea where my time would land but was working to give what ever last kick I had at the end. The section on 10th Street seemed to go on forever. It is deceptively long, and I had to sustain that last kick for a while. I remember seeing the sign that marked 6 miles and thought to myself, "Really!? It's not the finish yet?"

From the years before, I remembered that the finish line is just a little bit further than you think it is going to be, and true enough this year was the same. I finished out of breath and extremely hot and extremely sloshy, drenched in sweat from the tough race and hot and humid day.

When I finished I met up with friends and got to chat about everyone's races. I could literally wring my shorts out they were so drenched in liquid from the race. I would like to think it was from dumping some water on myself on the course, but mostly it was just lots of sweat. Most people I spoke to were really happy with their races, a few other PRs to go around, but nobody that I spoke to necessarily hit their exact goal for the day. Everyone was in good spirits though and it was fun to catch up with people at the designated meeting point.

I was really happy with my time and my new PR of 48:22 in the 10K. I finished 71 / 3196 in my age group and 418 / 27785 for women competing -- numbers which I think are incredibly cool as well. 418 out of 27785?! What the what?! That seems nutty! When I looked at my data from the run afterwards, my coach pointed out that my HR had gotten really high in that first mile, so me adjusting and pulling back the pace was really a smart move. I ran my mile splits at 7:15 / 7:32 / 7:29 / 8:09 / 8:00 / 7:42 and finished the last bit after 6 miles a 6:45 pace. My finish time is something I am proud of, but I was also more proud of myself that I finished the race with the thought, "I think I could do better and improve that even more."

For some people, you might think that having that thought is a negative thing. That I wasn't allowing myself to be proud of my current accomplishment, that it indicates a deeper problem that one accomplishment is never good enough and that I am addicted to the chase. However, for me, it indicates a sign of growing strength and confidence in myself and my abilities.

In the past when I have done really well in a race, I have had the thought, "That was just a fluke. I have no idea how I did that. I don't think I could ever run that time ever again." or "Welp. That was it. Might as well retire now. I have just done the best I have ever and will ever be able to do." I doubt the numbers and I assume there was some sort of error in timing that is just waiting to be announced. To be honest, I felt and feel that way a little bit about how I did in the Chattanooga Half Ironman from May. I am scared to do another half distance race, because I don't know that I could do any better than I did that day!

But for this race, the fact I finished with a new PR and thought about wanting to do even better, indicates owning my current time. No fluke. No potential timing error. No need to declare retirement in the 10K. I ran a 48:22 on a hot day and tough course because I have been working for it. And I think if I keep working, I could do even better. And I want to!

I like that I am able to see a future for myself in running, that my mind is starting to settle into accepting where I am in my running accomplishments, that I believe improvements are out there, and that I am able to vocalize these goals. These are huge mental gains for me and I am really proud of this year's Peachtree Road Race!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic Triathlon Race Recap

Sunday, June 25, I returned to what is apparently my favorite city to race in, Chattanooga, and competed in an Olympic distance triathlon - the Chattanooga Waterfront. I signed up for this race a couple weeks before when I was in Raleigh cheering on friends who were competing in a 70.3 race. I wanted to have another triathlon on my calendar and this was one I had heard good things about and had a good group of friends that were planning to attend. Plus, my friend Kevin offered to buy ice cream to get people to sign up. And there's not much I wouldn't do for ice cream!

I had talked it over with my coach and we built it into my schedule - with the understanding that it wouldn't be something that I really tapered for and would be essentially just a part of training. That was fine with me because I am getting to the point of all eyes on Berlin. The goal was to have a fun, no pressure race, and weekend away with friends. I ended up getting all of that and then some!

The Saturday morning before the race while I was still in Atlanta, as I finished up my workout for that day, I started to realize that although it was a no pressure, fun race, I still needed to prepare a bit and work to get my mind right. I didn't want to make the same mistake as the weekend before (when I rode the Gaps) and go into something unprepared. I did some research online about the race, the course, and what to expect.

Chattanooga Waterfront consisted of a 1.5 km swim downstream in the Tennessee River (same place I swam the past 2 years at the Chattanooga 70.3), 40 km bike ride that consisted of 2-loops out-and-back, and a 10km out-and-back run. It was a new course from years prior so I didn't have any friends to give me guidance but looking online, it seemed like a lot of the route I was actually quite familiar with due to the other races I had done there. On the way up to Chattanooga I talked to my coach and we put together a plan for the race as well. This distance is now the distance of triathlon that I am least familiar with, only ever having done one Olympic distance race, whereas I have done 3 Half Ironmans now and many sprint triathlons.  I was a little unsure of how to pace or what to expect - and essentially I decided to treat it like a longer sprint in a way. I felt comfortable with how we discussed executing and after arriving and checking out the transition areas, I felt ready to go.

I drove up on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Chattanooga around 4:30 p.m. and going straight to race check in. Although an Olympic distance race, the organizers provide the option of dropping off your bike the night before at your transition area and I opted to do that, not wanting to have to worry about my bike in the morning. Check-in went smoothly and I spent some time walking back and forth from my bike area to the various transition entrances and exits.

This race was one of the most organized and detail-oriented races I have ever done. The rows were in alphabetical order with words associated to them and I was in row "Goggles." When checking in, you got swim caps and sticker numbers for your swim cap, bike stickers, extra stickers, race number tattoos, and a great soft t-shirt. I don't usually comment about this stuff around races, but I really felt like the organizers of this race did an exceptional job putting on the event.

After checking in for the race, I stopped and checked in at my hotel, which was the same hotel that I stayed at for the 70.3 with my mom and Brick just a few weeks prior. I had really like it, it was convenient, and very spacious since I was sharing a room with 3 other people. Plus, they give you candy at check-in, so what could be bad about that?

I met up with the ITL group at 5:30 p.m. in Whole Foods for the pre-race meal and was able to connect with everyone else that was in town for the race and talk about goals and plans for the day. Since the 70.3 in Chattanooga, the river has warmed up and this race was not wet suit legal. Swimming without a wet suit is what I am more used to than not, so that didn't concern me, but for some of my friends, it was their first time swimming without that - which can be really challenging if you aren't used to it. It was nice to be able to talk with everyone and I really like the Whole Foods dinner tradition.

We added a new pit stop / tradition of going out for ice cream following Whole Foods. To be honest, I was a little nervous about whether or not it was a good idea but I reminded myself that this was a no pressure, fun race so dove right in with two scoops in a waffle cone and sprinkles. Kevin was buying so why not go all out, right? :)

Back at my hotel room, my friends and I head to bed pretty early without first some chitchat and stretching and foam rolling and prepping for the morning. I decided that this race would be a good opportunity to try something different with my nutrition so I decided to try Nuun sport. I have been drinking Nuun regularly with their regular electrolyte replacement drink and enjoy it so tried one of their sport drinks. I made up my water bottles and put together the rest of my nutrition before heading to bed.

We were up early and head over to the transition area, where I set up my things, walked the entrance/exit a few more times and then met up at the ITL tent. It was a gorgeous morning and I was excited to be there.

Next to the tent was a set of porta-potties which I knew I would need to use but eventually abandoned the line to run over and be in the group picture I saw happening in the distance. This is what we call priorities.

Instead, after walking over to the swim start (there was a bus available but we decided to walk the almost mile there) I immediately jumped into line for the bathroom with some of my friends... which we ended up standing in until immediately before we needed to start the race. There definitely were not enough bathrooms and the lines were barely creeping along. Slow lines give time for pre race pics though. And we did get there eventually!

I dropped my flip flips with friends and went to get in line for the swim. This swim start was unlike any other one that I had done before. The numbers that you were assigned as your bib would be the number that you were to enter the water and start the race. We had to submit swim times ahead of the race, and they used that to place us, trying to put the faster swimmers in the front. I couldn't remember what I put as my swim time but I was placed at 307, whereas other swimmers about my speed were seeded further ahead. I really didn't think about placement too much - there's no point in it - and it seemed like I was in the middle of the pack, which was fine with me. It was funny to see where everyone ended up though. One of our teammates was 5 and others were way in the back. My friend Lauren had boosted her time a bit when she entered it so she was actually number 67. We joked that maybe if we were lucky, our timing would work out well that I would catch up to her in the swim and we could then bike together.

They had us file one by one in line and then walk down the end of the dock and hop into the water and hang on. A race official would count to 3 between each person and every individual had their own personal start. We got in the water on the left side of the river, which was the same side that we would exit on. The last two races I had done here, we had to swim across, but this one was literally just straight down.

The swim: 21:35 (5/27 in AG)
Past result - 32:52 in last Olympic race (1500 m lake swim)

I enjoyed the start of this race and once I was off, I just got into a rhythm and kept swimming. It had dawned on me that I was going to be swimming for longer in this race than I did in my half ironman. I thought that was sort of funny and just tried to settle in. I knew I was going to be swimming a 5K in a couple of weeks and was starting to get a little nervous for that so used this as practice a bit. In swim practice, I hadn't been able to get into a groove very much lately so I just wanted to find that place of happy swimming without thinking.

As soon as I started going, my first thought was "Woah - this must be why people tell you to buy your tri kits so tight!" This was the first race I had done in 2 years without a wet suit and the first time wearing this kit in the water without a wet suit. I tend to buy my tri kits a little bit bigger because I hate feeling like I am sausaged and squeezed into them, but my top was balloon-ing out and picking up SO much water. It was distracting at first and I actually felt like my chest was falling out of my suit but eventually I just made a mental note to consider a speed suit and put it out of my mind.

I was passing people immediately in the water. I enjoy the chase so I found that a bit motivating to be continuing to just swim past person after person. I tried not to swim too hard, mentally reminding myself that I wanted to try and go hard on the bike and run and trying to remind myself that this wasn't a goal race for me. I just stayed steady and practiced my sighting and staying in a rhythm and trying to get in the zone. I would lock eyes buoy after buoy and just keep making my way down the river and under the 3 bridges.

For some reason, I guess because I was more lax about this race, I found myself continuing to crane my neck around and look for people I know. Or if I swam up next to someone, I was trying to check out their kit if I knew them. I knew Lauren was nervous about the swim and was trying to keep an eye out for her in case I did come across her. I didn't see anyone I knew in the water and eventually tried to focus on just keeping my head down and straight because my neck was bothering me a bit. I don't know why I was just looking around at everything! Even the side of the river, I was sort of checking out and eyeing. I have swam there so many times I recognized the buildings and bridges as gauges of how far I had left. It was the first time I used non-buoy landmarks to sight!

Portions of the swim I felt like I was by myself and nobody was around me, then I would swim through waves of larger groups of people. I kept passing people and swam over a few people a couple times. I could tell the current was moving pretty strong and at one of the buoys could really feel it pushing me. I swam over a guy and even when I tried to move around him, could feel the current pushing me. That was the first time I have ever experienced that!

After the 3rd bridge I started to push a little harder in my pace and put some effort behind my stroke. I tried to focus as best as possible as swimming right into the exit. As I got closer I could see the ITL tent on the lawn which was pretty fun, and used that and other buildings to help guide where I needed to go. I swam as much as I could into the exit, not stopping until my hands hit the ladder to climb out.

T1: 2:10 (8th in AG)

When in the water, I had practiced visualizing what I needed to do in transition. I lost my sunglasses in Chattanooga for the 70.3 so I just had 3 things to think about - Socks. Shoes. Helmet. Grab my bike. Go.

Running out of the water, I heard lots of people yelling my name but didn't look up at them too much because you needed to climb a set of stairs and the last thing I wanted was to trip. I did notice my friend Phil was there cheering, which was awesome! I was so surprised to see him! I am pretty sure this picture was taken the moment that I saw Phil on the side in his crutches cheering for me.

I shouted to the group asking if Lauren had come out yet. I heard Krystle's voice yell back that she had and I was happy knowing that my friend had made it out of the water (not that I had any doubt!) I also knew she was ahead of me somewhere and I wondered if there was any way that I could catch her.

Due to practicing walking the entrance and looking for row "Goggles" I found my bike pretty easily. My HR didn't seem high or anything and I felt good. However, as I was putting on my socks and shoes bent over, I reminded myself not to go up too fast as I had gotten lightheaded in my last race. I didn't have any problems and after Socks. Shoes. Helmet... it was time to go!

The Bike: 1:13:47 for 40 km, average 20 mph (7th in my AG)
Past results: 1:23:09 in last Olympic - 22 miles at 15.8 mph)

As soon as you started out on the bike course there was a first stretch of uphill. This bike course actually starts off where the run course starts on the Chattanooga 70.3 so it is a stretch I am really familiar with. The course was two loops of an out-and-back stretch on the highway, straight with no turns except for the really tight U-turns to turn around at each point.

After the short uphill stretch at the beginning, the course was relatively flat. From the beginning I didn't feel very well. My legs felt tired and I was pushing but just didn't feel strong and I felt tired. My legs felt tired from the start.

I reminded myself that it didn't really matter, that this race was just for fun and I decided to just settle in on the bike and keep pushing hard with the idea in my mind that I wanted to try and catch my friend Lauren. I thought it would be fun to bike with her and had no idea how far ahead she was, but decided to just push and see what happened. I also decided to focus on trying to spot and say hello to my friends. The good thing about an out-and-back course is that although boring, you get to see people!

The bike course was really populated and I felt like I needed to continuously pay attention to going around people, passing people, merging, avoiding the cones, etc. We were riding in the middle lane on the road, so there were orange cones to our right and then traffic driving by. A few times I drifted too far to the right with people passing and had to avoid the cones. It kept things interesting on an otherwise boring route.

I started shouting hello to everyone I saw that I knew and saying thank you to all of the volunteers. I didn't look at my watch or pay attention to my speed or anything like that.  I saw Lauren a bit before my turn first turnaround and she was enough far ahead of me and we are close enough in speed that I knew it would be super difficult to catch her. I took the sharp left turn to turn around as best I could and kept pushing on my way back.

It was easily to mentally break this route into four 10km sections since the course itself was actually broken up into those sections. On the way back the first time, I started to leap frog back and forth with an older guy in a neon aero helmet and we just kept going back and forth making comments to one another. It was fun and motivating and that latest for the entire return back and then outer portion of the next lap. I think it really helped me to keep myself pushing.

This race I had decided to try new nutrition, which I did with Nuun Active stuff. It felt fine but was a bit salty so had to drink water with it too. I had a hard time remembering to even take in nutrition because there was never a time I felt like I was coasting on the bike. Given that it was a relatively flat course, my legs were cranking the entire time and I never wanted to ease up to be able to sit up in my seat and pull out my water bottle. I thought to myself that it would be cool when I eventually get a tri bike and hydration set up that I could drink while in aero.

The second turn around was even harder because after making the sharp turn to head back on your 2nd loop you had to manage the uphill section having just had to completely lose momentum. At this point I allowed myself to stand on the bike a bit and get to the top of the hill and then settled back in to aero and playing leapfrog with my friend in the neon aero helmet.

It was a bit scary because there were two crashes on the course. One happened with the cyclist right in the middle of the road so the ambulance and medical professionals were all around and the rest of the racers had to be routed around her. One of my friends was fixing a flat tire on the side of the road, and I felt bad for him, knowing that it can mess up an otherwise really good race. I had shouted if he was okay and he said yes. I felt horrible for the person who was in the accident but also breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it was not someone I knew.

Once we turned again for the last segment back in, my aero helmet friend zipped ahead and I just pushed as much as I could to get to the finish. I looked down at my watch on the way back in, checking to see how I was doing and the first time I looked down I saw that my time was at 55-something minutes and my bike distance was around 18.5 miles. Wait, what? I had to do a double take at that and thought to myself, holy crap, I could hit 20 miles in an hour. I kept pedaling, watching my watch click away and when I hit 20 miles and was just barely under an hour of riding time I literally said out loud "holy shit!" I'd just ridden at least an hour at 20mph!

I finished up the ride, trying to not slow down until the last minute, hopped off my bike and ran into transition. I had no idea if I maintained the 20mph for the whole ride but was thrilled that I saw that for the first hour.

T2: 1:10 (7th in my AG)

I immediately saw my friend Kevin who had done the sprint hanging in transition which was sort of fun! I wish I had cheerleaders in transition at every race. I threw my bike on the rack, switched out my bike shoes for my sneakers, opting not to change my socks, took off my helmet (forgetting to do this is a fear of mine), tried to put on my race belt, fumbled with it and it fell, tried again, grabbed my visor, and started to run towards the exit.

The Run: 49:15 (11th in my AG)
(56:18 in last Olympic)

Before I even get into how I felt during the run - let me just mention the age group rankings for a minute. I felt so happy with my run following this race, and heck, I still do. I am super proud of it! This run had been a PR for me, not just in an Olympic distance triathlon, but in any standalone 10K ever! YET, I finished 11th in my age group! For every transition and the bike I was 7th or 8th, then I was 5th in the swim - yet in the run, even with it being a PR and something to me that shouted "This girl is fast!" I dropped down to 11. That tells me that there are some super speedy runners out there in my age group! My coach confirmed for me that Olympic distance races usually bring out strong swimmers and runners, since there is a smaller proportion of biking and that made sense to me. But yeah - some fast runners in this race!!

My plan for this run was to try and hang in the low 8s for my pace for the first 3 miles and then try to pick it up and give it all I had on the last 3. It was a relatively flat course yet again and I started out settling into a pace in the first mile like my coach advised. When I looked down at my watch it said 7:30-ish so I told myself to ease back just a little bit and then lock it in, which was what I did. The next couple times I looked at my watch it said 8:06 and wanted to stay right there.

I started seeing some of my faster teammates returning in from their run. Gordy, Chris, etc. and it made me so proud to be wearing the same kit as sone of these super fast people. I loved being able to cheer them on as a way to say to everyone around me "I know them!" and also push them on in their last stretches of their race.

This course continued to be super well organized with lots of water stations, Gatorade, ice, cold towels, etc. The weather was perfect and overcast and not too hot so I passed on the ice and cold towels on my way out, grabbing water and eating some Gu and taking some salt when I could. I didn't want to get overconfident given the good weather and knew I needed to maintain nutrition even though the weather was making me feel better than normal. I will say it over and over, I REALLY lucked out with good weather on races this year!

I passed one teammate, saw Coach Adam, and got to high five another all right in a row. Every time this happened it was a boost of adrenaline. There was a short hill around 2.5 miles, I passed my friend Lauren, which was so fun to cheer for her, and I hit the turnaround ready to push the last miles back in. It is such a game changer to have friends on the course. I honestly cannot tell you how much it made me smile to see Lauren on the run course after having tried to chase her all around on the bike. I was so happy and proud of her for making it through the first two parts of the race and now be in her element on the run, and I loved the out-and-back nature of this course for these reasons of being able to see my teammates and friends.

At the turnaround I told myself to hold steady until I got through the hill that I'd had to run through earlier. Steady through the hill, then I would try to turn it on.

I made it to the top and worked to push my pace. I saw Coach Adam again and he asked me how I was doing - I was surprised when I said out loud "I'm doing good!" and actually felt and meant it. I felt strong and was still firing at this point. He told me to leave it all out there, and it gave me another little burst.

Coming back through I grabbed a cold towel this time and I kept taking nutrition even though I didn't have much left. Even if it was just mental I didn't want to drop.  I had looked at my watch when I hit the 5K mark and knew that I was on pace to run close to 50 minutes if I could stay on top of it. I was close to having a PR in the 5K in the first half of the race!

With a mile left, I checked my watch again and knew I was close but I was also starting to hurt more. I made a couple short turns on the course and knew I was on the home stretch back in to the finish. I started to hear someone come up behind me and I turned and looked and saw my friend Rahul. He runs with us at track workouts and on the trails sometimes and is one of the nicest people around. I'd seen him on the bike course fixing his flat earlier and was so impressed that he had gotten through that and was now smoking it on the run!

He started to pass me and got a little ahead of me but looked back then with a nod of his head and motion with his hand, signaled for me to keep going and stick with him. I did my best to kick it up another notch and keep pushing into the finish. It was definitely giving all I had at this point to keep with him.

The last .2 miles turned into a sprint (at least for me!) and we ran through the Atlanta Triathlon Club cheer squad together and then through to the finish. It was such a cool way to finish a race and I was so grateful for him to pick me up like that and carry me through the final stretch of the race. I finished in 49:15, breaking 50 minutes on a 10K for the first time - a goal that I had had for myself in my standalone 10K I had coming up the next week! It hadn't even been a thought to try and do that on this race so I was amazed when I saw it! My mile splits on the run were 8:03 / 8:07 / 8:09 / 8:13 / 7:42 / 7:53 -- right in line with the plan I had tried to aim for. But there's no doubt that my last mile would have been a lot slower if it weren't for Rahul at the end pulling me into the finish with him!


I always doubt my watch (which is really doubting myself... something I am working on) and even though I saw my speed and time on my watch, after finishing, I immediately went to get in line to get the official print out of my times. And only then was it official what my watch said - 20mph on the bike and a sub-50 10K. Holy cow!

This race was never meant to be a goal race for me, yet the progress that I have been making and the work that I have put in showed up in the form of two major milestones. I was shocked at the sub-50 10K after having swam and biked. It was a surprise - a very pleasant one - and I think some of this progress is finally starting to sink in a bit. I am stronger than I realize. I am capable of more than I realize. My body is doing things that my mind hasn't yet computed it is able to. But it is starting to sink in that maybe I just need to figure out the right way to push myself. I'm proud of this race, the fun weekend I had with friends, and the milestones that it represented.

I can't wait to keep pushing and breaking new boundaries for myself!

Following the race we hung out a bit with the ITL crew before heading back to the hotel to pack up. The race itself was such a fun weekend away. Even without the milestones on the bike and in the run, I just had such a good time getting out of town with my friends and teammates at a low pressure event. It was nice to be way more relaxed and just enjoy everyone's company, eat ice cream, talk more, and get to know even more people in the group better.

I really like this one picture from after the race because it just feels chaotic and random, but it just feels like a photo that depicts real life to me. People talking, playing with the kids, walking around, waiting, etc. I don't know. I might be weird but I like pictures sometimes that are the outtakes to the photos we were intending to take. We don't always keep the outtakes nowadays with smart phones where we can delete everything that we don't deem to be perfect. But sometimes the candid pictures tell a story in the way that the posed ones don't and this picture just makes me smile with all that's going on in it and the little stories it tells.

Following the hotel checkout we returned for awards because some super speedy ITLers were able to take home awards, which is awesome! I snagged a couple photos of the placement from this race because I enjoyed being able to look at it from my last Olympic recap so wanted to have it included here. I now have my next race recap to work on (Peachtree Road Race!) so going to wrap up for here and have a great evening!