Monday, July 25, 2016

Tri Boulder: The WOW factor

Besides Mr. Tea and Coach Liz, there were only two people who knew I was racing.

I was intentionally/unintentionally quiet about the race. I had some personal issues I needed to work out for this race. Sometimes, it's best to do that on the DL. I didn't want the distractions that go along with posting about a race. I really love all the support I get. Sometimes I just need to go inside and work out my shit.

There were several things that I wanted to work through before Nationals. I'd only had one race this year, and it was a 70.3. I needed a short race to practice the whole moving fast thing.

USAT does regional championships. Regional championships offer more slots to qualify for the National Championship. The Peak was a regional championship this year. Unfortunately do to a wildfire, the Peak had to be canceled. This was because all emergency personnel were out handling the fire. The course was not in the line of the fire.

Immediately after that, USAT stepped up and gave the qualifying slots to TriBoulder. I was already registered for the race. I was already going to Nationals. I was looking forward to a nice low key race to practice my stuff.

TriBoulder was not an A race. In fact, the race was the culmination of a pretty good sprint build up. I knew that I wasn't going to feel fresh. But hell, I never feel fresh during training. I was going to give it everything I had.

That morning, I felt GREAT. I felt strong. Maybe it was because I was racing a sprint. It's an amazing distance.

BUT, I was nervous AF. I'm not kidding. I had a laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish. I couldn't bear it to let myself down. For some reason, deep down inside, I knew today was going to be a great day.

When I got to the race site and started unpacking my transition, I realized that this nice little low key race.....was not really going to be that way. The women who are in the top of my age group in the state were here to race. Seven of the women in my age group had already qualified.

In other words, I had no plans or expectations to podium today. It's never on my mind. It's never a goal of mine. I was planning on using these women to help me achieve my goals. I was going to hang with them as long as I could.

I've mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning again. These women are not just amazing athletes, they are incredible people. We had a fantastic time race morning. We're (once again) the last wave, so we had plenty of time to talk.

Finally, it's GO TIME. As soon as the RD started the 5-4-3-2-1, the nerves left me. I lined up at the front and took off running into the water.

For open water swimming, most people take off like a bat out of hell. I've learned that patience is best. Let them take off; I'll do my thing, and they'll fade.

Of course, I instantly found myself in a crowd of frantic swimmers. I kept my head down and thought of Andrew yelling at me "HEAD, HAND, PULL. HEAD, HAND, PULL, HEAD, HAND.PULL".

The sun was particularly bad. NO ONE could see the buoys; not even with the best of the best ROKA goggles. From the beach, I had gotten a good visual of where the buoys were. I have a really good internal gps.

When I saw the group veer off the right, I was debating. Am I on the right course? I'm almost positive they are going off course.

The next thing I know, I'm alone. the group took off to the right.

Out of nowhere a boat speeds in front of me. I hear them yelling at the crowd, "SWIMMERS GO LEFT."

I'm on the right course. I glance up, I realize I'm very close to the first buoy. I've caught the previous wave.....and I'm the only woman in my age group.

At the second buoy (the turn point), I turn on the speed. I look up, and I see a woman in front of me with the same color swim cap. I look around. We're alone. I don't know if she is in my ag or older. I decide to catch her.

I didn't catch her.

I had decided to race this race without my Garmin. I had it with me, but I didn't look at it. I hit the lap button when I finished my swim.

It ended up being a slow sprint swim for me. It was a pace slower than my half ironman in June. So. Probably a good thing that I didn't know what my pace was.

I hit the beach and started running up the hill with everything I had.

I got to our racks.......and looked around......every bike was there except one.

I thought for a second......all of the women are still in the water.

I grabbed my bike and head out.

The bike was pretty uneventful, which is always good. The first 5 miles of the course is uphill. I killed it. I had my fastest 5 miles ever. If I didn't catch you on the swim, I most definitely did on the bike. I really didn't know where I was in my age group, but every guy I passed yelled at me, "GO GO GO!!!"

I really wanted to ask if they've seen anyone else in my age group, but it's hard to have conversations when you're riding 26mph.

The bike ended up being a 1:20 PR.

I never saw another woman in my age group. I flew into the dismount area (27mph thankyewverymuch) and took off running with my bike.

I got to the rack. EVERY bike rack was empty....except one. There was one bike already racked. DAMMIT, she's so fucking fast. (I found out later that we had the exact same bike time.)

I'm pretty sure I'm in 2nd at this point. But you never truly know because sometimes people set up at the wrong bike rack. You just never know.

I'm moving as fast as I can. I struggle with my shoes. I have sand stuck behind my achilles. I don't have time to fix it. If I'm in 2nd, I have no idea where 3rd is. I have no idea how far ahead 1st is. All I know is that 1st is a faster runner than I am.  I don't have time to mess around with comfort. I have to run.

Let's stop. RIGHT THERE.

THIS was the #1 thing I wanted to accomplish today.

I have always hidden behind my bike speed.

It's really easy to do that. Have a great bike; then tell myself, "I'm not really a runner, so just do your best."  My *best* never was. It was always me "giving up". I was using the excuse of "not being a runner" as an excuse for not giving it my all.

I didn't want to disappoint myself. I took off running as hard as I could. I didn't look at my garmin. Of course, I wasn't perfect. There were times, I realized that I was spacing out. I would snap out of it and say, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING! THERE'S NO TIME FOR SPACING OUT."  I re-grouped immediately.

On the course, I don't see any women coming at me. As I'm approaching the turnaround, I see Courtney (1st place). She's about 2 minutes ahead me. I don't see another woman. I do the math in my head. Courtney beat me out of the water by seconds. We were probably very similar on the bike. There can't be anyone else between us.

I'm in second place.

HOLY FUCKTARD BATMAN. I'm in second place.

I hit the turnaround. I start to see the first women I've seen. ANY one of them could be 3rd place.

With one mile left and one hill left, I start running. I don't know where 3rd is, but if she was going to beat me.....I was going to make her work for it. To beat me, she is going to have to run a PR.

I went tearing through the finish line at full speed. Courtney caught me at the end. She yelled, "WE DID IT!"

She showed me her finisher's ticket. She was 1st. We rushed over to find out if I was second.

Even though this was not my A race, this race was the biggest emotional win, I've ever had.

For years, I'd been criticized and mocked about my run speeds. It didn't matter how fast I swam. It didn't matter what my power output was on the bike. For some reason, MY run....MINE....really had a lot of people concerned. That got into my head.

Triathletes that come from a running background will always believe that the fastest runner will win.

That's bullshit. The best triathlete will win.

Yesterday, I was 2nd on the swim; tied for first on the bike; and 5th on the run.

The fastest runner came in 4th.

Yesterday, my run was a 2 minute PR and my fastest ever 5k off the bike.  I would describe the run as a "solid run" albeit not my fastest given my current fitness level. My 5k PR is 27:15. Today, off the bike, I ran 28:03. I'm closing the gap. 

My win (yesterday) was that I finally let go of the past. I stopped hiding behind my bike speed. I stopped thinking about myself as "not a runner". 

I started seeing myself as a triathlete.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Well, NOW I'm terrified

After yesterday, I really wanted to follow up and talk about the conversation that Liz and I had.

I had mixed feelings after the workout. I started questioning everything. Why was it so hard? Why did it feel like it was out of my reach? Did I not fuel properly? Have I been eating enough? What could I have done differently?

Even though I felt like I gave absolutely everything I could, I felt like I failed.

It turns out I was wrong.

I wrote all those feelings in my feedback and sent it to Liz. She wrote back (and I'm summarizing), "Tea, you were phenomenal. I made that workout for you. I usually give those intervals as 110%, but I wanted to challenge you. That's why I set the intervals at 130%-150%. You didn't quit. You ADAPTED to the conditions. We don't reach our goals from going easy."

Trust me. I thought about quitting, but the thought of telling Liz, "I quit" was worse than the intervals. I kept going, and that's what she wanted to see. She wanted to see what I would do when my back was against the wall.

This whole conversation really got to me.

After the bike, I ran (later in the day). I thought about what we've been doing lately.

Sometimes I look at the workouts, and I'm actually terrified.

When we talk about my race plan, I'm terrified.

I'm terrified because I'm learning about a new level of pain; a new level that I never realized I could get to.

This morning, I had 800m repeats. Believe it or not, I really love the 800m repeats.

After yesterday's workout that left me wrecked physically and emotionally and being sore from my strength workout the day before, I knew I had to take the warm up slow.

I've also learned that the body will do whatever I ask it to. Trusting my body has been the #1 thing I've learned this year.

My 800m were all descends. Start at X pace and get faster for every single one.

As my new normal, I no longer look at my Garmin. I just kept running.

For the very last one, I decided to check in with my pace at around 400m. I realized I was running at a pace of :25 seconds per mile faster than I thought I was running....and I was within striking distance of my super secret pace goal.

I started running.

I mean.


I was all in. I didn't care about the noises I was making. I didn't care about how I felt. I was going to get that goal today.

I took my average pace from XX:25 to XX:03 in 400m.

I missed my goal by :03.

For the last 400m, my heart rate was 10 beats higher than my threshold heart rate.

Last week, I would have been thrilled with a pace of xx:03. This week, it wasn't good enough.

Next week, I have 400's. All of a sudden that goal that I'd been working for doesn't seem so tough now.

You can bet I am going to go after a new goal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Today, I was brought to tears.

I had an interval set on the bike.

Look, I've trained for and done 70.3's. I've cried during 70.3 training but only because I was so happy a workout was over....not because the workouts were crazy tough. Crazy long, yes.

There are NO workouts in this world that break me like sprint training.

Today I hit that dark place.

I had 20 intervals. RIDICULOUS intervals.

At 5, I realized I couldn't do it anymore. I had already done 5. I had 15 more.  15 MORE.

I got discouraged. I cut intervals 5-6-7-8 by :15 seconds.

I almost quit, but the thought of having to face Liz and say, "I quit" was terrifying to me.

I thought to myself, "Don't quit. Change the plan."

I decided that I would shorten the intervals, but the shorter I went, the harder I had to go.

Each interval, I finished, shaking. I couldn't pedal. I rested my head on the aero bars, trying to recover in time for the next one to start.

I finished this watered down workout, successfully. But I didn't feel good about it.

I keep reminding myself that these workouts are less about hitting the intervals and more about the mental side.

Are you going to give up?

Are you going to quit?

What are you going to do when things get tough?

What are you going to do when you are discouraged?

Quitting is the easy way out. Giving up is the easy choice.

Week after week, Liz is pushing me harder and harder. I miss one set of intervals. I think, "She'll back off this week."  Instead, she comes at me with harder intervals.

I keep at it. Why? I don't know. Maybe because deep down inside, I think, that she believes in me....that she believes I can do this.  That there's a reason she's pushing me like this.

That....she's going to take me to the brink, and I'm going to see something absolutely beautiful on the other side.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Chasing the beast

I am training for a long distance open water swim.

My friend....let's call him the Beast....because that's what he also training for a long distance open water swim.

The Beast is a better swimmer than I am. He is training for a STUPID long distance. His 2 hour pace is my 1 hour pace.

Today, we were meeting for a swim. He had a swim meet yesterday. I was planning on swimming in a wetsuit.

There was hope for me that I could keep up with him.

He is a great person, all around and one of the most supportive people you will meet.

He wanted to get in almost 4 miles. I was going to swim the first hour with him then hand him off to the rest of our crew (who were showing up later in the morning).

Liz gave me a workout for the day. We decided to adjust it from a timed intervals workout to distance-ish intervals. (It made it easier for us to stay together).

Throughout the hour, we practiced different drafting. We did fast intervals and long tempo intervals.

At every buoy, we stopped to re-group & check in on each other. Always the gentleman when he got :30 ahead of me, he would wait for me to start the next set.

When my hour was up, I handed him off to the next shift. I slipped out of my wetsuit and practiced race starts without my wetsuit.

I love open water swimming. I was thinking about how the sport can seem quite "un-social", but it's exactly the opposite. In long distance swims, friends keep each other entertained. Sure, we can't talk while swimming, but there's a camaraderie in silence, knowing that we are training together and going through the same challenges. We check in with each other. We are each other's support crew (kayakers carrying fuel and willing to rub out leg cramps mid swim).  These are the friends who text me at midnight (knowing I was making poor life choices) and say, "You better make it tomorrow morning".

Our conversations might happen in 20 second intervals, but that just means we have learned to be more succinct.

Friday, July 15, 2016

One year ago

Accountability is the wholehearted embrace of what we desperately want to ignore.

A year ago, I sat here thinking about my upcoming race, Age Group Nationals. I was excited about the race. At the same time, I wanted it over with.

This is because once the race was over, I was going to be making really big changes. More than anything, I wanted those changes to start NOW. I didn't really want to wait.

Every year, for a few years, I would do OSF; operation super fit. At the end of every season, I would do OSF and fail miserably. I'd give up. Every damn year, I would try again. My goal: drop a few pounds, become a better runner; blah blah blah. Goals we all share in one form or another.

Last year, I was at a low point. I knew I had to make changes. Waiting was killing me. I was so excited to start.

Once Nationals were over, I had two weeks off to unwind. Then, I hit the ground running.

At the time, I didn't realize that I would be doing OSF for the last time.

What started as operation super fit, became life changes.

It started with a complete revamp of my nutrition. It's so hard to look back and say "This is what changed". Everything changed. I started by logging my food; not to count calories but so that Dina could check in on what I was doing and make recommendations. Over a period of a few months, the extra fat I was carrying around was gone. My energy levels increased. My sleep got better. My recovery improved. I could handle heavier training workloads.(I've since stopped logging my food.)

But that wasn't it. There's a je ne sais quois. 

I still can't quite put my finger on it. When I try to explain it to people, I fumble around at a loss for words. The best I can do is say, "the longer I do this, the better I feel". In the past, like OSF, I would do a plan and stop after a month or two. I never found long term success doing it that way.

The plan that I follow is an evolutionary one. There are things that I do now that would not have worked last Sept. When I'm asked about what I do, I really struggle. For one reason, 99.9% of my friends are training for Ironman. My nutrition is very different simply because my training volume is slow low (comparatively speaking).

Operation Super Fit goes beyond nutrition. In fact, I think OSF is a misnomer for me, this time around.

I look back over the past year, wanting to describe what I've done, how my outlook has changed.....and I can't.

Everything is so tightly intertwined, I can't separate them. Nutrition, training, mental focus,'s all one big mosh pit.

I couldn't do the training and recovery without the nutrition.

I couldn't do the training without the mental focus that I've gained.

The hardest one to explain is confidence. Bit by bit, I got stronger. Because of that, I became more confident. Because I was more confident, I was able to take more risks in training. Because I could take more risks, I became stronger and faster.

This is the most fun I've ever had.

I feel like I'm heading into completely new, unchartered territory. I have no idea what I will be able to accomplish, but I'm sure excited to find out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dream fearlessly

For years, I've had a goal. It was a pace goal. Just one time, I wanted to hit this goal. I knew the goal was crazy given what my paces were. I knew my goal wasn't realistic.

But, I still wanted it. I wanted it so badly I could taste it. I wanted it so badly that it would bring tears to my eyes when I thought about it. I worked for it. I'd make progress. But I was nowhere close to the goal. I'd go back to the drawing board. I'd talk to Liz. When we talked about Nationals, we talked about what my goals were. We talked about what I have to do to reach my goals. She said, "Ok. This is what we have to do to make that happen."

I've done everything possible to reach this goal.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been doing mile repeats and half mile repeats on the track. 

I noticed a trend. When I look at my garmin, I struggle. I get stressed out. Paces feel harder than they actually are. I told Liz about it and pointed out intervals where I looked at my garmin and where I didn't.

The difference was amazing. It was a difference of :30 per mile. I was running :30 PER MILE slower when I watch my garmin or set alerts.

When I just ran, I ran faster at an effort that felt much lower.

Liz and I decided that today was the day I was going to bring my Garmin but not look at it for my 800m intervals. 

I blew away my previous times. BLEW THEM AWAY. 

She has been telling me for years to "just run". It hasn't been easy getting to that point. It takes confidence. Maybe I've had the physical ability to do it for awhile; but without the confidence, it wasn't going to happen. It takes a tremendous amount of in myself. It was a trust that I've never had before.

You might be wondering about that big elusive goal. No, I didn't hit today, but I held it for 200m. I'm closer than I've ever been to a goal that at one time seemed like it was almost unacheivable. 

I always believed I was faster than what my times showed. I always believed I was a better athlete than what my times showed. Now, I'm growing into the athlete I always believed I could be.

Friday, July 8, 2016


When I saw that Liz gave me 296 watt intervals this week instead of the 255watts.

When I had her move my long workouts to Thursdays and Fridays.

When I hit my run paces.

When I wave at another runner, but they ignore me.

When I'm so hungry but too tired to eat.

How my flip turns feel

What they really look like

How running off the bike feels

Most importantly, how I feel when I see a step back week on my training plan.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I have met my match

Today was "Please make it stop" day.

About a year ago, I explained Liz's challenge workouts. Since then, I've graduated from challenge workouts to her hardest workouts. Best of all, I know there are more to come. We don't call her the Mastermind for nothing.

By the way, if you are on Twitter, you might want to consider following Liz. She constantly posts the latest research on everything: training, nutrition, recovery, mental strategies. Everything you can imagine. She's also really funny and in her 3rd trimester, so we get the added benefit of seeing pregnancy pictures of her trying to fit into a wetsuit, going aero on a bike, and being a part of her countdown until she can drink alcohol again. I just adore people who can make fun of themselves.

Where was I?

Oh right. Please make it stop day.


Please make it stop day. Last week, I had a set of intervals from Liz. I did my best and fell short; not a lot but a bit. 

I missed a couple of the intervals by enough that that I wanted another shot but not enough that I thought, "I really can't do this".

When I saw the progression of last week's interval workout on this week's plan, I knew it was going to be tough. In addition to the bike workout, she wanted me running off the bike at sub 7:45.(That's what she does, she says, "Run sub 7:45". That's because I need to be pushed, challenged.)

I had intervals at 255 watts. Not for seconds. Not one minute. Not 2 minutes. MINUTES. SEVERAL MINUTES at 255watts. For some of you, 255 watts ain't no thang. For ME, it's a w/kg ratio of +4%. (My most recent bike test came in at 3.32%).

For people who aren't bike geeks, it's pretty close to having your lungs ripped out.

This week, I had more intervals and more at the 255 watts. Last week, she gave me a range to hit. This week, she upped the ante.

I made 4 of the intervals. I missed the last ones. With each one, I came up with a different strategy, a different way of TRYING to accomplish the seemingly impossible. YES, I could get to 255 watts. That's no big deal. HOLDING 255 watts for a ridiculous amount of time.....completely different issue.

At the end of each interval, I was shaking, trying to catch my breath. It seemed like only seconds went by when I heard my garmin beeping 5-4-3-2-1 for the start of the next interval.

Each time, I would get to the watts but I couldn't hold it.

I felt like...I should be able to do this. I was giving it everything I had. I could hardly even pedal during recoveries.

THANK YOU, Michael.

If you know me, I don't give up. I keep trying. I fell short on the last few intervals. That's going to happen, but I didn't let one failure stop me from trying again. I am a proud card carrying member of Team Stupidly Determined. (Maybe I could be an honorary member, LBTEPA?)

I wrote in my notes to Liz that this workout is so frustrating. She wrote back, "Just keep trying."

Training requires mental toughness. After each missed interval, I could have gotten discouraged. BUT, I knew I was giving everything I had. I was determined to keep going. I got off the bike and ran. The 7:45 really isn't particularly hard. It was a little more difficult because of the bike workout.

The crazy part was that the run was the easiest part of my day. There were no signs of jelly legs. I felt strong. I hit my paces. I felt stronger at the end of the run than the start.


Bike intervals: 2, Tea: 0. 
I will be back for you 255 watt intervals.

One day I will look back and remember when I struggled to do this.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


I'm fat.

I'm old.

I'm being lazy.

I'm slow.

I suck.

These are comments that are dropped on a daily on Strava.

Today, I'm telling you.

You are not fat.

You are not old.

You are not lazy.

You are not slow.

You do not suck.

These are words that we would never say to another athlete. Why is it acceptable to say them to ourselves?

You are the only person you will know for your entire life.

Make the relationship a good one.