Sunday, December 25, 2016


Shine by Mondo Cozmo

And, I'm off. My season is starting tomorrow.

Yesterday, we did our Christmas celebration with JMan & Googs & JenNah. How holidays change as your kids go from being kids to being adults.

They completely surprised me with running gear. Not just any running gear. Running gear that I needed so badly for the winter. I was waiting for the after Christmas sales to purchase. 

During dinner, JMan pulled out a beer stein from the cabinet.. He said, "This is the coolest mug I've ever seen. Where did you get it?" He looked at the stein and read it, "AGE GROUP CHAMPION. OF COURSE. Because my mom is an AGE GROUP CHAMPION".

I think it's a very good thing that they grew up watching me trying to meet my grandiose goals. They've seen me struggling. They've seen me get back up and go again the next day. They've seen my wins. I can see them take that exact attitude to things that they do. When they struggle, they get back up and pick up where they left off, the next day.

I guess that's why I woke up this morning thinking about my goals. I usually get up on Christmas Day and run. But, today is my last day off for the foreseeable future. I stayed in bed, instead.

Many times over the years, I've said, "Train to your weakness. Race to your strengths".

I really believed that, but I didn't do it. Year after year, race after race, I've had to listen the comments, "If you could just get your run together, you'd be an awesome triathlete".

The weird part was that I already thought I was a pretty awesome triathlete. 

Still, I think, those words echoed in my head for too long. I would go into a race, focused on one thing and one thing only: RUNNING.

I would swim. I would bike. The event that was on my mind was the run.

That process was more along the lines of  "Train to your weakness. Race to your weakness".

This year, my goal is to change that. 

Two years ago, I raced Age Group Nationals for the first time. The swim start was very crowded. The women I raced with were talking about splitting ourselves up. Let the really fast swimmers start. (These were the 21:00-23:00 1500m swimmers). (We're talking about split seconds here. The wall was very crowded.It was a logical thing to do. We actually had more room in Omaha than we did in Milwaukee). At the time, I said that I wouldn't be in the first tier of swimmers, but I would definitely be the lead group of the 2nd tier. 

At the time, I was right. In two years, my swimming has improved at a crazy rate. I don't want to set stupid expectations of anyone who is trying to improve your swim. If you are swimming on your own, your swim isn't going to improve. Period. If you are happy where you are, that's totally cool.

You all know that I swim masters 3-4 times per week. I've taken private lessons. (This week, I am having a video analysis again). My masters coaches know that I want feedback. They know I need to be pushed, and they will, sometimes, set a pace that I doubt I can hit. I always prefer to be the slowest swimmer in a lane. I'd rather get lapped than wait for slower swimmers. When I swim, sometimes I stop and watch the truly amazing swimmers swim. I watch their form. I am in awe at how far their pull takes them.

This year at AG Nationals, my goal is to take off with the fastest and stay with them. This will require a lot of practice, but I have QUITE the race schedule to figure it out. I've talked to my swim coaches about my pacing for the 1500m swim. Now, it's up to me to really put in the work. In theory, I know the 1500m feels easy to start, but to hold that pace for the entirety, it requires more effort as the race goes on. (The 1500m swim is actually my best distance, so this will be a fun year for swimming).

That's my goal for the swim this year: Get my pacing down and hang with the fastest of the women in my age group.

The bike is going to be interesting. It's going to be a blast. It's going to be the biggest challenge I've had, ever. Again, the race that I'm focused on is Nationals. No race is the same. Terrain & weather can change from year to year from race to race. Once again, my goal has nothing to do with finish times. I have an aggressive, aerodynamic set up on my bike. What this means is that my power output during a race is often much lower and my speed much faster than it is when I'm on my trainer. I've learned that my specific power output on race day isn't as important (as it is for an IM and 70.3). BUT.....I want to improve. As long as my threshold keeps improving, I will be faster on my bike. As long as my legs are burning, I'm in the right space.

Before I even get to Nationals, I've chosen races with particularly difficult bike routes: steep hills. My goal for the bike is to get strong, strong on the hills. The Nationals bike course has a steepish hill that we climb twice. I want to fly up that hill. In the races leading up to it, I'm going to work on my gearing and gut it out on the climbs. I'm already strong on hills, but I want to be better. (Descents are just as important. There's no rest for the weary).

Last year at Nationals, I passed 12 women on the bike. I wasn't passed once, not even by younger athletes. This year, I don't want to be that far behind when I come out of the water. I intend to move up when I'm on the bike.

My goal for the run is to be the best that I can be. Typically, the 10k is my worst distance. That's because I NEVER pace it correctly. This off season, Liz and I put work in on "pacing". I'm starting to get it. 

The advantage, as I see it, is the run course being changed this year to a two loop run. I always prefer multiple loops over one big loop when racing. For me, it's a mental countdown 1.55 miles at a time. 

Guess what? I'm going to be passed on the run. #sorry #notsorry 

My goal isn't to hold my position as I come off the bike. My goal is to bring my best run to that race. You can bet that I'm going to be working on my pacing over and over and over again, until Nationals.

In order to make Team USA, I have to come in better than 25th with an estimated time of 2:35 and better. Last year, I was 26th. Ten of the top 25 women all age up with me this year. The time of 2:35 is a stretch for me. 

I should explain the importance of the finish time.....or lack of importance. In order to qualify for Team USA, I need to come in 20th or better before the Age up rule is applied. Since 10 women are aging up with me, next year, I have to look at their finish times to get an idea of what I need to train to in order to get close to 25th. 

A time of 2:35 is a stretch for me. But that's what I'm training to. Team USA doesn't care about finish times. They care about placing. If faster or slower women show up to race....I don't control that. I control my effort and attitude only. I own that part of my race. 

Back in 2015, I didn't think I'd make Nationals again. I raced Nationals with the attitude that "I was just happy to be there". This year, I'm not just happy to be there. I'm going there to accomplish something.