Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reconciliation


In my last post, I mentioned that Liz and I had a lengthy discussion about me and my abilities. Well, lengthy for "us". We're both rather succinct-types.

At some point, you've probably heard the expression "Train to your weakness. Race to your strengths."

I fully believe that quote, but I'm not doing it. I'm training and racing to my weakness: running.

Of course, I never intentionally did this. On race day, I'm so focused on trying to the make the run "special" that I'm losing out on the fact that I'm not swimming and biking to the best of my abilities. When I swim or bike "just average", I'll still be 1st or 2nd. But it's not my best effort, and that's not good enough for me. 

One of the things that Liz said to me was, "If you are waiting for something magical to happen on the run. It's probably not going to happen. What you are running, that could be the top of your ability. Your strengths are the swim and bike. There is NOTHING wrong with that. What we are going to do is take the top of your run ability and have you run that for longer and longer distances."  The reality was that I wanted her to say, "You'll get there. Just keep working at it." Instead, she told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted. I wanted to hear that one day, I'll be able to run a 23 min 5k.

But how many people can swim a 21 min 1500m? Well, I can.

How many people (women in my AG) can hold over 200 watts in a race? Well, I can.

To do this in a race means that I have to be fearless. I have to do my best on the swim and bike and not be concerned about my run. I need to swim and bike without fear of what will happen on the run. I can swim and bike and be ahead of the pack by minutes not just seconds.

To be my best, I really have to Race to my Strengths.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Relentless: Havasu Race Report

Last month, I didn't go into all the details of what happened leading up to my race. I did this because it doesn't matter. Nothing that happens TO you, matters.

What matters is how you handle it.

I debated whether or not to write about everything because everyone has a story. Then I thought, "Everyone has a story."

We are all dealing with sick children keeping us up in the middle of the night. We're all dealing with the loss of a relative. We're all dealing with problems at work.

We all have last minute crises.

Yet we still manage to make amazing happen.

This is important because I'm not always sure what I want to share. Not because I have anything very personal to say, but because it's life.

Sometimes I *do* tell stories because they're good stories, and they remind people that we all have problems that we are dealing with.

These stories can sometimes affect our race times.

And....

We are judged by our numbers:

Did she podium?
What was her speed?
What was her pace?
Where did she finish?

I know that some of you only want my end results, so that you can compare them to your own.

That's ok with me.

It has taken me awhile to separate the two ideas of  results versus process.

One of the things I love about Liz is that she never asks, "Where did you finish? Did you podium?" She always asks, "How did you feel about your race?"

That has helped me breakdown the events and look at them with a critical eye. Instead of grouping the entire race together and labeling it as good or bad based on my finish time.

There is a reason that I am talking about this today.

Yes. I had life happening right before the race, including not having a hotel room (even though I paid for one and had the reservation made months in advance) the night before the race.

At 8pm Friday night, there I was with my race gear and bike, trying to find a parking lot that I thought would be adequately safe for me to sleep in. I sat in my truck, eating a takeaway pizza from Havasu Pizza. (GO THERE if you visit. The owner is an absolute wonderful man. He introduced me to his entire family and told me about his business).

The next morning, I was up early (time difference and all) and felt fairly good. I had stopped at Safeway the night before and picked up a giant muffin, a couple of bananas and bottles of water to drink and to mix my infinit race morning.

When I got to the race sight, it's pitch black. I'm not used to doing early season races and didn't bring a head lamp.

I racked my bike and met some really awesome women in transition. One of them will be doing Marquee next month. We're in the same AG. Typically, she does 70.3's. Havasu was only her 2nd Olympic distance race ever. As bad as I am with names, I remember her name which came in handy later in the day.

I was doing the sprint.

I did a swim warmup and felt pretty good. The swim is super short (500m).

I had heard Havasu is a really hilly bike, but what does that mean? Is it hilly for someone from Tempe? Or is it hilly for someone from CO? Two very different definitions of "hilly".

Prior to leaving, I made the decision to swap out my cassettes in favor of my 12-27.

When I was in transition, I checked out my bike completely. I wanted to have taken every opportunity to make this my best chance of having a good race.

The bike was mechanically fine....even though, Wed night I had a major mechanical failure and had to perform emergency "surgery" on the bike to get it back to working condition. It was bad enough that I almost missed the race entirely. I missed my travel arrangements for Wed, however.

Mechanically fine, yes, but the power meter and garmin were failing to calibrate correctly. There isn't much I could do at this point. I just knew that I was going to check my numbers during the race. If power didn't seem to be matching my effort, I was going to race by effort alone.

The swim

Pretty uneventful. I felt really good. I knew I could swim in 7 minutes.

When I exited the water, something was wrong with my garmin. The time was wrong. It didn't match my effort out there.

I didn't think much about it because overall I felt pretty good about my swim. Not my best, not my worst but a solid swim.

I looked at my garmin. The screen seemed to be frozen. I tried hitting the lap button....nothing.
Ok...well, let's get out of here.

As I was leaving transition, I heard the RD say, "the women coming out of the water now are our 10 minute swimmer."

AH! A guideline.....with the long run, in the sand into transition....minus a couple of minutes....Yes....I probably nailed my 7 minute swim.

Feeling pretty good about that I ran off on the bike.

I realized immediately that it was a GREAT move to switch my cassettes. This course is going to be quite a bit more hilly than I had realized. Steep uphills, steep downhills, sharp turns with gravel on the roads and then toward the end a very nice rolling hill road to the finish.

I glanced at my power meter as I was going up a huge hill: it read 154 watts. Definitely wrong. I was going to ride by effort.

Since this was a sprint, I knew that I had to get to the point of my legs feeling a bit like jelly. That should be a bit over threshold and where I wanted to hold my power.

There was a woman ahead of me that I wanted to track down. I knew I was either in 1st or 2nd place because I hadn't seen any other woman. I wasn't focused on where I was in the placings, but I like to see women and use them to get me fired up competitively.

This woman was very strong on the bike. For awhile, we yo-yo-ed. I realized she was just plain better than me on the bike. She must have been able to tell that I was giving it everything because she pulled up along side of me and said, "There are two women ahead of us. Let's go get them."

She took off.

Normally, this will get me going.

Today, I was already giving it everything I had. I was going as hard as I could, and I simply couldn't keep up with her. (She finished :24 ahead of me).

At this point, I believe that I am in 4th place (based on what she had said). I was thrilled. I know the competition at this race is tough, and I am giving it everything I have. I am breathing incredibly hard. My legs are shaking. I can't give another inch.

4th place sounds pretty damn good at this point.

This also why placings, paces and times aren't important. I averaged 17.8 mph on tough hills, and that was everything I had.

For the most part, I was happy with my bike effort.

When I got to the run, The first half a mile and the last quarter of a mile are in sand. I really really struggle in sand.

Mentally, this start took a toll on me.

Then, there was the stupid steep, straight up hill, that everyone just plain walked. This run course is uphill out and downhill on the return. The website says it's flat and fast....don't believe it.

This was a tough run for me. My pacing plan itself was out the window. Again, I used effort. My goal was to increase my effort every mile. It might not reflect so much in pace, but I would call it a success if I felt like I was working harder.

Interestingly, even though I wasn't breaking any speed records on the run, I noticed that I wasn't really seeing ANYONE on the run.

When I hit the turnaround, I started seeing many many many people. That told me that everyone struggled on the bike course and are struggling on the run.

JUST LIKE ME.

I'm not out of shape. I'm not going slower than everyone else. EVERYONE is struggling out here.

Somehow that made me feel really good about what I was doing. I really was doing my best. It might not be my best speeds or times, but I was physically doing what I could.

I ran....stumbled through the sand once last time and head to the finish line.

With my garmin troubles, I had no idea what my times were. I grabbed water and went to check results.

I came in 3rd. No one was more shocked than me. I was racing "blind". I had no idea how fast, how hard or how long I had been out there. I knew Mr. Tea and Liz were going to ask me questions, and I wouldn't be able to answer them. I sent them both, quick messages telling them that I don't have accurate garmin data but somehow I pulled a 3rd place out of my ass.

Over the years, I've changed my opinion of awards ceremonies.

The first few times, I was geeked up to go.
Then, I stopped going.

Now, I think it's important to go to the awards ceremonies because (IMO) it's disrespectful to the Race and all participants if you don't go.

Unfortunately, I had to get back to Vegas. The awards ceremony wasn't for a few hours. I couldn't wait for it.

Since my car was packed up and ready to go, I jumped in and head back to Vegas.

I realized that I was going the wrong direction and saw the race going on right next to me.

I started calculating. If 45-49 women started at 8am.....it's 10:48 now......that would be 2:48....if you aren't very experienced at the olympic...and this is a tough course.....Laura (the woman from transition) should be running by anytime.

I looked over and right next to my truck is Laura....running. She has about 1.5-2 miles left.

I opened my window and yelled out to her. Of course, she did not recognize me at first. Then, I saw her smile and wave.

Officially, my first successful race is in the books.

Liz and I had a pretty lengthy discussion about the race today. I'll probably write about that later in the week because there was some pretty enlightening things in there.


My next race is my first peak race of the year. Marquee, olympic distance in April done at the same venue as SOMA 70.3 last year (Tempe).

Based on the conversation that Liz and I had today, I need to get my head wrapped around and fully committed to a slightly different approach to racing. One that will really help me in the long run (pun intended).

So. Here. We. Go.

It's time to EAT SOME PAIN.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

There's only one direction to go


Those of you who are friends, already know this. The rest of you are probably new to my blog.

Over the past year, I have been recruited no fewer than 9 times for other companies, at a salary quite a bit more than what I am currently making.

Every single time, I say, "No, thanks".

It's funny how life works isn't it?

When I was growing up, my goal in life wasn't to be the world's greatest suit salesperson. For years, I worked in corporate America.

I worked in financial services for over 10 years. I worked at a bank and then Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab.

During the start up internet boom, I made the jump to start up tech companies. I worked at one that is still around but very very small and another went out of business entirely.

After the start up bust, I moved to another high tech company, completely different product/service offering than I had been doing.

At every single job, I was frustrated. I felt like I was working well beneath my abilities. I absorbed every bit of information that I could, but still, I couldn't get ahead. No matter what I did, I was never selected for the big projects. I was always passed over by men. (The company that I worked did a ton of work with the military. I had engineers at the Pentagon and in the Towers during 9.11. This company was very old school and only had about 30% women on staff, and those women were primarily in HR).

The straw at the last company was finding out that a guy with a high school diploma and less experience was making the same amount of money that I was. To pour salt on the wound....I hired this guy. I had 10 years experience and an MBA.

When I found out, I left within a few months with no job lined up.

I look back now, 11 years later and realize that everything I went through was to put me where I am today.....at the helm of a company that has been growing at over +150% for the past few years.

At the time, I didn't know it. I never saw myself as a business owner or entrepreneur.

When I worked at those other companies, I had no idea how valuable those experiences would be in building my own company. In those positions, I'd learned about handling and investing money. I learned how to write code. I learned how to manage projects. I learned how to deal with difficult situations. I learned how to talk to engineers (which is an art form in itself).

Most importantly, I learned where my strengths and weaknesses were. I had strengths that were suffocated under job titles, and I had weaknesses that were hidden under job titles.

They both became exposed when we started this company. I wouldn't have it any other way. I know what I'm good at. I know what I'm BRILLIANT at. I know where I need to hire people to handle those things that I'm not at all good at.

Where you are now isn't where you will end up. It's a small piece of the pie. If you have BIG dreams and want to make them real, that means taking BIG risks. Not everyone is comfortable doing that.

The way I saw it, when I left the other company, I had hit rock bottom. I was an emotional mess.

BUT.....when you are at the bottom, there's only one direction you can go.

I had a level of desperation that I had never felt before. I was going to make this new company work and blow away everyone. I have a survival mechanism that if it could be tested....it would probably be off the charts.

I haven't felt that level of desperation again.....until now.....in a different way.

It's not a chip on my shoulder. It's a matter of wanting something so bad, you're willing to do things that few other people are willing to do.

Like my job, I look back now,10 years after starting triathlon and realize that every thing that I've gone through has put me where I am today, heading to the starting line of the AG National Championship.

THAT'S how I feel about qualifying for the AG World Championships.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hula girls & panties


Oh, people, my people.

SO MUCH is going on in the Land of Ch.

Roughly a month ago, I had my first race of the year. Here I am packing up for race #2.

Heading to Arizona this time. My last visit to CA took me to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Forest, San Bernadino, Oceanside and back to Palm Springs. That was just California. I hit up St George, UT. (For the life of me, I can't understand WHY they have an IM there. Very disappointing). Of course Vegas.

This time when I go to Vegas, though, I'm spending a few days there. I GUARANTEE the panty story will be even better this time. Some people travel with this:

I travel with this:

Makes you kinda want to be me, doesn't it?


Friday, March 13, 2015

Wildflowers

Thanks to Tracie for the image


I'm a no BS person.

I don't like sugar coating.

I can spot a brown nose a mile away.

I expect ^^this^^ same attitude from my friends. If you ask me if you look fat in those jeans....well....I'm going to tell you. If you ask for advice on your swim, I'm going to give it to you.

The minute you come back with an excuse, I won't ever answer your question again because I know you don't want honesty. You want someone to agree with you. It's the ultimate poser.

That attitude is what my friends like most about me (well besides my dark, perverted, self-deprecating sense of humor....and striking good looks....oh and don't forget my charismatic personality).

Making improvements isn't about having people agree with you. Making improvements means listening to feedback, honestly, from people you trust. People who only want the best for you. These people are not trying to tear you down. These friends want you to improve. They want nothing but for you to be successful and reach your goals.

Trust me. There are plenty of ass kissers out there. Just look at FB when someone says they are planning on X number of IM races. There will be 100 "YOU GO!" Comments. The ONE person that says, "Hey...hold up....I don't think that's a good idea," is ignored or attacked by the person doing X number of IM races.

So much for listening to honest feedback.

We simply don't get better staying in our own little comfort zone. We will keep making the same mistakes over and over and wonder why we aren't getting better.

Most people reading this are going to agree. Others are going to say, "RIGHT ON" but deep inside they don't really agree because acknowledging that they do something wrong is uncomfortable. I won't disagree that staying in your little snuggly box of comfort is much much easier.

If you want to stay the same person your entire life, go for it. Enjoy those 4 walls.

The rest of us are going to go on accomplish great and wonderful things.


We annoy everyone who wants pretty, clean, neat and organized.

We do what we want. We grow strong. We're always around. We're the wildflowers.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Feeling Groovy


Age Group Nationals.

I remember on Thanksgiving, finding out that I had qualified for Nationals. I had just PR'd my Turkey Trot run.

I think you all remember the shock. I had to read the email 3 times before I finally sent it to Coach and asked, "What does this mean?"

She responded with, "SOMEONE'S GOING TO MILWAUKEE!!!!"

I was overwhelmed with emotion. This was something that I'd wanted since I started triathlon. For many people, they qualify every year. It's no big deal.

Me?

I'm not that person. I kept insisting there was a mistake. Last year, I had set a *goal* of getting to Nationals in 2 years. This upcoming April race, my peak race, was going to be to find out how far off I am.

In receiving that qualification email, everything changed.

I started looking at these early season races as my "test" races. Hopefully, getting out of them, things that were going to help me at Nationals.

I talked to Liz. We decided that I would compete at both the Olympic and the Sprint races at Nationals.

This was the period of time, during my off season, that I started making many other changes as well. If you remember, I was deathly ill. I was out of commission for weeks. Those weeks were the best thing that could happen to me because I was able to see clearly, things that were holding me back.

Most importantly, I started to see myself differently. Instead of seeing myself as "lucky" to make it to Nationals or that "something happened" to get me there. I saw myself as someone who worked her ass off last year and deserved to be there. 

No one accidentally qualifies for Nationals. I wasn't going to hold myself to a different set of standards than I hold other people to.

My goals changed. I wanted to qualify for Team US and compete at World Championship in 2016 in not just one race but in both the Olympic and the sprint.

I know that qualifying at the Olympic is a long shot. I know that I have to have my best race ever, and that still might not be enough to get there. I know that to qualify at the Sprint the day after racing the oly, well....that's going to be very tough.

But, I'm going to train like an underdog and like I CAN do it. Every time, I'm doing an interval, I give it every thing I have. I recover and fuel and sleep and train hard.

I am NOT going to be outworked.

As I have been progressing through the workouts, I've found new limits.

Only to blow through them the next week. My power on the bike, exploded. My swim times dropped exponentially....ok...maybe not exponentially. I've put more energy into my run than I ever have. I've found a problem with my form. How long have I been running that way? I don't know, but I'm fixing it. When people tell me things I listen very very closely to their feedback.

Getting feedback isn't personal. It's about doing what I have to do to reach my next goal.

Or as my favorite quote goes, "You are never given a wish without also being given the ability to make it true." -----Richard Bach.




Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life with a side of triathlon


February was a tough month for me.



All of the stress came to a head yesterday. You know when you go through a stressful time and then it lets up but you have that period of time where your body let's it all go? The exhaustion of it all just hits you because you don't have to hold it all in anymore.

I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's how I feel. That's how I felt Friday and today.

Friday's swim was tough. I had strength training later in the day. Today, I had to get up at 5am in order to get my bike done and then have time to get to masters.

I woke up this morning. It was dark. It felt really really early, and I thought, "I hope I get to sleep for a couple of more hours."

I looked at the clock. It was 4:57. In three minutes the alarm would be going off. I got out of bed.

The night before, I packed up everything I would need for my ride. All my bottles were ready to go. My garmin was sitting, ready to go. EVERYTHING was ready to go....except me.

I struggled through the ride. My legs were tired from the last three days of workouts. I was tired from having to be up at 5. I had a good breakfast. I was fueling correctly. The intervals were still hard. I think I did the first hour mostly asleep. The 2nd hour, I started to wake up a bit, but my body was not at all happy about doing that workout. The intervals that should not have felt so hard....they felt STUPID hard.

The ride was a straight up grind. 5 minute intervals at 95%, with 1 minute rest between intervals. I put my head down and just pedal. 5 minutes felt like 30 minutes. 1 minute felt like a 15 second rest.

All in all, the two hours went by very quickly. Liz sets up workouts that keep me engaged and not thinking about the total time. Instead, I usually have to be 100% in the moment of the current interval.

When I lose focus even for a second, my cadence drops; my power drops, and when I'm tired, that's not easy to make up. It's much easier to just focus on the task at hand.

I finished the ride and knew that I had 30 minutes that I could eat more and get ready to swim.

I keep my swim bag packed and in my car at all times. I grabbed a recovery drink and some water and laid on the couch for a minute.

I love Saturday morning masters. The session in general tends to be longer. The people are awesome.

BUT. I'm tired. How did I ever get to the pool before I started doing masters? How did I do it? Oh. I know. I skipped workouts or I cut them short.

I grabbed my two bottles of water and infinit and head out the door.

I got to the pool 15 minutes early. Under normal circumstances, I'll jump in and start warming up. Today, I sat on the edge of the pool and waited for Coach.

Then, I heard, "Tea! Tea!"

I looked up and smiled, it was Michael. If I ever needed to see him, today was the day. Masters always flows better when you get to swim with your regular people.

The set was brutal. 4000-4400 yards of 10 x 100's and 16 x  50's done FAST and at sprint pace alternating stroke and free.

Before we started, I noticed a guy (not a masters swimmer) show up in the lane next to me. I noticed him because everything he owned had an M-dot on it. When I see triathletes, I want to see how fast they are. I watch their form. They're my people. I get my assed kicked by swimmers.

But a triathlete? My odds are good.

We started the set.

When I was on my 4th 50, Coach stop me and asked me what my slowest and fastest 50's were. I knew I was about to get busted. I told him my slowest.

He gave me the look.

You know THE LOOK.

And he said, "Every interval within 2 seconds Tea. Do it. I know you can do 31 seconds. Put it together, Tea!"

I could have said, "I just did a 2 hour bike. Cut me some slack."

Or I could have said, "You know. I've already done 10 hours of training for the week."

Or I could have said, "I'm really not feeling this today."

But I didn't. He said, "GO", and I took off. My arms and back were burning. A thought came to me.

I DON'T STOP WHEN I'M TIRED. 
I STOP WHEN I'M DONE.

Then I saw Mr. M-Dot. He was doing 50's too. I could catch him. He hit the wall. I hit the wall. When I flipped, I knew I had him.

With all due respect, M-Dot, there is NO FUCKING WAY YOU ARE BEATING ME.

I *did* beat him.

And Coach gave me a high five. Walking away, he said, "32 seconds. PERFECT. Now 9 more just like that."

I suffered through the rest of the set, just like everyone else at masters.

A few more kick sets and then a longer pull, and we were done.

We were all holding onto the wall completely spent, smiling, spent, laughing and shaking our heads at the insanity of the workout.

Two hour bike, 4000 yards later. I was done.


I packed up my stuff. I was exhausted and still smiling. These are my people.