Lake Stevens Report and An End of Summer Update

Needless to say, I am WAY behind on my blog these days. Life has been BUSY, especially as I’m making the big push toward the end of my 2014 tri season. But life has been good, and there is so much to look forward to!

After a whole lot of racing for most of the early season and a really tough block through July, August was a much calmer month for me in terms of competition. But it wasn’t without its own challenges. Following Vineman, I had a big tradeshow for work which caused me to make the tough call to pull out of the Leadville 100 MTB race. It was a very busy couple work weeks to start the last month of summer, but it was a good chance for me to really focus on that and prioritize other non-racing aspects of my life. I was tired from the heavy racing and training of July (and the prior months!) on top of all the stress and exhaustion of several too-long work days. So I took a few weeks with pretty minimal and stucture-less training, doing only what I felt like and what fit best in my schedule.

Lake Stevens 70.3

It was nice to have a bit of a break from serious training before gearing up again for my last big push of the season. However, with all my other obligations it wasn’t exactly ideal R&R, and I felt far from spectacular as the day approached for me to head to Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens. As the race got closer, I debated whether or not it even made sense for me to make the trip. I had some really rough workouts those last few days and I was pretty concerned, but I decided I still wanted to give it a go and get another 70.3 experience against a strong pro field. Lake Stevens is also a race I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now. I’d heard great things about the area and the race itself, and I knew the course was well-suited to me. Plus, I was super excited to be meeting up with all the fabulous Seattle LUNA Chix ladies.

The fabulous ladies of the Seattle LUNA Chix squad!
The fabulous ladies of the Seattle LUNA Chix squad!

So off I went, eager for what I knew would be a great trip, but honestly not expecting a whole lot from myself. Nonetheless, I knew I could get a lot out of this race experience, and I was determined to make the most of it. So I decided that would be my goal for this race: to get as much out of the day as I possibly could, and to do my best to enjoy every stroke, pedal and step. Lake Stevens definitely delivered, and I really enjoyed the race course and the whole experience.

Swim

The swim was fantastic. Warmer water temps and a colored buoy line for super easy sighting made for one of the most pleasant swim experiences I’ve ever had. The women’s pro field was small but fierce. The start was aggressive, and the pace was fast from the gun. I felt strong and smooth in the water, and focused on staying on toes. While three women surged ahead, almost all the rest of us exited the water within about 20 seconds of each other. I got out in 30:51, just behind several contenders, and was happy with that.

Heading onto the bike after a strong swim! Photo by Daniel Tomko
Heading onto the bike after a strong swim! Photo: Daniel Tomko

Bike

As I started the bike I got some amazing cheers from my Seattle LUNA Chix cheer squad, which got me smiling and super fired up! This is a hard bike course with a good amount of climbing and some really technical corners and transitions, all of which play to my strengths, and just make me really happy! I was excited to take on a more challenging course and see how I could do. Overall, I felt really good on the bike and stayed much more “in the mix” of the pro race than I normally do on an easier bike course. When other women came by, I stayed in contact much longer than usual, and I didn’t feel like I was struggling to keep pace. The challenge of the course itself started to hit me toward the end and I faded a bit, but I was still very pleased with my ride.

Photo by Daniel Tomko
Photo by Daniel Tomko

Times were slow across the board because of the climbing and technicality of the course, and my 2:50:23 was slower than my other bike times this year, but relative to the rest of the pro ladies I was significantly better than I’ve been all year, which is great! I certainly thrive on a hillier bike course and this was no exception, but it was nice to finally see how much closer I actually can be to the top pros on a course that suits my strengths. It does also show, though, how much I still need to work on my flat riding! 🙂 My bike fit has been getting more and more dialed in thanks to the expertise of Dave Eastwood, and it felt amazing this time around. The only real issue I had on the bike was that it was extremely challenging to stay draft-legal once I got mixed in with pairs, groups and even packs of some age group men who seemed to have very little regard for the drafting rules, or understanding of how greatly this affects other riders. This was very frustrating for me as I had to make a tremendous effort to move myself around amongst them to stay legal, and it took a lot of extra mental and physical energy. Nonetheless, I had a solid ride and I tried to focus on that, rather than the negative. Ultimately, this was a breakthrough ride for me in so many ways, so I am psyched!

Run

Happy to see my cheer squad!
Happy to see my cheer squad!

As soon as I started the run my watch died, so I was running “blind.” This is not my normal protocol for road running at all, so it was strange not to know my pace but I just tried to let my body be my guide and not worry about it. I didn’t feel great starting off, and had a hard time finding a rhythm. But the course was awesome! Fast and powerful – exactly how I like to run! And beautiful! There was fantastic crowd support, and when I got to about mile 4 I saw my Seattle LUNA gals cheer squad again, and they made me feel amazing. I couldn’t help but smile to see them out there, and I stopped stressing about not knowing my pace and how I was feeling, and honed back in on my goal for the day and the perspective I wanted to keep.

I focused on racing with gratitude, and my whole experience changed. I reminded myself that I was out there simply because I wanted to be, and I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. This kept me in a positive place throughout the run, especially as things really started to hurt on lap two. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on my blog yet, but I’ve had a nagging hip injury through the later half of this season that has become pretty significant, and it really flared up in the back half of the run. This made things tough, and I did not run my best at 1:35:54, but I got through it and even managed to move up a spot. I felt like I ran faster than that, but the clock doesn’t lie! I crossed the line in 5:00:24, and 7th place pro female. Certainly not my fastest time, but on this tough course I was definitely satisfied with that! Given how I felt coming in and the lack of structure and time during my lead-in, I far exceeded my expectations, and I was happy with both the performance and result.

With the Seattle gals post-race. Thanks for being there! Also thanks to Daniel Tomko for the great pics!
With the Seattle gals post-race. Thanks for being there! And thanks to Daniel Tomko for the great pics!

Overall, this was a great trip for me. The Seattle LUNA Chix really made my visit special. We had a super fun night out with dinner and wine, and having them there to cheer me on on race day was just awesome. This is a wonderful group of women and I’m so grateful they are a part of my LUNA family! I am especially grateful to Karoline Jones, who hosted me. She was AMAZING, and we had SO much fun. Basically, this was a perfect homestay match for me: she is totally low-key and relaxed; she loves good wine; she is absolutely hilarious and stayed up way too late with me chatting about anything and everything and laughing hysterically; she had more than enough nail polish to support my pre-race polish ritual; she makes BOMB homemade popcorn that she eats just about every night; the list goes on and on… and she’s a kick-ass triathlete! I felt like I was staying with a long-lost soul sister, and I was so appreciate of Karoline’s generosity and general awesomeness. Thank you Karoline! I also got to squeeze in quick visits with two of my best friends from growing up and from college, Natalie and Sam. Woop woop — BONUS!!

Tahoe Time!

After Lake Stevens I FINALLY had a good chunk of time at home for the first time since season started in early April. I’ve done a ton of traveling this year between racing and work, and essentially had very little time to actually enjoy summer in Tahoe. Prior to Lake Stevens, I was home less than two weeks of the previous five! Needless to say, I was craving a chance to just be in one place for a bit and soak up the amazingness of Tahoe in summertime! Minus a couple quick work trips, I got that chance, and have enjoyed the heck out of my last 5 weeks at home. I’ve gone to the lake (not just to swim!); gone to farmer’s markets, street festivals and concerts in the park; visited with friends I haven’t had near enough time for; played at the river with my dogs; relaxed over coffee dates and big breakfasts in the sunshine… all the things I just haven’t had the luxury to enjoy most of the summer. But the biggest benefit of being in one place for a bit without a race on the schedule is I got to put in a really solid training block to start my last big build-up heading into World Championships in October (and I got to do it on all my favorite trails and training spots!). Since Lake Stevens I’ve been putting in some serious work and it feels great to get tired from a lot of quality training during this focus block rather than traveling and/or racing. Unleashed Coaching put together an amazing plan for me that I feel great about. Everything is starting to come together, and I am totally psyched about what we’re doing and the direction we are headed!

So… What’s Next?

On that note… I’ve had a lot of questions about my next race and whether I am racing Ironman Lake Tahoe or not. The answer is no, I am not, and I’ve officially withdrawn my name from the pro start list. As many of you know, I did not originally plan to race IMLT coming into this season. I decided I was going to prioritize the Xterra America Pro Series, and made it my “A” goal to have a strong showing in the final series rankings. This series culminates with the Xterra National Championship, which takes place the same weekend as Ironman Lake Tahoe. I knew it would be immensely difficult for me to miss IMLT, but I committed myself to that plan early on and had earned a solid top-10 ranking after the last regional race heading into Nationals. However, after Lake Stevens and as September drew closer, I began to think more and more about Ironman Lake Tahoe and how very special that event is for me. I just couldn’t get it off my mind.

A dearly treasured memory! Photo by Lefrak Photography
A dearly treasured memory! Photo by Lefrak Photography

I always knew I’d feel conflicted as the race approached, but I had no idea the extent that would come to, and just how emotional I’d become about it. What also happened as summer drew to a close, though, was that Ironman announced some major changes to the structure of its pro races, including the announcement that IMLT would be removed from the pro race schedule after 2014. In other words, this will be the last year that IMLT will have a pro race! Talk about a heart-wrencher! All along I’d told myself I was okay with missing IMLT this year because I’d have other years to return, but after learning this would be my final chance to race it as a pro, I was honestly devastated. I absolutely LOVE everything about this race, and racing with the support of my hometown means more to me than I can even describe. IMLT was the race that launched me to the next phase of my athletic career, and it was my hometown “village” that pushed me along. Last year’s event was the single most special day of my entire life as an athlete. Thinking I would not have another chance to race as a pro in Tahoe was heartbreaking for me… So much so that I knew I had to at least consider whether racing IMLT made sense for me, and then heavily debated skipping Xterra Nationals and racing IMLT instead.

Once I allowed IMLT to come back on my radar, I was incredibly conflicted about what I should do and what I really wanted to do, with no clear answer. I got really emotional about it, and lost sleep over not knowing and trying to make my decision. My heart was heavily invested in both events, and the decision weighed on me greatly. Leading with my emotions, I felt almost certain I was going to pull out of the Xterra Championship and race Tahoe. I felt like I just couldn’t miss out on it. But the Xterra was important to me too – of course! I wished I could do both. It took me a long time to make a final decision and it was very difficult, but in the end I knew I should let reason be my guide and make the smart and practical call rather than the emotional one. I’d been prepping to finish my season off with Xterra Nationals and Worlds, and that was definitely what I was most ready for. I felt confident I could still turn in a good finish at IMLT based on the training I’ve done, even if it wasn’t the exceptional finish I would have liked. But I decided I needed to stick to my plan and finish out the goals I set for myself from the beginning. I love Xterra, I LOVE riding on the dirt, and I’m prepared and ready for Nationals, and setting myself up for a great lead-in to Worlds a month later by sticking to my plan. Deep down I also know my body is not ready to tackle another Ironman right now. I may make it through the day just fine, but my hip is really not in a good place and the damage the race would ultimately cause by potentially furthering the injury, or at a minimum delaying its healing, would be difficult to justify heading into Worlds.

So, Xterra U.S. Champs it is! I had a heavy heart indeed when I finally decided to let go of IMLT, and I know I’ll be sad not to be there come race day, but this is the right decision for me. It was not the easy one, but I am confident now after looking at it from every possible angle and laboring over it as I did that I’ve made the right call. And now that I actually know for sure where I’m racing this weekend, I am totally fired up! I feel great about being in Utah for the Xterra, I’m focused on my goal, and I am ready to rock. This is a fantastic course – one of my all-time favorites – and it is absolutely gorgeous here right now, with vibrant fall colors popping out all along the race route. Pre-riding today made me immensely happy, and I knew I was in the right place. My heart is at peace, I am excited, and I can’t wait to swim, ride and run off-road with everything I’ve got on Saturday!

On the dirt, among the colors, on a beautiful course... HAPPY! Let's do this!
On the dirt, among the colors, on a beautiful course… HAPPY! Let’s do this!
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