Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Long Summary of the Summer...

I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to writing race reports. I still believe they’re super valuable, and going back to read your immediate full and honest thoughts about how a race went down can provide valuable insight into how to do things better next time… What did you do well? What would you change if you could go back and do it again? Those are my two favorite questions… So I suppose I’ll take some time to answer those questions here for myself, and I might even publish this if it seems like others could gain some insight from it as well. I can be pretty introspective and honest with myself when I want to be, and that’s probably the best way to approach writing down your thoughts, if your goal is to learn from your own experiences.

I never wrote about Honu. I take that back- I did write about Honu but just for myself and I didn’t publish it. Mostly b/c it was so negative and I don’t like to come across as Negative Nelly. But the reality was that that race was one of the most disappointing race experiences I’ve ever had- but that’s just about me personally. My athletes had done so well there… It was a balancing act for sure in trying to manage how to feel so genuinely happy for them(!) while at the same time processing my own experience. 2 months later I’m more at peace with the whole thing. When I found out that my front brake had been rubbing on the bike, all of a sudden things became more clear to me and at least I had an understanding of what the problem was. Until I saw my brake touching the rim of my front wheel (after the race was all said and done), I simply could not reconcile the slowest ever bike split with how great and strong I felt while I was riding. I mean, I’ve been at this for a very long time and I know what it feels like to feel awesome and strong while riding a bike! It was such a mindfuck though to feel like I did that day but then end up with a split that was solidly 10min slower than I would have expected based on how I felt… I completely let that split get to my head (convincing myself that even on my very best day I’m just “slow” now- “slow” is relative, I know). I consequently completely gave up on myself out there on that run which is 100% my own fault and I hate that I responded that way, but that’s how I responded and it sucked and I don’t want to do that to myself again. This sport is supposed to be fun but spending 2+ hours mentally beating yourself up about how much you suck has a way of robbing you of a lot of joy. Just saying.

So about Honu… What did I do well? I did a lot of things well! I trained/prepped really well. I figured out a hydration/fueling formula that works for me (no cramping!!). Both of those things are huge wins!  What would I change if I could go back and do it again? I’d double check my brakes. :) I’d like to say I’d figure out a way to stay positive during the run after feeling like I “failed” on the bike, but I’m not sure I know exactly how I’d go about doing that. That’s not an easy thing for me, though I do think that continued meditation practice might help with it. I’ve been using that ‘Headspace’ app and I really like it and I think it’s helping me get my head right and I think if there’s something that I should prioritize in the next year, it’s that.

Anyway, I made some changes after that race experience- mostly just trying to take some of the pressure off… It’s 100% just pressure I put on myself- my own expectations- maybe they’re too high? Unrealistic? I don’t know. But putting pressure on yourself to do well but then not living up to your own expectations is hard and my response was essentially to lower my expectations. Was that the best response? I don’t know. But its the route I took. I’ve actually taken that route a lot in my life… I can think of several examples in different areas of my life where my response to a repeatedly disappointing situation has been to simply lower my expectations. It works to some degree b/c when your expectations are low, you tend to end up feeling less disappointed… You’re easier to please. Friend or family member constantly disappointing you? Lower your expectations of them. Then you just end up feeling pleasantly surprised if they do anything at all that is nice or whatever. That’s just one example. And like I said, I don’t know if its the “right" route to take but I do know that having super high expectations of myself and everyone around me has very often set me up for big disappointment. When I instead just go with the flow and let things play out as they do, I tend to feel happier overall.

Moving on! So I went to Ohio to race the 70.3 and then figured I’d stay for Age Group Nationals which happened to also be in Cleveland. With the races being 2 weeks apart, and having athletes I work with at both races, and having my parents living right there, it sort of seemed like a no brainer.
All of my meals while I was in Delaware for the 70.3 were at Bob Evans. True Story.

The Ohio 70.3 race was ok. I didn’t have huge expectations of myself going into it, but my training had shown glimpses of good form so the door was open in my mind that I might put together a decent race. And I guess I’d call it decent. It wasn’t my best day but it also wasn’t my worst so… Ok. What did I do well? I didn’t mentally give up on myself, even when I physically didn’t exactly feel good (this is a big win!). And I repeated my fueling/hydration plan from Honu and confirmed to myself that my cramping situation is possible to control (again- no cramps!). I’ve shared in private with some people what I’ve done to fix things for myself, and I can’t say that what I'm doing is the thing that would work for everyone b/c I think we are all different... But for me, cramp prevention is apparently about loading with magnesium and potassium all the time, and then sodium loading immediately prior to the race. I have to be in the right physiological state at the start line (prioritizing hydration and electrolytes) b/c if I’m not there at the start, digging myself out of the hole has proven to be, well, impossible. I almost never drink plain water anymore (when training/racing anyway). My sweat rate is ridiculously high (I’ve calculated that I regularly lose 5lbs/hour in Hawaii, which is a huge challenge to manage when I’m going long), so this is still an area of focus for me, but at least I'm starting to really understand my own physiology here and understanding the root causes of issues is always the first step to fixing/managing them.

What would I change if I could go back and do that one again? I’d have gone into the swim with a more aggressive mindset. I took my swim for granted at that race and just sort of swam in la la land and didn’t feel like I was RACING and that’s disappointing to look back on. Other than that, I sort of feel like I did the best I could with what I had that day. There were some things about the race that were super frustrating but out of my control, so I can’t really put those things into the category of ‘what would I change if I could go back and do it again?’… but I feel its worth a mention to note that drafters suck. I saw so much intentional drafting out there that day… WAY worse than last year and I’d say that had to do with the self-seeded rolling start. Last year with age group waves, ability levels were spread out all over the course… that makes things challenging in a way b/c there ends up being so much passing and being passed going on throughout the race and at times that can be unsafe. I had high hopes that a self seeded rolling start would be way better, but the way it actually played out was that it put people of fairly like ability all together on the bike course, which provided ample opportunity for people to draft and it was disappointing to see how many athletes (and top ones at that) opted to go that route. There was enough space on the road to ride legally, but many chose to not ride legally. I heard some athletes after the race talk about how they just ‘got caught up in a pack’ and I was like NO YOU DO NOT JUST GET CAUGHT UP IN A PACK. The way it works, per the rules, is that when someone passes you, its your responsibility to ease up and let the gap form so you are not in the draft zone. If you continue to push your race power after you’ve been passed and then you’re in the draft zone behind the rider in front of you, THAT IS CHEATING. Is it frustrating to have to sit up and slow down to get out of a draft zone? You bet. Is there another option? I mean, I guess the option would be train more and get stronger so you don’t get passed as much.

My bike split was ~6min slower this year vs last year and I’d attribute a lot of that to the amount of times I eased up not the gas so I would not be in the draft zone of someone who’d passed me. Last year I never really had to do that b/c my AG wave started in the back so it was me doing most of the passing vs being the one getting passed. That race dynamic made a bigger difference than I’d anticipated. Last word on this though- I just have to say it- watching the ‘leaders’ of our sport blatantly choosing to cheat/draft was flat out disheartening. I called it out some when I saw it b/c I feel like since the race officials weren’t being strict about it, maybe some peer pressure would work? I did impact a young gal (24yo, AWA athlete) who I'd watched cheat for probably 10 miles- I’d passed her around mile 5 then she came and passed me back around mile 25, sitting on the wheel of 2 guys… I sat back and watched long enough to see how blatant she was being about it… At one point she slowed to grab a bottle at an aid station and I could not help myself as I rode back by… I just said DRAFTING IS CHEATING. Interestingly, she pulled back up next to me and told me that I was right and that she would try to do a better job leaving space between herself and riders ahead of her. So maybe I made an impact on one person. Others though, including some top women whose names I know (and I used to have respect for) rode by in groups with no shame. I just want those athletes to know that WE SEE YOU. Respect level plummets for those athletes, and if they’re wearing a recognizable team kit, I have to say, I lose respect for the company/team they ride for as well. I don’t really know how to solve the drafting problem in triathlon… Race officials seem to do a piss poor job of it. Race directors finding ways spreading athletes out on the course is for sure part of the solution. But the bulk of it might really come from peer pressure. Anyone with any self respect (I’d think!) would want others to respect them as well so maybe if as a community we continue to be vocal about this issue and let athletes know that WE HAVE NO RESPECT FOR YOU WHEN WE SEE YOU CHEATING, AND WE SEE YOU might be the best route here? 

I don’t know. Maybe I need to go back and lower my expectations of people so I’m less disappointed in what I see on these race courses.

A final note about that 70.3 in Ohio- the weekend was FUN! I genuinely enjoyed it, mostly b/c I got to hang out with 3 of my athletes (Tia, Jen, Brian) and they are all just really cool and I found myself laughing a ton… and they all raced really well and the vibe with them was just good. Being a part of the Coeur team makes these races really fun too. I mean, essentially I went to that race alone but had so many friends and teammates on the course that I never felt alone, and it was just really great all around. Delaware is a great little town to host a race like that.

So that brings us to Age Group Nationals! (I guess I could separate these out into multiple blog posts but I doubt I’ll do that)… I think I did an AG Nationals race way back in like 1996 in California, but back then it was way less of  big deal and not nearly as competitive. I mean, it was technically “Nationals” but in every respect it was just a regular Olympic Distance race. So I’d consider this to be my first ‘real’ AG Nationals experience. And it was an experience!

My thoughts in summary:

~Racing in a city- like the downtown area of a city- is not at all my favorite. I guess I'm just old school when it comes to stuff like this, but I think of a race like Muncie, that's out in the middle of nowhere, and that, to me, feels like triathlon. Just a group of crazy people who find a quiet spot with a decent lake to swim bike and run and see how fast they can do it... perfect! In a city, on the other hand, you're driving around in circles lost while Siri constantly redirects you but you can't turn there b/c of the one way street and then you finally get near your destination but can't find a place to park then you finally do but oh wait that'll be $9. It was definitely confirmed for me last weekend that I am a Country Mouse and if I have to pay $9 to park my car somewhere, I'm out. 

~Also, no thanks to bike courses that go through construction areas.

~I was extremely impressed with the caliber of athletes competing in Cleveland. I mean, it's Nationals, so duh, of course there will be fast athletes there but whoa the depth of the field was impressive. It wasn't just a few athletes who were really fast, it was A LOT of athletes who were really fast. My superpower has never been about being fast, so I def got my ass kicked at that race, but in general I'd say it was good to see how many very fast athletes were are out there. And in every age group! I feel like for sure the general trend is that you have to just be ridiculously strong and fast these days to be near the top of your AG at any big race. It's clear that athletes and coaches are figuring out the best way to train and prepare and fuel and hydrate and execute and power meters and smart trainers are very likely helping in this regard. I'm totally going to age myself here but lets just say that back in the 90s we were all just winging it and we made a lot more mistakes than the athletes are making now. Knowledge is power!

~When they canceled the swim at the last minute for the sprint race on Sunday, I immediately lost interest in racing. I suspect there were a few people who judged me for that decision to just turn in my chip, but whatever. I've done races before where the swim was canceled last minute and we ran first instead of swimming and I just didn't enjoy it at all. I'm too old to do things I don't enjoy. I enjoy triathlons! If I enjoyed duathlons, I'd enter them! I feel like runners who don't like swimming should enter more duathlons vs enter triathlons hoping that the swim will just be canceled.  I made a joke on Twitter to that effect...
~The main reason I even went to Nationals was b/c I get to work with Carly and she is an amazing athlete who is not only physically talented but has the work ethic and drive to back up her talent... Getting to play a part in her successes has been amazing for me. So my weekend there was really about her. She raced really well in Cleveland and landed herself 3rd on Saturday in the Olympic Distance race and then backed it up with a 2nd place in the sprint duathlon the next day. Since I opted to not race on Sunday I was able to stand on the run course and yell out splits at her which is super fun, especially when you get to bark out stuff like "YOU'RE 3RD... 20" BEHIND FIRST... EVERY SECOND COUNTS STAY ON THE GAS!" And then later, "YOU'RE SECOND! KEEP IT UP!"

When I think back on all my racing this year, if I'm honest, the coaching part has been more enjoyable for me than the racing part. I keep saying that I'm nearing the end of my time as a triathlete... but then I go and enter more races so who knows if I'll ever really stop being a triathlete. But one thing I know for sure... I have no plans to stop coaching. Working with athletes and helping them get the most of of themselves is pure joy for me!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


BatCamp was fun this year! I mean, it’s always fun but I don’t always get to go, so for me, it was a treat to get to go. Krista has been running this camp in Scottsdale yearly since 2012 and I’ve gone a handful of times. This year Taryn went too so we had 3 coaches which was great b/c we could have more support for the 16 athletes who ended up being able to attend. 

We didn’t advertise the camp outside of our team b/c in all honesty, that’s a big enough group to try to manage. I’d way rather spend my time and energy working with and getting to know my own athletes vs trying to run a camp for a bunch of athletes who we do not know just trying to make money. We don’t charge a lot for our camp and that’s by design. Our goal with it is not to make money- it’s to have an opportunity to train together and get to know each other better so we can be more effective coaches going forward. Plus, it’s a great way to foster community within the team! So, we pretty much just cover our costs and call it good, which is kind of how I feel like it should be. I don’t understand spending $1000+ camp fee to train for 4-5 days. (Or $11,000 what??) Triathlon is already expensive enough, you know?

As a coach, one of my goals for camp is that everyone leaves feeling like they are stronger and more capable than they thought they were coming in. So. We push some boundaries. When we are there and watching/guiding in person, we get to learn a lot about our athletes... How do they respond in the face of adversity? What kind of support do they want/need from us? Some need a lot. Others don’t need much at all (just the time and opportunity to train as much as they can is all that’s needed for some)… So we try to provide what each athlete needs. 

I think we did a decent job of balancing getting as much endurance work done as we could while also teaching some necessary skills to those who are newer and haven’t learned yet… Some athletes learned to break down/pack and build their bikes, where to focus your weight when you’re descending a hill on your bike, how much food is actually necessary to support big training loads like that, etc. 

I got to give a couple of 1:1 swim lessons and those are always valuable as well. Others were really just there b/c they’re training for an upcoming ironman and they wanted to get off their trainers for a long weekend. So. We tried to balance all that. One thing I’ve already decided I’d do differently next time would be to give a basic tutorial about circle swimming etiquette. It just sort of slipped my mind that most of these athletes do their swim training alone and never really do circle swimming with 3-4 in their lane all doing the same session… so circle swimming etiquette is new to some! I should have taught that and I’m sorry I didn’t before our big group swim! #duh Next time I’ll be better! That’s another great thing about these camps. The athletes aren’t the only ones who come away with valuable lessons about how to be better. The coaches do too!

So we were based out of Scottsdale and wow I just have to say, the riding there is really pretty great. I used to live in Scottsdale so I was familiar with most of the roads we were on so a lot of it was pretty nostalgic for me (so fun!). And while we have some pretty nice ocean views where we ride in Hawaii, the actual roads we ride there are crap… and super busy with cars/traffic. So to be on these perfectly paved roads with wide bike lanes with long/gradual hills everywhere was a serious treat for me personally. We did go to Tucson on Sunday to ride Mt Lemmon, which (imo) is the best ride in Tucson… Over the years I’ve ridden Madeira Canyon and Kitts Peak and Gates Pass and all that and while I guess that could be good riding, the road surfaces are crap in so many places. I feel like given the choice, I don’t totally understand why there are so many camps based out of Tucson vs Scottsdale? It’s a no brainer for me where I’d rather ride!

Weather was pretty good for us. Personally I spent a lot of time shivering and shaking b/c 50 degrees is not something I’m used to at all anymore. I’ve definitely become more of a weather wimp after living in Hawaii for 13+ years. For the most part this past weekend, I stayed dressed with vests and arm warmers and tried to not speak when I had nothing nice to say... and for the most part I was ok. Mt Lemmon required a special kind of head space b/c it was really quite cold and raining off and on and even snowing at the top (so I’m not exaggerating this time when I use the word ‘freezing’). 

That day was hard for me personally b/c while I wasn’t afraid of the climb nor the descent, I was afraid of 30 degrees. And I wasn’t comfortable taking a big group of athletes, whom I love, up that mountain and then sending them down a 20 mile descent in that weather. So my stress level was HIGH that morning. We had been watching the weather forecasts and had an idea of what it might be like near the top but we decided to try to get there and we left the decision to our sag drivers to make the call about whether or not it was reasonable. Krista’s husband and friends drove up past Windy Point and decided that it would be irresponsible to send riders up any further than ~6600ft that day. So while it was a huge bummer to most of out first timers to not get to the top, on that day, it was the right call. That kind of day is emotionally expensive for a coach. I mean, we are BatShitCrazy, yes, but we are not irresponsible. Instead, we turned back to the base and then some people went back up another 6-7 miles while others (like me) did 4-5x 10min repeats up and down at the bottom. The whole time I was doing that last part I had that Dave Matthews song in my head ‘Best of What’s Around’… So it was not an ideal situation but we made the best of what was around and did what we could to at least get a good training benefit out of the day. #adapt

As coaches, running a big camp is one of the most demanding weeks of the year. Maybe if we cared less or didn’t try as hard to make everything perfect, it wouldn’t be so hard, but we do care and we do try. And I think this is what makes us good. Attempting to keep 16 athletes happy when they’re hungry and tired isn’t easy. But we reminded everyone to EAT all the time (some listened, some didn’t, and all learned valuable lessons about this!) We had a bunch of Honey Stinger fuel and Base bars and NBS Hydration/Recovery for everyone so that was clutch b/c no one was ever without access to fuel and hydration. Every day via sag we lugged around a 5 gallon tank of NBS Hydration and riders filled up at every opportunity. 

Even with that, I found it surprisingly challenging to stay truly hydrated in such a dry environment. I could write a whole blog post on this, and maybe one day I will, though I still have to sort through some more of my own thoughts and theories before I’ll do so. While lots of people are concerned with how to go from a dry environment into a humid environment and still perform their best (ie how to perform in Kona), there isn’t much info about going the other direction (when you’re adapted to humidity and your body is great at cooling but then you go the the desert and shed all your body water on day 1 and then try to play catch up the rest of the time)… This is a topic that I currently find myself obsessed with so maybe keep an eye on this space if I get it together to write out my thoughts about how one might handle that transition. For me, its harder than it seems like it should be. Still working on this! #lifelonglearner

As depleted as I feel at the moment (physically and emotionally), I also feel incredibly proud. This morning I woke up to a Facebook message from an old friend of mine who had seen a bunch of pictures and posts about what we were doing all weekend… She reminded me that I started coaching from scratch 9+ years ago and to see the team/community that we have created is really pretty incredible. I’m pretty proud of it all. That’s actually a complete understatement. I’m exceptionally proud of the coach that Krista has become and the coach that Taryn is becoming. The three of us make a great team and we work together really well. And with that dynamic, we are better for our athletes. It was super cool for me to get to know some of Krista’s athletes, and for her to get to know mine, and for all of them to get to know each other. So going forward, our whole community will be stronger. Of all the benefits of a team training camp, to me, this is one of the biggest ones. So even though at the moment I’m incapable of speaking above a whisper (my vocal cords are fried - no one has ever accused me of not talking enough), I’m super satisfied with what we all achieved this weekend.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

I Don't Want To Be Afraid

I admit that in the last 2 weeks I've had some fears about riding my bike outside. I don't want to be afraid, but when you see your friend in the hospital all broken, its hard not to be.

There's risk in just about everything we do. Sure, some activities incur more risk than others, but if we had to lead risk-free lives, none of us would ever leave our homes. And even that, in itself, is a certain type of risk.

I knew Nikki wanted to go ride Tantalus again. She told me how she didn't want to be afraid. I don't want to be afraid either. So ok. We face our fear and conquer it together? We planned to ride Tantalus together this morning.

I didn't sleep well last night. I tossed and turned and couldn't help but wonder if I was being an idiot? Those drift car guys commented a lot, Why would you ride your bike on a road where you know people drift? Maybe a valid question? In fairness, I rode that mountain for 13 years and didn't know that anyone drifted there. BUT. Now I know. So is it dumb to go back and ride my bike there? Or is it necessary? It's legal to ride a bike there. But is it safe? Is it smart? Is it ok? I mean, surely on a Saturday morning it would be ok?

I wanted to exercise my right to ride my bike on Tantalus. It's a beautiful mountain! It's a challenging climb! It's the type of ride cyclists live for. And yet. I got up feeling nauseous and sick and there was this little part of me that feared that I might not come home today. I hated that feeling, so I squashed it as quickly as I could and went about my business.

And guess what? It was a beautiful morning. Nikki and I climbed and talked and waved Aloha at every other cyclist we saw (and we saw a lot!). We saw people running and residents out walking their dogs. It felt like a state park. There were hardly any cars, and the ones we did see seemed to go out of their way to be nice. At one point, a police car passed us. We waved really enthusiastically at him and gave him a thumbs up as if to say MAHALO, MR OFFICER! He waved back at us. Seeing that patrol car driving around the mountain went a long way toward making us feel safe. I got home and sent a thank you note to HPD to hopefully encourage them to keep up the good work. If they continue to have a strong presence up there enforcing the law, that mountain will be safer for all of us to use and enjoy.

This morning, I felt safe. And I remembered why I love riding my bike outside.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This Needs To Be Exposed

I rode my bike on my trainer in my garage today. There are a lot of good/valid reasons to choose a trainer over the road. If you're short on time and just need to get a quality session done; If the weather outside is crap; If the session is quite specific and roads don't lend themselves to doing what you want/need to do; etc. Today, I'm conflicted to admit, I stayed inside because I was afraid to ride outside.

I hate that.

This blog isn't about recounting what happened to Lectie last week. But knowing that my friend is in the hospital having multiple surgeries to hopefully repair her legs after she was hit head on by some dumbass reckless drivers is the kind of thing that makes a cyclist think twice about the risk they take when riding outside on the road.

I've been a bit of a distracted mess these past few days. Trying to wrap my head around what happened, why it happened, what we can do to possibly prevent something like this from happening again? All that has led me down some rabbit holes as I try to learn about the drift racing culture in Hawaii. They're all over Instagram so what I've learned isn't anything that isn't out there publicly already... if you take time to look. It's shocking and scary and makes you scratch your head.

So long story short, these guys take pride in building up their cars to go fast and slide. That's about the extent I understand car racing. It's not my gig. But from reading their posts and comments, they're super into it and they take pride in having the best/fastest cars with whatever parts they need to make the car slide sideways or whatever. Apparently it's a thrilling feeling to be sliding around on mountain road switchbacks, and the best road for that on Oahu is, of course, Tantalus.

Wanna see what they do? Watch this video. It was something like this that took Lectie out last week. Absolutely tragic.

I've read through tons of IG posts and comments trying to get an understanding of where these guys are coming from... thinking that if we understood what was important to them, maybe that's how we could come up with a solution to stop it. What I've learned is that its going to be really tough to actually stop these guys. This comment made today on Facebook from a woman who lives up on Tantalus.

These comments made the day after Lectie was hit... Ha ha! Ya. Go tonight! What a great idea.

Seems they don't exactly like cyclists.

What's interesting to me is that they really do assume that 'everyone knows' that Tantalus is the road for drifting. And I'm sitting here thinking how did I not know? I've been riding my bike on that road for 13 years and I've never seen them up there? So while I guess maybe everyone in their community knows, not everyone actually knows. And even if they did, that doesn't make it ok for them to turn that road into a life threatening place at their whim.

 They're not remorseful. They seem to think its funny?

The fact that it's illegal for them to drift is not a deterrent. It's part of the thrill.

Of course the first thing a normal citizen would think is Where are the police?? Get the police up there to patrol the area that will stop the problem. Or. maybe not.
 Or maybe they do sometimes get stopped by a cop. But nothing happens. 2nd time this week you got stopped? No worries. Cop probably slides too thats why.... I know this one is tough to read, but its an IG post where the guy brags about how the cop saw him sliding and let him off.

So what to do about this problem? Cops won't stop it. Killing someone won't stop it. The only way to stop it would be to make that road less appealing to them by installing speed bumps or centerline barriers or something along the sort. That's all I can think of anyway.

Even if we manage to make Tantalus unappealing to them, they'll likely just go look for somewhere else to wreak havoc. Here's a video one of them made. He's clearly super proud of their activities. This was from less than a month ago... on the most major highway in the state. Why these guys are still on the road in a civil society is beyond me.